Here to Make Friends

Unlike many a tortured prima donna entering a reality TV showdown, Gloria apparently did come to Thailand to make friends. She couldn’t help it, really – the Thais seem to love love love babies, and it’s probably pretty rare that a farang baby as young as ours ventures from the US all the way to Thailand. Everywhere we’ve been, hotel and restaurant staff have been eager to hold and play with the baby, usually while chanting “cha eh, cha eh,” which we’ve been told is a meaningless baby talk phrase, similar to “goo goo gah gah.” It’s become a common occurrence for the waitstaff at a restaurant to drop off our food and then offer to hold the baby for the duration of our meal – free babysitting, not a bad deal!

Black Canyon Coffee
At Black Canyon Coffee in Chiang Mai

Poon Restaurant
Mr. Poon’s wife insisted on holding Gloria, singing to her, and soothing her to sleep when she was fussy and jet lagged

German couplePoon Restaurant
Baby holders at our guest house (breakfast) and on the beach (lunch)

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Treau and her daughter, at our guest house in Mae Hong Son, both sang Gloria a chorus of “cha eh”s on our arrival

Guest house neighborAnother neighbor
Once the word got out at our guest house that there was a farang baby about, all of the neighbors wanted to meet her

Fern RestaurantSon and Mum Restaurant
New friends at Fern Restaurant and Son and Mum

Rom JindaGreen curry
Our server at Rom Jinda, and the bowl of green curry that she traded for our first born

Aum VegetarianWe's Restaurant
New friends at Aum Vegetarian and We’s Restaurant, both in Chiang Mai

Our friend M at Pat's
Gloria bidding adieu to her friend M at our guest house, shortly before heading to the airport to start the long journey home

Gloria Highlights, Week 19

Our second week in Thailand was a blast. On Wednesday we made our way from Phuket to Mae Hong Son, our home for four months of our sabbatical. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our Burmese friends, and we have spent many hours reconnecting (and cooking) with them.

The whole family has recovered from jet lag, though we have encountered a new nighttime challenge: sleep rolling. The past few nights we have awoken to the sound of a frustrated Globug experiencing an upside-down turtle moment (in reverse). We’re excited that she’s acquiring new skills here in Thailand, but I also hope she gets comfortable sleeping on her tummy soon (or becomes an ambi-roller).

While we have noticed a few small changes in Mae Hong Son since our departure (most notably the closures of our favorite Som Tam and espresso stands), the main difference on this trip is that we are on foot rather than biking everywhere. While it’s not as brutally hot here as it was during our last visit, the days are still around 90 degrees and it’s almost an hour walk to the office where Lauren used to volunteer. Our Globug’s full head of hair has been thinning over the past few weeks, just in time to help keep her a bit cooler during our visit.

We have a few more days to savor here in Mae Hong Son, and then we head to Chiang Mai on Friday afternoon.

Sunbathing
Soaking up some rays during her last day on the beach

Relaxing at Lauren's office Chilling under the mango trees
Lounging at the office where Lauren volunteered for AJWS

Playing in our bed
Gloria made herself at home when we returned to our former guest house

Playing at the FernEnjoying the view from Son and Mum
Taking in the scenery at Fern Restaurant, and Son and Mum

Sunday market
Loving the food stalls at the night market

Storytime with mommy Storytime with daddy
Enjoying The Foot Book, a taste of home

Our Babe in Thailand

Today we are leaving to help Gloria fulfill her fortune:

Fortune

We fly to Thailand this afternoon, via Seoul. After a night in Chiang Mai we head south to spend a few days on our favorite beach in Southeast Asia, Nai Yang. We are then spending the bulk of our time in Mae Hong Son reconnecting with friends, enjoying the slow pace of life, and gorging on delicious Thai stir friestropical fruits (including mango and sticky rice), and spicy Burmese hill tribe food.

Gloria going to Chiang Mai
Guess where I’m going?

Top 10 Beaches of Our Sabbatical

We wrote this list while lounging around on the beach in Zanzibar, just to make you hate us. The criteria are totally subjective and not documented anywhere, but involve some combination of most beautiful setting, best food, best amenities, and best overall vibe.

