Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mason on Bangkok: Chatuchak Market


It's started out as a mellow day. We woke up at a normal time around six or seven and had an average breakfast with eggs bacon and cereal. We went out for drinks my parents got coffee and I got hot chocolate, the store didn't have any hot chocolate so I got pink lemonade and Redd got a blue Hawaii flavored drink. After that we went home and got ready for the day. I got my bag which had my sunglasses, my camera, and I use it to hold other stuff. We went to the train station, got our tickets and then got on the train after about 15 minutes we got to our first stop, from there we took another train to the market. The second we stepped off of the train was a swirl of all kinds of stands flower stands, vegetable stands, arts and crafts stands, and many more. Oh, I forgot to tell you, this is the biggest market in the world has over 15,000 stands. The stand that really caught my eye was this one stand that had a lot of weapons that shot rubber bands. My parents said we could get one on the way back.

After couple hours of walking around looking at stands eating a bit of food we stopped at one place and got a massage. This was the second massage that I've ever had and it felt really good. After that we started walking home. it had all the same stuff including ribbon shops, small toy stores, leather bags, iPhone cases, iPad cases and much much more. Once we got to the place for the little wooden gun. the stand wasn't there anymore so that's kind of disappointing. After that we took the trains back to the docks and waited for a boat right then it started raining very hard luckily we had a roof over the dock we were very lucky that we hadn't stayed at the market any longer at the market we would've been there in the pouring rain. After that we went home and my dad and I built a model tank and went to bed.

Mason on bangkok: Canal Tours and Tilted Bathrooms


Today we went on a tour in Bangkok.  We woke up early and took a boat to the other side of the River, from there from there we went to the train station and took a train down to a different place I don't really know where. We waited at the train station for a while for our tour guide to come, by the way we were going on a boat tour across the murky canals, they're pretty dirty but there are lots of fish catfish to be specific. Well back to the topic, we are here waiting there for a while but the tour guide never came so we went back up to the train station and when we were up there or tour guide (well at  the time I didn't really know she was the tour guide) said that our bout was at a different place. We took a little jog over to the docks were the boat was and then hopped on. Our first stop was the market.

Our tour guide said were going to get a lot of food and then bring it to restaurant to eat it (that turned out to not really be true) but anyway we got we got some fruit and Nuts and my brother Reddy started itching a lot. He said he had got it the itching before we got on the boat but right now it really started. So we went to a nearby pharmacy and got him some pills. once we were all done getting water and giving him the pills we went back to the boat months we were there we went to the second stop the temples.

This was probably my favorite stop of them all.  we walked in the door and they were beautiful gold pillars holding up the ceilings, which were all red with golden pictures of our I don't really know what they were, just really beautiful.  everywhere there were ancient artifacts and things from the monks that had lived here before. the second floor had everything that had belonged to the monks before kept in glass boxes.

The third floor had sculptures of some really important monk, one of them was made out of solid gold.

The fourth floor was by far my favorite it had huge pyramid thing made made out of tinted green glass in the very top there was a little golden Buddha on the ceiling there were paintings that showed the stars and sun well kind of. 

At the third stop we ate we had some traditional Thai noodles which were really good.  My brothers and I love them. For dessert we had delicious ice cream which was almost as good as the noodles. After this we went to another temple which is called the Forest Temple and it was pretty easy to tell why it was called so, all the walls were made out of wood and the chairs looked kind of like trees in one of the wall there it was a glass screen in behind that there was a golden Buddha and some monk sitting on the wooden tree chair. Our tour guide told us about some of their religion and told us how to to pray and which way you should sit.

After that it was our last stop the orchid farm all the flowers were very beautiful but once we were halfway through the farm I had to go to the bathroom so my mom and I went back and I went to the bathroom.  sadly there wasn't any toilet paper so we had to use some wet wipe things, the whole bathroom was tilted to one side so it was kind of awkward.  we went back out to meet the group but by then it it was almost over so we went for a bit longer and then got back on the boat we stopped at the docks and she showed us the puppet place were there normally show but there wasn't today.  she said we could feed the fish after we went and got some drinks so my brothers and I got ice tea while my parents got iced coffee, then we went to feed the fish but my mom stopped and bought a traditional Thai lunch box. finally we got to feeding the fish.  when we threw the first spoonful of food they went crazy they swarmed up and started eating it like mad men. they splashed a lot made a time of noise until eventually we had given them all all the fish food we had to go home we hopped on a pickup truck which took us down to the city were from there we took a taxi back to our hotel and took a long refreshing swim.

