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Thailand November 9, 2005 Español

Posted by Belle in : Thailand

We arrived at the Royal Phuket Marina on November 11th. The Royal Phuket Marina will be a beautiful marina…some day. But right now it’s a construction sight with promise. When we arrived we saw a dozen people running to help us which seemed a little too good to be true. Seems like nobody is ever around to help us tie up when we arrive at a new destination. As I looked down at this group of people running madly towards us, I thought, maybe there was a fire. But they were running towards us. Maybe our boat was on fire. No. I looked around and realized the marina was empty. We were the first customers. No wonder they were so eager to help us. Apparently all of the other marinas in Phuket have been booked for months. Actually since right after last years tsunami. We were happy to find availability here. Especially when Wences hooked up his magic wine box contraption (I’m sure it has some techie name, but I like calling it the wine box thingie) which enables us to have WIFI!!! What has happened to me? Seven years ago I did not know what the internet was. Now I get excited about WIFI. Worse, I feel cheated when WIFI is not available. It’s all Wence’s fault.

The night before Wence left for his business trip we went out to a restaurant called Kra Jok See in Phuketown. It had a somewhat vague, yet nice sounding listing in the Lonely Planet. We left the boat around 8PM, walked out to the parking lot naively thinking we could catch a taxi somewhere nearby. When we asked the construction workers, half women and half men (who don’t seem to stop working, day, night, rain or shine) if we could get a taxi nearby, they started laughing. Not a good sign, I thought. We asked if we could get a taxi at the other marina nearby, Boat Lagoon, they said yes. Wences started walking. They all looked at each other and started laughing. I waited as Wences disappeared into the darkness, watching the Thai construction workers observe our little domestic scene with much interest. I put my hands on my hips and shook my head. The international sign of a woman putting her foot down. All of the Thai construction workers started laughing, knowingly. That ought to teach him, I thought to myself. Finally, I was learning how to say no to my adventure addicted husband. Five minutes later I found myself blowing thin wisps of overly cologned hair out of my nose, riding on the back of a moped, grasping onto a short Thai security guard. I could basically rest my head on top of his. At least I can see, I told myself. Suddenly the security guard turned off the driveway onto a busy street. Cars started rushing towards us. We were going the wrong way up a hectic one way street. Ahhh. The Gringa’s Adventures with the Patagonian Indian have started again.

By the time we finally got to the restaurant, they were fully booked and I had an afro. The hostess offered us a table that was practically in the street and I, a starving breastfeeding momma, quickly said yes before Wence could utter a syllable. Poor Wence. Eating at a restaurant with a bad view is like skiing on a hill with man made snow in Texas for him. ALL WRONG. As we sat eating our tom yam soup and eggplant and prawn salad with a very spicy chili vinaigrette, we watched character after character slip into the restaurant. A longhaired exhippy with a mustache like a bow tie, a table of chain smoking, over forty, over made up, overly attentive to wences women on the prowl, an elegant older man wearing pants with a print like a dalmation dog’s fur, two portly over fifty German men with two very young, very dressed up Thai girls and an older blonde. Seemed like their affection was for sale. A French business woman wearing a very smart suit, a plump, pony tailed forty something European guy trying to pick up at least one of the chain-smoking over forties, and the list goes on. The characters were the best advertisement for this place. We were dying to go inside! Just as they cleared our appetizers, the hostess told us she had a table for us. As we stepped inside the restaurant, I realized just how boring our table outside was.

It reminded me of so many places. La Jumelle in New York, La Vie en Rose in Akaroa, dozens of places in Paris. A smoky room with interesting photos and memorabilia on the paint peeling walls. In Kra Jok See there was an unforgettable photo of an ancient Thai woman, head wrapped in a scarf, with the most beautiful, though toothless smile. Wooden tables and chairs on a plank wooden floor. A panel or two of stained glass, a tall, overflowing vase of flowers, strange, colorful framed prints of roosters in a row. And the music. Ahhhhhhh. The music. Old ballads, Nina Simone, Billy Holiday, other familiar songs that you may not know the words to, but remind you of countless other times in your life. It’s all a bit nostalgic. And maybe that’s why the entire table of frenchies, who all seemed very familiar with the hostess, were climbing over the table like teenagers, since they were backed up against the wall, to get to the tiny opening between tables that became the dance floor. The hostess, obviously a former ballerina with her hair slicked back into a small bun at the nape of her neck and a grace that began as a love for Balanchine and has become a part of her soul, swayed gracefully to every song, smiling sweetly no matter who she was dancing with. A true hostess. She made sure everyone had a good time. Wences and I watched in awe of this lively, unruly, and totally intriguing group of frenchies as they thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as if tonight could be their last night on earth. I wondered if the tsunami had had a permanent effect on these expats or if they were part of some retired gypsy caravan taking the world by storm. Or if it was just a Saturday night. Just when I thought it could not get more interesting, Diana Ross showed up. Or was it Dion. Her eyes were not as wide, her smile not as moving, but she stole the spotlight anyway, and the room seemed to explode with silliness and joy. As I watched them all, each with their own dancing style that so appropriately seemed to express something about each one, some making jokes with their movements, others strong statements, I felt sorry that Wences would never be able to share with me the joys of dancing. To him dancing is a chore that he performs for his wife, with a smile, on very rare occasions when he senses that if he does not dance with me soon, I will grab someone else and disappear into the waves of moving bodies. I remember in high school and college, I NEEDED to dance, I felt. A week would not go by that I did not go somewhere to move around to some funky music and forget myself in the rhythm and heat. I wished that Wences and I could do that together. I looked across the table at him and saw he was getting that nervous sweat that he gets when he is faced with a task he is not sure he can perform. I decided to go to the bathroom to let him pay the bill so we could leave. When I came back to the table, he was not there. He was standing with the hostess who, as soon as she saw me came and grabbed me, put my hands into wences’s and before we knew what was happening, we were disappearing into a crowd of moving bodies. It was only one song, only a few minutes, but a memorable moment for me. As the transvestite entertainer moved from the old Diana Ross and the Supremes to hits from the 80s, I went to thank the hostess. She put a thornless rose in my hand and kissed us both on the cheek. What a place! I can’t wait to go back!

Today Wence went back to work. Going back to work entailed a taxi ride to the airport, with two hair cuts on the way, I guess the first one was so bad, he had to get another one somewhere else. A two hour flight to Bangkok, a two hour lay over followed by a flight to Singapore, a three hour lay over and much duty free shopping, a flight to Paris, a four hour lay over, probably a few café au laits and the equivalent of a few cigarettes via second hand smoke, a flight to Caracas, then a flight to Panama. It’s so strange that is has taken us a year and a half to come half way around the world and it takes him a day and a half to get back to where we started. I can’t imagine how hard it is for him to go from our slow-paced, some what simple life on the boat to a half a dozen meetings a day, suit and tie instead of flip flops and swim trunks. I don’t imagine too many people could make that transition gracefully, and though grace is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Wences, I know he hits the ground running, and he does not stop until he falls into bed at night.

