July 25, 2019
It was sad leaving our new friends and temporary home in Karen Village, but Chiang Mai had been keeping us waiting! We surprised the kids with a sleep in this morning! After a long, hard working section in the village, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to give the kids this well-deserved snooze. We ate a great breakfast of delicious French toast, fruit, and hash browns. Additionally, our hotel had the treat of an omelet bar that was so delicious! Caitlin’s omelet definitely looked the best of all.
After filling our bellies, we headed to start our tour of the historic Chiang Mai! We had a full day ahead of us as we wanted to get as much sight seeing in during our allotted time. There was so much beauty around us so we made many stops at some temples that were off the beaten path! We had a delicious lunch at a cafe that was followed by a tasty treat of a local coconut ice cream shop.
The highlights of the day were singing the Wat Chedi Luang and the Wat Phra Singh. These two pieces of history were absolutely beautiful and consisted of so much Buddhist/Thai history that was all fascinating. Being in these sacred temples and seeing all of this beauty was truly unforgettable. It was such a treat to be able to experience such an important part of Thailand’s history.
After the touring, we headed to our new lodging for the night. Next, we headed to one of the better tasting American restaurants in Chiang Mai and shared a delicious, filling meal. Then, after a snack run to 7/11, we had a great Moonup led by Bradley and Rachael, and caught some zzzzs.
We woke up super excited for the day because we were heading to rock climbing and rappelling! It had been such a hit earlier in the trip, that everyone was very excited to go again! Our lodging provided a delicious buffet breakfast per usual, and we hopped in vans to head to our climbing site for the day.
For our morning section, we all got the chance to rappel down over 75 feet! This was a blast for all of us and surely a highlight of the trip. We all got to climb up the mountain to where we rappelled and it was such a cool experience (even though a little scary!). May totally crushed her climb. We then had a lunch of delicious fried rice with vegetables and chicken prepared by our rock climbing outfitter.
In the afternoon, we headed over to our rock climbing section. Everyone got a few good climbs in and crushed it. It was really cool getting to climb in a completely different kind of location from our first rock climbing trip. Fincher, Camilla, and Emerson demonstrated some real athleticism and talent on the rocks!
We headed back into Chiang Mai, chilled out at our hotel for a bit, and headed to one of our favorite local Thai places for dinner. Rachael ordered best here because she ordered her usual of Pineapple chicken fried rice, which was very tasty. We then headed into the night markets for the last time and shopped for a variety of gifts to bring back home with us!
We woke the kids up with a surprise! We got in the vans after a great breakfast, and headed to an incredible cooking class!! Everyone was very excited for the day as we headed to our beautiful site out in the country to cook delicious Thai dishes.
The chef introduced himself and his team, and showed us to the cool facility we would be working in for the next few hours. With each dish, the chef would show us how to prepare the food, and then we would go back to our stations to prepare it ourselves. He made it look easy and his skills were hard to compete with, but we all surprised ourselves with our natural cooking skills!
The first dish we made was “Tom Yung Soup” which is “spicy prawn soup.” It was really fun to make and ended up tasting delicious. This was Camilla’s favorite dish and she almost ate her groups entire thing of soup! The next dish was a chicken and tofu pad Thai wrapped in an omelette style egg. This dish took the hardest work and time as it had multiple steps. There was a tie for first place for the best looking dish between Ben, Camilla, and Bess and the group of Kathryn, Caitlin, and Bradley. The chef ended up taking pictures of their dishes because he said he might want to use them for advertising! They were so professional looking!
The last dish we made was green curry and it was so tasty. We then ate all of the food we had made for lunch all together and it was so great to taste our own creations! We next rode to the airport and waited in the very nice Bangkok Airways lounge and ate some Dairy Queen!!
