Tales from Thailand

As I'm currently sitting in the airport waiting to board my last flight home, I can't help but pinch myself at the reality that the past 2 weeks actually happened. If you've talked to me at all in the past 2 months, you've likely heard me express my huge desire to travel to Southeast Asia. Not everyone's first choice of places to visit, but I was eager to travel to a place much different than I have ever been before. After researching different counties, travel companies, and tours, I ended up booking a trip, just for myself, to Northern Thailand. A very last minute booking at that... we're talking booking the tour and flights less than 4 days before I left. I blame my dad for my indecisiveness and last minute planning.

After 10 hours in the air and an additional 6 hours waiting in airport, I arrived in Thailand's capital, Bangkok. With it being my first time traveling to a country who's primary language isn't English, I felt I did pretty well finding my way around. After some confusion as to where and who was picking me up, Megan, another girl in my tour group, picked me out of the crowd and helped us find our way. Without her I probably would still be wondering aimlessly around the airport...

The hour and half ride from the airport to our hotel that morning consisted of my eyes peeled to the window. For arriving mid morning, the city seemed very cloudy/grey. I'm not 100% sure, but fairly certain, this haze was from the pollution. With a population of 8.3 million people, almost all living below the United States poverty level (we later learned the average month income of someone living in Thailand ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 baht, which is just $450 to $900 US dollars), you can't even begin to imagine what I saw. Whole families were riding scooters together as if it were the family mini van, 6-12 men hanging from hammocks off the back of trucks, trucks spilling of coconuts multiple meters high, and cars literally driving as fast as they could zipping all over the road. Megan and I marveled at all the differences we saw, as well as the many similarities we expected through media we had seen prior to arriving.

After our non English speaking taxi driver stopped in front of a hotel, we were warmly greeted by our tour guide for the next two weeks, Ali. Within minutes of meeting him, we had a smile on our face and knew your trip was going to be anything but boring. After Megan and I checked into our hotel room, we threw on your bikinis and made our way down to the sparkling blue pool. There we met some other members in our tour group, as well as started on our Thai tan. After a couple hours at the pool, I ventured out for some food and more exploring. Just a few blocks away the real hustle and bustle was found. I can't tell you how many people tried to sell me something or offer me a tuk tuk ride, but I managed to grab a bite to eat, some authentic Pad Thai with a Mai Thai, and made it back to the hotel for nap in 1 piece. That night the group all came together, 12 of us total, 11 girls and 1 guy, for a Thai buffet and scenic view on the top of the tallest building in Thailand. Surprisingly just 1 other girl in the group was American, while the other 10 were all from England. I exchanged my Aussie accents for some English ones!

The next morning we started off early loading our 15 passenger vans to our next destination, Kanchanaburi. Along the way we stopped at a 7-11, soon to be everyone's most visited location, and a roadside restroom. It was at this point I got the real shock of what 3rd world living is actually like. The toilets were a hole in the ground... with no running water... or toilet paper... or soap. Momma JoLynn would have been on the next flight home. To combat waste, Thailand doesn't have a large paper consumption. Instead of toilet paper, there is a tub of water and/or hose (renamed as the, "bum gun") next to the toilet or hole to use to "clean yourself." You also use this tub of water and scoop out water to "flush" the toilet once you are done. Hopefully not a concept the US or Australia will steal anytime soon... After a quick stop, we reloaded the vans and were off to a floating market. Now in my head, a floating market would consist of stalls all floating on slates above water, surprisingly it wasn't that way. Instead of the vendors floating, we as shoppers were, via boats. After clamoring onto our boats, amongst shouting drivers and the hustle and bustle of buyers and venders, our driver managed to get us out of the traffic jam and guided us through the market. You could buy anything here. From the stereotypical elephant pants to coconut ice cream served right from the coconut, we all had fun perusing the stands and eating our way through the afternoon. After we were all full and had a look at the endless trinkets, we boarded the vans once again and checked into our hotel. Now I expected our accommodations to be more on the the "roughing it" side. I had booked the cheapest trip I could find, as well the most "authentic experience" and with this I thought I'd be staying in hostels or some knock of Super 8s. Instead, each one of our hotels had a pool, air conditioning, at least some hot water to shower with, and each of us our own comfortable bed. After checking in, changing into our swimsuits once again, we hopped into the pool to cool off. The weather, every single day I was there, was consistently in the 90s. Surprisingly there was not a great deal of humidity and was quite similar, if not cooler, to what I have been getting use to in Australia. I feel bad for everyone experiencing one of the coldest winters on record back home, but have a little sympathy for me too with it being the hottest summer in Australia. There was 1 week were the weather didn't dip below 100, with days reaching almost 120. I've got it just as rough. Anyways, back to day 2.... Although you may think, "Wow, great first day," in reality the day had just began. After changing back into a dress, we boarded our riverboats to a war museum. There we learned about the Burma War and the conditions it's prisoners endured. After about an hour, we grabbed more ice cream and were on the water again, this time off to a Buddhist temple. Although our river boat rides were only about 15 minute to a half hour long, we were able to see the beautiful scenery, hear and see the music of houseboats that were being pulled down the river with a party on board, and see first hand some of the houses some people called home. After waving to the locals, we jumped off the boats, threw on our modest elephant pants and long skirts, and started up the hill to the Laying Buddha Temple. Along the way we befriended many stray dogs and took in the many gold encrusted statues. This temple was much different that future temples we visited with it being located in a cave. Along with our new dog friends, we made our way down the stairs to find a room stuffed with many different statues, all representing a different story or time of the buddhas life. Ali, our guide, did a great job explaining just what we were looking at, how to show them respect, as well answered our many questions. After a short while, we went back clamoring up the stairs and made our way to the riverboats once again. This time our destination being the center of town. Compared to Bangkok, Kanchanaburi is a fairly small town. There we walked the railroad track over the river to get a better view of the floating restaurants below, as well as yet another temple. It was dusk at this point so the sunset was absolutely beautiful. The city center was lively with street performers playing music and people clapping, cheering, and dancing along. After taking in the the surroundings and snapping some pictures, we once again boarded our boats back to our hotel where we exhausted collapsed at a restaurant to have dinner and call it a day.

The next morning started bright and early with breakfast and a trip to the Erwan Waterfalls. These waterfalls had 7 levels to them, all quite different from one another. Eager to cool off from the hike and long drive, we all jumped into the first waterfall we saw. To our surprise and dismay, waterfall 1 was FILLED with fish. Now growing up in Minnesota and spending some time on the lakes in the summer, I was use to feeling a little nibble here or their from a fishy friend. Thailand fish must be a new breed, though, because these fish were huge and felt like they were sinking their gums into you as if their live's depended on it. Needless to say, their were many shrieks let out and lots of thrashing. The faster you moved your arms and legs while treading in the water, the less likely they were to give you a bite. After an exhausting half hour, and learning that higher levels had less fish, we trekked on. Now after having a master hiker as my roommate in Melbourne for the past 6 months, and Al Vander Lugt being my father, I've been getting pretty good at hiking. These waterfalls were a bit different, though, because most of the hiking was done in your swim suit and bare feet or flip flops. I can successfully say I made it to the top, but not all of my toe nails can say the same. This was also the start to the many bruises I'd receive in the next 2 weeks. After returning to our hotel and taking a shower, we ventured out to the area night market. This market was similar to one found in the US or Australia with tons of stalls selling everything from food to knock off sunglasses. At this point of the trip I was already starting to get tired of Thai food, so instead had some corn on the cob. Not quite as good as the stuff on the farm, but nevertheless a good choice. Although tempting, there was a stall selling fried insects. You name it, they had it. Yum After watching in shock as some people bought bags full, I made my way back to the group where I learned they had planned a night out in the town. Now if you didn't know, things in Thailand can be much cheaper than things both found back home in the US and in Australia. Meals would range from 50-300 (higher end including drinks) baht, which is equivalent to $1.50 - $9 USD. That's a full meal, with drinks, at nice restaurants! Needless to say I didn't lose weight like I had hoped to... Back to our "big" night out! Our tour guide started the night by taking us to a "bar" on the side of the road. Picture 2 dozen liquor bottles balancing on a 2x4s sitting on a few pallets. Above this sight hung the sign, "10 Baht Drunk!" Now 10 baht is equivalent to 30 cents in the US, which made my inner Dutch girl real excited. Depending on where you go back home, drinks are responsibly priced. Not the case in Australia, though. We're talking a simple beer in the double digits. Kills most of the fun and want to even go out most weekends. Anyways, those 10 bahts pertained to shots of their cheapest liquor, but if you wanted a mixed drink it would be a whopping 20 baht- 60 cents. Needless to say our cheap, 20 something selves had lots of fun while siting at a "table" consisting of a 2x4 balancing on some cement blocks in the street while we sat on over turned 5 gallon buckets. An authentic Thai experience!

