July 18, 2023
Hello again! We have officially made it to Krabi, Thailand for the final segment of our trip and we are excited to tell you about all the adventures we encountered here. Whoever invented the saying last but not least was a genius because Krabi and Railay Beach are probably the most stunning segments of our trip. We are so glad to have a group full of kids who were rested and ready to take on all that was in store in Krabi. We rock climbed, rappelled, played ping pong, kicked it poolside, had delicious dinners, and celebrated the incredible 3 weeks we have had together. We had meaningful conversations and got even closer – didn’t even think it was possible honestly and did it all in one of the most stunning locations in the world.
We departed Koh Tao early on July 15th and taxied to a pier head to hop on a ferry. We then ferried from Koh Tao to Surat Thani where we boarded a 4 hour bus to Krabi. It was certainly a long travel day but one that allowed us to catch up on some napping and some reading. Caroline, Sibyl, and Lucy all finished their books during the bus ride. We arrived at our hostel in Krabi and admired the cool, European vibes of the place. There is a cute coffee shop, ping pong tables, a fun common area, and a pizza restaurant next door. Locke learned a few chords on guitar from Ava and is excited to pick up the skill of guitar when he gets back home. After a long day of travel, we were famished and the wood-fire pizza place was calling our name. The kids shared funny stories from back home as we gobbled on margarita, 4 cheese, pesto, and pepperoni pizzas. Sometimes it’s nice to indulge in a little comfort food. Later that evening, we decided to change things up by separating Moonup into boys night and girls night. At the girls Moonup, we jammed to some Taylor Swift, had a braid train, and enjoyed classic girl talk. The boys had “bro talk” and had deep conversations on the roof. It was a great chance to get deeper in small groups. The next morning we were awakened by the Lion King soundtrack since we had to get hype for the full day ahead. We walked to a nearby cafe and ate some yummy breakfast to fuel us. After breakfast, we taxied to meet our outfitter: Real Rocks Railay. Their guides helped us get prepared with gear, gear bags, and water bottles for our climbing and rappelling adventures. We then took a long tail boat from Krabi to the world famous Railay Beach. There, we went on a walk across the island to our climbing spot and set up camp. Along the way, Winn, Avery, Ben, and Connor spotted a bunch of monkeys and were amused by the baby monkeys riding on their mom’s stomach. Climbing was incredible. Our climb-master Winn showed us the ropes (pun-intended) and kicked off the day with one of the most challenging climbs, one that involved hoisting yourself over the ledge of a rock. Ben followed in his foot-steps and impressed us with a unique maneuver to shimmy his way up a Chimney part of the climb. Other climbing highlights were watching Parker climb at a lightning fast speed and everyone getting to the top at least twice. After the rocks, we were eager to swim in the aqua blue water, admiring the cliffs and caves surrounding. Ben remarked that they look like the planet from Rogue 1 and he and Max made a bet if they were the ones in the actual movie. It was the Maldives- but not a bad guess Benjamin. It was a great day but by lunch time, we were ready to eat!! Our guides walked us to a local restaurant where we all ordered our own dishes with shakes too! We feasted on Pad Thai, Kao Soi, curries, glass noodles, and the very authentic Thai deep-fried grilled cheese. Everyone was stuffed and content. We meandered down to the beach where we spent some time enjoying the waves and taking photos. Max, Hamm, and Locke successfully made a three person tower and the girls made a pyramid. Winn showed us some of his flip tricks and Lucy Larkin showed us the perfect handstand.
Our afternoon was equally as exciting as our morning- if not more! We hiked across the island to the Diamond Bat Cave. There, we did some caving (hiking and climbing bamboo ladders up and through the cave). On a rock, Avery and Caroline posed like lions (clearly inspired by the Lion King music) and roared to scare the bats away. That dynamic duo always keeps us laughing. Once we made it to the top of the cave, we decided it would be faster to rappel out of it like spies so we did that. Our guides lowered us down and we enjoyed a stunning view of the entire island. Once we made it down, Winn celebrated by acting like a troll dweller who emerged from the cave, scaring the rest of us. On some nearby rocks, Avery attempted to free climb (not really don’t worry). She made it approximately 2 feet. We all made it safely down and hiked back down the mountain. We boated back and rumors of ice cream were in the air. The rumors turned into truth and we indulged in some delicious brownies and ice-cream from the hotel. Louise got some bubble tea (she is an avid boba lover now). We swam in the pool and took some much-needed showers. The sun set and we went on a search for dinner to try and top last night’s pizzas which was hard to do. We tried to go to a taco place but it was closed so we continued our search. Eventually, we scouted out an Indian restaurant called Alibaba. It was highly rated and we all were excited to try a new type of cuisine. On the tables, there were games of Jenga which Sibyl, Locke, Louise, and Lucy Larkin enjoyed playing. Caroline, Avery, and Winn asked the restaurant owner if they could hop on aux and soon we had Ice Spice and DJ Khalid pumping through the whole place. A lot of us tried Chicken Tikka Masala and loved it. Ben, of course, got his extra spicy. We headed back to our hostel and got ready for an extremely memorable Moonup. Avery and Connor, our LOD’s, decided to put on a little skit, dressing as each other and entering to music. It was pretty hilarious to see Connor in a Lulu tank top, not going to lie. Their silly question was “What is your rap name?” and we were cracking up sharing ours. The giggles eventually faded as we got to our serious question: what are three specific things you respect or like about the person to your right? We loved seeing the kids give genuine and kind compliments to one another. After that, we hit the hay, exhausted and content with the day we had under the sun.
Our final morning in Krabi began with some good breakfast from the good ol’ 7-eleven. The gas station we know and love in the U.S. serves more than just gas here- it has groceries too. We enjoyed some cereal, toast, coffee, tea, and more before heading to Railay for round two of climbing. The climbs today were a bit harder and definitely longer. There was one route that was about 100 feet long. Winn, our climbing expert, took on the challenge first and nailed it. Avery was right behind him, using her long legs to propel her up the wall. Locke, Parker, and Olivia nailed it too. The rest of us were kept busy with equally difficult and fun routes. Louise challenged herself and took on a climb with an overhang. She crushed it. Hamm and Connor tossed a coconut back and forth after their climbs. They are thinking of starting a new olympic sport of coconut tossing. We celebrated with some pre-lunch milkshakes. Then, we had lunch at the same restaurant as the day before. We packed our bags and then headed back on the long tail boats one more time. We cruised back to the mainland and then got dropped at our hostel where we got to enjoy some free time lounging by the pool. We soaked up the sun before heading to the airport late that evening and flying back to Bangkok for our final full day together. We can’t believe it is already our final day. Time flies when you are having fun. We landed safely in Bangkok and headed to sleep.
The final morning in Thailand was one for the books. We woke up to the sun shining at the Ivory Bangkok Hotel and enjoyed a FANTASTIC breakfast before heading out on an all-day tour of the city of Bangkok! This is the most visited city in the world and today we got to figure out why. Guided by our amazing guide Apple, we heard all about the history of Bangkok, the Constitutional Monarchy, and… most importantly… got the chance to JAM out on the long bus ride into the city. Caroline and Avery started us off with some karaoke. They learned some special beatboxing tricks from Max (and Migos). We explored the stunning Royal palace (seriously this place was jaw-dropping), saw the world-famous Jade Buddha, took a boat ride through the canals and river, and enjoyed lunch at a local mall. We feasted on our final authentic lunches here and then hopped back on the bus to go to our hotel. There, we showered to prepare for the airport! The kids wrote letters to themselves and to each other. It was so sweet to see how much thought each person put into their notes to one another. The kids packed their things and we all put on our finest attire for our banquet together. Max and Ava suggested they wore their most tropical attire as we ate at a place called The Beach. This restaurant is straight out of the TV show Love Island. It has neon lights, a crystal blue pool, string lights, live music, and more. We enjoyed a final dinner and Moonup together. It was truly one of the most meaningful conversations of our whole entire trip. I can’t give too many details away to keep it sacred but we were all in tears by the end. We love this group so much and are sad to say goodbye.
Well, here we are. At the airport… and not ready to say goodbye. This trip was exceptional. Coming off a difficult ending for our first session, Max and I were eager
We laughed until we cried.. and we cried until we laughed. It was a session we will never forget and if we could do it all over again, we would not change a thing. Thank you to our kids who made this trip so meaningful and thank you to the parents who sent them across the globe to share in this once in a lifetime experience. I know each and every one of our THA2A sessions is grateful. Don’t believe us, here are some words from the kids directly:
Sibyl: Thank you mom and Allen for sending me on the trip of a lifetime!! I loved the elephants, Karen village, and learning to scuba dive! Thank you for the best opportunities! Love y’all
Parker: Thank you to my mom and dad for sending me on this amazing trip. I had the best time and loved Thailand so much.
Olivia: thank you so much mom and dad for sending me to thailand!! It was the trip of a lifetime and it was absolutely amazing ! I cannot wait to tell you all about it soon. You need to try some Thai tea too!!
Caroline: Thank you to Mom and Dad for sending me on this trip and giving me the chance to immerse myself in Thai culture and touch elephants. Love you guys!
Avery: thanks mom and dad for sending me on this amazing trip. I made some new friends and memories to last a lifetime. i love you guys!!!
Locke and Hamm: Thank you to Jedd and Heather for sending us on this once in a lifetime trip. We had an absolute blast and cannot wait to tell you all about it. Enjoyed every second of it. See you soon.
Connor: Thank you so much mom and dad for letting me go on this trip. It was truly amazing and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I hope we can go as a family some day!
Lucy Larkin: thank you parentals for sending me to thailand! you rock
Winn: Thank you to my dear mother and father for sending me on this trip. I will never forget it and made some amazing new friends. Excited to tell you all about it.
Ben: Mom and Dad, thank you for this opportunity. It was the best trip I have ever been on and I feel glad to have explored some more of the world.
Louise: Thank you mom and dad for sending me on the trip of a lifetime!!!! I couldn’t have asked for a better time and I’m so thankful for y’all!
To our kids, you mean the world to us. We could not be more proud of all of the growth you demonstrated, all of the fears you conquered, and all of the memories you have made. You kept us laughing from the start to finish and we truly feel like a family now. We are so honored to have been a part of your journey and wish each and every one of you the best as you embark on the next chapter. Don’t forget us and please stay in touch! We are always just a phone call or text or drive away. We hope to see you again soon. Now, time to get to rest for our flights tomorrow morning.
