Thailand International 2018
Well we met at the airport, sorted out a few last hitches, checked in and we were off!
We arrived two hours later than expected due to lengthy queues at passport control. Nevertheless, our Thai Guiding friends were happy to see us and we were whisked away to Girl Guiding Association Thailand (GGAT) in Bangkok!
After a lovely meal we were shown to our rooms and although everyone was excited they were very soon sound asleep.
Next day we set off to explore Bangkok.
Our first stop was the Grand Palace, which is very misnamed as the Palace itself is not very grand. The adjoining temples though were a different matter! There was so much gold, mosaics, flowers, monkeys and elephants!!!!
Everyone was in awe as we were shown around the beautiful architecture, which took just three years to build. Wonderful golden Buddha in his rainy season outfit, statues and paintings galore. It was 35° and very humid.
After that we were whisked around the corner to see Wat Pho, the temple of the Reclining Buddha. At an impressive 150ft long he was certainly worth seeing!
After a Riverside lunch at The Navy Club we went to the Siam Museum a great interactive museum and we had much fun trying on different Thai costumes and hats!
Back to our rooms for free time and then we had a welcome meal with the committee of GGAT Bangkok and some of their students. After speeches and introductions, we tucked into a lovely meal and some of the strangest fruit seen.
Throughout the meal there were small conversations but as soon as plates were cleared phones came out, Snapchat and Facebook contacts were added, and everyone was chatting away as though they were old friends! Only in Guiding!!
The leaders Jo, Erica and Sarah had a quick lesson in speaking Thai and the chief commissioner then promptly enrolled them into Girl Guiding Thailand after they fluently and eloquently made their Promise in Thai!!
The Guides chatted, sang and played games, we said our goodbyes and promised to meet again tomorrow.
The next day we made our way to the floating markets in the luxury karaoke mini bus with air con and reclining chairs.
Beginning our tour on the traditional Thai boats, not quite as luxurious as the minibus! We braved the murky waters having some close encounters with the Thai natives; crocodiles and water snakes.
Much to our surprise we floated straight past the floating market and instead embarked on an exhilarating tour about coconut sugar. We were shown the making process and let us have a taste. Unfortunately, some participants weren’t fond of their tasty treats and textures and had to dispose of them in a bin and spent the next hour gagging subtly as not to offend the people.
Some of us felt uncomfortable expressing our dislikes however we came to the conclusion that as long as you’ve tried it, the Thai people appreciate our differences.
On the way back to the village we did manage to stop off in the market and have a delicious lunch by the waterside. After some serious bartering in fluent Thai we secured a deal for three fans with a total 10bahts discount (equal to 25p).
We felt rejuvenated after our Thai massage, then we stopped at 711 on the way back to GGAT, Emma was ecstatic to see they stocked cans of yellow Fanta (obviously lemon). However, to her dismay after taking a huge gulp to quench her thirst, the devastating realisation hit her like a wave that she had bought… Banana Fanta!!
We went to the airport to catch our next plane to Chiang Mai. When we arrived there, Toom and Ko were waiting for us and we went to the GGAT centre. This was so much quieter than the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and we had a welcome of fresh coconut juice and the surprise of a large poster with our photo on greeting us! All very emotional! We were given gifts and shown to our rooms and quickly unpacked and settled in. Later we walked up to the night market. Ko came with us and was chief haggler!! Presents and souvenirs were bought and then it was off to bed.
Next day we set off to visit the highest mountain in Thailand.
On the way we stopped off at the Ganesh Museum, a very spiritual place we learnt about Ganesh and we got the chance to make an offering to him. Then we headed off up the mountain and saw the impressive Wachirathan waterfall. A great photo opportunity! After lunch we continued up the mountain and the clouds got lower and the rain heavier! By the time we reached the temples of the King and Queen you could barely see them. We climbed the steps up to the temple of the King and nearly got blown away the wind was so strong! After that we went up to the top of the mountain and there was a sign saying “This is the highest point in Thailand”
We visited a local market and then went to the Inthanon national park where we were staying for the night.
We had our meal and then went outside for some campfire singing in a bandstand type building! We couldn’t have a fire as it was too dry, but the acoustics sounded amazing!! Some of us learned a song about a tree with the green grass growing around and this and the crazy moose became our signature songs! Then we were off to bed dreaming of what tomorrow will bring!!
We started today with our usual early start and delicious breakfast and prepared for the day ahead. We walked round the corner to a girls school called Regina Coeli College, where we had a guided tour of the school. An assembly was held in our honour; in which we learnt Thai dancing we wore traditional dress, listened to some Thai music performed by an amazing group and received gifts. Afterwards, we exchanged some of our culture. We made balloon dogs and sang some traditional guiding songs.
