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Thailand 1A • June 13-July 5, 2017

Diving the Depths of Thailand

July 1, 2017

Planes, trains, buses, and ferries. Travelling from Chiang Rai to Ko Tao was quite an adventure. We started off early in the morning on a flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok. We were greeted in the capital city with open arms by our tour guide Nina. She had a tour bus ready (air conditioned) to take us around for a few hours before our evening train. Although we only had a short time in Bangkok, we certainly saw a lot that the city had to offer. We spent two hours touring the Grand Palace – one of the iconic sites in Bangkok. In October 2016, King Rama VIII passed away after 70+ years of reigning. A widely beloved king, you will still see many Thai citizens dressed in all black mourning his death. His body is kept in the Grand Palace while an elaborate crematorium is being built on the grounds. Once the structure is finished, they will cremate his body and subsequently destroy the crematorium. Nina was a wealth of information and answered all our questions about his reign and all the Ramas before him. In the Grand Palace, we visited a few museums (air conditioned) and the famous Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha is about 2 feet high x 1 foot wide and people from all over the world travel to see it. We visited during the summer months, so the Emerald Buddha was wearing its ‘summer dress’. There are three seasons in Thailand: summer, winter, and rainy; and the King comes to change and dress the Emerald Buddha every season. After touring the Grand Palace, we split into two groups and took an hour-long boat ride down the Chao Phraya river on traditional Thai long boats. This was a great way to see the city life along the river. We grabbed a quick dinner near the bus station, where Merak brought up everyone’s tired spirits as he danced to a local band on the street. Soon everyone joined in and busted a few moves before loading back on the bus. 


This was the first train ride for many students. McAuley was ecstatic about the overnight train and how everyone’s individual seats turned into beds within minutes. A few went to bed early and others stayed up into the wee hours playing cards. We arrived into the station at about 4 am and loaded onto a bus that took us to the ferry. At this point, spirits were quite high as we all were on the top of the ferry soaking in the ocean breeze. Shortly after we stepped on to Ko Tao we fell into island time and settled into our beach bungalows for 5 nights. Our dive shop was a two-minute walk from our bungalows and the Gulf of Thailand about two steps. A well-deserved long stay after a wild travel day. 


Our first two days of scuba diving superseded expectations. Those that were getting their Open Water Certifications had class in the mornings and then the full Moondance team went out in the afternoon to dive. The guides were incredible – we were split into four groups, each with a dive master. They were from all over the world: Spain, France, England, Scotland, and Germany, but all had fallen in love with the ocean and now reside in Ko Tao, Thailand. The Open Water students did two dives a day – one to review skills and the other a fun dive. Suzanne was a quick learner and showed off her new scuba skills within minutes of being in the water. She was also ecstatic about the pineapple and biscuits on board after each dive. Ella V was a scuba prodigy as well and by the end was doing flips underwater, as she loved the feeling of weightlessness and the blue around her. Drew had a knack for observing and identifying ocean wildlife. He was always able to find the sting rays and barracudas hidden in the coral reefs. 


Each night, our group would walk into town for dinner. A big favorite was a restaurant called Ying Yang that had great Thai food and curries. The town was quite quaint and everyone enjoyed walking around, stopping at a few shops to get remaining souvenirs for loved ones. Back at our beach bungalows, Paige used our new scuba friend’s iPod to play music as everyone sat on Adirondack chairs looking out onto the ocean. It was the perfect way to end a long day and reflect on the crazy experiences we’ve had the past few weeks. 


On the third day, the team woke up early to set off to a new dive cite called The South West Pinnacle about an hour away from our bungalows. Owen helped the sleepy Moondance crew prepare a PB&J and granola breakfast up on the third story of the ship. We discovered that spreading peanut butter (and some surprise Nutella) is much more difficult on a rocking boat then on dry land. Everyone happily licked their fingers and shared the treats with our scuba guides. Newly certified Elaina quickly assembled her gear hoisting the heavy gear with impressive dexterity. Elaina, Anne, and Owen hopped from the boat into the water to join their guide Andrés. Along with many of the guides, Andrés fell in love with the underwater world around ‘turtle island.’ He commented that the scuba industry is booming more than ever, which is great news for the PADI program. Ko Tao specifically is a scuba diving hot spot due to its diverse oceanic wildlife and warm waters. Frank Joswig was the instructor assigned to the student team aiming to earn their Advanced Diver certification. We inquired about his diving history and he responded that he stopped counting after five thousand dives, but believes he has logged over nine thousand hours underwater! Brighton, Lacey, and Ellie were on the Advanced Diver team. While the Open Water students enjoyed their ‘fun dive,’ the Advanced Divers geared up for their deep dive. This adventure took them down to 30 meters. Tagging along, I was amazed by the student’s bravery and attention to detail as they implemented the skills taught by Frank. After a successful dive, we all came together on the boat for pineapple, tea, biscuits, and a sunscreen break before returning to the beach for lunch. That afternoon the students read books, swam out to the reef, lounged in hammocks by the beach and sat in the Adirondack chairs enjoying the view. Meanwhile, the Advanced Diver team prepared for the night dive. At 6:30pm Brighton, Lacey and Ellie went back to the boat to dive in an area called Hin Ngham. Flashlights in hand, floating through the darkness with Frank, we saw stingrays, cuttlefish, pale pink ghost eyed fish, and an assortment of marine life that creeps out from their dark cracks only at night. We ended on a high! Our last day in Ko Tao was spent diving around the sunken remains of the HTMS Sattakurt: an American made war ship given to Thailand, which was purposely sunk for scuba divers. The students loved swimming through the wreck with the massive schools of fish. Later that afternoon everyone spent their last hours soaking in the sunshine and beautiful gulf views. We ate lunch in town at the Sandwich Lady, threw the Frisbee on the beach, and finished the last gripping chapters of our books. Paige, Merak, Ellie, and Drew spent an hour getting pampered and stretched by local Thai masseuses. We ended our day eating dinner on the deck of a restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. What an adventure we’ve had so far… off to Krabi Beach for some rock climbing and sadly the last section of our trip. 

-Joanie & Ben

Ellie: “Hey guys! Trip is almost over and I’m sad to leave but can’t wait to see everyone! I’m officially an advanced scuba diver and ready to explore new waters! Can’t wait to tell y’all everything. Love you!”

McAuley: “Hey family! I can’t believe how fast this trip has gone by! I’m a certified scuba diver now wohoo! Can’t wait to tell you all about it. Someone check on Benjamin for me and let him know I miss him! Love and miss you all much! See you soon!”

Owen: “Hey mom and dad! I had such a fun time scuba diving in Koh Tao! so am having so much fun and sad to leave! Can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get home. See you soon!”

Merak: “Hey guys. The trip is coming to an end soon and I can’t wait to see you but I’m kinda sad I’m leaving soon. I can’t wait to tell you all about the scuba.”

Suzanne: “Scuba diving was incredible – I can’t wait to show y’all all the pictures. I am having so much fun, but can’t wait to see y’all. I hope y’all are having fun at the beach! See you soon.”

Drew: “Hey Mom and Dad. Final stretch of the trip. See y’all soon!”

Paige: “Hey y’all. I’m still saying y’all and loving every dog I see but can’t wait to see Weagles and Jackson and of course you guys! Hugs.”

Lacey: “Hi momma hi father Bean! Hey meggers! Living it up in Thailand, more like eating my way through it :). Tel grammy and papa I say hi and I miss them! Tell Froo I hope to see her soon! Love you girls! Ps- tell weenky and gus I said what’s up.”

Elaina: “Scuba diving was so much fun, it was a little scary but I was safe. I saw a lot of cool fish and can’t wait to show y’all the pictures! See y’all soon!”

Brighton: “Only a few days left here in Thailand and it’s been amazing. We finished scuba diving and are now back to rock climbing. I’ll see you guys in a few days. See you soon.”

