Trip to Thailand

4th July 2017

By Robyn Dunsford

So Today is my first day back at work after nearly a month spent in Thailand and I thought I’d write a blog dedicated to my travels! In January, I was really interested in going to Thailand for a few weeks to do some volunteering but also to see the beautiful country. I asked Paul if I could have the time off and the next day I had already booked my flights! I went with an organisation called Camp Thailand, so I wasn’t travelling completely alone and I had everything organised for me when I got there, I just had to get there..

As you can imagine, a small 19 year old girl going through the airport on her own for the first time in her life is kind of a big deal, so after two 7 hour flights and 3 airports, I was already pretty proud of myself for actually getting to Thailand. As soon as I got off the plane the exploring began! The first thing I realised after getting my taxi from the airport was, health and safety in Thailand does not exist, and you can drive however you like, you can even use the hard shoulder if you prefer!

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After a couple of days exploring the markets and city of Bangkok, we travelled 13 hours on an overnight train to Chiang Mai, the jungle. It was here we would begin our volunteering, teaching English in schools of all different ages. The first school I taught in had around 70 children and we were there for 4 days. We could only teach them basic things like colours and animals as they couldn’t speak much English at all, but they still learnt so quickly and it was really rewarding to see you had taught them something new, they were the sweetest children I had ever met! The next school I taught at was 2 hours away from my hostel, so I had to wake up a little earlier and travel longer to get there, but that didn’t make it any less rewarding. This school was literally in the middle of the jungle, there were just under 40 kids and only two teachers. Every day for lunch we had rice or baby bamboo, with either spicy cabbage or egg. I soon realised I didn’t like thai food all that much, and actually ordered a total of 6 McDonalds to my hotel room whilst I was there…6!!! I’ll never forget on my last day of teaching when I gave a boy an English book, and his reaction that followed. It had never crossed my mind before that I would witness the pure joy and bewilderment on a child’s face from a moment like that. Teaching at that school was a truly heart-warming experience that I will feel forever grateful for.

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On the weekends, we got up to some really cool stuff, like bamboo rafting! Which is kind of like the rapids at Alton towers, just a lot more dangerous, and the water is full of bugs! (not nice). One of my absolute favourite days was visiting an Elephant Sanctuary!! I learnt the horrible truth about the Phajaan, where a baby elephant is taken from its family and tortured for years, before they are forced to live a life of giving rides and performing in shows. So many of the elephants I met were blind or had injuries they would never recover from, but it was amazing to be able to wash and feed them and see these animals free. We also visited a few temples, including a monkey temple, I very soon realised I am scared of monkeys. We visited a couple of orphanages, which was quite emotional. 19 boys shared 4 beds, which didn’t even have mattresses, but we raised enough money so they could have a mattress each. They had never had pizza before, so we ordered 40 pizza’s and sat around a big table, laughing and smiling together. It was hard because we didn’t speak the same language, you just want to tell them how amazing they are, seeing all of these children so happy still fills your heart with love, it’s so overwhelming.

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On the last week we travelled 14 hours down to Cha-Am beach, where we would be able to chill and enjoy our last few days by the beach, before kicking it off with a huge pool party! It was the coolest pool party ever, with giant flamingos, foam and face paint, it was so fun and the best way to end the trip. It literally felt like I had blinked and it was already time for me to come home. Everything was always super busy, always somewhere to be and something to do so I never had a chance to be bored because I was always focused on what was happening next. It was such a nice break from reality, a different routine and lots of new challenges to face each day. But also what an amazing, eye-opening opportunity to see things in a new way and realise just how lucky you are for what you have. Life is so short and we should enjoy every moment, there is always something to smile about!

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It was a great life experience and I’m really proud of myself for going out there. I must say though it is so good to be back. I have missed English food so much, I consumed the biggest bowl of pasta upon my arrival home. Being able to flush tissue paper down the toilet without blocking the drain is also a great feeling. But also, to be back at deVOL with a fresh outlook on life with all these kind an amazing people. There are such amazing possibilities and opportunities here and you can forget how beautiful Cotes Mill is while you’re working! Returning is the biggest reminder of just how beautiful it is and how lucky I am to be able to work at the Mill.