Having looked at the what you will be doing on the elephant project and the wonderful staff you will be working with, it is now time to look at specifically what you will need to bring to the Elephant Project.
Do you really need all that stuff for two weeks??
Speaking from experience, I know that I completely overpacked when I came to volunteer, I brought a lot of clothes that weren’t environment appropriate, toiletries that weighed my bag down a ton and didn’t leave nearly enough space to bring back mementoes of my incredible trip.
I know the feeling when you finally get around to packing, normally two days before you leave if you are anything like me, when you start to try and think about EVERYTHING that you might possibly need and you go out and buy everything that you don’t already have and normally don’t ever use. If you have done that, then I hope you kept your receipts as there is a much more efficient, environmentally friendly and economical way of getting what you need for your trip; no it isn’t stealing haha. It is all about buying locally in Thailand and knowing what you actually need to bring with you.
Lets start right at the very beginning, you are going to be working on the Elephant Project so what, really, do you need in order to make your time comfortable and easy?
Number One thing is obviously clothes.
Who wants to look like a guy who eats animal poo?
Now when it comes to what clothes to bring with you I can assure you that you will not need anything fancy. You don’t need anything Bear Grylls endorses or anything from those speciality outdoors shops like Blacks. After all, Thai people don’t have any of those things and they work here everyday!
Worn beautiful modelling the ideal outfit to wear whilst working
All you need for your top half is a bunch of vest tops, thin t-shirts and preferably one or two long sleeved shirts that aren’t too thick. Vests are easy to work with in the sun, they don’t get too hot and they are the best way to get a tan 🙂 T-shirts that have sleeves that completely cover your shoulder are fantastic for when you teach at the local school as you have to have your shoulders covered up, not only that but you also need something like this when you go to any sort of temple, place of worship or importance. Finally you will need a long sleeved shirt for the days when you are out collecting banana trees and sugarcane, the sleeves protect your arms from getting cut up from the leaves and also puts a barrier between you and the fire ants that are so very eager to eat you.
In terms of trousers I would highly recommend that you bring something that is either full or three quarter length for use on the project itself, it again protects your legs from scratches and fire ants. The best thing would be cargo pants or combats, they are durable and strong as well as lightweight which means you won’t get too hot. When you are riding the elephants I would also suggest you wear something that at least covers your knees due to the fact that when you ride the elephants back after swimming the water from the river stays in the hairs on their backs and with the movement of walking, can make quite the sensitive rash on your thighs. When you aren’t on project feel free to wear shorts, skirts, kilts, anything you fancy. Just remember that you will be living in a Thai village so wearing those Kylie Minogue gold spandex shorts you have in your wardrobe, might not be the most socially acceptable thing to do.
Pretty sure these aren’t the most appropriate piece of clothing for anywhere, let alone Thailand 😀
Now when it comes to footwear in Thailand everyone wears flip flops, they are easy to clean, cheap and you have to take your shoes off whenever you enter somewhere so having huge lace up boots would be way too much effort. If you don’t currently own a pair of flip flops then I commend you to wait until you get here and then buy them. They are available everywhere, are incredibly cheap and by buying locally you are helping support the local economy as well. For on the project you will need something a little more durable, I myself wore walking type boots for when we actually when out to work, they keep your feet safe and mean that you can climb about everywhere because of the traction. Boots like this you will need to get in your home country, you can also wear trainers or sneakers but they don’t offer nearly as much protection and can get damaged very easily from the terrain.
With all of the clothes that you bring for the Elephant Project just make sure you don’t bring anything white, or light coloured, not only does it get dirty very easily but it also goes see-through when wet and the sap that you get from Banana trees stains light coloured clothes in seconds, whereas it barely makes a dent on darker clothing. Also if you are on the project for two weeks you need to bring enough or buy enough t-shirts for if you were here for three weeks. I promise you will be getting changed at least once or twice a day due to the heat and going swimming with the elephants so having one tshirt per day won’t be enough.
Carolines shirt used to be white……..
If you don’t have anything that quite fits the above descriptions then I would recommend that you buy what you need when you get here. There are lots of second hand places in Surin, a night market at the elephant village and a big ASDA type shopping centre very close to your volunteer house. Why pay over the odds in your home country if you can buy what you need here where not only is it cheaper but it also helps the independent vendors who sell everything as well as the local and national economy.
The same goes for toiletries as well, you do not need to bring shampoo, conditioner, face wash, moisturiser, toothpaste, any of that stuff. Big C, Thailand’s ASDA, has all of this and it is cheaper than it would be in at home, plus it means you don’t have to use any of your weight allowance for the flight. When it comes to make-up I would say bring it if you want to, I did as a volunteer, I didn’t use it whilst on the project but when you are back in town for the weekend there are lots of bars and a club in town so why not be able to doll yourself up every once in a while 😀
The only toiletries I can think you might need from your home country is suntan lotion and mosquito spray. You can get both here but they aren’t normally as strong as the stuff you can get from specialist places at home, places like Boots do really strong suntan lotion and mosquito spray. When it comes to suntan lotion, I know a lot of people say they don’t need it and that they never burn but I can promise you, this is Thailand, it’s hot, the sun is incredibly strong, it isn’t like Spain or anywhere else in Europe. My first day on the elephant project I was riding on an elephant for two hours and managed to get such severe burns that I still have scars nearly a year on. Trust me; you need suntan lotion.
These are things that you will need specifically for the elephant project, you will obviously need all the usual things like chargers, pants etc, I will be writing up a comprehensive list of everything else you will need so keep tuned for that as well.
So here is a checklist of the specifics you will need for the Elephant Project;
– Vest tops, t-shirts, long sleeved shirt (no light colours)
– Three quarter or full length cargo/combat trousers
– Flip flops
– Walking/hiking/high durability shoes/boots
– Sunscreen (at LEAST factor 30+)
– Mosquito Spray (at LEAST 25% Deet)
– A hat (maybe not the most fashionable of things but really helps to keep you cool when working during the day)
Just make sure that you don’t bring anything that you wouldn’t ever want to get dirty, the elephant project is all about getting stuck in, helping the local community and working hard. You can’t work hard in this heat without getting dirty and sweaty so make sure the clothes that you bring are up to the same challenges you are.
To see some more pictures of what you will be up to or to find out more information about your project check out the Starfish Website, Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page or the Starfish Tumblr.
Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto