When my alarm went off at 3:45am, I was definitely exhausted, but hopped out of bed and grabbed my backpack, ready to embark on my trip to Thailand. It was the Labor Day Holiday break, so three kids on my program and I planned a trip to Thailand for six days.
A few weeks ago, we applied for another entry on our X2 visas and were granted the ability to leave China and reenter the country one more time, so we were set to start our planning. We looked at various different places in Thailand and reached out to people we knew that had already been to see if they had any suggestions on where to go or what to do. We decided on Phuket and the Phi Phi Islands. Next, we looked into what to see and do while we were in both places and let the Internet guide our bookings. We made a list of places and activities that each of us going on the trip wanted to visit and started from there. We were ready to go, flights, hostels, and activities booked. Nonetheless, when the morning of our flight rolled around, it hadn’t quite hit me yet that we were really finally going!
We all packed for the trip in hiking backpacks so we wouldn’t need to deal with checking anything or trying to roll our bags through crowded, unpaved streets. We boarded our plane and were definitely looking forward to sleeping for the remainder of the flight after our early morning wakeup call. We got to the airport with little time to spare because of the holiday traffic and had to bargain with one of the security officers to ask them to let us cut the line so we would be able to make it through security and customs quick enough to board our plane in time. Luckily, the officers were very understanding and got us to our gate just in time for the last boarding call. As we all took our seats we were exhausted, out of breath, but excited for our upcoming trip.
When we left the airport after the five-hour flight, we were greeted with hot, humid air, palm trees, and sounds of chirping birds. We definitely weren’t in Shanghai anymore. We headed straight to the beach to bask in the sun and swim in the bath water that was the Thailand seas. It was a view like no other. Boats were all lined up alone the water’s edge, jet skis were darting through the waves, music was blasting, and everyone seemed to have a smile on their face. Our first day seemed to be perfect, but it was just the start of what was to come.
Our alarm clocks rang early the next morning and we headed out to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to feed and bathe elephants. We knew that there were a lot of different companies that abused their elephants and let people ride them, which isn’t a happy life for the animals, so we made sure to find a place that was working to rehabilitate the elephants and help them have a better life. We rode in a tuk-tuk (what they call a taxi in Thailand) to the sanctuary. When we arrived, we filled up our buckets with watermelon, bananas, and sugar cane and headed to find the elephants and feed them. They roam freely on the lands, but must’ve known that breakfast was coming because they were all hanging out by the trees where watermelon rinds and sugar cane bark littered the ground (possibly from the previous day). We placed clusters of bananas, watermelon cubes, and sticks of sugar cane on their trunks and watched them drop them into their mouths and swallow the food basically whole. The elephants were so incredibly large, I kept thinking to myself that they could crush me in one fell swoop, but they were so gentle and kind that I wasn’t the least bit worried. After we finished feeding them, we headed to a shallow “pool,” and gave the elephants mud baths. We, of course, were also completely covered in mud from head to toe once the guides started throwing mud and entertained the idea of a mud fight. We were all pretty gross by the end of the “battle,” so we headed over to a “cleaner” pool and bathed and scrubbed the elephants (and ourselves) clean. It was crazy to be so close to such large animals! I couldn’t believe that we were actually there.
After we got back to our hostel and showered for real, we headed to the islands via ferry. I was already impressed with Phuket, but when we arrived on the islands, I knew I was in love. The water was crystal clear and I was really digging in the island vibes. We headed straight for the beach, again, and watched as the sun set right in between the tall rocky edges of the island’s cliffs. The next two days were spent lounging in the sun, swimming in the water, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. We went to various different beaches, snorkeled, and even got to feed wild monkeys! We went during low tourist season, which was nice because the beaches weren’t too crowded, but the views were nothing short of gorgeous.
We headed back to Phuket after a few incredible days on the islands. Before we flew back to Shanghai we got to see the Big Buddha and the view of Phuket Town from high up on the lookout platform. As much as I love living in Shanghai, it was so wonderful to take a break from the city, kick back on the beach, and experience a whole different culture in Asia. I hope that someday I make my way back to Thailand because it definitely holds a piece of my heart. But for now, back to Shanghai for more adventures in the city!