Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Volunteering at Ayui Foundation in 2016

I decided to volunteer at Ayui Foundation for the second time in 2016. On the 22nd June, I departed for Chiang Mai with my sister and her friend.

The most unpleasant part of the trip was taking Skybus to KLIA2. I purchased the bus ticket online via Air Asia. There was a change of procedure by Skybus comparing with last year which the ticket holder just needed to show the bus ticket collector the printout of the Air Asia's boarding pass. This time, I showed the printout to the ticket collector but I was shooed away to proceed to the counter without any explanation. I thought it was a mistake and approached the conductor to enquired. Again I was shooed away to proceed to the counter with an annoying facial expression in a rude way. I had no choice but to proceed to the counter which had a long queue. Those who bought the tickets on the spot seemed to be able to board the bus faster than those who bought the tickets online. Those who bought the tickets online had to step aside for those who purchased on the spot to be issued tickets first. 2 sets of tickets were issued to online purchasers - one with pre-printed purple wordings without any price and one with printed price, date, ticket number and counter. The flaw of Skybus system was ridiculous because it caused inconvenience to online  ticket purchasers since they also needed to queue. Furthermore, it delayed online ticket purchasers in boarding the bus. Wasn't the intention of purchasing something online meant to speed up the process? The duplicate tickets of Skybus was a wastage. Wasn't the purpose of letting online purchasers printed their own tickets supposed to reduce paper wastage? I have no idea what was Skybus up to recently. I will not recommend anyone to take Skybus due to the horrible, inconvenience and rude service. I will try the train, KLIA Express, next.

Luckily, the journey in Thailand was trouble free except for cough virus spreading among us. Yes, I was happy to escape from the stressful city of Kuala Lumpur temporarily. We took a taxi from Chiang Mai airport to Star Hotel costing 150 baht. We stayed for one night in Chiang Mai before departing for Chiang Rai the next morning. The taxi from Star Hotel to the bus terminal of Green Bus costing 250 baht. It was very convenient to take a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. The road was not as winding as I expected based on articles found online. The journey was comfortable. We took 9.30am bus which we purchased the tickets on the spot. Each A class bus ticket cost 129 baht. We did not purchase V class ticket which is slightly more costly. I suppose V class is VIP. The bus journey took about 3 hours or slightly more.

We reported for duty at Ayui Foundation on the 23rd of June at 4.30pm. I was glad to see some of the kids that I met last year but a bit sad to see some of them had already left. I missed Busor, Meelea, Nongkran, Gigi, M, Bew, Dow, etc. Next year, if I were to return, more of the kids such as Ploy, May and Ahmer would leave after graduation. It was good to notice some of the kids growing taller this year. The schedule at Ayui remained the same as last year. The kids arrived back from school at around 4.30pm. At 5pm, the teaching started. 6pm was dinner time. 9.30pm was bedtime. Just as last year, the Saturday and Sunday schedule were different (actually Friday's schedule was supposed to be different too but we continued to teach although the kids expected playtime). We were not supposed to be on duty on Sunday but we still dropped by in the afternoon. I only played with the kids once at the school field because of the rain. The activities we conducted were mainly English lessons and art & handcraft lessons. Actually I was not even teaching any art. I just started by drawing and colouring and the kids naturally followed.

Most of the stationery as part of the donation, we purchased from an English speaking stationery shop called Deli Stationery near Clock Tower (turn right at the Clock Tower). I think it was the second stationery shop on that row of shops. The owner was a UK graduate who spoke fluent English. He gave us discount upon knowing that we purchased for charity.

The following photo is the stationery shop:

On the 25th of June (Saturday), Sue, Somchai and some of the boys took us to an Akha village near Huay Maesai Waterfall. One of the villagers was so friendly that she dressed up in Akha traditional costume for us when I suggested taking a photo with her. She refused to take any photo without dressing up properly. On the way back, the boys suggested dropping by at the waterfall. It was a short visit at the waterfall. The boys rushed all the way to the waterfall without waiting. This time the water was murky. So, I didn't even dip myself into the water.

