Oh, A Hiking We Will Go…

The other weekend was another traveling weekend for me. This time we- Marie, Laura, and I- ventured to the boonies of Thailand- ironically named the Phetchabun (Phetch-ah-BOON) Province- to hike and camp. Phetchabun is located smack-dab in the middle of Thailand; a no-man’s land that happens to have incredible mountain scenery and epic temples.

Since this trip was planned on a 3-day weekend, I was excited to peace out of school on Thursday and prepare for an early departure Friday morning. So of course, a Higher-Up Power somewhere beyond decided to test my enthusiasm for this trip and have me scratch my eye with my contact lens.

Friday morning: I wake up to my face soaked wet from my teary eye, which is purple, swollen, and will barely open. Niiicccceeee. Snap decision time! Either 1) travel with half my eye sight or 2) be an adult, go to the doctors to prevent infection, and rest. Tick, tock. Tick, tock!

Navigating blindly into the wild it is!

Saturday was a bit of a blur (pun intended) as there’s quite a bit of transportation required to get to the middle of nowhere. Which was fine by me as I could barely see out my eyes at this point.

To explain to those who have never scratched their eye badly- your eye becomes SUPER sensitive to light. Like, eye instinctively rolling backwards to prevent light from coming in. Fortunately, our traveling day was cloudy and we were in bus with tinted windows for the majority of it. Unfortunately, this was still too much light for me, so I had to keep my eye shut while donning a pair of sunglasses and keeping my hand glued over my eye. Nice look.

Eventually, we arrived at our destination for the night: The Namnao National Park.

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We checked in, were given our tent (the friendly park ranger took one look at my face and went “Oi!”- guess my eye was still looking ugly), and ventured out to find an area to set up camp.

It was at this point I recalled that- oh wait- I’ve never set up an actual tent before. Quite possibly doing so for the first time in the pitch black with only our phone lights to guide us might pose a challenge…

However, that Higher-Up Power from before finally decided to catch us a break. As we randomly held up tent poles, a neighboring camper walked on over. “You need help?” Ummmm, yes please! Immediately, 2 of his buddies came over to help. Meanwhile, another group of Thai neighbors poked their heads out of their tent to see if we needed help too.

God bless Thai people! We now had 5 men with legit flashlights tied to their heads (might as well have been halos) helping us set up camp. And when I say “help,” I mean they did the whole thing while we stood off to the side and tried talking to the women who were also there.

Wishing I had something to thank them with, I said Cop-coon-ka (thank you!) over and over again. To this, they simply replied “mai pen rai” (No worries!). We were safe and sound in our tent 5 minutes before a downpour began.

Thai people are the best.

The next morning, we intended to get up super early to hike up the mountain and watch the sunrise. The snooze button maaaayyyyy have been hit a few times, but hey, it ended up being a cloudy morning, so no harm done! Eventually we got up and started hiking up the highway. And here is where my second realization hit me: I am not in shape for hiking. And did I feel the burn on those inclines… Still, the end result was totally worth it:

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Really wish photos could capture the beauty of the mountains…

It was one of those moments where I realized how lucky I was to be in Thailand. On top of a mountain. Bright and early on a Saturday morning. I was sad to leave because I knew I would probably never be back.

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Afterwards, we set out to continue our hike and find a cave that was supposedly “nearby.” And of course, to be on the lookout for crossing elephants!

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No luck with the elephants, but we did spot this dangerous fella crossing

After hiking for way too long though, we hitch-hiked a ride from another Thai angel, who let us hop in the back of his truck. After dropping us off, we continued to hike to the cave spot.

Only, we never did find it… turns out we were hiking in the wrong direction. Oops. On the bright side, a 10-mile hike before 10:30am is an awesome way to start the day!

Thankfully, we were able to catch a ride back to our campground from some more nice Thai people. On the way back, they took a detour to show us some sights and what do you know! We were back at the Sunrise Viewpoint. And here I thought I would never see that place again. As we admired the view for a second time, one of the guys we were with ripped off a leaf from a tree and started eating it. He then generously offered some to us.

“Is this okay to eat?” We tried asking him.

“A-roi!” (delicious!) He said as he pointed to a sign written in Thai.

Well, that certainly cleared things up. Still, when someone offers you food in Thailand, you eat the food. Even if it’s a leaf. And what do you know, the leaf tasted exactly how I expected a leaf to taste. I’m still not sure if the guy was being sincere, or just messing with us…

So after eating a leaf, we did some more bus traveling to reach Phetchabun’s famous temples. These temples were at the top of a mountain and surrounded by cute cafés that jutted outwards.

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A café with delicious food and an incredible view. Win-win

The view itself was AMAZING!

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Mountains for miles around and puffy clouds to complete the pictures:

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By far, my favorite temple in Thailand

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Pardon my feet…

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Afterwards, it was time to leave the boonies and head back to civilization. Back in Bangkok, we stayed in a hostel where I got to really look at my eye for the first time. Turns out that I had popped several blood vessels and now had a blood red eye that resembled Natalie Portman’s eyes from The Black Swan.

No worries though. My eye is slowly turning back to normal. I’ve gotten many “Oi-s!” from my students (Thai people say “Oi!,” not “Whoa!”), which is actually kind of funny.

Overall, I give Phetchabun a 5 out of 5. There was a lot of bus travel, I was sore from hiking, and I might have struggled to see at some points, but it was well worth a 3-day weekend trip!

A Touch of White Magic

Before I moved to Thailand, I began messaging with the other girls that I would be living close to in Chonburi City. We talked about flights, luggage, dress codes and-of course- trip ideas! It was then that my friend Marie first mentioned getting Sak Yant tattoos.

A Sak Yant is a sacred tattoo, concocted of secret ink ingredients, that is given and blessed by a monk. The tattoo design itself and where on your body it is placed is also determined by the monk. Each tattoo offers the wearer certain protections and energies, as well as a set of rules to live by. Since the magic of a Sak Yant decreases overtime, the tattooed person can return to the temple to re-empower it and get another Sak Yant.

I was intrigued. The setup for Sak Yant tattoos felt perfect to me; since I could never decide on what to get a tattoo of and where to put it, having someone else- a monk no less- place it seemed like a cool (and admittedly easy) alternative.

