Landroamers

Two Girls, One Goal: Roam the Globe

Category: Thailand

WORKAWAY: Giving Something Back

tara and meMore often than not whilst travelling, you hear somebody preaching about “the real” parts of the country in which you’re in; in other words, the parts of the country that are off the beaten track. Whilst we personally believe that being on the tourist/backpacker track is enriching in terms of meeting new people and doing the main activities the country has to offer, we do also like to drop off the map from time to time. Each country we visit has so much to offer us in terms of sights, food and lifestyle, that it’s almost daylight robbery! But, now we’ve found a way to give something back through the website workaway.info’.

WHAT IS WORKAWAY?

Simply put, ‘workaway’ is a website filled with advertisements for all sorts of different types of voluntary work, in a country of your choosing. With a vast database of unique and rewarding volunteering availabilities, we were almost spoiled for choice! From teaching to building and babysitting to gardening, it has endless opportunities available for willing people.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

As volunteers, the standard agreement is that you are given food and accommodation in exchange for a set number of hours per week; the unique nature of each project applies also to the amount of work and responsibilities you have. For example, one project could ask for one week only of 2 hours per day, whereas another could require a minimum of 3 weeks and 5 hours a day of work. It’s entirely unique and incredibly flexible; once you pay the minimal joining fee of $29USD, you are able to get in contact with the hosts to discuss and finalise your details. These days, so many wonderful volunteering projects expect a hefty fee, so this is an economic way to do a good deed!

OUR WORKAWAY EXPERIENCE

viewsAs we had a little extra time in Thailand, we decided to take the opportunity to give something back to a community. We wanted a laborious type of volunteering, and with a few quick strokes we found the perfect place for us; a future holistic centre in need of tiling. Our hosts replied quickly and happily, and arranged to pick us up on the day we specified – and so began our adventure!

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Standing on the “Watermelons”

We were expected to work 5 hours a day 5 days a week in exchange for accommodation and three meals a day. Obviously, it was no 5-star accommodation, but we’re used to roughing it a little; we were given a room with a makeshift bed and plug sockets – all we needed! Our project was based inside little dome rooms, which would be turned into bedrooms and meditation rooms in the future. The curious design of these houses had the villagers calling them “watermelons”!

Our job in the day was to mosaic tile a future bathrooms; our hosts showed us how to make the cement ‘mud’, the right amount to add to each piece, how to break the tiles safely and how to clip them into a suitable shape for the design. Who knew mosaicking was so complicated? Still, it was a very relaxing atmosphere and a therapeutic task. With music playing and our focus peaked, the hours and days passed easily. Art really is therapy! We really loved our mosaic experience, particularly seeing the progress!

mosaic closeupAlthough we were required to have 5 hours of work a day, the way we managed that was very flexible. Aside from the responsibility of watering the orchard at specific times (for the centre hopes to be semi self-sustained food-wise) we were free to work whenever. Usually, we did 3 hours in the morning and two after lunch, but this was entirely up to us.

Mealtime was a very interesting experience, and often amusing. A lady in the village cooked our lunch and dinner, with a repetitive menu of rice and a varying array of vegetables. Did you know that you could cook cucumber? We certainly didn’t! While not particularly appealing, the hosts had a shopping list laying around for any extra necessities. And, luckily for us, breakfast was rice-free (except on days when the excessive rice leftovers were turned into ‘mango sticky rice’ – no joke!) and consisted of fruit, cereal, the occasional pancakes and eggs! Yum! As travellers, it’s nice to not have to worry about making your own meals all the time!

So much rice!

So much rice!

Of course, depending on what volunteering project you choose, you may not be alone! We worked alongside around 5-10 different workawayers of all different nationalities and ages, and made budding friendships with our fellow workers! It’s amazing how many wonderful people we met, all who had no problem adjusting to the lifestyle and making us feel welcome. Many of them even stayed for 4 weeks at the site, and many had been doing workaway projects across the globe! Evenings and mealtimes were spent talking and exchanging stories from all over the world!

WHY DO WORKAWAY?