Safe travels to you all and much love,
Max and Ava
July 15, 2023
ALOHA! Oops sorry, I meant to put SawadeeKa! But really these greetings feel interchangeable now that we’ve officially turned TROPICAL. We made our way to the island of Ko Tao on Monday, July 10th. Our LOD’s Hamm and Parker led us in a morning huddle at the Riverside Hotel before we embarked on our travel day. At the airport, we indulged in some Starbucks sammies. Louise and Connor purchased and shared a tub of chicken nuggets with the group. Sibyl, Olivia, and Lucy Larkin, our reading machines, purchased some books from the bookstore and already made it halfway through them on the plane ride. Our flight took us from the beautiful northern city of Chiang Mai to Ko Samui, an island on the Gulf of Thailand. From there, we made our way to Ko Tao, our tropical paradise for the next five days. We traveled by van to a pier head where we boarded a private speedboat that took us to the island of Ko Tao. Since our flight landed too late to make the public ferry, we had to suffer through a private speed boat ride… and we were loving every second of it. Bob Marley was bumping on the speakers and all of the kids had a blast-sitting upfront, taking in the gorgeous sights. About an hour and a half later, we made it to Ko Tao, an island listed as one of the best places for diving in the world and definitely in Thailand. We taxied to our lodging for the next five days, In Touch Resort. It is stunning here. Truly a place you want to remember for the rest of your life. There are beautiful trees, beach access just a short walk away, a quaint restaurant with string lights and lanterns, and a stunning ocean view. Avery and Caroline were the first to ask if we could head straight for the water and we all wholeheartedly agreed that was the plan. We put on our swimsuits and took a sunset swim, playing classic pool games in the water and splashing around. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, and we headed to the restaurant for a fine dining experience. We feasted and enjoyed each other’s company before heading up the road to have Moonup. Hamm and Parker led us in a fantastic conversation about a time where we worked really hard to achieve something. It was cool to celebrate each other for our accomplishments. The evening did not end there, however. Shortly after we finished Moonup we played a group game of fake speed dating. Each person sat across from someone and interviewed them for a minute, then we switched, and the other person became the interviewer. After the two minutes was up, Max and Ava drew someone from the group and quizzed them on what they learned from the interview. If they could not remember a certain fact, we dumped some water on them. Surprisingly, all the kids passed with flying colors. However, Lucy Larkin did forget Connor’s ZIP code leading her to be doused with a cup full of water. She took it like a champion. After speed dating, we decided to meander down the beach as a group and it was there we bumped into a fire show with two guys doing impressive tricks with fire. Ben and Avery joined their show, doing a limbo under a fire stick. Caroline spotted a DJ playing some fire tunes to an empty dance floor so, of course, all 14 of us had to join the fun. We stormed the floor and absolutely lit up the place with energy. It was an absolute blast, dancing, and having the time of our lives, acting like fools, and not caring. We were drenched in sweat and exhausted by the time we finished so we headed back to our rooms, showered, and went to bed. We are so pumped for scuba diving for the rest of the week!!!
The kids were awakened this morning to the song Island in the Sun. How fitting! Because we’re on an island… in the sun! We headed down to our hotel restaurant for a breakfast of pancakes, french toast, eggs, toast, bacon, and more. We get to pick our own adventure with the food at this place so everyone enjoyed their meal thoroughly. After breakfast, our crew of students who are getting their Open Water Diving Certification headed to the Ko Tao dive shop to learn more about diving and diving safety precautions. Ben, Olivia, Locke, Hamm, Louise, Carline, Parker, and Sibyl all did a wonderful job participating in a classroom discussion about scuba diving. Shortly after, four of our kids, Connor, Lucy Larkin, Avery, and Winn, made an amazing decision that they are going to try and get their Advanced Diving Certification!! We are proud of them for challenging themselves and know that they will not regret this decision. Before their course began, they got one day of skill practice and fun diving, exploring the coral reefs surrounding. Those 4 saw a huge sea turtle swimming and they all agreed it was a major highlight of the day. Avery took her camera under water and the group had an underwater photoshoot. Her camera has remarkable good quality for underwater snaps. Our other group of 8 absolutely crushed it at the pool- learning all the skills that will benefit them in the water tomorrow. We are so proud of this team and had a blast watching them take on this really cool life skill. After diving and pool time practice was complete, we dried off in the late afternoon sun, reading, splashing in the water, and hanging out. Locke and Hamm recorded some hilarious Go-Pro videos and continued to be the hilarious dynamic duo that they are. The sun set and we had a delicious dinner at the restaurant. Our leaders of the day, Ben and Lucy Larkin, asked two wonderful questions: 1. If you could take a video of any moment in history, what would you record and why? And 2. What is something you wish you could tell your Freshman self? It was pretty hilarious hearing everyone’s answers. Parker said she would record one of Taylor Swift’s many breakups to see who is really to blame, Ben would record the assassination of JFK, and Caroline would film Bigfoot in the woods. After Moonup, the group was super sleepy. A full day of sun and scuba will do that to you. We made our way to our rooms and drifted off to dreamland.
Days 2, 3, and 4 of scuba followed a similar pattern for our kiddos: wake up, have a lovely morning on the beach and/or learning some more scuba information at the dive shop, eat an early lunch before taking the most scenic ride ever across the island in the back of a truck to go diving in the stunning waters of Ko Tao. Our Advanced Divers followed the same pattern except on day 2 of diving, they got the chance to go on a NIGHT dive and day 3, they went for a sunrise deep dive and had the afternoon to chillax on the beach. This allowed our different groups of divers to experience boat life at all different times of the day. No matter the time, we had an absolute blast on the boat and exploring the beautiful reefs. After our dives, we dried off on the roof of our boat (which was covered in turf), soaking up the sunshine and jamming to tunes. For our advanced group, the night dive, in particular, was a huge highlight of their diving experience. The students used flashlights underwater to spot Blue-Spotted Rays, Cuttlefish, lots of sea urchins, and more. Winn and Connor agreed that they felt like they were in a James Bond movie, descending into the ocean at sunset and using spy gadgets like glow-up watches and flashlights. For our Open Water Divers, the kids did a fantastic job working on their skills and becoming certified divers!! Woohoo!! Over the course of their dives and over 8 dives, the group spotted large puffer fish, angel fish, blue spotted rays, sea anemones, trigger fish, loads of coral and more. Ben found another turtle in the shallower parts and Sibyl spotted an eel, too. After our days of diving, we typically went for some wonderful sunset swims, ate dinner, and enjoyed Moonups on the beach.
Moonups for the rest of our time in Koh Tao remained as lively and memorable as always. On July 12, Louise and Connor asked fantastic questions “What do you think the person to your right will be doing in 7 years?” and a sillier one “What ice-cream flavor describes you and why?” (Of course Connor asked this one) The answers delighted and surprised us. It is so cool to see how close this group has grown in just over two weeks. On July 13, our LOD’s were Olivia and Locke and they had us each share an embarrassing story and a lesson we learned from it. They concluded their convo by having us dip our toes in the water and somehow … .Avery, Caroline, Lucy Larkin, Locke, Connor, Ben and Ava all ended up in the ocean fully clothed. We had a blast splashing around under the stars. On July 14, we had two male LOD’s – Hamm and Winn! Their Moonup focused on what success and contentment means to us. Afterwards, we had a karaoke competition in our rooms and added an extra challenge, signing karaoke without the lyrics. We then headed to our rooms to pack our bags and prepare for our final segment of this trip. Time is absolutely flying by and we are not ready to say goodbye. Looking forward to showing this group the stunning views Krabi Beach has to offer. Will check-in for a final time after that!
-Ava and Max
July 10, 2023
We’re back and better than ever! Since we last checked in, we’ve been BUSY! We’ve hiked, swam in waterfalls, rock climbed, explored Chiang Mai night markets, cooked, bouldered, and continued to grow close as a group. Here’s our day by day since we’ve been gone. Stay tuned for some special shout outs from the kids at the end 🙂
Today we wrapped up our time with our outfitter, Green Trails, that we have been traveling with for the last 5 days. Uncle Chai, Josh, and the family whose home we stayed in at the Karen Village feel like a second family now so we were emotional to say goodbye. Uncle Chai played us a song on his harmonica to wish us well on the rest of our journey in Thailand. Did Ava cry during it?? Yes, yes she did. We had a pancake breakfast and then departed for our hike back through and out of the Doi Inthanon jungle. Along the way, we stopped at not 1… not 2… but 3 different waterfalls!! We all packed swimsuits and went for a dip in the falls. It was a gorgeous, cloudless blue sky day. Olivia and Sibyl were pumped to sun bathe on the rocks and the rest of us joined. We stopped for lunch at waterfall number 2 and swam some more before heading out for more hiking. Our hike had gorgeous views and was mainly downhill. Avery and Caroline enjoyed this fact. We made it out of the woods around 1:30pm and were met with van transfers to take us to our next activity: bamboo rafting!! You heard that right! Rafts made of thick stalks of bamboo and tied together with tire material. They looked straight out of The Jungle Book. Leaders of the day, Avery and Lucy Larkin, split us into mini-raft groups and we departed on this once in a lifetime adventure. Floating down the river, we passed herds of elephants, local villagers, and other tourists. Some of our guides let the kids paddle through the safe and slow parts of our river journey. Hamm, Sibyl, Caroline, and Louise each had the opportunity to steer our rafts. Hamm did end up perpendicular on a rock but he had a grand time giving it a go. Caroline was a raft master and her guide said she should take her raft all the way to Bangkok. Maybe next year!!
We hopped off of our aquatic ride and enjoyed some ice-cream from a local market afterwards. Winn bought some funky Thai pants that he is stoked to wear. We piled back into our vans and were transported back to the glorious air conditioning at Riverside hotel. After 5 days in a remote village, spending time with elephants, hanging in rice fields, and doing service, we were not the best smelling group, and were in pretty desperate need for some good, long showers and laundry. Our wishes were granted and we got clean before heading to dinner. Dinner was at a beautiful restaurant right along the river, aptly named “Riverside.” We had a beautiful sunset view and chatted the night away. Before heading back home, we stopped at a local Chiang Mai night market to see what all of the hype was about. Our expectations were met. The market was bustling.
Ben, our adventurous eater of the group. He recruited his new friend Hamm to try a scorpion with him! They reported it tastes mainly like salty crab. Lots of other delicious food items were consumed. Louise and Parker split an Indian Roti and have discovered a new favorite dessert. We shopped til we dropped. Caroline, Avery, Locke, Lucy, and Connor got some silly t-shirts. Olivia, Parker, and Sibyl scored a Goyard bag from a street vendor. Was it fake?? Who’s to say? It was a fantastic evening that culminated with Moonup around the pool led by Lucy Larkin and Avery, our LOD’s. The two girls opened the Nug Jug by diving in the pool and asked us about a time we had to accept defeat. We showered and then the kids had a cuddle puddle, watching some of Men in Black 3 with Thai subtitles. We then hit the hay early because we had a big day waiting for us.
We woke up this morning to the beautiful singing and jumping on beds from our leaders of the day Winn and Caroline and had an amazing Thai breakfast from the Riverside hotel buffet. After Morning huddle, the LOD’s split up the crew into vans and we were headed off to our activities for the day. We arrived at Chang Mai Rock Climbing Association and did some icebreaker games to get everyone excited for the day ahead. We split into two teams, Team Yanka and Team Monch (strange names I know) the kids were stoked for their climbing experiences. Everyone did amazing on the climbs. While rappelling, Avery overcame some anxieties about heights and rocked a 115 ft rappel like a legend. Lucy Larkin shimmied up a chimney climb like a pro, and Winn showed us his climbing expertise from past years. We also had the opportunity to go caving. There was a cool breeze blowing out of the cave, and we got to crawl into an expansive cave with lots of stalagmite. It was out of a movie. We also found a bat! One of the workers at the Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Association actually was a part of the rescue mission for the soccer team trapped in the Cave in Chiang Rai. It was so cool to hear about his assistance in that mission. After climbing and rappelling, we headed to our hotel to shower and rest a little before hitting the local night market. It was Saturday night so we had to hit up the world famous Saturday night market in Chiang Mai. These night markets are something else. There are so many people from different cultures, hustling and bustling on the streets. Everything you can get there is so affordable. Max and I divided up dinner money and each kid got about $2 in US dollars but in Thai baht, that could buy them a meal, a tea, and a dessert! Ben and Hamm, again, our adventurous eaters, tried some local crocodile. Locke tried some spicy octopus. Olivia, Parker, Ava, and Sibyl stuck with some delicious handmade gyoza. We shopped till we dropped again, buying lots of little trinkets and goodies to bring back home. All in all, it was a fantastic evening. We headed back to the hotel for Moonup. Our leaders of the day, Winn and Caroline, led us in a conversation about what person would play us in a movie and what genre the movie would be. Lots of silly answers and laughter. We headed to bed, rested and were excited for the next day ahead.
