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Ivanhoe Grammar School, Australia Year 9

13 – 15 September 2018

Ko Kret and Ayutthaya

Being woken at 4am by the rather harsh cabin lights for a 6am arrival leaves most ready for an easy day of checking in and laying down, perhaps going out to explore at night. This was not the fortune of the 2018 Ivanhoe year 9 group as unbeknownst to them our ever diligent barge team was also up at 4am preparing for their arrival with a packed schedule for the next three days. However despite some blurry eyes (amongst staff and kids alike), they displayed a resilience and determination to make the most of their short all to short time with us. 


Day 1 – Ko kret:

After some introductory name games and an overly heated debate as to whether cats or dogs are better (it’s dogs), we set foot on the ferry that would take us across the Chao Phraya to the island of ko kret, having their first interaction with the life blood of Thailand, a fact that would become increasingly apparent to them over the next couple of days. Upon arriving we dived straight in! breakfast…as we were all famished. After breakfast the fun truly began as we started to explore the islands fascinating cultural history and the traditions of the communities that live there. The group was particularity interested to hear the traditional Mon Myth as to why the famed leaning Chedi of Ko Kret is in fact leaning.  After being immersed in this rich culture we moved on to some sustainable thinking, considering the interconnectivity the surrounding river has to all aspects in our lives.

One cannot learn efficiently with words alone and to the that end the group tried their hands (quite literally in some cases…) at some pottery throwing, one of the key traditional trades of the Mon. Frankly, considering all but 1 had never set foot on the potters peddle before, I was immensely impressed at their ability to make beautiful ceramics I would have happily have in my home!

Our time being up on the island we took a short ride up river to Ayutthaya where after a delightful Thai dinner prepared by the ever talented students who consumed their hard work with gusto, we got some much needed shut eye, well the kids did, we barge staff needed to clean up first!


Day 2 – Ayutthaya:

Another day another early start. Though this time with a good night’s rest and an amazingly privileged reason to be getting up so early we did not spite the soft morning light. The reason of which for this uncharacteristic contentment with an early rise was that we had the privilege to partake in Alms giving. A Buddhist tradition in which the community supply food to local monks. As they are prohibited from making their own food, our group of kids can now be said to have helped sustain the lofty goals of these holy men and by Buddhist tradition received good karma in doing so.

Soon after at the Museum of Ayutthaya we took our first tentative steps in learning the history of this captivating capital lost to time. In the process of gathering this information we came across not one but three local Thai schools on their own voyage of discovery. Excitement was palpable on both sides across the language barrier, many a selfie was taken. After this unexpected but welcome distraction the kids in their groups taught each other the history of this multicultural and many ways rich city.

Continuing on these themes of history and culture we visited not one but two temples (or Wat’s) who would have had their heyday over 300 years ago, now not but a set of striking ruins displaying bare brick and shattered images of the Buddha. Together like explorers of old we began to piece the story of these once majestic but no less spectacular Wat’s. Sitting with eyes closed under the benign gaze of the ever smiling Buddha the group created stories relating to the story of the fall of Ayutthaya that would put Hemmingway to shame. It is truly amazing what the promise of ice-cream will silicate!


Day 3 – Beasts Bugs and begrudging goodbyes:

The joy of waking up after 7 am was apparent in the energetic group as we explored the non-native riverine plant of the Water Hyacinth and all the invertebrate life that calls it home. Using our discoveries to determined the water quality of the nearby river and then discussed why areas of water or so important to our way of life with a focus on wetlands, a habitat close to our groups heart as not only do they have many around their city of Melbourne but it is also home to one of Australia’s more peculiar endemic species, the platypus.

Finally, a heated game of ‘direct the robot’ in which the kids used their communication skills to direct a blindfolded individual to pick up a ball while Liz and I cut some groovy shapes while acting as moving barriers, gave us all a case of the giggles.

As with any and all good trips it must come to an end, though that does not make the process any easier.  After a few closing words from Barge boss Kirsty the kids presented us all with tops with their school name on, in a genuinely surprising and emotional moment. At the airport the sadness of their imminent departure as we said our goodbyes was alleviated for the barge staff with the thought that the kids would soon by flying up to Chiang Mai to continue their amazing journey!

…oh and we also got to go home and sleep, that too made it easier.

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