July 19, 2023
Heyo! Adam and MG checking in one last time 🙁 As we write, we’re happy to report that all your kids are officially on their way back to you. Writing final trip updates is always a bittersweet feeling, but the sadness is weighing on us extra hard this time. This group came together as 12 strangers and embodied Moondance’s culture in textbook-worthy ways. The tight knit cohesion that the group formed made this trip easy to lead and incredible to be a part of. Over the span of our three weeks together, we scaled rocks in both Krabi beach and Chiang Mai, we dove in Koh Tao’s striking blue water, we immersed ourselves in Karen culture, and we toured Thailand’s capital, Bangkok. But before we sign off and bid our farewells, we have a few more days to catch all of you up on!
Our first day in Chaing Mai gave us the opportunity to put our previously learned rock-climbing skills to the test one last time! After an early wake up we were whisked away to Crazy Horse Buttress, a huge limestone crag about an hour outside the city. Upon arrival, we split up into two groups: Team Chang, which is Thai for Elephant, featured the boys plus Adriana (who they dubbed Adrian for the day), and Team Moose, which is English for Moose, featured the girls plus Jake (who they dubbed Jacqueline for the day). Team Moose started their day rock climbing on the north side of the Buttress, while Team Chang started their repelling 60 meters down into a cave. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s about three times longer than last weeks repel in Krabi! Our palms were sweating, but it was an awesome descent – and Team Moose killed the routes our climbing guides had set for us. After a delicious picnic lunch, each team switched roles. Colin tackled the hardest climb of the summer with ease IN THE RAIN, while across the bluff Annabeth speedily hopped down the cave wall meowing like a nimble cat (maybe it helped her focus? We don’t know). A heavy afternoon rain shower ended our climbing outing a little early, and before long, we were back in Chiang Mai planning our evening. It was a Sunday, so we had little choice but to venture out once again into the Night Market – Sunday’s is the biggest in the city and it’s really a must-do for anyone visiting Chiang Mai. We tried more street vendors, Peter bought more mangos, and we all spent the last of our Thai baht on a diverse spread of souvenirs for ourselves and for our loved ones back home. Kate and Maude might have to check an extra bag solely for souvenirs, but hey, when in Rome, right?
We woke up on our second morning in Chiang Mai eager for the cooking class that would take up our morning and afternoon. Our guides, One and Pui, had the idea of turning our cooking class into an “Iron Chef” competition, which we bought into without hesitation! We made new teams and headed into a local market to buy our ingredients. Jackson and Priester may as well have been dubbed team captains as they ran through the market like pros, grabbing meats and spices left and right. Once we had secured the bag, we headed towards CRMCA’s headquarters where we would learn the techniques of perfecting bamboo chicken. Prater was practically born to mortar and pestle spices- that lemongrass was muddled down to a T. Once the spices had been muddled and combined with chicken, we threw that Jawn into a tube of bamboo where it would sit over a fire to cook. It didn’t stop there though. We kept going, cutting up pork and making bamboo leaf boat omelets. The meal, combined with bamboo white rice, was definitely a hit as Chris exclaimed it was one of his favorite meals, we had the entire trip! We agree, Christopher. With (incredibly) full stomachs, we hit the road for the airport where we would be flown off to our gateway city, Bangkok for a final day.
Our last day in Thailand started with a warm welcome to Bangkok from our outstanding tour guide, Nina. After a sleepy bus ride downtown, we gawked at centuries-old murals and sparkling gold temples in the Grand Palace. The highlight of our Palace tour was seeing the Emerald Buddha, the most important Buddha statue in the country cut entirely from one large piece of jade. From there, Nina led us through several museums and onto a long boat for a beautiful canal tour of the city by water! CR took note of everything we passed, exclaiming how fun it was and how it reminded her of riding the motor boat with her family at the river. To finish our time downtown, we split up and explored an enormous Thai mall for hours (the food court was almost as awe-inspiring as the temples we had explored that morning)
For our last dinner, we had a banquet feast at a local restaurant; people ordered steak, pasta, salads, and our favorite Thai dishes, and we spent the evening recounting our favorite stories from the trip. Our ride to the airport was a teary-eyed and a reminiscent one. We cannot thank all of you enough for giving us the opportunity to spend three week with your kids. They taught both of us more than you could imagine, and we hope that we made a fraction of the impact on them as they made on us. We think they will all come home with a smile that is a little bit bigger, an increased sense of confidence, and hopefully declined cell phone usage! Thank you all again for trusting Moondance and trusting us, we couldn’t have asked for a better group to spend our time with. Give them all a hug from us, it’s not the same waking up without them. The biggest and fattest and greatest Nugs to THA 2B, we love all of y’all.
