1. Temples- we visited many famous temples. From the ancient to the more modern white temple. There are over 20,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand. Thai people take their spirituality seriously and this could be seen by all of the flowers, gifts, and prayers that were given at the temples daily. I said my share of prayers throughout Thailand practicing all of their customs. I received a blessed bracelet, went through a ritual ending in hitting a gong many times, and added a prayer to the white temple prayer trees. The last day I was in Thailand was a religious holiday in Thailand. It was a Monday and almost apocalyptic feeling to Bangkok because the traffic was ultra light and shops were closed. Not nearly as many people all over (in a city of 12 million). Most were with their families or at a temple. Gold Buddha's could be found all over.
2. Floating Market- ahhh the floating market. One thing better than the floating market was the boat ride to and from. The water in Bangkok was nasty to say the list. It was littered, clearly dirty and smelled. The low traditional Thai boat we got on to go to the market took us along this dirty river and sprayed us multiple times all over with that dirty water. If you looked around the boat most of us were using whatever we could find (wipes, bags, etc) to cover our nose and mouths. We would often laugh at each other and you would here people going "oh no I just got hit in the eye". Many of us said it would be a miracle if we didn't catch anything. Especially me since I was missing half of my big toe nails and water got in the boat slopping over my bare feet. The best part was we saw children swimming and bathing in that same river! The floating market was partially on water partially on land. It was very hot and stinking and crowded but it was an experience to remember.
3. We went into the mountains and stopped at this one spot where tons of monkeys swarmed about and you could by a bag of peanuts for 40 bahts and feed the monkeys. These monkeys were like kids they knocked each other over fighting for the peanuts and half of them had a baby monkey on their backs or trying to feed from the mother. They would pull on the back of your shorts to make sure you didn't forget about the ones behind you. It was hilarious. They reminded me of a bunch of kids. And they were piggies.
4. We went to Myanmar (the old Burma) and Laos for about a half day. Crazy places! The street markets were insane and the poverty was very sad. We visited a nunnery for girls were left homeless, a Buddhist temple were boy monks were getting ready for lunch (Myanmar monks are very shy unlike the monks in Thailand), and we visited an orphanage. The orphanage was incredibly sad to me. We also walked the streets near the orphanage and got to see and hear about what life was like for the people of Myanmar. All I will say about it is that people who are poor in the US are rich compared to the general population of people in Thailand, Myanmer, and Laos. I was glad to have had the opportunity to see these parts of the country. I had brought some school and art supplies plus I stole the shampoo and conditioners/lotions from each hotel I had been in and gave them to the people on the street and to the kids in the orphanage.
5. While in Myanmar we took our first tuk tuk ride. Totally crazy and fun. No seat belts. You just have to hold on. I later took a tuk tuk ride with another couple I got to know and we went and got tattoos.
6. I think we used all modes of transportation while we were in Thailand. We rode on open trucks, farm trucks, tuk tuks, and multiple different kinds of boats. The farm trucks drove us to lunch in the middle of know where one day. I met some really cute kids that I wanted to take home with me. Also got suckered into buying a coloring book page from one of the kids- I'm pretty sure I got scammed and the parent did the coloring but what can you do when a tiny cute kid comes up to you wanting you to buy it. I'm pretty sure they needed that 5 bahts (like 10cents) more than I did. This was perhaps my weakness on the trip. Kids begging for money. Everything I read and what I was told was not to give them money but like I said before the 5 or 10 bahts I gave them along the way was nothing to me and probably the world to them. Or at least helped to pay for a meal or rent.
7. I and a few others chose to ride our bikes through this large temple area. I was craving the exercise. It was fun but quite a hot humid afternoon. My friend picked on me because my back was clearly soaked with sweat after that trip. Like I said- in order to enjoy Thailand you have to first embrace that you will be sweaty all of the time.
8. One morning we took a trip to a rural area to visit three villages with one being the longneck village. This is where the woman start from age 7 (though some of the kids I saw with rings didn't look older than 4 or 5) and have rings soldered to their necks. More are added through the years and this is seen as prestigious and beautiful to their village. What it actually does to their body is another story. One ring we saw weighed 15 lbs!!! This woman lived with that on her neck day in and day out. The rings don't stretch the neck what they do is continually push the shoulders lower and lower. Unbelievable...