Ella V: “I miss y’all so much! Scuba diving was so awesome, I loved it! Can’t wait to see you in a few short days and tel you all about it! Love, love, love you!!”

Anne: “Hey mom and dad and finn! I got a new Thai look… I hope you like it! See ya in the airport :)!”

Climbing, Caving & Exploring Chiang Mai

June 24, 2017

Sanuk mak mak!

The team headed off to Crazy Horse buttress for the rappel and first rock climbing portion of our trip. We arrived at CMRCA’s (our outfitter) base of operations only 45 minutes after leaving Chang Mai and got to work fitting into our harnesses and helmets. After our safety briefing the group split in to two teams. Team one spent the morning rock climbing the five different lines of different difficulties set up by CMRCA and team two hiked up into the caves of the mountain to attempt a 55 meter rappel down into the darkness of the cavern below. The lip of the cave entrance dropped off into darkness concealing the massive scale of the cavern. Elaina was the first to attempt the decent and confidently trusted her weight to the rope as she bounded down the rocky face of the cave wall. Her bravery inspired the others to do the same. Ella V. showcased skills like a special ops Marine: smoothly zipping down the free hanging portion of the rappel. Anne showed impressive bravery as she took her turn descending into the cavern. Once everyone had descended we hiked down and out through a small crevice in the cave wall and met the other group back at base camp for a nourishing box lunch.

After fueling up our bellies and filling up our water bottles the groups switched activities and we walked to the rock climbing walls. I was genuinely impressed by the skill and athleticism showcase by our team. Brighton and Drew made easy work of the first three of the five lines, then after a few attempts dispatched the second hardest of the rock faces. The group even spent a good hour attempting to conquer the final and most difficult rock face. Using trial and error, communicating different strategies and cheering each other on Brighton made it 3/4 of the way up backed by a chorus of “PUSH IT!” below. Not bad at all for a group of self proclaimed novices.

That afternoon buzzing from the accomplishments of the day we bussed ten minutes to the Hot Springs Lodge where we spent the late afternoon relaxing, washing up and soaking our feet in the sulfur springs. The first day was just the warm up, the plan was to apply our rock climbing and rappelling skills we honed the first day to the more intense cave exploration on the second day. We started by climbing up to the edge of the maw of the cavern. The opening had a diameter of around 150 yards and was 40 meters deep from the edge where we were standing to the bottom. The bottom was totally obscured by darkness. The students had two options: they could either rappel down the slope of the cavern wall using their legs to help judge their surroundings or they could carefully edge their way to a rocky overhang and rappel themselves down into the cavern without touching the cave wall at all. Merak instantly chose the latter, the more unnerving of the two, encouraging the others to push themselves and face their fears. Once the team reached the bottom we found ourselves in a seemingly alien environment. Other then the thin beam of light trickling in from above we were in absolute darkness. The air was eerily still. It was totally silent other then the distant sound of leathery wings. We flashed on the head lamps on or helmets to show sparkling stalactites and stalagmites growing all around us. McAuley led the charge into the cave eagerly following our guides. We spent two and a half hours down there checking out the different areas of the cave, learning about its geology and inspecting the critters that lived there. We used our rock climbing skills to exit the cave the way we came in, up the rock face we rappelled down hours before. Once at the top we discovered that CMRCA had rigged a zip lines across the cave to another rappel. It was our final obstacle. It had been an 8 hour day and everyone was tired but Paige invigorated the crew, zipping across the cave and rappelling down to the exit singing and whooping as she went. Dirty and justifiably tired we said goodbye to our guides, thanked them for their wonderful service and jumped in the cars back to the Baan Kaew Guesthouse in Chang Mai. 

