SE Asia: Thailand

The last stop of our epic journey was Thailand. We gave ourselves plenty of time—three weeks—to see both the north and the south of the country. Knowing our trip was winding down, I wanted us to experience everything we possibly could, from exotic temples to lush jungles to deserted beaches. Mac wanted plenty of time to relax in the warm sun. So we compromised and spent a week doing as much sighsteeing as possible and two weeks living the simple life.
It certainly didn’t take us long to find the exotic when we flew north to Chiang Mai. It seemed like everywhere we wandered, by foot or by car, there was a Buddhist temple nearby. I immediately fell in love with Buddhist art. To Mac, the temple displays were like a garage sale. There was so much to look at that his eyes couldn’t focus on anything. But to me, it was dazzling and perfect—I didn’t want to look away from the gold, the jewels or the statues. It was my kind of art.

We made sure we got up close and personal with the temples—and with the Thai custom of bowing to show respect. Another measure of respect: I had to cover my shoulders, lest my bare arms seduce a monk away from his meditations.

One of our favorite experiences in Chiang Mai was spending the day at an elephant sanctuary. We got to feed the elephants, give them mud baths and bathe with them in the river. It was one of the coolest days of the whole trip.



We got to experience the elephants’ natural habitat on our own by spending another day trekking in the jungle with a guide who explained everything from the local flora and fauna to how Thai people protect trees from logging by giving them sacred cloths and declaring them monks. Most of the people in northern Thailand are Buddhist and it’s very bad karma to kill a monk, so protecting trees this way actually works most of the time.


Our guide was super knowledgeable (he even made us cool leaf hats!) but our favorite thing about him was his mad slingshot skills. He tried to teach us some tricks but we weren’t very good. At least, I wasn’t. Mac used his slingshot to protect me from a would-be-lunch-thief monkey later in the trip, which was pretty awesome.

One of the most interesting sights we saw in Chiang Mai was the women of the Long Neck Karen Hill Tribe. They stretch their necks with very heavy brass rings. The women start when they’re young, so by the time they’re older their necks can be quite lengthy. The brass rings can only be taken off for short periods of time. If the rings are left off for too long (such as with punishment for adultery), the women can die because their necks are so weak that they’re unable to support the weight of their heads.

We really enjoyed our time in Chiang Mai and I, especially, had a hard time leaving. But after months of sightseeing, and in preparation for heading home, we needed a vacation from our vacation. No sightseeing (except snorkeling) and no alarm clock. So we headed down to the south of Thailand, to the Phi Phi Islands and Tarutao National Park, for some rest and relaxation.

You won’t see a lot of photos from those two weeks because we didn’t really take any. Instead, we plopped ourselves down on the beach and did nothing. We’re usually really active travelers but for once we let oursleves just be. Christmas passed quietly and so did New Years. Through it all, we read books, swam and thought about life. And we tried to get used to the fact that our trip was almost finished.


It didn’t seem quite real—and it still doesn’t. But tomorrow we’ll start our journey back to Seattle. There’s a lot about traveling that we’ll miss—and a lot we won’t (stay tuned for our individual wrap-up posts). It’s bittersweet to be trading in the exotic for the familiar. But in its own way, home is just our next great adventure. Because the true test of a traveler’s spirit doesn’t come from traveling at all. It comes from the struggle to make life at home every bit as growth-inducing and memorable as being out on the road. We’re ready for the challenge.


  1. Wow, the pictures are breathtaking! I can’t believe you’ll be back in the States in two days! Hope to see you very soon.

  2. It’s been so much fun to get a bird’s eye view of your adventures! Thanks so much for sharing and have a safe trip home! We look forward to seeing you sometime soon!! :)

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