How Would Wendy Save?

Many have this preconceived notion that travel is expensive and something only the rich can afford to do. I can assure you that that isn’t true.

Anyone can travel

Be on the ball, frugal and keep a track of your finances and you will be perfectly fine to last a week, a month or even a year travelling.

I know how easy it is to start spending and spending when things are crazy cheap, 100B here, 50B there is nothing in one transaction but when you start doing it several times a day it will add up and you will suddenly be left with very little or no money.

I have developed some tips over the last 9 months about how to save money whilst you are travelling, so here they are! These are for travelling in general but they do apply very much to travelling in Asia and volunteering with us 😀

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Travel Outside of North America and Europe

Travelling in North America or Europe is certainly expensive. Developed countries have a much higher cost of living and finding budget or value accommodation and activities is tricky and stressful. Travelling in Asia or Central America will be much cheaper and much more exotic than ‘Western’ countries.

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Travel With A Partner

I personally prefer to travel on my own, I think it makes situations more interesting and forces you to get involved with more people. But it has to be said that travelling with a partner can help you save money. Meals, food, drinks and long haul transportation will still cost the same;  accommodation and local transportation (such as taxis and tuk-tuks) can be split between however many of you there are.

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Slow Down

I know how exciting travelling is, seeing all the new places, experiencing things you wouldn’t be able to otherwise but to properly appreciate everything you see you need to slow down. Trying to cram in too much will mean you only see a very small, surface to the place you are visiting. So stop, slow down, not only will you experience local culture in a more enriching manner, but more importantly, you’ll save money by not having to buy transportation all the time.

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Eat Locally

Forget eating Western food, and at fancy restaurants. Every time I travel to a new place I always keep an eye out for the street restaurants that are chock full of locals. It wouldn’t be busy if it wasn’t tasty and decently priced right? Eating locally for 30B a meal will save you SO much money and provide you will a true country experience as well as super tasty food.

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Hostels

When people read the word hostel they often think of a really cheap and nasty place with more rodent and bug residents than human. As much as this may have been true years and years ago, it isn’t now a days. I ALWAYS stay in hostels, they are cheaper than a hotel, have all of the same key features like WiFi, AC, laundry services etc but they are normally run by locals or people living there who understand the concept of travelling and will go out of their way to help you. Hostelworld.com is my go to site to search for places to stay and you will always find cheap and cheerful places on there as well as the expensive hotels that occasionally I do crave as well 😀

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Stay More Than One Night

Best deals will be found by staying more than one night. Even booking or renting an apartment or house for a month or so can be SO much cheaper than a hotel or even a hostel, plus you don’t have to worry about being bothersome to other hotel guests with all your crazy parties 😀

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Call the Hotel Directly

A last minute phone call directly to a hotel, or hostel, asking about cheap rooms can prove fruitful. They don’t like having empty rooms so will discount any that they have left over. It might not work but you never know 😀

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Coupon Codes

This might sound really silly but there are lots of events, hotels, flights and activities that can be made cheaper by the use of coupon codes. They might be in the language of the country you are visiting but a quick search on Google will normally find you a list or site which has all the current working codes on them. I have used coupons to get discounted entry to cinemas, concerts and even free food, so definitely give it a try!

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Traveling Overland

I know we would all love to live a jet set lifestyle of first class flights, 5 star hotels and Michelin star restaurants but 99% of us don’t, so finding other, cheaper, ways to travel is pretty important when trying to cut costs whilst travelling.

Travelling overland, by train, bus, minivan, car or moped is MUCH, MUCH cheaper and often more of an experience than travelling by plane. I recently got back from a visa run in Phnom Penh and to travel back up to Siem Reap I used a local minivan service with a girl I met, and we got to watch a huge and amazing thunderstorm across the Tonle Sap Lake and Mekong River; something we wouldn’t have seen if we had been on a plane.

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Discount Airlines

If you do have to use an airline company whilst you travel, you should definitely look to book a flight with a discount airline, such as Air Asia; not only will you save time travelling but you now may save money as well! What’s not to like about that?

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Be Flexible with Your Flight Dates and Times

When you’re booking flights, try to as flexible as possible. Flying mid week will always be much cheaper than a weekend. Also look to fly at undesirable times, nobody really want’s to fly at 2am but if it is cheaper then I will take it.

A few booking engines you can use for checking out flights include:

Kayak – Compares hundreds of sites at once.
Vayama – specialises in cheap international flights.
Skyscanner – Provides instant comparison on flight prices for over 670,000 routes.
Air Treks – Around the world flight ticket experts.
Airfarewatchdog – Keeps track of deals and alerts you of price drops.
Air Asia – Great for short flights within Asia, but to read why we will never fly long-haul as a family with them again click here.

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Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Earn points towards cheaper fares, upgrades, and free companion tickets. It may take a while to accumulate points, but they CAN pay off big time. I recently had a volunteer who got his flight from Guatemala to Thailand purely from his points 😀

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Follow on Social Media

Go and “like” your favorite travel sites on Facebook and “follow” them on twitter, even see if they have an Instagram account. More and more companies are releasing deals for flights, accommodation and food on their social media sites so keep an eye on those sites 😀

Use Credit Card Reward Points

Check the program and benefits for your particular credit or debit card, you might be able to use your points for accommodation costs and frequent flyer points. It is a very easy way to cut the prices of accommodation and flights whilst you are travelling.

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Sleep While Traveling

When travelling by plane, train, or bus, try and time it so you are traveling at night. That way, you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation. I do this ALL the time and it really does make a huge different in the long run.

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Use Free Days

Many touristy places around the world will have ‘Free Days’ or ‘Discount Days’. Always have a look around on the internet or local papers and magazines for information about Free or Discount days.

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Talk to the Locals

I love getting insider tips from locals, whether it be about a place to stay, a cheap bar or even a good restaurant. Locals know what is good and where to go. A good ice-breaker is to ask for directions or advice like “Where’s a good restaurant?”. I have done this in my town and was then taken on the back of a guys moped to a truly wonderful restaurant where we sat for hours eating and drinking 😀

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Travel Like the Locals

Use public transport where possible. You get great knowledge and insight by hanging with the locals, it costs you less, and is a more authentic travelling experience. Tuk Tuks are inexpensive here, walking is free and it is so much fun getting lost in the place you are travelling!

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Haggle

Haggling is expected in most places in Thailand, obviously not 7-11 or a department store, but market vendors will normally bargain with you. Just remember that 100B you are trying to haggle over is nothing to you but can be a days food and water for a Thai, so be respectful when you haggle.

One thing to remember though!

You are travelling, and you came travelling in order to see and experience things you otherwise wouldn’t do so don’t limit yourself financially just so you can stay in a country for longer.

Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, jump out of a plane, do something incredible. Even if you have to go under budget for a few days or a week to compensate for your splurge. It’s worth it.

Plus if you are constantly checking your funds and refusing invitations you will become so cranky about money and nobody wants that when they travel!!

Have fun, enjoy your experiences, save money where you can and then blow it on something even more amazing!!

Take a second to look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, volunteering is another great way to not only save money but to experience a new culture and make a difference in peoples lives.

After you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see all the fun and normally very cheap adventures I get up to 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Be A Frugal Wendy

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Piggies love those pennies – make a penny jar!!

People constantly ask me about how I manage to have traveled as much as I have and how I manage to live in Thailand only being 22. There really are no special or fancy tricks to it, it’s all about common sense and desire that overcomes everything else.

As with anything in life, a lack of finances is what prevents people from beginning their travels in the first place. But if you really want it enough you can travel wherever you want for as long as you want. It may take time, but that moment when you realise that everything you have worked for is finally paying off is, for me, the most rewarding feeling in the world. Many people have often mistaken me for being very well off financially to have traveled the way I have. I wish!!! All I have done is make smart decisions with my spending and taken active steps to save up to do the things I so desperately want to in life.

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Sadly, most of us don’t have magic top hats full of money

Even though there aren’t any magical tricks, apart from winning the lottery, there are many tips I can give you that will help you save up for your incredible once in a lifetime trip to Thailand.

First of all you need to ask yourself the right financial questions

How can I create more money in my life?

and

How can I cut back in order to save more money?

(Remember a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Or Pound. Or Euro. Or Yen) How Can I Create More Money in Order to Travel?

and

How do I save money for travel?

For me I look at what I want from life and what I want to be able to look back on in years to come.

Will I really care about that pair of shoes, that one night out or that iPhone 71234234 when I am 75?

No is the answer to that question, I will look back at the adventures I have had and whilst sat in my rocking chair with my knitting, that is what will bring a smile to my aged face.

So what do you want in life? That once in a life time opportunity to swim with elephants or a night out?

Is buying ______________ worth giving up your dreams?
Could this ____________ be worth more to me than watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, teaching a child it’s first words in English or protecting an endangered species?

When I was in England I was working two full times jobs as well as putting myself through University as well. I wasn’t living at a parents house either so I had to pay for all my expenses; needless to say I wasn’t getting any sleep, but I knew it was all worth is for when I would be able to travel and do all the things I had dreamed of doing.

A couple of things you can always look at doing also include

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Lodgers/Renters

If you have space in your house or your flat and you want some extra cash then getting yourself a lodger is a great idea that will not only get you extra cash but will also mean that you might be in a position to have someone you trust looking after your property whilst you travel.

Which brings me on to renters. If you are a home owner or you are on a long term contract, I know that your home is often one of the biggest things stopping you from travelling. You can remedy this by having someone rent your house from you whilst you travel, if you are on a long term contract and you aren’t able to rent out then maybe ask a friend if they need somewhere to stay for a bit, get them to pay for a percentage of the expenses and you’re set!

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Ebay

Ebay and Craigslist, if you are in the States, are on the way to being your new BBFs.

Look at all of the things in the room you are in right now.

How much of that stuff do you actually need, use or even want? I can guarantee you that if you found the value of a lot of your items and how much of a financial difference that would make to your trip you would sell everything!!

Trade your materialistic things for memories.

It doesn’t even just have to be possessions it can be clothes as well, I know how many clothes I have bought from Ebay over the years and someone out there is making money off that so what’s to say you can’t be that person!

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Make it a Working Holiday

For many this is a very practical solution to traveling and staying employed. There are so many companies that already have overseas offices, ask around your own workplace and see if there are any oppertunities for moving to another office abroad. If this isn’t possible then just look for a new job abroad. As long as you get the right visa you can work pretty much anywhere and do everything from teaching to bar tending; these are actually the two easiest and most requested jobs for people traveling 🙂

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Save Your Tax Returns and Bonuses

Tax Returns, bonuses even Birthday money is all money that you don’t count on in life. You can only ever really count on your salary, so these unexpected lump sums of money can often provide you with enough money to pay for flights, a few more weeks of travel or even the sometimes pricey working visas.

I know that I used the interest I had gained off a large sum of money so that I could pay for my flights to and from New York.

Birthday money has gone towards accommodation costs.

Bonuses have gone to pay for volunteering.

This extra money should only ever be used for your dreams or your debts, I would probably go with debt first as you really don’t need that coming back and biting you in the ass later haha

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What You Need vs What You Want

This is something I still fall for on occasion. Do I NEED that night out in town or do I want it? I normally think I need it when I don’t – well, except my Birthday 😀

But you don’t need a lot in life to be happy, as long as you have somewhere to sleep, clothes on your back, food and probably the internet, you are fine.

Get rid of all those labels, the expensive price tags, the brand new cars and other goods, the fancy restaurants, and top shelf drinks. Start living on a needs basis not a want.

It will be hard at first but being frugal will pay off very quickly. Give it one month of living very strictly and you will see the financial and personal difference.

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Public Transport

Do you need a car?

Really?

I am pretty sure there will be public transport to that place you are trying to justify in your head isn’t there?

Yeah, I thought so haha

Cars are expensive.

Buses are not.

Walking or cycling are even FREE!

So save your money, help the environment, and ditch the car for the other forms of transport in the world.

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Eat at Home

You don’t need to be going out to fancy restaurants, or even a McDonald’s every night or even at all. Think of how much that Big Mac meal will set you back if you have 2 a week, then add it all up and that might pay for a hostel for a week, a visa or even part of your flights.

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Who wouldn’t want to cook at home with Nigella!

Cook at Home

One thing I never used to think about was how much money I was spending when I went out for lunch everyday between jobs. I might spend up to 5GBP in one day, buying a sandwich, a drink and a packet of crisps.

This adds up to WAY more money than I even want to think about.

Now if you take that money and use it to buy ingredients for simple meals you can make at home, which you can then take to work for lunch is much, much cheaper.

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Live Off One Wage

If you are travelling as a couple this is a GREAT way of saving money, really budget yourself so you only need to use one of your wages in order to pay for what you have to in life and then use the other as a savings wage. You will be amazed at how quickly you can save by doing this.

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Work Out a Travel Plan

I am all for flexible traveling but you really should have a basic idea of where you are going, and how much it is going to cost you in order to get there/live there/leave there.

How do you plan on getting around when you travel?
What sort of places are you willing to stay, where will you eat?
In other words how low budget do you plan to go?

You can make travel as expensive as you like, if you just HAVE to stay in the Ritz then you are going to have a bad time, if you don’t mind staying in a dorm or a less desirable location, then not only will you meet more people and see more of a place but you will also save yourself an incredible amount of money.

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Airline Credit Cards

Now I personally don’t own a credit card, I don’t agree with spending money that you don’t have, even if you have it in genuine money on another card. It just freaks me out as I know that I would rack up a huge debt by never paying for anything.

But there are specialist credit cards that are travel related or even from airline companies. Cards like these allow you to rack up airmiles and often other bonuses as well, for example if the company your credit card is from is in association with a hotel chain, you might be in line for cheaper accommodation.

Also make sure you utilize the initial sign up bonuses and all the monthly or weekly prize draws and competitions they do as well. Not only will this give you an opportunity to win a lump sum, it might even offer you the opportunity to get you an entire free travel experience.

Some U.S. carriers offer a branded card that gives you 30,000-50,000 bonus miles when you sign up and make one purchase. That’s a free round-trip economy ticket right there. By adding multiple users, you can multiply the bonus. Additionally, by signing up for non-branded cards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can earn points offered by those cards and then transfer them to your favorite airline.

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Be Flexible

If you are flexible with your destination dates you will be surprised how much money you can spend. Flying mid week for example is ALWAYS cheaper than flying on a Friday or weekend, I don’t know why but that is just how it is. I use Skyscanner for all of my flight needs and they have a great section that allows you to check an entire month for departure and return flights that will work out the cheapest, they are normally only ever a few days different from your initial dates anyway.

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Travel Off-Season

Understandably off season is usually cheaper as the weather isn’t the greatest or it has the least amount of festivals or events BUT, traveling off season not only saves you money but also means that you can see places that would normally be full of tourists in a more natural way. There is nothing like going to a beach and being the only person there, this WON”T EVER happen if you travel in high season.

Before you embark on your travels research the off or shoulder seasons for the places you want to travel and tailor your trip around those times.

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Think Outside The Box

Why are the most popular destinations so expensive? Because everyone goes there!

Want to see a Thai beach but you don’t want to pay the prices of Koh Samui or see all the drunken teenage idiots on Koh Pangyan? Try Phi Phi or Krabi, they are equally as beautiful and much cheaper, granted they are more expensive than Northern Thailand, but it is the beach after all.

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Don’t Stay In A Hotel

Hotels are expensive, you are only sleeping there so do you really need to be paying $100 a night when you could stay in a hostel for a tenth of the price. I genuinely can’t even think of a time I have ever stayed in a proper hotel, I have been in them and experienced the marvel that is heated swimming pools, massage and room service but is that honestly better than swimming in the ocean, local massage and street food?

I don’t think so.

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Stay With Family/Friends

Do you happen to have any friends or family that live abroad? This is always a great excuse to travel, not only will you get to see family and friends but they might be able to put you up for a while which always cuts down costs.

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Shop Around

Chances are the easiest flights, hotels, tours or cruises are sponsored so won’t actually be as cheap as they appear. Make sure you dig around and look at as many websites, articles and comparison companies as possible. There is always a deal out there, they are just sometimes hard to find.

Don’t give up though!!

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Quit The Gym

You don’t need a gym in order to work out, the last time I checked running, jogging and cycling were all free to do in any city in the world. The gym just gives you a place to run on the spot and be sweaty with lots of other people. Join a running club. Cycle instead of using your car. Use the stairs instead of the lift. You will be getting the same amount of exercise but it will be free!!

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Cheapskate Socializing

You don’t need to get drunk to hang out with your friends. Drinking is incredibly expensive when you add up how much you spend in a week, so much so that you could probably buy flights with a months drinking money. Think of interesting ways to socialize with your friends that doesn’t cost anything, BBQ in the park, game of football, video game nights even a dinner party or movie night. There are more ways than you think to socialize for very little money.

Make sure you do go out and enjoy yourself every now and again as otherwise you will become very bitter about saving, not to mention, your mates will think you are really boring.

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Saving money is sort of like a financial diet, cut back on all the things you don’t need and that are bad for you but have those cheat days that keep you happy 🙂

To see the kinds of things you can be doing with the money you save up take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for our amazing and life changing volunteer opportunities.