The following day we woke up early to drive from Chaing Mai to Chaing Rai. The four hour drive between cities was a great way to watch the Thai countryside pass by. Despite being the rainy season, it was a beautiful sunny day making the drive and bike tour that much more enjoyable. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai we quickly exchanged our backpacks for bicycles. Many of us rediscovered our love for the sport. Owen showed off her skills and zoomed in front of the pack accelerating ahead on the hills. Her talents did not go unnoticed. We bicycled to the White Temple – the most famous site in Chiang Mai. Our bicycle guide led us through the structure giving us its detailed history. Ground broke on its construction in 1997 and is expected to be completed in 2087 – a 90 year project. Its ornate decorations and sculptures were a surprise to us all. Inside the temple, the artwork had modern American pop culture references, such as Michael Jackson, Captain Jack Sparrow, Minions, and more. I encourage you to ask your kids about this upon their return! It sparked many interesting conversations at dinner. The ride back from the White Temple was out of a storybook. Suzanne and Ellie took in the sites and had a high appreciation for the beauty and stillness in Chiang Mai. For dinner, we roamed around the Chiang Mai Saturday night market. It was a haven for food, music and souvenirs. Lacey was an adventurous eater and tried many treats – most notably a Thai burger that many claim was “the best of their life.” 




Ella V: “Sticky mango rice is still my favorite Thai food. I really liked the night markers – they’re so interesting and fun! The other night we even got to have fish ear our feet and they’ve never felt so smooth! There’s so much to do here and I’m loving it! Still no sunburns.. Love and miss you so much!”

Brighton: “Thailand is very strange, but also a very fun and interesting place. Leaving Chiang Mai for Chiang Rai tomorrow and then flying to Bangkok the next day. Some scuba diving should be dope in a few days and we’ve got a busy few days ahead. Love you all.

McAuley: “What an adventure! I must say, spelunking is not my calling. All is well though because plenty of adventures to come, and plenty have been achieved! I hope you all are doing well! I’m bringing home prizes like I’m some kind of Thai Santa. Love you so much!”

Elaina: “I’m having a lot of fun. I bravely rock climbed and repelled these past 2 days, which was pretty scary. I’m excited to head south and go scuba diving. See y’all soon!”

Anne: “Hey Mom and Dad I’m having lots of fun! Cook me anything but rice when I get home.”

Paige: “Hi Mom and Dad miss y’all and the dogs and velveeta shells! Xoxo see you soon

Owen: “Having fun! See you soon Mom and Dad!”

Merak: “Had a great time climbing, really wanna come back and do more free climbing with the people who work here. Hope you guys are having a great time! Love you guys.”

Ellie: “Hey loved ones. Been having a great time in Thailand and heading down south to scuba soon and relax on the beach! I’ve taken great pics and can’t wait to show y’all soon!”

Suzanne: “Hey parents, I’m having tons of fun climbing and trying new foods. Have a great few weeks and say boilers to Finn and Rosie for me.”

Drew: “Going scuba diving soon. Going to be a lot of fun!”

Lacey: “Hey girls! I climbed around for hours inside a big huge cave today – it was very very cool. I miss everyone soo much :(. Peace out, love your girl Lacey.” 

"This is the way." - Uncle Chai

June 21, 2017

Our time at Baan Hui has been nothing short of incredible. Five days in this small Karen village has taught us all to slow down, take deep breaths and absorb the world around us. To start off, our guide Uncle Chai led us 5 hours through the jungle – hiking past rice paddies, waterfalls and of course, the occasional ‘chang’ (elephant). We had lunch at a waterfall deep in the jungle where everyone jumped in and took advantage of the natural shower. Uncle Chai prepared us fruit bowls and delicious miang kham, a traditional Thai dish of rice, egg, veggies and chicken wrapped in leaves and cooked over hot coals. We continued on to the Baan Hui village where we were welcomed with open arms into our homestay. Our home for the next four nights was a beautiful, open air structure made of wood and bamboo that overlooked dozens of rice paddy fields. The northern Thai hills extended far into the background and the only visible traces of humans were those of our new village friends. Our days in the Karen Village comprised of numerous activities: community service, sports, cooking lessons, etc. Our community service project was laying the foundation of a church kitchen. When we arrived, there was only a dirt patch with raw supplies adjacent to the site. With the help of a local Thai contractor, we dug holes for the poles, painted and attached metal support beams, mixed concrete for the foundation, and poured this into the perimeter. Elaina and Lacey’s art skills came out when we painted the ‘Moondance’ sign that now hangs above the kitchen door for decades to come. Our newly found Michelangelos covered a wooden plank with beautiful flowers of various shapes and sizes. Everyone took their hand at this masterpiece, and we later painted our individual names on the church itself. 

Our time in Baan Hui did not just consist of community service. One afternoon, our group challenged the locals to friendly games of volleyball, badmitten, and soccer. Paige taught us all a thing or two about volleyball – posting up at the front of the net waiting for any opportunity to spike. The soccer game was a sweaty match between Moondancers and our new Karen friends. Brighton will forever remember his two game winning goals – so perfect they would easily be highlighted on ESPN top 10. 

On Sunday morning Uncle Chai invited us to church – a service with a lot of music and a small Thai sermon. Although we could not understand the minister, it was a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to the whole community. The ladies then went up to the front and sang a few versus of Amazing Grace. After church, we went to a local kindergarten to sing songs and play games. Suzanne took charge and taught the Thai children (and all of us) a clap/sing game that was a hit and resulted in many high pitched laughs. 

We also spent a day at a grade school teaching fourth and fifth graders from four surrounding Karen communities. Ella V led the fourth grade room with Simon Says and English translations for parts of the body. Next door, Drew was hands on teaching the fifth graders “roll tide” and all about the Crimson Red. After school, Uncle Chai led the group up the hills to the Royal Project. This is a project created by the Thai government to stop opium farming and subsidize food production to better sustain the hill communities. We walked around dozens of different crops and through green houses while Uncle Chai talked about the national healthcare system and Karen history. 

Early evenings in the Karen village were magical. Steady breezes brought down the hot temperatures after long days in the sun. McAuley took advantage of these moments by walking through the village, taking pictures of local families and the beautiful flora and fauna. Owen has become a card game guru and is beating everyone at Kemps, James Bond, etc. Our meals were always eaten as a family around a large table; Merak encouraging everyone to “spice up their life” and load on the Thai peppers and unknown sauces. Everyone indulged in this motto and has truly embraced Thai cuisine. 

As no surprise, we spent two days learning about the production and back breaking labor of harvesting rice. A staple in our cupboards, we hardly ever think about how much time and effort this process takes. Uncle Chai and a few family members took us to empty rice paddies to plant the crop. Calf deep in muddy water, the group clustered the grass seedlings and methodically planted them a foot or so apart. Later we learned how the rice is separated from its outer shell. A large wooden beam that hammers the seeds and is subsequently hand sifted on bamboo sheets. Anne and Ellie were the Leaders of the Day for these activities and truly got the whole team enthusiastic after days of hard work and 5:30 am rooster wake up calls. 

The last day of our Karen adventure was a two hour hike out of the jungle to a bamboo rafting site. We drifted down a river for about half an hour watching elephants and the local scenery pass by. Back in Chaing Mai, the group completed a few loads of laundry and explored the night markets after a refreshing pizza dinner. 

Needless to say, the past five days have been a magical experience. We’re quite sad to say goodbye to Uncle Chai and the remote northern hills. However, we are excited for a night of air conditioned sleep and the adventures ahead! Next stop: rock climbing, hot springs, and a bicycle tour of Chiang Rai! 

  • Joanie & Ben



Elaina: “Happy late father’s day! I had so much fun with the elephants a few days ago but also painting and helping this Thai village. See you soon. Miss you!”

Ella V: “Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having so much fun and keeping up with my journal like you wanted :). Happy belated father’s day! Love you – see you soon! PS- I haven’t gotten sun burnt!

Anne: “Hey Mom and Dad, what’s up! Happy late father’s day!”

Brighton: “Hey Mom and Dad. Having fun here in Thailand and have gotten to do a bunch of cool stuff. Happy late father’s day dad! Miss you guys and see you soon.”

Paige: “Hey y’all! Lots of fun here in Thailand – I’m bringing home chickens, dogs and lots of fun memories! Happy late father’s day. Miss y’all but having the time of my life. Kisses, love ya from the heart.”

Ellie: “Hey fam! Having a blast in Thailand! Elephants and rice fields have treated me well! Miss you and love y’all more!”

Suzanne: “Mom, Dad and T- I am having tons of fun and seeing so many incredible things in Thailand. Much to your surprise, I am trying all kinds of new Thai food and loving them! Happy late father’s day Dad. Love y’all!”

Owen: “Hey Mom and Dad! Having such a great time in Thailand! Tell milo I miss her the most! Happy late father’s day dad! Love y’all!”

McAuley: “Hello Griswalds! It is beyond incredible here I cannot wait to tell you about it. Please tell everyone who contributed to my trip that I am having an absolute blast! Happy late father’s day Wilbur! You and Elley have so much fun at JH! Love and miss you all very much!”

Drew: “Hey Mom and Dad! Having a blast!”

Lacey: “Happy birthday momma! Happy father’s day father Bean! Miss y’all, Thailand is hot as fire but very cool. Food is yummy but if I eat any more Thai food I will go crazy :). Love y’all!”

Merak: “Love you guys hope you’re having a great time drinking wine and eating cheese! Miss you guys.”

The Elephant in the Room

June 17, 2017

Greetings from the East!

We started our elephant adventure day at the Baan Kaew Guest House in Chang Mai with a delicious pancake breakfast before loading up into trucks with our guide Uncle Chai. Uncle Chai and his guides drove us an hour and a half up into the mountains of Chang Mai Provence. Thirty minutes into the drive we visited a local market where we broke up into two groups. Once inside the market Owen and Ellie would stop every few feet to inspect the exotic and sometimes downright strange snacks being peddled by the merchants. Paige and Suzanne b-lined it to the coffee stand using their bartering skills to talk down the price of Thai iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk. Once the trucks and the students were refueled we started again towards the Tong Bai Elephant Foundation.

The elephant sanctuary was founded and maintained by a sixty-something-year-old German man named Bodo. He greeted the team, led by Ella V., Owen and McAuley who were so eager to meet the elephants they pretty much ran into the sanctuary. Bodo had come to Thailand from an East German zoo in his twenties to learn how to better control the elephants under his care. He quickly learned that attempting to control these magnificent animals was a mistake. He never returned to Germany instead deciding to live as an ex patriot in the mountains of Chang Mai Provence educating people about Asian elephants and building bonds of trust with the creatures rather than trying to dominate them. He told Brighton and me his story as we were sandwiched between two massive elephants, one named Phus Oi, the bull of the group, and another who was 15 month pregnant with her calf.

After our introduction to the group of elephants we took lunch in a stilted house. We were served steamed veggies, chicken curry and dragon fruit as the elephants tooted and rustled below us enjoying their own lunch of dried hay, bamboo leaves and rice seed. Drew helped finish whatever food was left and even tried some of the curry and veggies “pet mak” which in English means with lots and lots of hot chilies. Brave man.

After lunch we were instructed to guide the elephants, two students to an elephant, by a leash strapped to their ears down a watering hole a mile down the road. Elaina guided the oldest elephant there, whose bane we are still trying to figure out how to pronounce. She was a 75 year old lumbering relic born in Myanmar in a time where the elephants, like the cattle, were branded and used for clearing forests and other hard agricultural labor. She was rescued from a tourist trap that was more like a circus than anything else, and given a home up in the Thai mountains by Bodo to live out her golden years in peace.

On our way to the river, I overheard Merak discussing the economic impact of the monsoon season in southern Thailand with Maiot, a young German man who worked for Bodo. By this point, Lacey and Anne had already lead their elephants to the deep eddy by the river. Soon all the elephants were there submerging themselves in the water, rolling around and spraying the students. It did not take long for the students to jump into the water with the elephants laughing as they splashed the elephants in return. We spent well over an hour playing with the elephants as they took their bath. Finally, waterlogged, we said goodbye to our new friends and walked back to the trucks.

With the students still laughing and chattering we were driven to the Maewin Guesthouse. Splitting up into groups of two we dropped our stuff off in quiet little bungalows surrounded by a towering bamboo forest. After a shower, we met again for a traditional northern Thai dinner: curry and rice served in coconuts accompanied by fried dumplings and watermelon. Exhausted, we had our nightly Moonup then returned to our bungalows for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we start our service project with the Karen Villagers.

Until next time!  – Joanie and Ben

Touched Down, Thailand!

June 15, 2017

Hi Families!

The adventure starts in Bangkok! We begin in the dense humidity and rich, lively clamor of Thailand’s capital. Joanie and I (Ben) spend the day filled with excitement in anticipation of receiving the students. Late in the evening we take a shuttle from the Ivory Bangkok Hotel to the airport haphazardly darting through traffic and under the numerous banners commemorating the revered late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Merak is the first to arrive from a layover in Tokyo soon followed by the rest of the Thailand group! We spend a few moments excitedly introducing ourselves and trading travel stories from our long hours spent in airplanes before hopping in a bus to take the team back to the Ivory Bangkok hotel. We get back to the hotel around 1am where the group has a quick Moonup, our nightly circle, designating Brighton and Suzanne, two Moondance alums, as tomorrow’s leaders of the day, or LODs.

We all get up early the next morning for our flight to Chang Mai: the second largest city in Thailand and the cultural capital of the nation. Brighton and Suzanne do their part rousing the weary crew and helping Joanie get everyone set and ready for the quick flight to the north. In the airport Paige keeps the jet lag at bay by being her unshakably cheery self and helping with the more cumbersome bags. After finding a quick Thai breakfast in the Airport we board our flight to Chang Mai. Anne and Ella V. spend the flight teaching the other students card games while simultaneously spitting off facts about Thailand’s history and culture mined from a Lonely Planet book they found in the hotel in Bangkok.

Once we landed we were greeted by the Baan Kaew Guesthouse whose beaming bus drivers spirited us away through the old meandering streets of Chang Mai. The hotel itself is situated right next to the night market and is surrounded by Buddhists temples. After everyone had settled in at the Baan Kaew guest house we were met by our Chang Mai guide Pi Pui and her team. We spent an hour learning the basics of the Thai language and their social customs and sensitivities. The language was difficult to work out at first but Lacey seemed to have a natural talent for picking it up and helped the team with flow and pronunciation. After the lesson we split up into two groups of seven and began a scavenger hunt around the city which led us from markets to temples forcing us to ask locals for directions and information in their native tongue. With my group, hot and hungry from the hunt Drew, Owen and Elaina combined their fresh knowledge of the Thai language and directed us to a food vendor in the old market. There we were served Cow Soy a spicy chicken and noodle curry dish that everyone enjoyed thoroughly. To cool our tingling mouths Anne, Ellie and McAuley found a mango sticky rice dessert that kept us up and energized through to the conclusion of the scavenger hunt and our return to the Guesthouse.

Once back at the Guesthouse we were met by Uncle Chai, our Karen Village guide, who briefed us on our upcoming experience at the elephant sanctuary and service project. Wow! That’s a big first day. After our Moonup the team gleefully jumped in their beds ready to get some rest for the elephant sanctuary in the morning. 

-Ben and Joanie

And We're Off!

June 13, 2017

Hi Thailand Families!

We’ve heard from the leaders and everyone’s en route to Thailand! The summer has officially started! Once everyone arrives in Bangkok, the Moondance Office will call all families to check in.

-The Moondance Administrative Team



  • Ella V.
  • Paige
  • Lacey
  • Anne
  • Owen
  • Suzanne
  • Drew
  • Elaina
  • Merak
  • McAuley
  • Ellie
  • Brighton