You can get a Sak Yant tattoo from various places throughout Thailand. The most well-known and traditional place, however, is at the Buddhist temple, Wat Bang Phra. This temple is located an hour west of Bangkok in the Nakhon Pathom province. Perfect for a weekend trip!

On Friday evening, Marie, Laura, and I cut through Bangkok and took a bus to Nakhorn Pathom. We stayed in a little hut at The Hidden House, a place about 20 minutes from Wat Bang Phra; we wanted to get to the temple bright and early Saturday morning as the tattooing is a first-come-first-serve process.

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Our time at our hut was a little side attraction itself though. We ended up staying in a “Raft Room” that had us floating on top of a river! On Saturday morning, we woke up just before the sun and were treated to a gorgeous sunrise.

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We talked to the owners of the Hidden House for a while, who told us that a lot of travelers stayed in their rooms for the sole purpose of getting Sak Yant tattoos. They also gave us more information on Sak Yants:

Sak Yant tattoos are a type of white magic. Monk Luang Po Pern became the master of Sak Yant tattoos at Wat Bang Phra after leaving for a time to become a hermit and meditate in jungles, graveyards, and ruins. Due to spending years in the jungle, Luang Po Pern developed a connection to jungle animals. And so, Sak Yant tattoos at the Wat Bang Phra temple are believed to contain spirit animals.

Sweet.

Unfortunately, Luang Po Pern passed away in 2004. Still, monks at the temple continue to carry out his work.

Traditionally, Sak Yant tattoos are engraved in the skin with a sharp bamboo rod. However, some monks at the temple now use regular tattoo guns. It just depends which monk is on tattoo duty the day you go.

Surprisingly, I did not feel nervous as we took a Tuk Tuk ride to Wat Bang Phra. We arrived about 30 minutes before the tattooing was to begin and purchased our 75 baht-worth of required donations for the monks (a pack of cigarettes, incense, flowers and 20 baht). The final cost ended up being $2.97. That’s right, people. My first tattoo ended up costing me less than $3.

Then, we entered the tattooing room, where my nerves finally set in. There were about 15 Thai people already in the room. Some of them looked at us curiously as we set down our donations and took our seats on the floor towards the back of the room. And then we waited in dead silence as more and more people entered the room and took their seats. Well after the starting time, the monk finally entered the room and took his seat in front of us.

As if following a script (that foreigners are clearly not given) everyone got to their knees and started bowing to the monk. I think the guy sitting behind me took pity on me because he tapped my shoulder and silently gestured for me to kneel a certain way and hold out my hands. I clumsily followed along.

Without a word, the first person in line approached the monk. He bowed 3 times and turned his back to the monk. Two men who were also in line held his skin tight and the monk began to tattoo.

The monk that day was using a tattoo gun. As much as I had wanted the most authentic experience, I was kind of relieved that I was not going to be repeatedly stabbed by bamboo. I wasn’t sure not how much my nerves could take at this point.

As I watched each person go, I began to feel really out of place (and that’s saying something as I feel out of place on a regular basis in Thailand). Here I was, in a sacred temple in the middle of nowhere. Marie, Laura, and I were the only non-Thai people in the room. Most of the people getting tattoos were older males, many who already had multiple Sak Yant tattoos on their bodies. And then there was me…

And suddenly, it was our turn in line. Marie bravely went first and made the whole thing look like child’s play. And then it was my turn.

My thoughts at the time: How am I supposed to approach this monk without pointing my feet towards him? (In Thailand, you’re not supposed to point your feet towards a monk) Am I going to get in trouble for having my shoulder exposed in a temple? How many times did I just bow again? Wow, there’s a lot of people looking at me right now. This definitely makes the Top 5 on my Craziest Things I’ve Ever Done list…

The whole process took about 5 minutes: 2 guys held my skin tight (monks can’t touch female skin) and I wrapped my arms around the provided pillow. So did getting the tattoo hurt? I guess. I don’t have past tattoo experiences to compare it to. I think I had too much adrenaline going to notice any pain. Plus, it’s not cool to cry in front of 40-some people staring at you hardcore.

Marie and I both received the Hah Taew (Five Lines) Sak Yant. According to “Sak Yant Chiang Mai” (http://www.sakyantchiangmai.com/sak-yant-designs-and-meanings/), the Hah Taew…

“represents 5 yants or magical spells. Each one will be done individually and the following magical spells have been cast to do as described below.

  1. The first row prevents unjust punishment and leans in your favor when the area is grey, cleans out unwanted spirits and protects the place you live in.
  2. The second row reverses and protects against bad horoscope constellations and bad fortune.
  3. The third row protects you from the use of black magic and anyone who tries to put a curse on you.
  4. The fourth row energizes your good luck, success and fortune in your future ambitions and life style.
  5. The fifth row is to gain charisma and attraction to the opposite sex. It also is a boost to the fourth row.”

Before leaving Wat Bang Phra, we explored the rest of the temple grounds and stumbled upon Lauang Po Pern’s body, which has been preserved in a glass coffin. Just a tad creepy.

So there you have it. I was touched by white magic and have a bizarre story behind my very first tattoo. All for $2.97…

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When Life Gives You Dried Rice…

Last weekend, Thai people celebrated Asarnha Bucha Day and the start of the Buddhist Lent. This holiday marks the day when Buddha delivered his first sermon in India over 2,500 years ago. A lot of Thai men also enter monkshood on this day and stay in a temple, typically for the next 3 months.

For me, this meant a 4-day weekend and chance to travel to Chiang Mai, the second largest and popular city in Thailand (Bangkok being #1). I was to take a van into Bangkok on Friday, and then catch an 8:20pm overnight bus to Chiang Mai. Once in Chiang Mai, I was going to meet up with some friends and take care of elephants at an elephant sanctuary. However, things did not go exactly according to plan.

First off, Bangkok traffic is the worst. Even though I left straight from school on Friday at 4, we hit heavy traffic. Panicking that Lucy and I would not make it to the overnight bus and be stuck in Bangkok, we jumped on a motorbike to weave through traffic and make it to the bus terminal in time. Unfortunately, our driver weaved a little too intensely, making some very sharp turns and getting too close to other cars. After finally making it to the bus station, I realized that my purse had slipped off during the 20-minute ride. Goodbye wallet, phone, camera, and apartment keys.

Thus began my decent into the stages of grief. Yes, grief. Because as much as I hate to admit it, I am attached to my phone in Thailand. Not because of social media, but because I use it as a survival tool; GoogleMaps and GoogleTranslate are lifesavers here. Being without places you in a very vulnerable position. Let’s just say it was not my finest moment. To top it off, I had to make the quick decision of whether to return home (which I had no clue on how to do at this point) or continue to Chiang Mai without a phone and wallet. Figuring that it’s better to be around other people (and elephants) then to mope by myself for 4 days, we found the overnight bus and I spent a fair amount of time on it making mental lists of what to do and face palming myself on everything from my lack of street smarts to my inability to now complete my hole-punch card for a free coffee.

Thankfully, I have amazing and incredibly caring friends who made sure I did not mope for the weekend and let me borrow their phones to make necessary phone calls. We hit up several of the night markets, which is THE way to go when wanting to get the most for your baht (buck) in Thailand.

Chiang Mai was not at all what I expected it to be. Instead of a city full of high buildings, it resembled more of a hipster resort town full of cute craft shops, dried fruit stores, cafés, and restaurants. The air was fresh and not filled with the exhaust fumes I’m so used to in Bangkok and Chonburi City. If I’m to extend my stay in Thailand, I am definitely transferring to a school in Chiang Mai.

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Fellow songthaew companions

On Sunday, we went to the all-day elephant sanctuary to complete one of the top things on my Thailand Backlist: taking care of elephants. The day started out by taking an hour-long songthaew ride into the mountains. The road was really winding and bumpy with sharp turns (I started having flashbacks to the motorcycle incident), but the people on our songthaew made the ride awesome.

It’s hard to explain, but one of the coolest things about traveling is meeting fellow travelers. You meet people from different countries who have different dialects, traveling plans, experiences, and customs. Yet, you can bond instantly with these people because they are foreigners too and you all made life choices that resulted in being in the same space for a period of time. In my case, being in a crowded songthaew to go see elephants. Call that my second “profound thought” on this blog.

After an hour of trading traveling stories, we arrived at our destination. Photos with captions are better than paragraphs for the following. Shout out to my amazing friends who spared some of their elephant time to take pictures for me!

 

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The workers at the sanctuary had us line up and hold out a banana as a way to greet the elephants. They told us to trick the elephants and hide the rest of the bananas behind our backs.  This trick failed within 2 seconds as the elephants probably have this “trick” played on them multiple times a day.

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Not to mention, their trunks are like super arms.

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Elephant love.

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Elephants eat a LOT of food. This meant that we had to make several hikes up a steep hill to carry corn stalks to them.

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Our coordinator taught us how to make medicine balls for elephants. Ingredients: Lemons, bananas, water, cooked rice, and dried rice- all mashed together. “You see the dried rice and cooked rice,” said our coordinator. “Same, same… but different. We must mix in dried rice to make medicine for elephants.” Moral of the day: when life gives you dried rice, make medicine balls.

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After many feedings, we had to bathe the elephants.

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It was so cute! The elephants LOVED playing in the water and rolling around in the mud and under the waterfall.

To put it simply, my day at the elephant sanctuary was amazing. It turned the dried rice I was given in Bangkok to scrumptious medicine balls (see what I did there? 😉 )

For Monday, we impulsively planned an excursion up Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. For the first time since being in Thailand, I FELT COLD! We were up in the clouds, so we had this swirling, chilling mist around us the whole time. I thought about hot chocolate, something I completely forgot existed at this point.

More photos ensued (another shout out to my friends):

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Feet on the ground, but heads in the clouds

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Visiting the Queen’s monument in the mountains.

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Chasing waterfalls

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As we descended down the mountain, we visited the rural village of Karin. There were cute puppies that came running up to us and licked our faces. Although there’s stray dogs everywhere in Thailand, I have been told countless times not to touch them. I couldn’t resist with these pups.

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Karin farming fields

The next day, my friends had to catch an early flight home, so I had the day to myself in Chiang Mai. Without any means to know where I was going, I wandered around, got a Thai massage, and went to a restaurant where I ordered an extravagant mango and multi-colored sticky rice and an avocado shake (just gotta keep making those medicine balls…). It was nice to be living in the moment.

Returning home to Chonburi went surprisingly smooth. Well, almost. Remember those apartment keys I lost? But that’s a different story… The following day, my super nice landlord, Tip, once again turned my day around 180 by taking me out to buy a new phone. All is well.

 

A Very Thai 4th of July

Before I relay my 4th of July weekend adventures, I feel the need to rewind to the other weekend, which was filled with absolute cuteness. I headed back to Khao Sam Muk (AKA- “Monkey Mountain”) with my friend, Marie, to get up and personal with some wild monkeys. Last time, I drove up the mountain and stayed in the car. This time, we hiked by foot.

After a good 45-minute walk filled with “I think we are going in the right direction?!” we ended up on a deserted road and saw this guy just chilling on the railing:

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By the way, this is not a zoomed-in picture. I literally got this close. Not going to lie, a part of me was terrified that this monkey would go wild and attack me (the though Annnddd this is how I die kept going through my head). But this monkey, and the many, many more we came to see, were actually super calm and polite (you don’t bite the hand that feeds you).

When we finally made it to the top of the mountain, Marie and I bought bananas to feed the monkeys, resulting in these Hallmark pics:

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Totally worth the 8 miles of walking and sunburn. Seeing a monkey at a zoo will never be good enough now.

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Such a surreal experience! I felt like I was in an amusement attraction with mechanical monkeys because surely wild monkeys wouldn’t let you get within an arm span away?!?

So, to this past weekend. I think one of the hardest things about living in Thailand is seeing social media and all the stuff my family and friends are up to back home. Holidays are extra tough, especially because many of the U.S holidays are not celebrated here (yup, I’m sitting at my school desk as you all are posting away). Knowing that this past weekend would be full of 4th of July BBQ pictures, I wanted to travel and distract myself from stuff going on back home.

Friday night, Marie, Lucy and I went back to Pattaya to meet up with some other English teachers and see some sights. Despite my determination to mimic a 4th of July weekend, my food choices that weekend ended up being anything but; we ate Mexican (which ended up being mediocre), Indian (the food was just as I remembered it when I was in India!), and had an English breakfast (getting warmer…). I think my stomach is becoming culturally confused with all of the different cuisines…

Anyway, after settling in to our tiny hotel, we ventured to Pattaya’s Walking Street, which is known for its crazy night life. In one of the buildings we passed, I noticed large tanks filled with tiny fish. For 50 baht ($1.50), you could put your feet in a tank and have the fish eat the dead skin off for 20 minutes. As this was something on my “Thailand Bucket List,” Marie and I raced in and grabbed two seats for the ultimate pedicure.

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So what did it feel like? Like my feet were being tickled to death. It was a struggle to keep my feet inside the tank, and even more so to keep myself from laughing the whole time. Eventually, we got used to the tickling sensation (the key is to not think about the fish attached to your feet) and people-watched the other clients getting their pedicures. One Thai man came in and immediately started laughing the second his feet hit the water. I think he got super embarrassed that he was giggling next to two foreign girls because he left after 2 minutes in the tank. Poor dude, I hope he got a partial refund…

The next day, we spent the morning at Pattaya beach, met up with our fellow traveling companions, and then headed to Pattaya’s Tiger Park. At first, I was a little hesitant to go because some tiger parks in Thailand drug their tigers for the sake of entertainment. However, this tiger park checked out because they treat their animals humanly; the tigers are not drugged or chained, and their teeth and claws have not been removed.

 

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I got the chance to go inside a room and play with some baby tigers. Unfortunately, baby tigers sleep a lot, so it was nap time when we went. By the end of my visit though, my little tiger had woken up and was playing around in the room. So cute!

342641552_IMG_0652Afterwards, we headed over to Pattaya’s famous floating market, where all the stores are built over water and some vendors sell food right out of their boats. I got some good deals on clothes and by some miracle, was not bitten by any mosquitos.

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That night, we returned to Walking Street for some more night life fun, which included watching street performers do some AMAZING dance moves.

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Girls’ night out on Walking Street

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The following day, we decided to take a ferry to Koh Lan Island to spend a day in the sun. This was my first encounter with clear waters and white sand beaches. I didn’t want to leave.

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I mean, would you want to leave?

But, leave I grudging did because the next day was back to school! On Tuesday (July 4th), some of the girls I’m with and I decided to go to the local beach after school and celebrate the holiday as best we could.

Unfortunately, the weather was not agreeing with us and we had to push back our “celebration” to the following day. That’s “Thai time” for you! Instead, Jessica and I celebrated by getting pad see ew:

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4th of July dinner, Part 1

No worries though, the next day we were able to get to the beach and chow down some “American” grub.

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You can take the girl out of the country, but not the country pride out of the girl

Okay, so it was not 100% the hamburger I imagined. But hey, fried egg tastes good paired with beef and mustard. Guess my stomach will continue to be culturally confused…

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4th of July dinner, Part 2 (before I realized I had gotten the Thai version of the American hamburger)

A Bit Of Everything (Minus A Sea Turtle)

Since I’ve been slacking with this blog a bit, let me rewind to catch you up on the big events of the last few weeks.

1. Wai Kru Day

This is pretty much the Thai version of Teacher Appreciation Day held in the United States. Except teachers are highly respected here, so the whole affair is a lot more extensive and extravagant. In Thai, to “wai” someone means to bring your hands together as if in prayer and bow. There’s different types of wai (pronounced as “why”) you do, depending on who you’re talking to. So, wai is a way of showing respect. The word “Kru” means teacher. There you have it: “Respecting Teacher Day.”

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Now, some schools have students “respect their teacher” by giving everyone 1-2 days off from school. Personally, that sounds like the best Teacher Appreciation Day(s) ever. My school, however, holds a ceremony instead. Hey- beggars can’t be choosers. Plus, it was a pretty nice ceremony. Granted, the whole thing was in Thai, but I got the general picture.

After the ceremony, the really cool part of Wai Kru happened. We headed back to our classroom and my Thai teacher brought out three chairs: one for her, one for me, and one for the student teacher.

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Warning: Children are crazier than they appear

Suddenly, all of our kids whisked out flowers and candles that they had brought from home. In groups of three, our students came forward and dropped their gifts into our laps and “wai-ed” into our open palms. At first, I felt a little uncomfortable with having my students bow down to me. But, when in Thailand… Plus, this is an experience that I don’t think will happen too often (read: never) back in American public schools. Might as well enjoy the experience as it lasts. And indeed, 5 minutes after our classroom ceremony, my kids were back to being the little monsters I know and love.

 

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Later that day, my fellow CIEE participant and I got another surprise: school was going to be let out early the next day due to the vital need to spray our school down in mosquito repellent. I’d never been so happy about a herd of mosquitos! Leaving school early on a Friday really makes a difference when it comes to traveling in Thailand; leave early and you can beat the Bangkok traffic, catch a bus/train/plane, and arrive at your weekend destination hours ahead of schedule.

Perhaps slightly overreacting to a 2-hour early dismissal, I made the impulsive decision to leave town for the weekend and head northeast to visit my friends from orientation. Which brings me to my second big event…

2. Roi Et

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Visiting Temple #1- Wat Burapha. Home to the tallest standing Buddha in the giving blessing posture in Thailand

That weekend, my friends were visiting the city of Roi Et. The direct translation of “roi et” is “101.” Supposedly, the city was once guarded by 11 city gates, which was documented as “10-plus-1.” Someone must have misread the ancient writing at some point though, so the city became known as “101.”

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Temple visit #2

So far, my motto in Thailand when it comes to traveling has been “live in the moment and hope for the best.” There’s no such thing as Point A to Point B in Thailand. It’s Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D etc. ect. And don’t you dare think about Point C when you’re still trying to get to Point B. Why? Because that’s how you end up having a mini-mental breakdown. There’s too many independent variables to make any traveling go the way you want it to.

So let’s see, to get from Chonburi City to Roi Et, I took on several means of transportation: motorcycle –> van –> BTS Skytrain –> cutting through a park in the pouring rain –> tuk tuk –> overnight bus –> tuk tuk. About 16 hours after leaving Point A, I finally made it to Point F! But, hey, I am not complaining in the slightest because my weekend in Roi Et ended up being so worth it!

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Temple visit #3. Really trying to mimic these statues for some reason…

I’ve found that the more rural a place you go to in Thailand, the more generous and sweet the people are. Don’t get me wrong, about 99% of Thai people are generous and

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Reliving childhood.

sweet. But in the more out-there areas, Thai people go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable and happy. So after breakfast Saturday morning, the owner of our mini-hotel called in a taxi driver to drive us anywhere we wanted to go all day for 500 baht. Between 4 people, that’s roughly $3.90 per person. Awesome! Our morning was spent shoving GoogleMaps in our taxi driver’s face and asking him to take us to multiple temples (plus a pond to ride swan boats).

Poor guy must have been thinking that he should have charged a higher flat rate. But instead, he was super nice and laughed at all of our requests. After dropping us off at our first temple, he disappeared and returned with a nicer car to drive us around in. Later, he even took us far out of town to visit Temple #4. We must have either bored or exhausted him though because we came out to find that he

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New friends!

was sound asleep in the car waiting for us. Oops. Still, he drove us back to town, took us to a place to eat, and actually came in with us to eat and make sure we got the food we wanted. “Call me and I will drive you to the airport tomorrow!” Taxi driver of the year right there.

After a day of temple roaming, we went out to a night market by the water, where I was able to buy a dress for 30 baht (less than $1) and pig out on crab, fruit and coconut water. Sweet bliss.

Unfortunately, my time in Roi Et went by too fast and much of my Sunday was dedicated to traveling back home. This time, I went from taxi –> airplane –> shuttle bus –> BTS Skytrain –> van –> motorcycle. Only Point A to Point E this time!

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Temple #4. By far my favorite temple. Be on the look out for bee nests though!

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Fellow temple explorers

3. Snorkeling

The following weekend, a few girls and I went to Pattaya. To put it nicely, Pattaya is the “wild child”/ Los Vegas city of Thailand. There’s a lot you can do there, including… all-day snorkeling where “you would be really unlucky to NOT spot a sea turtle.” Since Pattaya is a coastal city, we were able to head out into the Gulf of Thailand on our boat (cleverly named “Nauti-Girl”) and island hop!

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Fellow snorkelers

On our boat with us, we had some Thai people (obviously), Chinese people, Germans, and Russians (hmmm, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke…). It was really interesting to see how each group of people would talk amongst themselves in their native language. Yet, all instructions were given in English. I then saw the Chinese tourists and Russians talk to each using English. It just seemed really odd. I never thought of English as this second language used to connect people from different backgrounds. It made me realize how much I take for granted my ability to speak English; these people and my students are all learning English as a second language in order to communicate and make it in the business world. Meanwhile, until now, I’ve lived in this bubble where there was no vital need to learn a second language. Call this my profound thought of the day.

Anyway, back to snorkeling… As with Bang Saen, these islands are not the ones featured in Thailand beach ads. Still, they were gorgeous to sail by and go on. Unfortunately, there was a lot of green algae in the water, making cool underwater pictures impossible. However, it was my first time snorkeling and I was satisfied with swimming in warm water and looking at the coral and fish.

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Well, almost completely satisfied. Turns out we are really UNlucky as there were not sea turtles to be found.

However, I did get a second chance to look for turtles this week. Which brings me to…

4. The Khao Open Zoo

This week, my students and I had our first field trip of the year to a local zoo!

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My little nuggets

At first I was a little weary of this trip. For one, 44 students are hard to maintain in a classroom, let alone out in the open at a zoo. I was secretly hoping that the zoo would provide us with those leashes you can attach to kids. Secondly, I had to wear my “sports day” clothing for this trip, which means I was decked out in all black with a collared shirt and sweat pants. The perfect ensemble for a high-90 degree day at the zoo!

But, it actually wasn’t that bad. The majority of my kids were on their best behavior (I think my Thai teacher might have threatened to take away the elephants in Thai) and we were actually in shade for the majority of the day. More pictures below!

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The animals rights person in me knows that riding elephants is wrong. The kid in me took the picture

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Not all penguins live in cold climates. Mind blown.

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Parrot schooling us in math

So, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip at the zoo. Probably more than my kids. Hmmm, I’m apparently unlucky though because I still have yet to see a sea turtle…

To Hell and Back

I’m becoming  more adjusted to life in Thailand. The stares no longer bother me, I’ve started to master the travel system, and I can now do laundry like a pro. The hot and muggy weather is a different story. Honestly, I don’t think the human body is capable of tolerating the heat here.

To help make myself feel more at home, I’ve invested in an electric cooking pot. With super cheap veggies nearby, I’ve been making many stir-fry’s with seafood and chicken. I was able to purchase a whole head of cabbage, cauliflower, 4 eggs, jicama, 3 onions, a bundle of baby bok choy, 2 tomatoes and 1 lb of squid- all for 150 baht ($4.29). And believe it or not, it costs more for me to buy all of these ingredients than to just eat out (about $1 per meal). A foodie’s dream.

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I’m a bird!

I’ve also taken up yoga, as some of you might have seen via Facebook. Sorry about filling your news feeds with pictures by the way. Thai people LOVE taking pictures, so I keep getting tagged. My favorite fitness class I’ve taken so far has been hammock yoga, which I had never even heard of before coming to Thailand. Hammock yoga requires you to lay, stand, or hang upside down from two sets of thick cloths. It’s seriously an hour’s worth of playtime for adults. And a total arm workout; nothing like being terrified of breaking your neck to force you to work those muscles.

 

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Just hanging until someone realizes I’m stuck 🙂

So yoga and cooking are two things I like doing during the week nights to unwind from school. On weekends, I’ve been venturing out more to get a break from city life. The other weekend, I went on my first solo trip to Wang Saen Suk.

Warning: slightly graphic pictures to follow as Wang Saen Suk is actually an outdoor Hell Garden full of statues depicting the Buddhist version of Hell. Being so close by to me, it was a place I felt that I had to go to. Plus, I was kind of fascinated to see what the Thai version of Dante’s Inferno was like.

