Day 12: A New Start

Today was a great day! After the last few days, it feels so good to write it and actually mean that the entire day was awesome. The girls got to increase their Thai food count this morning with another great breakfast. It is one of the times that we get to spend with Randy, Nuch, and the rest of the family, so it is fun to be able to just chat and start our day with them!

Our driver arrived at 830 and we had a full list of things that we wanted to do. Now we know that we can just have ideas and see what happens. We knew that we wanted to start back at the Bua Tong Waterfall! It was so awesome the first time, we were so excited to go back with Beth and Paige!

Mom and Dad sending their kids off

If we needed any confirmation that we made the right decision yesterday, we woke up to blue skies! It was a beautiful sunny day, all day and literally started raining the minute we got into the car after our last activity was done and that only lasted for a few minutes. There were four smiling girls all day today!

Our driver is Nuch’s friend and actually drivers tourists around for a living and you can really tell! He had an aux cord all ready to go and told us to play music as soon as we got into the car. He then provided Laura, who was playing the music, with a phone charger so her battery wouldn’t be drained. Everywhere we went he would also offer to take pictures! He was very sweet to us! Paige ended up in the back seat at one point and we jokingly asked if her legs fit because there was probably 6 inches between the back seat and the back of the captain seats in the front. She responded jokingly, telling us that they didn’t fit and she had to put them in the middle, and our driver immediately pulled over the van. He wasn’t fluent in English by any means, so we thought he had to go to the bathroom or something. Instead he ran straight to the back of the car to move Paige’s seat back so her legs would fit. How is that for service?! We still don’t know how he even knew what we were saying! Either way, he was a great driver for the day.

We think our driver’s name might be Oh…

Our driver actually suggested that we stop at the “Grand Canyon of Thailand” on our way to the waterfall, so we made a pit stop there. We had it on our list as optional, so we decided we should at least just take a look. They are definitely being dramatic when they compare it the Grand Canyon as it looks more like the quarries in St. Cloud. It was also very touristy, so we just walked around for a little bit and went on our way. It would have been cool to swim, but we had other priorities!

It took us a while to get to the waterfall, but again, the drive was so worth it. It was fun to watch Beth and Paige experience it for the first time! The sun being out this time was such a bonus! It is pretty amazing how the sun can immediately turn your mood around- it was good for all of us to catch a few rays!

There were barely any people there again which made today even better. We were able find a spot on the waterfall where we could all just sit in the sun and enjoy the warmth on our face. Of course there was lots of giggling, too. That will be a very special memory!

After spending a few hours climbing, laying in the sun, and taking tons of pictures, we decided it was time to head to our next activity. We really wanted to do bamboo rafting again with the girls because it was so much fun the first time, so we told our driver and we were on our way!

Some perspective- we were deep in the mountains!
The dude in the pic is our driver, taking pics for us!

However, he took us to a different place where you could raft. It was part of an elephant camp and we would not be able to actually do the rafting by ourselves like the first time. The elephant camp was not giving us good vibes as the elephants didn’t look like they were taken very good care of, so we decided that we should just do rafting another day so we didn’t give them our business. We needed to go through Chiang Mai to get back to Randy’s so we decided that we would just go to Tiger Kingdom in the city instead! (See, we are learning about flexibility and planning!)

If you have not heard of Tiger Kingdom before, it is kind of like a zoo except there are only various species of tigers. The big difference is that the tigers are raised in captivity and trained to be around humans from birth. The philosophy is that this makes them comfortable enough to interact with humans in very close range. If you have ever seen a photo of someone laying on a tiger, it was probably taken at one of the Tiger Kingdom locations.

When you arrive, you have to decide what size tiger you want to interact with. The sizes were small (about the size of a large dog), medium, large (what you think an adult tiger would look like), or giant (we never saw the giant). We all chose to do the large and Laura also did the small tigers. We figured if we were going to touch a tiger, it better be the big one!

