Exploring a school in the jungle

I decided to head into the mountains for a little exploring. It was Thursday in Doi Saket. There were some cool places up in the hills that I wanted to check out. I drove out of town and found a promising turnoff that led to a gravel road heading up the mountain. Knowing I would eventually find something worthwhile I continued up the windy road.Finding myself coming to a dead end I rerouted and went around a cool lake. Nothing worth writing home about however it was great to see something new. I persevered up the dirt road for a few kilometres to end up on a paved road. This was kind of nice considering the terrain was getting pretty sketchy for my poor little scooter in the jungle. I made a decision to head right on the paved road.

It wasn’t long before I came up to an intersection. I had a choice to either go straight towards the Royal Agriculture Research Centre of Chiangmai. Or I could go left around a lake towards The School For Life. Going with my gut I headed left. Two kilometres passed the lake I approached the entrance for the school. I was happy with my decision.

 I grabbed my camera..

..and started walking into the “school yard”. It was surreal to see this isolated learning centre in the middle of the jungle. However I did not know if I was allowed to be there, let alone documenting it. I quickly found a teacher who would be able to help me answer this question. I introduced myself and explained what I was doing exploring this foreign land. “Mr. B” was very welcoming and said it was ok for me to look around and take some shots.

I encountered a group of students with a teacher seemingly playing a game like rock, paper, scissors. I made my way over slowly, trying not to interrupt. They noticed me approaching and everyone looked up to see who the outsider was. There are not many visitors up here especially Canadian tourists with tattoos. I met some of the kids and their teacher, who was a younger German fellow who was on a mission to give these children an education. There were many expat teachers here and the kids loved them and the games they played together. I sat and watched some of the fun with many eyes upon me. It was one of the coolest experiences in my life.

Discovering this school..

 ..was a humbling observation. One of the teachers explained that all of these students were either abandoned or taken away from their parents for humane reasons. This made my heart hurt but filled me with love at the same time. I had such a great appreciation for this academy and what they are doing. There are many children in this country that get no education at all. I was thrilled to witness this outreach program first hand. The difference this makes in these kids’ lives is incredible and it shows.

The kids loved having me as their guest. I am grateful for seeing this education system and exploring this region of the jungle. It gave me a profound understanding of how lucky we are in Canada and other parts of the world. These children are inspiring to me and have a second chance at the School For Life. I wanted to share this experience with you, thank you for reading. I will continue to explore the far stretches of the world. At the same time bring to you a great story that is sure to enrich the soul.

Cheers,

Jonny D

First 10 days in thailand…

I have not been in Thailand long however I have already learned some tricks to save money. Stretching your wallet here is not easy and and it takes some diligence. Be cautious of pitfalls like I explained in my last post about Popular Scams in Bangkok. Also be aware of how you spend your money day to day. Transportation, food and accommodations are the biggest costs while travelling. Research pays off when it comes to these categories. Here’s what I learned about commuting around the craziest city in the world.

subways,skytrains and grab app

At first I was taking the subways(MRT) and skytrains(BTS) to do most of my commuting. It ended up costing nearly as much, if not more to take the train system around Bangkok as it did to take a taxi. I quickly learned the cheapest and fastest way to get around was an app called Grab. It’s similar to Uber but they also have the Grab bike option. This is a scooter taxi that can pick you up in minutes. They can weave through traffic much quicker than any vehicle. As many know Bangkok’s traffic can be horrendous and you can waste a lot of time sitting in a car. At a fraction of the price I could get all the way across the city on a scooter. Mind you, there is a level of danger here that is not present while riding inside a car. It just depends how much trust you have for the drivers. I thought the grab bikes were a lot fun and an experience all in itself. Check it out for yourself, it’s worth the experience!

On the back of a Grab Bike

buses and tuktuks

The next option for local transportation is the bus system. Again, like the subway, it’s not easy to navigate these bus stops or routes. Many signs are written in Thai or too small to read while on the bus. Most of the time, the bus driver or collection person will help you find your stop but it’s not a guarantee. The buses are cheaper than most other transportation but easily get stuck in traffic jams or gridlocked streets. The TukTuks are another option but can range in price considerably. Without any bartering experience, you will more than likely pay too much. These drivers are good at reeling in unexperienced travellers and taking their money. Be cautious and try to make a deal before getting into any TukTuks. They are pretty fast and can fit into tighter spots than most cars though, this is an advantage for backed up traffic.

TukTuk

Boat taxis

There is another option if you do not want to end up on the gridlocked streets of Bangkok in rush hour. The boat taxis and water transportation are a great way to make up ground for little money. The river boats move quickly through the canals and can be a great experience for travellers. It is a popular method of transport for many locals and the crowds aren’t too bad. As long as you don’t mind walking a bit, this is an effective way to make it from point A to point B. Again, learning the routes is essential to a seamless trip and paying attention to where you are is crucial. I missed my pier by two stops and had to walk several blocks to make it where I wanted to go. This wasn’t the worst thing ever but a lesson learned on being alert and knowing where you are.

all in all…

Bangkok offers many ways to get around and knowing which one suits you the best will only come with experience. Larger groups would not be able to take the scooters and it’s no fun being the only foreigner looking clueless in the train station. Finding your favourite mode of transport can be challenging but I hope this helps if you are just starting out!

Cheers and thanks for reading!

JonnyD

I made it to bangkok alive!

Click here for more of my photography from Bangkok!

I am experiencing a new culture in the craziest city in the world. There is so much going on here it’s hard to compute. I have seen some temples and took a river boat tour. Got on some scooter taxis and had some of the best street food to date. Oh yeah, and I got a tattoo on my forearm on Khao San road.

There is much to do in this massive metropolis and I barely scratched the surface in four days. Tourism is booming here and the locals know how to take advantage of that. You have to be careful not to fall for any scams. Whether it be fake boat tours or the overpriced VIP taxis, it’s easy to be caught off guard in this foreign land. Be mindful that there several scams in this city and keep an eye out for the suspicious characters. Here are some of the more popular scams in the nations capitol…

  • The grand palace is closed. (TukTuk drivers will take you to other temples because the grand palace is closed, he will get his cut from the temple guards and you will end up paying much more than needed).
  • The Patpong scam. (Suspicious locals will try and persuade you into their club to watch a show. It will end up costing you a lot of money for nothing).
  • The TukTuk scams. (TukTuk drivers will offer to take you to a special government discount on gemstones or tailored suits, you might get some nice stuff but at a cost much higher than what it’s worth. And the driver takes his cut or gets a “coupon” for bringing you there).

There is no wealth like knowledge…

If you know what to watch out for, you have far better odds than the average tourist. Avoid the TukTuk driver’s who try to call you over, or politely refuse their service. Try not to look lost all the time, staring at your phone and looking around in circles makes you a prime target. Be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid sticky situations. I got taken to a custom tailor shop and I did buy a suit. I’m happy with the price I paid but it was definitely a pressure sale. I’ve heard horror stories from fellow travellers since being here. So watch out!

I don’t want to scare you but it’s a good thing to have a bit of knowledge before taking on Bangkok. Most importantly, stick to your original plans. Don’t allow locals to tell you what you want to see unless you know and trust them. Even asking for directions might cost you 20/30 baht. I don’t want to make it sound dangerous or misleading here. This city is amazing and will leave an impact on you no matter what. It’s just nice knowing what you’re up against. Check out my photography from this wonderful city here.

Thanks for reading,

Jonny D

Happy Travelling!

day one…

Here I am on day one of my Southeast Asia trip. Who knew I’d be hitchhiking from Vernon to Kamloops today. It took three hours to get picked up which left me  surprised. I figured I looked clean cut enough to get picked up within thirty minutes or less. Apparently I was wrong. Also it seemed there was an abundance of elderly drivers this afternoon, it made me feel like my chances were slim with this demographic. Either way, I made it 87 kilometres in a vehicle instead of walking.

 

My pack is heavier than I expected. I did have to walk almost 10 km throughout the day and my shoulders and legs are feeling it for sure. I weighed my bag before I left and it was 47 pounds with the carry on. This did not seem heavy to me then, however it does now. I’m sure it’ll get easier as I go, it’s probly just muscles I haven’t used for a while.

Today was eventful to say the least

I first had to tie up all my loose ends in Vernon before getting dropped off on the highway to hitch a ride. I had to cancel my insurance and park my van at my sisters. Then she gave me a ride to a good spot on the highway for me to set up thumb. After what seemed like an eternity, a firefighter from Vernon offered me a ride to Kamloops. This renewed my faith in good humans.

Upon arrival in Kamloops he said he would bring me to the Greyhound station after he ran a couple errands. I complied and we set out to accomplish his tasks. He then took me to bus station to see when the next bus to Vancouver was leaving. There was one bus leaving at that exact same moment so I rushed outside to stop the bus. I asked if he would wait five minutes for me to buy a ticket. He denied my offer and said to take the next bus.

The next scheduled bus for is for 4:00 am and I figured I could get picked up hitchhiking before the bus would get here. I tried for over an hour until the sun went away and the rain clouds started forming. Back into town I came to get the last hour of wifi at Starbucks before they closed. I will make my way back to the Greyhound station to patiently wait for the next bus in the morning.

To wrap this up, I would say hitchhiking is an exciting way to start a trip. I wouldn’t use this method as your first choice, but it works when needed. All in all it was a learning experience for me. I now have the true backpackers hitchhiking notch on my belt. Thanks for reading , I’ll post again once I’m in Thailand! One Love

Jonny D