Tomorrow we’re flying to New Zealand, and our three months in Southeast Asia — between Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia — comes to an end. It’s been an amazing trip. Izumi and I talk often about how much it has refreshed us and opened up our horizons again.
Leaving my generous post-doc in Germany last October, and making that step out of academia, was an extremely hard decision that was years in the making. I agonized over it often, both before and after the decision. Though I loved and still love (and put many hours of work into!) my academic projects, and especially my book, I didn’t feel like academia was a good fit. There are many reasons. For one, I’ve always loved seeing and being out in the world too much. (That’s what a childhood of homeschooling and circumnavigating can do.) So it’s been great to be out exploring again, meeting new people and seeing the world chugging on, with devastating plastic, pollution and poverty for sure, but also with huge amounts of energy, beauty and goodwill. It’s been great to see all this with the kids.
Since leaving Penang, we’ve been working our way up a section of the eastern coast of Thailand to Bangkok, where we are now.
We spent three nights at a very local homestay just off the beach in Bang Saphan Noi. The beach had a lot of plastic on it, but for most of the time we were the only tourists there, which was fun. The kids had great fun swimming between the men and women net fishing for shrimp off the beach (who seemed to find the kids equally entertaining) and boogie boarding in the small waves.
Nuki made firm friends with the homestay’s dog and got up at 6 every morning to go for walks on the beach with his new friend.
Nuki and I also succeeded in opening an old coconut (which still had juice in it), using rocks and rubbish we found on the beach. An old nail to drill through the eye and a ocean-washed straw to drink it. We were pretty proud of ourselves.
We then took a car an hour north to a beautiful hotel right on the beach at Ban Krut. This hotel was a bit of splurge for just one night. Very well worth it! Gorgeous pool and beach which we had almost to ourselves. The kids practiced climbing coconut trees until a snake popped its head out from the top of one!
Not pictured here is the excellent seafood dinner we ate on the beach and the hour following it that the kids played happily while Izumi and I sat on deck chairs with a sky of stars and a brisk ocean breeze. It was good.
The kids also found lots of shells.
After a single night in our little paradise, we squeezed in to a local mini-bus for an hour’s drive to Rai Lung homestay. For a change, this one wasn’t on the beach but up a little river. Three generations of family live on the immaculately maintained property and run a couple of bungalows for tourists. The bungalow we stayed in, which had been made by the grandfather and his son, had the most beautiful woodwork.
The family also bought in a pile of new sand to keep the kids entertained!
Here’s Izumi pretending he hasn’t been playing the kids’ favourite Ipad dragon game. Sometimes parents actually get holiday time too.
And there was a great set of slightly squeaky swings.
After three nights there, we took the train north for another hour to our last coastal stop. This hotel was the only one on our three-month trip that was a real disappointment. It was meant to be a bit of luxury, but we ended up in an overpriced and not very pretty, Danish-enclave resort. The kids still enjoyed our rooftop jacuzzi and the heavily chlorinated pool (with a water slide) that connected the bungalows throughout the resort.
We’d planned to take the 6-hour train to Bangkok, but one of the kids was feeling under the weather so we ended up taking a private van. Expensive by local standards at about 100 USD for the four-hour drive, but very worth it under the circumstances.
In Bangkok, we’ve visited a big playground, an aquarium and the stunning temple complex of Wat Pho, with its immense reclining Buddha.
We’ve also had fun riding the city’s waterway transport system and tuk tuks…though, admittedly, most of the time we just use Grab (Uber).
So that’s our final post from this part of the world (though we’ll be back in Asia in March after we leave New Zealand for Japan). Really looking forward to our six weeks in NZ…just as soon as the flight is over. Wish us luck.