The last few weeks have been crazy but I wanted to just give a quick update on my adventures which took me from Vietnam to Thailand, back to Vietnam then off to Cambodia and Laos.
Bangkok Thailand– SEAP (South East Asia Pacific) meeting for CHAI. This is the leadership meeting that I have been coordinating. Gave me the opportunity to meet the leadership of CHAI and to learn more about the great work they are doing to across the region to improve access and resources for patients. Countries represented included, India, Papa New Guinea, Laos, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma and Vietnam. The meeting was fanatics and I received a lot of positive feedback from the team on how well the meeting went. Group picture of the team:
I went to Thailand for the meeting but what I will remember most is the people of Thailand and how they displayed their respect for the late King Bhumibol the Great who recently passed away in October. It was amazing, everywhere you went there were memorials set up for the king…. I mean everywhere, every street had bill boards, individual businesses, banks, hotels and shopping malls had some form of acknowledgement of the king even the ATM machine screens. In talking with to local people they loved the king and he was a real people’s king who looked after everyone. King Bhumibol the Great was the 9th King of Thailand and he held the throne for 29 years which is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. Bangkok is a huge city with 9.4 million people and as I walked the streets I estimated that about 90% of the local people were wearing black to honor the king. I had dinner with a couple of the locals and we had a very enlightening discussion about public display of respect for the king. They spoke of the King as if he was there father, he was a king for all the people. Great to see and hear firsthand the respect for the king.
The trip to Bangkok was a big success and my memory will be the people and amazing display of respect.
After Bangkok I took a long weekend to visit Laos –Luang Phabang and Cambodia – Siem Reap. The highlight of Laos was visiting the Elephant Village. The Elephant Village is a preserve for rescued Elephants. Most of the Elephants were rescued from the logging industry. Laos was known as the Land of a Million Elephants but the elephant in Laos are now a profoundly endangered species. Some 1000 remain, of which an estimated 500 work in the forest industry harvesting timber. Elephant Village ensures the support and the survival of elephants living in harmony with nature and the community. The Village also provides solid employment opportunities for the local community. We spent the entire day at the Village. While in the Village each person is assigned their own elephant for the day. You start off with learning basic commands, you ride the elephants for a while and finish the day by giving your elephant a bath in the Mekong River. Just a great experience to be so close and to interact with the elephants in their environment. We also visited some incredible water falls. The mountains are mainly Lime Stone so the water is aqua blue. It took a while to get use to because it was so blue they looked artificial.
Next stop Cambodia. Highlight of the trip was visiting more temples and the floating village. Floating village – a regular community thriving on the river, just no streets. We saw several groups of kids in their row boats returning from school, others selling vegetables etc.