Click this picture to play the video. Video by Tucker

TERESA- I have always wanted to go to Thailand and see its serene temples, beautiful beaches and eat as much Thai food as possible. I did not do a lot of the planning for this part of the trip and since we were going to be in country over a month, we felt there would be time to explore. Our Thai adventure started in Bangkok with a hop up to Chang Mai, a mountainous city in the north. Our first hotel, Baan Sang Singh (loved it) was just outside the city walls but within walking distance of the night markets. Anne, who ran the hotel, was generous with her time and provided great recommendations for the area.

On our first night, all the locals encouraged us to get out and walk to the Night Market. We walked down some dark alleys with mopeds flying by, stray dogs following us, avoiding the holes and hazards in the road and began to question our choices. However, then we reached the market. While wandering through a maze of people, witnessing worship at a candle-lit temple, trying fresh coconut juice (the kids, not me, I hate coconut), and a dinner of street Pad Thai and mango sticky rice, we realized we were in for a treat. In Thailand, you need to have a “just go with it” attitude. Whether you are releasing a fish back into the river as part of a festival, floating candle-lit flower arrangements on the Ping to send your worries from last year away, trying to avoid kids haphazardly sending fireworks every which way or watching a beautifully ornate parade glide down the street, you can’t help but be mesmerized. I, of course, managed to dump my candle of worries into the river, so let’s hope it still worked. 

I left Dan and the kids in Chang Mai to return to Wichita to mourn the passing and celebrate the life of a great man, Skip Schwab. Skip had a smile and a laugh to share with everyone. Hopping into the back of a truck to head to the airport, I waved goodbye to my crew to start my journey back across the globe. Although I was only in Wichita for a few days, I am so grateful I got to hug and cry with my friend, Joanna, who has meant the world to me. Her family was my own, if I wasn’t at my house, I was probably at her’s. Skip and Shirley were always supportive of me and my family. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just show up.

Less than a week later, after having the gift of spending time with my parents, sisters, family and friends, I met up with Dan and the kids in Ko Lanta, Thailand. Being half a world away from them was difficult. I am lucky to have Dan as my partner in this crazy adventure. Five flights, a ferry and a gold-plated taxi van later, I hugged my husband and kids feeling grateful for this beautiful life, past, present and future.

AVA- I had no expectations for Thailand, but if I did I can assure you they would have been wrong. Thailand was crazy because in one spot you could be in the biggest chaos of people in your life, and then you can walk 10 feet and be in a calm and serene temple. I learned a lot about Buddhist culture while in Thailand. There are 5 pillars which you must follow as a Buddhist. You must not kill animals or people, you must not steal, you must not manipulate people, you mustn’t lie, and you should be of service to others. With these beliefs, Buddhists believe you are a good person. I have to say, I think they are onto something. Something I have realized about faith is most religions believe many of the same things regarding what is right and what is wrong.

Thailand had some quirks for sure. Their mode of taxi is called a “Tuk Tuk”, which is basically just a motorcycle with a seat and shade attached. It is wild to ride in one, but a cheap alternative to an Uber. The phone lines are all tangled together and very low, so you need to make sure you don’t walk into them!

Feeding, petting, and bathing elephants has been one of my all time favorite parts of the trip so far. Can you believe we did that!? I still can’t. In ancient Thailand elephants where used similar to oxen. They would move heavy items, and were a mode of transportation. They didn’t know this at the time, but riding elephants can hurt their spine over time, which is why Kanta Elephant Sanctuary has a no-rinding policy. We would hold out sugar cane sticks, and then they would come over and grab the sticks with their trucks! We could pet their trunks, and the elephants were so friendly. These elephants can’t be released back into the wild because their parents were also raised by humans, so the elephants wouldn’t know how to survive. I also got to spray a hose into the elephants trunk, and when the trunk was full the elephant would spray all of that water into its mouth! They are truly beautiful creatures, and for being so big, I couldn’t imagine them hurting a fly. (On purpose at least.) Washing the elephants was a total blast! I loved scrubbing the tough elephant skin. They skin has hair! I had no idea.

