May 18th, 2015 - Shanghai, China - Day 276

We woke up to a grey rainy day in Shanghai.  We were all a little disappointed in the weather, but were committed to getting out and seeing the city.   One of the big things we wanted to do in Shanghai was to go to Yu Gardens.  Given that the forecast for today was all rain and tomorrow was all sun, we decided to put off the garden and hit some of the other things we wanted to see in the city.  

We started the morning with a quick breakfast at Starbucks.  We did not want to spend $30 each for the buffet at the Westin and the Chinese eat noodles and rice for breakfast (along with every other meal) so we took the easy way out and went with what we knew.  

We then got our raincoats on and headed out to see the sights.  We started by walking down the street to the pedestrian mall at Nanjing Road.  This was the same road we emerged at yesterday and we wanted to see it without all of bags.  On the way there it started raining even harder, so when we got there we headed inside a 7 story mall and waited out the rain.  

Once the rain softened a bit we ket walking and exploring.  Shanghai is a very big city and it is not all that remarkable from other cities.  We walked and walked with our final destination being the French Concession, which is a little area in the center of town.  This was literally a French governmental concession from 1849 to 1943 and was considered the prime area to live in Shanghai.  Today it is known more for its quaint streets and small restaurants.  We planned on having lunch in this area.  The rain was persistent and by the time we made it to the french concession we were all tired, wet and a little grumpy.   

We found a very cute little restaurant after a few minutes in the area and decided it looked good enough.  We ducked inside and were warmly greeted by the owner and his wife - again no english - but this time we were expecting that - not many people we have encountered speak english here.  

The lunch was good.  We had Taiwanese noodles, which was kind of an upscale ramen and enjoyed our time out of the rain.  Although looking at the beautiful bar, I could have been tempted to waste the afternoon away sipping a bourbon, but it was time to go.  

We were all a little sick of walking around in the rain and we had seen most of what we wanted to for the day so we headed back to the hotel for a little break.  We were heading to the circus that evening so we knew it was going to be a long night and we did not want to push too hard.

On the way home we decided to drop a sticker on Shanghai.  We did this in the metro station on our way up the escalator.  There was something worrisome to me about defacing public property in China.  I envisioned the four of us in some remote prison cut off from the outside world being interrogated by the Chinese about the  meaning of the sticker and who we were working for.  So we moved quickly to drop the sticker and go.  

Peter thought it was funny that I was barking out orders to hurry up and gave me a salute to mock me as the general.  I gave him a salute back which is not pictured, but you can use your imagination.  

After the break we headed to dinner.  The recommendation from the concierge was to head back to the mall area and have dinner at a restaurant on the top levels of the mall.  This was not a particularly appealing option, but we decided to go for the recommendation.  Eating at the mall never feels quite right or authentic and I regretted our decision from the moment we made it.  The meal we had was fine - not great and the service was ok - although they did have one english speaker on staff who would help when our pointing / hand gestures did not work.   

After dinner we headed to the circus.  This was not a elephant and clown circus, this was more like Cirque de Soleil type performance of acrobatics, gymnastics and other crazy assorted things.  The show was supposed to be one of the best things to do in Shanghai and it did not disappoint.  I really cannot begin to describe what we saw other than to say a trip to Shanghai might be worth it just to see this show - it was incredible.  The amount of work these people must put in to perform the feats we saw has to be incredible.  We were blown away.  

After the show we took the long metro ride home and crashed - tired from a long day of being a tourist in a rainy foreign city.     

May 17th, 2015 - Travel from Bangkok to Shanghai - Day 275

Shanghai at night

Another travel day, which is getting a bit old, but being this close to home seems to keep everyone in good spirits as we pack our bags yet again for another day long journey.  This time we are heading for an unplanned stop in China.  Every time we would tell people about our agenda we would typically get the question - Not China?  We had read a bunch before booking the trip and most accounts we had of China went like this - "We are glad we went, but it was not great".  So when we were planning the trip we decided we would skip it and maybe go back sometime in the future.  Plus the visa process is a bit of a pain (like India) so it was just easier to leave it off the list.  Fate being what it is, the earthquake in Nepal had now re-routed us to a necessary stop in China and we were all really excited about it.  

The trip to the airport was the same slog we had taken in which included some walking plus two trains, but it went smoothly and we were checked in and ready to go with plenty of time.  One nice surprise when we boarded the plane was that the flight was only 4:30 instead of the 6:30 I thought it was - so we were all a little relieved.  

The flight to Shanghai was smooth and we were on the ground before we knew it and headed to immigration.  We were leveraging a 72 hour transit visa for which there is no real process until you get to the passport control.  I was a little worried about not having a visa in hand as we were landing in China, but everything I read said it was easy and it really was.  The passport control officers were really nice and we were off on our way in about 15 minutes.  

We gathered our bags and headed out to the madness of Shanghai.  Stacie had done her research on getting into the city and so we headed off to find the train to take us in.  It was really easy and we were in the city in no time flat.  However, we did no know exactly how to get to the hotel.  We received some help from the attendant in the subway station who told us what stop to get off at and we made it to the right place easily, but still needed to find the hotel.  When we made it out of the subway station we were engulfed in a sea of people on a pedestrian shopping mall that looked like it could have been in any city in the USA.  I tried asking a couple of people where the Wesin was and they had no idea.  So we decided to get a taxi and that is where the real fun began.  We could not get a single taxi to stop for us.  Plenty were available, but they had no interest in giving us a ride - something we would later learn is a real problem in Shanghai.  

We just started wandering around hoping we were moving in the right direction.  We stopped at two hotels and I asked for directions and neither could really help although they pointed in a general direction.  Then as we were walking Lea needed to stop for a slight bag adjustment and we happened to stop in front of a restaurant.  The owner was sitting outside and thought we wanted to eat and started speaking to us in Chinese.  I tried to tell him we did not want to eat and ask him if he knew where the Westin was, but there was no english to be had.  However, after a couple seconds he called inside and his son came out and lo and behold he spoke perfect english AND he knew where the Westin was.  He pointed us in the right direction and we were off.  About 10 minutes later our sore backs were in the cool comfort of the Westin and then shortly after we were checked into our beautiful rooms.

We were all hungry, so we went to the concierge and asked for a good Chinese restaurant.  She pointed us to a restaurant just behind the Westin and told us it was great.  We went immediately and when we got there we knew we were in for something interesting.  The atmosphere is difficult to describe, but if you could picture something between a shriners hall and a hotel ballroom that might do it justice.  The real treat came when absolutely nobody in the restaurant spoke one word of english - like seriously - not one word.  Maybe we should have been prepared for this, but after being in SE Asia for almost a month we had become accustom to almost everyone speaking english, so it took us by surprise.  The good news is that they had an english menu.  

The food was OK, but not great, other than the Dim Sum that Stacie ordered, it was fantastic.  After dinner we were all beat and headed right back to the hotel to get some rest.  Another long but successful travel day without any major issues.  Only one more travel day left.  



May 16th, 2015 - Bangkok, Thailand - Bay 274

We woke up for our only real day in Bangkok (we fly out tomorrow) and did not have much of an agenda.  This stop was really planned very late as a way station to a flight we could get back home.  It was nice to have a day where we did not have a big agenda as we are all a little tired of big agendas.  We had breakfast in the hotel because it was included in our $56 dollar per night rate - and sometime you really do get what you pay for :-)

we then went out for a real coffee across the street at Starbucks.  We discussed plans for the day and decided we would wait out the heat of the day in the hotel and then head to see the Palace and the Reclining Buddha later in the afternoon on our way to dinner.  However, after a couple of hours in the hotel I was getting restless and decided to head out to see a little more of the city.  There is a huge weekend market at a place called Chatuchak and I thought it would be interesting to see.  Stacie wanted to go along, but the kids were having too much fun vegging out to be bothered with venturing out into the heat of the day.  

We jumped in a Taxi and were there in about 20 hair raising minutes later.  The market was massive, by far the largest we have been to in Asia or on the trip for that matter.  The interesting thing about this particular market was that every booth seemed to be selling unique items.  In most of the other markets we have been to there are about four types of sellers - electronics, bracelets / jewelry, t-shirts, scarves, and they all sell pretty much the exact same thing.  There are a few other sellers littered around with unique jewelry, but you have to search for them.  In this market each booth had something completely unique.  For example one booth sold nothing but chicken incubators.  So it was fun to wander around and see what was around the next corner.  As a bonus, the entire market was covered, so it was nice to be out of the scorching sun.  We wandered around for a couple of hours and bought a few more gifts before it was time to head back home.  

We took another taxi back to the hotel and took a break for a while before heading out for the evening.  We got a bit of a late start so we had to choose between the reclining Buddha and the Palace and we chose Buddha.  We were trying to be good visitors and got dressed up a bit which included dresses for the girls with shirts to cover their shoulders and pants for Peter and I.  While this was considerate of us, it was a big mistake because we were scorching hot and nobody else was dressed up at all.  

The temple with the reclining Buddha is called Wat Pho and is a very large complex of temples with the reclining buddha being the main attraction.  We arrived there at 5:45 and the complex closed at 6:30, so we had to hurry around a bit, but it was really nice to be there late in the day without the throngs of crowds that are typically there.  

That is one big Buddha

Dropping coins in the 108 copper bowls to bring good luck and prosperity

Dropping coins in the 108 copper bowls to bring good luck and prosperity

We always loved seeing the monks

Late afternoon thunderclouds

After Wat Pho it was time for dinner.  We haggled with a taxi driver right outside and finally got him down to our price with our favorite tactic of just walking away.  

We had to walk down a winding maze of back streets to finally find our dinner spot, but we were glad we did.  The spot was right on the water and because we had made a reservation we had a prime table overlooking the river.  

In the middle of dinner this couple came by selling something that looked like squid that they would take off the rack and cook before putting it in a net and handing it up to you.  We did not partake, but the table next to us did - it certainly was interesting.  

After dinner we took a taxi home and crashed in order to get ready for another travel day tomorrow.

May 15th, 2015 - Siem Reap to Bangkok - Day 273

Today was a travel day, but not a long one.  We are all getting a little tired of moving so quickly lately, but there is not much time left on the trip, so we are trying to keep that in perspective.    I think everyone wished we stayed in Siem Reap a little longer because we like the town and it's very easy living here. 

The morning was standard.  We got up, went to breakfast and then came back upstairs and got ready to go.  The plan for the day was to head out to Ankor Wat for the entire morning from 7:30 to 12:00 and then head back to the hotel, grab a bite to eat and then head to the airport.  

We hired a Tuk Tuk for the tour and were off.  The temples at Ankor Wat are a wonder.  The site is considered the largest religious monument in the world and after a short time there I can see why - its massive.  It was built in the 12th century and was formerly Hindu and then Buddhist.  The site served as temple of the capital of the Khmer Empire - Ankor - which literally means city or capital city.  Ankor Wat is only one temple of over 2000 in the larger Ankor Temple Complex that is a World Heritage Site.  Our tour was going to take us to some of the more famous temples starting with Banyon Temple.  

The temple touring begins

We walked through Banyon Temple with about 500 to 1000 other people, which made the experience less than magical.  You had to wade through huge tour groups and wait for people to sneak through small passages.  However, the temple itself was incredible.  The bas relief carvings everywhere and the detail on every stone just blew us away.

After the experience at Banyon we were hoping to find something a little quieter.  We knew that Ankor Wat and Ta Phrom, two of our other planned stops, would be packed, so we decided to take a little walk at our next stop to see some less visited temples.  

When we jumped out of the Tuk Tuk at the elephant wall we knew we had found our spot.  Many of the tours were driving right past and the number of tourists was way down compared to Banyon.  We started walking around and enjoying the relative solitude.  

Guarding the entrance to the elephant wall

Underneath an elevated walkway leading to another temple

Another view of the elevated walkway

After walking around for a while we found a path that looked like it led back to another temple in the woods.  I could not see anyone else heading back there so I thought it would be the perfect place to go and find some real peace and quiet.  We walked back to the temple which is called Phimeanakas.  It turned out to be the Royal Chapel where the king would come to pray every day.  We climbed to the top of the temple and found it completely empty other than a security guard who showed us the way up to the actual spot where the king would worship.  There was a small shrine set up at the spot.  We sat in the shade and just quietly enjoyed a moment of solitude.  Then as we were sitting there, a woman appeared and started preparing the shrine.  She was very nice and asked us if we wanted to light some incense.  We all did and when we were done she would pray for us to have a long life.  She then tied a red piece of braided yarn around each of our wrists with tremendous care and ceremony and again wished us long life - it was very touching and a perfect experience to remember Ankor and Cambodia by.  

Stacie lighting her incense

Receiving her yarn

Our special temple

The road less traveled

After our wonderful experience at the temple we headed back to the tuk tuk and were off to Ta Phrom - the jungle temple - where the forrest has reclaimed the land by growing in and around the temple.  This is where Lara Croft Tomb Raider was filmed - how exciting!

The temple was really interesting, but the stars are the trees growing in and around the stone.  This temple was a little easier to navigate than Banyon without running into a million people, but was still very busy.  

After Ta Phrom we only had time to head directly to Ankor Wat as our final stop

Ankot Wat was impressive, but a little anti-climatic.  We were so hot and tired from walking around in the 96 degree 90% humidity weather that we could not quite deal with the throngs of people prowling around the temple.  We managed to walk through most of it, but did not wait in line to get to the very top.  

Peter caught this great picture of a monk in the temple

We were also running out of time and needed to get back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to the airport.  On the way back we stopped at Sister Sery for a quick lunch and one of these:

We showered and checked out right on time.  We still had a little time before our shuttle was going to pick us up, so we went to grab a coffee.  It was then as I was checking on the hotel reservation in Bangkok that I noticed I had booked it for the wrong day, the reservation was starting Saturday instead of Friday.  This was the fist time I had done this (unless you count going to the airport on the wrong day) on this trip - which I think is pretty good.  I jumped on Skype to call the hotel and after 20 minutes we had it sorted out.  

The rest of the trip to Bangkok was uneventful.  We arrived safely, picked up our bags and headed to the hotel.  Stacie is always pushing for us to take public transportation instead of a taxi, which I love.  On this occasion that meant taking a train into the city and then switching to a subway.  It was all pretty easy with the exception of the fairly long walk between the train and the subway station, which of course was screaming hot as well.  However, when we arrived at our subway stop and emerged into the city, we really had no idea which direction to walk.  I did not get a SIM card for my phone so I had no data and no way to check Google Maps.  We tried asking a few people, but they did not have any idea what we were talking about.  So we just started walking.  I tried hailing a Tuk Tuk driver to see if he could tell us the direction and he started telling us to get in.  The Tuk Tuks in Bangkok only have two seats, but this guy wanted all four of us AND our bags to pile in and he was going to charge us 200 Bhat ($6) for the ride.  When I finally convinced him we would not fit he reluctantly pointed in the direction of the hotel - which was about 100 yards away around the corner.  

We made it to the air conditioned heaven of the hotel and nearly collapsed in our rooms.  We took a short rest and then headed out for dinner.  The place we made a reservation at was supposed to be great, but when we walked in the atmosphere reminded me of my grandmothers dining room, and not in a good way. Our waiter was the most serious person we have met in South East Asia.  Peter was convinced he was actually in the army and this was his night off.  However, despite the atmosphere and the grumpy waiter, the food was good AND it was air conditioned.  

After dinner we bee-lined back to the hotel and crashed after a long yet successful travel day. 



May 14th, 2015 - Siem Reap - Day 272

After having such a busy time in Phnom Penh for the past 5 days we were all ready to sleep in a bit, and have a pretty mellow day.  The only problem was we were only going to be in Siem Reap for 2 nights and from what we were reading online we would need at least a couple of days to tour the temples at Ankor Wat.  However, after this much time on the road a break sounded better than two days touring temples.  So Stacie and I let the kids sleep in and went for an early morning walk to find some coffee.  Siem Reap is a much nicer town than Phnom Penh and you can tell the influence of tourist dollars is having an impact here.  Things are nicer, cleaner and a little more expensive.  

We had a nice walk and then went back to our hotel for breakfast.

Sister Srey Cafe - good food with a purpose

Later in the day we went to a cafe for lunch called Sister Srey.  It was started by two sisters from Australia who moved to Siem Reap last year and are trying to help out by training local street kids for a career in the hospitality industry.  Like I said in another post, these types of "for purpose" organizations seem to be everywhere in Cambodia which is refreshing and a trend I hope to see followed everywhere in the world.  

After our lunch we went back to the hotel and hung out for a while before heading out to dinner.  We had dinner at Olive, which is a French / Asian Fusion restaurant, and it was fantastic.  We remarked that the place could easily be on 8th street in Boise, or up in Sun Valley.  The food was great, the service was amazing and best of all it had AIR CONDITIONING!  It has been in the upper 90's since we have been in Cambodia with like 90% humidity - it's surface of the sun hot here.

After dinner we went to the night market.  The markets in Siem Reap are also benefiting from the tourist influx and are much nicer than the Phnom Penh markets.  We had a VERY productive evening there and capped it off with a Dr. Fish foot massage.  This is where you put your feet into a tank of Dr. Fish and they come by and eat the dead skin off your feet.  It's one of those things that you might have only one chance in your life to do, so we did it and had a big laugh.  Stacie and Lea went first and were laughing so hard that Peter and I had to join in.  It does feel really strange, but after a while you get used to the sensation and let the little guys go.  I have to say my feet have never felt better :-)

Feeding the fish!

After the foot massage it was 10:30 - which of you know us well is WAY past our bed time, so we jumped in a tuk tuk and headed back to the hotel and off to bed.      

May 13th, 2015 - Phnom Penh to Siem Reap - Day 271

Checking out of the White Linnen

Today was a travel day and for the first time on this trip we took a bus to get from city to city.  We had our last wonderful breakfast at the White Linen hotel and then packed up and headed over to the bus stop. 

The view out of the back door of our hotel

 It was a little over 7 hours on the bus, but was pretty easy and we arrived in Phnom Penh with no issues.  The only drawback to the bus was that the road was ripped up for most of the route, so it was a bumpy ride.  Other than that it was fine.  

Once we arrived in Siem Reap at the bus station a man that was helping us with our bags asked if we needed a taxi.  We said yes and started walking with him.  When we arrived we saw that his Taxi was actually a Tuk Tuk.  We don't have a lot of bags, but we have more than can fit in a tuk tuk, but this guy so no problem.  He started piling bags here in and indicated that we should just jump in as well.  We were tired and ready to get to the hotel so we just complied with his instructions and let it go.  9 months ago I doubt we we have rolled with it, but we are a little different now :-).

