Friday, September 21, 2012

Thailand Trip

We have safely arrived in Bangkok and will go for some dinner soon.....although we had plenty of food on the plane the boys are still hungry.Everyone amazed at the size of Bangkok airport and loved going on the flat escalators (travellators?)Lots of tired travellers at dinner so bed time ready to go to Chang Mai tomorrow


Day 2
All woke up relatively early and have checked out around the hotel....had a bit of rain last night but fine so far today. After a nice breakfast we are now heading off to see our first temple.

 Day 2 continued....
We went for a walk to see a temple where we found some monks bagging sand to stop localised flooding at their temple. The students pitched in and helped them for awhile. After visiting the temple and learning the protocol with bowing as you enter and leave, we fed the fish. These fish were really huge and really hungry. Mr D, who wished he had his fishing rod with him, believes the fish were from the catfish family. Now waiting at the go to Chang Mai. The boys are eating....again...


Day 2 continued....
After arriving at Chang Mai and being presented with a freshly made jasmine lei each, we were taken to a restaurant for lunch where we all experienced authentic Thai food.....some spicy, especially Sally's chilli prawns and the chilli paste the boys tried with sticky rice. We then went to our hotel and after settling in quickly, headed out to see some of Chang Mai. we went to a shopping mall to get snack foods for the village visit and then went to the 2nd hand store to but coats for the refugees. These 40 coats were bought with the Interact money raised from the free dress day. We could really see the good use this money has gone to. Finally we went to the night markets where we shopped a little and then had dinner. Most people bought some Thai pants as well as the copr sunglasses, but generally we looked and checked out  what we would be buying on our way home.  Home to bed but first the fashion parade of  the purchased Thai pants....interesting look, especially on the boys. They are waiting for next free dress day at school ...... We are going to Mae Sariang tomorrow and will visit the orphanage. Not sure if we will still be able to get internet reception.



Day 3
We are at Mae Sariang and the Orphanage has wifi internet. A long day of travelling in the vans today. We stopped for lunch along the way and some had a very hot chillipaste based noodles. A lot of windy mountainous roads but the scenery was great......and the vans had a drop down DVD screen. The students have decided they would like some of these people movers at BTC!!!.  We have also used the traditional Thai toilet...which was interesting for some. Finally reaching the orphanage where we met some of the students and went for a walk around the property. It is really lovely with the setting amogst rice fields very picturesque. We played soccer with the locals and then came back for a great meal with the students and supervisors. The girls sleeping area had a small pool attached to it after dinner a cool swim was popular. Next we will be going to have "get to know you" activities. Tomorrow we head up to the Hillside Village in 4 wheel drives. It will take about and hour and a bit with the plan to leave about 8.30am.



Day 4
We will be back at the Orphange Thurdsay evening so should be able to update the blog then. All slept well. Going in local trucks up to village.Should take about an hour and a half. We are building a meeting place in the centre of the village. Out time is 3 hours behind Australian time.

Sleeping undr the nets

Toilet block

Day 4 (continued)

We left the Orphanage at about 10.30 because we had to wait for a truck to arrive. Cement, bricks and bags were put in the trucks and sat amongst them. The trip up was great. Fantastic scenery although the road works were a bit scary in some places with a sheer drop in some places. It seemed like ages of windy mountain road before we arrived at the village. The hillside village is named because the huts are built on the hill with the mountain stream at the bottom of the hill. We had lunch first in the elders house before being shown to where we were sleeping. Three villagers opened their houses to us and we had some large floor space to sleep on. We were all ready to begin working but the elder of the village didn’t want us to start on the rest day (Sunday) so we were all hot and went sitting and exploring in the river. The boys built a dam (they were keen to build  something)The girls found rocks in the river that made colours when rubbed so next thing all the girls had “mud masks” or face paint. Further up a little creek were some waterfalls which we decided we would use for our shower every evening as there does not seem to be much  on offer for even bucket baths. Toilets are interesting but everyone is coping OK.