  • Free volunteering: most days, volunteering requires donations and money that many of us simply don’t have! But with workaway, you can do a good deed for free (minus the initial, miniscule fee!)
  • Meet new people for longer: you make so many friends whilst travelling, but workaway offers you the chance to stay in the same place for longer – so you can meet people for more than a night or two! When you find the people that you really click with, you can even journey on with them!
  • A break from travelling: it’s the chance to settle down for a week or two in the same spot, air out your bag and get a little routine going! Sometimes, it’s nice to have a laundry basket instead of a ‘dirty clothes bag’!bench
  • It’s entirely flexible: there’s no binding contract here; if you find that your volunteering isn’t to your liking, you can leave without a fuss! On the flipside, if you find that you love where you are, you can extend your stay!
  • A wide variety: the website is easy to navigate and offers thousands of volunteering opportunities that range vastly. It’s like an encyclopaedia for volunteering!

We loved our workaway experience, and are taking new skills, memories and friends with us as we continue our journey! Share your workaway stories with us!

CHIANG MAI: AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY DAY

For anyone travelling in South East Asia, Thailand is famed for its vast array of elephant tours and sanctuaries, both positively and negatively. The most desired activity in the North (followed closely by cooking classes and Muay Thai boxing) is a day with elephants, and we were sucked straight into this idea. However, we did our research beforehand and opted for a day in an elephant sanctuary.

ELEPHANT RIDES

elephantAlthough this seems like the most exciting and tale-worthy experience with elephants, it’s actually incredibly cruel, and elephants are often rescued from places which offer riding. In order to tame an elephant enough to make it safe for tourists to ride them, they are essentially beaten from a young age, torn from their mothers and starved so they become submissive, which is an utterly horrendous technique. Furthermore, the fact that such animal cruelty occurs for tourists makes it even more despicable; travellers have paid for animals to live miserable lives, for the sake of ‘entertainment’. Thankfully, there is a vast array of sanctuaries that have rescued elephants from this, and now use tourist money to ensure they live happy lives.

WHY GO TO ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES?

Whilst you don’t get to experience riding an elephant, you get to live with the knowledge that you are not funding animal cruelty. Moreover, the day itself is full of other, more fulfilling activities that help you care for such a precious animal, rather than endanger it. Our day was filled with bathing and feeding the elephants, and learning to make special ‘medicine’ for them, as well as hundreds of photo opportunities!

OUR EXPERIENCE

grassWe were taken to an elephant sanctuary very early in the morning, with a guide that had swallowed one too many pages from the urban dictionary and kept coming out with phrases such as “let’s hit the town!” We changed into (hideous) overalls, and headed out to meet out elephants, who had all been rescued from either a circus or a riding centre – and one had even escaped into a village, before being rescued!

feedingOur biggest task was feeding the elephants, which happened three or four times during our day. Elephants eat around 200kg of food per day each, so it’s a huge task! We fed them bananas to get to know them, and they grabbed bushels of them with their trunks, throwing them into their mouths in fast, repetitive motions. It was like watching a conveyor belt of food go into their mouths – these animals are greedy! We also ventured into a green patch and chopped plenty of tall grass, which they once again consumed at astonishing speed!

waterfunAfter feeding, our next task was bathing them. The saying “happy as a fish in water” could easily swap out the fish for an elephant; the second they went into the lake, they submerged themselves with delight and practically went snorkelling! Our happy elephants rolled around as though they weighed nothing (despite weighing almost 3 tonnes!), and we had to make sure one of their playful kicks didn’t break a rib! We were all given a brush and bucket and waded in happily after them, keeping them wet and washing as best we could! Who knew elephants loved water? NOTE: We thought we were standing on a soft riverbed, but it turns out to be sunken elephant poo – they release around 70kg of poop a day! Ew!

Finally, we learned how to make elephant ‘medicine’, after a long day of playing with them. We were taken to a shaded area with a huge mortar and pestle, and we took it in turns to crush out ingredients such as salt and ginger into paste. This apparently aided their digestion which, given the sheer quantity of food, seemed like a good idea! Plus, they really seemed to like it!

