Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Burma (Slash Thailand) Missions Trip 2016 + Pictures - Part 2 of 2

Hello, dear readers!

Now that it's the end of May, I figured it's about time to put up pictures from the middle of April. :)

So, if you didn't see the pictures and stories from Burma, I would really recommend taking a look at those first. I left that post off at April 11th, so I'll pick up on Tuesday, April 12th. The day we left for Thailand.

We weren't supposed to go to Thailand. Once we were in Burma, though, we learned that it would be:
  1. More dangerous than we had initially thought to pursue the travel plans we had formed prior to getting there.
  2. More expensive than we had initially thought to pursue the travel plans we had formed prior to getting there.
  3. Possible that the work we wanted to do could be done through one single person that was from Burma (which automatically means travel is safer for him), and at one fifth of the price it would have taken to get our group up there to do it. All of the plans we had for Kachin state were still accomplished, but vicariously through an ambassador.
Through these (and maybe some other) various means, God re-directed our path to Thailand. We accomplished everything we needed to do there in less time than we had on our hands, so we changed our return flight tickets to Thursday, the 21st of April, as opposed to the original plan of traveling home from Rangoon, Burma on Monday the 25th.

This chronicles our 9 days in Thailand.

This is what the drive looks like! Well... when you're not going through villages, that is! We just happened to be traveling on the second day of the Water Festival in Southeast Asia. It's actually a Buddhist festival (something about the Buddhist New Year), and all of the government offices close down for a week and a half, and people line the roadways and ride around in truck beds to dump water on motorcyclists or other people riding the back of trucks. They find great joy in this...

Well, anyways, on the drive to Thailand, the van was so hot that we all had our windows opened when we were driving through the countryside, but we took turns playing look-out for kids lining the street in the villages, waiting to throw water on any unsuspecting passersby!

It wouldn't have been so bad, really, if the water was like decent American hose water, but this water was.... not decent. Not American. And not hose water.

And this is what it looked like inside the van! Foreheads glistening with sweat realistically, and all! :)

We stopped in Mung Pyak (still in Burma) to visit family, and they showed us the school they're building.

April 13th - Mae Sai, Thailand

This is the city in Thailand just after you cross over from Burma.

They sure love their water festival!

In front of our hotel in Mae Sai.

We randomly walked out of our hotel to the start a Water Festival parade.

Paraders... I think?

We went to this place to see monkeys. We got a bit more than we bargained for with Buddhist caves, and hundreds of stairs, and lots of other oddities. As you might be able to tell in this picture, this stairway was sided with statues of serpents that split into seven-headed beasts. You can almost feel the demons at work around these places...

At first we just thought the monkeys were neat and all.

And then one attacked David Gum Ja.

And then we watched the monkeys steal everybody's food and drinks.

And then we decided they weren't so neat.

The view at the top of all of those stairs (hundreds) sided by the serpents.

My beautiful friend (Ah Shawng!), ever patient to me figuring out how to work her Nikon. (Crazy girl! I've tried to tell her Canon is where it's at, but she just won't hear it!)

This cave was also at the top of all of those stairs. There were Buddhist ceremonies going on inside, but we stood in the entrance just to catch the draft for a minute. (We later learned that this specific week was a record-breaking heat streak for Thailand, and I don't find that hard to believe at all!! It was way over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day!)

April 14th and 15th - Driving to and around Chiang Mai, Thailand

The drive to Chiang Mai from Mae Sai was a bit longer than I anticipated. We did stop in Chiang Rai for lunch and a quick walk around the mall, though. And then later on at Seven Eleven (there are a lot more of them in Asia than there are left in America).

Once we were there, we went to the Night Bazaar around the streets of our hotel to get dinner and shop for a short while.

What I remember the most about arriving in Chiang Mai was the white people. For almost two weeks I had been one of the whitest people around, and all of the sudden I wasn't. I began totally understanding why people had stared so much in Burma, because I started catching myself staring at the white people, too, once I started seeing them in Thailand. Something else, though, was that I was extremely uncomfortable around the white people we saw in Thailand. They were so out of place that I suppose it reminded me how out of place I was, too.

On the 15th, we went to the top of the highest mountain in Thailand. Our van broke down on the side of the road on the way up. We were SO EXTREMELY THANKFUL TO GOD for that van breaking down on the way up. If it had been just a few miles later, when we were headed the opposite direction, it could have been fatal. It would have been hard to get all 13 of us out of the van before it crashed, if it had been going down...

We had to be careful of traffic while we waited for a replacement taxi van to make it up the mountain to pick us up.

At the very tippy-top of the highest mountain in all of Thailand... A Buddhist shrine.

