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Thailand 1B • June 13-July 3, 2018

Bittersweet Goodbyes

July 3, 2018

Wow! What an amazing time we have had here in this beautiful country of Thailand. I can’t believe it has come to an end, but we are all so appreciative of what this place has done for us. In the past couple days, we have been rock climbing, repelling, and caving in Chaing Mai! We also had our fantastic banquet dinner before saying our final goodbyes. It was truly an unforgettable trip with an even more unforgettable group.

We started day 19 with our first day of rock climbing and repelling! Emma very generously offered to get everyone coffee first thing in the morning! It was such a kind gesture that everyone appreciated!  Elisabeth and Sy both showed off their prowess while climbing by completing all of the most difficult routes. Definitely a spectacle to see them make it to nearly 30 meters! It was also very cool to see Aidan and his belaying skills! It is a difficult task that takes lot of responsibility and he did such a terrific job at it. It was a day full of people overcoming their fear of climbing as well as tons of wonderful food and many, many laughs.

On our next day of climbing and caving, we got to explore and repel deep inside a very fascinating cave. Natalie volunteered to be the first one to ascend out of the dark, ominous cave. It was such a cool moment and she handled it beautifully! That night we returned to one of favorites spots: the night market in Chaing Mai! Marilyn showed off her brilliant bartering skills, so she could get all sorts of gifts for people back home. Everyone was very entertained by how great she was at it!

After our flight to Bangkok the next morning, we had the privilege of going on a tour of the city. Not only did we all learn so much, but we all got to appreciate the beauty of Bangkok and experience the different cultures that were all over the city. Mary Douglas showed her very keen interest in the Grand Palace and asked some incredible questions to our tour guide that we all found very interesting. We then got to take a boat tour around the city where Thomas found out some remarkable facts about the river and was able to point out lots of wildlife such as jumping catfish and giant lizards! It was such a cool experience that we all enjoyed greatly on our final day. On our way back, Cate and Carson showed off their talents by singing to us amid a traffic jam. They definitely made the last few hours together very memorable.

These past few weeks have been some of the best that any of us have ever experienced. All of the activities that we did and the beautiful places that we visited were absolutely fantastic, but what really made this trip amazing was this group as a whole. We became such a close-knit family and it is something that none of us will ever forget!




Zach and Taylor

Meaningful Service in Karen Village

June 29, 2018

Hello again friends and families!


We have just returned to Chang Mai after spending four nights in the Karen Village in the mountains north of the city. In order to get to the village, we had to spend a day hiking up the mountain, which included a lunch break at a waterfall! After arriving at our lodging, we were all blown away by the stunning views. Our house only had three walls, so we constantly looked out over rice fields carved into the sides of mountains. I’m not sure if anything will top waking up to that sunrise each morning. Each meal was prepared and served by a local Karen family, and it was all so delicious! Sy took a special interest in helping to prepare the food and was often the first to volunteer to serve us.


Our service project was helping local community members build a new pavilion that will be used for things like school events, community gatherings, and more. The first day our job was to dig the holes for the foundation and by the last day we were able to see the finished product! All of the holes dug, wood moved, and roof tiles lifted were so worth it to see the building completed. Marilyn and Emma even painted a sign that says Moondance Adventures with a perfect replica of the logo that now hangs at the entryway. In addition to the construction we also got a lesson in how to plant rice in the many rice paddies of the village. Mary Douglas and Elisabeth were quick to learn this skill and helped to motivate the group until the job was done.


We also got the chance to volunteer at a local pre-school and help finish painting a newly constructed wall. The girls loved getting to show off their artistic abilities with some colorful paintings added to the wall. On our last full day of service, we spent the afternoon at a local elementary and middle school where we watched the kids perform a routine, and then had the chance to play with them. Aidan, Cate, and Carson had a blast playing soccer with the boys and kept the game going for a while. Meanwhile Natalie was teaching a group of girls different children’s songs in English which amused them very much. We loved getting to spend time with so many joyful little kids for our final afternoon in the Karen Village. We also discovered that the local word for thank you is a little too similar to the local word for crazy…no wonder we got so many laughs that day.


Later that night we had a special ceremony led by Uncle Chai (our local guide during the service portion) to provide us with safe travel back to Chang Mai. After this a few kids who lived nearby came and sang traditional Karen songs for us, and then asked for a few English songs in return. Thomas impressed us all with some beautiful Italian opera songs and had the kids thoroughly entertained. Today, after signing our names on the pillars of the foundation, we headed off for another hike through the jungle. This eventually led us to a river where we took long bamboo rafts down the rapids. We were more than a little damp for our drive back to Chang Mai. But we arrived safely back to the city, and after a trip through the night market and some ice cream everyone’s bags and bellies are more than a little stuffed. We are so excited about the rock climbing still to come and are refusing to think about anything after that!


Bye for now!

-Taylor and Zach


Thomas: Service was a lot of fun and I enjoyed living in a Thai village. Some things for when I get home- we need to make a quick stop in Darien before we go to Watch Hill so that I can grab my ACT stuff and other things. I also have had some major food cravings- particularly Mexican cuisine. Please go to the Maclear service instead of the fireworks for me. C u guys soon


Sy: Ok so I got very caught up in the moment at the night market today and spent a good amount of money. Im sorry mom. I’m having so much fun!!


Nat: Hey karen was cool. Uncle chai was awesome. We painted a wall and helped build a pavilion thing. I bought way too much. Can Maggie laur mer and aud and all y’all come pick me up at the airport w my type of guac and cheese dip from hacienda and a cherry limeade.


Mary Douglas: Hey again fam! I’m still having the best time. I can’t believe it has gone by so fast! We had fun serving in the Karen village! Also, can’t wait for La Paz and cheeseburgers (on the way home @dad) when I get home. I’ve bought a lot of souvenirs too. Anyways, love y’all, miss y’all, and see you Tuesday.


Marilyn: We just finished service in the village and are now back in Chiang Mai to rock climb. My birthday was amazing!!!! Everyone was so sweet- uncle chai brought a cake to breakfast it was so cute. miss y’all a lot but I’m not ready to go back to ar, love y’all


Carson: Finishing the trip has been bittersweet, but I can’t wait to tell everyone all about it. I got everyone a gift so y’all can share part of the trip with me. See everyone in a couple of days.


Elisabeth: We just finished our service at the village and we are back at Chiang Mai now. We went to the night market and I bought lots of souvenirs for everybody! I’ll see y’all soon! Love y’all


Cate: We just finished service, and it was beautiful in northern Thailand. I can’t believe the trip is almost over, but I can’t wait to see everyone at home. The markets in Chiang Mai are so fun, and I got a little carried away buying things. Love and miss y’all so much!


Aidan: Hi. We just finished service and it was really cool. We woke up every morning with a great view and we had lots of good food. We went back to Chang Mai today and we went to the markets which were really cool. I did the thing where you put your feet in the fish tank and they eat your dead skin which tickled a lot. Can’t wait to see you guys.


Emma: Hey again! I miss everyone. I just finished my community service with the Karen village and it was such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to share memories with everyone! Shoutout to my biggest snack, Alessia, lilbhote and so much more. Love y’all

Walking with Elephants!

June 24, 2018

Hello to everyone from Thailand!

We have been having the best time in this gorgeous country the past couple days. From scavenger hunt adventures in Chang Mai to giving elephants baths in a local river, this trip has been nothing short of spectacular for everyone. Each day holds a new adventure and we are all so lucky that we get to experience the beauty of this incredible place.

On our scavenger hunt, the group was split into groups and we were sent on a mission to find certain hidden gems that Chang Mai had to offer. Emma lead our team throughout the city in quick and efficient ways while still getting to appreciate the uniqueness of the city! In the afternoon we took a very scenic bus ride to the top of a mountain where we visited the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple. Not only was it an unbelievably beautiful temple, but the new culture we all got to experience left us in awe. It is definitely something this group will not forget. That night we went to a delicious restaurant where Elisabeth ordered fried rice…that was served inside of a pineapple!! Definitely a five star meal on both presentation and taste. After dinner we got to explore the local night market where Mary Douglas and Marilyn were very eager to zoom around searching for gifts for friends and family back home! Wanting a late night treat, Cate and Carson discovered an incredible Thai rolled ice cream stand. All 12 of us quickly raced over to get our own as well. Natalie also discovered a new local Thai dessert called Rotee which was fried dough that had Nutella and bananas on top. Exquisite to say the least. It was a great way to end an even better day! 

