There’s a part of me that’s embarrassed to admit that as a professional photographer, I rarely took out my camera during my 12 day trip to Thailand this past March. I always had it with me, but there’s just something inside me that doesn’t want to miss an opportunity to connect with people or learn something new because I had my head behind a camera. The trips I have taken in the past that I remember the least are the ones in which I was more concerned about getting the coolest picture over just soaking in the experience that surrounded me.
I will say that because I laid my “photographer ego” down in Thailand, I was able to make connections and learn about other people in a way that I never had before. As an introvert, I think many times I use my camera as an excuse to not to talk to people, to not ask questions and to not learn more about their family and life. I hide behind my lens because I can. So, with intentionality, I spent less time behind my camera in Thailand and more time learning people’s stories. With that, I give you my top 10 favorite moments I experienced in Thailand (with some not so amazing iPhone pictures):
TEN: Swimming in the warmest (and saltiest ocean) in Phuket
Whoever claimed that Thailand has the best beaches in the world was definitely pretty darn accurate! On top of just being gorgeous, the water is by far the warmest ocean water I have ever swam in (and it’s incredibly salty so you feel really good about your floating skills!). We spent a day on a speed boat, cruising around to different islands near Phuket. This was the last stop of the day on a soft, white sand beach that jutted out in a peninsula from the island.
NINE: Eating a cricket, yes a real cricket!
You did hear that correctly! Ben, David (my brother-in-law) and I all ate crickets. Our trekking guide, Pili, pulled this bag out and started throwing these bugs into his mouth like it was your average afternoon snack. Well it took me a little bit longer to get the nerves to throw a cricket in my own mouth, chew it three times and chase it down with a lemon-mint smoothie – yuck! But, hey, if I ever have to learn how to survive in the wild, I’ll be confident that I can get a cricket down (although, I don’t know if you are able to roast and lightly salt crickets in the wild…). I did NOT however go for tasting one of those thick and juicy grubs you can also see in the picture above – no way Jose!
EIGHT: Getting lost on a tuk tuk in Bangkok
Lesson one for people traveling in Bangkok: have the name of your hotel written down in Thai as well as English. We were heading back from a morning of biking around the city and instead of taking a taxi, we decided to take a tuk tuk (the best way to describe a tuk tuk is a miniature three wheeled truck). Well…we showed our driver the name of our hotel in English and he was confident he knew the way – great! Well about 50 wrong turns, asking three of the driver’s friends who also felt “confident” they knew where our hotel was, and an hour later, we finally recognized the street we were driving on and were able to give him directions back to our hotel. It was definitely the most fun tuk tuk ride we took there!
SEVEN: Getting a motorcycle ride to the elephant camp
So, long story short, I got really sick the night that we did our trek (like throwing up nine times during the night sick). We woke up the next morning and I wasn’t able to keep any breakfast down. It was supposed to be another hour hike up-hill to get to the elephant camp where we were riding elephants. After throwing up bile for the past six hours, there was no way my body was going to make it up that hill. Thankfully, our guide, Pili, signed me up for the scariest motorcycle ride of my life! The husband of the family we stayed with in the village was heading over to the elephant camp on a motorcycle (ahem, a tiny 100cc moped) and I hopped right on. Thankfully I actually like thrills and moments that I can almost die because this was definitely at the top of my life moments where “Larissa could die at any second” with steep hills and deathly edges. But my amazing driver got me safely over the mountain and I can say I survived Thai-style dirt biking!
SIX: Becoming a Thai chef
We took a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai. I LOVE to cook in the first place, so learning to cook some original Thai food was right up my alley. The best part was my 14 year old brother-in-law showing off by asking to add an exuberant amount of tiny hot peppers to his dishes. Our chef/teacher told him it was “spicier than Thai spicy” – that’s like saying “don’t taste a bit of your food, eyes watering, nose sniffling, you want to cut off your tongue spicy!” We loved laughing and making friends during this fun night (and certainly made fun of David the next day when he couldn’t go more than 5 minutes away from a toilet!).
