May 5th I started my very first journey to Southeast Asia. Although I had an itinerary in hand and what I thought was an extensive knowledge of the land, there was no amount of books or movies that could have prepared me for the beauty of this part of the world. The people’s warm attitudes and kind smiles are the only thing that could over out shine the surrounding scenery. I have completely and utterly fallen in love with Southeast Asia. I could go on and on and on about each and every incredibly amazing detail, but I don’t think the space in this blog would allow for it. Below is a highlight from each city my family and I toured.
Bangkok, Thailand- The phone rings. I look at the clock 06:00 – is it morning or evening? The room is dark and I’m exahusted after a long flight and a busy day touring the city. The phone rings again. “Hello?” I answer. “Hi April it’s Waew.” “Hi Waew – is it morning or night?” She laughs. I assumed that meant night and remembered that I was supposed to meet her for dinner. I basically sleep walk to the elevator to meet her and Jeab in the lobby. Too tired to really talk, I lazily apologize for my jet-lag hang over and slow footed, follow them down busy Silom Road for dinner. By the time dinner was finished and a bowl of ice cream was in front of me I had woken up from my daze and began to chat away like my normal self. Waew and Jeab giggled a couple times and I know it was because they were humored by my ability to talk non-stop. I was even laughing at myself at times. We all continued laughing and chatting thoughout our walk to the hotel. This get-together was extended as we all were having so much fun getting to talk in person. It truly felt as if I was sitting down with best friends from long ago. As the hours grew later I needed to go back to sleep and recover from the jet lag. I was sad to say goodbye, but knew I would be coming back to Thailand sometime to visit my new friends again.
Chiang Mai, Thailand – It is a tradition in the Buddhist culture for the monks to walk the streets in the early morning for the community to give them food. I did not understand why this happened until I witnessed it for myself. Our guide, Tui, explained that the monks need to make a selfless commitment as an act of faith and get up early the weekday of their birth and walk throughout the community. The local community makes the same faithful commitment to give to the monks on this day. In turn both the monks and the local people are committed to their faith and each other and continuously perform selfless acts. This astounded me. What an incredible way for people to join together in their faith and community and work to better themselves and the world around them. As my family and I took part in giving the monks food I felt I was included in a very special part of their lifestyle and I was honored and moved. I was certainly one of the most memorable parts of my entire trip.
Siem Reap, Cambodia – The moment I stepped out of the van and was standing face to face with Angkor Wat I literally lost my breath. It is quite simply the most beautiful and awe-inspiring place I have ever seen. I was a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of its beauty and deep history. No amount of books or pictures could ever describe the true wonder of this magnificent place. I felt I could have visited every day for years and still discovered new things.
A second favorite moment in Siem Reap was our tour of a local village. We were taken away from the hustle and bustle and tourist scene of Siem Reap city and shown the true and marvelous Cambodia. At one point an older woman came up to me and held my hand and smiled and said something in Khmer. I asked my guide what she said and he said that she was thanking me for visiting Cambodia. It was truly moving. The boat trip to Baray Lake and exploring ruins without tourist guide signs and walkways was the moment I was waiting for on this trip. I felt I had the opportunity to view the temple in their honest form. No improvements, nor renovation – just the ruins. Seeing the quiet peace of the lake and the ruins was a moment I was able to sit back and absorb. It was easily placed up on the top of my favorite moments.
Krabi, Thailand – If you knew me, you would know that my husband is a major inspiration in my life. Yes, he challenges me in many ways to be a better person, but to be honest one of the reasons I love him so deeply is his fun and excitable approach to life. In Krabi he successfully reminded me why I adore him so. The moment the sun rose on our first morning in Krabi I awoke to see Chris sunscreen on and skim board in hand. “Are you ready to go?” he asked. I knew there was no way to convince him to wait for me to have my coffee. I grabbed a cup of joe to go and we were off to the beach. I’m sure you are wondering what the heck a skim board is – well, it’s a board that is meant to “surf” the wave break or shore break on the beach. From sun up til dusk, Chris was catching the waves breaking on the beach. Seeking more of a challenge Chris rounded up a large piece of driftwood and created a rail to ride on. Picture this – a wave comes in Chris runs, drops his board into the inch deep water, jumps on the board then somehow manages to get the board up on a giant piece of wood on the beach slides across the wood then spins around in the water. This is the type of entertainment my husband provides all the time! Of course I attempted to skim board myself. While I wasn’t brave enough to “hit the rail” I did manage to ride a couple waves and had a great time doing it.
Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand – While most special moments are described as an action, the island of Koh Lanta itself stands alone as a precious memory. Quite simply, I was whisked away to paradise and never EVER wanted to leave. Secluded white sand beaches, lush tropical rain forest, the sound of Gibbon monkeys hollering in the distance—Koh Lanta was paradise found and a place I certainly plan to visit again.