Day 5

Up at 7am  and after breakfast the work began . The boys started levelling the ground while the girls went down to the river to collect rocks to mix in with the cement. It was warming to hear the boys sing as they worked and the song……. Thornburgh song. By lunch the ground was level  and about half the amount of rocks had been collected. After lunch sand w2asw carted and more rocks collected….they need 1000 buckets of rocks. Mid afternoon we could do no more work until the chief came back, so we did an emu parade and picked up rubbish (Yes even in this pristine place , sadly there was rubbish)   Some of the girls played Frisbee with the local girls while others joined in the game of soccer.   It was interesting to note that the locals are using the water  hole, the boys made by building a dam, to bathe in. They must have thought it was a good idea. Tired bodies to bed ready for another days work tomorrow.


Day 6

Today we had to make the nicely level block bigger ….so we had to dig , shift dirt and re-level the block again. While the boys dug the holes to put the posts in, the girls helped weave bamboo strips into reinforcing grids to put under the concrete. After lunch the making of concrete began.  What a long slow process….by 4.30 the last load of concrete was mixed and we had only done half the floor. Seems we need more sand and will possibly need some more river rocks as well. The thing about Thai time (similar to Fiji time) is that a lot of time is spent waiting  …..waiting for decisions, waiting for the chief, waiting for sand…….. As they say in Thai “Subiay, subiay”.  It has to be said that the students are working fantastically. The boys have blisters on their hands but are still stepping  up to the jobs given to them.  After a hard day’s work, everyone headed to the waterfalls to wash their clothes, selves and concrete splattered things.

BTC centrefold....yes they do have pants on...... somewhere

Day 7

Today was our most productive day of all. Before breakfast the lady some of the girls were staying with brought us a fresh rockmelon and a huge round cucumber......then we went for our other breakfast...... After breakfast, while the  village men were putting up the frame for the roof, we cemented the rest of the floor. Rocks were bagged, sand  and cement  were lifted and mixed in a big pile in the middle of the floor.  No  cement mixers here….not even a wheelbarrow or a shovel . The village men cut all the beams for the roof  with a small saw. After lunch  a group of us first went down to the school  to play some games sing some songs and teach some English to the children and then we began laying blocks for the walls(on the cement we had just poured that morning as well as on the cement we had poured yesterday.)  For most of us it was the first time we had cemented blocks  so it was an experience. The blocks themselves were interesting. While looking a bit like a besser block they were a lot more crumbly. Any of us could  karate chop them  and they would break easily…..if we needed to make them smaller we would  chip bits off them using a trowel! At 5 o’clock they were ready to stop but we only had one more row of blocks to do so the Aussies voted to mix one more half mix of cement to finish the last row. Morgan, India , Maddie  and Sally helped make a sign to go on the construction when we finish. Dinner was a fun and unique experience. Because it was our last night the chief offered some of their food which some of our group tried. The raw meat was extremely spicy (Ms A said it was the spiciest thing she had tasted). Then came the cooked bugs. Scott was amazed as he was offered them…..but  we had  some adventurous students stepping up and trying them. “Crunchy like pork crackling” was one comment. Big chief was enjoying himself and with one of the Thai Rustic Pathways men , Lay, translating  a great conversation evolved. Then the chief decided to get out the beetle nut for anyone wishing to try. The beetle nut is the nut and leaves they chew that makes their mouths and teeth red. The boys were offered it first then any girls wanting a try could have a small piece. It also has a minty smell and the chief said they have it after every meal to keep their breath fresh.  Finally the “games” started. Leg wrestling, arm wrestling, and some other Thai games that the boys all had a go at. The Chief and his relations were amazed at the length of our taller boys legs and arms and the chief jokingly offered the  boys to stay in the village and marry. Harry was the favourite for the night and he was offered the chief’s niece to marry. Harry thought it would be a good idea because the Thai wife does most of the work. After a late and rowdy night we took our weary bodies to bed… sleep on the comfortable floor!

Day 8
Last day at the village. After breakfast we headed to the construction site to finish off the block walls. we still had the ends to do and the sheets of galvanised iron for rhe roof went up. All hands on deck and the walls went up quickly. Unfortunately they were a couple of sheets of iron short to finish the they had to go for more. Finally came time to put up the BTC sign. The rugby line out boys put their skills to good use. With Harry in the middle Callum and Ross lifted and held him high while he hammered the sign in place. Quick lunch, pack and goosbyes to all our new friends. After climbing into the back of the trucks we first of all headed to a village 30 minutes up the river on the Thai/ Burma border. Across the Salween ? River we could see a Burmese military camp. Back down the road past our village (Huai Kong  Kad) Back around the windy roads to Mae Sariang where we caught up on some washing and wifi time. We all went out to a restaurant .......the boys looking splendid in the Thai clothes and man bags. Back home to the Orphanage to hear some history about Thailand and Burma and the need for the refugee camps. Tomorrow we head up to the refugee Camp which is only about 40km away but the road is so bad that it will take 3 and a half to 4 hours to get the trucks.......might take my pillow to sit on. Out of internet range for the next 48 hours as we stay in the refugee camp overnight. Hopefully internet reception at Mae Hong Son where we stay Saturday night.



Day 9 and 10
We are passing through the orphanage picking up our gear on the way to Mae Hong Son. We have just visited the refugee camp and it was EVENTFUL. The roads(and I use the term road loosely) are mud tracks cleared through the jungle winding around moutain sides.  The mus ruts in some places  were a metre high with the trucks not only using 4 wheel drive but also chains on the tyres. Of course one  truck got bogged (amazingly given the state of the road only 1 truck got bogged) and we were interested to see the thin rope they were hoping to tow the truck snapped. Then they got a wheel chain and attached it to the truck and managed to get it out. Finally we got to the refugee camp.....and had to cross walk across a rickety bridge over  a swift running river to get to our guesthouse. The refugees ues the river by building waterfalls and harnessing the swift flower water along a man built type of chute which directs the water through a pump to generate power, After depositing our gear at the guesrhouse we headed off to findone of the schools where an Aussie was doing some voluntary teaching. The classrooms were muddy with only a whiteboard. There was no internet and most students had not  used internet before. The kitchen for the dormitories was extremely hot as they cooked on open fires . This school had students from dormitories and students from the village.....about 150 students at the school. The actual refugee camp has a population of about 10,000...the size of Charters Towers ......and they have about 5 schools and have  competitions between the schools....just like in Charters Towers haha. The camp had a huge storm the night before which was why the road was extra muddy, the classrooms muddy and moving around the camp muddy. After we had spoken to the Principal we headed back to the guesthouse as another tropical downpour hit. Needless to say all our raincoats and umbrellas were back at the guesthouse so we all got absolutely least we didnt need a shower that night. Dinner was sticky rice and meat before we again went to a nearby dormitory and spent a few hours talking to the students . We gave them the coats we had bought in Chang Mai with the interact money, plus other gifts. At the end of the night Morgan and Sally sang for them as well as Ross singing and Cal playing guitar. Some of the bigger boys with a better command og English came back to the guesthouse and spoke some more with us, describing their life, aspirations and life and thoughts on Burma. That night we all slept upstairs on a bamboo floor, which is much more comfortable than the hardwood floor of the hill tribe village. It rained again during the night and when we woke up we heard that a surge of water came down the river and took 3 of the 4 generators away. The guesthouse is right on the river and last year had water in it. In the morning we had our scantest breakfast.....plain bread and a custard filled cake. It would help make the students more aware of the small amount of food the refugees live on.
We split into 2 groups and were both supposed to go to orphanges but 1 group went to the monastary while the other group went to the orphanage. At the orphange were children as young as 7years who had no parents and had fled through the jungle from the Burmese military. They lived on 7 kg of rice for 2 months and had to look in the jungle for bamboo shoots to eat. The group visiting them bought some shoes and clothes and gave them some money. We hope to raise some more money when we return to BTC to send directly to these students.
.Back in the trucks and down and over the mountains. Our trip down was quicker lol ...only 3 hours....before we packed up at the orpha nge had a quick rice lunch then back in the vans to go to Mae Hong Son..........I have been on windy roads in my travels and this one is up there with the worst........ 162 km up mountains and down, hairpin bends......the actual road sueface was good bitumen but it took us over 4 hours to travel 162km. It has been a long day of travel but have arrived safely and looking forward to a bed (sort of) and a shower. Went for a quick walk around a few streets of Mae Hong Son where there were some markets. Everyone over rice so grabbed a snack at
 7-11 store




Kitchen for the boarding house







Day 11

After a western style breakfast (no rice!) we  headed off to see the elephants. When we got there we could feed the elephants some bananas before climbing aboard. We had one person sit  behind the head while the other 2 got to sit on the seats. Off through the jungle we went until we arrived at the river where we transferred into boats to take us up the river to the village of the long necked tribes. Here the students could get photos and buy some jewellery and crafted goods. Back down the river and onto the vans which took us up a mountain (yes another mountain….only a little one)  to see a temple . Unfortunately it was being re-painted so it was not as spectacular as it would have been when it was all gold. Finally time to head to the airport to fly to Chang Mai. Our bags were taken to Chang Mai in a van , which took 7 hours to get there… glad we didn’t have to drive there. There is a drive you can do  around Mae Hong Son which has 1864 curves and it is world famous. Don’t ask me why you would want to drive that. We are now back at the same motel in Chang Mai and we have had a little bit of down time for hot showers and now we are heading out to a market which is very long…. 7km. We had pizza first which was so nice then we had 2 hours at the markets. they did not start shutting until 11pm with the city life still very vibrant on a Sunday night at 11.30pm.










Check out the mountains

Have to be careful we dont all do this when we get back home

Shopped out.......for the moment
                                                                       Day 12
Our last full day in Chang Mai. After a bit of a sleep in we had breakfast and then unfortrunately had to say goodbye to Kinga....our  wonderful Hungarian  Rustic pathways guide. Everyone felt a little sda saying goodbye but we have great memories and photos of her.....and facebook friends were made. Then we headed out to the Chang Mai zoo which is built .....on a everywhere you wanted to go  involved hills and steps. The students enjoyed some of trhe more exotic animals.....tigers , lions, giraffes, bears, rhinos etc although a group did go to see the cattle and take some photos!  After the zoo we went to Peepet's wifes restaurant . ( I am not sure how to spell his name but he has been a driver/ cook throughout our trip) The foos was great and the best treat at the end was when she brought out the icecream dessert menu. Back to the motel for a small rest before heading back into the centre of Chang Mai. First stop was everyone for a Thai massage. Sure got the muscles relaxed and ready for the markets. Once again eveyone hit the markets with gusto enjoying the competition of bartering with the shopkeepers. Back home agian to pack as we need to be all packed and ready to leave at 10am. We plan to go to an umbrella factory in the morning have lunch maybe see a temple before going to Chang Mai airport to connect to Bangkok. Unfortunately we have about a 4-5 hour wait at Bangkok before flying through the night to arrive back in Australia. I imagine there will be a lot of tired faces when we finally arrive back in Townsville. See you all then. PS Tomorrow is Scotts birthday so we will have to find a cake somewhere in our travels.

Thailands perception of what a map of Australia is like.

Last Day
Today we went to  Wat Prathat Doi Suthep which is the most famous temple in Chang Mai. Not only did we have to goi up another mountain , when we got there we had about 300 steps to climb. It was worth it, though as it was a very impressive temple. After climbing back down the steps we had a quick lunch then onto the umbrella factory where not only did we see how they make the paper umbrellas but most students got beautiful paintings on T shirt, short, wallets, bags etc . Finally more sad goodbyes at the Chanh Mai airport. Our guides have become our friends such a short time they have endeared themselves to us and vice versa. Luckily in this day and age facebook is a great way to continue to keep in touch.
We are now at Bangkok airport waiting....waiting.... for our flight to Brisbane which doesnt leave until midnight.


Finally some reflexions from the students.

Seiarne- Just have fun and enjoy it while you can

Scott- Rustic Pathways journey opened our eyes, our mind and now our world

Harry-Experience was great especially getting to know the hill tribe and the tribe leader

Callum- Sabai, Sabai  (Thai saying for ‘ whatever…don’t worry’)

Ross- Sabai, Sabai- Thai life

Dylan- Throughout our journey whenever anything was not quite as planned our saying sabai sabai… is what it is.

Maddie A- I liked going to the village and refugee camp. We saw how privileged we are

India- Be respectful of how you live

Kaylin- Free yourself with your dream

Taylor- Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined

Morgan- Life is either a great adventure or nothing

Sally- Any idiot can face a crisis- it’s  day to day living that can wear you out

Madi S – You don’t appreciate the little things in life until you are put in a situation where it is all taken away.

Lucy_ Rustic Pathways journey lifted my self- esteem to help me believe that there are opportunities in the world to help those people that are less fortunate then myself

Renee- People here are happy with what they have while other people take things for granted.