A 700 km drive from NongKhai to Mae Sot, bringing Openmind holiday campers Charlee and Kai back and Openmind trainees Phyo, Moe to see their families. Fresh, sweet strawberries in the mountains!
· Next morning visit to a Karen Community in the mountains where children can go to school but need sleep on concrete floors! The Thai government now allow migrants to go Thai and mixed Thai/Burmese schools to be able to either get Thai education certificates or the Burmese will allow students to study this way in Thailand and cross over to Myanmar to sit for an exam and get a Burmese certificate.
· Next visit, next day, to the 42 km Burmese community with a learning center for the Burmese migrant kids. We handed over the ‘Universe in a Box’ education kit, EU funded and developed by the Leiden University in Holland. Our Burmese trainee Moe, visiting her mother there, would show local teachers how to use it later.
· Next day into the mountains to visit to the Umpieng Refugee Camp. To meet a refugee camp leader and hand over another universe kit and, of course, meet our dear ex trainee Dow at her house on the refugee village slope and her lovely but naughty daughter November Just Walking around the crammed camp, the Muslim part, the Buddhist part, the Christian, the shopping streets, up and down slippery and garbage filled slopes. Reminds of an old, poor village but actually a refugee town of some 30 000! And houses built of thin rattan and leaves, very cold during the cold season!
Our last days on the road and in the Thai nature.
A 5.5 hour drive from Mae Sot to Chaeson National Park
south of Chiang Mai. Meeting Nok Wee (bird whistle in Thai) and other friends who just earned English with our popular volunteer Nina from Australia. They really liked her to help them improve their English in her informal, friendly learning by doing style!
Finally a 7 hour drive south east to the wilder Nam Nao National Park. Elephant trekking.
To discuss elephant, poaching and conservation issues. Hosted by the NP director in their nicest bungalow with a view. What Openmind Projects can do to support wildlife conservation, attract foreign visitors, no ‘farangs’ here! Nam Nao and a neighboring wildlife sanctuary is a refuge to wildlife like, elephants, gaurs (Asian Bison), gibbons, dholes(wild dogs) even, but not many, tigers as well as endangered tree species (illegally logged and exported to China). Staying overnight means parking the car within an electric fence to protect it from grumpy elephants and to walk back to the bungalow on a pitch dark road though without meeting any grumpy, big friends.
· Next morning park staff meeting about elephant surveys. Then off for a half day trekking along the elephant trail and through dense jungles, less dense pine tree forests, along a little river. Lots of elephant foot prints, nice singing birds, and a rather incredible amount of thirsty leeches.
Unhappy and crying Sweet, jumping TT, and eventually unvolunteering blood donor, Sven. The only one happy, a leech that can now relax for another 6 months!
However we finished the trek with a late but very nice and spicy lunch, lots and lots of water together with our great ranger guides!
· Final leg back to NongKhai, 6 hours and home sweet home. But we’ll soon be back to Nam Nao and hope to have adventurous eco volunteers going there soon!
Travelers from NongKhai to Mae Sot Cofounders Gaweechat Joompaula and Sven Mauleon together with Burmese, Karen trainees, Moe, Phyo, and camp students Charlee and Kao.
Travelers from Mae Sot to Chaeson, Nam Nao and NongKhai Sweet, from the Sunshine Orphan Home, Charlee’s mother and Openmind Projects key contact in Mae Sot, together with Gaweechat Joompaula and Sven Mauleon