Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Candid in Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand

Friends, here it is.

My LAST travel journal post about my AMAZING trip to Thailand! It has been just short of two months since I returned and I hope that you have enjoyed hearing and seeing my trip as much as I have enjoyed reliving it through these posts. Even after looking back, it is really hard for me to pick a favorite part, but overall I am so happy that I got to share this experience with my grandparents and Aunt Diane.

Overall my only complaints are my really bad sunburn (somewhat my fault) and that I got really sick when I came back from a virus we think I got over there.

(Side note: I mentioned in my very first post that for the sake on journaling I would circle back to this. Basically, a week after I returned I became really sick with a fever, headache, body ache, extreme fatigue and rash. Except for one experience in college, it might be the most sick I’ve ever been. It landed me in the emergency room, which then led me on a trail of different doctor’s visits because I had low platelets. They could never quite tell me what I had but after about three weeks I was finally back to normal.)

ANY WAY.

For my last post I am pulling together the rest of the pictures from the trip that are more candid and didn’t fit into any particular other post very well. This also includes pictures from our dinner cruise in Bangkok.

See below to see the rest of my posts from my entire trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Dinner Cruise

On one evening in Bangkok, we did a dinner cruise on the “Grand Pearl” on the Chao Phraya River, which included a full meal. The food was good, but not great. After we ate we moved to the top deck for a better view. Overall we had a good time, but we weren’t raving about it. I liked the music and atmosphere up on the top deck, but my family would probably say that the music was a little too loud and didn’t fit with the beautiful scenes we were taking in.

Our ship.

I bought the ceremonial picture they took before we boarded the ship. So this is a picture of that picture, which is why it is a little lest sharp.

View of the Grand Palace from the river.

View of the Wat Arun temple from the river.

Misc in Bangkok

My Grammy’s name is Gloria Jean…

This was a piece of artwork that I was in LOVE with and want to recreate someday. All of those books are different kinds of dictionaries in different languages and some for specific subjects.

Everyday while we were in Bangkok we would return to the hotel in the late afternoon and relax with a Diet Coke (or on this day for me, a Corona) before we headed upstairs to freshen up and head to dinner.

On a plaza outside one hotel we passed was probably a dozen or so fun, motivating phrases engraved into the sidewalks. I took pictures of almost all of them, but this one was my favorite.

Aunt Diane

These brooms were used to street sweeping.

Sisters.

Misc in Phuket


In Phuket, my Aunt Diane and I went parasailing on Karon Beach. When I was a kid I went parasailing at Wallowa Lake (in Oregon) and we both launched and landed on the back of the boat. Here things were much less formal, so after we were all strapped in we just started running on the beach (which was pretty comical because my Aunt is even shorter than me) and were eventually lifted up. What was crazy was that one of the guys in the picture road with us…just hanging out on the ropes not connected to anything, and would sometimes lightly push his foot into my back and ropes to steer us. It was so much fun to see that view and relax up there. And it was really cheap.

While we were out doing some shopping we stumbled across this place that gave fish pedicures. So as you can see in the pictures, you sit with your feet in the water while little fish nibble away at your dead skin. And the reason there is no picture of me? Because while I am all about trying new experiences, there was no way you could have paid me to do that. I am WAY TOO ticklish. My Aunt Diane thought it was the best thing ever, while my Grammy liked the results, but couldn’t stand to watch it happening.

Definitely watch this video for a good laugh!

Since I traveled to Guatemala almost two years ago and bought two small pieces of local paintings off the street, I have decided that I want to do that in every country I visit. In Thailand it was a bit harder to find something I liked, but I finally found a group of brothers selling their paintings on our last day. It was definitely worth the wait. When I finally get the canvas restretched I will probably share it on Instagram.

Well, there you go.

Thailand is a beautiful country with such a rich culture and traveling there with three people that I love so very much was an experience unlike any other.

Thank you to my Grampy, Grammy and Aunt Diane for sharing this experience with me.

I would definitely recommend it for vacation and have already had a few people ask me for advice on traveling there, so I would be more than happy to chat with anyone more!

**********

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Karon Beach Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

I am winding down on my Travel Journal blog posts for my trip to Thailand… only one more left after this!

If you haven’t been following along already be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Karon Beach Sunset

I saw a lot of beautiful things on this trip but I am pretty sure that nothing compares to the sunset on Karon Beach. Our flights out of Phuket were red eyes so on the last evening I went back down to the beach about 20 minutes before the sun was supposed to set for some quiet time and picture taking. If you know me, you know that I am a mountain girl through and through, but seriously, this beach sunset was breathtaking.

While I was relaxing on the sand for a bit, a young woman around my age came up to me with a DSLR camera of her own and asked if I would take a few pictures of her. She didn’t speak very good English, but I learned that she was visiting Thailand from Indonesia. Once I took her picture, she immediately reached for my camera and insisted on doing the same because I had “sunset colored hair.” She also insisted that I would look like I was having more fun if I threw up a peace sign 🙂

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Koh Hong Island Excursion

Continuing to blog about my trip to Thailand in February and today’s focus is one that I have been so looking forward to sharing.

If you haven’t been following along be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

Island Excursion

I have always been fascinated with the pictures of the islands in the Andaman Sea west of Thailand, so going on an island excursion was toward the top of my list of things to do during the vacation.

We went through a company called Bluanda, and we would highly recommend them. They had a fun, great staff and our group was maybe about 12 total.

A shuttle picked us up and took us to the other side of Phuket where we had a light breakfast and then boarded the catamaran.

Our first stop was Koh Hong Island where we relaxed, swam and snorkeled. I saw so many beautiful fish!

We then went a bit north to the Phang Nga Bay, which is used as a backdrop in many movies, including the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun.”

Finally we stopped at a private island that I can’t remember the name of. There we had lunch and then relaxed a bit more on the beach before we did some kayaking and went on a short rain forest hike, where we saw banana trees!

The trip wrapped up with a ride back to the marina at sunset.

It was a full, sandy and sweaty day, but so relaxing and beautiful. For the sake of this being a journal, I should also add that I got the worst sunburn of my life the day before so the only bad part of the day was that my shoulders were pretty sensitive and stiff.

Koh Hong Island

I’m not really a fan of coconut water, and trust me, I keep trying different brands because I want to like it. But I did like it much better in its real form and wish that it had been cold instead of warm.

Our lunch came in these stackable hot pots which was one of our favorite meals of the trip.

These bananas and purple potatoes were SO GOOD!

Our private island for an afternoon.

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Thai Cooking Class and Elephant Rides in Phuket, Thailand

I’ve been pretty busy and worn out from getting caught up at work lately (from both the trip in February and being sick for most of March), but I am determined to get the rest of these posts edited and up in the next week. I believe there will be three more after this.

So after four days in Bangkok, my family and I took a short flight down to Phuket… aka the part in Thailand you see in all of the amazing photos on travel sites.

We stayed down in the Karon Beach area at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club.

Today I am sharing about the Thai cooking class we took and the morning spent riding and playing with elephants.

Be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Thai Cooking Class

I’ve never really been someone who gains joy from cooking or even preparing a meal for others, but for whatever reason I kept insisting that I wanted us to take a Thai cooking class during our trip. I love Thai food and I just thought it would be a unique way to experience it.

At our resort in Phuket they offered a class that was taught by the chef who was in charge of all of the resort’s restaurants! Honestly it was a cooler experience than I was anticipating. No we really didn’t do much more that dumping already prepared servings of ingredients and then stirring, but before we started the chef walked through all of the ingredients we were using and taught us about them. Plus the staff was fun to work with.

We paired off, Grammy and Aunt Diane together, and Grampy with me, to prepare four different recipes from booklets that we got to take home with us. And the best part of course was that we got to eat what we made for lunch! I would definitely recommend doing a cooking class in any country that you visit.

Elephants

Riding an elephant was definitely on my list of things I really wanted to do on this trip, but friends… my excitement before doesn’t compare to how COOL it really was! I honestly didn’t want to leave!

We did our rides through Kok Chang Safari. There were a few other “treks” or “adventure” packages that were advertised at our resort but this only seemed to be both the cheapest and straightforward experience. We signed up for the 20 minute ride, which was perfect for us, but you can ride for up to an hour. We also loved that they picked us up from the resort and took us back, and that there was a cute little outdoor bar to hang out at afterward.

The seats themselves were pretty sturdy but there was only a rope holding up in and on some of the really steep part we still had to hold on a bit.

It was FASCINATING to watch how they steered and directed the elephants mostly using vocal cues and their feet on the sides behind the ear or on their temples. It was actually really similar to riding a horse. A few time they put more pressure on those areas using a stick, kind of like you use reins.

The guy took my digital camera and not joking… took over 30 pictures. Which was a joy to sort through…

The elephant my grandparents are on is named “Happy New Year” and the one I am on with Aunt Diane is named “Pancake.”

And don’t mind the fact that I am looking down. My legs were just long enough to rub the elephant’s back which was so much softer than I was expecting.

Bath time!

I really could have stayed there all day. They were just SO SWEET 🙂

#Hangry

So for a couple of baht (20?) you could buy a basket of banana halves to feed them. I think we bought 3 or 4 baskets.

Pretty sure selfies are allowed (and very cool) when they are with an elephant.

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Chatuchak Weekend Market and Jim Thompson House in Bangkok, Thailand

Hey hey! Continuing to share about my big trip to Thailand. Originally I was a bit annoyed that being sick and trying to otherwise get caught up on life had put me really behind on blogging about the trip, but now I’m actually ok because its bringing back so many fun memories. I mentioned in my first post that I would be splitting the posts up based on experiences instead of specific days because some places I took A LOT of pictures and others not so much. Today’s post is example of that.

Be sure to checkout out my other posts so far from this trip!

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Jim Thompson House

On our last full day in Bangkok we walked to the Jim Thompson House, which was about 3 miles one-way from our hotel, along the Saen Saeb Canal. This was on every blog and travel site that I looked at when we were planning our vacation. Jim Thompson was an American solider who settled down in Thailand after he was discharged in 1946 because of his love for the culture. He is responsible for playing a major role in reviving the Thai silk industry. After he mysteriously disappeared in 1967 his home and life’s work eventually was turned into a museum and foundation. The six traditional Thai teakwood buildings that make up his home compound are filled with art that he collected and surrounded by an enclosed garden.

As every site said, I would DEFINITELY recommend this for those visiting Bangkok. It gave us a different perspective and look at Thai culture and learning about the silk industry was really interesting! I will warn people that it is a big tricky to find, so definitely check out a map. But if you get a little lost like we did… you just might stumble upon the Saen Saeb Canal, which is worth the extra time to stroll along.

Of course the family of florists had to take pictures of a flower that we didn’t recognize!

Someone correct me if I am wrong, but if I remember correctly they said that ONE of these pods/nuggets (?) will be spun into a MILE of thread. And if I am misquoted than, its not by much because I remember being floored by the number.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Our very first morning we headed to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as the “JJ Market.” This is another place that went twice, first with my work team and then again with my family. I didn’t mind at all because the market is HUGE (it spans 27 acres!) and it gave me the chance to better scout out the things I wanted to buy. I didn’t take very many pictures worth sharing here.

Gramps forgot to bring sunglasses so we had to pick him up a pair.

These next two photos should have gone in my post about visiting the temples but were sorted into the wrong folder.

At Wat Arun with Grampy.

At Wat Arun with Grammy.

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Today I am sharing about one of the highlights of my trip to Thailand that was really unique for my family.

My Grammy started her flower shop, Cottage Flowers, 28 years ago, and has since passed the business on to my mom. I have always said that growing up in a flower shop made for a pretty interesting childhood and really it is the main place that I call home. So when I read about Bangkok’s 24-hour flower market I knew that had to be on our must-see list.

By the way, curious about how this trip came to be or what else we saw? Below are my other two travel journal blog posts from this trip that I have posted so far:

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market

The flower market was AMAZING and we spent almost an entire morning walking around it.

I can’t really say whether or not every traveler would love it, but if you love farmer’s markets, flowers or produce in any way I would highly recommend it. Plus it seemed to have less of a tourist vibe and I don’t actually remember seeing any other tourists there. I read that the best time to go to see a lot of the market busy in action is early in the morning that we weren’t quite that motivated.

The market is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok, and also has quite a bit of produce.  I am not going to try to guess how big it is but the wholesale part of the market takes up a large warehouse and some alleys, while the retail stores were in various sizes of stalls lining the outer part of the market along the street. It was really fun for us to walk through and point out the things that were different from how we care for and design with the flowers, and what things were exactly the same. And we couldn’t get over the cheap prices! It was one thing for us to know what a baht converts to in U.S. dollars, but it put things into a different perspective when you applied it to flowers and arrangements.

I took SO many pictures that morning, so it is a miracle that I was able to narrow it down to even this many.

My Grampy and Grammy.

Main entrance.

These were really cool arrangements made of really little (about the size of a penny or dime) flowers. When we were inspecting them a Thai women who was designing one gave us one of the flowers.

Growing up one of reoccurring chores at the flower shop is to refill water picks (for the end of flowers when they are being wrapped and not put into a vase.) Our look a bit different in the U.S. so the women let me take a video. Plus she was so fast!

I didn’t the picture I wanted to in time, but all of those flowers are balance on a trolley cart and we watched this man that was almost shorter than the stack pull it along with it basically resting on this back.

The chili peppers were so pretty!


Part of the vegetable market.

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip!

Cheers!

Family, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

So once upon a time (February) I went on this grand adventure to Thailand for vacation with my family after spending time in Thailand and Philippines for my job. Then I came home with my blog posts all planned out to share… and THEN I got REALLY sick (more on that eventually), and that plan went down the drain.

Match that with my natural inclination for procrastinating, and that brings us to today and my NEW plan for blogging about this great vacation over the next two weeks. I decided that I am going to do blog posts grouped by sites and experiences, versus grouping them by days. For some of the things we saw there were just too many pictures and things to share that deserve their own post.

Curious about what the heck I’m talking about?

See my first post “Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines,” to learn about the origin of why I traveled to South Asia for work and the experience I had.

When I learned that I would be going on this trip last year, I knew I had to take advantage of the circumstances and tack on a vacation after my work responsibilities were done. My Grammy and Grampy are big travelers and were eager to tag along, and eventually convinced my Great Aunt Diane to come too.

When I mentioned to people about who I was going to be traveling with I did get a few raised eyebrows. So for those of you who don’t know my family, you need to know that my grandparents and aunt are (1) super cool and very close to me and (2) typically have more energy than I have on most days. Getting to take this trip with them was experience that I certainly with cherish for rest of my life.

So after wrapping up with work in the Philippines, I flew back to Bangkok to meet up with my family who had already been there for a day. We took the remainder of that day pretty easy and treating ourselves to massages, and though we weren’t able to get traditional Thai massages, they were still pretty great!

Wat Pho Temple

On our first full day we visited the Wat Pho and Wat Arun temples. I actually visited these twice because the team I was with for my work portion of the trip had one day for sightseeing in Thailand and visited these two temples as well. Having experienced navigating this part of Bangkok before was actually really helpful the second time around.

Wat Pho is the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and is one of the largest temple complexes in Bangkok. It cost us 100 baht each to get in. I really enjoyed seeing this first because there was a large variety of things to see and material to read so it gave us a good introduction into Thailand and Buddhism.

When I was planning out our list of things to do I remember reading about the Reclining Buddha, but was completely shocked when I first saw it. I had no idea it was that huge! Even seeing it twice I still couldn’t get over it.  It measures 46 meters (151 feet or about a half of a football field) and is covered in gold leaf. It is definitely a MUST-SEE in Bangkok.

The vacation crew.

The complex had many of these small statues of dozens of different characters and objects. I eventually read that they were all originally ballasts on the front of ships.

A few of the insides of the temples had this artwork on the walls from the floor to the ceiling. It was ALL hand painted directly onto the stone!

This is currently the backdrop on my phone.

You will notice in this post that I took quite a few pictures of various statues doing squats. I realize that obviously that’s a cultural representation of some kind, but I just found it very amusing.

There were dozens of these pyramid structures around the complex.

Obviously I was in love with all of the bright colors. Particularly this combo.

This was taken with my phone looking straight up from where I was standing. Because of the pillars in the building and some construction/up keep that was being done down toward the statue’s feet, it was really hard to get a picture of the full length. But trust me, photos do not do it justice.

Chao Phraya River

After the Wat Pho temple, the best way to get to Wat Arun is to cross river via ferry at the Sapphan Taksin boat pier (which is about a block away from Wat Pho) for a simple 3 baht (I think?) per person. Plus ferries themselves are all a part of the experience.

Wat Arun Temple

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is directly across from Wat Pho on the west bank of the river. According to what I read and then what I saw in person the design of this temple was a bit different than most of the others around Bangkok. To get into the complex here was free, but to go inside the actual temple was 100 baht, which we skipped this time around. This complex was also a bit different in that there was more landscaping and a small market.

My Grampy and Grammy

My family REALLY found this (the water bottle) amusing.

So this is the base of the spire you see in the above pictures. I was trying to show just how VERY steep these steps were to go up and down but I don’t think the picture caught that. Going down was a lot harder, so I sort of scooched along my bottom and grabbed onto to the sides of the structure because there was nothing else to hold on to. But the view was worth it!

