Two Weeks in an Elephant Village

Have you ever taken a trip with little, to no thought?

March of 2016, I was scrolling through Facebook, when I came across a video showing different volunteer trips around the world. One in particular caught my eye, a trip spent working with elephants! Getting up close and personal with elephants was a dream of mine, so can this be real? O it was! I did a little more research on it. I went to the GoEco website that the video had given me and found a trip spent in Thailand working in a small elephant village. Side note: the actual company was We Are Bamboo, so should you look into a trip like this, you can just go straight to their site.  So, like most trips I go on….. I had no plan, didn’t really know how I was going to pay for it, or what to expect, I just knew I had to go. A few days later I booked the trip, bought plane tickets, and for the first few weeks in July I was going to Thailand!

Let me tell you, I regret nothing.

How could I? I was in for an experience that not many people are able to have in their life.

July came and after nearly 30 hours of traveling, I had made it to Bangkok. There I met the people that I would be spending the next few weeks with, some of the best people. By the end of our traveling experience we became a small family. They are what helped to really make the trip what it was. We stayedphoto (1) in this small hotel on a busy street with lots of shopping, food and not far from Khao San Road. This road had some awesome night life if you are looking for something to do into the wee hours of the night.

After that weekend, we took a train to Surin, Thailand for the night where we stayed in the Bamboo projects house for volunteers. The evening was spent in a Reggae bar listening to live music and drinking waaay too much Chang beer.

Bright and early the next morning we traveled to the elephant village, the place we would call home during the week. It’s a small village where families own and care for their own elephants. It’s here that they are trying to bring volunteers in to help promote the safety and well-being of the elephants.

Here in this village with it’s dirt roads, there is no WiFi, there is no air conditioning, and showers are taken by dumping water on you from a bucket (the bucket is also how you flush the toilet). All the volunteers stay in homes that families in the village are kind enough to open up to us. We slept on mats with mosquito nets covering them and a fan to turn on at night to help keep you cool because let me tell you, even if you think you know heat and humidity, you don’t. There is no heat or humidity like that of Thailand.

Thailand humidity: 7         My hair: 0

It is definitely a little bit of a culture shock from the Western world, but it was the best kind of shock. When you lose all the other stuff that creates distractions in life, all that’s left is time spent talking, laughing, getting to know other people from around the world, playing cards, and maybe a little more drinking of Chang than we should.

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The next week was spent cutting and planting bamboo, walking the elephants every day to the river to give them a bath, visiting where the “poo-paper” is made and helping to make the paper, kayaking, playing with the local children in the school yard, going to the Wednesday night market (which had the BEST fried chicken), and enjoying each others company. And there is nothing like the feeling of a cold bucket shower after a hot and sticky day of cutting bamboo.

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That weekend we had off, so I took this as an opportunity to put another stamp in the ole passport. A few of the girls and I decided to go to Siem Reap, Cambodia. There they have numerous temples that you can visit, to include the well known Angkor Wat, or if you want, Ta Prohm (if you really want to channel your inner Lara Croft). If you are looking for a hostel to stay at while there, I recommend the Funky Flashpacker. They have both private rooms, as well as, community style sleeping accommodations. The hostel is centered around a pool, there is always something going on there, you can meet so many people from around the world, and they have some pretty delicious avocado on toast for breakfast. You can get a tuk-tuk driver for the whole day for about $20. They will drive you to all and any temples in the area. And at night you can stay and enjoy the night life at the hostel or walk over to Pub Street and explore the night life there.

photoAfter a quick, jam packed weekend, we returned to the village for another week. Two weeks flew by and before I knew it, I was back in Bangkok preparing for the flight home. One more night was spent out for a bit on Khao San Road and the next day I had to say some of my hardest goodbyes. In those short few weeks, I developed strong relationships. We became a small family. You spend 24/7 with people you’ve never met and in a short time, you feel as though you have known them forever.

(This blog post and few pictures, doesn’t even begin to do this adventure justice. But I was trying to spare you from reading a novel of a blog post. Should anyone be interested, I’m happy to share more.)

Trips like this, force you out of your comfort zones. Force you to experience life in a different way. Force you to meet and create relationships with people.

In the end, the best trips are usually the ones that aren’t well thought out and they usually end up being the most unforgettable.

Does anyone have any unforgettable trips they’ve taken? I’d love to hear them! And maybe get an idea for somewhere I haven’t been, but need to go!

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