The trip is off to a fantastic start. We have just begun the SCUBA portion. Our open water divers are currently clustered around the TV getting through the classroom portion of their certification before the they can get into the water and see the unique tropical fish Nangyuan has to offer. Our certified divers, Wyatt and Kevin, are off on their first fun dive before they begin training for their advanced open water certifications.
To start from the beginning, our long flight was just about as painless as possible, and we seemed to forget all about it upon arrival at our quaint riverside home stay in Ayutthaya. After an afternoon of lounging in hammocks and floating in the river, we enjoyed an evening boat cruise where Henry and Wyatt, always quick to lend a hand, helped gather some blossoms for that evening’s dinner from the riverbanks. Not an easy task! Tilly, a whiz in the kitchen, supervised the cook crew who helped Tim, our host mom, whip up dinner. We discovered our definition of spicy is a little different than our host’s, but everyone is loving the food despite our sometimes burning tongues. Even when the food is mild, Graham likes to see how spicy he can make it by adding as many extra chillies as he can stand. Kristina stays away from the spice by eating Thai bananas. She claims they’re so delicious that she can never eat a banana Stateside again.
We woke up before the sun on our first full day in Thailand in order to give food to two Thai monks who came by our house by row boat, a Buddhist tradition where a village community provides for its monastery. Later that morning, we visited the local temple where we saw one of Thailand’s characteristic golden Buddhas and learned how Thai people pay their respects in a temple. This was Isabel’s favorite part of our day. Next, forgetting for a minute that it’s summer vacation, we found ourselves in class learning Thai language. Yolanda was very enthusiastic about learning the language, this brought a smile to our teacher’s face. Betsy’s musical ear certainly helped- her pronunciation of the five tones in the Thai language was spot on and she showed her musical skill again later on the traditional Thai xylophone as we learned some Thai dancing. Alex has a preternatural gift for basket weaving, or perhaps more patience than the rest of us, because he created a masterpiece in minutes during the afternoon’s cultural activities. We all chipped in to make Thai sweets which we folded into banana leaves. Adeline and Tilly mastered this trade- they rolled all the sweets for that night’s dessert-yummy!
We found ourselves back in the classroom for more Thai lessons the following morning. Our teacher asked us to describe ourselves and gave us Thai nicknames which reflect our traits or interests. Kristina’s is NaaRak which means lovely. Yolanda’s is Yim, which means smile and Adeline’s is Waat, which is fitting for our resident artist as waat means to draw or paint. Isabel’s nickname is Waan which is a root that the Thai believe to have “magical healing” power. Alex’s Thai name is Keng which means genius. Tilly received Nong Nong which means little sister. Graham’s nickname was Noom which means young man. Wyatt’s Thai nickname PhakPhoom means proud. Henry’s nickname is Kom which means sharp. Betsy’s nickname is Fah which means sky. Kevin’s is Dee which means good.
After two lovely days at the home stay, we said our goodbyes. Our hosts were particularly sad to see Kevin go. They loved his “sweet face” and they appreciated the attention he gave to their cats and newborn kittens. In the afternoon, we visited the beautiful temple ruins of Ayutthaya and had a seafood dinner before boarding our bus to the south. It was a long journey and Isabel does indeed have a special power because she was asleep for the entire bus and ferry ride. The beach at Nangyuan is well worth the wait!