Getting to the place was easier than I thought it would be. I took a songthaew to the neighboring town and then meekly approached a motorcycle driver to show him a picture of where I wanted to go. My real-life Virgil then zipped me across town (sometimes driving on the wrong side of the road and sidewalks) and down a lonely road to the front of a small temple. Unfortunately, my Virgil did not stay with me, so I had no clue how to leave the Hell Garden when I was finished… ahh well. That’s Thailand for you.

So the front of Wang Saen Suk looks like your average temple in the beginning. Lots of pictures of smiling people, monks, and holy figures. They even have vendors selling small toys and food.

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But as you follow the winding road, you’re greeted with this lovely sight towering over you: Two HUGE statues of a male and female stuck in Hell.

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Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

The Hell Garden is supposed to be used as an instructional tool. In fact, many Thais take their children here to show them why it’s so important to live an honest and good life. Do good and you go to heaven. Deviate and you’re going to be tortured for who knows how long. It’s a scared straight kind of thing.

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I now understand why my students are so hard to discipline. I mean, after seeing this kind of stuff, missing out on playtime is no biggie.

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According to the stone signs throughout the garden, people who enter Hell are transformed into animals based on the crimes they have committed.

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Guess I’m going to Hell as a rabbit for all the times I’ve been jealous of people with motorcycles around here…

I also thought it was funny that there’s a specific animal and torture for the sick people out there who steals someone’s rice. Never come between a Thai person and their rice…

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I take back what I said. I’m no longer a bird.

I’m not posting the real graphic pictures though. Go to Google if interested.

On the bright side, everyone is able to leave the Buddhist Hell. Towards the end of the garden, we see a statue of some unfortunates being rescued by a smiling monk.

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Good times are around the corner. Indeed, I had the option to feed the ducks and turtles as I ascended out of Hell and back into the world of the living.

Unfortunately for me, no “Virgil” was waiting in the world of the living to take me away from Wang Saen Suk. So, a bit of hitch-hiking up an empty road was required before I could truly leave Hell.

Once I finally found and hailed down a motorcycle, I was in need of some coconut water and a beach view.

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Heaven at last!

Next up- my recent trip to Roi Et!

 

Teachaaaa!

It’s official. My new name is “Teachaaaa!” as that’s all my 88 kindergarteners will call me. Seeing as I cannot pronounce 95% of my students’ names, I’ll let them slide.

I have officially been teaching at my school for two weeks now. And it has been a very confusing, crazy, and exhausting two weeks.

Before arriving in Thailand, I had been under the impression that Thai students were very disciplined, reserved, and studious. Oh, how misguided I was.

It’s hard to describe Thai students. They are not bad as in aggressive or outwardly rude. As I learned during orientation, the best way to describe them is “naughty.” For instance, the boys will pinch and play wrestle ALL DAY LONG. For the most part, the Thai teachers allow this to occur, as long as it does not happen during their instruction. Having taught at American schools though, I’m used to enforcing the “hands to yourself” rule. And so, upon seeing one student pin another student down in a headlock, my immediate reaction is to say “no” and separate the two.

Fun fact: Thai students don’t listen to foreign teachers because they know we won’t hit them. Every time I have tried to stop a wrestling match from breaking out, I get the kids to stop for 2 seconds- just enough time for them to smile sweetly at me- before they are back at it again. How about physically separating them? Nope, they will go back at it the second you let go of their hands. Positive reinforcement? Blank stares. Frustrating.

And before you say, “maybe it’s just the age…” Nope. I’ve heard countless reports from other foreign teachers, who tell me that their middle and high school students have been dancing, playing paper soccer, and just blatantly ignoring them in class.

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Nap time! Don’t be fooled by the angelic faces though…

But let’s go back to the first day of school when I thought my students were these quiet little angels. All day, they listened to my co-Thai teacher and responded to all of her questions and commands. Me- with my little ability to speak Thai- smiled a lot.

My turn to teach: blank stares all around. Even “Hello!” was greeted by silence. So I said ‘Hello!” again nice and loud and gestured at the students. Maybe three students said hello back. The Thai teacher steps in and says something in Thai and all of a sudden I have 44 little voices chirping “hello” at me. Oh dear, what work there was to be done.

So, for the first few days of school, I was under the impression that my students knew no English. Since my co-teacher and the classroom assistant can’t speak English, I had nobody to help translate what I was trying to teach.

By the end of the week though, miracles began to happen. I started getting “Goooood morning, Teachaaa!” at the start of the day. And during nap, a student approached me and said, “Excuse me Teacha Dee-onna, may I use the toilet, please?” Hello, where had this child been all week?? And she even attempted to say my name!

Later during prep, one of my students got sent to my room. All of a sudden, said student climbed on my seat and said, “Teacha Dee-onna, I will be the teacha now.” He then proceeded to jump around the classroom, pointing to different objects and saying their names and colors. I think my jaw dropped.

Curiously, I began asking him simple questions and found that he could understand them all. These kids had me fooled all week! Apparently they do know English and had just been giving me the silent treatment because I am a new “farang.”

Participation and preventing wrestling matches are still a struggle though. I’ve found that my students demonstrate their English best outside of my lessons, when I’m talking with them one-on-one or in small groups. For instance, my lesson on teaching my students to shake hands and say, “nice to meet you” seemed like a flop; they would not shake hands unless if I physically put their hands together. And you can forget about them actually repeating the words. Later that day though, I had students randomly say, “nice tooooo meeeeeet youuuuu” to me. By the end of the week, my students wanted to shake my hand every possible second. Success!

Every day has been getting slightly easier though. I’m starting to fall into a routine and am picking up on the Thai education system. I have a few “teacher pets” in the class who now help prompt their classmates into responding to me. I have a favorite student (sorry, but all teachers have them, despite what they say) who hugs me all day, recites English, and pays attention to what I say- no matter how many boys try to engage him in a wrestling match. He’s constantly my student helper.

My best weapons though are the dollar-store stickers I brought from home. Whip those out, and all of a sudden I have a room of attentive kids who cling to and repeat my every word. Reciting the classroom rules every day, although boring, has also been a huge help.

And although it’s a daily struggle and I still cannot pronounce their names, I already love my Thai kids. As I said before, there’s a steep learning curve in Thailand. I’m still at the bottom, but I’m making baby steps.

