If it wasn’t obvious from my last blog, Fall Break was much needed and overdue. After living here five months, I feel like I have traveled to many exciting destinations. With field trips, personal excursions, and extracurricular duties, I visited at least 6 different provinces, and each was wonderfully and weirdly unique. Thailand is great because, like Georgia, if you go north you get the mountains, and if you go south you get the ocean, or as the Thais call it, the “sea.” The best of both worlds! I’ve seen both, but I still had not traveled to Bangkok or the islands. They are the reason many foreigners venture to Thailand. We took advantage of our two-week break to jump on the foreigner, or “farang,” bandwagon and see everything we could possibly see in this country. The break was unlike any other vacation. I saw countless breathtaking views and formed unforgettable memories that will surely last a lifetime.
Here’s my recap of the adventure!
October 5: Saraburi
We took a nine-hour bus ride and this was our first stop to visit a Maconite couple also teaching in Thailand. Actually, we missed our stop and ended up in Bangkok that evening. But somehow, things always find a way of working themselves out for the better. Because we missed our stop, I was able to see my friend JeKaren before she went to the airport to fly back to the states. She has been gone for awhile and it was so nice to see another Mercer face. Also, we rode back to Saraburi in a car (this is a big deal) with one of the Donahue’s friends. The Donahues were so welcoming and friendly and I felt like I was back at my grandparents house for a night. We were in excellent company. We shared teaching methods and funny stories. The visit was refreshing. And it was only made better by an American breakfast of sausage, biscuits, and strawberry jelly, all homemade by the talented Mrs. Jane. Those Donahues are kind, wonderful hosts with a killer sense of humor.
October 6: Lop Buri
The next day was monastery day. The first monastery we visited was Thamkrabok Monastery Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre. I have never seen a place like this. This monastery is world-famous for effectively treating heroin and opium addicts for free by induced projectile vomiting from an herbal drink. Meeting the monks and hearing of this process was mesmerizing. They talked about how most of this treatment is “20% from medication and 80% from the heart.” It was incredibly uplifting to hear people talk about helping other people with such passion.
After that, we vistited Lob Buri’s monkey temple. This place is difficult to explain in words. I wouldn’t understand it if I hadn’t seen it myself. The temple is completely overtaken by monkeys. Monkeys everywhere! They are not in captivity or hiding in the trees. They roam freely in the city and are not shy. And these monkeys are gracious enough to let people visit this ancient temple, for food payments, of course.
We visited one more ancient monastery, enjoyed some tasty Thai food with our new friends, and then Alden and I made our way to Bangkok, on purpose this time. Finding our hostel was a struggle, but it was well worth the journey. If we hadn’t shared our room with two other girls, I would hardly call it a hostel. This place was so unique and hip and inviting. I had my first hot shower with unfailing water pressure in months! The little things matter so much more these days.
October 7: Bangkok
Alden and I were major “farangs” this day. I took advantage of that shower again. Then, we did one of my favorite, therapeutic things, we shopped. Bangkok has unlimited shopping opportunities. They also have unlimited farang food. I felt like I was in the Western hemisphere again. We spent maybe 3 hours in H&M only to realize our stipends would not allow us to purchase a majority of our picks. Then, we ate all the things we cannot eat in Lamphun, or even Chiang Mai. This may not seem as cool as holding hands with monkeys; but I’ve been deprived, and this day meant a lot.
Then, it was time for another bus ride. We had a 12 hour journey ahead of us, but this time we were traveling VIP style (snacks and wide seats). We almost didn’t make our bus because of tuk tuk miscommunications. But, as I mentioned before, things always seem to come together. And we met a kind taxi driver because of the mess!
October 8-15: Koh Phi Phi Island
We arrive in the morning and take a ferry, or “furry” (that’s how the Aussies pronounce it), to the island. This island was nothing less than what google images promised me. Koh Phi Phi is a tiny, gorgeous island with no form of transportation other than longtail boat taxis. There are surrounding rock formations rising out of the vivid turquoise waters. An exotic paradise.
We walked, explored, and ate a delicious Indian dinner. My bliss did not last for long. I woke up at about 4 am the next morning to a terrible stomach virus. I cannot remember ever being this sick. It was ugly and something I never hope to suffer again in this lifetime. Unfortunately, I gave this unwanted gift to Christina, Alden, and Monique. Sorry again, girls.
The next few days we regained our strength at the beautiful beaches during the day. Then at night, we ate, we drank, and we danced. Island life is a beautiful life. Once everyone was healthy again, we spent the last 3 days on excursions. Friday, we hiked to Phi Phi Viewpoint. The hike was a struggle, but it was well worth it because the view was nothing short of breathtaking. This view can be added to the few events in my life that gave me the opportunity to be blown away by the vastness and beauty of the world.