It was a warmer than 7 Celsius.. it was actually about 60 degrees (which is like 15 or 16 C), but it was still amazing. We had to wait around at the top of the mountain for a third van to pick us up (it took about 2 hours for a van to get to us from Chiang Mai), and we were just so thankful for the cool weather!! Meanwhile, down in the city, it was well over 100 F, and our hotel room's A/C couldn't even get all the way down to 60 degrees! During the day, the hotel A/C couldn't get much below 90! The good weather, good friends, and good watermelon made the day a great time, even when it seemed like everything was set against us.

April 16th - Maetang Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

(Can you name that Studio C sketch?)

While I wasn't necessarily happy with the way I saw some of the employees treating the elephants, it was very neat to ride on an elephant! You've really got to hold yourself in those little seats! That lap bar isn't going to do anything.

Hkawn Awng (pronounced KAHN-awng) and I got a mama elephant with a baby!

Ahba Ja got a turn driving the ox team!
(Pictured left to right: David Gum Ja, affectionately called "Ahba Ja", myself, Hkawn Awng, and Ja Nan)

And OF COURSE when you're cooped up in a taxi van for multiple hours, you're going to end up with some goofy selfies! (For context, it was about a 2 hour drive to and from the Elephant Park.)

April 17th - Church in a hotel, lunch in a mall, and much-need rest

We attended church at Trinity Baptist Church, pastored by Dr. Jack L. Green in the second floor conference room of the CH Hotel in Chiang Mai. If you're ever in the area, I'd really recommend it, but don't stay there- stay at People Place Hotel, across the street (newer, cleaner, and cheaper!).

While I missed the Kachin preaching I had gotten used to over the past couple of weeks, it was nice to understand every word of the service. :)

For a late lunch, we went to one of Chiang Mai's many gigantic malls. We picked up fruit on our way back to the hotel, and enjoyed the rest of the evening catching up on sleep and talking to family over FaceTime.

April 18th - Silk Factory and Umbrella Factory

We first went to a place where they make silk. They gave us a tour of the entire process, showing us their worms, and explaining metamorphosis and weaving in fragmented and broken, but polite and friendly, English.

Walking into the silk factory

This lady was spinning silkworm cocoons into silk thread.

And there was a group of ladies weaving thread into material.

They sold their 100% silk products there in a store connected to the factory. I did find a dress I liked, but at $120, there was no way I would have gotten it. However, just image how much more expensive the same, 100% silk dress would have been if it were in America (or bought online!).

(Hannah snapped this picture before she knew that taking photos in the store was not allowed.)

This is the mall where we ate for lunch! Though you might be tempted to think that they just built up instead of out, it's not true. In fact, it's much, much wider than it is tall.

And then on to the umbrella factory...

They take bark from a certain kind of tree, and mush it up in big concrete water troughs (sorry.. I don't know the technical terms for all of this! It looked like a concrete trough to me!).

When it's mushy enough, they push screens into the water, allow the bark pulp to settle on the screen, and then pull the screen out.

They then stick the screens covered in bark pulp in the sun to dry for a couple of hours.

Once dry, they take it, cut it, sew it, dye it, and paint it to make these beautiful umbrellas and fans.

This was another one of those super extremely hot Thai summer days. Even the locals where sweating it... get it?! Sweating it?!... ahem. Nevermind.

April 19th - Time spent with friends in Chiang Mai

Most of the day of the 20th was spent with our Chiang Mai friends (and bestest noodle cooks!), Tang Gun, Lily, and their daughter, Mung Seng San. 

When we learned that they were living in this heat wave with no A/C, we all pitched in and I am pleased to announce that they now have air conditioning!! Praise the Lord!

And, y'all, I'm telling you, if you're ever in Chiang Mai, let me know, and I can give you directions to the best noodle shop in town. THE. BEST.
Ah. Now I'm hungry.

April 20th - Traveling to and time spent in Bangkok, Thailand

On Wednesday morning we flew domestically to Bangkok. Besides turbulence (which always makes me terribly air sick), it was an uneventful flight. Once we got some of our bulkier luggage checked into an overnight luggage storage place in the airport, we took a ticket and got in line for a taxi van (cars only take up to 4 passengers, and we had 5 still).

And that's when the real adventure began.

We got a taxi driver that had only been working as a driver for 3 months, and he didn't know his way around Bangkok. Thankfully, we had agreed on a set price with him before we started driving, so his one full hour of driving in the wrong direction didn't cost us more. But still. A full hour in the wrong direction in one of the most traffic-ridden cities on earth.

After another hour, he eventually got us to a mall for lunch (it was the middle of the afternoon, and we hadn't eaten since early that morning), and we were concerned all through lunch that he was going to abandon us or rummage through the few larger suitcases that we had left in his car. He didn't.

