Andaman Discoveries Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Living in a homestay by Andrew Moncada

Here's a quick rundown:

Banlions doesn't have electricity. Very simple housing. Generators run from 6:30pm to 10:30pm that provide energy. Every time else, nada. Dunno if I could adjust to that as a regular tenet of my lifestyle. I appreciate it, but don't think I could make it a standard dealio.

Banlions has a ton of mosquitoes. Like, if you took Thailand by the edge and shook it, all of the mosquitoes just fell on the tiny island and concentrated around the Banlions village. There's also an abundance of giant mutant watch-the-eff-out-or-else-you'll-regret-it red ants. Seriously, if you motion your finger in front of them, they'll stop, get on their hind legs, and thrust their upper torso at you.

Never have I been so scared about bugs since I saw The Fly and the terrible, terrible sequel starring the drug dealer from Pulp Fiction. The village makes up for the insect problem by having the most amazing beaches, though. Warm waters, soft sand, and at night...the most lit up starry sky - ever. Absolutely fantastic.

During the night in Bantalaenok and Banlions from 8:30 to 10:30, the Thai equivalent of NBC airs a soap opera that quickly took it's place as my favorite Asian show of all time - The Killers. I had no idea what was going on, but I can tell you this: it involves a girl with an eyepatch, espionage, lots of Thai gangsters, a girl hiding in the men's squat toilet and absolutely kicking ass on an unsuspecting patron, and the bloodiest opening title's sequence to a show. Thai censors are funny...they blur out anyone drinking alcohol, but they will show stabbings to the eye (Renee Walker would've been proud), excessive gunshots, multiple kicks to the groin, and over the top blood-bath sequences. I can only hope that The Expendables can match half of the action from this tv show.

Since I didn't have electricity after 10:30 in the village, I ended up using a flashlight and borrowing The Girl Who Played with Fire from a neighbor. Pretty good sequel to a book I never read. Mark that up as another win for Sweden.

For the World Cup, Thais were all about Argentina (the team that I shifted my allegiances to after Ghana mucked up US hopes...damn you Ghana, damn you. I will never visit your country). Everybody loves Messi, and there was definitely a feeling of loss when the team got booted. After that Spain became the new adopted country. And as a side note, people here hated Germany.

Bantalaenok is a Muslim village located near the ocean. Half of the village was wiped out from the tsunami from several years ago. Since it's a Muslim village there isn't any pork, making up for it with lots and lots of cats. Also, a government initiative to allow the community to eat more livestock granted families with cows. However, the people didn't use the cows for food, but as pets. As a result, you can see cows roaming the streets and walking on the beach. It's weird...Twilight Zone-esque to chill out at the beach and see cows in the ocean.

Several of the Bantalaenok boys gave me a few points in Muay Thai boxing in exchange for some Tae Kwon Do lessons. Watch out UFC, I can feel my career blossoming.

I made soap with the women in Bantalaenok, created some artwork, wove leaves into, >made tie-dye with women in Banlions, drove a tractor, ate grasshoppers and other insects (grasshoppers taste like seaweed), and helped construct a building for students at a Buddhist temple.


A Look Back - Andrew's Diary

by Andrew Moncada

Looking back at these last four weeks, I think the best way to commemorate them is through Top Four Lists. Without further ado...

4 Things I'll Miss About Thailand:

1. The food
It's not just that the food was good, but also the importance of it. My days seemed to revolve around food. It's part of the culture, the overall identity. Not since my freshman year of college has so much of my time been devoted to eating. During the homestays, the families would bring out bowls and bowls of food containing various curries, fish, vegetables, and fruits. Definitely discovered some new favorite foods along the way, such as the Thai omelet.

Now a Thai omelet isn't a traditional omelet, or one that you and I would imagine. For one thing,you can have a Thai omelet any time during the day. Usually it's more of a lunch or dinner food. Also, a Thai omelet doesn't have an excessive amount of things in it. Actually, it's just the egg...and usually some bits of meat inside, such as chicken. Chicken, egg. Nothing complicated, rather stupid simple. But it's absolutely amazing. Put some chili paste over that thing along with some rice, and it's complete heaven. That's another thing about Thai culture that will probably be a running theme in this post -- everything's simple. The ingredients in the dishes are kept to the bare minimum, it seems. For most meals at the homestay, the foods were collected from the garden or freshly caught at the sea.

Couple of sidenotes:

-Because of this innate ability for a Thai person to cook up a fantastic meal with only a handful of ingredients, if a Thai were to ever be a contestant on Hell's Kitchen, I'd put it at 2:1 odds that he or she would win if they aren't required to know a handful of Eureopean dishes. Those challenges where the cooks have to make a meal by only using ingredients they find in a half-stocked fridge would be no contest.

-You eat with a spoon and fork by using the fork to help scoop food onto the spoon. Kinda takes a meal or two to get used to, but it's a highly efficient way of eating. Very easy to clean up your plate, because you can destroy every grain of rice with the spoon-dominated method.

-Mangosteen is quickly climbing my favorite fruits pyramid. It looks like something that Link from Zelda would eat. Purple ball with a cartoon-ish green leaves at the top. Open it and there's white flesh. Really good.

1b. Bua loy
My absolute favorite dessert. Sticky rice balls in coconut milk. I need to figure out this recipe. Ok, I need to stop thinking about this or else I'm going to pass out.

2.Having fantastic beaches everywhere
Not fair.

3. Being able to walk down the street and smile and talk with people
Try doing this in LA, and people will think you're crazy.

4. Not having to follow the LeBron James fiasco.
With limited internet access and no TV, I'm glad that I didn't have to be bombarded with LeBron James news or "The Decision."

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Critical Acclaim

Ban Talae Nok on TripAdvisor

Have you visited Ban Talae Nok village as part of an Andaman Discoveries tour? Andaman Discoveries and the villagers alike proudly announce that Ban Talae Nok is now on TripAdvisor, where three people have already given the picturesque village top ! We encourage you to visit the TripAdvisor site, read the reviews, and provide your own feedback. is a free travelguide and research website that assists customers in gathering travel information, posting opinions of travel related issues and engaging in interactive travel forums. TripAdvisor is an example of consumer generated media. The website services are free to users, who provide most of the content, and the website is supported by an advertising business model.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010


A Farewell to Charms – Goodbye Mimi and Jenny

Jenny, known as the Jeneral during her time in Kuraburi, spent over 5 months working with the AD team. Her spirit of adventure, hard work, and boundless enthusiasm were appreciated by all who crossed her path in Kuraburi. Jenny focused on program development and marketing, helping us reach new guests and communities. Her filed work included visits to Ban Talae Nok, piloting homestays in Ban Lion, and creating a new hiking route in Nai Tui. We hope to see her back soon, Kuraburi is missing her.

Mimi joined the Andaman Discoveries family in 2008 with a mission to take its success to the next level. Shortly after Mimi finished her Master's degree, she heard about our post-tsunami projects, and joined Andaman Discoveries to put her knowledge and skills to use. During more than 2 years in Kuraburi, Mimi was a pillar of the organization - she developed new village tours, oversaw financial planning, and steered the organization towards self-sufficiency. Love called, however, and Mimi left Andaman Discoveries to marry her sweetheart, Phillip. THANK YOU MIMI, for all of your dedication, support, and friendship.

Mimi’s academic background includes economics, finance and management studies. She has worked in the investment and pension industry for a number of years before calling it quits. Soon after, she volunteered in a turtle conservation program in Costa Rica, and then went on a solo three-month journey to Asia, including Thailand, of course! Her next adventure was back in her hometown in Toronto, Canada, where she headed back to the books to get a degree in Master in Environmental Studies, with a focus on community-based tourism. She spent two months conducting research in Northern Thailand.



Summer Study Program - Open Minds and Helping Hands

In July, Andrew and Janice joined our summer study program ,for a month of experiential education and hands-on volunteering. The conservation-themed program included organic gardening in Ban Talae Nok, planting mangrove trees, helping control riverbank erosion, and helping with seagrass and turtle conservation at Ban Lion. Andrew and Janice have now returned to the University of California at Los Angeles, where they are sharing the knowledge and experience gained during their time with Andaman Discoveries. Thanks to them both for their enthusiasm and excellent community service.

Janice's blog: " ... We had dinner inside. Then I “showered” by scooping water over myself from a large basin of water to freshen up before bed. This is a little tricky when you are not used to it and takes practice. One more activity was planned for the evening. Rai dressed
Andrew and I both in traditional Muslim attire. We learned that prayers are held five times a day, though not always at the mosque. We learned a greeting or way to say blessings upon you that uses words and hand motions. There is no alcohol in the village and no pork/pigs or dogs. However, there are a lot of caged birds, cats, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, cows, and buffalo..." read more on jrowland.blogspot

