The Frohne Flier

Volume 1, Issue 6

Friday, August 17, 2001

P. O. Box 4 Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand

Phone: 66-36-344-726

Barbara here again. I am going to try to get another Frohne Flier out to you with the news of the last two weeks, including a full update on our trip to the south of Thailand. It's a long one, so prepare yourself. I have lots of pictures needing to be sorted through, which I will try to get onto the web for you, but I am not sure how soon that will be. Keep your emails coming. I really enjoy hearing from you when you write. If you want to get onto Yahoo messenger with me, just let me know and we can set up a time. It is a great way to have a conversation over the internet, and works even when my connection is poor.

Good News!
Just got the word that we are going to sign the papers necessary to start the process of selling Rob's mother's estate in Alaska to a certain buyer. This has been a very long process, and as many of you know, isn't done yet, and something could still fall through. Please pray about this with us as we would very much like this to be completed. And then we will get to go house shopping.

No, I don't want you to cut down our Papaya tree. We like Papayas.
A few days before we left for vacation, a college Gardner came to me and asked me if I wanted him to cut down the papaya tree in the front yard. No, I didn't want our tree cut. We like papayas, I told him in both Thai and English to be clear. He seemed to understand, but I was mystified at why he would ask me such a strange question. The next morning we were amazed to discover that the tree and all of it's fruit was gone, they had cut it down sometime when we were gone the afternoon before. Now I was angry. How dare they do such a strange deed. It was a good tree with delicious fruit, not diseased or infested with anything. It wasn't in anyone's way either. The next strange thing I found out was all the papaya trees and the banana trees at the house across the street were cut the same day. And the pastor's wife saw it happening and went out to defend the stalk of bananas that was almost ripe. She talked to the Gardner 20 minutes and he still cut them down! Now many faculty were upset. Rob sent an email to the VP of finance who was supposed to be the one in charge. He said it wasn't his fault. I talked with the gardener and he said he didn't want to cut the trees, and in fact, he was told to cut more, but wouldn't do it. He said he was crying when he had to cut down the trees. I believe him. I saw his face as he was talking. That is why we still have two papaya trees. He said is was the VP's command to cut down the trees, as they were "unauthorized" and not "beautiful" in the front yards. All the fingers are pointing at the VP, but he won't take the blame.

Visa Problems
We thought our visas didn't expire until the end of August, but we were wrong. They expired August 5, and the visa "expert" didn't contact us until 3 days before that to tell us we had 3 choices to renew our visas. 1) We could go out to Loas and renew them there. This would have been an interesting option, but we were set to leave on Friday, August 4, for the beginning of our 10 day vacation, and we were headed in the opposite direction. 2) We could go to Malaysia during our vacation, and renew there, but none of us involved were interested in going there and waiting around in a big strange city for diplomat's hours. We were headed for the beach. 3) The third option was better. Go to Bangkok. Get a letter from the American Embassy for $50. Then go to Thai immigration and request a visa extention. He wanted us to go on Thursday, which is Rob's busy day, and He was supposed to give a public lecture that night and I was supposed to teach a class on breastfeeding in the afternoon. We were really frustrated because it didn't seem right to us. We didn't understand why we would need a $50 letter, why we would need to go on Thursday, if we were already planning to go to Bangkok on Friday. And we couldn't get ahold of the man to talk to him ourselves and ask him the questions. He kept calling other people in the science department and telling them things, but not us. Wednesday night I was in tears, because I didn't know what we were doing or what we were supposed to do. I didn't know if I should be all packed, or if I should be getting ready to teach my class, both of which would take lots of time. The Mr. Gouge heard about our dilema, came over and explained some things to us, as he is American and has lots of experience with visas for himself and visiting grandchildren. We just had a tourist visa, so we didn't need a letter. All we needed to do is go to Bangkok to Thai immigration with photos, 500 baht each, fill out the application, wait a bit and get our new 30 day visas. We confirmed that in our Thailand travel guide. Then decided that even if the visa "expert" showed up at our door at 6 in the morning, we were not going to Bangkok on Thursday morning, we were going on Friday, even if we had to go alone. A call came the next morning asking if we were ready to leave, I explained what we had learned, and told him we would be ready to go on Friday morning. He actually sounded relived, and said he would pick us up in a van at 6:30 a.m. We were able to take care of our Thursday responsibilities, and get a free ride to Bangkok too. Getting the visas was no problem. It took only about an hour, including filling out 4 detailed applications, since we have passports among us. Our "expert" payed for the fee, and then even drove us over to Ekamai Church were we were starting our vacation.
Our Vacation Begins
My friend Oi, got off work at noon, so we took her out for lunch and had a nice time together. We stayed in a guest room at the church. The people in the next guest room were David and Julia Dill, who work with Adventist Frontier Mission, near Chiang Rai. Araya and their girls had fun playing together. In the morning we went to Ekamai church and saw lots of old friends. That evening we caught a taxi to the train station to catch our train south. While we were sitting in traffic, I happened to look out the window and see another vegetarian resturant, and wished we could eat supper there. The car moved and turned a corner and we were right at the train station. I suddenly realized we could eat supper there! We had enough time and needed to eat. It might be our last good food.
1st Class Train
Our train was waiting at platform 9 for us when we came back from supper. We found car #15 and 1st class cabins 5 and 6 and settled in. Ann Foster, Microbiology teacher from Southern University came with us. We were glad to have her along, as she is great with our kids and good company too. We knew we were going to have fun. The train cars cost 1099 Baht per person, one way to Surat Thani, in the south of Thailand. We paid an extra 300 baht so the extra bunk in Ann's room wouldn't be given to another traveler. And our two rooms had a connecting door that we could open up so the kids had plenty of room to play before bed. Let me tell you, this is the best way to travel. You get a good night sleep, and have privacy and room to move around. The cabins come with it's own air con control a small sink, a mirror, a trash can, a window on the outside and one on the hallway, and two comfortable bunk beds, long enough for Rob and wide enough to roll over on. We could have ordered food on the train even from a limited menu. But just before the train left, I dashed out and got pineapple and ice cream bars from a seller by the train, for dessert.

We enjoyed watching the scenery passing by. Inside Bangkok, there were lots of little shed sized shacks crowded together made out of corrogated metal, directly beside the tracks. You could see people doing lots of daily life right inside of them or beside of them. One man was wearing a sarong, doing some laundry, and then he washed himself off, right there beside the train. These people have a very hard life. It is amazing they are not all very sick. As we got out in the country we could see lots of rice paddies and trees, and sometimes even jungle as the train does not follow the road, but goes through more remote places. The only drawback to traveling at night is most of the interesting scenery went by while we were sleeping.

The kids woke us up bright and early. We at peanut butter and banana sandwiches for breakfast while the country side went rolling by. We got into Surat Thani around 8:30 in the morning. Once off the train we were surrounded by men asking us where we wanted to go and offering us bus rides, taxi rides, boat rides, tour rides and who knows what else. Somehow we pressed pass them and found the bus company ourselves and got on a bus headed to Krabi. It cost 180 baht each for the 2 1/2 hour ride, a very long 2 1/2 hours, for the bus driver decided to share his favorite violent move with all, and turned it up quite loud. He also turned the air con on freezing. Sometimes these movies are in another language, so they are easier to ignore, but this one was in English. I moved the kids to the very back seat of the bus so they would be farther from the screen, and worked hard to keep them and myself distracted.
We first experienced the rain of the south as we were getting off the bus in Krabi. Some people with umbrellas were trying to help us get to some shelter, but it was pretty useless. We got soaked. Now we needed to get a place to stay. We pick a place out of our Lonely Planet Thailand guide book, and asked for a taxi truck to take us there. It was the Vieng Thong Hotel, right in the middle of Krabi, but the waterfront and the market. The hotel wasn't very good, but it was raining so hard, we needed a place to leave our backpacks, and the kids needed lunch, that we settled for it for one night only. I bargined them down to 700 baht per night, and it probably wasn't worth even that much. But it was a convient location for our needs.

We got showers and then set out to find umbrellas and then lunch. We couldn't find the place that sounded good in the guide book to eat, so we looked around some more. Then we found a fantastic place they featured in the book. May and Mark. The resturant was named after the owner's kids. They bake really good Bavarian and Sourdough bread. Lots of western food, and Thai food, and even Mexican and vegetarian food. We ate there several times and enjoyed it each time.

Next we arranged for a boat tour of the birds in the mangroves. Mr. Gouge, our neighbor had told us where to go to make arrangements, and who we needed to have as our guide. It cost 800 baht per hour for four hours for all of us. Seemed expensive, but Mr. Dai, the guide, could speak English, and knew the names of the birds in English. It would leave at 7:00 a.m. the next morning.

Follow Your Nose
The rain stopped. The Kids and Rob lay down for a nap, and Ann and I set out to see what we could find in the market. There were lots of shops selling things to tourists, at tourist prices. We enjoyed looking around and asking prices but we didn't buy anything until we came to the night market that was setting up a few blocks away. There we found our noses leading us to a very attractive smell at a nearby table, a table piled high with Durian. We fear we've become adicted for we bought one that was open, and sat down to eat it, then and there. It was delicious, even if it was one of the stronger southern Durians, so good infact, we bought some more and ate it too, though the second piece wasn't as good.
Shh! Be Quiet!
It rained much of the night and was still raining when alarm went off to wake us up for our boat tour. We didn't think we would go, so we stayed in bed. At the last minute, I decided I had better run down and tell them it looked like the next morning might be better. But they the rain was slowing down and the man in the tour office said he was sure Mr. Dai would still go. It was through the mangroves, so the water wouldn't be rough. So I ran back to the room and told everyone to get ready now. In minutes we were back down to the tour office, but Mr. Dai wasn't there yet. The tide was lower the usual and had some problems getting his longtail boat off of the sandbar where he parked it for the night. We ate some bananas, almonds and a granola bar each while waiting.

In the boat I told the kids what we would be seeing and that they would have to be very quiet because the birds get scared when they hear talking and other noises. I knew it would be a challenge to keep them quiet, but I didn't want to leave the kid's behind with a stranger. The first bird we saw was a beautiful Kingfisher. He was so very colorful. I have never seen any kingfisher like him. The other spectacular birds we saw was a kind of red woodpecker, and Sea Eagles. There were supposed to be lots of other birds, but the season, the weather, the tides, and the late start was against us. December is supposed to be the best. We had a good time. The kids tried really hard to be quiet. Poor things, they had three adults on them hard to not make a peep. After this church is going to seem easy to them.

Ao Nang
After the tour, we got our things and checked out of the hotel. Our next destination was a nice beach, Ao Nang (Ao - sounds like Ahh, meaning beach, Nang - rhymns with song). It was about 14 km away by Taxi Truck. Just as we got there it started pouring rain, with a big wind. We dashed into a little resturant for a lunch of fried rice and lemonade. When the rain slowed, Ann and I set out to find a nice place to stay. We had checked some prices at the tour agency earlier in the morning, but decided wait till we saw them to book a room. We knew there would be plenty of rooms since it was so rainy. It was good we waited, for after looking at 3 not so appealing places, we found a very lovely new resort, with a natural jungle type landscaping for 1200 baht per night. That is $26. The rooms were large and lovely. I think in the USA it would have been maybe $200-300 per night. There was a nice swimming pool and a free baffett breakfast every morning. During high season the price doubles. Rob, of course thought it was expensive, but the rest of us knew we had the right place. Our two rooms connected, and Araya slept in Ann's room.
A Day of Rest
The kids were getting tired and cranky, so I declared Tuesday a day of rest. William got two naps in and Araya got one long one. Ann and I took the kids to the pool in the morning after breakfast while Rob went to the nearby internet cafe and checked his email. Rob stayed with William while he napped and Ann and I walked the beach. We found we weren't in the most expensive place on the beach. There was one that had rooms from 3000 - 6000 baht per night.

Rob watched the kids again during the afternoon nap and Ann and I walked through the shops across the street from the beach. We had a really nice time. I think I enjoyed it so much because I have been unable to go out and do anything most days back at Mission College. I felt quite free and relaxed. When it started to rain we dashed into a shop that did foot massage and paid $5 for an hour's massage. That felt so good! Wish I could do it again.

Jeep Jungle Safari
That night we decided that our hopes for going snorkeling were gone. It was just too stormy and the water was churned up and murky. So we brainstormed for a plan B. We decided that a trip to the nearby national park would be fun. It was supposed to be primary rainforest with waterfalls. So that night we arranged to rent a jeep to be dropped off for us at 8:30 the next morning. It cost 1200 baht for the day. We got a map. Ann braved driving, I became navigator and Rob got to suppervise the kids in the back seat. We lost our way once because road construction had take down the signs. But it wasn't long till we were on a scenic country road. Rob kept spotting a different kind of Kingfishers on the wires by the road. And Ann and I were spotting tables of durian by the road for sale. The kids were hungry so we bought a kilo of rombutons for 5 baht (normally 13 - 25 baht/kilo). The park cost 200 baht per person to get in, Araya 100 baht, William free. There was a water fall 350 meters away, the sign said. So off we went. The trail was beautiful. It was the first primary jungle/rainforest I have ever seen. The plant life was so lush and rich. I wanted to stay and study it longer, but after we got to the waterfall, it started pouring rain again and the rocks were slippery. We were only there long enough to take a few pictures of the falls and butterflies.

Back at the park office, we wanted to go on another trail, but they said we could only go on a 3 day trip over the mountain with a guide. All the adults wanted to go, but it wouldn't work with the kids, so we asked what else we could do. The ranger said we could drive around to the other side of the park where there were 2 more waterfalls. She gave us some vague directions and we thought we would try. On the way down the road, Ann and I decided two days was too long to go without durian, so we stopped at a stand and bought a nice big one. Later when we stopped for lunch and opened it up, we tasted it and found it to be spoiled. Now spoiled durian actually does taste terrible, maybe even worse then it smells. We threw it away and decided we could live a while longer without it.

We never did find the other waterfalls because the signs were all in Thai on the other road. We stopped and asked which way to go, but couldn't get good directions either, so we gave up. We came to a town with a big Thai market. Rob had been wanting some jackfruit, so we offered to go look for him. We didn't find any, but we did find some lovely batik sarongs from Indonesia to purchase. Ann and I seem to like markets as much as ripe Durian.

We stopped back in Krabi for supper at May and Marks. We were all quite hungry. All was well until, William stood up in his chair and knock it over, pinching his fingers under the chair back. He also hit his head hard. That was the end of a peaceful meal for everyone there. Thankfully we were almost done. A little ice cream calmed him down some. And then we left, and forgot his shoes sitting there. (You take your shoes off before you go in.)

Moving Day
We had two choices for our next destination. Ko Phi Phi (Ko means Island and somewhat rhymes with raw, but starts with more of a G/K sound) , where Rob and I had been for our honey moon 6 years ago. We would need to take a boat through possibly stormy seas to get there. Our second choice was Ko Lanta, which we could get to by minivan and two car ferry rides over water about as wide as the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River. This seemed like the safest choice, especially with the kids. And it would be a new place to visit, though Ko Phi Phi would have been sentimental. We made a mistake and paid for only two seats for Rob and I and the kids. That van was so crowded and the air con didn't work. Thankfully it was only 2 1/2 hours there, and we got out once to wait for one ferry.

We didn't know where we were going to stay, and when we got out of the mini van, I thought I had made a big mistake to bring everyone to this island. The roads were dirt and rutted with mud. We were told there were only 5 or 6 resorts open on the island and there was no public transportation. We were stuck in a tour agency's office and they were insisting we stay at their family's bungalows. Yikes, I couldn't stand it. We looked at their stuff and told them no, and walked out. We didn't know where we going, but anywhere had to be better then there. Some how we would find transportation. We walked a ways and found another tour agency. I asked them if they could take us around and show us what was available. They agreed. We liked the driver. We settled on the Andeman Lanta Resort, with pool, air con and direct beach access. This time We gave Ann a break from the kids and got a third room for the kids. This gave Rob and I a little break too, and a little privacy for 3 nights. They wanted 1300 per room and I was able to get a 10% discount since we were staying 3 nights with 3 rooms.

Ann talked to the driver about what there was to do on the island, and before we knew it we had a island tour arranged for the next day. He would take us around in his pickup, the kind with the small back seat.

Hold onto your seat
Ko Lanta is a large island, about 25 Km long. We started our journey with our driver telling us about the island. There are four seasons on the island High season, low season, rainy season and construction season. It was currently low, rainy and construction season. Every resort was building more bungalows or remodeling what they had. The road was quite messed up, and finally we had a day when it didn't rain, which seemed to be a good thing. The views of the coast from the road were quite nice. Our first stop was a bay where normally there is no waves. He said people often snorkel there. We had brought our gear and gave it a try but visibility was less then 5 feet, and there were small waves. When I took off my glasses and put on my mask, the waves seemed quite menacing and the water foreboding, so I decided that next time I go snorkeling I need to plan ahead and bring disposable contacts. I came back in and watched the kids and Ann went out but soon both Rob and Ann were back in, and we switched to just playing with the kids in the water. That was much more fun. William's favorite part was the sand though. He likes putting it in things. He started with mama's snorkel, but that was soon removed from him. Then he tried his shoe, and that too was emptied, rinsed and put in a safe place. Finally mama emptied a water bottle and gave that to him. He loved it! And filled to his hearts delight. When it was time to leave, he certainly didn't want to, but we let him bring his bottle. He carefully carried his most precious treasure to the truck. We would have brought it home for Papa Leonard's sand collection, but we thought one liter might be too much. We settled on a film canister full for Papa.

Next stop was lunch at a restaurant with a really nice view of a low part of the island and then the ocean and surrounding islands. Quite beautiful. But the curry was fire hot. The hottest hot curry we had on the trip. So hot in fact that none of us was willing to eat it.

After that we did some driving through the center of the island, past old town Lanta, where our driver grew up and went to school as a kid, and then on down to the south east corner of the island where some Sea Gypsies live. They have Thai citizenship, but they have a different background, Malay or Indonesian. They live in tiny shacks right by the ocean and live by the ocean. If there are fish that day, they do well, if there are no fish, there is no money. They have no other way of making a living. They have their own language, and seem friendly. The interesting thing is that they have no last name. So the king of Thailand recently made a special visit to their village and gave them a last name meaning "Deep sea". The other gift in conjunction with the King's visit was a road that was built just for the king to travel on. The road used to be terrible, but now they have a smooth easy trip to town to sell their fish.

Just before left, a man came in with a large bunch of fish, got on his motor bike and set out to go to market. Our driver noticed and decided to buy some fish from him for the barbecue that he was supposed to do that night at the resort he works at. First he bargained for just a few, and then he got a few more, and before we knew it, he bought the whole lot. That saved the man on the motor bike a trip. And the driver got very fresh fish.

He then took us back to old town Lanta, and stopped at the house of his mother to give her some fish. We got to meet his mother and sister and nephew. They were very nice Muslim people, and very friendly. The mother welcomed us as if we were good friends. She is trying to save money to go to Mecca.

Our final stop was a durian stand, where the driver helped us pick out two nice durians to enjoy, one for that afternoon, and one for Sabbath.

Sabbath - One more Day of Rest
The kids were getting quite tired again, missing their regular eating and nap time, so we planned nothing for Sabbath, except to enjoy the beach. We went for a long walk down to a point where there was water on the other side of a very narrow piece of land. It took us a long time because William would have preferred to stop and examine every piece of beach trash along the way, and to play with the sand. Coming back we found lots of sea shells that had been washed up. Some pretty ones too. William and I were starting to get sunburned though so we had to hurry back to the shade. He didn't want to be carried, but that was the only way to get him to move down the beach. We really enjoyed that place. There was almost no one on the beach. The kids got their meals and naps at the regular time, and a play in the pool. And near sunset, Ann and I got to eat our last Durian. It was a very pretty place, and I knew I would miss it when we left the next morning at 7:30 a.m.
Sunday and Monday - A Long, Long Journey
A van picked us up from the hotel at 7:30 and took us back to Krabi. They took us to a place where we could get another mini van which would take us back to Surat Thani. We wanted to avoid the bus. I learned my lesson and bought enough seats for my family to be able to wiggle a bit. In the guide book, they warned us of a couple companies that monopolize the transportation business in the area and sometimes do some bait and switch techniques. P.P. Family Company is the most notorious. As far as I could tell we weren't doing business with them. I bought our tickets in a little travel office and we waited for the 11:00 departure. Ann and I did one more quick trip to May and Marks for a loaf of sourdough bread, and a stop in the market to look for more interesting sarongs and to see if we could find some jack fruit for Rob. We found some nice sarongs, and finally some jack fruit for Rob. And we even found some durian, but can you believe it? We didn't buy and durian. I guess maybe it isn't addicting after all, because we had finally had our fill.

In Surat Thani we had about a 4-5 hour wait for our train, and it had started raining hard again. The van driver dropped us off at a travel office/ restaurant, and they said we could stay there until the train came. We ordered some fried rice and French fries. And then when the rain slowed, Ann and I went out to explore and see if we could find a better place to wait where the kids could play while we waited. We got stuck in another down pour, and got a bit wet coming back. The time eventually passed, and we caught our train going north back to Bangkok at about 5:30 p.m. We were all relieved to get back in our comfy little cabins, this time on car 2, rooms 1 - 2. I was exhausted, and fell asleep by 7:00. I didn't even know what happened to the kids and when they went to bed. When I woke up latter in the night, everyone was in bed asleep too.

The train came into Hua Lampong Station at around 6:30 a.m. We decided to take the 3rd class train the rest of the way to Muak Lek, rather then switch to the bus station and take the bus. We thought there would be a couple hour wait, but were able to get right onto a 6:50 a.m. train. I again made the mistake of not getting enough seats, because 10 years ago it didn't really matter, there were no assigned seats. But there were assigned seats now. We were very tired and the kids were cranky. They had to sit on our laps. By the end of that long train ride, William had fallen asleep in Ann's arms and Araya was kicking, biting and screaming on mine.

At the train station, we found a man who would bring us back to the college in his truck. The kids were glad to get here, Araya jumped right on her bike and took off up and down the street. I tried the door, but it was locked, and my worker hadn't left the key under the mat. We found out she had gone home for the long weekend. (Monday was Thai Mother's Day, in honor of the queen's birthday.) We called around from the neighbor's house and finally found someone who could come let us in. We were all quite tired and enjoyed our showers and naps.

Transportation problem resolved
I had had a nice vacation, but now I was stuck back at Mission College with no good way to go get food for my family. I fed them the last of the bread for lunch. Then for supper, I tried to fix a nice meal, but gave up as there was nothing to fix. Rob fed the kids rice, butter and salt. I couldn't get myself eat it. For breakfast we had plain oatmeal, and no fruit. I had had enough. Rob could see I was getting ready to leave for home. So he wrote an appeal for help to the college president to see if she could help resolve the transportation problem. The next day at lunch Sue Dixon found me and apologized for not helping out before and told me she would get me a set of car keys to keep so that when I needed to go to town to get something, I could. I wasn't sure that would help, because she drives a Ford pickup, but it is made in Thailand, and amazingly, it fits. I have already driven around the campus and into town, with guidance twice. This are looking up. I think I am going to be able to make it through the next 5 weeks.
I still want to know more about Thai cooking, but am not getting very far. There are just too many foreigners here, and not very many Thais to learn from. I am not home yet though, so I will try to come up with something better for you.

We downloaded 900 pictures from our vacation, Rob says. We will try to sort through them and get some on the web soon, but I can't promise when.

Hope all is well with you and yours,
Barbara and Rob and Araya and William Frohne