After leaving Koh Samui, we flew up north to Chiang Mai. Here we enjoyed the amazing experience of Songkran or the Thai New Year festival. Thai people believe in the cleansing power of water. So much so that they spend three days at the beginning of the year literally pouring water all over each other! Businesses close their doors, people infiltrate the streets, the volume knob on the party music increases and the water guns fill up. Chaos ensues. Adults and children alike revel in sneaking up on each other with buckets and dousing the old year away. It is an exciting celebration that generally reflects the spirit of Thai people: joyful and fun-loving.
In Chiang Mai, we also had the pleasure of meeting elephants and tigers at two wonderful sanctuaries: Maetaman Elephant Camp and Tiger Kingdom. Both places work to preserve these animals by giving them a comfortable and safe place to live and be taken care of. Everyone thinks I’m insane for petting a tiger, but my inner crazy cat lady was beyond thrilled to be so close to such a majestic feline.
Lastly, we visited Ban Nam Jai (“Home of the Open Heart” in English), a home for orphans based in Chiang Rai. My husband has done some work for them in the past and he was excited to show me the fence he helped build and introduce me to the wonderful couple that runs the home. We sat down with them to discover their greatest needs (both financially and otherwise) and we look forward to staying connected with them in the future and helping in any way we can. It is important to be reminded that the world does not, in fact, revolve around us like we so often think it does.
I would be remiss to not mention some favorite Thai dishes of mine: pineapple fried rice, Pad See Ewe (a noodle dish commonly served with chicken) and mango sticky rice, a dessert consisting of sliced mangos and sweet rice with coconut milk. If I’m being honest, I went a little nuts with the mango sticky rice. Because you can rarely find this delicious dessert dish stateside, I bought it every time I had the chance. And I do mean EVERY time I had the chance, sometimes multiple times a day. I have no regrets.
We have checked Thailand off of our list, but we have a long way to go before we are close to being done experiencing that corner of the world! Here’s to many more Eastern adventures!