We didn’t end up stopping anywhere for lunch, so we all grabbed a quick snack before going into the sanctuary. Our snacks from mom (me) wouldn’t hold us over until dinner. I really need to start forcing myself to like fruit! Those smoothies looked very refreshing!

Snacks and sunscreen means I get to be the mom!

A few minutes later we were guided back to where the tiger cages were! There were three large tigers in the cage where we were signed up to go, so three groups could go in at a time. Somehow we got to go first! For every tiger in the pen, there was a trainer with only a small wooden stick. All the signs said that it was for our safety, but they mostly just used it to poke the tiger to try get it to lift its head up for pictures or move. It almost seemed like they were using it to provoke them sometimes!

Our trainer was a real jokester. If the tiger would move, he would jump and say, “Oh my gosh!” And then we would all jump and back away quickly. He would just laugh and say “Nice tiger!” He would lift up the tiger’s whiskers and tell us “Big teeth!” You can see how it would be fun for him, but with something like tigers, you don’t want to really ever assume that he is joking if he looks scared. However, we followed Robert’s advice and never turned our backs to the tigers and came out alive.

He also really tried to get us good pictures. He would tell us to pick up the tail, lay on the tiger, give ourselves a mustache with the tiger’s tail, growl at the tiger… I think he thought we were pretty lame. The only thing you couldn’t do to the tiger was touch it near it’s head because there is a chance that it could feel provoked and attack. Because there were three tigers, they would move us to the one that was most active. Even though there were three wild beasts within ten feet of me, it didn’t ever seem that unsafe. The tiger’s looked so uninterested in us and almost just seemed like big dogs. They were yawning and stretching and seemed pretty impartial to us being there. Even when we were laying on them and holding their tails!

It will be fun to look at Beth’s pictures when we get home! She took over 800 today, so I think it was well documented. The GoPro is fun because our entire encounter was videoed! All my GoPro pictures are just frames extracted from the videos, so we will get to have both!

This was an experience that seemed really chill while doing it, and then you realize what you actually did after the fact. “Did we really just lay on a tiger?!” “Why were we not scared?!” “That was so cool!” This trip has definitely offered it’s fair share of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities! Or twice-in-a-lifetime for the waterfalls and bamboo rafting for Laura and I 🙂

One of the best parts of Tiger Kingdom was the baby tiger cub! We just decided to walk around and see the other tigers before leaving, and happened to stumble upon the nursery! Beth’s reaction is priceless! You can not fake that kind of excitement. Instantly, we were right next to the window. That tiger cub was possibly the cutest thing we had ever seen. We wanted to hold it so bad!! It was only 1 month old, and had the cutest blue eyes. You can imagine- everytime it would do literally anything, “Awwww! How cute was that?!” We have since determined that it doesn’t matter the species, babies are cute no matter what.

Our hearts instantly melted.

Randy told us this morning that he and Nuch were going to take us out to dinner at their favorite restaurant! Therefore, we had to make a stop at Big-C, Thailand’s Walmart, on the way home. Nobody brought a curling iron or a straightener from home, thinking that we would never need it! However, Randy offering us an opportunity to wear the dresses we brought meant that we definitely needed to find something! We are all getting sick of wearing our hair up everyday.

Not as low maintenance as we thought…

Big-C was huge and it took us forever to find the things we needed. We had to ask a worker where the curling irons were and she pointed us in the direction of small appliances. We just laughed and thought that something must have got lost in translation. However, we were proved wrong and found the curling irons with the microwaves and blenders! I never knew it was such an advanced tool! We also tried to find some bread and peanut butter so we could make some sandwiches for our next few busy days. We literally had to scour the entire food section! Peanut butter here is considered a dessert and is found next to the chocolate sauce! Hmm. We also ran out of toilet paper which was really bad because nobody here uses toilet paper the way we do. At every toilet there is just a spray hose! Randy tells us that once you get used to it, it is the way to go, but we are all pretty skeptical. Also, having something to sit on isn’t very common here. For example, at the waterfall and the zoo, there was just basically a hole in the floor! You just have to squat! This is one American thing I am very, very thankful for.

