Tag Archives: GoThai

A piece of (elephant) heaven – Elephant Nature Park – Chiang Mai, Thailand

There is a big part of my recent trip to Thailand that is missing from my blog posts – my one week volunteership at the Elephant Nature Park – just outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. It was the main reason that I headed off to Thailand again and I’ve been struggling to blog about it, as I cannot seem to capture the experience in words. I will try my best, in words and pictures. What I feel in my heart for this place cannot be expressed.

Elephant Nature Park is an elephant sanctuary, or more accurately, an elephant heaven. All the elephants at the park have been rescued from some form of (in most cases, multiple forms of) abuse and domestic work. Land mine victims, illegal loggers with broken limbs, blind ellies, broken and beaten, they’ve all been rescued by the amazing people at the park.

The stories behind the past of these elephants is heartbreaking and the fact that there are countless more where they came from, in the same situation, is even more heartbreaking. What animals that take part in as domestic work, or tourism entertainment, have to endure and the multitude of animals treated in this way is something that I struggle to comprehend. Thailand is famous for its’ elephant trekking and all sorts of animal entertainment for tourism, but if you take a look behind the scenes of this trade, you will be disgusted at what you uncover. I’ve never been one to force the realities of animal abuse down anyone’s throats and I am not about to now, but what I learnt about Thai treatment of animals, and Asian elephants in particular, who are supposed to be revered in their culture, is really something else.

So the Elephant Nature Park provides a haven for these gentle giants with such traumatic pasts. It was founded and is run by Lek Chailert – the warmest heart you will ever meet. She has so much love for these elephants and has dedicated her life to saving them. Hearing her sing to the young elephants to calm them down when they were upset with the introduction of a new baby, Navann, reinforced the gentleness of her kindness and passion.

Not only do they care for elephants (and let me tell you – the process involved with this task is no easy feat, it is a mass effort on a daily basis to keep the place alive), but they also have a dog shelter with over 300 rescued dogs (mostly from a mass rescue mission in the last Bangkok floods) and there also seems to be a water buffalo rescue effort going down there inadvertently!

When one of our volunteer group members asked Lek what we, as society, can do to help the cause, she did not respond with the standard answer of “donations”, she rather said “your voice”. So this is me, sharing my voice and helping to show people what is really going on in Thailand. As a tourist, please please please stay away from anything animal-related – it is almost certainly an abusive situation. Don’t be a part of it. Visit the Elephant Nature Park instead and experience true compassion. It is rare in this world.

This is proof that there is good in the human race. We see so much stupidity and heartlessness on a daily basis that this refreshing experience of raw human kindness is rare.

Feel free to leave your comments asking me any questions about my experience there as a volunteer – I am very happy to answer anything about this treasure of a sanctuary!

You can find them on Facebook as Elephant Nature Park and Twitter @save_elephant.

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Lost in Translation #GoThai

The very entertaining part of travelling to non-English speaking countries is the funny translations that you come across along the way. Here are my favourites for your giggling pleasure…


The real Thailand…in the fields of the North #GoThai

Today was a day in the fields, cutting corn stalks for the elephants evening snacks at the Elephant Nature Park.

We were taken out to the farmlands and spent the morning cutting off corn stalks and loading them onto the truck.

A mad work day. Hot, sweaty, dirty, heavy work, but a really great day out in the fields with the local Thai workers.

We then piled on to the top of the loaded truck and flew through the village streets, dodging low-hanging power lines and trees for fear of decapitation.

This is the real Thailand.

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

On top of the corn truck

On top of the corn truck

 

 


East meets West Village School Tour – GoThai

I’m currently staying at the Elephant Nature Park (which will receive its’ own dedicated post) and part of the volunteer schedule here was to make a quick visit to the school of the village nearby.

It was a humbling experience and made me really see how Thailand is almost completely dependent on the tourist trade for survival.

The school is at primary level and the kids are eager to learn English and skills that will help them to make money if they don’t make it to high school (the closest high school is in Chiang Mai city and most don’t get the opportunity to get a high school education).

They had prepared activities for us where they can practice their skills, like craft and jewellery making, music, English and Maths knowledge sharing, Thai foot massage and iced coffee bar. Whilst giving foot massages, the young girls have their English books out and practising their phrases with us, like ‘Where are you from’, ‘How long have you been in Thailand’, ‘Have you enjoyed your stay so far’… All the general tourist questions.

In the classroom, the kids were crazy to show us what they knew and show us their books and ask questions. If you pulled out your camera, it was quickly snatched up and photos taken of everyone.

I’ll leave you with some of those shots…

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Day Adventure, Marine National Park, Koh Lanta

After a night out with the diving guys, filled with beer and Sang Som sets (ouch), the crazy Canadian I met at a sunset bar woke me up knocking at my door with aspirin and water and the promise of an adventure. Sure. Okay.

We took my little zoot up the windy mountain to the Marine National Park, near Klong Jark in Koh Lanta. Armed with chilled bottles of water from the ladyboy at the shop, we started our little trek through the protected jungle. Two hours later, we emerged on the other side of the hiking trail, slippery with sweat and jungle humidity and jumped straight into the perfect sea an the sandy beach at the park.
 
On the way back, ‘Easy Bar’ looked appealing. The sign said ‘Drinks, Food’. Sold. A few hours were spent there, mesmerised by the chilled out beach and drinking beer.
 
A good day 🙂
 
Marine National Park, Koh LantaMarine National Park, Koh Lanta
Marine National Park, Koh LantaMarine National Park, Koh LantaCrazy Miss Canada in the jungleKoh Lanta

GoThai Day 2: To Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta

Most of the day spent travelling to Koh Lanta from Krabi, I was not quite sure what to expect and just hoping to get away from all the goddamn tourists!

Friendly and welcoming, Kantiang Bay is just what I was hoping for. None of the tourist hype, very laid back and relaxed and just plain simple chilling.

   Kantiang Bay, Koh Lanta

The first thing that I did was strip down into my bikini and swim in the sea. Now you must know that I am not a sea swimmer. Ever. This water is so calm and warm that it would be stupid not to! I’ve also hired a scooter for the next few days and will be exploring the island on my trusty zoot… because why not.

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It’s been raining and overcast most of the time since I got here – the Candice curse, but nonethless there are plenty of little coffee shops and restaurants to just sit and take it all in.

Kantiang Bay Drunken Sailor

Thai Massage

Top View restaurant at the top of a steep hill has panoramic views of the bay that are breath-taking, literally! And the best part is that after a few beers, you just need to roll back down with little effort 😉 The evenings boast a band of locals singing all-time old Western favourites (Oasis and Nirvana are a must, of course) and our very own fire poi show…not bad at all… 

Top View Restaurant View

Fire Poi

I think that I will be staying here a while… and have a feeling that my posts are going to stop being named by day number as I am already starting to lose count of the days… Aaahhhhh…. sweet Thailand, how I have missed you!

Follow me on Twitter @PopcornCandi or hashtag #GoThai for snippets along the way.


GoThai Day 1: Ao Nang, Krabi

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After a long and tiring trip from deep dark Africa, I finally arrived in Ao Nang, Krabi.

Following warnings that it is somewhat of a shithole, I did not expect much, but having spent 5 hours in Addis Ababa airport, I have a true benchmark for what a shithole really is. Krabi is not that.

Ao Nang is a cute little touristy beach that serves as more of a transit zone to other islands than anything else. Nonetheless, it has its quirks and my day here has been awesome.

I started with a cocktail at a dodgy beach bar when I arrived last night that I paid horrendously too much for. I did have a good giggle though…

Pink Lady Cocktail

Pink Lady Cocktail

Woke up stupid-late this morning and headed to the beach. Towards the end of the beach are rows and rows of massage huts, with sun chairs under the trees. This is a cool place to hang out all day and they feed you loads of fresh fruit as long as you use their services, which is not a terribly bad deal at all. A foot massage is actually a foot, leg, head, neck, face massage in one hour of heavenly madness for a ridiculously cheap price. Only in Thailand!

Steer clear of the monkeys at the bottom of the cliff – they’re everywhere – like cute little furry flies. They steal everything.

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Day one = success and I am madly in love with Thailand again.

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Off to Koh Lanta tomorrow for some more…