Elephants in Mae Wang District – Close Up Experiences

Provincial travel to Chiang Mai Elephant Friends

Trip Planning

Thailand experienced a recurrence of COVID-19 in April meaning restrictions returned, most notably a ban on eating in restaurants and cafes. This occurred during the time my girlfriend and I planned to travel to Mae Wang to hopefully encounter Elephants. Several days before we checked that the resort we wanted to stay at were accepting guests, and thankfully they were. Further, we researched certain activities we could undertake in the circumstances. For instance we were able to have Breakfast and Dinner on the premises which was a welcome comfort. Above all, we felt grateful that we could still travel given most of the COVID cases were in Chiang Mai city.

A splendid Cafe stop in the mountainous Mae Wang District.

Journeying by Scooter and Experiences with Elephants

Travelling from the city to Chiang Mai Elephant Friends, a distance of 50km, took us 1 hour 15 minutes. The journey to Mae Wang municipality was simple yet subsequently the road becomes steeper and twisty, eventually reaching Doi Inthanon. Nevertheless, this stretch of highway leading to our resort, approximately 15km, offered fabulous mountain scenery. Before checking in we continued past the resort, where the road became steeper still, to a Cafe deep in the forest. While there were restrictions, here we could still sit and have our coffee given the far-flung location. Additionally, there were Elephants meandering around the vicinity, a fabulous sight and we interacted with them by feeding bananas.

Welcomed by several elephants on arrival.

Chiang Mai Elephant Friends – Sightings of Elephants

The setting of Chiang Mai Elephant Friends was certainly fantastic and we could already see elephants as we parked. One of the staff ushered us to follow him on our scooter, driving through rough tracks of the main elephant camp. The track continued further into forest as far as the bungalow-style lodging and accommodation facilities. Our room was one of the most elevated, adjacent to the restaurant, with views over the other bungalows. During the afternoon we walked to see the elephants and then the river below, before cooling off in the plunge pool. Our dinner included Pad Thai and Yam Khai Dao, two of many delicious options available. We had our food served to the room which felt more convenient and relaxing. Breakfasts comprised a range of options from Rice Porridge to Eggs and Sausages, Fried Rice and Fresh Fruit.

Standing at the door of our room with the pool between us and the restaurant.

Brief Excursions and Meals

On our first morning we drove into Mae Wang to explore the market and buy lunch, Kanom Jeeb and Salapao. En route back, we found a Cafe amongst Mango trees and ordered iced drinks to replenish in the midday heat. I felt that the route reminded me of the Samoeng Loop because of the expansive forest around us. After we finished some work, our dinner comprised of the flavoursome Steamed (Nile) Tilapia Fish with Lime. Likewise, on our third day we scooted to Mae Wang, visited a local temple and enjoyed iced coffees. Our lunch comprised of Sticky Rice with Grilled Pork Skewers and Khao Gan Chin, both firm street-food favourites of mine. After another short walk and a swim our dinner consisted of Pork Panang Curry and Chicken and Rice with Oyster Sauce.

Breakfast with far reaching views over the mountains.

Activities not-related to Elephants

The river was a serene spot and just a few minutes walk down from our room.

Early on the first morning we ran the track leading out of the resort and along the main road. Subsequently, we explored the river further, paddling across the rocks prior to a downpour which was pleasantly cooling. Originally, we considered hiring a raft but the weather on the day wasn’t favourable with a storm incoming. When the rain again fell before dusk the views of the clouds circling over the mountains were spectacular. Another activity involved my girlfriend filming the ride from the guest lodgings across a wooden-beamed bridge and to the main road. This was particularly thrilling as there were sharp turns and the bridge was of considerable height with water below. Check the video out on the Jeffo Blogs Instagram Highlights (jeffo_blogs90).

Some of the other bungalows set beside lusciously green forest. Tea plants can be seen on the slopes.

Journey back to CM

We slowly made our way back to Chiang Mai as, compared with other recent trips, the distance was short. Our morning Cafe stop was at The Rectangle Coffee x Tower, a scenic spot and interesting building to enjoy Iced Coffee. In addition, you could climb up to the second and third floors to experience the 360 degree mountain views. On the whole the trip was fantastic, highlights include waking up to Elephants (almost) and the general location of the resort. Since returning to Chiang Mai in 2021, I’ve been fortunate to accomplish several provincial trips without too much disruption.

Views of Doi Suthep-Pui from the the Rectangle Coffee x Tower. There was also an Ice Cream shop as seen above.

Floating houses in the mountainous Mae Ngad Dam

Foreword

A floating house in the Mae Ngad Dam.

A trip to Mae Ngad was my first outside of Chiang Mai since returning from the U.K. in early 2021. Mae Ngad Dam is located in the depths of the Srilanna National Park, approximately 50km north of Chiang Mai. My girlfriend and I invited friends to accompany us to one of the floating houses on the Dam. We met up at a petrol station close to Highway 107, setting off at 7.30am to avoid the hottest sun. The route is straightforward; take Highway 107 out of the city and then join the 3008 for the final few kilometres. Our total journey time was around an hour as the Highway is a direct route to Chiang Dao.

One of the viewing platforms at the Dam.

Breakfast and Hiking at Srilanna National Park

Arriving at Srilanna National Park, we purchased boat tickets, about 100 baht per person, to one of the floating houses on the Dam. The company we used was called Eakachai Houseboat which offer various packages. Several of us then consumed a delicious pork noodle soup at a restaurant close to the National Park entrance. The noodles were served with bean sprouts, dumplings, green vegetables and spices, as is traditional. Our morning activity involved a short hike into the National Park where the Dam first came into view. Moreover, the hike comprised several tracks into the mountains which provided spectacular views of the dense forest. We followed a trail for about 2km before heading back to the entrance ready for our boat trip.

Walking into the Srilanna National Park.

Boat trip to the Floating Houses

Boarding the boat to the floating house.

We took a Songthaew, included in the ticket, from the National Park entrance to the waterfront. From here we boarded the boat which can carry up to 8 passengers. The views from the open water were engrossing, another reminder to myself of just how mountainous northern Thailand is. Touching down at the floating house we headed to the restaurant area to take a table to sit. We ordered light refreshments like papaya salad, crisps and nuts before readying ourselves to swim. The floating house had well maintained changing and shower facilities that we could use.

Our friend diving into the water in the vicinity.

Water Activities at the Floating Houses

There were slides, diving boards, floats and general equipment to keep us amused in the water around the floating house. In addition, the backdrop offered superb views of the encircling mountains. On the day the weather was especially hot so most of us participated in swimming. Myself and others tested out two of the slides, balanced on floats and entertained ourselves with the equipment. We were provided life jackets, a relief as I rarely venture into water deeper than where I can stand. After about an hour of enjoying the water, we returned to the restaurant for an exquisite lunch.

Some of the apparatus at the floating house.

Lunch and return to the National Park

The menu at the floating houses was extensive with many of my favourite Thai meals. As there were 8 of us we ordered a selection of dishes to share. These included grilled chicken, fried rice with pork, shrimp tom yum, papaya salad, grilled pork and whole fish. After lunch we witnessed final views on the Dam as we completed the return boat trip. The scenery we observed throughout the trip was both fascinating and sublime. Consequently, Mae Ngad is a pleasurable option for a short day trip out of Chiang Mai. Yet, if you prefer to spend time exploring further, you can book a floating house for an overnight stay.

So much of the landscape in northern Thailand is mountainous.

Remote Working with PalFish and Cambly – a comparison

‘ESL free talk teaching’

Foreword

A wealth of companies have entered the online ESL industry recently, yet many of these offer similar models. Specifically, they expect teachers to follow set schedules which reduces the flexibility of working hours. PalFish and Cambly are unlike other platforms, enabling teachers to arrange their own remote working schedules. Further, both provide an opportunity to form friendships and learn about specific cultures whilst earning up to $20 per-hour. The majority of classes don’t involve preparation, therefore the platforms are more conducive to a healthy work life balance.

General Variations to the Remote Working platforms

PalFish enables teachers to apply their own pay rate (for free talk) and simply teach from their smartphone. Free talk conversations don’t need to be pre booked, teachers just switch their status to online. Consequently, calls can occur whenever the teacher and potential student prefer. You are encouraged to be flexible in opening up time periods and signing in to increase bookings. Read more on remote working in PalFish Free Talk – A specific type of English Teaching. Additionally, you can become an Official Kids Course (OKC) teacher so you agree to a greater level of timetabling. However, the course material is provided for you so there is little planning involved.

