I’ve never wanted to go to Asia. Never. I’m one of those few Australians that have never even been to Bali. Whenever I thought of Asia, I thought of overly crowded streets, rice and a lot of people speaking to me in a foreign language. Everything about THAT sent shivers down my spine. So when I got the offer to go on an international placement to Thailand for my nursing studies, I was slightly nervous. Excited, because travelling is travelling, in the end, but still, nervous. One thing that settled my nerves was the fact that I knew we would be going to less touristy destinations. Our plan was to travel to the northern villages of thailand to provide mobile health clinics to the very remote villages in the mountains. To tell you the truth, other than that, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
My first day in Thailand was terrifying. All my fears were coming true. We were in the middle of Chiang Mai, and there were gigantic crowds, a lot of rice AND people talking to me in Thai. I was terrified. The traffic was something I have never seen before and NEVER want to drive in as long as I live. To cross the road as a pedestrian, you literally had to just run. These people thought a zebra crossing was just a pretty painting on the road and that a traffic light was a fancy christmas decoration. But despite the fear, I was also intrigued. The people were kind here, and I loved how cheap everything was. The fruit here was AMAZING. I am a fruit girl, and I couldn’t help myself from devouring any strange fruit in sight. A weird shaped fruit that I’d never seen before? Sure? Mini bananas the size of my fingers? Hell yeah! An apple pear? HAND IT OVER! I think I spent half my money on fruit, and the other half of the a tuk tuk ride, but I’ll get into that story later…
After a few days in Chiang Mai, we drove as a group to a small village called Om Koi. We stayed at Om Koi resort in what felt like little tree houses. I was so happy here. I was living in a jungle surrounded by trees, running water and a beautiful peace which definitely wasn’t present in Chiang Mai. We spent a few days here, but nothing especially notable happened. We visited the local hospital and learnt how the Thai health care system worked. But let me skip to the interesting parts.
We drove to our next destination: Mae Tuen. A small village surrounded by gorgeous mountains, farmland and thick jungle. Some of my favourite memories was 4 wheel driving through the mountains to get to the clinics each day. Let me show you some photos, because I don’t think my words will describe the immense beauty and surrealness of that place. Pure magic.
Some of my favourite experiences of the whole trip were the days off, of course. On the first weekend, our translators took us to the local waterfall and the animal conservation centre near Mae Tuen. We went hiking, adventuring, and sight seeing, and it was a wonderful and memorable experience. We even found Donald Trump in bird form. Here’s a picture so you know what I mean.
Another amazing experience was visiting an elephant sanctuary just outside of Chiang Mai, a beautiful place that rescues elephants from elephant riding companies and logging businesses. I felt so lucky to be able to stand next to one of those beautiful creatures, look into its eye and really see the intelligence they hold within. We bathed them, fed them and played with them, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
And now I can all hear you say, “What happened with the Tuk Tuk?” Well let’s just begin with this. Do not, I repeat DO NOT, drink long island ice teas on your last night out. Why? Because they have ABOUT 5 STANDARD DRINKS IN EACH OF THOSE HORRID THINGS. If you are anything like me, this will lead to about 5 more shots, and then a beer or two to top things off, and then you will no doubt take a tuk tuk home and pay him $200 Australian dollars instead of paying him in THAI MONEY!! Yes. I did that. But you know what, I’m sure that little tuk tuk driver has now retired, bought a holiday house AND probably sent all his kids away to a fancy boarding school. I am just happy to help.