Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weeks Thirty-Six and Thirty-Seven Daily Journal

Week 36 

Friday, June 3
Ko Phangan, Thailand

Sleeping on the bus to Bangkok.
Note the scarf head-wrap: a key overnight bus accessory
We went to yoga in the morning and spent a while talking to the yoga teacher, who was kind of intense, while sharing a shake. We hung out at the resort for a bit before we had to leave to catch our ferry. We stopped at the night market for some food and began the first leg of our overnight journey to Bangkok – the slow ferry from Ko Phangan to Surat Thani. Then we got on the VIP Government Bus – the people sitting in front of us where the same people on our bus-bus-ferry combo out to Ko Phangan. It made a dinner stop where we were herded into a giant cafeteria and seated with a Thai family who served us mystery food from the communal dishes. The bus was pretty nice and we watched The Fighter before going to sleep.

Saturday, June 4
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yes pleas.e
We got to the bus station only and hour and half late, and only two hours after the bus driver started playing Thai Saturday morning cartoons at top volume. We tried to find an airport bus but without success, so we took a taxi to the airport for our flight to Chiang Mai. We whiled away the time in the amazing Bangkok Airlines departure lounge – free wifi, free coffee, free snacks (including a popcorn machine!) When we got to Chiang Mai we checked into the Le Meridian where we were staying with points and where we had been upgraded to the diplomatic suite!!! At 1550 sq ft, it was twice the size of our apartment in NY. It was amazing. We stayed there all day, only leaving to go to Pantip Plaza and then for lunch (soup at a nearby street market) and dinner (soup at a different street market). We also had massages. Maggie came over and we bought a copy of Hangover 2 and watched it on our giant flatscreen in our giant living room in our giant comfy chairs.

Sunday, June 5
Chiang Mai, Thailand

We hit the gym and then partook in the spectacular brunch buffet. Steak, sushi and seafood were just a few of the stations we hit up. We stretched brunch into a many hour affair and then went back to Pantip Plaza, still trying to deal with our broken camera BC. Dave went and met Maggie at the night market and I just lounged around and took a bath in my giant jacuzzi tub. Bliss.

Monday, June 6
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

"Welcome to ENP"
Today we started our volunteering stint at Elephant Nature Park. We met at their office in CM and then drove out about an hour to the park, where we got toured around by our VC (volunteer coordinator) Shay. We fed and bathed and elephants, watched some educational DVDs and ate delicious vegetarian food.  (See post, Ki Chang).

Tuesday, June 7
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Today was our first day working. In the morning we were in the kitchen, Dave moving and cleaning watermelons and squash, and J making banana balls. (See post, Delicious Ellie Snacks). We fed some of the adult elephants, and then after lunch we had a talk with Lek (the woman who started the camp) about ENP. Then we were back in the kitchen, this time shucking corn and cutting up banana bunches. We skipped the first evening activity – a DVD – to do work, and went to the second activity, a lesson on Thai culture and language.

Wednesday, June 8
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Making a mud house
Today we went to Jungle Camp, a recently purchased piece of land about an hour from ENP that Lek wants to turn into a preserve where the elephants can roam free and live a more wild existence. In the morning we helped out by digging holes and planting trees, part of a massive reforestation project. In the afternoon we worked on a mud house – mixing mud and applying it to the inside and outside of the sandbag walls. We definitely deserved the massages that we had that night. ENP has rotating groups of massage ladies come each evening to ply their trade and they are fabulous.

Thursday, June 9
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Friendly students
We shoveled poo in the morning. It was actually pretty fun and not smelly or gross at all. After lunch we went to a local school. We got massages from students training to be masseuses, and saw Sii, the woman who had done Dave’s massage the night before who was the head massage teacher there. In addition to normal classes, the school does vocational training for the kids both to give them skills for when they graduate and to incentivize the parents to send the kids to school. So we saw the student-run coffee shop, bakery, jewelry shop, etc. Later that the afternoon we divided into two groups. Dave went to plant pineapples and I chose to hack up corn stalks with machetes – way more fun. We also met the new puppy who was just rescued from his owner who slashed him with a machete! After a month at the hospital he came to ENP and was named Eddie Machete. More massages that night, but with a different group of ladies.

Week 37

Friday, June 10
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We shoveled poo again in the morning, and then helped out in the kitchen. Later that afternoon we went on an elephant walk with James and Thep. We didn’t learn all that much. Massages with Sii and Pon again that night!

Saturday, June 11
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

We were supposed to go out to cut corn today, the most dreaded of all chores. Previous groups had returned with horrible rashes. Luckily for us it was pouring rain so instead we worked in the kitchen. After lunch we packed up our stuff, and then went out and planted some trees. Before long it was time to leave and we took the bus back to Chiang Mai where we checked into the familiar and beloved Merids. We were, of course, covered in mud and dirt when we checked in, which was awkward. No diplomatic suite this time, but our room was nice and we enjoyed the Club access – we sat there, had complimentary wine and used the internet, and ended up making dinner out of the cocktail hour snacks.

Sunday, June 12
Chiang Mai, Thailand

We woke up super early and sat at breakfast writing a ton of blog posts. Then we changed location to the pool and wrote some more. Then I got a mani-pedi and got rid of the layers of dirt caked under my nails. We met up with some ENP friends at the walking street and got food and massages and then met the rest of the ENP at THC Bar (actual name). Then I went home exhausted and D continued on to Zoe Bar.

Monday, June 13
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

It appeared to be laundry day for
our Phnom Penh laundry man
We had a long travel day today – an 8:30 am flight to Bangkok, then a long 6 hour layover in the Bangkok airport (goldfish!) before a quick flight to Phnom Penh. We checked into our hotel The 240 (soooo nice!) and had dinner at Freebird Cafe, a bar down the street that the woman at the hotel recommended. It served American food and we enjoyed a burger and salad.

Tuesday, June 14
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We did work all day today, just moving around from place to place – from The 240, to it’s sister hotel (with pool) The Pavillion. We went to yoga in the early evening and then met Laura Stein’s friend from dinner at Sugar Palm.

Wednesday, June 15
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Today we discovered the magic that is the Blue Pumpkin and spent the day there. We took a long walk along the river back to our hotel, stopping to watch a group of men play a kind of acrobatic hackeysack game but with badminton birdies. We had dinner – Khmer food - at Knay.

Thursday, June 16
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Oh Blue Pumpkin, how I love you
We spent the day down by the riverfront. At night we went out with some of Laura’s friends, first to a Russian restaurant and then to a few bars. 

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