In order from most to least amazing:

  1. Mandrem, Goa, India – we spent a week on Mandrem being beach bums at the end of our stay in India.
  2. Nai Yang, Phuket, Thailand – Nai Yang was so beautiful we had to go twice, first at the beginning of our Southeast Asia jaunt in January, and then for a long weekend trip with Seema and Mark in April.
  3. Galu Beach, Mombasa, Kenya – an extremely laid-back spot to kite surf – or not – and enjoy beautiful water and endless soft sand.
  4. Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam – we spent four nights on Long Beach in February, before we started our volunteer assignments in Thailand, and we ate chili lemongrass shrimp every day.
  5. Khlong Nin, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we spent four nights at Khlong Nin beach on Ko Lanta in January, directly after our stay in Phuket. It was a beautiful setting, but not quite as amazing an overall package as Nai Yang.
  6. Kendwa, Zanzibar, Tanzania – it wasn’t easy to get there on foot from Nungwi, but it was worth the trek, as it offered a beautiful stretch of relatively-secluded beach.
  7. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania – we spent four nights on Nungwi, in a hotel room with an incredible ocean view. Unfortunately there isn’t much beach to speak of at low tide, but Kendwa and East Nungwi, nearby, offer good swimming opportunities.
  8. Khlong Dao, Ko Lanta, Thailand – we finished up our January visit to Ko Lanta with two nights at Khlong Dao, which was nice but not as secluded or as pretty as Khlong Nin. We did find one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the world at Khlong Dao – Thai Is-San.
  9. Nha Trang, Vietnam – the beach was not as nice as we remembered it from our first visit in 2007, but the tropical fruits are still the best I’ve ever tasted.
  10. Matemwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania – fascinating tidal flat landscape at low tide, pretty (but skinny) stretch of beach at high tide. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as a place to stay, but it’s certainly worth a day trip.

If it makes you hate us any less, our tans will most certainly have faded by the time we arrive back in Seattle on September 22, and we do not have any more beach time scheduled between now and then.

Phuket Food Phorn

Nai Yang not only has a beautiful beach, but also is home to some of our favorite restaurants in Thailand. We were really excited introduce Mark and Seema to Sumalee and Mr. Poon. Some highlights:

Fruit shakes at Sumalee's
Mango+pineapple and mango+banana fruit shakes at Sumalee’s

Seema showing off panang goong at Sumalee's
Seema showing off Sumalee’s awesome panang goong

Mr. Poon cooking up cashew nut chicken
Mr. Poon demonstrating how to make chicken and cashew nuts

Gathering over phad prik kiang goong at Poon restaurant
Gathering around course #3 at Poon Restaurant

Lauren and Seema with salads at Sumalee
The ladies with delicious spicy salads (green mango and glass noodles with seafood) for our final dinner at Sumalee

Phretty Pheople in Phuket

We had a fantastic weekend on the beach with Seema, who was finishing off her two-week SE Asia vacation, and Mark, another AJWS volunteer stationed in southern Thailand.

A few photos to make our Seattle friends jealous:

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Seema with her big bag o’ purchases from Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, and Lauren and Kenny using one of Mr. Poon’s beach chairs

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Seattleites on the beach

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Seema collected a number of shells and dead sea urchins

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This is the only picture of all four of us. We were walking through the Indigo Pearl hotel on our way out to the beach.

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Kenny and I enjoy long walks on the beach

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Mark and Kenny, ready for a delicious meal at Sumalee

Holiday on the Beach

We are setting out at 6am tomorrow to meet up with Seema for a weekend in Phuket. The itinerary is a little bit ridiculous: 5.5-hour bus ride to Chiang Mai, flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, another flight from Bangkok to Phuket. So we’ll have a full day of travel on each end and two days on the beach; we must really love Seema or something. ;) Fortunately our favorite Phuket beach, Nai Yang, is only a 5-minute drive from the airport. Looking forward to playing in the water and panang curry at Sumalee’s!