The Grand Palace

Unlike the other two temples, I only went to the Grand Palace once. Prior to the trip, everyone said that this was one of the main sites we needed to see, and while I am glad we went, I would probably recommend the first two over this one mostly because it was much more crowded. We also went here on a different day and didn’t try to fit it into the same day as the other two temples which I think was a smart choice. I am not quite sure what the regular base cost was. When we first got in we were told that the line for general admission would take over an hour, but if we chose to go through it with a tour guide (which was a couple hundred baht more) we could get in right away. At the beginning I was a little skeptical of this setup but by the end of it I would definitely recommend going with the tour guide. He moved through things a little slow, but he got us bottled water when we all had hit a cranky point where we really needed to hydrate and had a lot of interesting things to share. Anyway the Grand Palace was originally built in 1782 and was the home of the Thai King and the Royal court for 150 years. It is also home to the Emerald Buddha.

This is the Ministry of Defense building which is inside the complex, but outside the walls of the Grand Palace.

The Thai King passed away last October so the country is observing a year of mourning. Everywhere you look all over Bangkok there are shrines and billboards with his picture, along with black and white garnishing. This picture above is actually the crown prince who will become the new king when the period of mourning is over.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the actual temple where the Emerald Buddha sits but I used my long lens to take a picture through the opening. The above picture depicts how the Buddha is dressed based on the season. If I remember correctly the tour guide said that the Buddha was something like 4 or 5 feet tall which I thought was a bit much based from the distance I was seeing it. But everything I am finding online says it is only 26 inches tall, which is just over 2 feet and that seems much more realistic.

The Chakri Maha Prasat group of buildings where the main throne hall is. Tourist are not allowed in there.

The Phra Maha Prasat group of buildings. This is where their king that passed away in October 2015 lied in state. We were also not allowed in there.

My sweet Aunt Diane.

**********

Travel Tips

So I thought on a few of these posts where it is applicable I would share a few travel tips or any other stories/notes that did not fit into the pictures above.

  1. Shoes – You will have to take your shoes off when you go into each of the temples (not the complex.) I would suggest wearing shoes that are easy to take on and off. My grandparents wore sandals the entire trip so they were set to go. Unfortunately with that much walking I had to wear tennis shoes with my orthopedics, so while I was at the temples I just tied my shoes a lot looser.
  1. Long clothing – Generally the instructions online all say the main rules for going into the temples are to wear long pants, cover your shoulders and remove your hats. My Grampy wore normal length men’s shorts and I wore cropped sports leggings, and while we were fine at the Wat Pho and Wat Arun temples, at the Grand Palace we were given loose pants and a sarong (for free.) It was interesting at the Grand Palace because there were plenty of people showing more of their leg than I was and not to mention my t-shirt had a big cutout in the back that showed my tattoo and they were fine with that. Overall to be respectful I would suggest wearing light clothing (because it is really hot there!) that covers everything or bringing sarongs/light cardigans just in case.
  1. ID – We didn’t need to show ID for the two temples, but we did for the Grand Palace. All of us women had photo copies or pictures on our phone of our passports which sufficed, and they surprisingly accepted my Grampy’s U.S. driver’s license. But I wouldn’t bet on that every time.
  2. Swindling – TWICE we were almost swindled by the same ruse. As we were walking to the Wat Pho temple and again on our way to the Grand Palace, a local who spoke English well approached us in the direction we were walking and started out making small talk before asking where we were going. After each response, they tried to tell us that both places were closed for a certain amount of time that day for local to attend ceremonies for the king that had passed. (Which seemed like something that could very likely happen.) Both eventually suggested that we go with them on their Tuk Tuk’s (an open air three-wheeled taxi) to other tourist locations. The first time I thought this was pretty suspicious since I had spent a good amount of time planning out our day with the help of the very knowledgeable concierge so we declined and sure enough both places were open to the public.

**********

Stay tuned for more posts covering this trip soon!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Sawasdee Ka!

(Hello!)

If you know me personally or follow along on social media, you know that I just returned from three weeks in Thailand and the Philippines!

The initial reason for the trip was for work, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tack on a vacation to the end.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (my employer) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. I served as the staff team leader for three great farmers: Denise from Montana, Clint from South Dakota and Dustin from North Dakota. Once we were over there we were joined by various members of our overseas staff as we visited multiple flour mills and end-product manufacturers, as well as a baking school and bakery fair.

Overall, I am incredibly thankful and excited that it was (FINALLY) my turn to lead a team. The wheat industry is complex and fascinating, and in the almost two years that I have been in this job, it has become an industry that I am proud to represent. And while I am continually learning new things everyday, nothing beats getting out of the office and learning by seeing and experiencing the industry from the perspective of the customers who buy and use U.S. wheat.

I am also thankful for the time I had getting to know my team of farmers. I have said many times (especially here on the blog) that I firmly believe that farming is one of the most honorable professions there is and that I consider it a privilege to have a career in agriculture and use my words on their behalf. When the day-to-day of my job gets stressful or I get discouraged, it is the farmers that I get to know and their stories that help bring things back into perspective for me. Denise, Clint and Dustin were wonderful representatives for their fellow U.S. wheat farmers and I enjoyed getting to share this experience with them.

To read the full story on my work trip visit HERE —> “U.S. Wheat Farmers Get the Chance to See How Overseas Customers Value Their Crop.”

AND if you want to see more pictures than what I’ve included here on my blog, you can find those on the USW Facebook page HERE.

I took A LOT of pictures that I want to share from the entire trip, so today I am featuring the time I spent with the board team and then over the course of the next week I am going to share posts on my vacation with my grandparents and great aunt.

********************

Before heading over to Asia, the team met for a briefing that USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, where they also visited the Wheat Marking Center and  the United Grains terminal.

img_1585

img_1600

We arrived in Bangkok late on Saturday night and had most of the day Sunday to adjust to the time change a bit and be tourists.

img_4743

We visited two temples, Wat Pho, which is home to the “Reclining Buddha”, and Wat Arun. I did take a lot of photos around the temples but since I also visited the temples again with my family, I am going to share those in a separate upcoming blog post.

img_4819

img_1732

On Monday, we visited the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking School. USW has had a collaborative relationship with the school since 1982, where we host preeminent bakery training courses every year. I have heard so much about the work that happens there so I was excited to be visiting.

img_1745

img_1743

img_1749

UFM also has grocery stores, so after visiting the baking school we swung by. For the most part it was your typical grocery store, with the exception of a few things that I didn’t recognize, but I was amazed by the produce! There was quite a bit more packaging, versus fruit and veggies being just out in the open air and it was all amazing quality. And these were hands down the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen!

img_1755

Japanese noodles… which I loved so much that I took my family back to the  same spot a week later and ordered the same thing.

img_4884

img_4903

img_1771

On the second day, the team visited a cookie and cracker manufacturer. I was excited to learn a little more about the marketing side of the business and about consumer trends. This visit was also a great example of the technical service that USW does. One of our baking consultants actually worked with the company on developing two of the products above that got to try.

img_4958

We also had a tour through their plant. All of the different assembly lines and processes were so cool!

img_5021

img_1807

img_1831

We were visiting on Valentine’s Day, so one of the companies gave us these small cakes. And I ate the whole thing for dinner. #noshame

img_5050

img_1839

Before we had to leave for the airport in Bangkok we made a impromptu side visit to this world market grocery store which is touted as “one of the 25 grocery stores you should visit before you die.” Tally for the bucket list that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a pretty cool.

img_1858

We then traveled to Manila in the Republic of the Philippines. Our first day we traveled two hours down to Botangas to visit the country’s #1 flour mill and were privy to this amazing view. The drive there and back was obviously long, but it gave us a great opportunity to really see the countryside.

img_1876

img_1865
img_1961

The final day in Philippines and on the trip was spent at the 9th International Exhibition of Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment, known as “Bakery Fair 2017.”

Bottomline: It was seriously cool.

And the party started early in the morning before I had a cup of coffee.

img_1920

USW’s booth got a lot of great attention. This piece was amazing!

img_1946

As was all of the “cakes” on display. You know there are times when I think of myself as artistic… this was not one of those moments.

img_1958

img_5118

img_1960

These are my co-workers, Matt, Joe and Roy that work overseas in South Asia. I was so thankful to get to know them a bit better. They are my colleagues but they are also mentors, friends and examples of hard work. Most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in a every way.
img_5186

In the afternoon we had just a little bit of time to play tourist so Joe took us to Intramuros or the “Walled City” in the heart of Manila.

img_5188

img_5199

img_5202

img_5211

img_5215

img_5220

Sometimes I struggle to explain all that my organization does (because sometimes I don’t see the entire scope of it) so hopefully this shares a bit of insight into wheat export market promotion.

Stay tuned throughout the next week for temples, elephants and postcard worthy beach scenes…. the picture sharing has just begun.

Cheers!