A Travellerspoint blog

The ups and downs of Paradise

My journey from Thailand to Malaysia, with a few hiccups along the way.

sunny 33 °C

Hey guys!

As always I hope this silly little blog finds you all well, enjoying spring time wherever you may be.

So when we last spoke, I had just a few days left in Khon Kaen. So on the Friday I headed down to Bangkok once again to see the fabulous Eimear and have some well-deserved and much-needed girly time! It was so great, we caught up on our travelling adventures since leaving each other in Alice, gossiped ruthlessly, and ate some pretty awesome fajitas, all at the same time! Aren't we good?!?! Eimear was very very kind and let me stay with her in a truly swanky hotel, which was amazing, and I had the best night's sleep! We then got up, had a lounge and a swim in the pool, and went to Koh San Road for some dinner and a massage, it was perfect! I was so sad to say goodbye to her when she had to head off to catch her flight, but it was so great to catch up with her, and we both decided that we are the most cosmopolitan people we know, just meeting up in Bangkok for dinner, darling! haha

Anyway, I got a room ready for the boys to join me in the middle of the night, which was officially the hottest twin room in all of Bangkok, and Dan and I had to squish into one teeny single bed, but for some of the night I actually slept on towels on the floor as it was cooler down there! After that money-saving effort, we booked our bus for later that day, and hopped across the red-shirted throngs of town to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D Imax glory. Then we began our bus and boat combo journey down to Koh Tao.

I have never seen water so clear! We had actually arrived on paradise. We got to Koh Tao mid morning and struggled to find accommodation before collapsing into a triple room and then heading down to the beach. The sandy strip was very narrow and the water is shallow, but it was beautiful. The colour of the water took my breath away every time we would wander down there, whether early in the morning, or just before the sun said goodnight. It was stunning!
After a day of sunbathing and finding our feet and some cheap bungalows we headed out for a couple of drinks on the beach before grabbing some street food. Dan and I decided to get a lantern to set off from the beach, and found a secluded spot away from the bars to let it off. I put my bag down and turned to help Dan with the lantern and by the time I turned back round, my bag was gone. Now unlike the infamous Superloo incident of New Zealand, I did not freak out, have a meltdown, or generally fall apart, O no! I had learnt that this would not aid the situation, so after Dan had run up the beach looking for the dirty scoundrel without any luck, we headed to the Police Station in the back of a van. I had a little scream on the way to let out the frustration and anger of losing my passport, my purse, and most importantly and upsetting, some pictures of Mum, Dan Jane and Teegs as well as other little bits and pieces of sentimental value. We got to the police station where a guy who looked as much like a policeman as I do was lying on a sofa watching TV and proceeded to not believe that we had actually had something stolen. The whole process was fairly ridiculous, but he told us to come back in the morning where he would give us a report. We did this, after cancelling my cards and all that other boring stuff, and once I had the report, I had to find out how I could get a new passport, as my Thai visa was due to run out in less than two weeks - all fun and games! Eventually, I had to go up to Bangkok, send off all my papers, and then come back to Koh Tao.

Anyway, I was then able to continue to enjoy paradise! We were on the beach pretty much everyday, we went on a snorkelling tour of the island which was pretty awesome, where I saw a shark!! We went to Koh Tao festival which was really cool and we just generally chilled out and had a great time! Although this was the only Thai island we got to see or spend time on, it was exactly what I needed, and the scenery didn't disappoint. The Thai people weren't as friendly as our Northeastern pals, but we have put this down to tourism. I'm so glad we got to experience some 'real' Thailand, and I think I would recommend it to anyone!

After Koh Tao, James headed down to Malaysia, and Dan and I had a weekend in Phuket, waiting for my passport to arrive. The old town where we stayed (in the hotel that is featured in the film The Beach) was really nice, and had a very retro vibe to it. We wandered around, went to the cinema, and read, A LOT! It was really nice, but Dan had to leave a day before me, as his visa ran out. I stayed to collect my passport, which was another debacle, but finally got on a bus down to Penang in Malaysia the following morning. Actually to e more accurate, I got on 4 minibuses over the total journey, having countless near-death experiences at the hands of the mental drivers, but arrived to meet Dan and his friend Pauline in Penang at about 9pm. Pauline was very kind and let us stay for the night, and then we headed down to the Cameron Highlands to meet James in Tanah Rata. We stayed in Daniels Lodge, and our first day was spent hiding from the rain and just chilling out. Then James and I went for a it of a trek through the jungle and out to the tea plantations that are dotted through the countryside. The landscape was incredible, and the plantations were amazing, a patchwork of different green tones covering the hills. We saw the farmers havesting the tea with hoover-like machines and with small clippers and it was pretty awesome to see the plants themselves close up, and think of the process of converting them into the drink everyone back home loves. It was a really lovely walk, but we were pretty knackered by the time we got back!

After the stunning scenery of the Cameron Highlands, we headed down to KL to get ready for the Grand Prix. KL as a city was pretty cool, lots and lots of dizzyingly tall buildings, and most obviously the Petronas towers. On the Saturday I opted out of the qualifying (there really is only so much F1 I can take, and it isn't much at all!) and had some girly time, mooching around, doing a spot of shopping and popping up to the observation bridge on the two towers. I have to say this was absolutely not worth it! We had to queue for so long in the morning for the free ticket, as it's first come first serve, and then you get 10 measly minutes on the bridge, which is only 41 floors up the 88 floor building! A bit pants, but at least I can say that I've done it! Then on the Sunday we headed over to the Sepang Circuit to watching the deafening race. It was boiling hot out on the grass verge where we sat, but we had a pretty good view of a corner (apparently this is good??) and I did get vaguely enthused when the race actually started and Dan explained who everyone was and why that mattered! I'm sure the boys could tell you far more about it, but as this is my blog, I can't and won't bore you with the details hehe! Please forgive my girlyness!

The following morning we flew across to Medan in Sumatra, Indonesia.

I'm going to continue my tales of Indonesia on a separate entry, as there is lots to say.

See you all very soon.

Lots of Love.

Abi

Posted by Abilucy 22:46 Archived in Malaysia Tagged events Comments (1)

A working girl in Thailand!

Despite working 6 days a week, we've managed to squeeze some interesting bits and pieces to liven up our working weeks!

sunny 33 °C

Hey there everyone!

How are you all doing? I again can't believe that we're into March already, crazy stuff!

So as you all know by now, we have been working in Khon Kaen, and are three weeks into our one month stint. However, we haven't just been working, and have managed to experience some more Thai living and adventures of our own!

Every afternoon I have been teaching Thai teachers. This involves chatting to them in English, and going through stories that involve children being whisked up into space and chatting to some aliens amongst other things! I've really enjoyed it, and all the teachers are so friendly! The standard of English varies widely, and it's been quite a challenge at times to think of ways to explain some words. I love the English language, but that love is put to the test when you have to give a reason for why 'enough' is said the way it is, or what the difference between 'honest' and 'honesty' is. Now I'm sure you're all sitting there thinking, 'What is she moaning about, that's easy' but when a Thai teacher is sitting opposite you, with a limited vocab, it's not as easy as it sounds ok? Hehe
Anyway, as I mentioned, all the teachers are so lovely, and one of them asked me to meet her class and spend a morning at her school. Her name is Joy, and her English is very good, and teaches this at a small school about 12km outside Khon Kaen. So after collecting me, we drove out one morning to the school where I met her class and a couple of others. It was such a great experience to see yet another side of life out here. The school was really tiny, with only about 230 students ranging from 5yrs to 15ys and 17 teachers! There were just two wooden school buildings, a library, and a large playing field and this school experience was completely different to the one we had seen in Nam Phong with Pramote, it really highlighted the variation in standards throughout the school system in Thailand. I ended up teaching a class of about 50 students, who spent some time asking me questions about England, and my life there, and then we played hangman which they seemed to enjoy! It was a fantastic experience, and I was so glad to asked – thanks Joy!

I'm not sure if I mentioned in my last blog that we were working 6 days a week, but you can imagine how much we were looking forward to our day off. So when Dan and I were asked to teach 4 Thai girls for a friend of Diew's (John's wife) on Sunday, we of course jumped at the chance!!! Ning (the mother of the family) collected us from our hotel, and took us to her home, which was set in an incredibly beautiful complex of huge houses, right on the edge of a lake, with a communal swimming pool, manicured gardens, and big, big security gates!! We met the girls, who were all completely lovely, and spent the next 3-4 hours chatting with them. Dan entertained the little ones, who we nicknamed monkeys as a collective, and I gossiped with the older two. We actually had a really enjoyable afternoon, and then Ning and her husband kindly invited us to stay for dinner, and we had an amazing Korean-style BBQ! After dinner the girls wanted us to help them walk their two wonderful 'Chow Chow' dogs, who were called Monday and Friday! Apparently there were 7 originally, and various aunts and uncles now have the other 5! Amazing! Now if you don't know what Chow Chow's look like, please look them up, because then you can really picture Dan, 5 little girls (we had managed to accumulate another little monkey along the way) and myself being dragged around the roads by these tigers! A pretty funny sight, I can tell you!

