A turbulent onward flight from Dubai, including some lightning, meant little sleep for most and tired eyes as we touched down in Bangkok. With body clocks set at 2am, we confronted the searing heat at 8am on a Thai Tuesday, temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius. In two minibuses we joined the rush hour as we made our way to the barge.
The barge is staffed by Thai and British crew, friendly and helpful, and students quickly settled in, arranging clothes for the next three days into boxes around the edge of the deck. Following a safety and hygiene briefing, we took part in a get-to-know-you activity and then students were able to do some river observation and discuss the part that the Chao Phraya plays in Thai life.
The crew gave us our first taste of Thai food at lunch time and then continued with the programme of activities in a valiant attempt to keep everyone awake. As eyelids drooped, students performed role plays to teach one another about Thai etiquette, then investigated the roots of water hyacinths from the river, discovering crabs, shrimps, leeches, worms and other macro-invertebrates. Having reached the later part of the afternoon, there was only one way to keep us awake into the evening; that was to join the myriad of macro-invertebrates in the river. We donned life jackets and jumped in. Some of us stuck to the swimming whilst others fought the strong current in canoes.
In the evening we moored, were put into groups and between us we cooked, cleaned and recorded navigation data. There was time for relaxation and showers before a well earned early night.
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