Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
149Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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After reviewing schedules, we figured we would meet up in Thailand. The rendezvous point was the island of Ko Samui during Christmas, and we had booked places a half hour apart from each other on Lamai Beach for that time period.
After my shocking discovery a few days earlier of the cyclone spinning around down south and heading for southern Thailand, I wrote a frantic email to Chris
In the late afternoon of day we moved down to the more interesting part of the beach, the Bongas arrived and we were finally able to meet them. Chris and his wife Katie and three kids, Abby (11), Lucy (9) and Jake (7) were pushing a huge pile of bags on a cart down the beach, and we sort of helped them to haul it all into their bungalows, then we all wandered down the beach for a beer and a dinner at the Lagoon.
Chris is 39, and is tall and handsome and fit. He has a couple of businesses back home to help him finance this trip, and has been able to let them run on their own while he takes his family around the world. It is a rare thing to find somebody able to finance a trip with a distant business of his own creation, especially at such a young age, but there is so much more to Chris than his business abilities. He has an endlessly optimistic attitude and lets the bad things roll off him like rain off a raincoat, but when the good things come along he rolls in the mud with them
Katie is a perfect match for Chris. She is also enthusiastic and positive, even when things aren’t going so well. She us usually up for just about anything. To be honest, traveling is a real bastard, especially when you have young kids. But Katie had them in line every step of the way and went out of her way to keep them entertained. When they first arrived from Ko Samui, climbing out of the last of four modes of transportation to get there with eight bags in tow, I had expected them to be tired and ready to fall into the first beds they could find. But after they moved into their apartments they found that their lock on one of the rooms didn’t work, they got the staff to begin working on it. We wound up moving their valuables into our more secure apartment and then going out to dinner. Katie didn’t seem to mind, and the kids just rolled with it without complaint. It takes a certain kind of family to embark on a trip like this, and this family definitely has the stuff to get it done
We spent a few days getting to know the Bongas while soaking in the water and eating in the restaurants up and down the beach, reading books, playing Frisbee, swinging on rope swings and snorkeling for shells and chasing fish around. It didn’t matter what time of the day it was, unless it was past sundown I could look out past the rocks to see Chris in the water with his kids, watching them swing from the rocks or snorkel around. His kids hung onto him like he was a big jungle gym. The kids were usually exhausted by nightfall.
We would usually take a trek down the beach to the Lagoon Restaurant for dinner. That place, which was built in front of the hotel we had originally moved into, had become our favorite restaurant of the area. Waiters would run when you asked for something, and they usually got our orders right. They were cheerful and happy you were eating in their establishment, and the prices were so low to be almost laughable. For example, a curry chicken cost around $4, and from there the prices went down. Our family would eat for less than $15 most of the time, including drinks and appetizers. That is typical of restaurants everywhere we have been to in Thailand. One night Chris and I ordered a plateful of the largest prawns I had ever seen, prawns of a magnitude I never imagined existed
When we had wrung all of the fun out of Koh Chang, our two families got a giant van, loaded all of our bags in the back and made it back to Bangkok. We were heading for two different hotels, much to our driver’s consternation, and we would arrive in ours first. But our driver would hear none of it, so Chris and I harassed him endlessly all the way back to Bangkok. He wanted us to pay him an extra thirty bucks to drive an extra six kilometers, and we just laughed at his demand. He was a hopelessly pessimistic jerk and saw sure to it that we gave him no tip whatsoever. In the end, we pulled into our hotel and the Bongas found a room in our place, since we all wanted to hang out together anyway. All the kids, the wives, and the dads all got along so well it seemed like we had been friends for years. I will go into our antics in Bangkok in another blog.