Maybe you know our group on the home page of the website, there’s lots of information that provides very clear introduction. Our group started in 2012 and we had our first group trip in 2013, but just travel in 2 cities of China and there were 5 people joined. After the 1st group trip, we thought it’s a very effective way to know new culture and people so we made 2nd group trip plan around March, 2014. Considered about the visa, the cost of flight and safety issue as well, we made 2-week trip plan.
Participants: Thanh (Vietnam); Maria and Jenya (Russia); Miranda, Trista, Haru (China)
Cities we have been to: Hong Kong, Cheng Du (China), Bangkok, Nong Khai (Thailand), Vientiane (Laos)
Date : Sep 23th – Oct 8th
Venue: Cheng Du
Above is about the brief introduction of our group trip, I will talk about lots of interesting things during our trip.
1. International group:
I am the writer of the trip note so I will use my perspective to tell the stories. As an international group trip, you must think there would have “culture shock”. My answer is YES. But sincerely, thanks Maria, Jenya and Thanh, you are all very great people and because of your cooperation our group trip was very successful.
I was the last one arrived in Cheng Du, my sister Trista and Thanh went to the train station and picked me up. I met Maria and her husband Jenya at IFS. I didn’t know why I was so nervous that I forgot to say hello in English. In the following days we traveled together, we got lost and tried to find the right way, we ate the local foods and screamed with their strange flavors, we walked in very hot weather and got sunburn, it’s not fair to see that my skin is darker but Maria and Jenya are still white. We tried fish and Thai massage together because of our curiosity… Thanks for our group, I have the opportunity to have various of experiences.There’s another funny story, as we check in, officer of China Custom, he was a little shocked that why I had so many foreign friends, he asked me some questions.
2. Culture shock
Du Fu Cottage was our first stop in Cheng Du. Thanh knows some Chinese but Maria and Jenya don’t, and they were all very curious about Chinese culture. So there must be a lot of challenges for me. I needed to explain who is Du Fu, why his house is called Cottage, what are the meaning of all the poems, why the Chinese characters had simple and traditional,why the characters at the cottage are different from other characters they have seen…Ok, I think my Chinese and history are so poor.
Maria, Jenya and Thanh, they saw all of the houses, relics etc very carefully, especially Maria was good at reading maps. She helped us visit every single site of the cottage.
The first dinner in Cheng Du, another group member friend Haru took us to a wonderful hot pot restaurant. The hot pot was so spicy that I had to eat it carefully. Maria and Jenya learnt how to use chopsticks and they were getting more and more familiar with that. Maria introduced raw potato to us and I thought it tasted ok.
The 2nd day in Cheng Du we went to Qing Cheng Mountain.
We went there by bus. As we arrived there Thanh was sick and had to go back to hostel. 3 of us had lunch together. The first time I knew that Russian had soup first before lunch and dinner. Like Maria said, soup went first then lunch/dinner and dessert. How elegant the lunch/dinner would be! So sometimes I thought I should wait for them to finish their soup or I would finish the dishes.
We chose to climb from the back of the mountain, at first, I didn’t plan to the top of the mountain. So I thought we had enough time, we took pictures, made videos with a lot of fun. When it’s 4PM, I told them we would go back in 30 minutes or we would be late for dinner. They were a little disappointed. I listened to someone who was talking about the line car… We made a decision to move faster to the top and caught the final line car before 5PM. The stairs were very steep and wet we were all very tired but we didn’t complain, we cheered up each other even though the schedule was very tight. Finally, we made it and saw the most beautiful scenery on the line car.
3. Fight with "ASSHOLES" together in Thailand
Bangkok was our 3rd stop of the trip. Maria and Jenya flew from Moscow to Hong Kong and met another 2 group members, Selly and Tata. They had a good time there.We landed in Bangkok around 11PM. We checked in our guest house and found a night bar to have dinner.
