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Thai hospitals and Lao jungles


Two members of staff, Joiy and Anna, went to visit two new projects we now support: the Samrong Hospital & Secondary School in Ubon Ratchathani province and Tree Top Explorer near Pakse in Laos. They met with the project organizers and are happy to recommend both these projects to new volunteers. This is their account of the trip.

The first project we went to visit was a hospital based in Samrong district near Ubon Ratchathani. After a day-long bus journey and spending the night in Ubon, we were met in the morning by our contact person at the hospital: Matus, a dentist. He showed us around the hospital, which receives around 300 patients per day from the district. Much of the local population works either on farms or in factories, meaning that older members of the family are often left alone for a long time. Many come to the hospital more for company than for anything else.

Matus would like volunteers to teach English to the hospital staff, and has also arranged for them to spend some time teaching at a nearby school. He spoke very good English himself, and believes that this will be a big advantage to the staff and to children in the district. Volunteers may also have the chance to help out with clinical work at the hospital when they are not teaching.

After getting the business out of the way, Matus took some time to show us around the area. We visited a couple of local villages and Wat Nong Pah Pong, a nearby international forest monastery. It is set in beautiful, peaceful grounds and includes a museum and an impressive golden chedi enshrining the relics of Ajahn Chah, the founding monk who is well known in the West. The simple gold and black decoration inside was particularly striking.

After a delicious Isan style lunch, it was time to make a move across the border to Pakse, in southern Laos. We spent an evening there catching up with a former OMP trainee, Pai, who now uses the skills she learned in Nong Khai working for a travel company. She comes from the same village as Joiy and was the inspiration for him to come here, so it was good to get a chance to meet and talk with her.

The next three days were rather a different experience to what had come before. After an hour and a half drive to Ban Nong Louang (Champassak Province), we set off on a trek into the jungle. The village is where volunteers will spend most of their time, teaching English to the local guides and living with a host family. The main business here is the coffee plantations that surround the village: the fragrant coffee flowers make a pleasant change from endless green rice fields.

Not long after entering the Dong Hua Sao National Protected Area we were soon making our way down steep slopes, picking our way between rocks and tree roots. Fortunately the air was cooler here among the mountains than it had been in Pakse, and with the tall trees sheltering us from the sun the conditions were relatively comfortable. Zip lining across the valleys soon broke us out of that cover, although the empty space below us was perhaps more worrying than that above! However, our guides were clearly experienced and we were well equipped with safety gear, so our confidence didn’t falter and we were able to enjoy the stunning views of the mountains and waterfalls as we zipped past.

The following two days proceeded in a similar fashion, with lunch on the second day by a beautiful series of small pools and waterfalls, and a via ferrata to spice things up on the third as we climbed up to the top of the waterfall which we had been staying by and admiring for the last two nights. Our accommodation had been unique: we spent the nights in a tree house and not many people can say that they have had to don a helmet and harness to go to bed!

After the excitement and adrenalin of our adventure, it was a bit of a relief to find ourselves back in Pakse where we could relax and wash before catching the overnight bus to Vientiane. After a long journey, we found ourselves back in Nong Khai at about 9am, just in time to report on our experience and begin a new day of work!

Blog posted from Samrong District, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand View larger map

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