The misty northern mountains of Chiang Mai “wai” you a hello and a smile to wherever you currently are in this wide world. From our jungle farmland resort home base, the rain gently dimples the surface of the Ping River and the ever present flock of ducks waddle throughout the property. We went through a lot and experienced so many things during our two weeks together in Thailand, many of which pushed us to mature, think about our decisions and actions, and open our minds to other ways of living and interacting with the world. We will no doubt be telling stories and memories of our time with GLA for years to come, so here are some summer snippets to help you reflect and remember your time in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Two weeks in Thailand may have seemed long before you came out here, but it really is not much time to pack in all that Thailand has to offer, though I think we did a really good job trying! We took on the city with some visits to local, iconic temples and were even so lucky as to be present at Wat Chedi Luang when hundreds of monks were all chanting a birthday blessing to the King of Thailand. That was the only time the whole summer we got to witness such a beautiful event and one that should be specially recognized!
We tackled the local famer’s market and picked the products that we later used in our home made Thai dishes, taught to us by a charismatic family who have turned their home into a Thai Cooking School. In continuing with our culinary curiosities we went to go visit the oldest market in Chiang Mai’s China Town, Warorot Market or Kad Luang. We sampled some fried worms, tempted fate by tasting the intimidating durian, and enjoyed a sampling of Thai sweets and treats to wash down as a well deserved desert. Niti, the Akha woman, took us on a tour of her Akha hill tribe village in the mountains outside of the city.
Learning about the Akha’s way of living, using all that they have available to them and wasting as little as possible, Niti pushed some of us to embrace cultural traditions that initially may have repulsed us. Part of our challenge in this adventure to Thailand was to be pushed outside our normal reality, to be open to different ways of living, and to forge confidence in our abilities to handle a range of situations. We finished up our first week of adventuring with the ultimate zip lining course at Eagle Track Zip line. While there was some apprehension by some students who were not sure they could complete the entire course, everyone who started the zip line course, finished the zip line course!
Then came the really challenging and rewarding part of the journey to Thailand, the service of teaching English to the Thai elementary school students. It proved to be quite the task to engage and communicate with the Thai students in the beginning. Intended plans didn’t always pan out but over the course of the week we all found our own ways to employ our new teaching skills and bond with the students in ways that will touch all of our hearts forever. While some kids certainly liked to try and have a good laugh at the foreigner’s expense, seeing the drumming and dancing they performed at the closing ceremony was truly a thankful offering to you all for taking the time and effort to reach out to these Thai students and give them a once in a lifetime experience.
To close off the last few days of your time in Thailand we went to go spend the day with the gentlest of giant, the elephants! We got to know our elephants well, even if we could never remember their Thai names, and giggled when feeling the belly of a few of the females who were pregnant! After a hike into the mountains we were rewarded with a lunch of pad Thai wrapped in a banana leaf and a mud bath of epic proportions. We covered both our bodies and the bodies of our big buddies with the healing mineral clay. Rinsing off in the free flowing river back near the camp, we got tickled by elephant kisses on our cheeks, or hoisted into the air by one of their massive trunks, or did flips off their backs into the cool water. While entertaining it was also a place to learn of conservation and protection and we capped off the day by planting a tree in the forest.
Whether we were getting hot in Muey Thai class, getting artistically confused with our paper umbrella painting in the Borsang Umbrella Village, or needing an extra photographer at the 3-D Museum our local Thai staff of Ice, King, and Wa worked hard to be sure we always had all our needs met. Does anybody remember the Thai they taught us? How are you? Sabai dii mai ka/krap? Try and hold on to the language you already know so you can use it again next time you’re back in Thailand! The Thai people and their generosity and friendliness, Thai cuisine and the endless variety of tastes that can be put together, and the endless forms of beauty that can be experienced in this small Southeast Asian country will hopefully have you back before long. May this GLA 2017 adventure to Thailand be a spring board for your further travel adventures throughout the world and inspire you to peak around the next corner with curiosity and honesty, without self doubt and fear. Thanks for a wonderful summer!
Special moments from our trip:
-Learning how to make Pad Thai, gaeng kiow wan, and thom kha gai with a local family’s cooking school and trying to leave room for sweet coconut sticky rice and mango!
-Trying to blow bubbles from the snapped neck of the soap leaf in the Akha village with Niti.
-Riding elephants bareback across the river while bamboo rafts floated down stream to a misty jungle backdrop.
-Playing endless games of duck-duck-goose and “flower” hangman with the Thai students.
-Getting our fortunes read at Wat Doi Suthep, and sometimes not entirely sure we want our fortunes! Thanks to Wa for translating. ☺
-Squat toilets and the bum gun!
-Exuberant karaoke parties in the vans going to and from excursions.
-Sweating and getting rid of pent up energy in Muey Thai kickboxing class.
-Fist bumps and high fives with our Thai students.
-The seatbelt song!
-Learning Thai instruments with fellow Thai students during the cultural exchange at Wachirawit School.
-Fine tuning our friendly bartering skills for the epic shopping trips to Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar and the night markets.
-Discovering new sore and ticklish spots during our authentic Thai massage.
-Learning to live with our gecko roommates and their continuous chirps!
-Speaking about Buddhist philosophy and the origins (or non origins) of the universe with a Buddhist monk at Wat Suan Dok, the royal cemetery temple.