Bo on Bangkok: Day 2, Chatuchak Market

Day two of my journal:

Today I woke up a little early because of some ice coffee that I had drunk yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't have to because today we went on a trip that would begin a little later. Today we went to the largest market in Asia. It has over 15,000 stalls and is open each weekend in Bangkok.This Sunday we're lucky we started early because by the time we left, around 4 o'clock, the crowds were just starting to pour in. As you walk in you are assaulted by variety of smells. The smell of noodle soup with chicken, the site of the Clocktower, that was much bigger on the skytrain right then than in real life, and the the observation that no matter how much of it you see there's always more to this grand, grand market. After a bit, it blended together into a hodgepodge stew that barraged the senses. I got a massage that was wonderful, except maybe for the shoulder and neck part.  That hurt a bit, but that just made it feel better in the end. After that we went to a restaurant called chicken soup with noodles. I don't know if that was the name or what it served, because I don't speak Thai. I ordered chicken soup with rice. Attempted before we went to the restaurant it started raining. We had to walk over a street while it was raining raining with cars buzzing past to get that chicken soup with noodles, but boy was it good. Then walked around for a while, the sun came out although it was not as bright as it had seemed it would be in the morning, and ergonomist country to the home. Sometime during the long metro ride home it started to rain. It was the most primped subway/train ride I've ever been on in my life. We got to the hotel safe and sound.

Bo on Bangkok: Day 3, Chinatown and Wat Pho

Day 3: Today we started out sleeping late. We left on the boat which took us over to the other side of the river, but before that we had breakfast at our usual spot. Noodles, rice with garlic pork, and a spicy veggie dish were all things that were consumed that morning. After taking the boat across the river, we waited at Sathorn Pier for the tourist boat to come around. We bought an all day ticket and got on the boat. Our first stop was at Yaowarat, or Chinatown. We walked through an exquisite array of plastic beads, cheap stickers, and necklaces. We found a Dim Sum place called Shangri-La. The food was mediocre, but we got to go in an air conditioned room for a while, so it all balanced out. We left Chinatown on an express boat which, luckily for us, stopped at Pier 8. I visited Wat Pho and we got a great massage. Next we went to a cocoon museum which had some guys playing old American songs. I won a sketchbook in an Angry Birds toss and a rode a bull for 10 seconds. It rained and we escaped on a boat.

Bo on Bangkok: Day 1, Canal Tour

Today I took a tour of Bangkok. It was very fun and I saw many interesting things along the way. First, we took a taxi to the Bangkok travel system, a skytrain monorail. On the skytrain we traveled to a new stop where we were supposed to meet our guide.  However, there was a mixup as to where we were supposed to meet and we waited for a while as the problem was resolved.  Then we met the guide and and quickly got on the boat from which we traveled down the canals of Bangkok.  

Our first stop, out of six, was at a traditional market where we were supposed to get ingredients that would be prepared at the restaurant, our fourth stop.  However things changed a bit as Redd developed an itching sensation and it turned out that many of the dishes that we had wanted to eat were either too common or too rare.  So in the end we got some fruit, a bag of boiled peanuts, and a pack of pills instead of the fish, vegetables, and crab that we were supposed to eat. We then got back on the boat.  

Redd took one of the pills, we ate some noodles off of a boat, a "once in a lifetime experience" accordingly to our guide though really we've eaten a lot of noodles already, and we traveled to our second stop, a grand temple. There were multiple floors on the temple; however it was the fourth floor that really amazed me.  The first floor had columns of red paint with gold designs on them and an altar with a gold Bhudda.  The second floor had the relics of the previous monks, either dead or some who had merely stopped their education. The third floor had solid gold statues of the greatest meditators that had came to this temple, including one that weighed one hundred thousand kilograms. He was the idol of most of the people who aspire to be great meditators and many people came each day to meditate in front of him hoping that his wisdom would help them in their quest for internal peace. The fourth floor, the greatest, had a star ceiling engraved with over 50,000 gemstones that had come from Austria.  It had extremely intricate paintings of the Buddha and he was always sitting on a lotus flower. I love these paintings or engravings were not even the grandest part of the room. 