9. The street markets- oh my! It's so hard to explain them if you've never been there. I went to many night markets (in Chaing Mai) it was right outside of our hotel which was pretty cool. Starting at 5 or 6pm people would pop up vendor stations all over. They were 4 deep before you even got to the built in stores. Then you would walk down the street aways and you would see an entire side street that went into a large covered market and it was overwhelming with the amount of vendors there. Many were selling the same things. Some were homemade goods many were cheap or knock offs. Every where you went people bothered you to buy things. And everything was sooo inexpensive that you'd want to. I got a cute shirt for 100 bahts (like 3 bucks). And you barter for everything. If you don't barter you will get ripped off and buy ripped off I mean you would make someone's day buy paying the asking price of 250 bahts for that same shirt. Bargaining all of the time got a bit annoying at times but you do get use to it. My friend bought a ton of stuff. I didn't. Usually I just buy one thing that I really like when I travel but because it was so cheap I did buy something for my family and friends.
10. The elephant ride!- What I had been waiting for this trip for. Elephants are amazing animals. They are smart, talented, powerful and yet very gentle. They also have their own personalities and some are quite funny. At the elephant sanctuary I went to there was 71 elephants ranging from babies to elephants that were over 50 years old. I went on an elephant ride which was fun if a bit bumpy. I expected that to be the highlight, but perhaps the best parts were the elephant show and getting kissed and hugged by elephants. I bought some bananas and fed the elephants. Then the workers waved you closer and pulled you in between the elephants. The elephants would wrap their trunks around you or go for face and give you a big wet slobbery kiss. It was the weirdest feeling knowing you were standing right next to these powerful animals and then seeing their trunks coming right at your face. They suction their trunk tips to your cheek and then let loose. They leave quite the muddy residue on your face. It was so wonderful and gross all at the same time. The elephant show was pretty darn awesome too. You watched elephants play soccer, spin hoola hoops, play the harmonica, and my personal favorite paint pictures! I bought a painting from an elephant which was my one big souvenir I got for myself.
11. I spent the morning with the elephants and the afternoon at a tiger sanctuary. You got to go in with the tigers and have your picture taken with them and you could lay on them. My pictures totally show how uncomfortable I was being around them. I'd rather be around an elephant. I went in the cage with the little ones and big ones. I was actually discriminated against at the beginning because the business didn't want me to go in with the big ones. They said that I was to small and that the big tigers would see me as a friend and want to play with me. I had my tour guide talk to them and in the end they let me go at my own risk (which really you sign off on the entire experience as it's all a risk). They just told me that if a tiger started to stare at me the trainers may ask me to leave as that meant the tiger wanted to play with me. This was a fun experience but I never got totally comfortable with them. That's probably a good thing. One did start to stare at me so I hid behind my friend Libby out of their view.
12. My last adventure was not an expected one. I ended up getting a tattoo. I'd been thinking about getting another one for a long time now. I just couldn't decide what I wanted and where I wanted it. In the end I went with two tattoos (both elephants and put them on either side of my previous tattoo). Its a personal thing. Many people think I got the tattoo as an impulsive move to remind me of Thailand but that's not the case. I went with elephants because of the meaning and symbolism they have and it felt appropriate to mark everything I've gone through in the past few years. It's a reminder of what a strong yet caring person I am.
13. On the first full day in Thailand we offered the opportunity to watch a "lady boy" show. We of course jumped on that opportunity. It was different from what we thought. It had sounded like it was going to be a drag show but instead was men who had fully transitioned to women and they performed somewhat of a dance show to music and lip singing. All I can say is that most of the lady boys were more attractive than me which was a bit depressing. I also have to tell you that the time zone change (13 hours ahead of my normal time zone) had finally caught up to me and I may have did the "nod out" once or twice during the show.
14. The last dinner together. We were invited to have dinner with a local Thai family. It was a mother and her son. They were considered middle class and had a beautiful home. The woman had two sons but one resided in Bangkok and the other lived with her, was a chef and local restaurants. They were so nice to us all. They welcomed us into their home, showed us around, let us pet their puppies, and gave us a cooking demonstration and goody bag before feeding us a 4 course meal. Then after showing us around their home they took us outside in the yard and we let off the giant lanterns. We had to think of negative things that were bothering us or on our minds and then release the lantern which was symbolic for letting go of the negativity. It was such a beautiful sight in the darkness and a great way to end our trip.