This week on Tour Group, the travelers further explore Thailand as they experience the largest transgender cabaret show in Asia, zipline through the jungle and visit an elephant sanctuary. Plus, Jared and Misty's relationship issues reach a new low while cruising the Chao Phraya River. Read on for a full travelogue of the episode...
It's day 32 of the trip and the travelers are still in Bangkok, Thailand. As Amy Grice FaceTimes with her very attractive, younger boyfriend back home, Jetta Bates Vasilatos and her husband Jeff take a rickshaw to explore the city's many temples and other sights. To combat the travel hangover after more than a month of jumping from continent to continent, head tour guide Brandon Presser brings a few of the travelers to get clothing made at a high-end Thai tailor. Apparently in Thailand, you can get custom suits, jackets and anything else you could want at an insanely low price compared to anywhere in the Western world. New York financier Jared Levy is more than a little excited about this opportunity to add to his wardrobe, but the dynamic with his girlfriend Misty Kingma remain awkwardly strained after their argument in the hotel room about the red light district. Satisfied with their purchases, the travelers head back to their hotel when Brandon reveals the surprise he's cooked up for the evening: they'll be taking a dinner cruise down Bangkok's Chao Phraya River!
That evening, the group (minus Heather Marianna and Michelle Harvey) sets sail on a Thai rice barge, now refitted into a luxury river boat. Initially the cruise seems to be going well until Jay Ward puts it all on the table by bringing up the tension between Jared and Misty. Did Jared really get a happy ending in the red light district? What's going on with the trip's lovebirds? Misty's twin sister Jenna Kingma tells everyone to mind their own business, but Jared addresses the awkwardness and starts venting about how much pressure the trip has put his new relationship under. And once he starts, it's like he can't stop, telling the entire group that he can't seem to live up to Misty's expectations or know how to deal with their constantly changing dynamic. Ouch, abort Jared, abort! The playboy's pent-up tirade leaves everyone in the group speechless, particularly Misty, and ends what was supposed to be a magical night on a surprisingly sour note.
Early the next morning, the travelers take a 90 minute trip to explore Pattaya, which tour guide Sandhurst Miggins describes as Thailand's city of all things "exotic and erotic." Hmm...this should be an adventure. The group is heading to Pattaya to attend Tiffany's, Thailand's premier Vegas-style ladyboys show. In fact, it turns out to be the first and biggest transgender cabaret show in all of Asia. Before the performance, the travelers get a backstage pass and split into three groups to learn about the ladyboys' costumes, makeup and choreography. Tour guide Rachel Grant explains that in Thai culture, ladyboys are considered something of mainstream celebrities and icons - beyond even famous drag queens in America. As Jeff and Heather take turns trying on the ladyboys' massive headdresses, several of the performers put Jared, Jay and Georgia boys Michael Cook and Steven Roberts in the chairs to get their makeup done.
Dressing up as ladyboys is about as far out of the Georgia boys' comfort zone as anything could be, but they take it in playful stride learn more about the stories of the transgender performers. The show itself is an absolute spectacle of dancing, cabaret and drag that would rival anything seen on the stages of Las Vegas. Towards the end of the performance, one of the ladyboys comes down into the audience and snatches Michael and Steven up onto the stage, still in full makeup and wigs. The Georgia boys are taken aback by being in the spotlight but are goodnatured about participating, even pulling out a good old-fashioned Southern hitch and kick for the crowd. In the end, the entire crew walks away from the experience with a better understanding and appreciation for being trans in a predominantly cis-gendered society and what it means to feel different than everyone around you.
The morning of day 34, the guides split the travelers into two groups for very different activities: Brandon and Sandhurst are taking the boys to zipline through a national park while Rachel and the girls visit an elephant sanctuary. The gender divide was completely voluntary, but if it was me, I'd be first in line to see the elephants. The zipline adventure turns out to be a major moment for Jeff, who came on the trip to celebrate life after getting in a nearly-fatal scooter accident. The zipline platforms end up being much higher off the ground than any of the guys anticipated, and both Jeff and Jay are forced to conquer their fears as they fly through the jungle's tree-line. Confronting the "chasm of death" in front of him is a very proud moment for Jeff that Jetta would've surely loved to see.
Arriving at the elephant sanctuary, Rachel explains that the elephant is one of the sacred symbols of Thailand and the animals have played a crucial role in Thai culture for centuries. The sanctuary the travelers are visiting is specifically for abused elephants, which is just a heartbreaking thought. The women take turns feeding bananas to the baby elephants and the joy in the air is palpable. The playful baby elephants are full of love for the travelers, showering the girls with kisses and affection. I'm in love. Ever the animal activists though, Michelle and Heather protest when the trainers start having the elephants perform tricks for the ladies and don't like that the sanctuary employees are using canes as training tools. When it comes time to ride the adult elephants, the trip's self-proclaimed divas decide to pass in the name of their morals and leave Rachel, Jetta, Jenna, Misty and Amy to experience the elephant ride without them.
As both cultural excursions come to an end, the tour guides gather the travelers around them to announce the last destination of the trip. For the final days of the journey around the world, the tour group is heading to Japan! Heading back to the hotel to pack their luggage and say goodbye to Thailand, Heather and Michelle bond over their mutual love for each other and how they feel so misjudged by the rest of the group, while Misty and Jared sit down to put their issues from Thailand to bed before moving on to the trip's final leg. Goodbye Thailand, hello Tokyo!
What did you think of this week's Tour Group? Are you ready to visit Thailand? How amazing was the ladyboy show? Would you rather go ziplining or hang out with elephants? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!