Final Thailand Update (#7): A Safe Return!

Our group has returned!!  It’s been over a week, but the intensity of returning from such a trip has left us all beyond busy.  As a closing report on this amazing expedition, Lisa writes:

Ko Kood Resort, on Koh Kut, would be considered a paradise by many:  A rustic, quiet lodge nestled in a small bay of a tropical island. A mangrove inlet is up along the shoreline, while a coral reef runs offshore.  The reef’s waters teem with life for eager snorkelers to see: corals of numerous varieties, cuttlefish, giant clams boasting brilliant and iridescent colors, porcupine fish, coral groupers… a veritable world within a world!  Many of the students who took the opportunity to snorkel were dazzled.

We arrived at the resort by speedboat from a pier near Trat, on the eastern Gulf of Thailand, close to Cambodia.  As we approached the jutting pier, a cohort of resort staff wearing orange T-shirts rushed out to  unload the boat and carry our baggage to the reception/restaurant area.  If the line of recliners and umbrellas facing the aquamarine waters wasn’t the picture of leisure, the thatched-roof villas with comfortable beds, mosquito nets, and restful porches were.  It can be profoundly humbling to find oneself face-to-face with an image  so deeply rooted in our cultural mythos as the tropical paradise!

It was awkward to have a cadre of staff waiting to attend to our needs and desires.  Within a moment of sitting down to a meal, a server appeared, attentive to answer questions or take an order.  A number of other (non-Explorations) patrons seemed to order without the simplest “please” or  “thank you.”  Observing behaviors ranging from condescension to outright rudeness embarrassed and disgusted me, but made for an interesting discussion about this new facet of tourism.  And we participated in the indulgence fully aware of the role we were playing.

For me it was a pleasure to be eating fresh grilled food and snorkeling in what seemed to be pristine waters.  I remained uncomfortable with the fact that I could literally snap my fingers and have someone wait on me – for example, ferrying my food 100 yards out onto the pier because I couldn’t be bothered to walk the distance or wait for it to be prepared and take it out myself.

We spent four days at the Ko Kood Resort and most of that time was either having class on the beach or swimming in the warm waters and enjoying the sun.  While our agenda was primarily around digesting and reflecting upon our experiences, seeing this type of tourism seemed a valuable part of our Thailand experience.

Our last Thailand experience was to visit Khaosan Road, the world famous “backpacker ghetto,” with cheap accommodations, music, commerce and plenty of drinking.  Within moments of arriving, my group (a 47 year old teacher with three teenagers) were approached by a man hawking a sex show with various features that as a biologist I found intriguing but as a woman I found degrading and humiliating.  “How many tickets?’’  I could only reply “Really?  Are you serious?”  Suddenly the sex tourism article we read a few days previous took on new meaning!

Khaosan” translates as “milled rice,” a reminder that in a previous era this street hosted a large rice market.  Now, it is not so much a Thai experience as an aberrant experience occurring in Thailand.  As we walked down the street, the music of one venue faded as the next grew, making a rhythmic beat consistent though tempo and genre changed to attract a certain crowd and mood.  An hour of this rendered me overwhelmed.  While this scene is authentic, it represented an aspect of humanity I’d rather not interact with, if it must  exist at all.

At 11pm we walked away from the bustle to collect our baggage from the Shanti Lodge where we first stayed, and headed for the airport.  Although I was tired from the day, from the trip and from being away from those I love, I felt humbled by the privilege of having a most awesome job showing students the world!

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In closing the narrative of this expedition, we’d like to note our deepest gratitude to the many generous supporters that made the experience possible.  Indeed, for every participant, there were many of you who donated, made sacrifices, volunteered, took risks, or showed immense patience in support of  a very unusual and uniquely powerful type of education.  THANK YOU!!!  We will try to keep you posted as the various products of the expedition become public.  Please know that our gratitude knows no bounds!

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Explore posts in the same categories: Student Activities, Thailand

One Comment on “Final Thailand Update (#7): A Safe Return!”

  1. diane Says:

    Thank you, Lisa and Abram, for the having trust in our children, the endurance, and the curiousity about the world to have made this amazing trip not only possible but wonderful.


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