30 December 2007

Splashy Samui

Well, there is something I need to admit to you all. Here I am in Thailand, with the opportunity to explore all the best of Asia right at my feet, and our trip to Koh Samui can be summed up in just three things. Laying at the beach, eating at ridiculously delicious (and oh, maybe a bit pricey!) restaurants and cruising around on motorbikes. Yes, people - that sums up the four glorious days Eric and I spent on the splashy island of Koh Samui, located right in the Gulf of Thailand. The beach view from right outside our bungalow if you will...

Another good sign of a stellar vacation is when you arrive to Promtsuk Buri (our resort on Koh Samui, which we totally recommend!) to check into your bungalow, and even though you paid for a seaview bungalow, the resort upgrades you to beachfront. Oh yeah, that happened to us! The portly man at the front desk oh so nicely asked us, "Can we move you to beachfront? Is that okay?" We took one look at each other, smiled to ourselves and replied, "Yes sir, that is just fine. I think beachfront will be okay." However, okay was definitely the understatement of the year! Take a look at the view from literally right outside our bungalow door!

So, like I said, I could tell you I got cultural and explored the islands' many wats (temples), but let's be real, all we did is park ourselves on the white sand and enjoy the turquiose waters of Thongtakian Bay. The first day, after enjoying a lovely afternoon of doing just that, we thought we might treat ourselves to a luxurious dinner. Now, for someone who really hasn't been to a plethora of nice resorts and resorts, I could really get used to this lifestyle! After consulting the handy dandy Samui Dining Guide, we headed to Cliff Bar & Grill and ate a seriously scrumptious Mediterranean meal of bruschetta, sun dried tomato & salami salad, vegetable risotto, fine Italian red wine and of course, a chocolate brownie ice cream dessert! Like I said, a girl can get used to this!

The second day was full of more laying, frolicking in the salty waters of the Gulf of Thailand and oh yeah, a 1-hour long coconut oil massage! Did I mention that massage took place under a big leafy palm tree right on the beach? That hour was probably one of the most glorious of the trip - head, neck, shoulders, legs, arms and yes, even butt. The massage took care of it all and for only 250 baht (8$)! Later that night, after having enjoyed the high life for two days, we headed to Tamarind Restaurant for the most delicious meal of the entire trip. I could go on and on about the mouthwatering meal (avocado salad with fettucini & peanut sauce, anybody?) but the real treat here was - brace yourselves - the sushi of sticky rice and mango, rolled in cinnamon, sugar and sesame seeds, dipped in a caramel sauce. I do not have the words to explain it. The best dessert I have EVER had, hands down!

We decided it might be best on day three to give our delicate skin a break from the incessant UV radiation we had been exposing to it the past few days and rented a motorbike! The next two days, we cruised around the island like pros (Eric drove of course! We all know me & motorbikes - do you remember what happened in Laos anyone?) and got to see all of the island outside our bay, which was great! We also happened upon a cute Fisherman's Village in Bo Phut - known for being more of a bohemian hipster beach area - and discovered Tandoor Taj Indian Restaurant, our dinner destination for the last two nights!

Indian happens to be my favorite cuisine, but this time, I introduced Eric to the wonderful world of curries, naan and Tandoor oven cooked foods! Dee-lish! Eric's favorite was the Shrimp Curry (which was one of the best curries I have had!) and Butter Naan (a flatbread), while my fave was the Aloo Baigain (potatoes & eggplant in Indian spices) and Roti (whole-wheat flatbread). Here is Eric and I cruisin' around Samui!

Unfortunately, the beach laying, food eating and moped cruising must come to an end. Last night, we left sunny Koh Samui to head back to Bangkok because it's New Year's Eve today in Bangkok baby! Eric and I are spending New Year's instyle in downtown Bangkok at a swanky hotel along the Chao Priya River - woohoo! It's been an awesome vacation to have him here, and I can't wait for the craziness of New Year's to begin! We hope all your holidays were merry and here's wishing you all an early Happy New Year's! To 2008!

26 December 2007

Charming Chiang Mai

You just know a vacation's gonna be good when you can order room service-style two Thai masseuses straight to your hotel room for a glorious 1-hour long Thai massage and then two days later, while in the midst of the Thai jungle, be snotted on by one ginormous elephant! That is just one little sliver of our 3-day trek through the rolling hillsides and lush villages of Chiang Dao - 2 hours outside of Chiang Mai, northern Thailand's largest city. Eric and I arrived to Chiang Mai (population: 200,000) Sunday afternoon after a short 50-minute plane ride from bustling Bangkok.

