Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in China

I was very fortunate to find a fake Christmas tree here. It was a really nice one and cheap. Our Christmas this year for the family was our trip to Thailand so our tree looked a little bare Christmas morning with only gifts left from Santa. We didn't wake up until 8:30 so we got a late start but were done opening the gifts by 9:00.
One tradition we will always be able to keep is the walking into the room from youngest to oldest.
Vika was very excited to get another barbie doll. It is the Chinese version which is called "Lovely Girl". Nikki was excited but this picture doesn't really show it. She's holding their wall stickers of the Disney Princesses.
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Christmas Morning

We loved watching America's Next Top Model back home and missed the new season. We found a place here where we can buy the whole season of certain TV shows and sure enough they had ANTM Season 11. We watched the whole season in two days.
Of course they all got watches for Christmas.
We tried to keep as many traditions as possible and then made some new ones. After our presents we had our Christmas breakfast and then just hung around the house. The past two years we had gone skiing on Christmas and wanted that to be a tradition but that's a little difficult to do here.

I wasn't planning on making a huge Christmas dinner but when I went to cook something our gas had ran out. The oven and stoves here run on portable gas tanks and our Ayi always takes care of it for us. She wasn't going to be back until Monday and I had no idea who to call or even how I would communicate what I needed. We ended up going out to our favorite Chinese restaurant for Christmas Dinner. Good thing was that I didn't have to cook or do any clean up.

It was a very different Christmas for us but a good one.
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Christmas Eve at Seaworld

This year was a very different Christmas for us. We tried to make it seem like Christmas the best we could. Seaworld Plaza was decked out with what the Chinese thought Christmas was all about. This was on the side of a huge building right next to the plaza. We walked down for Christmas Eve to see all the lights and get hot chocolate at Starbucks. It really wasn't quite cold enough for hot chocolate but we thought it would get us in the mood. We were surprised at the festivities that were going on.
It was funny to see Chinese people dressed up as Santa Claus. This didn't fool Vika at all. She knew it wasn't the real one.
We wanted to get a picture of the lights at the plaza. No, this isn't snow falling. It's just the flash from the camera reflecting off the pollution and debris in the air. It looks cool though.
As we were walking around we saw that they were selling these red horns and had to get a picture of people wearing them. We have no idea why but there were several people walking around with them on. Doesn't quite fit the Christmas spirit.
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When we were down at Seaworld they were playing Christmas songs and blowing fake snow in the air. A few people were singing along so we decided to join in. It made it feel a little more like Christmas. The video is dark but you can hear us singing along.

After walking around the plaza we went home and had our traditional sock dance and got ready for Santa to come. All night we could hear the music playing and people having fun down at the plaza. At midnight they let off fireworks and the ships horn blasted for a few minutes. I don't think they realize that we do those things on New Year's Eve not Christmas Eve.

It was fun to see the Chinese people try to celebrate Christmas. To them it seemed more of just a reason to party and celebrate. They didn't quite get the whole concept of it all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our Trip To Thailand

We are so lucky to be able to go on this trip to Thailand. Last night we were driving home from Hong Kong and I realized how lucky we are. Thailand is a wonderful place and I can see why so many people love to go there. It is exciting, exotic, cheap and there are a lot of fun things to do there. On this trip I realized how lucky I was to be able to have this experience with my family.

Our Trip To Thailand

We left Saturday, December 13th and went to Hong Kong to fly on Royal Jordanian Airlines. Royal Jordanian Airlines is not in America and I didn't even know it existed, but it was the cheapest airline to Bangkok so we checked it out a little bit and booked the flight for $218 per person for Me, Coree, Rachel and Jonny round trip. Nikki and Vika's tickets were $180 each. It was only a two and a half hour flight from Hong Kong. Royal Jordanian made us feel like royalty. The seats were roomy, they fed us this incredible dinner and showed us a movie. It was a great way to start. We thought that it would be like Southwest Airlines where they just try to move people as fast as possible, but it wasn't at all.

