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Thailand 2A • July 3-July 23, 2019

Final Update from Thailand 2A!

July 23, 2019

As we watch the lights of busy Bangkok fade away from our airplane windows, we are thankful for all that our time in this country has brought us.  We have made new lasting friendships, learned immensely about ourselves, and grown together as a group.  Our experiences in the jungles, villages, beaches, and cities of Thailand will not soon be forgotten.  We are grateful to all of those who made this extraordinary adventure possible!

We arrived in Krabi after our travel day ready to hit the ground running.  After ferries and busses and vans (oh my!), we settled into our new home and went out in search of food and fun.  We found both at a restaurant called “Crazy Gringos,” where this crowd fit right in.  The owner, a fellow American, treated us well.  We wore sombreros around the table and sang along to live music while we waited for our burritos and hamburgers.  Lily, Mapp, Claude, and James, our Alabama crowd, sang along to parts of “Sweet Home Alabama” and everyone joined in when Luke Bryan came on.  Before and after our meal, we were able to shop around a market full of vendors.  It’s safe to say that we will all be returning to the states with a new pair of elephant pants!

Feeling full from a great dinner and ice cream for dessert, we wandered the streets of Krabi and meandered back to our hostel.  The roaming assignments in our home for the next two nights may have been the best yet – we were all in bunk beds in the same room.  It was a Moondance takeover!  We played music and sang and conducted Moonup between the bunks.  We stayed up to talk about our lives back home, knowing that we would be immersed back into them soon.  Our group has mastered the art of “living in the moment,” however, so a trip down memory lane doesn’t derail us from our adventure.

The next day, we grabbed a quick breakfast and were shuttled to gear up for rock climbing.  Everyone was fitted for harnesses, helmets, and shoes.  Because of our experience climbing near Chiang Mai earlier in the trip, we knew a little more about what we were doing today.  After getting outfitted, we went to a boat dock and took a small wooden speedboat out into the bays of Railay Beach.  If you at home have ever seen pictures of Thailand, odds are you’ve seen a snapshot of Railay Beach.  The massive limestone karsts covered in greenery rise straight out of the sea to pierce the sky.  We swam and played on a beach that was walled in on multiple sides by rock and enveloped by overhanging stalactites.  Trees and plants have ambitiously chosen to grow suspended in the air by roots woven deep into the karsts themselves, and they drip fresh water 60 feet down into the ocean.  Standing in the path of those drops while floating in the Indian Ocean was a surreal experience.  We took pictures and videos in the ocean and played around.  Somehow, a human tower was made in the water – Anna on El’s shoulders, and El on Claude’s shoulders.  Although they only stayed vertical for a few pictures, it was impressive.  Chase and James tried to ward off the waves while sitting down in the surf, training like Navy Seals.  Some members of our group couldn’t be pulled away by the siren song of the sea, but a few put on harnesses to give climbing another try.  Jessica got to the top of every route she attempted, crawling inside limestone caves and brushing off sand to get a better grip.  The view out into the bay from the top was definitely worth the climb.

Unfortunately, the weather rolled in in the afternoon.  That doesn’t slow our group down!  We took a hilarious boat ride, full of improv-style ramblings and crazy accents, back to the mainland.  Jake and Nancy continued the bit by making up stories in jumbled European accents.  It made the travel time back to our big cozy room go by even quicker.  After we had the chance to shower, we had a relaxing evening that turned into a pajammy-jam party.  We all needed the rest, and we loved that group bonding became the night’s activity.  James even went out to bring pizzas back to the room for all of us!

The next morning, we went to a funky coffee and smoothie bowl place that sat perched above on of the busier streets in Krabi.  We all enjoyed the decor and the amazing options that it had to offer, and we took pictures of our artistically plated meals.  Megan, Lily, Jessica, and Nancy took to the shops after breakfast to get any last-minute souvenirs and gifts while the rest of the crowd walked to the beach.  Ava had an idea for a video shot that led to the group spelling “Moondance” in the sand.  We can’t wait to see how the shot works into her video compilation at the end of the summer.

We were sad to leave the beach, but we were excited to travel to Bangkok to explore the cultural heritage and iconic structures there.  After the short flight, checking into our hotel, and resting for a bit, we went to dinner in a night market.  It was our final fully-Thai restaurant experience, and plenty of Pad Thais were ordered to commemorate the occasion.  We strolled around the markets and sang songs while we looked at the merchandise.  Back at the hotel, we took some time to prepare for Moonup and the following day.  When James and Nancy were ready, they found every member of the group in one room, cutting up and laughing and reminiscing on the inside jokes of the trip and making plans to see each other again after the trip. Naturally, we jumped right in!  As leaders, nothing could make us happier than to see all of the students in a big happy pile on the last night in-country.

We packed plenty into our last day in Thailand.  We met Apple, our guide for the day, and set off to see the Grand Palace.  Every single surface on the structure is covered in mosaic and design.  Some buildings were coated in gold, and glimmered in the Thai sunshine.  Emma and El used their photography skills and great cameras to try and capture everything they could.  There were group shots, solo shots, and pictures of the architecture itself.  Marveling at the intricate designs was a highlight for all.  Afterward, we got on wooden boats and took a tour of the canals and river systems that surround Bangkok.  Claude and Emma were the water monitor monitors, and they spotted the most of the giant Southeast Asian lizards.  We made our way to the largest mall in Bangkok for lunch, where we all took advantage of the many options in the food court.

Finally, it was time to return to our hotel to prepare for our final banquet.  We chose a funky restaurant nearby, and most of us wore our elephant pants to dress up for the occasion.  Looking around at the table, it is hard to believe that most of us just met only twenty-one days ago.  We have shared meals around bamboo tables in small village huts, on the decks of boats on the Indian Oceans, and even in Thailand’s best Tex-Mex restaurant.  The tone of this meal feels different, as we all know we are airport-bound after dessert.

We are so thankful for the time we have spent together here in this amazing country.  We are full of gratitude for every experience, and for the chance to go through it all together.  We will never forget our time spent in the Land of Smiles, and what this place has taught us.

To the families of: Ava, Anna, Mary App, El, Emma, Jessica, Megan, Lily, Chase, Claude, and Jake, we are so grateful for the opportunity to have shared the last three weeks with them. They are bright, loving, and exemplify what Moondance stands for. We cannot wait to hear what they accomplish in the future. Thank you for sharing them with the Moondance family.

With love,

Nancy and James

A Whole New World Underwater!

July 20, 2019

Greetings from the tropics!

We have been busy in the past week getting our underwater passports and becoming island-hopping professionals!

Since we last checked in, we left our village home in the mountains by way of floating bamboo rafts and took a relaxing ride through parts of the Chiang Mai jungle. Our Thai gondoliers maneuvered around rocks and overhangs, and we even got to lay eyes on more elephants.  After our raft ride, we caravanned back to the city of Chiang Mai.  Everyone headed straight to the showers.  While we have smelled better after our many days in a remote village, we won’t ever lose the smell of the adventure we have had there.  That evening, we walked to a much-anticipated American style dinner where our students chowed down on more pizza, burgers, and fries than we thought possible.  We love Thai food, but something about a burger just makes us feel whole again.

The next day, we jumped back into Thai culture by visiting our favorite breakfast spot, where we tried new fruits and took note of how incredibly fluffy our pancakes were.  In continuing our foodie day, we headed to a cooking class at a sustainable farm.  We cooked three Thai dishes including Prawn Tom Yum, Pad Thai, Green Curry with Chicken. Ava added her own flavor (pun intended), by getting creative in the kitchen, much to the delight of her sous chefs and taste-testers Emma and Claude.  After we were full of our own food, we headed back to our hostel to be welcomed by clean laundry – a cause for a round of applause.  Later that evening, we ventured to the Chiang Mai Saturday Night Bazaar.  This bazaar is quite the spectacle, with street food, handmade goods, live musicians, and so much to see.  Chase won the most delicious treat award with a chocolate milk that included whipped cream and chocolate syrup.  We think the US should take lessons.  We awoke early the next morning for a full day of travel.  Jessica joined Nancy and James on the rooftop patio for a quick morning workout.  “Sally-Up’s” have become quite the workout craze.  We were recharged for the day ahead and ready to fly to the crystal blue waters, palm trees, and coral reefs of the Thai islands.

