A Travellerspoint blog

A lazy sunday?

Today 2 Canadians - Susan and Brock walked past our office looking for tourist information so we recommended Mae Top waterfall and introduced our project to them. They seemed to be really impressed with what we were trying to do in the area and especially liked my poster on sustainable tourism. So they agreed to do a day trip with us, Janjira came too.
First we went to Kaew Komon cave and then Mae Top waterfall. However unfortunately due to the heavy rains the ‘main pool’ at the mouth of the waterfall seemed too deep and the water too heavy for safe swimming so they swam in the smaller pool instead. Despite this setback they seemed to enjoy it.
Back to our office in the evening we had dinner in our living room/front of the office. It’s definitely becoming more cosy, as we’ve had huge windows put in at the front so it’s much more open, and you can see people coming and going on the street. This is one thing I love about Asian countries, everything is more open, I guess its because of the hot climate so doors and windows of houses are always wide open, the house and family life overflows out onto the street. Not like in the west where we’re all tucked away in our box houses, it feels more isolated.
I love having dinner in traditional Thai style sitting on a straw bamboo mat, no cutlery needed as its all done with the hands. We had some leftover sticky rice and curried barbequed fish wrapped in banana leaf which I warmed up by putting it in a rice cooker steamer then Pat nipped out to the local roadside vendors to buy beef soup, papaya salad, and barbequed pork. Mmmmmmmmmm. Then Mae Kruu, bless her who I think everyday has a little gift for us, gave us some ‘gai pulot’ which is originally is a Chinese dish of boiled egg with pork. Everyday she brings us a little something, the other night it was soy sesame milk, the day before it was a bag full of soy beans which you can eat just as you would eat peanuts. With such a variety of dishes I enjoyed chomping at each one and found it difficult to stop!
After dinner we were watching tv, Pat swinging on his hammock and me on our straw bamboo mats. Then our neighbor, a Muslim man who is also our landlord summoned Pat outside to have a quiet word. There was a Thai lady outside, the landlord said that this lady wanted to know if Pat would take some people to the Thai/Myanmar border, these people however didn’t have Thai ID cards. Of course Pat declined, saying that “he didn’t want to have any trouble with the police”. The lady said that the people would have ID cards on them, Pat replied “they are not real IDs” she said “how do you know?”. Pat said “I know this story a lot, of course they are fake IDs”. So the woman drove away unsuccessfully. Having worked for an NGO whose main cause was to work against human trafficking on the Thai/Myanmar border, I found it fascinating to see this in practice and to be approached by an actual ‘broker’, by this I mean a broker of people, as essentially she is buying and selling human lives.

Posted by mja1906 05:11 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Janjira goes solo

Today we are letting Janjira take Julie and Vicky up to Kaew Komon cave, her fist ‘solo’ experience of being a tour guide. I am so proud of her! At the tender age of 13, a young girl from a hilltribe village was not afraid to go by herself with two foreigners, for many a seemingly daunting experience but for Janjira it was no problem in fact she was so excited.
Damn……..I didn’t have my camera! The mosquito extermination squad are going round the town and have just been down our road with huge vaporizers blasting some kind of chemical smoke through the houses. Everyone has to come out of their house because of the fumes. The smoke looks like houses are on fire, so with the crowds on the street some adorning face masks, it becomes quite a scene looking like the aftermath of a bomb. In Thai style they come with a truck with a huge megaphone blasting about, well I’m not sure about what. According to Pat they are spreading awareness about Hemorrhagic fever, something small children can get from mosquito bites. So they’re blasting them outta town! Wish I could have taken a video of it.

Posted by mja1906 05:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Mae Sariang town

It's small and cosy and I love it

Our project and office is based in Mae Sariang town, Mae Hong Son province, Northern Thailand. Mae Sariang is a small town and often overlooked on the tourist route. Neighbouring areas are much more touristy, partly because there’s not a lot of tourist information on Mae Sariang with only a few sentences about it in the Lonely Planet.
However over the past few years Mae Sariang has seen a growing number of visitors, as people become more interested in seeking areas which are untouched and offer that the ‘real thing’. So before Mae Sariang becomes another commercial tourist destination we want to prepare the communities for this impending change. This means educating people of the negative impacts that tourism could bring, all too often communities may only see the $ signs when they see foreign tourists, unaware that eventually this could lead to a loss of their cultural heritage and homeland.
So I think our project has come about at the right time and in the right place.
There’s a lot to do here sometimes I don’t even know where to start. So much I want to achieve not only in terms of making a livelihood for myself here, but in terms of helping people and communities. I can see how much I could help and how I could make a difference. This is something you can’t easily do in the west.

Posted by mja1906 08:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Another day, Another happy customer

This morning Pat got back from a 1 day trip up to the Lawa hilltribe villages with 2 tourists - Ralph and Brum. They happened to be walking past our office, Pat was sitting outside and started talking to them, I was inside still busy making posters. We introduced our project to them and they seemed very interested as they wanted to see and experience the ‘real’ thing. When they came back this morning they were very impressed by the trip and really enjoyed it. In their own words it was ‘AWWwwwwwesome’.
They also had tremendous fun getting there and back – motorbikes, windy mountain roads, rainy season, copious amounts of wet mud – see the pictures- enough said! Ralph said they really liked the fact that it was totally spontaneous, it wasn’t all planned out with fixed itineraries, that the host community didn’t put on a show for them, but just carried on with their daily lives.

Posted by mja1906 05:08 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

Mae Tob waterfall outing

Today we went to Mae Top waterfall again with 2 friends in town who are volunteer - Vicky from England who is here with VSO and Julie from Australia who is looking for NGO work here. Poor Vicky and Julie have attempted to find Mae Top waterfall for the past 2 weekends to no avail. They did manage to find one waterfall last weekend though, and it made me laugh when we got a call from them saying “Hi we’re at the waterfall, but there’s no water here”. Hmmmmmmm….. don’t ask, I don’t know either how it’s possible for a waterfall not to have water in the height of rainy season?!
This evening Janjira’s dad came down from the mountains to pick her up and take her back home. I was really sad to see her go, even though I know she will be back again one weekend soon. I didn’t realize how attached I had become to her!
Felt so bad for her father too who had to drive 1.5 hours down from the mountains through heavy rain, and when I say heavy, I mean the tropical heavy type of rain!
She is a real diamond, has a purity that you don’t see in many teenagers today, with a pure and humble attitude towards life – she will go very far. I desperately want to help her in whatever way I can because I can see that if she’s not given the right opportunities her potential will be lost. She told me about the choices she has after finishing high school:
1) Going to a small college nearby which is close to where her father works so she can catch a lift with him or
2) Go to a college in Mae La Noi town. Which is a better college but much farther away from her home and she would have to take a local bus there
When children attend La Up school it is free. They walk or cycle to school, and don’t need to pay for books and uniforms aren’t compulsory. The only thing they need to bring to school with them is a portion of rice to have for lunch, and the school canteen has meat/vegetables for them to eat with the rice. However after they finish at this school if they want to continue education, where they can study for the equivalent of A Levels they need to go to the nearest town of Mae La Noi where there is a college. However, most children can’t afford this further education as they don’t have the money to pay for the bus to Mae La Noi, for books and for uniform.
So after they finish school most children in La Up village end up helping their families on their farms or doing manual labour. For children of wealthy families they can afford the costs of going to college.
I am going to start looking into a scholarship program for children who want to continue education but do not have the financial means to do so. When Pat enquired about costs with school teachers we found out that it costs only 15,000 baht per year for 1 child to attend college for 1 year. This is the equivalent of 150 GBP or 300 USD. This is nothing when you think of it in terms of allowing a child to finish education and gain a high school certificate, for the cost of a pair of designer shoes, a weekend break away, a nice dress or two.

Posted by mja1906 05:06 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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