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New Year, New Trail! - Week  One

I am the new ethical trail leader for the South-East Asia journey starting in January. I am from the Netherlands. My journey travelling to Thailand started two days before the end of year. I arrived on the last day of 2017. I had an early night and ran in the New Year with a typical Dutch dish called Oliebollen and a good night sleep. So Happy New Year, wherever you are!

The first day of the trial consisted of picking up two sets of groups. The first group, consisting of 4 people, arrived in the morning. This meant I had to get up early to collect them from the airport. An hour after settling in we went for a stroll around Khao San Road. This road is the place to be, especially for Backpackers. The road can best be described as very colourful and busy. It is busy due to the many shops (thai clothing, decorations etc.), food stalls and the many people. The second group, consisting of 2 people, arrived in the evening. We had a quick rest before going to have some dinner.

The second day of the trial consisted once again of picking up the last remaining people. They both arrived at the same time but at different airports. I send two volunteers to collect the one arriving at the airport of which I collected them. I went to Don Mueang Airport to collect the last volunteer. Afterwards we all explored the area and had our first group dinner eating Thai food.

The third day of the trial consisted of activities. First, we went to the grand palace. It used to be the home of the king of Thailand. Today it is only used for official ceremonies, then the complex is closed for visitors. Afterwards we had some lunch in a local bar. Sadly two of the volunteer did not join us as they were still a bit jetlagged from their flight. After lunch we went to Wat Pho. It is the place to be for a Thai massage. Wat Pho is known as a learning school for giving massages. The main attraction of Wat Pho is a giant and impressive 45m- long Buddha statue.



The fourth day we had scheduled Wat Arün. We would go by boat and then have a look around. Luckily I checked the official website and read that it was under construction which made our plans fall apart. Some of the volunteers wanted to go to a park while others liked to buy some items at Khao San Road. They had their first day exploring by themselves. Everyone came back home at the agreed time, 5 pm. We took our big backpacks and went on our way to the bus terminal. Here we took the Bangkok Busline, a night bus, to Chiang Mai. The bus ride was comfortable as we could move the seats almost flat – like a bed. On the fifth day we arrived early in Chiang Mai and we took a Rót daang (‘’red truck – a shared taxi) to the hostel. Some of the volunteers decided on the spot they would like to go White Water Rafting today. Those who did not decided to go looked around the hostel. We went for brunch and looked if it was possible to check into the hostel. Luckily we could! After an hour of rest, we went to some of the temples around Chiang Mai. When the group arrived in the afternoon, we set a time for dinner. After dinner we checked out the night market before going back to the hostel.

The sixth day we woke up at 7am to get ready for our pick up at 8.30am. We would go on a 2-day trek. First we would do an elephant poo paper factory. Here we learned how paper is made from elephant poo. It was a very hands-on experience as we could try ourselves. Secondly we went to the elephants sanctuary. Here we were allowed to touch, feed and bath the elephants. The elephants decided what they would like to do. Those who took care of the elephants clearly had a loving and caring bond with these impressive animals. It is one of those experiences who you will likely not forget any time soon. After the elephant care we had a hike uphill. We stayed in a longhouse made from bamboo with the Lahu hill tribe. This village had a couple of houses and shops. The longhouse had an amazing view over the valley. All of us had an early night to get up for sunrise the next day. The sunrise was not as amazing as sunset but it was still worth getting up early. On the 7th day we walked downhill until a waterfall. Some us swam in the waterfall, others had a rest. After the swim we walked along the river for another hour till the pick-up point. Here we had lunch before heading on our way back to Chiang Mai.

Overall, the first week has given the group time to bond. Everyone gets along very well, which is lovely. The activities were a mix between active and non-active. We learned a lot about the Thai culture and its animals. I am looking forward to next week.

See you,

By Joëlle Glerum - South East Asia Ethical Trail Leader

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