Title notes: I've had an Epiphany (an apostrophe): if you would like to get to know someone fast (the good, the bad and the ugly) move to another country with them. We work together, eat together, drink together, travel together, laugh together and bicker together. We do everything together and constantly see each others moods/personalities change: school =smiley and peppy, home = shut-ins (basking in AC and some alone time) , trips = pumped up/excited and/or at our wist end filled with frustration and confusion. 
After last weekend when we had all snapped, bounce back and moved on we decided to patent the phrase "#how do you feel?" --meaning we make each other feel stupid/mad/happy quite often. Even the most kind of us all gets in her fair share of snarky comments these days. It just comes with the territory. Moral of the story: be very careful who you travel with. (Mom our two weeks together...we shall see) 

GranMonte Vineyard
I think it has finally happened. I have officially had my favorite weekend in Thailand. It was by no means perfect, but without a doubt it ranks number one in my book. The weekend was planned around a North Face trail run winding through Khoa Yai national park. The race had four options: 100k, 50k, 25k and a 10k. I suggested to everyone that we all run the race together when we first got to Chonburi. I made up training programs for everyone and I was dead set on running the 25k. The ambitious dream of running the 25k was soon squashed--weekends of traveling, a NYE break, a week and a half of being sick--let's just say training did not go as planned.

However, I have a serious problem with signing up for races. I'm not exactly sure what it is about race registration, but I never sign up until the last minute. Maybe it is all my past injures/ending up not being prepared or maybe it is a commitment phobia?--who knows? But regardless, I never sign up for races on time and I've missed the deadline for more races than you can count on two hands. So I had finally come to peace with the fact that I would be running the 10k rather than the 25k. I went to sign up for the 10k and of course it was full. Not only was the 10k full, so was the 25, 50 and 100 (not that I would have ever considered running the 50 or 100...)

I was mad and disappointed, but really not all that surprised. Luckily one of my friends was kind enough to let me run in her place. She knew how much I wanted to do it and she really didn't care all that much! So once again it worked out! And I ran my first international race as a blonde, 25 year old female from New Jersey.

After a busy and high stress traveling day (filled with many #howdoyoufeel-s?) we finally made it our hotel around 10:30 on Friday night. We stayed at a great place! It was a big lodge type room with 10 or so mattresses on the floor. Very simple but, the beds were really comfortable, it was clean and the bathroom was huge! (We constantly are making up tripadvisor reviews in our heads now...but have yet to actually posted one.)

There ended up only being one other guy that stayed in our room, so we pretty much had the whole lodge to ourselves. He was running the 100k, so he was up by 3am and was out the door by 3:30. We woke up around 4:45 and out the door and on the songtoa by 5am.
Bright and Early Start Line!
 Still dark and still sleepy, we all gathered as the start time grew closer. Instead of the traditional count down and gun shot start I've grown accustom to in America, the race started with a monk's blessing and a few shakes of holy water. Per usual, I didn't know what is going on and the first few drops of holy water were rubbed away with disgust (I knew it wasn't raining...). Then I saw the monk, I smiled and I knew it was going to be good race!
Finish Line and Cheering Crew
 The race was not an easy one, but it was great! We ran through fields, up steep rocky hills, by cow pastures, next to burning fields (not a pleasant smell..) and then back on to the road to complete the loop to the finish line. The countryside was beautiful and it a perfect way to watch the sunrise over the mountains in the distance.

I ended up running the whole race with one of my co-teachers. We both agreed, we felt like the other was setting the pace. It was fast and hard. We tied for 6th place in our age group-- well worth it!

We were met at the finish line by our other two friends and quickly ushered into lines to receive sweat towels, cool sponges (this was first..never seen that), energy drinks and the final stop: a picture with an elephant (an event in Thailand isn't complete unless an elephant is present).

Then we made it to the food tables and that's when things got a little crazy. Huge vats of padi thai, fried rice, papaya, guava, mango, watermelon, pineapple--so much food! Our evening plans included a winery's harvest fest celebration--which was quite costly. One sideways glance and we knew we were all on the same page--this could be lunch--fo' free (and we all just finished reading Glass Castle--very Glass Castle-esque)! So we piled our plates high and acted like your typical embarrassing American backpackers--nickel and diming away.