Today was another day to remember! We were able to not only learn all about elephants, but also play with them and bathe them in the river as well! It was 100% a “WOW” moment for all of us. Our day started with a bang with Thomas blessing us with some incredible slam poetry! A good laugh was a perfect way to start the day. When we arrived at the elephant sanctuary, Sy informed us about his fear of elephants which he quickly conquered when he swam with and gave the elephants a bath in the river! Aidan was given the big responsibility of walking one of the elephants all the way down to the river. 

A little more than halfway through our trip, it has been better than any of us could have imagined. We look forward to many more belly laughs, experiencing new culture, and serving others in the coming days! 

Talk soon,

Zach and Taylor 

Emma: Just wanted to say hi to anyone that sees this! That means my huge snack who I love so much, miss you! I hope our small army (currently not in transit), is doing awesome ballin up at home! Miss you Pup Pup! I miss everyone! Send them my love and spread it around! See you guys so soon, I’m having the most amazing time and Im so excited to tell you about my trip and the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious people I’ve met and will forever have so much love for. 

Sy: I miss you guys! Hope y’all know I’m thinking about everyone and I’ve been looking for the perfect gifts for each of your personalities. I’m so excited to see you guys soon and tell you about this awesome trip. 

Cate: I’m having the best time ever and can’t wait to tell everyone about it!  Can’t wait to see y’all

Aidan: Hi everyone, we went to the elephant sanctuary today and it was super cool. We got to walk them down to a river and wash them. I’m excited to see you guys.

Mary Douglas: Hey guys! I am having the absolute best time! We hung out with elephants today, and it was one of the coolest things I have ever done! Sadly, none of them were named Big Al. Also, almost done with a summer reading book, so I hope the bunny book is going well Walker. Love and miss you all, see you soon!

Elisabeth: Hi familyyy! Today we went to the elephant sanctuary and I got to walk an elephant down the street. I’m having the best time ever! Love your favorite person in the world!

Natalie: Swadeeca. we are about to go to service. Marilyn’s birthday is on wed. we get to hike for 4 hours tomorrow! I bought a bunch of stuff in Chang Mai. 

Marilyn: hey team ronnel. The trip is still amazing, I love everything about it! Today we went to the elephant sanctuary and we will head into the village tomorrow! miss and love y’all!! 

Carson: hey fam. I’m still not ready to come back to Albany. Thailand is amazing. Tell Landon I said good luck with football. I miss you all. See you guys July 3. 

Thomas: C u soon family so excited to tell you all about Thailand. Also miss you meg 

Hiking, Rappelling, Caving and More!

June 22, 2018

Hello again from Krabi beach!

We have just finished an unbelievable two days of rock climbing, hiking through caves, rappelling, and spending a little time on the beach. The days flew by and were packed with the most amazing sights. Pictures just don’t do it justice! Our hostel was wonderful and sat at the base of several large cliffs, which was an incredible sight to wake up to each day. Everyone enjoyed relaxing in the hammocks at our hostel after a long day of activity. Sy and Aidan discovered a ping pong table, so if they weren’t busy collaborating on a playlist they could be caught playing each other in some “friendly” matches.

Natalie has been wowing us all with her passion for reading the guide books of all the locations we visit. We love all of the random facts she shares throughout our days and are grateful for the knowledge! We are also grateful for Cate’s questions, as she keeps us on our toes with all of the off the wall questions she poses to the group (anything from dream hair style to best compliment you’ve ever received have been covered). Thomas also has some pretty great questions himself – he and Cate made an awesome leader of the day combo today. Thomas even sacrificed his own stash of dum dums for the group at Moonup.

