Monday, November 8, 2010

Exciting Visit from Mom

It was difficult to predict if, after visiting, my mom would like the idea of me living here more or less.  I felt like I needed to protect her from seeing the crazy driving and the prostitutes and all the Thai craziness but just because those things are prevalent here, doesn’t mean a mom has to freak out.

Luckily, my mom is awesome and saw everything with a genuine positive attitude, even being a passenger on my motorbike!  And there is plenty to love about this place.  I think she felt better about me living here after she came to my work with me, met my students, met my local restaurant owners, my landlord, my laundry lady, etc.  Now she knows all of the kind people who take care of me here.

We spent my mom’s first week of her visit in Bali.  The first amazing thing about that was that she booked the hotels… yes hotels, not backpacker hostels! We stayed in Kuta for the first two nights.  There we laid by the pool or on the hotel’s beach, got massages, enjoyed the local shopping and temples, and I got to take a Bikram yoga class there!  Bali is mostly Hindu (their own kind of Hindu, different from Indian Hinduism, so they say) so the temples were new to me, not like all the Buddhist temples I see everywhere here in Thailand.  They build a lot of statue-like shrines from black volcanic sand and they put black and white checkered sarong-like cloths around trees, as they are living and should be treated as such.  This is a general description of the “look” of old Balinese structures.

For the next 3 nights, we stayed at a beautiful bungalow in Ubud, towards the middle of the island (also where Eat, Pray, Love takes place!).  Our bungalow was so pretty and the grounds of the hotel included rice paddy fields; it was simply gorgeous.  We enjoyed great food, great music, and great shopping.  There is a Monkey Forest which was neat although the monkeys probably weren’t too happy about it (lots of tourists and lots of monkeys all in one place).

One of the best parts of Ubud was that the head receptionist took excellent care of us.  One day we wanted to do the sunrise hike of the Mt Batur volcano, and he himself woke up at 3am to drive us there and make sure we got to the top by sunrise.  We got there over an hour before sunrise and I froze my butt off waiting for that sun though!  The volcano and the lake at the bottom were beautiful and there were bright green rice paddy hillsides all around.

We also stopped at a place where coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are grown and got to sample delicious drinks right from the source.  On our last day in Ubud, he drove us through the villages that specialize in certain products.  We made stops in the silver making village, and the batik cloth-making village.  We didn’t feel that we needed any souvenirs from the villages of giant woodcarving or giant stone gods.  Next we stopped somewhere to see a traditional Balinese show; it had decorated costumes and told a mythical story.  He then drove us an hour to Jimbaran, all the way to the front door of our next guesthouse.  We learned a lot about Bali from this man, especially because my mom had all the right curiosity-inspired questions. 
Our last 2 nights we were in an “eco-lodge” in Jimbaran, near a university.  The lodge was part of ongoing projects on wildlife and vegetation connected with the university and was created by an older couple who spent decades of their lives doing that and similar things around the world.  Here we went to a nice beach, a temple with a sacred pool, and a gorgeous temple on top of cliffs near the ocean.  At sunset they performed a traditional fire dance, which mostly consisted of man men chanting noises (good stuff, see my video) and a couple female dancers.  My mom and I got a chance to see such a great variety of things in Bali, thanks to my mom who did all the planning!

The following week, my mom stayed in Phuket with me.  She spent a full day with me at school.  I was so happy that she was able to get to know my students because they are so dear to me.  The rest of the week, while I was at work, my mom explored Phuket.  She also came to yoga with me and liked it!  We went several times! 
Mom at Phuket viewpoint
That weekend we went to a national park a couple hours outside of Phuket called Khao Sok.  We stayed in very simple floating bungalows on a gorgeous lake surrounded by karst rock. We went to a cave, kayaked around, and swam.  The meals were all included too and the food was fantastic.  All the other people were Thai; they were so cute to watch.  The whole families, including grandparents, were jumping off the dock, men swimming in their underwear and women swimming in sarongs.  They all bathed in the lake too, lathering up right there on the dock.  The trip was really unique, a great way for my mom to spend her last few days here.  We had such a great 2 week visit together :)
raft houses

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