#LWL2018 – Day 12 – Faith Patton

So unfortunately this amazing trip has come to an end. We have had sooooo much fun in Thailand and have made a lot of long lasting memories. The experience that I’ll be talking about is the plane ride on the way back to the United States. As expected, it was a really long flight, felt even longer than the plane ride on the way to Thailand. When we first boarded the plane from Dallas to Bangkok, I was really scared because not only was that my first international flight but my first time riding on an airplane period. I was really really scared because I had heard of a lot of things going wrong on a plane but Ms. Danielle, Mrs. Crystal and the two nice ladies I say between endured that I would be okay, and they were right, the plane ride was very smooth. With all of that being said, I wasn’t scared or nervous at all on the plane ride back home, I was so tired that I was sleep the majority of the time. One of my favorite parts of the ride was being able to see the clouds and the city below us, it really felt like I could just reach out of my window to touch the clouds. As I said earlier, the trip was awesome, we bonded so well together as the days went on and we also learned a lot about each other. I really think that we’ll keep in contact with each other even after we all go to our separate families. While it was really fun being around everyone and getting to know each other better, we all really missed our families. I know me personally going from speaking to my mom everyday to speaking to her every once in the while because of the time zone change was a really big adjustment for me but I made it through, it was just really good to see her when we landed. I will forever be grateful that I was blessed with this amazing opportunity to travel outside of the country, it was really refreshing to see what the other side of the world looked like compared to America. I’m not even a big nature person but the scenery we saw in Thailand was absolutely breathtaking, there were even times where I was getting emotional because everything was so beautiful. The plane ride back home felt like it was longer than the ride on the way there but we all made it back Texas safely and got to see our families. I’m going to miss Thailand and my LWL family but we’re going to make sure that we continue to keep in contact with each other so that are bonds can grow stronger.

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#LWL2018 – Day 11 – Shiela Mae

It’s officially our last full day in Thailand. Today started off early, we had to be out of our hostel by 7:20AM, which has been pretty normal for us. Our day was going to be filled with traveling on a speed boat to the Phang Nga Bay and Ao Phang-nga National Park to see the iconic Jame’s Bond Island (Where they filmed the movie The Man with the Golden Gun)… but as we were waiting to leave, we realized it wasn’t going to be as sunny and hot like all the days we have had in Thailand, it had rained the night before and the clouds were dark and gloomy.

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When we got to our drop-off at 9:00AM, they handed us yellow wristbands, and they told us we weren’t going to depart until 10:00AM. We ate the breakfast they provided; the coffee was too bitter but the bananas and bakery cakes were delicious, we did alittle window shopping; everyone got waterproof phone cases, and then we sat together until they called our group. Our tour guide, who told us to call him “Bond” called our group the “Sexy Yellows.”

As Bond was telling us more information about our trip ahead, it started to drizzle. He provided us with panchos to put on as we were headed down to the docks. When we got to the boat, Bond told us only 8 people could sit in the very front, if anyone was ready for strong wings. Noel, Drea, Ariane, Khie, Joba, Camille, Lo, and I took up the challenge. What we didn’t realize, it was ten times worse with the rain, because it felt like little hail hitting your face and body at full speed.

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After thirty minutes, we were all completely drenched and the panchos were pretty much useless. But we arrived at our first stop and Bond gave us about 40 minutes to go snorkling. It was a first time some of us had gone snorkling, it was amazing seeing the little fishes swimming between our feet. Our second stop was getting to kayak the caves of Hong Island. Our rower was great, he pointed out all the funny shapes in the rock formation and guided us through the caves and caverns.

The third stop was Ao Phang Nga National Park, the famous James Bond Island. The mountain formation was unbelievable to witness and seeing people take the infamous James Bond Pose was a sight to see.

The fourth stop was at lunch time we ate at New Fern Restuarant on the fishing village of  Ko Panyi. The selection ranged from, seafood soup, fried rice, coconut fried chicken, stirfry, and Pad thai. My table was particularly fond of the coconut fried chicken… we had to order seconds. Then after lunch we got to walk around Ko Panyi, all of their houses are above water.