Andrew's blog : Part of my last week in
Thailand was spent at a Buddhist temple. It was an enjoyable, while also an intense experience...mostly because I helped make a roof structure to shelter a group of students who would be studying at the temple for the weekend. We were able to listen to the monks speak to us and the students, and they discussed the importance of community and love in the world. Using a powerpoint presentation (the monks are surprisingly adept with technology, each having his own laptop and a digital camera to take pictures which are later uploaded on their website), they also talked about not getting distracted in life. In an age with beauty products, rock concerts, and advertisements telling us how to think and live, it can be difficult to understand what is really important. We need to stay focused, pursuing the things that we ourselves know is meaningful. We shouldn't feel as though we have to follow the grain of others. This is our life and we must live it as we see fit. I also realized, though, that I could never be a Buddhist monk. For one thing, they can only eat twice a day and never after 12pm. In other words, they have a really early breakfast at around 5 and then lunch at 11. After that -- nothing. In other words, I would die... read more on

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Monday, August 23, 2010


Nutrition for Needy Children – School Lunch Project

The 90 students from the Burmese Learning Center in Kuraburi need at least one healthy meal per day. While a few get packed lunch, many eat sweets for breakfast and dry instant noodles for lunch.

The dedicated teachers at the center have requested our help in providing lunch for the children. Without a food budget, and barely able to cover teacher salary, the center needs our help to make sure the kids have a more healthy diet.

Please help - you can make a difference in the quality of life and general health of the children. Visit for details -- it’s only $50 per day to feed 90 children.

The Kuraburi area, and southern Thailand in general, is home to a large population of Burmese migrant workers. These hardworking people often come illegally in the hope of finding income and a better life. Their children mostly lack access to education and adequate nutrition. Unlike so many other areas, Burmese children living near the Kuraburi pier are able to take classes at a learning center (where I was recently volunteering!).

The lunch program will:
  • guarantee that children have one healthy nutritious meal a day
  • create community by bringing together teachers and volunteers to cook and then share a meal with the children
  • give the children an opportunity to learn roles and responsibilities during cooking, eating, and cleanup
  • alleviate the financial burden on already struggling parents

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Committed to the Cause

Nan reflects on one year of service

Hello there, my name is Nan and I have been working for Andaman Discoveries for just over one year now. I got the opportunity to come to Kuraburi after working for a large organization in Bangkok. I thought I would only be here for a few months, but after learning about Andaman Discoveries' work and spending time with the staff and villagers, I found the idea of leaving very difficult.

Working with the villagers feels good, and every day I am happy to come to work. Although I am Thai, I come from northern Thailand, and life here is very different. Every day I learn something new about my people, proving that Andaman Discoveries has something to offer everyone!

I am proud to work with Andaman Discoveries because our organization is helping many local people; our projects are important to keep traditions alive and our work gives them a sense of pride. Even though my work is in accounts, I am part of the team that makes a difference to the villagers and children. I have been lucky to work with a great variety of people and everyday brings something new. I meet people from all over the world and even though they are from different countries they all have the same vision of wanting to learn about Thai culture and the people and want to give something back.

Working for Andaman Discoveries has taught me that it is not all about ‘ourselves’ we can make a difference to others by just doing a little thing. Thank you for letting me be a part of the story.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Youth In Charge – Conservation in Action

The Youth Group from Ban Talae Nok continue to be models of sustainability. Pink, the group’s all-star leader, and her team are continuing the recycling program, and have begun making accessories such as pencil cases and wallet form reusable materials.

Recently, villagers have been concerned that outside investors might try to illegally reclaim the mangrove restoration area near the village. Pink organized an overnight camp to visit and survey the restored habitat. The survey found that new species are now establishing themselves without being planted, and that the replanted Nipa palm is already useful for villagers making thatched roofing from its leaves. The youth also interviewed village elders about the history of the area.

Pink’s report from the field:

  • Village beautification had limited participation last year, this year Pink will work with willing households to plant mango trees. Pink will also be convening a forum for discussing how to reduce litter in the village.
  • Kitchen garden is highly successful, and supplies food for youth and adult meetings. Recently, a number of men in the village helped out by building fences and making fertilizer.
  • The number of kids in the youth groups is increasing - even though some of the older youths leave for marriage or school
  • Youths recently dredged and removed garbage from fresh-water ponds near village

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Monday, August 16, 2010


Scholarships 2010

Recently, we met with each one of the 129 students in our scholarship program for a yearly check-in.

“The scholarship helps me achieve my dreams, because with an education, I will have a way to make them come true” said scholarship recipient Chanthip Sunsab of Tung Dap (pictured). Andaman Discoveries scholarships provide financial support for underprivileged children in the region like Chanthip, allowing them to complete high school. The scholarship helps offset expenses like school uniforms, transportation to school, extra books, and extra tuition for classes like computer studies.

If you’re interested in sponsoring the education of a student in the North Andaman region, please contact Andaman Discoveries to learn how you can become a donor, and read the full article for more details about scholarships and the recent round of interviews.

Because of the positive impact of this program, we hope to offer to up to ten more scholarships focused on conservation and sustainability this year. But we need your help in sponsoring more youth. “There is further need for new donors to support youth in our communities. Each year children start school with need for uniforms, transport and supplies to ensure their education is a success,” said Thamrong Chomphusri, Andaman Discoveries Director.

The price of making a tremendous difference in a youth’s life is about 6,000 baht (about $170) per student for a one-year scholarship (grade K -9). A one-year scholarship for one student in grades 10-12 is 15,000 baht (about $425). Donors of scholarships receive regular updates, including grade reports and details from the interview.
Students who receive scholarships come from a wide range of communities within the North Andaman region, including the twelve tsunami-affected villages Andaman Discoveries originally worked with. “The sponsorship helps me go to a further away school where the teachers have more time for the students. This helps my grades,” said Noparyj Sae-leab, a scholarship recipient.

A requirement of the scholarship program is that students must come for follow-up interviews and progress reports. Interviews are held annually with scholarship recipients to monitor their progress and discuss their goals for the upcoming year. Students also make a card with a message to their donor. Interviews include questions about their favorite subject, their goals for the next five years, and how they plan to achieve those goals.

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Famous Thai Food

Delicious Thai Cooking Class

Laura french intern came trough the European Volunteer Service program fund by the European Commission. In this program the volunteer get the chance to follow thai class in order to improve the host language and in that case thai speaking and also get more familiar with the culture. Laura decided with her teacher Chittri Petcharat to add a cooking class at the same time. Chittri commonly known as Tu is a great teacher but also an amazing chef, she used to own her own restaurant here in Kuraburi, Cucina Andaburi that if you were in Kuraburi few years ago you might had the chance to try her beautiful and colorful food. Every Tuesday we cooked and then we enjoy and share the meal all together with Andaman Discoveries team and friends from Kuraburi. See below an example of traditional dish from Southern Thailand :

KanoomJeen Saonam - Rice Noodle with Coconut Milk and Pineapple


1 kg rice noodle

1 head pineapple

¼ cup ground dried shrimps

½ cup thin slice ginger

7 small head garlic

¼ cup of chili

Soy sauce, lime , sugar


1.Peel the pineapple and remove eyes. Coarsely chop the pineapple

2.Peel the garlic and thin slice widthwise remove to the plate

3.Peel the ginger and thin slice lengthwise remove to the plate

4.Thin slice the chili and remove into the plate

5.Ground dried shrimp and remove into the bowl

6.Mixed soy sauce, lime and sugar in a bowl add some chili and garlic

7.Heat the coconut milk in a small pot, add some salt and stir for 5 minutes remove from the heat and let it cool

8.Served rice noodle with pineapple chopped, garlic, ginger, chili, ground dried shrimp, sauces and on top coconut milk.

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Monday, August 9, 2010


Homestay and Jungle

by Judith Schneider

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to go to Ban Talae Nok, a close by village with who Andaman Discoveries does Homestays. I was staying over night with a very friendly family and again felt sorry that my Thai is not yet good enough for any type of proper conversation.. But we still were able to communicate - no language was needed to see how much I enjoyed the food and their hospitality. Also, P'Tui, AD's director was never far away to translate, staying with Janice and Andrew, the volunteers who spent the whole week there.

We were quite busy making postcards from handmade recycling paper, planting palmtrees and mangroves and we even painted a sign for the women's soap group. At an intercultural evening with the local kids, they had a great laugh listening to my repeated thai rhymes before I thaught them to sing "Tirol isch lei oans" - a famous traditional song from Tyrol, Austria, where I come from - which also was quite funny! :)

Also, we had the chance to jump into the ocean at the beach nearby which was wonderful after getting all dirty in the muddy jungle where we got the mangroves and palm plants for reforestation.

What a great experience to get to know life in a small authentic village while helping the locals!

For the weekend, we went to the closeby Khao Sok National park in the jungle where we did rivertubing and relaxed in a beautiful resort surrounded by rainforest and its animals! Amazing. If you want to know more about my time in Kuraburi, working as an Intern in the office of Andaman Discoveries, check out my personal Blog:

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