Thailand's rescued cave boys woke up in their own homes for the first time in more than three weeks on Thursday, with many rising at dawn to attend a religious ceremony.
The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach were discharged from a hospital in the northern province of Chiang Rai on Wednesday and later made their first public appearance.
During a national TV broadcast, they smiled, joked and showed solidarity with one another, as they shared details of their traumatic experience inside the flooded Tham Luang cave complex, as reported by Reuters.
Many of the boys hail from the district of Mae Sai, near the border with Myanmar. Some were greeted with hugs, tears and smiles from waiting relatives and friends when they returned home on Wednesday. Others were blessed with water as they entered their homes.
On Thursday, some of the boys and their relatives took part in religious ceremonies at Mae Sai's Wat Pha That Doi Wao temple – an ancient shrine with scenic views of the surrounding countryside.
The last of the group of 13 were brought out of the cave on Tuesday July 10th, ending a gruelling 18-day ordeal that claimed the life of Samarn Kunan, a volunteer diver and former Thai navy SEAL who came to help with the rescue mission.
Samarn died on July 6th after losing consciousness during a mission to place oxygen tanks deep inside the cave, just two days before the first boys were brought to safety.
The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said on Wednesday.