Saturday, 28 January 2012

I do work!

For those who think I came to Thailand only to hang around in wonderful beaches, let me tell you that you are wrong. I came to Thailand to WORK at wonderful beaches! I know, it's hard to believe, but why work needs to be equated with stress? It doesn't, and I came here to prove this to myself.

View from the office . The beach is 40 meters away

I am volunteer at the SAMPAN project, which stands for Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network. My task right now is to help the technical coordinator (my friend Topsi) to write their end report of activities. The project is supposed to end in April, but we will try to get a new bid approved to continue with the work. Again, I'll probably help writing the new project proposal.

The good thing to be new in the team is that they have to send me to field to learn about their activities. First, I went to Mu Ko Surin National Park, which is one of the 3 national parks targeted by the project.

@ Mu Ko Surin National Park (Mu Ko means "archipelago")

The SAMPAN team is supporting private tour operators and national parks staff in monitoring coral reefs. They are also checking sea turtles nests for their protection and establishing small trails in the forest for tourism.

My team colleagues are O, Khaew (the two girls in the upper picture) and Nung (in green t-shirt)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

The taxi bargain

I finally make it through the immigration. It’s now time to follow the advice from Topsi: get a free mobile chip, exchange money and get on a Taxi and insist to go on meter! What a laugh. At the taxi booth that explicitly says “On Meter”, no taxi driver would take me this way. They proposed a price, which is a rip-off compared to what my friend had warned me as the fair price.

My first bargain strategy is to use the competition, so I say that I will check with another taxi company. They don’t seem to bother at all. No other taxi company would do it on meter, which ruined my bargain strategy no. 1. I decide to give in and go on with the first taxi driver I negotiated.

But it’s hard to accept it. So, once in the car, I look the driver on the eye, smile, but firmly ask him why he would not take me on meter if the booth proposed so. My Asian instinct says it’s very impolite to stare people in the eye around here, but my Western experience says it’s the best way to impose yourself.

He mumbles no convincing answers. But the eye confrontation eventually worked! 50 meters later he tells me out of the blue “ok, fine, you wanna go on meter, I put the meter on, but you will see the price will be pretty much the same”, which of course it wasn’t. Then he spends another 2km complaining that the gas is very expensive nowadays, that he needs to pay the cooperative etc. etc. I don’t mind this type of lies as long as I get the right price.

Before the sunshine, the turbulences

The flight is long and painful. There is quite a lot of turbulence, which gives me a terrible headache. Seriously, I know the statistics say flying is still the safest way of travelling, but who knows if I’ll fall on the “margin of error” of statistics? So, I am tense…just in case. But fortunately no catastrophe. Just 1 hour queuing at the immigration desk in Phuket’s airport. That’s far better than crashing!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Auf wiedersehen Deutschland and how I came to Thailand

That’s it. Freiburg is my home now, but it’s time to leave. After a few frustrated attempts to find a job, I choose to go forward with my plan B: work as a volunteer with WWF in Thailand with my friend Topsi. 

It’s all because of social network. A year ago when she got this job, she started posting amazing pictures which I was never sure whether they were from work or holidays. I feel I just started seeing the world, so why not use my savings to learn something completely different, in a completely different country? It wasn’t a hard decision. I’ll be back to the field, this time to work with marine protected areas at the Andaman coast…at the sea, eating genuine Thai food! Though I AM going to miss Kaffe + Kuchen...