Our final day and evening in Thailand

Feb 24, 2017

We thought we’d take it easy. Rather than fight the rush hour traffic getting to the airport on Friday morning we booked a room in a hotel for Thursday night maybe 15 minutes from the airport. Then, rather than driving to the hotel in the dark (after rush hour), we took a cab just after lunch time.
We had a relaxing afternoon repacking our bags and watching planes flying over our hotel. Annie scheduled a final Thai Massage and I video recorded it. We leave for the airport in an hour and we’re scheduled to be back in New York in about 25 hrs.
These past two months in Thailand and been a wonderfully, colorful adventure.

a day cooking

Monday, Feb 20, 2017

We signed up for a full day of a Thai cooking class yesterday.

First they picked us up before 9am in their van and we joined 7 others for the adventure

The first stop was at a local market where our teacher, Mook,  showed us the ingredients we’d be needing

Then we drove to their farm where Mook showed us how everything grows and what the spices and veggies look like in the fields

Their organization was over the top.  We all wore hats in the fields.. then aprons in the kitchen.  There were woks, cutting boards, and knives for each of us.  They gave us choices for the dishes we cooked individually and all the portions were set up for us.  Each time we’d go to the table to eat, a crew came to clean up the cooking area and prep it for the next course we’d work on.


That was a wonderful experience… and tasty as well.  Whether we do some Thai cooking when we get home or just have a deeper appreciation for it doesn’t really matter.



shopping day in Chiang Mai

Saturday, January 18, 2017

from a market on the grounds of a nearby temple:

paper art –

one of the many booths –

My favorite elephants – notice the mothers pulling the babies up onto the table using their trunks

This woman had hard boiled eggs on sticks in one basket and who knows what in the other

this is a common site –

here’s a restaurant with interesting tables

and let’s not forget the chairs –

this woman’s little baby was making it hard for her to work her booth, so I gave her something to make the day a little easier

At the end of the sales day yesterday I noticed this little girl playing on her folks’ baskets of packed sales items as they were packing to go home.  I was afraid she might fall, so I invited her down to get some balloons.  When we ran into them today the little girl saw me and approached me for another balloon.  This time I made her butterfly wings and played my ocarina for her.

It is so respectful and endearing to see these very young kids put their hands together in prayer position and bow down slightly to say “thank you”.

One element of visiting the many temples….  signs with simple sayings for how to live life are hanging on trees.  Annie writes many down, I take photos of many.  When I looked at this photo I noticed the coins left under it –

At one of the big temples I visited yesterday I was approached by a few high school kids who had notebooks with questionnaires (it must have been a school trip/assignment).  Two brave ones approached me and began to ask me questions in English – “Where you from?  How long are you in Thailand?  What do you like about Thailand? What’s your favorite food?  etc.”

At the end of the interview they asked me to sign their sheet… suddenly about 25 kids joined them asking me to sign their sheets as well… saying “copy” (meaning they’d copy my answers from the other kids who were there at the beginning of my interview).   I felt like a “star” signing multiple autographs… but waiting for the punch line, “hey, anyone know who this guy is?”

Oh yes, Annie is still drawing… sometimes at a local coffee shop, sometimes on our hotel balcony…  it seems to be pouring from her head, heart, and shirt, down thru her arms and onto the paper…


A day in Chiang Mai

Feb 17, 2017

Today we went searching for a Yoga Studio.  On the way we went through a great shopping market which was held on the grounds of one of the hundreds of temples here (some of the temples date back to the 1300’s_ – Annie was in her element.

We never found the Yoga Studio, but we passed a few temples among the way…

(We didn’t see this scene, but I loved the photo and took a shot of it)

In one of the temples, there was a table filled with singing bowls… in which people would drop donations –

This statue of Buddha on a hill, under the tree… and reflecting in the water… caught our eyes –

Annie fit right in radiating in her own way –

I don’t think I was allowed to take this photo, but everyone was taking photos and the Monks didn’t seem to care –

These Monks never moved…  After a while I realized why –

On the walk home shopping never left us

These items caught my eye –

I can pass almost any shop here, but this Fairy Tale shop was like a magnet for me.   