After you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see all the fun and normally very cheap adventures I get up to 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Very Happy, If Older, Wendy

So a couple of you may know that it was my birthday yesterday and I can honestly say that it made me realise how much I love traveling, and especially Thailand. My 21st last year was spent being Lara Croft in the temples of Cambodia and this year, having spent a week in Cambodia to arrange a new visa, I got to spend my birthday, this year, back in my adopted home town of Surin.

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Belated Birthday celebrations in Bangkok with two AMAZING girls, Caroline and Becki (2012)

I can honestly say it was one of the best birthdays I have had, although I may not of had all the people that matter to me celebrating with me, I know that they were there in spirit and luckily I had all my friends here to make up for it. I got to hang out with my two big brothers, have my favourite local band sing one of my favourite songs as well as sing me Happy Birthday and I got to do it all after having some great Skype calls with people who I cherish around the world.

But like I said, my birthday this year really did make me appreciate what I have in life and appreciate even more the wonderful place I get to live and work in. I have never really fitted in in England, I don’t so much like the culture, the way people treat each other and the lack of morals of many of the people that live there. Thailand on the other hand fits me very well and these are a few reason why I, and you, should love this, the beautiful ‘Land of Smiles’.

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When I step out of my house each day the heat wraps around me like an embrace and the familiar smells waft up my nose. This might be the smell of rotten fruit, previous evening’s garbage and left over food for the Soi dogs, but I a 2 minute walk to 7/11 conjurers the beautiful and mouth-watering aroma of roasted pork, noodles and petrol; most people won’t know that petrol is one of my favourite smells, and when you mix this with pork you are on to one of the most beautiful smells ever imaginable!!

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One of the cute Soi Dogs that lives near my house

Every place and every step in Thailand brings you something new to savour: tastes, smells, warmth, humility, friendliness and spiritual peace. I have never found anywhere else that has managed to always surprise and humble me at the same time, even on a journey I have done a thousand times, I can’t bring myself to close my eyes and sleep as this amazing environment still instills so much excitement in me.

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Cannot get enough of the food here

So here are some reasons why I love Thailand so much.

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A sunset in Khao Yai National Park

Freedom

England is a culture that is rigid with rules, fees, fines, taxes and expectations. Humans are meant to be free and able to enjoy this wonderful journey. Being ferried from one part of life to another, because that is ‘what you do’ just doesn’t fit me, or what I think life is about.

I love what seems to be almost an absence of rules in Thailand. Despite this people generally go about living their life making responsible decisions and being kind to one another; I think this is mostly down to their Buddhist upbringing but also Thais seem to just have a much greater level of respect for each other than Western society does.

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Tom Yam Soup

Food

Even though I only tend to eat once a day, I could honestly eat Thai food constantly, if I could create some kind of portable Thai food conveyor belt that was always stocked with my favourite foods then I would be a very happy rainbow 😀

The Thai create dishes with ingrediants that if you saw them on their own, you would think to be completely inedible, but as with most things in life, Thais find a way to make something beautiful from nothing. If you want to see a couple of beautiful Thai dishes you can experience whilst here, then take a look at my ‘Top Ten Thai Dishes’ post from a couple of weeks ago.

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Phi Phi Islands in South Thailand

Exoticness

(Unsure if this is a real word or not haha)

For me, Thailand is the height of exotic. There are countless different sides to this beautiful diamond of a country that, even in my 9 months here, I still stumble upon new and beautiful places and things that I wasn’t aware of.

I love the cultural celebrations, the religious ceremonies, the strange food, beautiful beaches and most of all the charming and welcoming people that no matter how stressful a day has been, will always make me smile.

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My two big brothers!!

People

I can’t explain how homely Thailand feels, if you are in the tourist hotspots you probably won’t experience this but if you are in ‘real’ Thailand then you will defintily know what I am talking about. When you come to Thailand, the people here make you feel as though you are part of their family, the people at my local 7/11 for example have included me in so many of their staff nights out, in jokes and general banter. This all comes from Thais being very open and kind people who accept everyone for who they are, no matter how silly or brightly coloured their hair is 😀

You instantly feel good around Thais and all your guards drop because you know all they bring to the table is acceptance, warmth and love. There have been a couple of times I have had a bad day, either from stresses at work, people giving me a hard time or just from getting out of bed on the wrong side and one kind word from a random Thai person on the street, in a passing truck or at Big C has completely lifted my spirit and made me smile again.

They want to laugh more than they want to argue, complain or be bitter. Life is all about being happy, so why waste time being anything other than that?

Buddhist monks participate in a procession to mark the anniversary of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, on the outskirts of Bangkok

Monks presentation

Spirituality

Thai people are very much in tune with their religion, they live everyday in order to be a good person. Following the teachings of Buddha and accepting life as it is makes Thais very laid back and appreciative of the small things in life.

Their attitude is to be kind always.

Choose happiness, be respectful, consider others, laugh often.

I love how they stop to honour Buddha and the King at every photo and statue they see. They bend low to pass you something with two hands. They greet you with a Wai blessing. They are so reverent and believe that your actions have consequences, so choose the actions that bring about those happy, positive results for all people involved. More people need to learn from these peaceful and loving people.

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Language

I don’t know why I love Thai. I think it has a lot to do with how different it is from any other language and that it is still very mysterious to the vast population of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people learn Spanish or Japanese every year but nobody learns Thai. In the touristy locations the Thais speak English and for the places that Thais don’t learn English you can get around with hand signals and Google translate. For me though, I want to learn one of the lesser known languages in the world, not only to improve my own life experience, but also to show that even though my skin may be white, that I can put in as much effort to learn a language as the Thais do.

Thais are very humble and kind but they will happily laugh with you at all your silly mistakes and pathetic attempts to speak their language!

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A boy enjoy Songkran – Thai New Year

Living For The Moment

Thailand forces people to live in the moment. When you walk down the street you can’t do so whilst worrying about all the silly things in life as you are on an adventure of sorts with the countless tuk tuks, cars, mobile street carts, motorbikes, people, all moving amongst one another. You are forced to be present or die. And when you think about it, that is what life should be. Live for the now, not for the past that is gone or the future that will never be.

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There really is nothing like Thai traffic

Living With Chaos

When you first see Thailand, all you see is the hundreds of busy and bustling cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes, people, children running around barefoot, dogs chasing each other for territory, cats stalking their pray, vendors hollering about their wares and school children on the way to school.

Yet despite all this chaos their is a constant essence of calm in Thailand.

Take a second to stand and watch the chaos unfold and you will still see a beautiful moment of calm amongst the storm whether it is a stolen smile between to young Thais, a child’s beaming smile after being given a sweet snack or an old dog just observing the territory he has spent years protecting.

Seeing butterflies is my personal reminder to just take a second to appreciate the here and now.

When I am busy with things in my own mind, or worrying about things I really have no control over, I always see a pair of butterflies playfully chasing each other in the warm breeze and it makes me realise that I need to stop.

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Miss International Queen Pageant in Bangkok

Acceptance

One of my favourite things about Thailand is that you will be loved and accepted no matter who you are and what you believe in. You aren’t treated differently for anything, whether it be your skin, your hair, your gender, your sexual preference or taste in fashion.

I have always admired how gay/lesbian and ‘ladyboys’ are  treated with respect and love within society. They are teased in a friendly way that is not meant with any malice, much the same as people who aren’t stick thin are. There is absolutely no bullying at all, so snickering remarks about people you see on the street or in a club or bar. Everyone is a person and for that are honored.

Thinking about it, the only times I can think of any sort of derogatory comments or behaviour towards anyone seen as ‘different’, is from Westerners who can’t seem to accept that, just because a person doesn’t think the same as you that they should be ridiculed and made to feel worthless.

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All you need for 1 day in Thailand – around 2GBP

Cheap Living

I won’t lie, I have lived here for 9 months and haven’t once used the kitchen in my house, if it wasn’t where the cups and bin lived then I wouldn’t even know where it is. It is only 30-40B to eat out for any meal so I really have no reason to make my own food. Travel from Surin to Bangkok is 407B, around 8GBP or $12, I couldn’t even get from my house in York to Leeds on that much money!!!

You can live well in Thailand. And life is for living well.

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Beautiful Beaches

The beaches are stunning, the sand soft and white, crystal clear, blue or jade water, depending where you are. The water is calm and gentle and beckons you to come snorkelling and play with tropical fish up close.

Fresh fruit is available everywhere, with the added bonus of being locally sourced and organic. The catch of the day is cooked on an evening, the smell of roasting fish, crackling and spiting over hot coals, always makes me smile and my mouth water.

