Today was a perfect day! After enjoying some coffee on the beach and going on a run this morning, I came back to an omelet made by my dad! What an awesome guy! We all headed to the beach around 11 and were there all afternoon enjoying various activities. It was 70 degrees and sunny which felt like paradise to us! It was never hot enough to make you sweat, but not cold enough that you needed to bundle up. There also wasn’t any wind which made for an awesome last day in South Carolina.
So much fun was had by all! Sometimes all you need is a nap, a walk on the beach, a good book to read, a long bike ride, a fun treat, and/or a fun visit with a friend. It has been so fun to just be able to relax and enjoy the weather, beach, and our family! Tomorrow we will start the 20 hour drive home, and luckily a few of us will be able to hop in with Grandma and Grandpa. We have done many road trips with all seven of us, but we are all a little bit bigger now! The rest of the night will be enjoyed playing rook, hot tubbing, reading our books, and relishing our last night of relaxation. We are trying to take advantage of every minute!
Day Two on Hilton Head Island did not disappoint. I was up early enough to catch the sunrise, so I made some coffee, grabbed my bike, and then promptly turned around. It was cold, even for a Minnesotan, and the wind was strong, so I opted out of a mouthful of sand and decided to enjoy the morning inside. After finishing my coffee, I decided to bundle up and go for a run. It took a few minutes to warm up, but it ended up being a perfect way to start the day. I ran down to the beach first to check it out and had to run back quickly because the strong winds were really whipping the sand around. There were many friendly people out running and walking, so it was fun to start the day on a cheerful note!
After waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and eat breakfast, we decided to go on a bike ride! As part of Hilton Head’s conservation mindset, biking is a common mode of transportation. There are bike paths everywhere, so we decided to take the 7-mile trek down to another beach where there were many shops and restaurants. My mom, dad, Carol, Daniel, John, Peter, Aaron, and myself were those that went on the adventure.
The seven mile trek took approximately an hour, so by the time we got to the beach, everyone was ready for some food! We chose a local joint called Daniel’s and had the opportunity to get some seafood! They also had a buy-one-get-one deal so Johnny was pumped that he could get TWO 3/4 pound burgers. That guy can pack in the food! Any time you are on the coast or have an opportunity to have fresh fish tacos, I would highly recommend it. The tacos I had were SO good; what a treat!
Everyone left the restaurant with full bellies and we continued our adventure by checking out the new beach. However, the wind was also strong on this side of the island, so we quickly turns around before we all had tons of sand in our hair. You can tell it was cold because we Minnesotans are all bundled up! Even though it was 60 degrees, the wind made it a pretty chilly day! It was still fun to be in a new place and feel the sun on our faces.
The boys left after checking out the beach and the rest of us stayed to check out the shops in the area. A few of us grabbed a souvenir or two, and the made the 7- mile trek back home. Since we had left in the morning, the clouds cleared up and revealed clear, sunny skies! The only downfall on the day was all of our sore butts; the bikes are pretty nice, but the seats were pretty rough! On the way back, we passed a few golf courses which is what Hilton Head is known for. You see golfers everywhere here! Despite the chilly weather, we had a great afternoon adventure!
After relaxing, golfing, and/or playing rook, we all too the trek to Golden Corral, a Keranen vacation tradition! We have been going to the Goldan Corral for many years, whenever we have been able to find it. Most of the time we have gone in Florida, but whenever we can find it in a city we travel to, it is a bonus! The Goldan Corral is a buffet that has a grill station where you can get steak or ribs and other high quality meats. It is honestly amazing to observe how much food my brothers can eat and how much it makes them happy.
The also have a legit dessert station and all of the kids were running back for all-you-can-eat ice cream, gummy bears, cotton candy, and other treats. They even have a chocolate fountain to dip things in! It is thepitome of American gluttony but you’ve got to indulge every once in awhile! For all of the first-timers, we heard many rave reviews! I love seeing how happy food makes everyone, especially my family! Tomorrow we are hoping to have another beach day, so we will see how the weather cooperates!
We have arrived in South Carolina! Daniel, Johnny, myself, and a few of the Kruses flew out after class on Tuesday to join the family who drove down on Saturday. This trip our family was traveling with the Kruses, Bruce and Julie Bekkala, and Grandma and Grandpa Tormanen. We heard that the weather had been awesome, so we were excited to leave the 40 degree weather behind in Minnesota. Our flight got in around midnight, so we just got settled in and went to bed so we could be rested for our first full day!
This semester, I started a new routine of waking up about an hour earlier than I have to. That way, I can start my morning with a good breakfast and enjoy a hot cup of coffee in the peace and quiet. There is something about the stillness of the morning that is seriously addicting. It has since become one of my favorite parts of every day! Our resort is pretty close to the beach, so I thought it would be fun to start my day there. Even better, we rented some bikes to get around, so I got to start the day with a refreshing, beautiful bike ride. What a start to vacation!
The beaches here are similar to North Carolina; grassy with soft, white sand. Very beautiful. The beach was full of people running and walking, starting their day with some exercise. It felt pretty amazing to be able to drink my coffee while hearing the waves crash, seeing the beautiful ocean, and feeling the warm sun on my cheeks. Well, even though it felt pretty warm to me, most people were in pants and hoodies. There is nothing like spring break to reveal you are from a Northern state! After heading back to the condo to eat some breakfast and collect a few siblings, we headed back to the beach! Being able to lay in the sand, feel the hot sun, and read a good book was such a treat. The weather was perfect today, not too hot, not too cold, revealed by Anna and Johnny’s massive sunburns. Because there is not blistering heat, is easy to stay in the sun all day!
Because we have such a large group, we are able to play a full game of beach volleyball and everyone has a partner for any activity like Shuffleboard or going on a bike ride. Traveling with friends makes everything more fun!
We all spent the morning at the playing around the beach and everyone jumped in the ocean (we were the only ones even touching the water). But, our beach day was cut short because we were going zip lining in the afternoon! We ziplined with Hilton Head Zipline and everyone had a great time, even though a few had quesy stomachs and shakey knees before we started. Each group had two guides that were great! The course was about 2 hours long with a variety of line lengths which was fun to experience!
We were split into two groups: the boys and Amy, and the girls. Our guides were trying so hard to get us to yell and scream at each line, and it took us awhile to get giggly enough to play along. By the end, we were screeching at the top of our lungs, laughing, and our guides were so proud. It was fun to Zipline again after Thailand! The feeling of flying through the air definitely doesn’t get old! It was interesting to see how different the liability and safety process was. The rules in Thailand were a lot more lax and their safety presentation lasted about 90 seconds compared to the 30 minute demonstration we did here.
Because Hilton Head Island was built from a conservational perspective, there are no buildings higher than the trees in the area. Lucky for us, the course had a few really tall trees, so we were at the highest legal point you could access on Hilton Head Island! There are also no streetlights here because sea turtles that hatch follow the moon back to the water and if they see lights, they don’t make it to the ocean! It’s interesting to see how different areas have different policies regarding the animals and environment.
After eating, we all were pretty wiped out, and spent the evening visiting and enjoying the resort at the hot tub, playing shuffleboard, and biking around. The best part of vacation is that we can just chill! Fortunately, we have three more days to bike, swim, laugh, visit, and explore Hilton Head! What a great start to the week!
Today was the best example of the simple things in life being the best things. Laura and I just chilled out all day which as so nice. Sometimes vacation is just as exhausting as real life (you are just doing fun things instead of work). So, we really took advantage of our day off and didn’t really do anything all day. We both got to Skype our families and check in which was really fun! Sharing our adventure with other people is one of the best parts!
After lunch, we then decided to walk around Moo 2, Randy’s village. I would compare the villages here to housing developments in the US. For example, in Delano, Westridge Hills and Rebecca Park Estates would be two different villages. Walking around the village was really cool because we got to really see what the village was like. It was more personal than just driving through it like we normally do. Just picture each housing development having its own church and local store and it would be pretty close to the villages here!
The best way to describe the layout of these villages is that they are so random. There are brand new houses next to old, run down shacks with leaves for a roof. The roads are very narrow and the corners are literally 90 degree angles, so you have to honk before turning so someone coming knows to stop! The Thai people do not waste any space! Mostly it is because so many generations live together so there is more than one structure on the small piece of land. For example, the husband of the nurse I shadowed at the hospital wanted to build their house about a block from his parent’s house, but they refused because it would disrupt the family! So, now his house is literally one foot from his parents’ house.
In between the houses or on the corners are little village stores. They sell similar things to a gas station- pop, snacks, ice cream etc. There are so many of them here, I am not sure how they all make it.
If you ever buy produce or food from one of these stands, they always come in a little bag with a rubber band on top. It looks like when you buy or win a fish from a carnival or something! It is kind of cute! Randy always says that Thailand would be in trouble if they ran out of plastic bags and rubber bands.
Each village also has their own Wat, or temple. They vary in extravagance, but all are pretty fancy. Actually, in Thailand, church, state, and medicine all are integrated, so you see temples at schools and the hospital as well. Randy told me that if the temple needs money they just tell the citizens what they need to pay and they have to pay it. I used to think that there were way more temples here than churches in the US, but then I counted the number of churches in Delano and just realized that most churches in the US are just not fancy so you don’t really notice them. What is interesting is that people don’t work here on Sunday’s either, not for religious reasons, but because America doesn’t.
The king and queen here are almost worshiped! You see their picture every single place you go and it is always very large and publicly displayed. The public just love them! So much so that if you would say something bad about the King, you would be thrown into jail. We just go with not talking about the king to be safe. Just imagine if you saw Obama’s face literally every single place you went, even church and that is what it is like here. Even on billboards. It is almost like he is Buddha or something!
One interesting thing here is that even though each Moo or village has a water tower, each home has to buy their own water for drinking. Randy actually has a delivery service for water much like Culligan in the US, except they only drink that water. If you were to drink the water from the water tower, you would get sick right away. It is not so bad that you can’t brush you teeth with it or anything, but they are very careful.
One of the biggest differences between Thailand and the US that I have noticed so far is the philosophy on garbage. There is no such thing as a garbage truck here. You see garbage here in large piles by people’s houses and on the side of the roads. However, because most people go to the market every morning to get the produce they need to cook for the day, they don’t have as much garbage as the US because there is not any packaging or anything to throw away. Also, they reuse almost everything. Randy said that part of why their food is so spicy is because then they can eat spoiled food- it hides the taste. In fact, there are not garbage cans anywhere! In Randy’s large house with almost 10 people living in it, there are only 2 small garbage cans. He said the last garbage pickup he had was 6 months ago. Can you imagine that in the US!?
Along with their higher garbage tolerance, the Thai people’s standard of cleanliness is very different here. Much like at the hospital, people are very comfortable with germs and dirt. I think part of it is that these people basically live outside so there isn’t really a point to sweep or anything if they never even shut their doors. There are also bugs and various creatures everywhere. It is kind of amazing how your tolerance level for things changes depending on your environment. For example, there are ants on the floor here everywhere and they are always crawling on your feet. Here you just kind of brush them off, but if there were ever ants at my house in America, I would definitely run to the store and buy ant killer ASAP. Randy did buy some for our room and the kitchen which we appreciated. There are also geckos on our walls that poop on the floor and crickets skippering along. For some reason it is no big deal for me here! I am really glad that bugs don’t really freak me out- this trip would have been a lot harder if they did!
There are also scorpions here! We found a bigger one that was dead on the road today, but when we got back from our walk, we found a baby one on the bed right where I sleep! Yikes! I am glad I looked down before plopping onto the bed 🙂
After our walk, Randy asked if we wanted to come to town with him and Nuch to run some errands. Laura and I didn’t have anything going on so we hopped in the truck! After going to the market we went to a few days ago to buy some things for the farm, Randy took us to the Thai version of Costco! I was so excited! Anyone that knows my family knows that we are Costco champions, so I couldn’t wait to see what it was like. I was so excited that Randy told me that I should try find a Costco-like store everywhere I travel. We already did in Las Vegas, so maybe I should?!