Cambly is used by English learners globally with prominence given to casual conversation and flexibility. Because Cambly is primarily used by adults, the ability to have more meaningful discussions is tempting for prospective teachers. You can log-in whenever you want meaning you manage your hours and schedule based on teacher demand (excepting reservations, see below). Additionally, for those who prefer to teach children, there is the Cambly Kids platform which is much like the PalFish OKC. Note that a requirement for Cambly is the use of a laptop as teaching takes place on the Desktop version.

👨‍💻 Work from the comfort of home by applying to PalFish and Cambly. Once hired you can send others your referral links and earn a commission (see ‘Pay’ section below). 👨‍💻

Ideas and questions for discussion topics

There are many enjoyable subjects you can talk about, dependent on student ability. These could range from small talk to grammar practice and homework assistance to preparing English Qualification Tests. Though the latter may involve some research for basic knowledge on the testing format. Moreover, some students prepare a discussion topic yet others want casual conversation, so being adaptable is important. Certainly, maintaining conversation is fundamental for free talk and in order to stimulate students you could use the following:

  • What would you like to practice today?
  • Why do you want to practice speaking English?
  • Where and when do you speak English?
  • Chat about travel, food, sport, study and hobbies. For example, tell me about your favourite meal. Describe the ingredients, how you prepare it and how it tastes.
  • Discuss education, employment, family, likes and dislikes. For example, talk to me about your family. Can you describe each person specifically?
  • Talk about your favourite movie, book, TV show. Who are the characters? Why is it your favourite?
  • Describe your typical day: what do you do in the morning, afternoon and evening? Talk to me about the activities you enjoy doing at the weekend.
  • Other questions such as: what do you want to achieve this year?

To conclude the class you could offer the student positive, constructive feedback on their learning and words of encouragement. Being attentive and building rapport will likely inspire a student to continue studying with you. Another way of doing this is sending the student a private message after the class. PalFish require you to do this whereas on Cambly it is optional.

Applicant Requirements

Applications on Cambly are straightforward as the only preconditions are being a native English speaker and having a stable internet connection. Because of the casual nature, qualifications aren’t as important in comparison to other online teaching platforms. PalFish have clear requirements – you must be a native English speaker, have a smartphone or tablet and a stable internet connection. Unlike Cambly, you must have a teaching certification like TEFL, TESOL or CELTA. The certification is mandatory for the Official Kids Course program but not for PalFish free talk.

Recruitment Process

Cambly has an easy registration process which only takes several days:

  • Make an account on the Desktop version of Cambly and complete some personal details.
  • Pass an internet connection test.
  • Make an introduction video and check the website for verification of your account.

PalFish free talk teachers undergo a very similar registration process to Cambly:

  • Make an account on the PalFish app, filling out some basic details.
  • Film a 30-second introduction video.
  • Submit your application and standby for verification (usually a few days).

For PalFish Official Kids Course you must complete a mock class along with the above before being accepted.

Pay

Cambly is an attractive option for its flexibility and remote working format, however, the pay rate is $10.20 per-hour which is less than PalFish. Though Cambly do offer payment assurances for booked priority hours even if the student cancels. Also, teachers will earn $20 if they refer someone that goes onto teach 10 priority hours. PalFish provide OKC teachers an approximate pay rate of $16 per-hour but some teachers generate up to $20 per hour. Further, there are bonuses for attendance and signing up students and teachers whilst free talk teachers choose their own rate. PalFish advise you start with a low rate before increasing it once you are more experienced and acquire students.

Remote Working – How do I arrange calls and classes?

Cambly classes are dependent on the time of day you sign-in so awareness of time zones is important. Cambly is popular in the Middle East and South America, therefore the quantity of calls is usually greater in these regions. The majority of new teachers obtain calls around half the time whilst online, however, the more you teach, the more this increases. Other ways to obtain classes are registering for Priority Hours and Reservations, whereby you make yourself available for advance bookings. Additionally, proposing a time for a regular student boosts your chances of teaching hours. Reservations are ideal for teachers wanting a degree of commitment and more of a fixed schedule.

PalFish provide a range of options for teachers scheduling classes:

  • Free Talk classes – select your own timetable and rate of pay.
  • OKC classes – teachers teach individual students regularly, opening time slots (minimum of 7 per week) for trial classes in the beginning. This is a good approach for attracting regular bookings.
  • Seminars – teachers teach between 1 and 6 children in each class and select the rate for each.
  • Live shows – webinar classes employed for marketing and engaging with prospective students.

Cancellation Policy

On Cambly there are no fines for absenteeism as teachers log-in and talk with no formal agreement set. However, should a teacher miss priority hours or reservations, they can be temporarily blocked from further bookings. On PalFish the cancellation procedure differs from OKC teacher to free talk teacher. Free talk teachers select their availability so cancellations are not relevant, yet OKC cancellations are treated with greater seriousness. Classes for these teachers are often arranged 6 months in advance and missing more than 6 might result in contract termination. Note, should a student miss a class booked in advance then the teacher would still receive full payment.

Conclusion to Remote Working roles

Cambly and Palfish are comparable on a range of factors and are very accommodating for remote working. In regards schedules, both are flexible but when comparing Cambly with the PalFish OKC teacher role, the former edges it. However, with salaries PalFish is more lucrative, if you’re an OKC teacher or obtain regular students if only hired for free talk. Relative to the industry, both companies have low barriers to entry, in particular Cambly. If you just work as a PalFish free talk teacher then the entry requirements are on par with Cambly. Yet, most PalFish teachers will choose both OKC and free talk roles due to the low starting rate on free talk. Above all, remote working and having the option of teaching style and were the key reasons I joined both platforms.

PalFish Free Talk – A specific type of English Teaching

Converse with a range of ESL students

I first started using PalFish Free Talk in late 2019 and to date it has been rewarding. Certainly I’ve found free talk teaching an enjoyable way to converse and interact with students. Additionally, you’re able to teach students of wider ages than the PalFish Official Kids Course (OKC) role. In addition to the student developing their English, free talk is often a learning experience for yourself.

What do you talk about?

You might choose to prepare material, yet usually I let the student decide which the direction of the conversation. This approach is beneficial, because you display adaptability and improvisation whilst helping students feel comfortable. Further, by focusing on relatable subjects, the conversations are likely to be more productive for the student. For instance, culture, travel, food, sport, university study and personal interests are subjects I frequently discuss. Additionally, I have had students request assistance with English tests like IELTS and TOEFL. Prior knowledge of these qualifications is useful in helping the student prepare, of which I continue to gain understanding. PalFish also allows teachers to design their own lessons for students to buy.

Assessment of Students on PalFish Free Talk

Though calls are ‘loose’ in structure compared with OKC classes, you could incorporate teacher led elements like appraisals. For instance, assessing pronunciation, conversational skills, vocabulary and intonation are good indicators of a student’s English level. Furthermore, you should write a brief review after the ‘class’ so the student has some feedback. I like to send a short message accompanying a review as this provides opportunity for scheduling a follow up call. Many students like to leave you a review, I’ve been lucky to receive some pleasing ones (below).

Examples of reviews and comments I’ve sent and received respectively.

Call format and Scheduling

An advantage of the free talk format is being able to choose audio or video call. I recommend treating each call individually as the preference of the student will differ. I relish the variety, for instance, using video call for visual displays or audio for referring to prompts. The appointment system is flexible and enables teachers to accept calls when they desire. Yet, students could schedule a class with you in advance (private message) or just call you spontaneously. Above all, ensure you display your availability so students know when they can call you. You can do this by toggling the ‘start tutoring’ and ‘stop tutoring’ button to the right of your profile picture.

Your Home Screen on PalFish – here my profile is offline as the ‘start tutoring’ button hasn’t been activated.

PalFish Pay Rates and Class Length Suggestions

As a free talk teacher you can select a per minute price (RMB) as your ‘standard rate’ and ‘trial rate’. To do this click on ‘Me’ at the bottom right of your home screen and then ‘Set your rate’.

Simply click on either rate and adjust it as highlighted in the next screenshots.

PalFish advises you set a low starting rate as I mentioned in my DaDa and PalFish comparison. Once you become proficient and develop a following, consider raising your standard rate. In addition, marketing yourself gives an opportunity to obtain more classes and earn more money. Certainly, making a good impression increases the chance of the student undertaking further classes with you.  

How long are PalFish free talk conversations?

Ultimately, call length is determined by the student as they essentially have an ‘e-wallet’ containing payment credits. My longest free talk has been 90 minutes but many students prefer a shorter time which is understandable. From the screenshot of my reviews you can see the call duration on the right hand side. Generally these average around 30 minutes, an optimal time to cover discussion. If you have free time, you could commit to a longer conversation and thus earn extra income. To reiterate, free talk is flexible so you can decide on appropriate class length to suit you both.

Resort Trips – stays in Chiang Dao and Mae Rim Districts

Excursions in Chiang Mai Province

1. Chiang Dao

Once Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed in May 2020, my girlfriend and I scooted north to Chiang Dao for two nights. The scoot from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao (approximately 70km) took about two hours to our destination, the Azalea Village resort. Before checking in, we examined the Villa De View Cafe close to the Chiang Dao National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. This was a fabulous spot with views of Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand’s third highest mountain, and coffee plants.

The wonderful Nakara Cafe which had unrivalled mountain panoramas and cabins to relax.

Azalea Village Resort

Breakfast comprised of Pork Congee and a Vietnamese Breakfast amongst other items.

From the location to the employees, there was a welcoming and peaceful ambience at Azalea Village. Further, the proximity of the mountains, particularly the imposing Doi Chiang Dao, contributed to a fantastic sunset. We enjoyed the facilities such as the swimming pool and massage spa, and again the settings of these were fantastic. Due to social distancing necessities, breakfast was brought to the decking of our cottage style room. The cottages were built in teak and had air conditioning, much needed in one of Thailand’s hottest months.

Places of Interest, Chiang Dao

On arrival to Azalea Village, the rain started falling quite heavily so we relaxed in the reception area. Once the rain ceased we accomplished general fitness and zumba workouts on the grassy area before having a swim. Further, our friends were staying at the resort and joined us in using the grass for yoga and meditation. Later, we had noodles at a vendor on the Chiang Dao highway and drinks with our friends back at the resort. At night we could see stars and interestingly the “Dao” in Chiang Dao means star, therefore “city of stars”.

On our second day we travelled to the Suan Bua agricultural project where we saw coffee and other crops growing. Afterwards we lunched and took Iced Coffees at the scenic Nakara Cafe of which the backdrop was Doi Chiang Dao. In addition there were further mountains that we could see on the horizon which added to the spectacle. In the evening we sampled Pad Thai in the resort restaurant, one of only two tables dining. The final morning we left Chiang Dao and stopped at Akha Ama Living Factory, our second visit here.

2. Mae Rim District

In the previous August, my girlfriend and I had a one night stay in Mae Rim, just north of Chiang Mai. The resort is on the north eastern section of the Samoeng Loop and encompassed by dense, green scenery. Therefore, Cooldowns is ideal for sites of interest like Mae Sa Waterfalls, Queen Sirikit Botanic Gardens and Maesa Elephant Camp. We visited ‘Between Cafe’ prior to checking in where we witnessed Pomelos growing in the natural surrounds. Likewise the cafe was a lovely place for Iced coffee, photo opportunities and absorbing the fantastic views.

Approaching the entrance and the reception area at Cooldowns Resort.

Cooldowns Resort

The majority of the rooms had stunning mountain views contributing to the serene feel of the resort. Certainly, we experienced the scale of the mountains from our room and much of the architecture was created from natural materials. Furthermore, the resort felt quite personalised due to there not being a vast amount of rooms. We took advantage of some of the amenities such as the outdoor swimming pool, the cafe-bar and the spa.

Resort Rooms

Our room had views over the pool, and the mountains were visible through openings in the trees.

The interior of our room was chic yet minimalist and key features comprised a queen bed, a bath and a wet room. I particularly liked the open-plan layout and we were fortunate to acquire the room at a competitive price through Hotels.com. When booking, I recommend using Google Maps as you can locate properties and then compare rates from a list of sites.

Places of Interest, Mae Rim

My girlfriend enjoying a cocktail poolside.

Our first activity was a swim before I tried out the Thai massage for an hour while my girlfriend sunbathed. As we were starting early the next morning, we decided to have a quick meal of Mama noodles from the 7-Eleven. The experience was super relaxing in an idyllic location so I wouldn’t hesitate to book Cooldowns again.