Thanksgiving in Thailand
Thanksgiving in Thailand was an entirely new experience for us, not because we were lacking our usual traditions (watching the Macy’s day parade, feasting with family, followed by decking the halls with Christmas decor), but because of what we had experienced in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and we were truly thankful for our blessings.
Driving Our Motorbike Through Laos
When we decided to take our Honda Forza motorbike into Laos, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves in to. We heard the roads in Laos were not great, but everyone that we had talked to that had taken this same route reassured us we would be “fine”. We figured it would be an adventure and this way we could cover a lot more ground. Since crossing the border was much more of a project than originally anticipated, we got a late start on our drive to Luang Namtha, which is where we planned to stay the night. We underestimated the amount of time it would take for us to get there, not realizing the entire drive was through the rugged mountains, twisting and turning for 175 kilometers. And then, it started to rain. During this drive, the only civilization we came across were Laotian villages comprised of bamboo huts. And it was getting colder, raining harder and we were losing sunlight. It wasn’t like we could stop along the way to find somewhere else to stay. We had no choice but to keep trucking. We eventually made it, although after dark, and grabbed the last room at the first hotel we stopped at. Soaking wet and completely numb we made our way to our room, took what was supposed to be a hot shower (but was actually cold), crawled into one of the twin beds (since the other bed was infested with ants), and held my hair dryer on full blast under the sheets to warm up. While the conditions of this hotel were less-than-stellar, we were so happy to be at our destination, safe, warm and out of the rain. We slept like babies.
We were told there is an 80 kilometer stretch of terrible road conditions full of potholes between Luang Namtha and Laung Prabang so we wanted to leave early and give ourselves plenty of time. After passing through Oudom Xai, we were back in the same situation as the evening prior and this is where things got really sketchy. We were up in the mountains driving in a cloud, far away from civilization. It was cold and damp and we couldn’t see 5 feet in front of us. The roads weren’t just full of potholes; they were slippery, muddy roads not suitable for any motorbike. We were averaging 20 kilometers/hour driving up and down these steep mountain roads, twisting and turning around the edge of cliffs…with no rails might I add. We were in a bit of a panic for a good 3-4 hours, knowing that the bike would eventually slip and we would be taking mud baths. We really weren’t sure we would make it to our next destination so we started mentally preparing ourselves in the event we had to sleep in a Laotian village that night.
While this part of the trip was scary and nerve-wracking, to say the least, it was also extremely eye-opening. Moreover, it was life-changing. We would drive for several kilometers and not see anything or anyone and then, out of nowhere, we would come upon a village. Far from any town or civilization, these villages are completely self-sufficient. Here you do not find any markets, restaurants or banks. There are no beauty salons, hardware stores, or motorbikes roaming the streets. They live in bamboo houses with no aircon or heating and share a single water source for the entire village to bathe, cook and drink water. They farm their own food. They work from sun up to sun down to provide for their family, starting at a very early age. And yet, they all seem happy. They are all smiling. The kids run around playing and laughing. They run out to the roads yelling “sabaidee”, waving as we pass on our motorbike. And here we are complaining about the road conditions, getting rained on, and the cooling temperature…first world problems. We pass young girls, wearing less clothing than us, washing their clothes in the cold mountain water. Then a couple of others around age 6 carrying wood back to their village a few kilometers away. There are pigs roaming free inside of their houses. Chickens are hanging by their neck in the windows waiting to be prepared for the next meal. Suddenly, our “situation” did not seem so bad.
We did eventually make it to our destination, Nong Khiaw, and it was insanely beautiful. We stayed in another not-so-clean room that night, but we didn’t complain. And we couldn’t get the images out of our heads of what we had seen that day. We felt so….spoiled?
Thanksgiving Dinner at DiDiNES
So this Thanksgiving, as we sat down to eat our traditional Turkey dinner, we didn’t take it for granted. Every year prior, it was expected. This year, it was such a treat. While we missed spending this day with our family, we were truly thankful to be on this adventure together and traveling the world. We are thankful for these experiences that will change our lives forever. We are thankful for having friends and family that support us. And whenever we get upset or angry about something we remind ourselves that things aren’t really that bad, because every day is a day to be thankful for.