A Travellerspoint blog

Janjira comes to stay

As part of this program we are also giving our younger students the chance to practice English by staying with Pat and myself in the weekends. This gives them the chance to practice daily conversation out of the classroom in an informal setting.
Janjira is a 13 year old who is of the Lawa hilltribe. The first time I met her was on my last trip to Thailand, we took a visit to her school where her English teacher was giving us a guided tour of her school. He summoned his star pupil to come and say ‘hi’ with us. Her smile and cute ‘nice to meet you’ left an impression on me, in just those few seconds of meeting her I definitely felt that there was something special about her and that she had potential.
Janjira has an extreme appetite for English. She is staying with us for 4 days and in her 4 days with us she has never wanted to leave my side or stop talking to me! Bless her, she’s my new puppy dog, she will only eat when I eat, and only sleep when I sleep. I’m sure if she carries on at this rate she’ll be fluent in no time. This is also a good way for me to learn Thai, as we can exchange sentences and words.
It’s amazing how much you can learn from a 13 year old. It’s fascinating to learn about her daily life. Today she told me “my family is poor but we must be good people. My father say to me because we are poor we must be good, because if we are poor and bad people, that is very bad for our life and our next life”. By this I think that she meant that she should never feel ashamed of being poor, and that society views poor people that are bad as even worse than rich people that are bad.
I asked her what time she normally wakes up and she said “normally about 4 or 5”. I remarked at how early this was and she said “yes……because I have to make the rice because my parents go to work very early”. When she says ‘make’ the rice she doesn’t mean to just wash it and stick in the rice cooker as we would do. She means to take the rice husk out by using her feet and a wooden rice pounder (see pic) which is really hard work, then wash and boil it.
She also told me how on some days she doesn’t go to school because she has to help her parents on the farm.

Posted by mja1906 05:04 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

First steps in Local Youth Tour Guide Training Program

This was the first step in our local youth tour guide training program. Part of the program involves giving our students hands-on work experience by accompanying us on trips and tours. As Pat and myself are still relative new-comers in this area we wanted to survey the nearby sights of the town and who better to show us than the locals themselves? So we decided to ask 2 of our students to take us around; Kae and Somsak. Kae is a sweet 16 year old girl from ‘La Up’ village (the Lawa hilltribe village where our homestay is based). Kae’s English is already pretty good.
Somsak is from the Karen hilltribe, he recently graduated with a honors in English in Bangkok. Now he has come back to Mae Sariang to look for a job as an English teacher. His English is good too, although he is more reserved with it, maybe it has something to do with the fact that he spent most of his life as a Buddhist monk. Hmmmmm.
So with Pat and myself on one motorbike, Somsak and Kae on another we headed out of Mae Sariang town and off on a country road out of Mae Sariang town in search of Mae Top waterfall.
I never tire and I’m sure I never will tire of riding the country roads here on a motorbike. The natural scenery here never disappoints. Rollings hills, rice terraces, passing the occasional farmer ploughing the fields. After about 15 minutes into the countryside, we arrive at a small house where Kae’s school friend lives. Turns out her friend knows where the waterfall is, so herself and younger brother hop on their bikes too and show us the way. Lucky they did, because we never would have found the place. Backtracking 5 minutes down the way we came we stopped at an unobvious point on the road, parked our bikes and walked through some prickly grasslands on a trail that lead us to the opening of the waterfall. Wonderful! It really was like discovering the ‘secret garden’ but this was a ‘secret waterfall’. Although we couldn’t actually see the top of the waterfall, and this part was just great big stone boulders it was beautiful nonetheless. I guess because it was so secluded. Sunlight was streaming through the gaps of the tropical trees that towered over us, as we navigated through these big rocks to get closer to the waterfall.
As the children stormed ahead like monkeys, I was the typical clumsy foreigner, finding it difficult to scale the slippery rocks. It always amazes me how the Thais are so adept at doing this in nothing more than 20 baht flip flops.
The next stop on our survey was Jom Morn temple, one of the 4 temples in the 4 corners of Mae Sariang. Its like Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai with something like 200 knackering steps to climb to reach the top. After a few minutes of breathlessness at the top, it’s well worth the view of Mae Sariang.

Posted by mja1906 12:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

The first month

and setting up our office

So to catch up on the month that I’ve spent here so far. I have been-
On a 7 day trip with Pat’s good friends – Peter, Herma and Stefan from the Netherlands
On a 2 day trip with some young Germans from Cologne
Developing and making first steps in our local youth guide training program
Getting the office ready
Developing the website, promoting and marketing our project
Teaching English
Studying Thai

Our office is pretty sparse at the moment to say the least! As we don’t have a large budget we’re doing it up step by step. First we’ll get all the essentials, cooking equipment, a kettle, fans, a mosquito zapper and the rest we’ll worry about later.
Right now I’m busy writing, designing and making all the literature that needs to go in the office. Brochures, photos and posters etc.
Although we’re doing things step by step, there is also an urgency to get the front of the office up and running as soon as possible. Several foreigners have walked past the front of the office wondering exactly what we’re all about.
Its not just gonna be a regular office where we just give travel information and take bookings. We’re going to make it into a place where people can come and chill out, drink coffee and read a book. In typical Thai style it will be very ‘sabaii sabaii’………

Posted by mja1906 22:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

The Journey Begins.........

overcast

Ok, so I decided to write a blog something I never thought I would do as it’s not really me, but I guess time calls for change. Due to my recent ‘relocation’ to Northern Thailand I figured it’s the best way to keep friends and family updated on what I’m doing out here, instead of regurgitating the same thing in emails and also to spread the news about what I’m trying to do out here. So…… what exactly am I doing out here?
Well I’m not just here basking in the sun and enjoying the food, I’m here trying to set up a sustainable tourism venture. OK so what exactly does that mean? Well it means that I’m trying to set up a travel company that practices sustainable tourism principles

[*]Preserving the natural environment, culture of indigenous people, their heritage and way of life.
[*]Ensuring the economic benefits of tourism go directly to local people
[*]Allowing tourism to add value to local communities through cultural and knowledge exchange
[*]Allowing tourism to contribute to sustainable development, so communities can become self sufficient
[*]Minimising the negative impacts of tourism
[*]Practicing responsible tourism
[*]Practicing community based tourism. This means empowering communities so that they can manage their own projects. We are engaged in the following community based sustainable development projects

[*]A local youth tour guide training program
[*]Income generation for hilltribe families via homestays and handicrafts
[*]Recruiting foreign volunteers for hilltribe schools

Our sustainable tourism venture (which we have yet to find a name for) offers homestays and guided trips around Mae Hong Son. ‘We’ are about many things. ‘We’ are about paying a fair price to workers and ensuring everybody gets a fair cut. ‘We’ are about trying to prepare the local communities for tourism and how to utilize it to their advantage and spread the benefits equally. ‘We’ are about helping local communities lift themselves out of poverty by making a livelihood, its cliché but its true of what we’re doing out here “teach a fisherman how to fish for a day and he feeds himself for life”.
Having experienced the dark side of the tourism industry in Chiang Mai, Pat (my partner in crime for this venture) wanted to create a project that symbolised the opposite of this. So far, I think we’re on the right track.
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Posted by mja1906 01:56 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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