After such a tough journey, we decided that we totally deserved those 1-hour Thai massages, which we squeezed in (quite frankly, there was no other option) right before we headed off to a traditional Khantoke dinner, highlighting the food and culture of northern Thailand. The dinner was absolutely amazing! Held at the cultural center, there were hundreds of people sitting on brightly colored carpeting on the floor, feasting on the best Khantoke food. Braised pork, deep-fried bananas (umm...yummy!), sauteed veggies, sticky rice (a must-have food!) and an assortment of local cuisine. Topped off with performances by traditional Thai dancers and swordsmen (yes, I said swordsmen!), it just couldn't get any better!

With our tummies full (and grumbling for more!), Eric and I headed off the next morning for day 1 of the trek through Chiang Dao. Our guide Abe (pronounced Ah-bay) met us at 9am, and we set out for the jungles of Thailand! First things first however - Abe being the supreme guide he is, made a couple stops along the way to the trek. We made a pit stop for lunch at a local cafe (menu: veggies, spicy pork and fresh pineapple) before venturing into the limestone caves of Chiang Dao. The caves were awesome - filled with Buddha statues and cultural artifacts, they were quite a sight!

However, Abe wasn't done yet. As we continued to the jumping off point of our trek, we stopped at two ramshackle huts on the side of the road. Much to my surprise, the first hut was filled with 5 or 6 ladies, all running around machinery and boiling pots making rice noodles! Yes, we got to see exactly how rice noodles are made, which is much more of a job than I would have ever thought. These ladies produce over 600 pounds of rice noodles a day! Props to ya ladies!

After the rice noodles, we continued on our way with Abe, who is definitely the strong silent type. He doesn't say much, but when he does talk, you better listen because it is always well worth it. About 15 minutes before our trek, the van pulled over the side of the road once more...this time to see the old traditional way of making sticky rice. Made with black beans, this sticky rice is boiled inside of bamboo over a fire until it is cooked. Then, you peel the bamboo off except for the tiniest thin layer then feast on the goodness!

After Abe gave us our cultural dose of the day, Eric and I finally headed off to what we have been looking forward to for months...trekking through the jungles and hillsides of northern Thailand baby! Armed like true American travelers in our North Face and cargo pants, we started in a small village of a small hilltribe where we stocked up on water, prepared our gear then headed off into the great unknown. Now, if I had known the great unknown looked like this, I would have gone much sooner!

Abe, Eric, our porter (a.k.a the guy who carries all the stuff and the guy who I am still unsure what his name was) and I started the day hiking through all the green vegetation and grasslands. People, this landscape is straight out of a movie. A really, really, really good movie at that. It is so picturesque but more importantly, so peaceful. The only sounds to be heard are birds chirping, grass swaying, and if you listen really closely, you can even hear the local music of the hill tribes!

Abe was so intelligent, always pointing out plants, fruits, vegetables - you name it! I think I tried just about all of it - papaya, tamarind, olives, flowers & plants (one of which Abe made me eat supposedly has a cocaine-like effect on a person!). Every so often, we would stop and rest to take in the breathtaking scenery and also do the ol' "pop & squat" to pee of course! After hiking for several hours on day 1, we stopped at the village of the Palong people. The Palong are actually refugees from Burma who fled to Thailand to escape violence in the country.

That night, the villagers lit a bonfire and so instead of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, our Christmas consisted of peanuts roasting on an open fire! We spent the night in another bamboo hut, curled up in sleeping bags and wondering just how lucky we are to have gotten to spend Christmas with the Karen village, eating delicious food all in the company of good people! The children performed some beautiful songs and dances for us, and at the end, we even got to join in!

After our overnight stay with the Palong (in which yes, we stayed in a bamboo hut on wooden floors with bug netting above our faces!), Abe made us breakfast and yummy tea. He is quite a talented cook with such limited resources (but don't tell his wife that!). Walking sticks in hand, we continued to traverse the hillsides, hiking up and down and getting an amazing glimpse into real rural life. Families harvesting beans, collecting fruit, playing with children - you really get to see it all. We also got to hike real elephant trails, where you can see the destruction first-hand of these massive beasts making their way through the wild.