There are still many beaches that haven’t been taken over my 20 something Westerners so don’t loose hope when you see most of the beaches are advertised for the bars and pub crawls.

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The Famous Tuk Tuk

Transport

One of my favourite ways to travel in Bangkok, whenever I am there, is my motorbike taxi. I love being a part of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok traffic. Your driver will career around bends with oncoming traffic from every direction but does so with such control and experience you don’t bat an eyelid.

Having a tuk tuk drive on the way home after a night out is one of the best parts of my night. I love tumbling into a tuk tuk and knowing that all the local drivers know where my house is so there is no worry to getting lost. I haven’t found anywhere else that remembers where I live!!

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Enjoying a night out with my best friend Nangfa!

Night Life

In Thailand life begins at night time. This doesn’t just mean the bars or clubs but includes the night markets, the street stalls full of tasty and delicious food by the park and the generally more relaxed vibe on an evening. I have sat outside 7/11 with friends just people watching, trying the food of the various stalls and joking with the 7/11 staff; I really don’t miss my Playstation in times like that haha

So those are the things I really love about Thailand. I would to hear what you love about Thailand and what makes it a truly amazing travel destination.

If you haven’t made your way to this incredible country then you need to check out the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, where you can pick a project that will change your life as well as the lives of the Thais you will work with.

And as always have a look at my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for my own Thailand experience!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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What Would You Buy A Wendy

After looking at the essentials and getting lots of people asking about what else would make your journey more comfortable I thought I would look into what I always tell myself I will get and always forget to, these ideas are great for when family and friends ask you what you want as a gift to take travelling with you.

I know that before every trip I take, both my mum and my dad ask me about what I think I might need for my trip, in all honesty I never really give it a thought because I have traveled so much with all the things that I usually take that I never give thought to new things in the market that might be really useful for travel.

Having had a look around the Internet and on some of my favourite travel blogs I have noticed that there is a definite trend for what people now use as their staple travel items. So when your parents or friends are fussing and asking what they can give you to make your trip easier then just hand them this list of useful items and let them pick out whichever thing they think will be best, just make sure to remove anything from the list that someone buys you or you might be stuck with several of one item 🙂

Now the things on this list vary from relatively inexpensive to the more pricey side of life, this is mostly down to ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’. Some people are very lucky to have more money in life than others so this list is made to accommodate everyone, no matter what their monetary income.

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Portable Harddrive

As I have mentioned before, a portable harddrive is one of the number one things that everyone should have when they travel. Harddrives vary in size from as small as 1GB up to a 1TB, chances are you won’t be needing a one terabyte harddrive, but 16GB to 32GB is a perfect size. It will allow you to free up so much space on camera memory cards by transferring pictures over to a hard drive, not only that but you can fill a harddrive with movies as well which can be great to watch when you are stuck in an airport or on a bus or car for a long journey. You can get harddrives from anywhere on the Internet and they vary wildly in prices but you can expect to pay around 40GBP for a 16GB portable hard drive

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Swiss Army Knife

My Dad gave me a Swiss Army Knife when I first traveled to Thailand, I must admit that when he first gave it to me I did give a look that I often do with my Dad. My Dad is a cross between Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Grant Mitchell, he is very protective of me and is constantly concerned that, much like Liam Neeson, he will need to come and rescue me at some point in life. Over the years my Dad has been the person who has wanted to put a tracker in my phone, have direct numbers to ‘friends’ at the Embassy and to break the legs of every boy that’s ever made me cry, so needless to say when I told him that I was going to Thailand he insisted that I have a Swiss Army Knife, to use not only for the useful tools it possesses but also as a weapon if I ever get into a situation. Now I haven’t had to use it as a weapon but I can’t count the amount of times that my Swiss Army Knife has come in useful as a screwdriver, bottle opener and pair of scissors.

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Back up ATM or Bank Account

Credit cards and debit cards are totally fine to bring out to Thailand with you when you volunteer, the one thing I would suggest that people organise is a secondary back up account that has emergency money in. The details and card for this account should always be kept separate from your normal account, if anything happens to your regular card and account then you have a back up there to help you. This isn’t really something somebody can buy for you but many people are concerned about volunteers when they leave for Thailand, having an account which they have put money into for an emergency can ease people’s concerns about your safety and also provides you with some help if you need it.

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Travel Towel

This might sound really silly to some people but everyone should bring with them a Travel Towel, a normal towel is perfectly ample, but if you get a specific travel towel they are normally very compact, light weight, made of quick dry material and nearly always have their own pack away bag. I have one of these and it is great to just clip onto whichever bag I am taking with me for the weekend, the week or however long you are travelling for; especially as not every hotel or hostel will have their own towels. These kinds of towels are also great to use as blankets on flights or buses and as pillows as well, the amount of times that I have been sat on a bus absolutely freezing is just too high, but thankfully I have had a travel towel on hand to keep me snug, warm and comfortable.

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Adapter Plug

You HAVE to have an adapter plug for when you travel to a new country, it is just something that comes with travelling, not everywhere has the same plug and voltage so having the right plug is important. The best one you can buy is one of the universal plugs that you can make every other plug from, but if you can’t get one of these or just don’t think you need one that makes every plug then you should pick up a US adapter. Thailand uses the two prong plugs so US plugs work just fine here, they cope well will the voltage difference as well, I have two that I use every day and they haven’t failed me yet.

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Power Box

There are never enough sockets in any room that I have ever stayed in, in any country in the world, so having a power box that allows you to increase the amount of outlets you have is a god send and will save you time with charging everything up at once as opposed to one at a time. I personally always carry with me an iPhone, iPad, 3DS and my Thai phone so I need at least 4 plugs in my room, something which never happens. I normally have to unplug a fridge or TV in rooms I stay in to individually charge items which is not only a pain but is time consuming; having a power box eliminates the need to wait for one thing to charge at a time.

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Amazon Kindle

I personally don’t own one of these, yet. I keep looking at them when I have a snoop about on Amazon for things I need, and I keep wanting to buy one. They are so small, lightweight, robust and have access to thousands of books through Amazon. They work in the daylight as well with some strange magic technology that, in all honesty, sort of freaks me out, I always think the screen looks like it is just one of those paper ones that phone shops put on phones back in the day when you didn’t have real phones to test. At the minute I use my iPad as my e-book reader, it is great and has all the books I want but my iPad gets heavy and chunky when I read from it for a long time, so I think if you are just wanting an e-reader for your trip and you don’t already own a tablet then a Kindle will be your best friend. Here is the link to the current Amazon Kindle section.

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Books

Some people just prefer to have a physical book in their hands as opposed to an e-book reader or tablet, I can completely sympathize with everyone who thinks like that. I really miss having an actual book in my hands, the smell of the pages and the glue and the actual feel of turning the pages and being able to see how far you have read through a huge tome of a book.

Books are hugely space consuming however and also weigh your bag down more than you will realise, but if you insist on having books then just be prepared to deal with the weight of them. I always have to have a physical copy of Lonely Planet guides, I find they are perfect to travel with and read through when you have a spare hour or so and I can also highlight and mark the places and things I want to see.

Don’t think you have to have just travel guides with you though, bring any book you fancy and when you have finished it you can swap it with the books that we have in the volunteer houses. I personally have recently finished reading all of the Game of Thrones books, which I can tell you are much better than the show gives credit too. They are however very large books in part so I read mine on my iPad.

Here is a link to the Lonely Planet Travel Guide section of their website so that you can have a look and pick out the guide you think will suit you best.

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Journal

I think that everyone should journal every day when they travel. I know it seems tedious to do it everyday but I promise you that when you get back to your home country you will wish that you had done it. If you make note of every hilarious quote and situation you won’t ever forget them and when you look back to your journal years later if will bring back all of the memories as if they were yesterday. For me, I love to have leather bound journals with recycled paper pages, I think they feel and look beautiful and filling them up feels amazing. Knowing that in a few years I can look back at my journals and remember everything makes me very happy.

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Cards

Playing Cards are an invaluable item to take whilst volunteering or traveling, no matter what language you speak or the people around you speak, everyone understands the universal language playing cards. They provide hours of entertainment without the need to have electricity or batteries, something which can be incredibly useful when you are in the Elephant Village on our Elephant project or you are on the journey to and from any other project. Cards can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, just as long as it is a standard 52 card deck of cards, Bobs your uncle.