It was fun wear something other than athletic clothing for once! After quickly getting ready, we were able to snap a few photos while waiting for Randy and Nuch to get ready. Can you believe that four twenty-something girls got ready 20 minutes early after spending 8 hours hot and sweaty outside? We were amazed too 🙂

Our Thai Family!

We didn’t really know what to expect going out to dinner. It was a small restaurant at a local spot that doubled as an antique shop. It was so cool! There were many different porches where you could eat and the antiques and various structures were placed between them. They must have made a reservation because the table was already set when we got there. We barely sat down before our drinks were poured and white rice was served. Then the feast began!

First came the crab and shrimp cakes! They were so, so good. I wouldn’t say that I love either ingredient much on it’s own, but it was one of the best things I have had in Thailand so far!

Then came the fried fish! They first take off all of the meat and fry it, then fry the entire carcass and fill it with the fried meat. I asked Randy if the carcass was just for decoration, but he said that fish head is a delicacy here. I should have known- anything we would throw away or think is gross, like a bug or snake, they think is a delicacy. Examples I know so far: mug worms (found in termite mounds), ant eggs, locusts, fish heads, and snakes.

You can see the tail finn popping out!

Next came a platter of chicken and vegetables! Then came a platter of shrimp and vegetables! You know that you have been with these people for a while when Nuch pointed to the vegetable and shrimp platter and said, “Amanda, look! Vegetables!” It was my favorite dish of them all, so she does know me well!

The food just didn’t stop coming! The last course of the main meal they brought out was a few different soups. The table was literally full of food platters! It was a feast by all definitions of the word. Having real authentic Thai food was so fun! It was a lot more spicy than we were used to, so we all had burning tongues! My eyes were watering and my nose was running! It wasn’t even that hot, it was just a lot spicier than the Scandinavian meat and potatoes I am used to eating. Nuch added a lot of extra spice to all of her food, so it must have even been less spicy than normal. She explained that an American loving salt (Grandma) is like her loving spice. It is just a flavor profile she always adds to her food!

As we were all nearing the verge of exploding, Randy said seriously, “Good, now that we have finished most of this food, we can clear the table for the main meal!” I think our eyes all got really big for a second before he chuckled. I really would not have been surprised if they had another table of food ready. Luckily, the last thing they served after clearing the tables was just some wedges of fruit. It was the perfect end to our dinner.

Us girls can not get over how much Randy and his family have done for us. That dinner was not cheap by any means, and they were just so excited to bring us there. They have coordinated drivers for us, fed us everyday, offered great inside information for our activities, and have basically been an airport shuttle service. They do it all with endless amounts of smiles, laughter, and great conversation. How priceless has this experience been?! We are all so so so thankful.
The next few days will be just as busy! We are going to try go zip lining and rafting tomorrow! We also have reservations in Chiang Mai for the night so we can go the big night market! It will be fun to spend a night in the city. On Saturday we are hoping to go to an elephant sanctuary, but are not sure if I that will work out yet. Time will tell!

Here are a few extra photos from the day!

The dot on the baby’s forehead is meant to scare away the spirits, so they don’t bother the baby. This baby and it’s mother have been living with Randy for the past few weeks.  In Thai culture, children do literally whatever they want until about age 5. For example, if the toddle wants to go into a mud puddle, then the parent just follows them into the mud puddle. Owe ear, after age 5, they are almost abandoned. They might go live with an aunt or a cousin.  The village essentially works together to raise all of the kids.

We are getting used to solving all of our own problems. Independent women!

There was a nice view of the sky, so our driver stopped so we could take a picture of it. Classic Beth:)



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