By John, the Panda.
I hated waking up so early on Monday, February 6, but a phone call from Teacher Maxine ensured that I was awake, with my fur brushed, and on my way to the meeting point at Rose Marie Academy.
All ready to go to Chiang Mai. A minibus and large taxi transported everyone to the airport, and I was quite comfortable with Kenta’s bag as a pillow. I must say it was a quiet journey with dozing students and teachers.
Once in the airport everyone came to life and, with the plane being delayed by one hour, there was plenty of time for a first or second breakfast in some cases. (These students do have healthy appetites.) I sampled the delights of McDonald’s with the students.
The students were in such a hurry to get to the gate that I was forgotten and was really in a panic until JaBry noticed me and put me into her bag. Kenta and Marvelyn missed me and came to look for me and were relieved to find me safe and sound relaxing in JaBry’s clothes.
The journey took just over an hour and, with no check-in baggage, we were quickly out of the airport and into the waiting minibuses. We booked in at Riverside House in record time as our keys were ready with our names on. I shared Kenta and Non’s room but also spent some time with Marvelyn, Kristina, and Shannon next door.
Gathering in Chiang Mai
Exploring the city was fun, and we ate a late lunch and bought snacks to take with us to the Night Safari as we had to set off at 6:00 pm. I found the Night Safari a thrilling experience altogether. The teachers took a lot of photos of Schwinn, Thomas, and Wes posing as cowboys along with Teacher Manto, whilst Yam, Ja, Cindy, and Rachael admired the magnificent white tigers. When we went on the trams around the park, I stayed close to Irish — those giraffes are mighty big with enormously long tongues, and they tried to get into the trams to be fed. The animals were really tame and came up so close (not the lions and tigers, of course).
An early breakfast on Tuesday, February 7, was the start of an action-packed day starting with a forty-five minute bus ride. We started by trekking to the White Karen village where we saw fabrics being skillfully woven on back-strap looms. We could not resist making a few purchases.
Next came a long trek to reach the waterfall where some brave and hardy students ventured into the icy, cold water. I did not want to get my fur wet so sat on the rocks with Shivane, Jay, Teacher Hasan, and Teacher Maxine.
Next came a long, long trek (I am so glad I was being carried) to reach our lunch stop. The lunch was plain but good, although we were so hungry we would have eaten anything that had been put in front of us. Then we divided into two groups for the bamboo rafting and elephant riding.
The rafting did look fun, but as they did not have a life jacket small enough for me, I stayed with Teacher Hasan and Teacher Maxine on photo-taking duty and just watched the students look after Teacher Manto and Teacher Alyson.
Breakfast in Chiang Mai.
The elephants were big and incredibly sure-footed both going up and down slopes, but the students and teachers clung on grimly, and I was glad that there were so many students to take care of me. I found the baby elephants rather rude as they tried to snatch the bananas (no manners).
When we got back to the hotel we freshened up before dinner and shopping at the various night markets. I ate well and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday, February 8, started with a leisurely breakfast followed by a tour of local handicraft factories. Our first stop was a silk factory where we were presented with small silk flower pins and, after learning about the processes, we bought small silk souvenirs.
Then came the silver workshop where I learnt the processes involved in the production of silver jewelry, and I helped Kristina choose a ring and advised Cindy on the purchase of a pretty bracelet.
Next came the gem factory where we saw an interesting video but were not rich enough to make any purchases. We then moved on to look at the production stages for pottery and lacquer ware. There were some beautiful pieces, not within the budget of a poor stuffed panda, but I learned a lot.
Cool Chiang MaiIt was then mealtime again and, we found a really good restaurant for our last meal in Chiang Mai. We did a little more shopping, and then it was time to head for the airport.
Once again, we had a good flight on Orient Thai and then made our way back to Rose Marie Academy. I loved my trip with the Senior High School students but was happy to get back to Rose Marie Academy and Teacher Chalee. Thank you everyone for taking such good care of me. I learned a lot about you all and also about myself.