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Southeast Asia | Part Two

Personal

July 10, 2017

I’m baaack with part two of our Southeast Asia backpacking trip and if you missed part one and are the chronological kind, go here first then come back. Catch ya in a few (hours) !!

When we reached the half way mark of our trip it would have been easy to be sad because time was going toooo fast (I’m the girl that gets sad at 4pm on her birthday because it’s “almost over”), but we were finally with our cousin Marcy in the city she lives + loves so like who could be sad about that?!

She was our (underpaid) tour guide and showed us around like locals… our first stop was hitting the market bright and early and we LOVED IT.It was like something we’d never seen… SO MUCH GLORIOUS FRUIT. And bargaining Malaysians. Durian fruit is apparently the stinkiest (if you eat it on public transit everyone will hate you) but also most tasty. Could really go for some right this moment… Yummmmm !! At this point in our fruit utopia things take a turn when Marcy suggests we head on towards the meat market. Somehow that didn’t quite have the same ring to it… But we’re so glad we experienced it (Marcy knows best). And YOU should be glad there’s not a scratch and sniff blog feature developed yet. You’re welcome. Onward to the Batu Caves where we learned that modest really is quite literally the hottest (especially in 80 degree heat) and we climbed, yes, all of those stairs in hopes of working off the pad thai. Onward to Phi Phi! This is an accurate depiction of every bag check line… trying to jam everything into our backpack covers which got harder with every new elephant souvenir that gripped Elly’s heart. And now the story of how we almost (!!!) missed our ferry. But instead of telling you myself I’ll just let you read Elly’s journal entry…

“We landed at 2:30 PM and learned that the last ferry of the day left at 4 PM. Not only was the pier 3o minutes away, but we had to get luggage and make it through an impossibly long customs line. Caroline was like a horse chomping at the bit and once off the plane just took off into this full out sprint as if she were Simba in the Lion King and the antelope were quickly stampeding behind her. Marcy & I marveled at her passionate efforts & quickly jumped into four-wheel drive after her. Petal to the metal, people. We come around the bend and there is this ENORMOUSLY long customs line. 98% appear to be Asian so language barrier was in full force. Caroline turns to me and Marcy and goes “Alright, we are going to need to get to the front of this line now. I’ll do the talking, just follow close behind.” Marcy and I, who are not quite as bold, meekly state that this doesn’t sound like such a good idea and people will roll their eyes at us. Oh ye of little faith. Caroline’s anxious pleading persists. “That’s fine if you just wanna throw your hands up and quit, but I say we try!” Finally I buy in & Marcy does too, thinking we’ll pass a couple people and then quickly hide our faces in shame. The first man we come across, appearing German, agrees to our pleas & then Caroline moves ahead to the next target. Again we take a step forward. The next seven minutes consist of Caroline ferociously leading us through the herd of some 150+ people, some who are nodding in agreement to let us pass, while others return a firm “no”, but Caroline graciously thanked them and moved past anyway, full steam ahead! Midway through the journey, I look back and notice German man has stuck with us. “I’m not getting on the ferry, but it seemed like I’d get through the line a lot faster if I stuck with you” he said. LOL. Finally, we get to the passport check and I timidly take off my baseball cap that I had pulled fully down blocking my face because they wanted to snap a quick picture of me in my current state. Not a good look.

I get through without too much of a hassle, Caroline ahead and Marcy behind. I’m in search of our baggage with Caroline nowhere in sight (in her haste she took a wrong turn and exited through security) and I’m thinking, *how am I gonna carry both these duffles outta here on my own.* Like a flash, Caroline reappears and we lug the crap behind. Marcy who now begins seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, takes over the check list and exchanges money/buys a taxi while Caroline & I do the physical labor of dragging the bags out the door. Our Taxi arrives and it’s this sweet non-English speaking man named Anot (who greatly resembles a teddy bear) and Caroline uses her charrades skills to explain to speed to the ferry…

… I half thought she was going to jump on his lap and take the wheel herself. Anot, even through the language barrier, also buys in. We bolt down the road, swerving in and out, and in my head I’m planning out what actions I’d have to take to rescue the “precious cargo” as Mama would say, if we should happen to flip the vehicle. But Anot delivered beautifully and even put on techno music to help build the suspense. After 20 minutes, he slams on the breaks next to this hut then jumps out and ushers us all out too. We buy ferry tickets in record time (PRAISE JESUS THAT MARCY EXCHANGED FOR THAI BAHTS AT THE AIRPORT) and then scurry back to the car. Five minutes later and we arrive. Again, we are lugging our duffles that look scarily similar to body bags. Some German soccer guys take notice of our struggles & fling our bags over their backs. Wow blessings. We get to the ticket check which has about a mile long bridge to the ferry to follow. Caroline whips our tickets out, shows the woman, snags our bags back from the boys, and starts back up her Simba sprint. So much for making new friends – bye, suckers! Caroline’s strength is failing but her spirit is not, so Marcy swoops in for the rescue and they both grab a handle of the duffle and keep trekking. Bringing up the rear, I waddle behind & this man is jumping up and down behind me making frog-like noises. I glanced back, but had no idea what was happening, so press on. The jibberish continues & then finally amidst my confusion I hear him say “thank you”… he’s gotta be speaking to me I think. I again glance back and his tall lanky friend is pushing a cucumber cart and motions to me to put my duffle on top. Wow, I melted. We continue along without speaking but just shared sweet side glances at one another. When we finally arrive at the ferry, a few men grab our bags and chuck them on board, and we sat our sweaty selves down. How did that even just happen??? I don’t know. But I now believe in miracles. And that anything is possible when Caroline Raush says it is. Praise Jesus.” The ferry to Phi Phi was thankfully uneventful. At this point, the adrenaline was catching up with us so we all sprawled out and tried to sleep. Easy.When we arrived to the Phi Phi pier, we switched over to a long tail boat which led us to where we were staying, Tohko Beach Resort. I perched on the front of the boat in anticipation as we spotted the tiny huts off in the distance that we’d only ever seen pictures of online before. The closer we neared the island, the more confident we felt in this booking. And of course when a golden retriever greeted us we knew we’d hit the lodging jackpot… An angel sent from above to carry our backpacks to shore!!!The sweet Thai woman welcomed us with a warm smile, then directed us to check in paper, pen, and passport number style. We were then handed a literal room key + lock and right there in that moment Tohko Beach Resort stole our hearts inside and out. It was so remote (no air conditioning, no power during the day, no wifi !!) and we loved it/felt like we were on Lost. The most magical beautiful dream I could’ve imagined. The little bamboo bungalow we stayed in made all our Swiss Family Robinson childhood dreams come true, even though we thought we might break through the thin floor. We fell asleep every night listening to the sound of the ocean, surely we must be taking away from our future honeymoons?!?! All three of us squeezed into a double bed, the bathroom had bamboo windows that opened right out to the ocean, and the little balcony with a hammock was our favorite nap location. We joked the whole trip it was like we were on a sistermoon but this was the very moment our jokes became reality. Swan towels and all. We showered in the ocean all week but LOL the one morning I was facing out towards the ocean shaving my arm pits (TMI?), feeling sooo outdoorsy… only to turn back and realize all the other guests were watching me from the beach as they ate breakfast. Cute. The following days were filled with naps, lots of rice and veggies/spring rolls/fresh fruit, Elly naming the little fluff ball dog Honey and adopting it as her own, reading, swimming, journaling, did I mention napping???  One day we took a private boat tour to Maya Bay and the surrounding coves of wonder. Worth it. Happiest girls in Phi Phi !! We got back later than we’d planned that evening but had heard so much about Phi Phi Viewpoint at sunset we figured it was a *must.* They told us it was a short hike from where we were staying but obviously something got lost in translation because a 45 minute grueling uphill climb later, we arrived. Not without a dozen bug bites each. I’ll never forget looking down at Marcy’s leg which greatly resembled a beehive with ravenous mosquitoes swarming it and thinking surely this was the end. But good thing we made it and Marcy’s love language is sunsets so it was all worth it !! On the way back, we asked a local for directions and were told to “take a left after the second coconut”… still trying to figure out how to get the Google Maps lady to give that kind of navigation ? On our last morning in Phi Phi, Elly woke me up at 6am and said hey does my eye look funny? Ummm YES. Completely swollen shut and in an effort not to worry her told her *omg wait I think it’s getting better!* like every five minutes even when that was far from true & everyone was staring. Secretly was praying hard. She spent the day calling herself “the one-eyed wonder” and making me laugh with the best jokes/attitude and a drippy bag of ice on her eye and if this isn’t what memories are made of IDK what is. Happy to report she was 100% recovered by nightfall, against all odds, thank you Jesus!!! We arrived to The Cliff in Krabi Town exhausted and sweaty and this was the very moment Elly called herself an oger. Thankfully the elephant towels and a fresh shower was the perfect cure. We found an acai bowl cafe called Lion & Shark and after weeks living the authentic thai food life… a bowl of fresh berries was beautiful and yes we did eat here five times in our two day stay… Teleport me here I MISS IT SO MUCH. On our last day in Krabi we pinched ourselves 30,243 times because WE GOT TO RIDE ELEPHANTS. We read up on elephant sanctuaries tons before our trip to make sure this was safe for the elephants and we were choosing an ethical experience. Can’t rave enough about Phang Nga Elephant Park… they truly love their elephants (WHO COULDN’T) and run their business with integrity to give elephants a good life and ultimate wellness and safety… not to profit. By the end of the day Elly was considering a career change and I was still thinking how much I resemble Dora the Explorer with that hat on… Our elephant’s name was Dwongjai and weighed 4,500 kilos (just shy of 10,000 pounds). The instructor told us “the other ones chew food, she inhales it.” MY KINDA GIRL. Knew I felt an instant connection. We learned all kinds of fun facts about elephants like how they eat for 20 hours + sleep for 4 hours (is being an elephant a valid career choice because I’m sold?!), have more than 100,000 muscles in their trunk alone, can carry 10% or more of their own weight (AKA Dwongjai could easily carry 1,000 pounds), and can hear 3-4 miles away. They told us we felt like feathers to Dwongjai up there on her back and if that’s not a self-esteem boost IDK what is. Oh and just to push the experience over the edge they made us greenery crowns just for fun while we played with their elephants… dream day. All in all it was the highlight of the trip… NOPE, OUR LIVES!!!!!!!