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Thai kids looooove selfies. I use it as part of my reward system

Switching topics, after a hectic first week, two CIEE participants and myself decided to go outside of Chonburi City and explore Bang Saen, a beach town nearby. We went to this one restaurant where they had a live Thai band playing. So far, I’ve been impressed with modern Thai music. Although I couldn’t understand what the vocalist was singing about, the music was awesome and I loved each song. I think Thai music will be my new background music.

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Can totally see myself becoming a band groupie

To get back home, we rode on the back of a taxi motorcycle. Scary because I felt as if I would slide off the back and I literally had to keep my feet up the whole time to prevent them from hitting the street. It was so worth it though because we were able to weave through traffic and for once I had cool air hitting my face.

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Even got the motorcycle driver to smile

We also finally got to go to Bang Saen beach and watched a BEAUTIFUL sunset. Now, this beach is not the quintessential beach Thailand is known for- no white sand and blue water. In fact, I was very much reminded of the beaches back in New Jersey. Oh, well. The water was warm and a beach is a beach, so I’ll take it! Home sweet home!

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Beautiful sunsets help solve life problems

Peanut Butter and Monkeys

There’s a veerrrrryyyy steep learning curve when it comes to living in Thailand. Then again, I’m sure you experience that in any new place you go to. Still, learning to travel the Thai way, dealing with bugs, using a new currency, and adjusting to a hot climate has all been trial and error. Heck, even figuring out the laundry situation has been a struggle. Plus, standing out like a sore thumb and not speaking the language has made me feel like everybody is sitting back, eating popcorn and laughing at me. Maybe not popcorn though. More like rice.

Seriously though. There has been much staring and giggling over rice.

But as they say in Thailand, mai pen rai! Meaning: No worries. Everything will be okay! The Thai version of Hakuna Matata.

So last weekend, Jessica (a fellow CIEE participant) and I decided to venture downtown to the Central Plaza Mall- which is apparently the place “to go” in our little city. After much preparation, we rode on a songthaew (an open-back pickup truck used as a shared taxi) and made it to the mall without any issues.

The mall was HUGE- 4 floors and way nicer than the mall close to me back home (sorry, Deptford Mall). The best part? They had a grocery store in the basement of the mall! Finally, some Western normalcy! And I FOUND PEANUT BUTTER! Everyone who knows me well knows I’m obsessed with peanut butter. When asked about what I would miss most while in Thailand, I always said peanut butter. But there stood a jar of it on a dusty shelf. My first splurge in Thailand.

Feeling mightily proud of myself, we went to take a songthaew back home only to realize- how the heck do we make sure the songthaew goes in the right direction? Well, the simple answer is, you don’t. You’re supposed to press a buzzer when the songthaew gets to a main road close to where you live. Being newbies though, we didn’t know that songthaews don’t drop you off right by your building. Once we finally realized that we had missed our stop, we were a good distance away from home. The 30-minute hike home in the rain was fantastic. Still, I counted the day as a win since I got my peanut butter.

The next day was orientation at my school. I found out that I would be teaching English to a class of 44 kindergarteners + another kindergarten class of 40 once a week. My room has a Thai teacher and a teacher’s assistant. Neither of them speaks English. When I’m not being the main teacher, I’m expected to assist the Thai teacher. More on that whole situation later!

Orientation itself involved me sitting with the English department and dividing up lesson plans for the coming weeks. I am the only native English speaker on my team. Everyone else is Filipino and speaks English as their second language. Needless to say, communication between the Thai teachers, Filipino teachers, and myself can be very difficult and confusing.

By the end of the day, I was very stressed. Which wasn’t helped by the fact that Jessica and I had to report to immigration with our landlord, a sweet Thai woman named Tip. There, the officers tried telling us that I was not in Thailand legally. As I was silently freaking out, Tip remained calm, smiled, made some phone calls and zipped in and out of the office to gather some documents for me. An hour and a half later, it turned out there was some miscommunication- everything was okay (mai pen rai!)- except my mental well-being.

“You look very tired, Deanna,” Tip told me cheerfully. Which I’m pretty sure was her way of saying that I looked like a ball of stress. And God bless this woman. She could have kicked us out of her car as fast as possible as we had taken up 3 hours of her day. Instead, she tried to make us feel better by stopping the car on the way home and buying us refreshing coconut juice and a ka-gnome (Thai dessert).  She then made a detour to take us to Bangsaen Beach. The whole area was beautiful and the fresh air was very much needed after being stuck in the city.

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I’m psyched that I only live 20 minutes away!

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Afterwards, Tip took us through this backroad that I now refer to as “Monkey Mountain,” because there were monkeys EVERYWHERE! At one point, Tip had to stop driving because there were too many of them chilling in the street. Monkeys are not cute little things by the way. They are mischievous and impulsive. They like stealing food from people, which I saw when a monkey approached one man and stole a bunch of bananas from his backpack. (To be fair, eating a banana in front of a monkey may not be the best of ideas).

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They also like jumping on top of cars, which scared me half to death when one pounced at my car window and then climbed onto the top of our car.

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Overall, it was awesome to sip on some coconut juice and eat sweets as we drove around the gulf coast and watch monkeys. Tip definitely brightened the day and turned it around 180. Mai pen rai!

Orientation Week!

Saw-wat-dee-ka! My first week in Thailand has been jam-packed with activities. Hence why I haven’t been able to post until now. My days are starting to blur together, but they all followed the same schedule- orientation during the day and exploring the surroundings at night (and early in the mornings when I felt up to it).

Orientation was a crash course on Thai life: there were lessons on teaching ESL and learning the Thai language, history, culture, and education system. After a while, the lectures became a bit mind-numbing. Thank goodness for coffee breaks. The best part of orientation, besides the food, was definitely meeting people from all over the United States and hearing their stories on how they came to be teaching in Thailand. Plus, it’s fun hearing someone say “pop” instead of “soda.”

400722048_IMG_0025On the second day of orientation, we took a “class field trip” to the Royal Grand Palace. This place was huge (218,000 square meters to be exact) and filled with buildings and temples. Gold and gems galore! The Grand Palace was built in 1782 after King Rama I ascended the throne to serve as his residence and site for administrative offices.

