July 1, 2019
What an incredible time the last few days have been. We have seen some of the most beautiful turquoise water and climbed some of the most intricate rocks and seen our fair share of ocean life. We have also truly appreciated the quality time we have spent together and savored every moment.
Our final morning on Ko Tao, we headed to our ferry for a nice relaxing ride to our ultimate destination of Krabi. While on a layover stop, William and James continued their adventurous quest for the best fruit in Thailand, they ordered a watermelon smoothie and passion fruit smoothie, they were not at all disappointed. We were soon pulling into port on the Thailand mainland to catch our double decker bus to Krabi. Mollie, Eliza, Reese and Catherine most certainly took advantage of having the bottom portion of the bus to themselves and went into total recline mode for a nice nap. We got our new Hostel in the evening and everyone was ecstatic! Not only did we have a pool, but a workout area, dining area, and even snacks. Hunter, Thomas, William, and James quickly took turns battling it out in some intense ping pong matches. Abby, Reese, Grace, Eliza, Rebecca, Gracie, Catherine, and Mollie chose the more relaxed option of playing Marco Polo in the pool, the boys soon joined in once they saw how much fun was being had. That night, we ordered some delicious pizzas and completely devoured them. Thomas and Hunter will forever be pizza kings. For Moonup, the question was, “Describe the person to your left in three words”. This made for an uplifting Moonup as everyone had such positive words about the group. We were two very proud leaders.
The next day, we had a wonderful breakfast of yogurt, muesli (Thai Granola), fruit, and eggs. We definitely need this energy as we were headed to climb the cavernous rocks of Railay Beach. We met our guides and immediately were drawn to their humor and relaxed island vibes. Our vans dropped us off at a dock where we boarded a long boat and set sail through the crystal-clear water to our climbing destination. Upon arrival, we saw signs informing us of the locals (monkeys), needless to say, everyone was super stoked at the opportunity to see one. We walked down a path to the beach and were taken aback at how gorgeous it all was. When you think of the coast of Thailand, these are the picturesque views that come to mind. Eliza, Grace, Reese, Hunter and Catherine really enjoyed exploring the caves beside our climbing spot. This area had something for everyone, the climbing, caves, and cool water. After we attempted the different routes that our guides had set up, we all cooled off in the water. Some tourists from India taught Rebecca, Eliza, and Catherine the Belly Belly Dance, hilarity ensued. After a delicious lunch from our guides, James and leader James pursued further climbing opportunities while the rest of the gang explored Railay Beach West. Student James was a natural at climbing and said that he plans to take it up as a sport when he gets back to the US. While at the new beach, Mollie and Gracie decided to support a new fashion statement of getting some of their hair put into “corn rows”. As we were leaving Railay Beach, Hunter, Abby, Thomas, and Catherine took note of a huge Asian Water Monitor (looks kind of like a Komodo dragon on a smaller scale) crossing our path, we were very intrigued as none of us had ever seen anything quite like it. We made our way back to our hostel and had a delicious Tex Mex dinner before having a meaningful Moonup where we talked about our favorite part of the trip and why. It is very evident how much this group has grown throughout the last 21 days. Their transition into one family has been such a pleasure to watch.
The following morning, we set off in search of new climbing opportunities. We were taken to an area with cavernous cliffs and fields of trees that produced rubber, there were quite a few monkeys milling about also. Grace, Hunter, and James went right into it, showcasing their climbing prowess taking on the more challenging routes. At the conclusion of climbing, we headed to the Krabi airport. Everyone was quite pleased with the selection of pastries in the Bangkok Airways Lounge. To fill up some time, Catherine, Grace, Eliza, and Abby played the old elementary school game “MASH”, this produced some funny results. As we prepared for takeoff, Reese and Thomas refreshed everyone on proper scuba hand signals but for plane takeoff, this is challenging to explain via message, but trust us, it was hilarious and everyone will always remember these hand signals. We arrived back in Bangkok and transferred to our hotel. After eating, we went to a market to see if we could bargain for some souvenir shirts. Mollie, Abby, and Catherine all came out victorious with quite the pop culture selection in shirts. We ventured back to our hotel and came together for our final Moonup. The question being “What are you excited about for the rest of your summer?” While everyone had exciting things to talk about, we all agreed that this trip was powerful and transformative. We shared a lot of hugs before turning in for the night.