The title of this part is “fight with assholes”, here are the “assholes” we encountered within only 1 day:
- The next morning I got up very early and went out. I bought a pomegranate, it priced 60B, I gave the retailer 1000B and got 440B change back. I was thinking maybe I was wrong… I wasn’t aware of being cheated… but finally I turned around and said “Excuse me, you should gave me another 500B.”
- I told the story to my friends. Maria said it’s a dangerous city we should be careful.We planned to eat at a restaurant which <Lonely Planet> recommended.I asked the reception,the girl told us it would cost us around 50-60B by tuk tuk. But the tuk bus driver wanted to charge us more than 100B, we bargained and wrote the price on the paper in case the driver would deny.
- As we arrived at the port of an island, we didn’t find the public ferry station at first, some vendors of personal boats charged us 180B for the round trip, it's 45 times higher than the normal price. Fortunately,we found the real station on the island and found the vendors to get refund.
- When we came back, it rained very hard. Maria asked a woman about the bus we should take. Because of the heavy rain, we chose a taxi.The driver was very kind at first but he pretended that he didn’t know our guest house and let us wait on the taxi for 5 minutes and charge us 10B.
4 assholes a day, it’s very challengeable for foreigner! But I would like to say Bangkok is really an international city, it has its own features that attract people all over the world.
4. International volunteers
<Lonely Planet-Thailand> introduces a lot of interesting places that are worth visiting and also mentions volunteer organizations. I planned to do volunteer job at ISARA in Nong Khai. It’s a very small border county between Thailand and Laos. 2 weeks before our trip, I knew that ISARA would have a very long vacation after 10 years contribution from October. Richard helped find another orphanage called Sarnelli House. We contacted with Kate,assistant of Sarnelli House she scheduled 2 days English class for girls and boys.We prepared small gifts for kids.
Before we went there, we knew little about the children in the orphanage. After the 1st class for girls, I saw these pictures attached on the wall. Kate told me some of the girls were abused, some were infected by HIV and some families were extremely poor,some were abandoned. Seeing the sunny smile on their faces I couldn’t imagine that such miserable experiences had happened in the past.
I read their monthly newsletter and I knew there’s a girl called Nuna, she’s blind and lame. Me and the other 2 volunteers who were from Australia and Thailand went to kindergarten and we saw the little lovely girl. She looked tiny,thin and weak,but she had big beautiful eyes,curve hair and a perfect face.
There’s another boy on the newsletter, he was thrown into Thai boxing match to make money by his relatives and caused very bad emotional impact, he couldn’t get along well with other children in the orphanage at first, he disliked going to school. After a long time at Sarnelli House, with good care, he found his interest, farming and he was very proficient at it.
The original schedule was only 2-day-class. I planed to leave for Pai after that but as I came there I was “in love” with the children. I cancelled the trip to Pai and stayed for another 4 days.
The first class for little boys, I found Kane was very smart and polite. He learnt very fast. I decide to sponsor his study.
A week in the orphanage, let me know that there’re still a lot of peope in the world need help, I should work harder and contribute to the world in many different ways. I am not so wealthy but I can donate my time and knowledge. I can’t sponsor many children but I can choose the smartest one.
5. One day trip in Vientiane
Friendship bridge connects Thailand to Laos. We took a tuk tuk to the border, the guest house reception in Bangkok reminded me of getting re-entry visa at the border or I wouldn’t be allowed to come back. I took pictures at the border and spent 1200B buying the re-entry visa. As we arrived in Laos, the visa costed me $31 because it’s weekend (on weekdays it prices $30). Russians didn’t need Laos visa so Maria and Jenya waited me for more than 1 hour.
The weather was very hot. Thanh gave her scarf to me, I sunbured badly. Thanks for Maria’s realiable navigation maps, We almost walked every corner of the small city.
In my opinion, Vientiane (maybe the whole country) has a very slow rhythm. I didn’t adapt to the local foods, but I like the blue sky.
6. Summary of the trip
- The weather in Cheng Du, Thailand and Laos are pretty nice in October. Sun scream is needed.
- Be careful of retailors and tuk tuk drivers, bargain is a must.
- Navigation maps are very important in case you can’t get a good tuk tuk price.