Annie does all they buying (that makes both of us happy).  Even here I couldn’t decide to buy anything, but tomorrow I think I’m returning with the credit card.

Sunday we signed up for a Thai cooking class.  We begin early, going to the organic farm to gather the ingredients, then coming back to prepare the dishes (each “chef” get his/her own wok).  When it’s ready in the evening we get to eat.

Graduation from Mac’s Art of Thai Massage Course

We came for a 1-week taste and finished the 3-week intensive course with our diplomas.  After the final day we all hopped in Mac’s truck and headed for a hot spring.  Then, on the way home we stopped at an organic restaurant/farm.  The table next to us was having a birthday party and I got to play with their 4 kids for 15-30 minutes and got some kid/balloon time out of my system.  Our table enjoyed getting to share their chocolate birthday cake (it was yummy).

This morning we woke early and joined Mac in a 3-hr drive to experience the White temple and the black temple.  We’ll post pictures soon.   They were both speciaL

We ended the day with Mac driving us to our hotel in Chiang Mai.  We chose this one because it advertises yummy desserts and good coffee.  This evening is a full moon.  We passed a dragon dance performance and entered a temple to join in a candle lighting ceremony.   We’re looking forward to this next week of exploration Chiang Mai.



Finishing the week of Thai Massage

We came to take this Thai Massage class for one week…  and stayed, finishing week #3 on Friday… earning our diplomas.  It’s been a good challenge and experience.  To practice, Annie gives me two massages each day this week and I give her two as well.  They now take about an hour each.  When she stretches me, she’s very limited (my legs only move so far).  When I stretch her, I start pushing her leg towards her head and her leg moves like a switch blade knife, folding up to her neck, her head, and keeps going. Last week we had one of the previous students give Annie an hour massage as I video’d it.  When Annie practices the massage on me she uses her notes.  I found it too frustrating, so I have the video running as I work on her.  It’s getting easier as we repeat it over and over.  Eventually we won’t need our notes or the video.

We planned on traveling up to the town of Pai on Saturday.  A crowded bus would cost us under $10 each…a private car would cost under $100 total.  But then we looked at reviews of the way there… it’s a 3-4 hr drive with about 700-800 tight curves in the road…. and the drivers speed to get there quickly (and they might be stoned for all we know?).  The busses and minivans offer you motion sickness pills… and there are signs along the way “Vomit here!”  That’s all we needed to read – we’ll be staying in Chiang Mai the next 10-days and see Temples and other local sites.  That will give us a few days in Bangkok before we fly home.

There’s not much to take photos of here at the massage school and we’re too busy with our studies and cooking.  Next week we’ll try to post some fun adventures with photos and videos.

One note…  there must be a monastery next door.  We keep getting woken up by loud chanting at 5-5:30am.  The chanting isn’t bad….  it’s soothing and mostly lulls you back to sleep, but when the head monk starts speaking using his microphone it’s hard to block him out.  I keep thinking I should play my ocarina (like a little flute) when they’re singing just to confuse them.

My birthday weekend in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Monday, February 5, 2017

This weekend we spent my birthday in Chiang Mai (we’re in the final week of a course in Thai Massage, about 10 miles outside of Chiang Mai).  On Saturday we enjoyed their yearly flower parade and then enjoyed shopping in and visiting the old city and its temples and museums.


(this was our favorite costume in the parade):

On Sunday we hired a little tututt (for about $12) to drive us around for the day. We went to a few sales shops (silver, woodworking, rugs, etc.) and watched the artists making their creations and the salesmen trying to get us to buy them…

as well as visiting a bug museum… a bug zoo…

a monkey show…

and a village where women with “long necks” live.

Here’s a 2-minute video:   https://youtu.be/3Z7cYqpPUmU

We didn’t know it would cost us  $12 just to enter the village, or that most of the village consisted of these women selling their tourist stuff.  Still, it was an experience out of National Geographics..