The final day of the trip was by far one of the most diversified. We met our guide, Apple, and boarded a bus that took us into the heart of Bangkok. We arrived at The Grand Palace donned in breezy elephant pants. Apple showed us so many unique and historical parts of the palace. The amount of gold used on it boggles the mind. We were able to enter one part and see a grand Buddha that was adorned with jewels and on a pedestal. When we left, we made our way a boat dock and all boarded a long tail riverboat. These boats move passengers up and down canals very efficiently. While on one of the boats, Rebecca and William showcased their American Idol audition pieces with selections by: Bruno Mars, The Band Perry, Maroon 5, and the country group Alabama. They definitely have some pipes. After the canal ride, we got back on our bus to head to a mall in downtown Bangkok. We all agreed that this was one of the busiest malls we had ever been in, it had everything from an entire floor devoted to electronics to a talent show happening on the 4th floor. Catherine, Gracie, Eliza, Reese, and Grace ended up finding the best bargains with some leather wallets and shorts with our favorite stop (7/11 Gas station) printed all over them. We finished our time at the mall and rode back to our hotel, properly jamming all the way home. Our last meal together was at a hip cafe right up the street from our hotel. We all shared laughs about our experiences together as well as experiences to come. It was a dinner to savor. After the meal, we headed to the airport for an emotional “see you soon”, not a “goodbye”. Emotionally powerful moments.
To the families of: Mollie, Grace, Rebecca, Catherine, Gracie, Abby, Eliza, Reese, Thomas, Hunter, James, and William, we give our sincerest thanks for allowing these young adults to be a part of Moondance Thailand. We both agree that they are some of the most resilient, tough, and loving people we have ever met. No matter what was thrown their way, they rolled with it. We love them all very much and cannot wait to see what great things they will do for the world.
Signing off,Bella and James
July 1, 2019
After a great night’s sleep, we all woke up and had a delicious breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage, toast, fruit, etc! After some motivational words from our LODs (Sati and Jacob), we headed to our climbing location for the day. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by an incredible staff and got the rundown for our climbing and rappelling for the day. We were asked about what we were most excited about and most everyone was looking forward to a new climbing site and their first rappel (for most)!
We were split up into two different groups called “coconuts” and “peaches.” We were told that these fruits represent certain personalities (Thai and American). Harrison was dominant on both the repelling and the climbing. There was even a fresh route that had barely been taken that was made specifically for him (he crushed it of course). Thomas was also crushing these routes consistently throughout the day.
Repelling was such a blast because we had such a cool climb up through narrow caves and rappelled down over 80 feet! This was really exciting because it was the first time we had rappelled the entire trip. We had a great lunch of chicken and fried rice prepared by our outfitter that everyone loved.
We headed back into town and had an awesome dinner at probably our favorite local restaurant of the whole trip. Paige ordered best as she enjoyed a huge chicken and vegetable soup that was delicious. All were in good spirits after dinner because we capped off the day with some tasty ice cream. Finally, we had a great Moonup and all answered the question “who would you have a meal with if you could chose anyone dead/living?”
We got off to an early start and all got excited after our LODs (Carolyn and Lucy) revealed our surprise of a cooking class! Everyone was in high spirits because we had eaten so much amazing food throughout the trip and now we had the chance to make it ourselves! We arrived in the beautiful countryside and learned about our day of cooking. We were then informed that we would be cooking three different meals (Spicy Prawn Soup, Chicken/Shrimp/Tofu Pad Thai, and Green Chicken Curry). At this point, we only had a sneak peek of the deliciousness awaiting us.
Everyone had fun following and listening to our instructor as he was very specific on ingredients; however, everyone had their own touch to their dishes. While everyone had delicious looking food, we personally thought that Gretchen, Michael, and Grayson had the best overall dishes (Their green chicken curry was to die for). However, Carson led his group with Bella and Harrison and they were a close runner-up.
After filling our bellies with our master-chef quality food that we had prepared, we all piled in vans and headed to the airport. We discovered in one of the vans that there was an amazing speaker system that Bella took full advantage of as she crushed it with the tunes.
We had a relaxing travel day as we only had one flight. It felt crazy being back in Bangkok after such a fun-packed trip. We capped off our trip with an amazing banquet and new tacky Thailand t-shirts!!! These were a hit and everyone argued that they each chose the best one. We finished the day off with our last Moonup and it was amazing. Everyone shared their biggest take-always from the trip and we all began to realize that we had to leave our newly formed family so soon. However, we knew that we must live in the moment and had one full day left!
We all woke up a little early to say goodbye to Grayson who went to meet up with her family. This was sad for all of us, but bittersweet because we knew we would see her again! Every person requested to be up at this early hour to see their dear friend leave and this made us so happy to see. After this, everyone went back to their rooms and got a little bit more sleep time. We then had an incredible buffet breakfast.
Next, we were picked up by a bus and taken on a tour of Bangkok that was truly remarkable. We saw so many beautiful palaces and temples, and even got to see the largest emerald statue of Buddha! We learned so much from our tour that we had not previously known and everyone was very intrigued by all of the incredible history and information that we learned. Lucy dressed up in 18th century Thai clothing and showed us what people were wearing here back then. It was such a cool and unique look!
The highlight of the day was our riverboat cruise where we really got to see the ins and outs of a massive, dense city. We were put on these amazing little boats and went fast through cool canals and river bends. From thousands of feeding catfish to many water monitors (smaller Komodo dragons), we got to experience a truly wild trip.
The music we played on the bus ride there and back was a perfect wrap-up of the trip as we played songs that we had loved to listen to throughout the entire trip. We had a couple hours to pack, shower, eat and get ready for the flight back home. We all had some awesome conversations and reflected on so many incredible parts of our trip. Both groups headed to the airport and prepared for the final leg of the trip. It was difficult saying goodbye to such an amazing group of kids. We could not have asked for a better trip and are so thankful that we were able to form such amazing relationships. We all talked about how we are going to stay in touch and we cannot wait to see these incredible people again soon.
Thomas and Juliet
June 28, 2019
We are thoroughly enjoying these beautiful islands and all that they have to offer!
Our last day in Chiang Mai, we drove to a food and biological learning center where we had the opportunity to cook 3 traditional Thai dishes: Pad Thai, Pangang Soup, and Green Curry. Thomas, William, and James all brought the heat as they strived to make their dishes super spicy and exciting for the tastebuds. For the Green Curry, many of the teams decided to create their own version of the popular dish. We decided to make it interesting and have a little competition. While every dish was unique in its own way, the chicken that Gracie, Mollie, and Reese prepared was lightly brown and included a sauce that delighted the tastebuds. After cooking, some of the group decided to partake in the ninja course on the property, we were quite impressed with everyone’s balancing skills!
The next morning we arose bright and early to catch our flight to the islands! As we walked into the baggage claim there was live music being played and a soft breeze that carried the smell of the ocean that we were longing to get into. After arriving, the group decided to try some of the local fruit in açaí bowl form, a delicious treat to say the least. After that fuel-up, we hopped on a ferry that would take us to the island that we would be diving around. While on the voyage, James befriended a funny German couple, Hunter snapped some beautiful sunset shots, and everyone else took in the salty air and wonderful breeze. We arrived at our bungalows shortly after the sun had set and had a nice dinner at a restaurant right on the water.