The following Friday, we had decided to throw a little party at Boystown, to say goodbye to the boys properly, and to thank them once again for their hospitality. So we went on a little road trip in a big truck (James driving, me in the passenger seat, and Dan lying in the back asleep - http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy/4403069216/ ), collecting 10 tubs of ice cream, sauces, sprinkles and wafers on the way! We had dinner with the boys in the hall, and then we explained that we had bought some ice cream with us to say thank you, however, there were actually 45 boys, and 10 tubs, so they had to work out who was going to be in a group of 5 and who would be lucky enough to be in a group of 4. This was somehow decided by playing musical chairs, and I'm still not entirely sure how this resolved this problem, but they definitely enjoyed themselves while sorting it out! We then dished up the tubs, and passed around the accoutrements, and each group managed to make a weird and wonderful creation from the mixture they had! After the ice cream was polished off, the games seemed to start, and the evening was a double celebration, as the boys had finished their exams that week, and would be going home for summer soon. Pramote turned into some kind of game show host, asking the boys what their favourite part of Boystown was, splitting the boys into their various years, and then giving them the choice of either doing a dance, signing a song, or doing exercise! It was hilarious, and the festivities went on long after we were too tired to continue! I think the sugar rush really kicked in at about 9.30/10pm when we decided to drive back, as the boys were signing, dancing and just generally having the best time, and far too busy to say goodbye to us! Perfect!

The following morning we were collected from the hotel at 6.45am to be taken on a sigh-seeing day with John and Diew, their friends Jerry and Alan (a woman) and a guy called Robert that was part of the Rotary club. We were taken to a dinosaur museum after we had climbed 568 steps to reach the top of a hill where there was a temple and a look out post, overseeing the landscape for miles, which was beautiful. The dinosaur museum was great, and done really well, as there were many fossils found in the Khon Kaen Province of Thailand, and the surrounding areas. We then had a fantastic lunch on a floating house of sorts on a stunning lake. We ordered our food which was laid out on our table, then we were taken out by a small boat into a remote part of the lake to float for a couple of hours while we tucked into the masses of delicious food we had ordered! The whole afternoon just drifted on around us as we swapped stories and chilled out. It really reminded me of our afternoon on the houseboat in India on the backwaters, as there was no noise, no engine or feeling of urgency, just relaxation at it's most enjoyable! As with anything, our afternoon had to come to an end, and did when we got back into the bus, or so we thought! We were then taken for ice cream, driven to a temple where there we lots of monkeys (real ones, not little girls!) and then we went out for drinks at a bar with a live band to meet more friends! It was great, and apparently a typical Thai Day Out, where things are planned, and then plans escalate and multiply and you kind of just have to go with it! Fine by us, we had a lovely day! Thank you John and Diew!

Sunday was then spent relaxing in the morning, shopping and getting my hair cut in the afternoon(I was so scared they would do something horrible, given the language difficulties) and then going to a huge Chinese Party celebrating the New Year (again). We were taken by Ning and the girls, who disappeared to sell oranges almost as soon as we arrived. The whole thing was an open-air event, with about 5000 people attending to watch the activities on stage, which included lots of children singing and dancing in amazing costumes, authentic Chinese drumming and fortune teller who apparently sold a 'fortune' for 200,000B which foretold happiness and wealth! Yes we were as confused as you are! We also had a 9 course meal, which included shark's fin soup (Yes Dad I ate this!!). We felt very lucky to have been invited, and again had a great time.

Since then we've had a pretty quiet time, just working and eating really. Most of meals consist of chicken and rice from the street sellers that line the road that our hotel is on, each costing 30B which is about 60p! I'm heading to Bangkok on Friday to meet Eimear who I met on my Uluru tour, which I can't wait for, and then when Dan and James join me, we're heading down to the Islands for some serious fun in the sun! I'm so excited about travelling again, as it feels like we've been in the same place for ages now. Khon Kaen and Boystown has been a wonderful experience, but I'm about ready for the next I think!

For those of you who don't know, my flight home is booked for the 4th May, so once I've recovered from my jet lag, I'll be catching up with you all, get ready!

Miss you all so much.

Lots of Love!

Abi xxxx

Posted by Abilucy 19:27 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Boys Boys Boys continued!

More about Boys Town and the last few of weeks.

overcast 27 °C

So, as I was saying!

