It is sad for me to write my final post for this blog! It’s been an amazing, intense, hard, challenging, beautiful, engaging semester in Thailand, and what better way to finish it out then by traveling to the south and living in the Adang Archepelego for 3 weeks?!
After our week of seminar and our final week of intensive Thai class, we took two overnight train rides to get to the south (trains leave less of a carbon footprint then airplanes WOOP WOOP!). For the first 8 nights that we were in the south, we stayed with a Muslim fishing village called Mot Tanoi.
The people of Mot Tanoi were some of the nicest that I have met in Thailand, and the stay with them was just so FUN. Every night after the kids finished school, they would go to the beach for sunset and play volley ball or soccer, or run around the mudflats finding various crabs, sea cucumbers, starfish, and whatever else they could dig up. We went with them and it was pure outdoor FUN; no phones, no technology, just playing with whatever was right in front of them! We also participated in daily fishing activities which meant waking up at 4am and going out on the long tail boats with our host families and pulling up crab nets. The villagers of Mot Tanoi participate in small-scale fishing with environmentally safe netting, but large scale fishing is effecting them by overfishing and degrading coral reefs and biodiversity with by catch and trawling. We also participated in planting Mangrove trees, releasing squid and crab eggs into the ocean, and doing our swim and kayak test for the upcoming weeks.
Because this village was very based on the Muslim religion, the call for prayer happened 5 times per day and us females had to make sure our shoulders as well as our legs were covered at all times. We had a potluck dinner the last night we were there and all of our host moms dressed us in traditional Muslim dress, hijabs, and makeup. We got to participate in dancing with our families and it was a great way to end the 11 total host stays that we participated in on the course of our 4 months in Thailand. Me with my host family in Traditional Muslim ClothesFishing at sunrise!
For the next week and a half, we went to the Adang Archepelego, a set of 4 large and over 20 smaller islands on the Andaman sea side of Thailand. There, we landed on Koh Lipe, a huge tourist attraction with the native Urak Lawoi villagers still simultaneously living there. The island was a huge dystopia, confusing us as we walked down the street with million dollar resorts on one side and traditional Thai village homes on the other. For the next while, we spent it sea kayaking from island to island. We kayaked about 40 km over the entire trip, and were allowed to set up camp on different national park areas. We cooked our own food, did a lot of snorkeling, and explored all of the islands that had some extremely unexplored sides and some tourist-trap sides. We learned about coral bleaching and coral being destroyed, as well as did multiple trash and debris surveys. The conclusion: tourism is AWFUL for the environment when done unethically, but necessary for the Urak Lawoi villagers because they can no longer make an income through fishing because the area has been so overfished.
Overall, I have learned so much being in Thailand, but I also have realized that it is so important to travel in environmentally AND culturally ethical ways, especially if I want to make travel such a large part of my life. I would recommend this program to ANYONE who wants to embrace another culture and be challenged and have the experience of a lifetime. ISDSI was SO good to me, and I have so much gratitude to them, to the people who have taught me and let me into their homes, and to the Earth for being so SO dope!!
Thats all! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures,