‘The bloody mothers’ visit didn’t get off to a great start, as flight delays seemed to be conspiring against them making their connection in Heathrow and Songkran forced a rapid and pricy change in Bangkok hotels whilst they were flying somewhere over Eastern Europe. But with nearly a century and a half’s worth of life experience between them, they overcame the obstacles and successfully arrived at the right hotel, on the right day, and fully ready for adventure.
As with the McAnderson family visiting us in Vietnam, the kids had been way beyond excited about Granny and Nanna arriving. They had been counting down the number of sleeps for a week, and had then started tracking their flights via the internet. The kids were delighted to see them, and Granny and Nanna were swamped as the boys raced each other to tell them everything that we’d been up to since we last saw them nearly eight months earlier. It was really lovely to see them chatting so confidently and happily, and reassuring that they’ve remembered practically everything that we’ve done every day that we’ve been away.
After dinner, Granny headed off to bed and tried and failed to sleep off some of the jet lag. Sian and Nanna headed out into the Bangkok night, returning an hour later, completely soaked and properly lathered in Songkran madness. There’s a video here. Welcome to Thailand ladies!
The next day, we headed out to Kanchanaburi, home of the famous bridge on the river Kwai, for a spot of history and culture. The train ride took us through the heart of Thailand, showing us some properly amazing scenery. But boy was it hot! At well over 40 degrees (that’s nearly 110 degrees Fahrenheit, for our pre-decimalisation readers), we were all dripping in sweat well before the train had even started moving. Some days, this international travel isn’t as glamorous as people imagine, you know. Kanchanaburi was well worth the effort though. Sitting by a bend in the river, watching the sun set over the mountains, whilst trains rattle and screech over the bridge was just perfect and a well earned reward for the day’s exertions.
Up early to avoid the crowds and the worst of the heat, the boys turned into tour guides and gave the ladies a history lesson as we walked across the famous bridge. That’s where the anti aircraft guns were placed. That’s where the camps were. They’re bullet holes from when the allies attacked the bridge. 90,000 men died building the railway. I hope that the ladies were making notes, as I reckon that there’ll be a test coming their way when we return. Love it.
By the time the lesson was over, it was way too hot to be walking back, so we folded the ladies into a boat and whizzed up river for a well earned breakfast.
Next stop was the beautiful, historic walled city of Chiang Mai for three days of temples, night markets, street food and cooking lessons. Despite being several hundred miles north of Kanchanaburi, it was no cooler up here but there was no room in the schedule for relaxing. The ladies took it all in their stride, and weren’t in any way willing to miss out on a single experience or adventure. Much respect owed here I think. My personal highlight was the cookery lesson. Starting with a tour around a market to buy the supplies for the day, this was a real education, and a brilliantly funny way to spend some time together as a family. Loved every minute of it.
The real reason for travelling up to Chiang Mai though was to visit the Elephant Nature Park. This is an amazing place, dedicated to rescuing abused and injured elephants from across Thailand. I think that it’s fair to say that everyone of us found this place to be an incredibly special, almost spiritual experience. The two days here were simply perfect. There was so much to see and do, and so much interaction with the elephants, but there was still time in the schedule to find a shady spot and just watch the elephants and all of the other rescued animals getting on with their days. It’s a magical place, and a real privilege to be able to visit it. Check out Evan’s post about the place.
The final stage of the tour needed a plane, a ferry and a minibus to get us down south, to the island paradise of Koh Lanta for a secret rendezvous with the ever popular uncle Adam. After the first hectic week (yes, we really did do all of that stuff in just seven days), it was finally time to slow down, sit by the pool and relax a little. But only a little bit, as it turns out that neither of the ladies was actually very good at sitting still. Mangroves and monkeys had to be visited. Islands had to be explored and bays had to be snorkelled. Beaches had to be strolled along. And sunsets had to be enjoyed with a cold beer. They did all of this, and had a full day of spoiling the kids whilst we had a day out diving with Sian’s brother, Uncle Adam, despite both of them unwittingly joining the Thailand Rapid Weight Loss Program. Huzzar for imodium and a bit of war-time grit!
We’d had such a great time over the two weeks that we all had together, that it really was a very emotional farewell. We’d easily adjusted from being a family of four to being a family of six (with a too brief spell of being a family of seven). Adjusting back to being just the four of us again was much harder. As we had when Nanna and Granny visited us in Australia in 2003, we loved every minute of our time together and can thoroughly recommend having them along as travelling buddies, and not just because they bring supplies of Marmite and peanut butter with them. They’re a hardened pair of travellers, who are game for anything and always up for and adventure.
Love travelling. Love peanut butter. Love Granny and Nanna. Hate Marmite.