The Thai Costco is called Makro. You don’t need to pay for a membership like in America, you can just get a guest pass for the day. It is also almost a cross between an American Costco and grocery store because the quantity that you buy is a lot less.Instead of getting 50 bags of chips, you only get 6. We Americans shake our heads. I think a lot of it is because these people do not eat as much here. The portions here are way smaller.
The meat section was also very cool. Unlike America, you just scoop your own meat or fish! It is not pre-portioned or packed. They have some really interesting things to buy here- it really smells terrible!
Another weird thing is that if you fill your cart, you just leave it up front, get another cart, and keep shopping. Hmm.
They also do not have counters or conveyor belts here- the cashiers just scan everything in the cart. I can’t decide which way is more efficient.
This store was very, very similar to Costco- they even had free samples!
Laura and I decided to get a few treats for our upcoming trip and discovered that we are not adventurous shoppers at all. We got all American products, but in our defense, if we were going to get Costco quantity, we wanted to make sure we liked it. When we were in the chip isle, Laura told me that they had Pringles. I was so excited that Laura said it looked like she told a Frozen fanatic that Princess Elsa was in the store for a meet and greet. Food makes me happy. Laura on the other hand went straight to the candy isle; she literally remembered where it was from the last time she went with Randy. She then went straight to the Mentos. This girls has a serious addiction. If the bag is sitting in front of her, she will literally eat half of it without even being consciously aware of it. Randy calls her the Mentos robot, it is that bad. (Tom, if you are reading this, have Mentos ready for Laura when she gets off the plane!!) There is nothing wrong with a little comfort food 🙂
On the way home, we all had some croissant rolls that Randy bought. They were so delicious! We were all just talking and laughing and enjoying the treats we bought; it was so simple, but all we needed. Randy then said that if he knew that a trip to Thai “Costco” would have been so fun for us, he would have taken us sooner! Laura and I both don’t need much to make us happy. Just give me a can of Pringles, bring me to Costco, or let me hike somewhere and I will be good. We like to think we are pretty low maintenance, but some people might think otherwise… Even though I loved the spa and bamboo rafting, today was just as fun, and I am so thankful that I am able to enjoy and appreciate both!
Day 7: San Patong Hospital
WARNING: VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED! (Open foot wound below)
Who knew you could see so much in 9 hours!? Today I got to spend the day at San Patong Hospital which is a small government run hospital about 10 minutes from Randy’s house. He warned be in morning that I might not see much, so I went into it thinking that it would be a pretty slow day. However, that was not the case. I spent most of the day in the Emergency Room and about 200 patients went through in that time! These people are very efficient.
The day started off great because Randy gave me a ride to the hospital on his moped, or as he calls it, his scooter. It wasn’t hot yet, so I got to feel the wind in my hair while looking at the beautiful countryside. What a treat.
(I could probably talk for hours abouts what I saw today so I will try keep it short. It might sound like a paper for school 🙂 Also, I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures so you will have to use your imagination.)
After meeting the nurse I was going to spend the day with, she gave me a tour of the hospital. It was pretty small- probably comparable to a rural hospital in the US. I got to go to the ICU and all of the wards or what we would call units in the US. We then went back to the Emergency Room where we would spend the day. I saw so many cool things in the course of the 9 hours I was there. There were many wounds that needed dressing changes because the clinics were closed so that was really cool. I have never seen wounds like these, tendons were exposed! There were also stitches that needed to be put in (by nurses not doctors). At the end of my day, there were four car accident victims that came in. When the ER staff heard it over the radio, you would have thought it was Christmas. They were actually cheering! All of the people I watched clearly loved their jobs. These car accident victims were pretty beat up and one was even sent to the city to be monitored by the ICU so it was interesting to see how this small hospital took care of acute patients.