As the sun broke the next morning, we awoke with anticipation, as this was our first day venturing into the ocean. Thomas even rocked a braid in his hair for good luck. We were broken up into two groups: one group getting their open water certification, and one group getting their advanced water certification. We were introduced to our guides who all had intriguing accents as they were from all over Europe. The first day in the ocean was spent focusing on the skills to become a smart and safe diver. We were all amazed at the underwater world that Thailand has to offer, beautiful coral and brightly-colored fish. That night, we had another wonderful dinner overlooking the setting sun, I wish there were words for how incredibly grateful we were to just be in that moment.
We became fanatics of a nearby breakfast spot that we frequented three straight days, the owners were so cordial and looked forward to seeing us everyday. We dined on French toast, eggs, smoothie bowls, and banana nut muffins. All of this food was put to good use as we continued to work towards our certifications. During the breaks in between dives, Catherine and Bella would completely jam out on top of the boat to music, continuing to ensure that every single person was in high spirits. The one with the highest of high spirits, Rebecca, has consistently been the student that we look to keep the energy up, her charismatic nature has positively influenced everyone in the group. Our guides adore it.
On our third day of diving, we again fueled up at our favorite breakfast spot before boarding the boat. This day was super important as we were all getting checked off on our dives in order to get our certifications. Never one to let anyone take anything too seriously, Reese’s stories and antics had everyone laughing so hard they had to clear their masks. In the advanced open water group, William nailed the fish identification section and greatly impressed Leo, our guide from France. On our deep-water dive, Eliza, Hunter, and Grace took part in some underwater acrobatics by flipping and twisting, putting on quite the spectacle. After having dinner on the boat, we went on a night dive. The anticipation was next level as everyone suited up and went down to see what creatures come out at night. Even though many were nervous, we could rely on Abby to be a calming presence and ease everyone’s minds, she has had such an attitude of gratitude, and we have all noticed. Everyone was in agreement that this was one of the coolest experiences of the trip.
Before breakfast on our last day, Mollie, Eliza, and Grace went snorkeling in search of sharks at a bay, while we didn’t spot any, we did see two barracuda, it was a very exciting moment. Breakfast was awesome again as we had smoothie bowls, eggs, delicious muffins, and fresh fruit. On this day, we were all certified divers and were stoked to put our new skills to use. We went to two really exciting spots, one of which had the “Times Square of fish” as they were everywhere and moving in all directions. That night, we were treated to a traditional Korean BBQ where we got to cook our own food. Catherine was going full Paula Dean, throwing a little bit if everything onto coal-fed grill. Mollie served as DJ at the speaker system making sure everyone was upbeat and in it to win it. That night for Moonup, Gracie posed the question, “What would you tell your freshmen year self?” There was a good deal of wisdom going around the circle. We were very impressed and happy to know that our team was full of growing, positive thinking young adults.
James K. and Bella
P.S. here are some random very sweet messages for those reading at home…
Hey mom and dad hope you are tanning it up at seaside! Having a blast, love you! -Gracie
Rae Rae, thank you for making my dream a reality. Love you too mom and dad -Catherine
Hi Ellers, I miss you all and I am having so much fun as usual so no need to worry! I hope Melanie has a good wedding and don’t forget to pick me up on July 1. Love you all, even Nick -Grace
Hello hooligans! I’m having the time of my life and I’m actually eating something besides rice. Hope y’all are having a fun time in Hotlanta. I love and miss you guys! -Eliza
Hey! I’ve had so much fun in Thailand. We have spent a few days roaming the streets of Chang Mai, rock climbing and stayed for a few nights in a remote Thai village. Miss you and see you all soon! Hunter
Hey mom and dad. Love y’all so so much. I’m having a wonderful time in Thailand. Haven’t died yet. Tell Summer, Sam, and CL hi and I love them. Can’t wait to see you love y’all-William
Hey I know y’all are worried-especially mom- but I am having an amazing trip. I am even being medicated if needed. Today is June 20th and I am loving it here:) see y’all soon. Love you – Rebecca
Hey mom! I’m having so much fun here and love the people I’ve met and things I’ve seen! I love you and miss you. I’ll see you soon. -Abby
Hey mom and dad! I am having so much fun and I have met so many cool people! Love you and miss you. Xoxo see you soon! -Reese
Hey y’all having a lot of fun. Thailand is really cool and I can’t wait to tell everyone about it, see you soon. Love, Thomas
June 20, 2019
Greetings from Chiang Mai
What a time we have been having!