We got into Bangkok and headed to a very delicious restaurant near our hotel and had banquet. We all ordered a variety of meals ranging from lamb to pasta. It all had a local Thai touch to it and was unique and delicious! We had our last Moonup tonight which was so sad but was so incredible. We all reflected on all of the awesome times on our trip and finished with the question “what is your biggest takeaway from this trip?”
We all awoke with much excitement and anticipation for our last day in this beautiful country! Our good friend, NuNu, cooked us a delicious buffet with delicious eggs and the best hash browns in the entire world!
We then headed into Bangkok with our amazing guide, Nina, and started our day of touring around Bangkok. We first went to the Grand Palace and got to see the beautiful buildings and temples located here and to learn about the history of the Royal family. The main temple located here is the most sacred in all of Thailand, as well as the most beautiful. We got to see the largest jade Buddha in the world which was incredible.
Next, we headed to a professional play/dance that told the story of Rama, a legend told in its own Thai version. It was so cool to see the elegant costumes and dances in this show and it was really interesting to learn about this story in such a spectacular way. The last part of our exploring of Bangkok was doing a river and canal tour on a long boat. This was such a cool experience where we got to see hidden parts of Bangkok that can only be seen by boat. We really got a great look at how so many people live in this interesting and unique part of Bangkok.
We finished off the city with a local lunch that might have been the best of the whole trip (that was capped off with some snow cones!). Heading back to our hotel, we blasted all of our favorite songs from the trip and had a crazy fun time. It was sad to know it was coming to the end, but we knew we had been living a pretty awesome life for the past three weeks. Before heading to the airport, we all treated ourselves to silly Thailand t shorts! The kids loved them and will hopefully remember this amazing trip by them!
I can’t believe that this is the end of such an amazing three weeks. We have shared so much joy, so many laughs, and have had the best time in the world. While Thailand will always have a special place in our hearts, we know that we can be together as a family anywhere in the world and still have such a blast! To many more amazing times with some truly incredible kids!
Thomas and Anna
July 19, 2019
We all woke up with much excitement today as we knew we were starting our journey West to begin seeing a completely new part of Thailand. After a great breakfast, we hopped in vans and headed out. Our stop for today was many of the kids’ highlight of the trip as we got to spend the entire day with elephants! These gentle giants gave us an experience that we would truly never forget.
We began by learning about the Asian elephant and all of its history and characteristics. Next, we sat down and interacted with these amazing creatures as we learned about their personalities. We were surprised to learn how intelligent these animals were! After, we all went on a walk where we ended up bringing the elephants to a beautiful spot on the river where we bathed them! During this, we learned commands such as “follow” and “stop” in the local Karen language. Seeing these giants play in the water was such a unique experience and so fun to watch. Bradley, Emerson, and Rachael absolutely loved their elephant and could not stop talking about him for the next few days. Kaylee walked her elephant the entire way and did not want to let go at the end. These two shared a real connection!
We then took a group picture and said goodbye to our new large friends and headed to our lodging for the night. The guesthouse we stayed in was absolutely beautiful and everyone loved our setup in this beautiful part of Thailand. Our lodging made us a dinner of fried chicken, grilled chicken, rice, locally grown vegetables, passion fruit, and many other delicious local foods. We ended the day with our LOD’S (Rachael and Bradley) leading us in an awesome Moonup in one of the coolest locations on the trip.
After a good night’s sleep, our crew woke up well-rested and ready for our hike into the mountain village where we would start our service. The breakfast was probably the best meal we had on the entire trip. Pancakes with locally made maple syrup with mango, eggs, toast, and an assortment of fruits filled our stomachs before we would burn it all off on the hike! Ben and Bradley will still not stop talking about how amazing this breakfast was.
We were led into the Thai Forrest by our guide, Uncle Chai. Along the way, he showed us many native trees and fruits and we really learned a lot. Uncle Chai’s knowledge of this area is amazing, and it was really enlightening to hear all he had to say. We stopped mid-way on our hike for our lunch break at this amazing waterfall. This was the highlight of the day as it was the most beautiful lunch location and we were able to cool down after a hard-working morning. Everyone remained in such high spirits as we continued to trek through the Thai countryside. However, we would not have been able to bring this energy if it weren’t for Ben’s awesome music choice!
As we approached the village, we were all in total awe. We saw that we were probably in the most beautiful and natural part of the entire country. We knew right from the start that this new location was special. We all stayed in this bamboo lodge that overlooked dozens of rice fields and it was truly special. As the sun set, a few of the local kids came to hang out with us and we sung songs and had an awesome time with them. It was such a special first few hours. We capped off the day with delicious local food and a peaceful and beautiful Moonup led by Emerson and Camilla.
Woken up by the roosters crowing in the distance and gazing out our amazing front yard, our day had begun. We had a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast and local fruit. (And delicious coffee and hot chocolate). The kids created a drink called “chofee” that was a mix of mostly cocoa and a little bit of coffee (it was truly delicious).
Uncle Chai led us to the school that we would be working on for the next few days. He introduced us to our project of a fence that encircled the outer perimeter of the school. We all partook in a variety of jobs from cement mixing, drilling, and putting in posts. Today, we also had a side project of constructing a wall around the school garden. Everyone really played their part all across the board.
Fincher started the day off with a ton of energy and knocked out a bunch of holes and put in many posts. Bess and Rachael made the fuel for the fire as they mixed concrete with a very efficient techniques taught by Uncle Chai. Kathryn and Caitlin were taught how to use the power drill and absolutely crushed it! They probably put up over 50 fence posts!! May spearheaded the garden wall building with Bradley and Camilla and they were able to build it with incredible efficiency and durability.
After a day of hard work, we headed back to our lodging and had an awesome hour of quiet where people either read, napped, or wrote it their journals. This was such a relaxing time and it all happened during golden hour which really capped off the day. This time made us realize what a special place we were in and was truly awesome. After another delicious local dinner prepared by our new friends, we had a great Moonup and went to bed.
The kids were all woken up to one of our new friends, Cha, telling us to “wakey wakey!” as he was laughing seeing the minimal responses he got. It was hilarious to watch! After our best breakfast in the village consisting of Indian hash browns and locally made bread, we headed back to the school to finish our work!
Everyone really brought the energy today as we knew it was our last full day of service. Our LODs, May and Caitlin, gave us some inspiring words as we began to attack the day! The work today consisted of a lot of heavy carrying and everyone fully participated. Having everyone with this energetic and ready-to-help attitude allowed the cement pillar and iron bar carrying to be much easier. We were really proud of our team. As we finished the fence, we all made a special Moondance sign headed up by Camilla and Caitlin. This sign was the staple of our work and it felt amazing putting this up as it embodied all of the hard work and incredible time we had working together.
When we were back at our lodging, we all get very invested into many different card games. From “spoons” to “kemps,” everyone was having a blast. However, Ben and Rachael were hard to beat. For dinner, we had an ABSOLUTE FEAST! It consisted of chicken kabobs, bread, fruit, pad Thai, rice, fried chicken, and the best of them all, banana spring rolls. Luckily, we had brought along some Nutella from a few days back and everyone destroyed it as we dipped dozens of banana spring rolls in it!
This last night was special as we had a ceremony with Uncle Chai and a few of the highly respected locals. We all received a blessing of the local spirit and bracelets to represent our membership of the village. They told us that if you stay in the village for than two nights, you were known as family. It was such a cool feeling, and everyone felt so humbled and honored by this unique experience. May and Caitlin then ended our awesome day with a great Moonup led by the question, “what is a future goal of yours?”
As we awoke to our last morning in the village, we were sad to know that our time in this special place was now coming to an end. With one final breakfast consisting of omelets, toast, and fruit, we were ready to begin our departure; however, Uncle Chai had a few things to show us before we left.
We packed up our stuff and loaded it up on the trucks that would take it to our lunch location. Uncle Chai then took us to the kindergarten school which we had not seen yet. He showed us all of the Moondance projects that had taken place over the years here, and we also got to meet the teacher and spend time playing with some of her students!
Next, we were taken on a tour of the village where we learned that 52 total families lived here and got to see what many of their homes looked like. We got a really cool history lesson when Uncle Chai let us see and use a machine that harvested rice. He told us it was one of the last few in the country that isn’t in a museum because the technology has improved dramatically. This was a really cool experience.
We then started our hike where Uncle Chai continued to show us many local plants and trees along the trail. Our friend, Cha, made many of us really fun hats out of leaves that people ended up wearing all day! We ate lunch and then transitioned to our bamboo rafting section where we all enjoyed a peaceful drift down the river. This was such a cool float and we saw some water buffalo and elephants bathing in the river!
We transferred to Chiang Mai and got settled in our new hotel. We headed to a great local restaurant where Bradley, Emerson, and Bess ordered best with their Margarita pizza orders! Everyone was happy to switch up the food after many consecutive Thai meals…that were delicious!!! We made an ice cream run where Rachael definitely chose best with her macadamia caramel ice cream! We then headed back to the hotel where Bess and Emerson led an awesome Moonup with the question “if you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?”
We’re having so much fun and looking forward to having a great wrap-up to the trip! Heading to see some of the world’s most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai now, but we’ll check in again soon!!
Love to all back stateside!
Thomas and Anna
Fincher: Hey fam, love you! Thailand is cool!
Camilla: hi! excited to see you soon, mnlmta
Bess: hey y’all love and miss you lots!!
Raebae101;)—Hey fam I cant wait to see u I know u miss me love you guys
May: Hey y’all, still having so much fun and can’t wait to tell you all about it!! Miss and love you
Emerson: hey guys! love and miss y’all. see you soon and can’t wait to tell y’all all about this trip!
Bradley: Hey y’all, Love and miss y’all 😉
Kathryn: hey guys! Love and miss y’all so much:)
Caitlin: Hey y’all! I’m so excited to tell y’all about all the crazy adventures we’ve had! Love and miss y’all so much!
July 12, 2019
Last time we chatted, we were about to leave the beautiful Bungalows of Koh Tao and head to Krabi beach for our next adventure. Knowing we had a full travel day ahead of us, we had one final breakfast at our favorite local spot and grabbed sandwiches and snacks to go that our LODs Rachael and Kathryn kindly carried for us on our journey. We had multiple ferries to hop to and from, but in between, we had a lot of fun playing Mafia as a group. May fooled all of us one round as a secret killer! So stealthy! Ben also exhibited really good EB (expedition behavior) when buying Camilla a surprise coke mid-day. Our group remained positive despite the long travel, and we were rewarded with a delicious dinner at a hip local spot upon arrival. Adventure awaited the next day, so we hit the hay after Moonup where we discussed B+ superpowers.
The next morning, our group set off for Railay Beach in a beautiful long boat to rock climb! The views of the bright blue water were absolutely stunning. Although not many people in the group had much experience climbing, we conquered many different courses very quickly! Kaylee surprised us all with her natural grace and ease on her first attempt at the most challenging climb. She made it to the top like a pro! Soon enough, we were all scaling the rocks. Although it was a test of our physical strength and inner perseverance, our group prevailed with smiles on our faces. Afterwards we broke for lunch by the beach, and Caitlin was kind enough to share some of her delicious chocolate cookies with Thomas and Anna.
In the afternoon, we had the most incredible opportunity to go rappelling in these exquisite caves. We began our trek deep into the mystical caves. Our group was having a blast climbing up ladders and maneuvering through the darkness. When we emerged, we felt like we were on top of the world! With a stunning view of the ocean and beach below, our group began to repel slowly down the face of the cliff. Bess and Emerson got to hold hands for the first part of their repel, and Thomas shot some awesome photos! The star of this repel was May because she put the bravest face on despite her fear of heights! Our group agreed this was one of the most magical moments of our trip thus far. We left the beach feeling accomplished and proud of one another, so we decided to reward the group with a delicious pizza dinner and McFlurry treats for a taste of home. Bradley ordered the Thai McFlurry special: salted caramel pretzel! With full bellies and happy hearts, we rounded out the night with Moonup where LOD Caitlin posed the question “what was a life-changing moment for you?”. Our groups responses and discussion were memorable and impactful for all.
The next morning we set off to climb one last time at a different location. Fincher was the first one to attack the day’s climb sites, and although they were more challenging than those from the day before, our group once again crushed the tasks at hand. Camilla really stole the show with her climbing ability, making it all the way to the top of the hardest site to climb in minutes. We all successfully made it to the top of difficult climbs, instilling a sense of accomplishment and pride within the group.
Our afternoon consisted of meandering through the bustling streets of Krabi beach, popping into various local shops to check out the merchandise. Emerson and May bought matching jerseys, and Bess purchased what she says is her new favorite T-shirt! After shopping, we hit the beach for the rest of the evening. A riveting game of Death Hack commenced on the beach with Ben at the lead, and Anna and Caitlin explored a nearby secret beach together! The icing on the cake was the beautiful sunset array of pinks and purples we saw on the beach as we enjoyed our supper spread together. It was the most spectacular way to end our time in Krabi beach!
Next we head north to Chang Mai to see the elephants and dive into our community service section. We cannot wait to fill you in! We have some shout outs to share with you from our kids below-enjoy!
Until next time,
Thomas and Anna
Camilla: Hello family. I miss y’all a lot and I’m having really good time, MNLMTA
Ben: I love y’all, see you soon! Thailand and SCUBA is so fun! -Ben
Emerson: Hey y’all. I’m having the best time and can’t wait to tell you about it. I love and miss y’all!
May: Hey from Thailand!! Having the best time here and I can’t wait to see you soon. Love you!!
Bradley: Hey fam, I had a great time scuba diving and rock climbing. Can’t wait to start our service soon! Miss y’all lots.
Fincher: What’s up fam, I’m having a great time here in Thailand, and it is so pretty! Scuba diving was super fun and I can’t wait to see y’all soon. Love y’all!
Bess: Hey y’all!! Thailand is the ~coolest~ ever! Miss y’all bunches but don’t really want to come home ever. Lolz. Happy birthday Mama<3
Caitlin: Hey y’all! I miss you guys but I am having a blast! Can’t wait to see you and go to the lake! <3
Rachael: Hey fam I miss u and the girls a bunch, but I’m having the best time here! It’s sooooo pretty and different than any other place we’ve been to. See u soon love u guys so much!
Kaylee: Hi family of mine I love and miss you sooooo much can’t wait to see you later this month!
Kathryn: Hey y’all!! I miss you guys so much and can’t wait to see y’all soon:) having lots of fun exploring Thailand and can’t wait to give y’all a hug:)
July 9, 2019
Sawadee Kah! Greetings from Thailand!
Our group has just finished the SCUBA portion of our trip in Koh Tao, and we are happy to report that we have all officially obtained our Open Water Diver certifications! We are one with the fish in the sea now. Our trip is off to an incredible start, so let us recap it for you all!
Spirits were high in the Atlanta airport on the day we met. We had a long day of travel ahead, but our kids were all smiles the whole time! We passed the time making connections and getting to know one another before finally arriving in Bangkok. Our group settled into the hotel for a well-deserved sleep.
Since we were traveling over July 4th, we decided to surprise our kids on July 5th with a (late) celebration. We woke them up with red, white, and blue socks that we all wore on our trek to Koh Tao, a beautiful island we have called home for the past four days. We were certainly traveling in style! Everyone’s faces lit up at the site of our little cove and our personal Bungalows that overlook the water, an absolutely stunning site. To top off the evening, we took the kids to a local restaurant in Koh Tao to have our first experience with local Thai food, which was absolutely delicious! Pad Thai with chicken was by far the most popular order amongst the group. Before hitting the hay, we brought out our final salute to the 4th of July (red, white, and blue Skittles!) and had our first official Moonup where we posed the question: “why are you here?”. It was obvious from everyone’s responses that we were here to expand our horizons: to experience a culture different than our own and to grow as individuals (Together!). And that is exactly what we started to do the next day with scuba diving.
The next morning, we awoke to a beautiful blue sky and a glistening ocean. We enjoyed a quick breakfast of Nutella and peanut butter toast, fresh pineapple that LOD Caitlin cut up for everyone, and granola bars. We stayed in the dive shop for the first part of the morning to brush up on our scuba skills before heading out into the ocean! Our dive boat was quite spacious with an incredibly kind staff, and our group found our own little nook on the top of the boat. We had hammocks and great music thanks to Kathryn, passing the time of transportation easily with good conversations and laughs. Once we arrived at our dive spot, we had multiple skills to practice in the water, including taking our very first breath underwater! After all of our hard work, Camilla led us in songs atop the boat as we watched the sun set. It was a magical day! After a delicious family style dinner of Thai dishes, Fincher, our other LOD, decided to reward the group with an ice cream stop! It was a sweet way to top off our day.
As the sun rose again, we decide to try out a local breakfast spot before our day of diving. Rachael stole the cake with her order of French toast with bananas and maple syrup. With bellies full of scrumptious goodies, we set off for day two of diving! Ben really stepped up as a leader during scuba on this day, constantly encouraging his buddies to stay positive and keep the energy high. May also made huge strides with her ability to clear her ears and was going underwater like a champ by the end of the day. We all felt much more comfortable with diving after day two, almost as comfortable as the fish themselves! After we exited the boat, we decided to have a group hangout on our beach as a way to unwind. A huge game of “Big Booty” commenced, and Bradley and Bess decided to spice it up by making each round a different theme or accent. Laughter was certainly abundant! Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious pasta dinner and shared embarrassing stories with one another, which further bonded our group.
Day three of scuba was extremely exciting for all because we all obtained our Open Water Diver Certification! All of our hard work had finally paid off, and because we moved so quickly through the course, we got to do a night dive and two deep dives the following day! The group was ecstatic, but particularly Emerson because she grew so much during this section. Although timid at first, Emerson successfully completed all of the skills like a champ and was diving like a pro with her new certification. While we were waiting to go on our night dive, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of green curry on the boat while Kaylee took a lot of photos of everyone at golden hour. During the night dive, we got to see different kinds of things than we had seen during our day dives such as bioluminescence! Ben also saw an octopus and Camilla saw a blue spotted stingray! It was an experience we will never forget. Once we were done with our dive, we headed in for Moonup where we discussed our biggest fears about our futures, which led to a very fruitful discussion among the group.
Finally, on our last day of diving, we got to dive all the way down to a shipwreck! We were so proud of the whole group for accomplishing this task. We all got to see a shipwreck from World War II under the water, and many groups saw lots of big fish! Because we ventured out in the morning, we arrived back at our beach by lunchtime, and after a lunch of delicious make your own sandwiches and all the fresh fruit we could ever ask for, we headed to a nearby bay to relax for the afternoon. We had a dance party on the beach to celebrate our accomplishment (while looking around for the supposed black tip reef sharks, barracudas, and sea turtles said to be in this spot)! Our night ended with a celebratory dinner: a Korean barbecue on the beach! It was such a special evening, capping off our time in Ko Tao beautifully.
Next we head to Krabi Beach where rock climbing awaits! Our group is ready for the next adventure ahead, and we cannot wait to tell you all about it!
Anna & Thomas
July 4, 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