Getting ready for my birthday

My many thanks for putting up with all my antics for almost 30 years) from my multi-talented, beautiful wife. These past two weeks we’ve been the “seniors” in our 3-week Thai Massage class. The other students keep hearing us laugh throughout the practice sessions in our tie-dyed shirts (that usually happens when we can’t remember what we’re doing or when I fall over backwards trying to work on some manipulation on Annie). I hope they don’t think we’re making fun of the class… it’s just it’s hard for us to take it too seriously. This morning I took my early morning walk. During each walk I usually chant a song for the hour as I pass the rice fields. One morning it was “Does your Chewing Gum Loose it’s Flavor on a Bedpost overnight?” Yesterday I kept singing “They’re coming to take me away” Today the Beatles’s “When I’m 64” stayed with me for the whole walk. I was getting ready for tomorrow. Again, thank you Annie for the drawing and for sharing this adventure and every other adventure we’ve had these past colorful years – and for all the ones coming up in the next 20-30 years.

Tuesday class

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

After Monday, we were considering ending our time taking classes here.  Reading every day about Trump and how his administration is eating away at the artistic, compassionate, realistic, and idealistic elements that make us proud to be Americans is so depressing… and hearing of Annie’s Dad passing away last week has taken a toll on her.  But we woke up feeling a little better today…. even after classes were over.  We just cancelled our reservations to go to Pai after this week….  instead we’ll finish this week and next week here at the school and earn our certificates of graduation.  So when we return home we will have certifications to offer our Air B&B guests Thai massage, Past Life Regressions, Yoga (in Annie’s case), and a few other options.

This coming weekend we reserved a room in Chiang Mai near the Parade route for the Flower Parade.  Floats made from millions of flowers will parade by us.  That sounds like a nice way to enjoy my birthday weekend.

When we finish this class we’ll have two weeks left in Thailand before we come home, so we have time to visit Pai and some other towns.   It seems whatever we do and whoever we go, it’s the right thing.

More pictures from Saturday in the mountains

Monday, January 30, 2017

Marco, a Thai Massage student from Italy came with us to visit the families in the mountains on Saturday.  He took many pictures on Saturday and scared them with me on Saturday.

Also, he did the massage training last month and wanted to practice on Sunday… so I received my first full Thai Massage….  a one-hour massage that took 2 hrs.   It was a wonderful experience, and gave me a chance to feel how this massage is done.  It felt like we were doing a dance/journey and all I needed to do was be there.  I can’t imagine me giving a massage as fluid and graceful as Marco gave me…  but it’s given me a deeper respect for what we are learning.

Here are the photos he shared with me:

thinking back to some moments from a week or two ago

January 29, 20117

This was a shot from our last night on the island we stayed at (The Moken Resort)

We heard there was a crab festival every night.  Little hermit crabs race across the beach each day from and into little holes they dig in the sand.   The lucky ones find vacant shells and move it.  In the evening the restaurant throws away the remains of the pineapples and mangos and the crabs have an eating frenzy.

I had meant to include these photos earlier….  but sometimes the photos take a long time to process in the computer with the WIFI connections we have available.

A day in the mountains

Sunday, Jan 29

Mac, our Thai Massage teacher has “adopted” a project, supporting a few poor families who live in the mountains and have children with special needs.  He connected with a monk who introduced him to these families.

He raises moneys and purchases supplies (pampers, foods, and snacks) to bring up once a month.  We were fortunate to be here with him this month and had a powerful experience visiting them yesterday.

We had a “caravan” of 3 cars and 10 people traveling.  First we stopped in a roadside place to have an early noodle lunch ($20 fed us all).  Then we took off for the hour drive up the steep and winding road up the mountain passing fields of rice, cows, and farmers using what we consider somewhat old tools.

The first stop was at the Monk’s home.  He greeted us and offered us a prayer session.  Afterwards we were invited to each ask him a few questions about our lives.  He would answer and Mac would translate.

The next stop was at home #1.  This 13-year old boy had an illness when he was younger and couldn’t get medical help quickly enough.  Since then he can’t move and needs his parents’ help 24 hrs/day.  The home they live in a small wooden shack with ancient cooking bowls.  We were taken by how clean his parents keep him in this living condition. His mother looked sad and tired the entire time we were there and the father who was feeding the boy through a tube smiled, showing appreciation.  Annie fell into her automatic-pilot hospital fairy mode – sitting next to him, rubbing his arm, complimenting him and his parents and singing to them in her “angel” persona (her words were in English of course… so they could just enjoy the comforting tones of her voice.  I took out balloons and built a house and puppet hanging over him.  Then the group with us presented them with some boxes of pampers, food, snacks, and an envelope of money… and we left.

Looking at this space with no lights Annie thought the photos would come out dark….  but after taking the shots, we were surprised by what seemed to be spot-lights on the boy, his father, and the monk (no photoshop or photo adjustments).

On the way out we passed some of their pigs

Just before we got in the cars to get to our next family we passed some other kids who live in that village, so out came the balloons again –

We visited two additional houses.  One of them had 4 kids… the other two (and 3 kids came over from next door).  Two of the people who came with us on this trip were from Mac’s classes from last month… one from Argentina and one from Italy.  Rod (it’s easier for us to call him that shortened version of his name) joined in a sword fight with two of the kids –

Then we went to see a new monument of Ganesh (the elephant god of good luck).  The artist (posing with Annie) has been working on this incredible statue (a 7-headed Ganesh) for about 6 months (we thought it would take him years?)

(this is the backside of the statue).

Around the corner from the new statue is an old one-

It was a rewarding day….  showing us the beauty of the mountains, the life-style of these poor, but proud and hard-working farmers, and giving us a chance to bring some smiles and color with the balloons and our energies and be part of a group that’s bringing some financial and material aide to some families who really need it.

On the way home Mac brought us to a wonderful restaurant (it seems we haven’t been to a restaurant in a loooong time).  It’s on an organic farm and serves wonderful large salads.  That was a treat.


Last day of week – Thai Massage in Chiang Mai

    Friday, Jan 27, 2017

We finished the final part of our Thai massage class yesterday.  Today Annie practiced on me …  about 2 hrs.  After lunch I practiced on her – about 2-1/2 hrs.  We’ve been learning to give a 1-2 hr massage. She made it to the 45th step….  I made it to the 53rd step.  The massage we learned has 62 steps.   Trying to remember where you put your feet, body, and hands…. where to put the “patient’s” feet, body, and hands… and then where to press or pull is not intuitive…  and the drawings don’t help enough.   Trying to read our hand-written notes while doing the massage gets harder when the light is wrong, the paper’s too far away, and when we can’t read our own hand writing or remember what we meant by what we wrote.  It’s a combination of frustrating, challenging, and fun.

(at this point Annie’s working on me…  I’m following along with my red notebook and she’s following along with her notes that are down on the floor on my side)


When this becomes internalized I can see how each massage is like a meditation… a physical chant.   I’m envisioning giving a massage as if we’re going on a journey taken by the person getting the massage along with the person giving it.  There’s a beginning, middle, and end.  Also, every journey is unique.   There is a poetry here.


Almost done with 1st week of Thai massage

Our class:

We really blend into our class, don’t we (as usually we’re the only couple, I’m the only male, and we’re old enough to be everyone’s parents,even the teacher’s)?

During dinner last night I turned one of the German students into a punk fairy with a bird’s beak:

When we walk to the local market along the small road, we pass fields of rice as well as very small shops.  Lots of motor cycles.  Some have side carts attached like this one.  There’s a little cage in this one that holds a chicken.  I saw one yesterday that carried a woman in her wheelchair. I looked closer and saw she was driving the motorcycle from her wheel chair in the side cart…  no one was sitting in the motorcycle seat.

Our Massage teacher has a piece of property with his house, a few shacks for students and a little house as well.  There’s also a house on the property that a family from Burma lives in – they take care of his property for him. I’ve played with their kids almost every day. The youngest one is still deathly afraid of me (they don’t speak any English).

We just finished the last lessons of the first week of Thai massage.  The teacher, Mac, is wonderful… with a good sense of humor (I need that in a teacher).  He often says, “You need more coffee!” …. Annie loves to hear that).  When he lectures and demonstrates, I feel like I’m listening to Tony Randall when he played Dr. Lao (in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao).

Tomorrow we practice everything we “learned(?)” so far.   To do this 1-2 hr massage would probably take us 4 hrs at this point (so much to remember and so many positions to get into).   With practice it will get quicker… but will we practice?

We tried deciding what to do next week…. and rather than making up our minds to go to the next location (wherever that will be) we decided to stay for another week of classes (level 2).  Saturday we’ll go with Mac to a mountain village where he helps a family with a child who has special needs.  In the US families can get help when they have children who have special needs (especially if they have the right insurance) but here there’s little government or other assistance.   Mac raises money and goes there once every other month to help as best he can.  We’ve given him a donation and will accompany him on Saturday to this little village (about an hour away in a remote area) and of course I’ll be bringing balloons as well.

The following weekend there’s a big Flower parade festival in Chiang Mai… so we’ll stay in town and enjoy it (sounds like fun for my birthday).  Then we think we’ll take off for a village which is know for its “hippie” atmosphere, hot springs, and lovely nature scenery – Pai (lots of videos of Pai have been posted on Youtube).  We’ve been looking for hotels there and see places from $4/night to $300…. and the $4 ones look pretty nice to us.

Thai Massage school

Wednesday, Jan 25, 2017

It’s been three days since we’ve been at this school.  Annie starts the day at 7am with most of the 8 students doing yoga…  then we have class from 9-Noon…. lunch till 1…  then class from 1-4 or so.  In the evening we should continue to study, review, and practice.  Annie and I mostly walk into the village (about a 15-20 minute walk)….  get an ice cream and groceries for diner… then return to cook.  Tonight 4 of the other students all added their veggies to our stir fried and we all enjoyed a group dinner and talk.  It’s so much fun hearing the stories of these other travelers and then sharing our stories.

After this week we’ll have 4 weeks to go and we’re not sure where to go next.  One thought (the path of least resistance) is to stay here and do the second level of the Thai massage class.  We like it here and might just do that.


Thai Massage school

January 21, 2017

How’d we get here?

Two years ago we went to India so Annie could study Ashtanga Yoga at it’s center in Mysore.  I kept applying online to get her a space (you need to apply 3 months ahead) until everything seemed set. While we were in Nepal (we had three months before her “term” at Mysore would begin in February), we received an email that she hadn’t been accepted in Mysore – when I had received a confirmation back in November, it just meant they had received her application.   Trying to reinvent our trip, new friends in Nepal told us to skip India and go to Chiang Mai in Thailand.  We had one more day in Nepal before our visa expired, so we went to the the Thai embassy to get a visa, but it was the king’s birthday – the embassy was closed.  So we returned to India and eventually made it to Mysore where Annie got the opportunity to study the specific style of yoga she’d been dreaming of for 10 years.

Chiang Mai stayed in our desires though.  When we began our plans for Thailand we thought, “Chiang Mai!”    Our friends (Rip Hayman & Barbara Pollitt) mentioned they had a friend who lived on a boat in Haverstraw (about 30 minutes north of us) most of the year but also lived in a house she built in Chiang Mai for a few months each year.  We were able to connect with her just before she was leaving and another connection was made – back in the early 1980’s Annie made costumes for a dance company that performed hanging upside down from ropes.   This woman, Bronya, was a dancer with that company.

Bronya described the house she had built in Chiang Mai, on the property of a friend (Mac) who teaches Thai massage.  She said he’s very special and people come from all over the world to study with him.

So here we are, living in his little compound in Bronya’s house, studying Thai Massage with him.  We signed up for 0ne week…  and might stay for 2-4?

On Sunday he will be driving up to the mountains to help out a poor family that has a disabled child…  I plan on bringing the balloons.

The other students are all friendly and serious.  They all have stories about how they found this place.  There are 8 of us…  from Argentina, France, Germany, and from the US.  Two of the students are from Wisconsin (they were surprised to meet each other her).

Besides this little house of Bronya’s (a comfortable bedroom, kitchen and bathroom), there are a few tent/bungalows and two rooms in Mac’s house that he also rents to students.  A few dogs roam freely and there’s a family from Burma that also lives here.  Mac has an arrangement with them that they take care of the property and get a place to live with their kids (I’ve already introduced these kids to the balloons).

The walk into the local village takes about 15-20 minutes.  We get food supplies there.  All the local people we pass along the way smile at us.  When we tried finding vinegar yesterday, we had almost given up when we ran into an Australian missionary who has lived here for about 30 years.  He works with young girls, helping them get out of the sex trafficking world.  He helped us navigate through the products in the store (nothing is in English).  I volunteered to do a show for him if he can get a group of kids together…. I’m hoping.

The Thai massage classes are a challenge… so much to remember.  But it’s out of the comfort zone… just where we want to be.

Arriving in Chiang Mai

Jan 22, 2017

It seems so much easier for Annie to enter blog stories into her Facebook than to send the info to me with photos and have me post it here.  We’ll see how much longer we continue?

We had booked a hotel room near the airport in Phuket for the night before we took off for Chiang Mai.  That was good.   I should have known the drive to the hotel would be about 2-1/2 to 3 hrs from the pier once we got across the water from our hotel on the paradise island.  Still, we left early and arrived at our hotel before dark.

The next morning we could relax and catch a taxi to the airport (literally across the street… a 5-minute ride).  Waiting on the security line wasn’t too bad…  less than 20 minutes.  I’m always afraid they’ll charge extra for my back pack that has all my stuff (including the balloons).  It’s about 50+ pounds and I believe we’re permitted 66, so it’s never been an issue and wasn’t this time.

The flight to Chiang Mai was just about 2 hrs… with no delays.  The taxi to our hotel was maybe 20 minutes (about $5, generous tip included).  It’s always a bit nervous arriving at each hotel… wondering if I screwed up and either booked a dump or a place too far from the area we want to be in.  I’ve been fortunate recently and we’ve been happy with the results.  I look at several sites…  www.booking.com is one – it shows the area, the prices, some details, some photos, and some critiques.   You can never know for sure, but again, we’ve been lucky so far during this trip.

While walking to the Saturday evening market (a 5-minute walk and the reason we wanted to stay in this area last night) we passed a woman who was  working on the hair of a customer.  Her daughter was sitting with them as she worked.  Annie wanted to take the girl’s picture and I had a “calling” to take out the balloons.  Here’s the result:

Second day in Paradise

We woke early and took a kayak across the water to a smaller island.  The intention was snorkeling….  That didn’t happen (wrong location).   It still felt special to be on an island all on our own (even if it is swimming distance from our hotel).

In the afternoon we walked down the beach.  Our hotel shares the beach with one other.  We had lunch there. It’s much more primitive than this one and costs a little less than half what this one does (but neither is really expensive).  We liked the ease and free style of that one…  but are happy with the environmental friendly solar-powered investment this one’s made… as well as the extra touches.

I asked the owner of the other place about getting a boat to snorkel at Koh Surin (Islands)… saying the booking gent said we needed to return to the pier at the main island.  She said a boat was picking up some of her people tomorrow at the hotel.    So much for communications.  We might have done that from here had I thought of asking our hotel when we first arrived.  Now we’re too relaxed and are enjoying just hanging around.

We returned to watch the sunset and have dinner.


Catching up with the past few days.

