Day One in the Elephant Village

Monday 22 June

Yesterday, myself and several other volunteers travelled seven hours on the bus from Bangkok to Surin. The differences in the two places are pretty acute! Surin, while modernised with 7/11s, Big C Supermarkets, KFC and other such features, is far more peaceful and traditional than Bangkok. It’s also much, much cheaper!

After being taken to our volunteer house in Surin City, our Volunteer Leader Nam came to meet us to bring us up to speed on the project before heading there. Nam explained that, here in Surin, Elephants are considered near enough holy. That’s why there are a number of villages dedicated to buying Elephants from cities, where they’re mistreated and kept as tourist attractions, who then keep the Elephants, and dedicate themselves to ensuring the Elephants receive plenty of food, exercise and a generally happy life. As volunteers, the money we have paid to be here is the real true help. Our presence he is an opportunity for us to be involved and see a day in the life (or a few, as it were) or a Mahout- carer for the Elephants.

Nam did also make us aware that the Elephants are chained. This is due to insufficient space in the area- if this Elephants could roam then they would eat all the crops, and the village would have no food or income. If kept in the cities, the Elephants would be malnourished and mistreated. It’s a highly complex issue, and not an ideal one, but Nam emphasised strongly that the Mahouts love there Elephants dearly, and their care should never be doubted.

After this introduction, we all went to dinner at this little restaurant next door called P-Koi! I had a super fierce Shrimp Pad Thai, which I ate way too fast but it was delicious, and sampled a couple of local drinks.

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And then pootled off to bed to prepare myself for what promised to be an interesting day!

This morning we got up and all piled onto this bus ready to drive to the village of Ban Tathit.

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And then we sat there for an hour or so because, what do you know, one of the volunteers from our house had gone missing. He was there yesterday, he seemed totally keen and then *poof* gone! They investigated his room and all that remained was the guitar he bought yesterday in Bangkok, and his key to our house. After some searching, and many phonecalls made by the volunteer co-ordinators, it was established that he had actually shot off to Brazil of all places to try to win his ex-girlfriend back. No kidding! Anyway, so now I have this new guitar.

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Thailand: The First 24 Hours

20 June 2015

I’m. Hungover.

After a long, long journey to Bangkok from Botswana, I took a good sleep for what remained of the morning, and then sprung onto the Khao San Road with a few others I’d met in the hostel. Here, you’ll find plenty of good market stalls selling clothes and snacks which you can buy for fair prices, or if you’re good at haggling, VERY low prices! There’s also a number of nice restaurants and bars.

I was starving and heading out with the intention of finding some gooood Pad Thai, but got distracted by this:

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What kind of woman would I be if I didn’t try it?

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It was like really, really, really crispy fish.

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The Flight to Thailand

Friday 19 June

Well. This has been the longest journey of my life, and I am exhausted.

I arose from my tent in Botswana bright and early at 6:30am this morning, so I could get everything packed down and in the truck, to get ourselves on the road to Zambia by 8:00.

I didn’t sleep great in the night, as a hippo was grunting not too far from my tent… Amazing, but also scary!

And, to add a little extra hardcore-ness to the experience, when I began folding my tent this morning, this guy scurried out!!

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He was quickly stomped.

So, of we went back to the border to get the boat back over, away from beautiful Botswana and over to lovely lovely Zambia.

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Truly, I am going to miss it here.

At the Border, I said goodbye to the rest of the gang for whom Matt was waiting with the truck, and Paula, Dan and I made our way to Livingstone Airport.

We had an emotional goodbye, particularly Paula and I who I have felt so close to these last few weeks and then off they went to leave me to start one hellish journey…

Wednesday 17th June
13:10 (11:10 UK)
Depart Livingstone, Zambia

Wednesday 17th June
14:55 (12:55 UK)
Arrive Johannesburg, South Africa

Wednesday 17th June
20:00 (18:00 UK)
Depart Johannesburg, South Africa

Thursday 18th June
06:20 (10:20 UK)
Arrive Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Thursday 18th June
08:25 (12:25 UK)
Depart Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Thursday 18th June
13:05 (08:05 UK)
Arrive Mumbai, India

Friday 19th June
01:05 (20:05 18 June UK)
Depart Mumbai, India

Friday 19th June
06:55 (23:55 18 June UK)
Arrive Bangkok, Thailand

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Today’s the day!

