For our third village stay, we traveled down to a smaller fishing community in Southern Thailand called Mod Ta Noi. It was an amazing week- I will forever cherish my time there! After reading more about it, be sure to look at the rest of the photos here!
To get to Mod Ta Noi from Chiang Mai, we flew to Bangkok and then a smaller airport a few hour south of Bangkok. After the flights, we then had a 3 hour drive to the village. We arrived to Mod Ta Noi around dinner time. I had a really great host mom at this village. She was really patient, kind, funny, and loved speaking Thai with me and my roommate Emily. On that first night, we had dinner with our mom and just talked for like an hour. It was cool that we had the Thai to do that (and she had patience), and it was also cool to learn about our family and the village so early in the stay. Along with my host mom, we had an 18 year old sister and a dad, though we didn’t see them much because they had school and work. We got settled in that night and got ready for a week packed with activities!
This village was right on the coastline on the Andaman Sea and surrounded by mangrove forests. It was so beautiful and I learned a lot, specifically about sea and mangrove ecosystems. On the first full day, Tuesday, we went kayaking in the sea and within the mangroves. I’d never seen mangroves before- they were so cool! After some free time (which we usually spent hanging out on the beach) and lunch, we learned how to make a few snacks important in the region. Each night we would watch the sunset before walking back to our houses for dinner. Wednesday, we spent the morning building “fish houses” – we mixed a mixture of sand, water, concrete, and gravel and poured them into molds. Then, we rode in boats to drop the houses into the sea – the fish houses provide shelter for younger fish in areas that coral and sea grass has been damaged. After dropping the houses, we got to check out a nearby cave and then after lunch, we did a study on the mud flat during low tide. We walked onto the mudflats with a species identification packet and had to count and identify all the organisms we saw. I was amazed with all the life we saw in what at first just looked like mud. As we got our far enough, we even found sea cucumbers and star fish!
On Thursday, we took a little trip to visit the NGO the Andaman Foundation to learn about their work with villages in Southern Thailand to conserve sea life through education. Also on that day, we did a beach clean up with our host families where we picked up trash that comes in with high tide. The amount of trash we picked up in just 30 minutes was saddening, especially knowing that most of the trash didn’t come from the villagers and that more trash will just come in with high tide. That night, we also went out into the sea to drop crabbing nets . On our way back to the village, we got to stop at a little island and go swimming in the ocean as the sun was setting – it was paradise! Early on Friday morning, we went back out with our host families to retrieve the crab traps. Along with catching crabs, the nets also brought up starfish and various eggs. It was so cool to look at everything from the ocean floor before putting them back in the ocean where they belong. The rest of that morning we had free time which again, we spent on the beach. For lunch, we had the crabs that we had caught earlier that day! Other activities we did that day included learning about sea grass and sea grass conservation, planting mangroves, and more secret island swimming.
Saturday was our last full day there, we spent most of it on a bigger fishing boat so we could visit the Emerald Cave and snorkel at a few different sites. The Emerald Cave, most notably known for it’s feature in the movie “The Beach” staring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2000, was a bit spooky, but super beautiful. Swimming through the cave led us to a beautiful spot on an island, and the way the sun hit the water made it glow an emerald green! Next, we went back into the boat for snorkeling. We stopped at two sites. The first, unbeknownst to the students, was an unhealthy, almost bleached coral reef ecosystem. The coral was mostly a beige color and there were hardly any fish. I still had a great time here as I didn’t have any expectations, but the second location totally blew my mind. The second stop was a thriving coral reef ecosystem with diverse, colorful coral and lots of beautiful fish. I felt like I was diving in the “Finding Nemo!” This was a really effective way to learn about coral reef ecosystems and the impact human activities can have on them. That evening, we had a farewell dinner potluck with all of the families, and early on Sunday morning, we left for a day of traveling back to Chiang Mai.
Thank you for reading! If you want to hear about my other village stays, you can find the post about my stay in a sustainable farming community here and in a Northern Karen Village here. I have tons of photos here!