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Archive for the ‘Chang Mai’ Category

So after my tour of Laos and Cambodia I headed back into the familiar Land of Smiles. It was nice to be in a country where I didn’t have to learn the language or customs as they were already old familiars to me.

The group split up a little due to various forms of travel. Matt and I took a very long bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. Actually I think it ended up being three buses? Four? Five? I lost count. But eventually we got to Khao San Road where we met up with Claudia and Calvin who had flown in from Phnom Penh.
There we also found Emily, Claudia’s friend from home who came to join us for a few weeks and we had one night in the big city before we said a tearful goodbye to the boys and the girls headed to Koh Pha Ngan for a week to join the infamous Full Moon Party. This is the same party I went to for my New Years Eve, so my time on Koh Pha Ngan was “same same, but different” (don’t ask, it’s a Thai phrase, I don’t know why they say it, but there you have it).

Our group became pretty huge after we met up with my friends from London, George, Sophie and Claudia, on top of meeting up with a couple – Graeme and Donna who we had briefly seen in Luang Prabang, and the five people they had also befriended on the island. On top of this Juliet had two friends from home meeting her, one of them brought a boyfriend and another friend in tow, AND Juliet’s friend from Chang Rai plus a friend joined us too so it was quite the crowd.

We spent a week in Koh Pha Ngan and it was pretty interesting watching the island go from relatively quiet to completely overrun by the time the full moon hit. Unlike New Years, this time we all managed to stay on the beach until the sun had risen which was quite a sight to see, although not all of us remember it…

I enjoyed beign on the island for longer and getting to know some people. I befriended a group of Thai guys who work at an art gallery there and who welcomed me into their studio to hang out, listen to guitar and have a few drinks each night when I was walking home from whatever bar we had been in. Koh Pha Ngan is a strange island and I’m not sure I could stay there for too long, but I’m happy I got to know it a bit better this time.

The next day was reserved for being as lazy as possible before Emily, Claudia and I said goodbye and made our way up to Chang Mai for Songkran from April 13th – 15th. Songkran is the Thai New Year celebration; it’s also celebrated in Cambodia and Laos I believe. It was essentially a three day long water fight on the streets. We reunited with Calvin who had been doing some volunteering work in the hilltribes outside of Chang Rai, and every day we went down to the streets armed with our super soakers ready for action. We parked ourselves near a backpacker corner of the city where the bars blasted music and people slowly drove down the streets in pick up trucks with enormous barrels of ICE water on the backs to soak unsuspecting pedestrians. The most fun was probably watching the Thai ladyboys strutting down the streets in their heels, hands in the air, getting drenched and loving it.

After three days of this we were exhausted. Emily, Claudia and I went to Pai, a village I visited in December (click here for the post) . My one day there was spent on rented motorbikes exploring around the various natural hotsprings and waterfalls. The village was significantly quieter than it had been in December, most likely because it was not a holiday weekend and it is summer now and Pai is a big tourist spot for Southern Thais to come in the winter so that they can feel the cold…I know, it’s strange, we don’t get it, but feeling cold is a novelty here. But it still had the feeling of a sleepy hippie town. After that I unfortunately had to leave to go to Myanmar…

The fun thing about visas is that they expire… A very long bus ride and a quick walk across the boarder and back again and I had a brand new visa, plus a new fun stamp on my passport, so everyone wins, especially the Burmese who are 500 Baht richer for every person like me. Rip off if you ask me….

After meeting the girls back in Chang Mai we headed down south for some more beachy goodness!

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I know these have been long awaited by some people and my internet finally wants to cooperate, so here it is. Photos from all these old stories I’ve been telling. I don’t blame you if you don’t have the energy to go through all of them at once, but here are all the links for those not on Facebook to peruse at your own pace. Enjoy.
The most recent album is from this last weekend. I went to Chang Mai and met up with the girls plus the lovely Sophie and Claudia from London! They are here in Thailand/Laos/Cambodia for the next few months and it was great to see some familiar faces for a couple of days. You can check out their blog about their travels here.

Sukhothai

Bangkok (way old)

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Yesterday Kelly and I were taken by Kru Rin and Kru Noy to the funeral of the King’s sister. It wasn’t her ACTUAL funeral, which was happening in Bangkok, but every temple had it’s own ceremony. The King’s sister actually died a year ago, but for the past year people have been going to pay their respects to her body, and so now she is getting put to rest. It was a pretty interesting ceremony, I was glad I got to see something like that. The monks chanted for the first half hour which was really cool and very calming, I loved it. Followed by a half hour sermon which of course I didn’t understand, before we laid our flowers and incense sticks on the memorial created outside.
Today Kelly and I went on a short road trip to do a little exploring. We drove to the next big town, called Pua, and then up a windy road that has beautiful scenery and eventually leads to the nearest National Park, but we didn’t make it quite that far today.
Here are a few more photos from Chang Mai and this weekend in Tha Wang Pha. I created a Facebook album with photos from Loy Kratong festival which a know a lot of people reading this can access. I will put a link to it on this blog for those without Facebook to connect to as soon as I can access the website again myself! For some reason Facebook does not work for me a lot of the time, so apologies.
The photos are in chronological order starting from the bottom.
One of the many huts dotted around all the fields for the farmers to sit in the shade to rest/eat lunch, etc.
Out on Kelly and I’s road trip. I have no idea what this sign said except that it has the number ‘100’ on it.
The beginning of the windy road we took on our mini road trip that does eventually lead to the nearest National Park, and then Laos.
About to go exploring with Kelly!
After the funeral
With Kru Rin (far left), Kelly and Kru Noy at the funeral for the King’s sister.
Devon’s welcome dinner at the restaurant on the hill (I’m sure it has some Thai name, but who knows)
Our school performing Peter Pan at the school competition. Wendy, in the pink dress, is one of my students!
Good times at karaoke at the restaurant on the hill.
Post fight victory with Julien!
Crazy Mauy Thai boxing
Before his fight. I knew he would win.
The fantastic ladyboys of Chang Mai
Inside the temple at Doy Suthep
Getting the white thread tied around my wrist
Before climbing up to the temple
The drive up Doy Suthep
Part of the market in Chang Mai

