A Travellerspoint blog


Week 12 - Final Week in Thailand

I spent my last week working around The Mirror Foundation. Another girl came to do outdoor work which was exciting because I’d been the only girl for a while.

We helped dig a drain on the side of the road that led to the foundation. During the rainy season the road always floods and is super difficult to drive on. P’Akong was helping design a new drainage system for the road so we helped him out. Hopefully it will make a difference in a couple weeks. In the afternoon we did some cement work behind the kitchen. Tuesday night we went into Chiang Rai to show the new volunteers around. Celena and I acted as tour guides for all the newbies.

We worked in the rice fields again mainly trimming the grass around the fields in preparation for the harvest. We used scythes to cut the grasses. It was really hot so we got pretty sweaty pretty fast. During my first week the grass there had just been cut and it was crazy to see how much had grown in just a month. After work Marina and I took a walk. There were some amazing views just up the road from the foundation. Wednesday night we did a movie night but I can’t remember now what we watched.

We went to work with Tiger again but this time at the police station in Chiang Rai. We helped take care of their yard work and helped dig a new drainage system around the station too. They were planning to build a garden in the back so we helped dig out the area for that.

We first went to Tiger’s house where we chopped down a huge piece of bamboo. I would guess around 30 feet tall. We chopped it into smaller pieces and loaded it into trucks to take to the police station. There we used machetes to cut and prepare the bamboo into small strips. Then we used the strips to make a fence by weaving them together and sticking them into the ground. The fence held all the yard waste we had collected. In addition to making a garden the officers were deciding to compost their leftover waste instead of burning it. We had our usual Friday dinner of Pad Thai and egg rolls and had a bonfire because Celena and I were leaving that week. This photo shows me and Tosh (the new girl) using machetes.
This picture is of me, Tosh, and Tiger. C05279F9-BE99-43B9-A928-FEEBBC81BAEE.jpeg

I packed and left Thailand for Malaysia! (I had an overnight stop in Malaysia on my way to Bali)

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 05:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Chiang Mai Weekend

Sorry it’s been awhile since I last posted. I’m in Bali now and it’s amazing but I want to finish all my entries about Thailand first.

I spent my last weekend in Thailand with Grace and Jeff in Chiang Mai. It’s about a 4 hour bus ride from Chiang Rai. I stayed at a hostel on the North side of the city. Chiang Mai is shaped like a square with a canal running around the “old city”. The old city is only about 1 square mile so it’s very walkable. After checking into my hostel I met up with Grace and Jeff at the Saturday night market for dinner. I had a banana and honey roti which is kind of like a pancake/crepe. It was delicious. I also had some vegetarian potstickers. We walked around for a while and did a bit of gift shopping.

On Sunday I walked around a few temples before meeting up with Grace and Jeff. Here’s some pictures of the temples. One of them was built in the 1300s. Grace and I decided to go to a place called the Grand Canyon which was a natural canyon filled with freshwater. We swam and went cliff jumping which was fun but painful. If you’ve never gone cliff jumping you should note that you are supposed to enter the water feet first with your toes pointed. I was so nervous about jumping I didn’t even think about how I would hit the water so I learned that the hard way. Afterwards we met up again with Jeff and went to a place called Love at First Bite for lunch. I’d gone there two weeks earlier with Mackenzie and Marina. I got a pizza which tasted amazing.

On Monday I ate breakfast at the hostel and later met up with Grace and Jeff for lunch. We went to a place called the Tikky Cafe which was walking distance for both of us. We got these amazing Oreo milkshakes and I got Panang Curry which is my favorite type! From there we took a red car (what they call Song Taos in Chiang Mai) to the bus station and headed back to Chiang Rai.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 23:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Week 11 - Second Homestay

So it's been a while and I'm going to try to catch you up really fast. I did leave Thailand already but I'm still going to post blogs from my last 2 weeks there. Right now I'm in Bali and it's incredible. More on that to come.

For my second homestay I was at p'Akongs house again. Kelin was with me along with 5 Japanese girls.

In the morning we drove out to the homestay. On the way there we stopped at a school to help them move a pile of sticks so they could build a fence. It was actually the school the childcare program was at that day so we got to see them in action. After lunch we helped prepare bamboo for a house in the village. After working Kelin and I found 4 broken guitars in p'Akongs house. Kelin plays guitar and is really good. He was able to fix up a guitar and played it. That was really cool.

We worked on the road again which was fun but exhausting. We actually were able to finish it finally which felt really good. Later Kelin and I took a walk out of the village. We just walked and looked at the farms.

We built a house! It was a traditional bamboo house. We used machetes to prepare the bamboo. I am really good at using machetes. We were building the house for p'Akongs brother in law. He lost his wife about a month earlier and didn't have any kids. He didn't make a lot of money and couldn't really afford to pay t o have his house repaired. The process was really cool but way too long to type and difficult to describe. We finished our work early so we went to the waterfall again. ALWAYS fun. Thursday night we just chilled and I read my book.

