Thailand, Part 3

It feels like being in Thailand was forever ago. Not just a few months past, but years. The hustle of the everyday has snuck back into my life, and don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying every second, but the memories of a place on the other side of the world feel just beyond the tips of my fingers. Most days the smells, sights and sounds of Bangkok have faded and the colors have lost their brilliance. Then there are moments when I feel the breeze on my skin and I remember the open windows of bus no 1.

This is it, the third and final installment of our trip to Thailand. [Here is part 1 and part 2 if you missed out]


From Chiang Mai we traveled down south, to the Andaman Sea. We flew first to Krabi Town where we had arranged a bus transfer to the island of Koh Lanta. Ask anyone in Thailand about Lanta and the first thing they will say is, “Oh, you want to chill. Lanta is chill”. They were all surprised we didn’t want to go to Koh Pi Pi [a popular tourist destination], but we intentionally chose Lanta; seeking a relaxing island to counterbalance the buzz of Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

The Andaman Sea is known for it’s towering limestone cliffs and turquoise green waters. Indeed, one of the first sights we spotted outside the plane windows were these monster cliffs, towering straight up out of the ground. A climber’s paradise.

At the airport we were picked up by a local and driven to the bus depot. Usually there are boats that travel between the islands, however, during the rainy season the boat schedule becomes quite limited and some routes are shut down altogether. Lanta is not a very popular island so it’s a little more difficult to access. That being said, we had no problem booking a bus and ~2 hours later we were dropped off outside of our hostel, Blanco. Cute hammocks swung between the trees in the common area, nice tidy rooms and the beach was only a short walk away.

First things first. We changed into our swimsuits and headed for Long Beach. Talk about shocking though. Repeatedly we were told about the beauty of Koh Lanta, yet upon reaching the beach we discovered that it was covered in trash. Plastic bottles and wrappers littered the coast line. Here we were, in paradise, and filth was washing up on shore as people discarded their waste. It was especially convicting as we had been drinking from those same plastic water bottles for the duration of our trip. We brought with us reusable bottles, but neglected to bring a proper filtration system. I felt that I was part of the problem. I was angry and sad, but I also didn’t want to get sick from drinking unfiltered water. I wasn’t doing my part to protect this piece of the world.

After wrestling with this idea of pollution and talking about how we could do our part to help reduce it we were able to also see Long Beach for what it is – beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. We walked and found some beanbags at a local resort that weren’t being used and commandeered them for the rest of the afternoon. Slipping in and out of sleep, reading our books and occasionally cooling off in the ocean. Lingering long enough to watch the sunset over Koh Pi Pi, a blue and purple hue cast across the horizon. We fell asleep on our first night to the rain splattering on the roof over our heads.

Day 2, on Lanta and we decided to splurge and go stay in a resort. We upgraded to the Lanta Sand Resort and Spa just a little further down Long Beach.

Oh my.

We stayed in a villa with an outdoor bathroom, seconds from a clean beach and swimming pool. Back to the beach for more lounging, swimming and another epic sunset.

Day 3, we rented motorbikes. Perhaps this was my favorite day of the entire trip. I’ve talked a lot about how I enjoyed the moments where I felt self-sufficient and independent; renting the motorbikes was the epitome of this feeling. Honestly, I was a little nervous at first having never ridden a moped before, but after a few practice laps on the hotel driveway we motored off down the road with a grin plastered from ear-to-ear.

My right hand turned the throttle and the wind blew through my hair. Riding along I remember feeling my face break into a smile and a laugh erupt from my stomach. It was exhilarating. With this new-found freedom we were able to travel to the opposite side of the island. Koh Lanta is quite large and there was no way we could have walked to the other side, but with the help of the mopeds we motored around and discovered the east coastline.

From Koh Lanta, we bused to the city of Ao Nang to catch a long-tail boat to Railay Beach [only accessible by boat]. We waited 30 minutes for 10 people to purchase boat tickets and then were pointed in the direction of the water, “Your boat is out there”.

Oh okay….so we walked to the boat. Through the waves.

The captain jumped out and started walking towards us while beckoning us into the ocean. He also kept motioning to his upper thigh saying, “It only goes up to here”. HA! I mistakenly chose to wear white linen shorts and laughed thinking that they would stay dry. With no other choice but to walk to the boat we hoisted our bags over our heads and plunged through the waves. After arriving at Railay Beach we repeated the process, but backwards toward land.

At Railay Beach we rented a 3-person kayak and paddled out into the ocean, among the cliffs. There was one cluster that we floated in between, two rocks reached down as the waves crashed into their bases, bird song and bug chirps drifted through the air from the plants growing from the rock. A perfect end to an adventure.


I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world. To explore another culture, to spend time with my sister’s and to challenge my comfort zone. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Now, back to the drawing boards.

 

The Foothills Trail

After two months of preparing and fundraising the hike is over.

11 hours and 40 minutes of walking and my toes have crossed the finish line. It was tough, my hips hurt, my knees hurt, my shoes are tied too tight, I really want to lose the backpack from my shoulders, and there’s pizza at the hotel. 67 people were crazy enough to join me on the trail today. All kinds of people – young and old – laced up their boots to tell cancer to take a hike.

Today, we followed a path that wound through the hills. Past rushing waterfalls and bubbling creeks. We began in the dark before the sun rose with head lamps illuminating the way. While there were threats of copperheads and bears, we had no such luck in catching a glimpse of either one [thank god because I’m terrified].

We did this for all of the children fighting for their lives. For those that have endured the chemotherapy, radiation, infusions, surgeries; for those that were brave, yet lost. These children are far stronger than I for they have walked a unique trail through the halls of the oncology floor.


The Foothills Trail is beautiful. I’ll let these photos do all of the talking —

 

 

Escapades at the Polar Star Inn


We started off strong at the trailhead; packs strapped to our backs, skins on our skis, boots locked in. With one foot in front of the other we glided along the road, slowly climbed up into the trees and away from the car. The weather was prime, not too cold-not too hot, with the sun barely peaking out from the clouds. It looked like snow was on the way.

About 1 mile in on this 6 mile ski we started to have boot problems. I guess that’s the price you pay for only doing a big backcountry trip 1x per year. The skin on our feet was fresh – asking to be rubbed raw. To try to prevent and further blistering we stopped to apply moleskin/electrical tape to the affected areas [Side note – in a trial between electrical tape versus athletic tape for bandaging needs athletic tape wins].

Fast forward down the road to the turnoff @ Nolan Creek. We stopped for a few drinks of water, to ditch a layer of clothing, and refresh ourselves for the final 2 mile stretch. Based on the trail information we were about to climb steeply through an Aspen glade, turn onto an old jeep road, and then finally around the bend would be the hut – the Polar Star Inn. It was here at the turn in the trail that I decided to eat an orange. Such an innocent little cutie that tasted refreshing on my tongue, however less than 5 minutes later I was not feeling so hot. 1 minute later and my orange painted the snow. Poor Leah, she also yakked, and so began the #yakpak. We would try to recruit members for the rest of the trip.

Aside from up-chucking the entire contents of my stomach on the side of the trail I felt fantastic afterwards. We tightened our straps and set off for the last remaining miles. Through the Aspen glades and Pine forest switchbacks ran up the mountain. Always a manageable slope but always hard. I could hear my heart beating in my chest and my breathing become labored as my muscles worked to bring me closer to warmth – one slide at a time. At some point [I’m not really sure where] my legs became so very tired. I remember counting to 100 steps in my head. To me this seemed manageable. I thought, “I know I can take 100 steps. After I do that I can rest, or keep going”. 100+ steps later and we rounded the bend with this beauty in our sights – I have hardly seen anything more wonderful.

We spent the next few days exploring the area [ahem, skiing fresh POWda], playing hearts, eating tasty stew, sauna-ing, and staying incredibly warm due to a wood-burning stove.

What I came to realize on this trip is that there is immense power in pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. When I was first learning to ski again [after a brief hiatus on the snowboard] someone told me that in order to learn control you need to experience the feeling of being out-of-control. Now, I urge you to practice this safely…but he was right! You don’t definitively know your one-rep max in weight lifting until you attempt the damn-thing and totally fail. This is where your limit lies and signifies where we can grow.

As we approach the new year, I want to remind myself of what it means to step out and enter the ring. I can expect some of what 2017 will bring [moving back to Colorado, starting medical school, traveling to Thailand], but I know there will be lots of surprises in between. Bring it on 2017!

Garden Essential Maintenance

While I was riding the MARTA to work a couple of months ago, staring out the window, dreaming of things I would rather have been doing, I started to scheme about how I might get better at caring for flowers. As you may have gathered from some of my previous posts, I love plants, but don’t necessarily possess a knack for growing them. So, in the attempt to cultivate a green thumb I spontaneously signed up to volunteer with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I’ve become a GEM (Garden Essential Maintenance).

Basically all that means is that one morning a week – Thursdays – I weed flower beds for 3 hours. Its pretty glamorous I know. But in all reality, I really enjoy it. The horticulturist I work with happens to have also lived in Boulder, Colorado for some time so there’s a lot to talk about. We not only reminisce on the best places to hike, grab brunch, or enjoy a cold one, but he also explains the art of gardening.

I’m learning to deadhead flowers to make room for new growth, to recognize poison ivy so I’m not a miserable person, to shear sea grass with giant scissors, and to find peace among the dirt.

One of the most common weeds I pull is a seedling for a Tulip Poplar. Over time, the tiny plant transforms into a giant tree. The gardens typically don’t allow this tree to grow bigger than a baby bud because it does get so large, but they do house one of the largest in Atlanta. It’s so tall that they have it grounded and above the tops of the leaves lives a lightning rod. Apparently when tulip poplars get struck by lightning they explode. Can you imagine anything more spectacular?!  In my opinion that would be a pretty neat thing to witness – from a short distance away of course – but according to Dave, “It makes quite the mess”. He doesn’t want to clean it up.

This week, I’m thankful for quiet moments in the garden. For the chance to learn and for the chance to get a little dirt under my fingernails. Thumbs crossed when I have flora of my own it will be half as beautiful as this garden in the woods.