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Last Thursday involved another day of unsuccessfully trying to get a bike for me and Kelly, but it’s not interesting enough to talk about here, so let’s skip right on to when Kelly and I finally made it to Chang Mai!

Our short little trip included:
20 minutes riding in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck
6 hours on a bus
10 minutes on the back of a motorbike
6 hours on the sloooweeessrr traiinnn evvveerrr
= 12 1/2 hours of traveling
Maybe now you understand exactly how remote Tha Wang Pha actually is.
We arrived in Chang Mai unharmed but tired and ready to party with Lisa, Nate, Juliet and Jen.
This was the first time I had seen white people except Kelly and Shaleas since we left Bangkok. I kept pointing out all the ‘foreigners’ as if I’m not one myself, but it’s easy to forget around here.
It was also the first time I ate something that didn’t involve rice OR noodles!! The great thing about Chang Mai being a tourist city is all the international food that’s around. Like really really good pizza for instance.
On Saturday we went up to an amazing temple on a mountain called Doy Suthep. You walk up a huge big set of stairs to get to the top, and it is totally worth the work out. I highly recommend it. We got white threads tied around our wrists by a holy man (not actually a monk because monks aren’t allowed to touch women; the monk was tying the men’s strings). The string symbolizes good health and long life.
That night we got to see Muay Thai boxing! It was amazing. There was one European (French) fighting among all the Thai boxers, so I met him before his fight, which he then won in an awesome knockout. We ended up celebrating with him and his friends (who all teach English at the university in Chang Mai) for the rest of the night, first at a pretty cool bar/club frequented by both Thais and farangs (Westerners) called Warm Up, and then the Van Bar, which is literally a van, like an old VW bus, that is a bar in the middle of a car park. At Warm Up I also managed to find a guy from Glasgow (my entire family is from Glasgow for those who don’t realise). So Glaswegians are literally everywhere, as usual.
Monday = the real world, and a reminder of why I’m actually here
So for the last four days I’ve been teaching at Thawangphapittayakhom school (it’s a lot easier to say than it looks at first).
In Thai culture, children are more or less allowed to do what they want with little to no discipline, which apparently also applies to school. So the first day was really overwhelming because the kids just talk and laugh and mess around in class, but after four days I have adjusted. I have first years (12/13 year olds) and fourth years (15/16 year olds). As long as you have fun with them, and get them to learn while they’re messing around, it works. As a result we play a whole lot of games, but hey if they’re screaming and laughing in English then I’ve done something right.
This is also the first time a lot of them have ever seen a white person, and definitely the first white teacher they’ve ever had, so we get a lot of attention. I am the whitest out of me, Shaleas and Kelly and I also have the lightest colour hair, so a lot of the students seem to talk about me and whistle at me a lot more. When we walk down the halls, a lot of the students yell “teacher, you are beautiful!’ at us. I’ve even been specifically requested to go visit the sixth years next week (who Kelly teaches) because they’ve asked to see me by name. At lunch my fan club of first years often come and just stands outside the English department door and stare at me. Yesterday they asked for my autograph.
The levels of English are totally different. I have first years who can speak better than some of my fourth years, and some fourth years who seem to know more vocabulary than me. One of my best students just came to see me in the office to practice his speech for the school competition on Saturday. It’s a 10 minutes speech about the environment, which is one of four he has memorized. It makes lesson planning pretty tough, but it’s all a process.
and finally……..<>…
WE HAVE MOTORBIKES! We FINALLY managed to get a hold of a couple of bikes, plus another teacher who lives in our apartment block said we can use his old one when we need it.
And yes – we have also FINALLY MOVED! So we are in our “apartments” which are just one room each with a bathroom but they’re pretty nice, it’s all brand new furniture, sheets, microwave, electric kettle, plates/bowls/cutlery and everything. They clearly went to a big effort to get us what they could so it’s really nice. I think me and the girls are just happy to finally be able to actually unpack our bags!!!
That’s the news from the last week. I’ll be sure to let you know how the school competition goes on Saturday (we are judges by the way).
I miss you all terribly! GO OBAMA!!!!
Thai lesson #4:
Motorbike = motorsi
At least some words are easy….

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