Adam (Dam) and Mary Gray (MG)
July 16, 2023
Hi everyone! Adam and MG here! Since we last touched base with all of you, we have spent 5 days in the Karen Village with our fearless guides, Uncle Chai and Josh, as they helped us immerse ourselves into the culture of the village. Before we jump in, we wanted to preface this update by letting all of you know how much fun we’ve had not only over the past 5 days, but also over the past 2 and a half weeks. It is mind blowing how quickly his trip has gone by- this group makes our jobs way more fun than it should be and we owe them thanks for that! We think we can speak on behalf of the entire group when we say we hope (fingers crossed extra hard) the next 3 days goes by slow. Alright, now that we’ve given our spiel, let’s get into why you’re all here!
Our trek into the Karen Village of Baan Khao Lip proved to be a challenge for many people in our group, but they took the challenge head on. CR and Annabeth fearlessly joined Uncle Chai at the front to lead the pack to begin the 7 mile trek even after being nervous prior to starting – big ole nugs to both of them! With walking sticks in hand, the group continued on, step by step, as we gained over 3000 meters in elevation! Uncle Chai ensured we knew the flora and fauna like the backs of our hands, “teaching us by the land” as he liked to say. Our trek featured many stops, including one at a giant waterfall and another at a local elementary school. At the waterfall, the official 2023 Moondance Belly Flop Competition commenced, with yours truly as the judges. After an impressive round of flops and splashes, we were left with a podium of Prater, Jake, and AB, who ultimately took home the gold. Back over at the school, Maude especially loved playing with the younger kids, as she immediately sat on their mats and kept them giggling and smiling. We walked, talked, laughed, sang, and before we knew it, we were walking into the home that we were graciously given the chance to stay in for our time in the village. After meeting our hosts and enjoying a delicious dinner together, we all went to bed excited for the week ahead.
We woke up to the sound of roosters and a breakfast spread with at least 4 different kinds of fresh fruit. Soon after, Uncle Chai led us down to the construction site where three prior Moondance groups this summer have spent their days mixing concrete and assisting the community’s construction of a new church building. He explained that our task for the week would be to construct two large water tanks behind the structure, and we spent the rest of the morning forming bucket brigades to transport dirt, cement mixture, and water to to make concrete. Colin proved to be our strongest and fastest mixer, while Adriana ran buckets from place to place like it was her day job. After mixing and laying the complete water tank foundation, we retired to our homestay for lunch (where we found even more fruit waiting) and talked about the rest of our day. Since the morning’s cement needed to dry, we wouldn’t be able to make progress at the construction site – so we set out in search of another big waterfall Josh told us about! After a short walk through cow pastures and rice fields, we found it roaring across the village under the cover of towering bamboo plants. Everyone got thoroughly splashed, and Peter, Colin, and Chris kept us all entertained with a dramatic bamboo sword fight. When we got back, we spent the remainder of the afternoon reading, napping, and playing card games on our porch, finishing the night around a campfire!
We woke up on our second morning in the village to new visitors.. there were several cows mooing at the doors of our homestay! We admired them in between sips of our morning coffee while overlooking the beautiful plains of rice fields in the distance. The rest of our morning consisted of more bucket brigades, a never ending loop of our Thailand 2B Spotify playlist, and a pretty consistent game of “Hey guys, where’s Priester” – We quickly learned that if anyone needed him, he could be found performing side tasks, meeting new community members, or helping inside of the church. The remainder of the day went as smoothly (literally) as the day before and we spent it smoothing out the laid cement onto the water tanks with tools and watered down gloves. Once back at the house, the group sprawled out on the porch and had (summer) reading time, surprising themselves with how much they liked the books they had been dreading. Prater especially took a liking to In Cold Blood, knocking out most of her reading and annotations- go girl! The day ended with another surplus of food, including chicken, rice, fruit, curry, and vegetables, big yawns, and Moonup!
On Day 3, we completed our water tanks! After a few more coats of cement and another thorough round of sanding, we were ready to decorate. Kate was crowned head artist by the group and by Uncle Chai, so she recruited helpers and got to work painting the whole structure white. Once it was dry, everyone joined in with colorful handprints and autographs all over, and a big “Moondance Adventures” was placed in block letters at the front. When we were done and had cleaned up, a generous family let us into their kitchen to learn about Karen Hilltribe home life – they showed us how to make tea and how to weave, and they taught us about several different types of bananas (we had red ones!!!) Afterwards, we took a pickup truck to the neighboring village’s football field, counted off, and played the most intense soccer game Moondance has ever seen. The first 30 minutes we were neck and neck, with Priester leading one team’s attack and Josh leading the other’s. Eventually , though, the latter team prevailed – Josh’s juggling was filthy, Uncle Chai was a brick wall in the goal net, and the most talented kid in the village had joined their team. We spent the rest of the day soaking up aspects of the village we would soon miss: cold showers, an abundance of fruit, and a chorus of animal noises all around us. After dinner, the village’s shaman performed a traditional ceremony which welcomed each of us into the community, and we celebrated with music around a fire into the wee hours of the night.
We awoke our final morning dreading what was to come- goodbyes. Goodbyes to Uncle Chai, Josh, our host family, the village, and the community members who immediately welcomed us with open arms. Before starting out for our trek, we said our thank yous and goodbyes, shook some hands, and gave out hugs to those who had helped immerse us into the Karen culture. We then ripped the bandaid off and started walking, and before long we could only see the village in the distance. After two last trek waterfall stops, we found ourselves leisurely rafting down the river atop giant bamboo rafts. Jake even got a chance to show off by taking a shot at steering one of them with a giant bamboo rod! The rafting deservingly gave our legs a break after the miles our group had just conquered, and before we knew it, we were back in the van and heading towards Chaing Mai. After some sorrow filled goodbyes to Uncle Chai and Josh, we entered the oh so familiar hotel, Riverside, where we rested before our fun planned night at the Saturday Night Market! There, we were able check off on our shopping lists and try some authentic Thai street food. Peter’s mango addiction never fails to impress us, but after his 8th mango sticky rice, we were all fully shocked. Jackson made an equal impression in our minds as slurped 2 peoples’ broths of their Khao Soi once they were finished. The girls choose the path of getting a little bit of everything and eating it family style- the gyoza was definitely a fan favorite! As a whole, the group shopped and ate until their hearts were content and we headed back to our humble abode, Riverside Hotel. Show-and-tells could be heard coming from each room, sprawling gifts for families and friends out on their beds. The Saturday night market was definitely a hit, and we can’t wait to see how they enjoy the Sunday night market! Will keep you all posted on how that one goes 🙂
Until next time,
Adam and MG
July 11, 2023
I’m sure you’re all wondering why we’ve gathered you here today… it’s elephant day! As we sit on a tin roof covered porch, mid-afternoon rain shower in Chiang Mai, we wanted to let everyone know about both our travel day to Chiang Mai, as well as the heavily anticipated elephant day! To give a little teaser as to how our day went, as we were leaving the elephant sanctuary, Kate remarked “This was actually the coolest thing I’ve done.. in my life.” This was echoed throughout the entire group, so that in itself can attest to the fun that was had today! We hope you’re as excited to hear about it as excited all the kids were to experience it!!
Before we can jump right into talking about the gray gentle giants, we first have to give you all a rundown of how we found ourselves here. To make the most of our delayed flight, we all woke up later than usual to the sound of rain on our hostel roof. We scurried down the street to find a breakfast spot and successful would be an understatement! We found a cafe called Have a Nice Day Cafe where we indulged in lattes, eggs benedict, yogurt, and fruit galore. CR made the wise decision to order avocado toast and we think she won the unspoken award of best looking and tasting breakfast. There wasn’t a single plate left with food on it by the time we left the restaurant- this morning’s breakfast was definitelyyy a hit! With stomachs full and thoughts of the Bangkok airport dancing in our heads, we hopped in the van and hit the road for the airport where we would be flown away to Chiang Mai! Before we boarded, crepes were a group necessity, so Maude and Jackson led the charge of filling our stomachs with strawberry, Nutella, and chocolate crepes. You name it, we ate it! Soon enough, we found ourselves back in the van, but this time driving through New Chiang Mai to our humble abode for the night, Riverside Guest House. We did one last 7/11 stop before Moonup then called it an early night – we had a big day tomorrow!!
Our group woke up to a beautiful breakfast spread in Riverside House’s courtyard. Not long after, we met Uncle Chai – a short, spry, smiley Thai man who will be our guide throughout our adventures in northern Thailand. After a drive through Chiang Mai’s historic center and a stop at a local street market (Peter got Pad Thai AND Mangos for like 40 baht), our vans finally pulled into the elephant sanctuary.
We could hear them before we saw them; their loud trumpeting carried high over the trees to us at the top of a lush hill. After a short history lesson from Uncle Chai, the group ventured down to the sanctuary’s muddy, fast-flowing river to meet the mammoths. First, the group fed them sugar cane and stroked their trunks as we got acquainted with their elephant-y mannerisms (an elephant is kind of like really big, smart dog with a tentacle for a face, we’ve learned). After they had exhausted our food supply, we walked with the elephants to a shallow pond where we were instructed to rub their bodies with mud. What started as a relaxing elephant spa transformed into a war zone when Adriana hurled the first handful of mud at her comrades. It’s unclear exactly who won the mud fight (nobody was spared), but after 10 minutes it was clear that Chris or Colin had probably done the most damage.
Once we and the elephants were covered with mud, it was time for a quick rinse! They led us to the nearby river where we all bathed together. Throwing water on the backs of elephants soon turned into throwing water into each other’s faces (we think Maude started it this time?), and the water fight which ensued left us all laughing and refreshed. Jake and Jackson discovered a natural water slide down the riverbank’s rocks and that kept us occupied until Uncle Chai told us it was time for lunch. We found a delicious spread of fried rice and plates upon plates of fresh fruit waiting for us back up the hill. Uncle Chai then taught us how to make medicine for the elephants – basically a multivitamin made with sesame, bananas, salt, ground sugar cane, turmeric, and sticky rice to hold it all together. Prater’s mixing technique was definitely the best in the group, so don’t be surprised if she opens an elephant pharmacy when she gets home. Once we had 30 or so perfectly sculpted medicine balls, we visited our huge friends for the last time to feed them. After they scarfed our vitamins down, they just wanted to play with us: a big one chased Annabeth around trying to grab the fruit out of her hand, Priester boxed with a baby who loved causing mischief, and a momma elephant even picked Adam up 3 feet off the ground with her trunk!
With elephant day in the past and cultural immersion to look forward to, we feel ourselves both excited and thankful. Excited for what is to come as we spend 5 days together within the Karen Villages and thankful for the intentionality of the time we have spent together. All 12 of our kids have stepped out of their comfort zone and into the growth zone while making lasting friendships and connections. Laughter never stops with this group and energy and positive are always through the roof. We truly feel grateful to have been able to spend the last two weeks with them and we know the last week will be nothing short of amazing. We’re hoping it goes by just a littleeee bit slower though because we want to soak in every minute we can get!
Until next time,
Adam and Mary Gray
Adriana: Hola Brouse familia it’s me the fried rice here is so freakin good and I guess I’m having a great time. Greggers keep holding up the comedy in the house while I’m gone, I know y’all miss me 😉 give Tebow a hug for me and don’t forget to give him his Dino blanket. Friends when I get home I’m making y’all go repelling/ rock climbing when we get back.. okay swag. Love y’all P.S. I want chipotle when I get back please 🙂 my leaders are the most amazing and coolest people I’ve ever met in my life
CR: hey McFamily I’m having so much fun! We’re driving to go see the elephants now and I’m so excited! We’ve already done so much scuba diving and rock climbing. This is such a fun and beautiful place and I hope y’all will get to see it someday too(and see the pics we have)! I’ve made so many new and great friends who I can’t wait to tell y’all about! I miss and love y’all so much and I hope everyone’s doing great! Give Bear and Ajax a big hug for me(but give bear a bigger one!)
Maude: hey mom and dad!!! I love y’all and thank y’all so muchhh for sending me here!! Tell Bebe thank you and I love her too. And send love to sisters and dogs. I am having the BEST time!!!!!! Miss y’all! Scuba diving was v cool. Please bring princess to airport!!!!
Annabeth: Hello mother and father I miss y’all. This place is sick. Also I forgot to add Francie to my bday list so please do that. Unfortunately there happens to be no captain deez in sight. Anyways thanks for sending me here love y’all.
Prater: hi mom and dad! I miss you and thanks so much for letting me go on this trip! It has been so amazing so far and I love and get along with all the people. Our activities have been so sick and I’ve had so many incredible experiences that I can’t wait to tell y’all about! Don’t wanna spoil too much because I want to tell y’all in person! love y’all!! Say hi to the dogs for me! By the way, I want chocolate chip pancakes when I get back!
Kate: HAY GUYS!! This is without a doubt probably the coolest place I’ve ever been in my life. The people are so nice and the food is incredible. And it’s cheaper than toyoko grill mostly. Mango smoothies at every meal for 2$. We (mostly talking to you mom) have to come back here!! I can see why you and Minnie liked it so much.
Priester – Hey guys. I am having a lot of fun in Thailand! We took a hike from Chiang Mai today and arrived in the Karen village. Everything that we have done on the trip has been really cool. I’ve also learned a lot while I’ve been here. I can’t wait to see you guys. Love you
Colin- Hey guys. You will not believe what I have experienced here. It’s like living in Minecraft or the Avatar movie. I’m all good and can’t wait to see everyone again! I have learned more here than any 3 weeks of school. The pics are great. See y’all later!
Peter- what is up I am having a pretty good time. Thanks for sending me on the trip. See y’all later.
Jake – I am fully immersed in Thai culture. 50/50 chance on me coming home. Peace.
Chris – Sawadi Kup (what’s poppin) everyone! Thailand is aweSome, I’ve beEn posting up so hard. Mom I’m very sorry to say that I lost my water bottle for the secoNd year in a row as well as my headlamp. I woulD really appreciate some in n out or something else delectable for when I get HomE <3 I realLy miss everyone, can’t wait to see you when I get picked uP! Later my chillers 🙂
Jackson- Hello. I am having a great time and taking lots of pictures. I have learned a lot from everything here and the people. I will see you in a week. Love you
July 8, 2023
Hellooooo everybody! Us again 🙂 We wanted to fill you all in on what our last section of adventuring around South Thailand has looked like. We hopped back onto our old friend, the ferry, and headed south from Koh Tao towards Krabi (where we’d soon be rock climbing). After a much needed and relaxing bus ride, we found ourselves at our home for the next several nights — Glur Hostel. From a ping pong table to comfy shared bunk beds, this hostel had it all! CR and MG were victorious in an intense game of ping pong against Priester and Prater. We even had to check the official ping pong rules during the game after some disagreements, but the series ended in handshakes from all! In the end though, no one stood a chance against the ping pong dream team — Adam and Colin! Meanwhile, the rest of the group was enthralled in competitive Jenga one room over. The final rounds of their tournament saw self-proclaimed Jenga prodigy Jackson Rhodes, “easiest move of my life” Peter Webb, and C.R. “The rookie” McDowell went head to head in virtual silence as everyone held their breath. In the end, C.R. prevailed! Some of us fell asleep within seconds that night, while others tossed and turned dreaming of their Jenga / ping pong revenge tour.
We all woke up bright and early ready to climb, and after meeting our guides, they whisked us away on longboats to Railay Beach. There, we were greeted by a jaw-dropping coastline flanked by limestone cliffs with lush tops and picturesque views — Jake remarked that he felt like he was in an Avatar movie! After a short walk to Phra Nang Beach, we were tightening up our harnesses, chalking our hands, and sizing up the routes up the wall. Jackson kicked off our morning of climbing by racing up the hardest route of the day with ease, leaving the rest of us astounded. Three hours later, Adriana had conquered her fear of heights numerous times, Jake had muscled his way up every route on the wall, and Peter had us thinking his last name was actually Parker (that was a Spider-Man joke) (do you get it). After a yummy lunch break and some more walking around Railay peninsula, we began our trek up and through a massive seaside cave. We were motivated by glimpses of the cove beneath us throughout our climb — at one point, Colin lingered on the cliff’s ledge for a few extra moments where he said “I need to take this view in some more — my eyes have never seen anything this beautiful,” and boyyy do we agree with you Colin! Both he and Maude expressed appreciation for the views we saw while we climbed, impressing us with their appreciation for the natural beauty of Thailand. We eventually reached a huge overlook where we were to repel 60 feet down. Now it was Kate and Annabeth’s turn to conquer their fears — but our ropes held strong, and we took some awesome pictures that we can’t wait to show y’all!