Once the boys returned from school we met Anukul (who runs Boystown, and who Pramote will eventually replace) and Pramote and the boys welcomed us to Boys Town. Anukul then explained the basic structure of the day for the boys, which consists of getting up 5am to do some exercise and one hour of chores, then off to school until around 4pm, when they have a snack, and then do another hour of chores. After this they get showered and have dinner and then have two hours of lessons, or homework time before bed. On Friday and Saturday afternoons they have free time when they can watch films, or play games (mostly football, which they all love, and are all avid supporters of English football teams!). Now despite this day sounding fairly full and strict to us, the boys are constantly smiling, get on with their chores happily, and everything just works. The gratitude for this opportunity is clear on all of their faces, and when the alternative is considered, you can understand why. The families that the boys have often left to come to Boystown are very, very poor, many are farmers, with little chance of changing that career. So the fact that so many of the Boys that graduate from Boystown can go to University, or further education is just incredible!

So on our first night in Boystown, we went out at about 7pm to watch and observe one of the English lessons that Pramote was teaching. It was with some of the younger boys, and we ended up helping and telling them about where we were from, what the weather was like in England and I got them to all write down in their notebooks the word ‘Kettering’! Most people in England don’t know where it is, but now everyone at Boystown does! My work is done!! Hehe.

From then on the routine of Boystown seemed to flow and mould around us; Dan and James going off to the Computer room to assess the computers (they actually found a Gecko in one, mice-nibbled cables, and just quite a lot of old-school stuff lying around), and me going off into the nearest village to wander around, and take in the rural side of Thailand. The land around Boystown is beautiful, and everyone along the road down into town was so friendly. They would constantly shout ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’ and ‘Where are you going?’ whenever we went past, and everyone would offer us lifts to the market as they drove by. I think I’m going to be severely disappointed when I return to England, and this no longer happens when I walk down the road! In the evenings when the Boys returned from school and had finished their chores, we would help with lessons, all taking a couple each, and getting to know our groups. Dan did a lesson on what to pack if you are going travelling, I discussed films and hobbies with an older group who were great, and James managed to find out where the local bus stop was in his lesson on directions, so everyone learnt something in that one!! Pramote would pop round to the guesthouse after he had finished teaching most nights, and come and chat with us which was great. He is so, so friendly, and we were all overwhelmed by how welcomed we were. He is actually being sent over to Australia for 6 months to study at Canberra Uni, which will improve his English immensely (although he is very good already!) and I think just talking to us everyday has helped too. One of the highlights in that first week was the Friday night, when the Boys performed a welcome concert for us. They played some traditional Thai folk music, using traditional instruments, and then they performed some more modern Thai and English music. It was great and they were all so talented! The instruments had been donated to them, and since then, they have all taught themselves to play! We were then asked t sing (I got very worried as I have no musical ability whatsoever!) and we ended up singing some karaoke style songs at them – very embarrassing!

After a week of being in Boystown, we were invited to join Anukul and Pramote at the Khon Kaen Rotary Club meeting. Anukul asked me to prepare a few words to explain what we were doing at Boystown, as the Rotary Club funds a large proportion of Boystown, and helps organise fundraisers. So I tried to find something slightly smarter to wear in my limited selection of travelling clothes, and we headed to Khon Kaen with Pramote. We had a lovely lunch with the Rotarians, and I said a few words, and then we listened to the other topics being discussed in Thai. Hehe.
After the meeting we were introduced to Dr John Nigel-brownlee, who is an Australian who now lives and works in Thailand, and who is a big supporter of Boystown. We got chatting to him about what we had been doing, and he invited us to come and spend the day with him on Saturday, and he would show us the sights and sounds of Khon Kaen.

So on Saturday Pramote dropped us at the bus stop and we met John in Khon Kaen and he took us the University Art Gallery, gave us a tour of the different areas of the city and then took us for lunch at a huge shopping centre that has been built in one year! After lunch we tried to find a dinosaur park, where there are fossils found in the local area, but unfortunately, it had been a while since John had been, so we didn’t managed to find it. After having a drink in town, we got back on, what we thought was the correct bus and headed back to Boystown. However, we had actually managed to get on the wrong bus, and poor Pramote had to pick us up and take us back, bless him – sorry again Pramote!

Now we had only planned on being in Boystown for a couple of weeks, and our Thai visas were about to run out, and after attempting to renew them at immigration, we had to take a quick trip up to Laos to have them extended. We managed to get a 29 baht train to Nong Khai (Thai border town) which is about 60p for a 3 hr journey, and although we had to pay for our Laos visa, our 60 day Thai tourist visa was magically free which was pretty awesome! We spent three days in Vientiane, which was pretty cool, lots of French influenced buildings and food, but the ‘hotel’ we stayed in was awful, and smelt disgusting! We bumped into Ashley and Ben who we’d met on our Chaing Mai Tour, which was really weird, and random, so we had drinks and dinner with them the first night we arrived which was really nice. After doing a bit of sight-seeing and collecting our visas we were ready to head back to good old Thailand and Boystown.

When we got back from Laos, Dan and I decided to go in Khon Kaen as a treat for Dan’s birthday, so we hopped on the bus, and got a hotel, and ate some sushi! It was nice to be out and about again, and we thought we would make the most of being able to go for a drink, so we found a ‘club’ and got a table. Yes that’s right, a table. It seems that clubs here don’t really have dance floors as such, everyone just drinks around a tall table, and then dances around it later in the night. We found this quite odd, and spent most of our time in ‘Rad bar’ watching a group of lady boys and making bets of which toilet they would visit! We had fun anyway!

Back in Boystown, once Dan and James had everything up and running in the Computer room, Pramote offered to show us more of the surrounding area, and arranged for us to go on a picnic to a local dam. But before that we were lucky enough to be asked to visit one of the local schools, which a few of the Boys attend. When we arrived we were greeted by the new director, who had started only a few days before. He was very friendly, obviously very proud of his school and told us that there were over 3000 students in attendance! After explaining what we had been dong at Boystown, the IT teacher arrived, and we were taken to the IT suite which was very impressive. However he explained that there was a problem that he wanted solving, and could Dan and James help? They of course said yes, and began having a look. I was then whisked off by one of the English teachers and asked if I would like to teach a lesson! Having not known that I would be teaching, I hadn’t really prepared anything, as we had done with the lessons at Boystown, so felt a bit overwhelmed! I asked if I could sit and watch while a lesson too place before helping, which was fine. It was really interesting to see the style of the teaching, and the structure of the lesson, and I really enjoyed the teaching I did. Needless to say Dan and James were in the computer suite for the entire day, and left after Pramote and I at about 5.30pm!

But back to our picnic! After taking the Boys to school Pramote loaded up the car with food (there was sooo much) and explained that we would stop off at the market on the way to get some more!!!!! After about an hours driving we arrived at Ubolratana Dam which was amazing. The lake was huge, you literally could see the other side, and the landscape around it was beautiful. We wandered along the top of the dam and then fed the fish before lunch. Pramote made up the bbq, cooked some hotdogs and a whole fish, and then we tucked into our feast which was amazing. The spot we had chose was next to the river under the shade of a lovely big tree, so once we were fat from lunch we just laid down and watched the world go by, it was great! A couple of hours went by, and then Pramote explained that it was now cool enough to climb up to a see a big Buddha and monastery on top of a hill that we could see in the distance. It didn’t really feel cool enough to us, but we trusted our guide and headed off. About half way up the 438 steps to the Buddha, was a site where another temple was in the process of being built, and a monk was sat there. He explained that for a donation of 20 baht we could write on one of tiles that would be placed on the roof. So we did. There are pictures to illustrate all of our Boystown adventures, so have a look on http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy/ to see what I mean.
The following morning Pramote took us to King Cobra Village, where we watched some rather odd and rather scary snake charming by little kids and older guys! All very strange but entertaining too! And finally on the Sunday, we had been invited to attend a day of bowling with Pramote and the Nam Phong Rotary Club, to raise money for a local nursery. I think Dan, James and Pramote played about 27 games of bowling over the course of about 7 hours! The boys said they hadn’t bowled so much in their entire lives!!! It just kept going! But I got to entertain Pramote’s gorgeous daughter Yam! She’s so lovely, and it was great to be able to communicate with her, with language, quite freeing almost.

After that weekend we decided it was time to leave Boystown, and when we broke the news to Anukul and Pramote, they asked if we would like to attend one last Rotary event before heading down to Bangkok. It was a mobile hospital which is organised each month and visits a different village every time, providing free medical advice, prescriptions, dental care and even hair cuts for the local villagers! It was great to see this kind of work being done, and the turn out was really good. At this event we met John again, who had already discussed a possible project that he was setting up, and had asked Dan and James to cost it for him. At the hospital event, after Anukul had explained that we were leaving the following day for Bangkok, John offered for us to work for him for a month on this project and others, allowing us to travel afterwards for a bit longer. This sounded great to us, as we had been thinking about trying to get some work out here somewhere.

