Working as hard as we Brits do (okay when we're not on a tea break that is), holidays are places we can truly relax and enjoy luxuries we don't come by often. I love these kind of breaks, the ones where I come back feeling as light as a feather from detoxing from life's stress and worries. When it came to sharing my favourite travel memory here as part of a competition with Caribbean Cruises to win a Mediterranean Cruise, I didn't opt for one of my more luxurious travel moments but one that is irreplaceable in my heart - that is of course the first time I visited my family in Northern Thailand.
My dad remarried almost eight years ago now, my Thai Stepmum Ariya found a way into our hearts almost instantly with her quick wit and friendly charm. However, our extended family was complete nearly three years ago with the arrival of my darling baby sister Sky.
My first visit to their village home, at the top of a rainforest in North-East Thailand was when Sky was only six months old, it was my second time to the country and I had throughly enjoyed the tourism and culture across Bangkok, Koh Tao, Phuket and Phi Phi Island but village life was what will truly stay with me.
After a seven hour road trip from Bangkok, I arrived via dusty roads to a swarm of ladies sitting and cooking out front of a house put together by bits of this and bits of that. Among them was a chubby baby who started to cry being cooed by her big sister - she handed her to me with an affectionate smile while my stepmum simply said badee (her nickname for me) this is your sister Sky. I looked down at her teary brown eyes and little bald head (shaved for Buddhism) and my heart instantly grew. I held her close and calmed her tears while my dad gave me a tour of their home and introduced me to bowing guest after guest.
You could say life was a merry blur up in the village for the next three weeks. A few things I learnt from my time on that first trip (which remain true on trips that have followed):
- The phrase it takes a village to raise a child has never been more prominent than in a Thai community
- Cows don't move from the middle of roads no matter how much you honk - you must simply swerve them
- Trips to the market are not always needed, fresh seafood in ice containers are brought to your doorstep on a Wednesday afternoon - as are other random sellers selling random things: eight piece dining suite anyone?
- No man or woman is left behind. It was humbling to see neighbours of all kinds - farmers, shop owners etc come together and contribute to children's birthday parties and elderly peoples funerals. In fact, the party for both events consisted of the same scale and always, always LEO beer. Chang if we were on a budget.
- Their Buddhist temple is a daily part of the communities life and outsiders such as myself are always welcome. I spent many a morning observing prayers and duties by villagers and monks alike.
- When your sister is half Thai - she will school you on life, not you her. This includes how to climb an and everything, having no fear for any insect (no mater the size) and not being a fussy eater. Rice, good. Meat, good. Soup, good.
Here are some photos highlighting my time here with my little sister: