Day 1 – Kayaking/ Team Building Games/ Sala Games
We separated into teams of 6 or 7 and were given some bamboo sticks, rope and 4 tires to build a raft. Before we started we learnt some useful and strong rope-tying techniques. Then we took them down the river for some fun challenges. After lunch, we engaged in team-building activities and in the evening we played 'sala games', which were played in the gym all together. Everything today was very enjoyable but the best activity was the sala games as they were very unique and allowed us to bond together as a group.
Day 2 - Hiking
Early in the morning, still drowsy from the trip we had just a day ago, we woke up and went to a hefty breakfast thinking about how exhausted we would all be after the popular hike. We all had mixed feelings about the hike; some found the 8 km mountainous trek to be intimidating and some found the idea irresistible. Nonetheless, we were all really looking forward to the hike.
We encountered treachery and beauty on this hike, in time frame shorter than most of us had ever experienced. Thailand’s mountainous geography had a certain lure to it like no other - we were all definitely mesmerized. We had finally escaped the man-made world of Hong Kong – leaving behind its stress and rush – allowing us to take in how spectacular Mother Nature actually is. Only a few minutes into our hike, we were immediately connected with wildlife as a pair of dogs rushed downhill at us. We were petrified. However, the rangers that accompanied us told us they were theirs and so we were relieved. It was a true rush of adrenaline. Throughout, the hike we took every opportunity to discover spiders, insects, plants and other organisms to which we were oblivious they had existed. Some of us even got the chance to taste all-natural wild guava.
The Akha tribes, whose village we passed through, showed us a way of living we had never experienced before. Life was simple, yet everyone looked so happy. Our group leaders told us many fascinating facts about them, such as their clever medical procedures in which they let ants bite them, pulled the ants body leaving an all-natural stitch to seal a wound. We even explored a cave, inside of which it was pitch black and huge! Even though we had to climb a few hundred steps to get there, we could still find an entire temple with golden statues, writing on walls, and a prayer area.
After such a demanding hike, uphill and downhill with many obstacles to encounter, we were rewarded by a packed lunch at the base of an untouched waterfall with crystal clear water plummeting down. After that, we had tremendous fun swimming and sliding down in the currents of, what we’d like to think was, a raging river. After we made our way back down to a village (even that was challenging!) and piled into customized pickup trucks, we could stop ourselves from missing the hike.
Day 3 – Construction/ Teaching
On the third day, we visited Huay Sala School. We were split up into two groups where one group helped with the manual labour in the morning while the others did teaching. We then alternated in the afternoon. We spent about 3 hours digging holes for foundation for a medical facility. From this experience, many of us realised how tiring and effortful this kind of work can be. It made us more empathetic towards workers and constructors who do this arduous work for a living because it requires a lot of strength and perseverance. It was also nice because some of the workers taught us more efficient digging techniques which were really helpful.
Teaching the primary students was an enjoyable and memorable experience. We had fun interacting with the students even though it was challenging to communicate with them for they understood very little English. We got to spend time with the students during their break time and played games such as hopscotch, tag and football with them.
We also saw them play games that we had never come across before such as jumping on tyres. We had a wonderful time bonding with the kids and it was a great feeling to see the smiles on their faces.
Day 4 - Archery/Rock Climbing/Umbrella painting
The day was all about learning new skills, both creative, mental as well as physical. Separated into two teams, some of us did umbrella painting first while the others did archery and rock climbing and then we switched in the switched in the afternoon.
Umbrella painting was an extremely hard technique to master. The simplicity of each sensationally colourful and vivid painting of birds, flowers, butterflies, dragon flies, dragons, elephants, bamboo and more was hard to duplicate. We kept practicing to our best of ability, trying to get each figure perfect, but then came time to put it all together, and even though it was hard to draw each figure, putting it all together as a masterpiece was near impossible. The experience however was undeniably unforgettable.
Archery and rock climbing followed, both extremely challenging activities. Both involved absolute concentration as well as physical strength. During archery, our leaders took us through the proper technique to perfect each and every shot we took. These ne skills helped us when it came down to a final tournament in which we had to ‘shoot’ ourselves our dinner! Only a few of us were disappointed to find they could not get a spoon to eat with.
During Rock climbing, proper safety was taught to us before we could even touch any of the equipment. The walls were extremely tall up! About as tall as a 3-4 story building, on which we had to tackle daring stunts to pull ourselves closer to the top and ring the bell to say we succeeded. Also, some walls were more challenging as others and many found courage in them to tackle a corner climb, a back-slanted climb and a similar to obstacle course brief upside down climb. While we were climbing, we could see many people fighting their fear of heights and pushing higher an higher to success showing how determined the entire year group became.
Day 5 – Kayaking/ High Ropes/ Confidence course
This was the last day of our trip. Today was one of the biggest challenges of the trip, as well as one of the most tiring. Firstly, we did some kayaking, which required a lot of strength but was also a lot of fun. We did many activities while travelling down the river, such as standing up and trying to balance and paddle at the same time like gondola steerers and also trying to switch boats with the people next to you. Many fell into the water and it was a great bonding experience for us all.
Then, we also attempted a high ropes course, involving dangling and walking on wobbly ropes high above the ground. This course was particularly difficult as it relied highly on ones trust and bravery to break beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones, and to learn how to overcome our fear of heights. It was challenging, but it was a very enjoyable activity. Everybody was very supportive of one another and we had to do a little chant whenever somebody finishes the course and reaches the end point. Few people were afraid at the beginning and hesitated to try but in the end, everyone took a step further and unlocked a great sense of achievement after realizing their capabilities.
Finally, the last rush was the confidence course. The confidence course was a series of difficult challenges above a pool of delicious-looking green murky water, which tested ones courage and determination. In detail it was a trial involving ropes and monkey bars and a thin pole, which you had to walk across carefully, without falling into the water (the water really motivated us to boost our confidence levels to the full and try to do whatever it takes to stay out of the green swamp of doom). Some of us made it through the course the first try and were very excited and proud, but who knew the instructors had more sneaky, almost-impossible, challenges in mind for these lucky people. One of them was for two people to walk on either ends of the thin pole, barely 10 cm wide, and once they meet at the middle they had to somehow get pass each other and both make it to the other side clean and untouched. Of course in the end most people, almost everyone got wet; and it was an extremely amusing and memorable experience for everyone.
At night, after a scrumptious and filling dinner, we had to do some night games, where there were two huts in the middle of the forest and the students had to sneak from one hut to the other. The instructors hid behind trees and whenever they shone their torch at us, it means they had caught us and that the person had to start all over again (going back to the hut and trying all over again). There were many trees around and it was really fun, tiptoeing and zipping around like ninjas in the dark. A few times some of us tried to run past the instructors faster than they could catch you, but that did not really work well… So then some tried crawling across the floor. Bad idea. There were many cows around that area, and just imagine how pleasant it would be to encounter face-to-face with a mound of cow dung… That night many of our poor shoes were drenched in squishy chocolate delights but in the end, it was worth it. The hilariousness of some attempts were definitely the best parts and everyone had lots of fun.
Last but not least, before our curfews retreated us back to our rooms, we had a bonfire. Everyone hung out and enjoyed the last night of the trip; and many showed off their musical talents. Mr. Burgmann and some us played a couple of songs on the guitar and ukelele as we sang along and savoured the warmth of the fire; and to make it even better we celebrated a birthday, and had a yummy cake to accompany the pleasantness of the nightfall. Everyone had an amazing time today.
After a memorable week in Thailand, it was adly time to say good bye. Thank you Mrs. Bell, Mr. Burgmann, Mr. Bogart and all the staff at the Maekok River Village Resort for making this trip an unforgettable one!