Elisabeth proved to be the most eager rock climber of all, and was able to conquer every possible route and then climb the highest route of 30 meters! Carson was the first one to offer to climb on Thursday morning, and she inspired us with how easy she made the climb look (and also with how easy she makes tanning look). Mary Douglas was the first to rappel down after hiking through caves by torch light from our guides, and her confidence paved the way for all 12 of us to make it down. That view is something none of us will forget. We also won’t forget all of the exotic fruits that we’ve been able to try (especially lychee), and Marilyn has been leading the charge for trying all kinds of new healthy options. Emma revealed her speed reading abilities to us these past two days and has been tearing through books faster than she can get her hands on a new one.

It’s hard to believe two days have already zoomed by! We’ve had a blast with all of our activities here and can’t wait for more to come.

We’ll be in touch as we make our way from the South to the North!

-Taylor and Zach


Aidan: Hey everyone, we just finished rock climbing at Krabi beach and it was really fun. I climbed some really big rocks and did some other cool stuff. Me and my boy Sy are just chilling right now in the airport. Thanks for listening. ????????

Sy: Hey family! I miss everyone so much, and I can’t wait to tell y’all about the adventures I’ve had. We just went to Krabi beach and spent time rock climbing, which was amazing. Everything is so beautiful, and I’m so excited to show y’all my pictures. I hope everything is going well in Greenville, and I’ll see everyone soon! ????????

Thomas: having fun still. Rock climbing was fun.

Cate: Hello again. Thailand is still wonderful! Love and miss y’all! Rock climbing was hard but super fun

Carson: I’m still having a great time here in thailand. The trip is flying by. We are headed to do community service, so I can give the kids all the games mom packed.

Marilyn: Hey y’all! We just finished our two day stay in Krabi beach and it was so beautiful. I survived rock climbing (barely lol) and now we are traveling up north for community service. Love and miss y’all

Natalie: hey everyone! we are on the way to chiang mai right now! Krabi was beautiful. rock climbing was really cool I swear I sweat at least 4 gallons. I swam in the Indian Ocean!! luv y’all and miss everyone but I’m having a lot of fun.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Emma: Hi again snacks! I went rock climbing and swimming since the last time we talked, I’ve met the coolest people and I’m not scared of deep water anymore 🙂 Send my love to all my other snacks. Hope everything at home is going well, remind dad that Drake’s album comes out the 29th! Miss you guys!

Mary Douglas: hello again fam! We just finished rock climbing, and the beach that we climbed at was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! We are heading north right now, and I am so excited for elephants and service! Love and miss y’all <3

Elisabeth Southern: Hi family! We are at the airport right now about to go on a flight to Chiang Mai where we are going to start service. I absolutely can’t wait to see all the baby elephants and meet the people who live there. Rock climbing was really fun and I climbed one that was 30 meters high! It was a gorgeous view because of the ocean and rocks. I love and miss y’all but I really don’t want to leave!

Kickin' it in Koh Tao

June 20, 2018


We’ve had an incredible start to our trip here in Thailand. The travel days (which included 3 flights, a ferry ride, and some shuttles) were long and tiring and when we finally arrived to Koh Tao everyone was ready for some much needed sleep. The group maintained a positive attitude throughout the travel, and Sy even volunteered to carry our extremely heavy Moondance bag for the entire day (he’s in training). When it came time to watch our first educational scuba video the jet lag finally caught up with everyone and we managed to get 12 hours of sleep on night 3. This left everyone up early the next morning and ready to start getting in the water for scuba!

For the first two days we watched lots of instructional videos and took some quizzes, then got to hop in the water to practice the basic skills. Aidan was impressing us all with his French fluency as he was able to converse with our dive master Leo who was from France. The next two days were spent snorkeling and scuba diving as our dive masters continued to test us on our skills under water. Cate and Carson, who were our previously certified pros, were able to dive deeper than they had with their initial certification which was awesome! On the boat we were also able to meet other tourists who were there to dive just like us. Natalie was even able to connect with an Irish couple from Dublin about her Irish dancing – which they were very excited about. We also got the chance to celebrate Emma’s 17th birthday this week! This included watching the sunrise, getting smoothies, and finishing the day with some happy birthday candles and a cheesecake.

