Volunteer in Thailand with Friends for Asia

March Volunteer Thailand Update

With our very busy schedule recently, this has been the first moment I’ve been able to take some time and send out an update. We’ve had a couple of great orientation groups recently; the latest was Volunteer Group #71. We just finished orientation this afternoon, and they are the second largest group we’ve had. The volunteers in this group will be starting their projects at the Children’s Home, Single Mother’s Home and Elephant Camp tomorrow. We wish them all a great first day.

A few weeks ago we had a great group of volunteers up at the Elephant Camp. An Australian woman named Rebecca was one of those volunteers. After her arrival back at home, she sent me this great story and testimonial, that I wanted to share with everyone that reads our updates. It’ll certainly make those previously serving volunteers from the Elephant Camp nostalgic for their volunteer Thailand experience.

Rebecca’s Volunteer Thailand Story

“The elephant camp is an amazing; during the day the camp is abuzz with the hustle and bustle of excited tourists making their way through various activities that the camp offers; oxcart riding, bamboo rafts and of course elephant treks and shows. By late afternoon, as the tourist start to leave, the ambience of the camp becomes tranquil and somewhat surreal, late afternoon powernaps where accompanied by the sounds of the river which runs alongside the rooms as well as elephants trumpeting in the background. We had a bit of time to relax in the afternoon and play with the local dogs ( Da is the Ellie camp dog who took it upon himself to stay close by our side as our personal escort, his “girlfriend” is Long) NB. If any vollie gets the chance to grab some flea collars while in Chiang Mai please do, I’m sure the dogs would really appreciate it ( unfortunately we ran out of time).”

“The early morning bathing sessions where one of the most magical experiences of my life, still half asleep we’d make our way down to the stalls to be greeted by our mahouts (you get assigned to one mahout+ elephant throughout your time). On some mornings, if it was cold enough, the mahouts would have a fire going and everyone would gather for a quick warm up before starting the day. After a sleepy, broken Thaiglish greeting around the fire we’d clamber up on our elephants and make our way down to the river to start the ellie baths. The Mahouts would walk beside the elephants while we would ride bareback on the ellies neck with our feet tucked behind their ears.

On the way down to the river it would start to become a little warmer as day began to break, the sun would hit the mountains behind the river to reveal breathtaking views of mist rising up from the forests ( the camp is nestled into the bottom of a mountain range). The views accompanied by the mahouts singing beautifully in Thai( and of course our riding bareback on such a majestic animal as the elephant ) made these mornings absolutely unforgettable. My Mahout would often give me some cane to feed Lom Dom (my ellie) on the way to the river. S would see Book handing me the cane then halt on the spot and start waving her trunk around in front me to try and out what goodies I had for her (elephants aren’t very subtle, watch yr cane & bananas at the show!!). I was taught a few different vocal commands for the ellies while at the camp, one was “bon bon” which I presume means “trunk up”? Whenever I said that to LomDom she would put her trunk up to get whatever treat I had for her. She was always so much more obliging when food was part of the equation.”

“Another amazing experience I had while at the camp was getting to have a mud bath with LomDom (unintentionally I may add). I had been staying at the camp for the past week and on this particular afternoon I was on the veranda drying my hair after a well deserved, warm shower. I saw Book (my mahout) and LomDom (my ellie) walking upstream. It was about two hours before scheduled bath time so I figured we must have been going for a mid afternoon trek. I might just add here that alot of things at the camp happen very spontaneously, you never know what to expect! Anyway I went down to meet them at bamboo rafts in the river and Book instructed to jump on, which I did very clumsily, and the wrong way round but that’s a different story all together!

We walked upstream a little further to a wall of black clay which made up part of the creek embankment. Book helped me down and, as was the norm, I started to pat LomDom and tell her what a good girl she was. I’d noticed that book was now standing several metres away from where we were with a slight smirk on his face which left me a little inquisitive as to what it was that we were actually doing here. My questions were answered when LomDom scooped up a mass of the clay and water with her trunk and proceeded to spray both herself and me with it. I heard Book chuckling in the background. As in any mud fight, one must fend for themselves, I retorted by splashing Lomdom with some of the muddy water that was around my feet, to which she responded by picking up another trunkful of mud and proceeded to cover the pair of us. By the end of the it we where both covered head to toe and looked like the things from the black swamp. I now know that trying to win a mud fight with an elephant is a futile battle which ends in laughter, humility and another hot shower. This was one of my favourite experiences at the camp among many others. Just goes to show that you never know what life has install until you put yourself out there =)”

Thank you Rebecca for sharing your stories and experiences.