On December 12. we got up at around 7:30 because we left about 1.5 hours later to catch the bus to Mae Sai. Mae Sai is the most northern city of Thailand at the boarder to Myanmar. From Chiang Rai it takes about 1.5 hours with the bus to get there.
We arrived at about 10:30 which was way way to early since the seminar wasn’t supposed to start until 2:00 PM. The good thing about us being so early was that we had friends (also volunteers – working in Cambodia) already waiting for us at the Orphanage of our organization. The Orphanage wasn’t in use at the current time so we slept there and had all our seminar units there as well.
We were pretty excited about the week in Mae Sai since the seminar we had in Germany was so much fun and because we would finally see our friends from Cambodia again. 🙂
The seminar itself had many interesting topics.
We talked about our experiences – what we liked, what our biggest challenge was so far and how we handle working with the kids and being a teacher. Since I had some difficulties lately I was more than happy to exchange my thoughts and experiences. It really helped me to firstly talk about it but secondly hear about other and new strategies. These units really helped me and I got great advice from many people.
Of course, we also talked a lot about the cultural differences between Thailand/Cambodia and our western cultures. It was interesting which parts each one of us considered the biggest differences or the smallest.
We talked about which of these differences could cause conflicts between the cultures. In my opinion even the smallest differences like different ways to eat or to greet each other can result in a conflict if there is no tolerance on both sides and not even the smallest intention of understanding, adapting and respecting the other ways.
Another big and really important topic was human trafficking and prostitution. Since we are living in a country where this is more than just a big problem it is important to learn and talk about it. It was interesting but shocking as well. The longer you confront yourself with it you feel more and more helpless and you seem to detect it and keep an eye open for it even more than before. Which is good! Awareness is a powerful weapon I suppose – at least for the common people.
Beside the seminar units we had a lot of time to just hang. Spending so much time with the other volunteers – especially the ones you can’t talk to usually was amazing. We were so happy to see the girls and boys from Cambodia and hear all about their experiences.
In the evenings we played board and card games and talked 🙂
We finished up the seminar with two trips.
The first one was to one of the local hill tribes.
All of us got picked up by 3 “blue-cars”. Of course, Chiang Rai took one together.
The drive took about 2 hours through the mountains of northern Thailand.
The nature was impressive and the view beautiful. Along the way we stopped at two different tea plantations and walked around for a bit.
We arrived at one of the hill villages at noon and went for lunch at a little restaurant there. After having a great meal we went to the place we were supposed to stay for the night. It was not what we expected. When we heard we are staying at a hill village we all imagined Bamboo huts and not the hotel/hostel we were standing in front of. It was a modern and recently renewed building with nice rooms including a Tv and a bathroom.
The best about it was the view:
Later that day we went for a little hike – or more of walk, into one of the villages nearby.
It was a nice walk up and down the hills and it was a whole new experience to see the way the people live in the mountains of Thailand.
The kids were surprisingly open minded when they saw us and came over to play. The adults were friendly but I couldn’t tell if some of them really liked us walking through their home.
How can I describe the conditions in the village.. It was definitely a huge difference to the poverty I experienced in the city. But on the other hand you also have to acknowledge that most of the food they eat and things they use are made by themselves and thereby it makes total sense that they live different from us.
On our walk we actually went so far into the mountains that we could see the “green boarder” to Myanmar.
The next day we went for a real hike.
We started at our hotel/hostel and the first obstacle were about 800 stairs – up the mountain.
When we finally made it up the stairs we realized it wasn’t the end.
There were a whole lot more height meters to overcome. It was exhausting but definitely worth it.
See for yourself:
Even though it wasn’t a sunny day the view was amazing – maybe expecially because it wasn’t a sunny day 🙂
In the afternoon we went back to the orphanage.
It was the last night all together and the last night of the seminar so we had a little BBQ – Party with amazing food.
The next morning we got up pretty early and got ready to leave the orphanage. But we didn’t leave it to go home. We had another adventure ahead of us.
It was freezing cold but our coordinator still loaded us in the bed of 3 pick up’s and we went into the mountains again.
The drive was different from the drive on Saturday or Sunday.
Down in Mae Sai it was cloudy and cold but every hight meter we made the weather got more beautiful. The sun came through the fog and made everything sparkle like it does in movies when you see an empty forest and mountains in the dawn.
When we arrived we were actually above the clouds and it looked incredible.
We spent a few hours at our coordinators coffee farm and learned how to pick the coffee and all about the process from the bean to the cup. 🙂
Picking the coffee from the trees was fun and learning about it very interesting.
After having lunch at the Café in the mountains, which also belongs to our coordinator, we went to the bus station to catch the bus to Chiang Rai.
Luckily our Cambodian friends had the opportunity to come with us to Chaing Rai and not only spend the evening with us but also the next day until their bus left for Bangkok! 🙂
Together we went to the White Temple and the Kun Khorn Waterfall.
It was so great to spend some time with Inga, Joke, Moritz and Lenny from Cambodia. Especially the opportunity to show them where and how we live.
I sincerely hope that in March Linda and I have the chance to go to Cambodia and visit them 🙂
Thailand won’t be the same without you guys!