This trip wouldn’t be anything without its fair share of adventures, so here are a few we haven’t yet written about in detail.
An incredible day hanging out with and learning about elephants. After extensive inquiry into the grey area of what is an ethical elephant sanctuary, we headed out on a day of hanging out with five elephants – from a two-year-old mischievous toddler, to a pregnant 22-year-old, to a 70-year-old grandma. We fed them, hiked with them, and bathed them.
Up bright and early ready to rock.
The day was so special. It was just our family with a few guides - all of whom belong to the Karen tribe, a hill tribe that comprises the largest minority in Thailand. Our guides were from the areas bordering Thailand and Myanmar, including one from Myanmar. Sparing no time to brief us on what we were about to do, we met and began to feed the elephants. It took a few minutes to get used to engaging with these majestic (and very large) creatures, and we saw that they each had their own personalities, seemed to be quite habituated to humans, and were very sweet. Their trunks were extraordinary - like something prehistoric, so rough and oddly hairy. Sometimes they would try to sneak into our baskets of bananas when we were not expecting it.
Hiking down to the river.
We rode there/back in a songtaew traveling at too-high highway speeds, kids happily/sweatily asleep on our laps with the wind pulsing around us, Chris and I hanging onto the kids for dear life and taking some very deep breaths upon surviving the hour-plus-long drive. As Obie said, that might be one of the best days of my life. Though in all honesty, I think it was the elephant sanctuary paired with unlocking of characters in a video game that may have tipped the scales. Just keeping it real over here, folks.
Jungle Trail Running
I can’t really speak to this, since I opted out and instead did a somatic movement course (more on my journey soon!), but Chris took the kids on quite the adventure. Early morning departure, still raining, hour-plus journey to the base of a wat in the middle of nowhere to meet random people. Each of these factors required a good dose of faith. But it turned out great – the kids led the 5 km run, first time trail running/jogging, no complaints, saw a snake (Chris' Thailand snake dreams finally realized) and a big spider, rode in a pickup truck, ended up at a cavernous café filled with vintage toys, waited for an hour and a half for food, and then got dropped off all sweaty at a mall near our house only to be surprised by walking into a Beatles-like Thai boy band concert with hundreds of screaming teenagers surrounding them. What a day.
Pigeons! (And a Wat)
We have been to so many wats. Luckily, the kids humour us on these sojourns, especially if there is a hike involved. But this one takes the cake. Wat Umong is a 700-year temple situated in mountains of Doi Suthep, famous for - among other things - interconnecting underground tunnels between Buddha shrines (and of course, bats). But dare you think that winding through the cavernous shrines was the pinnacle of this day! Nope. It was the pigeons (and the catfish). I will say that only some of us were enthralled with this part, and while I am bearing the comic load in the movie, it was NOT just me.
Always good to remember.
I did this one alone, but Chris and Obie will soon do this too. A fantastic day of meditation techniques, learning about Thai Buddhism, exploring local wats, and engaging in conversations with monks about their lives. Met some lovely foreigners in the process, so many folks in their moments of exploration about their lives and presence and becoming more whole.
Of course, more to come! A week journey to Pai and Mae Hong Song, a week in Koh Lanta, the upcoming Loy Krathong/Yi Peng festival in Chiang Mai. Suddenly we feel our time here in Thailand is rushing by.