Reunited in Phuket, Thailand

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Kitty and Santa got to their gate at the Seoul International airport an anxiously devised a plan of attack. They’re family’s connecting flight to Phuket was Kitty and Santa’s departing flight from Korea. All of their sadness about leaving Korea was quickly washed away when they sprung up on their parents walking through the terminal. Hugs, tears and more hugs were given as they were finally reunited after a long year apart.

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They arrived in Phuket and were greeted the next day by Katie’s sisters Liz and Emily. They felt the love as they listened to the girls talk about their 12 hour layover in Hong Kong with no good selection of snacks. They bought a large bottle of expensive wine (the cheapest they could find in the duty free section) passed the bottle back and forth and chased it down with some NyQuil and a large French fry ….point taken, you don’t sit around the Hong Kong airport like that for just anyone. Kitty and Santa felt truly blessed to be reunited with some of their families on the beautiful beaches of Karon. They all were able to bask in the sun, island hop, eat some amazing Thai, Indian and American food & tour the local sights that Phuket had to offer.
 
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Some short stories to highlight the trip::
 
You want my dirty Baht?
“Give me dirty Baht Santa”…”You want my dirty Baht?” Santa exclaimed in fear. “Nooo, I need your thirty baht.” With Santa’s hearing problem and miscalculations of currency there was never a dull moment wheeling and dealing their Baht (Thai money) on the streets of Thailand. Santa welcomed Kitty’s parents as her mom Cindy never seems to hear things correctly the first time and her dad was caught bragging to people at the pool bar about how his room cost him 80 Baht (thats equivalent to $2.50 USD)! They got many chuckles out of swindling people down on prices when they found out later they only knocked off 5 cents. Kitty and Santa had long conversations about what type of hostel they wanted to book in northern Thailand. An hour into it they realized this large debate was weather they should sleep with 8 people in a bunk bed dorm room that had 1 window and 1 fan OR for $3.00 more they could have a private room with air conditioning. Ummmm? “DIRTY BAHT” (said of course, in a Justin Timberlake Dirty Pop rendition).

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Bartering with the tuk tuk mafia. 
Apparently the mafia runs the entire transportation system on the beaches of Phuket. Bartering was not easy but when the 4 girls approach the locals in their bikinis lowering the price of BAHTS happened to get a little easier. The entire time Liz was telling Emily to watch her mouth, as she can get a little scrappy with her bartering techniques, in fear the mafia might restrain her. Kitty was relieved after the week was over that we never had to meet with the “queen bee”…”queen bee?” Santa asked. “Ya, you know the ring leader of the mafia pack. He’s the queen bee right?” Santa would have thought a mafia leader would roll with a tougher name than that but was happy to be learning Thai mafia facts from Kitty.

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Our Wolf Pack
After the parents left it was just the 4 girls. Liz, Em, Kitty & Santa. The girls set out for a beach up north in Phuket called Nai Yang. They strolled down the quiet tiki beaches when they noticed they had made a new friend. A medium sized dog who looked just as lost and beached as they did. Their wolf pack quickly became 5 as they welcomed their 4 legged friend, they even named her Dolly. Kitty and Santa will spare the details but she definitely had some boob issues going on. As they walked they heard a loud a ferocious bark from the village street at the top of the beach. This dog sounded an alarm which hailed at least 8 vicious looking dogs storming the beach in their direction. “What the fuck?” The girls all huddled together and tried to keep calm as they walked along. Then they noticed Dolly was in trouble. The dogs ganged up on her nipping, growling and showing fangs. The 4 girls had no choice but to leave Dolly and walk as calm and collectively as possible away from the scene of attack. They didn’t want to get in the middle of a dog fight. The dogs pushed Dolly around until she left their territory but then another pack of dogs came howling. The girls kept their distance but felt bad for their new friend who was being bullied around the beach. The real question was “who let the dogs out and why did they hate poor Dolly so much?” Later they found out from a beach front bar owner that Dolly was new to town and these dogs ran Nai Yang beach. It appeared the dog beach mafia was also a tight run clique. Poor, poor Dolly.
 
