Last month I received an email from my sister-in-law in Switzerland asking if she and my brother could surprise my sister Kathleen with a trip to Bangkok... obviously I said yes! Last week on Friday, Kathleen thought she was heading to the Zurich airport for a browse through some of its still-open shops and instead was handed a plane ticket to Bangkok and told she was boarding in 45 minutes. Luckily, my bro and sis did a great job packing her bags and she arrived with a suitcase full of necessities for the week and tons of Swiss choco for me - bonus! My sister-in-law Maureen joined us in Bangkok for the weekend to help a friend with some apartment searching and it was really fun to have a few members of the Rall fam in town to spend time together while enjoying the local flavor.
Since I still had to teach, I had to squeeze everything that I deem to be "The Best of Thailand" into 1 week. We managed to check out Suphan, Bangkok, Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya and made the most of our time in each place.
HEAT: I'm not sure this would be "best of Thailand" but it's definitely a big part of any trip to this country. I don't think Kathleen's body was quite prepared for the shock of coming from the Swiss Alps to the sauna that is Thailand. Kathleen insisted I sleep with the air conditioning on every night and of course I came down with a cold because of it - maybe I've finally adjusted to the heat?
FOOD: I had to show off all of my favorite spots - so we hit up Banya's coffee shop almost every day for some of her legendary Thai-style iced coffees. We made it to "Pad Thai Lady" twice and Kathleen agreed it's the best she's ever tasted. We then spent one evening out at my friend Dton's restaurant so Kathleen could try Thailand's salad: som tom! Dton made it extra spicy for us and although our mouths were on fire, it was delish! Kathleen was also a major fan of the in-season mangoes so we had to try it in some form every day - mango shakes, fresh mango, mango with sticky rice and coconut milk, etc.
SIGHTS: With little time to spare, we managed a few out of town trips, first to hike Erawan Falls 7 tiers in Kanchanaburi where we had some fun with the fish that eat the dead skin off of your feet - weird but also oddly satisfying! One day I got permission to leave school early and we made it to Ayutthaya to rent a tuk-tuk and tour the city's ancient ruins for the afternoon. I couldn't remember much of my Thai history but I think Kathleen got the drift from the Thaienglish signs posted around the temples. Kathleen also made it into Bangkok to tour the Grand Palace one day while I finished up my week teaching.
SHOPPING: Thais love to shop, so when in Thailand... why not go to all the markets and try to buy as much as your suitcase will hold? Kathleen and I had fun perusing the local markets and managed to pick up some pretty clutch gifts for our family members back home - including some of the ever-present and frequently worn "Couples Shirts" spelling out L-O-V-E for my bro and sister-in-law. (Hope they will rock those in Zurich, super fashionable!)
PEOPLE: My students were very excited to welcome Kathleen into the classroom as the "teacher's assistant" for the week. It was really fun to be able to show my sister my normal life in Suphanburi, my friends and my favorite places to see and things to do. Kathleen agreed that Thai people are some of the nicest and happiest people she's met - gotta love 'em!
LUXURY: Ok, so maybe this isn't normally associated with Thailand, but we did manage to squeeze in several massages and a pedicure during her short time here. And, on our last night in Bangkok my brother hooked us up with a stay in the Grand Hyatt downtown - it was ah-ma-zing. I don't think you realize how dirty and dusty and sweaty you are while living in Thailand until you surround yourself with luxury and get to take an actual shower and relax on a real mattress. I was all about the hotel robe and didn't do much besides move from the comfy bed to the executive lounge for some free drinks and cookies to the pool and hot tub outside. I could get used to that life... but for now it's back to Suphan and back to teaching! Thanks to my bro Matt for sending Kathleen and Maureen my way and letting me show off my corner of the globe!