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Our last and final stop on the tour was a smaller nicer beach close to where we had boarded on the dock. The sun had finally come out of hiding and we were playing in the ocean and making sand castles to end the day. When it was time to go back to the boat, we were all pretty tired, at this point every time we got back to the boat to get to our next destination, our group would take small little power naps in between. And although it was cloudy, we all got tans, I think the ones we were most excited to get were the ones from our sandals.

When we docked, there were no showers back at the building, we waited for our driver, and uncomfortably sat in the bus. We got back to the hostel we showered, we relaxed for a bit, and we ordered takeout to pick up.

After dinner some of us were headed to see the Simon Cabaret Show. It’s Thailand most famous Ladyboy show, our US equivalent of a Drag Show. But it was completely different, it seemed more like a Broadway production. The production value was amazing, the costumes were amazing, and all the acts one by one were great in their own way, It was a very entertaining show, but I could tell it was a pretty busy and tiring day, because everyone struggled to stay awake. They enjoyed the show, but we were all just ready to get back and sleep.

I just wanna take this time to recap all we’ve done, we visited the Grand Palace and the Doi Suthep Temple, recycled paper to make notebooks with Paper Rangers, learned how to make authentic Thai food at the Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy, learned how to bargain at the Floating Market and Night Market, taught kids how to play our childhood games at the Kids Ark House of Hope, hiked the highest point and through of the Doi Ithanon National Park, fed and bathed Elephants at the Elephant Nature Park… And that doesn’t even account for the taxi rides, the different family dinners we’ve tried, the massage group outings, the heart to heart conversations and the many amazing people we’ve encountered… I guess you would say we’ve had a pretty eventful trip.

Imagining what we have done the last couple of days has been so surreal I can’t even imagine where we were 10 months ago, all the research, projects, presentations, and fundraising… I think if you asked any one of us- Was it hard? We would probably tell you, YES. If you asked us- Was it worth it? We would tell you, YES OF COURSE IT WAS. And if you asked us- Would you do it again? We would answer, YES IN A HEARTBEAT OVER AND OVER AND BACK AGAIN. As sad as I am to be leaving, I know I will always remember the memories and the people that are on this trip with me. How close we’ve gotten on this trip, I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye to them yet or seeing them everyday for the last week and a half to not seeing them for the rest summer, I’m really going to miss it. Maybe one day, we’ll have a Thailand Reunion in Thailand! Until then we’ll be back, Thailand. One day. Thank you. ❤

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#LWL2018 – Day 10 – Marissa Nolly

Today marks our 10th day in Thailand. We packed our bags and boarded a 2 hour flight to Phuket  . We were all concerned about  the weight about our suitcases,so we stayed up pretty late and crammed all of our new souvenirs into our suitcases trying  not to go over our 50 pound weight limit. We packed our full  suitcases into the Rho Dang and went  to the airport. 

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We ordered our Starbucks and waited impatiently for our flight for Phuket. When we arrived to Phuket we all could not contain our excitement for this amazing place! There were so many people in the airport! It was difficult to find all of our luggage at first, but when we found out luggage we found a large van and drove an hour to our hostel. Our driver was nice enough to let us listen to our own music on the way. The car that I was in was excitedly jamming out to our music and talking about our expectations of the island. I payed close attention to the terrain of the island as well as the infrastructure. It was not what I expected at all. There was not as much traffic as there were in Bangkok it Chaing Mai. There were people riding motorcycles in their  business clothing. I also noticed that there were a lot of Women in hijabs. Our driver told us that there was a large Muslim population in the city. We also noticed that there were a lot of businesses that were in different languages other than Thai. Our driver told us that this is a big location for tourists and people from all over the world come visit Phuket. It is also common for tourists to move here because it is affordable and has amazing attractions and scenery. 

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When we arrived to our hostel, we were surprised to find out that we had a pool. While our advisors checked us in, we jumped in the pool and relaxed until it was time to get our room keys. I was nervous at first because I am not a confident  swimmer. I took my shoes off and jumped into the pool with my peers. It was a perfect day to relax by the pool. 

When we got our room keys, we unpacked our luggage and relaxed in our rooms until it was time for our debrief. After we debriefed for the day, we headed to dinner. 

While we walked to dinner, we noticed that there were different cultures being represented in the form of numerous business. We saw, Russian owned restaurants, Turkish food, Chinese, and Arabic food. It was interesting to see different cultures being represented here. When we were in Bangkok and Chaing Mai, we did not see a heavy representation of cultures. I like being able to be exposed to other cultures while also being exposed to Thai culture. 

We had an amazing experience at the Palm Square  restaurant. The staff was super friendly and welcoming. The manager of the restaurant was named July. Our food was amazing and it offered plethora of both Thai options and American options for all of us to try. The food was great! After our meal, we enjoyed live music from the restaurant. We even got the chance to sing on stage! 

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Overall, I am enjoying Phuket and can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us! 

#LWL2018 – Day 9 – Jobanet Flores

Today I went through a life changing experience. We finally got a chance to experience what a local market and temple felt like without a tourism feel to it. The temple visitors were calm, and more respectful to the religion. We were able to see people practicing their faith including monks, and we received an opportunity to experience what their faith consists of. I’m proud and happy that our leaders attempted to understand and experience the beauty of the Buddhist religion. Some of the members of the religion were so excepting and excited to share their religion. Most of our members take part in a different religion, but the monks were still very accepting and willing to bless us and share their faith.

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Visiting the house of hope left us full of purpose, but heart broken to leave the students. They were so full of energy and happiness. You could tell that they were excited to have us there! After teaching them a few American games some of the children became attached to some of our LWL leaders, one even asked us when we were going to come back. With heavy hearts we left to continue our trip. Everything hit me at that moment.. from the back of our red truck I was able to see the beauty of Chiang Mai while the sun was setting over the hills. It was our last day in town. It was a beautiful experience and I’m more than grateful to have received this opportunity to become something greater than myself. It’s the little things that make the greatest impacts and I hope we as leaders helped change or improve one of those students view on life. 

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#LWL2018 – Day 8 – Lorena Otero

Today we had the pleasure of spending some quality time with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. This was the day many of us had been looking forward to, and it definitely did not disappoint. 

 

At the beginning, our tour guide Nick explained how the park works. The park rescues older elephants when their original owners stop taking care of them because they are deemed too old to make money. The park also rescues baby elephants so they do not have to be victims of the cruelty and mistreatment that happens  in “taming” them to be elephants tourists can ride. 

 

The Elephant Nature Park has two location, and we went to the smaller one which housed 4 female Asian elephants. Meena was the baby of the group at 2 years old. Sky was definitely your typical toddler who liked to play a lot and eat even more. We affectionately referred to the two adult female elephants as “Big Mama” and “Little Mama”. Big Mama was 20 months pregnant (fun fact: elephants are pregnant for 22 months!!!). Little Mama liked to eat too, so she would stop on the trail and refuse to walk until we would feed her a banana. 

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The first thing we had to do was wash the bananas for them to eat. After that, we got to feed them and become comfortable with these beautiful animals. We got to walk them up a trail and watch as they threw dirt on themselves and each other in order to cool off. We got in the water with them and splashed them so they could cool off. Meena loved to just lay in the water and have everyone splash and love on her. The Mamas were more calm and just let us splash them with buckets of water. 

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After this we had a delicious lunch with the most beautiful view. Everywhere you turned there was just green vegetation. It was so nice to just sit there and be able to reflect on where we are and what we’re doing. 

 

Once lunch was over we changed into clothes provided by the park and played in the mud with the elephants. They loved having mud rubbed on them, and we enjoyed getting to experience this. After this, we played more in the water and got into water fights with each other and the elephants.

