Thursday, June 15, 2017

Travel to Thailand (Part 1)....Flight and Arrival

Packing for our trip to Thailand was fun. We researched surviving long-haul flights, tourism in Bangkok, things to see, things to know, things to do, etc...and came up with a list of must have items for our trip.

For the planes, things we found useful:
-healthy snacks
-eye mask
-sleep aid
-face wipes
-ear plugs (very handy to block out the crying baby about 6 rows away)
-head rest pillow
-tooth brush and tooth paste
-books on iPad (Kindle app)
-lip moisturizer
-eye drops
-compression socks
-dry shampoo

In Thailand, things we've found useful
-anti-mosquito spray and bracelets
-water purification water bottles (we are using Grayl...pricey but using to drink and brush teeth)
-clothes freshening spray/wrinkle remover (Downey travel size)
-portable phone charger
-iPhone (purchased a SIM card here at 7-11 in Bangkok with data)
-easy to remove shoes (we take our shoes off to enter every home)
-electric converter/power source (we have one by Bestek that has 4 USB plugs and 3 regular outlet plugs)
-wipes (to clean feet before getting into bed at night)

We packed lightly as far as clothing goes.Thai people dress modestly so skirts, capris, and pants for bottom and t-shirts or dressier shirts (no tanks unless covered with a thin sweater or scarf) on top, a sweater that covers our elbows for the temples, and a nice or two dress for any occasion that calls for it.

We flew EVA airlines...the nicest planes and flight attendants ever. Bathrooms were equipped with face spray, hand lotion, eye masks, and ear plugs. Food was excellent (they pass out a little menu before the food comes around)...Haley and I had ordered vegetarian meals when we made our seat selections a week before flying so were served first. On the long leg of our flight (just over 15 hours), snack was served once we hit full altitude and a meal about 2.5-3 hours into the flight and then another snack and meal about 3 hours before landing.  Luckily the other seat in our row on the longest flight was empty as well so the two of us could stretch out and sleep most of the flight. Our short leg (3.45 hours) after a 3 hour layover in Taipei, had one meal and snack and we watched a movie through that flight.

We landed in Thailand at 12am. It took us over an hour to get through customs due to the long lines then we quickly found our luggage in baggage claim. We had a little difficulty figuring out where to go to find Ratana, our hostess who came to pick us up, but followed signs for "Meeting Point 1" and saw the sign she was holding with our names. The heat and humidity hit us the minute we stepped out of the airport to walk to the waiting van. I wondered how hot day must be if the middle of the night was that hot but Ratana said it was so humid because it had rained about an hour before we landed.

Our thirty minute drive through the city to the Mercy Centre was in the dark so not much to see but the outlines of buildings and other cars on the road. We arrived quickly at the Mercy Centre, bowed to the guard as he opened the gate, and Ratana showed us to our apartment. Walking up the three stories of ramps, we heard strange sounds of foreign frogs? (maybe). The air con was welcoming, the room clean and neat with everything we might need for our visit. Haley showered then we got into bed and tried to sleep.

The view from our apartment balcony.

We awoke to the sounds of happy children laughing and talking outside our door, the booming voice of what we learned a few days later was the egg seller as his truck passed by on the street, and motorcycles zooming past. We showered, dressed, then headed across the campus to Father Joe's house for breakfast, bowing and being bowed to by everyone we passed...sawadee ka. They bowed to us and each other in greeting. It was Sunday so quiet at the school children in the classrooms and many of the older children who live at the Mercy Centre with families were away visiting.

Breakfast consisted of croissants and a plate piled full of different kinds of fruit; blueberries, raspberries, apple, grapes, blackberries, pomelo, papaya, plum, and nectarines. Mick Moloney and Roy (a photographer/videographer who does various documentaries) came by and we all walked up to watch and listen as students took traditional Thai dance and music lessons. We learned the money raised by Mick Moloney and Donie Carroll's Mercy Centre fundraisers in NYC goes to purchase instruments and pay instructors to teach music and dance to the children. When Mick and Roy left we walked around the centre, taking in the sights of unfamiliar plant life, birds, and lizards. Haley practiced her violin a bit then, suffering the effects of jet lag, we took an afternoon nap

In the evening, we went back to Father Joe's home where they were celebrating the graduation from one of their students from the International high school program. We introduced ourselves to Father Joe, who had been away in the morning giving mass. There was so much delicious Thai food to try, new people to meet and speak with, and stories to hear. We talked quite a bit with the recent graduate, his friends, and with Ploy, a very nice 17 year old who lives at the Mercy Centre English house through the summer and studies at an International School in Norway during the school term. She was keen to practice her English by speaking with us. It was great fun!

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Catching Up...

Haley and I spent most of the month of April on a mini-tour of sorts. We had our first train travel experience with a trip to Charleston, SC where we stayed with our friend, Jim, who had worked to book Haley a few gigs. She enjoyed playing for a lovely crowd at Awendaw Green, a beautiful rustic outdoor "listening room," entertaining the members of the local Rotary club, and performing a fabulous house concert at Folly Beach.

In between performances, we took in as much of the city as possible including the market, a Magnolia Plantation, the Battery, the old neighborhoods and beautiful homes, the beach, and Angel Oak. We also had a nice morning kayak trip (our first) where Haley and I learned how to work together and go fast.

It was a whirlwind visit!

From Charleston, we rented a car and drove to Orlando. We spent a couple days with friends, more like family, who have watched Haley grow up year by year at Swannanoa Gathering. They have a lovely home and we enjoyed their beautiful day lily gardens and art throughout their home, an Irish session with more friends, a trip to the farmer's market where Haley picked up two fabulous dresses for $1 each, and hours and hours sitting around talking and getting to know each other better. It was a fun, relaxing few days.

That weekend we drove out to Ormond Beach for the Ormond Beach Celtic Festival. Our friend, Don, backed Haley for her sets and Haley joined Don and his partner Megan for their sets so they played most of the two festival days.

Daddy flew down the first night of the festival so he could be around to see the second day's performances and then we drove into Orlando to spend a fun four days at Universal Studios, the real reason for all our travel...Haley had said she'd like to see Harry Potter World so we looked for a festival nearby and luckily the festival organizers were keen to have her down to perform. Haley and I rode every roller coaster and fast ride 4-5 times and all the other rides as well. No crowds and beautiful weather! So much fun!

We spent the month of May enjoying life at home with a local gig here and there.

We also spent the last couple weeks preparing for our next adventure which begins tomorrow....THAILAND!! (I cannot believe we are going to Thailand!)  This trip is an unexpected byproduct of the CD Haley produced, Music for Mercy, with the proceeds going to support the Mercy Centre, an orphanage in Bangkok. Mick, one of the musicians who introduced Haley to the Mercy Centre, suggested Haley should visit the orphanage and meet the children. He worked some magic with Father Joe at the Mercy Centre and plans were here we go!
(I will try to not take months to tell that story.)