My favorite thing is to go to places I’ve never been. -Diane Arbus
This year for Christmas, my family and I traveled to Thailand; we absolutely loved it there! The whole trip, I found myself wonderstruck by what a magnificent place I was experiencing…
Our first destination was the second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai, located in the northern tip of the country. Chiang Mai is such a lively city: people crowd the sidewalks, mopeds and tuk tuks rush by on the street, and food of every kind fills the air with a lovely scent. Every night while there, my family and I walked along the Night Bazaar. The Night Bazaar, located on the east side of town, is a market that occurs every night. Here you can find countless restaurants and bars. We enjoyed searching through the many vendors for souvenirs, so we could keep the memories of this adventure with us forever. I found two great souvenirs that I love–a blue blanket patterned with elephants and a golden elephant figure.
On our first day in Chiang Mai, we visited Elephant Nature Park. ENP is a sanctuary for elephants that have been rescued from various abuses, including their use in the logging and tourism industries. Many of the elephants come here with mental and physical issues stemming from their abuse, but now they can live out the rest of their lives in peace and in a more natural existence. We spent the entire day with these wonderful animals, trekking through the rainforest, feeding them loads of bananas, and bathing them in the river. If you ever find yourself in Thailand, please do not ride the elephants. Even if a company that gives rides claims to treat them humanely, it is simply not healthy for an elephant to carry people on its back for hours every day.
The second day we went zip-lining through the jungle with a company called Flight of the Gibbon (the gibbon ape is native to the Thai rainforests). I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as we flew along the treetops, walked along rickety wooden bridges, and dove off platforms into the jungle below. While on the longest zip line, a whole half mile long, I stopped looking through my camera, relaxed my muscles, and felt the wind rush through my hair. With 360 degree views of the beautiful rainforest, my eyes wildly peered around my surroundings, trying to soak it all in. I realized how vivid all the colors of the jungle were: the green trees, the orange flowers, the blue sky, all mixed with the sun shining golden rays onto everything in its path. Afterwards, we took a short five minute hike to a waterfall. It was so serene listening to the crashing water and the trickling stream just below and was the perfect ending to an exhausting, but thrilling day.
After three days in Chiang Mai, it was time for us to head to the coast. We stayed in the tourist filled Phuket, but during the day took excursions to more remote islands. The first day in Phuket, we saw the famous Khao Phing Kang (also known as James Bond Island) and went canoeing in the waters of the Andaman Sea. This was one of my favorite days! I felt like I went back in time and was an explorer, mapping uncharted waters and islands. A tour guide paddled the canoe through tiny openings in the cliffs that opened into large caves. In one cave, we were completely submerged in darkness. Our guide eventually turned on his headlamp and pointed it towards the ceiling. I looked up and saw hundreds of bats hanging upside down and smiled in amazement. When we emerged from the darkness, we were in a lagoon. It was like we had discovered a beautiful hidden gem. I lay down and listened to the chirps and squawks of the birds. I peered into the calm waters and saw schools of little silver fish swimming by. I looked into the surrounding cliffs and saw monkeys watching us with curiosity. There was not a word, not even a whisper, from anyone. We were all too awed by the lagoon’s peacefulness. After canoeing, we took a short swim in the sea to cool off. I dipped my head under the sea green waters and thought, “I never want to leave this place.”
The next day we snorkled at Koh Phi Phi Don (the larger of the Phi Phi Islands). I loved swimming in the warm turquoise waters and observing all of the sea creature’s lives. I felt like a mermaid: swimming among the fish, diving to the bottom of the seabed, and visiting with the sea urchins and eels. Halfway through the day, I looked up at the sky and noticed dark gray rainclouds forming. I made a wish that they would not come our way. After snorkeling, we ate lunch and then boated to the gorgeous Maya Bay at the smaller Koh Phi Phi Lay island. Unfortunately, my wish for no rain was not granted, and the heavy clouds emptied all their contents. The rain came pouring down in huge drops. The wind blew wildly in all directions. Thunder and lightning invaded the whole sky. Though we were supposed to stop at the island, I surely thought we would turn around and head back to Phuket. When the crew began to unload us off the boat, I was shocked as there were no indoor facilities to hide from the storm! It was quite an adventure being stuck in the freezing rain and wind. After an hour of standing in the storm, I felt chilled to the bone. I couldn’t help but smile. Never did I think I would find myself in such an exotic and far away land. I had fallen in love with the country, and I was so grateful for the opportunity to experience it.
In other words, kob kun ka, (thank you in Thai) Thailand for an amazing trip.