Celebrating NHRA offseason with a tropical trip

Courtesy of Courtney Force

Courtney Force said the highlight of her Thailand vacation was trekking through the jungle atop this elephant.

A couple of weeks ago our race team closed out a great season in Pomona, Calif. We finished in fifth overall in Funny Car and I won rookie of the year while my team was awarded the Full Throttle Hard Working Crew Award. It was a great way to finish the 2012 NHRA season and mark the start of the offseason.

My sister Brittany and I decided to do something unique, so we booked a trip to Thailand! We have never been on a vacation that did not include the entire family, so my dad, of course, was having a hard time accepting the fact we were going without them. My dad is the type who still sees his kids as 5-year-olds running around. It’s funny to think he will let me and my sisters drive race cars that go faster than 300 mph, but freaks out when we book a trip out of the country!

Our first stop on our trip in Thailand was Patong Beach. We hit the beaches and explored the town. We went bamboo rafting down a river, saw sea turtles and waterfalls, explored temples, walked through caves full of monkeys and went elephant trekking down a river and through a forest. This was probably one of my favorite days because we got to be so adventurous and see so many things that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.

We took a boat to Phi Phi Island and stayed in a not-so-typical hotel. The lobby was outside and surrounded by trees and sand and located just a few steps from the water. This was a lot different than the hotels we stay at on the NHRA circuit. Our room had no front door, just a sandy path and a platform that went into our room. It was so cool to experience, even if we were only there for a night. We decided to hit the beach and took a boat out to different islands and coves to go snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and we saw so many different types of fish. We even saw a barracuda! We got to go to the very remote Maya Bay, where they filmed the movie, “The Beach,” with Leonardo DiCaprio. We went swimming and got stung by jellyfish -- but it was worth it!

The food in Thailand is a lot like the Chinese food back home, but with a little more curry. It was amazing and my sister Ashley, who is obsessed with Chinese food, would have been in heaven. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to trying new food, but I thought since I was in Thailand, I should probably be a little more open-minded. There was nothing too extreme on their menus, but we did enjoy eating pineapple fried rice (right out of a pineapple) with a fried egg on top, chicken curry, local fruits and lots of egg rolls!

The beaches in Thailand have turquoise water and white sand. We’re California girls who love going to Newport Beach, but the beaches in Thailand are so much different. Lush green forests, swinging monkeys, sharks and elephants surround the beach in Thailand and it has a tropical feel. It would be very humid and hot one minute and start pouring rain the next.

On our last stop in Thailand we headed back to the north side of Phuket. We relaxed on the beach, did a little souvenir shopping for our family and went into the town to have dinner on the sand. It was a great way to finish an adventurous yet relaxing trip before flying to China.

During our long layover in China we left the airport and attempted to buy some hot coffee and tea, but struggled with the language barrier before heading into the Forbidden City. We toured around China, ate authentic Chinese food, went to a tea shop and learned how to drink tea properly, then headed for the Great Wall of China.

It has always been a dream of mine to see the Great Wall of China so I was beyond excited when we got there. Although it was freezing cold, I didn’t care. I got to walk the Great Wall with my sister and our friend while taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. The Great Wall was exquisite because of the beautiful old architecture and the Wall went for miles! When we finished we headed to the airport and back home to California!

This was a trip I will never forget and I’m so happy I got to enjoy it with my sister, Brittany. We got to do something adventurous and see places we’ve never seen before while learning about the culture, meeting new friends and trying to learn new languages.