On day 6 Marilyn and Elisabeth got to be the “leaders of the day” and they selected “Ok II” for dinner which turned out to have incredible views of the coast. We snapped a lot of pictures while waiting for our food. At that same dinner Thomas and Sy may or may not have shed some tears due to the spice levels of their Thai curry. Mary Douglas has also been quite the adventurous eater so far on the trip, and has been loving all the fresh cut pineapple we have on our dive boat. On the last night in Koh Tao we had a traditional Korean Barbecue which was amazing. We all sat on pillows around the table and cooked our own chicken and broth over small fires. Emma even got the chance to be the DJ and all of the European instructors were enjoying her American selections. Thomas shocked us all with an unbelievable singalong to Bohemian Rhapsody, complete with dance moves. We celebrated our scuba certifications and enjoyed one last night with all of our dive instructors. We are now on the way to Krabi beach for some rock climbing and are looking forward to all the adventures, beautiful sights, and laughs ahead.

Baai baai, and talk to you soon!

-Taylor and Zach


Elisabeth: Hi guys! We just finished scuba diving in Koh Tao! It was absolutely beautiful! We are now on a bus on our way to go rock climbing in Krabi. I miss y’all so much and give delta a hug from me! Also HAPPY BIRTHDAY/LATE FATHER’S DAY I love you dad!️

Mary Douglas: Hey fam! Thailand is absolutely beautiful! We just finished scuba diving, and now we are on our way to rock climb! I have had a blast so far (and I have found stuff I like to eat)! Happy super late Father’s Day dad! Love and miss you all!

Emma: Hi snacks! Miss you guys! I’m having the best time. The people here are so amazing and the food is to die for, maj. Happy late Father’s Day! I miss pup pup and all of you very much, I hope you guys had fun in friars head and are having a good time at home. By the way, I’m 17 now 🙂

Aidan: Hi guys. We just finished scuba diving and I am certified now. There is a kid named Sy and he is really cool and there is a girl from Chicago named Emma who is also on the trip. I hope Mr.lucky is doing well and you guys are having fun.

Sy: Hey Everyone! I miss all of you so much, and I can’t wait to tell y’all about everything I’ve done. We just finished scuba diving, so I’m finally feeling like a true navy seal. It has been so much fun, all because the experience and the people. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone soon, and tell dad happy Father’s Day!

Thomas: Hi. Thailand is beautiful and I love scuba. Happy Father’s Day to Dad. See you July 3!

Carson: Happy late Father’s Day from Thailand dad¡ I am having the best time, and don’t be surprised if I never come back to Albany ???? Love and miss y’all.

Cate: Happy late Father’s Day dad! Love and miss y’all. Thailand is so beautiful and the people are amazing. Can’t wait to tell y’all about it! My ears never even hurt while scuba diving!

Marilyn: Hey y’all!! I am having a blast in Thailand! It is so beautiful here, y’all would love it. My favorite thing so far was learning to scuba dive in Koh Tao, it was so fun! Happy late Father’s Day dad, miss and love y’all!

Natalie: Hey y’all!! I love and miss y’all so much. This is weird bc I am actually going to write more than 3 words. The scuba was rlly cool we saw a trigger fish! Um also so I dropped my gopro in the ocean and it sunk on June 18th it was a sad day, but Sy is letting me use his and so is Marilyn. Dad- we had KOREAN BBQ. it was amazing. Mom- All is well – no worries! I miss you sooo much. Maggie- I saw no snakes miss u. Mer- say hi to Krystal Katie and all my other spins campers love u. Aud- I can’t wait to give u all this stuff I bought u. Laur- hope all is well miss u. Coop and Allie- miss y’all

Safe Arrival in Bangkok!

June 14, 2018

Hi Thailand Families,

The group has safely made it to Thailand and they are on their way! Stay tuned for more updates to come.

-Moondance HQ


  • Aidan
  • Cate
  • Carson
  • Sy
  • Thomas
  • Natalie
  • Emma
  • Mary Douglas
  • Marilyn
  • Elisabeth
  • Charlie