It has been an unusual week - the kind that snaps you back into awareness of all the things that have become somewhat routine. In many ways it's like I hit the "refresh" button. Suddenly I looked around on Friday, and the world looked a bit different.
So much of it is a result of having my sisters here with us. Veronica and Rachel are on high alert of everything. Visitors help me to remember all the interesting (and often comical) things about this place we live.
The girls have adapted so easily into their 4-week Bangkok visit that sometimes it seems as if they've been here before. On Thursday they walked to work with me and we passed the same corner I pass every morning, full of bustle and sound and food carts where commuters are grabbing breakfast.
Rachel took a deep, eyes-closed, breath in - "Now, I'm hungry".
At the last stall, a man dropped a 20 baht note as he reached out for his fried egg over rice. Without hesitation Veronica swooped it up and set it back in his hand with an easy smile. "I didn't want him to lose his breakfast money!" she exclaimed.
And so every day has been a bit of an adventure, but an easy one in which I feel so thankful to have them around. So much changes from year-to-year at 15 and 18, and, as their sister, I am simultaneously reminded of what I was like at that point in my life, and how much I have changed since.
When Friday rolled around, I skipped out of my office, off to spend the day with my girls. With little plan, we ended up on an odyssey of a day. A work-out in the gym, a light breakfast at a cafe on my street, and then - Madame Tussaud's. Have you ever been to a Madame Tussaud's museum? The wax figures look so real that you turn around and jump because, for an instant, you think these famous people are standing behind you. We played golf with "Tiger".
And shot some hoops with "Yao Ming".
We even stopped by to visit the first family.
We finished the day with a quick lunch at ShabuShi, where the girls were introduced to the never-ending conveyer belt of unusual foods.
In the evening, we grabbed our bags and met Frank at the airport for a late flight up to Chiang Rai and an hour drive north.
Straight into the sky. (Or so it seemed.)
It would be preposterous to say that I "needed" a vacation. It is an utter luxury to be able to get away again, after a lovely week at the beach. Nevertheless, it did good for my soul to step out on the grounds of this resort, in the dark of night and feel the cool air on my face and the gentle fall of rain. In the morning, I looked out of our room and saw elephants playing with their mahouts (the men who ride and care for them), and couldn't wait to see more.
We got rooms at this resort for an absolute steal, and I decided it would be the perfect place to take the girls for their last weekend in Thailand. The resort is in the "Golden Triangle". From its grounds you can see Laos and Burma - these countries and Thailand form "the triangle". There are border control stations visible in all three countries at the same time.
The US even has a hand in the region - donating benches at the Golden Triangle?
The resort itself offered good food, mountains all around, a great pool, and elephants that can be seen passing by when you step out of your room on the way to breakfast. Our first order of business was to hike to the Baby Elephant Camp.
The elephants spend most of their days out in the fields - they eat 10% of their body weight every day, which means they are eating constantly.
It was those elephants that sealed the deal for me. How could I resist them?
There was little to do besides relax and explore the grounds, where elephants seemed to be around every corner. At 2:30 every afternoon we walked or rode down to the river to watch the elephants bathe in the river that separated Thailand from Burma.
They seemed to have so much fun, playing in the water, holding trunks (!), and spraying the mahouts who stood on their backs.
In the evening, we kicked off our muddy shoes and curled up with cold drinks and snacks in the lobby.
The bar was charming and open to the breeze coming off the mountains.
The resort was so elephant-focused that their list of activities included yoga on an elephant. (Might have been worth 5,500 baht just to find out just how they do that.)
I was sad to pack things up last night and head back to Bangkok. Even more sad because our flight was delayed and it was a painfully late return to Bangkok well after midnight. I'm off to work this morning, while the girls sleep in, but I think we'll all be missing the elephants.