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Waterproof Money Belt

Now I always have a little giggle to myself whenever I see volunteers with these money belt things, they always come across as really uncool and completely unnecessary to me. Thailand is not a place that has crime enough for you to need an underclothes money belt; I have lived here for 9 months, I can assure you that having a wallet is just fine.
I will say however that the money belts, especially the waterproof ones are perfect for keeping all your valuables in like your passport, money and booking confirmation papers in. You don’t need to wear them with you everywhere you go as the volunteers houses are secure and safe and you won’t get your passport, money or other possessions stolen.

I wish that I had had one of these at Songkran in April as I must admit that my phone and money did get absolutely soaked and having a waterproof money belt would have been a god send.

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Travel Pillow

Much like with a travel towel, a travel pillow might seem like a silly idea to some people but I can assure you that these amazing, squishy, comfy pieces of cloud can make a stressful, long and normally uncomfortable journey into one where you can sleep your way through it. They might look silly, but I assure you that they will make you so comfortable that you won’t care if you look silly or not. They are inexpensive and easy to find so there is no excuse to not have one 🙂

Now that you know all the smaller things that you can bring with you to enjoy your time with us here at Starfish Volunteers, you can go to the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to find which volunteer program will be your once in a life time memory.

Then as always check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Technological Wendy

When you start to do a lot of travelling you realise that most of the junk that you bring with you is just that; junk. You don’t need 95% of the clothes you bring with you, nor do you need all those pairs of shoes, the jewelry, straighteners etc. One thing that people always question me about is the technology they need to bring with them. Now I know that travelling should be all about being involved in the culture of the land you are in and not worrying about what technology you have with you, but technology is now such an important and integral part of people’s lives that you do need to be aware of what are the easiest things to take with you.

So here is a run down of the things that I think are the most important and required pieces of technology are. These are all things that I use on a day to day basis as well as a few tips about how to make the best out of each piece of equipment.

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Laptop

For me I use a MacBook Prob as my day to day laptop. It does everything I need it to from word processing, playing music, photo and video editing and it has a great HD camera that makes Skype feel as though my friends are in the room. Not only this but it also means that I have something to use at the hundreds of WiFi enabled places around Thailand and Asia. Asia does have Internet cafes everywhere but they are becoming fewer and far between, I also use a MacBook Pro as I do a lot of blogging (obviously :D) and I need somewhere to save all of my information, something that I can’t do at an Internet cafe.

For people that are long term travelling, a laptop of some kind is an essential piece of equipment, however if you are only travelling for a week or two then you can probably do without having a laptop with you. If you are considering taking a laptop with you then you need to make sure that you get one that has these features;

Small – space saving and weight limitation is paramount to travelers.
Robust – a laptop will get knocked about in your bag whilst traveling, so you need to make sure that the one you choose to travel with is strong enough to stand up to what you can, also make sure you get a good protective case, trust me when I say they make a HUGE difference.
Keyboard – if you are planing to be blogging a lot, like I do, then you need a keyboard that fits to what you like, for me that is any Mac keyboard, they are all perfectly spaced and so easy to type on.
Operating system – always make sure that you have an up to date operating system whether this be Lion on Mac or the latest update of the Windows operating software.
Battery life – you need to have a battery that last a decent amount of time, the longer the better really.
Memory – the larger the memory the better, it means you can store more photos, videos and documents. This can be pricey so make sure when you look for the right laptop for you, that you get one with as much memory as you can for your price bracket.

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Camera

After a laptop I think that another valued piece of equipment is a camera. I am in no way a professional photographer, I do have an active interest in photography though and know that it isn’t always the camera but the person taking the pictures that makes them extraordinary. But having a Canon over an ASDAs own, will make a definite difference.

When looking into a camera to buy or bring with you whilst you travel I would look for a camera with the following features;

Size – as with laptops you need to make sure you get a smallish sized camera, the huge big professional ones do take amazing pictures but they are very bulky and difficult to travel with. You can get smaller sized versions of the bigger cameras, I myself have a DSLR Canon that is an average size and it takes beautiful pictures.
Zoom – for me the zoom lens is the single most important piece on a camera, the actual picture taking technology is all the same no matter what type you buy, but it is the lens that makes a camera what it is, so try and get a good lens for whichever camera you get.
Video – footage is always a great way to capture moments that sometimes a single shot can’t get, for example I know volunteers that have filmed their bungee jumps and skydives, something that a single shot wouldn’t give justice to.

I personally really love my Canon DLSR and I am very loyal when it comes to brands I like, so would always recommend a Canon, obviously they are pretty pricey cameras so anything by Lumix, Nikon or Fujifilm all do a beautiful job as well. Just make sure you get a protective case to store your camera in so it doesn’t get damaged with travel, it is also an idea to get several back up memory cards incase your standard one becomes full.

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Mobile Phone

Everyone knows I adore Apple products so for me the best phone for travelling is my iPhone 5. It has become such an indispensable part of my every day life that to have a different phone would just not work in my life. It covers everything from my music player to my calendar, I can check flights, pay bills, sync with every other product I own as well as providing me with a means of communicating not only here in Thailand but with my friends and family all over the world, it also has games on it and we all know how partial I am to video games 😄

Skype on my iPhone is possibly the easiest place for me to use it, if I happen to stumble upon a WiFi spot when I am out and about and my own signal isn’t too great I can jump onto the WiFi and Skype anyone. I don’t carry my Mac around with me everywhere so if I didn’t have a phone this wouldn’t be possible.

Just make sure that you contact Apple or your phone provider to get your iPhone, or whichever brand you have, and get it unlocked. If you don’t unlock your phone you won’t be able to put another SIM card in it so you will be stuck with a phone that won’t be able to make calls or texts. I know some companies also don’t unlock their phones so you need to make sure that you always have your phone on flight mode, otherwise you will get charged for being in a different country, not only that but smart phones are desperate to hook up to the Internet so if you don’t turn WiFi on you will be charged through the nose!! Nobody needs that bill when they get home.

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You can never go wrong with this Bad Boy!

If you can’t get your phone unlocked or you just don’t fancy taking your expensive phone around with you anywhere then I would suggest that you pick up a local phone from any of the vendors that are on the streets of Surin or from Big C. I have a brick phone as my work phone which I got from Big C, it isn’t the end of the world if I loose it and they survive everything from Songkran to pretty insane nights out 🙂

Make sure you check out my previous posts about ‘How To Contact A Wendy’ and ‘What App Would Wendy Use?’ to find out more info about what Apps are perfect for usuing with your smartphone 😀

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Ebook Reader

No matter if you choose to have a Kindle or an iPad, I would always recommend to have an E-book reader, they not only reduce the weight in your rucksack but they also mean that you can have several books instead of just one, for half the weight as well.

I do have to admit that I do miss the feel of a real book though. There is nothing that compares to the smell of books as well, whether they be the really old dusty ones that have that musty smell or the glue smell of new books; the smell of either always brings back memories of reading until the early hours of the morning when I was a child.

Kindles are much cheaper, smaller and more light weight than iPads. They are also incredible to use in daylight whereas an iPad is heavier and much more expensive. I use my iPad for more than being an e-book reader which is why I chose it over the Kindle. However if you are just wanting an e-book reader then I would go with the Kindle, though I do love the hugely interactive screen that iPad e-books have; but like I have said before, I am a big Apple FanGirl.

As with everything though, make sure you get a good cover that will not only provide protection but will also hide the fact that you have an expensive piece of equipment on your persons.

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Backup

Backup is one of the most important but most overlooked pieces of technology that people need to bring with them. Not only do pen drives and external hard drives give you somewhere to back up the thousands of pictures you will be taking but they are also a great place to store movies for those quiet evenings or afternoons when you don’t fancy going for a wander around. Sometimes hearing an English speaking voice other than your own is a hugely welcome addition, for example, I love learning Thai, speaking and listening to it are a huge learning experience but sometimes it is nice to have something to listen to and watch that I don’t have to think about.

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Other Bits And Bobs

Adapters are the single most forgotten piece of equipment of volunteers. People know they need to bring them but they always seem to forget haha For Thailand you need to have a two pronged plug, a US converter plug is the best one I can recommend as it fits in everything and it works better with the voltage here.

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Power boxes, you know those things where you can plug in more than one thing? Those are amazing when traveling, I know that whenever I go to Bangkok I always take a power box with me so that I can charge my phone, iPad and my 3DS all at the same time instead of having to do one at a time after I unplug the fridge; they just save time and are invaluable, pretty much worth their weight in gold as far as I am concerned.

And that is it.

You might think that this is a very small list of things that you would need to bring with you but you really don’t need all the stuff you are thinking you do, if you combine this with my previous ‘What Would Wendy Bring’ post, then you really are set with what you need to bring with you. Just remember that once you pack your bag, unpack it and then get rid of about 90% of it; I assure you, you won’t need it.

