Did we mention how awesome the beach was?Yeah, it was pretty awesome. So this blog is actually about what we did on Tuesday, because we didn't have wireless access in the hostel or anywhere in Rayong. First off, Rayong is a beautiful place. The water was absolutely perfect. Unlike most Indiana beaches (like Starve Hollow), this beach was clear of any moss or vegetation. Instead, it was populated by quirky little crabs. They were fun to watch, and we even caught one. Once we got to the beach on Tuesday morning, April and I decided to walk down to the lifeguard tower at the other end of the beach. It was a really long walk, but it was nice to spend some time together in such a pretty place. Once we got there, we found this huge rock that came about 8 feet out of the water and was around 20 feet long. Of course, I felt the need to climb it, and so we did. It was completely worth the walk and the climb. From the top you got a really great breeze and you could see pretty far out into the ocean. You could also see straight through the water for 10 feet in all directions. The water had a blue-green hue.
After our walk, it was time for lunch. We had spotted this German restaurant on the way back, and so we decided to try it. They had traditional American foods, Thai foods, and, of course, some traditional German foods. I decided to go with the Cheeseburger and fries, but it was really made out of pork. EPIC burger. Andy and Chris tried the pork and potatoes and were surprised by the serving size. Altogether, it was a great find and I think we were all relieved to have some food that was close to what we were used to back home.
After lunch, we had our first session for our Sabbath discussion. Chris Smith put together a schedule for us to discuss the Sabbath together. The discussion mostly revolved around Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath. The book itself was fairly short, but the text was very dense; we found ourselves stopping to discuss every few paragraphs. It was a really deep conversation, and we got to hear some of Andy and Jen's struggles with the Thai culture. One of the things that stuck with me is that Sabbath is a communal practice, not just something that people do individually. This is hard for Andy and Jen, because they observe the Sabbath on Mondays while everyone else in Thailand is working. It was really great to see them unwind some of their stress in the conversation. Our discussion lasted for a few hours, and then we hit the beach again!
After about 5 minutes on the beach, we saw this guy come around in a speedboat. Chris pointed to him and said, "Aw, man! You guys should do this! It'll be fun!" He was pointing to a long, inflated tube tied to the back of the speedboat. The man driving it saw Chris point and drove the boat over to us. After some negotiation, April, Hillary, and I decided to do it. There are some pictures of this, and we are hoping to post a video soon, but it was pretty hilarious. The guy would punch the gas for a few minutes and we would all just fly through the water. Then he would slow down and turn the boat before slamming on the gas again. The first time we didn't fall off, but every other time we did. It was a ton of fun. We paid about $15 for a 15 minute ride, which is great because it probably would have been $10 a person in the US for a much shorter ride.
In case you hadn't noticed, there's a common theme of awesomeness in these blogs: the food. Dinner that night was pretty adventurous. We had plenty of leftovers from the German restaurant, but finally decided to just find some other place to eat. So, we hopped in Chris' truck and did some exploring. We finally found this dinky little tarp-covered restaurant about 2 miles down the beach and decided to try it out. I think my favorite part about the place was that the instant we hopped out of the truck we were able to see tanks filled with different varieties of fish and crabs. One of the ladies saw us looking at them and opened an entire cooler filled with squid! Definitely awesome. So we all sat down and we ordered a TON of food. I don't think anyone mentioned it before this, but most of our meals (excluding the German restaurant) are family style, so we all share giant platters of everything ordered. We ended up ordering some sort of fried fish, garlic prawns, a crab curry platter, flathead lobster, and a squid dish. I had never even heard of flathead lobster before (they look creepy. Check the photo album. You'll know when you see them), but they were really good. Think shrimp, but better. I think my favorite was the crab curry.
Chris and Dora had mentioned before dinner that they had an idea that they wanted to bounce off of us. Chris' mother had shipped him some cookies from the US as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, when the cookies got to them it seemed that the postal service had played a few rounds of soccer with the box, which had reduced the cookies to crumbs. This hadn't been a problem with us, as we had just been eating them crumb by crumb, but again there was an excellent idea: ice cream + crumbled cookies. We were enamored with this idea, and so we set off on a quest to find a ton of ice cream. We had to drive to several Seven Elevens, but we finally found a couple quart-sized containers at a Jiffy store. So we drove back to the hostel and did some epic mixing. After eating too much ice cream with cookie crumble, we had a brief second session. We read more from Heschel's book and had a brief conversation, but we were all pretty wiped out from the day's events.
On Wednesday morning, we had our final discussion time, where we talked about some of the hospitality aspects to Sabbath. For me it was really interesting because we got to hear some of the aspects of Thai culture that can make being a foreigner very frustrating, but there were also some situations discussed that were very relatable to our lives. After our discussion, we hit the beach one last time and then enjoyed our final lunch in Rayong before hopping in the van. Rayong is a really great place. Unlike other touristy places in Thailand, we were pretty well isolated and had a lot of privacy in our group. I mean, it isn't often that you can be a short walk away from the Pacific Ocean and only pay $20/night per room. That being said, there was a bit of sadness to the quiet. One of the main reasons for the emptiness in Rayong was because of the flooding. Many of the vendors told us that they hadn't had much business this season because everyone is cleaning up. It was sad, but it was great that we chose to come here and that we supported their businesses in every way we could.
After dropping Chris and Dora off at the airport, we headed back to the church to drop off our stuff. After that, we headed to Siam Paragon, which is a huge mall in Bangkok. Their food court was ginormous, and even had its own supermarket in the middle. After eating at various shops, we headed up through the mall, passing stores like Lamborghini, Lotus, and some other really crazy shops. We ended up spending the majority of our time in a bookstore before heading home for the night.
Well, that's it for now, but look forward to my mom's blog post tonight (your tomorrow morning) about today's events!