Volunteering in Southern Thailand for 3 months

With the Volunteer visa for Thailand in my hot little hand, it’s time to escape the UK and head for warmer Southern Thailand climes for 3 months!

The mad dash driving Reg from Italy, out of the European Schengen zone and back to the UK in 9 days, is finally over. So too is the awful treatment I received from the Immigration Officer (Border Force) in Portsmouth, or so I thought.

volunteering, Khao Lak, Thailand, SE Asia

Splitting this 2016 article as it is very long while updating the content and also updating to the WordPress Gutenberg Block Editor.


Volunteer Visa

  • Regardless of whether you are considering volunteering in Thailand using a paid agency or for free, you need a visa. So as the Royal Thai Embassy in Wales is an easier drive from Somerset than hectic London, applied at this embassy.
  • In addition to the application’s required (emailed) documentation, you need to submit the letter of invitation from the organisation for which you are volunteering.
  • The Embassy contacts you following confirmation of your documentation.
  • You take your passport in and the visa is glued to a page. Note that your passport must have no less than 6 months left, on entry to Thailand.
  • At the time of applying, the single-entry visa for 3 months cost £50 and granted in about a week from Cardiff.

Volunteer Organisation

Having volunteered with the same organisation in 2014, decided to return to the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) again. We know that this organisation is working hard to advocate for Burmese migrants in Thailand and especially: “FED provides a safe and equitable environment for underprivileged workers, whilst promoting education and development opportunities for children and adults.”


Leaving the UK

flights Heathrow to Dubai, United Kingdom

Finally, today we leave with a 5 am start as the National Express bus leaves Street for Heathrow at 6:50 am, on a Sunday morning there is only one bus per day.

As the bus takes about 4 hours (3 hours Express) and the flight isn’t until 8pm, it is going to be a long 9-hour wait.

Leaving the UK at zero degrees with a weather forecast of miserable and a very cold snap ahead, I cannot wait to land in Thailand’s warmth.

If you have a long wait at Heathrow, bring as much food and drink as you can, otherwise, you’ll need a small mortgage just for a biscuit. Ate our care package too quickly during the long wait, so forced to buy coffees and a couple of sandwiches before the flight.

The Etihad Experience

Etihad’s check-in is a breeze and the plane is on time – impressed so far, unlike my Cathay experience last year flying to Australia.

Boarding the plane, settled in for the 7-hour flight to Dubai. Food on the plane is pretty good, you won’t go hungry. Staff are excellent and I can see why Etihad won Airline of the Year in 2015 – well-deserved. A great selection of onboard latest movies but my only gripe is that the seats are a tad small. Not quite as small as Cathay, but only slightly bigger.

flights Dubai to Phuket, Thailand, SE Asia

With a transfer and wait of 1.5 hours in Dubai before boarding a larger plane, thankfully, it’s a painless and hassle-free exercise.

A second plane to settle into with more food and movies to pass the next 6 hours of flight time.


Arriving in Phuket

Arriving in Phuket ahead of schedule, immigration takes over an hour as officers work at a snail’s pace, or perhaps too many planes are landing at once. So slow is the queue that all luggage is off the carousel and placed on the floor by the time we finished.

Phuket Town, Thailand
Thalang Road’s Colonial architecture

Remembering the Humidity

Walking out of the airport and straight into a thick wall of sultry humidity – welcome to Thailand.

Just missing the small 7:30 pm airport shuttle bus as it’s too full, have a wait of an hour for the next one. For the cost of 100B, this is the cheapest way to get from the airport to the Phuket Town bus station. A Taxi charges a minimum of 1,200B.

As we know the location of a favourite hotel The Tint in Phuket Town (about 1.5-kilometres from the bus station), the bus driver stops along the way for us – don’t fancy walking the distance from the station back to the hotel with full backpacks.

Finally arriving after 10:00 pm to the friendly hotel staff and finding our room, the accommodation is just as good as the stay 14 months ago. A couple of the ladies even remembered us – very impressive. I highly recommend this hotel.


Phuket Town to Khao Lak

Phuket Town to Khao Lak, Thailand, SE Asia

As the FED office is in Khuk Khak, decide on accommodation in Khao Lak as this is only three kilometres away.

We have just under a week to find permanent accommodation and sort out a bike, before starting the volunteering assignment and being thrown back into early morning 9 am starts.

After good-byes at The Tint, we walk our packs the 1.5 kilometres in sweltering humidity to the bus station, for the 2-hour local bus (90B) ride to Khao Lak.

Khao Lak, Thailand
Trusty bike

Finally arriving at the next temporary accommodation To Zleep Hotel, the staff are lovely, but rooms are a little small for Thailand. A private bathroom, a small fridge, and bottled water are included in the room’s price. Pillows are hard. Not much space for big packs and think this is a Flashpacker’s dig.

Discover on the second night that a buffet breakfast is included in the room price – not advised when checking in. Breakfast is good and plentiful.

Setting up in Khao Lak

Hiring a bike (225B/day) is cheaper than using the Songthaews in Khao Lak because of the Cartel, which rips tourists off handsomely. For the 3-month hire, I barter the price down to 120B/day – everyone is happy. This office has about 50 bikes for hire. Although only a 110cc, it’s big enough for travel to and from work in Khuk Khak.

Volunteering in Khao Lak, Thailand, SE Asia

Visiting the Fanari Resort Hotel, which we stayed in before although, during low season, it’s now quite expensive as this is the high season. The hotel offers their cheaper Fanari Apartments down the road, for 600B/night, which is usually 800B (about AUD$23/night). This is better as the apartment is away from the hustle and bustle of the main tourist streets and traps.

Quite spacious and serviced daily, with a large bathroom, fridge, air-conditioning, and parking, this is perfect.

I request an electric jug for making coffee/tea, which was delivered the day after moving in. Thereafter, we also receive an extra bottle of water, tea, coffee, whitener, and sugar.

I request an electric jug for making coffee/tea, which was delivered the day after moving in. Thereafter, we also receive an extra bottle of water, tea, coffee, whitener, and sugar.

Using the bike to do several slow trips to move our heavy packs from To Zleep, it’s good to settle in one place for 3 months.

Khao Lak, Thailand
Khao Lak Beach

There’s a little restaurant with a couple of washing machines (20B per load) only a stone’s throw from the apartment so no depending on the ladies charging 60B/kg for washing.


Khao Lak and Bang Niang revisited

I have to say that after 13 months away from SE Asia, it is great to be back! Where did that time go?

Time melts rapidly into the past, but some things never change…

It’s also great to be back in the warmth after over a year of experiencing European winters. I’ve come to the conclusion that my body isn’t built for freezing cold weather. Although I love the magic of snow, I cannot live in a snow-laden country.

Many changes are happening in Khao Lak and Bang Niang.

Khao Lak, Thailand, rubber plantation
Rubber plantation near Khao Lak

The explosion of new buildings is everywhere and very noticeable. Guess this is high season and much more is open now since the last visit during the low season – much prefer the low season.


Volunteering with FED

Volunteering again with FED is great albeit extremely busy. It’s rewarding to know that everything we do helps in some way or another – FED is always looking for volunteers, so what are you waiting for?

This is one organisation that doesn’t charge you for volunteering and hope this won’t change in the future. Understandably, you have to pay your way for everything. The standard working week is 9am to 5pm on Monday-Friday, so thrown right back into work after travelling for 13 months.

For those of you that may be thinking of volunteering with FED, there are many of your skills that can help. Everything from teaching English to Burmese migrant children, writing skills for Reports, teaching IT skills to staff, office procedures, Project Management, Financials, tender writing, and basically everything.

volunteering, Khao Lak, Thailand, SE Asia
Traditional Longyi – handmade parting gift (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)

This time we work mainly on a new Social Enterprise venture, which was in its infancy on our arrival. The fabulous ideas need further brainstorming and documenting into a Business Plan to submit to Donors to win funding.

Many weeks see us also working some hours on a Saturday. Although knowing this is helping the establishment of a new cafe venture and training of disadvantaged migrant Burmese students, so as to offer students further opportunities, makes Saturday work a pleasure.

Other tasks include researching a suitable cafe and training facility premise, developing a Training Curriculum, and designing the cafe’s layout. After settling on a premise, the working out of building materials and cafe equipment is also required.

Khao Lak, Thailand, BBQ
Neil and Mark – always time for an evening BBQ!

In addition to the cafe tasks and Neil’s Mine Risk Education Training (MRE)

MRE training, Khuk Khak, Thailand
Neil conducting Mine Risk Education (MRE) training at FED for Burmese migrants returning to their homeland

…we are responsible for designing, writing and coordinating the Annual Report to its published state, which is delivered to all Donors.

I would be lying if I said there was any free time during the three months at FED!

Time disappeared much too quickly and such a shame that we can’t experience the implementation of the Social Venture cafe after being involved in the groundwork, which helped to win funding. The building/renovation of the café is both challenging and rewarding, but sure that Mark is more than competent to handle this piece of work.

Kha Lak, Thailand, sunset
Asian sunsets are amazing!

The cafe’s opening deadline is for November 2016, which I believe in Thailand’s sea of red tape and bureaucracy, is almost impossible to achieve.

2017 Social Venture update: You can still head to Khao Lak and help Mark with the cafe, as there is still much to be done before open day.


Leaving Thailand…again

Sadly, it is time to leave Thailand again as the 3-month visa for volunteering is up, so heading back to the UK for a brief visit.

Htoo Chit (FED’s Director) prepares a wonderful farewell luncheon feast with lovely gifts, speeches, and accolades; very kind indeed. I even received a beautiful handmade traditional Burmese Longyi, which I’m wearing on this post’s thumbnail.

Khuk Khak, FED, Thailand
Home-made farewell feast with the Team

It is great to catch up with people we met in 2014, but also to meet newcomers to the organisation.

Khuk Khak, FED, Thailand
Parting gifts

I will particularly miss Mark and Mya Lay (aka Hangry) and can’t thank both enough for the hospitality and their ever-enduring help – extremely kind! I only hope that on finally returning to Australia, we can repay the wonderful hospitality one day.

With a lift from Khao Lak to Phuket International Airport, we’re just waiting for the Emirates return flight to the UK.

Next travel chapter? Drive to Italy to start the Citizenship process…wish me luck.

Visit my Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts on Thailand.

Khao Lak, Thailand
After hanging up the backpacks for 3 months, packing up again!

4 thoughts on “Volunteering in Southern Thailand for 3 months

Add yours

    1. Thank you! I still need to edit this post to my new format.

      There are much lovelier parts of Thailand to visit than Phuket – you need to return and explore further.
      Merry Christmas and hope you have a fantastic 2018! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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