Before leaving Chiang Mai the first go around, we shared a delicious breakfast at Cafe de Siam. A breakfast filled with yogurt, protein, granola, fruit, and refreshing smoothies. After breakfast we met our new guide, Uncle Chai. Uncle Chai grew up in Thailand and has provided us with not only many laughs, but much wisdom.
Our first stop in our new journey out of Chiang Mai was to an Elephant Sanctuary. We learned about these wonderfully large yet gentle creatures, they really blew our minds. Every kid had the opportunity to pet the elephants. After plenty of quality petting time, we led them through the jungle. It was very humorous to watch Reese lead her elephant as it took its precious time and made a habit of stopping to eat. We finally made it to a creek where we were able to bathe them. Elephants are very good about sneaking their trunks in the water and then springing them out to surprise people, especially Thomas and Eliza. They received quite the spray.
After bath time, we made or way to our new lodging which were tiny bungalows tucked away amongst shady trees. After settling in, Bella and James K did some group movement (any exercise you want to some funky music), Hunter, Thomas, William, James, Abby, Rebecca, Catherine, Gracie all got in and definitely got a solid workout in. That night, we dined on veggies, fish, and chicken. At night we taught the students the importance of LNT (leave no trace principles) and James N. Shared the wealth when he taught our new European friends LNT at dinner with his standup partner James K.
The next day we were up and at’em early for a pancake breakfast and started our trek into the village for service work. Our leaders of the day, William and Rebecca helped with this long, uphill climb. Uncle Chai stopped us many times along the way to show us plant species in the jungle that create color stains for cloth, make sounds, and produce bubbles out of the stem! Our favorite stop was the waterfall where we enjoyed on of our favorite lunch meals warmly prepared and wrapped in banana leaves. Nature was our classroom, and this hike surely made for a good night first sleep in our shared hut in Karen Village. Our LODs led a beautiful and meaningful Moonup that night as they asked us to share something we’ve been through that has greatly impacted us. This encouraged the group to let down more walls, share, and feel free to open vulnerable as they learned more about each other.
In our days of service working in Karen Village we spent hours making cement, passing along bricks, and singing along as we built a sturdy wall to wall for the local village school which we completed faster than the locals expected! The group worked diligently only spending other time aside from working to play with the school children and snack on local fruits gifted by the school. On our last day Abby and Mollie spearheaded a beautiful mural to commemorate Moondance Thailand 1A so our group could leave their name on the wall to be remembered.
We’ve spent late nights eating choco bears, having DMC (deep meaningful convos), we’ve danced, laughed so hard, cried, grown stronger as a group, helped others, and been humbled by our stay in this village. On our final day we learned how they farm rice, make a living off of sewing clothing, planted trees, played a killer game of soccer, and spent our last night under the stars in the fog of the mountains.
In other random news, Mollie saved a cow, Abby tried her first cup of coffee, and Grace surprised us with slick soccer moves (in addition to her constantly uplifting attitude) – we’ve got endless news to share and reasons to be happy here. Eliza says Happy birthday Mom! She’s sorry she can’t be with you but hope you’re having an amazing day. Same goes for Gracie’s’ mamma- we send all our love! Thank you for sharing them with us we are so thankful they are both a part of our group.
Rebecca’s mother…we’d like you to know she’s in great hands and has been taken care of with plenty of #GF meals over here. Abby as well! Keeping it sugar free and safe. No worries…we eatin’ good.
To all of our dads our there: Happy Father’s Day! Thanking you from a different time zone this year, but with just as much love as possible. We feel so lucky we get to travel and be with your amazing kids right now.
As servant learners here in Thailand we truly feel this group has made a tangible impact and this project has impacted us as it will send the group back to the states to be new and improved more culturally competent and sustainable, aware service leaders. Today we hiked out, took a bamboo raft down the river, stopped for lunch where we met a cool Australian group, drove back onto paved roads, and returned to our city plumbing we take for granted. After showering and resting we celebrated at a tasty local stop and enjoyed live music and ice cream at the market. We all agreed today was one of our favorite days We could genuinely keep writing stories and sharing every detail because this trip has been so much fun but we must go have more fun.
James K., Bella, and the family
P.S. stay tuned for tour details for the boy’s new band “Rods of God” coming soon.
June 15, 2019
Sa wa dee!
Tuning in from Southeast Asia with a crew of the most positive and friendly students we’ve crossed in our Moondance journeys. We are in awe not only at the different world we are in, but simply at how easily this very special group has formed together and supported one another in only the first 3 days. There is a kind, open-minded, unique persona in each individual and we feel so fortunate to be exploring Thailand together for the first time.
From Atlanta to Seoul to Bangkok to Chang Mai, these students have been strong, natural travelers aware of their surroundings and made the most of every minute and new environment. We were treated like kings and queens with authentic Asian meals and hours of chilling, talking, stretching, reading, and movies on our long flights across the world. The South Korean airport was easily one of the most clean, relaxing, and beautiful airport experiences which was such a joy to pair with any jet lag.
Upon arrival in Bangkok we hopped in our cash-cab-fancy-lookin-super cozy vans to shuttle to our first lodging where we gathered together for the first time as a group. We were thrilled to be reunited with James K who caught us all with open arms and I saw the kids instantly open up to him and begin to form bonds…but especially Eliza…I think it was that Bama T-shirt. We are a family and it sure feels like it already.
Our first full day in Thailand was on a smooth flight to the charming town of Chang Mai where we’ve encountered only the nicest and most inviting citizens. Hunter came in clutch helping me tune my ukulele and teaching me what he knows as we learned to play some Elvis together during an airport delay. Grace pulled the group in immediately by forming a circle in our terminal where Rebecca led us in a game of “mafia.” Gracie was a pro at the game “Who can come into my club” easily picking up on visual cues and attention to detail. You wouldn’t have realized it was a delay because the spirits were high and we were having fun just being together.
Exploring the local markets has been a blast and unlike any markets we’ve seen before. They’re full of music, lights, art, and local snacks and sweets. New smells and foreign sounds fill the air delighting our curiosity and extremely adventurous spirits. Catherine helped inspire the students in her pursuit of finding locally-made “flowy pants” as she encouraged us all to embrace our inner child and not take ourselves too seriously.
We were proud of James N. for trying both fish soup and some travel channel status dried bugs at the market- we cheers’d our bugs to celebrate arrival! Yum. Reese, James N. and Rebecca have made us proud, for putting themselves out there and embracing the Moondance culture and way of life of “living in the moment”.
Mollie and Thomas were chosen to kick off our rock climbing day as our first Thailand 1A LOD (leaders of the day) pair! These two were chosen because of their experience with Moondance and ability to take care of the whole group with caring and strong leadership styles. They proved to be just that as they set the tone for all future leaders of the day. Additionally, William does not cease to impress us with his leadership style of approaching every situation and person with a positive outlook and providing us with meaningful responses and conversation.
These students are mature, ready to learn, willing to go far out of their comfort zone, and so easy going. After Moonup I was discussing challenge with Abby and she shared stories and simply ended with a reassuring statement I loved: “No matter what, it’s all going to be alright.” She’s right. It’s new, it’s foreign, it’s long days, and it’s all alright. We couldn’t be more thankful to be here, and the fun has only just begun.
Báai baai for now,
Bella and James K.
June 12, 2019
Hi Thailand Families,
The group has arrived safely in Thailand and is ready to go! We can’t wait to share more about their many adventures.
– Moondance HQ