Sumalee Seafood

Rating:

We had arguably the best Thai food I’ve ever had on Nai Yang beach in Phuket. Among the crowd of beachfront restaurants is a gem of a place: Sumalee Seafood. The owner and chef, Sumalee, is a very sweet lady who turns out amazing curries, salads, and other Thai fare. And when you order “spicy!”, it can knock you out of your seat. Our first meal there was a lunch of spicy mango salad and massaman curry. The mango salad was fresh, crunchy and very spicy. Lauren and I rated it “6 star” spicy as it was spicier than any Thai food we’ve had. We chatted with Sumalee after lunch and she told us she used 3 chilies, and for herself she normally uses 1. The massaman curry was quite tasty, similar to the one served at Jamjuree.

The next day we had panang curry and phad see iw for dinner. The panang was reminiscent of the one we made in our Chiang Mai cooking class last year –  a full-flavored, medium dry curry with overtones of lemongrass. It’s always a good sign when panang is a darker brown/yellow color. This curry was so good we came back for another helping today for our final meal in Phuket (this time with vegetables) .

After each meal Sumalee would bring us a few fresh fruits as a complimentary dessert. I think this tradition started because she was swamped on our first visit and the food took a long time to arrive. Nonetheless, we continued to be treated to mangos, watermelon, bananas, and rambutan on future visits. :)

spicy mango salad
Super spicy mango salad, fresh and delicious

Hugs!
Sumalee and Lauren

panang prawns
Panang Goong, as good as it gets

Kenny enjoying a pineapple and coconut shake
Enjoying a tasty and refreshing coconut+pineapple fruit shake

Sumalee and her son
Alas, we eventually had to take our leave of Nai Yang beach and Sumalee Seafood

Sumalee Seafood
Nai Yang Beach
Phuket, Thailand

Daily: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Nai Yang

There is an overwhelming assortment of beaches to choose from when visiting Phuket. While we enjoyed our two nights in Kamala during our last trip, we wanted to try something new this time. The Lonely Planet wasn’t particularly helpful, but after some reading between the lines and online research we settled on either Nai Yang or Nai Thon beach, on the northwest side of the island.

Since we didn’t have time to look into lodging options before heading to Thailand, I did some TripAdvisor searching during our extended layover in BKK. There was one place on Nai Yang, Sea Pines, that really stood out in the Bed and Breakfast reviews. At 7AM, just before boarding our flight to Phuket, I called Sea Pines with our newly acquired cell phone. I think I woke up the owner, who kindly informed me that she had one room left, for three nights. Three hours later, we arrived at Sea Pines, dropped off our bags, and headed to the beach to start our tried and true jet lag recovery routine. 

Turns out we made an awesome decision with Nai Yang. The water is very warm, crystal clear, calm, and swimmable all day. The wide, rock-free beach stretches for kilometers. The mostly family-owned food stalls have tables out in the sand, and we’ve found a couple of places with truly amazing food. We haven’t seen a tout during our entire stay, and while Nai Yang is far from deserted, the beach is remarkably un-crowded.

My only regret is that we have to leave so soon. I would love to stay at Nai Yang for another few days, but since we have to move out of our friendly B&B we’re sticking to our plan of ferrying to Ko Lanta tomorrow. I’m looking forward to our next visit, we’ll certainly be back for the fantastic food, awesome swimming, and uber-relaxation. Here are a few highlights, the full set is available here.

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Coming back from a dip in the Andaman Sea

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Lounging at Mr. Poon’s

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Nai Yang borders a national park that is famous for its tall casuarina trees.

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Lauren doesn’t look jet-lagged at all!

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Sporting my new Thai bandana

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My foot!

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La Moose!

As a parting gift from Mr. Poon today, we received two smooth skin brown fruits. We asked “what are these?” and he said “in Thai we call them la moose. Peel the skin and eat the flesh inside.”

They tasted very similar to chickoo, though I liked this better as it still had the caramel overtones but was less pungent.  Courtesy of Wikipedia, it turns out that the term is lamoot over here, though we will still refer to them as la moose. :)

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