Sound file: A relaxing Saturday by the pool?

[audio:http://media.libsyn.com/media/earthoria/Earthoria_S04_lotus_pool.MP3|titles=Sound file 04: A relaxing Saturday by the pool?|artists=Earthoria]
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Lotus swimming pool, Chiang Mai, ThailandI finished my month long CELTA course last weekend and decided to go and lie by the Lotus hotel pool at Kad Suan Kaew shopping center in Chiang Mai. I had intended to sleep and wind down after a hugely stressful month.

Mr & Mrs Karaoke had other plans…

Video: “Care for Dogs”, Chiang Mai

Street dogs are probably the most common sight in Thailand (and other developing countries). Whether you travel to Chiang Mai as a tourist or live here, it is impossible to overlook the street dogs.

When I first arrived in Thailand, I was shocked to see so many dogs, some in terrible condition and I always feel really bad when I see them and am not able to help them with more than just a sausage from a near-by seven-eleven.

Karin Hawelka and Amandine Lecesne are two women who refused to ignore the problem. They set up ‘Care for Dogs’ in Chiang Mai. Their aim is to improve the life of street and temple dogs by organising sterilisations, vaccinations, and medical care. They also offer a home for approximately 80 homeless dogs and puppies until they find a new loving home for them.

If you want to adopt a dog, puppy or cat, volunteer, or support the group with donations or dog food – then contact 084-7525255 or 086-1855218, e-mail to contact@carefordogs.org or visit www.carefordogs.org

Above is a video of the amazing dogs they take care off (and that are up for adoption if you offer a loving home). You can also listen to the very interesting interview with the founder of “Care for Dogs” Karin Hawelka if you do to: http://www.earthoria.com/care-for-dogs-shelter-chiang-mai.html

Enjoy and get inspired.

Podcast: Care for Dogs, Chiang Mai

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Care for Dogs is an animal welfare organisation based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Listen to an interview with Karin Hawelka, one of the Care for Dogs founders by clicking the play button above.

Care for Dogs - Dog charity & dog adoption, Chiang Mai

Care for Dogs was set up by Karin and Amandine Lecesne who refused to ignore the problem of dogs suffering in the streets of Chiang Mai. Their aim is to improve the life of street and temple dogs by organising sterilisations, vaccinations, and medical care. They also offer a home for approximately 80 homeless dogs and puppies until they find a new loving home for them.

If you would like to adopt a dog, puppy or cat, volunteer, or support the group with donations or dog food – then contact 084-7525255 or 086-1855218, e-mail contact@carefordogs.org or visit www.carefordogs.org.

Enjoy and get inspired.

Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and the white elephant legend

The legend goes that a monk named Sumanathera from Sukhothai had a dream; in this dream he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a artifact. Sumanathera went to Pang Cha and found a bone, which many state was Buddha’s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers; it shined, it was able to disappear, it could move itself and reproduce itself. Sumanathera took the artifact to King Dharmmaraja who ruled Sukhothai.

The excited Dharmmaraja made offerings and hosted a rite when Sumanathera arrived. Nonetheless, the artifact displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the artifact’s validity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

However, the king of the Lanna Kingdom Nu Naone (rules 1355 – 1385) heard of the artifact and offered the monk to take it to him instead. In 1368 with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the artifact to Lamphun, in northern Thailand. The artifact split in two, one piece was the same size, the other was smaller than the original. The smaller piece of the artifact was preserved at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the King on the back of a white elephant which was released in the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at the time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), and trumpeted three times before dying on the top after the long journey up. It was interpreted as a sign and King Nu Naone ordered the construction of the temple Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep at the site.

The present complex dates from the 16th century and was expanded or restored several times later. The video above is from Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep anno 2007.

I’m off to do a CELTA for a month

From tomorrow, free time will be a thing of the past for a month. Why? Because I begin the CELTA course with ECC in Chiang Mai. I will be released back into civilisation (all things going well) around the 4th April. [You can now listen to our audio diary of doing the CELTA in Chiang Mai in our Podcast here.]

Thomas about to start studying for the CELTA in Chiang Mai, Thailand

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is one type of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course. CELTA courses are validated and the certificates are issued by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) in the UK. From my research, the CELTA qualification seems to carry a little bit more weight internationally than the other available TEFL courses.

For many years I have looked into doing the CELTA, but have never progressed much further than that. I have finally signed one month of my life away and I’m quite looking forwards to the challenge!

CELTA is well known for its intensity. The Guardian Education website doesn’t beat around the bush much in its assessment of this:

Although just four weeks in length, your TEFL course may well feel like four years. When people say that you have to put your life on hold for a month, they’re not joking.

If you live alone, fresh, home-cooked food is likely to become a thing of the past. Your bed may seem like a figment of your imagination. Friends may think that you have fallen down a large hole.

This blog post by a young woman doing the CELTA with International House in London gives me the fear:

Week three of the CELTA course is a hot contender for the worst week of my life. I have two assignments due, on Monday and Thursday, and three lessons to plan……Deciding not to be beaten I stay up until 2 am planning and writing, and set my alarm for 6am to prepare my materials.

Tina will be recording my anguish in a Podcast compiled from various stages throughout the course. We’ll publish this some time in April. Wish me luck!!!!

CELTA course costs in Chiang Mai

The cost of the course in Chiang Mai compares very favourably with other world-wide destinations – especially when you take into account the cost of living here.

Doing the four-week CELTA with International House in London costs £1,240.00. Then of course you’d have to add on living & travel costs in London for a month. From my experience, it would be hard to get by on less than an additional £1,000 – and that is a very minimum for the month, bringing the total to £2,240.00 (US $4,500).

In Chiang Mai, a close friend of mine just did the CELTA, and the course with ECC cost $1600 ( £794 at the time of writing), but her living costs (including rent & bills) amounted to only £158 (US $319) for the entire month! This brings the total course cost to £953 ($1,919) – quite a saving at about 43% the cost of doing it in London.

Podcast: Pun Pun – Sustainable organic farming

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In this podcast, I met up with Peggy and Jo – the two founders of Pun Pun. During the interview, we discussed their views on Sustainable living & farming, Earthen house building, how they started out, and the philosophy & vision driving their work.

Pun Pun (meaning ‘thousand varieties’) is an organic farm, seed-saving operation, and sustainable living and learning centre based about 50km North of Chiang Mai, Thailand in Mae Taeng district. The first I knew about Pun Pun was last year, when I heard about an amazing new organic vegetarian restaurant that had opened in the grounds of Wat Suan Dok temple. I visited it at the first opportunity, and quickly became a regular!

Pun Pun Organic farm - sustainable living in Thailand

Pun Pun offers a variety of workshops and training courses, from their 10 week internship program offering an in-depth, hands-on experience in organic gardening (including seed saving, earthen building, and community living) through to 3-5 day earthen building workshops, and sustainability study trips. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact them via their website – the details are below.

Peggy & Jo - Pun Pun restaurant, ThailandFurther information

www.punpunthailand.org – For further information on Pun Pun, including upcoming workshops and internships at Pun Pun farm. Map of how to get to Pun Pun restaurant.

You SabaiYou Sabai Home is located in Mae Taeng, next door to Pun Pun’s organic farm and sustainable living learning center outside a village in Mae Tang province, 50 km from Chiang Mai. They also build and live in simple earthen houses, close to nature.

You might also be interested in reading this article proving a rather interesting slant on the use of organic farming techniques in Africa – Green activists ‘are keeping Africa poor’.

The 10 best things about living in Thailand

Following on from my slightly negative (but honest) post on the 10 most annoying things about living in Thailand, as promised here are the ten best things about living in Thailand as I see them, again in no particular order.

Kao San Road, Bangkok

1. The people

Thai people are generally exceptionally friendly, accepting, smiley and non-aggressive. They also go out of their way for foreigners on a regular basis, and generally accept our regularly idiotic behaviour with little more than a smirk.

2. The food

The food here is cheap, tasty, varied, and comparatively very healthy. You can eat a delicious local meal for little more than $1 /50p. The range of cheap fruit deserves its own mention – wow!

3. The weather

Warm & sunny with a few months of warm & wet. You normally get about a 6 month stretch of continuously blue skies in the dry season. Perfect for the avoidance of cold, dark, miserable, drizzly and generally pants weather like I experienced in London for 12 years.

4. Driving

As the Thais do, you can get in any vehicle without any idea how to control it, and hit the road. Cool for hiring things and “learning as you go along”. The maximum fine you face for any kind of ‘driving error’ (lack of license, helmet, or know-how etc.) is usually about £3/$6.

5. Buddhism & monks

The predominant religion is Buddhism, simply the coolest ‘mass religion’ in existence. This obviously influences the general ambiance of living here and also makes you think briefly before killing mosquitoes/ants and other biting insects.

6. National Parks

There are hundreds of these dotted all over Thailand, and they are wonderful places to spend a day and/or night.

7. The islands & beaches

As we all know, Thailand has some of the most stunning islands and beaches in the world. Wherever you live in Thailand you’re not that far from a decent beach and the costs of internal flights are coming down thanks to the likes of Air Asia.

8. The cost of living

You can live like a king here and still spend about a quarter of what you’d spend in London eating baked beans and living in a dump.

9. Thai women

This has been put in a separate category not because I consider Thai women to be inhuman – as Tina has suggested below, but merely because it was the first thing mentioned when I questioned a few male friends in Thailand. I should add that I am happily married and do not look at, or think about Thai women myself.

10. What is your number 10?

What have I missed out? If you’ve visited Thailand or you live here, please feel free to suggest something YOU love about it by submitting a comment below!