I couldn't have imagined when I left Thailand in July of 2016 that I would be visiting less than two years later. As excited as I was to get back, there was a twinge of nervousness to it all. I tried not to expect much: I knew Chiang Mai had changed, I knew I'd forgotten more Thai than I cared to think about. My team there had changed and morphed and so many other little nagging thoughts kept me from fully enjoying the anticipation of planning for this trip. Having friends to take around was probably my saving grace in all of this. Andrea and Heather were two of the best travel companions I've ever had. Seeing Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Krabi through their eyes was the best way I could have experienced the city again.
One of the primary reasons for this quick (two and a half weeks is quick, comparatively, right?) trip was to celebrate someone near and dear to my heart. My sister and roommate, Katie, married her best friend, Zegame, while we were in country. Funnily enough, I didn't know the date of her wedding until I had already booked our tickets, and after a 24 hour travel day and a super quick "nap" of sorts in Bangkok, I flew to Chiang Mai for the day to be a part of the festivities.
Seeing Katie, my team, meeting new babes and revisiting old haunts, this day was a dream. January is usually pretty temperate for Thailand, but the day was a hot one, the colors of the church courtyard were bright and beautiful and no one there wasn't beaming. I, for one, was pretty sure my face was going to break from smiling.
Our first day in the south wrapped up with a sunset kayak at Ao Thalane. We rowed around the mangrove forest and into some hidden lagoons, watched starfish struggle to flip over in the sand. Lek, our guide, reminded me so much of another guide who'd encouraged us to celebrate with every turn of the kayak a couple years ago.
Andrea is a climber. And a bucket list item of hers, and eventually mine, was to climb the cliffs in south Thailand. We headed to Railay Beach with King Climbers and spent a wonderful afternoon trying to decipher the Thai-English accent of our belay instructor. Exhausted or not, we roamed the little beach market and ate passionfruit before barely missing a storm on our way back to Krabi.
Another motivation for our trip was a chance I had to meet my Compassion family. I sponsor a child who lives in east Thailand through Compassion International, an incredible ministry that exists to make the name of Jesus known among children and their families around the world. Aom-Am is a six-year-old beauty, and her family is nothing less than amazing. I got to meet both of her parents, her older sister, and the team that leads the school and church she attends during the week. The look on P'Gleua's (my sweet, sweet translator) face when they picked me up from the bus station and I spoke the language were priceless. It had been seven years since someone had visited this project, and I hope that I'll be back before half that time has passed again.
Back in Bangkok, A and I spent the day brunching, taking motorcycle taxis and hanging out with friends from other lives. Our favorite brunch place of all time, Roast, was a welcome respite after a week with only one travel-less day.
Headed into a week in Chiang Mai, I was excited to get up north. There is a charm to Chiang Mai that you can't find anywhere else in Thailand–or the world, really. A third-culture of sorts, an eastern melting pot mixed well with western tech and trend. We relaxed at bougie hotels, we wandered temples and markets. I saw friends that made me cry, ate food that also made me cry, got a little food poisoning and enjoyed every day regardless of what we did. Being back was heaven.
Every turn in Thailand was met with coffee, color, wheezing laughter and beautiful words exchanged by locals (also the word "farang" incredibly loudly). Being back made me think I'd long to be back for good and forever, and though Thailand has so much of my heart and I was on cloud nine for nigh a week just being around it all again, it was clear just how integral it was in getting me to where I am now, locationally and internally. Thailand, I love you.