After a long half term at school, our boarders had earned a well-deserved break. Our Year 11 students could not relax completely, however, and had to revise for their IGCSE Mathematics exams. They continued working hard in the first few days of the holiday and we wish them the best of luck in their exams.

Most of our boarders signed out with their families for the half term break but ten students remained and staff arranged a five day trip to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to give them a change of scenery from city life.

Chiang Mai offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences that we hoped would give a good insight into Thai culture for our international students. After an afternoon flight and a relaxing evening spent in a local restaurant, we spent our first full day in Chiang Mai exploring Bhubing Palace and the famous Doi Suthep temple. The scenery up in the mountains was breathtaking, as was the climb up the temple steps! Everyone made it though, and despite the big crowds, there were still plenty of opportunities for scenic photos and the all important selfies. In the afternoon, we visited Sankhampeng, a local town famous for traditional umbrella making. We got a chance to see how these are skilfully made and beautifully decorated.

The next day was more relaxed, and students enjoyed the opportunity to explore the old town, inside the ancient city walls. They visited several temples and coffee shops, and were challenged to photograph as many temples as they could. Staff made the most of the opportunity to relax with a Thai massage from former female prisoners as part of a rehabilitation programme.

On the third day, we had an early start when we were picked up to be taken to Elephant Nature Park. This is a fantastic charity that rescues and cares for some of Thailand’s elephants. Elephant rides are prohibited, as the training process is extremely cruel, and mahouts are instead trained to build relationships with their elephants without using a metal hook. It was fantastic to see these rescued elephants in a more natural and peaceful environment after a heartbreaking start to their lives. We got the chance to feed the elephants, walk the park to meet and learn about their different stories, and to wash the elephants in the river – which was a real highlight of the trip. Despite a tiring day, our students were keen to visit the weekend night bazaar in the evening and put their bartering skills to the test as they shopped in the many market stalls.

We started our last day in Chiang Mai with a boat trip along the Ping River with a fruit and juice stop at a traditional Thai farmhouse. We stopped for lunch at a riverside restaurant, before heading back into town for foot massages – well deserved after all those days of walking! After collecting our bags we then made our way to the train station for the last leg of our journey – the sleeper train back to Bangkok. This was a new experience for all involved, sleeping overnight in little bunk beds as we travelled back to Bangkok. Everyone managed to get some sleep, although I think extra Sunday naps were required once we got back to the boarding house in preparation for school on Monday!

By Mr. Gavin Terry, Head of Boys’ Boarding