After volunteering in Thailand for two weeks in early 2016, i fell in love with the country, the people, the sun and the animals! As soon as i touched down in cold and rainy England, i instantly started planning my trip back to Thailand for summer 2016. This time i did not fly directly to Thailand as i didn’t cope too well with the long 13 hour flight, this time i stopped over in Dubai for 6 hours. Dubai airport is huge! I got completely lost and then fell asleep curled up in a ball on the floor using my bag as a pillow. I woke up 4 hours later and eventually found my plane. The flight was long and bumpy and i was exhausted by the time i landed in Bangkok. I stayed in a very nice hotel in Bangkok for the night, the temperature was about 39 degrees, i was ecstatic when i found out my room had air-conditioning!
The next day i took a taxi to a town called Kanchanaburi which is about 2 hours from Bangkok and i went and met the zoo team i volunteer with straight away. We then took a half an hour bus ride to the Safari park zoo in Kanchanaburi. This time all the people who started with me were from England and one American girl. these girls since have become some of my closest friends!
Once we all got settled in, i went to go visit my monkeys and all the adorable animals in the rescue centre. I missed them all so much, it’s crazy how attached you can get in such a short amount of time! I was there as a general volunteer but i asked if i could work on the rescue centre every day because i enjoyed it so much. For three weeks straight, i spent every single day caring for the primates, rabbits, parrots, binturong and Digs, our beautiful cassowary (pictured left). It was so much fun and i loved every single second of it, even cleaning the cages in the morning was fun! Making enrichment was definitely a highlight of the day, my favourite thing to make for the primates was food parcels. To make these i collect leave from the trees in the jungles, some sticks and any fruit that the primates would like such as bananas or melon. Then lay the leaves onto of each other and put the fruit in the middle, wrap the leaves around the fruit and then push a stick through the middle to hold it together. The primates love these, and it’s fun watching them try to unwrap them. They all tackle them in different ways, some open the top and eat them like an ice cream, some rip them apart and one even likes to unwrap it carefully like a gift! As well as making enrichment for the primates i also got to make food enrichment for the bears. To make this we had to cut up pieces of bamboo and then in a mixing bowl, mix honey and fruit up until it was nice and thick. Then pour this mixture in the bamboo stick, then cover the stop with straw so it stayed inside the bamboo. To deliver this to the bears we jumped on board the safari bus and went into the bear zone and threw them out the window for the bears, they loved them!
As well as making the animals on the rescue centre enrichment, one of the main activities we take part in is interaction. Most of the animals are ex-pets so they are used to being handled and having human interaction. At the zoo we do not handle them or go into the cages with them as they can be quite aggressive and temperamental, some of them stuff like a good back scratch through the cage though! There is a beautiful gibbon there called Chutney (pictured right) he is incredibly aggressive when he wants to be and is an ex-pet, but he is the cutest ape ever! Once you have gained his trust he will let you give him a big back scratch but once you start he will not let you stop! I spent a lot of time working with him and getting him to trust me, after few weeks he eventually let me hold his hand and scratch him arms. I could tell he really enjoyed this because if i stopped or went to move away he would put on hand on my leg or take hold of my hand and if i tried to pull away he would tighten his grip! The bond that you can create with these animals in incredible and it’s such a privilege to be able to help to improve there life in the zoo.
I had a few days off during my time at the zoo, one of these day i spent at a beautiful waterfall and the other floating down a river in a rubber ring. The day i spent in the rubber ring turned out to be quite eventful! Once we finished our morning clean me and another volunteer, Kimmy jumped in a taxi and we headed to the river. We had never done this activity before, we had only heard about it from the other volunteers and it sounded pretty simple. You hire a rubber ring from a lady at the side of the river, then awkwardly try and get into the river with the rubber rings (this was harder than i thought it would be).
Once we finally got into the river, we got as comfortable as we could in our rubber rings and floated along the river in the midday sun. It was lovely, the sun was hot and the scenery was beautiful! After a while of floating we started to look around a realised that all the people had disappeared and it was very quite! Turns out because we were too busy talking and taking pictures we missed the place we were meant to exit the river and floated right past it! At this point we started to panic slightly, we had no money, no phones and no idea were our taxi was! I spotted some steps coming up from the river so we floated over to it, and we had to crawl through thick seaweed and water plants to get to it. Once we were up and back on the ground we realised that the steps we had climbed up led into someone garden! Luckily none seen us so we ran out as fast as we could onto the the street. At this point my skin was really starting to burn, we had no idea how to get back and we had these huge rubber rings to carry. We started walking along the road following the way we had come down the river, but after we while we completely lost the river. We tried to get closer to were we thought the river was but it turned out that we had entered a buddhist monastery, we had to leave here straight away as we were in little shorts and tops! We had to walk the long way around the monastery and eventually came to the conclusion that we were well in-truly lost! Kimmy decided to ask a local thai man who we walked past for help. Unfortunately he couldn’t speak a word of English and we couldn’t speak a word of Thai, but he seen the rubber rings and mimed us to follow him. I was bit nervous at this point as he was guiding us through people gardens and then a forest… i had no idea where this man was taking us but either way we were lost! The man was actually incredibly nice and lead us to the river, we even had a dog following us. It turned out that we had walked right past were our taxi was and carried on walking!
The man mimed that we had to get back into the river and then float back to were we started! We felt like such fools! An activity that would normally take about an hour turned into a 4/5 hours mission. We floated back to the start and then jumped back into our taxi and headed straight back to the zoo, we fell asleep as soon as we got into the taxi! When we got back to the zoo, it was only then i realised how badly sunburnt i actually was, i was in so much pain and spent the rest of the night with bags on ice on my back. It was a crazy experience, and i’m just happy that i had Kimmy there with me!
I left the park a week early because i wanted to go and see a little bit more of Thailand before i left. So i took a taxi back to Bangkok and then jumped onto a mini van that was boiling hot and packed full of people and this took me to a port. I then boarded a speed boat which took me to a very little island called Ko Samet. This was were i learnt how sea sick i actually am!
When i arrived on the island it was pouring down with rain but still very hot. I arrived at my hostel (http://ollyskohsamed.com) and was greeted by Olly, the owner. He was lovely and made sure i had everything that i needed. I had book a single bed but he upgraded me to a double bed for free which i was very happy about.
The beds were adorable little cupboard style beds and they were very cozy! In the hostel there was a few people staying there but the main people i spent time with were a german man, a lovely girl from Finland and two London guys who make travel videos.
The island was very small but very beautiful, one day i hired a moped and drove all around the island (which only took about half an hour because it was so tiny!). The scenery was incredible and i couldn’t get over how blue the sea was. Most of my time on the island was spent sun bathing or exploring. I just missed the party season so it was really quite so i basically have a whole part of the beach to myself.
Thailand is such a beautiful and wonderful place. If you haven’t been to Thailand, i highly recommend that you do. Next time i go i think i will definitely go and explore some more of the islands because they are just so stunning!