January 17, 2017 …. a bit more


When we were in Bangkok we knew one of the focuses we wanted in Thailand was to enjoy snorkeling.   Looking at all the information we saw we didn’t want to go to the area known as Phuket because that’s a crowded, party area.   I went online looking for the best snorkeling in Thailand and was directed to five islands. One of these five – Koh Surin where they said you could snorkel right outside your hotel room.   So I booked a hotel right on the beach at Surin Beach.   When we arrived at our hotel, we found out this was a little, pretty beach cove on Phuket (there are many beach coves here).   Koh Surin is an Island far away…. Surin beach is one of the many areas on Phuket.   Ooops! No snorkeling outside the hotel here.

That night we booked a day’s snorkeling trip for the next day.

A 10-hr day trip to get to another crowded beach a distance away… and 45-minutes of snorkeling.   That was pretty… but not the snorkeling experience we wanted.

Back to the internet. This time we saw 2-day boat adventure for divers… but we could snorkel along with them. We were serious – we wanted to snorkel so we started signing up for it.   It was around the Similan Islands (a collection of 9 mostly uninhabited islands (one of the top diving areas in Thailand).

Since Koh Surin was still “calling us” I kept looking and found we could take a boat to that island and even stay there overnight. However, they only had tents and I thought we wanted more comfort. The agency I was communicating with said there was a nearby island that had an eco-friendly resort. We looked at it on line and were sold.

For timing I needed to make sure we could do the Similan Island boat snorkeling adventure, spend a night at a hotel on the way to the Koh Surin, and then have our adventure in Koh Surin for a few days.   I asked the Similan boat people how far north they could leave us off and the Koh Surin Island people how far south they could pick us up from – to decide where to spend the night in between.   Then I started looking for a place in that area.   There were cheep places and expensive…. But one stood out. It was in a jungle-type area, along a stream, and you could see elephants bathing from the rooms. What a concept. Snorkel with the fish & corals for a couple days and then kayak with the bathing elephants. This is out of our regular life-routines.   I signed everything up (using two booking agencies and a third for the “elephant” hotel”. While signing us we made a slight switch and booked the boat for a 5-day adventure rather than the 2-day.

The boat adventure began smoothly.   We got picked up at our hotel on Surin Beach and met some of the other guest (all divers rather than snorkelers). From Finland, Sweden, and Australia .   Arriving an hour later onto the boat,   we took off our shoes and didn’t see them again until we left the boat 5 days later. Our room was small as we expected and we lived in our swimming suits.

Most days were set with 4 dives for the scuba divers each day (there were about 14 divers) and 3 dives for Annie and me (snorkelers).   There are 9 islands in this area.   When we were close to islands we were permitted to get near (most of them are uninhabited… like Jurassic Park) we’d usually take a little dingy boat close to the rocks and go out for an hour. We’d see beautiful fish…. Annie saw a shark… we saw some turtles (one swimming faster than I thought possible)… lots of star fish…. Jelly fish…. One of the best experiences was to swim above the divers… and we got to have a bubble bath in the air bubbles they sent up to us.

The divers would talk about the barracudas, octopuses, and other creatures they saw further down below.

The food on board was a treat. Usually rice, Pan Thai Noodles with sea food, a veggie dish, and fruit. Also some dish with pork and another with chicken.

Most of the passengers were from Scandinavia. Beer and smoking tobacco was part of their reality.

One evening one of the Danish passengers celebrated his birthday.   Of course I broke into my balloons for the celebration (it wasn’t the first or last time I did that during this adventure). I even joined them having a beer that evening (my first in I don’t remember how many years).

I had fun playing with the crew with my balloons as well. They spoke almost no English…. But had the most friendly smiles and really appreciated the balloons.

In all the days on the boat… we never got sick…. We had a wonderful time in the water … on the boat … with the crew… and with the other guest.   We never had a strong desire to learn scuba diving… but who knows? It may get onto our bucket list some day?

When the boat docked, a few families with young kids were waiting for us… the families of the crew. From the boat I shot some balloons to these kids before we were set to get off the boat. Then I played with them for a bit before we got into our van to depart to our hotel.

We got into the van with a couple from Liverpool and one of the diving instructors (from Finland). I was looking over all of our notes and couldn’t find the confirmation for our hotel. I remembered all the moments leading up to booking it … organizing for the boat people to drop us off there after the snorkeling trip and for the island people to pick us up the next day…. But I couldn’t find the confirmation and there was no email confirmation.   We were getting concerned. This hotel only had 4-5 rooms and it was in the middle of nowhere. I looked on line (we had G3) and the hotel had no rooms available, so if we arrived and there were no rooms for us, we’d have a long drive trying to find another room somewhere…. Also, by now the Liverpool couple and the Diving Instructor had been dropped off 40 minutes earlier.   The driver had problems finding the hotel…. Getting off the paved roads and onto dirt roads. Finally we found it and pulled in as it was beginning to get dark. When we got out of the car the owners greeted us.

“Do we have a reservation?” I asked.

“You Americans?” they responded.

“Yes, from New York”. (It’s funny most people tell you what country they’re from… We always say we’re “New Yorkers”

“We have your reservation!”     We were relieved. We got our bags out… I made some balloons for the owner’s children… and we were led to our room.

It was magical… living up to our dreams from their promo. We weren’t hungry, but the dinner looked too good to pass … and it was…. maybe the best meal we’ve had in Thailand.

The next morning we woke and took their kayak out the back to the elephants… about 3-5 minutes away and watched them bathe. We came for breakfast – another wonderful adventure…. Had a beautiful walk to see the elephants from the land… packed up…and waited for our ride.  With about 10 minutes to go, the balloons came out again and the owner’s son and a few cousins came over for more fun. The driver arrived and waited for me to finish… then we left for the next adventure.

The ride was maybe 70-90 minutes to the next pier. The little boat was waiting for us.   I made some balloons for the kids (kids of the boat people) and we took off.   About 45 minutes later we arrived at our island. They loaded the truck with all the bags and hotel equipment then we piled on top of the luggage in the back of the truck and took off for the hotel (about 15-20 minutes away). We might have arrived at the hotel via the boat, but the tide was too low to get through the passage.

As we arrived at this hotel we were nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the “Elephant hotel” – that was so esthetically magical…. But this hotel surpasses everything we expected.

If this “read” is too long, sorry… Annie’s the “photojournalist”… I’m the guy with verbal diarrhea.

More later… Annie’s hour of drawing is almost done, and so’s my computer battery.

Additional note –

As we were finishing with these plans for this part of our adventures, I was expecting we’d end the 5 days snorkeling in the Similan Islands off the moving boat then we’d take five days on the island near Koh Surin – at some point taking a day trip to Surin Island one day for another snorkeling adventure. But the travel guy for the island eco resort said we need to take a ferry (Longtale) boat back to the pier and then another to Koh Surin for the daytrip… there’s no option to go directly from our nearby hotel island. He also said logistically and economically it would be best to get an early ride from the “elephant” hotel to the pier for a snorkeling day trip to Koh Surin… then back to the pier and then back to our Island. That would mean missing the elephants in the morning (the reason we booked that hotel). Also, after 5 days of snorkeling from the boat we thought we needed a couple days “off”. The bottom line – we’re not making it to Koh Surin.

Now that we’re at this island eco resort and are still “digesting” and processing the past week of adventures as well as this paradise around us, we have no regrets (as Piaf would sing) that we’re missing Koh Surin.

Our “home” for the next few days

January 17, 2017

Stories will follow, (including stories from the snorkeling boat adventure and elephant hotel from the past week)…  but we arrived at this paradise island yesterday.  Every time we arrive at a destination we wonder if we made a mistake (not unusual for us)… but this time all the puzzle pieces are fitting together magically.  Annie’s busy with her drawing meditation now so I have some time to catch up with the blog a bit.  Here are some images of our island resort (we’ve only seen about 10 guests and a handful of workers).   This is the isolation we dreamed of.

outside our bungalow:

on the beach

walk to the restuarant

view from the restaurant:

another view near the beach

hotel sign

flower on beach:

view of beach – later today we’ll kayak across to the little island and snorkel

James (our waiter and English speaking helper)

The Thai massage center (two floors)…  Annie might “visit” here later today