Waterfall: Family Reunion Brings On The Tears

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My Thai Family ReunionSaw the family today and burst into tears. My heart was happy and sad all at once. My Uncle Umnauy is just how I remembered him. My aunt (Ba Dang) is so incredibly loving. But the pain is there, nagging at me because I can’t have my dad with me. At times, the pain was so intense I wanted to scream “God, bring him back!” It’s not fair. He should be here with me on this trip.

My Uncle Umpon and Aunt Kak, have been living in San Diego, but by some miraculous blessing happen to be in Thailand. They rented a van and took us to see the family and then to a lunch in a very remote town in the water.


Note to self: pack tampons!

Always an interesting experience when you travel to a different culture and you learn about customs there. Little did I know it would have to do with feminine products. I think the joy and mixed emptiness of seeing my relatives and missing my dad caused me to miscalculate when I would start my period. Ah, nature picks moments to remind us who is in charge.

So after visiting the Kings’ palaces and watching the military chant in Sanskrit as they prepare for Armed Forces Day on Monday, the flow began and the hunt was on for tampons. Note to self: always pack tampons.

Thai women don’t seem to use tampons. In fact, my asking for it, even using my mother as my Thai translator, brought puzzling looks. I can only imagine what these Thai girls were thinking as my mom searched to find the word and I tried to make motions and gestures to show how it’s used. AWKWARD!

I soon grabbed a pack of mini pads and ran to the toilet where I realized I was a bit weighed down with my big bag and camera. Manure ring around. In these bathroom stalls is a science. In more rural areas of Thailand you step down to use the toilet and the entire stall area can be very wet and slippery. You place your feet on either side of the toilet, which in some places can be nothing more than a hole in the ground, and aim carefully. The paper goes in a nearby trash can and the bucket of water with a floating bowl is used to scoop up water and wash away the evidence. Hopefully you remembered to bring toilet paper as most bathrooms like this one don’t have it.


Lay it down.

Religion and Thai spiritual rituals are abundant in Thailand. You have an opportunity to offer blessings and prayers in many places throughout the country. At the temples and palaces, a small offering of 10 or 20 bat is good. You’ll then get some flowers and incenses and a white piece of paper with a gold leaflet inside. You remove your shoes and bow down saying your prayer and then placing the flowers and incense into the bowls. You then apache the Buddha and without touching the gold leaflet you press it to the Buddha and it sticks.

At the time I didn’t know the custom or understand what it meant but to me I saw it as a symbol for letting go. I revealed my troubles at the foot of that Buddha and then lay it down as I stuck it to the gold Buddha who seemed to be saying, “I’m your statue. I’ll hold you up when you feel you can’t stand strong any longer.”

How I got that from that Buddha at the King’s Thai papal r, I’m not sure. But then again, religion and spiritual rituals are about faith without it nothing could possibly make sense.

So I lay it down…the sorrow I was carrying from losing my dad. The fear I have from time to time. The anger I have, even in this trip, because he’s not here. The “what could I have done differently and why didn’t he eat better. I placed at that statue’s feet and then I waited for this photo to be take , of course. But I also waited for a feeling…a sign…

Thanks for coming along on my journey… more to come soon.



Phoebe Chongchua is a multimedia brand journalist who consults and writes on wellness, all things plant-based, fitness, lifestyle, and travel. She is yoga certified and earned her certificate in Whole Food Plant-Based Eating in 2010 through eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. She's also a top podcaster for her marketing/storytelling podcast, The Brand Journalism Advantage at

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