Our trip to Thailand started out with a family friend of ours who met my parents 20 years ago in bangkok. Since then my mom has frequented thailand multiple times and created a very strong connection with the country and I would go so far as to say it’s her favorite place to visit. Naranon or just Non has taken my mom all over thailand in his new jet black Toyota Camry. We’ve sent other family friends to visit him and his wife Umpai and everybody always comes back with nothing but amazing things to say about them both. With that being said, we have nothing but amazing things to say about Non as well.
I had never met him before so when he picked us up at the airport it was really nice to finally put a face with the name.
He dropped us off at our little garden oasis hostel in bangkok and told us we would all have dinner together the next night. Once Caro and I got settled we ventured out to grab some authentic pad Thai from a street vendor and celebrated our arrival with a couple cold Chang beers.
We could see all the protest spots throughout Bangkok and where the roads have been blocked off but from what Non told us, it was calm on the surface but underneath it all was as crazy and unruly as ever. We where only in Bangkok for 2 nights so our time was limited. We went to a crazy market close to our hostel and that night Non took us out to dinner on the waterfront which was probably something we wouldn’t of found on our own. It was a quick visit into Bangkok and we wish we would have spent more time there. The next day we planned to meet up with one of Caro’s college friends Chris Kelly and his girlfriend Desire at the airport to travel the rest of thailand together.
We flew into Chiang mai and stayed at a place called “seven brothers”. The place is phenomenal and the guy Lester who runs and owns the hotel is somewhat of a legend in those parts of the world.
On a side note, Chris had told us he was going to propose to Des a month or two prior so he was constantly looking for the prime opportunity and Caro and I had to keep our lips shut until that moment came. So…we checked out some temples in town and sat down with a couple monks who were volunteering there time to talk with us about various different subjects. It’s called “monk chat” and it’s basically an opportunity for us to get to know and understand a day in the life of a monk and it gives them a chance to ask us questions and learn about our culture. We asked the typical questions you’d want to ask a monk like…. “Do you have Facebook? What do you think about when you meditate? Could we become monks? What do you do when you see other monks breaking the rules?” Y’know, things like that. We received some pretty funny answers and asked if he wanted to know anything about us. He did, and the only two questions he asked were. “Are there gangsters in Los Angeles? And do you want to be friends on Facebook?” To tell you the truth we were not expecting that and had a good laugh over it. We walked around through the markets and stores and experienced a legit tuk tuk ride home.
Seeing some elephants were on all of our lists and from hearing about my moms extensive experience with them we had to make a visit to one of the camps. We opted out of riding elephants and decided to go somewhere a little different. We ended up going to the Elephant Nature Park which specializes in rescuing elephants from illegal logging companies in Laos and Burma that use the elephants for hard labor or elephants that need rescue from tourist traps like street begging.These elephants have heart breaking stories from logging accidents that break their hips and legs, to brutal mahouts that whip the eyes until they move and ultimately blind the elephants. The stories are horrific.The conditions of some of the elephants is pretty much the worst you could imagine. It’s heart breaking and you really can’t help but want to support the rescuing efforts.
So what this nature park does is pay up to 10,000 usd for one elephant and gets them to the nature park and treat their injuries as best they can and give them a better life. They’re free to roam around on a couple hundred acres of land and they’re never ridden. The tourists come in and pay x amount to walk around the park freely with them. We could walk all around the park and feed them and bathe them and just kind of hang out with them for the day. It’s the exact opposite lifestyle of what they’re used to and you can see the smiles on their faces. They get showered with love and food all day long. It’s a really special place and they’ve done a great job in taking care of these truly amazing creatures. Over the last couple years they’ve acquired almost 40 elephants. If you have a chance to go here, definitely go. If your interested in staying there for a little longer, you can stay at the facility and help prepare their food and volunteer for as long as you want.
From chiang mai we headed north to a town called Pai. After a pretty brutal 4.5 hour bus ride through windy mountain roads you arrive in this small little hippy town. Hippy town is really the only way I can describe it because it’s exactly that. Lots of expats walking around barefoot with dreadlocks and big flowy pants. Fire dance contests and banana milkshakes. It kind of reminds me of Paia in Maui. For those of you that don’t know about Paia, it’s same same but different. We rented some scooters right away so we could escape all the incense. We heard about a waterfall and a lookout point to check out so off we went. The waterfall was ok. We were there in dry season so there wasn’t so much flow and it’s pretty small. After the waterfall we saw a sign that said “viewpoint 25 minutes”. 45 minutes later we saw the exact same sign. At this point we were determined to get to this vista but the road gradually got worse and worse. We had mopeds and we were off-roading way out of bounds. The road became dirt and then there were big cracks all over the place and then mud. The girls would have to get off the bikes and walk up the steep sections. We could tell we were close but these damn signs kept saying 25 more minutes. We ended up ditching the bikes because it was too steep and hiked another 30 minutes to the lookout. We hung out and had some fanta and ventured back down. The brakes went out on our bike which was interesting not to mention they were also covered in mud.The mopeds we were on were not really meant for this terrain but they made it back to town and we survived the day.
After a few days of fire dancing and some of the most amazing people watching yet, we headed back to chiang mai to catch a flight to krabi. It was time for the beach!!! We flew into krabi just in time for a massive thunderstorm. We had a driver pick us up and take us to a dock where a ponga boat was waiting. Our destination was to go to Railey beach. With the thunderstorm approaching and it being pitch black over the ocean, the situation was looking pretty dismal. We had a 20 minute boat ride into the darkness while lighting and thunder was cracking all around us. I personally enjoyed it and felt pretty comfortable out there but Carolin on the other hand was hating life!!! We made it safely and woke up the next morning to a little slice of paradise. We were in railay for a couple days just relaxing on the beach, and enjoying the sites. We hired a ponga boat to take us to some different islands and cruise through the inlets and sandbars. We’d stop and post up in a little cove and snorkel around, then we’d beach the boat and walk around in a foot of water between different islands. It was beautiful and after the whirlwind trip we had through Vietnam, it was nice to be in the middle of nowhere without anything to do but basque in the sun and admire the surrounding crystal blue waters.
On the other hand, Chris Kelly was trying to figure out the right moment to pop the question to Des. It went pretty smooth actually. We walked out on the beach during sunset and he told Caro and I that now was the time. So, we readied the cameras and he did his thing. It was a special moment, and we felt honored to be a part of it.
We took a speed boat across to Phuket and were planning on spending the next few days looking for surf and hanging around the beach.
We did find some surf down the street from out hotel but it was subpar at best. Just a couple little beach breaks close to shore and pretty gutless. Either way we were surfing in thailand and it was an experience. For not really expecting to find surf we can’t really complain. Most of the time we took it pretty mellow. We visited a couple markets and picked up some souvenirs.
All in all thailand was an interesting place for us. I think our expectations were a little different then what it actually was. Coming from such a chaotic place like Vietnam and nonstop traveling may have caught up with us a little in thailand but it’s exactly what we needed. Meeting up with Chris and Des was awesome and seeing some familiar faces made us think about all our friends and family back home.
Caro and I agreed it wouldn’t be the last time visiting thailand but for now we’re pushing through to Malaysia, and then to kathmandu to prepare for our hike to Everest base camp.