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Beasts of the east

Ped fans, you may recall that a few years ago I took a memorable trip with several family members to Southeast Asia. Since then, I’ve been dying to go back, and my niece’s recent high school graduation offered the perfect excuse—why not celebrate her milestone with another Asian adventure?

So, in late May, my sister, my niece, my husband, my father-in-law, and I boarded a Korean Airlines jet, and after a seemingly endless flight, we landed in Cambodia! We took a day to acclimate and then off we went to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple and surrounding area.

My husband and his dad ascended the three levels of the main temple to (left) to reach "heaven," while my niece Jill and I played among the tree roots (upper right), and with my sister, tried to hone our stone-sculpture modeling skills (bottom right).

My husband and his dad ascended the three levels of the main temple (left) to reach “heaven,” while my niece and I played among the tree roots (upper right), and along with my sister, honed our stone-sculpture modeling skills (bottom right).

The heat was sweltering, but it didn’t keep us from enjoying the eye-opening temples—sometimes enveloped in roots—in the Cambodian countryside, as well as the ancient city of Angkor Tom!

On another day in Cambodia, we went to see the floating villages on the monsoon-swelled Tonle Sap lake.

We motored out through water muddied by the monsoon rains to discover a fully functioning village floating on empty oil barrels!

We motored out through water muddied by the monsoon rains to discover a fully functioning village floating on empty oil barrels!

Then we were off to Chiang Mai, Thailand! My niece loves tigers, so our first stop was the Tiger Kingdom, a sanctuary helping the tiger population recover, after which we visited a Hmong village in the hills just west of the city.

Jill got her tiger fix (upper right), after which we visited a hospitable Hmong village, where I held possibly the cutest baby ever (left), and my sister "terrorized" some school children (center right). Then we went out for a wonderful bite and beer (bottom right)!

My niece got her tiger fix (upper right) before we visited a friendly Hmong village, where I held possibly the cutest baby ever (left), and my sister “terrorized” some schoolchildren (center right). Then we went out for a wonderful bite at a riverside cafe (bottom right)!

Another day, we toured old Chiang Mai and visited the gorgeous Doi Suthep temple, which sits high on a mountain overlooking the city. Then we retired to our beautiful hotel, Baan Orapin, an oasis behind a gate on an otherwise gritty street, for a swim and a nap before hitting the night market for a nosh.

One the stunning buildings at the mountaintop Doi Suthep temple (left), and our own slice of paradise, the salt pool at Baan Orapin (top right). Refreshed, my niece and I take on the streets of Chiang Mai in a tuktuk (center left) on our way to the night market, where we ate like ravenous demons!

One of the stunning buildings at the mountaintop Doi Suthep temple (left), and our own slice of paradise, the salt pool at Baan Orapin (top right). Refreshed, my niece and I took on the streets of Chiang Mai in a tuktuk (center right) on our way to the night market, where we ate like ravenous demons (bottom right)!

Of course, no trip to Thailand would be complete without a visit to the Patara Elephant Farm to see my old pachyderm pal, Boonpuk! Riding the elephants was the highlight of my last trip to Southeast Asia, so I had to share the joy with my current traveling companions. They reveled in the experience as much as I did!

Mother and baby play in the water at the Patara Elephant farm (left). My father-in-law leads his elephant by the ear (upper right) as we prepare to go to the river for a swim, which my niece loved (center right).  What a bunch of happy elephant riders we were (bottom right)!

Mother and baby play in the water at the Patara Elephant Farm (left). My father-in-law leads his elephant by the ear (upper right) as we prepare to go to the river for a swim, which my niece loved (center right). What a bunch of happy elephant riders we were (bottom right)!

It was another fantastic trip to a part of the world I have come to adore, and it was especially fun to share it with even more of my family!

Greetings from Thailand, where I'm happy as a clam atop my old pal Boonpuk!

Greetings from Thailand from me and my old pal Boonpuk!

 

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