The weather was a bit cool, which is ironic because the Thai people are not accustomed to the cold at all. Our porter was quite cold a lot of the trek, since it does actually get quite chilly during the nights and early mornings. One of my favorite moments was when Abe asked him if he was cold. He nodded his head yes, and Abe asked him, "Didn't your wife give you warmth?" Smiling, he replied, "She was cold too."

We traversed the countryside for a couple hours in the morning before stopping near a stream for lunch. Little did I know what was in store! Listen to this - Abe (in all his glory) rigged up the awesomest cooking contraption ever, MacGyver style! After starting the fire, he cut down bamboo and along with our porter's stellar whittling skills, cooked our lunch inside two huge bamboo shoots! He filled two bamboo stalks with water, set them in the fire and waited for the water to boil. Then he threw in cabbage, tomatoes, eggs and noodles - creating (no lie) one of the most delicious meals of the trip! Letting it all boil, he then made a feeding trough to poor the soup into, and well, I think the picture says it all!

He also made pork on the fire, wrapping them in banana leaves to cook on the fire. Dee-lish! After lunch, we cleaned it all up and headed back out to possibly the part of the trip I have been looking forward to...the elephant ride! As we were walking, out of nowhere appears the most ginormous elephant I have ever seen! Complete with gorgeous ivory tusks and grayish leather skin, he was seriously like 15 feet tall. We looked over at Abe, and he said, "This is your elephant!"

With the help of Abe and the elephant's owner, we hopped on his huge back and swayed side to side for the next hour, all on the back of an elephant! Eric and I were all excited, riding on the back of the elephant when out of the blue, the elephant gave it a big sneeze, sending elephant snot flying through the air and directly into our faces! For the next hour and a half, we dodged boogers right and left, but ultimately, the elephant won that battle. Our elephant ever so graciously lowered himself down to let us off, I mistakenly misjudged the height and thinking I was nimble, decided to take it upon myself to hop off the beast myself. Big mistake! I jumped down about 10 feet, lost my balance, stuttered backwards and landed square on my right butt cheek! The porter pointed and laughed - which he had every reason to do because my butt still hurts today!

Our elephant ride let us off in the village of the Karen people - where our porter actually happened to live! A small, quaint place of about 150 people, this village was my favorite! We lulled the afternoon away, chatting with Abe and our porter (via Abe's translating) on the front stoop of one of the villager's bamboo huts. Their houses, which are on stilts to avoid bugs and other pests, were sporadically set up along one main drag - roosters, pigs, dogs and animals roam all around the village. Some of the village boys were even running around, trying to slingshot a rooster!

Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, this girl had to go pee. Eric and I entered the pitch blackness and groggily, I popped a squat to take care of some things when out of nowhere, a wild boar ran right past me at a zillion miles an hour! Completely freaked out, I hurried to pop a squat again when another rodent zipped past my feet as I ran with my pants down to my ankles through the middle of the Karen village! Luckily, no tribal people were out (that could have made for quite the cultural clash!), and I quickly peed in the safety of the moonlight before hurriedly going back to bed!

Today ended our 3-day trek, but no worries, we still went out with a bang! We finished our hiking with some breathtaking views to the scenery before heading down to the Ping River, where we got to take an hour long bamboo raft down the river! I let Eric do the steering and maneuvering for us (that's just one of the perks of traveling with a man!) as we glided peacefully down the river to end our great adventure. After 8 hours of hiking, 15 miles of land covered, 4 different tribal villages, numerous bottles of water and tons of good stories later, we arrived back to Chiang Mai today in desperate need to a shower! So, to save you some time (I didn't realize just how long this post got!), I wish you all a very Merry Belated Christmas, and I hope this finds you healthy, happy and safe this holiday season. I miss you all very much - lots of love from halfway across the world to you all!

22 December 2007

Dandy December Days

Okay...does anybody know where the past week of my life went, because I have no recollection of it whatsoever! Between cheesy Christmas shows, last minute trip planning, intensifying marathon training and oh yeah, a 23rd birthday (yikes!), this girl has been one busy lady! No lie! The good news? Vacation has arrived, and today, we are heading off to Chiang Mai to hang out with elephants! Never thought I would hear those words come out of my mouth!

Before I do that however, my little kiddies of Sarasas Witaed Saimai Bilingual School would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The school had a huge Christmas show (complete with completely new, outfitted stage decorations) on Friday, where all the classes dressed in their holiday best and belted the best tunes of the season! My little ones sang "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," and were the cutest ones for sure! Here is Attakan (a.k.a. the compulsive pelvic thruster) as St. Nicholas himself!

After weeks of intense choreography sessions, voice lessons and performance practice (okay...maybe not so much on the first two...), my grade 1C students wore their red Santa hats with pride and danced their little hearts out on stage. Ms. Chartnapa (my adorable Thai teacher) and I were very proud of them for managing to actually stand in one place, sing and do all the moves after all those weeks of practice! I mean, they are just 1st graders! Here is the front row crew of Thanawat, Aan, Chotiros, Patharapol and Nattaporn.

I do have to make one side note...I am loving the whole teacher thing if for no other reason than for all the Christmas and birthday gifts from my students! Purses, scarves, candy, jewelry boxes, bags and trinkets - I got them all! The parents of these students are no dummies - they surely know the way to get this teacher to give all their children A's!

After the Christmas show on Friday, which happened to also be this girl's 23rd birthday (which in the words of Jessica Simpson, is like halfway to 30!), I got the most lovely surprise! Joanne, Suzi, Lauren and Thomas (along with others) planned a little birthday dinner and get-together at a local bar/restaurant to celebrate the big 2-3! It was my first ever surprise party! Woohoo!

Complete with yummy food, some birthday drinks, a bunch of Sarasas teachers and of course, one deliciously scrumptious chocolate cake (with an Oreo crust, may I add! Thank you once again Miss Joanne!), I had so much fun! So many teachers showed up, may of whom I was totally not expecting to, some with gifts even, that made it the most wonderful birthday halfway across the world! The bar/restaurant even had karaoke, which you know I happen to love! Cher's "Believe" anyone?

So between my birthday also being the last day before Christmas break, one would think the day could not get any better. But then, you might just be wrong. After celebrating, I then headed off to Thailand's Suvarnhbumi Airport to pick up Eric - a very special visitor who I will be traipsing, trekking and tailgating it around Thailand with for the next 12 days! After a brief 24 hours of flying, he arrived safely (complete with loads of goodies from home!) and being the notorious tour guide I am, wasted no time in getting this kid right into Central Bangkok!

Tuk-tuk rides, Chatuchak Market shopping excursions and ventures to the top of Thailand's tallest tower later, I like to think this kid had a pretty good first day here! The weather is being extra hot and steamy - a nice break from the brittle cold of Wisconsin I hope! Unfortunately, I don't want to make Eric spend too much time of his holiday while I update my blog, so I will give you lots more fun details on the adventure later. We have about 20 minutes before we need to pack up, head to the airport and fly off to that jungle! Bon voyage!

15 December 2007

Thai Christmas Fever

For a predominantly Buddhist country, the Thais sure love their Christmas! Yesterday, we ventured into Bangkok for a bit of last minute Christmas shopping, movie watching and eating (or gorging) a nice Christmas dinner. We were greeted with 50-ft. Christmas trees, Mariah Carey Christmas tunes and Christmas lights of all colors and shapes twinkling brightly all around central Bangkok! There were even a group of carolers singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" in front of a large 100-ft. tree in one of Bangkok's biggest malls, Central World. Now, if it hadn't been 85 degrees, I might have felt right back at home in the U.S.A.!

You can also definitely tell it is tourist season in Thailand - foreigners crowd the night markets, all of the bajillion malls and can be seen everywhere around the city! They are moving in on my territory! Last night, a Swedish lady tried to swipe a pair of Chanel sunglasses (let's be real, they were fake) from me to buy, but no worries, I swept in and made the purchase before she could do it! Of course, more tourists means more people which means only one thing in Bangkok...more traffic! The already notorious traffic drives me absolutely insane - I do NOT have one ounce of patience for it at all!

First stop of the day was Chatuchak Market - Lauren and I just had to show Thomas the glory and craziness that is Chatuchak (I dare anybody to find a bigger market in the world)! We browsed there for an hour before we bargained a tuk-tuk driver (I am getting way too good at bargaining!) to bring us into central Bangkok where we saw the Bhutanese film, "The Golden Cup." The film was fascinating! Not because it was good but because it reveals the socio-political situation of the country. It is only the second movie ever made and released from Bhutan - a notoriously private country that did not have television or Internet until 1999.

