Thailand – Part 1

So I’m in Thailand now…well, sort of. Khao Lak is a small coastal town in southern Thailand that seems to be mainly populated by volunteers from all over the world. I’ve barely had anything to do with Thai people and there doesn’t seem to be too much point learning Thai here. So even though I’m physically in Thailand, it kind of feels like I’m living in London with a tropical climate. This isn’t helped by the fact that my three week assignment at the Tsunami Volunteer Center is to redevelop the content for the website. Which is not so different to anything I’ve done before; but as it turns out that may not be such a bad thing after all.

The tsunami happened 18 months ago so the bulk of restoration work has already occurred. Things are a lot quieter now and there aren’t as many volunteers. But there is still ongoing work such as the reconstruction of a village that was washed away along with many of its inhabitants. Michael is there today helping with the building and if I find some time over the next two weeks, I might try and go down for the day to help out and to see what it’s like.

When I arrived I was vaguely hoping to do something different like building furniture at the Thaikea project. But I’m really glad that I’m redeveloping the website now which I’ll be able to do a solid amount of work on in three weeks and be able to leave a legacy behind as it were. I have a lot of independence and I’m working with two really great people in the office; Tom, a web designer from England, and Chris, a graphic designer from the USA. Between the three of us we’ll hopefully be able to create a decent website to replace the current one which is pretty clumsy. At this point I do feel the need to mention that it’s such a nice change to be working closely with a really good web designer from the start which makes the information architecture side of things so much easier. Very unlike previous jobs where I’ve had to work with a website that I had no hand in planning.

It’s pretty humid here but the monsoon rain also means that it’s not too hot. It’s a sleepy place and especially now because it’s tourist off-season…but as you might guess, there’s constant partying and socialising here amongst the volunteers. It’s obviously one of the main reasons why so many volunteers hang around for a while, and why some of them keep coming back. I need a lot of quiet time so the late nights here are not my thing at all…and it seems like most of the people here now are a lot younger somehow. But I’ve definitely enjoyed meeting people this week – everyone’s really nice in fact. It’s also been an interesting look into the world of volunteers/travellers though…it’s a bit like The Beach in fact. I feel like a social anthropologist a lot of times.

I was in Bangkok to start off with for a couple of days but as we’ll be going back there at the end of our trip I’ll save my comments about it in Part 2. I’m really looking forward to getting back there in a couple of weeks; for one thing, the street food is incredible.

We’ll probably go back to Phuket province for a day at some point because we want to visit the Life Home Project which is run by a Spanish man I met in Sydney a couple of years ago. It seems like a pretty amazing set-up. There’s no other reason why we’d go to Phuket though…we spent two days there and that was quite enough. The beachside towns with the resorts are horrible tourist ghettoes and Phuket Town itself is pretty uninspiring.

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