Our second and last day of climbing brought us to a new spot on Krabi Beach, which meant new climbs! It went just as smoothly, even with the climbs being longer and seemingly more difficult. Today’s wall included our longest climb yet, almost doubling the ones we had done the day before! Colin spider-monkeyed his way up it in record time, while others made their valiant attempts with success. After a recharge consisting of Fanta and Peanut M&Ms, Jackson hoisted himself up several walls and made them look like child’s play. After a long morning of climbing, our guides began packing up the ropes, chalk, and harnesses. With the threat of our climbing excursion coming to an end, quickly caught Chris, Prater, Priester, and CR’s attention, and they ran towards the two hardest climbs insisting that they need to give them a try. It put a smile on both of our faces as we watched them scurry up the wall! Priester taught us about the “breaks” we could take sitting on the wall, which definitely helped bring him to the top! Post-climb, the weather tried to stop our scheduled beach day, but our group didn’t mind a little rain. We quickly slipped off our jackets, threw on our bathing suits, and jumped into the ocean. No rain shower can stop this group! We swam, swam, and swam some more, made friends with the miniature “jellyfish”, and ended the afternoon at an ice cream stand! With strawberry and mango sorbet helping us close out our day, we headed back to our humble abode, Glur Hostel, to end our time in Krabi together. From their climbing abilities to their people skills, this group has consistently impressed us and we cannot wait to see what the second half of the trip has in store— we know it will be nothing short of amazing and!
Mary Gray and Adam
July 5, 2023
Parents! Families! Friends! Adam and Mary Gray here with our new 12 kiddos and boyyy do we have some catching up to do with all of you! Since you all gave your last hugs to your kids, sending them halfway across the world to us, we have had ourselves an incredible several days. From airplane slippers to diving flippers, our group made the transition of a lifetime as they learned how to SCUBA dive! In between our diving classroom lessons, pool learning sessions, and open water dives, we’ve had some travel here and there, more laughs than we can humanly count, and a whole lotta new information on how to breathe underwater— what a crazy concept!
To kick off our 3 weeks together, we shuttled all twelve kiddos right back into an airport where we would hit the air for Koh Samui to catch our ferry to the island of Koh Tao where we would begin our diving section. A day of diving would’ve definitely trumped a day of travel, but this group made the most of it! Once waiting in the lovely Bangkok gate 4, CR took the lead of trying to stump the rest of the group with a riddle called “Party.” A smile spanned across her face after 20 minutes of guessing when we finally figured the trick out! Chris impressed us with his crazy skills in guessing everyone’s riddles. He even caught onto to MG and Adam’s favorite riddle, “Road Trip”, first, and might have been the only one to get it completely right. He even got to do some rounds with us to stump the rest of the group! After some riddles and a quick plane ride, we found ourselves at the ferry dock in Koh Samui where Prater won the (most likely) first game of musical chairs the ferry waiting area has ever seen. Once on board the ferry, we set up camp on the top deck. The bumpy ride combined with the sprays of sea water really broke the ice for the group, getting laughs all around. Once arriving in Koh Tao, we were greeted with Cokes, Sprites, and teas, and headed to check out our new rooms for the next 5 nights! You could hear Maude from across the resort excitedly exclaiming how amazing the rooms were— we are seriously spoiled here! Soon after, we headed to the InTouch restaurant to meet Twai, the sweet manager of the resort’s restaurant, who loves to get laughs out of the kids. Our night ended with a beautiful beach Moonup talking about what hopes we have for this trip and what we hope to get out of it. Bedtime came shortly after with everyone chattering about our first day of dive school!
Day 1 of school meant intense note taking and copious amounts of flash cards. Kidding, kidding, we’re talking about diving school! Most of the kids spent the morning learning about the technicalities of diving from our wonderful instructors, Naomi and Jordi, who showed them the ropes outside of the water before throwing them in (not literally. We promise). After their morning lessons, they headed to the nearby training pool to practice their newly learned skills under the water. Meanwhile, Jackson, Jake, Colin, and Adam were able to hit the ocean immediately to run over their advanced diving techniques! Both groups ended the day with excitement about what tomorrow will hold — lots and lots of diving! Post dinner, we did an ice cream run at a local convenience store where Jake had the smart idea to buy a frisbee for our time on the beach — go Jake! Kate and Priester led our first Moonup and we wish all of you could’ve been bugs on the wall during it. We haven’t seen a group of people who met 72 hours ago ever laugh that hard together. Seeing how quickly this group has bonded is one of the coolest things we have seen all summer. If the next 2 and a half weeks move at the speed the past 3 days have, I’m not sure any of us are going to want to come home. Fair warning parents!
On the second day of school, everyone got on the same boat and dove in the open ocean together! Well, everyone had to take their SCUBA tests in the classroom first… but after they passed, they got to move on to actual diving exercises! We got started on our tans (and sunburns), we gorged ourselves on the little pineapple cookies they keep on our dive boat, and our Open Water students took their first breaths under the sea. When we got back to InTouch, Jake’s new frisbee was immediately stolen by a cartoonishly intimidating dog, but we eventually recovered it with the help of its owner! After dinner, our group became familiar with Peter (affectionately dubbed “Ter”)‘s mango sticky rice addiction: we caught him revisiting his favorite dessert stand for the third time that day!
Our third day on Koh Tao was the fourth day of July. It also happened to be the day of our coolest, earliest dives. So, when MG and Adam woke everyone up by jumping on their beds at 5:30 AM decked out in 4th gear blasting “God Bless The USA,” “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue,” and the National Anthem, the group knew it would be an Independence Day to remember. After a quick reminder of how to put on temporary tattoos, we hopped onto the boat that would take us about an hour away to our dive site, Chumpon Pinnacle. We got to watch the sunrise over the water, and the Fourth of July music and gear definitely added to the excitement. Adriana’s beads and tattoos in combination with her sparkly blue swimsuit was just the beginning of this group’s festive spirit and excitement for the day! Chris and Colin showed off their sunrise dance moves and impressed all of us. On the ride out, Annabeth soaked up enough Thailand sun to tan the entire boat, and Prater proved her musical knowledge as she sang along to literally every song. In the blink of an eye, we had arrived — and wow, the dives were sick. At one point during their deep dive, Colin, Chris, Jackson, Adam, and MG found themselves encircled by a school of thousands of fish. It looked like a scene out of a movie, and we wish all of you could’ve seen how incredibly beautiful it was. Kate was grinning from ear to ear after surfacing from her last dive — she wasn’t even sure if she’d be able to complete her certification, and here she was loving it! Once we arrived back on land, everyone eagerly descended onto their lunch and then onto the beach. And after some sunbathing, we decided to treat everyone to authentic Thai massages! An army of masseuses rubbed, cracked, and bent our stress away, and the group emerged 10x looser and 10x happier than we had entered. We had to shake Annabeth awake her massage was so good! Afterwards, the group showered and got ready for dinner. Meanwhile, Ter’s mango addiction was getting severe — his fifth mango of the day went down just as easily as the first four, and his smile was just as big.
The dives on our last day went swimmingly (haha get it?), and it was the perfect end to a week of some of the best diving a Moondance group has ever seen. Plus, all 12 kids walked away with a new SCUBA certification!!! We are super proud of all of them for completing either the Open Water or the Advanced course, and we are even more proud about how positive and enthusiastic they remained through all 4 days! They might have caught the diving bug, fair warning! Now, we travel to Krabi where we will be rock climbing on the world famous Railay Beach! Yahoooo! The past several days have been nothing short of incredible and we are so excited to see what the rest of the trip holds for these special twelve kiddos.
Chat soon 🙂
Adam and Mary Gray
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!