Two Friends in Thailand | Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phuket

Homesick is a real thing, and although I don’t get homesick often, it hits me hard when it does. So when one of my good friends, Chris, texted me saying he was thinking of stopping in Thailand for a week on his way home from his Nepal trip, most of the homesickness disappeared! It turned in to excitement! Excitement for not just planning a whole week vacation but also for getting to show off this amazing country I call home now, to a good friend, who has been ever so supportive in all of my crazy, Mapless Adventures!!!

One thing Chris told me was all he wanted to do was see elephants and to go ahead a plan the trip, which is quite a big responsibility and I really didn’t know where to start! I needed a little help from him, so I asked him to decide on beaches or mountains. This helped us determine the entry and exit point (which ended up being Bangkok regardless).

He mentioned he hasn’t really done a “beach” vacation, so after endless research (I’m a sucker for research), I decided on Phuket Island, in the city Patong. I understand Patong has a reputation for party and nightlife, but I choose the location simply because of the location! It was very central and not too far from anything! Once the city/location was selected the rest of the planning was pretty easy!

I felt like a kid at a candy store, waiting for his arrival in Bangkok! And practically burst into tears when I saw him walk out of the arrival area. I kind of felt bad for him as he was dressed for cold weather, and Thailand was anything but cold. He arrived in the late evening, so we didn’t do much that first night (our flight to Phuket was early the next morning), mostly just talked and looked at pictures from his Nepal adventure and I loved every minute of it!

Our journey from Bangkok to Phuket was pretty uneventful. The flight was about 1.5 hours, and then the taxi was for about an hour to our hostel. Once we arrived at our hostel, we got settled in then ventured out for Chris’s first authentic Thai food experience- Pad Thai! We ate at a place called No. 9, which was super popular and for a good reason. It was delicious! After lunch, we honestly didn’t do a whole lot the rest of the day. We mostly just wandered the streets of Patong, experiencing our first crazy Bangla Road heckling for “ping pong” shows, which obviously we DID NOT do. We had our elephant experience early the next morning, so we called it a relatively “early” night.

The next morning, it was time for elephants! I hadn’t done this before nor had Chris, so it was a first for both of us. We decided on the full day excursion with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Phuket, which includes feeding, jungle hike, poo paper, kayaking, bathing with the elephants, and two meals. Seemed like a pretty good deal!

The morning part with the elephants was something special. We learned general information about the Asian elephant, we learned about their food and diet, and we got a chance to feed them corn, bananas, and sugar cane. There were quite a bit of people both on full day and half day excursions, and only 5 elephants, so a little chaotic. I did actually feel bad for the elephants, though. We did learn about the elephants’ backstories on how they came to be at EJS, and it broke my heart. Several came from logging camps, others came from riding camps, and one came from a hotel, where she was required to “dance” (which meant shake her head and sway her body) and was beaten if she didn’t.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was able to save two new elephants 3-days and the day before our visit. These elephants had two very different personalities. The one who came the day before was kind and gentle. The other female elephant had such badly broken spirit and couldn’t be around humans as it was aggressive. It had to be habilitated to learn how to be free from the abuse and riding.

It was heartbreaking to hear her story, but she was one of the elephants who we got to walk with in the jungle, and that was special. Chris and I spent our time during the hike with this precious elephant. I think we both enjoyed watching her get to be an elephant again in the jungle, pulling in trees and plants, scratching her body against a tree and just walking.

When we got back from the trek, it was water time. Chris held the hose for the two elephants to drink, and when it was Grandma’s turn (83year old elephant), she ran away so quickly when Chris attempted to rinse her off. We did get to witness a first with the newest elephant, named Aom Ngung. She got to experience the shower, and you can see the pure happiness in her eyes!

The mid-day break was a bit strange. To start, It was a two-hours long. It started out with lunch, which was delicious. It also included a 45-minute poo paper arts and crafts with a brief explanation of the process. I was hoping to get my hands dirty and attempt to make my own paper, as was Chris but whatever. We still made it fun, and the people in our group were easy to talk too.

Then the kayaking. Oh, the kayaking. It was kayaking, in the middle of a hot sunny day, in basically a swamp. Not to mention, there was no dock or stairs or platform or anything to help us get on or off the kayak. Kind of a complete waste of time, but whatever.

We were then shuttled to another one of the camps (they have 3 or 4) for the afternoon session. We joined with another decent sized group of tourists with 5 elephants.

It started with the “mud bath,” which was an odd experience, but the elephants seemed to enjoy as almost all were splashing themselves with mud.

It was off to the swimming hole next, which none of the elephants even hesitated to get into the water. They immediately dunked their bodies into the water. They kept spitting water and dunking their heads. It was quite a sight to see. Although our time at EJS was not perfect, and slightly a let down on some things, the time we spent with elephants was pretty special!

Our time with the elephants was completed, and it was time to head back into town. Once we returned, we showered then headed to find food. It was at dinner that we decided on our “free day’s” excursion, which we decided on scooters. After dinner, it was off to sleep. This actually became our norm for the trip: return from an excursion, shower, head out on the town for food, go back to the hostel, and go to bed. The best part was that as Chris and I headed to bed (every night of our trip in fact), our dorm mates were heading out on the town. Actually benefitted us in the long run as we were kind of able to get good night sleeps.

TO BE CONTINUED…because of the number of excursions and adventures Chris and I went on, I broke this trip into multiple blogs to make for a better reading experience!

****Disclaimer: I know this isn’t going to make everyone who reads this happy. There is so much information: good, bad, correct, incorrect, false, and accurate information, going around about ethical animal travels and excursions. It’s tough to know what to think without truly experiencing it. I will not ride elephants, that much is clear, and I have my own opinions on the elephant excursion matter. I do live here in Thailand and hear, see, and learn A LOT about it, but I’m not going to get into it. I’m not one for cyberbullying, trolling, and cyber arguments, so I’m not going to get into it. I felt that our experience, although far from perfect, was insightful, and was special. Please keep your negative comments to yourself. This is a personal blog on personal experiences. Thank you.****

Lampang, Thailand: My Home

Moving to Thailand with a recruitment company, like Greenheart Travel, has its benefits. One of them, by far, is the amount of information they provide to you about budgeting, living abroad, and previous teacher-placement locations. For me, this was hugely important because I love doing research.

I didn’t know much about Thailand’s regions prior to my departure so it was nice to be provided with a list of different cities that I had the possibility of being placed. It also gave me a chance to narrow down where I might want to be placed to let Xplore Asia know more about my preferences. (They sent out a questionaire about a month prior to my arrival)

Read more

Experiencing Chiang Mai | Thailand

Can you believe that I’ve been in Chiang Mai, Thailand for an entire month already?!!!! It’s gone by so quickly that it’s hard to imagine in less than 6 days, I’ll be teaching Thai children/teenagers; just slightly terrifying. (this blog post was late so I’m technically a week into teaching- oops…blogger fail)

IMG_0471

One of the benefits of teaching abroad through Xplore Asia, is that before starting your TESOL course, you go through a week long orientation. This orientation provided myself and the other teachers informative lessons about Thai language, culture, government and politics. Michael, the owner and executive director of Xplore Asia, is so passionate about teaching new Foreigners making the transition to Thailand, about the new country they moved too.

I never thought this would be beneficial, especially with the internet, but it was so helpful hearing it first hand from someone who experienced the same thing. Plus, I’m a nerd, so I love learning about my new home. The Thai language lessons were extremely helpful as they started helping me think in a new language and provided me with basic conversation skills to be able to start engaging with the locals. Sawaddee Ka! Kapkunka!

Outside of the lessons, Xplore Asia sets up several excursions within the community to help us dive right into the culture! The excursions in Chiang Mai were perfect for the region; rice planting, Muy Thai, trips to the market, a visit with a monk to learn about meditation and a trip to the famous Doi Suthep Temple! It was quite a busy week between class and excursions, but these excursions grew my love for Thailand! These excursions showed me an introduction into the details of what makes this country so special!

In addition to those excursions, we had some free time to explore on our own. I was blessed that I was able to experience a few extra adventures during my month long stay.

One of the first things I did, along side many of my classmates, was journey to the famous Bua Tong Waterfall, a.k.a “Sticky” Waterfall. It’s honestly so hard to put into words how to describe this waterfall. It was nothing like I’ve ever seen or experienced. You literally climb this waterfall, barefooted. There are a few sections with ropes to help, but for the most part, you climb unassisted. AND IT’S EASY. It was so refreshing being back out into nature with the water and the plant life!

Another big excursion was my day trip to Chiang Rai with my roommate. When I first met Karen, one of the things we talked about was HAVING to go to Chiang Rai! We made it happen as were blown away. Chiang Rai is known for a few things. 1) The Golden Triangle; 2) history of being a high producer of opiums; and 3) The White Temple.  The White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, was our main reason to venture the 3.5 hours northeast of Chiang Mai and it did not disappoint. The intrigue details of this temple and the sheer size took our breath away. And that wasn’t it.

Chiang Rai had a new temple that was completed in 2016, called the Blue Temple or Wat Tong Suea Ten, and I only recently found out about this particular temple. Now, I love all things blue, so when I heard of this beautiful temple, I knew it was a must see! It did not disappoint. It was stunning inside and out. And that still wasn’t it.

We had a couple more hours to before our bus ride home, so Karen and I wandered the city and came across this hidden gem of a temple, that looked to be under renovations. It was so unexpected. It had elephants build around it, had colorful, shimmery plates all around it, and it was quiet. No one else was around so it was just us and the temple. Unfortunately, it was closed on the inside, but it didn’t matter. The exterior was magnificent.

My last big adventure in Chiang Mai came in the form of FOOD!!!! I was extremely blessed to be hosted by A Chef’s Tour on their Chiang Mai Northern Food Tour by Truck. This is a food tour focusing majority on the Thai cuisine from the Northern region. It is unique type of Thai cuisine that most Westerners haven’t likely heard of or eaten. My tour guide, Moui, was very knowledgeable and very helpful with explaining the variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and pre-made foods, like curries, cooked fish, etc. This tour took me to several places, including two different markets. These markets had several similarities but were vastly different.

Some of the food I tasted included a century egg (delicacy in China), several types of curries, spicy minced pork, fermented pork, and Northern Thai sausage, sticky rice, stinky fern omelet, crickets and silk worms, 3 different Vegan Burmese influenced salads (pennywort, fermented tea leaf, and tamarind leaf), and several desserts. It was heaven and honestly, SO MUCH FOOD. I was so full but kept on eating. This tour is HIGHLY recommended if you ever go to Northern Thailand (Chiang Mai).

There is so much to see and do throughout the entire country of Thailand, but Northern Thailand has a unique unity between the various surrounding countries that make it so special. I highly recommend taking your own trip to Chiang Mai and experience all Northern Thailand has to offer!!

I can also tell you this…I’m not even close to being done exploring this region and the entirety of Thailand!