I think the biggest difference I noticed from a Thai ER to an American ER was how fast patients move through. I would say that the average patient stay today was under a half an hour! In America that is not the case! It is way shorter because the staff does not have to chart everything they do, the doctor does not have to see every patient, and there is not education provided at the end. Also, privacy does not exist here. There were probably almost always 6 patients in the department and they were all just crammed into the room. They could have held hands! They would only close a curtain if they were putting in a catheter or something. In America, people complain about have to share a room with one other person! Also, when it got busy, they would just put people anywhere they could fit them, so there was people on gurneys in random hallways, outside the ER, and basically in the break room. Randy said it best when he said the guidelines here are just a suggestion.
Even though I was supposed to be shadowing a nurse all day, I spend a lot of the day with the doctors at the hospital. The first doctor I spent some time with was the Emergency Room doctor. I got to see the not-so-pretty side of labor and delivery when one of the patients came in with abdominal pain and they didn’t find a fetal heart beat anymore. When a fetus spontaneously aborts, you need to get all of the remnants of the pregnancy out of the uterus out because they can become infected and the woman has a high risk for bleeding. So, I got to go observe the doctor scrape out this woman’s uterus. It looked so brutal! I felt for this woman because not only did she lose her baby, but she had to go through a very uncomfortable procedure all by herself. It was good for me to see that if I want to go into labor and delivery it is not all healthy babies being born to good families.
The next doctor I spent a few hours with was the only surgeon that the hospital has. Man, this trip has had it’s fair share of surgeons!? He came in to the ER to diagnose a case of appendicitis, found out that I was a student and didn’t stop talking to me until I left! The doctors had pretty good English, so I think it was fun for them to practice on a native speaker. This doctor also clearly loved to teach- he always made sure to explain what and why he was doing something which was really fun. He also told me about all of the problems in the world like obesity, alcoholism, and carbon dioxide emissions making it so hot in Thailand. I have done a lot of smiling and nodding this trip, my goodness! It was so cool that these doctors let me learn and see things today, it made my experience very valuable!
In Thailand, when you first get to the hospital, you need to go to the counter and be registered. After you are registered, you get a number and wait for it to be called to see a triage nurse. Then that triage nurse determines which doctor you need to see. After you see the doctor and get your prescription for medication, you pay for your visit in order to get your medications dispensed. This process is for non-emergent cases/outpatient cases, and only costs the Thai people about 20 baht or about 60 cents in America. That is literally cheaper than the T-shirt I bought yesterday.
For more emergent cases, patients are taken down to the Emergency Room for triage. After the triage nurse determines what they need, they are taken into the ER. The patient then sits down on a bed and given care very quickly. After they are taken care of, they are given a bill that they need to pay and then they are told they are good to go. The doctor does not even need to see them during their stay. The nurse I shadowed for a lot of the day told me that it costs 50 baht to come to the Emergency Room which is about $1.16 USD. Because it is a government run hospital, no patients pay for their care if they are admitted. However, their families have to provide care for them. The only thing that the nurses do are medical specific such as give medications or change wound dressings.
Even though cheap healthcare sounds great, there is a reason that it is cheap. This type of healthcare is bare minimum health care. Their diagnostic equipment is very old and simple- no bells and whistles. Even the gurneys that the patients lay on are as simple as possible! We use gurneys on the floor that I work on and just got new ones that are motorized so we don’t have to use so much effort when pushing it. I think the mattresses where I work are at least 4 times as thick as the ones here! I went up to the ICU as well here and the beds were the same- just steel with a very thin mattress. They had one electric bed that was new, but was probably many years older than the beds we have at UMMC in America. Very interesting.
However, what was most interesting to me is that even though the health care here is bare minimum, the care provided was still good. The nurses and EMTs were very knowledgeable and skilled at their job. The were a great team and all of the same components of patient-centered care were there, so it just proves that the basis for great medicine is a good provider, not always the best equipment.
The most eye-opening thing that I noticed was that how unsanitary everything was. Alcohol wipes do not exist here. The reason I noticed the lack of cleaning so much is that cleaning between patients is a large part of my job. In the US, we clean everything that was possibly touched by both the patients or providers between care. This includes monitors, cords, diagnostic equipment, and the bed itself. We also always change the sheets between every patient. That is not the case here. The little boy needing stitches, the old man with an oozing foot wound, and the woman complaining of abdominal pain all use the same bed, equipment, and sheets. They don’t even wash the thermometer after putting it in a patient’s mouth! Washing hands is just a suggestion here as well. Another interesting thing here is that for a sterile procedure you actually have to take off your shoes and put on flip flops that stay in the procedure room. In fact, most people working were wearing flip flops. These people do not wear closed toed shoes and getting gross things on your feet is no big deal. One girl was doing a dressing change and some discharge dripped onto her foot and she just brushed it away (gag). It is just so different here because at work we always talk about how disgusting everything is! I definitely have a new perspective!
I got to learn so much today and I am very thankful. It was very nice of Randy to go through the trouble to set this up! Mostly, I am thankful for our healthcare in America even if it costs a fortune. There is a reason for that! It will be fun to tell my coworkers about how good we have it and compare the two hospitals. A new prospective never hurt anyone. The next few days will be more relaxed. Beth and Paige missed their flight in Chicago last night, so will be delayed about 24 hours and get here on Monday now. It will be nice to just chill out, but we can’t wait for them to get here!
Today was our last day with our driver, Pim! She had our day all planned out which was really fun because we got to do things that we would not have known about from basic Internet research. We had so much fun with Pim the past 3 days and could not have asked for a better driver. It was like having a Thai mom; she made sure that we were well fed, hydrated, and having fun. It could have been an entirely different experience if we just had a random man driving us around, so we were very thankful for her.
We started the morning with another long drive to a neighboring providence. Since it was Buddha day, Pim wanted to show us how Buddhists worship at an impressive temple. I really know nothing about Buddhism, but have a feeling that I will know a lot by the time I leave. The temple that Pim brought us to was in Lamphun which is the providence next to Chiang Mai. This temple was so huge! The structures made the massive Buddha in the mountains look like a toy.
It was a beautiful day today and there was even blue sky! At this time of year, the farmers in the mountains are burning their fields to get ready to plant rice, so the sky has been pretty hazy since I got here. It has also really cooled down. It has only been in the low 90s which is actually really tolerable. My body must be assimilating if I think that temperature is cool!
Because this temple is so far from Chiang Mai where most of the tourists are, we were literally the only foreigners in the entire temple. Similar to the temple in the mountains, most people did not even blink an eye when they saw us. They were very into their worshiping.
This temple also had a lot of monks walking around. The monks’ age varied significantly. Some of the monks looked very old where others looked like they were young middle schoolers. Monks can increase their rank or become closer to Buddha, much like the ranking in the Catholic system. Pim knew which ones were important because she would randomly wai to a few of them when we were walking.
Laura and I then went into a very large Bot, or a structure that contains Buddha. Many people were worshiping and offering gifts to Buddha. You are not allowed to wear shoes in this structure or on any surface of worship. You also are not a monks equal, so you cannot sit like they do (cross-legged). Instead, you have to sit on your feet. You also can’t point your feet at a monk. I asked Nuch why feet are such a big deal in Buddhism and she didn’t know. She said that it is just something that they do, so I am not sure why all of these traditions exist.
We then walked around a Chedi, a large pyramid like structure. You first get a bottle of sweet smelling water and a few cups along with some incense. Then Pim had us walk around the Chedi with everyone to watch them splash the water onto the various Buddhas. People would sometimes rub the Buddha and then put the water onto their hair as well. If there was ever a bell nearby, they would ring it. They also do everything in threes. So, Pim said normally she would have walked around the Chedi three times but we only did once. It was so crowded!
