Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Kidnapped In Bangkok

Thailand was a good experience overall, but I feel like I have to write this post to make people aware of some of the dangers in Thailand. I'm going to tell you the short story of how I was almost kidnapped by a taxi driver in Bangkok...

So I visited Bangkok twice during my stay in Thailand. I was there for 3 days before my volunteer programme in Chiang Rai, and for another 4 days after my volunteer programme. I had enough time to become accustomed to the taxi system in Bangkok and knew how it worked. The taxi service runs on a meter and should start at 35 baht, along with you being responsible for any toll payments when travelling far.

On the final day, my flight was at 1 am so I had to spend the whole day in Bangkok. After lounging around the hotel lobby for two hours I asked them to call me a taxi to the airport at 8PM. I have never had problems in the past when this hotel called me taxis (Grande Centre Point, Rachadamri) so I was ready to relax for the one hour journey.  However the minute I stepped into the taxi I got a weird feeling. The man spoke excellent English and began conversating with me in a friendly manner. As he pulled out of the hotel entrance I noticed that the meter was off so I pointed to it and asked him to put it on. He ignored me and tried to continue making small talk. I proceeded to ask him to put the meter on around 3 more times, and started to feel irritated at this point. It was clear that he was not going to listen to me as he had already started driving. So I said to him "it's okay if you do not want to use the meter I will find another taxi please let me out". He ignored this and began driving a lot faster so I repeated it a few more times. At this point my instinct was telling me that something was not right about this driver. I had roaming data so I opened google maps and put in the route to the airport, and it did not look like he was heading in that direction. So my self preservation instinct kicked in and I knew that I had to get the hell out of that cab, even if it meant leaving my suitcase. So I put my hand on the door to open it....and guess what happened?

I heard a click which meant that he locked the doors. I tried again to open it with more strength and it still did not open. So at this point I was terrified. I heard another mans voice from the drivers phone talking in Thai. At this point I realised that his phone had been on loudspeaker the whole time since I entered the cab. The driver started going faster and began talking to this man on the phone in Thai. The only English word that I heard was "tourist", but it was enough to convince me that something weird was definitely going on. Given that Bangkok is one of the most dangerous cities in the world and is high on the list for sex trafficking, I started to panic. Maybe the driver was not a criminal but all of the signs were telling me that he definitely wasn't a good person. So I called my boyfriend back in England and told him what was happening. As I was on the phone I started banging my hands on the taxi windows and told my boyfriend to call the police. At this moment the driver heard the word 'police' and turned around to look at me. He finally stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and let me and my suitcase out. I had to drag my 30kg luggage in the opposite direction, along the side of a deserted  road that looked like a dual carriageway. After 20 minutes of walking it became clear that I was nowhere near a city centre. The only choice I had was to try and hail a taxi from the side of the road... So that is exactly what I did. Luckily the next driver was very friendly and I explained to him what happened (in broken English). He told me that many of the taxi drivers in Bangkok are part of an organised crime ring, and that I was lucky to get out of that taxi. 

The reason why I told this story is because I know that there are many other solo females that travel around Southeast Asia. I just want people to be aware that it is not just a rumour when people say that certain cities are dangerous...they really are. Having got a taxi from the hotel, I never would have expected the driver to be dodgy...but he was. Please make sure you are vigilant at all times when travelling, even more when you are a solo female. 

                            Happy Travels  


Friday, 10 June 2016

Northern Thailand: Photo Diary ♥

During my volunteer programme we went on a three day home stay, to teach English  to Buddhist monks in a temple. We were always given top notch hospitality and care when we were at the temple, and the staff were very friendly. This is a picture of a lunch that we were served on the second day. It consisted of chicken feet and pigs blood you can imagine that some of us western volunteers were reluctant to eat it. 

I visited Wat Rong Khun (the white temple), which is arguably the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. It was absolutely beautiful and I don't think that you can find anything like it. There were many evil symbols everywhere such as the hands from hell (which you can see in the picture), and heads on pitchforks. You have to dress conservatively in temples so I opted for an orange midi dress and wrapped a leopard print scarf around my shoulders. 

I was fortunate enough to be in Thailand during "Vesak" (Buddha Day), which is probably the most religious day of the year for Buddhists. The volunteer company arranged for us to go and see the rituals in a temple. People held candles and marched around the temple in circles, whilst a religious chant was played on loudspeaker in the background.

This is a random snap of the volunteer accommodation...and yes we were literally in the middle of a jungle. To get to breakfast we had to walk past a little lake/pond, and there were chickens roaming around the place. Oh and we actually found a scorpion in our dorm... so we had to kill it before it killed us (don't judge me). I had a small operation to stop an infection on my foot so I had to wear a sock to protect my dressings for about a week. Trust me... there is no other way that I would be caught dead in a blue sock. 

