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Hua Hin, Thailand: Songkran (Thai New Year)

Songkran has got to be the best festival celebration I have ever been involved with. Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Years. In the different parts of the country, they celebrate it for a different number of day. Where I was staying in Hua Hin, it was happening for one and a half days. Other cities, it is six days.

During this period, it’s basically one large water, where every person on the street is involved. If you are outside then you are agreeing that other can throw water on you. Thai people also like to get powder paint and smother it over random faces. 

Riding back to Baan Ton Mai on Sunday afternoon, the celebrations started with water being thrown into our songtaew. After dressing in appropriate clothes, we headed to the centre of Hua Hin. I went out with friends from xplor Asia as well as a guy from England joined our group, who was a Muay Thai course. Throughout the night, we were were not safe from getting soaked. Somehow I managed to avoid paint being spread across my face by should ‘mai ka’ and running.  We enjoyed dancing at a few bars and discovered a street foam party. 

The next day, the fun continued with Xplore Asia picking us up at 10.30 and drove us to a hired out cafe. Before even arriving, we were soaked as random thai on the street were hauling water towards us. Outside the place, there were three gigantic dustbins full of ice-cold water. With out pallets and water guns at the ready, we chucked water at every on-coming vehicle and petestrian as well as each other. The water just seemed to keep flowing. Trucks passed by with huge buckets of water and many passengers squirting water. I gained up on others with fellow sprayers including the co-ordinator of the organisation. Our strategy was to get the coldest water full of iceand take on people by surprise. This went on for hours. Amid the commotion, a buffet was supplied to us full of delicious thai food and fruit. 

After the party, a massive group of us headed towards the bars in Hua Hin to carry on with the festivities. Due to starting early, I was so confused at one point as it was still light outside and I felt it should have been late evening. I still can’t quite believe that during Songkran, you have the right to rub paint of people’s faces and throw copious amount of water at them.

When we thought it was over, we soon discovered in another part of the country it was not. After a day of rest, my roomie and I travelled to Bangkok to further our sightseeing of South-East Asia. However, due to the Thai New Year, we had to have a stop over in Bangkok to apply for a re-entry permit. 

Our plan was to go to Khao San road to relax and enjoy a massage. Fighting through the traffic on the bus, people filled the streets along with their water pistols. It was not going to be calm. The road was completely packed to the rim with dancer and water-throwers. It was mad. Again, we were dripping with water.

If you have a bucket list, Songkran in Thailand needs to be on it. I’m even tempted to come back next year to celebrate. 

Hua Hin: Pala-U waterfall

IMG_3066  While the rest of my team started their TESOL course, three of us decided to venture to the Pala-U Waterfall about an hour away from Hua Hin. After a windy, rocky drive, we had arrived at the waterfall. Our songtaew driver stayed in the car park as we wandered around.

Pala-U Waterfall is a spectacular place and definitely worth a trip. There is five levels with huge boulders to climb and dusty track to hike. The walk wasn’t as bad as I first thought it would be so ended up in bare feet. Beautiful views were among us with splattering of water falling from high rocks to form a gushing waterfall.

We headed straight to level five, which was the furthest away from the start. Climbing over the lake on slippery rock seemed a bit of a mission to get to the area we wanted to rest our legs. Behind us was a deep, large pool of water with a group of Thai guys splashing and cliff jumping. I wanted to do that. After merging myself into the freezing water, I soon started chatting to them. With me speaking minimal Thai and them speaking a little english, we managed to find out about each other. They convinced me that the water was deep enough to jump into. Here goes. My heart racing as I started to climb up the cliff with the help of these Thais. Standing at the top, looking down on the water was a slightly scary thought but I do love an adrenaline rush. Could I do this?IMG_3121

Neung… Song… Saam…

I think I probably screamed at the top of my lungs but I kept my eyes open as I fell.

Splash… I was deeply submerged into the lake. Quickly, I pushed myself up to grasp for air. That was incredible. After the first initial time, I Cliff jumped a few more times with one of the girls I came with, still communicating and learning a little more Thai from the other group. They wanted to take a photo with us. This typically happens in Thailand as they think white people are beautiful. If you are partially pale, you will get asked wherever you go. Thay phaph!

