As far as my travel experiences go, this one stands out.
Driving to Thailand’s Phang Nga town, ravaged by the 2004 tsunami, was my plan for the day.
Reports of people fleeing the area because they were afraid of the sea and subsequently refusing to go near or even into the water for years, as well as stories of schools being swept away by the enormous wave with their pupils and instructors inside, gave me chills and affected me profoundly within my heart.
There are few places in Thailand where you can get a true sense of Thai culture and hospitality, like Phang Nga, where the people are this kind and welcoming.
Welcome Phang Nga, Thailand’s Talaenok Rural Area!
While in the Phang Nga region, I’ll spend three days and two nights at a small hamlet settlement around 1.5 hours north of Khao Lak.
To ease communication with our host family, our guide gives us a small booklet with the most often used Thai terms, which we take with us on our journey to the hamlet of Talaenok.
I’ve learned three things about Islam because of the people I’ve met here: no pigs, no alcohol, and no bikinis on the beach. Short shorts and sleeveless tops are also not permitted on the course.
Before my trip to Thailand, I made sure to take into account these factors when packing my suitcase at home.
I’ve already been at a homestay on Peru’s Lake Titicaca for two days, but can you picture what life is like for my host family?
The tsunami warning tower’s flashing lights are constantly visible.
Chickens scurry across the street, mud homes line the roadside, women in headscarves hang haphazard laundry, and monkeys play in the stream for food.
Flashing Tsunami Warning Towers are constantly present in case of an emergency.
Since the historic hamlet was located just one kilometer from the new village, the tsunami of 2004 wiped off a quarter of the population.
The forest, seashore, and a few water buffaloes have reclaimed this land over the past 13 years.
This is where I am right now.
Twelve other buildings, including an antique school, were washed into the mangrove swamps. Forty-seven people, including 16 children and a teacher, were killed in the tidal surge that swept through town.
Images of this utter devastation begin to form in my mind’s eye, and I am overcome with a deep sense of sorrow and empathy for those affected.
In Phang Nga, Thailand, the daily routines of the locals are documented.
Fishermen in Talaenok, Alaska, who have only been at it for two years, rely heavily on the catch of fish and shrimp for their livelihoods.
As a result, the water, which had grown to massive proportions then, was revered and feared much too much.
After being matured in a crude wooden beam construction and shipped to Japan or China, the jellyfish factory is now dormant. After a long season, it’s time to say goodbye.
To meet my new family, I’m finally here.
A charming tiny witch’s home has dark wooden beams, little windows, and a pointed roof. The front yard is immaculately maintained and well-stocked.
For the last eight years, two of the house’s three rooms have been rented out to guests.
The kitchen and bathroom with a toilet that does not flush are also included. Our hosts are very welcoming, and their gorgeous daughter Nada instantly captures my heart with her lively and laid-back manner.
Batiks and palm roofs are taught to me by my family.
After a satisfying supper at the guesthouse, I feel inspired to experiment with batik.
The fundamental contours of my concept are sketched out in a spreadsheet.
I may have my work washed and ironed after our stay as a souvenir and take it home. After that, we’re shown by two women how to make the customary layers of leaves for home roofs.
Natural roof tiles must be replaced every four to five years since they are entirely composed of palm trees and grass.
Everything that isn’t needed for personal use is put up for sale. Even though I can’t do it as quickly or accurately as the local experts, my work is enough for a small family home that needs this natural weather protection.
It’s a bummer that the beachside dinner had to be canceled because of the weather.
But with the other host family, it’s far more authentic.
We sat on the concrete floor, covered with mats, along with our hosts and Tui. Fern in coconut milk, grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and curry aubergines are some of the dishes our two host mothers served in Thailand.
The Gam Archipelago is an idyllic getaway in Thailand’s Phang Nga province.
It’s not required to set the alarm for the following day.
Several roosters’ crows announce the dawn in the middle of the night.
Gibbon monkeys are ringing across the village during breakfast time, reminding me of the monkeys at Puerto Maldonado, Peru! Greetings and salutations as we welcome you to the United States!
Homestay participants are taken on a trip to the Gam Islands in the Andaman Sea to search for this refuge.
Viewing the typical Thailand postcard motif right in front of your eyes throughout the short boat cruise of around 30 minutes is possible.
Nearby islands previously annexed by Myanmar can be discerned by their hazy outlines.
While the Whitsunday Islands on Australia’s east coast call you to rest, the crystal-clear sea entices you with a refreshing refreshment, and I swiftly dive into it.
In the presence of this stunning scenery, I’d want to set up camp and get away from it all for a little while.
Crickets may be heard chirping as I sit in the middle of nowhere, disconnected from the rest of the world, with no cell phone reception and no one else around.
Relax and snorkel on the Gam Archipelago’s Koh Gam.
We have plenty of time before and after lunch to explore this tranquil haven in the Gam Archipelago before starting on a boat excursion to another island or a nearby coral reef.
Unfortunately, the visibility was poor that day, but we could still spot and enjoy a few colorfully shimmering fish among the corals.
Then it’s back to the mainland, where we’ll cross a narrow lagoon to reach the deep mangrove forest. This diverse ecosystem serves as a natural food store for the locals!
For starting a fire, free items on nature’s shelves include shrimp, fish, crabs, and wood.
The fish we catch traditionally with the aid of the locals will be eaten freshly prepared for supper.
The ladies will outfit you in traditional Muslim clothes, including a hijab, on the second evening of the journey, immersing you in the Muslim world (headscarf).
When only one’s face is visible through the layers of material, one appears strange and unusual!
The process of roasting and then opening cashew nuts explains why they are among the most expensive nuts on the market.
Each nut must be pounded out of the hard shell separately, and the skin must be meticulously removed. But they’re delicious fresh out of the oven!
Making soap as a tsunami recovery effort in Phang Nga, Thailand
I’ve learned to appreciate the last lunch and the final hours with the neighborhood.
But, before we go, we learn of a tsunami relief mission.
Following the disaster, the government gave 200,000 baht, or around 5,500 euros, to the village’s soap production. The purpose was and still is to provide a source of income for women who lost their husbands in the tsunami.
We may now color the natural soaps with ginger powder, cumin, saffron, or cinnamon and save one as a souvenir.
We also prepare the dessert for our final lunch with the assistance of local females.
Coconuts are opened quickly and precisely, and the flesh is scraped in rasps.
Not without risk, because a falling heavy ball from this height would be fatal!
Because it is durian season, we enjoy trying the unpleasant slimy fruit.
I already know them and am a lover of the fruit, but most of the others aren’t fans of their thick cheese foundation scent.
After being combined with grated coconut, sticky rice, and palm sugar, the mixture is wrapped in leaves.
The little packets that produce are then grilled.
The end product is a delectable, sweet, and enticing treat.
Furthermore, the empty coconut halves may be used at home as bowls, tea light holders, or plant pots.
The painful goodbye has arrived.
All of the families assemble for a delicious feast for the final dinner, and then it’s time to say goodbye.
Three memorable, eventful days with really loving people who, despite religious, cultural, and language differences, welcomed me with open arms and enabled me to participate in their lives as if it was second nature have come to a close.
Regardless of how amazing it felt to have no internet and to discover a simple way of life that makes you happy, if not more, than our typical life in Germany with plentiful materialism and infinite options.
Seeing the other side of Phang Nga Thailand will undoubtedly cause you to reflect and change – don’t miss it!
Have you ever stayed in a homestay in Thailand? What did you learn there?
Please share your vacation experiences in the comments area of our travel blog with the other readers and me!