Swimming With Monks and Losing My Phone in Northern Thailand

“I’m going to get the words ‘tuk tuk’ tatted on me.”

***

If you had 16 days off work to travel, where would you go?

When I got this opportunity, my first instinct was to book a flight to Northern Thailand. It’s an area I was dying to explore because of how highly other bloggers talk about it. So, I booked a round-trip ticket to Chiang Mai. And before I knew it, I landed in what soon became one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia.

I decided to check out Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. Altogether, these three cities gave me more adventures than I could have ever imagined.

But one experience stood out among the rest.

Winning Some and Losing Some in Northern Thailand 1

I was riding on the back of a scooter that my friend Jack was driving. We were heading down a mountain on the hunt for waterfalls.

As we were scooting along, we pulled over to an area off the side of the road that looked intriguing. We weren’t sure if there was a waterfall, but we were up for some exploring, either way.

It seemed that we came across a random creek—nothing too exciting—but we followed the stream of water downhill until, eventually, we hit the jackpot.

Up in a leafless tree stood a monk, probably about 12 years old. He looked back at us and smiled. Then he jumped into a jacuzzi-size pool of water.

My jaw dropped. Did I just witness a monk commit suicide?

I ran to get a better look. My heart started beating again.

There were about 15 other child monks swimming in a beautiful, hidden waterfall. They were sliding down rocks penguin style, doing backflips off a small ledge and laughing with each other. There was no one around except for me, Jack and these happy monks. I’ve never seen anything like it.

We didn’t want to crash their party, but one of the monks urged us using hand motions to get in the water. They didn’t speak English.

So we put our clothes, my phone and the keys to the scooter on a rock and jumped in.

It was such a surreal moment for me to be laughing and swimming with these monks in a random waterfall in Chiang Mai. I had to snap a picture of it. I knew this would be something I would want to share. I mean, who else could say they’ve been swimming with monks?

I climbed to the rock where I left my stuff and my heart stopped.

The bright pink shorts that I wrapped my phone and moped keys in were gone.

No. No. No.

Nevermind my phone. It’s the moped I can’t afford to replace.

I ran to Jack in a panic and told him the keys were gone. I’ve never seen him move so fast in my life.

I have no idea when my stuff was stolen, but whoever did it had a headstart to the moped. And we were a 10-minute walk away.

The monks knew something was wrong and stopped playing around. They stared at me while I stayed behind to have a quick, hopeless look around the area. I also didn’t want to know if the moped was gone. I must have looked like a crazed mess because I couldn’t stop shaking and panicking.

The monks began to look around too, although they didn’t know what they were looking for. I tried to tell them what happened, but I only got blank stares back.

I needed to find Jack.

So I gave the monks one last look and sprinted to where I prayed the moped would be.

I actually think I blacked out from the relief that filled my body when I saw our bright, red scooter right where we left it.

“Holy shit,” I said out loud.

I literally gave the moped that I named Bolt a hug.

Two American dudes—who were watching me embarrassingly hug a moped—came up to me and offered to alert the tourist police. Jack had already briefed them on what happened and went back to the waterfall to look for me.

The tourist police arrived and immediately covered me with a piece of cloth. I forgot I was only in my bathing suit. They were pretty concerned that I wasn’t dressed appropriately…nevermind the stolen phone and moped keys.

For being tourist police, these guys didn’t speak English all that well.

Eventually, we came to the conclusion that Jack would stay with the moped, while the tourist police took me to get spare keys from the rental place.

It should have only taken an hour, but these guys were in no rush. Apparently, we were running errands.

We stopped to get milk, to get appropriate clothes for me to change into, to get gas, to file a police report and, finally, to get the spare keys.

Meanwhile, Jack was waiting in the rain with the moped for over two hours.

Our idyllic afternoon turned sour, but it could have been totally worse. We all know I have terrible luck with phones, so getting that stolen wasn’t a huge deal. Replacing it was another story (I’ll catch you up on that later). My only frustration is that I don’t have photos of the happy, swimming monks to share with you. But it will always be one of my favorite travel experiences.

You win some, you lose some.

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