03 Dec ‘JetLads’ Take On Thailand (2019)
By Reid Rusholme
Hi World schoolers, I’m Reid, a 17-year-old Kiwi traveling the globe. For the past month, I have been, living, breathing, and experiencing everything Thailand has to offer, alongside a tight-knit community of guys. Together we have been on a journey of discovery, physical as well as spiritual, across this incredible country, encountering amazing cultures, people, cuisines and so much more. This is my account of our story and I hope you enjoy!
My journey started in the bustling capital; BANGKOK, the sensory overload the second you hit the streets is addictive; horns beep, people jostle for space and the smell of amazing foods waft through the air enticingly. On November 5th, I traveled across the city to meet Laine and Miro, we caught up in the airport hotel, and together eagerly awaited the arrival of our group the next day.
November 6th, our three lads landed in the evening and were welcomed to Bangkok after their long flights from the US.
Regardless of the jet lag, the energy that night was ecstatic as we had dinner in the food court and quickly got to know each other. We headed to bed thrilled for the adventures to come.
The next day we quickly jumped into the belly of the beast and headed for the bustling streets eagerly, the entire group was ready to experience what many truly consider to be the heart of Southeast Asia: Bangkok.
Walking across the city, everyone marveled at the extreme difference from their hometowns. Navigating the chaos, we journeyed past the mystical gold-coated temples, (which shined in that, sticky Thai heat) to the airplane graveyard, a mass of discontinued planes and fuselages jumbled together. A truly unique experience.
The night of the 7th we caught the night bus to Chiang Mai.
The scenery of northern Thailand flashed by wondrously, dramatically changing from the city streets of Bangkok to the quieter and more down-to-earth ancient city of Chiang Mai, situated on a plain surrounded by mountains. Topped with temples, it is enveloped in jungle which sprawls all the way north to Myanmar and Laos.
Our hostel was situated on the edge of the walled city overlooking the ancient moat and felt very quiet and cozy, surrounded by a blend of old and new. Here our group really connected over ice breakers and improv. We got to know each other on a deeper level, chatting about life over street food, especially khao soi, at the local markets.
The next day we traveled to the elephant sanctuary outside Chiang Mai, experiencing service by helping out with the day-to-day running of the park, as well as connecting with the elderly elephants by applying natural medicines to ease their joint pain.
That night we talked to the owner, a fascinating ex Buddhist monk named Kid, whose incredible life story described escaping extreme poverty in southern Thailand which led him to the Muay Thai ring and later on to find Buddhism and start an elephant rescue park.
Staying on a wooden platform on the edge of the jungle was a special experience for everyone, and being awoken to the magical sounds of baby elephants yawning their way into the day was extremely motivating.
For the final part of the Chiang Mai trip, we headed north to Chiang Dao to stay in a Karen hill tribe village. The Karen people are originally from the country of Tibet, however, they have been displaced historically and ended up settling along the Thailand – Myanmar border area. As we learned about the socio-political situation from the village mayor, one got a feeling for the struggles these people have faced, and the struggle the Burmese Karen still face all along the border.
Overall this part of the trip was an insanely immersive experience, we camped out and lived with the locals for two nights, getting fully involved in the simple village lifestyle and helping out with a construction project. This included waking to journey through an immense cave system full of bats and gleaming stalactites. We finished the expedition at the local hot springs to wash away the sweat in the steaming natural water.
Flying in over Krabi, the luscious green landscape with mountains dotted in-between sprawled all the way to the sea, the place is a beach-going climber’s paradise.
Upon landing, we were met by Mike, an easy-going climbing and mindfulness sensei, native to New York but fully immersed in the Thai way of life. Upon arrival, we had dinner, classic southern Thai market foods, rich in coconut, fish, and meats, with a flavor distinct to that of the north.
Waking up early, everyone was eager to start the second half of the trip. We headed to crag immediately, excited to get on the rock wall. The sheer limestone mountains rise above the jungle spectacularly; a climber’s dream. The entire group got stuck in eagerly, keen to climb their hardest on the thrilling routes.
The following few days were a whirlwind of excitement which include Tai Chi, Muay Thai, Thai cooking and climbing.
We traveled to Railey, which has arguably the best sport climbing in Southeast Asia. There we abseiled through Pra Nang cave to West Railey. Considering it was most of the group’s first time, we sped down spurred on by excitement and having full trust in the person lowering them. Landing at the bottom of the Thaiwand wall, we started climbing immediately, sending the best climbs on Railey.
The next morning as a recovery from the hard day of climbing, we headed to Mike’s house to practice Tai Chi and Quigong. We got into the flow state and quickly moved through spiral movements to meditation, balance, and stretches, all the while learning about the application of movements, taking away new knowledge on the intricacies of the Eastern practice and their real-life applications.
As our time drew closer to the end, the group was eager to try our last few cultural experiences, and Muay Thai (as the name suggests) is as Thai as it gets. This martial art is the national sport of Thailand and they’re crazy about it; you can catch glimpses of fights on most Thai family’s TVs every weekend.
Walking into the gym, the air was filled with the sounds of gloves, shins, elbows, and knees smashing into pads and bags alike. The art of eight limbs is hard to master, however, everyone got stuck into learning the basic strikes and gave it their all, finishing the class pouring with sweat.
That evening, we raced up the 1200 steps that lead to Wat Tham Sua – Tiger Cave Temple, to catch the picturesque sunset. Perched on a mountain above Krabi, and overlooking the entire province, this is one of the wonders of the South and the view amazed everyone.
As the last day in Krabi commenced, everyone was sad the trip had drawn to an end. The month had flown by. In the end, the experiences we shared made us all best friends and changed our perspectives on both Thailand and the whole world dramatically. To end our time in Krabi, we headed to the crag to climb our final routes, slackline, and play football. We ended the morning by watching a heartwarming video of some of the highlights of the trip which really hit home and emphasized how many good memories everyone would take away from their experience.
Flying back to Bangkok, we had come full circle, however, the entire group’s energy had changed; getting to know each other over the month and living in a community had brought everyone together. The final circle really emphasized the impact of living in such a bonded community and, as everyone complimented each other on the positive attributes they had experienced from the trip, the amount of personal growth each and every one of us had encountered was apparent. It really has been a life-changing experience.
The next day as everyone continued on their journeys, we bid farewell to each other and the beautiful country that had treated us so well. Saying goodbye to one another, we were positive it wouldn’t be forever, maintaining confidence that our paths will cross again someday.