So that finally brings us up to date. We are working for John in Khon Kaen, and I know most of you won’t believe this, my old colleagues definitely won’t, but I’m actually helping, and kind of consulting on setting up a real estate office, on the lettings side! Yes that’s right, I’m half way round the world, and I’m still thinking about move ins, check outs and those darned utlities!!! Louise am I mad or what?!?! Hehe Anyway, it’s all good experience, and we are teaching English every evening which is really great, so it’s going well so far. We are staying in a really lovely hotel just across the road from work, so we can stroll in after rolling out of bed! We still visit Boystown, and Pramote is leaving for Australia soon, so we will be able to say a big goodbye and good luck to him which will be great.

I better go now, lots to be getting on with, but I’m missing you all loads and loads, and can’t wait to catch up with you all soon.

Also I would like to say a massive congratulations to Sally and Gary who have just got engaged! Wish I was there to give you guys a huge hug, but hopefully I’ll see you soon!

Love Abi xxx

Posted by Abilucy 18:13 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Jungle Trek and Boys Boys Boys!

The lo-down on our Chaing Mai trek and what we have been up to in Boys Town!

sunny 35 °C

Hello people,

How are you all? I hope you are all great going into Feb, can you believe its the second month of 2010 already?!?! I definitely can't, I think my timeline was paused when I left in October, so I'm proper confused!!!

Anyway, I left you last time half way through our adventures up in Chaing Mai, so I will now complete that chapter and tell you all about Boys Town, where we have been for the last few weeks.

So after cooking and eating enough food to last us a fair few days, we went off on a three day trek to hopefully burn some of it off. We were again collected from our guesthouse and taken to an orchid farm, which was pretty amazing, and had so many different kinds, just hanging above the ground with really huge roots, which was odd. There were 11 in our group, and everyone was so lovely! There was a family of four from New Zealand - Dave, Karen, Mitch and Ryan - a couple from America who had just spent a couple of years working in the Africa for the Peace Corp - Ashley and Ben - and a couple from the UK, Carl who was from Wales and Karen who was from Scotland. We all seemed to get on pretty much instantly, and filled the rest of the hour long bus journey chatting and comparing travel stories!

The journey ended at an Elephant camp, where we had lunch, before hopping on an elephant for a little walk. This time Dan and I were on a seat, and James was sitting on the neck of the elephant. A slightly better arrangement than our Indian experience (well for Dan and I at least!), and the walk was a lot longer this time. We went down the hill to the river where the elephants played in the water and the tiny baby had a swim and a wash and just generally had a great wet time! We then walked back up the hill behind the big mama elephant who had a super huge bum!!! Being aroud the elephants was great, and seeing the landscape around us from the top of one of these huge, gentle creatures was really special. Everything looked so lush, and it really did feel like we were in the thick of it already, despite having so much more to come!
After the elephant walk we began the first part of the trek up to a waterfall. The first climb was quite tough, as we were walking though some thick undergrowth and the track was generally quick steep. The heat was really quite oppressive at the same time, and by the time we reached the waterfall we were all ready for a little rest. As you can see from the pics (http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy) James and Dan were so hot they jumped in the waterfall immediately, and cooled off, before considering the fact that they had bought a minimal amount of clothing with them, and had just drenched one out of the two possibly outfits! hehe!

We then spent another couple of hours going up the hill/mountain! It was pretty hard going, but once we were at the top the views down the valley and across the landscape were completely breath-taking, We were definietly in the jungle! Our guides, Dom and Bin, explained that we were staying in the village that we had arrived at, with a family who were part of the hill tribe call the Lahu tribe. The house that we were going to be sleeping in was entirely made of bamboo, from the stilts that it stood on about 12 ft off the ground to the benches that we were sitting on! The toilets and showers were set down the hill slightly, and definitely weren't built for privacy, but they did the trick after the super sweaty climb, and once we had cleaned up, we had dinner. After we'd eaten, we all sat around the fire, chatting and telling more stories. However, our attentions turned to one particular story that originated i the toilet of a giant spider, that Dan and I spotted, on a group trip to the loo in order to share the torch!! The boys then went down to investigate, and sure enough it was officially the biggest spide most of us had ever seen! This is a picture of the fella in question:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/webjames/4259591184/

As most of you know I am not the biggest fan of spiders, so I scuttled off to bed after this episode, and generally felt like I had about a thousand of them crawling all over me, before I finally went to sleep. Dan and a couple of the others in the group were fairly convinced they heard some kind of large cat (tiger, lion, liger etc) in the middle of the night, but I wasn't disturbed by this, so I can't possibly comment!

The following morning we woke up to find that it had rained - a lot - throughout the night, and most of the things we had left out to dry on the balcony, were now even more wet then when we'd hung them out! But after breakfast we donned our sqelchy shoes and socks, and headed across the fields and back into the jungle, in search of more waterfalls. The rain had obviously made the entire forest floor completely trecherous, and we spent most of that part of the trek doing less trekking, and far more sliding. Dan took an impression couple of tumbles, and we were shoved out of the way a couple of times by a group of aggressive frenchman, but we made it to the first waterfall on the right side of safetly, and had a quick dip in the freezing water and had some lunch. Again the surrounding scenery was completely beautiful and we really did feel like we were in the middle of nowhere. After lunch we carried on to the second waterfall which was huge and cascading down the rocks into the pool below. This was just a short wander from our second camp, where we were staying with another group from a differnt hill tribe who were all incredibly welcoming, and very friendly, getting stuck into chat between us and our guide, and laughing like schoolgirls, despite having recently celebrated their 40th birthday! The bamboo shacks that were to house us for the evening were on stilts right next to the river, which we could hear soaring down the hills as we ate dinner and relaxed by the fire again.

On the last day we woke up and headed down the valley, following the river through the hills, and out onto some open planes before reaching the white water rafting site. The variation in the landscapes that we had travelled through was amazing, and we just couldn't get over how this was all just an hour away from Chaing Mai, a fairly big city!
So once we had clambered into our rafting gear, we hopped onto a couple of rafts and began our journey in two groups, down the river. I loved rafting, and had so much fun, taking orders from our instructor, and trying to avoid the big rocks, and sailing down the rapids! It was great! We had a couple of run-ins with the other team, and plenty of banter and splashing before we reached a calmer part of the river, where we climbed over to the bamboo rafts that we got back to the lunch site just round the corner from where we had ridden the elephants on the first day. James steered the bamboo raft, so all that Oxford punting experience came in handy, and we arrived at the site after a nice relaxing, if a little wet (I was soaked up to my waist!) ride. After eating a delicious lunch (the food throughout the trek was amazing, and russled up on small fires in the bamboo huts by our various hosts!) we headed back to Chaing Mai and organised to all meet up in a bar in town for a few drinks later that night. We had a really great time and it was nice to see everyone after a shower!! hehe.

We then had a couple more days just chilling in Chaing Mai before heading to Boys Town. For those of you that are unaware, we had agreed to do some volunteer work for an independent charity called The Joe Homan Charity, which sets up and runs various childrens homes in India and Thailand, providing education, accomodation and opportunities that would not readily be available to underprivileged children. Please have a look at the website for more information, especially on Boys Town, as it will give you a better idea of the fantastic work that is being carried out (not to sound too preachy!!!)

http://www.joehoman.org.uk
http://www.joehoman.org.uk/thaiboystown.asp

Dan and James were going to try and fix the computers that were on site, and I was going to be doing some teaching, and helping the boys with general English conversation. So we arrived in Khon Kaen, which is the nearest city to Boys Town, about 40km away, and were collected from the bus station from Pramote, who was one of the orginial boys to attend Boys Town 20 years ago. He is now managing the site and looks after all of the 60 boys that live there. We arrived in Boys Town and were shown to the guesthouse where we have been styaing for the duration of our time here. It's been so nice to have a proper house again, being able to cook for ourselves, and have our own space. Pramote had to go and attend some meetings so we were left to our own devices to look around and get our bearings. The site includes the boys' bedrooms, kitchen, dining hall, classroom, football pitch and lots of gardens where vegetables and fruits are grown. The lake has fish in, which the boys catch for dinner, and there are also chickens and a little dog who wanders around observing the days' activities.

To be continued shortly! Far far too much for one blog!

. . .

Posted by Abilucy 01:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Howdy 2010!

Leaving India and heading to Thailand to see in the new year!

sunny 30 °C

Hello boys and girls, and welcome to the 'Teenies'!! I hope you all had a fun-filled festive season? It was certainly a change of scenery for us, thats for sure!

I'm sorry it's taken me quite so long to update you on our whereabouts and the antics we have been getting up to. It seems no matter how long you sit on the internet at a time, there is always something else to do!! Hope you can all forgive me!

Anyway, so the last time I wrote, we were in India, so from Goa, we headed across India to Calcutta, where we stayed for just one day, and managed to pack in quite a lot of walking. We went across the river and then headed up to the flower market which was amazing! There were so many vibrant colours and smells, it was completely overwhelming! After wandering around some more of the city, grabbing some food and then befriending a massive Indian guy, we returned to our hotel and then went back to the airport.

