Thursday
Jan232014

Assistant Trail Leader Blog: Life is about the journey, not just the destination

Today is our two week anniversary of arriving in Thailand and what an amazing two weeks it’s been! We’ve visited temples, tubed down a river, trekked in the jungle, eaten awesome food and have all slowly but surely acquired elephant trousers! Our blog will keep you updated along the way about all the great places we visit and the awesome experiences were having, but for now I thought it might be fun to see how were getting from one incredible place to another as its far more exciting than my daily bus commute in Plymouth!

My first experience of travelling by road was in a taxi “make sure you ask for the driver to turn on the meter else you’ll end up paying double” was the advice I was given so after some negotiating we were off weaving through the streets of Bangkok, until we met the gridlock of Khao San Road which involved not only cars but a plethora of other motor vehicles ranging from large trucks to tuk-tuks interlaced with mopeds weaving in and out.


Once we were settled in Bangkok we needed to get around - enter the famous tuk- tuk which was a definite eye-opener! It’s a great way to travel and see everything as you can literally reach out and be part of what’s going on - although not advised! When the smoke and beeping horns got too much we tried out a new mode of travel in the form of river boats to get to the Grand Palace and Temple of the Reclining Buddha which was also a great way to see another side of the city.

We then left Bangkok and took a night bus to Chaing Mai, with the new city we found a new vehicle to transport all of us and our belongings to the Royal Guesthouse - a song taew which literally means ‘two rows’ used to describe the two rows of benches that the passengers sit on.

Our next stop was Pai and after surviving the 726 bends in a minibus I’m pretty sure none of us were ready to travel again in a hurry. Luckily for us the lazy town of Pai accommodated this request and we spent our time cycling or walking to get around. I loved being able to cycle with Rebecca, Tara and Amanda to Yoga in the morning.

By far my favorite means of transport was the steam train that bought us to our current location Kanchanaburi. We slowly travelled through the beautiful countryside and as the sun set it made for a perfect photo of calm and tranquility, this was however interrupted by the party/restaurant carriage on the train that treated us to classics by Whitney, Mariah and Madonna which definitely kept us entertained throughout the 15 hour journey! (good job we were on the express train!)

By Kelly Lovick, Assistant Trail Leader

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.

Thursday
Jan232014

Volunteer Blog: Leah Hodges

I’ve had an awesome second week on my trip to Thailand with Frontier, starting off with a two day, one night trek. We started in Pai, heading to our guide’s childhood village and after a morning of hiking we stopped for lunch where our guides created a feast for us using the natural source, bamboo. They showed us how to create the fire, made skewers to cook the meat, used the bamboo to steam the rice, and also bamboo to boil the tea before serving it in bamboo made cups.  To serve the rice, the bamboo shoot was peeled so the rice could be dished out along with the meat, all served in a bamboo leaf which was cool!

Once we were well rested from our lunch break we headed off a couple more hours reaching the village late afternoon where we were made very welcome and taken to the bamboo houses we were staying in for the night. We were able to relax, use their showers and soak up the scenery until dinner, which they laid out in a room for us all. They had made us a traditional Thai desert of sweet sticky rice, soaked in coconut before using the bamboo to steam it over the open fire.  The whole group was sitting by the fire, listening to the guide’s stories of the village, passing around the bamboo shoot of sweet sticky rice.

The last day we ventured to a beautiful waterfall in the mountains where we were able to take a swim. During the last couple of hours we had to climb up over a mountain to make it to the next village, which wasn’t the easiest but with the help of new friends we all succeeded and felt proud of our accomplishment.

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Trail leader blog: Food Glorious Food

Food is always high on the agenda here on the South East Asia Trail, whether it’s traditional Thai food, iced coffee and treats from bakeries or the increasingly popular organic cafes. The Thais love to eat and it’s often difficult to walk down the street without falling over people slurping noodle soup at plastic tables and chairs, or vendors selling fruit, meat sticks or noodles from their cart. It’s only been one week and we’ve already tried fried rice, fried noodles, red, green and yellow curries and meat stir fried with cashew nuts, vegetables, basil and sweet and sour sauce to name a few.

When the rice gets too much I love to find an organic café and have a fruit smoothie with a salad filled sandwich, often with plenty of bacon, cheese and avocado! My favourite being the Om Garden Café in Pai, where a few of us are currently eating mango passion pavlova after falafel wraps, veggie quesadillas, coronation chicken salads and chicken and pesto sandwiches. A real healthy treat!

By night, Pai closes to cars and street food sellers line the streets with everything from spring rolls to chicken dumplings, fried noodles, sausages on sticks, bbq pork, corn on the cobs, chicken and vegetable kebabs and deep fried mushrooms. For those after western fix there are mini pizzas, bruschetta and jacket potatoes and if you have any room  afterwards there are banana pancakes, chocolate crepes, waffles and even hot chocolate or green tea swirling in terracotta urns. Here are some photos of the trail enjoying their dinner, all cooked on the side of the street!

