A Cambodia Bound Wendy

Many of our volunteers want to continue to travel whilst doing their volunteering work. The best and easiest way to do this is to visit the beautiful and historical country of Cambodia. Most of our volunteers will spend the weekend in this amazing country, giving themselves just enough time to see, arguably, the most famous city, Siem Reap. A few days really doesn’t do this magical country justice though so I really do try to encourage volunteers to spend at least a week in Cambodia if they have time available at the end of their trip.

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Tonle Sap Lake which drains into the Mekong River that runs through Phnom Penh.

A lot of people don’t really know much about Cambodia and what there is to do apart from see temples so I have put together a week long travel plan that will let you experience Siem Reap to the fullest. I have also made one for the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and then a combined week long plan that encompasses the very best of both of these places.

There are obviously several other places to go in Cambodia that are beautiful, but if you only have a short time then I think that these two locations will offer you beauty, history and also some of the most famous sights of natural and historical significance that the country has to offer.

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Ta Prohm Temple, home to the famous Banyan tree seen in the Lara Croft movie

If you are thinking of volunteering with Starfish Volunteers and you would like to have some time in Cambodia then mention this when you book your trip and our wonderful staff in Bangkok will arrange for you to have the travel week of your choice added onto the end of your trip. This not only ensures that you will be able to see the very best of what is on offer but will also take the hassle and worry out of you organising it yourself 😀

Win, Win, Situation!

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Independence Monument in the capital, Phnom Penh

Visit the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to take a look at the different projects we have on offer, don’t forget to mention the Cambodia Extension when you book as well 😀

Once you have done that take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis as well as what you can expect on each of our incredible projects!

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

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A Culture Shocked Wendy

After spending a couple of weeks on one of our projects, no volunteer wants to go home. I know I would rather wake up with a baby elephant in my back garden, playing with children who appreciate your love more than anything or helping those who are much less fortunate than myself, than spending 9-5 in a stuffy office worrying about staplers, invoices and work politics.

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Mr Incredible, certainly has a hard time adjusting to office life

Heading home is never easy when you have been having the time of your life for the past few weeks. In the same way that volunteers have to adjust to the customs and everyday life of Thailand, they also have to re-adjust to their lives back in their home countries. This is otherwise known as;

Reverse Culture Shock

I know that I had a really hard time when I first went back to England after being in Thailand. I found Thailand to really fit my personality and the way that I think that people should treat each other. Being back in England with a culture I am not fond of, weather that is bad to say the least and people who don’t treat each other as nicely as they do here, made me genuinely sad.

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When I visit Suvarnabhumi Airport I see a lot of people not looking forward to going home

I found it difficult to merge myself back with the routines and expectations of a Western county. For some people, they manage to slip back into their lives very easily, being only enriched with their time as a volunteer but some people however, myself included, find life lacking.

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Reverse Culture Shock can manifest itself in many forms from;

– Boredom

– Reverse homesickness

– Misunderstanding of your behaviour from others

– Feelings of alienation

– Negative feelings towards Westerners and

– Restlessness and being irritable

There isn’t anything wrong with feeling like this, but it can be very hard to adjust to going to back to your previous life after having such a life changing experience. The best ways I found to deal with Reverse Culture Shock was to just leave the country as soon as possible. I understand however that this is incredibly impractical for most people though so if you aren’t able to just up sticks and move then you can always try some of the following ideas;

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Talk About Your Experience

When you first get home, everyone you know will be desperate to hear all about your experiences and the adventures you have been getting up to. Embrace this time. Use it as a means to relive some of your most incredible, hilarious and meaningful memories. Sometimes just talking about what you miss will be enough to stop you missing it for a while; just be careful not to turn into the person that is always saying ‘When I was in Thailand…..’, ‘In Thailand…’, ‘That reminds me of when I did_____ in Thailand…..’. Your stories can become boring for people when you constantly tell them 😀

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Skype to the rescue; as always

Stay In Touch

Make sure to keep in touch with all of the people you met on your journey that mean something to you. Who knows when you might be able to meet them again. Losing connections with people that were involved in an important part of your life is terrible and something I hope never to do. Talking and keeping in touch with the people you met along the way is also a great way of reliving your experiences together so that you don’t ever feel too far away from your adventure.

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Scrapbooks or Photo Albums

I know this is definitely more of a girly thing to do but I can assure you, that if you pick up lots of small trinkets during your trip, like napkins from restaurants, cards from hotels, postcards or even something simple like leaves and keep hold of them, then you will be able to create something that you can look back on in years to come and smile at. I keep everything, so I have a lot of scrapbook type things, but if you aren’t the hoarding kind like me then photos, quotes or even written notes can have the same effect. Writing down hilarious things in the moment will ensure that you don’t forget them and when you look back on it in a year, five years or even fifteen years, you will remember that ridiculous moment.

