25.06.2009 - 28.07.2009
Our time in Thailand brought many emotions and new experiences, some tragically sad and some happy. The first part involved us working in an Elephant and Nature Park. This meant we was up in the hills and out of contact for over a week. On our return to civilization we instantly received sad news the my Nan had passed away. As I type this tears roll down my cheeks (almost 2 months on). I still find it hard to take in and there is a sadness in my heart as I know she will not be there on my return. I spent many hours that ran in to days feeling torn, sad, deliberating and decision making. Everyone around me was so supportive of my decision (the hardest one I have truly ever had to make) I would continue on with traveling, seeing the world and say a loving farewell to Nan here in my own way. - distance is only a matter of miles not thought. Not being with my family at this time was very hard. Sean and myself had a special day to ourselves on the day of her funeral. Very emotional, sad and happy memories of such an amazing Nan. Missed and loved every day, Rest Peacefully and have fun with Grandad! Xx
Overall we spent nearly 5 weeks in Thailand, 3 weeks on a Imaginitive Traveller Volunteer tour.
The Elephant and Nature Park was one that a inspirational woman, Lek set up years ago to provide hurt or badly treated elephants with sanctuary and a peaceful life. If you ever get the opportunity to visit or work in this amazing place, do so. As I said we spent a week volunteering here - quite hard grafting but very rewarding. You get up close and personal with these incredible creatures, ones you become attached to and you are made to feel so welcome within the center. Daily duties involved, bathing and scrubbing elephants in the river twice daily, preparing food, feeding T/D, corn cutting (when rainy unbelievably muddy, with trucks getting stuck!) mending fences, stripping bark, and last but very importantly - shit shoveling by the barrow load, remember these are big animals to keep clean! Such a fun week and so memorable. These animals worked a way into our hearts the will last a lifetime - if you watch some of the videos that have been recorded about some of the Elephants at the Sanctuary and what they have been through your soul will be torn apart. Such cruelty. I have not harped on about this place near enough so please ask us when you see us, we’d love to tell you more.
Having a few days to ourselves after the news about Nan and working at the sanctuary was well needed. We spent time in Chaing Mai, a beautiful City, lovely people. Visiting the temple at Doi Suthep was stunning. Situated at the top of a mountain you see great views of the City on clear days. With many visits to temples by now we have our increasing doubts about how the offerings are made to the Gods. It seems as soon as you have purchased and placed you candle, josstick or flower it is unscrupiously blown or taken out before it has finished burning or ceased to live?! and then replaced by more. This feels very wrong and leaves a bad taste.
Bangkok - a City full of life, you love it or aparrently hate it. Fortunately we had a good experience of it. Crazy tuk tuk drivers, there are alot of scams but if you are aware you know to avoid them. The Grand Palace, shimmeringly divine. Bridge over River Kwai and POW museum quite monumental. There is so much to see and do here.
From Bangkok we got a sleeper train (one of many sleepless nights with dodgy drivers on trains-you do get used to it though) to Surat Thani and headed Khao Sok for a few days. Initially visiting the treetops. Surrounded by karast mountains and lush rivers, this is a great place for canoeing. Jawdropping scenery everywhere you look. It was here that we had our time for Nan, laid flowers for her, and said a loving farewell, so this area holds some very special memories for us its just beautiful and very peaceful. Also in Khao Sok national Park we stayed in rafthouses on a huge lake. Tranquil and incredible. This is as close as you get to a little bit of paradise on earth. One treck here involved us hiking up a waterfall for around an hour. Nice in the heat of the day. Otherwise the days were spent kayaking and swimming in the lake.
Ao Nang, near Krabi was next on our agenda. Lots to do and see, a beach to walk along and a great place to chill in a bar overlooking the ocean whilst getting a tattoo from a local who still does traditional bamboo art. Painful but worthwhile! It represents our time in Thailand, Nan, my family and loved ones and the closeness we share. It means alot to me.
We visited Phi Phi, where we then decided to stay for a further few days after the tour had finished. Long Beach area is so different from Phi Phi Don main town. This little sanctuary provided us with sightings of blacktipped shark whilst snorkeling, lush sands, few people and amazing fire shows. Scuba diving for the first time took a bit of getting used to, but this underwater world is extraordinary. Coral formations that blow you mind, octopus, turtles, and undescribable fish! Wow.
Not too far from here was Railey, where we spent our last treasured few nights in Thailand. The lagoon hike hair raising as you hoist yourself up and then back down to it - never allowed in England! Tranquil and sublime once you reach it. The caves and beaches are out of this world. One end of the Peninsular was privately owned by Rayavadee luxury resort listed in the top 108 best in the world - here we shared a coffee! The prices were as phnomenal as the place, with guests such as Fat Boy Slim. We did actually go for a meal here and was not dissapointed - delicious. A fantastic area to finish in.
When I think back to Thailand it brings so many good memories to me. This Country is infectious, and I hope that one day we will be back to visit.
Nan for you ; your spirit lives on in your family. xx