I love New York. I’ve lived here since I was in high school, and consider myself to be a New Yorker through and through. And yet when I was in Thailand last week, I absolutely felt as though I belonged there. Everything was so beautifully and brightly colored (and if you’ve ever seen me or any of my jewelry you know how I feel about color!). The fragrant scent of jasmine was everywhere, and all the people I met were incredibly kind and friendly. I finally understand why the country is known as the Land of Smiles! The two weeks I spent there with my family was pure perfection, with equal amounts of relaxation and adventure.
The flowers in Thailand were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. They are all colorful and fragrant- but the best part about it is that they're everywhere!
Our last day in Phuket, we strayed from the typical tourist path, as we so often do, and hiked up to a local waterfall.
In a national park in Phuket, I passed a worker creating a cement fence around some trash cans.
Rather than just constructing a simple wall, the way most people would, the man was sculpting the cement by hand to look like stalks of bamboo. I hovered around him, chatting as best as we could in his limited English and my nonexistent Thai ( I can say 'hello' and 'thank you'- not much conversation there!) until he handed me his spade and let me have a try!
Being a vegetarian, many people warned me that I would have a difficult time (or should I say Thai-m) eating the seafood-rich cuisine.
But those people forget how much I love chilies and spicy food! I was completely content to have a simple bowl of rice covered in deliciously hot Thai chilies for nearly every meal.
Our preferred method of transportation all throughout the country was the majestic tuk tuk.
The drivers, like everyone else in the country, were all extremely friendly, sometimes even a tad too friendly! On one occasion, a driver who called himself Jackie Chan followed us all over the city, eagerly ready to drive us anywhere.
One of our first days there, we vistited a small family-run coconut plantation just outside Bangkok.
After a discussion with one of the owners about how they climb the trees to collect the coconuts, I decided to try it myself. I was halfway up the tree before anyone noticed!
At the same coconut plantation, we watched as they made products like the coconut oil that's become so trendy back home,
and the Thai cooking staple of coconut sugar, which I took a turn stirring.
While in Bangkok, my family and I visited one of the famous floating markets one day.
It was an almost otherworldly experience. As we were transported through the bobbing stalls of fruits, small charcoal braziers cooking fresh pancakes, paintings, clothing and nearly anything you can imagine, it all felt like a dream. It was quite congested with boat traffic, and we were often face to face with people in other boats. Many of the vendors used the opportunity to advertise their goods at close quarters, and I went through a whole amusing charade with one of the women as she kept turning her face away and then scoffing at me.
We visited many temples throughout Thailand, but this was one of the most beautiful.
It was relatively small in comparison to many of the others we saw, but something about the quiet space was unusually serene. There were two Buddha statues in the center, where one would pick up a piece of paper with a small blade of gold leaf and then place it on the figure, on a spot where one needed to heal. Countless worshipers had applied layer after layer onto all parts of the Buddha, until the shining statue was completely gilded.
One of the greatest experiences in my life took place just outside the Northern city of Chiang Mai.
Concerned with the unethical treatment of elephants that allegedly occurs all throughout that area of the world, my family and I decided beforehand that we would keep ourselves away from anything elephant related so as to not support anything of this nature. But we stumbled upon a wonderful sanctuary that took amazing care of all the creatures
I really bonded with the two elephants we spent the day with.
We learned that each elephant had one trainer assigned to them for life, called a 'mahout'. This mahout would spend all of his waking hours with the pachyderm, even living with his family on the complex. The elephant became like an extended member of his family, and the connection between animal and mahout was immediately evident even to us as visitors!
Elephants were not the only animals I rode.
Once again trying to escape the usual tours that seem to cover the island of Phuket, we went to a local stable near the beach, and went for a long ride on horseback all along the sea.
The color of the sea under the dream-like island mountains all over the south of Thailand is breathtaking.
The animals we encountered all over the country were like nothing else we've ever seen.
On one of our hikes, we came upon a spider that was about six inches in diameter. Not one to scare easily, I admired the colorful markings on the underside of the spider- from a safe distance using my daughter's zoom lens, of course!
While in Chiang Mai, we tried a local herbal tea, made from the vibrant blue flowers of the butterfly pea plant.
That's right- this is the natural color! The photo on the right is the tea as it comes, but before drinking, one squeezes a bit of lime juice into the tea, and the acid immediately changes the deep blue to the lighter purple on the left.