Saturday was an all day adventure that made me constantly question how I woke up in this fantasy land. Alden, Cassie, Christina, Drew, Monique, and I took a longtail boat with 25 other people (I had no idea they could fit that many people) to a cliff, for CLIFF DIVING. We didn’t get a chance to mentally prep. The Captain stopped the boat and yelled, “go, go, go!” like the boat was on fire. I climbed approximately 30 feet, almost crawled back down, decided not to, and jumped. It was both exhilarating and painful. I would prefer to call if cliff sitting, because that is what I did. As we left, we saw monkeys all over the shore. We then went snorkeling. I can’t tell you the type of fish we saw, but they were very colorful. We then went to Maya Bay, where “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. Although I have not heard of this movie, I can easily see why a person would choose this island. BEAUTIFUL! The water was even clearer than the previous beaches. We watched the sun go down and then headed to our private beach party. Our boat entered a cave where there was music, a cookout, and a fire show. Following the fire show, we swam in the ocean in the dark to see glowing neon green algae. It was the coolest ending to an awesome day.
Sunday, our last full day, was spent scuba diving! We couldn’t have found a better diving company. They were friendly, flexible, and just enjoyable people. Our diving experience was very personal. Alden, Cassie, Christina, Jessica, two other divers, two instructors, and I took another longtail boat journey. We did a brief skills lesson and then dove into the ocean. I’m going to be honest, I was completely terrified. I had a rough time learning how to blow water out of my goggles and was convinced I was going to drown. But I couldn’t cry under water, because then water would be in my goggles, and then I would have to depend on my skills lesson. I was being too dramatic to really enjoy my first dive. We ate lunch on a private beach and I relaxed. The second dive was incredible! A million times better than the first. I didn’t have to constantly concentrate on breathing. The ocean is huge and beautiful! It really is a completely different world down there. We dove down about 50 feet and saw beautiful and exotic sea life, including SEA TURTLES! Diving is amazing!
October 16-19: Bangkok
The next day, we took the furry back to Krabi and took the inevitable 12-hour bus ride back to Bangkok. We did not ride VIP this time and I had a very sore bottom. I was aching for sleep. I was so relieved when we arrived in Bangkok. We spoiled ourselves in this city. We arrived at our 4.5 star hotel with a rainfall shower and a bed I never wanted to leave. Oh baby! I don’t want it to seem like I’m suffering in Lamphun, but I definitely appreciate luxury a little more these days.
That night, we ate Mexican food and then went to the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center. I was completely in my element. I have not been in an art scene for a very long time and I remembered that familiar feeling of being in a museum surrounded by beautiful works. This was my favorite place in Bangkok, no doubt.
In this crazy, loud city, we visited the beautiful Grand Palace, danced on the famous Khoa San Road, shopped, ate even more farang food, spent money on taxis and tuk tuks, and saw more temples. But mostly, we relaxed in our room and at the pool. I was impressed with our hotel but I wasn’t too impressed with the city. I love city life. I love the pace, people, architecture, and culture within a huge city. I didn’t feel like this in Bangkok. Perhaps because I didn’t know the places to be, but I felt like it was dirty, busy, and a foreigner money trap. I’m glad I spent some time in Bangkok while in Thailand, but I will be alright if I do not venture there again until my flight home.
We did and saw a lot. Thankfully, Thailand prices are cooperative with our modest stipends to allow this to happen; though we did have to give up the luxury of flying. Thinking back on everything, I am surprised how smoothly everything went. Planning a major cross-country vacation feels like a very “adult” thing to do and you have to consider so many things. Somehow accommodations, travel, and activities always managed to work. I was exceptionally exhausted, still have some sore body parts, and no cell phone, but we are home again, alive and intact. It’s good to be back in Lamphun where the people are friendly, the air is clean, and meals are less than a dollar.
My blog is titled, “If you do not jump, then you will not jump.” An impatient Thai man at the top of the cliff told me this as I considered climbing back down out of fear. His English was simple and the statement was very obvious. He was trying to make me stop thinking of all the risks and worries, just go for it. It made a lot of sense and sounded rather profound at the edge of a cliff. So I did it. I hurt myself pretty bad, but I’m definitely glad I jumped. I know it’s cheesy, but this is how I plan on tackling the next 4 months. I worry about finding motivation to teach, maintaining patience, missing more important happenings in America, and what in the world I am going to do with my life when I come home. If I stress, then I will undoubtedly not enjoy or appreciate my time here. I have to stop worrying, stop thinking of everything that could go wrong, and just push through. There may be painful events along the way, but I am extremely hopeful and positive that in the end, this year will be remembered as a rewarding and amazing growing experience.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson