thailand

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure Link-Up Adventure #3: Elephant Riding and Island Hopping

Since I’m still on vacation, Week 3 flew by with lots of adventures big and small to embrace. If you are new to my fifty-two weeks of adventure project, you can read my introduction post and Brenda (the original creator)’s blog for background. You can participate in this link-up by writing your own post about your adventure and mentioning/linking to this post. Then simply use the button at the bottom of this post to add your link to the collection. Be sure to check out the other links for inspiration from your fellow adventurers! As always, you can add a link here even if you didn’t participate last week or aren’t planning to do all 52-posts. This is a no-pressure zone.

Adventure #3 – Elephant Riding and Island Hopping

After Bangkok, we headed north to Chiang Mai. I was especially excited to see Chiang Mai since a dear friend of mine (and fabulous writer whose blog you should go read NOW) grew up as a missionary kid here. It’s a totally different perspective to look at everything and imagine my friend calling this place home and wondering what it must have been for this place to be home and yet to never fully belong to the people and the culture.

Chiang Mai is a nice place to visit because the Old City (where there are about a bajillion temples and lots of touristy things) is quite small- just 2km by 2km square – so it’s very walkable. It’s much smaller than Bangkok, so even though it’s become very touristy in the past few years it still gives visitors a better idea what life is like in Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is also very close to the border of Laos and Myanmar so it’s a popular stopover for people traveling to and from those countries.

Temple in Chiang Mai

Temple in Chiang Mai

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I was wearing shorts which was "disrespectful to the Buddha" so I got to wear this sweet Harry Potter robe instead.

I was wearing shorts which was “disrespectful to the Buddha” so I got to wear this sweet Harry Potter robe inside.

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The Buddhas I was disrespecting. I believe the sign said these were the Buddhas in the posture for preventing family members from fighting.

Pathway up to the mountain

Pathway up to the mountain temple

Temple on top of a mountain in Chiang Mai

Temple on top of a mountain in Chiang Mai

Our biggest adventure in Chiang Mai was probably elephant-riding. Elephants are some of my favorite animals. They are so expressive and beautiful and graceful in spite of their size. There are many places that offer elephant riding and shows in and around Chiang Mai, but we researched a lot to find a place that we felt wasn’t just exploiting the animals or treating them cruelly. The group we went with is actually an elephant rescue facility. Their elephants have been rescued from villages further north and across the border in Myanmar where they were being used for hard labor. The trainers at this camp only use verbal commands with their elephants – no hitting of any kind – and the elephants spend most of the day freely wandering around the camp, not tied up or in pens. Tourists come in and ride them for 30-45 minutes a day and you ride bareback, not on one of those chairs which are bad for the elephant’s back. These elephants are not taught to do tricks like painting or any other unnatural elephant behaviors.  I know there are people who feel like riding elephants at all is exploitative and I understand that, but we felt like this was a once in a lifetime experience and the money we paid for the experience went to paying the caretakers and providing food for the elephants who all seemed very happy.

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Our elephant was a spunky 14-year-old female named Pui Pui. Like most teenagers, she mostly wanted to not listen and eat everything in sight. We had many (terrifying) moments when she charged off the path to pull a small tree up by its roots and munch on it. 🙂

See where that other elephant is down in the corner? That's where we were supposed to be at this point...

See where that other elephant is down in the corner? That’s where we were supposed to be at this point…

The only thing she seemed to like more than eating was bath time. What a cutie!

The only thing she seemed to like more than eating was bath time. What a cutie!

Another popular attraction in Chiang Mai is the Tiger Kingdom where you can pet and play with tigers of all ages. While it killed me to miss an opportunity to pet a tiger cub (I would have died with happiness), we felt like this was more exploitative as these animals are all bred in captivity for the sole purpose of being a tourist attraction. I was a little disappointed since tigers are so awesome, but ultimately I think we made the right decision.

While in Chiang Mai we also took a Thai cooking class that was delicious and loads of fun. We ended up being the only people who signed up for our time slot so it was a private class. We each learned to make 5 dishes. This was especially entertaining to me since Jonathan doesn’t cook at all. If you follow me on Instagram you’ve probably already seen some of these pictures. My favorite dishes were the khao soi and the mango sticky rice.

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From Chiang Mai we flew down to Krabi on the south coast of Thailand for some beach time. We are staying at Ao Nang Beach and did a day trip out to some of the nearby islands and other beaches. It’s achingly, breathtakingly beautiful here. Today is our final day in Krabi and tomorrow we leave Thailand and fly to Singapore for a few days before heading back home to cold, gray Korea.

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Maya Beach, only accessible by boat and most famous for being where the movie The Beach was shot (although that's not a particularly good or well-known movie). As you can see, it was VERY crowded, but still stunning. This photo is a raw image - no editing at all - that's how vivid the colors are by themselves.

