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South East Asia Trail - James  Mearman

James went on the Frontier South East Asia trail for a month, travelling through Thailand before the trail went on to Cambodia. Here's James' story!

1 – Why did you choose to go on the trail?

I wanted to go on this trail with Frontier because it is a great way to see a different part of the world in an organised group of young people. It is great to have a knowledgeable trail leader who organizes all your accommodation, transport and activities which makes for a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere within the group.

2 – What kind of work and activities did you do during your time on the trail?

Throughout the trail we did a range of activities: Zip-wiring through the jungle canopy in Chang Mai Wildlife sanctuary visit which included an elephant walk, Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan Boat tour around Bangkok Exploring a vast network of caves, which included a boat tour down an underground river. Hot springs in a national park. Thai boxing match. Snorkelling around the island of Koh Tao

3 – How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?

Thailand is a very calm and peaceful country, with Buddhism being a strong focal point of their culture. They are very respectful towards their Royal family, and you will see large pictures of them lining the streets in every place you visit. While it may seem quiet during the day, Thailand really comes alive at night with bustling markets and street food stalls - be ready to eat a lot of rice and noodles!

4 – What was the accommodation like throughout your journey?

Accommodation consisted of hostels and guest houses - they tended to be small basic rooms, but they all had wi-fi access and en suite bathrooms. Some had swimming pools and bar areas which were great places to meet other backpackers.

5 – What were the staff and other trail volunteers like?

Our trail leader Dan was very efficient in organizing our trip for us, and we all had a lot of say in what activities we wanted to do. It was a great group to be a part of, and we had many fun nights out around local bars and clubs.

6 – What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?

There were many highlights of the trip, but one that stands out for me would be visiting Pai Gorge to watch the sunset - it was an amazing place full of raised walkways carved out of the rocks which made for a stunning closure to the day. Other highlights would be the elephant walk in the wildlife sanctuary and seeing the amazing coral reefs while snorkelling around Koh Tao.

7 – Do you feel the work you were doing on your project placement was worthwhile?

We didn’t exactly do any work while in Thailand, we just travelled around and did sightseeing! However other people in the group were going onto Cambodia afterwards to do teaching in schools.

8 – What sort of adventure activities did you get up to on the trail?

The best adventure activity we did was zip-wiring through the jungle canopies in Chang Mai. We were driven up to the top of a hill and we made our way down a vast network of zip-wires back down to the bottom. We also had to negotiate rope bridges and other obstacles along the way, and we also had to abseil at some points. We also had a guided tour through series of huge, cathedral-like caves - there was an underground river running through, and some of the caves were only accessible by boat.

9 – What were you hoping to learn from this experience, and have you achieved those goals?

My time with Frontier in Thailand has been a thrilling experience and the trail offered a great way to travel around the whole country in a young, sociable group. I went to Thailand because I had never been to Asia before and I wanted to experience a totally different culture to what I’m used to. I came away with many great memories and I would definitely want to visit this part of the world again.

10 – Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future trail volunteers?

Take the usual precautions when traveling - keep valuables on you in zipped pockets at all times, watch out for each other on nights out etc. It is also worth taking a toilet roll with you! Some of the ATM machines can be troublesome so it’s worth taking some US dollars which you can exchange into Thai money in the country.

11 – What do you have planned next?

I am already planning my next trip!

By James Mearman - South East Asia Trail

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

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