Cooking a Thai meal was next on the agenda, we made chicken in coconut milk and spice sauce along with noodles. Using chopsticks (well some of us!) we ate and got to know each other. In the afternoon we went to a parasol making factory where we learned about how they make parasols. We went to a shopping centre where we went to the supermarket and mainly food shops. When we met again over half the group had had crepes! That evening we visited yet another night market to get more gift and souvenirs, we are starting to worry about our baggage allowances!!!
Waking up in Inthanon resort we wanted to see more of this beautiful place, so we took a detour to the Royal Project. This was a flower nursery set up by the King to give employment to the local people growing flowers rather than opium. It was a beautiful place high in the mountains and we got some amazing photos! On the way back to Chiang Mai we called at a local village and got to see how the locals really live. This had a sobering effect on some of the girls as the villagers were very poor but very welcoming. After skirting around the huge spider in the bushes, we left feeling very grateful for everything we had.
A long trip back to Chiang Mai was followed by a refreshing swim and a diving competition! Then we got dressed up in our glad rags and went to a traditional Khan Toke dinner in a restaurant accompanied by traditional music and dancing. Obviously, we were willing to join in and for the finale we were invited on to the stage to join in with the dancing!!
Well today was a day when nobody struggled to get out of bed for we were off to see elephants! After a long journey Sarah and Erica were the first to spot an elephant, bizarrely, it was on the back of a truck coming the other way! I missed it though, but it wasn’t long before we rounded a corner and there in the valley were 4 elephants!!! Excited screaming followed (from the leaders!!) And the driver and our guide wondered what they had let themselves in for!!
Job, the guide took us down some steps and we were on the plain with the actual elephants! Our first stop was to feed one and if you gave her food you could stroke her “have food, best friend, no food, no friend”. Obviously, we all gave food and stroked her and I (Jo) even gave her a kiss on the trunk!! We spent well over an hour going around meeting the girls (boy elephants are kept separate, so we didn’t see them) then it was time for lunch.
Afterwards we walked down to the river and watched them bathe, swim and have a mud bath! Job was great, and he told us all about the elephants. Some of the stories were very sad and it was a surprise that the elephants let us so near to them after they had suffered so much at the hand of man. We had the pleasure of watching a baby elephant take a mud bath, his little trunk squealing with delight. We saw a blind 80-year-old matriarch with her best friend by her side and we saw a family group eating and playing together, plus many more. All were free to roam and seemed to enjoy us almost as much as we enjoyed them.
All too soon it was time to leave our new friends and return home. We packed our cases and came down to our last dinner in Chiang Mai. Our wonderful hosts bestowed on us more gifts, so we thanked them with a few songs in return.
Tomorrow we fly to Krabi for the final leg of our trip.
We set off on a long journey to Wiang Pa Paid, a GGAT training centre in the mountains. We stopped at a hot spring for iced coffee and to dip our feet in the warm or hot water depending upon where you sat! Then we called at a lake with the most gigantic goldfish ever seen! After feeding the fish we went for lunch of steak and chips at the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant! This is a way to make money for the local family planning project which aims to make condoms as available as cabbages! We learned that this project had helped the locals to bring the birth rate down. It was a delicious meal and we were glad to help!
Finally, we arrived at our home for the next 3 days. It was very basic, and again the beds had mosquito nets on. Through making friends with Lab on Facebook we found out that the leaders who worked with us at this weekend decorated the rooms for us just before we got there!!
After a terrific thunderstorm and tea, we chatted (there was no WiFi so the girls had to talk!!) And then went to bed to tuck into our mosquito nets!
Next day we went to a local school and had a quick visit to a Buddhist temple. It was a Saturday but the teachers and some of the children had come in specially to see us! We gave them all a lesson in CPR, recovery position and choking and then taught them some campfire songs. We made them balloon dogs and they gave us ice cream, but it was very salty!! Then we returned to the GGAT centre and after lunch the hard work began!
We set to work painting the inside and outside of a building that had just been rennervated.
It was very hot but with the help of some music and all of us working together it soon began to look much better. We had a birthday tea for Erica. Mr Beard had made some birthday posters and then we had our crazy shirts on and had a birthday party including party games before retiring to bed!!!
Next day some of us finished the building while the girls got busy painting the welcome mural at the entrance. Jo had come up with an idea, so the girls would not let her see the mural until it was finished.
Once they had done she was led out with her eyes covered and once it was revealed she burst into tears!
It was amazing, and everyone had worked so hard to complete the mural and were quite rightly very proud of their achievements! After cleaning up and lunch we planted some fruit trees. Then it was more photos and gifts and we left, with the girls promising to come back in a few years to repaint the mural!!!