|Preparing to present our lilies|
But before we got there we had to put our Thai language learning to the test in an amazing race. Our guides had taught us how to count from 1 to 99...then had also taught us greetings, several fruits, and even some phrases to do things like ask how much something was or ask for a discount. So before we got into our vans we were divided into 4 teams with no family members on the same team. We drove about 30 minutes and arrived at a market. A market is really 50 individual vendors under one roof selling everything from rubber boots, to fruits, veggies, fish, frogs and much more. We were given 150 baht ($5 USD) and our teams were given three items and the quantity all in Thai and then had to race around the market only using Thai to find the item and purchase it. Points were awarded for the team who finished first, who got the items right, and who spent the least amount. Quite a lot of fun! And all our items would be used for our dinner that evening, right or wrong. And the vendors were very helpful if you started with a smile, a bow, and a hello. This was not the end though...after we finished we climbed back into the car and were taught to fold water lily buds artfully to present as a thank you for our hosts.
|Lunch location looked like fairy house|
Another 45 minute drive and we arrived at the Mae Kampong Village. Here we proceeded to the store and were greeted by a village leader and we were also introduced to our host families. Our's was led by Mae Noi (Mother Noi). In her home was her husband, 29 year old daughter, and 6 month old grandson (Tang which means money). We dropped our bags and went for a hike around the village learning that products and handicrafts they made as well as visited a beautiful waterfall and then wound back to a beautiful temple in the middle of a river. From there we went on to lunch in this beautiful almost fairy-like restaurant as the roof was done all in teak leaves...thousands. Lunch was another set Thai menu, but this time it also included a band and all the kids were called up to help them. We can not find the name on line, but it is literally across the street and down some stairs from the zip-lining office. I enjoyed playing symbols with the local band.
|Can you see the platform?|
After lunch we crossed the street to our adventure for the afternoon. Zip-lining. I was really excited as I have never gone before. I do in-door rock-climbing, so heights are no problem. We got our gear, climbed in a truck, and drove to the start of the course. The company was called Flight of the Gibbon, as many live there in the forest. There were 15 zip-lines. My favorite one was called Superman, because you jumped off the platform like you were going to fly and land in a cargo net on the other side and then climb up and out. Because I do not weigh a lot the guides threw me off the platform and I still didn't make it to the other side, so a guide had to come out and rescue me, which was a lot of fun too.
After zip-lining we walked back through town to our host family. WOW was this town busy. Apparently it is quite popular for locals to come up to escape the heat or do a day trip from the city. Only one road through town and there was a traffic jam of scooters, people, sports cars, and people. We stopped in at a coffee shop, Lung Pud Pa Peng Coffee House, where everyone was getting their pictures taken in front of. Apparently this is how you prove to people you have been to this town is to post a pic on Facebook or Instagram.
|Had to get photo here, like the locals|
Back at Mae Noi's house we helped finish cooking dinner. I fried chicken wings, Ally helped with the soup, then we all played with baby Tang. But before dinner we met the village elder at another house and he performed a welcome ceremony. We all sat in a circle and passed around a spool of white thread that had been given to him by the monks. After he chanted he collected the thread and then tied a bracelet of 3 loops of the thread around our left wrists. Then he blessed us by throwing water on us with some leaves. He was very nice...and very patient as his grand-daughter about 3 years old wanted to play with Grandpa at the beginning of the ceremony.
Back at Mae Noi's we had a wonderful dinner on the second floor of the house looking out a window on the town. A rain came and it was very pretty. After dinner we cleared and washed the dishes. Ally washed and I placed all the dishes to drop dry in their places. There were no cabinets in the kitchen. All the pots and pans hung on the wall. The dishes were placed on open shelves with wood slates so you could prop them to drop-dry. At 7PM 3 ladies came to the house and upstairs in the common room three mattresses had been laid out and we all got Thai massages. Very different from the massage we have gotten in Jamaica. This one involved a lot of acupressure, which is pushing really hard in one spot. On my parents they even used their feet to push on their legs. It felt very good and we were all tired after. We got our beds all set-up for sleep. The beds were simple mattresses on the floor covered with mosquito netting because the roofs of the houses were just slant metal roofs and did not fully attach to the house, so open...and the windows did not have screens on them. The town got very quiet and we did not awake again until morning when we smelled breakfast and heard baby Tang. Breakfast was fresh eggs, toast, fruit, and a Thai rice soup...simple broth, cabbage, rice, and a few other things. Mom and Dad were thrilled when taking the dishes down to wash to find Mae Noi and her husband and several neighbors standing around the table eating a real Thai breakfast and were invited to join them...sticky rice balls dipped in fresh cut chilies and mushrooms. Only here for 24 hours it was a beautiful town with beautiful people.
NOTE: We learned this village which is a the jewel of the country's eco-tourism and homestay industry is so popular during the US winter/dry season home stay visits should be booked 6 months in advance.