Dec 7, 2015

Upper Heaven

We have a short list of very special little places we so dearly love and dream about returning; Alam Jiwa in Ubud, Bali; Mandala Ou in Nong Khiaw, Laos; Buckingham Place in Tangalle, Sri Lanka; the Veranda in Kep, Cambodia. We've enjoyed other places (Casa Arequipa in Peru comes to mind), but our hearts are in SEAsia and the places we are willing to return to are there, too. After finding Mandala Ou last year, Marc thought he wouldn't find another place as special -- and he searches! He has a system of finding the spots he finds, and he has looked extensively.

Well, we found another: Mairood Resort, in a tiny little fishing village on the coast of Thailand. Before we left, we had a feeling it might join our short list, but it exceeded our expectations. Our main concern, I think, was that six days would be too long, given the remote location and the lack of markets to explore, which is one of our favorite activities. Our hosts were concerned about us too, and offered a number of little excursions into nearby places, but we were just so content the time flew by and six days didn't feel nearly enough.

And yet what did we do? I arrived with the flu, and Marc spent one whole miserable day with the flu, but otherwise we lounged. We lay in the sun by the pool, we walked into the wonderful little fishing village, we rambled around the large, beautiful property, we scouted nearby spots, we ate three meals a day, we talked with Chin (the owner) and Judy, and we sat on our large porch and watched the sky, or watched the rain coming in. It was extraordinary.

The fishing village

It's small, 92 families I think, and very busy! They're expanding sidewalks to make it easier for all the activity to be maintained. Motorcycles and bikes share those walks with pedestrians, and some motorcycles pull carts filled with stuff. Little kids run around, zipping around feet and in and out of busy life. Marc walked through the village more times than I did, because the afternoon heat and sun didn't bother him as much as it did me. We always love seeing the ways people live around the world.

some homes were like this
Many had spirit house/shrines like these out front. 
beautiful spots throughout
some homes were very colorful
charming, isn't it!
A quick peek inside one as we passed; I always feel so shy about photographing people in their homes
Lots of satellite dishes! One night we were walking through the village in the dark, and passed a home
where everyone sat on the floor watching The Flintstones. Old school, Hanna-Barbera, Fred & Wilma.
It made me smile, and want to sit next to them.
Life is very busy all around, with kids having after-school snacks, or hanging out, and lots of work going on all the time. Women picking crab, men tending to nets, an ice factory crushing ice, people sorting the catch, and fishermen coming and going:

sorting, sorting, sorting the catch
a little restaurant
hellooooo! hellooooo! 
VERY hard at work
the universal pleasure of a weenie on a stick after school
It was busy after dark, too:

he is an accountant, I learned
the boats look kind of ghostly at night 
in the center of the photo, the light is men sitting inside their boat -- sleeping there? No idea.
work on crabs never ends 
i loved this! produce for sale in the front, pool table in the back. 
stepping to the side for motorcycles to pass 
busy busy busy 
the motorcycle-pulled carts often took up the whole sidewalk 
such a beautiful soft night
buying some produce for dinner, maybe 
peaceful, quiet
You can't have a fishing village without boats -- lots and lots of boats, and such colorful ones too!

I was absolutely fascinated by those lights -- turns out, the light from them is GREEN, and they are used
to attract squid. During one particularly heavy squid season, someone from an airplane saw all the squid boats
with their green lights and thought it was some kind of invasion. :)

One thing that puzzled us at first was all the dead boats -- boats abandoned all over the place, some obviously wrecked and some just kind of partly underwater. We figured the owners might not have the resources to fix them; the people in the village are quite poor, and can't afford to eat the crab they pick. But we didn't understand why they might not scavenge materials from the dead boats, so we asked Chin, who said they would if they could, but they don't have the time or resources.

The Resort

Gosh. What a beautiful place. Chin, the owner, was born in Bangkok and works on Nantucket during the summer -- he's a man of many skills, including basket weaving, upholstery, and running a restaurant (and catering), along with developing this beautiful property. The title of this post refers to our room, which was the top floor of a beautiful house ("Upper Heaven," with the downstairs being "Lower Heaven"). It was a large, comfortable space, and it had a beautiful porch overlooking the water, which we enjoyed endlessly.

there's the house, near one far end of the property. Upper Heaven is an apt name! 
and down below -- chickens and turkeys and noisy roosters, which we adjusted to.
Chin loves animals, and there are rabbits and lots of birds and a pig and dogs around. 
part of the porch -- plus a big rocking chair off to the right, not visible here 
the view the first morning -- especially gorgeous to me since my flu was gone! 
rain coming in -- we loved the porch at all times of day and night, and in all weather

beautiful, no matter what

The grounds are just beautiful, with surprises wherever you look, like these beautiful orchids.

our farewell photo, taken by Judy -- see how lush and beautiful the place is? 

these were especially wonderful on a cloudy, gray day 

That's YaYa -- a one-year-old pig who won my heart. she just kind of harumphed around, snuffling and
getting petted and lying in the sun and sometimes eating the plants. She's adorable. AND ONE.
THERE YOU ARE, MY TORMENTOR. We did get used to all the roosters and finally quit hearing them. 
there's darling YaYa, by the pool -- the only picture I got of the pool!
it's a large, rambling property with all kinds of rooms. These are small un-air conditioned cabins in the mangroves
I don't really know why I didn't get a picture of the pool, since we spent so much time there, or of the restaurant -- another place we spent so much time.....

The Food

Breakfast comes with the room -- either a wonderful Thai soup (very good for what ails you, too; I had it the first morning, after my day o' wishing-I-were-just-dead) or eggs however you like them. A bowl of tropical fruit. Homemade yogurt. Lots of very good coffee. Breakfast is my favorite meal, and when we travel I always look forward to it as a pleasure, since at home I always have a green smoothie. There's a nice lunch menu -- Marc had some incredible seafood pad Thai, filled with extremely fresh squid, shrimp, scallops, and fish chunks. But the dinners, oh my goodness. There is no menu, really, although Chin has a general idea of what he'll make and buys the fresh seafood or meat accordingly. But you can ask for anything and he'll make it for you. And so delicious, man. We had enormous tiger shrimp, butterflied and fried, the best I've ever had. An enormous fresh pompano in a really delicious, slightly spicy tomato sauce. Cashew chicken. Curries. I no longer remember what we ate every night, I just remember that it was always good, always so fresh, and always cooked perfectly.

That fried shrimp, SO good. And really, perfectly cooked. The only time I had shrimp approximately
the same size was in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, when the shrimp were like apples. These were better. 
and here's that fabulous soup -- filled with sticks of ginger, and lots of rice. YUM.
The night we arrived was my sick day, and all I wanted was to go to bed after a day fighting travel and long lines. They'd prepared dinner for us, so I crawled into bed and Marc went downstairs and ate both our portions of what he said was extraordinary crab curry -- really, crab with some curry instead of the other way around. Lump crab, bought from the little fishing village. But someone brought me a bowl of steamed rice, since I'd said I might be able to eat it. Staying at Mairood Resort was like staying with dear friends who want you to be happy, want you to feel at home, and want to make sure you have whatever you might need or want. We felt so cared for. Judy, a woman who otherwise lives in Vancouver but who lives and works at Mairood during the main season, was just there, ready for friendly conversation, to answer questions, to help us make plans, to help us with any problem. And Chin, the owner, was just the same -- so friendly and conversational and such a great host.


Emphasis on 'mini' here; except for lounging around, reading, sunning, swimming, eating, and walking through the village, we did three other things: we rowed a little boat to a nearby sandbar, we took a tiny walk just barely past the village, and we went with Chin and Judy to a nearby beach for lunch. (Six days! We were there six days!)

let's row over there! 
OK, let's do that! Don't we look like we know what we're doing?
and....we landed. AAAAH. Isn't it gorgeous? 
Yeah. It really, really is.
We walked around on this little beach area, but it had just enough broken glass scattered around to make me kind of nervous, so we got back in our little boat and rowed over to the sandbar:

lots of crab holes everywhere, and little tiny sand-colored ghostly crabs scuttling sideways everywhere
In another couple of walks through/past the village, we saw these things:

just on the other side of the fishing village -- these looked like ghost boats to me. 
I love this picture of Marc. He does love a beach. 
We came upon this memorial on the edge of the village; as always, we have no idea. 
kids everywhere need a ball field! 
from a distance, we saw this large Buddha.... as we approached, two dogs barked furiously. 
it faces and overlooks a completely empty area, as far as we could see, and its back was to a home. 

We first saw the back side of this and assumed it was a small temple or shrine. Then we came
around to the other side: nope! Crematorium! Right in the front of the property, on the busy road.
And there's the big chimney. Chin said these are always placed like that so all the people can smell
the cremation when it's happening.
on our last day, Chin and Judy took us to lunch at a nearby beach, Ban Chuen.
Since it was the King's birthday, a national holiday, the place was very busy. 
Judy took this picture so she's not in it unfortunately, but there's Chin on the right. He boiled some shrimp and brought
a dipping sauce, and bought all kinds of yummy things to eat. It was such a nice excursion.
We had such a wonderful time at Mairood Resort and were daydreaming about our return visit on the first or second day. 

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