It was only about a 8 minute ride to the hotel and while it was uncomfortable we were there before we knew it.  We checked in quickly and were asleep before we knew it.  

May 12th, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Day 270

Today was our last day with Koy, Reny and the team at Cambodia Care.  This experience has been so moving to all of us, that I feel compelled to tell you a little more about the story of how Cambodia Care came about.  

Koy was working as the Executive Director for another NGO called Teen Challenge who helps drug addicted teens to clean up and put their life back together.  It is painfully important work, and Koy was very good at it, however, he had bigger plans.  He wanted to reach more kids and kept pushing the organization to grow.  The board was not comfortable with moving so fast and finally Koy had enough and decided he needed to resign.   He told the board and they were very dissapointed and asked him to stay.  He had made his decision and remained committed to it.  However, knowing how important the work was he stayed in his position for three months in order to provide Teen Challenge with enough time to find a new director.  

Once he was done, he needed to figure out his path forward and needed to do so quickly.  He had enough money to survive for three months before being completely broke.  Being a deeply religious person he prayed and fasted for 10 days.  After the fast he went into one of the poorest areas in Phnom Penh near the train tracks in order to minister to the drug addicted and the prostitutes.  It was on this trip that his new journey began.  He met a young child who’s mother had left him and who’s father was addicted and did not know how to care for a child.  He had been feeding the baby condensed milk and as a result the child was extremely frail and bordering on death.  Koy and Reny already had four children to take care of, but they agreed to take the baby in order to nurse him back to health and then return him to the family.  

After that experience Koy decided to fast and pray again, this time for 15 days.  When this period was over he had the answer - Cambodia Care.  Cambodia Care is dedicated to opening schools in the poorest areas in Cambodia in order to provide education to the kids who are otherwise left to fend for themselves and will almost certainly end up on drugs, on the street and troubled for the rest of their lives.  Koy and Reny believe so deeply in this mission that even with no money in the bank and no means to begin the made the commitment to make it happen.  Shortly thereafter one of Koy’s former colleagues came through with a $5000 donation to the organization and they were off and running.  Fast forward to today.  They are now serving three communities - all of which we toured - have opened two schools and are working on their third.  They provide food, healthcare, education and are working on a plan for sustainable development for each of the communities so they can self fund the programs.  When they open school #3 they will have 450 students.  Their goal is 200 schools all over the country.

This was our last night in Cambodia, and Koy and Reny invited us into their home for a wonderful dinner.  During the dinner they continued to share their vision for the organization and it was so hard to to be swept up in the passion energy and unbridled enthusiasm they have for their mission.  Reny shared with a huge smile on her face that she dreams one day of having one of her students become Prime Minister of Cambodia, and with these two working on the project I can imagine it happening. 

The time we spent with Koy and Reny was easily the most impactful of the trip and probably of our lives.  The poverty we witnessed was staggering - well beyond anything I could ever imagine.  I did not take photos of the worst of it because it was too uncomfortable, but the images are burned into my brain forever.  To see these two bring such energy and passion to these people who the rest of the world has forgotten was one of the most touching things I have ever been in the presence of.  We were so lucky to be able to give back in our small way, but in reality what we received was far more than we ever could have given.  

On this day we visited the tomb village.  This area is literally a cemetery which people moved into when they were displaced by a new development across the river.  The village is built in and around the tombs of the Chinese and Cambodian people in Phnom Penh.  When we arrived we were greeted again by all the children of the village who were thrilled to see Koy, Reny and us.

 Koy showed us around the building they want to use for the school.  Unfortunately we learned the day before while we were painting that the government (who owns the building) had changed their mind and would not allow Cambodia Care to lease the building.  This was a big blow to Koy and we could feel his disappointment as he showed us around.  

He then gave us a tour of the village.  As we wandered through the area we were once again devastated by the conditions these people are living in and at the same time mesmerized by the smiles and “hello’s” coming from every direction.

 When we reached the middle of the village we stopped and Koy jumped up on to a table and gave a speech.  He told the village the government would not let them lease the building but reassured the villagers that they were staying and would be opening a school.  When Koy announced that the people cheered and clapped and you could tell they were relieved.  

Koy delivering the good and bad news

Then we passed out the food we brought along with us and received many thanks for our kindness.  

Koy then showed us around the rest of the village as we went door to door to pass out the remaining food.  There is not much more to say, other than it was heartbreaking.  

After the village we had our Tuk Tuk driver drive us around to the Palace and to the central market because we were close and were not going to have another time to see these sights.  We bought a couple gifts at the central market and picked up some flowers for Koy and Reny and then went back to the hotel emotionally drained.  

Our dinner with Reny and Koy was wonderful.  We are so lucky to have been introduced to them and can call them friends after the three days we have spent with them.  We will miss them but hope to stay connected and helpful even when we are back in Boise.

May 11th, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Day 271

Peter's POV

Today was our biggest day in Phnom Penh. We woke up and went to breakfast. By 8:30 we were in our tuck-tuck driving to another one of the slum areas to see another school. When we got to the area, we met Koy, our guide and the co-founder of Cambodian Care, an NGO that builds schools in the slum areas of Cambodia. 

The area that we walked around was the craziest poverty that I have ever seen. We thought that yesterday was bad, and it was, but this was insane.

This is what the locals sell to make money - they are salted river clams

We walked over this "bridge" to get from one street to another

When we were done walking around we helped feed the community breakfast. After breakfast we hopped in our tuck-tuck and headed back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel headed out to grab lunch. When we were done with lunch we relaxed until about 2 when we headed out to paint a school. We went back to the school / area that we saw yesterday. When we got there there were about 15 kids waiting to show us to the school that we were going to paint.

The walls of the school that we were painting drank paint so it took a while to paint the whole room. When we were done we were very happy with way it turned out. The room actually looked like a class room without chairs or posters. 

After we were done painting we headed back to the house to get all of the paint off of us. When we were ready to go to dinner we asked our tuck-tuck driver to take us to one of his favorite restaurants. He took us to a place called the Tuck-Tuck Cafe. When we got there we invited our driver Mr. Vira to have dinner with us.  He has been our driver every day and is so nice.  We had a great dinner with him - it was nice to get to know him a little better. When we got back to the hotel we all went right to bed after another big day in Phnom Penh.   

May 10th, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Day 269

Peter's POV 

Today was a big day. We woke up and had breakfast at our hotel. After breakfast we drove out to visit one of the schools that we are planning to help paint.