Made all on a hand-held video camera, the story was of a woman who inherited an evil curse from her descendants - which forced her to poison people and kill them in order to stay alive. She fell in love with a man who got her pregnant, then was forced to leave her because his parents threatened to disown him if he married the "poison giver." So, he left her and soon after, she sought revenge on him by cursing all his children with his new wife. But hold on...she is not as evil as she may seem! She gave away her child (so she wouldn't inherit the curse) and in the end, killed herself and her family so that the curse would end and nobody would have die anymore! I quite enjoyed the film, especially with its ridiculously cheesy special effects!

After the busy day, we headed off to the Windsor Hotel, where some of the staff gathered for a nice Christmas buffet dinner. Oh, what I wouldn't give to stay in a fancy hotel for just one night! The food, service and everything! It was nice to have a good, hearty meal (well, if you count a whole plate of desserts - chocolate pudding, carrot cake, cheesecake, bread pudding - part of a hearty meal) and lots of fun! Now, with a full belly intact, I am going to go run 2 hours and 20 minutes today! Yikes!

This week should be a fun week - lots of Christmas fun going on around the school, and my very special visitor in coming on Friday, so I am, needless to say, very, very excited! I also started tutoring last week, which went very well, and even received my first teacher gift, this cat purse from Thidarach in my class! I have to say, the reason I put a picture of it on the blog is because this is seriously in-style Thai fashion. Hilarious, I know. Happy last minute Christmas shopping, stay safe in all that snow and I wish you all an excellent week!

12 December 2007

Kickin' Ko Samet

Are there any words needed for this? Clear turquoise water, soft white sand and a seaside restaurant ready to provide you with whatever food at your every whim (soft shell crab curry anyone?), all without a 1st grader in sight! Ummm...yes please! That was my long weekend - lounging at Sametville Resort (complete with a private beach!) on lovely Koh Samet island. This is why everyone comes to Thailand people - the beaches are unlike any I have ever seen. Can you blame a girl for not wanting to leave this place with its perfectly sunny 80 degree weather to go back to Saimai and teach 34 1st graders? I think not!

Since Monday was Constitution Day (I will be honest - I have no idea what that means!) and a day off of school, we packed our brightly colored beach bags, threw on our best swimsuits and headed out in the wee early hours Saturday morning to enjoy the long weekend off. Koh Samet is just a couple hours from Bangkok - so six of us packed into Suzi's boyfriend's Toyota Corolla (yes, six of us!) and drove about 3 hours to Ban Phe, where we caught the 40-minute ferry to our private beach resort! The front of the ferry clearly called for some Titanic-like movie re-creations (before the captain yelled at me in Thai to get off)...

The weekend was everything I needed...and so much more! Along with Suzi, Por (her boyfriend), Joanne, Lauren and Thomas (a new teacher at Sarasas straight up from Brooklyn, NY), I literally spent the entire 3-day weekend lying my formerly pale self on the beach, interspersing the hours with dips into the crystal clear salty water (which, let me say, did wonders for my hair) and lazy walks on the beach, topped off with lots of beachside eating and even a 14-mile marathon training run around the island! It was absolutely glorious (well, except for the bajillion hills on the island - my butt is still sore)!

Many of you may know that one of the very few foods I hate is seafood, but this weekend I became a seafood lover! No lie! Let me tell you, soft shell crab curry may sound absolutely revolting (it did to me initially!), but it is hands-down one of the best dishes I have had in Thailand. But not only did I eat soft shell crab, squid & basil with jasmine rice and lots of shrimp, but I even went fishing along the rocky bays and caught a squid! Here is Thomas, Lauren and I lounging beachside on the giant swing!