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This truly was a once in a lifetime experience that I cannot believe I was a part of. Looking into these creatures eyes and getting to know them for a day was such an honor. The nature and life we have gotten to experience on this trip is something we all appreciate and will never forget. It has truly opened our eyes to a new world and it’s beauty. 

#LWL2018 – Day 7 – Guadalupe Baeza

After starting our day with a healthy breakfast consisting of fruits and yogurt, we headed to the Doi Inathon national park which was two hours from Chiang Mai and although the ride was long it was very worth it.

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As we entered the the park we started going up the mountains on a road full of curves. The further we got the more I realize we were on a road to the heavens. The road was completely surrounded by trees and when it would open up it would reveal breathtaking sights. Eventually after many curves and our ears popping a bunch of times, we reached the highest point in Thailand. We went into the woods for a little hike and it was incredibly peaceful and beautiful. The weather was cool and nice due to the altitude, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which was better than the 95-100 F we had been experiencing in the city.

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We visited a temple on this high mountains and learned about Thai history and Buddhism. Things like how they record history differently, how they are in the year 2561 B.E. (Buddhist Era) and how Buddhism came to be, here in Thailand.

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We then headed to a small market in the mountain where we tasted some wine and dry fruit which was delicious. For lunch we had Thai food and afterwards we started the real hike that took us through the mountain. Our guide was a native from a nearby tribe who taught us how his tribe lives as we walked through the trail. Lessons that show us how they use the resources from the forest but also lessons about life. Our guide explained how simple his life is yet very fulfilling. He didn’t have to work for anyone but himself, he owned his life and time. The hike was full of beautiful scenery, places that pictures do no justice to. The hike ended in a small village where we were rewarded with ice cold lychee fruit and one of the strongest coffee I’ve ever tasted.

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After saying your goodbyes to the guide we headed back to Chiang Mai to get dinner at this fancy but cheap restaurant where we reflected over our trip so far. Needless to say our overall experience has been full of excitement and happiness. There was a few lows, yet they did not overlooked the highs of the trip. A lot of us are experiencing this for the first time and we are overwhelmed the beauty of this country.

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#LWL2018 – Day 6 – Camille Rivera

Today is the day! We arrived to Chiang Mai after a good 14+ hour train ride from Bangkok. The train was surprisingly pretty comfortable, as I slept on the train way more than I slept in my bed in Bangkok. And I’m honestly proud to say that with the fact that the top bunk could feel any and every bump on the tracks, I only ALMOST fell off once. The view from the train was absolutely spectacular. While passing through the different towns, we saw beautiful mountains, rivers, and sights that were absolutely majestic. And while the train ride was comfy, I was more than ready to embark on the adventure that was Chiang Mai. We arrived at the Chiang Mai train station around 1:15pm, when we began making our way to the taxis to get a ride to our hostel, the Rak Khun Hostel. We arrived to the hostel, after which we all decided to explore the city. Some of us decided to get Thai massages, which were pretty great considering our bodies were a little strained from the train ride. After the massages, we went to something called the Saturday Bazaar, which is a “small” bazaar on the Main Street of Chiang Mai. I say “small” because it wasn’t only the Main Street that was covered in street shops… but all the streets connecting to the Main Street were covered in street shops. The place was a maze full of delicious food & beautiful clothing and trinkets. We spent hours, from the time we went to dinner at 6 until about 9:30pm that night, shopping til we couldn’t shop anymore. The streets were not only shops, but a look into the Thai culture as there were paintings, wood carvings, traditional clothing, and more for sale. And not to mention the food was UH-MAZING. I’ve come to find that the Thai people typically put loads of delicious seasoning on their foods, so never was a dish bland. The street food was such an authentic way to experience the culture. All in all, our first day in Chiang Mai was a fabulous success. I couldn’t wait to see what else Chiang Mai would bring.

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