Here are some scenes from the drive out to the school:

The peanut man - none of us could figure out how he did not drop any

Little helper

When we got to the school our driver told us to walk down a road that the tuck-tuck couldn't fit down. He pointed to a guy on a scooter that would show us the way. 

The poverty of the area was like nothing that I have ever seen. We didn't walk around the worst parts of Africa but I don't think that anywhere could get much worst than what we were walking through.

When we got to the church we we found one room with 75-100 kids and adults. As soon as we walked in a little girl walked up to Lea and grabbed her hand - just like in the orphanage we visited in Tanzania. They became quick friends.

We listened to the pastor give a sermon (in Khmer). After the speech my dad got up and told all of the kids about what we had learned on the trip.

After my dads speech we walked to the school with the kids. The pastors wife, , told us about the community in the area and what life was like. About how some of the parents in the community are opposed to the school because if the kids are at school than they can't work. 

After we got back to the church, we played with the kids for a while. After we finished playing with the kids we helped pass out food and said our goodbyes.

While we were driving back to our hotel we saw one of the kids that I met in the school biking by. While we were passing him he handed me a rubber wrist band. We don't know what the band says but its still very cool to have. 

My friend who gave me the wrist band

When we got back to the hotel we walked to get lunch at the Sugar and Spice cafe. When we were done with lunch we walked to the Russian market to do a little shopping. When we got to the market we were amazed by how cheap everything was. Yesterday my dad bought a pair of Beats headphones just to see how fake they were. But if they were fakes they were very good, so we wanted to buy a couple more pairs. We got a couple of pairs and started to look for presents for friends in Boise. When we were done we had purchased a bunch of stuff. I am not going to mention because some of you  getting gifts might read this.  

When we got back to the hotel we relaxed for a little bit and waited out the heat of the day. Around 6:30 we drove to get dinner. Cambodia is not the prettiest country in the world, but the people are some of the nicest we have met anywhere. We find it fun while we drive to places to smile and wave at little kids riding in the front of scooters - they almost always smile back.

The restaurants we have been to are little oasis's where you can almost forget about the poverty all around you. We had a great mothers day dinner and did a little shopping in a the restaurant gift shop.  It turns out that this restaurant is another one that helps to take kids off the street and give them a better life - so cool.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel after a great mothers day.    

May 9th, 2015 - Phnom Penh, Cambodia - Day 268

Big Pete's POV

Today was our first day in Cambodia and because we are spending the remainder of our time here working with a charity (Cambodia Care) we knew we had a difficult day ahead of us.  The one thing we knew we had to do while we were in Phnom Penh was to visit the killing fields.  After having been to Auschwitz while we were in Krakow, we knew this would be a difficult day, but an important one.  

We arranged for a Tuk Tuk to take us out to the fields and then to the infamous Prison S21.  After a wonderful breakfast at the hotel we went up to our room and got ready and headed out.  This was our first Tuk Tuk ride and it was quite the adventure.  The driving in Phnom Penh is by far the craziest we have seen on the trip.  It is like Vietnam but with a ton more people.  There are no real rules, but everything just seems to work out - especially because everyone goes about 15 miles an hour.  

We made it to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, which is the official name for the killing fields, about 30 bumpy minutes later.  The road there was rough and so were the sights and smells.  Since I am writing this several days after we actually went I can tell you that Phnom Penh is a mix of highs and lows that is a place you have to see to truly understand and appreciate it.  It is a city undergoing a huge transformation and is still recovering from the genocide which ripped it apart only 40 years ago.  

When we arrived at the center, our tuk tuk driver - Mr Vira, told us he would wait for us in a cafe and showed us the entrance.  We paid $6 each, which included our entry fee and an audio guide for each of us.  We plugged in and started the tour.  

The audio tour was excellent and was narrated by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime.  We slowly walked through each of the 19 stops and listened to what happened at each location.  It was heartbreaking and maddening at the same time.  

The most moving part of the audio tour was hearing survivors tell their story.  

The sights were difficult to see as well.  Mass graves were enclosed in simple structures, and people had left bracelets there as prayers for the deceased.  

By far the most emotional location at Choeung Ek was the killing tree, where the Khmer Rouge killed babies by holding them by their feet and hitting them against the tree.  It was simply terrible.

It was shortly after this that we learned Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge, stayed in power until 1997 ruling a small faction of the Khmer people in the jungles of Southwest Cambodia.  He and his party was even nominally recognized by the UN, the US, Great Britton and many other countries as the ruling party of Cambodia during this time.  They mention him being able to play with his grand kids and live a full life until he was finally put under house arrest in 1997.  He died one year later.  Most theories think it was either suicide or poisoning, but the fact that he lived a full life after causing the death of up to 3 million people is beyond comprehension.  

After the killing fields we had our driver take us to Tuol Sleng Prison - called S21.  This was the prison where people were interrogated and forced to confess to their crimes.  These were usually educated people; monks, teachers, doctors reporters - anyone who was part of the oppressing class.  

It was a dark and depressing tour and while not quite as well done as Choeung Ek, it was moving in its own way because of the photos.  Many of the rooms were lined with mug shots of the victims which were taken when they arrived at the prison.

After the long emotional morning at the two sites we were ready for a break.  We headed back to the guest house and escaped the heat (which is completely oppressive here) and then headed out for lunch.  

We went over to Sugar and Spice, which is a restaurant operated by the same organization that runs our guest house.  It seems so many of the businesses here are purpose driven.  Everywhere we go we seem to find organizations trying to help the individuals who are being victimized here - its amazing.  

Sugar and spice is a fantastic place with smiling faces greeting you for every interaction.  

Peter at Sugar and Spice

We had a great lunch and then headed back to the guest house to rest for a while during the heat of the day.  After a good rest Stacie and I decided to head over to the Russian Market to check it out.  The market gets its name because the Russian ex-pat community shopped here during the 80's - not because the goods are Russian.  We wandered in and were immediately overwhelmed by the size and mass clutter surrounding us.  They sell everything from angle grinders to underwear here and most of it is of questionable authenticity and quality, but it is ALL very inexpensive.  

We bought a few things just to sample the quality including some headphones and then headed back to the guest house.  The headphones (Beats), which cost $10 were extremely good and set off a frenzy with the kids, who had always wanted Beats, but the market was closed, so they needed to wait until tomorrow.