Now that you know what you should be bringing with you when you travel, you need to decide on which project you are wanting to do, so take a look at the Starfish Website and Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to begin your adventure.

Once you have done that you need to then check out my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see even more magic from me!!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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What App Would Wendy Use?

After looking at my ‘How To Contact A Wendy’ blog yesterday I realised that each of the methods I mentioned are Apps that can be downloaded onto any smartphone; this got me to thinking about which Apps are the best for travelling and volunteering abroad. I have kept to things that relate to traveling as opposed to being a tourist as I am never one of those touristy people and I think whilst you travel you should be experiencing the place you are in, rather than paying attention to your smartphone. The Apps I have come up with reflect this minimalist approach to using my phone whilst travelling; hopefully they may be of some use to you guys!!

When it comes to smartphones I have written before about how much of a help my iPhone 5 is when I am not only travelling but also when I am just out and about in my daily life. It takes beautiful pictures, syncs with every other product I own and has every app that I could ever need from photo editing to word processing.

I have folders on my phone for everything from games to work, but the folder I would recommend that everyone who is coming to volunteer with has, is my Travel folder. It has the apps that I have tried and tested and found that I use everyday or at least enough to constitute keeping the app on my phone. I am going to give you a run down of these very useful apps which will hopefully be as useful for you.

Quick disclaimer though, these are all iPhone apps, I don’t know a thing about the apps they have for Windows or Android, they may well have the same, equivalent or better versions but these are what I like I think you will as well.

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Packing Pro

A godsend for the absentminded traveler, the app’s Expert List Assistant creates packing lists based on the number of adults, children and days of travel. The functionality also takes into account temperature, destination, food preparation and even laundry preferences. You basically don’t even have to think about what to pack because of this app! You can also make customised lists of things you will need for if you are doing something specialised, like volunteering for example. I know this is a paid app, but from the free ones I have gone through, none of them are nearly as good as this one which is why I would suggest this over any other!

£1.99

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Off Exploring

With Off Exploring, users can now do scrapbooking anytime, anywhere. It has an inbuilt GPS route-tracking function that also records points along your journey, which is great for when you don’t know the name of the village or town you are in. Off Exploring also allows you to sync up with your favourite social media site as well, so you can always keep people informed of where you are and what your doing, also lets you show off your travels as well. You can also read the blogs of other travelers which is a great way of discovering things you might not find otherwise 🙂

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Lonely Planet Travel Guides

Lonely Planet are the number one travel guide company, I have a guide from them for every country I have been to and most of the cities as well, they are written by people who have been to the place in question and have so many amazing and interesting entries about places, restaurants, shopping centers and adventures that you can have that may not be known to every other traveler.

Their Travel Guides App allows you to have the ‘Best Of’ guides for many popular destinations as well as city, regional and country guides, phrase books and translators, audio tours and a section of free stuff as well.

They aren’t quite as extensive as the books that you can buy but they are extremely well presented and have a huge amount of information in a very easy place, your phone! A definite must have for any traveler.

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Kik and WhatsApp have a similar user interface

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What’s App or Kik

Both What’s App and Kik do the same thing, they are instant messing apps that use an Internet connection as opposed to monetary credit, something which is perfect for travelers. What’s App uses physical phone numbers as its way of communication so you will need to have the telephone number of the person you are wanting to contact; just be careful with using the correct area code, otherwise it just won’t work haha. Kik uses a profile, similar to Facebook, so you have the security of knowing that you don’t have to give your number out to people you aren’t too sure about. They are both amazing little apps and I would recommend you get both 🙂

Free

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Skype

Skype is an incredible app that allows you to call any other Skype user, and if you purchase Skype Credit, you can call any mobile number as well, the rates are very cheap as well which makes it very useful for keeping family and friends informed of where you are and what you are up to.

It is also an instant messaging app that lets you message people even if they are offline and even allows you to send video and pictures to any of your contacts. The app crosses over onto every platform including computers, tablets, iPad, iPhone as well as android and windows phones.

Free

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Google Translate

This app allows you to translate words and phrases in over 60 languages. The software allows you to speak your words and phrases instead of typing them as well, many of the languages can also be repeated back to you from your phone; this is perfect for volunteers with us in Thailand as they won’t understand the written Thai but can repeat the spoken Thai after listening to it.

You do have to input words in the order that they are used in the language you are translating into. I would also try to use as simple English as possible, don’t be trying to use any fancy words as the translator will probably not understand and will translate to something completely different, meaning that you won’t be understood.

Free

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XE Currency

This is a great free currency converting app that uses live currency rates so gives you a pretty spot on conversion. It also allows you to look at several different currencies at one time including Euro, GBP, US Dollar and Yen and doesn’t even require the Internet as it stores the last known conversion rates within the app itself, something which is great for volunteers who don’t have mobile Internet but still want to work out how much they are spending when they go shopping.

You will need to manually add the Thailand Baht from the settings but that takes only a few seconds. I can’t begin to explain how often I use this app. I know the conversion rates in my head but for larger amounts it is so good to have an app that is up to date with its conversion rates and that I can use offline as well.

Free

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Skyscanner

Skyscanner is my go to site for checking flights, I always visit Skyscanner before any other site and this is because it is so simple to use and checks so many different airlines to give you the best price for the dates you are looking for.

It also gives you the option to check the whole month in which you want to fly so that you can find the cheapest day to fly on. This is perfect for people who don’t have rigid plans, I know that using this app and this feature, has saved me so much money over the years, simply by moving my flight a day or two from what I had originally thought of.

You can also save searches as well which means that you don’t have to book there and then, this also means you can compare different locations and the flight prices to them. Definite must have app.

Free

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Facebook

If you don’t know what Facebook is then you must never have used the Internet and I am pretty sure you must have no friends. Facebook is an integral part of people’s lives now a days and is the number one way for volunteers to communicate with their families and friends back at home.

It also serves as a cloud network, meaning that you can save all your photos and videos here and they will be safe and secure as well as being visible to the people eager to follow your adventures.

It also now has video calling which is similar, but not as good as Skype. You can instant message and private message with Facebook also, which means that you are never too far away from contacting the people you care about.

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Twitter

Twitter is the home of the hashtag. It gives you 140 characters with which to update people with what you are doing in that moment, any anecdotes or even annoyances. You can also upload pictures and videos to Twitter, not to the extent you can with Facebook but it is still very quick and easy.

Another great thing about Twitter is that your audience is the world, not just your friends, you can make your profile private but I have always had mine public; this allows anyone to see my tweets and start following me.

Nowadays every major company and celebrity has a Twitter account that you can follow which means that you get to stay on top of all the latest news from people and companies that you care about.

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Instagram

This is by far the most famous and popular of the photography apps, with over 100 million users you will always find the most beautiful pictures of everything from cats to architecture or food to selfies.

The famous Instagram filters make every photo look more high quality than it actually is, which means that a photo that might not seem quite good enough will now be a masterpiece thanks to the wonderful Instagram filters.

As with Twitter you can follow your favourite celebrities and companies, everyone from Bruno Marz to Bill Gates has an Instagram, not only can you follow them but you can also tag them in your own pictures, you never know you might even get a response!!

Instagram lets you share your photos to several other social media sites such as Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook and Foursquare which makes I think is perfect if you have different followers in different places.

Instagram is a definite must!

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Convert Units

I know most people probably don’t think about a units converter when they are thinking of apps to use whilst travelling, but I promise you, you need one. Convert Units does everything from temperature to weight, distance to speed, I use it mostly for temperature and weight as we get a lot of volunteers from countries that don’t use Celsius and stone. It also has some basic currency conversions as well which is always good.

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Thai Dictionary

For every volunteer and traveler to Thailand, this is a MUST HAVE app. The free version has all the same features as the paid one except it doesn’t speak the words or phrases that you translate. You can look up individual words though and it has a phonetic explanation of how to say them, I use this app ALL the time, whether it be single words or as a translator to show to people if I happen to get stuck anywhere.

It has games for learning Thai as well, so for anyone staying for a long time or anyone interested in learning to speak Thai this is just a perfect app. I would recommend getting the paid version so that it can recite the words to you that you have translated, inflections are so important when speaking Thai that if you accidentally use the wrong one it can mean a completely different word, so the reciting part of this app is just wonderful, and also very precise!

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Hostelworld

This is my go to app and site for whenever I am travelling, it is an app that shows you a huge selection of places to stay from 5 star hotels to hostels and ‘B and Bs’, they are all reviewed by the Hostel World community so you get a real feel for what a place is really like to stay in.

Unlike other accommodation booking sites, Hostel World only requires you to pay a 10% deposit for every place you stay and not the whole bill, which is a god send for last minute travel plans when you don’t have a lot of money in your account 🙂

It is all safe and secure, they use PayPal in nearly all of their transactions, I can sing praises about this app all day long, I have always used Hostel World for every trip I have ever taken and I have never been disappointed with the places I have booked.

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Your banks App

This is a very important app to have in your phone whilst travelling. Wether it be Barclays, Natwest or Bank of America, every bank has an app that allow you too keep on top of your banking. It is also a good way to transfer money and keep your bank informed of where you are. There is nothing worse than your bank freezing your account whilst you are travelling. The amount of times Barclays has frozen my account is too high to even quantify, you would think, after 9 months, they would know I am in Thailand, but NO! Stupid Barclays.

Any whom, get your banks app to keep an eye on your finances, trust me you will appreciate it.

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Tripit

I have used TripIt everytime I have embarked on a new trip. It lets you plan everything from flights, hotel directions, day trips, phone numbers and maps. It’s a wonderful app that means that you can keep everything in one place, I know that having a physical copy of every confirmation email etc is a very smart thing to do but sometimes it isn’t always feasible, an electronic copy on the other hand is very easy to control and having it on your phone is even easier, not only that but it syncs up with your iPhone calendar meaning that you get reminders about each part of your trip.

I can’t fault TripIt, I think it is a perfect little app that not only stores everything you need but also allows you to make your trip public, meaning that family and friends can keep an eye on where you are and what you are up to.

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Cut The Rope

One of the most popular games on the App Store that you will waste hours on and is perfect for those layovers in airports, long car drives and evenings where you are too tired to go outside.

You have to feed little Om Nom pieces of candy, and to do this you have to go through a series of trials and challenges that at time have caused me to want to throw my phone at a wall; I didn’t, but I really wanted to! A definite must purchase app, especially all the extra add on packs like Experiments and Time Travel 🙂

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Hopefully this collection of Apps will make your time volunteering and travelling a little more organised and much easier than it would be without them. Pretty much all of these Apps also have a Website that coincides with it in case you didn’t bring a smartphone with you on your travels, which I know a lot of people don’t.

So now you know which Apps you will be needing you can jump on over to the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to chose which of the amazing projects you want to take part in, whether it be looking after endangered elephants, teaching English or looking after underprivileged children.

If you want to see what else I am up to when I am not blogging then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, that is where all the magic happens 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Contact A Wendy

Talking is always positive. That’s why I talk too much.
– Louis C. K.

Traveling is by far one of my most favourite things to do, I can’t even begin to describe the overwhelming feelings I get when I get to experience a new place, it’s smells, it’s sights and also it’s customs. For me, I grew up in a military family so I am used to not being around my family for long periods of time, I know that this isn’t the case for everyone though and that keeping in contact with parents, partners and friends is sometimes one of the most important things to do each day, so I thought I would write a post about the easiest ways to keep your loved ones informed of what your up to 😀

Thailand isn’t a backwards country, we do have the Internet. I do still get shocked by the looks of shock on some people’s faces when they realise that Thailand has WiFi and mobile Internet, you would think that some people think we all live in the jungle and spearfish for our food everyday???

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People do spear fish but then they put the pictures of their catch up on Facebook and Instagram!

Finding somewhere to hook up to the internet in Thailand requires a 5 minute walk in any direction, being a newly developed country, Thailand is exploding with modern technology as its young people are desperate to become tech savvy.

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Even tiny villages have access to the internet!

Keeping in contact with your family and friends back at home is something that is very simple to do and here are just a few ways to do it.

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There are more blogs about cats than humans

Blogging

One thing that I have noticed becoming more popular with the volunteers we have with us is blogging. Now I know a little bit about blogging, I don’t do it so much on a personal level like my volunteers do but I do it on a professional/travel level. I find that it is an amazing platform that not only let’s people who care about you see what you are up to, but also people from all over the world. I use WordPress as my primary blogging site but I was recently approached by a company called Glipho who have asked me to write for the travel section of their blogging network site; something that was both very surprising and humbling 🙂

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Take a look at my newly created Glipho account here.

There are two other very famous and useful blogging sites which are, Blogger and also Tumblr, I myself have a Tumblr which you can by clicking here >>> Tumblr. Tumblr is more of a photo based blog site which is great to see an overview of what people are doing, whereas Blogger and WordPress are writing platforms where you write blogs about whatever you feel like for that moment in time; I want to write about rainbows sometimes but feel as though people probably wouldn’t be interested in rainbows and what they taste like.

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Check out the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page!!

Facebook

Facebook is the most famous social networking site and is obviously now a part of pretty much everyone on the planets lives. You get up, you check Facebook, you’re at work, you check Facebook, you’re in the bathroom, you check Facebook. Facebook is very much ingrained in people’s lives that it is very easy to update in seconds with pictures, videos and statuses about what you are doing. I have also found that Facebook is a great place to upload photos to. I keep hard copies of all my travel photos, but for photos of nights out and amusing things that happen through my day I just upload to Facebook then delete them from my camera or my phone. When I was a volunteer I loaded all of my photos up to Facebook as a form of cloud storage which gave me so much free space to continue to take more and more pictures of my travels.

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Calling Cards / SIM Cards

Calling back to your home country is sometimes the number one thing volunteers want to organise when they get into Surin. SIM Cards are only 50B from any 7/11 and credit here in Thailand is incredibly cheap at only a few Baht a minute for calls both within Thailand and abroad. I always recommend people to get themselves a Thai SIM card even if they aren’t planning to make calls, because people who have a smart phone can still be charged for hooking up to the Internet by their home phone companies, whether that be Verizon, 3 or Vodaphone. Plus it is also MUCH, MUCH cheaper to call home countries from a Thai SIM than a home SIM; trust me you will be happy to return home without a massive phone bill waiting for you.

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Email

For me email is only used for business emails to companies and other members of staff, oh also to my Dad as well as he has absolutely no idea what Facebook is, how it works or even how it works. Emails are nearly as age old as letters these day but I think there is something quite nice about waiting for a few days and receiving a nice long email from my Dad about what him and his family have been up to.

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If you have any questions about any volunteer projects you can always Skype us!

Skype

Skype is probably the single greatest way of keeping in live contact with people across the world. I have so many friends that without Skype I would never be able to see or talk to them, the free calls that Skype provide are normally fantastic quality but this obviously depends on your Internet connection, speed and strength. I would recommend Skype to everyone, whether they are travelling or not, it gives you free phone calls that you can use on a laptop or PC but also on tablets like iPads, as well as on smart phones. I can call my Dad or my friends abroad from my phone like a regular phone call but it doesn’t cost me anything; which is my favourite thing 🙂

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Instant Messengers

As much as the messaging system on Facebook is great, actual text messaging is normally quicker and easier than doing the whole Facebook messenger thing. My favourite high speed instant messengers are Kik and What’s App, they can be used anywhere in the world and are instantaneous. You can send photos, videos, stickers and messages that are huge as well. In Thailand, and also across all of Asia, we also have an instant messenger called Line, Line is the same as Kik and What’s App but has a very definite Asian feel to it, I would suggest people to get Line if they are in Thailand or Asia for some time and want a way of communicating with friends they make locally, as people in Asia don’t really use Kik or What’s App as much as they use Line.

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Snapchat

I had Snapchat about a year ago now I think and I just didn’t understand the appeal of only being able to send a picture once, that you can’t save, to people who can only view it for a couple of seconds. Apparently I know nothing though as Snapchat has exploded into a huge thing that has taken over the world, everyone from Brazil to Burma has Snapchat nowadays and even though I don’t see the big deal about it, it is apparently a great way to share something that you are experiencing in that moment with lots of people at once.

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One of the many stupid faces I make for the folks on Snapchat 😀

You don’t have to keep in contact with people when you travel, for me, I like to have little to no Internet access when I travel; I think it distracts from everything else you are doing. How can you ever hope to enjoy a drive from Bangkok to Surin if all you are doing is checking Facebook the whole time. You miss so much by spending all your time with your head aimed to the ground staring at your phone. This is just me obviously and I have come to terms with being one of those odd people in life who really isn’t like anyone else, so if you need to keep in contact with your friends and family then all of the above methods are great to use, don’t think that because I didn’t mention carrier pigeon that you can’t use it though. I would love to use smoke signals more regularly but understand not many other people do 🙂

In order to keep in contact with me then check out my Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram pages, if you would rather come and hang out in person then take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to choose your life changing volunteer project 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

 

Another Useless Wendy

I feel like I make far too many of these posts where I apologise about the lack of posts over a certain period of time, but in all honesty I have been INCREDIBLY busy at work, then had to spend a week in Cambodia in order to get a new visa, which in itself is a whole separate post, words can’t describe the fuss that goes into obtaining a visa from an Embassy!!