Everyone was enamored with how beautiful the water was as we touched down on the island of Koh Samui.  Our first order of business was to get the freshest smoothie bowls and we happily enjoyed these while waiting on our ferry. About an hour before dusk, we set sail for Koh Tao.  The sun setting on the horizon was picturesque as we re-enacted the Titanic scene at the bow of the boat and snapped some pictures.  We arrived at the dock and were greeted by one of our guides who help load us up into a few vehicles and had us en route to our bungalows.  The sound of gentle waves lapping against the shore and the salty air had us completely on island time.  Bright and early the next day, we began learning about the wonderful world of scuba diving.  The morning was spent reviewing material and discussing how things would go once we got on the boat.  Right before lunch, we boarded a taxi boat that delivered us to our scuba vessel – The Seacutter.  We set sail and were headed to our first dive site.  On the way, Mary App and Emma spotted a pod of dolphins which is a rare occurrence around Koh Tao.  Our instructors were loving every second of it, claiming they had not seen dolphins in this area in years.  The squad of divers was divided into two teams, Open Water and Advanced.  The Open Water began learning the ins and outs of diving while the Advanced group started refreshing some skills and learning new ones.  No matter the skill level, everyone was awestruck by their first breaths underwater.  We rejoined the boat after the first dive to share our experiences and eat lunch on our huge main table on the deck.  The best spot on our vessel, however, was above the main deck in a hammock hangout area. The amount of tea and Oreos consumed up there almost sank our boat.  We continued to learn and develop our new skills in the afternoon and ended the day at sea by listening to music and dancing our way back to the bay of our bungalows.  For dinner, we gathered in the restaurant nearby and dined on traditional Thai dishes served family style.  Craving something sweet, we walked to the nearby convenience store to find man who was making pancakes from a cart.  Not only were the pancakes delicious, but the gentleman’s technique was fascinating to watch.  Scuba diving invited quite the appetite.

The sun rose the next morning and we were chomping at the bit to get back out in the water.  Our day started at what we became our go-to breakfast spot.  We fueled up on smoothie bowls, French toast sandwiches, and breakfast burritos.  After a quick briefing, we boarded Seacutter and set sail for a new diving spot.  We saw everything from barracuda to butterfly fish.  Lily and Jake took quickly to underwater communication, memorizing the hand signals for different fish and signing their location to the rest of the group. We went on three dives this day to continue to learn and check off skills.  The advanced group worked on fish identification while open water mastered BCD control and neutral buoyancy.

That night for Moonup, we all boarded a floating dock (the only one on the island of Koh Tao).  In a Moondance first, leaders Nancy and James were nominated to the role of LOD and facilitated our dock Moonup.   We asked each member of the group to ponder the future careers of their fellow Moondancers, and we learned a lot about each other.  while there were plenty of laughs, everyone left that night with some nuggets of wisdom that may influence our future decisions.

We began the next day by delighting our tastebuds yet again from our breakfast spot, Big Bite.  We had a full day of diving ahead of us that would culminate with a night dive!  The advanced group got to do their first ever deep water and navigation dives.  Anna, Megan, Jake, and Claude performed swimmingly well, navigating their underwater course without much help from their instructor.  On their deep dive, they learned about thermoclines as well as the importance of safety stops.  During an afternoon dive, El, Lily, Jessica, and Chase saw a large, undulating jellyfish that had small fish hiding inside of it.  We were in awe of how it moved through the water.  In the evening, our captain took us to a place called Shark Bay to wait for our dinner to be brought out to the boat.  During this time, Anna, Nancy, and James took to the water in hopes of seeing Blacktip Reef Sharks.  While they did not see any sharks, they saw some large needlefish as well as feeding sea turtles!  When we were full from dinner, we watched the sun set and prepared for our night dive.  The excitement was on everyone’s face as we couldn’t wait to get into the water and see what sea creatures come out at night. We ended up getting to see grouper, spotted ribbon tail rays, and even a squid!  Gazing up into the moonlight refracted by the ocean surface overhead was just as breathtaking as the fish.  Everyone agreed that this was by far one of the coolest and most memorable experiences.  We headed back to our bungalows with some serious stoke.

