Culture Week

This week has been very busy.  I’ve barely had time to sleep!  XploreAsia is giving us Thai language classes and culture/history lessons almost every day.  We’ve taken a Muay Thai class, visited a monk at the Khao Tao Temple, played with dogs at RescuePaws, ate pineapple at a pineapple farm, and fed rescued elephants at the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation, and had a beach BBQ.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted – a good exhausted!

1. Muay Thai Class
Our entire group went to Muay Thai and split into groups of 6 where we had an instructor teach us the basics of Muay Thai.  I can’t even express how surreal this experience was.  Here I am… in Thailand, learning Muay Thai! It might be a “you have to be there” experience, but nonetheless, it was awesome.  In fact, it was so awesome, I signed up to do one-on-one Muay Thai training for the remainder of my time in Hua Hin.  Each session costs roughly $10 USD and kicks your ass. Hopefully I can work off all of the Fried Rice and Pad Thai I’ve been eating!

2. Khao Tao Temple
The Khao Tao Temple is made up of connecting caves with rooms and statues.  This temple is known for the huge Thai Buddha that sits on top of the hill.  The temple has a mix of Thai and Chinese influence which created a really interesting design. There are four monks who live at the temple and we were able to meet and speak with one! It was really fascinating listening to him talk about how important parents are in the buddhist lifestyle, and the 5 guidelines (or commandments) that make up Buddhism.  I think the best part was the bluetooth and iPad he was playing with while we were in his office. While we were meditating, a huge thunder storm came through and destroyed all of our clothes, shoes, and bags.  Everyone was drenched!

3. RescuePaws
RescuePaws is a non-profit organization created by XploreAsia to help with the stray dog issue that Thailand has.  There are over 100,000 stray dogs (soi dogs) around Hua Hin.  The problem is only worse in other areas of the country.  RescuePaws helps rehabilitate soi dogs by feeding them, bathing them, vaccinating and neutering/spaying.  RescuePaws creates a healthier life for the animals.  When you think about 1 dog being neutered/spayed, that prevents 2 litters a year (on average).  Currently, RescuePaws helps care for 500 dogs. It’s hard to see these dogs alone and without a loving home.  I know how much I love my dog, Buster, and I think everyone should experience the loyalty and love a family pet can provide.  I will be volunteering with RescuePaws and donating money regularly to help pay for food, vaccination, and other necessary surgical processes for these animals.  If you’d like to learn more, check out RescuePaws Here.  Please help donate, every dollar counts! Trust me. $1 USD can go a LONG LONG way in Thailand.

4. Pineapple Farm
I wish you could taste the sweetness through my writing. That’s how delicious these pineapples were.  They were juicy, sweet, and now all I can think about is pineapple. Mmmmm so good! After we enjoyed the views, ate fresh and dried fruit, we packed up a few barrels to take to our friends at Hutsadin.

5. Hutsadin Elephant Foundation
Did you know an adult elephant can eat up to 300 lbs of food a day (fruit, grass, roots, bark)? Me neither… well, until I fed an entire bucket of pineapples to these beauties.  Elephants are gentle animals and they live for many years.  One elephant was over 90 years old and was just as sassy as a 16 year old diva superstar. The Hutsadin Elephant Foundation rescues elephants who were abandoned by their owners due to illness, age, or inability to work.  Hutsadin treats these animals with respect and love.  Each elephant has a Mahout who is the primary care provider for the elephant. We met four adult female elephants and Songkhran, a baby elephant, who was rescued by her Mahout Jackie when she was a baby.  Songkhran was incredibly smart and VERY hungry.

6. Beach BBQ
The Beaches in Hua Hin are full of stray dogs, fishing boats, and gorgeous views.  The water is so warm (in comparison to the Pacific Ocean), and the food on the beach is delicious.  We were able to roast a pig and drink some Chang beer while playing in the sand.  After a stormy day, the sun came out and we had a great time relaxing and reminiscing about the eventful week we’ve had.

Thailand has been a cultural experience outside of the activities we’ve done as a group. Learning the Thai language and meeting local Thai business owners, is making this experience feel real.  We aren’t here on vacation.  All of us have moved to Thailand to become part of the culture and the history.  It’s very clear when we’re out meeting the community how appreciated we are as English teachers.

Here is a quick video my roommate made of our first week in Thailand:

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