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The last 10 days have been an absolute blur of work, emotions, food and farewells!

I spent all of last week writing the most detailed handover possible for my replacement at work, and learned somewhere in the middle that almost all my flights had been cancelled so had to rebook them! Somehow, I found the time to do my farewell office cakes- tiny little individual chocolate sponge globes! I would love to say them were simple, but they kept going wrong and eventually took me 3 days to complete!

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Start again.

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Yusssssssss.

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As I’m leaving for the airport in about an hour, I don’t have time to give you a detailed recipe, but can briefly explain that for the “sea” I used white chocolate with blue food colouring (burnt the first batch, and learned on the second that blue food colouring works as a thickening agent… Did you know that?!) and for the “land” I used store bought roll out icing. I attempted to replicate the areas of the world I’m actually going to! Let me tell you, India is pretty hard to cut out of icing!

The Friday was my work/chums leaving meal! What a great nice! An array of 20 friends and colleagues were able to come out for it and show me a fantasically unforgettable evening! A great success!

Then came the Saturday, which was (so far as I was aware) the “family segment” that my sister had kindly taken the duty of organising. And organise she did! I was overwhelmed by all the surprises I had waiting for me!

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The dreaded visa

It’s hard to believe it, but in just 6 weeks and 5 days I will be beginning my adventure! I realise I ummed and ahhed about a variety of routes and may have left some confusion, so for clarity, here is my absolute plan of what’s what:

India

26th February I will depart London Heathrow at 8:50pm and arrive in Delhi, India, on 27th February at 10:40am! I will then engage in a month long guided tour of all the best bits, including a variety of beautiful temples and the Himalayas Mountains!

South Africa

Then, on 29th March I will depart Dabolim Goa, India Airport at 6:45pm and arrive Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai airport at 7:55pm. Then at 1:35am (so, 30th March now) I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai and arrive in O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport, South Africa at 6:55am. THEN at 10:45am I will depart O R Tambo Johannesburg Airport only to arrive, finally, at 12:25pm in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Here, I will spend two months working within a Game Ranger internship, helping on the Safari and by the end have a FGASA qualification. Will it come in handy one day? Who can say!

Zambia

So! 25th May at 6:10am I will depart Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and arrive at 7:50am in O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa. Then I’ll catch another flight at 10:40am, which will see me land safely at Livingstone Airport, Africa, at 12:30pm. I’ll then be transferred over to an area of Zambia where I’ll be volunteering within the community. I will also drift over to Botswana for 4 days somewhere in the middle, to explore the Safari and go bush camping!

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And finally

Wednesday 17th June at 1:10pm I will depart Livingstone Airport, Africa, and arrive at O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa, at 2:55pm. I will hostel it up for a night, then 18th June I will get an 11:25am from O R Tambo Johannesburg, South Africa in order to arrive at Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai at 12:05am (now, by all technicalities, on 19th June). Then, at 1:05am I will depart Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mumbai, arriving at Suvarnabhumi International Airport Bangkok, Thailand, at 6:55am!
After what I’m sure will be a memorable night on Khao San Road and a day tour of Bangkok, I will jump on the train all the way up to Surin where I’ll stay for four weeks caring for elephants!

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Love, Life, Food, Adventure

First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this particular post to my parents Dawn and Kevin Maitland, who are celebrating their 33rd wedding anniversary today. They are currently dining in the same Italian restaurant we went for Hana’s pre-wedding dinner just a few months ago. What a special restaurant!

Second, and with no less enthusiasm, I would like to give a great HOLLA HOO to my wonderful best friend Ali Cluney who is celebrating his birthday today. I can’t quite recall how old he is. 80 maybe?

I wanted to ensure I posted today, as it’s a significant memory, not just for my Mother and Father and not just for Ali but for me personally. And what better post for what I wish to blab about than this unusual salad I made for me and my Mum just the other day- The Thai Som Tum. Aka, Papaya Salad!

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Chocolate Bombe

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After the recent development of an obsession with Rick Stein and Thailand, my parents bought a recipe book called “J. Sheekey Fish”, based on the London restaurant by the same name which has received oodles of praise from Rick Stein himself. One day when my father was thumbing through the dessert section, he was blown away by the idea of this “Chocolate Bombe”. I knew at that moment I had to make it for him on his birthday.

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