Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day Weekend 2012

We were so lucky for Father's Day weekend that it fell on an unexpected school holiday!  Heather was able to come over and spend the night Wednesday night, and then I got to leave school at 9:00 on Thursday morning.  We headed over to Muscat for a 4-day weekend and Steph was able to get her first real visit to Oman!!
Started the weekend with a late birthday cake for Heather. 
It's "Happy Bird-Day!"

We stayed at the Barr Al Jissah resort in Muscat.  It has 3 parts, and we stayed in the family part, Al Waha.  We were able to get a family suite, so it was really reasonably priced and fun to all get to be together.

                                               This is the entrance to the whole complex.

This is looking from our balcony out toward the sea and the adult part of the resort up on the cliffs.
Looking from our balcony back toward the mountains
Although we stayed in the family section, we spent most of our time at the middle section of the resort, Al Bandar.  The beach there was almost deserted, and we had very few "neighbors" while sitting in our chairs looking out at the water.....ah....relaxation.  The staff came around periodically to bring us coolers with iced-down water bottles, cold washcloths for refreshing, and delicious platters of freshly cut fruit......NICE!!!

The water was just cold enough to be refreshing!

Couldn't get my camera flash to work right for night photos, so this is using Cory's phone as a flashlight---ha-ha!!  This is looking back at our hotel from across the bay.  There was a great paved walkway that was perfect for evening strolls.
Lazy River that flowed between the 3 hotel sections
Start of the Lazy River

Chess Board with a great view!
Camels on beach

Turtle nests
Kim and Cory got to go scuba diving.  This was Kim's first dive, and he was SO excited to see turtles, eels, a leopard shark, and MANY different varieties of fish and coral.

What will I see??

Almost ready!
Castle on the beach

View from the boat

Well, the girls are smiling!

Happy Father's Day from your 2 girls!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thailand: Spring Break 2012

We had an amazing spring break in Thailand!  I was able to get off work early on Thursday before Spring Break because my principal told me I "deserved" to leave at 9:00!!  Ha-ha!  What a hoot!  I went home and packed my suitcase....yes, I left it until the last minute!

We met Heather at the Abu Dhabi Airport and flew out Thursday night, arriving in Bangkok early Friday morning.  We were spending a few nights at the Banyan Tree.  Everybody told us we wouldn't like Bangkok, but we needed to at least see it.  We also planned a couple of things that would be more easily accessible from there, so it worked out.  The Banyan Tree was a really neat place, with the MOST delicious breakfasts!!  Every morning I had bacon, bacon, bacon!  Mmmmmmm.....enjoying just remembering those breakfasts!  :)

Walking around the city was great.  There were small business vendors EVERYWHERE.  They sold everything from clothing and jewelry to freshly cooked food.  We were a little leery about trying street food our first day or two!  We saw small temples on each corner.  It was explained that they put up the temple and placed offerings there so the store would receive blessings and protection.
We also saw an unusual Ronald McDonald, with his hands in the greeting position for "Sa-wàt dee." 

We had a driver and guide who took us to the Bridge on the River Kwai.  We actually took a boat ride that went under the bridge before we went up top.

We got to walk across the bridge.  It was eery to think of all the men who had spent some miserable years here, and yet here were all these tourists flocking around buying souvenirs!!

We ate lunch at this floating restaurant:  very enjoyable and breezy on a hot day!

We toured the Jeath War Museum, where they had photos of many of the men who were imprisoned there during the war and forced to build the Burma railroad, particularly the bridge over this river.  They had a re-constructed barracks so you could see how the men lived day-to-day.  They also had photos showing many of the survivors who returned later in life to see where they had suffered.

We traveled to the cemetery where many of the dead are interred.

Heather and Kim had their photo made with some of the monks who serve at the temple of this area.  (Kim had to stand between Heather and the monks so it would be allowed to photograph them.)

After the bridge, we headed to the Tiger Preserve, where the monks care for tigers.  This is the entrance, and our van about to head inside.

The monks have special relationships with the tigers.  The oldest tiger there is believed to be the reincarnation of the monk's best friend.

We walked around and in among the tigers.  This is Kim (can you see him?) petting one of the tigers from behind.  I'm not sure what Kim was doing, but the tiger wasn't too pleased!  Ha-ha!  No, seriously, you had to hold the hand of one of the workers in the purple shirts to walk around, and they got quite upset with you if you did not walk exactly where they told you to.  Then, when you pet the tiger, you had to use a very firm hand.  Otherwise, they might think it's a pesky fly and try to swat you.  That happened to me once.  I was just gently rubbing the hair, and the tiger whisked around.  I jumped and was told "firm hand!"

After they rounded us all up, they let us take turns walking the tigers down to their play area and the river.

 Then, we got to pet a few of the tigers off their chains in their play area.

Here I'm squinting because we had to take off our sunglasses (in case the tigers thought the sunglasses were toys and would leap for them).  Unfortunately, my sunglasses are also my prescription glasses, so I can't see a thing!  Ha-ha!

We also got to pet some baby tigers!   Awwwww.......

Then we watched some people who had paid to play in the water with the tigers.....uh-uh.....NOT ME!!

Karmen joined us the next day for some Wat viewing.  We visited Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), which is the oldest and biggest temple in Bangkok.  It has the most pagodas in the city and was the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage.....more about that later!  We took a boat down the Chao Phraya River to get there.

To get to the next site, the Grand Palace, we had to take another boat ride and walk through a maze of SMELLY street vendors.  Had to literally hold my breath and walk very quickly so I wouldn't get sick!

Princess Bejaratana Rajasuda Sirisobhabannavadi's death was in the news while we were there.  She actually passed away in July of 2011, but the ceremony is only now being held.  Kim had read about it in the newspaper and told me a few days earlier.  Then, when we were walking to the Grand Palace, we saw what we thought was a big parade.  It turned out to be the practice ceremony for her cremation.

After the ceremony ended, we were allowed inside the Grand Palace, but we had to be fully covered.  So we donned our sweaters in the sweltering heat and toured the grounds.

Gotta love their signage:  "Properly dresses must be held all the time"

We did a little shopping and then headed back down the river to our hotel.

For our last night in Bangkok, we ate some Sushi and headed out to see the strange happenings in dark-thirty Bangkok.  It was..........interesting.......and that's all I'm gonna say 'bout that!

We flew to Krabi, and the worst that happened was that Karmen's was the only luggage that arrived!  Kim, Heather, and I were each missing a bag.  They said the best case scenario was that it would come in on the next plane from Bangkok and they would deliver it to us.  Well, the best case happened, and our luggage arrived about 5 hours later.

We were staying at the Phu Petra Boutique Hotel in Krabi.  It is a lovely little place that offered lots of quiet and gorgeous views of the cliffs.  To get into town or to the beach, we could either ride in the back of a truck (which everybody does) or take a tuk-tuk.  We used both options several times.

Our room and bath for 10 days:

We went on an elephant ride through the jungle, and our elephant was very sweet, so our driver let Kim and me do the driving.  Heather and Karmen were on a very head-strong elephant, so their driver had to keep him on a short leash!

Another day we took a speed-boat ride around some islands:  Phi-Phi Don, Monkey Island, Bamboo Island, and more:  GORGEOUS and FUN!

Looking in at Maya Bay (where "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed)

Amazing variety of fish and crystal clear water!

Ha-ha!  The boat almost ran us over!!

Another day we took a long-tail boat over to Railay Island to spend the day and go kayaking to some sea caves.....again, DELIGHTFUL!!

I loved the cliffs going right down to the water's edge.  We took the kayaks around this point.

I want to live in the house with the red roof and look at this view each morning.

We tried to keep well-hydrated.

Then, we went to the Tiger Cave Temple and climbed 2,307 steps to the very top ~  Needless to say, we were in pain for the next few days!!  We literally moaned every time we had to lift a leg to climb the 3 steps up to eat breakfast. 
At the top:  WE MADE IT!!!
The monkeys were NOT friendly.  They would attack anyone who appeared to have food!!  Scared three girls in front of us to death!  Here is Kim right after he squirted the monkey with water!!  Monkey is a little upset!!  :)

After the climb....exhausted but proud!

I can rule the world now!  :)
Pagoda of Guanshiyin, Goddess of Compassion

Tiger Cave:  the tiger lived here until the monks frightened him off
People leave offerings here.

That was our last day of physical exertion.  We were ready for some down time.  We enjoyed so many relaxing days at the beach and pool!   I had never had a massage before, but I managed to work in 3 while I was there.  I'm hooked!  It was also a treat just to stay in one place for a while.  Our last few vacations we have traveled to a new location every few days, so this was a real treat.  We got to know the wait-staff quite well.  :)

What a view!!!

One of our favorite guys....

But I have to say, one of the things we were most excited about was the food.  We had the best food we've ever had on vacation.  From seafood, to steak, to Thai, to German.....we stuffed ourselves!!


Then, we headed home on the airplane.  I wish I could sleep on a plane....