Maya Beach, only accessible by boat and most famous for being where the movie The Beach was shot (although that’s not a particularly good or well-known movie). As you can see, it was VERY crowded, but still stunning. This photo is a raw image – no editing at all – that’s how vivid the colors are by themselves.

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Look at that stud! At Railay Beach

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There’s nothing more satisfying than a coconut on a hot day.

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Pranang Beach (or Phranang – I’ve seen it both ways)

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Food Boats! Like food trucks that float.

Food Boats! Like food trucks that float.

Seeing places like this makes me feel overwhelmed with gratitude that such beauty exists and that I get the opportunity to see it. This afternoon we were swimming in this crystal clear water beside these limestone cliffs and I grabbed my husband and said, “Look around! We need to remember this moment forever!” Because there will be days when Korea is freezing and our students are little brats and our coworkers are making life difficult. There will be moments when we are back in the USA when we are stressing about getting the car fixed and paying our rent. There may be moments someday in the (distant) future when we have a baby that keeps us up all night crying and we can’t believe how exhausted we are. But these moments we are sharing here now can never be taken away. And I hope that in the mundane, stressful, and even exhausting days in our lives we can look back on these moments and remember that the world is so much bigger than whatever our current problem is. I hope these moments can be a reminder that we have been given a life filled with more beauty than we deserve. And if I’m ever having trouble seeing that in the present, I hope I can look back to these moments and remember that all of life is a gift.

What were your adventures this week? Click on the button to add your link below or to view other bloggers’ posts. As always, this link-up is available for one week.

Fifty-Two Weeks of Adventure Link-up Adventure #2: Visiting Bangkok

I can’t believe it’s already time for my Week 2 adventure! If you didn’t catch last week’s introduction to my fifty-two weeks of adventure project, go check it out here. Also, be sure to check out Brenda (the original creator)’s blog about her week’s adventure and the blogs that were added to last week’s link-up (you can find these by visiting last week’s post and clicking on the button at the bottom of the page). Like last week, this is a link-up. If you have an adventure to share, you can add your link by clicking the button at the end of the post. You can also see other people’s links by clicking that button. You can add your link here even if you didn’t participate last week. There is no pressure to do all fifty-two posts.

So, on to Adventure #2. This week I got to visit Bangkok, Thailand for the first time. We have two weeks of vacation from school right now and wanted to travel somewhere warm and exotic and cheap. Thailand wins on all three counts.

One of the first things that struck me about Bangkok was how strange it felt to be in a place that was both tropical and a big city. I’ve been to places with a distinctly tropical feel (like Bali) and I’ve been to plenty of big cities (Seoul for example) but I think this was the first time I’ve been to a huge city that also has such a distinctly tropical feel.

While in Bangkok we got to meet up with a friend of Jonathan’s from high school who has been teaching in Bangkok for the past few years. It was great to see a friendly face and get some inside advice on what to see and how to get around.

with Rachel in Bangkok

Our first night in Bangkok we actually found a restaurant that had s’mores you could cook at your table. I know – it’s weird that we went to Thailand to get s’mores – but Jonathan and I realized that our experience traveling there as expats is so different than it would be if we’d come from the US. Because we live abroad and don’t have access to a lot of familiar foods and other things, finding some of these things in Bangkok was a treat. For example, I freaked out when I found a Sephora at one of the ENORMOUS malls that are a huge attraction in Bangkok and wanted to buy everything, but restrained myself to two Nyx matte lip creams and two of their butter glosses – if you haven’t tried these, get them. They are the best! And only like $6 in America. (Also, OK, I admit that I only restricted myself to two because they only had two colors in stock…)

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S’mores over hot coals with homemade graham crackers, bananas, strawberries, apples, chocolate sauce, and butterscotch sauce. We ate every single bite.

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Don’t worry, we’ve also been eating loads of pad thai and curry and all that good stuff.:)

We finished the night with a trip to the Red Sky Bar, one of many rooftop bars at the top of some of Bangkok’s tallest buildings. It was kind of surreal and totally beautiful.

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While in Bangkok we also checked out some of the main tourist attractions – namely the Grand Palace and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn). We traveled by boat to the Grand Palace and then took a ferry across the river to Wat Arun for a mere 10 cents.

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Wat Arun, an incredibly old temple with a terrifyingly steep staircase.

Wat Arun, an incredibly old temple with a terrifyingly steep staircase.

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Aforementioned steep staircase

Aforementioned steep staircase

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Made it to the top and struck a pose.

Made it to the top and struck a pose.

Yesterday we traveled to Chiang Mai in the northern part of Thailand, so next week’s adventure will take place here and [spoiler alert] will likely include elephants.

Jonathan and I keep looking at each other and asking, “Is this real life?” The travel we’ve been able to do from Korea has been such a gift and we are truly, deeply thankful for the opportunity.

What fabulous adventures have you been having this week?

*To participate in the link-up simply write your post, mention that you are joining this link-up and add a link to THIS post. Then use the button below to add your post to the link-up. This link-up will be open for one week.