Our final day of diving started early and with a bang!  We got to explore a shipwreck on the deepest dive for our Open Water group.  Everyone felt like a true explorer of the ocean while we swam over the boats’ deck and peered into the windows.  Our second dive was a site called Junkyard where items such as small boats, gym equipment, and even a couple of toilets were dropped to give coral a stable place to grow.  We had fun on our last dive of the trip swimming around these crazy structures and taking go pro videos.  Hopping back on the Seacutter, we played music and danced our way back to our cove for the final time.  All of us are returning home with PADI certifications and plenty of great pictures and videos of our time under the sea.

The afternoon was spent lounging around the beach in front of our bungalows.  We napped on the dock and in hammocks, read our books, and enjoyed the sun.  Wanting to explore more of the island, we walked the beach in search of volleyball and other activities.  Mary App, El, Claude, and Chase took on Emma, Ava, Anna, and Nancy in a game of beach volleyball.  We may not compete at Olympic level, we sure had a fun afternoon.  Strolling back over to our side of the beach, we were welcomed by the smells of Korean barbecue for dinner.  Everyone sat on cushions on the floor to cook their meat, noodles, and eggs on multiple grills on the table.  It was a very interactive meal that showcased our chef abilities.  As good as they may be, our skills could not compare to the pancake man that we visited for the final time after dinner.

On our final morning in Koh Tao, a few of us woke up before the sun to watch it rise from a viewpoint nearby.  Sitting on top of a high rock perched over the island, Jessica, Nancy, and James welcomed the day by watching the golden sunlight spread across the clouds and sea.  It was certainly worth the early morning alarm.  After climbing back down, we gathered the rest of the group for breakfast at our favorite spot in town.  The feeling is mutual it seems, because they opened up their doors and had our breakfast ready before their usual business hours.  The smoothie bowls fueled us for a day of travel ahead.  Ferries, busses, and vans lead us to Krabi, where we will spend the next few days rock climbing and laying in the sand.  Our view will be the limestone karsts and white sand beaches that are the focus of many postcards.  We are excited for the next portion of our adventure, although it is bittersweet knowing that we are nearing the end of our time here.  We want to take advantage of every moment in this country and with our Moondance family.

With love,

Nancy and James

Amazing times in Chiang Mai at community service!

July 13, 2019

Greetings from Chiang Mai!  Now showered, full from an American-style dinner, and basking in modern conveniences like air conditioning, we are already reminiscing on our time in the rustic mountain village that we came to know as home.  It is a place that saw the strengthening of the bonds that our students made early on, and we are thankful for the time we spent there.  The sense of community that we created will carry us well through the following weeks of our trip.

Our journey in the villages of northern Thailand began when we met our guide, Uncle Chai.  He has become an honorary member of the Moondance family, and even has the shirt to prove it – nugs to Claude for supplying it.  Uncle Chai led us up the trail on a hike up to the village that passed new kinds of plants and meandering streams.  He showed us how to blow bubbles out of some plants and how to paint our faces with others.  He gave Anna and Emma the markings of warriors.  We stopped at a refreshing waterfall where our lunch was wrapped up in banana leaves. A swim in the cool pools under the waterfall invigorated us for the second leg of the trek. This time, we were weaving our way through rice paddies.  Our LODs El and Megan did a great job of keeping the squad motivated and moving at a solid pace. Towards the middle of the afternoon, we arrived in our new home for the next five days – a bamboo-floored hut perched over rice paddies and rolling hillsides.  We were in awe of the view.  The golden hour was upon us, and we took advantage of the light and the sweeping vistas to have quite a photoshoot on the open-air porch.

The first full day in the village, we awoke to the sound of roosters and the aroma of breakfast being cooked over an open flame.  We sat down and enjoyed a hearty first meal of the day before setting off to the primary school to begin our service project.  Our objective was to construct a new fence along the backyard of the school.  Ava led the charge in mixing concrete since she has previous experience from service work on her last Moondance adventure.  Jessica put “Leave No Trace” ethics into action and picked up litter and debris from the construction site.  Anna and Mary App impressed everyone with their posthole digging skills.  All work and no play aren’t the Moondance way, so we made sure to spend the afternoon playing all sports imaginable with kids of every age.  While El bumped a volleyball around with a group, Jake kicked the soccer ball with some very talented kindergarteners.  Lily was taught how to play Thai checkers despite the language barrier, instead using observational skills to learn the rules.  This new skill became helpful later that evening.  Anna and Claude led a card game in which no rules are explained ahead of time, and each player must deduce them for themselves.  We have some true competitors in our midst!

Over the next few days, we settled into the routine of the village.  We woke to the rooster crows, worked at the primary school, and came home to connect further with our group.  During breakfasts, the leaders took on the roll of baristas by making everyone’s favorite coffee beverages.  We set off each day to the school to continue working on the fence, painting, digging, and drilling.  Paintbrushes in hand, El and Megan spent a considerable amount of time making sure each beam was painted thoroughly.  After lunch on our second day, we engaged in an intense game of ultimate frisbee.  Prior to the start, Chase was giving pointers on how to flick and throw the frisbee more efficiently.  After some warming up, Anna, Emma, El and James faced off against Ava, Mary App, Claude, Megan, and Nancy.  Everyone agreed that it was quite the cardiovascular workout.  That afternoon, we had a brief rain shower.  We got to see just how resourceful our group is as they filled up empty bottles of water so that we didn’t have to use any of the huts’ water reserve to shower.

On the third day, we headed back to the school for our final day of service, determined to finish the fence.  Lily, Mary App, Jake, Megan, Anna, El put in work drilling screws to finish off the fence, we were all extremely proud of the work we had done.  We went back to our hut for a well-earned lunch.  After chowing down on some chicken and rice, we went down to the paddies on the hillside below our hut and planted rice of our own.  We all decided to have a group hair-washing extravaganza with the water we saved from the rain.  Everyone was very happy to have sweet-smelling hair at the end of it, and we felt good about utilizing our resources well.

The final night in the village was the most memorable, as we were able to witness and take part in a Karen ceremony.  Jessica decorated a three foot tall structure with hydrangeas, peonies, and other flowers to get it ready for the occasion.  Lily, El, and Megan asked to help in the kitchen and got to roll and fry spring rolls for dinner.  Following the most delicious meal yet, we sat down surrounding the flower arrangement and the elderly family members of our hosts performed a ceremony that blessed us with good luck and positive chokdee (Thai for luck) in our future travels.  The elders knelt in front of each of us and wrapped a white thread around our wrist while they gave us their blessing.  It was a moment that none will soon forget.  Lily spoke with the guides, and we were lucky enough to get a personal tour of our friend Cha’s home.  His wife, children, parents, and grandparents welcomed us into their home and provided us with tea and conversation.  We cherished this experience to see the typical Thai village home and enjoy the hospitality that they provided.

Our Moonups here in these ancient mountains have taken place around our communal bamboo table, lit by candles and a solar lantern.  We have asked deeper questions and prompted more meaningful connections between us.  We have also laughed so hard that we cried, learned new games, and made memories that will become stories to bring home to friends and family.  In the meantime, here are a few shoutouts to all of you back home:

El – Hi family! I am having SO much fun and cannot wait to tell y’all all about this really cool country and all my new friends! Mom and dad, I hope y’all had so much fun on your cruise and happy early anniversary! Also, HAPPY late FIRST birthday to B man!!! I cannot wait to see y’all when I get home! Love y’all so so much!

Mary App – Hey dudes! Hope y’all are having fun at the bay and I can’t wait to tell y’all about Thailand bc it’s been quite the trip. Fuller, hope you are not dying and bored out of your mind but if you are don’t worry I’ll be back soon… also Harrigan hope you have so much fun on your trip and I can’t wait to hear about your trip! Mom and Dad I miss y’all so much! Can’t wait to see y’all soon! Also someone better be keeping Hayden in line so if not pls get on that <3 love y’all sm! See y’all soon!!