This was on the way to visiting the golden triangle, we stopped at a coffee shop and ordered yogurt smoothies. I ordered a blueberry smoothie which was nice but way too big to finish, and nope that is not chicken in case you were wondering. It is a fried banana snack which tasted better than I expected. 


Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Diary Of An English Teaching Volunteer: Thailand ♥

I spent 2 weeks volunteering in Chiang Rai as an English teacher, and decided to keep a diary to document my thoughts and feelings whilst there.

Day 1: Monday 16th May 2016
So I just arrived today and there were two other volunteers on my flight. They were nice girls and we got along well on the whole journey back to the volunteer house. The accommodation is more basic than I expected, there are 10 beds all squashed together in the dorm, and the toilet and shower is squashed together in one cubicle. I don't know how I feel about taking a shower centimetres from where everyone urinates. There are also tons of bugs everywhere so I don't know if I will sleep tonight. 

Day 2: Tuesday 17th May 2016
I felt a bit better this morning. There are many things that make me uncomfortable here (e.g. having the same food 3 times a day, and not having any personal space). But i'm here for 2 weeks so I need to try and deal with it. Today we had orientation which was quite nice. There were two other British guys who looked really uncomfortable so I guess they may be experiencing the same culture shock as me. Tommoro we will be leaving at 8.30 am to do our first class teaching English to monks. I'm supposed to be staying in Chiang Rai for 3 days after finishing my volunteer programme but I think that i'm gonna try and change my flights. I'll spend the last 3 days either in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or Pattaya.

Day 5: Friday 20th May 2016
I spent the last couple of days on a home-stay in Chiang Rai, and it's about an hour and a half drive from the volunteer accommodation. I liked the home-stay because there was hot water, air conditioning and the place was clean. They made us teach in groups of four teachers per class. I feel like this is way too many teachers in a room, and means that not everyone gets a chance to practice their teaching. Some of the more experienced volunteers that have taught for months tended to dominate the lessons. But I still contributed to speech practice using flash cards, and making them repeat sentences and words over and over. On our last day of teaching the buddhist monks gave us a blessing in the form of a red bracelet. We were also given a certificate and had our photo taken in front of the whole school. The host of the guesthouse was lovely and took us to see a tea plantation after teaching on Thursday. Today he drove us to the golden triangle where we crossed the border into Laos. Tommoro is our working weekend so we will be staying in a hostel in the city centre for a couple of nights to explore. Oh and by the way the two other British guys dropped out and left the programme this morning. In a way I can understand why because the culture shock is big in Northern Thailand for anyone coming from the western world.

Day 10: Wednesday 25th May 2016
We had our weekend from Satarday to Monday. On Satarday the staff took us to the white temple which is the most famous attraction in Chiang Rai. We stayed two nights in a hostel and visited markets, got a thai foot massage, and visited the black house. I ended up in hospital on the weekend and was released yesterday, So i'm hoping to get back into teaching tommoro. Some of the girls taught at a hospital for sick children yesterday. They told me that it was a challenge teaching the younger children because they were more interested in playing. I have now gotten used to the wildlife in Chiang Rai and can easily flick an insect off me without screaming. I guess it is fair to say that progress has been made.

Day 11: Thursday 26th May 2016
So I went back to work today. I did a class in the morning with 6 year olds. The girls were right as many of the children did lose concentration easily. There was a little girl that kept on getting up and walking around the class. We taught them occupations and they seemed to understand it so I guess that is a positive. It is funny sometimes to walk in to a class and see the reactions of the children (many of them have never seen a black person before). Sometimes they are scared, sometimes shy, sometimes they laugh, but usually they begin to warm up to me halfway through the class.

Day 12: Friday 27th May 2016
Today was a long day, and my last full day volunteering. I got talking to a really cute little girl that was advanced at speaking English. I asked her how long she had studied English and she said 2 years. She offered me candy and I politely declined but took some photos with her after the lesson. After teaching we went into town because it was our last evening in Chiang Rai. We ate at a Korean barbecue place where they light the fire and you cook your own food at the table. After that I went to the night market with one of the other volunteers as we both wanted to stock up on our final bits of cheap shopping. I got 3 elephant pants, some handmade jewellery, and cucumber cream.

Day 13- Satarday 28th May 2016
So today was leaving day. We were given a certificate and scarf by the organisation at breakfast. Nikki made us teach a 2 hour class before we left (the cheek). This made the day very hectic because after teaching we only had an hour to complete our lesson plans, eat lunch, and pack for the airport. Oh and they made us clean the toilets 15 minutes before leaving for the airport. This sort of pissed me off because we were not given time to pack, and most of us wanted to shower before we left because of the sweaty heat. My foot has almost recovered so I should be okay for my flight on Wednesday back to London. Overall I guess that I have enjoyed the volunteer experience but I do feel that 2 weeks is not long enough to make a difference. If I volunteer again in the future then I will definitely stay for a month. 

                             llondon leopard
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