The resort was filled with people from all over the world - including a group of 6 overweight (I am being kind here...) men sporting banana hammocks, better known as the Speedo! They were lots of fun and from Europe of course - one even called me madame! We also met a half-Thai, half-Indian friend. Her name was Cherry, and she was 5 years old but very mature for her age. The stars numbered in the thousands at night, the bugs were out in full force (I have NEVER had such bug-bitten legs!) and like I said, the food was delish! Not to mention...the gorgeous sunrise sitting perfectly on the Gulf of Thailand, seen from a mere 10 feet outside our 2-bedroom villa!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and so we reluctantly left Koh Samet Monday morning to head back for the school week ahead. But...seeing as Pattaya was conveniently right on the way home (remember? The land of ladyboys and go-go bars?), we thought it would only be right to show Thomas the sleaze and cheese that is Pattaya. The best part? I finally got to quell my craving for Indian food - we had lunch at Ali Baba Restaurant, and I had Baingain Bharta - an eggplant curry, which went perfectly with a big slice of garlic naan!

Now, I am back in good ol' Saimai and counting down the days until my next vacation, which is in 9 days! Starting tomorrow, I am also going to tutor Pavin, one of my students and a pelvic-thrusting addict, for a couple hours a week, so I am excited about that too! I forecast some shopping in my future this weekend along with a Christmas party or two and possibly a Bhutanese movie - should be a good one! Take care everyone (especially with all that snow falling in the Midwest), eat lots of Christmas cookies for me and celebrate the season, while I indulge myself in American Christmas music from abroad!

06 December 2007

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

That's how I'll be skedaddling around Thailand for the next 2 months! A plane trip up north to Chiang Mai and down south to Ko Samui, then a 7-hour train northeast to Khon Kaen in January to run the big marathon, and finally, an old-fashioned road trip to Ko Samet this weekend to bask in the glorious weather. Oh my!

Like I promised, life has kicked up a notch - starting with a weekend trip to the land of ladyboys, Russian tourists and the Gulf of Thailand - Pattaya! Last weekend, a bunch of us teacher folk headed 2 hours east to the oceanside town of Pattaya - or what I like to refer to as Crazy Uncle Chuck (C.U.C.). The thing is...nobody likes to admit they are related to C.U.C. - much in the same way tourists often don't like to admit they've been to Pattaya. However, deep down, one kind of secretly enjoys the sleaze, craziness and fun that is both C.U.C. and Pattaya. Me included!

My dear Nesrine's brother-in-law opened a fusion Thai-Russian-European restaurant (if you are wondering what that means, I am still unsure myself) there, and we were VIPs on the guest list! Let me say, I could totally get used to the VIP lifestyle, where the free food and drinks flow steadily right in this girl's direction! We had lots of fun strolling around the go-go bars, running into Russian tourists (they all come here, I swear!) and eating, all in good company of course! On our way to Pattaya in one of Thailand's bajillion minibuses, we stopped at a good ol' truck stop in the middle of nowhere where - well, I think the picture says it all!

We returned to Bangkok late Saturday night, and you could feel something special in the air - King fever of course! Yesterday, December 5, was Big K's big 8-0 - so you can imagine the fanaticism of the Thai people when it comes to celebrating the King's birthday!

The school put together another ceremony (complete with another whole background for the stage) full of ornately corny staging, singing and skits - featuring moi once again. Sarasas Witaed Saimai students descended on the school's canteen Monday morning to engage in almost 2 hours of singing King songs, holding (and swaying) King pictures and watching poorly practiced skits featuring their English teachers - all in the color yellow of course! I kid you not - there were even girls crying as the King songs were sung. For what reason? Your guess is as good as mine. Lauren has some great photos - so I will try to put one of those up soon!

Yesterday, on the King's actual birthday, I dressed myself in my best yellow shirt (which also happens to be my only yellow shirt) and got ready to do what Asian nations seem to do best - shop! We went to a huge exhibition called "Made in Thailand," where you guessed it, all the products are made in Thailand! They had row after row of food, housewares, scarves, clothes - everything a girl could want and more - including Starbucks Coffee (don't ask me why that was there!). After beginning our day of shopping, we stopped for a late lunch at a delicious Thai restaurant where I had some vegetable & shrimp rice cooked in a pineapple! Delish!

Then we headed to Siam Paragon (a.k.a. the nicest mall ever) and MBK (the best bargain mall) for more shopping, where I preceded to start checking off my list of Christmas presents for family and friends! Then unfortunately, we all remembered that we had to teach the next day, so we headed back around dinnertime to Saimai, where I blissfully fell into bed after a loaded day of shopping, shopping and more shopping!

Soooo...I am going to leave you with a parting picture of me and the King (which is actually a ginormous King memorial outside Siam Paragon) celebrating the day off from school yesterday!