Swadika! Greetings from Thailand! Actually, I just left Thailand and am now in Japan. Sorry it`s been so long since I wrote; I`ve had very little internet access over the past month. Let me give you a summary of what we`ve been doing before I go into more detail later. Actually, this is pretty much the article I wrote for church. Mom and I have been enjoying a long-awaited vacation (in planning for 2 years!) On Tuesday, July 26th she joined me in Osaka, Japan, and we flew to Phuket, southern Thailand, to start with a week on perfect white sand beaches.
Our first day we journeyed by speedboat over blue-green ocean to the Phi Phi islands where we fed wild monkeys and snorkeled in pristine coral reefs. Hundreds of tropical fish swam around us like gems in the crystal-clear water. The only downside was the ten-foot waves that constantly rocked the boat-- and our stomaches! The second day we took a four-in-one safari. We learned how rice, rubber, and coconut are harvested and processed, saw a baby elephant show and rode one, and took a cruise in a Chinese “junk” ship. We finished with the spectacular Phuket Fantasea show, featuring traditional Thai performing arts and an elephant circus. For the remainder of our Phuket holiday, I earned my scuba license while Mom relaxed on the beach. I was blessed with the opportunity to witness to the captain of the dive boat searching for truth. I was struck how God can use us to touch others, even on vacation!
Then on to Bangkok, where we began a twelve-day customized tour of famous temples, nature, and historical sites with our personal guide, Chaiya. He was a Buddhist monk for seventeen years, so he was very knowledgeable. Highlights were the long-tail boat through the floating market, the Grand Palace where the king lives but no longer rules (Thailand has a parliament now), and the towering stupas that supposedly houses relics of the Buddha. Precious metals and colored glass shimmered over every surface.
Most stunning and disturbing were the giant solid gold Buddha and “emerald Buddha” (actually green jade) idols in the palace center. Chaiya told us how many fought and died over their possession, and we saw thousands throughout Thailand prostrating themselves before them and similar statues. Billions of baht (Thai dollars) maintain and build extravagant new temples and idols every year, while many Thai people go hungry. There are still far more idols than just money and power.
Heading north, we saw the ruins of Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, the first two capitals and UNESCO World Heritage sites. The towering sandstone columns and crumbling monuments revealed an ancient, prosperous civilization. In Chiang Mai, we observed the local cottage industries: silk weaving, lacquer painting, and umbrella making, before visiting Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle, an area once wealthy from opium trade (now outlawed). Our guide joked, “Want drug? Get cheap, then free stay police station. Good deal!”
We also crossed into Laos and saw local life: ragged children running, skinny chickens scurrying, and copied brands for sale. Laos is communist, a stark contrast with commercialized, touristy Thailand. We were blessed to be able to help some people, but the poverty was heartbreaking. Then we visited the Long Necked and Long Eared mountain tribes from Myanmar (Burma). They were fascinating, lovely people, but can’t get any rights because they are like gypsies, always moving with no country to call home.
We had the following day free to explore. The elephants at Mae Sa elephant camp were amazing. They kicked soccer balls to each other, balanced on logs, even painted pictures from memory! We enjoyed an hour ride through the jungle, but even better than that and the beautiful orchid farm was Tiger Kingdom. We had ten minutes to pet and play with the newborns, and fifteen minutes with the full-growns. What fun! Now we have ten days in Japan to finish some business and final sightseeing. We’ll arrive in Tulsa on August 25th. Can’t wait to see ya’ll!
Prayer: Please pray that the hearts of Thai Buddhists will open to Christ and the tribal people will get their rights, that the Laos economy will improve, and that I will find a new job in America or Japan or wherever God wants me!
I`ll add pictures and details later when I have my own internet again! (I`m using a friend`s now.)