The next day we had the morning free. While most of the group slept in, I decided I'd make my way down the street and get a Thai massage. After finding a place that was open and looked welcoming, I took my shoes off and followed my masseurs through the shop.... out the back door... up two flights of stairs with no lights.... into a dark room with 4 wooden cots. Now any normal person would have been like, "Okay, this doesn't seem very safe or comfortable, especially for a 22 year old American girl on her own," but nope, I stuck it out, bracing every minute to be bombarded and kidnapped forever. (Yea mom, I left this story out on purpose when you asked about the trip. Don't worry, I made it alive.) After the most painful hour, I hobbled back down the stairs, paid my $200 Baht ($6 US) and walked back to the hotel. Maybe it's just the type of massage I got or who gave it, but for the next 4 day I couldn't sleep on my back and actual black and blue bruises appeared. Maybe I should have just slept in like everyone else.... After that adventure, we took the vans off to AAAAAAAAA, the old capital city, where we hopped on some bikes for a tour. Before we set off on our adventure, we had been advised to twist and secure our backpacks to either our backs while riding, or our basket and handlebars at the front. I guess in the past, people driving by would simply grab the bags straight from the basket and then drive away. Not something any of us wanted... Once we all had our bikes adjusted and bags secured, we scurried off down the road. At first the ride was very daunting with the many tuk tuks, cars, motorbikes, trucks, etc... zooming and weaving around you, but eventually our group fell intro stride with one another with a tuk tuk leading the way with some music. Our first stop on the tour was a Royal Temple. Compared to the temple we had seen previously, this one was huge with a crowd of people flowing in and out. We all hopped off and parked our bikes, once again throwing on our modest pants and skirts, took off our shoes, and skipped on in. The inside was even more immaculate than the outside with a huge gold Buddha sitting in the front several stories high, the ceiling glistening with gold, jewels, and elaborate artwork, and several smaller, but equally exquisite smaller Buddhas found around the room. After Ali shared a little of the history of this temple, the importance of it, and the stories the Buddhas represent, we paid our respects to the local monk who gave us a blessing over our travels throughout Thailand. Leaving the temple a bit speechless, we once again hopped on our bikes and peddled off to the second temple. As we are peddling through the streets, the locals are just as captivated with us as we are with them.

Throughout the two weeks we had many pictures taken of our group, as well as us individually. Who knows, maybe someone out there is writing a post with my picture taking about, "all those tourists!" The second temple we made it to was more of a respectful area where a temple use to be located. After the Burma bombings, nothing more than a few cracked and fallen pillars remain, as well as a large concrete Buddha laying on his side. After soaking in the sun and catching our breaths, we journeyed on to the 3rd and last temple we were exploring that day. This temple, much like the 2nd, had been bombed and destroyed during the war. Soldiers had went into the temple and decapitated almost all of the hundreds of Buddhas. Today what remains is the bottom torso of them, as well as a few larger Buddhas that appeared too hard and large to disassemble. Riding back to our hotel where our baggage was waiting, we passed elephants a group of people had chilling in the park. Can't say I've ever seen elephants while driving down the road! After our bikes were parked, we ordered food at the downstairs restaurant, and took turns taking freezing cold showers upstairs. Once all washed and feed, we took "party tuk tuks" to the local train station where we would be boarding for the night and spending the next 14 hours. Although I have ridden a train for 24 hours, 4 times at that, I wasn't exactly thrilled about the idea of not having a comfortable bed and privacy like we had had at the hotels previously. Surprisingly, the bunk beds we stayed in were quite comfortable and after being exhausted from the day, many of us fell asleep quite quickly. Largest negative I can point out about the train was the bathroom. Are you following a trend here? Picture a hole. On the metal floor. With nothing below. You literally went right on the tracks. Wouldn't want to live close to there!

The next morning we awokr in Chaing Mai. Although another large city in Thailand, everyone agreed that it was a lot "calmer" than Bangkok. People seemed more friendly, streets cleaner, and less of the hustle and bustle we had previously been in. After checking into our hotel, the remainder of the morning and afternoon was ours for exploring, napping, and tanning. Hoping to get a few shades darker, I made my way to the pool. There we had fun getting to know each other more, as well as have some much needed relaxation time. One by one we made our way back to our rooms where we took showers and naps before boarding tuk tuk trucks to another temple. The journey to this temple was so windy and steep that we were being tossed about and holding on, trying not to be thrown out. If you've ever been to the Black Hills, the roads winding around the national parks are the best comparison I can give to how the ride felt for that hour up. Once the tuk tuks were parked, we climbed endless flights of stairs in our elephant pants and skirts to reach the top. To our surprise, a young boy who couldn't be more than 8, jumped in front of 2 girls in our group and wouldn't allow them in until their shorts/dresses were past their knees. Tough security! After walking around for awhile at the temple, we made our way to a lookout point in the back. There we were greeted by a beautiful pink sunset overlooking Chaing Mai. Sometimes I pinch myself when I realize just what beautiful things I've had the opportunity to see and encounter this past year. This was definitely 1 of them. After flying back down the mountain into Chaing Mai, our tuk tuks dropped us off at a Mexican restaurant. You read that right- A MEXICAN RESTAURANT! The last time I had Mexican food was when I was back in the US over 6 months ago. For some reason Australia hasn't bought into Mexican food like the US. We're talking no margaritas, enchiladas, and even Taco Bell! You can't even imagine my excitement. There may have even been happy tears at 1 point... Post Mexican coma consisted of sluggishly making my way through the never ending Sunday night Market on my way to bed. I slept a very happy girl that night.

The next morning was a bright an early one. Now on our itinerary there were countless things I was over the moon excited for, but #1 on that list was today's adventure- jungle trekking and camping in a Thai village. After a long 3 hour tuk tuk ride, half of which I was hanging off the back soaking in the sun and taking in the scenery, we arrived to the jungle and were introduced to our hiking guide, Vito. First thing we all noticed Vito had was a very large machete attached to his belt. Through broken English, which we later learned he taught himself to learn through giving tours, Vito shared that the machete was to kill poisonous cobras. Yea, we're talking the 6+ feet long, can swallow a rabbit whole, that has poisonous fangs, cobras. *gulp* Vita comforted us by sharing that, "Sometimes you don't see any." It must have been our lucky day, because we luckily didn't. Vito shared that because it is the dry season (Thailand maintains the same temperature year round, just has rainy and dry reasons, raining including monsoons), we wouldn't be able to see any monkeys or tigers. During the dry season they have to go deeper in the jungle to say cool.

Although I was a bit bummed we wouldn't see monkeys, it that meant we also wouldn't see tigers I liked the compromise. After trekking on for about 2 hours, we camped out at a waterfall and had lunch. Vito pulled out perfectly wrapped banana leaves with fried rice inside. A very cute, and pleasant, lunch. As I threw my backpack on to trek on, I heard a splash come from the water. Now my first reaction was that someone else was the clumsy one dropping something, or some snack or my water bottle feel out of my bag. To my displeasure sitting at the bottom of the river, starting to float away, was my phone. Quickly grabbing and drying it off, I expected the worse. It's an old phone without a case so I wasn't going to be too hurt if it was broke, apart from the fact my pictures would be lost and I wouldn't be able to take anymore, but I must have had some blessings to cash in because it worked perfectly, and still does now. Shout out to the big man upstairs for keeping an eye on me with that 1! After making sure my phone was actually in its pocket this time, we journeyed another hour through rice fields where we saw buffalo off grazing in the distance.

Another moment in my life where I just had to pinch myself to realize this really is my life. After a quick dip in a cold waterfall, we trekked the last half hour to the village where we would be spending the night. Below is a video of the village. Watch that because I can't put into words the experience. In some ways I felt back at home where the dogs, cats, pigs, cows, chickens, and buffalo were just running and grazing around, and in other ways I felt like I was in a movie. There really are people out there who live without running water, electricity, even a stable floor and roof! A humbling experience to say the least. After meeting some of the 45 members of the village, we made ourselves at home in the shed where we would be spending the night. Mats, mosquito nets, and a couple blankets were all we were provided in a very 1800s century shed. That night we had more Thai food prepared by Vito's wife and another village women, as well as had a bonfire. It was at this bonfire I made my best friend. Now Australia has been on summer holiday since shortly before Christmas. Although I love having the free time available to travel around, I'm eagerly awaiting to go back and reconnect with my students. Vimo, Vito's son, filled that void for me. Since Vimo spoke very little English, I wasn't able to know exactly just how old he was, but I can guess around 6 or 7. After he made his way to my lap by the fire, we took turns pointing at different things and then pronounced what they were in each of our languages. We'd then take turns pronouncing what the other shared, often ending with giggles hearing how off the other would pronounce the word. My inner teacher got Vimo to be able to count to 10 on his fingers, which put a big smile on my face the next morning when he shared that he remembered how to. By far my favorite night of the whole trip was laying under those stars with Vimo next to me, learning from one another that another our words and worlds may be very different, the sound of our giggles and smiles on our faces are quite the same.

Although the days in Thailand are quite warm, the nights get to be a bit brisk. Even huddled up under 4 thick blankets, the 50 degree weather in the night had me feeling like I was back home. It also made getting out of bed the next morning a bit difficult. Luckily the loud roasters were there to motivate us to get moving. For breakfast, Vito's wife and another Thai women made our group scrambled eggs with onions, 4 slices of toast a piece, and homemade butter and jelly. It was delicious and just the right amount of food to get us through the short hour and half hike we had ahead of us. Before setting off, I was introduced to Vimo's younger brother and friend. Although I couldn't make out what their names were, before I left I got giant hugs from all 3. They definitely have a special place in my heart. At the end of our quick hike, we were brought yet another waterfall. Exhausted from both the hike from earlier and the day before, the group as whole just sat on the rocks and took it all in. After the 3 hour tuk tuk ride to our hotel in Chaing Mai, we all took a much needed shower and crawled into our beds before grabbing a bite to eat and exploring Chaing Mai at night.

After having some time to sleep in, the group came together mid morning for another activity I was eagerly awaiting to do- ziplining. After getting properly fitted into our harnesses, we road off in the back of a truck into the jungle where we would be spending the day swinging from trees. After a quick tutorial how to hold on and where to place your bamboo stick break to slow down, we all were off, Megan off course jumping to the front getting a running hop, skip, and jump at the base of each platform to go that much faster and spin. The view, like everywhere else we had visited, was absolutely beautiful. We glided over villages, rice fields, animals, streams, trees, and of course jungle. At the end of the tour, we all agreed that our adrenaline was pumping! After an early dinner and receiving our certificates saying we have mastered silver level adventure ziplining, we headed back to the hotel where we called it an earlier night after finding out we'd be needing to leave the next morning by 7.

And what would tomorrow have in store for us? Well a huge adventure of course. Huge, as in elephants! Once we arrived at the elephant sanctuary, we were all suited up in a very attractive outfit. We were then led to a small covered patio where we each of us were given a bowl, mallet and given ingredients to make elephant vitamins. These vitamins consisted of brown sugar, rice, bananas, salt, and fig. Not the worse sounding vitamin! After chiseling away and turning it into a paste, we smeared the vitamin into a banana leaf and wrapped it up like a present. At the sanctuary there were 5 elephants. 2 male and 3 female. 2 of the 3 females were also pregnant. Fun fact, elephants are pregnant for 2 years, and then nurse their young for 3-5 years. Elephants, when living in a safe place such as a sanctuary, live for approximently the same amount of time a human does. Elephants also only sleep 2 hours each day, and send the remainder of the day eating and drinking. Last interesting fact about them before you assume I'm turning into Marcus and becoming a vet, elephants are not all that expensive to buy in Thailand. In their currency they cost $2-5 million Baht, which is $160,000 to $400,000 USA, with the females costing more. Definitely an achievable goal if owning an elephant is your dream. Back to the sanctuary... With our vitamins in 1 hand and a large bucket of bananas and sugar cane in the other, we ventured to the open field where the beautiful, graceful, and extremely hungry elephants were. After feeding, petting, and squealing over the fact that we really were hand feeding elephants, we trekked back to grab bamboo to feed them some more. Basically we were free labor for the day... after taking several pictures and videos, we made it back to our bags and changed into our swimsuits. Now it was time to bathe the big babies. We all willing crawled into a giant mud puddle where we were instructed to grab the mud off the bottom of the floor and put it all over the elephants body. While we were doing this elephants all happily trumpeted us with water, as well as peed and pooed. After coated in mud, we walked them the short distance to a river where we were each given a bucket and asked to splash the elephants to help cool them off. The water was cold, and the elephants at anytime spraying you with water was quite the shock. A cold experience, but absolutely priceless one. Before heading out, each elephant gave us a kiss on the cheek (if you want to see how badly my elephant kiss turned out, look at my precious post) and a wave with their trunks. Saying our goodbyes to our new friends were hard, but it we were all eager to take a shower and wash up. We then headed back to our hotel where we were grabbed out bags and moved onto the next city, Pai.

With it already been 10 days since our adventures began, the next day was spent with no real plan, other than increase our tan. Ali brought us to large pool where their were a few other tourists lounging around enjoying the music and nice weather. We spent the late morning and afternoon swimming, floating, eating and drinking. After heading back to freshen up, we headed to a Chinese Village to quickly walk around and taste tea. Once again our timing was perfect and we were able to soak in the sunset amidst a field of flowers. After returning home, we individually ventured out to the nearby dinner to grab more souvenirs and dinner. Absolutely sick of Thai food by now, every chance I had to eat a Western dish was heavenly. While other members of the group headed out to get tattoos and experience the night life, I called it an early night and called people back home and in Aus. It was nice to hear their voices and share how my experience in Thailand had been so far.

Day 2 in Pai was packed with lots of sight seeing stop 1 of the day was at a viewpoint over looking the jungle before. Our group, all needing to spread out and stretch their legs, mossed our way around the area. To our dismay, there were some rude kids there slapping, pulling, and kicking us and they ran past. They were all dressed up in tradition Thai appeal with the rest of their families, so I don't know if this rude behavior was in response to us refusing to pay and take a picture with them, or he just was a naughty kid, but it was interesting to watch members of our group yell at him, with no reaction from the people he was with. After pilling back in, we made our way to some caves, after walking through and hearing bats, we were taken by boat through another cave. Our guides, although unable to speak English, pointed out the many different formations and guided us with a gas lamp. Tired from the hike, we once again loaded the van with a hot spring being our next destination. Unlike how you may picture the stereotypical hot spring located on top of a volcano in the form of a hot pool, this spring looked like any other shallow, clear river, except with warm weather. An hour was enough time to float around before we headed to our next stop of the day, you guessed it, a temple. This temple was an all white one. After climbing a mountain of steps, we reached the top and we're greeted by a view of all of Pai. Slowly heading down, taking our elephant pants and long skirts off for the last time this trip, the van was loaded and we set off for Pai's "Grand Canyon." Now I haven't seen the Grand Canyon first hand so I can't reliably say the one found in the US is that much more impressive, but Pai's Grand Canyon essentially was a group of paths joined together facing the mountains. Perfect to sit and watch the sunset at. Exhausted from the long day in the car, we made our way to the night market once again to grab a bite to eat, before heading off to bed.

... and then there was Day 12... I don't know if we all ate something bad, or maybe we given some untreated water, but Day 12 left almost half of our group feeling unwell. Unfortunately, this was also the day we'd have a 3 1/2 hour extremely curvy, climbing and then flying down, car ride. Even with a few extra stops on the way, we eventually made it back to Chaing Mai. After getting settled in, grabbing food, and taking a short nap, about half of the group headed out for a Thai cooking class. Those not feeling as good stayed back to rest. Our chef started the class by bringing us to the fresh food market. There he explained what the different vegetables were that we were looking at and would be using later on, as well as had us smell and taste the different spices and seasonings. As he gathered our materials, our group became transfixed on the scaling and cooking process one lady was having with some fish. (The video is below.) We we're in complete horror as this lady was descaling these fish as they still thrashed around, and then throwing them on the grill. Still alive. You'd see a fin swish or their mouths open and close and you'd just be sick. Personally don't like sea food so the process made me not like fish that much more. After being scared for life, we headed to our class. There we made 5 courses of food: a curry, cashew chicken, spicy and sour soup, pad Thai, and sticky rice with mangoes. Having love to cook, the experience was helpful and we were all given a cookbook at the end so we could recreate these dishes at home. Since I'm beyond over Thai food, I probably won't be trying any of them again for a long time. After trying our creations, we headed back to the hotel to check on our other members. There some of us headed out to the market to do more shopping, while other continued to rest or go out one last time in Chaing Mai.

And then somehow it was our last day together. It's crazy looking back and seeing just how fast time flew by. In a matter of just 2 weeks I made some great friends, as well as got to see and do countless amazing things. Day 13 brought us to an inflatable water park. There we had the park almost to ourselves to literally do whatever we want. If you know me at all, you know I love a good waterpark/rollercoaster so was thrilled for the fun we were about to have. To my dismay, though, halfway through the day I face planted it in the water after jumping from a trampoline a few stories high. Although the initial pain wasn't too bad, as I swam to shore, the aching pain in my head and neck only increased. By the time I made it out of the water my head was throbbing with pain. The remainder of the day was spent taking pictures and videos of everyone else, as well as deciding if a nap would make it feel better or walking around. Although still not feeling well that night, I couldn't sit out from our last night as a group. We once again went to the Mexican restaurant where Megan cried happy tears just a week before. With our bellies full, we headed off to a Lady Boy Show. Now what is a Lady Boy Show? Think of a Burlesque or Drag Queen show. In Thailand it's fairly common to come across a lady boy, a boy dresses very fancy to appear as a lady. The hour and a half show was only men, although we all shared that it was impossible to truly know that. Definitely a unique experience to end the trip on. Since I needed to take a tuk tuk back to the airport at 5 the next morning, I said my goodbyes to the group and Ali that night. With already being Facebook friends with each of them, I'm excited to see and read about where each of their travels takes them next.

If you've made it to the end of this novel I don't know if you should be proud, or a bit concerned that you really spent the last hour reading a Facebook update. Either way, I appreciate the love. Thank you to my many friends and family members continuing to send me prayers and keeping me in their thoughts on all of my adventures. Although I'm physically not close to you, keeping up with you all through social media makes you feel that much closer. If it makes you feel better, it's officially been over 6 months since I've been in the US which means I'm closer to coming home, then I was to leaving. It's the little things!

I hope you all continue to stay warm during your crazy winter and enjoy just as many crazy adventures of your own.

XOXO Megan on the Move

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