We arrived into Bangkok in the early hours and with the help of Lucy's perfect Map, we managed to head to a guesthouse just round the corner from the Koa San Road (the main tourist/backpacker road). After a nap we went for a wander and managed to find a giant shopping centre, with 6 levels of computer stuff! Obviously James and Dan were in their element, and needless to say I was less than impressed. So I settled in for the long haul and sat with a book, while they filled their boots full to the brim of geek-gear! They came back when their stomachs told them it was time and decided to sample some Thai food. Now I'm not exaggerating when I say that as soon as the noodles hit their lips they went bright red and started sweating! Dan had to put an ice cream on his tongue for about 15 mins before he started to feel normal again! Lesson number 1 - Thai food is VERY hot! hehe
We then wandered round and found an even bigger shopping centre, and the main square, that would be our New Years spot. We sat down and had a drink in these weird beer areas, where they only serve one kind of beer, and they all have separate live bands on. We then headed round to the cinema and ended up booking our tickets for Avatar in 3D at the Imax for New Year's day, and caught Sherlock Holmes too!

The following day we had another wander, and then headed for New Years Eve drinks of the Koa San. After dinner and a couple of buckets of alcohol, we headed over to Central Point, where there were millions of Thai people, counting down to New Year. I should have pointed out that Bangkok was a lot hotter and more humid than India generally, which is why you have to forgive just how hot and sweaty I look in the pics of New Year!! So bear that in mind ok??? So we saw in the new year, and began making our way through the crowds and over to a club after midnight, but unfortunately, Dan didn't feel very well, so we headed back to the guesthouse. The following day we again had a pretty chilled one, and saw Avatar in the afternoon, which was awesome. We then headed over to an area we had read about to try and experience some of Bangkok's more individual offerings. I won't say more than that, if you need any further info, please just email me!!!! Just trying to protect the innocence of the more mature readers!!!

Anyway, after all that excitement we felt that we needed some culture and the following day we headed over to Wat Pho - a huge temple that houses the largest reclining Buddha, at 46m long!!! It was pretty amazing in there, and everyone was praying and walking around the huge gold figure. The whole place did feel very spiritual, and I felt drawn into making a few New Years wishing that hopefully Buddha will grant me - don't think it works like that does it!?! We then went around the sight and took in the many more buddha figures which were again all incredibly detailed and ornate.

The following day we were leaving for Chaing Mai in the evening, getting a 12 hour bus, so we decided to make the most of our last Bangkok day, and Dan and I went to the Aquarium! It was pretty awesome, and we saw some pretty amazing things, including a 500kilo frozen tuna!!! Then, once we were stuffed with dinner, we hopped on the bus, for what was possibly the most uncomfortable journey ever! The bus was an 'air-con, VIP' bus, but what that actually meant was that the seated reclined into a position that paralysed the person behind, and that it started off being completely boiling, and then when sleep fell upon us, we all turned a little bit blue as the temperature dipped below freezing!! Needless to say, when we arrived in Chaing Mai at about 7am, we were not well rested, and very much looking forward to finding a real bed!

After having a nap, we decided that while we were in Chiang Mai we wanted to complete a Thai Cooking Course, and possibly do some kind of trek. We found good prices for both of these, and booked the cooking for the following day, and the a 3 day trek after that.
We had chosen an Organic Thai Farm for the setting of our course, so we were collected from our guesthouse and then taken to a market to collect some supplies. Our guide and head chef was called Nice, and she was, although I definitely think she had an edge, and wouldn't want to cross her as she was in charge of the chilis!! She talked us through some of the ingredients that we needed from the market, and then we headed to the farm, where Nice took us around the gardens where most of the vegetables and herbs that we would be using were grown. It was fascinating to see that all of these things were growing around us, and some of the smells were incredible. We then started making our curry paste with our own mega mortar and pestel and then started cooking. The whole day was great, and it was so much fun to learn how to make proper Thia meals from scratch. I made a green curry (delicious) chicken Tom Yam soup (yummy), Chicken and Holy Basil stir fry (very tasty), spring rolls (scrumptious) and bananas in coconut milk ( I didn't actually try these as I was too full from all the other fabulous food I had managed to create!). So all in all, to sum up - you are all invited to our first Thai dinner party when we get back home, I can promise you the food will be GREAT! (don't worry we did get to take a recipe book home with us, so we know what we're doing!)

. . .

I think this blog is becoming far too huge, so I'm going to stop there and give you guys a chance to catch up on that so far. I will try and update the next parts soon, I promise! But we are all fine, doing our volunteer work at the moment, and missing you all lots and lots!

Hopefully speak to you soon, and hope you are all coping with the super cold weather you're having apparently. I have forgotten what snow/cold feels like hehe.

Love Abi

Posted by Abilucy 00:14 Archived in Thailand Tagged air_travel Comments (3)

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