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Patong and Ping Pongs
The Wolfpack had planned to attend the full moon party in Koh Phangan, but when they found out it was a 5 hour bus ride to a 2 hour boat, they decided stick around the area. They traded in an island fiesta for a night out in Patong. They had heard about the infamous Ping Pong shows and lady boys, but wanted to see it first hand. After Liz gave the group a talk about sticking together and what they were to do if attacked by a mafia member, they got decked out in their flare and hit the streets. They found a party tuk tuk that dropped them right at the action, and for only 400 baht! They were immediately bombarded with people, ping pong show offers, iguanas and monkeys. They had decided they would probably skip the ping pong shows, grab some beers, and scout out the area.  Without travel insurance they didn’t want to risk catching a ping pong to the eye. Patong or Bangla Road to be exact, was a bit crazier than Karon beach. Lots of people, music, and bartering going on. The Wolfpack posted up at a country bar, had some drinks and watched the swarming streets with wide eyes. After a few rounds they found there way back to Karon beach where they hit The Terrace Bar for some live music. They were the only patrons that night and after a few rounds Emily stole the show. The band didn’t know the words to all the songs requested, so the Wolfpack offered to fill in for the lead singer. They danced, sang and drank until closing time. They finally stumbled home around 3am and spent the following day lounging at the pool, receiving massages and taking naps. Wolfpack -1 Mafia-0
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Kitty & Santa loved every moment of their adventure with their families. It was the perfect way to reunite after a year apart. After lots of hugs and see you soons the girls packed up their bags and headed to Northern Thailand, next stop…Bangkok & Chiang Mai 
 
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Halong Bay (Nam 3)

Kitty and Santa carefully stepped onto their wooden chinese junk in their flip flops and summer clothes. Santa had a blue lip (she was accidentally wacked the night before) but from the onlookers it appeared she was literally turning blue from the cold. Kitty and Santa assumed that Vietnam, being in Southeast Asia, was going to be a tropical oasis but they were wrong, again. When they had checked the weather for the trip weather.com predicted a high of 75 degrees with almost 100% humidity. Being from the swamplands of the midwest they knew what humidity could do to a simple 75 degrees, and they weren’t just thinking about Santa’s afro. They left all of their winter clothes back in snowy Korea and made it out of dodge with not even a jacket. Santa almost didn’t even bring a single pair of pants but Kitty convinced her last minute that it may be wise just in case the nights were chilly. The “just in case” pants ended up being Kitty and Santa’s only slice of heaven the entire trip. The shivering began the first day of their trip and didn’t stop until they were back in their Korean flat. Although they completely messed up the packing it didn’t stop them from having the time of their lives in Halong Bay. The first night on their chinese junk cruise they mingled with other guests from around the world. (Russia, Italy, Australia, the Philippians and the Netherlands to name a few), sipped on wine, partook in a cooking class and ate like kings. They went to bed in their first floor cabin and when they awoke in the morning, the view from their room was breathtaking. Even the cold couldn’t ruin this week. They layered on every article of summer clothing they had packed and headed outside for a day of exploring! In the 3 days they went kayaking in a floating fishing village, visited caves and grottos, hiked lush jungle islands, did some midnight squid fishing off their chinese junk, found a pearl and even saw some monkeys! It was an amazing and memorable experience. Not even their photos could capture the true essence of this paradise.

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China says OK.

10! 9! 8! 7!….

Lets rewind New Years Eve night by a few hours. Kitty and Santa just finished packing every article of summer clothing into their matching North Face backpacks. “O.K. so we will just leave the bar around 2:30 AM and come home, grab our bags, shower, change and hit the road. Easy as cake right?” Santa looked at Kitty not really paying any attention “Ah, ya. I like cake.” Kitty and Santa started the evening at their co-workers house. Cocktails and cheer filled the cozy apartment as English teachers from all over the world came together to celebrate. (If they were Korean they would have been celebrating their birthdays too)Image

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The ladies of VIVA English Academy

Kitty, Santa and their friends headed downtown where they spent NYE dancing, laughing and stashing around a smoky bar called Holic.

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3!…2!…1!…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Around 3:00 AM Kitty and Santa’s friends started to push for them to pay their tab and head out. Kitty and Santa were having way too much fun though so they announced that they would opt out of the shower and not even change if they could have just 1 more drink. They pleaded for another 30 minutes like small children at a carnival and finally were granted their wish. At 3:30 AM they shuffled their way to a cab and mumbled in Korean their address. Finally they made it back to their house. Easily distracted at this point Kitty started cooking toast and Santa skyped her Oma who has no short term memory. Oma kept getting teary eyed every time she realized where she was and what she was doing “Oh Savanny, is that you inside of there?” Although the conversation is not really remembered by either party they are confident they had a great time with little omy.

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At 4:20 they realized they had a bus to catch in 25 minutes and ended all shenanigans to run back out in the cold and try to hail a cab. Their recollection of the next 4 hours is non-existent but they woke at the airport with all their bags, it was smooth sailing.

They headed to the check-in counter. Kitty and Santa handed all their documents to the Korean lady with excitement. “Vietnam here we come!” The lady stared at the documents for a few minute and then proceeded to type continuously on her ginormous 1994 apple computer. She suddenly came to a stop and looked up at the girls alarmed. “I need your Visas.” Kitty and Santa scrambled through their documents and handed her their Vietnamese visas. They were ready for anything that came their way.  Or so they thought.

She looked at them, cocked her head to the side and said “Ok, I need your CHINESE visas”. Kitty looked and Santa and back at the counter “Noo, you must be mistaken, were going to VIETNAM.” “Ok, you no have chinese visa?” said the Korean woman. Santa replied quickly “No, we no have Chinese. Only Vietnamese, were going to VIEEETTTNAAAMM.” The lady looked back down and started typing without expression. Santa started to get anxious darting her eyes from the back of the large computer to the unchanging facial expression of the Korean lady. Finally the lady looked up at them with a fake smile and said “OK. No Chinese Visa, no go. Thank you.” Then handed them their documents and peered around side of them “NEEEXT!”

“WAIT WHAT? WERE NOT GOING TO CHINA, WERE GOING TO VIIIEEETTTNNAAAMM. WE DONT NEED CHINESE VISAS” Kitty said sternly while Santa escorted the next guest back to their place in line. “Sorry, but you American and inorder to have 2 layover in China you must have Visa. Visa takes months to get so you can no go.” Santa broke out in a sweat “THERE MUST BE SOMETHING YOU CAN DO. WERE NOT GOING? WE CANT GO? THIS ISNT HAPPENING.” She began to tear up when the lady suggested to try a different ticket counter for further assistance.

Kitty and Santa waited 15 minutes to speak with another woman who said she would call China to see if we could come.”What? Your going to call China and ask them? That seems a little nonchalant.”  It was almost as if Kitty and Santa were trying to score an invite to the cool kid’s birthday party. “Well does this happen ever? Will they say we can come?” Kitty asked. The Korean lady said “Ahh, sometimes China says yes. Sometimes China says no. I will talk to China.” This did not seem like a standard operating procedure but nothing in Korea does so Kitty and Santa went with it. They stepped to the side while the lady made her calls to her peeps in China. Kitty was digging through her bag and Santa stared at her intensely. What was she looking for? Did she have a secret document that Santa didn’t bring. Finally Kitty let out a sigh “AHH HA! I FOUND IT!” Santa became extremely excited “What did you find? WHAT?” Kitty shot up from her bag with a smashed sandwich “My PB&J!” Only Kitty would be calm and thinking about food during a moment like this.

They returned back to the lady 15 minutes later to see what China said. Fingers crossed they approached the desk. The lady looked at them as if she had never seen them before. Kitty and Santa both looked at her “soo?” She stared blanky. “China??” Kitty said.  “Ahhh China. China says OK” she said nodding. “OK, meaning we can go?” Santa asked. “Mmm OK, sure. You go to China” she repeated. “Alright, good. So how will they know when we get there that its ok for us to be there? Ya know, since we dont have a visa.” The korean woman put their papers together and handed it back with their tickets. “Oh we tell China, they know you come now.” Kitty and Santa walked away feeling very unsure. Santa was still on the verge of tears so Kitty tried to cheer her up “Well it seems really shady but I mean, they’re letting us on the plane so that must mean something. Right? If we dont end up in Vietnam at least we get to go somewhere. China might be fun!” She patted Santa on the back “see what good looks and charm can get you?”

When they arrived in China they were held at immigration and questioned for 45 minutes about how they got to China without a visa. What was in China that Kitty and Santa wanted? What were their plans for China? Who sent them to China? What did they bring to China? WHY WERE THEY IN CHINA. Kitty and Santa’s only response was “WE.WANT.TO.GO.TO.VIETNAM. THIS.IS.A.LAYOVER.”  It appeared the lady at the front desk forgot to notify all of the Chinese people that Kitty and Santa were in fact allowed in China. This trip was off to a typical Kitty and Santa start….

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