To celebrate our final full day in Northern Thailand, our group got to sleep in! Woo hoo! We snoozed our alarms, and then headed down to breakfast. During the slow morning, Ava and Max took the opportunity to do some mid trip check-ins with each of the students. We talked about how they’ve been enjoying the experience and how we can make it better for them moving forward. It was a great chance to have one-on-one leader and student time. Then, we headed out for our afternoon activity of market shopping and cooking with our outfitter. We were transported in cool open air red taxis to a market nearby. There, we split up into two teams and searched for ingredients for our dish. The kids got to see what an authentic meat market looks like. Ava, the resident vegetarian, remained outside. After finding our ingredients, our tour guide, gave us the opportunity to shop for snacks, and try things from the market. Connor found some yummy chocolate biscuits and shared generously. Winn, Caroline, Sibyl, Hamm, and Avery sampled local spring rolls. Ava and Olivia had to get some Thai tea, of course. Olivia also found some cool bean desserts that looked like macaroons but tasted very differently. It was a successful shopping endeavor. After shopping, we headed in our red taxis to the CMRCA (Chaing Mai Rock Climbing Association) facility for our “Jungle Cooking.” The name Jungle Cooking was actually extremely accurate. We used bamboo stalks as pots and cooked jasmine rice in them. We also made boats out of banana leaf and cooked eggs inside of them. On team 1, Sibyl, Lucy Larkin, and Olivia headed the meat cutting and preparation process. Connor and Ben prepared the herbs, trying some spicy peppers. On team 2, Parker and Locke did the same. We had chicken and fish about as fresh as it gets, fresh out of the tank! We cooked for about two hours and then got to eat our delicious results!! We had a family style late lunch of jasmine rice, chicken, fish, and veggies. We ate till our bellies were stuffed. We fortunately got to work off some of the calories we consumed at the facilities’ climbing wall! Each of the kids got the chance to try bouldering, a different form of Climbing, that involves climbing only about 7 to 12 feet and falling on crash pads after reaching the top. Winn and Max were having a hay-day. Avery and Caroline were busy having a photo shoot on the Rock wall. It was hilarious and they will have to show you the pictures later. After we climbed to our hearts’ content, we taxied back to Riverside Hotel to shower up for one final evening of markets. This evening we went to another world famous market, the Sunday night walking street market. You would think we would be marketed out by now, but no! Each of the kids got so excited to explore one final market, sampling local dishes and getting more goodies for friends and family back home. The biggest highlight of the evening was definitely the decision to have Moon up inside one of the temples at the marketplace. Avery and Sibyl, our leaders of the day, led one of our deeper conversations about physical and emotional scars. It was so cool to see the kids open up to each other, and to share in a sacred space. After all, what’s a better place to connect on a vulnerable and deep level than an ancient temple. One of the most memorable Moon ups we’ve had for sure. Then, we headed back to the hotel, hung out, chatted and digested the day (and all of the food we ate) before. We are headed to bed, content with all of our experiences we’ve had in the North, but really excited and ready for southern Thailand, and all of the beaches and views it has to offer! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!! Now, enjoy some notes from the kiddos:)
-Ava and Max
Sibyl: Hey y’all I am having the time of my life! Love and miss y’all, We have to come back here for a fam trip! I hope E made it and moved in safely. I don’t wanna leave but do not forget to pick me up from the airport!
Louise: Hey fam! I’m having the time of my life here and wish we could stay longer. Happy late birthday mom! Love y’all so much and can’t wait to tell you all about Thailand.
Lucy Larkin: Hey Whit Whit and Bill Bill! Thailand is so cool! Tell the dogs I miss them! Love y’all! Ava says my message was too short so I have to add more, this is more.
Winn: Hello family. We’re having a great time in Thailand. There are elephants! Tearing through the streets and causing a ruckus! There are lots of adventures to tell you about but theres just not enough time.
Sincerely, Winn. Love you all lots. Pet the dogs for me.
Caroline: Hey guys! Eating good down in Thailand. Tell Piton I miss her so so much. I can’t wait to tell you about my new best friends Josh and Uncle chai. Sincerely, Caroline. Love you all lots. Pet the dogs for me.
Olivia: Hey y’all! Thailand is the coolest place ever and we definitely need to take a fam vacation here eventually so you guys can try the dumplings:) I’ve also discovered that I may love elephants more than Frances. Y’all would love all of the tea here (I’m bringing back some for us all to try). I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to tell you all about it! Tell G & G I miss them and give them some big hugs for me! Love you all, Olivia.
Avery: hi mom and dad and everyone, im having the best time here. I keep trying to get American food and it sucks but the Thai food is actually really good. I miss you guys so much and I cant wait to see y’all. i miss moosh sooooooo much but there are lots of dogs here so its okay. Cant wait to see you guys and here about your trip and cant wait to here about lake Como T.
Parker: Hey guys! I’m having so much fun and don’t want to leave!! Thailand is the best and coolest place I’ve ever been and probably will ever go. Our group is so fun and leaders are awesome!!! We’ve done so many amazing things, and the food here is so good. I can’t wait to tell y’all all about it and show y’all some awesome pictures. I also bought some things to bring back home. Dad, I hope your face procedure went well, I’ve been thinking about you! Give Scooby a hug for me 🙂 Love y’all and see you soon!
Connor: Hey mom and dad! I’m having a great time in Thailand. I am loving my group, and Max and Ava are the best. The food here is sooo good and I just got my first Ben and Jerry’s, it wasn’t tonight dough 🙁 Sincerely, Connor. Love y’all lots. Pet the cats for me.
Ben: Hey Mom and Dad Thailand is pretty sick and it looks like a great place to come back when I’m older. I have tried a lot of different foods here (crocodile, scorpion, and more) and it has come to my realization that Thai food is top tier for sure. Love you guys and give the dogs a hug for me.
Hamm: Hello world. I have gotten lost in Thailand and it was wild! I want to come here abroad. Thanks Jed and Heather for providing the trip as well as anyone who else is giving me the opportunity. I have enjoyed all of the foods and cultures. Congrats Pelzer and Virginia. Enjoy!
Locke: Hope all is well back in the 706. This place is absolutely electric and I’m having a blast! See you all soon! Love you Mom and Dad and Congrats Pelz and Virg!! And tell the boys I said what’s good.
July 8, 2023
Sawadee ka everyone!!! Hello from Thailand 2A!!
Max and I are overjoyed to welcome 12 new smiling faces to Thailand! Huge kudos to this group for traveling across the globe by themselves with a group of strangers. I always admire the amount of courage that takes and am unsure if I would have had the same at ages 16-18. We are so proud of this group and know that these “strangers” will soon become family. We are truly so excited for what’s to come after everyone has made the long trek and arrived with such a positive attitude. We cannot wait to make this an incredible session with unforgettable memories and new best friends. These updates will hopefully fill you in on all of the day-to-day activities and highlight individual moments that might have been lost or forgotten. So here goes… Thailand 2A!
Avery was the first to arrive, making her tight connection to the Bangkok airport with the help of a really kind friend she made on the plane named Litch. Shortly after, the rest of our group filtered in and our little family officially formed. At the airport, we munched on some Pizza Hut pizzas and piled into the two fanciest vans in the history of fancy vans. Arriving at the hotel, Hamm and Locke, like true gentlemen, were first to offer to carry bags and helped polish off the pizza too. We settled into our rooms, had a quick meeting where we went over expectations, the Good Decisions letter, and handed out some Moondance swag. We headed to sleep, still fighting some jet lag, eager for all the adventures ahead. We cannot wait to tell you all about it.
Day 1 of our adventuring together began with a musical wake-up from Ava and Max. We jammed to some oldies and ate a breakfast of Pad Thai, fried eggs, toast, cereal, and tea/coffee. The sun was shining and the vibes were high. Shortly after we ate breakfast family-style, we headed to a nearby outdoor mall and perused through a Thai supermarket, looking for unique snacks to try and to fuel us for our travel day to Chiang Mai! We taxied back to the airport (practically the kids’ second home now) and had a little airport mini-lunch. Our flight departed at around noon so we made it to the airport about 2 hours before to get checked in and ready for our flight of about an hour and a half to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the second most populated city in Thailand and has a quieter, more peaceful feeling than Bangkok. On the flight, Sibyl, Louise, and Ava had a Book Club, reading their own books each and then sharing what happened in them. Locke and Max chatted the entire plane ride non-stop, bonding over mutual connections and life stories and didn’t even realize the flight had ended because they were so invested in conversation. Upon arrival, we changed into our temple clothes (pants and covered shoulders) and departed for an exploration of the city. All of the girls were keen on purchasing the classic goofy elephant pants many people wear in Thailand so we purchased some from a local vendor. The first temple we arrived at was called Wat Chedi Luang and it is a staple in the Old City. We saw buildings made from brick, temples plated in gold, temples with incredibly intricate designs with monks inside, and temples dating back to 1385!! We saw giant statues of Buddha sleeping, meditating, and Buddha just sitting peacefully. Benjamin and Hamm showed a ton of interest in Buddhist culture and were eager to ask questions to learn more. Hamm even took the chance to swing at a Buddhist gong and then got a bit carried away exploring inside one of the temples. His curiosity is inspiring! Winn also showed us his photography skills and impressed us with the shots he took.
One thing was for sure… It was hot. So, Max and Ava decided that ice cream was a necessity. Connor, an ice cream fanatic, was quite pleased with the local spot we selected. A cafe with jungle-like decor and homemade coconut, caramel, and mango ice cream with crispy rice and banana or mango on top. We ate our delicious desserts, cooled off, and chatted before heading to one more temple, the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Chiang Man to explore. The day was filled with laughs and remarkable architecture. We were happy to have the chance to cool off even more from the intense afternoon heat and sunshine with a game of Star in the pool. After our pool time, we showered up and walked to a local restaurant where everyone got to leave their mark by signing their names on the wall! Olivia, Lucy Larkin, Connor, and Ava tried and loved the Thai Tea! Bellies stuffed, we walked back to the hotel, for our first Moonup! To begin the ceremony of Moonup, we tangled and untied ourselves from a human knot. Ava and Max asked the group a silly question (where you would live and what would you do if you were one inch tall) and a more serious question (what brings them back to experiences like these). Each person discussed their quirky one-inch lodging choices and then chatted about their individual desires to unplug, find meaningful conversation and connection, and travel to places far away from home. Benjamin revealed that before this trip, the longest flight he had been on was an hour and a half. 27 hours later, we can certainly say Ben, like all of these kids, is getting the chance to expand their horizons on a totally different side of the globe. At the end of Moonup, Ava and Max named Locke and Louise as the first LODs (Leaders of the day)! We headed to sleep, still a tad jet-lagged, and rested up for the next day.
