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The Gap Year Blog

Week Two - By Trail Leader Joƫlle

16 Apr 2018 13:15 PM


This week has flown by. We started off on a day trip around Chiang Mai and visited the Thee Kings Monument, a couple of temples and a famous rooftop bar. 

The most memorable temple was Doi Suthep, where we had a gorgeous view over the skyline of Chiang Mai. The temple itself is decorated in a colourful gold and blue.

The following day we went off to the Karen Elephant Sanctuary. Here we spend a day feeding, bathing, walking and enjoying time with three elephants - a baby (three years old) and two pregnant females. They move elegantly even though they are giants. It was such a lovely adventure. 

In the evening we stayed in a two-person cabin within the longhouse, which meant sleeping on a bamboo floor - a once in a life time experience (at least for the volunteers!) The following day we started hiking towards a waterfall, and tried to reach Karen Hill Village but were unsuccessful. In total we hiked about 12km.

Our elephant friend

We spent the next day relaxing in Chiang Mai. Songkran, the Thai New Year, is taking place in the coming days. Traditionally, younger people sprinkle elderly people with water to show respect and bless them with the New Year. However in recent years, it has become a massive public water fight. 

The group went to have a massage at a place where ex-prisoners work. Then, in the evening we travelled by night bus to Kanchanaburi, arriving the next morning at about 9am, and went straight to our hostel. We are staying in a floating house above the river. It has such a gorgeous view and it is a wonderful experience to stay here. 

We started the day a little late by having brunch in a breakfast-style place. Then we went to the JEATH museum where the volunteers learned about the construction of the Thailand-Burma railway. We went on by boat to the Wat Tham Khao Poon (a temple within a cave), the Chunkai War Cemetery and the Thailand-Burma Railway bridge (or Death Railway Bridge). We walked over the bridge and went to the Chinese temple on the other side, and later on we went to a vegetarian restaurant. 

Chiang Mai

On Saturday we had a lie-in. We left at about 1.30pm to go to Wat Ban Tham (The Dragon Temple), Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao. The first temple is somewhat odd to Thailand. In most Thai temples, dragons are not shown in images, but this temple is all about a dragon. You walk through the dragon’s mouth into its body towards a cave wherein the temple is located. If you climb to the top – the view is amazing – and there is another cave here. Inside, we saw many monks praying. 

The second and third temples are right next to each other. They are pretty distinctive as one is Chinese and the other Thai. The simplicity of the one temple in comparison to the colourful temple of the other is quite overwhelming.

On Sunday we left at about 11am to visit the Hellfire Pass and the hot springs. About 70% of the prisoners of war whom constructed the Thailand-Burma railway died during the construction of this pass. They worked in terrible conditions: 16 hours a day, scarce amounts of food, beatings, diseases etc. It was named the Hellfire Pass by the prisoners as the torches at night felt like hellfire – a never-ending hell. The museum here is very informative. 

Hellfire Pass

Afterwards we travelled to the hot springs. Here we felt like monkeys being watched in a cage. In a sense, we were celebrities for once – people came up to us for photographs, for a simple chat or to smear clay on our faces for the Songkran celebrations. It was an informative and relaxing day.

See you soon,

Joëlle Glerum – Trail Leader | South East Asia Ethical Adventure Trail

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!