We got to Bangkok at about 10:30 pm. The airport was beyond huge. It's the biggest airport in Asia which says a lot because the Hong Kong airport is the biggest airport I've ever seen. Two vans picked us up; one for our family and one for the Reddens. The Reddens are a family that we work with and they have triplet boys who are Jonny's age and they have a daughter who is Nikki's age.

We spent the night in a hotel near the airport and two vans picked us up again to take us out to Koh Chang Island. Koh Chang is about a 5 hour ride southeast of Bangkok. After we exchanged our money, we felt like we were rich because we had so much Baht, but the exchange rate is about 33 to 1 so this isn't a lot of money it's just a lot of bills.
Soon after we left the initial excitement vanished and Vika had this look on her face.
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The Kids Were So Excited To Be In Thailand

This was about an hour into our van ride towards Koh Chang. Vika fell asleep.

Nikki fell asleep.

Jonny fell asleep.

The bathrooms in Thailand are first class compared to China. The Thai people keep their bathrooms really really clean. I've gotten used to us these. You take the bucket on the right and scoop up some water and pour it in until it's clean. It works well.

We stopped at this 7-11 on the way to Koh Chang to get gas. The Toyota van we were riding in used Compressed Natural Gas. It's clean and it's cheap. We should do this more in America. It's a model we don't have in the US. It's seats 11 people and it was more like a camper van. It had a DVD player in it and it was ultra-plush.

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The Ferry Ride To Koh Chang

We drove on to a ferry and took off for Koh Chang Island, which was 5 miles. It took us about 30 minutes to get there and it was about 80 degrees so we got the kids some ice cream. This is the dock we left from.

This was our first look at Koh Chang Island.

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KB Resort

Once we arrived on the island the van drove off the ferry and we drove on the only rode on the island toward the east side of the island to Kae Bea beach.
This was one of our bungalows. Each bungalow was for 2 people only and we had to get three to fit our whole family in it. Each bungalow was $33 per night. We were about 100 yards from the water.
This was our room. It didn't disappoint in any way. It was just like something out of a book or a magazine. It had a mosquito net over bed and it was very environmentally friendly. In the bathroom they had a sunroof so you didn't need to use any light at all. On the wall there was a water heater so it only heater up water when you needed it.
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As soon as we arrived we walked out to the beach to see what it was like and this is what we saw. There were a bunch of beautiful little islands surrounding the beach where we were staying, so we rented a kayak and paddled out to the island you see in the background. It was completely uninhabited.
The picture above is the view looking from the bungalows and the picture below is the view from the water looking back at the resort. On the left is the restaurant at the hotel.

Rachel is showing off her guns.

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Shortly after we arrived we walked down the beach just to explore what was around us and we found a bunch of bungalows and restaurants all along the beach. For the most part you could just show up on the island and stay at one of the bungalows any time you wanted. It wasn't real busy, but I think that was partly due to the protests they were having at the airport.

This was where we ate breakfast. They had a buffet every morning that overlooked the ocean. Most of the families were European. I think we were the only Americans at the resort. There were were mostly British, Dutch and Russian. Surprisingly, there were a lot of people from Russia. I had no idea they vacationed there.
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Nikki and McCall played the whole time on this hammock that was right in front of the hotel restaurant. After we ate breakfast our first morning Vika got the broom to sweep the room and started cleaning the grass. I asked her what she was doing and she said the grass was dirty and she had to clean it.

Coree started going hippie on me. She really got into the Thai look and she bought fisherman pants and this Thai shirt. Actually, I don't blame her because the clothes looked really comfortable considering how hot it was. Most of the clothes she bought was made out of this light weight fabric which was probably a lot cooler then what I was wearing. Plus the clothes had this cool Thai pattern on them. There was this French guy who owned a restaurant on the island who I started talking to who wore the kind of clothes that they make on Koh Chang, but he looked like he literally "dropped out" during the 60's and came to Koh Chang. He looked kind of weird, but his clothes were very practical.
I rented a scooter for $6 a day. They sell gasoline in these whiskey bottles for 30 baht per liter. The gas stations sell gas for 23 baht per liter so I filled up my scooter and drove it all day for about $2. Koh Chang is VERY hilly and 125 cc's was enough power to get us around.
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