So then, to get to Hannah's friends' house, where we were supposed to stay the night, it took about another full hour (and lots of five-point-turns in crowded streets when our driver lost his way... again.). We joked that it probably would have taken another hour if us females hadn't deciphered the address and neighborhood lay-out and been thus able to direct our driver to the correct house. Haha! We got tired of riding around four-to-a-backseat, and had to do something! ;)

We spent the afternoon taking pictures around the garden in the backyard, which overlooks this beautiful lake. It's all so picturesque...

We sat down to a later dinner, which ended up being one of the most amazing feasts I've ever seen, then dessert of mangos and durian and sticky white rice with the sweet coconut glaze over the top... oh my goodness! Seriously. I'm actually hungry now.

After we polished off dessert, I think I was the one who asked who played the [gorgeous!] piano in the corner. They said their son and daughter both played, but not in years, because they're both in college here in the States. They then encouraged us to play something. Janan, Hannah, and I took this very seriously, pulling out all of our sheet music (we brought a lot of sheet music), Hannah tuned up her violin and rosined her bow, while Janan set up her flute, and one song into our serenade, the sweet people we were staying with called up their brother, sister-in-law, and two nieces that live down the street, and told them they "must come now" to hear our "performance". Haha!

What was going to be maybe a handful of songs turned into hours of playing and singing, sometimes just us three girls, sometimes the entire houseful of people, sometimes hymns, sometimes classical (Hannah kept going on Chopin even after Janan and I were puckered out), but always doing our best as to the Lord.

We took the opportunity of presenting the Gospel at face-value, and sung several hymns which exalt the Gospel message, such as 'He Lives'. I continue to pray that the seeds planted grow into Spiritual fruit!

By the time our little impromptu concert was over and we filed through the bathroom for showers, we didn't get to sleep until after midnight.

April 21st - Traveling home (well, back to America, anyways...)

Despite our very late bedtime, we all had alarms set to wake up at 3am the next morning (the same morning?... or is that even considered "morning"?). We had a plane to catch.

Fun fact: The taxi driver we got for that trip was experienced, and we made it to the airport in under 30 minutes- much improved over our 3 hour ride the day before!!

The Bangkok airport is so huuuge!!! Massive. And kind of creepy.

After six hours, we had a short layover in Japan.

Another fun fact: The Tokyo (Narita) airport is extremely fun to run through. Don't ask me why. It's just really fun. Doesn't matter if you have hours to waste or you have 10 minutes and are trying to get a meal before you board- that airport is fun to run through, either way! (And you can take my word for it, because I have done both.)

The flight from Japan to Houston was about 12 hours.

Despite that flight being the second longest of all of the flights I took during the trip, it was easily my favorite. Why? Because:
  1. The plane wasn't full, so I got a full row (three seats) all to myself!! I had a hard time sleeping, but I did get about 3 hours, and I rested in the dark for a couple additional hours.
  2. This was a United plane, and had a lot more (and better quality) entertainment options, as far as movies go (compared to ANA). They even had Christmas movies! So that made my day just that much better.
  3. They served matcha-flavored ice cream. And that made me happy. Because I like matcha, and it made me fondly remember all the good times I had in Asia. And because I like ice cream. Of course.
My dad picked me up in Houston and brought me to Big Sandy (a little over a four hour drive, right?), and I actually was able to stay awake until about 10pm (remember that it had been about 31 hours since I had woken up that morning in Bangkok).

Thirty-six hours, three countries, two plane rides...

Needless to say, it was the longest day of my life.

Oh, and it was my birthday, too.


That's the story! There are still lots more pictures. And stories. Lessons learned and battles fought.

But that's for another post.

If you liked this post, please be sure to read part 1 and my journalings on what God taught me while I was there!

I would love to hear from you in the comments! If you have any questions about my trip, I'd be happy to *try* to answer them in the comment section, or in another post, if that's what it takes!!

Also, I want to give credit where it's due to my traveling partners, who graciously have given me permission to use their photos here on my blog, so that you might see more of the trip than I would have been able to show you with my photos, alone.

Please, share as you like, just please don't crop out any watermarks, and try to provide attribution and link backs to PeculiarOnPurpose.blogspot.com. Thank you!!


  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic (and tiresome) trip! Thanks for sharing the photos!
    (And the sketch was Radio Mystery Mayhem. One of my top favorites)

    1. My pleasure! Thanks for reading!

      Also one of my favorites, but then again, I say that about pretty much every sketch...

  2. I LOVE the piano story! That is so neat, and probably my favorite part ;)

    1. Haha! It was fun! And there for a while, Hannah played piano while I played her violin, and we just played hymn after hymn... ah! Good memories! :)


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