While Wences was away we did some work on the boat. Eric, from Rainbow Voyager helped us install two AC units in the salon. They’re house ACs, so we can only use them when we are in the marina. It may sound a bit spoiled, but in this heat, staying in the boat in the marina, where there is no breeze, is no fun. The boys have bad heat rashes, prickly heat etc. under their necks, in their armpits and of course, in the diaper area. And the AC, well, it made us all a bit saner. After we took care of that, onto the other projects: Fans, windlass, some wood work, some kind of netting alternative to go underneath the trampoline, some work with the instruments. Every afternoon we went to the pool after Dio’s nap. Sometimes accompanied with Luna and Nicole. I would stay with the baby, on hot days bring him into the water and Dio would swim with Liz. It’s so fun to watch him have fun in the water. He has always loved it so much. But watching him actually swim, is wonderful. Of course he still needs supervision all the time and much more practice, but he has started swimming. I’m not sure, but I think I did not start to swim until I was around 4 years old. And my parents had to drag me to the lessons.

I took Dio to the airport to pick up Wence. We had breakfast at the little Thai restaurant outside the arrival gate. We then did our elephant march (See the original Jungle Book), to the delight of many local taxi drivers waiting next to us. They all tried to touch Dio as if he was the youngest Beatle or something. He would smile and run just out of their reach. He’s already a terrible flirt.

I love watching Dio’s expression when he sees Wence coming off the plane. It’s pure joy with so much love. I cry every time. Dio holds Wences’s face in his hands and smiles in amazement and love. “PAPA! Papa back soon!” It’s so fun to have Wence back.

We let Liz and David have two days off, so they could relax, get away from us, and have some serious Thai massages, preparing them for their next challenge: Four days with Dio and Theo alone and unsupervised. With no help other than Baby Einstein videos and some Disney movies.


Wence and I went to Bangkok for four days, alone. Wence announced that he wanted to go away for a week. From the fried egg eye look I got from David, I could see he was terrified. Although they graciously accepted the challenge, one week seemed too long to me. Four days. Three nights. I could not wait to SLEEP IN!

Of course, that never happened. We crammed so much into our days while we were in Bangkok that the latest I woke up was 7AM the first day. The next two we got up at my usual 6AM. Oh well. Sleep is overrated.

We loved Bangkok. As interested as I am in Buddhism, I will admit, the temples in Bangkok don’t do much for me. We went to the Royal Palace, the biggie, with the Emerald Buddha (which is not emerald at all, but actually jade) which we enjoyed, but did not feel the need to see more of. I was impressed by how much work went into making it and how much work it must take to maintain it. Millions of pieces of all kinds of materials stretching into temples surrounded by walls. Lots of gold. I hope Buddha likes Gold cause imagine the chagrin of those temple builders if he’s a silver kind of guy.

My parents sent us a NYT article on the hip artistic hangouts in Bangkok so we checked them out. The article mentions an Au Bon Pain in Siam Square as the center for creativity. As we began to eavesdrop at what looked like the artistic table, (you know the look, Mac laptops, some how disheveled yet pulled together by some subtle color coordination, funky glasses) we realized how retarded we were. The only words we know in Thai are Khawp khun Kha and Sa wat dii kha: thank you and good day. And I think we manage to screw those up all the time. People laugh at me when I say Good Day. For all I know I could be saying, ” I’m constipated thanks to Buddha”. So, eavesdropping was no longer an option. But we sat there for a while, sipping iced coffee and pretended we knew what they were talking about. And it was great! The things we imagined they were talking about were probably so much more interesting. In our minds they were the creative force behind Bangkok. The next generation of revolutionaries. Sometimes not knowing the language can be far more fun than sitting there trying to nonchalantly glean enough words from a conversation in a foreign language to have some idea of what the locals are chatting about. And since learning Thai seems like, well, one of those things that could take an entire life time, we’ll fake it and make things up instead.

Wence was on a mission to buy some techie gadget (how unlike him) so we went to some area in the mall where all they sell are techie gadgets. And all you can see for miles and miles are people, lined up to buy these techie gadgets. Suddenly, and this has never happened, I got claustrophobic. There were no windows, no identifiable exits. It was all just a crap shoot. Suddenly I had to get out. I needed day light like I’ve never needed it before. There was no air, no space. I needed out. So we exited the mall. After that near suffocation, we decided to concentrate on food. Since Thai food seems to be both my and Wence’s favorite, we decided to make our time in Bangkok a culinary adventure.

I have never seen so much street food. In Singapore they have hawker stalls where a bunch of food stalls are sandwiched together in a seemingly random way. Usually there is some kind of seating area available, though you may have to wait for a table and then share it with whoever comes and sits there with their lunch. In Bangkok they have vendors in easily transportable carts who set up camp along the curbs of every busy and not so busy street selling food. The food is so cheap and so good, apparently most Thais eat out on a daily basis. One early morning we left the hotel in search of Christmas presents and we found over a dozen elementary school students eating breakfast among three different vendors right next to the ferry. One sold drinks and fruit and the other two served eggs, fried rice, Tom yam soup, and some other fried thing that we could not figure out. As we waited for seats to sit, a woman found two chairs for us and pulled them right up to the drink cart which we used as a table. Yummy iced coffee and tom yam soup. The Thai, according to the Lonely Planet , don’t eat three square meals a day, either. They do a lot of snacks. I guess if you had a bunch of cheap, yummy bites of food available on every street, snacks would seem like a good idea.

Wence and I fell in love with Tom Yam soup and attempted to become aficionados. An impossible task because there is so much improvising in Thai cooking, that soup never tasted the same. And how the hell could I know what it is supposed to taste like. I just know when I like it. Which is all the time. It always has some kind of meat or fish, galangal (a kind of fresh ginger), chilies (everything in Thai food seems to have a little heat, or a lot of heat), fresh coriander, mini Thai eggplants, kafir lime leaves, and lemongrass. Sometimes there’s basil and shallots in there too. The galangal and the kafir lime leaves you don’t eat because you can’t. I would if I could, trust me. And depending on how many pieces of each there are, if you’re Wences, you can have a lot of your soup sitting out of your bowl on the table in front of you by the end of the meal. Sometimes I would surreptitiously stuff them in a napkin or stack them on the side of the bowl. But that never worked because it would just fall back into the soup again and this soup is the kind you want to finish. All of those leaves get in the way of inhaling the last drops. We read in the Lonely Planet Food of Thailand book that you are not supposed to eat everything on your plate. It’s not polite. It’s like saying your host is cheap and not trying to satisfy you, or even worse, he tried and failed. When they tell me to wear a long sleeved shirt in a temple, I do it. When they tell me not to wear sandals, I don’t. When they tell me not to wear shorts, I don’t. But when they tell me not to eat all of my tom yam soup, I tell them to back off and mind their own business. I guess I can’t totally immerse myself in another culture. Just in the soup.

We hired a tour guide from the hotel to take us to the floating market, about two hours outside of Bangkok. Her name was Gina. Or her “American” name was Gina. Her Thai name was so long and complicated we tried for a few hours, but she pleaded for us to give in and just say Gina. Obviously not many farangs can handle Thai. Gina was a wealth of knowledge. She took us to a coconut plantation on the way where we watched workers make all the various coco products. My favorite was coco sugar or palm sugar. Something I have never tried before. It’s syrup drained from the coco flower and it tastes so yummy. We tried it when it was still warm and it was one of the best things I have ever tasted. I would use it in my coffee every day if I could. I honestly don’t understand why people aren’t using it all over the world. We watched them make coconut cream, coconut milk, rope from the husk, bowls and purses from the husk. Basically they use every part of the coconut.

We took a boat ride through the canals surrounding the floating market, where the people who live in the coconut plantations live. WOW. They live in shacks on stilts right off of the canals. Most of the shacks are a bit run down and depressing, but some of them had pretty gardens and unique decorations made from whatever they had around that looked inviting. Since it’s so hot, their houses were very open, sometimes no doors or just holes in the wall for windows. As we zoomed by in our extremely loud long boats, we could look into these people’s bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens. At first I was fascinated. Then I noticed making eye contact with these people seemed impossible. I always have this desire to wave and watch as some complete stranger in this foreign land smiles at me and waves back. Not here. And why would they. They’ve learned to faze us out. Imagine the fury of dozens of lawn mowers tearing through your back lawn, mower after mower for two hours every morning of your life. At first you would probably try to shoot the lawn mowers. But they keep coming. Then you think about leaving. But where would you go? Your family is here, your job is here, you cannot get another job, there is no where else to go. Then you find a way to accept it, but that involves building an invisible wall and some how silencing the deafening roar. I was glad that tourists had been going down these canals for decades, so I missed the shooting part, but felt sorry for these people, their dirty underwear on stage for all to see.

The market itself was a little disappointing. It’s purely for tourists. We thought we would get to see more food, but it was mostly fruit and touristy stuff. We did get to try two new fruits, though. Mangostene, which Gina told us Thai call the queen of fruit, and a durian. Durians seem to cause quite a fuss, and to be honest, I can’t see why. Apparently they have such a strong, bad odor, hotels all over Thailand and Singapore have signs and laws prohibiting people from bringing them inside. I guess the ones we had were not so smelly. The taste was weird. If you can imagine a fruit tasting like a custard. It was s bit strong. It seemed like the kind of fruit that would taste really good cold, but bringing it back into our hotel and stuffing it in the minibar was not an option. Gina told us that Indonesians come to Thailand and pick out the durian trees they want their fruit from and pay serious cash to get it when it ripens. How crazy is that. And how would they know if the durian farmer sent them the wrong fruit? I guess I will never be a durian aficionado either.

I am very bad at bargaining. I know it’s a skill I need to learn, but it’s so hard for me. I saw a straw bag that I liked when I was walking around, but had no money. I asked her how much it was and then went to ask wence if I could get it. When I told Gina how much the woman had asked for, she told me to tell the woman I would pay half that amount and if she did not let me buy it for that, to forget about it. Gina is no joke. So I did just that. Well, almost. I think I paid her 50 cents more than half. Of course I did not tell Gina that little detail. I love my new bag. It was worth that extra 50 cents. It’s become our beach bag.

We decided to ask Gina if she would take us to Ayuthaya, a province 86 kilometers outside of Bangkok known for its ruins of what was Thailand’s capital from 1350 to 1767. At that point Thailand was a part of Siam which extends into present day Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Since it was a two hour train ride, and we were leaving the same day, we got up at 6AM to make the first train.

While we were waiting for the train a little boy came and sat next to us. You could tell immediately that this boy had no home. I started thinking of ways we could help him, wondering which ones I should pass by Gina and wence. Gina found out he was an orphan from the very north of Thailand. He had gotten bored of school and did not like staying in the orphan home so he had decided to come to Bangkok. He had just gotten here by train the night before and had spent the night in the streets. I could see from the way that Gina was talking to him that sympathy was not the Thai way. At least not hers. She seemed to sense my surprise and said, “Probably some tourist felt sorry for him and gave him the money for the train ticket. They should not have done that. He should be in school back in the north. They have homes for kids like these, but they don’t like them. They want to be free. But freedom won’t give him an education or a job. Freedom won’t feed his hungry tummy. The sooner he learns that the better for him.” Suddenly people like me were responsible for misplaced orphans. Perhaps she was right. I’m in no position to judge. But he was just a boy. Maybe eight years old. And he chose to sleep on the street rather than in an orphanage. And still after sleeping on the streets, he did not want to go back. I don’t even know what that means, but it made me a little sad knowing there are so many kids like this one wandering the streets.

In Ayuthaya we saw the King’s summer palace and three temples. The King’s summer palace was nice, but strange. The only Thai style buildings were for the help. All of the major buildings were European or Chinese. One looked like a Swiss chalet, one looked French, and the Chinese one had so much gold, well, I wondered if they had sunglasses in those days. We preferred the temples in Ayuthaya. They were beautiful. Falling apart, stones out of place, but monumental. We found out that two of them had originally had lots of gold Buddhas all over the place. And I mean, all over. Empty Buddha stands were everywhere. The Burmese decapitated all of them and took the gold. Wow. And they’re Buddhist too. I guess all is fair in love and war. Europe and the US were no different. And yet the lack of gold made these places more sacred to me. The most beautiful thing we saw that day was the large, stone head of a decapitated Buddha that had some how become a part of a Banyan tree. It really looked like the Buddha was the genesis of all of the tree’s limbs. They swooned around him, holding his head gently in place.

On the way back in the train we sat across from an older Thai man who had the most serious poker face I have ever seen. Interested and yet apathetic at the same time, he watched us for a second and would look away. At one point the train stopped and there were a lot of people gathered by the train tracks. He asked one of them a question and a woman pointed to something ahead of us. He stood up and looked out to see what she was pointing to. A minute later we passed part of a moped, twisted and smashed. A hundred yards down another part of the moped. Seconds later we saw a girl, head down in some overgrown weeds, not moving, a group of people around her as someone started cutting her jacket off. Less than fifty feet away. I longed for the train to go faster. I did not want to see anymore. I grabbed Wence’s hand, suddenly grateful for everything and scared of everything at the same time. The Thai man looked at me and shrugged, as if to say, what do you expect. Seeing a dead girl on the side of the road was not part of my tourist package. Life in Thailand finds you whether you want it to or not. Suddenly I understood something about this man with the poker face sitting in front of me, pulling dry straw from his hair. Don’t expect anything, and learn to accept what ever comes your way. Life is what it is. Not too many people in Thailand pretend it’s something else.

While we were in Bangkok Wence and I walked, for what seemed like days, to a Thai massage school. By the time we got there, I felt like I deserved five. I was given a robe and told to change behind a curtain. I followed a girl into a dark room with about ten single beds lined up across the floor. Five other women were getting a massage too. Thai massage is very different than Swedish or deep tissue or Balinese, or any other massage I have ever had. They use their entire body while working on yours, elbows, feet, knees, not just the hands. They also stretch you out a bit at the same time. This was no spa, with a cd of flute playing accompanied by the sound of water falling and birds chirping and a special massage table, the room the perfect temperature, with pleasant smelling fragrances gliding unobtrusively through the room, while you wait in some fancy robe. All the Thai masseurs wore worn black plants and t-shirts, they chatted away, telling jokes to one another and laughing. For all we knew they were making jokes about how tight we all were, or worse. There was no AC, we were all sweating, it smelled like whatever the lady next to you smelled like, but it was the best massage I’ve had. She worked me over, but in a good way. She knew where I had been injured, knew where I was tight. She lectured me for not stretching and exercising. She was perfect.
The day after we got back from Bangkok we left the marina. It was so nice to be out sailing again. Err, well, motor sailing anyway. Thailand is so beautiful. So many islands. I feel like we could stay here for years and not see everything.

Since Theo’s birth I have been very removed from the actual sailing of Simpatica. I just try to keep the boys sane and occupied, with a little sanity left over for myself. It’s been nice cruising in Thailand because we’ve been doing day sails to get from one island to the next, which makes it much easier on all of us. Dio’s fine if the weather allows a swim in his pool on the front deck, but when it rains it’s a little hard to keep them occupied for hours in the boat. On longer passages I give Liz and Wence some time with Dio so I can feed the baby and not wonder if Dio is getting into things he shouldn’t, like coloring with an indelible marker on the outside of the boat, or spraying baby powder all over the kids’ room, or going to the bathroom on the trampoline, an old favorite past time of his, or giving himself a bath in the kitchen sink, and the list goes on. At least he’s creative about the disasters he makes. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.


I had not done any reading on the Similan islands before we got there so when I finally took a look at where we were, I was really impressed. There was a beautiful beach lined by palm trees and dense bushes. No people. It looked like your basic paradise island. When we arrived at the beach with Dio, we noticed a middle-aged Thai man making a tree swing in the shade. We made sand castles in the shade next to him. The sun here can suck the life out of you in no time. Suddenly two boys appeared from the bushes. They must have been about six and eight years old. At first they did not take much notice of Dio. This seemed to puzzle Dio. Ever since we arrived in Indonesia, he’s gotten accustomed to a movie star reception. So he went up to the two boys, in his little sharkie shorts, rash guard, and his Billabong windsurfing hat (they are like baseball hats but they have a strap that goes under the chin, so they stay on in the boat and in the water). Dio stood in front of them, arms out to the side as if to say, THE DIO HAS ARRIVED. He calls himself The Dio, as if he were some kind of movement or something. Sometimes in the morning when he gets out of bed before I have a chance to get him, he comes down the stairs into our hull and says, “The Dio’s coming!” Like it’s some miracle that there could ever be something as amazing as that, as his feet coming down our stairs. Quite a character, The Dio. Anyway, who could not laugh at such an obvious display of playfulness? Moments later Dio and his new Thai friends were off, running in the water, making sand castles that Dio would immediately ruin and then run away screaming with delight at his mischief. They would chase him, let him get away, play in the water with him, spit out the sand he threw at them. They were angels, always gentle, always looking after him like an older brother should. As I stared at my little maniac skipping and screaming over the waves, I wondered if he would ever be calm and gentle like these two older boys. Dream on, Wences said.

There was some pretty good snorkeling and although the anchorage was a little bumpy, we were fine in Simpatica. We could not help but notice that all of the other boats at the anchorage left soon after we arrived. Monohulls. Our life would be so different on a monohull. Thank God I can be a difficult woman sometimes and we are not sailing on the first boat Wence showed me. I am not sure I would have made it this far. Monohulls are constantly on the look out for a still anchorage, free of rolling and pitching. But Simpatica is much more stable. This gives us a lot more choices.

When Dio got up from his nap, we tried to go for a walk. After a few minutes of a nice path up and down small, rolling hills, the walk quickly progressed to large stretches demanding climbing up a path so steep, a rope had been made to aid all of us who are not mountain goats. Then the mosquitoes attacked us. I found myself swatting my poor baby on the head as four mosquitoes at a time would land on him. I shuttered at the thought of what was happening to his chubby thighs. Much to Wences’s dismay, I canceled the family walk and opted for some beach time instead. We walked to the other side of the island, impressed by how well organized the tourism industry here. Dozens of tents were lined up not far from the beach, a small restaurant was nestled amid some trees. We saw at least a dozen employees wandering around, fixing things, cooking, cleaning, etc. There were about ten tourists on the beach, Europeans, soaking up the last of the sun. Why in this day and age people are still getting painfully sunburned all over their bodies, I will never know. But all of those people seem to come to Thailand.