After we got our shoes back on, Pim brought us to the market that was close by to see if there was anything we might want to buy, and of course we found a few fun things.
She also bought a few traditional Thai treats like rice cakes for us to try. After walking around for a while, we decided to head to our next destination: bamboo rafting!
On the way to rafting, we stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe that was really cute. The funny thing about being foreign here is that when they see you, they instantly bring you to the AC if they have it. We definitely don’t mind! Laura and I still are not super adventurous when ordering food at restaurants, so it was nice for us to be able to try Pim’s food to see what a more traditional meal besides fried rice tastes like. It is hard to know what to order because we never know what we are eating at Randy’s house.
We then had another drive back to the mountains (yay!). Pim wasn’t sure if we would be able to do the rafting because the river was so low. The country is currently in a drought, so the river is lower than it has been in a very long time. However, we decided it was worth the risk to drive out there! Driving through the mountains is fun in itself!
When we got to the place that advertised rafting, I was a little bit skeptical. It was literally a roadside restaurant, but Pim assured us that this was where we should be. She then determined that the river was high enough for us to go and told us that we could either go on a raft by ourselves or with a guide. It was more expensive to have a guide, so we had to think about it for a while. With Pim’s encouragement, we decided that it couldn’t be that hard, so we decided to go by ourselves. She then gave us a phone number to call when we were done and called an employee to pick us up and bring us to the rafts. Along came a rusty old pick-up! At that point, we both were just thinking, “Well, I am not really sure what we are getting ourselves into, but let’s just go with it!”
We drove a few miles down the road to a large area that had many bamboo rafts. After we got out of the truck, the man gave us our bamboo poles and brought us right to the rafts and had us push one off of a large pile into the water. He then shooed us away with his hands told us to “Go! Go!” and climb down the ladder into the river before our raft floated away. That was literally it! Laura and I could not stop laughing at the ridiculousness. We were literally picked up on the side of the road, driven to the river, and thrown onto a bamboo raft with zero instructions and it was no big deal. I couldn’t stop thinking about when you do any sort of activity in America you have to sign waivers, watch safety videos, and be liability free before you can even touch anything. To top it all off, it started raining as soon as we got onto the raft but only lasted for a few minutes.It was one of the most hilarious things I have done in a very long time.
The bamboo raft was very, very long. Probably about 30 feet or the length of two canoes, so maneuvering it was like driving a bus! Plus the river was really low, so when we went down any sort of little drop, it would bottom out very easily. About 100 feet in we had one of those drops and it took about 10 minutes and both Laura and I getting off the raft, into the water, and literally pushing it over the drop to get past it. We could not stop laughing, it was so fun. After the first time, we got the hang of it and were able to get through most of the rest without too many problems.
When we finally calmed down, we were able to appreciate the fact that we were literally floating down a river in the mountains on a bamboo raft! It was so beautiful and lush. At one point we even saw an elephant on the side of the river just munching on some brush. These are memories for the books!
The funniest part of the day was the fact that there were many, many Thai people just hanging out on bamboo rafts along the river. I would compare it to people going tubing or canoeing down a river in Minnesota. Most were eating or drinking and just hanging out. So, when us two white Americans would turn the corner, they all thought it was hilarious. Almost every group asked us “Where your guide?!” Apparently, most people don’t just decide to take on the river alone. I think most of the people were drunk because we heard a lot of “Where you from?!” And “Beautiful girls!” We just would say hi and keep going. Pretending you don’t know the language really works, especially when they are offering you beer. We just smiled and said bye before pushing past them. I guarantee we are on Thai social media today- many people thought the moment needed to be documented. I would compare us being on the river alone to seeing two Asians trying to portage by themselves in the Boundary Waters with no experience, but doing a good enough job to get by. It would look so funny, but you would say, “Good for them for figuring it out!” Or maybe they just thought we were crazy! (Mom, before you get worried we are making bad decisions, we were safe the whole time! Pim was a phone call away and we had long sticks as weapons!)
When we got to the end, we called the phone number and were picked up by the same old rusty truck and brought back to Pim. Even though I trusted her, I was a little bit amazed that we got back with nothing bad happening. She then treated us to some ice cream and a Thai noodle salad and we enjoyed it on a Thai style deck above the river.
When Laura and I got back, all we could do was laugh about our day. These memories will be so fun to reminisce! Our experience wasn’t perfect, but that is what made it memorable. What a great three days spent with Pim! We will miss her, but are excited for our days ahead. Tomorrow I get to spend the day at the local hospital and Beth and Paige will be getting here on Sunday, so we have lots of fun ahead!
Today was a great day!! Laura and I went into the mountains to do some adventuring. Chiang Mai is in the middle of a valley with mountains surrounding it, so it took a few hours to get there, but the drive was so worth it. It was nice to be able to get out of the hot, crowded city for some good old-fashioned hiking. Laura and I found the “Sticky Waterfalls” on Pinterest a few months ago when we were doing research for our trip and were excited to finally see it in real life!
Because the waterfall was so far from the city, there was barely anyone there when we arrived. You didn’t have to pay to get in or anything which surprised me! I thought it was going to be something like a national park. After walking to the top of the waterfall, we had to go down a really long flight of stairs to get to the various levels of the waterfall. Our driver, Pim, was not interested in frolicking with us, so she sent us down the steps and went back to the car. The stairs were a great dramatic entrance to the waterfall.
Both Laura and I have seen many waterfalls in many different states, but this one was different. The rocks were round instead of jagged like on the North Shore, and the water just danced over the top. It almost looked like the rocks were covered with moving glass. The rocks look like they are very smooth, but they were actually very coarse, or “sticky”. According to Wikipedia, the rocks are covered with limestone deposits! These deposits also prevent algae from growing!
However, where the waterfall leveled off and the water began to pool, there was some slippery moss. Laura found that a few times- it would not be a hike with Laura if she did not trip or fall at least once! Of course, I took a picture like the great friend I am 🙂
When we got past the slippery bottom, we were able to climb right up with no problems. The water moved with a decent amount of force, so it was really cool to be able to feel like we were basically scaling this waterfall with no effort. Even though the city has been amazing, getting out into the mountains and experiencing the waterfall was exhilarating. If there was ever a choice between a beach, city, or the mountains, just take me right to the mountains. It was so fun to experience them in a tropical environment. Instead of holding onto pine trees, I was holding onto bamboo!
These kinds of moments are why I love to travel; you can hardly believe what you are seeing while having the privilege to do something active like hike or climb in order to fully experience your surroundings. It is just a bonus when you get to do it with your favorite people.
After having a delicious lunch from a roadside stand, Pim told us that she wanted to show us one of the really popular temples in the area. We didn’t have anything else planned for the day, so we were up for it. We had another long drive up the mountain, but again it was worth it. One of the first things we saw was a massive Buddha. These people do not mess around! There are statues and lots of random pieces of artwork everywhere. Pim is Buddhist, so she showed us how she would wai (bow) to Buddha and pay her respects with incense and ringing bells. There were many people actively worshiping, so sometimes it felt a little weird that we were just there watching, but nobody seemed to mind.
The temple had a very large viewing platform on the edge of the mountain that offered an awesome view of the city. Laura and I had to buy sarongs and dresses long enough to cover our knees at the market because you need to cover your knees and shoulders in temples. I was not complaining at the excuse to get new things! Pim ended our day by treating us to Thai ice cream which was very sweet (literally and figuratively).
Tomorrow is Buddha day which is kind of like Sunday for Christians, except it changes every week based on where the moon is. Pim is going to take us to a temple to watch their ceremony which should be interesting. She then has some things planned for the afternoon that your typical tourist doesn’t get to see, so we will see what end up doing!
(Having a GoPro today made it worth every penny! We had way too much fun trying to get all sorts of different pics. If you are doing any sort of water activities, I would recommend having one on your trip. I can’t wait to use it down by the ocean!)