IST, Hmong New Year, and Christmas

On Friday December 15th we all left Kun Sathan early in the morning and headed off to Chiang Mai for Independent Student Travel.

Jen, Meg, and I stayed in this cute hostel near the old town called “Thai Thai Hostel”, which had free wifi, a shared computer to use, hot showers, and Netflix! We spent our first day in Chiang Mai eating indian food for lunch, getting our feet cleaned by fish, having mani-pedis, and walking through the chaotic night market. We ran into some of our other TBB friends from time to time but other than that we were relatively separated from them which was a nice break. That night we watched Clueless on the Netflix T.V. and made a friend who was our age and staying at the hostel as well traveling on her own.

On Saturday Jen and Meg had a four hour spa booking and so I spent this time at the hostel utilizing the free computer to talk to my family and then taking a nice nap in the sun on the roof of the building. Having converted Jen and Meg to the affinity of my culture’s amazing food, we ate a late lunch at the same Indian restaurant as the day before. Our bellies stuffed to bursting we rushed off to find a taxi that could take us to the place where Meg had booked to get a tattoo. This was an adventure because the only transportation that was willing to take us was this Tuk Tuk driver that was completely clueless. We were already running late, however, he stopped to get gas before even trying to find the place. Then he got lost and every minute had to stop for directions. We all knew enough Thai to kind of understand what way his helpers were saying to go and then we would be stuck in the backseat as he’d zoom off and go the wrong way, opposite of where he was directed. Our panic increasing this whole time, finally made him stop as we passed a coffee shop and got out to ask for help ourselves because we had no smartphones and our driver was obviously utterly lost and useless. We were able to borrow the nice barista’s Iphone to call the tattoo artist and we found out we were, luckily, only 5 minutes away. After this hour long ordeal in all we were so grateful to hear that the nice tattoo artist was willing to come and pick us up from the coffee shop and take us to his shop. After this our experience there was so much more relaxing. The tattoo place was connected to the artist’s home and Jen and I watched Hercules with their 4 year old son as Meg got tatted. They then called us a Uber to get back so that we wouldn’t have to deal with the craziness and confusion of navigating again.

On Sunday we left for Pai, traveling up the infamous windy road to get up to this cute, mountainside, tourist town. We stayed at this posh hotel with individual bungalows for each room. After dropping off our stuff there, we stopped at this bunny cafe across the street. It was awesome because we each got to pet and play with a bunny while drinking our tea. The bunnies were small and just chilled on our table as we pet them.  All of the roads in the center of Pai turned into a large night market as soon as 5pm hit and so Jen, Meg, and I had a great time shopping and just observing it all. We went to bed late that night, but feeling fulfilled in having a nice IST as the next morning we started the long journey home, getting back to Kun Sathan at 10pm.

Tuesday December 19th was our 100th day of TBB! We celebrated by remembering and sharing 100 funny, good, memories of the past three months. As that entire week it was Hmong New Year in Kun Sathan, after we ate dinner at home our mom took us to the festivities where Jen and Gwen performed a mind blowing rendition of Don’t Stop Believing on stage for about 100 or so Hmong locals who seemed to love it, as they were laughing and clapping along. On Wednesday night all of TBB performed for Hmong New Year on the same stage. Our host families got us dressed up in traditional Hmong clothes and we lip-synced awkwardly to Jingle Bells, performed the viral Panama Dance, and swayed behind Clare and Lucas as they sang White Christmas. We crushed it and so it was a hit! Everyone loved it. For the rest of the week we celebrated with our host families and watched as on Friday they had the crossbow and tops competitions.

On Sunday (Christmas eve) TBB gathered up and traveled to Nan to celebrate Christmas. All wearing Santa hats, we ate delicious meals and skyped home to our families. At 12am that night I was able to skype my dad and little sister while they were celebrating Christmas in the Dalles OR. For an hour it felt like I was there with them, sitting at dinner table in the warm cozy kitchen gazing at the snow outside.

On Christmas morning we ate a lovely american breakfast, prepared for us by the hotel, and then met up in the lobby for a surprise. We all got emotional as the PL’s handed out a roll of letters from friends and family for each of us. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room as we all quietly read them. After our emotional, but nice, moment, Gwen, Meg, and I performed the infamous Jingle Bell Rock choreography from Mean Girls. It was a great mood changer as we surprised the rest of the group with this and had our bras over our TBB shirts for our matching outfits. Next we went inside to the now empty breakfast room and shared our Secret Snowflake gifts. Back at the beginning of Thailand we all had drawn a name of one of the other TBB members (including the PLs) to get a gift for and it was so nice to see how thoughtful everyone was when getting gifts for one another. During the transition between Secret Snowflake and White Elephant, Meg and I performed “The Twelve Days of TBB” which we wrote and changed the lyrics to be full of inside jokes and memories. It went down well and everyone seemed to enjoy it. White Elephant was a blast. Timber and Frame (the filming company that is here to film a promotion for TBB) participated as well and it was nice to just relax and joke around.

After a delicious hotel lunch, and beautiful restaurant dinner that was on this clam river, we all went to the 7:40 showing of Star Wars The Last Jedi. We had taken a vote before our Christmas trip and the majority of people had voted to go see Star Wars. I was 100% one of these people and I was beyond stoked to watch the next chapter of this unfolding saga. It was amazing. No spoilers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the direction it took. After this, we got a midnight snack of pizza (a delicacy rarely enjoyed since our landing in Thailand) and I was able to skype my mother, who had stayed at home in Bend to watch over our rowdy dogs. It was nice to chat with her, to see our new house, and to hang out with my dogs who were loudly enjoying their new Christmas presents. I hadn’t had this much time to talk to any of my family members in a while so it was extremely nice to have two free, uninterrupted hours to catch up.

The next morning we enjoyed a late morning and then left to go back home to Kun Sathan. As much as it was super nice to be back in “civilization” I missed my homestay and host family up here in the cold mountains. We only have five more days up here with them and I intend to enjoy every remaining minute of it. I know for sure I’m going to miss these mountainous views and starry night skies.

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