The next day Wence and I went snorkeling in the morning. It was great to be in clear water again, with small coral reefs all over the place. Nothing spectacular, but enough to keep you interested and under the water for a while. Wence and I decided to finish the walk we had started the day before, this time wearing serious bug spray. I broke out the toughest stuff we have, which we had not used yet. Wences and I made it to the top of the trail after about a half hour of somewhat steep terrain. There was a nice rock you could climb and once you reached the top you could look out over the entire island. It was pretty. I was feeling very pleased with myself for making it up the trail at a pretty good pace. I was a little out of breath, but happy. As we headed back, I pushed myself to stay close to Wences. I did not want him to have to wait for me. After a while, I could not help noticing we did not seem to be walking on the path anymore. Instead we seemed to be walking in complete jungle. That nice little path with the rope to help us normal people along was no where to be found. “Did we go off the trail?” I asked, thinking it must have been a freak accident that had happened moments earlier. “I decided to make the way back a little bit more interesting.” Wences said and smiled back over his shoulder, that smile that is very charming, super charming because there is fear behind it. Fear that he has gone too far, said too much, done something bad. Oh and he had. I stopped and looked behind me, hoping to see some semblance of order echoing a pathway, but nothing, only branch after branch of prickles, thick bushes huge rocks, and spider webs. Yes. Spider Webs. I am not talking about Charlotte’s web here, I am talking about a humongous yellow, green, orange and red spider with long long black legs that look like steel knives, waiting in its web, which spans from ten feet in the air to the ground. I looked at the back of Wence’s head, as he happily plowed through a bramble bush. Panic set in. I was wearing sandals, a sleeveless t shirt, short and shorts and no hat. My god, I may as well be naked, I thought to myself. So much skin to be scratched and bitten by what could only be seriously deadly spiders and dengue fever mosquitos. We were goners. Lost in the jungle, eaten up by spiders and mosquitoes. Oh god. I was not sure what was worse, death by flinging myself on thorns, or spider coma. The spiders suddenly started looking inviting. I was so mad, all I could say was, in a very stern voice, “THIS IS NOT FUN!” I could hear Wence laugh ahead of me. Oh God. As mad as I was at not being consulted before our nice walk became GI Joe and Jane’s hectic bushwhacking journey in the jungle, the only thing that could be worse would be if I got lost. I have no sense of direction. Never have. Never will. I’m always getting lost. It’s a running joke in my family. They tell me to just think about which way I THINK I should go, and go the opposite direction. I started running through bushes to catch up with Wence. Suddenly I was caught in a shroud of thorns, and being bitten by red ants at the same time. I looked down at my feet. Bleeding. And those nasty ants all over, biting. Wences helped me dethorn myself. I think I did shriek at the point. Words could not express the frustration. The jungle was turning me into an animal.

An hour later, bleeding, butts caked with mud from various falls and sliding across precipes, we made it back to civilization after creeping through some very nasty water. Wence laughed and I laughed, and fumed, then laughed. Months later, we call it our Near Divorce Experience, now that we’ve made it to the other side of that jungle, it’s a comic moment. I promised not to panic in the future, he promised to consult me before embarking on jungle intelligence expeditions. At least then I could be prepared, or opt out of the covert operation before it was too late.


We arrived at the first Surin island the early evening. After a day of sailing we were all ready for a relaxing night. The next morning Liz and David took Dio to the beach while I cleaned the boys’ room and our bathroom. After Dio had lunch and went down for his nap, Wence and I went out in search of a good snorkeling spot. It was a gray day, raining slightly. We searched for about an hour before we realized the best spot was not far from our mooring. Even though it was a gray day, I saw some of the most beautiful coral I have ever seen. I could not help wondering how much more amazing it would have been had we had a little sun. I followed all kinds of fish around, trying to get good pictures of them with our new under water camera case. It’s so fun taking pictures under water. I feel like I could spend an entire day chasing fish. At least until I get really cold. Anyway, I saw a lobster hiding in a little cave of coral and pointed it out to Wence. Big mistake. We were in a Natural Park. You can’t put Wence in a natural park, where killing fish is not allowed, and then show him a lobster. I should have kept the sighting to myself. He spent over a half an hour trying to get the lobster out. At one point, so focused on capturing the lobster, he got his hand stuck in the hole. After a minute of struggling, I noticed he was started to freak out. He had run out of breath and panic had set in. He yanked his hand out so hard and fast, not only did he not get the lobster, but he left a piece of himself in the lobster’s cave. I think he is still having nightmares. The huge lobster that got away. My hunter gatherer.

Today we left early in the morning. The wind was gusting past 20 knots. The seas were choppy, and we were heading right into the wind. I immediately put my little electric watch on that sends little electric pulses to my wrist and magically keeps me from getting sea sick. After about an hour of misery, Wence decided to change plans. We would head further south first so we could do a tack and not head directly into the wind. What a difference a few degrees makes. In the morning it was gray and overcast, with short, choppy waves and in the afternoon the sun came out and the waves smoothed down.

We got to Koh Phayam by 3:30 PM and immediately piled into the dinghy to go to the beach.. By complete accident we had arrived at one of the nicest anchorages and islands we have found on the trip. A beautiful bay with about two miles of beach, some kind of small resort with a few bungalows, a few outdoor restaurants and bars, and some hippy French families playing with their kids on the beach. Wence went to go get some drinks and came back with small buckets filled with iced coffee and some local alcohol concoction On the strong and strange side. We spent a few hours on the beach. Liz and David drew a huge helicopter for Dio in the sand and I took Dio in the tiny surf and started to teach him how to dive through waves. At one point I thought maybe I was pushing him to do something he did not want to do, but when I saw his face as he came through the other side of a wave, I could see how much fun he was having. If we lived a few more years on this boat there is no doubt he would be a total beach bum. He loves the water. I can’t wait to take him snorkeling.

We left Koh Payam regretfully. We had to leave Thailand that day to renew our visas.


Seems like quite a few people living in Thailand have to do the visa thing on a regular basis. The Burmese have made it easy and fun. The Andaman Club is a place that organizes the visa trip from Ranong. You show up at their ocean front property, from which you can see Myanmar across the water, fill out some papers, and hop in a ferry with thirty other people that takes you across the river, then get in a bus and arrive on what appears to be the heavens. It’s a raised peninsula, green, and open, beautiful. A large club, complete with gambling, golf, an all you can eat Burmese buffet, and lots of Duty free shops awaits. We had a yummy lunch, the boys behaved very well. Dio even made a friend with a little boy whose shorts kept falling down when he ran, revealing his bare bottom. Dio started flirting with the women who worked in the club and before I knew it, Theodore was out of my arms being passed from one woman to the next. I watched anxiously as Theo got farther and farther from my arms. No did not seem like an option on renewing your visa day. And they knew it.

After we got back to Ranong we did some produce shopping. So fun to go to the outdoor markets. I stayed in the taxi while Theodore finally took a nap as Liz and David collected all kinds of yummy fruit and veggies, including a huge jack fruit, which has become one of our favorite fruits now, since Singapore. I could eat jack fruit every day without any problem what so ever. It’s an amazing looking fruit. On the outside it’s huge, green, bumpy, roundish, well, as fruits go, it’s kind of unattractive. But, when you cut it open, you find hundreds of yellow cells that taste so yummy, so distinct. They are not crisp, but not soggy, unless they are over ripe. And they have a beautiful pit in the center that looks like a nice piece of wood. As much as we love jack fruit, we could not eat that one up fast enough. Within days much of it was on the overly ripe side. I tried to salvage it through strange smoothie concoctions, but only Dio liked them. Not a good sign. Dio is kind of life a garbage disposal. He’ll eat whatever comes his way. If he doesn’t eat it, well, you know it’s BAD.

The next day we went back to Koh Payam. What a special place. I could stay their for months. One night we went out to the Rasta baby Reggae Bar with Liz, David and the boys. At first we were worried they might not have enough food for us. Turned out they did not have any food when we get there, but they disappeared on their mopeds and came back with bundles of food. The Rasta baby Reggae Bar is the coolest bar I have been to. I think. Definitely in the top ten. It’s all open air. With a few covered areas, but no walls. They have all kinds of cozy corners with comfy cushions. The music was a great reggae mix, mostly roots which I love. The owners of the bar are a couple of Thai guys who seem to be rastas. They have never been to Jamaica, but they know more about it than most Jamaicans. They wear their hair in dreds, have that groovy hippy feel, and are extremely warm and friendly. They also seem to do things in Jamaican time. SLOWLY. Don’t go to the Rasta baby Reggae bar if you are starving because you might just die before you get your food. But you’ll be listening to great tunes when you do.
Dio rode his bike around and around the bar, flirting with the one female customer. A few buckets of jack and coke later (they have a thing about serving drinks in tiny buckets here, encouraging group beverages I guess) and what seemed like days later, barbecued squid with rice and vegetables appeared at our table. We all ate every last crumb it was all so good.

The next day we met Yuri at the coconut beach resort. Another very cool spot. He’s from Israel originally though he’s lived on the island now for over ten years. A nice guy. We all had a very yummy early dinner there too. This place seems to be the social hub of the island. Yuri told us what it had been like during the tsunami. It was not his as badly as other parts of Thailand, but still, most of the people left. He stayed to fix and rebuild.

The next day Wence and I rented two mopeds to explore the island. David and Liz had gone on their day off and suggested it to us. After the near divorce experience in the jungle, I decided instead of riding on the back of Wence’s moped, I would get my own. Then I could go at my own pace and not spend half the day terrified I might die at any moment from flying off a cliff at top speed. As we puttered away from the coconut beach resort, I kept waiting to join up with the main road. After stopping a few times to ask directions, we realized, we were on the main road. To call it a road, well, that would be very generous. It was more like the space in between the road and the curb. I don’t know what that space is called, but it’s by no means roomy. And me, with my shaky hands, pathetic moped skills, well, suddenly I was beginning to wonder if I might be better off on wence’s moped. No. I will not give up, I told myself. What has happened to me! When I was young I was this unstoppable tom boy that was always trying to beat the boys at whatever they were doing and succeeded, actually, a fair amount of the time. At least until I was about fourteen. Was I going to slowly get more and more afraid of life until I stopped living it? Stopped taking chances, stopped trying to get up and down dirt paths on mopeds? No! I was going to face my fears and get wherever the hell I wanted to go on this island on this moped.

After a beautiful ten minute ride up and down hills covered with trees and bushes we hit the “town”. The town consists of a block of paved road, a few restaurants, a general store, and not much else. There were no cars in all of Koh Payam. They wouldn’t be able to make it down any of the roads anyway. We had breakfast at one of the restaurants, Tom yam, of course. Then we went off to do more exploring. Just when I felt like I was mastering my moped, the quality of the path got much worse. It was dry, crumbly red sand. Going up this big, winding hill I did ok, but when we were on our way back, I’m not sure what happened, but after a brief moment in the air (I like to call it my improvised wheelie), I found myself buried under my moped. For a moment I was scared, I couldn’t feel anything. This is what they always say in books when something is really wrong, a broken bone, a near death experience. I thought I should just lay there for a moment until I could feel something. I could feel a burning on my feet and shoulder. At least I knew I was not dead. After a while Wence realized he was no longer being followed so he came back and got me. I was bleeding in a few places, nothing serious, but I definitely felt a little sore. So I realized I was more of a driving hazard than Wence. Wence took me to a beautiful restaurant/inn by the water where we rented a little cottage overlooking the ocean. I took a long shower, washed all the cuts out and the dust off and took a glorious nap in the middle of the day. How scandalous.


Dio has picked up a new way to make momma laugh. For someone who has never seen any of the Star Wars movies, he can impersonate Yoda’s voice perfectly. One night, as I lay in bed nursing Theodore, lights off, trying to keep completely quiet so Dio would forget I was there and eventually fall asleep, Dio started talking. He’s so cute when he talks to himself at night. It’s sounds like he’s doing Dio’s Greatest Hits of that day. “Dio in the watah! Yeah! Shark in the watah! No! BEEG feesh in the watah. YEAH!” Then, from out of nowhere, he starts talking like Yoda. “Pabbies (crabs) at the beach? Ya! Dio at the beach? Dio in the watah?” I held my breath, hoping he would stop the voice so I would not totally lose it. But he didn’t. After a few more seconds of Yoda at the beach, I lost it. I started laughing, then the baby started laughing, then Dio started laughing. Realizing that Yoda was a huge hit, he went for more. We all laughed so hard, I stumbled out of their room to get some relief. I heard Dio and Theo continue for a few more minutes, then slip off into sleep. I think they love being in the room together now.
We went to go check out the place where my father was staying, thinking we might be able to find him something nicer, closer. But the Laguna Beach Resort turned out to be perfect. We were standing in the lobby, waiting to ask a few questions from the concierge and all of the sudden, this elephant comes waltzing through the lobby. I don’t mean a man in an elephant suit, I mean AN ELEPHANT IN THE LOBBY. Children were walking up to the elephant, handing it bananas, men in suits were standing in line to touch her. Anna the Elephantie caused quite a commotion. I found out from the concierge that Anna makes an appearance twice a day at the hotel, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. Oh my god. Can we move in? The concierge stared at me as if I was on crack. I guess if you see an elephant every day the novelty rubs off. But for us, elephants are just so special. I watched as Anna’s little elephant butt sached out of the lobby and past the pool area, dozens of children started jumping out of the pool, running towards Anna. She only paid attention to children bearing bananas, so they all ran to the buffet and started pilfering bananas from the display. Her trainer,( I think they call them Mahouts or something like that, sorry out in the middle of the sea with no internet and all the Lonely Planets have been sent to Chile by my boat weight conscious husband) pulled some bananas out of a bag he had and started handing them to the smallest children lining up to touch the elephant.

We walked down the beach from my father’s hotel and found another reggae bar with another Thai dude in dreds. Turns out he is friends with the guys from Rasta baby bar in Koh Payam. I guess Thai rastas stick together. His bar seemed in pretty good shape so we asked if he had been hit by the tsunami. He pulled out a laminated article written all about him, his family, and his bar after the tsunami. How his girlfriend had been pregnant and they lost everything. Everything out to sea, he said. That was all he could say about it, he handed me the article to explain what he could no longer talk about, what he no longer wanted to remember, and yet everyone here still looks out at the sea, they say, and they remember that day, the way the water disappeared and then a wall of water came and took everything away.
That afternoon we anchored off what looked like a rustic, but nice resort called the Nui Bay resort. We had dropped Liz and David at my father’s hotel earlier so they could take their day off. Wence, the boys and I spent a relaxing afternoon just chilling in the boat, enjoying the scenery of the little cove in front of us. When we were having dinner, Liz and David called, having a hard time finding us. Wence explained where we were to the taxi driver, but ten minutes later the phone rang again. Apparently the road just stopped. It was dark and it seemed too dark and far for Liz and David to walk from where they were to the resort. Wence went ashore to see if he could get some help from someone at the resort. After he had been gone over an hour, I started to worry. Moments later I heard the dinghy returning to the boat. Good, I thought. He waited for Liz and David and now they’re all back. But Wence returned to the boat alone. And the look on his face was one I did not recognize. “Bella, I think we should move the boat.” I asked him what happened. Suddenly I realized he was terrified. “There was a guy with a shotgun…” that was all I needed to hear. I started getting the anchor up all the while, Wence kept looking over his shoulder back at the resort, fear in his eyes. Moments later we saw a flashlight on the water outside the resort. Wence gunned both engines and moments later we were out of that cove, immediately in a more populous area and out of sight from the resort. Wence kept the engines on high until we arrived at Kata beach. When we got there he told me he had been trying to talk one of the employees into taking the four wheel drive truck out to get Liz and David when one guy showed up with a baby bear. Well, that was weird, but somehow ok. A few minutes later a guard showed up with a shotgun wearing bullets all over his chest. He told Wence it was time for him to leave and pushed him with the barrel of the shot gun. The entire time Wence walked down to the dinghy he felt that gun on his back and for one of the few moments in his life, felt terrified. He said they were all chain smoking and acting a little weird. Apparently crank has hit Thailand with a vengeance. It’s cheap and easy to get. Made in Burma, smuggled into Thailand. Maybe they were all on crank. Who knows what was going on. I was just glad to get out of there and glad Liz and David were able to talk their tuk tuk taxi driver into taking them somewhere else to meet us.

Wence had been talking about shaving his hair off and on for over a year. I have always preferred Wences’s hair when it’s just starting to get out of control, or, if you look back to pictures of him at the beginning of the trip, when it is long and luxurious. Since Wences has told me many times to never cut my hair, whenever he would start talking about going bald, I would threaten to go bald with him. And wouldn’t that be interesting. Instead of his and her bathrobes etc. we would have his and her bald heads. Sort of takes the meaning of togetherness to another level. Anyway, I don’t know what happened, but one day, mid December, Wence disappeared with a bag of toiletries by the outside shower at the back of the boat. When I asked him if he was going for a swim, he smiled mischievously and simply said, “NO.” I didn’t think much of it until I heard David and Liz having some kind of conversation about “cutting it ALL off.” Then I knew. I ran to the back of the boat, hoping I could catch him in time. But it was too late. An hour later, Wence emerged, a changed man. Completely bald. He looked so funny. Not only because he was bald, but he was very tan everywhere except his new baldness. He could not have looked funnier to me, I thought, until he got sunburned on his head. And then the long strips of snake skin floating in the breeze on top of his head was hilarious. Now, a month later, I must admit, although I still prefer the long and Luxurious, he looks good for a baldy.

December 22

My father, Dennis, and Wences’s brother, Ezequiel flew in from LA, bearing many Christmas presents for us and supplies for Simpatica and Rainbow. Dennis gave Wence this bike that turned out to be more like a practical joke than a bike. It was impossible to ride. The front wheel was tiny, and the back wheel was big, like those crazy circus bikes in the old days. Wence and Ezequiel tried to master it for a few hours to no avail. They were crashing into boats, almost falling into the water, it was like watching a Marx brothers movie. I couldn’t help but notice the mischievous smile on Dennis’s face. Oh, he was enjoying this one. After more than 24 hours of trying to ride the bike, Ezequiel and Wence decided to take it apart and put it back together. This usually is sure death for the object in question. But, an hour later they were riding that bike as if they’d been riding it for years. Turns out Dennis put it together incorrectly, perhaps on purpose. Wence loved it. So much so that he did not want to keep it on the boat. He wanted Dennis and Ezequiel to take it back to the states to keep until we finish the trip. I knew by the way Dennis raised his eye brow that THAT was not going to happen. Wences’s family is used to carrying loads of things across the globe for each other. I guess things do not always arrive safely in the mail to Argentina and often they have to pay too much money to get things out of customs. After experiencing that frustration in Thailand, I understand why it’s so much nicer to send things with someone you know, rather than wondering for weeks if your package will ever get to its destination, and if it does, how much are they going to make you pay them in order to receive it. But I also understood Dennis’s perspective. When someone give you a bike, you don’t say thanks for bringing that all the way to Thailand, now can you bring it back to LA for me and I’ll get it in a year or two. Dennis put his foot down. Turned out we could send it back to the states at quite a reasonable price.

Dennis’s hotel was a twenty minute drive from our marina. We dropped him off then went back to the boat with Ezequiel. Although initially Ezequiel was shocked by a while Wences’s new look, but I guess he liked it because two hours after Ezequiel arrived, he came back from the showers completely bald. What is it with these boys! They looked cute though, the Bald Brothers. And after Ezequiel got burnt on his virgin skin and shed his peeling lizard skin all over the boat, he looked good too.

December 23rd

Ezequiel decided to take advantage of the time we were staying in Phuket and took a diving course. He would leave early in the morning and come back in the afternoon, sunburned but happy. He took some great pictures under the water too. Wences was glad to have someone to use his diving compressor aside from himself. I don’t think I could handle the whole, if a shark comes you have to stay in the water and time your ascencion with the rate of your rising bubbles, thing. Snorkeling is just fine for me. But it was great that Wence and Ezequiel could do that together.

I had three and a half hours to do all the Christmas shopping. Thank God for malls is all I have to say. I had two cups of coffee in preparation and then took off!

That night we had dinner with Dennis at the laguna Beach resort. They had a nice buffet, with very yummy food, and then a dance show. Dio made friends with a cute French boy and the two of them spent most of the time running around the stage, dancing to music and being silly. At first I worried the dancers might get annoyed, especially because the kids were so much better than they were, but they were great about it. Until Dio decided to actually get up on the stage. I spent the rest of the night frolicking with Dio and the French boy, dancing in the trees nearby, locating myself so in case Dio fell off the five foot drop off the rock wall, I would happen to be right there. Or if he tried to storm the stage again, I could head him off. You know, mom stuff.

December 24th

I spent the day with Dennis at his hotel. Without kids! It was so nice to be able to focus on him and not where Dio was running off to or what Theodore was putting in his mouth. We had a nice lunch, went for a swim in the ocean, perfect temperature. Then into the pool where we went down the water slide three times. If we had more time, I would have gone a few more times. The first time I was laughing so hard, because I could not believe how loud I was screaming, that I nearly drowned. When I finally stopped choking, I noticed about four five year olds staring at me, like, what is wrong with that lady! I tried to be much cooler the next two times we went, but something about those slides, I just lose it, when you’re going so fast with the water, it’s just so fun and then you think you might just fly off the slide into the sky, but you never do. Then I had a massage in a beautiful, serene room with the sound of water and the scent of frangi pani. Unfortunately the mosquitoes also liked the frangi pani and crashed the massage. Every once in a while, in between gentle sweeping motions, my masseuse would smack my arm or back and rejoice at the death of another mosquito. Strangely therapeutic because I am always at war with those little bastards and the less there are as far as I am concerned, the better off we all are.


We spent Christmas anchored out at Nai Harn Bay. We celebrated at Le Meridien Yacht Club with Dennis, Ezequiel, and Eric, Nicole, and Luna from Rainbow Voyager. Le Meridien had a beautiful view of the bay, wonderful food, and good service. When Dio and Luna started tearing down the life sized gingerbread house decoration (made from cardboard), the staff merely smiled nervously, and nodded gratefully when I plied Dio’s sweaty little fingers off snow covered card board pine tree. They played Gloria Estefan’s version of THIS CHRISTMAS, reminding me that only a year ago I was finishing up the last draft of the Connie Francis draft for her. And two years ago we had just moved onto the boat and were spending Christmas with my family in Cambridge. How time flies! I watched Dennis dance with Dio and Luna on the Christmas scene and tried to remember if I had ever seen my father smile THAT smile before. A combination of bliss and pride.

The next day we sailed to Koh Yai where the boys got off and explored a small fishing village. Theodore was in mid feed, so we stayed on the boat and had a nice quiet nap. We were the only sail boat in sight. It’s difficult to describe how beautiful this area of Thailand is. There are hundreds of islands scattered about, each with a tower of rock that plunges straight up to the sky out of the water. Some of the islands have beaches, some do not. Some have caves, some have plant life, some don’t, all of them are beautiful on their own, and when you see hundreds of them together, it takes your breath away.

The next day we sailed to the famous island, Koh Ping Kan, where they shot a scene for the James Bond flick. We had anchored a few islands away, in solitude. Coming around the corner was so bizarre. It was PACKED with tourists. Hundreds of Europeans piling out of long tail boats with their cameras, backpacks, sporting their Tevas. We saw a few monks in their saffron robes. I guess monks like James Bond too. There were vendors selling ice cream, shoes, necklaces, tshirts, junk food, all kinds of touristy things. Dennis took Dio for a walk up the rock. I sat trying to decipher which tourists were from which European country. A lot of Italians and Russians that day. Strange taste those Russians. Stuck in the 80s.

The next day we sailed to the Muslim Sea Gypsy village. The fishing in this area was so good, some fishermen had built a village on stilts. It’s quite a sight to see. Everything is on some kind of bridge. Dozens of restaurants wait for the tourist boats that come on a daily basis. We took a walk through the town after lunch. Dennis bought dio many cute elephantine outfits and more little elephants to add to his collection. One little black one with a little metal saddle, I believe is the only one that is not missing a trunk, or a leg, or a tail. But we’ll give it time. Dio has a way with destruction. We came across a woman with a monkey. Of course they are all about exploiting every little thing for a meal here, so we paid her something reasonable so that Dio could touch the monkey. Before we knew what was happening, Dio was wearing the monkey. I looked at Dio’s face to see if he was ok with this. He had that perfect balance between fear and fascination that assured me he was ok with this one. Dennis was the one who looked like he might lose his breakfast. After the lady took her monkey off and everyone started exploring the village again, Dio stayed. The woman immediately bought herself breakfast and Dio and I sat next to the monkey. At first Dio would not touch it. He just watched it. Then he slowly moved closer and closer, watching the monkey, until he oh so gently touched the monkey’s leg. The monkey, probably drugged, let’s face it, did not move, so Dio pet him more, sticking his tongue out, in that way that some men do when they are fixing things with deep concentration

For New Years we were at Rai Lei Beach in Krabi. We went ashore for an early dinner with the kids. Again, no deserted island here. Hundreds and hundreds of back packers all over the place. There were a few restaurants, cafes, tattoo places, massage places, a small store, a weird mix of services. We got a table right by the beach and watched Dio as he roamed the beach. At first he made sand castles by himself, then he forced his way into a soccer game some older boys were playing. They were very nice and let him kick it a few times. It was so fun to watch him interact in that kind of environment. Free to do whatever he wanted. And he did just that. After dinner we went back to the boat, I put the kids to bed. And then we did what we had been doing every night since Dennis and Ezequiel had arrived. We put in a DVD of 24. Any of you who have seen the show will understand how it is that before you know it, you have watched three episodes in a row. I made some chocolate chip cookies and we watched three back to back. In between viewings, I went outside for some air, and saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Hundreds of lanterns lit up the sky, floating with the wind, in a line, they started their journey from the beach in front of us then floated hundreds of meters over our head out into the clouds. You could seem them for miles and miles. It lit up the sky. Then came the fireworks. What a wonderful tradition. Of course, as an American, I could not help wonder how many forest fires this graceful pilgrimage had started. I was able to pull Dennis, Ezequiel, and Wence away from 24 for a few minutes. We were all mesmerized.

We stayed two days at Pi Pi Lei so we could all get a chance to explore the coral. It was a great place for snorkeling. A U shaped cove with coral along the sides, clear water, very shallow in some parts. The only bad thing about it was everyone else and their cousin also knew this was a great place for diving and they all came. By 10AM diving boats were already competing for the best places to anchor in the cove, zooming around in their loud boats, sending us rocking around. Impossible for the boys to nap. And then most of them would leave for the day. Only to come back again the next day with new tourists. Thailand has the diving tourism industry down pat.

We got back to Phuket with ample time for Dennis and Ezequiel to get their things together. We had a nice farewell tea at the café that had opened in the marina during our absence and Wence took them to the airport. It was such a nice visit for all of us. Even though they were here for two weeks, which seems like so much, it flew by. I was happy I was able to have good, serious talks with both Dennis and Ezequiel. The kind of talks you cannot plan and the kind of talks that come only when you are spending time together. I really enjoyed seeing our family interact with one another, the way Ezequiel and Dennis tease each other, Ezequiel’s look of surprise at something Dio would do, and the joy in Wence, Dio, and Theo’s faces. Three generations in one boat.