Friday morning we went back to the house and cleaned up the yard a bit. We met p 'Akongs brother in law and finished up the house. We finished pretty early so Kelin and I went on another walk. We walked to p'Akongs farm. On the way there we almost got attacked by dogs. They belonged to the farm next to his. When we walked past they ran at us and started barking viciously. We knew the people working in the farm so they called back the dogs. One of the women who was working at the farm has a little son who was in the kindergarten but was home that day because the previous day he'd been attacked by a dog and had bandages all over his face. He had to stay home from school so he was there with his mom. We made it to the farm and it looked like a scene from Jurassic world. Then we went back to mirror. We did a little movie night and that was the week!

My next post (hopefully tomorrow) will be about Chiang Mai because I spent 2 weekends there.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 06:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Week 10 in Thailand

This week flew by so fast! Here's what our days usually look like. Saturdays we only work in the mornings though and travel into Chiang Rai City at 1.
Daily Schedule
8:00 - breakfast
8:30 - daily meeting with Nikki
9:30 - begin work
11:30 - break for lunch
12:00 - lunch
1:30 - resume work
3:30 - finish work for the day
5:00 - dinner

Our weeks start Tuesday mornings instead of Monday because our weekends are weird here. Everyone who was on outdoor work with me left this past weekend but luckily a new group of people came. Out of the 9 people only 1 is on outdoor work. His name is Kelin and he's from California. He had orientation Tuesday morning so I was the only volunteer working Tuesday morning. It was a bit boring on my own but not too bad. This week we cleared the overgrowth from the side of the road leading up to the Mirror Foundation. The facilities at Mirror are a bit more run down because they spend their money on the community and can't always afford to have the grass cut and the road repaired. We got to use a tool that looked like a rounded machete. I can't remember what they're called. Kelin joined us for the afternoon which was nice. He is also doing a larger trip around the world. Tuesday night we decided to go with the new group into Chiang Rai. We went to get lava cake at an Italian restaurant and then went to the Australian bar. It was fun and a good way to get to know the new group. Some of the new people are from Scotland, Germany, China, and Canada.

We got to do work in the community so we went to help this man named Tiger. His house was too crowded so he was clearing his yard to build another house for his family. They had recently cut down some trees but hadn't cleared them so we hauled branches and tree trunks to clear the yard. It was exhausting work and the branches were all really heavy. We also helped dig a hole on the side of his house for a toilet. The hole was like 12 feet deep so we would just help bring the buckets of dirt up from the bottom of the hole. I accidents stepped on barbed wire when hauling a branch and it went straight through my work boot into my foot. It wasn't good because it was rusty but I'm okay! I kept it clean and it's closed already. During our lunch break, p'Akong set a glass in front of us with two massive beetles inside it. I'll put in a picture here. They pinch your fingers and are really scary looking. He tried to make them fight each other and they started hissing. It was gross. Wednesday night we all played cards in the volunteer room. Our favorite game to play here is (excuse my French) shithead. It's an English game and I can't describe it very well but it's really fun.

We went to work at Tiger's house again. There wasn't as much work to do as there was on Wednesday. We had kind of finished hauling all the branches with the exception of a few really big ones and the hole for the toilet was almost finished. We ended up getting back to Mirror really early. Thursday night we had a bonfire because it was Mackenzie's last night. There's a tradition here that on the last night of your time at Mirror you burn a piece of clothing. She burned a few because she didn't have much room in her bag. We sat around with the new volunteers and the "old" volunteers and talked. It was really fun. It's really nice because we don't have service when we're at Mirror so you're almost forced to talk to people. We really like it though because we are really able to connect with people.

We finished up the road leading to Mirror, it looks very nice now. At lunch Mackenzie had to leave for the airport so we had to say goodbye. For dinner on Fridays we get Pad Thai and egg rolls. It's the best meal of the week! On Fridays we also have the option to order pizza and the money from the pizza goes towards buying chickens for people in the village to get eggs from and eat. I ended up splitting a pizza with one of the new girls from Scotland. Her name is Katie and she lives on an island off the coast of Scotland. There's only about 120 people who live there and its about 9 miles by 4 miles. So tiny!! She loves it though. After eating two helpings of Pad Thai and egg rolls, and half a pizza, Marina and I decided to get ice cream and cookies. I was so stuffed I couldn't eat any more. I ended up sitting in the kitchen talking to Grace, Jeff, and Neul. I might need to explain who these people are. I'm not sure if I have before. Grace and Jeff are a couple from Florida. Neul is from South Korea but studied at American University and speaks amazing English. Marina is from California. They're all on the teaching program. Anyway, I was sitting with them for a really long time talking and one of the staff from the teaching program comes up to us and gives us a bottle of wine to try. She said her friend makes it from plums but there was a picture of a mangosteen on the front of the bottle. Here's a picture of the bottle. The wine was really good and we ended up sharing half the bottle.

On Saturday we didn't have work so Kelin and I went to the White Temple. Even though I'd already been it was still really cool to see it again. The temple was built by Chalermchai Kositpipat. The whole temple is designed around the idea of overcoming temptation and evil to reach enlightenment. The way the temple is designed you have to walk over a bridge with hands reaching out towards you. The beginning of the bridge is creepy, full of skulls and branches with thorns. After you pass the bridge the temple is beautifully decorated and covered with small pieces of mirrors. Once you enter the temple there are tons of pop culture references drawn on the inside. We couldn't take pictures inside so I'll just try to describe it. Bear with me. On one side there is a giant statue of the Buddha and the walls have paintings of people praising the Buddha. The background looks like some form of paradise. It's really beautiful. Directly opposing the Buddha, on the opposite side of the temple, is the devil. He is surrounded by all these things we consider horrible. Surrounding his eyes are shadows of guns and inside his eyes, no joke, is George Bush. Some of the powerful images I remember are a depiction of 9/11 and a painting of people drinking gasoline. There's also an image of it raining missiles. There are a ton of pop culture references too. Michael Jackson, the Avengers, Batman, minions, Hello Kitty, and Pikachu are just some of them. After walking around the temple for a while we headed back to Mirror to go to Chiang Rai for the weekend!

Next week I'll be at the homestay again so I won't have service or internet for a few days.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 06:08 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Week 9 - First Homestay

This week I got to experience life in an Akha village. We stayed with one of our leaders, p’Akong, and his family. We slept at his house for 3 nights and worked nearby in his village during the day. It was one of the best things I’ve experienced so far.

The village was really small. There were chickens and wild dogs all over the place. The chickens were really annoying because they would start making noise at 5:30am and wouldn’t stop until sunset. The community there seemed very connected and many people often just came and sat at p’Akongs house. The town is so small that when they had a town meeting, they just announced it on a megaphone to alert everyone. In the village they speak the Akha language which is different from Thai. Most of the people there are farmers and have little education. Here’s some pictures from the village. Some chicks that were there too.

This week we helped build a road for a family who couldn’t afford to pay for one. The area we were working in was so beautiful. Here’s some pictures. We were surrounded by rice fields. There’s also a picture of the road we were working on.
We used hoes to shovel dirt and widen the road. There was a small path before but it was difficult even to walk on. The work was really hard. We got exhausted so easily because of the heat. We took lots of breaks to rehydrate. By the end of the third day we were able to walk along the path and see all the work we had accomplished. It was a really satisfying feeling. The coolest part was the last night of our homestay because the family we had been working for cane to dinner. They gave us a big bottle of Thai alcohol and gave us bracelets they had made as a thank you gift for us. This was my favorite part because we could really see how grateful the people were for our help and we got to see our impact in their lives and their community.

One of the other cool things we got to experience was playing with the village children. After we got back from working our first day, we were sitting around and a big van stops in front of the house and drops off tons of kids. The kids all thought we were so cool and wanted to play with us. We ended up playing tag and football (soccer) with them in a big field a few houses down. Even though we were exhausted from working we still ran around with them. They were so cute and totally wore us out.

On our last day of work we got to go to a waterfall. It was so nice after a long hot day. It was really beautiful too. It was a really fun way to end the working week. Here’s some pictures from the waterfall.
Another cool thing we learned was how to make there beautiful bracelets out of seeds. One of the nights we were there p’Akong’s wife showed us how to make them. They’re really hard to make and I didn’t do so well. Here’s a picture of the one I made.

On Friday, instead of working, we went to p’Akong’s farm. He grew rice, pineapple, coffee, dragonfruit, tea, and a whole bunch of other things. He showed us around his farm and we helped him plant some dragonfruit. Here’s some pictures of the farm and the dragonfruit we planted.
After showing us around his farm our other leader, p’Manup, showed us how to make a traditional Thai meal from bamboo. We cooked the food inside the bamboo over a fire. Here’s some pictures of that. The food turned out really good and we were given bamboo cups and chopsticks to take home.

I know everyone is also going to be curious about the accommodation was like. It wasn’t horrible at all but it definitely makes you appreciate very small things like not having to tuck in a mosquito net before you go to bed and not having to remember to bring toilet paper with you every time you want to go to the bathroom. His house was beautiful. He built it himself. His family used to live in a bamboo house (on the same property) but he saved up enough money to build his family a new one. He told us that he and his wife would get up early before work to work on the house and stay up very late working on it until it was finished. Here’s some pictures of his house.
His wife also ran a small shop underneath their house which kept me supplied with cookies for the week.
We had a few places we could all sit and talk. This one was made out of bamboo which is really comfortable to sit on.
He also had a small coffee farm growing at the back of his house. He was really proud because his coffee is organic. We got to try it while we were there and it was really good coffee.
We had a western toilet that we could use and he had a hot shower which was so nice to use. It was not what we were accustomed to but better than we were expecting. I did take a picture of the bed I slept in. It was a mattress on the floor but it was comfier than the beds in Sri Lanka. The picture looks a little scary because it was dark so I had to use my flash but I assure you it wasn’t as bad as it looks.

All in all, it was a great week. I have one more homestay in 2 weeks but I don’t know if it will be anything like this homestay. This weekend I’m heading to Chiang Mai, a larger city about 4 hours away.

Posted by Ilana'sGapYear 21:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

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