Sheila La Rivière recalls a memorable trip.
Back in 1982 I was a Guide Leader in Broadstone and I had the opportunity to join a group of Guides going to Thailand to a celebration camp to mark the 25th Anniversary of Guiding in Thailand. It was to be an exciting journey. Firstly, I had never been on a plane before, so the adventure started at the airport on a cold morning in December.
There were seven of us representing Guiding across the whole of the UK. After a very long flight we arrived in Thailand and the heat hit us! We were taken to the local YMCA centre where we stayed for two nights. On the third morning we woke early and prepared ourselves for the journey to camp. We were all ready and waiting and three hours later the coach arrived. Timing or the lack of it, was something we learned to live with during our stay.
As the oldest member of the group (I was in my mid-forties at the time) I did not have to camp but was taken to a dormitory with a group of women from all over the world. My sleeping companions were from Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and America.
The opening ceremony for the camp was very tiring. Standing in the hot sun we listened to speeches from the Minister for Education and the Camp Director. As none of the visiting groups understood the Thai language it was quite boring, and the sun was very hot. After the speeches hundreds of balloons were let off. The camp was under way.
We had a number of trips out of camp. The most memorable were to the beach, where there was lots of food available. But somehow, we didn’t fancy food that had been out in the sun for hours, it wasn’t very appetising. Another of the visits was to a garden where there was an orchid nursery. I have never seen so many orchids in so many colours. In 1982 you rarely saw orchids in England and so it was a thrill to see so many.
The food in the camp was edible, but not very exciting. Every meal was served with rice, and that can get a bit boring. But when you are in the open air all day you will eat almost anything.
Guiding in Thailand is different from in England. All girls in school are given the choice of three activities, as part of the school curriculum. Guiding for the girls and Scouting for the boys is one of the options.
During our stay in camp the lady from Taiwan (who spoke no English) bought a string of sausages, which she hung over her bed. They were there (under the mosquito net) for several days. We never did find out why!
We spent our days in camp teaching various crafts to the girls. I was showing them how to make Dorset Buttons. They picked it up very quickly. In the evenings we had campfire singing and dancing and displays from each of the visiting countries. One evening we celebrated, with the whole of the country, the King’s birthday with fireworks and floating paper boats down the river.
After the week in camp we went on to stay at the naval base for a few days. Here we had hotel like accommodation. We met the Seal Team (the team that rescued the boys trapped in the cave last year) and they took the braver girls out swimming.
We then went back to Bangkok where we stayed in private homes. My host was a young woman who worked with a team of people taking mobile medical, veterinary and dental care out to the poorer areas of the city.
Our most exciting visit was to the Royal Palace where all the overseas contingents to the camp were to meet the King’s daughter. When we arrived, there was tea and cakes laid out for us. Unfortunately, the American girls got there first, and the rest of us had to share cakes between us. But half a cake is better than none at all! The Princess was charming and shook hands with each of us. The Chief Guide for Thailand then announced that we would sing the Guides World song led by the United Kingdom. What a good job we had learned it on the coach on the way to camp!
We managed to do some sightseeing in our last few days in Thailand and there is such a lot to see, from beautiful statues, wonderful palaces and crowded rivers. We all did some shopping before our long journey back to the UK.
We arrived home feeling very tired but very privileged to have been part of an exciting journey.