Where to even begin describing today?? If I were to describe it with one word… the word would be GIANT because that describes both the size of the creatures we got to play with and the smiles on our kids’ faces ALL day. Today we were awakened by our leaders of the day, Locke and Louise, blasting Van Halen’s Jump. It was electric. We enjoyed a breakfast of beignets, fried eggs, fruit, custard, and sticky rice—and then quickly packed our bags to depart for the day. We had a morning huddle and discussed our plan for our morning: drive about 45 minutes to a nearby elephant sanctuary (stopping at a local market along the way), play with aforementioned elephants, enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking rice fields and gorgeous Thai terrain, and then head to a new lodging site. We did all of these things AND more successfully. At the markets, we sampled some spicy peppers. Winn bought some of the spiciest peppers which he, Ben, Lucy, and Connor were all willing to try. On the way to the elephant sanctuary, Caroline was hyperventilating with excitement. Her excitement was certainly justified as getting to bathe, feed, hug, and get kissed by an elephant is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We seriously had the best time. EVERYONE got up close and personal and the pictures we got were phenomenal. We cannot wait to show you all. One major highlight from our elephant experience was getting to cover the elephants in mud and then rinse them in the river. Our entire group dove straight into the mud and what started as a casual mud spa for the elephants turned into a huge mud battle with all of us. We had the best time splashing and playing in the mud and in the river. Hamm and Ava agreed that Americans need to get muddier more often. We hosed off before an incredible lunch of fried rice and fried chicken served in a bamboo leaf, every tropical fruit imaginable (including dragon fruit!), and cookies for dessert. We feasted and enjoyed the stunning view. After lunch, Sibyl and Lucy made friends with an adorable little girl who lived nearby, playing games with her, and the group started our next segment of elephant bonding: Elephant Medicine making. Connor, Olivia, Parker, Caroline, Avery, and Winn took charge of the elephant medicine project. We mashed ripe bananas, grain, sugar, salt, dates, and more into a mixture to give to the elephants to help with their healthy digestion. We then went back to feed them their medicine and marvel at the giants one more time before heading to our lodging for the evening. We hit the showers straight away and then played group games all afternoon. We played the Dream Game, Big Booty, Stand-In-Place Soccer, Duck Duck Category, and Schmotus (a game that Avery, Locke, Hamm, and Caroline taught us from their past leaders in South Africa and that we could not stop laughing during). Parker was the Big Booty winner and Hamm, Ben, and Olivia amazed us with their Dream Game skills. All in all, it was an evening for the books, made even better by our delicious Massaman curry dinner with veggies, chicken, Fried papaya, and watermelon dessert. Moonup was a hit and Locke and Louise led a fantastic conversation about funny pick-up lines and things we are glad to leave behind at home and are excited to gain here. So much wisdom at relatively young ages. Could not be prouder of this crew. Off to the village tomorrow!
Today we began the next section of our trip: trekking to the Karen village for our Service work and cultural immersion. The morning started off HOT with Motivation with Max (a HIIT workout led by Max) and Namaste with Nixon (a yoga lesson from Ava). The girls and Winn crushed yoga on the Pavilion and Max had the rest of the boys sweating with a circuit workout. We cleaned up and headed to a fantastic breakfast of coconut waffles and pancakes, fruit, fried eggs, and more. We then headed out for a 5-mile trek through the Doi Inthanon National Forest to the Karen village, led by our fearless leaders Uncle Chai and Josh. Along the way, Uncle Chai and Josh showed us some cool local plants that can be used for medical—and silly (like plants that blow bubbles and can make gun noises)—purposes! It was a beautiful mixed-weather day in the jungle: overcast at times, rainy at times, and sunny as well! We cruised through the forest and our first stop while hiking was at a GIANT waterfall. We cooled off from the afternoon sun by swimming in the falls. Locke discovered a cave near the waterfall and we all explored it. We dried off from the waterfall and ate a lunch of fried rice, eggs, chicken, and fruit. We hiked some more and had two more stops: the local school and the local village. The school visit was definitely a highlight for our group. We taught some fun songs in English and Connor quizzed some kids on their math skills. Lucy taught a little boy how to dab. Caroline and Louise read English to the 5th graders. Parker, Olivia, Lucy, Sibyl, Hamm, and Locke encouraged some local students to play a game of soccer in the pouring rain. Avery shared some of her bracelets with the kids. It was such a great experience–and one that was surely memorable for all! At the village, we helped use some ancient-looking machine to split the grain to feed some chickens. Hamm gave a cute pig some bananas to munch on. We finished our hike with some stunning views. Ben was quoted saying “This is the coolest view I have ever seen.” Avery, Caroline, and their hiking buddy Josh bonded over songs they all knew. Some artists they had in common were Elvis, Coldplay, and Justin Bieber. After a long trek, we made it back to our lodging and enjoyed an evening playing Spicy Uno, Go Fish, Cabo, and more Spicy Uno. It is a group favorite currently. Winn and Caroline led a wonderful Moonup, asking us what song means a lot to us and why and one of our highlights from meeting the kids today. They appointed Connor and Parker as the next LODs. Off to sleep now! We can’t wait to wake up and get PATRIOTIC!! Yahoo!!!
It’s the fourth of July over here in Thailand! 12 hours earlier than the US, too, so we got off to an early start celebrating. Connor and Parker led our most hype morning huddle yet, decked head to toe in Fourth of July gear, handing out beads, fun sunglasses, and temporary tattoos to everyone (Ava and Max brought them over from the States). We had coffee and enjoyed the morning view while listening to patriotic music. After breakfast, we headed to our worksite to get our service project rolling. Rocking out to tunes, we started transporting and mixing buckets of sand, cement mix, rocks, and water to make cement. As a group, we are working on building a church for the community. Group 1 hoed clay dirt that formed the foundation so now we are working on laying cement walkways around the Church. Hamm was our service king, cranking out some serious manual labor like a legend. Locke and Connor helped design and carve a large wooden sign with “Moondance Adventures July 4, 2023” to commemorate the special day!
