Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

An Elephant stomped on my toe!

Living in Thailand, home to the Asian Elephant, I just had to spend a day caring for these amazing creatures. With a special occasion on the horizon, my boyfriend and I booked an afternoon at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, where we would become Elephant Mahouts for the day, caring, washing, feeding and walking them through their daily routine. Turns out it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!

Being picked up from our Condo at 1pm, we were driven to the site an hour away from Chiang Mai hidden within the mountains. We joined our party and wandered over to meet the first elephants of the day. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant, you’ll know just how adorable these little creatures are! At just 2 months old, we got to meet Poof, who was no taller than my knees. He was the most loveable character. The sanctuary had even made him a step to reach his mother’s milk as he wasn’t quite tall enough.

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After capturing a great photo opportunity and having a briefing about the day, we set off for the camp. Arriving, we were greeted by at least 2 dozen elephants, all of different ages and sizes wandering around happily, without a chain in sight! There were mahouts chopping bamboo and male elephants drinking from a hose pipe, a very surreal sight I have to admit.

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We finally got to meet our own elephants for the day. A little apprehensive of the size of them, up close and personal with an elephant 3 times the size of you is pretty overwhelming I have to say. Regardless, I met my elephant, Chompoo and was thankful when I saw she was smaller than the rest. At five years old, she was still huge but the perfect size for me. We were given baskets of bananas and bamboo and I jumped straight in feeding Chompoo, although she was a fussy elephant and only wanted to eat bamboo that was sliced in half so rejected any that weren’t!

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Next on our agenda was their daily cleaning process, starting with using a collection of leaves bound together to get all of the dirt off their backs. Next was my favourite part of the day, walking down to bathe the elephants. Sitting on an elephant’s back with a brush in your hand, gently cleaning them from head to toe was so surreal, such an incredible experience!

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After being completely soaked by an elephant spraying water all over us, it was time to walk and ride our elephants. Now I know there is a lot of controversy over riding elephants here in Thailand, but there is no way I would have done so if I knew or saw that the sanctuary was unethical and treated their elephants with cruelty. With a credible reputation at Patara, I climbed onto Chompoo’s bare back, not a seat or any danger in sight and guided Chompoo through the walk, patting her and saying Dee Dee (Thai for good) along the way.

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Again riding an elephant was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget and actually I won’t have to for a while either. After thanking my Mahout and posing for the last few shots, I screamed out in pain only to realise that Chompoo had stood on my toe! In excruciating pain, I can tell you for a 5 year old, she is very heavy! She must have heard my scream because she leapt off me, complete with pink nail varnish still attached to her foot! So, as I told you, it’s an experience I won’t be able to forget for a while, with a shining purple bruise on my toe! Despite that, I would highly recommend anyone to spend a day playing and caring for an elephant, it’s highly rewarding and incredibly exciting too! IMG_20160123_165642.jpg

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

Visiting a Hmong hill tribe for New Year!

Visiting a hill tribe has been high on my list of new experiences since I became an Expat in Thailand. So discovering an organised donation trip was right up my street. Joining the party, we followed in convoy up into the stunning mountains of Chiang Mai. We (my boyfriend and I) asked our school for donations and the kids went crazy! We had bags and bags full of clothes, stationery, toys and food, it was so generous! The hard part was trying to fit it all onto a moped!

The drive itself was very scenic, driving past farms, rice fields and tiny little villages hidden in the mountain.That was until disaster struck, our moped caught something and we had an instant flat tyre! Deciding to leave our bike hidden under a tree, we jumped in the back of a songtao. Literally clinging onto the back due to the lack of room, it was an experience I have to admit, not one I’d like to try again though!

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Scenic mountain views!

A Hmong hill tribe New Year is not what was expected at all, in fact the hill tribe village itself wasn’t. It was a tiny village but they had a huge stage and electricity, where Hmong children were showing off well-rehearsed dances in their traditional dress. It was lovely to see and the kids were adorable, it was just not quite what I had in mind.

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Hill tribe dances!

