6 countries, 70 days, malaria pills, and traveling college girls (41 SE Asia, 29 Europe) out for an adventure of a lifetime. No one knows where life will take us, what could happen, or what we will end up eating… all we know is that our children and grandchildren will never hear the end of these stories. Kelsey and Sami will be posting about the first part of the trip in Southeast Asia and while Kelsey goes back to the States, Sami and Kayla continue the adventure in Europe.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Headed North

After a long week of university classes from 9 am - 3 pm everyday, it was finally the weekend! The fourth kicked it off perfectly. Even though there were no parades or fireworks, we got to go on a night safari! Zebras were literally putting their heads on my lap while giraffes were shoving their neck through the car and hyenas were staring at us like food. The next morning (friday) we woke up early and headed off to the North to visit the Hill tribes! We arrived in the village Mae Kum Pong. It was very small filled with the sweetest and most caring people I've ever met. Shortly after arriving, some of the students went zip lining while the others went on a hike through the forest. The hike was beautiful! We meandered through coffee trees, pineapple bushes, and tea leaves and half way through found a small waterfall! Five of us went swimming in it and even though it was dirty and I promised my mama that would be the one thing I didn't do (so I wouldn't get a parasite)... I just couldn't help myself! And I was very glad I went in. 

After we hiked more we ended up at a coffee shop in the middle of the jungle! It was the cutest little wooden store with a breathtakingly beautiful view! 

After showering we joined the village for a welcome prayer where we sat in a circle and were intertwined with string with our hands in prayer and while the priest chanted a beautiful prayer in balinese we were supposed to make a wish. 

After the prayer was over he tied the string to our wrists, symbolizing the bond of our wish and in three days we are supposed to cut it off in order for it to come true and good luck will accompany it. We then ate an amazing dinner prepared by all of our homestay moms while the teenage girls did a traditional dance for us. 

In the morning we all woke up at 6:30 to feed the monks. I wish I knew more of what was going on and the symbolism of everything, but we sat cross legged while a prayer was chanted and we put flowers with incents in one bowl and food for the monks in another bowl. (Monks aren't allowed to purchase anything for themselves or take anything; it all must be given to them) Then the monks came out and there was a lot of wai-ing and other prayers going on. 

Then after a delicious breakfast made from grandma and grandpa (Inne and Pa Dong; our family we stayed with) we left to go visit another hill tribe: the Karen. The Karen are known to be the friendliness and happiest people in the world. In order to get there, we had to hike two hours. I thought yesterdays hike was amazing but oh my good golly, I have never been so drop dead in shock and amazed in my life. 

We started at the highest peak in Thailand (Doi Inthanon) and for the first hour we were following a stream that turned into this magnificent five tiered waterfall. 

Of course when we got to the bottom of it, we jumped right in. This time if people were strong enough swimmers (such a strong waterfall and the water was moving fast) we were able to actually swim behind the waterfall and look out. After a long time and seeing Kelsey come out with the biggest smile on her face, I mustered up the balls to get under it. It was such an adrenaline rush and unfortunately I swallowed basically a gallon of water... after I got out Grayson found a dead pig in the water.... cool... giardia get ready. We carried on with our hike and it was like I was in a Thai fairy tale. We turned a corner and all of a sudden there were rice patties that went on for miles. It was like the napa valley of Thailand. 

I have seen so many amazing photographs of rice patties in China and have always wished to be in the middle of it, and there it was! Right in front of me! The Karen people lived at the very bottom and this was their amazing view! Sourrounded by mountains, rice patties, and waterfalls! No wonder these people are the happiest in the world! The hut we stayed in was unreal... I was expecting to sleep on the ground under a tiny mosquito net and be perfectly okay with it. We had a hut that fit twelve and all us girls claimed it and it was like we were having a huge slumber party. We had a balcony that looked down on a river and a huge grass field. 
 (photo on balcony)

It felt more like paradise than Hawaii or the coast of Cinque Terre ever has. We were so out there, away from everything, in a brand new culture, eating delicious fresh home made dinner (probably from the chicken I saw running around earlier); it was complete bliss. I wish we were staying there for a month. That night the Karen version of John Mayer sang for us while we ate dinner. There was a bonfire set up for us, but unfortunately it being the rainy season, started down pouring rain. But that didn't stop us, we all still had a really fun night staying up late and laughing for hours. We left early the next morning, unable to really integrate ourself with the culture or even talk to most of the people, which I was pretty disappointed with, but oh well. I will be back. On to the next adventure! We went bamboo rafting! It was so much fun. It was as if a huge stand up paddle board made out of bamboo went white water rafting but in dirty water with water snakes. I was put on the raft with three of the boys and we were supposed to sit down the whole time, but we were standing up and surfing down the rapids and once it ended the boys so lovingly wrestled me into the snake infested water. After that we went to ride elephants through the jungle! 

It was beautiful and an amazing ride, we went through the forest then trekked through the river. Afterwards Rachelle, Jeni and I saw baby elephants and ran towards them. After feeding them, petting them, and taking really cute pictures with them thinking they are the cutest things in the world, I all of a sudden get knocked ten feet back because his trunk whacked me in the face. After gathering myself together and realizing what just happened, I started crying and blood was running out of my nose. Do not be fooled by their cuteness. Today my nose is still swollen and I can't even sniff it hurts so much. This weekend was a rush of emotions and an overwhelming feeling of such complete happiness that I can't wipe this smile off my face. <3 

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