In July of 2011 I found myself on a plane departing from Los Angeles International Airport to Bangkok, Thailand. From there I would take another plane to the northern city of Chiang Mai to meet my friend Shade and her family. Shade lived in Thailand for four years before moving back to California, so she knew the city well. My first couple of days was most difficult as I was adjusting to the humidity, culture shock, and time difference. Chiang Mai held adventure at every turn, so exploring it in a tuk-tuk, their version of taxis, was quite a priviledge. Although the city holds large buildings and houses, once you go past the limits you are greeted by lush, green hills and rivers cutting through here and there.
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My favorite thing to do in the city was attend the bustling night markets, where items from fruit to umbrellas were sold. Shopkeepers also sold handmade tools and wooden knickknacks for the locals or for visitors.
While in Thailand I also visited the gorgeous, small town of Pai. In Pai we stayed in a small, cottage-like hotel on a river; the town was about two miles long. At night the entire town sprang into a night market, which was delightful to shop at. In the morning we went on a four-hour river rafting expedition through the jungles adjacent to Pai. At one point we were allowed to float beside the boat, and as the rain slightly drizzled upon my face I felt the meaning of joy. From Pai, we drove up north through little towns experimenting with their food and culture. In one town bordering the river across from both Laos and Myanmar we rented bikes and rode for the night. The next morning we went off to a place where many Americans have never gone, Myanmar, formally known as Burma. In Myanmar, we went through markets and eventually found a tiny restaurant where we had lunch. I can by far say that Burmese food is the most amazing food I’ve ever tried. Although I was hesitant at first, I will never regret going to that restaurant. After a day in Myanmar, we traveled back to our home in Chiang Mai.
My experience driving up north through Thailand was one I will never forget. I met many people who were very kind to me and the nature I encountered was breathtaking. Although it was only a small part of my four-week trip, it was life-changing and really opened my eyes up to the beauty that lies in our Earth. Once back in Chiang Mai, I experienced many more breathtaking experiences, such as riding an elephant. I was able to ride the elephant along with my friend through parts of Chiang Mai and then into a river, where I swam with it. After the hour tour I was able to feed the elephant and spend time with her. I also was able to meet and play with a baby tiger at a rescue shelter. For my entire life, animals have always inspired me, so these memories were some I would never forget. One amazing thing I was also able to do was visit the holiest temple in all of Thailand and be blessed by a monk. I was then able to attend a 48-hour meditation retreat where I cleansed my soul.
All in all, my trip through Thailand was life-changing and I sincerely hope one day to go back and possibly live there. The culture is inspiring and the people are wonderful, not to mention the spectacular scenery. I had a blast!
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