Spending the holiday season in Thailand this year was certainly a big change from the usual festivities, but nevertheless, it was one I’ll always remember!
Santa sent me the best present of all this year — Michael got to come visit me in Thailand for Christmas! We spent the first few days in Chiang Mai, where we treated ourselves to some delicious Western meals, visited a 3-D art museum, and rode motorbikes along the windy road up the mountain to Doi Suthep.
We returned to Lampang just in time to celebrate Christmas morning at Bunyawat, where we were surprised with gifts, food and even a Christmas tree in the English Department! Although I had to be at work on Christmas Day, I didn’t have to teach any classes because it was Midterm Week for the students, so the rest of the day was spent lesson planning and taking hundreds of pictures with our Thai co-teachers in front of the Christmas tree.
That night, the four of us girls exchanged Secret Santa gifts, then went out for dinner and drinks with some of our Thai and American friends. Our Thai Christmas feast included chicken fried rice, stir-fried pork and vegetables, minced pork omelet, and pig feet soup! Those of you who know how picky I used to be will be happy to hear that those days are far behind me.
The rest of the weekend was spent relishing time with our friends, baking cookies, playing games at the winter carnival and (of course) eating. Brittney’s friends Wen and Xufeng, who were visiting from China, spent a whole day shopping at the local markets and preparing a huge dinner for all of us. They were excited by the challenging prospect of cooking an entire meal in our tiny little kitchen with only a sink and two-burner stove, and I have to say, the result was aroy mak mak.
After a three-day week of holiday festivities at school, the fun continued with a trip to Pai in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son province. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and celebrated New Year’s Eve with many of our American friends from orientation. We went to an American-style BBQ (complete with garlic mashed potatoes), grabbed some drinks and headed down to the river to ring in the New Year. Hundreds of lanterns dotted the sky like stars, while bursts of color from the fireworks exploded in every direction. I was surprised, however, that there was no countdown. No cheering at midnight. No ball drop. No “2016” glasses or headbands. It was a bit anticlimactic, to be honest, but still a fun night with friends!
The next morning, hopped on some motorbikes and headed off to explore Pai’s stunning landscapes. We stopped off at a waterfall, waded into the natural hot springs, ate lunch on one of the many incredible viewpoints and closed out the day watching the sunset at Pai Canyon. One of my resolutions for the new year is to get back into photography and this was a great opportunity to practice my skills. I played around with lighting and shutter speeds and am pleased to say I got some pretty great shots!
Unfortunately, later that night, I caught the stomach bug that was spreading like wildfire through our hostel, and spent most of Saturday in bed. However, nothing was going to stop me from getting the chai tea latte I’d been craving for weeks. I dragged myself downtown to “Art in Chai,” curled up in a cozy corner with my book, and enjoyed a delicious Indian spiced chai tea latte with soy milk, along with a bowl of fruit topped with homemade yogurt and muesli. Let’s just say it was well worth the trip.
On Sunday, thankfully, I woke up feeling much better, which meant it was time to commence the long journey back to Lampang. The road between Pai and Chiang Mai is said to have 762 curves, making it notorious for causing motion sickness and all-around misery. I’m very glad I was feeling better by the time I got in the van, but many of our friends were not so fortunate. We woke up to find that numerous others had caught the bug too, which I’m sure made for a really fun 3-hour car ride.
For me, though, the ride gave me time to reflect on 2015 and pinpoint my goals for the year ahead. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that 2015 brought me so many blessings. I got to live in a house in my favorite city with my favorite people, I visited Michael in China, I graduated from College of Charleston, I hiked through Israel and made incredible new friends, I got to enjoy fall in New England (my favorite season!), and I started this crazy adventure in Thailand. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. Stay tuned!