Our lunch was an authentic dish called Pad See Ew—which was much tastier than the name might suggest. We took some time to decompress… reading, napping, and playing Spicy Uno of course! Around 1:30, we headed back to the worksite to continue our hard work. We created and mixed more concrete, forming assembly lines to get the job done faster. We really hit our groove, jamming to some good ol’ fashioned country music to motivate us to work faster. We finished laying concrete around the church in record time. We were covered head to toe in mud and concrete and took a hike down to a local waterfall to wash off! Sibyl discovered that the waterfall pressure was essentially a pressure washer and got all (or at least most) of the mud and concrete off our shoes. We frolicked in the falls and then hiked back in the cool afternoon rain. We showered up and had a lovely afternoon of chill time. The girls made some braid trains, chatting about their lives and exchanging stories. Max taught Lucy Larkin and Avery some guitar. Dinner rolled around and we were all chatting up a storm over some Green Curry, fried banana delicacies (made by the lovely Olivia, Parker, Louise, Hamm, Lucy, and Winn), and green beans. It was scrumptious. Our fun didn’t end there… We ended up having the First Annual Karen Village Mediocre Talent Show!! Each person in our group was asked to come up with a 30-second mediocre talent to perform. Lots of them involved bananas…Winn and Connor ate a banana whole (including the peel). Caroline named all 50 states and Ben named all 50 capitals (with a banana in his mouth). Ava recited Shakespeare and Max did a strange form of beatboxing. Sibyl and Louise talked with their mouths still closed and Avery and Lucy chugged sprites and then ate bananas. Olivia flipped Parker over her back. Locke clapped at an impressively fast rate. Hamm ate a banana with his feet. Again, lots of bananas were involved. We may need to confiscate all bananas from them. It was a hilarious night and afterward, Connor and Parker led a Moonup where they picked the Nug Jug out of Ben’s hair, discussed what we love about America (for the fourth of July), and what we think America could learn from Thailand, and just for fun, what animal we would be reincarnated as. Lots of hilarious, mature, and intellectual conversations. Proud of this team. We hit the hay early, exhausted from a hard day of work, and are ready for more tomorrow.
Another super solid day of service over here in the Karen Village! We rose with the sun and the roosters’ cock-a-doodle-doing, did some morning yoga and workouts led by Ava and Max, and then headed to the worksite for more hard work creating, mixing, and laying concrete sidewalks around the church. Yesterday, it rained right after we left the worksite so we had to redo some of our work. We all were in good spirits and managed to crank out another solid day of work! Highlights from the day include the bonding we had with the local workers while putting in our hard efforts, a homemade Pad Thai lunch, and an ice cream reward when we finished up for the day. We headed back to our home to shower up and play, you guessed it… Spicy Uno! We also did some reading, guitar playing, and chillaxing, and ate a delicious dinner of fried chicken, veggies, rice, and soup. After dinner, we had hair braiding sessions. Sibyl is coaching Ava in the French braid technique. Olivia and Connor dominated the Spicy Uno table. Louise whipped out her book of Mad Libs and we had a grand time filling those out. At the end of our evening, Olivia and Hamm led our Moonup where we chatted about times in our lives, we wish we embodied Moondance’s motto “Live in the Moment” more. Lots of great self-reflection and everyone seems excited to bring back to the US of A.
The sun was shining brightly this AM and we got the chance to sleep in a bit. We had another delicious breakfast, got ready for the day, and then embarked on a day chock-full of activity and adventure. Our first thing on the itinerary was a visit to the rice fields where we picked the rice stem that we would be planting later in the fields. We were amazed at the remarkable stamina it takes to be able to be a rice farmer. Hamm quickly adopted the technique and helped us finish an entire section in no time. After the rice fields, Uncle Chai supplied us with some crunchy rice snacks and fruit to fuel us for more service work at the Karen church. We helped clear the area and do preliminary foundation work for their new bathroom all while dancing to some funny songs from years past (think Justin Bieber and the “Coconut Mall” theme song from Mario Kart). Supplied with shovels, hoes, and buckets, we moved tons of red clay from the nearby pile to the foundation borders laid out for us. Ava taught everyone her unbeatable dirt scooping technique and we finished filling the entire space with red clay in just 45 minutes. Waiting for us back at the house was a special Thai dish made with macaroni and veggies with spicy flakes—an extraordinary meal made to refuel us from an already tiring day. Thankfully, today there was a built-in rest for the weary—a mid-afternoon siesta. Sibyl, Lucy, and Caroline both spent time reading. Winn helped guide us through some more Mad Libs. Connor, Louise, and Avery befriended a sweet stray dog that they named Bianca. Rested and refueled, we headed out for more adventure and service work. We hiked through the village to nearby rice fields. There, we got the chance to plant the rice stems we had picked this morning. Walking through the mud was surreal and the views were stunning. As we were planting rice, it started pouring rain. At this point, we were already wet and muddy so the rain felt amazing and added to the surreal and special feeling that we were having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After rice field planting, we washed off our muddy selves at the local waterfall, just minutes away from where we were planting. It felt amazing. We hiked back, changed into some dry clothes, and prepared for our final adventure of the day: a soccer match! We drove in the back of a truck to a field, passing stunning rice pastures and rolling mountains along the way. We split into two teams—Team Sibyl and Team Ben (our two Leaders of the Day). Josh, our friend from the village, played with us. While on the field, Parker, Lucy, and Olivia showed off some of the seriously impressive soccer skills they’ve gained from their club and school teams. Despite a valiant effort, Team Ben lost to Team Sibyl 7-5. As a reward, Team Ben had their first dibs on showers after we made our way home. We all got clean and enjoyed our final dinner in the Karen village. After dinner, we had the treat of experiencing an authentic ceremony from the Karen Tribe where each student was blessed and given a string bracelet. Then, a local guitarist from the village came and led us in song around a campfire. We jammed to the Beatles, Coldplay, and other classics. Everyone was singing along and clapping their hands and it was all in all, a very special and wholesome moment to be connecting through music. After music, Ben and Sibyl led our Moonup where they asked us about a time in our lives when we had to persevere through something difficult. We all shared and listened to each other intently. We are so grateful to be growing close as a little family and to see how this family continues to grow and develop during the next sections of our trip.
Ava and Max
June 30, 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!