We head back to the hotel for my second favorite event of the day--coffee hour: a lovely hour devoted to coffee and chit-chat. We walked right next door to Peace Cafe and posted up for a good hour. Sipping hot coffee and enjoying the still very early morning (at this point it still wasn't even 9am).

After the coffee hour, my body decided to let me know it was tired and sore and time for the next glorious event of the day--nap time! I head back to the lodge, showered, read a few pages of my book and passed out for a solid hour and half nap!

We lounged around for the rest of the day and squealed with excited thinking out our evening event at the winery--Harvest Fest with "free flow" wine and live music = perfection!

The night exceeded my expectations by a ten fold. Anyone that knows me, will know that this rarely happens. I set my expectations for things pretty high and unfortunately am often disappointed. This though was amazing and to top it all off, we were treated like royalty. Little did they know we were just poor teachers from Chonburi. The event advertised as having "free flowing" wine and grape juice. We have open bar situations at home, but normally there are some type of parameters. Only house wine/cheaper liquor or certain time frame etc. But, this night everything was free flowing. Towards the end of the night, the owner of the vineyard walked around with a $150 dollar bottle of wine topping off everyone's glass.

The one low point of the evening was the food, but I guess if the food had been good then this blog post would have gone on forever...so skipping right over that. The night had three live bands and was set at an outside seating venue overlooking the vineyard. The guests were a range of ages and ethnicities. We befriended a middle aged Filipino woman and her husband sitting next to us who gave us the low down on everything--pointing out the Bill Gates of Thailand and last years grape picking champion. They had been coming to the vineyard's harvest fest for many years and knew all the ins and the outs.
The night continued with a buffet line of food and a whole cow and whole pig for your pork and beef fix. After dinner they served coconut ice cream served in white bread--they take the concept of ice cream sandwiches very literally here. I'm looking around for a non dairy sweet treat when suddenly our newest friends plops down a monstrous bunch of grapes on our table. The grapes were absolutely delicious!
The evening appeared to be wrapping up, when the owner's daughter (the vineyard is run by husband, wife and two daughters) made an announcement about the grape picking portion of the evening. Last year their had been a contest and winner received 3 cases of that seasons wine the following year. This year though, they seem to be cracking down a bit and really trying to perfect their wine, so unfortunately no contest. But, they did say that we could go out and pick a few bunches. They said that they have been harvesting at night due to the lower temperatures.
Our Grapes!
 So armed with head lamps, baskets and scissors we went to picking! The night sky was completely black and it was neat being out their: cutting, picking and eating the sweet grapes. When we got back we assumed this would be the time they'd offer to take us home--we didn't want to overstay our welcome. But, nope the party was still going on. The owner and all of his buddies were up telling funny stories about the good ole days (mix of Thai and English), singing songs and dancing. We felt ourselves getting a bit antsy and of course before you know it we are all up dancing. Mr. Bill Gates of Thailand, owners, daughters and silly American girls dancing away to American Motown classics, with a few Elvis songs stealing the spotlight.

When we asked about our ride home the owners told us to just sit and enjoy and they would tell us when it was time to leave. This was said to us in a stern yet hospitable way. When the night did come to an end, we waved goodbye to our new friends, everyone promising to return next year. Of course we were all caught up in the moment and declaring that of course we would come back next. We'd never miss Harvest Fest!

Now you must be thinking--nothing could make this weekend better: race, coffee, nap and wine. What more do you need in life? Those four words depict a perfect life in my eyes. I don't wish for anything more. But the next day brought me my first hamburger since arriving in Thailand. I have desperately missed Local burgers (one of my favorite bars/restaurants in Memphis) and this burger did not disappoint. We went to a place called The Smokehouse. Thankfully they had cute little food trucks set up in their parking lot selling cheaper food options. We first thought about going into the restaurant and quickly turned away after reading the price list. But, outside was amazing. Cute pic nic tables and 5 different food trucks to choose from. I had a good ole American meal that was of course Thai-iefed. I got a hamburger and a delicious watermelon shake--watermelon and ice, such delicious and treat!

And that brought my favorite weekend to date to an end!

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