It was a busy traveling Christmas and I will try to give the highlights, the lowlights and the afterthoughts here.
Mark arrived on Dec. 15th, just a day after I got out of school. We enjoyed being lazy and catching up the first weekend and on Monday night (Thailand time) he had to start working to keep his day job (US time). He really struggles with this but has learned to have frequent eat and drink breaks and take a lunch break at midnight to get through. We got to meet up with some of the friends he had met before they left for holiday break and went to church on Sunday and enjoyed the Christmas music and service.
The next weekend the company started to roll in-Doreen and Bob’s Dallas to Hong Kong flight (on American Airlines-argh) turned into a long wait at the DFW airport followed by a flight to Doha on Quatar airways and then on to Bangkok the next morning. They had a day of “rest” before we caught our flight to Chiang Mai. Krista also arrived that weekend with her new boyfriend, Jared. We already knew they wouldn’t make their Bangkok connection so we bought them new tickets and all 6 of us managed to arrive in Chiang Mai on Sunday–too bad Bob and Doreen’s luggage didn’t!
Chiang Mai is a beautiful old city in the north of Thailand and we chose it for its beauty, cool weather and proximity to the elephant rescue farm. Christmas eve saw us in a van bound for the elephant farm and even though it took most of our day, no one was sorry to have the experience. The family who rescues the elephants gave us lots of info about these enormous animals-no tear ducts (therefore the “crying” eyes we see in photos), vegetarians that poop every hour, they sweat only through their toenails and they need to walk uphill and in the water to keep the toenails short and healthy, daily scrubbing helps their health too. The elephants and trainers were so friendly and gentle and we really enjoyed seeing both the babies and the giants.
Doreen, Mark, Deanna and Jared ended up taking a short ride on the adults while Krista and Bob hung out with the babies (Krista had fallen in love with the babies on our last trip there) and, as my son says “Mom, you love speed”! We all met up at the river where we “got” to get in the dirty water and scrub them. We had a hot, wet, exhausting, dirty day and loved every minute of it. Some of the other highlights in Chiang Mai were the great thai massages we got (twice!), the many modes of transportation we managed to cram into–taxi, scooter, song taew (red open-backed pickups) with 2 bench seats, and the local specialty khao soi (basically a chicken soup with yellow curry). We found each place we tried it had a different twist but we loved them all. Oh and I can’t forget my favorite, mango and sticky rice (typically a dessert) but served at our hotel for breakfast. Who doesn’t want to start the day with mango, rice and sweet coconut cream–yummmm!
After another night in Chiang Mai (Bob did get a suitcase but Doreen didn’t) we got in another van and headed for Pai. This is the small city close to Myanmar (Burma) where Bob’s boys had had some of their best times in Thailand. They are famous for the 762 turns it takes to get there, good coffee, rice paddies, markets and buddhas. There was also a waterfall but we didn’t manage to get up to it. Sometimes a girl just has to rest! It was really cool (60s) in Pai morning and evening so we really wasted our money on the place with the pool-but I did manage to take a few cool photos of it.
Back in Bangkok we took time to read the Christmas story, sing some songs and go around the Christmas tree. This was a Danish tradition that my mother loved and would ask us to do with her every year (with mixed success) and it was my teary tribute to her. I think we all struggle to put our blessings and challenges in perspective and this year was no different. We had health concerns, job anxiety, relationship stress and yet we all agreed that we felt blessed to be together and share these wonderful experiences.
Our last day was spent touring Bangkok from a riverboat and having an early New Year’s dinner.