I graduated in May of 2017 and rewarded myself with one of the most amazing summers ever. After touring Europe for a month, I flew to Bangkok from Madrid.
I only spent a couple of nights there before heading to Chiang Mai where I stayed for the majority of my time in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, I attained a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. It was a 4 week course and I had nights and weekends available. I invited anyone to join me on this trip. There were two takers.
If you’ve never been to Thailand, you definitely should consider going. It’s extremely affordable and the most expensive thing you’ll have to pay for is your plane ticket. Book it far enough in advanceand the price is very reasonable. I booked my plane ticket about a month in advance and flew roundtrip in and out of Europe. I spent about $800. On top of that, I stayed in Thailand for a little over amonth and only spent about $2,000 while I was there. This is including accommodations and travel between cities.
My cousin Kamille said she would meet up with me in Bangkok and join me to Chiang Mai for a few days before leaving. We met at the airport and it was an hour ride from there to our accommodations.
For accommodations in Bangkok, I stayed at an AirBnB. I chose my AirBnB according to the location of what I wanted to do. My AirBnB in Bangkok was only 5 minutes walking distance from the Grand Palace, shopping, and the river. It also had a great roof top view. I always consider patio views when traveling with smokers. My cousin is a smoker. Since I would be coming in from a month-long backpacking trip around Europe, I also wanted an accommodation with a washing machine. I was only spending a few nights in Bangkok and it costed $60. I never expected someone to do my laundry with that price. The maid that lived there basically would have taken care of all my laundry if I let her but I felt bad and helped her hang it out to dry.
With only a couple of nights to spend in Bangkok and being jet lagged, Kamille and I did not do as much as Bangkok had to offer. We of course toured the Grand Palace and its admission came with admission to Temple of the Emerald Buddha which was beautiful. We took a private tour around the river where we saw numerous Wats and bought from the floating markets. We also made stops in Chinatown for some eats and went downtown for a couple of drinks. Overall I personally found Bangkok a bit overrated but I heard pretty great things about our next destination Chiang
Our last day in Bangkok was spent trying to figure out last-minute travel plans to Chiang Mai and we ended up deciding on an overnight bus so that we could have a little more time in Bangkok. There was nothing really exciting that happened though. Everything was either too far or it was too late in the day for us to commit to so we ended up eating at one of the nicer places by the Grand Palace and the total still only ended up coming out to about $30 for the two of us.
The bus ride was actually pretty good and we managed to sleep well. The cost of the ticket came with a ride to the station from an office near our AirBnB and a few snacks for the trip.
To Chiang Mai with Kamille
When we arrived in Chiang Mai where I had booked another AirBnB, my host Prin picked us up from the bus station. He had a couple of huts for me to choose from and I chose the biggest one because it came with a little kitchen and huge patio. I hardly ever used either one of them. My stay included weekly cleanings and toilet paper as well as laundry service for a small extra fee. Prin even provided enough water bottles for my entire stay at a cost so insignificant that I don’t remember it. The best part about the hut was that it included WiFi. The entire stay at my AirBnB in Chiang Mai costed a little less than $400 with everything included.
The location was a perfect 5 minute walk away from my school and there was a 7/11 a little further than that where I ended up doing my grocery shopping for things like chocolate milk and chips. A restaurant right next to 7/11 sold all kinds of American and Thai food where I quickly ended up being a regular. A little further down the street was an open market area with many venders that sold fresh fruit or fried chicken and lots of options of Thai foods. Everything was very cheap and I could eat out everyday without breaking the bank.
Because I had to start school when Kamille and I arrived, she ended up visiting an elephant park by herself and having the best time. When I wasn’t in school we went into the old city to do things like stick our feet in a tank of skin eating fishes and shop at the markets. There are so many markets. We also visited a museum called Art in Paradise that was amazing for pictures because it was filled with all kinds of worldly optical illusions.
After Kamille left, it was only a matter of a couple of days before my next visitor arrived. My friend Megan stayed for a week. Megan was already in Thailand because of school but extended her trip to visit Chiang Mai and a couple other stops while she was already in Asia.
Since I only had evenings and weekends available, Megan went out and about on her own when I was in school. One of those days, she already had planned and ended up telling me about her visit at the Elephant Nature Park. The place was perfect because I wanted to go somewhere highly ethical for my visit with elephants. Not everyone considers this and chooses places that let you ride the elephants as well as mistreat them. If you’re even considering visiting some elephants in Thailand, this is the place to go.
Bring the Elephant Home and Bee the Change
Megan already had a friend that lived in Chiang Mai. I was very fortunate to be able to meet Antoinette who is the founder of Bring the Elephant Home — a nonprofit that aims in conserving African and Asian elephants. We went on a weekend trip with Antoinette to Chanthaburi Provence where I got to learn first hand all about her elephant project as well as another project called Bee the Change.
To give a quick summary, Bee the Change is a nonprofit that funds beehive fences in rural communities in countries like Thailand. In these areas, there is high conflict between elephants and the humans they live near because the elephants will come stomp through their land and means of living. To prevent this, people in these communities will use methods that are expensive, unsustainable, and considerably harmful to elephants and potentially themselves.
Founders of Bee the Change learned that elephants are afraid of bees and they will turn around at the sound of them. They started beehive fences and found that it was overall better for the world. Not only did it help with the production of bees, the elephants were simply turning away not causing danger to anyone. On top of that, the bees produced honey which in turn also provided the people with another means of income. Here is a link to a video that further explains this movement if you’re super interested. I found it to be a wonderful thing to witness up close.
All the TEFL Course Offered
After Megan left, I found myself alone for the first time in forever. I had just spent a month traveling with a group of 30 around Europe and then came to Thailand with my cousin. Then as much as I enjoyed Megan, it was due time for me to have some stretch by myself.
I didn’t go too crazy because I was of course mainly there to complete the TEFL course. I had booked this course three months in advance with International TEFL Academy because a friend of mine had booked her course in Costa Rica with the same company. She had a great experience so I found comfort in booking a course across the world with the same company. Fun Fact: She now teaches in Korea.
My school’s name was SEE TEFL. The director is John Quinn and he has an amazing team that taught us everything we needed to know about teaching English to non-native speakers. Amongst helping up achieve our TEFL certificate, the school also had some added bonuses to offer as part of the course. While there were certainly things like wi-fi, computers, and printers to use at the school, something I really appreciated was that we received Thai lessons every week. It helped a lot with understanding and respecting the new culture we were now living in. Additionally, the school actually took us on little excursions to things like a Thai history museum, a foreigner cemetery, and a Wat.
The nothing crazy part lasted until the weekends. My first weekend without visitors, I decided to go bungee jumping. I had never gone before and one of my school mates Lobke was down to do it as well. Since everything was considerably more cheap in Thailand, I decided I had to take the opportunity to go. It was perfect. Included in the $60 jumping fee was a tee-shirt, a copy of our jump, a certificate, and a ride to and from the jumping site.
Elephant Nature Park
The weekend after that, I went for my visit to the Elephant Nature Park. It was probably my favorite things I did the entire stay. With ENP, there are many options when it comes to deciding how you want your day with the elephants to go. For me, I had the funds so I opted for one of the pricier experiences. As it turned out, only two other people booked this same experience and they were a really cool couple. I’m friends with them on Facebook now and regularly like and comment on their successes.
Our day with ENP began by walking three elephants. This is how a discovered that elephants are basically really big and smart puppies. We were each given a bag full of bananas and sugar cane for us to feed to them. If we were too slow with the feeding, the elephants would sneak out them out our bags swallowing the fruit wholly. The bags were emptied in no time. Halfway along the walking path, someone had cut up watermelon so the elephants were even more fed and we got some eating in too.
After the walk, we stopped for our authentic Thai lunch which was provided. From curries to fruits to desserts, there was so much food offered that we hardly made a dent in it. We had some time to rest before we got back to the elephants.
This time, it was time to feed the elephants again but we were preparing the snacks. I don’t remember the exact recipe but it was mainly a mixed of rice, tamarind, bananas, and sugar that rolled into balls. Along with the balls, we cut up huge buckets of watermelon and the elephants ate straight from our hands.
After that, we gave them a bath in the river while getting entirely soaked ourselves. Bathing them mostly felt like a water fight with buckets and trunks. It was awesome but it was also interesting because as we bathe them, they were letting out poops the size of our head into the river. Since elephants eat mainly vegetation, their poops are basically big grass pellets. Fun Fact: Elephant poop can be recycled into elephant poop paper.
After everyone finished bathing in the river, we said our goodbyes to the three elephants. The couple and I then rode a white water raft down the river to the elephant nature park. At the elephant sanctuary, we were able to change in to some dry clothes to explore the park and meet other elephants that had been rescued from terrible situations. Among those elephants were baby elephants, healing elephants, and retired working elephants.
The entire price for this day ended up costing me roughly $190 but it was well worth it. Of course it included a ride back and forth into Chiang Mai directly in front of my hut.
Hanging Out with my Classmates
I mostly did things with my classmates outside of the TEFL course. We went out for drinks and eats all the time. One of my favorite places that we went was located right off the river with a live band and only costed $15. It included a salmon dinner with two sides and unlimited beer. One of the group’s favorite places ended up being Miguel’s. It was a really good spot for some Mexican cuisine in Chiang Mai.
Outside of eats, Lobke unintentionally pushed us to do things we probably wouldn’t end up doing. She took us to a wat that she made a monk friend at and we got to sit and talk to him one evening. I wondered about when and why he wanted to be a monk and it turns out he was from Cambodia and he’d always appreciated the monk way of life and thinking. It was pretty inspiring to hear about someone having enough discipline to respect that way of life as a child. Fun Fact: Monks cannot touch women directly. There must also be a barrier.
Something else we did because of Lobke was our hike up to Wat Doi Suthep. It is the Monk’s trail to a temple in the mountains. It was definitely one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It ended up being one of my favorite things I did with the group. After that hike, we went a little further off trail to a hike up to water fall. It was super refreshing to dip in the water fall after all that hiking. That ended up being the last thing I did before leaving my Chiang Mai hut and heading back to Bangkok to catch my flight to Germany where I would be visiting my brother and his family.
An “Unforgettable” Farewell
Before I headed to Germany, I was able to catch one of my friends Kanisha and her wife on their anniversary trip to Bangkok. I ended up taking a plane from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and met them at the airport the evening they landed. We rode back to their hotel and stayed up the entire night before I drunkenly made my way to the airport again for Germany. We got so lit. It was a night I should have never forgotten but I couldn’t remember anything. What I do know was that there was a bottle involved, a lot of laughs, and I was woken up by a really nice taxi driver at the airport that I may have paid twice.