Jake – Hi fam!  This trip is amazing!  I am feeling a little under the weather.  Hopefully, I will feel better by the time you read this.  I love all of you and I can’t wait to see you again.  PS- keep gramps calm about me being sick.

Chase – Hello family! Hope you guys are having fun without me. I’m having so much fun here with all the cool fruit and animals, but I am beginning to become a little low on patience when it comes to rice. We’re moving on to scuba diving soon and beach rock climbing and I’m super excited. Love you all and see you soon.

Lily – Hello everyone!  I only sort of miss y’all, because I’m having lot of fun!  I made a best friend named Cha, and Uncle Chai told me to come back to the village and teach English one day.  I’m very excited to tell y’all all the stories and show you all my pictures.  Love y’all!!  Happy late birthday Dad!!  You are getting old.  Also, happy birthday Mrs. Kelley!!

Megan – Hello family! I am having so much fun! But I miss y’all (ngl I miss Libby the most but what’s new). I have decided to move in with the elephants and maybe never come home but I guess I will consider it. @cj, I can’t wait to jam to the new Ed with you! Hope all is well at the parks mama and that your new class is easier than your last H!! I miss y’all tons and can’t wait to see you ALL at the airport and tell you all my amazing stories! All my love, moo moo

Ava – Hi family I miss y’all so much! Mom, Amelia, Dad I am having the time of my life and I can’t wait to see y’all!!! Also to everyone that was worried (ie Kasey and SG), I survived the village and LOVED it so much. Shoutout to all my best friends Stefi, SG, Kasey, Pross I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to see y’all when I get back! All my love, Ava

Claude – Hello mother, hope you are enjoying the time without me. I am having a splendid time here in Thailand without you. Tell father I bid him hello and wish him good fortune on the farm. Tell my brother I do not miss him and he’s a chang (Thai for elephant)

Anna – hi family! I’m having so much fun but I can’t wait to see y’all! I hope Raleigh isn’t too boring without me 🙂 we’ve done so much already and we still have so much left, i can’t wait to tell y’all all about it. Give Ollie a BIG hug and kiss for me, see y’all soon(ish)! Also happy early bday mom!!!!

Emma – Hey fam I miss y’all so much! I hope you guys are having a great time in Paris, because I am having the best time ever. Also miss you SG and Stefi hope y’all are living it up in ATL can’t wait to see y’all!! Love, Emma

Jessica – Hey Mom, Dad, and Rick!  I miss y’all so much (I frequently use that slang now that I’ve been fully schooled by my southern girls).  And so much country music is coming your way.  But don’t worry, I’m not missing you too much because I’m having a blast.  Rick, you’re the best!  I’ve immensely enjoyed your M&Ms plus my friends have been too!

I can’t wait to savor my time with y’all when I get back.  I’ve been taking it day by day and don’t know the time of day most of the time.  It’s crazy 🙂 LOVE YOU—Jess

James K – Mom! I hope you have a great birthday! Dad I hope you are kayaking it up! Kathryn, I know you are rocking it at Camp ASCCA!

Nancy – Hi Momma and Dad!  I hope y’all are having as amazing of a summer as I am!  Miss y’all!  Kell- miss you and wish you were here!  I’m currently scouting out spots for our next adventure!


With love,

Nancy and James

Starting the trip with a splash in Chiang Mai!

July 7, 2019

Greetings from our bungalows in a Chiang Mai jungle!