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Stimulate Your Senses

A great way to get over Reverse Culture Shock is to eat your favourite foods from your trip. For me that would be any of the food I eat at Gois everyday, she has the best Goi Djab, Salads, Pad Thai and dishes I don’t think even have a name. If I went back to England and managed to find somewhere that could make those dishes I know that I would feel like I was back in Thailand; something that would definitely make me happy!

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Be a tortoise for a bit 🙂

Take It Slow

If you really are struggling to integrate back into your Western life then take it slowly. I know it can be terribly overwhelming to visit something as normal as a Walmart or an ASDA, when you have been used to living in the Elephant Village, or spending time with children who will never even hope to have access to such a large amount of food. I found it difficult to adjust to how much the Western world wastes in comparison to Thailand, here people make a living from recycling, where as in England people don’t really care too much about what happens to their trash. Don’t try to push yourself to adjust quicker than you feel you can and let people know that you are having some trouble so that they can help you as well.

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Plan Another Trip

This doesn’t always have to be back to the same place, for some, travelling itself it the thing that they miss. By having something to work towards that you know will make you happy will provide you with a distraction and also motivation; two things that will really help you with dealing with Reverse Culture Shock.

If you are wanting to experience our life changing volunteering projects for yourself then just take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, there you will find everything you need!

After that you can always relive your Thailand experience or get excited about your impending one by following my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

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

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A Fact Filled Wendy

After having so many ‘How To’ posts over the last few days I decided to do something different.

Thailand is a very beautiful country, parts of it are never seen by tourists or travelers and even now secrets are still discovered in abandoned temples. There is so much of this country that people just don’t know about so I thought that I would share a few of my favourite ‘little known’ titbits about Thailand.

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1. Thailand means ‘Land of the Free’ and is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonized by a European nation

2.It is considered uncultured to place your bag on the ground. This is because both the floor and your feet are considered filthy

3. It is illegal to leave your home if you’re not wearing any pants

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4. Thailand is one of the largest producers of pineapples in the world – good thing as well, as I LOVE me some pineapple!

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5. The Miss Universe pageant has been won twice by Thai contestants; once in 1965 and once in 1988

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตรโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

6. Bangkok is the Western name for the country’s capital. It is in fact the longest country capital name in the world… Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amornphiman Awa-tarnsatthit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. The name itself is a story about Thailand, when translated into English can be read as;

The Capital City of Angels, The Residence of The Emerald Buddha, The Great City of Impregnable, The Gracefulness of the city is steadfast and thriving, The Grand Capital which is abundant with The Nine Noble Gems, it is a Pleasant Capital, The City is abounding with the enormous Royal Palaces that resembles as the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, Home of the Gods Incarnate, which was Erected by Vishnu at Indra’s Behest.

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7. Thailand has around 35,000 temples! Better get yourself some good walking shoes to see that all

8. One tenth of all animal species can be found in Thailand

That’t about 870,000 species!!!!!

9. It is forbidden to touch a Monk if you are a woman

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10. The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed on Phi Phi Island

If you fancy discovering more of Thailand’s secrets then you should take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for projects that will allow you to experience this amazing country yourself.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see some of the unknown sides of Thailand that I discover everyday 😀

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

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A Girly Solo Wendy

I know that I already did a post about single travel but one thing that came to mind when I was writing, and is always a question I get asked, is about sole female travel. I know that there are some places in the world that are dangerous and are even more so for female travels so I know there is a concern when it comes to solo female travel. I decided to write this post to tackle the most regularly mentioned concerns by female travels and how best to deal with them and make your traveling experience the very best that it can be.

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Don’t Think About The Possible Dangers

There are a million things that can go wrong, no matter how you are travelling. In fact, there are a million things that can go wrong in your life just by stepping out the front door. But, that doesn’t stop you from getting on with your life right? So when you are travelling do the same thing!

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Be Aware

Keep your wits about you and an eye on your surroundings at all times. Spend time looking around you and taking note of what you see. Be present in every moment. This will help alert you to any potential dangers. Don’t make the mistake of suspecting danger or problems that aren’t there though. Simply walking down a dark street will not end up in you getting raped and kidnapped, trust me, I do it all the time and I have yet to be raped or kidnapped.

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Trust Your Intuition

It always knows best. If something doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it. There is a reason why you get that unsettled feeling in your stomach when you meet that strange person on the beach, in a club or restaurant. Don’t freak yourself out by imaginary monsters, but definitely pay attention to those little messages our animal instincts give us. They are your friend but don’t mix them up with nervousness, nervousness can be an amazing emotion that when beaten gives you the most incredible adrenaline rush.

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Walk Assertively And Confidently

You know when you walk down the street and you see people who just give off that vibe of ‘don’t screw with me’? You need to become one of those people, or at least fake being one of those people. If you walk with confidence and don’t make yourself look like a target then you won’t be.

Possible con men and attackers look to those who seem vulnerable. Walk with your head held high, and confidently greet people and look them in the eye. I have done this many times when I have felt that familiar pang of fear in a situation where you don’t have control, and it instantly made me feel very strong and brave.

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Keep People Informed

This is especially important for solo women travelers. When you are travelling with someone else, you always have someone watching your back and looking out for you, but when you are own you need to have someone who knows where they can find you if anything happens. Let people you know and trust know where you are going and when. With today’s social media this can involve something as quick as an email, Facebook message, twitter update or Skype call.

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Remember You’re A Girl

This might sound stupid but you have to remember that if you are a girl, guys are going to look at you. Whether it be a night out or a trip to a temple, guys will always be on the look out for girls. I know that I notice when cute boys walk past me, they might not be trying to get anyone’s attention but, your face is your face and there isn’t much you can do about that.

If you don’t want to be getting unwanted attention from guys or even girls then just remember how you may be being perceived. If you are wandering around wearing a small skirt and a low cut shirt then people will naturally assume you are looking for something you might not be. Don’t take this as you have to dress like a nun the whole time but just be aware that if you were tiny shorts when you go out then chances are you will be greeted with whistles and comments. So just be conscious of how other will see you.

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Don’t Be That Drunk Girl

No matter where you go in the world, there will always be ‘That Drunk Girl’. You know the one you just feel the biggest sense of pity for, she has lost one of her shoes, her hair is a mess, smells like sick and look, now she is getting hit on by someone she will definitely regret in the morning.

Remember which drink is yours, keep and eye on it and don’t ever let it out of your sight. These are standard rules in life but when we travel and begin to feel safe and comfortable we can all get a little careless. You don’t want to become that drunk girl now do you? So just watch how much you are drinking and stay aware of your surroundings, like where the exits or security are.

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He Isn’t The One

I know that some people do meet the loves of their lives whilst traveling but you do need to remember that in countries where white skin is coveted, like Thailand, Cambodia or the Philippines, that guys find it an achievement if they get a white girl into bed.

Yes he might be charming, handsome and speak a little English but you have to wonder how many other girls he has been like that with. If someone is trying to get you back to theirs, kiss you in public or get you to leave with them, they probably aren’t the best person for you. Having lived in the same place in Thailand for a while now, I know the sleezy guys that just want to bang a white girl, so when I see them on a night out where volunteers come with me, I make sure to let the girls know; as well as the sleezy guys!!

Also just remember the view you leave of white girls with the actions you do. If you go home with some guy the night you meet him, him and all the people who see, are going to think that that is what white girls are like. I know from being friends with Thai guys that the general opinion is that white girls are easy. For the girl it is just a fling on holiday but for the guys and the other people who see, she is fueling the idea that white girls are easy. So just be conscious of the things that will be said about you.

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Listen To People In The Know

If I was in a situation or country that I hadn’t experienced before then I would always make sure to trust and believe what the people who have been there before, live or work there say to me. I find so often that female volunteers will say ‘Him putting his arm around me in a photo is fine’ or ‘Its just a kiss on the cheek in a photo’. Yes this might be what it is to you but when it comes to local customs and displays of public affection you REALLY should listen to the people in the know.

In Thailand you DO NOT show public displays of affection. You just don’t. This is Thailand, not your home country. Things are different here. When a guy puts his arm around you in a photo it means MUCH more to him than it does to you. He will use that photo to show his friends, and when you look that close to him, he can make up anything he wants to his friends. So on a night out, or any situation in fact, if someone in the know tells you not to do something, you should listen to them.

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Just Trust This Face ^^

I think what I am basically getting at with this whole post, is just to be aware of what you are doing and don’t make yourself a target. It really isn’t scary to travel as a single female traveler, I know, I have done it several times, but you do have to have a heightened awareness that guys don’t have to, purely because you are female.

To see how I cope as a female in Thailand with the situations that I get into then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages.

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

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A Solo Wendy

I realised after my post last week that all of our volunteers face different issues when they travel depending on whether they are single travelers, couples or even just weary females. So for the rest of the week I will be posting helpful advice for everyone else!! Hopefully they will be of some use to you and will make you less scared and more excited about traveling!!!

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Thinking lots about the places I want to travel when I get older haha

When I was younger I had dreams of travelling the world and visiting all the places in my history books, my fairy tale stories, and my fathers stories. As I grew up my body ached for travel. Coming from a military family, I never stayed in one place for very long and traveling gave me the remedy to the pain I felt from staying stuck in one place.

Many others feel this exact same thing but the thing is, they either don’t have anyone to travel with or they are terrified of travelling alone. Seeing nothing but monsters hiding down alleyways and long evenings staring into space with only your thoughts and perhaps a good book for company. These fears overpower dreams and comatose you into remaining stuck in the life that you don’t enjoy or feel fulfilled with.

These are valid fears.

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No one wants to be alone when they travel. No one wants to experience the time of their life without somebody to share it with. But just because you start out your journey alone doesn’t mean you will spend it or even finish it in the same way. You will meet people. You will be able to share your experience with others, even more amazing is that you will be able to experience them with people who have the same sort of attitude and ideals to you.

But, those who allow fears to prevent them from travelling, don’t understand this truth.

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In fact, I think solo travel is one of the friendliest and easiest way to make friends – friendships that have a lasting and meaningful impact upon your life. Friendships on the travel road will broaden your horizons in so many way. Even as I write this I am waiting for a call from a girl I met a few weeks ago in Cambodia who has come over to Surin to hang out for a few days. If I hadn’t traveled alone, I never would have met her and forged the great friendship we now have.

Just remember when you meet someone new that they are feeling the same way you are, they are nervous, weary, scared even so be the one to reach out a hand and a smile to make them feel more at ease and to know friends can be made anywhere.

It’s tough at first, but as with everything it gets easier and soon you’ll find yourself stopping to share your life story with every new person you meet and asking them to do the same. This is one of my favourite ways to discover the undiscovered. My own wandering had led me to find some amazing places that aren’t always in the guide books, so if I share my experiences, and have others do the same with me, then everyone’s lives are more enriched.

Another wonderful thing about traveling is that no one knows or really cares about who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living, how many cats you have. They really just want to know who are you right now. It’s easy to not have defensive walls in place because you can be whoever you choose, you can be the better person you want to be.

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Another friend I made during my last Cambodia trip 🙂

So if you are worried about meeting new people whilst travelling then just follow these simple tips.

Take small steps every day to meet new people. Start with small conversations with strangers, it doesn’t have to be anything deep or meaningful, ask if they know a good restaurant or something, you might learn some insider local knowledge.

Attend any parties or get togethers that your accommodation is offering or that you get offered an invitation to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the atmosphere of fun and freedom to meet new people

Go out on your own to restaurants and bars. Obviously be careful and keep your wits about you but you will end up finding other who are on their own and you just go from there.

If you have already made friends then don’t forget to be open to welcoming new people in. What you give out will always return to you. Remember the times when you were alone and others invited you in.

My last piece of advice is for anyone travelling or not, Don’t be a douche! Be nice, use your manners, show respect, be open and friendly to hearing other people’s stories and memories as well as sharing your own. Also remember that others have a voice and their own stories as well!

Finally remember the most powerful words on the planet

Thank you!

Thank you for asking me to sit with you and chat.
Thank you for inviting me out to dinner with y’all.
Thank you for helping me when I was lost.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for listening to mine.

I have never been a shy person, I have been on stages from when I could walk so I was never able to be shy but I understand those that are. I have met so many people through my life who are shy, not because they want to be but because they just aren’t sure how to NOT be. I will always try to involve those who are a little quieter as I know the damage that can be done by being ignored by others, just because I am confident and loud doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of being ignored and shunned for the way I am.

Just give it a go, meet new people and forge new friendships, plus if it all goes balls up then you don’t have to worry about ever seeing them again anyway!!!

Take a second to look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for the most amazing volunteer opportunities in Thailand.

Then check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for more of my silly face!!

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

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A First Time Wandering Wendy

I have had a few emails and Facebook and Instagram messages recently from volunteers who will be arriving in the next few weeks who have been asking for some quick advice about traveling for the first time. I can’t quite remember what it felt like the first time I was preparing to travel, only what it was like when I finally got to my destination, so this post has meant I have really had to sit down and think about what advice I would give to first time travelers.

So here goes;

Planning and Packing

If you’re not sure if you need it, you don’t.

If you’re pretty sure you need it, you don’t.

If you’re absolutely certain you need it, you probably still don’t.

Take more money.

Take more pairs of underwear.

Take fewer pairs of shoes; trainers and flip flops are fine.

If it can’t be worn for three days then washed and dried in a hostel laundry room, don’t bring it.

Your airline’s baggage allowance is a limit, not a challenge.

Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel. Pick one.

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If you can’t carry your luggage up a flight of stairs easily by yourself, it’s too heavy. See hints 1,2 & 3

Make sure your passport has enough pages and validity (> 6 months) to last your entire trip.

The best experiences are often spontaneous – detailed itineraries don’t allow that.

Aspirin, Band-Aids and Imodium. The traveler trifecta.

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Contraceptives are not the stupidest idea in the world either.

Take another memory card for your camera. You’ll need it.

In transit

Arrive early. Airports suck, but missing your flight sucks a lot more.

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Jokes about security are hilarious. Spending time in jail is less so.

The only thing worse than the taste of airport food is the price. Eat beforehand.

Having a few drinks on the plane is fun. Being hungover on the plane is horrific. Your call.

Earplugs are your friend.

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So is an eye mask, even if it makes you look like a dork.

Mild sleeping pills complete the arsenal, for when the people beside you really just won’t shut up.

Learning to eat using plastic utensils, with your elbows tucked in and your knees bumping the table is an essential flying skill. Start practicing now by sitting in a cardboard box during your next meal.

Take something that can entertain you for several hours. A novel. Playing cards. An iPod. A ball of twine. Whatever. Just take something.

Set your watch to your destination timezone as soon as you get on the plane, and use that time when deciding when to sleep. It’ll help with the jetlag.

After 20 hours in planes and airports, toothpaste will change your life.

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Distinctive luggage is a good thing. Surprising as it might seem, yours will not be the only black suitcase on the conveyor belt.

Having a change of underwear in your carry-on will be the smartest move you’ve ever made when the airline loses your bags.

At Your Destination

Being polite goes a very long way.

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A smile goes even further.

If somebody doesn’t speak your language, that’s your problem, not theirs.

Manners are universal. Use them.

Just because it isn’t your culture doesn’t mean you don’t respect it.

Leave a positive view of your own culture.

Lack of a common language does not equate to deafness. Speaking more loudly will not help.

Be alert for scams and danger but don’t let that dictate your trip. Most people are not out to harm you.

Opening your heart and mind does not have to mean opening your wallet.

You can say no.

Get out of your comfort zone. Eat, drink and do things that you wouldn’t go near in your normal life.

Bum bags / fanny packs are the stupidest travel accessory ever, for more reasons than I can even list.

Money belts aren’t much better, but if you must use one, don’t keep diving into it every five minutes. Hiding your valuables isn’t much use if they don’t stay … y’know … hidden.

Things will be different to how they are at home. That’s kinda the point.

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Public transport can be awesome. It can also be the bane of your life. You will experience both.

Meet the locals. If you’d wanted to hang out with people just like yourself, it would have been much cheaper just to stay home and go to the pub.

Have an emergency source of funds hidden away somewhere, and treat your passport as if it were made of gold. It’s not quite the end of the world if you lose it, but it’ll feel like it at the time.

Don’t be afraid to screw up. It’s OK. We learn a lot more from our failures than we do our successes.

Don’t be the one who comes back to the volunteer house smashed after a big night out, turns on the light and wakes up the rest of the dorm. No really, don’t. Payback isn’t your friend in the morning.

When looking for somewhere to eat, find the one where there’s nobody that looks like you inside it. Bonus points if it’s not in the guidebook, and extra bonus points if the menu isn’t in your language (or there’s no menu at all). The food will be better and cheaper, and the experience more memorable. Trust me.

There will be times when it’s all too hard. Tough it out. You won’t remember the bad times in a couple of months, but the good times will stay with you forever.

You aren’t the only person to travel; don’t be that person who thinks they are super cool.

Do one thing that scares you everyday.

Learn how to toilet squat. You’ll need it.

I know this isn’t a huge list but being a first time traveler really isn’t as big of a deal as people think it is. You just need to have fun and experience everything you can. Make sure to take a couple of these tips to heart, I promise you that it will make your experience so much more rewarding!!

If you haven’t ever booked before and are unsure of where to start that take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, where you will find the perfect thing for you.

If you can’t decide which project you want to do then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages where you will see snippets of every project we do 😀

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

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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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A Travelling Wendy

Tonight I will be travelling down to Bangkok to pick up EVEN more volunteers and I thought it would be a fun idea if I were to make a sort of video diaryish, montage sort of thing of the whole weekend that volunteers have when they arrive in Thailand.

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Home for the next 3 days 🙂

This means that I will be filming and taking photos from the very moment a volunteer meets us in the airport in Bangkok, to the travel to the hotel, the Bangkok Tour, dinner on Khao San Road and then the trip up to Surin. When I try and explain the whole journey to volunteers it sounds like a lot so I think having a series of photos and videos will make it miles easier and be a fun way for upcoming volunteers to have a glimpse of what they will be experiencing and might even inspire a few of my readers to sign themselves up for one of our life changing projects.

I also think that I will start to do intros of our volunteers as well, so whenever I go down to Bangkok I will introduce all of the volunteers we have and have a little but about them, which project they are doing and why they chose to do it 🙂 It is all well and good to hear me prattle on about how awesome our projects are but when it comes from the mouths of the volunteers it will be less biased and give so many other opinions and ideas that I might not have.

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Bangkok has such a wildly differing skyline depending on which way you look

It will also give me the opportunity to share the blogs of people who are travelling, blogging is such an amazing platform to keep people involved of what you are doing so if I can make a sort of mini Starfish Volunteers Blogging community I think that would be loads of fun!!

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Part of the Grand Palace

On top of that it will also mean that for people who don’t have the opportunity to travel to this beautiful country I call home, that they can see some of the most famous places to see in Bangkok as well as the difference in the landscape and the country as a whole as you travel around.

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Going from the bustling streets of Bangkok to this, a waterfall in the beautiful Khao Yai National Park, is an incredible and astounding journey

Plus I have really grown to enjoy blogging and speaking to people about their travels and experiences and think that more people should read about these. So stay tuned for a picture book blog over the next few days of a Starfish Volunteers First Weekend in Thailand 😀

In the mean time, if you haven’t already, get yourself signed up to one of our projects on 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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Even More Frequently Asked Wendys

So this is Part 2 of my FAQ, hopefully this, and Part 1 will be helpful for your travelling and volunteering 🙂

Once again these aren’t in a finite order but I have tried to bunch them all together in a vague sort of order; sort of; just go with it haha

Do we get air con? – The houses that volunteers stay in don’t have air con but each room does have fans in it.

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I like this funky old lock 🙂

Do I need locks on my stuff? – When travelling anywhere I would always advise people to lock their luggage, both hold and carry on, as well as any backpacks they will be taking with them. This is just to be safe, after all you don’t want anything to go missing do you? In terms of the houses volunteers stay in, I would say you don’t need to lock anything, when I was a volunteer I had a MacBook Pro, and iPad and an iPhone and I didn’t lock them away. It is obviously up to you if you choose to further lock your belongings when at the volunteer houses.

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Can I bring laptops/tablets/iPads? – I have mentioned before that I brought all of these things with me when I was a volunteer and didn’t come up against any issues. It is up to you if you want to risk expensive equipment but as long as you are safe with them and don’t flash the cash a lot nothing will happen to them. Tablets and laptops are great ways of keeping in contact with family and friends and an even better backup for photos and video that you certainly don’t want to loose.

What is the voltage in Thailand? – The voltage in Thailand is 220-240AC, 50 Hertz.

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Either of these plugs will work perfectly in Thailand, if your plugs aren’t the same then get a converter that turns to this plug type

What kind of plugs does Thailand have? – Thailand doesn’t have standardized plugs as most other countries do, you can get double or triple pronged plugs. If you are bringing plugged devices with you then get an exchange plug that goes to an American standard pug. These work perfectly here, but as with the Thai issued plugs be careful when using electrical items in Thailand, you often get surges when you plug something into the mains and some appliances will often build up huge static energy or simply just electrocute you. Just be careful 🙂

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Do the volunteer houses have WiFi? – Yes they do. It is a standard modem though so don’t be downloading loads of stuff and thinking twenty of you can all be on Facebook and Skype at the same time. Be respectful of others and log off the wifi when you aren’t using it, if someone mentions they are having issues with the Internet then log off and let them use it, they might want to talk to their family and friends as much as you do. Make sure you don’t just restart the router when there are several people using the Internet as this is selfish and often people can loose valuable information when this happens. It can also reek havoc with the router, so just leave it be.

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Internet cafes in Thailand are great, they have really fast connections, comfy chairs and are SUPER cheap

Are there Internet cafes? – Surin has hundreds of Internet cafes, the closest being by the side of Big C, so only a 5 minute walk. They are 10฿ an hour and are normally Skype enabled with cameras and microphones, these are great alternatives to getting online if the house wifi is proving to be problematic. You could also cross the street outside the volunteer accommodation and visit Cafe Amazon, a coffee shop that has free, fast wifi.

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Is there a post office? – Surin does indeed have a post office that you can pick up and send from. It can be a bit of a confusing place so if you need to visit then I would advise you to take a Thai member of staff with you so that you get or send exactly what you need to.

What do I do about getting a phone? – Phones are very easy to pick up in Thailand, Big C, as well as several local vendors sell cheap phones that are perfect for a stay in Thailand. They are normally around 500฿, which is around £10, and they come with a Thai number. The people who sell them will normally change the settings to English if you ask the, nicely as well 🙂

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Typical phone that volunteers pick up in Thailand

What is mobile phone coverage like? – Surin has great mobile phone coverage, even in the mountains at Khao Yao and the jungles around the elephant village I have never had a issue with getting signal. Mobile Internet coverage is not as good as it is in Bangkok but that is due to our geographical location; my iPhone normally has ‘E’, not that I know what that means, but that loads reasonably fast when I am not on wifi.

Can I get camera film? – In all honesty I haven’t ever seen camera film in Thailand but this is probably down to everything now being digital. If you do need film then I would recommend you bring it with you from your home country, just be careful that it doesn’t get too hot and effect the film.

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One of the age old questions about Thailand; Tap Water?

Can I drink tap water? – Water in general is always a topic of concern for volunteers. People hear horror stories about dysentery and all sorts of other horrible waterborne infections and I can tell you that I brush my teeth with tap water and shower in regular pumped water everyday. It obviously gets in my eyes, any cuts and I have used it only tattoos and I certainly don’t have any horrible infections. I wouldn’t suggest you drink tap water on a regular basis but if you are brushing your teeth then you will be fine. The water in all street restaurants is fine to drink as is the ice, they are normally brought in from an outside seller so are perfectly safe.

I am vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian, what can I eat? – As much as I hate to admit it, Thai people don’t understand vegetarians, every time I take a vegetarian or vegan to a restaurant the staff can’t quite come to grips with the fact that a customer doesn’t eat meat. But don’t worry, you can eat food in Thailand still. It is much the same as it is in the Western world, just make sure you tell people you are vegetarian and they will supplement oyster sauce for mushroom sauce, chicken for tofu and fish sauce for soy sauce. It comes across as daunting to be a vegetarian in Thailand but it really isn’t too bad.

I have food allergies, how do I know my food is safe? – Volunteers must always tell us if they have any allergies or intolerances so that we can make sure that you know what to look out for when going for food without a Thai speaking individual. One of the best things you can do is have a piece of paper with your allergies or intolerances, written in Thai that you can show to restaurants or vendors so that they know what not to give you. You can also just learn what the Thai is, something that I would advise in case you loose your piece of paper; learning one phrase might be the difference between a reaction and a safe eating experience.

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Everyone’s best friend; Mr Mosquito!!!

Do I need to being malaria tablets? – I am not a medical professional so everything I tell you in terms of medical advice is not verified by a doctor, my is just my own experience and that of the Thai staff here. I didn’t take malaria pills and still don’t, I have been here for 7 months and haven’t gotten malaria 🙂 Pills often have very bad side effects including headaches, dizziness and can even make the mosquito bites you will get even worse. You don’t want to look like a red Dalmatian so me and the Thai staff would advise you not to take them whilst volunteering in Surin; other places in Thailand will obviously have a different threat level so research any individual travel locations before you leave. Borders and major jungle areas and mountains are the sorts of places you will need malaria pills.

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Medical kits are a good idea but something this size is a little excessive haha

Shall I bring my own medical kit? – Being prepared is never a bad thing, I would always encourage volunteers to bring maybe a packet of paracetamol, plasters or their equivalent and also some diarrhea and stomach settling tablets. Chances are you will get Thai tummy in your first few days and having tablets will just make you feel so much better. I would also recommend people to have re hydration sachets on hand but these and all other medication can be purchased in Thailand so don’t freak out if you didn’t pack any.

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A dog that salivates does not constitute Rabies. If you do ever get bitten by any animal, you do need to make sure that you inform a member of staff immediately.

Do I need to get a rabies shot? – For my degree I was working very closely with dangerous and exotic animals and I didn’t have a rabies shot, I am famous for playing with every animal I come into contact with, and I still haven’t had a rabies shot. There is the tiniest chance that you will ever come into contact with rabid animals whilst on one of our projects, obviously if you go on to do other work with animals then it might be advisable to get your rabies injections. It’s entirely up to you, but it is an incredibly expensive series of injections that I think you realistically don’t need whilst being with us. If you ever do think an animal is rabid then don’t pet it 🙂 simples.

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Is it true that HIV is prominent in Thailand? – HIV is an issue in Thailand. But as with any country the best way to protect yourself from HIV is not to be having unprotected sex with anyone that you don’t trust. Granted you may get drunk one evening and meet the man or woman of your dreams and forget to use protection, it does happen, chances are you won’t contract HIV but you do need to be responsible and not let yourself get into that situation in the first place.

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Haggling is a way of life for a lot of people in Thailand

Can I bargain/haggle with people? – In general the answer would be yes. You obviously can’t haggle with people in shops like 7/11 but street vendors and markets are normally perfectly accepting of haggling. There are obviously establishments that won’t haggle so just check with a member of staff if the one you are going to does haggle. Just be respectful when you haggle, £5 to you might not be anything but could be food for a family for an entire day so I normally stick with going to the nearest 50 or 100฿.

What is the least amount of money I can survive on each day? – I live of 100฿ or less a day. This buys meal a huge meal at lunch time which tides me over for the day and a couple of bottles of tasty apple juice. Granted I don’t eat a lot and always have water at my house so when it comes to volunteers I would say the least you can live comfortably on is about 150฿ a day, but you can stretch money as much as you want here, it is easy to be thrifty here as it is so cheap.

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Yes Thailand is hot but it isn’t a music festival so dressing like this ^^^^ is not appropriate for Thailand.

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This is the more appropriate way to dress in Thailand, it is very important to remember that this isn’t your home country and people here, think about clothing in a different way

How should I dress in Thailand? – In Surin you don’t have to worry to much about what you wear. In some areas of Thailand you do need to be very respectful and show no bendy bits but Surin does not follow these restrictions. You can wear shorts and a tshirt if you want, just don’t be wearing hot pants and a bandeau shirt; this is still Thailand so you do need to be respectful of others. I would always suggest you have your shoulders covered in some way, vest tops are ok but spaghetti straps tops would be frowned on. Nights out in Surin are similar to the western world, again no hot pants and bandeau tops but don’t be afraid to look glamorous with what you wear.

What do I wear when I go swimming? – At swimming pools it is acceptable to wear bikinis and costumes but if you are at the Elephant village or the lake where people go to swim then you need to be more covered up, shorts and a shirt are advisable; this is to show respect to Thais, you are in their country after all.

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Thai language always makes me think of the Pokemon ‘Unknown’

I don’t speak Thai, is it hard to learn? – Thai isn’t too hard to learn once you get the hang of it. Like with most things practice makes perfect. As a volunteer I would just make sure you get simple phrases like, ‘hello’, ‘how are you’ and ‘thank you’ memorised. Simple gestures like this will impress Thais and bridge the gap between you and them. In Surin people don’t speak English so you will need to learn a little Thai in order to live the respectful life that Thais lead. If you want to learn more Thai then the Internet will be your best friend, I am currently teaching myself Thai from a combination of my friends help, the Internet and English language learning books. I follow the topics that they cover in the simplest books and just do the Thai version instead of the English 🙂

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A super smiley Thai hill tribe woman. There is so much variation in people across Thailand from the hill tribes people to the crazy bustling metropolis of Bangkok

What are Thai people like? – Thailand is known as the ‘Land of Smiles’ and that name doesn’t come from nowhere. Thai people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and always smiling. They are also very respectful people who are very spiritual, as with anyone in life, treat people as you would wish to be treated and you will get on just fine.

Can I bring an elephant back with me? – No, they are all mine and I will not have you taking them from me 🙂

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A lot of the animals are very cute in Thailand; if you are wanting to take one home with you then make sure you check out your countries animal transport rules. One think you can do is check out the Soi Dog Foundation for the best ways that you can help.

Can I bring an animal back to my country with me? – I will go with no to this one. Obviously if you contact the relevant people in your home country as well as in Thailand then I am sure it is perfectly feasible, but I have no idea how to go about that. Animals aren’t toys though and do live entire lives so please remember that, what seems like a good idea at the time, might not be such a great idea when you are back in your home country.

How do I get rainbow hair like yours? – You must be born half elf and have magic pixie friends that come in the night and make your hair represent the pixie seasons 🙂

Hopefully all of these questions and their answers were somewhat useful to you all; they were questions that I was asked when I was thinking about writing this post, as well as ones that I ALWAYS get asked by prospective and new volunteers. There may be hundreds of questions I didn’t answer so feel free to ask me anything you still want to know 😀

Don’t forget to take a look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for all of our projects and how you can make a difference.

And as always make sure you check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, they are a fantastic way of seeing all the other silly things I get up to every day 😀

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

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