The 2008 Big Experiences are nearly over and I hope you have enjoyed reading about the many amazing adventures your children, friends or relatives have had.

This year was the first time the Big Experience blog was implemented so it would be great to get some feedback on how you have found it.

Please leave a comment on this post to share your thoughts. Your comment will not appear on the site immediately but rest assured it will be read with interest.

Thank you.

Mr. Barlow


Thailand – our last day

Comments Off on Thailand – our last day

After a 4 hour bus ride we arrived at our hotel in busy Bangkok, a city of 8 million people, where 12 million live and work during the week. We took a walk through the streets to a restaurant, passing a shrine where the young people pray to find a partner. A stage had been set up right next to it and there was a team of people promoting Chang beer….maybe just the place to make your prayers come true! Needless to say we didn’t stay, and as we walked to where we had dinner, we passed a lady selling live baby rabbits, but each one was dressed in a little frilly dress……city pets, maybe? A very bad busker was trying to entertain the people outside the restaurant, and after dinner we took a stroll through IT city, bought a few DVDs (fingers crossed they work!), and walked back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep – the last before we return home.


On Tuesday, we awoke to a very polluted view from our rooms, we has breakfast on the 43rd floor and then met to travel to the Grand Palace and finally our last shopping fix at the MBK centre. Travelling along the river is an eye opening experience; you can see the absolute poverty that some live in – the shacks look like they are being demolished and are falling in the river. The Grand Palace, on the other hand, is a most luxurious place – from the intricate mosaic work on all the external walls of the huge temple to the manicured and sculptured garden surrounding it. A special temple has been built for teh cremation of teh King’s sister – she dies 9 months ago. From there we took another river boat and then the sky train to the MBK centre – 6 floors of (airconditioned!) shopping. We nominated McDonald’s as our meeting place and let them loose.


Late afternoon 22 foot weary Aussie shoppers made their way back to the hotel to prepare for the trip to the airport and the flight home. Luckily, we had scales on which to weigh our luggage – not sure how have tipped the 20kg limit, but hope they managed to share their booty around so no excess charges were necessary!


Uploading this blog in the airport whilst waiting for our flight….see you soon!

Thailand-the weekend on the Island

Comments Off on Thailand-the weekend on the Island

Imagine a beach with pure white sand and crystal clear water. That is where we are, Kho Samet. Arriving at the island by boat we were amazed and excited about the following days spent here. The beach side resort is really nice and has so many different activities to participate in. The water is as warm as a bath and it is very relaxing. The night life had an amazing atmosphere. After a beach side dinner, we watched a fire show performed by some very spunky Thai boys. It was really exciting to watch. After the performance everyone was quite tired and went back to the resort for some sleep. The next day everyone was up early eating breaky and going for a morning swim. It was a pretty overcast day but we still managed to burn, especially Kaitlin. Most of us went on the banana boat which is an inflated boat shaped as a banana which is towed behind a motor boat. It was so much fun! Most of the girls enjoyed pedicures, manicures, massages or whatever they could lay their hands on. There were so many opportunities to try new things. That night we returned to the beach side restaurant to have dinner and then watched the very, very spunky Thai boys doing their fire routine. It was quite amazing but sad to say good-bye. Because of the festive season, fireworks are legal so Billy and Mr Goodman went and bought some fireworks. They were beautiful and created a great last night at Kho Samet. Our time at the island has been extremely memorable and would have to be one of the greatest highlights of the experience.


Olivia Edwards

Emily Salmon

Sunny Miller


(Note: Kho Sumet, being an island very close to Bangkok, is popular with the locals as a weekend getaway. Saturday night, at the restaurant referred to, many people were dining on the beach, reclined on cushions, at tables decked with lights. They chose their barbeque meal from a large selection – Andrew and I can vouch for the grilled prawns – they were to die for! Apart from the fireworks celebrating the festival, people light lanterns which float up and away into the night sky – sending our spirits and prayers into heaven)




Thailand – a poignant history lesson

Comments Off on Thailand – a poignant history lesson

After leaving the night train, we made a short trip to one of the ancient temples of Ayutthaya to watch the sun rise behind the stone walls. Then we began the bus ride to the bridge over the river Kwai, stopping on the way at the war cemetery, which honours the Asian, Australian and British men who died whilst working on the Thai-Burmese railway during the second world war. While we were reading the memorials of the Australian men, a tour group of British people arrived, members of the British Legion, and held a memorial service. Their pilgrimage was being made to visit their relatives’ memorials; one lady was visiting her husband’s and there were children and grandchildren of the soldiers there. This made it even more moving for us who had joined the service. To realise that people had travelled this far to honour these men, that they actually knew them, bought home the enormity of loss during the war.

We journeyed on to the bridge, walked on the spans made famous by the film, and boarded a train for an hour and a half ride through the countryside on the 150 km or so of the track that is left. Our destination was our lunch stop, and afterwards we were able to walk down the track, over the pylons, looking out over the river. As we saw more of the track we could not understand how these men were able to build such a structure under such conditions – our sweat and toil in the village was nothing compared to what they were subjected to! One man dead for every sleeper laid – a sobering thought.

Our next visit was to the Hellfire Pass museum, and I hope I can set the scene for you: We walked down the track to the Pass, it was hot and humid (of course!) but also eerily misty. We all had an individual audio commentary, so there was not much conversation as we walked the pathway towards the cutting. As we entered the cutting we heard how the rock had been chiselled by hand, how explosives were laid, how the men did or did not survive. We heard the recorded voices of the survivors, recounting their experiences, bringing home the horror of what happened. As we reached the end and approached the  Australian memorial – a few scattered flags, koalas, crosses and poppies pinned to the rock, and the tribute to Weary Dunlop – you could see by the expressions on the students’ faces that they were beginning to comprehend the atrocity of war and its inhumanity.

A cool bus ride to our hotel in Kanchanaburi and a good night’s rest before our trip to the island was welcomed.


“We gave our tomorrow for your today”



November 9- picture gallery of our Thailand Trekkers

Comments Off on November 9- picture gallery of our Thailand Trekkers

Thailand – Nov 6,7 Chiang Mai

Comments Off on Thailand – Nov 6,7 Chiang Mai

I wrote the following whilst in Chiang Mai, but unfortunately suffered an internet crash which froze the computer and I was not able to post this. Lucky I managed to save it! We are on Kho Sumet at the moment and while the students are njoying a morning swim, I thohgt I’d try to catch up on the blogging. Fingers crossed the connection here doesn’t fail!!!

Sue Walpole


As most of the students are at a Thai cooking class at the moment, and I am back at the hotel with the few that need a bit of “recovery time” I thought I’d update the blog and give the kids a chance to get themselves ready for the overnight train ride ahead. I will make sure we get some student reflection on the activites we have done over the past 2 days, but we may not be in a position to add to the blog for a couple of days.

Yesterday, some keen early birds got up and went for a kickboxing lesson. You can see by the absence of photos with this entry that I was not one of the keen ones, prefering to have a bit of a sleep in. I hear that both Andy and Izzy were our stars, with Izzy in particular impressing her Thai teacher! We then went to a property where cocks are raised for cock fighting. This was not on our original itinerary, but one of our guides, Chai, raises them and had us enthralled with the science of their rearing, training and the regulations governing the fighting. It is not the bloodbath one would expect, they do not fight to the death, but only until one gets tired and walks away. There 3 types of cocks, Burmese, Thai and Malaysian, each with a different fighting style. he showed us how a cock is prepared before a fight with a warm bath, legs taped up so they are not hurt, and staged a short fight between two birds just for our benefit. It takes a whole year to train a bird, and after a couple of years fighitng, they are usually retired to breed. It’s a huge money making business, not only in gambling on the fights’ outcomes, but in the selling of birds. A good bird fetches many bahts, and I calculated that if you factor in the fact that our average wage is about 12 times the Thais’ wage, they can pay the equivalent of  Au$500000 for a bird – that’s the cost of a racehorse in Oz, isn’t it?

In the afternoon we drove to the temple on top of the mountain. The views of Chiang Mai were breathtaking. In the evening, after dinner at a chinese restaurant , we toook a tuk tuk ride to the centre of the old city and yes, we then let them loose on the night market!!! Thank goodness there’s not much more shopping like that until Bangkok…..

This morning a group of students and I went out at 6am to give offerings to the monks. Seeing Chiang Mai this early in the morning was quite different, the roads were quiet, Tai Chi classes were being held in the square, the early morning joggers were out and our tour guide Billy was being offered some ‘assistance’ from some of the ladies just finishing last night’s shift ( no wait, they were men….). The monks blessed our girls and we returned to the hotel to get ready for the cooking class they are at at the moment.


Early morning abut 6am we received a wake up call from good old Mr Goodman.  Georgia and I dragged ourselves out of bed as I’m sure everyone else who had agreed to a Thai Boxing class was doing. We all met in the lobby and headed to our Tuk Tuks for a 20 min drive to our boxing arena. When we arrived we met our main instructor who was a bit scary looking. We then had our hands wrapped with cloth to protect them and our wrists.

Our instructor started to teach us all the moves such as punching, elbowing, kneeing and kicking. Once we had learned the basics we practiced on the punching bags and then different instructors. My first instructor’s name was Den and he was very nice but Mr Goodman had to keep a close eye on him after he gave me his email address!

The second instructor I had was Ting and he was a bit psycho. He kept falling on the ground and laughing at me when I stuffed up. He walked away from me so I’d just walk after him, all the young Thai boys were cracking up at our little fights as he kept teasing me in this way. I enjoyed Thai boxing – it was a funny experience. J.

Izzy Howard


Today in Chiang Mai we went to where they train and fight roosters. This is called Cock fighting. We were very lucky to be able to watch a cock fight as they usually don’t take the tourists there. We were able to go as our tour leader, Chai, was the owner of the rooster farm. How a cock fight works is you put two roosters in a round ring and they peck and scratch each other until one rooster pulls out because it will run away and get tired. Cock fighting is illegal in Australia because many people see it as animal cruelty. The roosters’ trainers have many tactics, the roosters do get a bit bloody but they are not killed.

Mia Slater


Travelling in a Tuk Tuk convoy at night through the city of Chiang Mai was amazing. Not only did we get to see the buzz of the city and all the people we got to feel the excitement of the atmosphere of a city different to our own. We visited the heart of the old city where stood an old temple, built many hundreds of years ago. It had a massive glowing buddha, it was almost inspiring. Around the base of the temple were huge stone elephants and serpents standing guard.

After the temple we went to the night markets, getting up to 2 hours to explore the markets. We all went crazy, everything was so cheap and you could buy practically anything. Everywhere you looked it was filled with something interesting. When I say interesting I mean VERY interesting! We all spent a lot of money and had a great night.


Daisy Threlfall


(Note: A conveniently placed McDonald’s store in the centre of the market made for the perfect “assembly” point for us foot weary teachers. To their credit, all the students have always been on time whenever we have sent them off in small groups – no-one has left us waiting for longer than a few minutes or wondering where they are…..they have made our jobs much easier by being so responsible. )












 A very early start at 5.55am; we woke up to visit the monks. A short walk later we arrived where a few monks were waiting for offerings. We purchased a plate of food and drink to give to the monks. After putting the items in their bowls we knelt before the monks and got a blessing for a good life. This was a different experience, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyed by the people who participated. It was worth getting up early for!

Tess Leopold


The class started off with a small tour of the vegetable and herb garden where we learnt about all the different produce that is grown there. After the tour we started on our cooking class which started with the first meal of spring rolls, which was starting off well until I got chilli in my eyes which was a nightmare for me but funny for others to watch. (especially when Jess, in wanting to rinse her eye, hit the other one on a tap!). After the groups made their spring rolls we made two different curries which tasted beautiful with the sticky rice. After we had all the meals we thanked the teachers and set off to our next adventure.


Jess Novosad.


Note: The students have recipes to bring home so will be able to provide meals for the family. Although some of them have sworn off Thai food for the rest of their lives!!!



 The over night train for most was quite an exciting experience, but for the few sickies that were left it wasn’t very enjoyable. The 12 hour train ride offered a lot of time to bond with others, listen to ipods, pull out the cards or have a good old chat. With most people feeling healthy and back to normal it proved to be a bit of a task for the poor teachers to round us up and get us into bed. For some the 9 o’clock bedtime, seemed very very unreasonable, and so, without naming names, in a sly attempt to get into someone else’s bunk to have a chat, she fell off her bunk and down onto poor Mia. The lucky few that saw it spent the next 45 minutes laughing hysterically at her monkey climbing attempt, which made it even more difficult for Ms Walpole to calm us down.  The train ride provided most a very good sleep, not quite good enough though for the early start we had the following morning as we arrived at Ayutthaya at 5.30am.


Kaitlin Roney






picture gallery of our time in the Village

Comments Off on picture gallery of our time in the Village

Some more pics to show you how hard our kids worked!

Older Entries