In the center of the room, surrounded by waist high glass walls, was a 3 to 4 m high green glass pyramid. At the top was a small, maybe 6 inches tall, golden Buddha. He was not sitting, as he normally is depicted as, but he was standing with his hands facing outward as if to stop the flood. After gazing at this magnificence, and taking many pictures, we got back on the boat and drove down the canals. The third thing we did was go to a smaller temple called the Forest Temple. There we learned about two things, one being the etiquette especially using the feet and where to point out. Putting your feet in the direction of someone is considered unclean as the feet are, in Buddhism,  the most unkempt part of the body. Sticking your feet toward someone is disrespectful and frowned upon, but it is okay so long as you're not looking or talking to them. 

The second thing we learned about was the different positions that the Buddha is depicted in in the statues. About 70% of them are depicted with him sitting cross-legged, his right foot foot over left foot, right hand on his right knee. This signifies his resistance to give into temptation to quit his meditation and thus, quit his path to enlightenment. About 10% have Buddha depicted sitting with his legs in the same position, but with his hands folded in his lap, right hand over left. One more 10% have Buddha depicted as reclining as this is the position he died in. The last 10% are depicted in other positions such as standing up and breaking the flood. 

The fourth place we went to was a canal restaurant where we had a couple different noodle dishes, such as dry noodles, noodle soup, and a Thai Omlette. We also had a choice for dessert of many different tubs of ice cream, such as blueberry, vanilla, chocolate, and passion fruit. 

The fifth place we went to on our canal journey was an orchid farm where, by far the most pictures were taken. There were orchids of many different colors. There were red, white, and yellow orchids. There also some more kinds, especially the yellow ones, that either had something sort of like flower freckles, or they were just plain old plants. The sixth, and final place that we went to on today's journey was an artist's home. It had puppet shows would play occasionally for free, but today was not one of those days. However we still had a lot of fun there, as we drink our iced lemon tea and fed the ravenous catfish. We went home and I started to write this journal entry.

Biking in Chiang Mai

After a week in Bangkok just prowling the streets, walking through temples, visiting the malls that SE Asians find aspirational and fascinating (and which we appreciated for the air conditioning) we hit the road for Chiang Mai in the northwest part of Thailand, close to the Burma border.  Which Mason will correct you and tell you is now Myanmar.  Noted.

Stayed here for a week in a fantastic little hotel called Rimping Village, in the little quaint town square not far from the historic center.  The place has bikes for guests to use so we took those out for a few days. I haven't ridden a bike since we live on the Charles River in Boston's Back Bay, so that would be 15 years ago.  But like horses, it comes back to you. It was a bit nerve wracking at first watching the kids attempt to stay on the left side (didn't realize that Asia drives on the left until we pulled out of the Bangkok airport--I've now cancelled the car we were going to rent in Bali.  Who needs that aggravation??)  Also no one cares much about pedestrians here, which is so different from San Miguel where people cross with impunity anywhere they care to.  No on ewill hit them and everyone stops.  Here it's every songthoew, tuk tuk, cab and scooter for himself.  I finally had to ride in front of Redding as I couldn't bear to watch him hot dogging it, zig zagging in his lane about 2 inches from parked cars and 2 inches from moving ones.  But what a great way to get around once you get used to it.

We covered a lot of terrain through the old walled city, driving along the old moat which surrounded the city and is now a square of smelly canals defining the space.

Mason and I got foot massages one morning while the others did some school work.  He was not fond of the stick which was pushed rather hard into each of his toe pressure points.  He's becoming a bit of an expert after five massages in 10 days!  

Letters to Laura

An email to my friend, Laura in Baltimore, who purports to want to travel with her son Alex but never gets her act together to come with us because organized sports have taken over her life.  So, now I give her more encouragement:  "First I'm just going to say that I'm going to nag you from here until eternity to get your ass in gear and bring Alex on the road with us one time. We are in Chiang Mai, Thailand right now getting ready to put our fat butts on some big elephants and ride them through the rice paddies to a river where we get off and bathe them with a huge scrub brush. Ok. Maybe that last part will not entice you. But...we've had four massages each including one for Redd where he had to strip down completely and get his butt cheeks rubbed. Which at first he said was weird. But then he liked it. She put a small piece of cloth over his wiener and then proceeded to do his inner thighs. Noodle soup with pork and curry for breakfast every morning (while we were in Bangkok). Have 7 more weeks to go in Laos, Cambodia and Bali, Indonesia. There's still time to join us.  Asia is the bomb and Sam is ready to move here. Mostly because the food is so damn good and cheap. We cannot find street food for more than $2 per person per absolutely delicious meal!"

To which she replied, "LMAO....the transition from "she put a towel over his wiener" to noodle soup was a bit abrupt. Thought you were going somewhere else with that. Lol!!!  Sounds amazing. Alex and I are game for an adventure. Taylor's brother used to summer in Thailand!!!  They loved it. Real life schedule is the problem. BUT.... Never say never. I would come alone but I just can't leave Alex behind he would kill me. The big scrub brush would be amazing!!! My back itches!!! Riding elephants would be a dream come true and I really want to pet a giraffe. Ok. Maybe that's Africa... We have to plan but I think it's a must. Alex can't be all about school and football. I'm sorry to have missed Thailand.  Send me the rest of your agenda!!!  Xoxoxo. As always your writings have enthralled and amused...especially the wiener noodle part!!!

To which I replied: "Now I'm the one laughing my ass off. Ah, no one saw the noodle soup segue coming....You are correct. Time to leave behind the football and school, at least for a couple of weeks. That's stuff you will never miss when you shuffle off this mortal coil. But getting your boobs massaged vigorously by someone whom you can't identify as make or female?  That's unforgettable and life altering. (That's what was happening to me as Redding was getting his soup stirred. Sam and the other two were safely getting their feet massaged in the safety of the front room.). And FYI don't forget we have Professor Hillers on board for in-house tutoring. He's next door right now overseeing math and reading lessons. He and I are going out to find two temples and the zipline office (Flying with Gibbons it's called) while the boys stay here doing their lessons by the pool under the shade if a frangipani tree...

And no, you cannot leave Alex behind. He would have such a ball navigating these crazy markets, eating meat off a stick (that has no relation to Redd's wiener), and otherwise exploring some crazy shit with my guys (like a four-story cage of baby squirrels dressed up in costumes in a market in Bangkok. The ones that had been just born didn't have to put on a suit.)"

The Power of the Cheap Massage--and Where Redding Got His Biscuits Buffed

Everyone says get as many massages as you can while you travel.  When they're $5 each for an hour it makes the advice kind of easy to follow. Our first one was at the end of Khao San Road where we were searching for a "gorgeous teak house" that a friend in San Miguel recommended.  Searched high and low but finally settled for a kind of dirty, rickety plaster house but after a few hours of walking from temple to temple, fending off taxi drivers, we set uncle and sat down.  What you learn quickly is that almost doesn't matter where you go. Someone is going to put you down on a mat, wash your feet with water, and then start to bend, twist and rub you into oblivion.  Then give you a cold cloth and a cup of hot tea and ask for a fiver.  It just can't ever be bad.

The second massage we got at the famous Wat Phrao temple school ,perhaps one of our least favorites and most expensive, but still you have to have one.  It's a huge hall with rows and rows of beds.  Each bed has some sweaty prostrate tourist flopped down with a Thai man or woman crawling over them.  The staff gives you a pair of cotton pants to put on (you never get Thai massaged in the buff), you flop down on a mat with a colorful piece of fabric and a hard pillow, and you get prodded and bent for an hour.  Mason must have really enjoyed his.  As he said when we gathered in the courtyard of this rather fantastic wat, surrounded by gold stupas and multicolored carved dragons, "I haven't had too many massages in my life but that one seemed really good."

The kids got  a third massage in Bangkok's famous Saturday Chatuchak Market, while Sam and I had a huge bowl of tom yong goong soup and a massive plate of pad thai.  Foot massage as babysitter?  Alright.

Two more in Chiang Mai, one at Fah Lanna, the best smelling shop we visited with strong wafts of mentholyptus in the air, and where Redd and I opted for an oil massage. I just wanted someone to rub me, not bend me. So this was the first place we actually took our clothes off, which I guess you do only when you're getting oil applied.  Redd was a bit shocked at first when asked to strip down everything, including his underwear.  He told me, She rubbed my butt cheeks which at first I thought was really weird but then it felt OK.  When she turned me over she came me a little piece of cloth to cover my wiener."  Glad she didn't massage that. 

My masseuse was of some indeterminate sex.  Because he/she/it was vigorously rubbing my bare boobs with oil (another first) I just kept my eyes shut and pretended to like it.

Bangkok's Back Alleys

A favorite of the whole family was a nifty little canal tour we took through the back alleys of Bangkok.  Once known as the Venice of the East, Bangkok, until about 50 years ago, was navigated nearly strictly by boats through narrow canals.  These now are mostly covered by skyscrapers and highways but on the edges of town, accessed by the skytrain which became our preferred mode of transportation,.  We spent a day on the canals in a long-tail boat with an overbearing and rigid guide named Nui.  Redding got some strange case of itching so we had to stop at a water market for some potion to make it bearable for him.  His whole body itched and he was uncomfortable for the whole morning.  Nui had no sympathy.  In spite of her telling us what we could eat, when we could eat it, what we had to look at, how close we had to stand to her, etc. we loved this day.

The motor on the boat is about as long as the boat itself and looks like some prehistoric animal with a skinny metal tail cutting through the lotus flowers and aquatic plants that have to be cleared from the canals daily. We zipped from temple to temple and from market to riverside restaurant in one of these cool, canvas covered boats.  The highlight: Seeing an old woman bathing in the (rather filthy) water with a white paper cap on, while a six-foot foot monitor lizard swam by.  Nui assured me these were not crocodiles and we're not man eating but still I had no desire to take a dip myself.  We stopped for cold coffee drinks at a wooden house where the boys fed dog food pellets to a massive pile of writhing catfish below in the river.  They loved that Steven Tyler from Aerosmith had been there too, and took a picture of a picture of him with one of the coffee bar hostesses.  Who knew they knew Steven Tyler??

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Temples and Tuk Tuks

Though we vow to take it easy in Bangkok and spend the days recovering from the travel that proves impossible to do when you look at a map and see just what's out there.  Redding wants to find a basketball court in Lumpini Park (he's become an NBA nut).  Sam wants his fill of temples.  Bo and Mason want to hang by the pool and "chillax" but there's no time for that.  So they'll take ice cream instead. I want to go to Chatuchak Market and find these stainless steel drinking cups that another street vendor served his ice water in.  But we all decide to have a massage to get us in the mix.

First stop: some nutty massage parlor on the street that is advertising just feet, or head and shoulders, or Thai massage with out oil.  We opt for that.  We've been walking for a while and this seems like the perfect time to take a break.  I'm probably the only person in this family who's ever had a masasge.  Well, I'm certain the kids haven't.  We are each taken to a mat on the floor and told to put on maroon cotton shorts.  We are lined up, each with a masseuse squatting over us.  The treatment begins.  It's kind of weird, frankly, and a bit more exercise than I would have liked.  I am the only one with a male.  The others all get ladies whom I'm guessing aren't as strong. Mine twists, turns and otherwise manipulates my arms and legs, putting them into positions that make me wince.  In the end I'm not sure if I feel better or worse, but it was an hour and a half off my feet and in an air-conditioned room.  Bo said he wanted to laugh the whole time but the others loved it and Redding declared his aching soles healed. Everyone wants another.  

Breakfast in Bangkok

We cannot go to sleep.  We have to plow through. At 6:30am we leave our condo and start searching for food.  It doesn't take more than a block and we're in this very local alley behind our place where street vendors are already setting up their stalls for the day.  One cart has all the ingredients of Thai cooking carefully bagged in little plastic sacks hanging from a pole to sell to cooks or housewives: cilantro, ginger (peeled and sliced), scallions, dried shrimp, multiple kinds of greens, pandan leaves, kaffir leaves, limes, stalks of lemongrass, tomatoes.  Burners and grills with woks of hot oil are frying up whole fish, chicken, or steaming vats of broth to pour over noodles.  The kids have never been to place like Asia before, and this set up is wholly foreign to them, but they're enthusiastic and ready to sit down on the little plastic stools that front a couple of wooden tables at each of these stands.  We decide on a noodle place and just point to what other people are eating.  We end up with bowls of hot rice noodles with slices of fried pork, onions and some kind of spinach, probably bok choy, and are handed a caddy of four condiments.  There's sugar, dried chili, fish sauce and wet chili oil.  The man motions for us to put a little of each of these on the soup.  So we do.  Chopsticks and square spoons come out of a metal box.  Five plastic red mugs are put on the table filled with ice and a straw.  A pitcher of water appears on the table.  We dig in.  The food is so divine we eat there almost every morning, breaking our routine only a little to sample a whole fish (whose head is stuffed with sticks of lemongrass and bay leaves), meat on a stick covered with vinegar and chiles, deepfried drumsticks and dough balls dipped in honey, and tom yung goong for me (shrimp and red curry soup).   Breakfast is our favorite meal and we are up and on the streets every morning early, loving the routine.

One Week in Bangkok

Touch down: Bangkok.  3am, humid, sweaty, loud, overcast and full of tall buildings.  As well as a kind taxi driver named Peter who was waiting with our name on a sign to whisk us into the city to the River condominiums, a place I booked off VRBO on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river next door to the Peninsula Hotel.  He pulled into the driveway and we piled out ino the gleaming lobby of this grand highrise with fountains and bamboo and marble floors, and attendants who even at 4am came running, sliding on their socks, to open the door, greet us and take our bags to the elevator.  I'm liking it already.

