Thailand sits in the heart of Southest Asia. Bordered by Laos, Cambodia, and Burma (Myanmar), it covers 513,000 square miles of thick tropical forests that transition into thriving cities, quaint mountain villages, and idyllic beaches. Its cultural charm, reflected in faith and tradition, is just as palpable as its natural beauty.

Our vacation started in Mae Rim District, a small village north of Chiang Mai. We spent 6 days at a quiet mountain resort, flawlessly nestled in a valley confined by rolling hills and low hanging clouds. The compelling views exuded peace, restfulness, and tranquility.


One of many views that we enjoyed from dusk to dawn.

The girls and I enjoying a different view.

The girls and me enjoying another view.


The resort had an amazing three tiered pool.  The girls spent most of their time playing around the double waterfall where they climbed around the rocks, sat under the cascading waters, and jumped into the pool.

Clockwise cow.

The hotel borders grazing grounds for a large herd of cattle. After thourough observation, Chris concluded that we were looking at clockwise cows, counterclockwise cows, and flatlanders. The clockwise cows (as pictured above) should never be confused with the counterclockwise cows because their legs are shorter on the right side (which prevents them from falling down the steep hills). Counterclockwise cows have longer legs on the opposite side (which allows them to maintain balance and stand upright in the opposite direction). Flatlanders, on the other hand, have perfectly even legs.  Yup, that’s why Chris is a safety guy and not a vet.

When we weren’t enjoying the calm, serene surroundings of the resort, we were experiencing the wild side of Thailand. We made paper from elephant poo, flew high above the forest floor, and visited an uprooted tribe. We even got up close and personal with tigers.

PooPoo Paper Company

Buckets of poo

Elephant poo spelled in any language is still elephant poo.

Poo sludge

The girls practicing their skill of stirring simmering elephant poo sludge. Surprisingly, it didn’t smell.  The only aroma in the air was the smell of burning wood, which was used to heat the sludge.

Blue poo

Blue poo balls.  Pink poo balls.  Red poo balls.  Green poo balls.  White poo balls.

Poo is poo no matter what language.

We used water baths and mesh screens to turn colored poo balls into large sheets of paper. Once the paper fibers were spread evenly over the screens, the screens were lifted off the surface of the water and set out to dry in the hot sun.

Poo poo paper drying in the sun.  After several hours, the paper is pulled off the screen and stacked.

Poopoo paper drying in the sun. After several hours, the paper is pulled off the screen and then sorted and stacked.

Karen Village

Karen Village

After making poo poo paper, we visited a Hill Tribe populated by several subgroups of Karen people.  Many of them, whose ancesetral home is believed to have originated in Burma, sought refugee status in Thailand more than a decade ago.  They no longer suffer from oppression, but their simple way of life has turned into a commercialized attraction.  Tourists pay a fee to enter the villages, and, once they are in, they are besieged with, and limited to, wooden stalls filled with cheap jewelry, textiles, and figurines. We could only walk along the path shown in this picture; the rest of the village is closed to tourists.

Ally with longneck woman.

The Longnecks are the most well-known members of the Karen.  They are the women who you see in National Geographic magazines wearing stacks of brass rings around their necks.  There is not a single explanation for this unusual custom.  Instead, there’s a handful of plausible theories.  One theory is that it’s done to prevent tigers from biting them.  Another theory is that it’s done to make them look unattractive, so slave traders wouldn’t capture and sell them. Another theory suggests the opposite, that it’s done to make them more beautiful and attractive.

Kylee with tribe

Kylee with a different subgroup of the Karen people. This subgroup lives in the same community as the Longnecks, but they do not always follow the same customs and practices.  Instead of wearing brass rings around their necks, they wear traditional headpieces.

Flying Squirrels

Flying Squirrels

Ally has always wanted to go zip-lining.  Lucky for her, there was a company within minutes of our hotel that offered “an adventure of a lifetime.” The unique  zip-line course, built in the canopy, was composed of 26 platforms, including 14 zip-lines (from 200 meters to 600 meters long) and an obstacle course made of suspension bridges, a swing walk, cargo climbing nets, a tandem bicycle, and a Tarzan rope.  This picture was taken right after we were equipped with our gear.

Ally flying

Ally beginning the course.  The only times that our feet were safely rooted to the ground, was here, and, an hour later, at the ending point.

Tiger Kingdom

Chris with tiger

Tiger Kingdom is a popular spot that allows tourists to enter cages with free roaming tigers.  Chris went into a cage with a large tiger and a medium-sized tiger.  He spent most of his time (15 minutes) with this tiger.  The company claims that the tigers are tamed from birth, and not drugged.  They seemed alert and attentive (as you can see in the picture), but its hard to imagine that these animals are naturally tame.

Ally with tiger

This tiger’s expression says it all – “Not another one!”

Kylee with tiger

Kylee chose to spend her time in the playpen with a baby tiger (which worked out because she was too young to go into a cage with a medium or large sized tiger).  The baby tigers were more playful than the larger, older tigers, and they loved to cuddle.

After leaving Chiang Mai, we flew to Phuket and spent four days on the beach. Phuket epitomizes the splendor of island vacations. Its scenic appeal is found in islands and limestone stacks that abruptly appear off the coast of the Andaman Sea. The most famous island is Phi Phi Island were Leonardo DiCapprio’s movie, The Beach, was filmed. The most famous stack, known as James Bond Island, is the backdrop to its namesake’s 1974 classic, The Man with the Golden Gun. Today, the islands and stacks are popular destinations for tourists and extreme rock climbers.


Girls on beach

The girls enjoying the sunset on the beach.

Walking on beach

There were several sightings of jellyfish in the ocean while we were there, so we spent a lot of time in the hotel pools and walking along the beach.

Phuket snorkeling

We went on a speed boat excursion that took us to three small islands for a day of snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing.  Our first stop was Phi Phi Island (where The Beach was filmed). This picture was taken as we were entering Maya Bay.

Phuket jumping off boat

This is a picture of two giant stacks, which we passed on our way to Pileh Cove.  The captain took us into the cove to jump and dive off the back of the boat before lunch.

Bird poop

This, of all things, is a harvesting site for edible bird’s nests.  Several species of the swift (including the Pacific Swift and Swiftlet) make nests, constructed from glutinous strands of starch-like saliva, that’s used in Asian cooking.  Bird’s nests are regarded as “the caviar of the East” because they’re an expensive delicacy.  The girls and I tasted bird’s nest soda in Bali a couple of months ago, but most of it was poured down the sink.

Sea Gypsy

This is a picture of a sea gypsy village.  The sea gypsies are an indigenous group of nomads who roam the sea in wooden boats, called kabangs.  They, also, build temporary huts along the beaches from one side of the island to the other side of the island as the weather changes.

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9 Responses to Thailand

  1. Claire Williams says:

    You sweethearts are having an amazing experience!!! Good for you. Love, Claire

    • Kriste Rose says:

      Hi Claire! I often wonder what our lives will be like when we go back to Arizona. This place keeps us busy! Hope all is well there! By the way, I’ve started seen tour groups taking tourists to remote villages around Papua. Maybe, soothing you and your traveling companions would be interested in!?

  2. Gayle Porcello says:

    Wow! What a place. I have never seen any place more beautiful. The landscape reminds me of when I went to Africa in my 20s. You all are looking great. Thanks for sharing your adventures!! Gayle

    • Kriste Rose says:

      Hi Gayle! Good to hear from you! Kylee talks about Madison often, and enjoys reminiscing about her friends and teachers at DSA. In fact, she was just talking about the Fall Festival this morning (good memories). What are your Christmas plans? Thanks for keeping in contact!

  3. Don Doody says:

    Fascinating what you are doing as a family. Just wonderful. What memories you are creating! All the homes in your old neighborhood are brown now except for Diane’s. I feel sorry for her. Thanks for the wonderful pictures, etc.


    • Kriste Rose says:

      Sounds like things are changing even more in the neighborhood. Rania just told me that the 2-story next to our house is for sale. Are you headed to California for Christmas?

  4. Kay Runke says:

    I remember Madison’s friend with the Plumaria blossom in her hair. She has grown and is still beautiful. Give Kylie a hug from Madison’s Grammy. It is so nice of you to share your family experiences with us in the US. We enjoyed your email very much.

    • Kriste Rose says:

      Hi Kay! So nice to hear from you!! Kylee will be excited to know that Madison’s grandma is thinking about her. I will have her read your comment when she gets home from school today. I’m sure your grand-babies are growing like weeds, too! It’s amazing how much they can grow and mature in just a year. I hope you are doing well! Enjoy the Arizona winter for me!!

  5. Yesim says:

    What wonderful experiences you are having! I think my favorite photo in this post has to be Kylee with the baby tiger…..but now that I’ve said that, I am thinking of all the others which I loved too! Thank you so much for sharing your travels with us. I always love to read your blogs! Miss you!

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