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On the road again

It was with mixed feelings and Willy Nelson singing in our heads that we crammed our belongings back into our backpacks last week and got ready to hit the road again. The kids, more firmly dug into school and new friends, tilted towards sadness and reluctance, but we adults, living a weird idyllic-but-strangely-disconnected half-life, were itchier to get on with it. Get on with it we did, and plunged into some hard travel, flying four hours to Sydney and then another ten to steamy Bangkok (before we even pulled up to the gate I heard a woman say to her friend, “I can feel my hair frizzing.”) The kids were satisfyingly grateful I booked a hotel with a pool.

We had three days to get over jet lag, see some sights and regain our travel rhythm, and I think we did a good job of it. We mixed visits to Wat Pho (big reclining Buddha) and Wat Phra Kew (little emerald Buddha) with a stop at the Siam Museum. We took a food tour where I made up for all that I couldn’t eat in Singapore, when I was in post-bug recovery. This time I slurped spicy noodles and ate roast duck with rice and green curry and more with gusto. Della inadvertently bit into a tiny potent bird’s eye chili pepper, and spent a few minutes red faced, gasping and uncomfortable, but came through smiling, brave girl, declaring it had cooled her off. I had always considered the jalapeño peppers my big brother fed me (“S’not hot!” I would say, trying not to cough or cry) punishing enough, but I looked it up- while jalapeño peppers measure about 2,500-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (the measurement of a peppers spicyness) bird’s eye peppers measure between 100,000-250,000 SHU. Given Della’s already broad palette, all I can say is we have one serious foodie in training here.

I initially feared the atmospheric amulet market, a favorite sight from our last visit, had been gentrified out of existence by a shiny new shopping complex (complete with a Starbucks!) but we eventually found the warren of stalls and alleys displaying cases of protective Buddhist amulets and had lunch in a restaurant that hung precariously out over the swift brown Chao Phrya River. We rode in shiny, tricked out tuktuks and spent hours in the pool. We took the kids down Khao San Road, the epicenter of the backpacker universe, rife with offers of cheap whiskey, beer, tattoos, dreadlocks, massages and “special pizza”; the street of so many bad choices waiting to happen.

But Bangkok was it, the last place on this trip that is/was remotely familiar to us. From here on in for the next three months it is all brand new to everyone. Next stop; Luang Prabang, Laos!

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