We then headed out to dinner at K'nyay, which we found in Lonely Planet.  The restaurant is in a really charming old french colonial house which made us feel like we were in the Bahamas.  The food was great, the service was tremendous and we were even entertained by a frisky little cat who came to sit with us.  The cat had a nasty little streak in her and at one point while I was relaxing with my arm draped over the back of my chair the cat decided to give my hand a little love bite.  I nearly jumped out of my skin because I was not expecting it at all.  Everyone got a big kick out of dad being scared by a little kitty including me.  

It was a massive day, but a really good one.  So far we are all loving Cambodia, especially the people - they are so kind and always have a smile ready and waiting to give to you.

May 8th, 2015 - Travel day, Koh Lanta, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Messages like these are everywhere at the White Linen Guest House

Peter's POV 

Today was one of our last travel days. Today I woke up and realized that I hadn't packed and our driver came to get us at 10. It was 8. The packing took me 30 minutes and afterwards Lea and I went to go and get some breakfast at the buffet next door. 

When we got back we finished packing and waited for the car. Our drive to Koh Lanta was great, we were in a big minibus and our driver drove very fast so we got to our house in record time. This driver pulled up and we first thought that he was looking for someone else because he had a tiny car. But we made it work. 

When we got to the airport we all stretched out our backs and got ready to check in. We did some shopping to look for stickers. but after trying all of the stores we decided that it was a hopeless cause. When we walked over to the check-in counter we found no one working at any of the booths. We decided that we still had a while before our flight so we walked to get lunch before we checked in. Ironically, our most expensive meal in Thailand was 4 sandwiches and 3 bags of chips at Subway. When we got back to the check in counter we checked our bags and headed off for security. As we were hustling through security my dad told Lea that she didn't have her immigration departure card. So once we were through security Lea was told that she had to go back to the check-in counter and fill out another. 

When we landed in Bangkok it was 4. Bangkok airport is probably the biggest airport that I have ever been in. We had a two hour and 15 minute layover in Bangkok but we only waited for 15 minutes because it took us two hours to get from gate to gate. 

When we landed in Phnom Penh we got our visas and got out of the airport easily. When we got outside we needed to get a taxi. We told the driver where we were going before he got into the car he said that he knew were it was. When he got into the car and my dad asked him if he knew were we were going he didn't know. My dad, having gone through the same thing in Ha Noi had the address pulled up on his phone in preparation. 

When we got to the place that google maps told us to go the hotel was nowhere in site. We asked someone and drove around the block again but we still couldn't find it. After asking again and having someone walk my dad to the hotel we did finally find it. We checked into our room and went right to sleep after a long day of travel. 

Big Pete's POV

Friday May 8th     

Today was a travel day from the wonderful island of Koh Lanta to the madness of Phnom Penh Cambodia.  Stacie and I woke up early because I had a call I needed to be on at 7:00 and we wanted to get our walk in before the sun came up and started to bake the beach.  We had our coffee, our walk and then I had my call.  After the call we had breakfast and packed up and before we knew it we were on the road.  We had a two and a half hour taxi ride followed by a one hour flight from Krabi to Bangkok.  Then after a two hour layover in Bangkok we had a one hour flight from Bangkok to Phnom Penh.  All of the travel went really smoothly.  We arrived at the Krabi airport about two and a half hours early and we were all hungry.  We have not eaten fast food since we left the US with the exception of one visit to Subway in New Zealand.  In the Krabi airport we spotted another Subway and decided it would be nice to have a sandwich for a change.  We ordered two foot longs (for the kids) and Stacie and I both had 6 inch subs and we had three bags of chips - no drinks. The total bill was about $32.  Now $32 is not all that much for a meal in the airport, but it was a stark contrast to the meals we had been eating over the past couple of weeks.  Those meals were generally full blown affairs with entrees like Massaman Curry, Pad Thai, Garlic and Pepper Prawns, Fried Rice, Naan, etc.  They all included drinks and were all LESS expensive than our meal at Subway.  Welcome back to reality.  

The rest of the trip was eventful, just the way I like it.  I will say that arriving in Cambodia was by far the easiest entry into a country we have had in a LONG time, even though we had to get a visa in the airport.  They were efficient as all get out and we were in our taxi no more than 20 minutes after we touched down.  Oh, and another nice surprise - Cambodia uses US Dollars - no conversion :-).  It was nice to hold some greenbacks again!

We arrived at our guest house - the White Linnen, which is owned by the Daughters of Cambodia, with the proceeds going to help protect and rehabilitate women who have been targeted by human traffickers.  

The rooms are perfect and impeccably clean - they have done an incredible job.  

We are happy to be here and are looking forward to working with Cambodian Care on their school projects.   

May 7th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 266

Our last full day in Koh Lanta was actually pretty exciting compared to most.  It was not all that different for Stacie, Peter and I, but for Lea it was off the charts exciting.  How can that be?  I am sure you are asking.  Well this morning Lea declared - I am going to finish school today.  This came as a bit of a surprise to us because, while Lea has spent much of the time in Thailand locked in her room studying and wrapping up assignments, she still had her Final Exams for both Math and Science along with a module test for math remaining.  She confidently declared "I am going to take them all today."  We were surprised, but let her know we would do whatever we could to help.  She disappeared into her room and started to work.  

Throughout the day she would emerge and let us know she was done with another exam.  Around 5:00 she came out and announced she was DONE!  This was a huge accomplishment for Lea and we could not be prouder of her.  To have both kids done with school this early in May is fantastic - we decided to celebrate that evening by going out for a special meal - of course to Majestic.  

Before we headed down though we wanted to take another family picture.  We took a few using the remote I had purchased in Burford, and then we had a passing stranger take a couple on the beach.  

Just a test shot - but blew me away how big Peter is

We had a great celebration dinner and then headed back to the house to start packing up for the trip the next day.  Koh Lanta has been INCREDIBLE and we will all miss its charm and peacefulness. 

May 6th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 265

Another day in paradise.  I warned you that these posts were going to become increasingly boring and I am fulfilling my prophecy.  Our days are models of consistency.  We wake up, have coffee, go for an hour walk on the beach, work on individual projects, go for a swim, eat lunch, take a nap, play in the pool, go to happy hour, eat dinner and either read or watch a movie.  These days have provided us with more relaxation and time to really think than any other stop and it has been invaluable.  Stacie and I are really working on what life is going to be like when we return and have made some incredible strides.  This environment has been the perfect place to tie all the learnings of the past year together before we return home.  While we have not done much, this work has been so important and impactful for us.  I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to take this trip and feel truly blessed with the outcome so far.  

