Flying to Thailand is not fun. I took 3 planes, Heathrow to Mumbai (9 hours), (Mumbai to Bangkok (4 hours) and Bangkok to Chiang Mai (1 hour), with a 2 hour stop in Mumbai and a 6 hour stop in Bangkok.
The only upside? They feed you loads on the plane. They gave us this packet of what I thought was peanuts, but realise they weren’t when I opened them. It was called “Murukku,’ which was a bit like Bombay mix flavoured but looked like tiny churros.
On the flight from London I was sat next to a British woman called Bryony, who had a PhD and was marking her masters student’s work. She was really nice and we spent our stop over in Mumbai together.
Passport control is now probably one of my least favourite things. I was terrified I wouldn’t be allowed in even though I know I haven’t done anything wrong! Got through safely though.When I finally made it to Chiang Mai I was so relieved. The view from the tunnel from the plane nearly made me cry, a combination of exhaustion, relief and pure awe at the beauty. The picture doesn’t do it justice, especially as it was through a window and there’s a plane in the way, but everything is so green and mountainous here.
I got picked up by a member of staff with a Sung Tao, which is like a truck with benches in the back (probably wouldn’t meet any health and safety standards in the UK…) and got dropped off at the Eco Resort Hotel which was my stay for the night. It was during this journey that I realised Thailand is pretty hot. The Sung Tao had no air con, just the breeze through the window when we were moving, and that itself was still just warm air. People drive like maniacs too, scooters and motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic all the time.
I had a roommate called Krystal who is staying on project for one week. We had a meeting where we met a couple of members of staff and the rest of the interns/volunteers who were starting. Krystal and I then had dinner together in a little restaurant just by the hotel and then went to bed as we had both arrived that day and were equally shattered.
We left at 9am on Sunday morning for the 5 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai to Huay Pakoot, the village I am staying in. We first stopped at a Tesco, where I grabbed some snack food, flip flops and a sim card for my phone. It then started raining, and when I say raining I mean pouring. It was like someone had left a tap on up there and it was just flowing out of the clouds. We stopped at Wachirathan waterfall, where the thunder and lightning started. Please excuse the water on the lens of my GoPro, as I said, it was raining. A lot.
We continued on our journey after being read a few risk assessments for the project and later stopped at Mae Chaem for some lunch and to buy some wellies. I now own some lovely blue wellies/gum boots/rain boots (to accommodate for all the different nationalities we have here).
On the bus journey I was sat next to David, who is also an intern, but had been on the project last year for 3 months, so already knew a lot about it. He got really excited when we got close and the excitement spread like wildfire through the volunteers in the bus. We rounded a corner and a small wall with a mural painted by previous volunteers came into view, signalling our arrival. After a short drive down a bumpy lane (even more holes than my drive at home) we reached “Base” (which after a few days of being here I realised would be where I would spend my life from now on).
I then got introduced to my homestay, Daw, and shown to my room. It’s a cute little bamboo box room with a mattress on the floor and a couple of shelves. There are a whole load of nails in the walls and a bamboo pole across one wall which I use to hang some clothes on, especially when they’re wet.
Dinner was what they call “Pot Luck.” To put it simply, we all sit on the floor around some wooden planks (the table) and our homestay bring our dinner to Base and we all share and pass the food around. It was a great way to spend the first night. Before we could eat we had a Geeju, where a few of the women from the village tied white string around our wrists and said prayers to keep our 37 spirits from straying to keep us healthy.
The next day I met my first elephant.