In front, there was a short rock slide that dropped into a waterfall. Several children were playing around, flipping, jumping and sliding. Once they had moved away to a different area, we decided to sit on the slippery rocks and slide into the waterfall. I thought the easiest way to be at the top again would be to swim through the waterfall and mount onto the rocks at the side. It was not. However, using all my arm strength, I managed to pull myself up without sliding back down.

When we we ready to leave this level, I wrapped my towel round me with my bag to hike back down. Carefully, I tried to walk over the slimy rocks but failed. I slipped into the water. It was hilarious. Luckily my things didn’t get too wet. We lounged around several levels admiring the picturesque scenes and receiving some rays before heading home for the day. IMG_3081

On the way back, we were talking to some European guys, who were shocked at the fact we went in a songtaew to the waterfall. They informed us that it was so much cheaper to hire out a motorbike. Next time though.

It’s amazing to see Thailand’s beauty in all form as well as having an adventure.

Xplore Asia Excursions: Temple, pineapple farm and elephant sanctuary

IMG_2731Xplore Asia organised several incredible excursions as part of orientation week.

On Wednesday afternoon, we ventured out to a Thai Temple towards the South of Hua Hin as Buddism is a massive part of the culture. Climbing up to part of the temple, revealing pictueque views of Takiap beach, we were expected to take off our shoes, where we received a bracket from a monk before he blessed us all. It was interesting to discover that monks are not allowed to touch a women, even to give them something small. There were several status of Buddhas around the temple as well a little shrine. The shrines are outside every home, and Thai people put a blessing in front of them every morning like a bottle of fanta. The fat Buddhas are traditionally Chinese, whereas the skinny Buddha  are Thai. There was a mixture scattered around the temple.IMG_2741 After, we hiked up some steps, where as per usual I went bare foot walking on the scolding floor to the huge Buddha on top of the temple. The view was magnificent. Soon after, we found ourselves sitting on mats in front of a Buddha shrine, where we were shown how to show respect and a ritual that is performed every time. They take some incense sticks, light them and place them into a stand, then clasp their hand a certain way and bow. They do this three time. We had a short time to meditate, empty our minds, before leaving to hear a message from a monk. From my understanding of Buddism, they believe that you should stay on one emotional level, never to feel down or up, just balanced, which is why they meditate to clear every thought. I love how they much they respect each other and will always be willing to do things for others. IMG_2753

Next on the agenda was to go to ‘Rescue Paws’ compound, which is a charity that helps stray dogs. As you walk around Thailand, I am overwhelmed with the amount of dogs wondering around, looking sick or injured. This is a great charity that has helped so many dogs. We got the chance to meet some of the dogs and give them a cuddle. Normally I’m not an animal person but they were cute.

At the end of our week, we had a whole day of trips to explore the culture even further. First, we headed to a local pineapple farm. Rows and rows of pineapple plants surrounded us. I didn’t even realise that pineapple grow from the a plant in the ground rather than a tree. You learn something new every day. IMG_2799After trying the deliciously sweet pineapple as well as some mango, we packed buckets of pineapples to take to our next destination: an elephant sanctuary. I was so excited. IMG_2881

As soon as we arrived, there were several elephants. Feeding an elephant was an amazing experience but also kind of scary. The elephant grabbed the pineapple with its trunk and scoffed it into his mouth. His truck was just flapping around but managed to get a selfie with him as well as stroke his rough, prickly skins. Round the corner was a younger Chang, IMG_2889where he cuddled us all individual and played with us. Impressively, he charged at a football to score into a net.

While hanging around, I met a young Thai girl, maybe about 4 years olds, who I decided to play with. She was so cute. Thai people are so friendly and always give you that genuine smile. IMG_2920

On the way back, we stopped off at an artist village, where we were taught to do some Thai art, trying to get us connected with our creative side. Handing out henna paste meant that we were all able to draw henna on ourselves and other. This was the first time I had done this. The hardest part was deciding what to draw. 

The whole week has totally exceeded my expectations with some memorable experiences and excursion. I feel extremely blessed.

Hua Hin, Thailand: Xplore Asia Orientation week video

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