One of the great joys of travel is dipping into new cultures and making friends around the globe but for many exotic travel remains a dream. They satisfy their wanderlust with great travel books, the Travel Channel and new cuisines at local restaurants.
I spent three delicious weeks exploring Thailand some time ago but never made it into the hill country above Chiang Mai. The opportunity to sample the authentic foods, touch the artifacts and hand made textiles of the Hill Tribes seemed like a distant dream until I met the director of Toys for Thailand, Maria Miller, in San Diego.
She told me about a special event on November 8th – a Tribal Fashion and Gift Show – that will fill the afternoon at the Seaside Event Center in Encinitas, just north of San Diego. Many local Thai will be there sharing their crafts, flavors, drinks and music. It’s going to be a vicarious trip into the remote areas that they call home.
I’ll be there and if you’d like to attend and want some company, join the members of the Travel Well Meetup. When you arrive grab a name tag and we’ll find one another inside.
Listen to an interview with Maria Miller, Faculty Emeritus at Palomar College in San Diego County and the Director of Toys for Thailand, on the Gathering Road Podcast or Download the MP3 here.
Toys for Thailand
Founded in the wake of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Sasha Bilar returned to her home country on a mission to help children who had lost everything in the disaster. Sasha brought hundreds of pounds of toys and less than a thousand dollars in donations to distribute throughout the tsunami zone.
The quest to bring playful comfort to Thai children soon expanded after Sasha and other volunteers traveled through the hill tribe region north of Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son in 2007. They found hundreds of kids living in dire conditions without adequate food or many basic necessities.
As other charities and NGO’s helped ease conditions in the coastal regions, Toys for Thailand began working in over 30 hill tribe schools and founded the annual Small World Maehongson Festival to bring children together in proud celebration of their traditions.
Each December since 2010 the Small World Maehonsahn Festival takes place on Jong Kum Lake and visitors are most welcome to join the party. It’s another rare and very helpful way to experience the region and especially to connect with the locals.
The Toys for Thailand website explains, “We support the education, welfare and greater awareness of hill tribe children living in under-served schools in northern Thailand.” Perhaps you too can also experience some of the culture, meet the people and children, virtually or in person.