The Frohne Flier
Volume 1, Issue 6
Friday, August 17, 2001
P. O. Box 4 Muak Lek, Saraburi, Thailand
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hope all is well with you and yours,
Barbara and Rob and Araya and William Frohne