With a whirlwind of emotions, I was landing in Bangkok with my backpack in tow, ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
Meeting my first guide at the airport and then heading back to the Rambuttri Hostel, I had a day to familiarize myself with the area before meeting the rest of the volunteers over dinner. The first day volunteering in Thailand was filled with a tour of Bangkok and the crazy Khao San Road District, where there was never a dull moment, exploring the night market stalls and flower market sites, visiting temples, sampling the infamous ‘buckets’ and eating up a storm.
The real adventure begun when we caught a 9-hour train to Surin and then rode in the tray of a truck to the Bar Ta Klang Elephant Village. First driving into the village was truly breathtaking. Elephants roaming and eating everywhere you looked! My two weeks in the village entailed a variety of tasks, including cutting and planting food for the elephants, feeding the elephants, making ‘poo paper’, walking the elephants to the river and swimming with them, helping the locals to clean up the village, making fences and cleaning the elephants.
The highlight of the trip would have to be the staff within the program, whom were amazing to work with. They were friendly, supportive and informative, and truly helped each individual volunteer to get the most out of the program. The work they are doing to help the elephants, and the visions they shared with us of their future goals, were inspiring, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the process.
Though there are still bull hooks used, and the elephants are still chained at times, the staff didn’t hesitate to explain to us how far the program has come in the two years it has been running, and their goals to remove the chains and bull hooks from the village in future and to instead give the elephants large enough fenced areas to roam around, with the help of future volunteers. A wonderfully rewarding program that helps you to see the contribution you are having on a daily basis.