*** REALITY CHECK ***

*****
On our last day, we slept in, hung by the pool, hit up Railey Beach and soaked up every last second we had together experiencing the world. We were laying at our towels about ready to hit it when Elly said she was going to take one last dip. As I started to pack up our stuff it hit me that it was ACTUALLY the last dip and you can bet I went sprinting out to join her for a dramatic final swim in that beautiful teal water… But we still had two pit stops left on our way home! The first was the happiest little visit with our cousin Linda whose husband is an English teacher in Myanmar. Sooo thankful we were able to meet up in Bangkok and though SWEATY we just loved our time together. <3

Confession: After a long day traveling to Bangkok and as we were finally nearing the light at the end of the traveling tunnel, I accidentally dropped a coin on the ground. I looked at it longingly, laying there on the ground, while simultaneously weighing the energy it required to bend over and pick it up with 50 pounds strapped to my back. After all, it was literally the value of HALF A PENNY. But not one to let money go to waste, I exerted all I had left to bend over and pick up the freaking half penny. We continued on and I kid you not seconds later I DROPPED IT AGAIN. I’ll let you guess whether that half penny found a new home that day or not… A 1/2 penny poorer but a whole lot happier after a nice nap, fresh shower, and some gelato to enjoy. <3 The next day we biked, went to a floating market, and set new personal goals like learning Thai. Oh. Maybe I should learn to drive on the correct side of the road first ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Never losing her in the crowd. Such precious time and trust me we were soaking up all the wisdom from Linda and the beautiful heart/perspective she has, always. Love you, Linda! We took a short flight from Bangkok –> Hong Kong that night but since our connecting flight wasn’t until the following morning, we decided to hit the town in our dirty travel clothes (#glam). As we wandered through what felt like the Asia equivalent of NYC, we suddenly stumbled upon the main strip (Times Square, if you will), blocked off from cars with thousands of people gathered around in clusters singing with live street performers and dancing. We joined the group dancing and it was the best way to end the trip (!!!) but you’ll have to watch the video to see for yourself…

And so, twelve flights total later, we saw so many beautiful things but somehow my favorite moments were the simple ones like riding on buses and planes sharing headphones, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean out our bungalow, and the *glam* travel days where pity smiles were in full force. Definitely laughed more in those three weeks than any time on record (cheesy I know).

In the months since, as I recount this time spent with Elly to those here in Lancaster I have to hold back the tears because ALREADY I know it was the trip of a lifetime that we’ll reminisce about for the rest of our days. 100% thankful for this time together, the Lord’s protection, and DUH the best travel buddy ever, Elizabeth Corrine Raush. <3

THX for reading!! Thailand Part Two below!

  1. Hannah Hicks

    July 11th, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Caroline!!! This trip looks so amazing… Makes me want to book a trip right now! I love how you captured it all so perfectly and am so happy that you and your sister were able to experience this together! <3

  2. Jennifer

    July 19th, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    AMAZING. Even though I’m NO where near your level of photo/video/editing (read: my only camera is my phone) my husband and I are going on a trip and I’d love to try to capture fun moments like this. Is there a good travel camera you can recommend for newbies/casual travelers like us? Preferably one that isn’t too expensive.

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