Mae Sai Waterfall:

On the 1st of July (Friday), I followed Wit to the school to meet Gigi. I passed her some fish muruku and sweets the kids liked. Every Friday, the students wore their own traditional clothes to the school. It was a fascinating sight. Gigi dropped by at Ayui the next day as well but we had communication breakdown without any translator around.

This trip I found myself quite attached to one of the new youngest girl named One, and of course, my favourite girl, Angkana. There are some new girls such as Aphisara, Buyoo (which I only met once), Wanphen and Nat. The new boys were Arthit, Manop, Panakorn, Chan, Anurak and Golf. We spent less time with the boys because they had to leave earlier for the boys home which was in a separate location.

On the 3rd of July, my sister and I took a trip to Mae Salong using the service of Easy 2 Chiang Rai. The journey one way took about 3 hours. The driver was very careful. Although his English skill is limited, overall we appreciated his service. We could not visit the hilltribe's village due to the muddy road on a hill which looked too dangerous for us to proceed. We decided to turn back due to the risk.

The following is the address of the tour agency.

Easy 2 Chiang Rai,
111/7, Santi Road,
Muang Chiang Rai.
090-893-2981, 053-718-289

The following photo is the town of Mae Salong:

The following photo is Princess Mother Temple:

The following photo is Chinese Martyrs' Memorial Museum:

The following is the tea platation in Mae Salong:

We met a Chinese restaurant owner in Mae Salong who was very friendly. I bought two packets of tea costing 250 baht each after being given 50% discount. I promised to help promoting her restaurant. Generally the food was delicious. She provided us free tea. She even showed us her kitchen. She spoke fluent Mandarin. I wish my own country folks could be as friendly as her.

The following photo is the Chinese restaurant in Mae Salong:

During this journey, I found the prices of everything in Chiang Mai had increased. The food had increased rapidly all the way to 50 - 60 baht per meal at the food court. Luckily, the prices had not changed much in Chiang Rai. My favourite noodle at the market near Wilacha Hotel remained at 350 baht. We found a very good restaurant (picture below) that I could not pronounce the name on the right side of the road by walking straight ahead from Wilacha Hotel passing the traffic light before another traffic light going towards Big C. 3 of us ordered a fish and two other dishes with rice. It cost 450 baht totally which was dirt cheap for Malaysian rate.  I highly recommended the fried fish with sweet and sour sauce. It was so delicious that even the bones could be consumed.

The following photo is the restaurant serving excellent sweet and sour fish:

We didn't hire any vehicle in this trip. We either walked or took a taxi/tuktuk. The cost of taxi from Wilacha Hotel to Chiang Rai town/Big C/Central was between 60 - 100 baht. Same price range for a return trip. Any prices beyond 100 baht was a rip-off. Sometimes you have to negotiate the price in Chiang Rai.

On the 5th of July, we departed from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai by Green Bus again. I was glad that there was no crying by the children a night before unlike my previous trip. What a relief!

Here are some prices for cost estimation:

  • T-shirts at Chiang Mai's food court - 200 baht
  • Rock t-shirt at Chiang Rai night bazaar - 250 baht
  • Camouflage shorts - 200 - 250 baht
  • Fried rice - 50 baht
  • Noodle at the market near Wilacha Hotel - 35 baht
  • Overall simple hawker's food - 35 - 60 baht (depending on what you eat)
  • Fruits at the market in Rim Kok (near Wilacha Hotel) - 20 - 30 baht
  • Lychee - 40 - 60 baht (higher quality ones are 60 baht)
  • 4 bars of Lux soap - 45 baht
  • 2 tubes of Colgate with salt - 79 baht

The prices of hotel room and air ticket will be higher at peak season from November to January. On average 20,000 baht should be more than enough for a 2-week trip in Chiang Rai including a bit of shopping but excluding accomodation and air ticket. You may need to bring a bit more money if you travel a lot by hiring a driver

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