So please take this as my official apology for being useless, I would have posted more whilst I was in Cambodia but had very limited internet capabilities; but I am mostly sorry for being useless.

Expect usual postings from now on though as even if it kills me I am going to stick to posting at least three times a week. But if I can’t manage to do that for whatever reason then the very best way to keep up with what I am doing is too take a look at my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, no matter how limited my internet is, I will always manage to update one of these pages at least once or twice a week.

So let’s crack on with the regular scheduled programming 😀

A Hot Wendy

One of the things volunteers find most difficult to deal with when they get to Thailand is the heat and the humidity. I know from when I was a volunteer that when I left Suvarnabhumi Airport the heat hit me like a ton of bricks, it was similar to that wall of heat you get when you stand in front of an oven and open the door. You know that heat that makes you stumble back because it’s such a powerful force? That’s the exact same feeling you get when you take your first step not only out of the airport but out of your front door everyday.

Thailand is hot, there is no other way to put it.

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Nothing beats a beautiful Thai sunset, even if it is BLAZINGLY hot!

The standard 30-40C isn’t the only thing you will have to adjust to either. You should also be aware that Thailand is one of the most humid countries in the world, imagine that episode of Friends where Monica’s hair becomes dissimilar to a birds nest, and your on the right track.

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I know I don’t want hair quite that frizzy

Chances are, you won’t be used to this heat, so you will need to make sure that you prepare yourself for what can only be described as the sweatiest few weeks of your life, will be water.

It really is true that water in the single most life giving thing in the world. If you stay in Thailand and don’t keep on top of your hydration levels you will be having a bad time. So you NEED to make sure that you are drinking two to three of the large bottles of water a day, this may see like a lot to people who don’t drink a lot of water and something that seems like an unachievable goal but I can promise you it isn’t and it shouldn’t be.

Keeping yourself hydrated should be your number one goal for each day and if you think that you can’t drink three large bottles of water a day then you need to make sure that you pick up a decent supply of re-hydration sachets from 7/11 or Big C. They don’t taste that nice, I won’t lie, but they will supply with you electrolytes and sugars that your body will need, don’t think that because I use the word sugar that drinking fizzy drinks like Coke or Sprite will achieve the same thing. It won’t. Drinking only fizzy drinks in a hot country like this will make you more dehydrated and the amount you will need to drink will make you unwell so just do yourself, your skin, your hair and your teeth a favour and drink water.

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Chang, one of the MANY different drinking water companies

Another tip to getting acclimatised is to NOT drink freezing cold drinks. That old wives tale of drinking hot things when you are hot is very true. If you drink ice drinks when you are hot it will lower your core temperature and actually make you hotter in the long run. There is nothing wrong with drinking water or juice from a fridge but you shouldn’t be freezing everything you buy as you will never get acclimatised. I know that drinking a lovely ice cold bottle of water is refreshing at the time but I can assure you that give it 10 minutes and you will be wanting to have another one as you will still be hot. If you drink room temperature liquids will keep you cool and will still be refreshing as well 🙂

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Always amuses me that coconuts aren’t actually brown!!

A great a natural drink that is delicious and very good for you is coconut water. This isn’t the same thing as coconut milk, coconut water is the liquid that is in coconuts straight from when they are cut open. Not only is it very refreshing but it is also very high in electrolytes and potassium which will re-hydrate you very quickly and give you sugars your body graves when you sweat a lot. It also has Loric Acid in it which is a natural inflammatory, so it reduces bloating which can occur when you drink a lot of water or fluids.

My final tip for getting used to the heat and keeping cool is a product that you can buy from 7/11. They are the most useful little things and not many foreigners know about them, even if they should do. These amazing little things are cool towels that cost about 13฿. They are super cool and will make you feel so invigorated and revitalised within seconds, not only that but they are also reusable as well, just douse them in water and then put them in the fridge and use them whenever you need to. Sorted 😀

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These magic little towels are amazing and SO refreshing

Another tip is if you can’t deal with the sun and the heat, then stay out of it. The houses volunteers stay in all have fans in the rooms so if you get to hot then just grab a book and relax in front of your fan; even right now I am laid on a cushion in my office, right in front of a fan, it keeps me cool and also makes me look like I’m in a Loreal advert!

Not only that but if you think about the clothes you wear before you get here then you will be doing yourself a huge favour. The best things to wear. Light coloured, loose fitting clothes that if possible are made for this weather. Sports brands, fishing brands or just outdoor clothing companies sell the most appropriate clothing. You don’t NEED to have these kinds of clothing so just having loose and light coloured, natural fabric will make your life much easier.

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This is a cute dress but you WILL melt if you wear it in Thailand

These are the best pieces of advice I can give to people about getting used to and coping with the heat and humidity here in Thailand. Some people are very lucky that it doesn’t effect them too much and they can acclimatise very quickly with very few problems, but some poor souls are unlucky and never seem to get used to the heat.

Thailand only has two seasons, these are hot, and then hot and raining, we don’t ever get a cool or cold season. The rainy season is much cooler than the Summer but it is still upwards of 30C, the cloud coverage does make the days and evenings cooler, you will see Thai people wearing coats and hoodies, as for us, it is cold, but for foreigners it isn’t cold.

Just prepare yourself for the heat and you should be fine, just remember to drink water ALL day and you will be perfectly fine!!

Now that you know how to cope with the heat in Thailand you can crack on and sign yourself up for one of our amazing volunteer programs at Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page.

As always if you want more from moi, just check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages 🙂

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

A Weekend Wendy

Last week I posted on Thursday about how I was going to be going down to Bangkok to pick up new volunteers, well I did just that and took a few photos to show you what each volunteers first weekend will be like with Starfish Volunteers, and also what it involves for me.

For volunteers their time starts when they board the plane, for me it starts when I get my volunteer pick up emails and then my trip down to Bangkok. It was really strange to have to force myself to take pictures along the way as I am now so used to seeing the journey down to Bangkok. But I did make an effort and so this will be my picture essay about what the volunteers first weekend involves for me 😀

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Pre departure Goy Djab from Gois!!

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Beginnings of my 7 hour bus journey 😀

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Straight from the bus to a motorbike to get my first volunteers

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My most visited BTS Station; Phaya Thai

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This building always makes me think of sponge cake with jam layers 🙂

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Trying not to fall asleep on the BTS

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The ever changing skyline out of Bangkok to the airport

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My second home at Suvarnbhumi Airport

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First volunteers backpacks

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Taxi to the famous Khao San Road

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On the way to Khao San

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Went to buy train tickets but there wern’t any left!!

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Wonderfully helpful staff who helped with my train ticket fiasco

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Managed to get some bus tickets sorted!

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Waiting for another member of staff called Moon, to get some money to pick up the volunteers

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Another motorbike journey

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Hello again Phaya Thai station!

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Even in Bangkok there is still jungle 🙂

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Met this cute boy on the BTS

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Suvarnabhumi Airport; again……………………….

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Second trip down to the volunteer hotels

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So many stairs climbed this weekend!

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Finally get a chance to sit down and watch some AFL!

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Reminder notes for my volunteers

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A bit of Pokemon before bed I think

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I definitely don’t want to get out of bed this morning

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Ate SO much breakfast!!

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On the way to the Grand Palace for the Bangkok Tour

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Enjoying the beautiful silk at the Queen Siriket Musem of Textiles

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Enjoying some Pokemon whilst waiting for my volunteers

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The boat over to Wat Arun; this man is enjoying his paper

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Turns out Wat Arun is having some gardening work done 🙂

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Wat Pho is one of my favourite temples in Bangkok

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Got to drive up front with the Tuk Tuk driver; WIN

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On the way back to the hotel, and then BACK to the airport again!

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Oh hello stairs, why do I have to be on the third floor!

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Crazy busy on the BTS today!!

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IMG_0790Realised the ceiling in the airport was pretty interesting 🙂

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Driving back in the dark is always nice in Bangkok

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Finally on the bus back to Surin 🙂

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Finally back at home!!!!

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Playing even more Pokemon before bed 😀

So hopefully you guys liked this post, it is the first attempt at a picture essay; probably not a very good attempt but still…………. I tried right? 🙂 I didn’t want to take pictures of everything that volunteers see whilst on the tour as I think that that would give everything and wouldn’t leave anything for volunteers to experience on their own. Plus I also forgot to take a lot of photos that I had

If you want to know in better detail what you will be doing on the Bangkok tour or to book yourself onto a project then please take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page.

Then head on over to my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, which I always update with everything I am up to, silly adventures and odd anecdotes about my day 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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