In the evening we headed past Miami to our new favorite restaurant and bar - the Majestic.  

The majestic is where we went for our anniversary and it has been the go to ever since.  They have great food (Lea loves their tacos), but the drinks are the real specialties.  Stacie and I ordered our usual - Mojito - and kicked back to watch another incredible sunset.  As you can see from the picture below we are easily influenced by marketing. 

Who would not want to be right here right now?

Although I am sure you are sick of seeing my sunset pictures almost as much as I am sick of taking them, I just can't stop.  But I also got some good pictures of us :-)

Ok - here is the sunset - ho, hum....

On our first night in Thailand we walked out to the beach and there were some bright green lights pointing back at us from the sea.  We did not know what they were but they were bright.  We later figured out they were squid fishing boats and on a big night there would be 10-15 of them out there.  I wanted to get a picture, but was lazy and I figured they would always be there another night.  Well, a couple days later the fleet moved further out to sea and I was bummed I would not be able to get a pic.  But tonight they were back so I made sure to get the shot.  Its not very good because I had to hand hold the camera in the darkness, but we now have the picture.  

May 5th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 264

Today we did almost nothing worthy of writing about.  We woke up, did our own things, had lunch, did our own things, had dinner and then went to bed.  I wish I had more to say about the day, but really there was so little that happened, I would just be filling up space with words.  So instead I will just leave you with another sunset picture :-)

May 4th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 263

An amazing sunrise

Today we went on another little adventure.  Since we could not get our groceries yesterday because the stores were closed, we decided to rent the scooters and head back into town.  We also wanted to stop by the Lanta Animal Welfare (LAW) site to see how we could help out.  We had heard great things about how this charity was helping with the local dog and cat population and thought we should check it out.  Since the day involved animals Lea took a break from her non-stop studying to come with us, which was great.  We rented two scooters from the shop across the street and were off in a flash.  

Lanta Animal Welfare

We arrived at LAW about 10 minutes later and met with the staff immediately.  We knew they were always looking for volunteers to walk their dogs and sure enough a coupe of minutes later we were off walking Noodle. 

After walking Noodle we made our way back to LAW and checked him back in.  The kids felt good about the mission of LAW and decided to donate some of their charity money to the organization.  Lea even bought a cute tank top and we bought Wrigley a little stuffed animal.  

The only bad thing we could say about LAW was it's location, which we deemed to be somewhere on the surface of the sun.  By the time our walk was over we were all so hot we thought we were in danger of combusting.  We had planned on taking a tour, but decided that having four people melt while viewing their facility would not benefit the organization in any way.  So we said our goodbyes and jumped back on the scooters. 

On the way to the grocery store we stopped at the smoothie shack to get a little ice cold refreshment.  We have passed this little shop three times and every time we stop and get a smoothie - $1 each.  

The grocery shopping went smoothly and we jumped back on our bikes and started heading to Time for Lime for lunch.  Since we struck out yesterday we were all excited to go today.  Peter and I were in the lead and stopped and waited for Stacie and Lea at the turn off to Time for Lime.  We waited and waited and after about 5 minutes we knew something was wrong.  I immediately became worried that they had been in an accident.  We raced back toward the grocery store and a couple of minutes later we found them on the side of the road with a flat tire.  I was relieved.  

We decided to leave the bike, grab a taxi for Peter and Stacie and Lea and I would go get a table at Time for Lime, where we would regroup and make a plan.  We got there quickly and went to get a table - sorry - no luck - they are not open for lunch, bummer.  

Lea and I made our way back to the main road where we met Stacie and Peter and gave them the bad news.  We decided to cut our losses and head back to our neck of the woods.  Lea and I raced ahead on the scooter while Peter and Stacie hailed down another taxi and negotiated the fare.  

When I arrived at the rental shop I started to try to communicate what was going on.  Now when you think rental shop you are thinking walk up to the customer service counter and have someone with a name tag help you.  Indulge me for a moment while I try to paint you a picture of this rental shop.  

This is a family run business which is conducted in a concrete building which doubles as the family's home.  There are about 10 scooters to rent, but in case you don't want to rent a scooter you can get your laundry done there (which we have done several times).  When you enter there are generally 4 or 5 kids running around, someone fixing a scooter and a baby in a makeshift swing. To rent a scooter you give them your passport and you are off.  This is not Hertz, but the people have been extremely friendly and we have had no issues.  

Badass Grandma Scooter Rentals, Taxi, Tours and Laundry Service

Now back to the story.  When I arrived back with one bike instead of two you could see they were a little worried.  Coming from the US where you have roadside assistance and cars are maintained to a high standard, I figured they would be apologetic and would try to make things right.  I was wrong.  They wanted me to go back to the bike, take it to a repair shop, get it fixed and then bring it back.  We went back and forth for a while and while I was arguing my position, I still understood they had not only my passport, but my clothes, yep we had dropped off a large load that morning when we rented.  After a while they guy I was dealing with said he would go get the bike, but I needed to pay for the repair.  Just then Stacie and Peter showed up in the back of the taxi.  While they were getting out I walked over and gave a brief update - "they want us to pay for the repair" and while I was doing that the guy I was talking to took off to go get the bike, then they brought in the heavyweight - Grandma.  The Corleone's had the Godfather - these guys have the Grandmother.  She was badass and was not about to let me get out of that shop without paying for her bike.  The negotiations started all over again, only her english was not quite as good as the sons.  So it went something like this -

Badass grandma - "you pay! - any shop here - same, same! - you pay!"

Me - "huh?"

Badass Grandma - "You pay new rubber!"

Me - "no - you pay - I had to pay for a taxi"

Badass Grandma - "you pay - same same!"

This went on for what felt like an eternity, and finally we agreed to split the difference.  The daughter was clearly not happy with Badass Grandma and was uncomfortable with the situation.  We had been the lion share of their income over the past few days and she was worried that we were not coming back - and she was right.  She tried to make things better as we were leaving with a big smile saying "see you at 6:00 for laundry!".

We were finally done and in desperate need of some lunch.  We went and got something and were back home for the afternoon before we knew it.  

