June 27, 2023
Hello families! It is with heavy hearts and teary eyes that we let you all know that your kiddos are officially in the air and on their way back home. Over the last few days since we last touched base, we further proved our climbing and rappelling skills in Chaing Mai, learned how to cook bamboo chicken, considered a Thai delicacy, and explored the beautiful Grand Palace in Bangkok! Our last few days were just as we had expected— reminiscent and full of belly laughs.
Climbing in Chaing Mai was practically a breeze for our group after having learned the basic skills in Railay earlier in the trip. We tucked a new skill into our tool belts, though as we found ourselves rappelling feel into a massive 33 meter cave. You’d have never know either Rachel or Lilly had just learned to fireman rappel— they looked like naturals! Our climbing took place in the afternoon, when we tried the hardest routes of the trip thus far (called 6As and 6Bs as we learned). During these climbs, Adam made a new bee friend (or maybe enemy) that didn’t seem to want to leave his side the entirety of the climb. This definitely got some giggles out of MG, Rach, and Lilly down below. Rachel still holds the title of spider monkey even after day 3 of climbing, while Lilly found a new love for a dog that followed us to the climbing wall. Our new canine friend was named Gertrude for the remainder of the climb, courtesy of Lilly’s naming skills!
Our last day in Chiang Mai before heading back to our departure city, Bangkok, was full of market shopping and cooking! Our wonderful cooking class guide took us to a local butchery and farmers market where we would gather ingredients needed for our class. Rachel pointed out how interesting it was that at this market, they bundle together herbs that complement each other well— we agree, Rach! After grabbing our chicken, fish, and copious amounts of herbs, we hopped into our open-air truck and hit the road for CRMCA’s home base to learn the ropes of Thai cooking. We diced, chopped, and muddled the herbs, spices and chicken until the mixture was ready to be inserted into the bamboo. After sitting on a charcoal grill for about an hour, the aroma of the savory smelling bamboo chicken and bamboo rice was making our mouths water. All our work paid off when we got to try the meal we had made and boyyy was it good! Lilly and MG especially liked the rice that got a little bit of bamboo char on it— added some extra flavor! Our cooking class was a massive success, and thanks to Rachel, we all now know how to properly cut an onion (you’ve gotta keep the hair on). Onion chopping skills and happy, full stomachs made for yet another successful day in Thailand!
Our last day in Thailand was full of new scenery for all of us. We traveled into the city of Bangkok with our two wonderful tour guides, Nina and Apple, who showed us the ropes of buying street market fruit (Durian doesn’t deserve its bad rep), led us on our scenic boat tour through the Chao Phraya River and several beautiful canals running through Bangkok, and taught us about the history of the Grand Palace as we walked through it with admiration — we didn’t even know buildings like that EXISTED. It was a brutally hot day, but the sweat only made it an immersive Thai sensory experience; exploring the country’s gorgeous capital city was a fitting end to a magical trip. After a banquet dinner full of laughs, memories, and talks of what their future Moondance experiences might hold, we hit the road for the airport to send our kiddos back to be all of your kiddos again.
As we now sit in the airport, we can’t help but reminisce on the wonderful times we had with both Lilly and Rachel, as well as the 9 other students. At the beginning of our trip, our first Moonup question was “what do you hope to get out of this trip.” Both me and Adam answered something along the lines of, “we hope to learn something from each of you.” As 20 days have passed, we can confidently say that we got more than we had ever imagined out of this trip. We can only hope that we made a portion of the impact on your kids that they made on us. With much love, we send them back to you — hopefully with greater confidence, bigger smiles, and decreased cell-phone use. Thank you all for trusting us and Moondance. We miss them already!
Adam and Mary Gray
June 24, 2023
Hellooooo again from Thailand! Since parting ways from the elephants, we have made a new home in North Thailand — specifically, in the Karen Village of Baan Khao Lip. As you know, the size of our group has also shrunk considerably due to some participants’ violation of the Good Decisions Letter. Of course, this is not how we had expected our 3 weeks in Thailand to end, but we are so grateful to have Lilly and Rachel here as we finish making wonderful, adventurous memories!
Our trek into the village was led by our fearless guide, Uncle Chai, as he showed us the ins and outs of traditional Thai hilltribe life — “teaching us by the land,” as he likes to say. He showed us how to get red dye from leaves, how to extract fresh water from a tree limb, and how to use certain kinds of bark medicinally. A mere hour into our 7 mile trek to the Karen Village, our brains were already full of new knowledge about the region’s flora and fauna. The rest of our hike was punctuated by trail singalongs, lunch at a huge jungle waterfall, and a pit stop at a local elementary school where the village kids taught us how to play Sepaktakraw (AKA kick volleyball, you should Google it because it’s wild). Once we arrived at our homestay in Baan Khao Lip, we were shown to our new rooms. We felt like princesses thanks to the voluminous overhanging bug nets.
The next day, after an early wake-up call courtesy of the village’s roosters, we all sat down to a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, mangoes, pineapples, and bananas (we ate fresh fruit with literally every meal all week). Not long after, Uncle Chai escorted us down to where we’d be helping to construct a brand new church building. We spent the rest of the morning forming bucket brigades to transport rocks, dirt, and water to make cement. After a tasty lunch break, we resumed our cement mixing and we formed lines again to help community members fill the footprint of the soon-to-be church with our cement. A thunderstorm blew over us in the afternoon, but the local friends we had made (and our Bluetooth speaker) kept the group in good spirits until it was time to retire for the day. Refreshing showers, card games, books, and a beautiful view of rice fields waited for us back at our homestay. The rest of our relaxing evening flew by: we had a delicious dinner of Thai noodles (with more fruit), Uncle Chai unveiled a guitar which kept us all entertained, and everyone went to bed sleepy and content with the work they had done.
The next morning, Adam accompanied the dismissed group members back to Bangkok for their travel home. Meanwhile, Lilly, Rachel, and MG were greeted at the construction site with two giant vaults of chocolate and vanilla ice cream! Uncle Chai sure knows how to keep us going. We resumed mixing the concrete that would be used as the base of the church. With music blasting and ice cream dripping from our chins, we continued our bucket brigade right up until we were greeted with fresh bowls of pho for lunch. After lunch, Uncle Chai had another surprise up his sleeve! We took a quick hike to a local market and waterfall where we would cool off from our morning of work. Rachel made sure to point out every beautiful hillside, plant, or even line of termites we passed. It was not only impressive, but also demonstrated how attentive she is to nature and the beauty that lies within it. Lilly and MG were learning from her all day and seeing things from a new set of eyes! Our waterfall swim and hike ended with yet another wonderful dinner, consisting of corn on the cob, fried chicken, soybean crisps, roasted veggies, rice, and oh so much fruit! We could hardly contain our excitement at the sight of 3 pineapple boats— we would each get one to ourselves!! As our night came to a close, we couldn’t contain our giggles post spa-facials and as we tucked into bed. Lilly said it felt like a birthday sleepover, and boy was she right (we think it was more fun though).
Our final day is the village was marked by 1) learning how to plant rice (MG did accidentally trap Rachel in rice plants, but the Bluetooth speaker blaring Taylor Swift helped Rach find her way out) 2) the return of Adam!!! and 3) the most epic guitar concert a Thailand Moondance trip has ever seen. Where else can you hear Country Roads in English and in Thai?! All four of us were stomping and clapping along as our new friend, who is studying music as Chaing Mai University, serenaded us with his wonderful musical talent. At dinner, we learned about a Thai delicacy, bamboo chicken, which was presented to us fresh from a bamboo stick. We ate that, along with chicken kabobs, rice, veggies, and fruit. Yet another wonderful meal— we cannot thank our kind host family for the wonderful food they prepared for us! With full hearts and even fuller bellies, we turned over early to prepare for the next day’s trek out of the village.
On Saturday morning we awoke to noisy roosters for the last time, we packed, we said our goodbyes, and we followed Uncle Chai out of the village and into the jungle. We hiked through rice fields, over log bridges, and past THREE huge waterfalls before stopping at a cozy lunch spot and swimming hole. Everyone was reluctant to get in the cold river until MG demonstrated how bearable the temperature was with a colossal bellyflop. After a couple of rounds of “Dude don’t touch my rock” (imagine ridiculousness, but fun) and rock skipping, we were given our final banana leaf wrapped ball of fried rice. Uncle Chai fed our lunch scraps to the river’s hungry fish population and then we were off. At the end of our trek, we were greeted by bamboo rafts that would take us on a relaxing ride down the river to our next method of transportation. Legs, bamboo rafts, and vans — we used it all today! Once arriving back to Chaing Mai, we quickly hit the road to experience the rage of the Wua Lai Walking Street Market firsthand. With so many different food vendors, the options were endless! Make sure to ask Rachel and Lilly what they thought about the crickets we tried tonight 😉 We don’t want to ruin any surprises, but both girls have some great gifts from the Saturday night market coming home with them! As we tuck into bed, we are excited for climbing tomorrow, but also dreading saying goodbye to these girls. Our time together has been wonderful, but has felt too short. We hope these next few days go by slower than the past 2 and a half weeks have!
Mary Gray and Adam
June 19, 2023
Although it hasn’t been long since we’ve last sent a carrier pigeon back to you all, we wanted to keep everyone in the loop of the long awaited.. that’s right… airport day! Kidding, kidding — we’ll address the elephant in the room. We’re talking the gentle giants, the gray mammoths, the eaters of sesame medicine… we just had our elephant day!!!
Before we jump right into our time at the elephant sanctuary, we’ve got some stuff to catch all of you up to date on. We had a connection Bangkok in between Krabi and Chiang Mai, and while the layover may have been long, the kids made the most of it. Cannon ever so kindly bought the group Krispy Kreme donuts, which we demolished in approximately 2 minutes. We decided to camp out by a long string of restaurants, including local fan favorites, as well as some Thailand originals. Rachel, McClure, and Berlin made their way over to a Thai restaurant where they each split different ramen dishes and sushi rolls. Airport sushi is legit over here, we promise. Evelyn and Lilly kept MG hysterically laughing at their table at a different restaurant in eye shot. Not having our phones, especially during meal times, makes for such genuine conversation and audible laughter and we hope the kids continue this at home. They have such a special ability to keep the mood light and giggly, but also can dive deeper when prompted. That is one of the things that we think makes this group such a special and close-knit one.
After our airport meals, we camped out near security where Evelyn would lay out her newly purchased straw mat to use as a card table for Parks and Miller. Cards were dealt, books were throughly read, conversations were had, and before we knew it, we were hopping on our plane to Chiang Mai. As we jetted off on another flight, we reminisced on the differences between this airport day and our first one. The friendships we have made, the conversations we have had, and oh, the things we have done leave each of our hearts feeling full. Every person felt sentimental that our trip was already half way over, but also felt excited for what the second half of our trip would have to offer.
A few hours later we were welcomed to northern Thailand by a blast of hot, sticky Chiang Mai air. Elephant art adorned the airport’s halls and the city’s walls we passed on the way to our cozy hotel. There, we were greeted by purple bath towels folded neatly in the shape of origami elephants on our beds. And after a starlit, poolside Moonup, we all went to sleep with dreams of elephants filling our heads.
The next day, we woke up to blue skies and a sprawling breakfast spread. Elephant Eve had turned to Elephant Day, and the anticipation was palpable. Shortly after eating, we met with Uncle Chai — a short, spry, smiley Thai man who will be our guide throughout our adventures in northern Thailand. After a scenic drive and a pit stop at a local street market, our vans trundled down the muddy, overgrown road to the elephant sanctuary. There, we were greeted by 2 baby and 5 adult Asian elephants (the youngest baby was just a year old, and the oldest adult was 40 —That’s almost older than Adam and MG!) Before any formal introduction to the animals, everyone swapped their T-shirts for colorful woven Thai v-necks; Uncle Chai told us that the elephants would recognize their look and smell, putting them at ease and making them immediately friendly towards us.
It definitely worked! We started by feeding them, and Isaac led the charge. With sugar cane in hand, he carefully placed it at the end of the elephant’s trunk as it curled it into its mouth. Carson giggled her way into a friendship with one of the adult elephants, who gracefully wrapped his trunk around her. Everyone in the group, especially Will, grew to love the runaway baby elephant, Junior, and the adult elephant, Boogalew, rubbing their backs and trunks as we followed them through their habitat of long grass and low-hanging trees. Junior stomped around like a toddler, struggled to walk straight, and even fell at our feet for a tummy rub. The elephants continued munching on our snacks and the shrubbery as we made our way to a patio to munch on our own lunch. A delectable spread awaited us — boats of pineapple, watermelon, and mangos, fried rice, and fried chicken. The mountainous view and colorful surplus of fruits made this lunch one of our best yet! Uncle Chai then taught us how to make medicine for the elephants — a combination of sesame, bananas, salt, ground sugar cane, turmeric, and sticky rice to hold it all together. Rachel mortar-and-pestle-d the mixture like a pro. Everyone got a turn at mixing the elephant food, forming it into balls, and feeding it to our newfound gentle giant friends. Shortly after giving them their medicine balls, we had to say our goodbyes. With hugs, the biggest one coming from Lilly, and pets, we said our farewells and hit the road to our beautiful Lanna-style teak bungalows. Tomorrow we begin our trek into the Karen Village where we will do several days of service and enjoy the last bit of time we have together. We can’t wait to soak in more of the Thailand culture with these amazing 11 kiddos! Until next time!
Adam and Mary Gray
June 18, 2023
For those wondering what we’ve been up to since we left Koh Tao, the answer is climbing! When we weren’t hanging at our beautiful and quirky hostel in Krabi, we were scaling the awe-inspiring cliffs at Railay, the most beautiful beach any of us has ever seen. Here’s a breakdown:
Our first day away from our newfound home, Koh Tao, was another daunting travel day, and another travel day our group absolutely killed. After a quick taxi drive and a tearful goodbye to our friend Twei (), we were once again back on board a ferry speeding through the Gulf of Thailand. The water was much less choppy this time, giving Lilly ample time to sunbathe above deck. Once on the mainland, we transferred onto a big charter bus which would take us to Krabi; we all took naps like it was our job, and Carson later commented that the bus seats were “like, way comfier than the average bus seat I feel like.” They sure were Carson. We found our hostel a quick taxi away from the bus station, and the gang ended the day gorging on pizza and exploring our home for the coming days.
The next morning, we woke up bright and early to catch a ride from our wonderful guides from Real Rocks Railay. After fitting us for climbing shoes and harnesses, they whisked us away to Railay Beach on the region’s typical wooden longboats. We were greeted by a picturesque view, other happy climbers, and MONKEYS — there were legit monkeys all over the place, and some of them had babies on their backs. Not long after, MG and Adam admired the other monkeys: Cannon and Rachel literally flew up every wall the guides put in front of them, and we were all baffled. The nickname “spider monkey” was thrown around a few times. Climbing fun was had by all: McClure conquered a crazy route where her feet started over her head, while Will powered through his sunburn, being the first to finish the day’s tallest climb. Miller and Parks conquered the climb, as well, grinning from ear to ear as they came down. In the afternoon, we went on a headlamp-guided hike up through a seaside cave before repelling out of it. Our palms were sweaty, but the view was unreal. Carson and Miller were the first ones to brave the descent, posing for the camera on the way down. We can promise you the pictures don’t do the view justice; everybody stood in awe of the sun gleaming off the bright blue water below. We had never seen anything like it!
Our final (sad monkë) day of climbing was full of… you guess it! Our morning was spent on the same cliffs we had explored the day before, so we were basically experts. The monkeys continued to monkey, and everyone finished the morning with sore forearms and big smiles. Evelyn, who felt much better than the day prior, casually smashed the hardest routes like they were nothing. The route everyone struggled on, she climbed up with ease— you would have never known she had a tummy ache the day before! After a delicious Thai lunch (with arguably the best fried chicken we have ever had… so American, we know) we descended on West Railay Beach with relaxation in mind. As MG and Lilly submerged themselves into their books (they are doing their summer reading, we swear!), Isaac and Parks submerged themselves into the previously mentioned bright blue water. After a quick swim, the boys started what would become an incredibly competitive game of Death Sack (think dodgeball combined with hacky sack) on the beach. Winning herself yet another award, Berlin triumphantly emerged from the game victorious. After a quick stop at a local Railay beach convenience store, we hopped in the water taxi to enjoy our last night at Glur Hostel.
We ended the night on our hostel’s outdoor rooftop gym, where Cannon and Rachel led us in one of our most reflective Moonup yet. We were all able to think upon and share the different times in our lives where we felt free, as well as reflecting upon different points in our lives we have been proud of ourselves. Hearing each answer brought a smile to the group’s face as we were able to appreciate the things we have done in our lives. Ending with one big cinnamon roll hug, we laughed and hugged all the way to our beds with dreams of the Bangkok airport dancing in our heads (it’s seriously massive). Keep in touch 🙂
Adam and Mary Gray
Lilly – Happy Father’s Day dad!! And happy late birthday mom! Miss y’all all so much!!
William – happy Father’s Day dad I hope you have a great day. Im having a great time. Love you.
Isaac – Happy Father’s Day Colonel Bob! Hope today is filled with lots of smoked pork and wings.
McClure – Hey Mom and Sam and also Happy Father’s Day King!! You’re the best! Thank you for all that you do for us I hope you’re having an amazing day! Miss and love y’all so much!
Cannon – Hey Mom and Dad I love y’all. I hope you had a very happy birthday and can’t wait to see you! Happy Father’s Day thank you for everything you do for me and I hope you have a wonderful day can’t wait to see you! I love all of y’all and I am having a wonderful time!
Evelyn – Happy dads day father!!! I love you so much and hope you’re having a great day. Thank you for everything you do. Hopefully the boys and mother spoil you :)Ps. Tell the family and Christian I love and miss them. Xoxo your love bug
Berlin- Hey family I miss y’all!!! Happy Father’s Day Dad!! Thanks so much for everything you do. I love and miss you! Can’t wait to see everyone when I get back! Love B
Parks- Happy Father’s Day Dad! I hope you’re doing well. I miss u and can’t wait to see u when I get back. Momma happy early birthday!!! I hope you have the best birthday ever and I miss you so much. Tell Ella and Nola I say hey.
Miller-HELLO KING FAMILY! Happy Father’s Day!! I am in the Bangkok airport for the second time. This time we are going to Chiangmai to bathe elephants. We just came from Krabi where we were rock climbing and rappelling for 2 days. I met Tway. He was cool. We also hung out at the beach and had a super good time. Hope you guys are having fun in the BVI’s. See you in like a couple weeks or something. I also love our leaders/parents who are named Adam and MG.
Rachel- Hi guys! Happy Fathers Day dad! I hope you had a really good day and I hope Jake actually remembered! I love you! I wrote you a card, make sure you get it from mom. Happy late birthday mom! You are the best. I’ll celebrate with you when I get back. I hope you got your gift from my closet! I love you! I’m having a great time the views are awesome! Give Jake a hug for me and tell him to get a magnet for me in Costa Rica. Tell Hunter I love him and to read this!! Miss y’all!
Carson-Wishing you the happiest Father’s Day Dad!! Let’s celebrate when I get back. I miss y’all!!! Pitter Patter.
MG- happy Father’s Day pops, doing epic stuff if ya know what I mean. Keep thinking on those dog names
Adam — Happy Fathers Day Dad!! Love you, miss you, have fun in Maine 🙂
June 14, 2023
Greetings from Thailand!
Adam and Mary Gray here and our 11 kiddos couldn’t be having more of a blast! Over the past 5 days, we have dived with turtles, chucked frisbees on the beach, and drank, like, a lot of coconuts. That short prelude doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we’ve been up to, so we will dive (haha get it?) right into what Thailand and the beautiful island of Kah Tao has had to offer for our amazing group.
From the moment the kids’ plane touched down in Bangkok and they walked through the gates, we knew this group was going to keep us laughing. Carson greeted us with a smile so big and laughter so loud that you wouldn’t believe she had just finished a full day and a half of travel. She began making connections with us and the group immediately, helping start the close-knit group we see now on day 7. After some good ole pizza (Pizza Hut tastes better here we swear!), the kids and their kid-sized luggage headed to our hotel in Bangkok where we would share more laughs and talk about what the next 3 weeks would hold!
The gang embarked upon a behemoth of a travel day the next morning, but they all took it like champs. We are willing to bet the Bangkok airport has never heard more riddles than it did that day. Miller even got to join in on leading Adam and MG’s favorite riddle (Road-Trip) because he somehow had previously cracked the code of the uber complex riddle— bigggg ole nugs to you, Miller! After a quick plane ride to Ko Samui, we found ourselves at arguably the coolest airport of all time. The ferry awaited us at our next stop to take us to our destination — Koh Tao! Even though the initial weather made for a choppy ride, Adam and Parks led the charge of going on the top deck to admire the views while Parks’ jacket flapped in the wind. Cue Titanic music, please. Just below the deck, Will and Rachel battled it out in an intense game of cards. Their quick wit adds so much to the group and watching them battle in a game of go fish was amusing to say the least. Seeing the island of Koh Tao in the distance got all the kiddos excited— we quickly grabbed our bags and hit the road to InTouch Resort where we would spend the next 5 nights!
InTouch truly had it all— a beautiful beach that went on for miles, an outdoor restaurant where we shared an unfathomable number of laughs, and our new favorite friend, the cheerful restaurant manager, Twai! We might be a little biased, but we think we might have been his favorites. His and Cannon’s bromance was so fun to watch, and the boys even got Twai a shirt from a local Thai shop so they could all match (pictures to come). Right next to the resort was the Koh Tao Divers dive shop, home to the fantastic SCUBA savants who would be teaching us how to live the aquatic life over the next four days. The first night in Koh Tao, all the kids expressed how excited they were for the diving — but we think Cannon might have been the most excited out of everyone! In fact, he could hardly contain that excitement, resulting in a little slip that led to his and Adam’s first Thai doctor’s visit! We can both, as can the whole group, attest to how impressed we were with Cannon after eight stitches. The positive attitude he kept throughout the ordeal set the standard for the rest of the trip; we may not be able control certain situations, but we can control how we respond to them! Cannon is a rockstar for this one, but for now, InTouch stairs — 1, Cannon — 0.
Dive school proved to be a huge success: everyone got certified, and everyone spent their last day on Koh Tao diving together! Isaac and McClure found themselves in the same dive group, spotting sea turtles and stingrays throughout their dives. The two of them perfected underwater front AND back flips!! Micah, their dive instructor, had a close bond with his group and initiated a “tea party” at the bottom of the ocean with them. MG was also a part of this dive group and can attest to the fun that was had. From sign language LNT lessons underwater, to perfecting our flips, and getting to know one another in between dives, this section of our trip was memorable— none of us will ever forget it. After our first dive, McClure and Isaac came up saying “That was the coolest thing we have ever done,” — we couldn’t agree with more! Evelyn, a SCUBA veteran, helped us all out in the boat by making sure our regulators were working properly and also might have swam a few laps around us as well! Back on board the boat, Lilly might have been fighting off some congestion, but made the most of it as she helped all the girls by braiding hair! If the group wasn’t in the water diving, they were jamming out to music on the boat, with today leaning heavily in the Taylor Swift direction. Isaac and Berlin definitely won the award for most T-Swizzle lyrics sang — we’re not kidding, it was seriously impressive. Berlin has been racking up the awards, especially after her and Lily’s handstand contest at the beach. There’s nothing these girls can’t do!
As we complete our diving and head to our next stop — Krabi for rock climbing, oOoOh — we are nothing but ecstatic about what the rest of this trip will hold! This tight-knit group looks for adventure and fun around every corner, and we know the next 2 weeks are bound to be eventful! Sending love from Thailand!!
Chat soon 🙂
Adam and Mary Gray
June 9, 2023
Hello Thailand Families!
We heard from our leaders and the group has landed safely in Thailand! The trip is off to a great start, and we cannot wait to hear more stories from their adventure.
Please remember our leaders and students will be unplugged during their trips but we will be posting up to three trip updates throughout the next couple of weeks! This will allow you to follow along with the trip and the students will also give a special shout out mid-way through! You can also follow us on Instagram, @moondanceadventures, to see more of what we are up to this summer!