Up we go to the 21st floor and into our pad for the week.  We pull open the curtains, get the AC running, and see all of Bangkok below us, lit up and brights.  The river flows and small boats are going up and down its center even in the middle of the morning.  The kids want to know about jet lag.  Do we have it yet?  Are we going to get it?  Should we sleep, should we stay up?  We opt for staying up.  By now it's after four and it seems silly to sleep.  Would throw us off our game entirely.  So we unpack, explore our rooms, hop on rock-hard beds (a staple in Asia we will find), marvel at the faucets in the sleek bathrooms, and decide to find the swimming pool.

The kids and I head back down the elevator.  It's dusky, still warm and weirdly still, and we creep out on floor five to take a swim.  What we find is unbelieveable.  We're so excited we can hardly stand it. There is a series of 4 pools, all rectangular and tiled with iridescent grey and silver tiles, stretching about 400 feet from where we stand through these gardens with papaya, banana and palm trees.  The fruit is hanging on them for the picking.  We crawl quietly into the first one, knowing that probably we shouldn't be swimming at 5. Above us loom these enormous towers of metallic, mirrored blue.  We're in this oasis of water surrounded by highrises.  The water is the perfect temperature, just right for the morning.  We decide to keep walking through the gardens--Reddy finds a badminton court where he can bounce the basketball he's been carrying with him since LA.  Then the gym, and then another pool that absolutely floors us.

It's a single pool that is surrounded by wooden decks that look like swimming platforms on a lake. It stretches from one end of the complex to the other, where there's nothing but an edge dropping off into the lake.  Or so it seems from where we stand 500 feet away.  We get in and crawl through the water as the sky is starting to lighten and there's a bit more activity on the river.  We swim to the end, and there's a glass wall separating the pool from the river below.  I lie on my back, feel jet lag start to wash over me, but have such a feeling of utter bliss lying in a body of water in Bangkok with my happy kids and the sky lightening above me, inviting us to come out and explore her city.

Fish Floss and Other Oddities

Mason was the most excited of all by the long flight.  He had great memories of our summer last year flying to Johannesburg--two flights of 8 hours each separated by an hour or two trapped on board while the crew cleaned the plane and checked for contraband in our seatback pockets.  He loved it.  Movies all night long on his personal TV screen, a chance to change into pajamas in a tiny bathroom, unlimited sodas from kind flight attendants, and the socks they give you in a plastic bag with a tiny toothbrush and tube of paste.  He loved every minute of it.  So he was dying to get the same experience on the way to Asia.  Score. Except for the socks and toothpaste.  And the edible in-flight meals.

But oh that little TV on the seat back in front of him.  Kept the kids happy for 14 straight hours.  I was seated a couple of places away.  I literally almost never spoke to them (I was too busy trying to find a comfortable spot in my skinny little chair.  I had Sam on one side of me and some girl on the other.)  But the highlight of the trip, for me, was the fish floss.

The stewardness came by with breakfast: eggs or porridge?  So all the kids opt for porridge.  What they didn't know is that it was, psych, congee!  Japanese breakfast staple of a thick rice gruel served with seaweed, pork floss.  A small packet of condiments atop the porridge with the name Fish Floss. Sam opened his, sniffed it, and pronounced it the exact same thing as what you fed the goldfish you won at the fair when you were little.  Fish food!  (Who knew fish were cannibals.)  Flakes of dried fish to sprinkle atop your gruel.  The kids went hungry.  But still they loved the flight and even got a little shut eye. We woke up in Taiwan where we caught another plane (31/2 hours never felt so easy) to Bangkok.

Same Kids, Different Countries--Summer in SE Asia

Our last week in San Miguel was a bit of a madcap dash towards a constantly moving finish line.  In one week we moved the last of our earthly belongings out of our house of five years, sold said house, stayed with friends after being displaced by the new owners, had a last-day-of-school picnic at the hot springs and one hour later went to Leon Airport to spend the night before a 6am flight to Tijuana.  Flew to Tijuana, crossed the border into the US in San Diego, made our way to LA, and caught a flight to Bangkok.  With the proceeds of our house sale we decided to spend nine weeks in SE Asia, beginning in Thailand and ending up Bali.  Nine weeks on the road with one roll aboard each, divvied up between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia.  But first we had to get through a  14-hour flight to Taiwan.....