I’ve just returned home from an unbelievable introductory week in Thailand. I’m still trying to process the entire experience, but one thing is for sure, it was amazing. I realize that the word amazing is overused, so maybe I should describe the week as breathtaking, awe-inspiring, or prodigious. Take your pick. For me, Thailand was (and is) unbelievably amazing. No question about it.
The purpose of the trip to Thailand was with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to witness the cultural and religious event of the Royal Barge Procession. That experience in itself was magnificent due to the fact that it only occurs during auspicious occasions and isn’t an annual event.
But what resonated with me? What part of Thailand and the overall experience did I bring back as the most memorable? What moments will I look back on when I’m elderly and reminiscing about my extraordinary life? Because yes, I realize every day how fortunate and unconventional my life is.
Stargazing in Chiang Mai
While in Chiang Mai at the Four Seasons, each night before going to bed I would go outside, stretch out on the divan and look up at the clear sky twinkling with those little dots of light. The crickets chirped in the rice paddy and every now and again a slight breeze would caress my cheek. I was extremely happy, content, and satisfied with life during those moments.
We spent a half day learning about the life of Mahouts, elephant caretakers at Maetang Elephant Park. At one point during the day we went into the river with the elephants to give them a bath. It was similar to bringing preschoolers to a waterpark, albeit very LARGE preschoolers. The elephants splashed and played with each other, even trying to push each other under the water. If an elephant could laugh, I guarantee these beautiful creatures were giggling and smiling. Later, we all climbed on the backs of the elephants and enjoyed a mountainside journey with a breathtaking view of the valley below. In my mind, I was Toomai of the Elephants and I had finally seen them dance.
Releasing a Lantern into the Sky
One evening after dinner at Baan Suan, we celebrated Yi Peng ( or for some, Loi Krathong) a bit early. We released Khom Loi (sky lanterns) to symbolize the moving away from darkness to a brighter future. One by one we watched our Khom Loi float away into the darkness, with sparks trailing from them like a comet tail blazing across the night sky. I watched mine float further into the sky, the light shrinking as it drifted to the heavens taking all my sadness away, leaving joy in my heart.
Buddhist novices and monks depend on their communities to provide sustenance for the day. Each morning at sunrise they file down the streets in their orange robes. They do not stop unless a certain phrase is uttered, which they then turn and open their pots for a food offering. For me, I felt peaceful and introspective during this silent act of carefully placing the food into their pots as not to touch them or the pot (kind of like playing the game Operation). After the alms giving, we kneeled and bowed our heads as the monks chanted in unison, blessing us.
Playing Pool at an Expat Bar in Bangkok
My Facebook friend, Keith Hancock, runs a local bar in Bangkok – Sport 20-2. It’s located at Sukhumvit Soi 22 in Queen’s Park Plaza at the top of Soi 4 (back right corner of the small square). This area isn’t your family travel attraction, but an place where many of the local expats go for a pint and to watch football. Keith was expecting me, and upon my arrival made me feel so very welcomed. I was introduced to many of the locals, as well as a few of their lady friends. I quite enjoyed seeing this other side of Thailand, and chatting with everyone. I was even convinced to play in a little game and thought I did quite well, even if I didn’t win. Be sure to check out Keith’s blog about expat life in Bangkok – Words from The Land of Smiles and should you ever find yourself in Bangkok, be sure to stop in his bar.
Being Interviewed for a local Thai News Station
Following the Royal Barge Procession, our group was filmed for a local Thai news station in Bangkok. I don’t know which station or how it even looked, but now I can check that off the list. Haha!
Eating Ant Eggs
In the northern areas of Thailand, the food is different than typical Thai fare. In Chiang Mai we asked our guide Chintana to bring us to a local restaurant. Touristy establishments are all well and good, but we all wanted a bit of adventure for our palates. It is what we do! One of the dishes was stir fried ant eggs. It was so good I even enjoyed a second serving. I would’ve gone for a third, but I saw an actual ant on my plate by that time. Still tasty though!
There are so many more moments, including the delicious cuisine, the unbelievable shopping, and ultimately the people of Thailand. I understand now why it is called The Land of Smiles because I sure did smile and grin most of the time while I was there. And I’m happy to report that even though I did venture into some unmentionable for me places in Bangkok (a la Hangover 2 – it was all research!), I’ve returned home with all my fingers and sans a facial tattoo, I didn’t get my purse snatched from a motorbike thief, and not once did I get ill from eating anything crazy.
The exchange rate in Thailand is worth the purchase of a flight over there. I had $250US worth of Thai baht and didn’t need to get anymore until my last day. I came home with an extra suitcase full of goodies and I cannot even begin to explain the shopping rush from how inexpensive everything is. Thailand is a destination most everyone should put on their list of places to experience.
I am so thankful and grateful to the Tourism Authority of Thailand for inviting me to experience parts of the country and hosting my stay. I’m still pinching myself about the good things that happen to come my way in life.