SAYING GOODBYE

flowerWhen it was eventually time to head back to our hostel, we had to say goodbye to our elephants. Naturally, the best way to do this was with some more bananas – which, we found out were donated from the local village when they were past human edibility. It was particularly touching because the elephants held your hand with their trunks in farewell, and one even brought us a flower! True love? We think so!handholding

In all seriousness, we think a day with elephants is a must-do, but be careful what you sign up for! These creatures are innocent and loveable, and don’t deserve to be tortured for tourist demands, so opt for a sanctuary day instead of riding! You’ll have the best day, guaranteed!

HOW TO: THAILAND’S FULL MOON PARTY

Legend has it, the Full Moon Party was initially just a group of friends celebrating a birthday, but these days it’s a once-a-month mental beach party! On average, 20,000 people arrive on Haad Rin Beach on the island of Koh Phangan every month to drink, dance and party! It’s a night you won’t forget, and we have the perfect guide!

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ACCOMODATION

beachThe islanders are smart and know how to make money and, as such, most hostels have a minimum night’s stay of 3 or 4 nights. This might seem unfair and annoying, but you’ll certainly be needing the next day to recover, so it’s only really one or two extra nights. There’s loads of amazing beaches on the island itself, so there’s plenty to do apart from the full moon party. Plus, there are parties almost every night (such as a jungle party!) so it’s definitely not the worst place to spend a few more days!

We highly recommend paying that little extra for air conditioning, as we’d originally gone for the cheaper option and almost drowned in our own sweat. It’s hot! There are tons of options for little private rooms, but most come with a fan instead so it’s not worth it! Our air-conditioned 20 bed dorm was far more welcoming!

PREPARATIONS

Here’s where things get a little harder – but we have a kit list and price list for you!

  • TSHIRTS: Basic Full Moon Party uniform demands the wear of a hideous neon yellow/ green/ pink or orange t-shirts. If you’re buying more than one make sure to haggle; you can reduce the price from 150baht to 100!
  • RAVE PAINT: Half the fun of a night out is getting ready, particularly when there’s paint involved! Do not buy paint at street stalls as they are more expensive; instead, opt for buying it at the supermarket for around 40baht per pot! HOWEVER, you can get free rave paint when you arrive at the beach or when you order drinks at certain bars, so play it by ear!
TRANSPORT

tranpsortIt will cost you 100baht to get to the Full Moon Party, with no haggling possible. Unfortunately, taxi drivers know that you need to get to Haad Rin Beach and they have all decided to charge 100 baht per person, so save time and pay up. You will have to pay upfront, but you will get there.

Taxi drivers will also wait until they have the full 8 people in their vehicles, as they’re trying to make the most amount of money as possible. Please be patient; the party lasts all night and they’re just trying to make a living!

Typically, it’s easier to negotiate price for the way back, so hopefully you can save some money on the way back!

THE PARTY

raveUpon arrival, you will receive a wristband after paying your entrance fee of 150baht and then you’re in! The walk up from the entrance to the beach is full of drink stalls selling buckets of alcohol and mixers (yes, buckets!) for 150baht, but you can negotiate if buying more than one. BEWARE: Thai alcohol and energy drinks are a little different, so don’t overdo it on the buckets as they are very strong!hands

The beach itself is a party animal’s heaven! The entire stretch is filled with miniature stages for different genres of music, with bright lights and people everywhere! Hop onto a podium, admire the fire tricks – but, no matter what your vodka tells you, don’t try to jump the flaming rope! Trust us, we’ve seen people getting pretty burnt from a misjudgement!

But, on a serious note, the night is crazy and definitely one you won’t forget! If you can handle yourself, you can catch the sunrise on the beach and still be partying! Drink up and enjoy the ride!

TOP TIPS

  • Wear footwear! The temptation to walk through the sand barefoot is great, but getting glass in your foot and ending your night early isn’t worth it!firetricks
  • Watch your buckets! It’s really cool to have your drink in a sandcastle bucket, but it’s also easier to get spiked so be careful.
  • Don’t bring your valuables! There’s certainly no ID checks in Thailand, so leave what you can securely locked up to avoid losing it on the beach – trust us, you won’t find them again!
  • Don’t go to the toilets! They’re disgusting and you have to pay for them, plus there’s no toilet roll – if possible, hold it in!
  • Enjoy the night! Going to a Full Moon Party is bucket list material, so make the most of it!

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