That evening we hit the beach to watch another spectacular sunset.  

Please believe me that my pictures do absolutely no justice to these sunsets.  This place must be considered the sunset capital of the world.  The range of colors that fill the sky are simply breathtaking.  I wish I had the ability to capture the essence of these moments, but I simply don't.  Just come here and see them for yourself, like these two are:

May 3rd, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 262

18 years ago today Stacie and I were on an island as well.  The island was St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and we were 25 and 26 years old respectively.  We were not there on a vacation, we were there to get married.  Today was our anniversary and I cant think of a better place to spend it.  

The day was pretty normal.  We had our long walk at the beach in the morning and then after breakfast we went across the street and rented scooter to head into town to go to the main market.  We were running low on supplies and the mini-mart across the street did not have what we needed.  We arrived downtown around 11 and as soon as we got off the scooters we could feel the heat engulf us.  

Downtown Saladan

There is a difference between 96 degrees on the beach with a nice breeze and 96 in a town with no breeze and the concrete and asphalt soaking up the sun.  

We walked around the town for a little while to see what the shops had to offer and pretty quickly realized there was not much to see, other than the Pacquiao vs Mayweather fight, which everyone was watching - literally everyone.  So after about a half hour of wandering we decided to head over to the Lanta Mart to get our supplies.  Unfortunately we did not realize it was Sunday (we have completely lost track of time) and all the grocery stores were closed.  So we decided to go grab some lunch at a place that we have wanted to go to since we arrived on the island - Time for Lime.  Unfortunately, Time for Lime was closed on Sundays as well, so we decided to cut our losses and head back to our neck of the woods for lunch at Miami - the old standby.  Lunch was solid and afterwards we headed back indoors to get out of the heat.  

For dinner Stacie and I asked the kids if they minded spending a night at home alone so we could have an anniversary dinner alone and of course they had no issue with that.  Stacie and I wandered down the beach a little further than Miami to a new joint called the Majestic Bar.  As we walked up the very kind owner came out and greeted us.  She set us up on some cushions with a little table right on the beach in the sand - it was perfect.  I decided to leave the camera at home so we could just focus on the evening instead of pictures and I am so glad I did.  The evening was amazing.  We enjoyed the best mojitos we have ever had, an incredible laid back beach bar, one of the most spectacular sunsets we have ever seen and an incredible conversation.  We both continue to be shocked that after nine months together all we want is more time with each other.  We are truly blessed.  

Like I mentioned above, the sunset was truly stunning and had I brought my camera I would have spent the entire time taking pictures.  Fortunately the owner was taking pictures and came over and showed them to us.  She then posted them to Facebook so we could download them later.  I think it was the best of our 18 wonderful anniversaries and a night I will never forget!

May 2nd, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 261

Peter's POV 

The waves have been really weird lately they have been really big and fun to body surf. Every morning my dad and I go out to body surf while the waves are good. After we got back from body surfing we got some work done. Around 12 we decided to go to lunch. Lea decided to stay home and work on school instead of going out to eat.

When we got back to the house we went into our rooms to escape the heat of the day. I got up around 4 to go for a swim. When we got out of the water we got ready for dinner. Today was different because we didn't go to Miami or Cook Kai we decided to try a place further down the beach. The place that we ate at had some great smoothy like drinks and the food was pretty good. When we got back we decided to watch a new TV show called Wayward Pines. My dad read the books and said that they did a great job with the first episode. Because we started watching the TV show right as it aired we have to wait a week for the new episodes to air before we can watch them. Great day in Koh Lanta. 

May 1st, 2015 - Day 260 - Koh Lanta, Thailand

Today I woke up to the thundering of waves on the beach. You might think that I should be used to the waves by now but these waves were bigger. Last night a storm was swept out to sea.  Apparently that storm threw some big waves at Koh Lanta because for a relatively calm beach the waves were pumping. My dad woke up at 1 o-clock for a board meeting that was supposed to end at 5 but at 6:30, when I finally dragged myself out of the bed I was surprised to hear my dad still on the phone. 

When his board meeting finally finished up we changed and headed down to the beach for some body surfing. My mom didn't really feel like getting wet so she grabbed the camera and took some pictures of us body surfing. 

Catching a tube

My dad decided we should play football too

When we decided that we had taken enough pummeling for one day we ran up to the pool to cool off. After we got out of the ocean I had a chance to Skype with Cam, one of my friends in Boise. After Lea got some breakfast from Miami we all retired to our rooms to get out of the heat.

Around four after making ramen for lunch we went for a swim and decided to go out for dinner. After getting ready quickly we decided to go to Miami so we could watch the sunset. We were glad that we did because it was the closest to the sunset that we got on the first night - here are some pictures:

April 30th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 259

Peter's POV 

Today was another relaxed day on Koh Lanta. Around 7 o-clock my dad mom and I went for a swim on the beach and in the pool. After we retired to our rooms to escape the heat of the day. Around 11 we decided to go and get lunch at Cook Kai one of our favorite restaurants. Lea was busy working on school so we got her some food and brought it back to her. When we got back we went to escape the heat again. When we got out of our rooms it was four, we decided to go for another swim. When we got out we made dinner and watched Whiplash. I had already seen the movie on one of the planes that we took but my mom was seeing it for the first time. We returned back to our rooms after another day in Koh Lanta. 

April 29th, 2015 - Koh Lanta, Thailand - Day 258

Now that we have made our decision to come home a little early and have made all of our travel changes related to the decision we can get back to the hard work of relaxing.  

This day was pretty standard for us.  A walk in the morning, staying out of the heat of the day and then some ocean time / pool time in the late afternoon followed by happy hour to watch the sunset and then some dinner.  We are reading a lot, working on our little projects. and taking some long naps.  Lea is cranking on school with the goal of finishing her year while we are still in Thailand.  

We have been so relaxed I did not even take any new pictures for the day, so here is one I took a couple days ago.

One thing we did do differently on this day was to actually try a different restaurant.  Having eaten at Miami for probably 80% of our meals since we arrived in Koh Lanta we figured it was time to branch out.  We had to walk an additional 100 yards to reach this restaurant, so we were really tired when we arrived.    The restaurant, Cook Kai, was not on the beach, it was across the road, which was not ideal, but the ambiance was very cool and we could tell immediately it was a family run affair.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and the food was fantastic.  It was a great evening and was really nice to find an alternative to our go to spot.