Beach Day!

We finally got back out to the beach today!  We came to Thailand to be able to go to the beach everyday but its been forever since we actually went.  It’s been rainy, we’ve been sick, Wesley had school… we’ve had a million reasons why we couldn’t go to the beach.  But today was the day… I gave Wesley the day off so we could go out and play.

Damon & Wesley bashing waves

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Gorgeous scenery of Thailand

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Lunch spot on the beach

When we first arrived there was a red flag out – which is a warning for rough seas.  We tried to get into the water but it was just too rough.  Wesley was ready to go home when Damon noticed people swimming further down the beach.  We packed up our stuff and headed there and the waves were much better.  Still exciting but not slamming you into the rocks.  I don’t know what was different except for the slope of the sand… the steeper slope had rougher waves.

We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant on the beach and broke in our new beach mat.  No more paying 100 Thb to rent a chaise lounge!

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Since there had been storms recently there was a LOT of litter on the beach… it gets washed up after every rainstorm we have.  It’s a shame to see it… but there’s not much the average tourist can do.  There are NO trash cans on the beach and no “Royal Beach Department of Thailand” that deals with garbage pick-up.  At least not that I’ve seen.  So every time we arrive there’s new litter.

Bottles, brooms and who knows what else?

The dreaded plastic water bottle…

So this is how I’ve decided to do my part… I hate to leave the beach feeling all gritty and sandy.  Damon says NO ONE in the world cares as much as I do about having sand on my feet.  I don’t know, it just bugs me.  If I know there’s no water and I can’t rinse off, I deal with it… but I would rather find a fresh-water shower and get the sand and grit OFF.

So far I’ve only seen ONE beach shower with freshwater… and it quit working the second time we went to the beach.  So now my plan is to use the litter on the beach to rinse off before hopping on the scooter to head home.  I grab one of the (plentiful) used bottles, fill it with seawater, and rinse off all of our feet.  One bottle does the job for all three of us if we use the “waterfall” method.

Take one plastic bottle...

Take one bottle…

... walk the path home...

… walk through the last bit of sand…

...and rinse.  Don't repeat!

…and rinse. No need to repeat!

Drop off at the handy recycling station.

Handy recycling station.

Drop off your used water bottle in the recycling station at the bridge to the beach… and you’re done!  You’re not gritty and you’ve removed (at least) one piece of litter from the beach.  Beach Day Success!

Malaysia Visa Run

For those of you who don’t know, Thailand is a country that doesn’t make it (extremely) easy to stay in for long periods of time.  They have different visas that you can apply for (business, retired, student, etc.), but all of them require a “visa run” at least every 90 days.  What that means is you have to stamp out of the country (before your 90 day limit is up), and then you can stamp back in to the country… sometimes even the same day.

There are several companies that offer a “visa run” trip on an air-conditioned mini-bus with all the fees included.  Since we waited too long to book a trip on Air Asia, we had to go with one of these companies that drive.  I have to admit… I wanted to try it anyway.  For $4000 Thb each we could each get a new Tourist Visa for 90 days.  It looked good on the website.

We showed the pics to Wesley of the comfy-looking chairs in the van and told him he could play games on his computer while we drove… it all sounded great.

Party Bus!

Party Bus!

The air-conditioned mini-bus “limousine” picked us up at our condo in Kamala Beach at 9:30pm on Wednesday.  It was lit up with blue lights on the inside and we had a row of seats all to ourselves… it seemed awesome!

For about 30 seconds.

The moment the car started driving Damon moaned “This is the vomit comet!” and could only look straight ahead out the window.  He NEVER gets seasick, so I figured he would get over it in a minute.  I don’t usually get car-sick and Wesley hasn’t been carsick since driving on curvy mountain roads in 2009, so I figured we would all be fine once Damon got accustomed to the van.

Well, the drive from Kamala out of the beach area and onto the main road was incredibly curvy.  Wesley was feeling carsick in a matter of minutes.  I was the only one who was unaffected.

We started out with only 6 passengers, but we kept stopping and picking up more people and Wesley started feeling more carsick.  Damon hopped out at one stop to get Wesley some water, a plastic bag and napkins… the poor kid was looking greener and greener.  I quickly told the driver to stop and let Wesley sit in the front seat with him… or else have him throw up all over the van.

We ended up with 10 passengers in the van and one driver.  There was NO space at all and instead of watching “farang” movies on the DVD player (like they advertise on their website), the driver played a Billboard playlist of “Parental Advisory Suggested” music videos.  Think Nicki Minaj and Pitbull with lots of T&A.  Yeah, it was great.

Now imagine sitting in your tiny seat for hours at a time with a 10 minute break at gas stations for the next SEVEN HOURS.

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Good information to know.

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Squat toilets make for interesting bathroom breaks!

We arrived at the Thailand/Malaysia border at 5:00am.  This is when our driver started being awesome.  He knew what line to get in, where to go, what to do, and how to get in front of all the other buses doing the same thing.  Some of them weren’t just 10 passenger mini-buses… they were double-decker 75+ passenger luxury liners… but he made sure we were never waiting behind them.  That part was the best.

After TWELVE HOURS of driving we finally arrived in Penang, Malaysia.  Since the company had an all-inclusive deal, when we arrived at the hotel there was a breakfast buffet waiting.  Right about the time we finished eating, our driver had our room key ready for us.  We gave him our passports, Tourist Visa applications, photos, and 110 Malaysian Ringgits and went to our room.  They dealt with the Thai Consulate in Malaysia for us.. we didn’t do anything else except collapse in our rooms.

Banana Boutique hotel room

Banana Boutique hotel room

Damon checking out Malaysian TV

Damon checking out Malaysian TV

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View from the door.

Too tired to game...

Too tired to game…

Unfortunately we slept until after 3:00pm that afternoon.  That was really NOT my intention.  It put all of us on such a weird sleep schedule that none of us could sleep that night.

We did manage to go out that evening though.  We had our dinner included at the hotel, (a buffet that was fine), and then we went walking around.  I really liked the city of Penang.  We’ve been in Kamala for so long that I miss that city “vibe.”

I would like to go back to Malaysia and actually see more of the cities… go to the beach… experience more of the culture.  We had to check out of our hotel room the next morning at 6:00am, so we didn’t have much of a chance to experience any of Penang.  Our passports were returned to us (Tourist Visas Included!) and we got back on the mini-bus.

Bathroom stop in Thailand

Bathroom stop in Thailand

I don’t think ANY of us were anxious to start the drive back… the good part was that two of the passengers were only one-way fares… so we each had a little bit more room on our rows.  Thankfully Wesley did NOT get sick on the way back… mostly because we started out on highways and not curvy beach roads.  All of us were able to stamp out of Malaysia and back in to Thailand without any problems.  Mission accomplished.

Ask me which company you should use for a “visa run” to Penang and I’ll tell you KBV because they did take care of us.  But ask me if I’m going to do another mini-bus “visa run” 90 days from now and I’ll tell you I’m too old… that’s for backpackers and students.

I’m flying.

What a Week!

It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything… but it’s really only been a week.  I’d like to say time flies when you’re having fun–but that was NOT the case with us this week.

  • We were sick AGAIN
  • We had more power outages
  • We had to go to Malaysia for a visa run

First things first… why are we getting sick so much?  What are we doing wrong?  We aren’t drinking the water or cooking our rice with it… although we are brushing our teeth with tap water.  I asked around and everybody said that’s what they do too.  Our neighbors even said they make their coffee with tap water… something I won’t even risk.  I’ve traveled to Mexico and Central America and never had this many “gastrointestinal” problems!  Needles to say, we’ve gotten friendly with the local Thai pharmacist.

Thai medicine

Everything clearly labeled in whatever language you speak.

 

It’s great to be able to speak with a Pharmacist who speaks English, asks intelligent questions, and then sells you the medicine you need without seeing a doctor.  The pharmacist in Khao Lak asked me at least 5 times if I was allergic to anything… I guess she really wanted me to be sure!

 

 

Other than Damon and I being sick, (and having our sleep schedules be totally out of whack), we’ve also had a run of power outages.  When you’re sick and it’s hot and humid outside you DO NOT want your air-conditioning to turn off!.  Let alone the internet and the computer that you’re using to entertain your 9-year-old who isn’t sick.  In fact, it’s been so bad that a local Thai newspaper poll reported that the Energy Minister should resign.  At first we though it was just our area (Kamala Beach), but apparently ALL 14 provinces in the South lost power.  Ouch.

Finally, we also had to do our first visa run.  I have two words to describe it… wonderful and miserable.  It was both.  I’ll describe it in more detail in my next post… all I can say now is that Malaysia was wonderful; visa runs are miserable.

Down at the pub…

Friday night we headed down to the pub…

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We became “members” of the Kamala Sports Club so that we can participate in their weekly drawing.  We saw a current member win $11,000 Thb just by picking the joker out of a deck of cards!  We’re in for next week for sure : )

Neighbors at our condo unit had suggested we drop by this pub… they have the joker drawing, a happy hour free buffet, free pool, and 50 Thb beers.  So of course we had to try it out.  Wesley would not get near any of the food in the buffet line… no surprise there.  So we ordered him a cheeseburger while we ate mashed potatoes & meatloaf, chicken fettucine alfredo, and roasted vegetables.  We chatted with our neighbors and their friends, got some info on a cheaper scooter rental (whoo hoo!), and drank a few beers each.

All in all a good time… and only a 550 Thb bill at the end of the night.  It seemed a little weird to go to a bar for the free food at happy hour instead of free drinks… but at 550 Thb, I could get used to it : )