We have been moving and shaking ever since we touched down in here in the Land of Smiles. After arriving in the airport we headed to our hotel for a well-earned rest. The next day, we woke up and had a delicious first breakfast of eggs, hash browns, fruit, and toast. When we were energized and ready to rock, we headed back to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. While on the flight, we were served some scrumptious baked sweet cakes with orange marmalade. Upon arriving, we met our guide and then transferred to our wonderful hostel with a pool! After settling in to our new abode, we set out in search of Elephant pants. Claude came out on top with his super breezy pair of elephant pants and Thai full zip jacket. We found a great place to have our first traditional meal, the Pad Thai was by far the most popular dish. Following dinner, we went to a night bazaar and were all amazed at the color and design of it. After we left, Jake showed his navigational prowess and guided us through the winding streets back to our hostel, he made it look easy. That night for Moonup, the question was “What do you want to get out of this trip the most?” El and Lily both talked about how this was their opportunity to truly get out of their comfort zone and do things they would not normally do. Everyone had such positive answers, including wanting to form new relationships, and immerse themselves in a new culture. We all went to bed with goal-oriented mindset.


Our second day in Chiang Mai, we were able to get our climb on!  Emma was so excited for the day that she woke up singing.  We separated into two groups. One starting with a rappel and one starting with the climbing. Chase and Jessica immediately took to the most challenging walls, taking adversity head on, and they both succeeded.  In the rappelling group, Megan was first to face her fears.  After climbing into the mouth of a cave using via ferrata-style metal rungs, we lowered ourselves over the edge to a 60-foot descent.  We were rewarded by a lunch of chicken fried rice, then swapped groups so that everyone was given the chance to try both.  We may have some future climbers on our hands!


After we returned from climbing, sweaty and exhausted, we set out again to explore Chiang Mai’s Old City.  Our LOD’s Mary App and Claude took the reins and mapped us out a route to get to dinner.  While on the way, we stopped to observe a Buddhist Temple and the service going on inside.  The intricate designs and inlaid gems on the temple’s facade were the subject of everyone’s photos.  Our group set out to find the best Mexican food in Thailand, and we believe we accomplished that goal.  Mango chicken quesadillas were a huge hit, and we walked home feeling full and happy.  Moonup on our second night in-country was a little out of the ordinary.  We took advantage of our surroundings and circled up by the pool.  All it took was the leaders to hop in, and the rest of the entire group was in the water almost immediately.  It was a great way to wash off the six layers of bug spray that we had accumulated during the day, and we happily floated while opening up to our group.  Getting the chance to swim for a moment makes us anticipate the upcoming beach and scuba portion or our adventure even more.


Knowing that we had a full day of new experiences awaiting us the next day, we all got to sleep quickly.  LODs Jessica and Jake led us to breakfast in the morning, and we ate the most colorful fruit, fluffy pancakes, and dangerously good coffee that fueled us up for the day ahead.  We stopped at a fruit market en route to the elephant sanctuary where we would spend most of our day.  Lily drank fresh coconut water straight from the fruit, most students left the market with a new hat to take home, and everyone sampled a new fruit.  Off to meet some pachyderms!  Everyone was excited to meet the elephants, but we had no idea how close we would get.  We learned more about these massive yet gentle creatures, and we filled the morning with taking pictures and getting to know them.  After amazing curry and watermelon for lunch, we led the elephants on a small hike to a river.  The elephants followed us on trails, over roads, and past rice patty fields, only led by a thin rope hooked over their right ear.  We watched the elephants dive right into the deep part of a jungle river to cool off, and then hopped in ourselves.  Ava and Anna were sprayed by the trunk of one particularly playful elephant that was clearly loving the chance to bathe in the cold river.  We watched the animals play and snorkel with their trunks.  Megan even got a kiss on the forehead from a trunk.  It was an experience that no one will forget.


After wrapping up this letter, we are off to a pre-dinner group dance party (group movement).  Our group of students who, only days ago were meeting for the first time, has quickly become a family.  We anticipate that these bonds will continue to grow throughout our time in this incredible country, and we can’t wait.


Signing off for now,

Nancy and James

Safe Arrival in Bangkok!

July 4, 2019

Hi Thailand Families,


The group has made is safely to Bangkok and the trip is off to a great start! Stay tuned for more updates on their adventure to come.


– Moondance HQ


  • Anna
  • Ava
  • Chase
  • Claude
  • El
  • Emma
  • Jake
  • Jessica
  • Lily
  • Mary App
  • Megan