Koh Lanta was vary relaxing. We were right on the beach, and when it was time to leave we were refreshed and ready to travel. While there we got to scuba dive! It was absolutely fascinating. I have always been interested in aquatic life, and to see how many organisms were alive in the area we scuba dived was incredible. There were fish of every color of the rainbow, eels in the dark corners, and these little tree looking organisms on reefs that would suck into the reef when sensing anything near it. The breathing part of the dive was hard because I’m normally not a mouth breather, but we got the hang of it pretty quick. The hardest part was popping your ears every couple of meters to equalize the pressure. If you don’t your eardrums could pop. I didn’t expect that challenge, but overall it was absolutely brilliant. Thailand was such an incredible experience, and I hope to go back some day.

CARMEN- One of my favorite times in Thailand was the Festival of Lights.  The festival runs over three days where people set off a ton of fireworks and release floating candle stands. Some are made out of plants and pretty flowers and others are made out of cheese-puff looking things. I even got to release fish into the river! Oh yeah, when My mom released her floating candle it tipped over and the candle went directly into the water. It was so funny. The tradition is that if you release a Krathong basket down the river, it’s supposed to release your worries with it. At the end of the three days there’s a big parade, well technically there are little parades throughout the entire three days. The parade on the last day is much bigger. We didn’t actually get to see the parade because it didn’t start for hours after it was supposed to, but looking at the floats was pretty cool because we were at the spot where the parade started. Another fun thing we did was go on a hike. It was short and pretty easy so that was fun. After that, we went to the highest point in Thailand and it was really cool until it started raining. On the way back from our hike, our driver had us stop at an interesting shrine. It was extremely weird because there were different colored Hulks, a Minion with a machine gun and a bunch of other super random statues. Then, he had us try to bang a giant Gong, but Dad was the only person who could actually lift the mallet, so he was the only one to do that. After that, we went over to a big bell and he had us hit it 10 times, then we went under an elephant statue three times. It was really weird. The rest of Thailand was cool and I had a great time there.

TUCKER- We just left Thailand and it was awesome. To start out, we stayed in Chiang Mai. This is where we learned about the city and ate delicious foods. One of my favorite foods is Pad Thai. I got this so many times in Thailand. We saw elephants at a reserve outside the city. We fed and bathed them. They love sugar cane. A lot.

Back in the city we went to an amazing night market almost every night where there was live music, food, drinks, and even carnival games. I usually got kababs and steam buns. During our time in the city, there was a three day festival where people set off fireworks, had parades, and sent candles floating down the river. After seeing the festival we went down to the island of Ko Lanta. We stayed here for around two and a half weeks, mainly at Malee Beach Resort. We had a nice house and this was where we spent Thanksgiving. We were close to the beach and we got to play a lot of beach soccer and ate great food. The ocean water there is some of the warmest water in the world. There was also a Padi scuba diving center. We signed up and went scuba diving a few days later. We saw a coral reef exploding with life. The were massive eels, starfish, and hundreds of other underwater animals. This is what we did in Thailand.

DAN- I’m glad we got a lot of quiet in Japan, because we were about to enter a very loud period of travel. Southeast Asia is both wonderful and raucous.  One such experience is the Sunday night market in Chang Mai. This sensory buffet begins at sundown and stretches for more than a mile. Temples, music, food, candles, trinkets, art, incense- you get the idea. And all of it offered to you at once. 

One thoroughly enjoyable experience was our time with a monk. At one of the Chang Mai temples the monks set up a little tent and invite conversations to express their beliefs and practice their English. We found the conversation both honest and enlightening. It also makes you realize that people who say they have been “living like a monk” have no idea what they are talking about. I found this young man to be disarmingly humble, even about being humble. Despite being a couple of years in, he wasn’t sure that the monk life would always be for him. But for now he was content to practice a discipline that he felt would lead to a better life no matter his next path. 

After running hard for some time, we were happy to have scheduled a little Thai beach decompression in Ko Lanta. 
The kids surfed and scuba dived for the first time in the warmest ocean water in the world, clearly ruining them for all future experiences of this type. It was a wonderful place to stare at the islands and be grateful. 

P.S. Elephants might just be the best of us.

4 thoughts on “Thailand

  1. I so love reading about your adventure! The pictures you paint with each of your writings are amazing. And, of course, the photos and videos are, as well. I see a book in your family’s future. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Dan and family, this is Gary Hailes(Community LINC) Theresa shared with me that you were on your wonderful journey. What a fantastic way for you and the family to see and understand the way the world is and can be. My son moved to Spain and is living in Santa Cruz Tenerife Canary Islands. If you go that far south he is an excellent tour guide.
    God Bless

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