March 14th, 2011 :: 6 comments

We took a couple of weeks off in February for a much-needed vacation. We’ve been trying to challenge ourselves the past couple of years to take larger trips further from home so we were happy to be able to continue the trend with this one. We went to Thailand. We started our trip in Bangkok. I did the usual research on the language and culture, but there really isn’t a way to prepare for the culture shock of a trip like this. We woke up bright and early our first morning to the sounds of street vendors setting up for the day. We assumed we would be exhausted after twenty hours of flying, but we were ready to explore. Our first venture, the Reclining Buddha, was just a few blocks away from our hotel.

There really wasn’t a way to blend in with a six foot red head in Thailand, so we were immediately taken for a ride by a tuk tuk driver. He told us he would take us to see all the major sites in the area. That turned out to be all the local businesses owned by his friends and family. We were so glad to have a real guide who spoke the language for the rest of our trip.  We had “tourist” written all over us!

Most people in Thailand are of smaller stature, which worked out well for me. I was actually on the tall side. Dustin on the other hand, had a bit of an adjustment. Fortunately he only hit his head once the entire trip.

The next day we spent the morning at the Floating market. It was once an easy way to trade goods, but is now more for local businesses to sell to tourists. Nonetheless, it was still pretty cool. Our guide got us there bright and early, which worked out in our favor. Right as we were leaving the boats were at a standstill due to gridlock.

We then drove south to Bann Makha, far away from other tourists or, for that matter, anyone that spoke English. We met up with two local men, who were later introduced to us as our wildlife guides. They did not speak much when we first met. Around this time Dustin and I remembered that we saw very few reviews of our tour company online when we were doing our research. We thought, maybe they don’t have reviews…because all their customers never made it back home! As we settled into our cabin that afternoon, we started to hear loud banging outside. Dustin half jokingly said they were building our coffins. In good faith, we left the cabin to see what they were doing. Thankfully, they were only putting together the seats in the back of the pickup that would be our transportation for the next few days. We were a bit calmer after that.

Our new guides quickly grew on us. They were a father and son team who were hunters turned wildlife tour guides. They quickly helped us find a family of Dusky Langurs on our first trip into the wilderness. The babies were easy to spot.

The next day we went on a five mile hike in very humid weather, but we were rewarded with a song from a few gibbons. The video is very shaky since I shot it with my handheld camera.

After roughing it for a few days, we were ready to relax. We took a boat to Koh Talu Island. We had no idea what to expect. It was gorgeous. I had been battling severe allergies for a few days, but refused to let it ruin my trip. I went snorkeling, figuring you don’t really use your nose for that anyways. That night I dreamed  of the ocean.

There was so much good on this trip there had to be some moments of discomfort. These pictures are not related, by the way! I don’t think I ever figured out the toilet system and many were not as clean as this picture. Throughout the trip I also had a major allergic reaction to something and broke out in hives. It started on my hands and feet and by the end of the trip was making it’s way up to my shoulders and knees. I refused to go to the hospital and miss out on anything. I found wonderful topical medicines that I’m sure are illegal in the United States that helped with the itching.

The people, culture, and religion in Thailand are so beautiful. The little boy has a traditional haircut.

We got tons of wildlife shots that our guides were super excited about. We met a few avid bird watchers that had set up camp just to take a picture of this bird. The next picture was taken in the Doi Suthep temple, in Chiang Mai. I found Chiang Mai to be very peaceful and spiritual. I learned a lot about the Buddhist faith and about moderation and tolerance.

While driving to our next hiking location, we met up with a clan of stump-tailed macaque. The alpha males were a bit aggressive while the smaller males, females and babies waited in the background.  We were amazed at how human they looked.  I swear you can see emotion in their eyes.

It was one of the best trips we have ever taken. We felt sad leaving after so many wonderful experiences, but grateful that we had the opportunity to be there. I was originally worried we wouldn’t see enough temples or man made structures since the trip was based on wildlife, but I feel like we experienced a great deal of what Thailand is really all about.


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