Gosh, it's The End
Another hurried one, as we're almost out the door to catch our plane to America. Fifteen hours. We hope there are movies. Thailand has managed to provide a last week that's making us particularly glad to be going home, but now that the time draws near, it's easy to forget the rain and the mosquitoes, and think fondly of the wonderful food and beautiful places.
From Bangkok, we headed off down the coast to the east, stopping first at the town of Chantaburi, a mecca for gem trading. I think something like 60 percent of the world's gems pass through here, and our guide book told us the gem market would be awesome. We pictured a stereotypical, Disney-esque Arabic market with baskets overflowing with precious stones and people yelling out prices and guarding rubies with swords or something. Of course, that was not the case. It turned out to be just a series of very sterile shops with little white porcelain dishes of gem stones. I could not tell you exactly why they are considered more pretty than colored glass. We had also ended up at a pretty dismal hotel where no one spoke English and the name was only written in Thai, so we didn't exactly know where we were. We had no map of the town, and spent the first morning wandering blindly around until we stumbled on a posted map, and then almost didn't find our hotel again before dark. One of the stupider things we've done on this trip. However, we managed to redeem the whole excursion with a trip to a small national park with a phenomenally beautiful multi-tiered waterfall. We played in the pools and swam amidst swarms of lovely butterflies and dragonflies and fish that nibbled our toes.
We've long been planning to end our trip with a romantic few days on a Paradise Island to celebrate our anniversary (prize to the person who figures out which one-- your prize is to shock everyone who didn't know), so we embarked for the small island of Koh Samet. Koh Samet is technically part of a national park, but the only justification for that inclusion is the huge entrance fee levied on foreigners and the signs, largely disredarded, asking people not to litter. (Luckily, due to either the laws of physics or the diligence of resort staff, most of the washed-up trash is found only on the rocky areas between the sandy beaches.) The beaches are overflowing with resorts and restaurants. We managed to find an even more dismal accommodation than the last, a dilapidated shack that will probably fall over before it sees too many more occupants. It was the only cheap accommodation on the whole island as far as we could tell, though, and we figured, hey, we're not here to sit in a hotel room, we're here to sit on a beach! Unfortunately, we only ever saw the sun for about ten minutes on our last afternoon while we were eating lunch, and it turned out the roof of our shack was well perforated. We ended up pretty wet.
All that said, though, we actually did enjoy a lot of our time there. The ocean was wonderfully warm, and the waves were just big enough to be fun and exciting without inspiring mortal terror. (Ben contends that Hawaii was better, but I am far less happy to get completely destroyed by waves.) The weather cleared for a couple hours each evening, and we got to walk along moonlit beaches while watching distant thunderstorms play on the horizon.
Now we're preparing to leave Bangkok, where we've had a busy couple of days doing lots of shopping. We're staying at my aunt's friend Maren's apartment again, though she and her husband Jerry are gone for the weekend. We cannot begin to thank them for their generosity in letting us stay here--it's beautiful and convenient, and they've given us loads of invaluable advice about the city.
So, I guess that's just about it. We've been meaning to write some entries about all the stuff we've learned through our experiences, but perhaps we should just say that if you'd like to hear more about the importance of local and organic food and why you should be nice to elephants, we'd be happy to talk to you at length when we see you in person. I'll end on a very sappy note, but also the most important one, I think. What we've realized more than anything else, is just how awesome our friends and families and lives at home are. We miss you all, and are really looking forward to seeing you again.