We organised an area for all the party’s donations, I half expected children to be running around choosing their favourite toys from our selection, or taking full advantage of the hundreds of snacks that had just been donated. What I failed to realise until the end of the day was that they had their very own shop, where they sold most of these snacks anyway.

There were some games organised for the children including face painting with the additional use of flour and water. My boyfriend was covered in this flour paste head to toe by the time the kids had been let loose on him. There was a lot of free time to wander around the village. Watching the kids play football with an old used tyre, Lee (my boyfriend) even got involved for a game too!

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Wandering around, the strong smell of farms led me to a small family of pigs and piglets feeding from their mother.

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Adorable family of pigs!

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the children’s entertainment, hand-made wooden go-karts which looked like so much fun; I definitely would have had a go if no one was looking!

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Go-karting fun!

 

All in all, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting a hill tribe to be. But that maybe because I was a little naïve of the reality, although I don’t think anyone would expect to see expensive motorbikes all around a Hmong village or teenagers on their iPhone’s. Maybe they would, I don’t know. It was a good experience and I’d like to do it again, but maybe next time it won’t be with an organised trip and I’d like to venture a little further out to see if that makes a difference.

Have you visited a hill tribe in Northern Thailand?

I’d love to hear if your experience is any different to mine!

 

Posted in TEFL experiences

The hardest part is saying goodbye.

When you live abroad, you often think about those you’ve left behind at home, family, friends and a completely different way of life.

I love living in Thailand, it’s only been 10 months but it feels like a new home. I miss my family but I wouldn’t change what I’m doing because I love it. Yes there are down days of feeling home sick, but I can’t think about that too much, because my family are happy for me. I know they miss me, my mum tells me all the time, but being away just isn’t the same. Sometimes you just want a hug or to complain about your day. Don’t get me wrong, I can do that over Skype, but the 7 hour time difference is such a pain, there’s no opportunity to ring home midweek.

Weekends are great, I can catch up with family and tell them what awesome things I’ve been doing. Driving around Northern Thailand, visiting waterfalls and having a crazy school week at work.

Inevitably, the time comes where you need to go home and see your family, when Skype just doesn’t cut it any more. That time came for me this Christmas. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere but England for Christmas. I’ve heard stories of trying to find a restaurant that does an English style Christmas dinner and it just not turning out right, not feeling like Christmas at all.

Walking past the biggest shopping centre in Chiang Mai and seeing a huge Christmas tree is lovely, but it just didn’t feel right. It should be cold and rainy at Christmas, shops should be full of people buying last minute presents and the house should be lovely and warm by the fire, drinking mulled wine and wearing slippers! Not walking around in shorts, t-shirts and sandals or swimming in an outside pool. I mean I love it, but it just didn’t feel like Christmas at all. Even with the school Christmas play, singing Christmas songs with my students or exchanging gifts with them, making Christmas stockings for the class or decorating our class Christmas tree. It was enjoyable but I knew where I had to be. Home.

Around came the dreaded 13 hour flight home, losing 7 hours and trying to adapt to a change of scenery, catching up with people, whilst also conquering the horrendous jet lag that had suddenly grounded me to my bed for 3 days.
Going home was great though, you only realise when you do how much you have at home and how much people really care about you.

My parents dropped me at the airport and we all knew the hardest part was coming. Saying goodbye. Knowing that it’s probably not going to be until next Christmas before I go home again, it’s hard to say goodbye and have a year to wait to receive another hug.

Have a really emotional goodbye, horrible seeing my family upset because of something I have chosen to do, but I know they are proud of me for what I’m doing, despite the fact they probably hate that I’m going away again.

Coming back to Thailand, I saw everything in a new light. I thought I’d be more excited to come back but it felt so strange. I guess that’s because I’d just been home, my flat no longer felt like my new home, more like a holiday.

The longer I’m here, the more I get used to my new way of life. I still miss home but I know I will never get this opportunity again. So for now, I’m happy, I’m content, I’m living an awesome life and I’ve never felt better in myself! Here’s to the rest of my adventure Teaching abroad! 

 

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My Family