FIVE: Getting a pedicure in Bangkok
On our last day in Bangkok I decided to head next door to the nail salon get a pedicure before heading to the airport. I’m not the typical girl who will go pay to get a pedicure done, but when in Thailand and it costs $6, I’m all in. The next 45 minutes were filled with joy, laughter, stories and learning with the owner of the nail salon. In past trips, I always yearned to make connections with people while I traveled – but for some reason my ego…my fear…my “introvertedness” always held me back. But this trip was different. I didn’t feel as though I was so different from everyone else anymore and that change of thought made it so much easier to connect with people – including the awesome lady who gave me a pedicure and told me about where she was born, her family, and her life. You know it was a good conversation when you can’t help but give her a hug at the end of your pedicure.
FOUR: Getting a massage with Ben
This was just about the funniest experience ever! I will put it out in public – I am NOT a massage person. Before our massage in Thailand, I had two massages in my entire life. But, I just felt like we were in Thailand where massages are cheap and you hear about how amazing they are. So, I convinced Ben to get a massage with me the day after our trek through the jungle. Beyond having wicked tight calves and feeling like the masseuse (who did not really speak English) was going to rip my calves off, they decided to also throw in five minutes of a true Thai massage at the end that consisted of back-breaking adjustments. At one point, I looked over towards Ben’s massage table and saw the masseuse behind Ben, who was sitting upright, with Ben’s hands straight up in the air and her knee jammed into his back! I couldn’t help but crack up – what an experience!
THREE: Sitting on the beach with Ben and talking about life
I love this man beyond anything! And one of my favorite things about our relationship is our continuous desire to know each other’s dreams, create our own dreams together and help each other achieve them. And for some reason, whenever we are on vacation, we seem to have the best conversations about our dreams, goals and what direction we want life to head in. For our 12 days in Thailand, that moment came the first night in Phuket sitting on the beach, getting bit up by sand fleas, and just pouring our hearts out to each other.
TWO: Drinking Chang beer out of a bamboo cup
The above picture is the view from our hut that we stayed at in the jungle. After hiking for 6.5 miles and 4.5 hours, it was a magical moment as, right when we arrived at our destination, it began pouring rain all around us. We sat under the covered dining area as our guide, Pili (on the left), carved bamboo cups from bamboo he chopped down on our hike. We soaked in all the accomplishment of the trek and drank a Chang beer. It’s always in these moments that you wish you could freeze time, or somehow capture all the feelings of contentment in a jar so you can go back to this moment right here. I remember telling David (my brother-in-law) that you will go back home, and you will try your best to describe this moment right here to other people, and no one is going to get it. So you have to do the best you can to remind yourself daily of the happiness, the contentment, and the awe of God you felt in this exact moment. And thank God we have awesome hand-carved bamboo cups that currently sit in our glasses cabinet to remind us of that moment.
ONE: Having a squirt gun fight in the middle of the jungle
Alright, friend, I know you have already heard the story of my best five minutes in Thailand (and if you haven’t, you can read the blog post here) about an epic squirt gun fight with the niece of our trekking guide, Pili, in the village of 46 people that he was born and raised in. I love the above picture that Ben captured on his iPhone of me and Pili’s niece running around in the middle of our squirt gun fight. This, my friends, was five minutes of adrenaline and pure happiness to me!
I’m so thankful that I was able to let go of my camera for so much of Thailand. I can’t help but think that so many of my top 10 moments would not have occured if I had been hiding behind my lens. So, friends, that you for coming along on my journey to the other side of the world. It means so much that I can share moments straight from my heart with you! ขอขอบคุณ (“thank you” in Thai)!
My name is Larissa and I am an adventure elopement and intimate wedding photographer who absolutely loves capturing crazy in love couples!
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