The cruise ship is nice enough. Dad says we have been on it before, and it did look familiar to me, but who can remember? The Voyager of the Seas. The best part of the cruise ship story, however, is what didn't happen.
Mom had gotten a text saying my brother Karl, his wife, Sheryl, and teenage son Karson would join us. Karl works for one of the Airlines, so they can fly virtually for free--but stand-by. It actually works better to make decisions last minute so that you can see what flight has open seats. They booked a last minute cabin and jumped on a flight to Hong Kong. However, they couldn't get a seat from Hong Kong to Singapore that would get them to the port in time to catch the boat.
So, we sailed without them. Two days later, they showed up in Thailand. Worked out nice that we were stopping there.
Our waiter and assistant waiter were maybe my favorite part of the cruise ship. Already I've forgotten the waiter's name, which is sad because I really liked him. He was a Filipino--gracious and thoughtful, funny, compassionate, and he brought us lots of food. I liked him so much I gave him a hug when we were leaving. That's actually kind of awkward as Filipinos are really not big huggers. Oh well. The Assistant Waiter is Dongjea. She was really friendly and helpful to everyone until she found out Lisa could speak Mandarin. After that, the rest of us didn't really exist for her.
I really like Thailand. Pretty cool that we would be at the port nearest Bangkok for 2 days. We were able to hire a driver for the day for about 100 with a van big enough for all of us. Well, for me, Lisa, Mom, Dad, Kim, Katelyn, and Haley. Karl, Sheryl, and Karson were still trying to navigate how to get cleared by customs to get on the boat. The drive to Bangkok took a couple of hours, so we just sat back and watched rice patties and water buffalo go past.
We had hoped to see a couple of sites in the city, but we were hungry by the time we arrived. The driver took us to Burger King. While the girls were excited, no one else would get out of the car. He called someone who knew the area and took us to a VERY upscale Thai place. When we arrived, we were the only foreigners there. A bit of a novelty for the employees, I think. Soon enough a few other cruisers found the place and we lost our luster. I did what I almost always do in a Thai restaurant: I sampled the curry. Yum.
By the time we finished, it was too late to see the Grand Palace. I suppose if you are a big fan of "The King and I" and you realized that you just missed the chance to see the ACTUAL location where the British teacher attempted to train the king's children, this would be a big loss to you. Most of us were fine with the Yule Brenner telling. The driver took us directly to the Wat Po.
The Wat Po is an impressive place. In fact, I asked Haley after she had wandered around it with me for a while, "So, what do you think?" "If you aren't impressed by this," she told me, "there is something wrong with you." I secretly think she just really enjoyed seeing it with her Uncle Paul. I mean, who wouldn't be impressed by that opportunity. Right?
There is a market that mostly attracts backpackers in Thailand, but I couldn't remember the name of it. I asked the driver to take us to that market. We ended up at a rather western-looking mall. I was excited to find some little Thai-style shops behind the market and we wandered those a while. But the big hit of the mall was the green tea ice cream from Swensen's. OK, yes, it is an American shop, but you don't often get the green tea variety in America. OK, to be honest, I could only sell the Green Tea Ice Cream to my mom.
The next day, Karl and Sheryl joined us for the adventure. We had to be back on board at 4 p.m. so we decided to spend the day in Pattaya, near the port. Again, we hired a van. He suggested a trip to "The Sanctuary of Truth." (Actually, he suggested we end the day with the Sanctuary of Truth, but we don't move very fast and I've learned to take Mom and Dad to the place we most want to see first. We don't usually have time for much else.)
The Sanctuary of Truth is impressive. A large structure resembling a temple--but it's not. Thai are mostly Buddhists, but this structure integrates two different kinds of Buddhism, Hinduism, and a little bit of other things. They were working on it--restoring it I assumed. But, as it turns out, the structure is only about 30 years old, and they are actually still doing construction. Religious statuary covers the structure, inside and out. A free guide led us through it and explained it to us, though I think I was more drive to take pictures than listen to stories.
Our trip to the Sanctuary of Truth included a display of Thai dance. (How do they bend their hands like that?) It also provided an opportunity for an elephant ride. Hm. Should have. Didn't.
When we left, I asked the driver to take us to the floating market in Pattaya. Sounded like fun. When we got their, he asked for money to buy us tickets. "Money to shop!!!" Sheryl, Lisa, and Kim all screamed at once. And so ended my trip to the floating market. Instead we went to the Mike Mall. I looked for some baggy Thai pants to wear on the ship, but apparently Thai don't come in my size.
Thailand is awesome. Probably not the easiest to tour it from a cruise ship, but awesome nonetheless.