By Rachel Bradley, Trail Leader

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Volunteer blog: Mike Hanson

We have just completed our first 7 days on the Frontier South East Asia Trail and it has been absolutely fantastic so far! It already feels like the group have been together for so much longer since we met on that first day in Bangkok and we have done so much already it’s unreal! We spent a couple of nights in Bangkok down Khao San road, experiencing the night life, the new food and a day trip to the Grand Palace (for some us after a very warm and pretty sticky boat journey!) and we were also lucky enough to bump into the Princess of Thailand. A very royal start for us indeed!


Next we got the night bus down to Chang Mai (where the bus driver treated us to some Thai music at 3am…) where we spent a few days exploring temples, finding exciting places to eat, indulging in massages and for some of us a night down the local Thai boxing ring! My personal highlight during our stay in Chang Mai was our opportunity to speak to Olay, one of the local monks who offered a very insightful, inspiring and refreshing outlook on not only being a Monk, but also teaching us the concepts and philosophies behind the Buddhist religion, something which I’m sure will stay with me for many years to come! As much as I would love to shave my head, get an orange robe and go full monk, I don’t think I could live without dancing and singing like a bit of an idiot (which unfortunately Monks cannot do!)

We have just arrived in the northern town of Pai which I have absolutely fallen in love with, it is so peaceful, tranquil and calm compared to the humid hustle and bustle of Bangkok, I think I have learnt that I am very much a countryside kinda guy! The group are just about to go tubing down the local river now and I cannot wait for what the next few weeks have in store for us!

By Mike Hanson, volunteer

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.

Thursday
Jun132013

On the ending of the trail

Shadia, one of the Trail Leaders on the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail has written up her thoughts on the entire 10 weeks, now that this particular group has reached the end of thier travels together.

The last 10 weeks have been incredible, from Bangkok to Hanoi we have seen so many different places, and had so many different experiences and met so many amazing new friends. 

Thailand - We started out in Bangkok, visiting the Grand Palace and various temples along the river before we heading north. Chiang Mai was great fun with the night bazaar, Muay Thai boxing and a two day trek. The trek was hard work but staying at the elephant park, getting to bathe them in the river and ride them made it all worth the effort. The view from the open air sleeping platform was incredible. After the trek we made our way further north to Pai, for a more relaxing couple of days by the pool and learning our to make spring rolls in the Thai cooking class. Everywhere in Thailand has a completely different feel to it and Kanchanaburi did not disappoint. We spent the days learning about the history of the area and visiting the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai, as well as visiting the Erawan National Park and enjoying the 7 levels of waterfalls. We were very lucky with the timing of our trip and were able to join in with the nationwide 3 day long water fight that fills the streets for the Songkram festival (Thai New Year). Then we made our way south, to the islands Koh Tao and Koh Chang. In Koh Tao everyone got the PADI Open Water SCUBA certifications before we all spent a couple days relaxing on the beach in Koh Chang. Thailand is a truly beautiful country.

Cambodia - Heading into Cambodia signified the start of the volunteering aspect of our trip. Before we got started with our beach conservation project we went to Angkor Wat for sunrise and explored the amazing temples which are unmissable if you visit Cambodia. We then spent four weeks down on the marine camp learning all about the fish species and local underwater ecosystem. After passing our fish ID and spot tests we carried out surveys on the local reefs, hopefully one day the data collected will go towards helping to protect the reef as the surrounding areas develop. We ended our time in Cambodia in the capitol Phnom Penh, where we visited the Killing Fields and S21 Genocide Museum. Our trip was full of highs and lows and although learning about the Khmer Rouge Campaign was a harrowing experience it is so important to gain this knowledge about the terrible things that have happened in the beautiful places we visited.

Vietnam - After four weeks at the beach or teaching, everyone was ready to get on the move again. We started in Ho Chi Minh City where we learnt about the guerilla warfare of the Vietcong at the Cu Chi Tunnels and the devastating effects if the war at the War Remnants Museum. We visited the famous sand dunes of Mui Ne and visited a local fishing village as they brought in their catch, before moving on to Nha Trang. We had a great time in Nha Trang, going the local island hopping tour and then visiting the Vin Pearl Water Park where we all enjoyed the rides and slides for the day. Hoi An, our next destination, is a beautiful town full of tailors and lanterns, anything you want made from hats to dresses, suits to shoes, Hoi An is the place to do it. The Citadel at Hue was a beautiful stopoff point on our way to Hanoi which was our final stop. We spent the day at Ha Long Bay, one of the new seven wonders of the world, and spent the day swimming, kayaking and visiting the amazing cave whilst sailing around on our own private boat. We all went out for dinner for our final night and the last couple of days in Hanoi were the perfect way to round off our trip! Vietnam and the whole trip has been a completely unforgettable experience. 

Find out more about the South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail.