We know how life changing our holidays can be for those who travel on them and that our amazing Tour Leaders are a big part of making that happen so we were really pleased to be able to turn the tables and give one of our Tour Leaders - Pok - a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the UK.
From the hills of Thailand to a visit to the UK
Pok's life growing up in Thailand was a far cry from the hectic cities he visited while on his recent visit to the UK. A member of the Shan tribe, Pok grew up in a remote village in Northern Thailand. The village is typical of the Thai hills - surrounded by rice paddies and made up of traditional stilt houses. The village is so remote that people rarely get the chance to leave it to see the rest of Thailand - only about 10 villagers have been to Bangkok! Pok's first encounter with foreigners was when he was about 5 or 6 years old. His parents told him that if he was naughty, they would eat him!
At the age of 12, Pok entered a Buddhist temple as a novice and was exposed to the English language. He studied meditation, Buddhist philosophy and English for 5 years before leaving at the age of 16, when he met the staff from Singha Travel (our Thai agent), who encouraged him to work for a hotel. He did this for 2 years before becoming a tour guide and eventually working his way up to an Explore tour leader with Singha – which he has now been doing for 16 years.
Pok’s greatest dream is to be considered an ambassador for his country, and especially loves to share stories and show people around his village and the temple where he started learning English all those years ago (including the odd impromptu meditation session!).
After winning the Shirley Meacock Award this year, we decided to help him fulfil a lifelong dream of his – to travel abroad to England! While here, the roles were reversed, as one of our best tour leaders became the customer as Explore office staff took it in turns to show Pok the sights. He visited London, Bath and Oxford as well as the Explore office and the homes of several of our staff!
Pok's visit to the UK gave him a whole new understanding of what it's like to be the customer - getting up early when feeling jetlagged, trying to get to grips with very different currecy to the one you're used to, being shocked by the change in weather and being full of questions about the places you're visitng and the people you're seeing! So, if you travel with Pok as your Tour Leader you can be sure he'll be better than ever and have greater empathy for how you're feeling!
Now back in Thailand and on the road again, Pok says "I feel woken up from the best dream in my life. I promise to work with Explore forever and if one day I feel I've had enough I will go back to be a farmer!"