Within the complex was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Buddha in this temple is regarded as the most important Buddha image in Thailand. The statue was actually discovered in Northern Thailand in 1464 and shipped to various locations throughout the country until it came to the Royal Palace in 1784. The Emerald Buddha gets a wardrobe change three times a year: at the start of the Thai summer, rainy season, and “winter.” All costumes made out of gold and jewelry. Lucky Buddha. Sorry, no cameras allowed to take a picture!

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After a cold shower and brief afternoon lesson, a group of us decided to leave the hotel area and venture to Khaosan Road. This is THE place to be when wanting a night out in Bangkok. There’s shops, restaurants, street food, music, dancing, bars, Thai massages, roaming animals… you name it. If you are ever in Bangkok GO TO Khaosan Road!

Once we adjusted to our surroundings a bit, we noticed that some Thai people were selling carts of “local cuisine.” AKA dead crickets, spiders, scorpions, and other creepy crawlers. And as I said before, when in Thailand… so I ate my very first scorpion. No regrets either. It tasted like chewy roasted chicken for anyone curious. I recommend it.

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We then entered a restaurant and got seated upstairs on a balcony that overlooked some of Khasoan Road. It was quite pretty and relaxing to look down and see all the lights, decorations, and people moving about. At some point, a little boy saw me from below and started waving furiously at me. I waved back, which made him wave even more. So cute!

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The next morning, I woke up at 6am to meet up with a fellow CIEE participant and do some yoga along to river. Yes, I know- very Thai-ish. But it was so peaceful to watch the sunrise and pretend that I could actually do yoga. Until a random older Thai man plo

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Morning yoga sunrise

pped down to watch us. And then a boatful of Chinese tourists decided to wave at us. We’ll just say they were admiring our yoga rather than gawking at us because we are “farangs” (non-Asian foreigners).

That night, OEG decided to treat us to a cruise on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, complete with a buffet and karaoke. Not too keen on letting a boat-full of people hear my awful singing voice, I retreated to the upper deck of the ship and got to see all the lit-up buildings zip past us as we made our way down the river.

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Ferris wheel on the river

My favorite adventure during orientation has to be our overnight trip to Kanchanaburi. This took about a 3-hour bus ride from Bangkok. So some background info on Kanchanaburi: it’s known for its beautiful greenery landscapes, mountains, rivers, and waterfalls.

384167184_IMG_0073Unfortunately, Kanchanaburi has sad history. During WWII, the area was under Japanese control. In 1942, the Japanese forced Asian laborers and Allied POWs (British, Australians, Dutch, Americans, Canadians, and New Zealanders) to work in horrific conditions and build the infamous Burma “Death” Railway. The purpose of the railway was for the Japanese to get supplies from Myanmar to Thailand. There’s a movie called Bridge on the River Kwai that depicts how the prisoners were forced to build a bridge over the river. The average lifespan of prisoners was 3 days.

The railroad is still used to this day and we were able to walk on it and the bridge itself. It was a really beautiful-looking bridge, but it gave me the chills to think what it had cost to build it.

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On the other side of the bridge, there was this adorable Thai girl who was playing the guitar and singing American songs. After she sang “Sweet Virginia,” I wanted to take her home with me!384167184_IMG_0083.JPG

There was also this (Chinese?) temple complex that we got to roam around. Pictures speak better than words:

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That night, we had another dinner cruise, this time on the Kwai (qu-ay) River. Instead of a ship though, we were on a floating flat. The food was delicious and the sights were breath-taking.

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Fried fish mouth

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New friends! (naturally my eyes are closed)

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After an overnight stay, we returned to Bangkok where orientation officially ended. I met my school coordinator and am currently settling into my new home in Chonburi City. School begins on Tuesday, so more to come on my new living arrangements and school!

Thai Newbie

Greetings from Thailand! After 29 hours of travel, I have made it to Bangkok where I’m staying for a week for my CIEE/OEG orientation. Since I arrived a day early, I had time yesterday to adjust to the 11-hour time difference and explore my new surroundings with my roommate, Meghan.

The place we’re staying at, the Royal River Hotel has already won my heart with its daily free water bottle and unlimited air condition. Because, boy does it get hot here! Like, sunny-day-4th-of-July hot.  Our view from out our window is also pretty sweet. We’re right on the river and can see over into the main part of the city.

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After getting some breakfast, which consisted of a mix of Western and Thai food, we decided to venture outside to the streets to have a look around. One of the OEG coordinators had told us that there was a Thai Massage place nearby. Eager to check off something from my bucket list, we entered the street and randomly decided to turn left. There was no sidewalk, so we were walking on the street and had to pry that all oncoming cars would see us. We eventually found the massage place after walking in the wrong direction for quite some time (we were supposed to have turned right- oops). The woman who owned the place saw us immediately and asked if we were teachers, because apparently her Thai massage place gets a lot of business from “our group of people.” She said we could get 1-hour massages for 200 baht (about $5 each). Sold! We told her we would come back in a little bit because, quite honestly, we were sweating like crazy and I needed to cool off a bit before having someone touch me.

“Ok, see you soon, make sure to tell your friends about my place! I do laundry too!” Man, this lady was a marketing genius.

To cool down, we decided to spend some time by the hotel pool. It was nice and quiet, so I got to lay out and catch up on some reading. The water was so refreshing too. They had a jacuzzi as well. But who in their right mind would want to sit in there? Apparently I might because I stuck my foot to test the waters. And what do you know, water was nice and cool too! So I grabbed my book and read in a cold jacuzzi.

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Finally, it was time for our Thai massages. When we entered, 2 fellow CIEE participants were in there getting their massages (the lady was right, her place did attract “our group of people”). Now, I’m not going to lie, I’ve never liked getting massages. Which is very ironic as my mom is a massage therapist. Really, I’m not a fan of people touching me. So why was a Thai massage on my bucket list? Simply because when in Rome… or really, when in Thailand…

So I watched in fascination/horror as the Thai women literally pulled their clients in every direction. It was like a full-body workout where you were rendered a rag doll worth, able to be yanked in any direction. At one point, one of the Thai women’s cell phone rang and she picked it up and started talking about food (“I recognized the word “Ah-haan” a lot) while standing and walking on her person’s back!

The shop owner suddenly pointed at me and said “you, go to the back and change.” I was handed an overlarge button-down pink shirt and yellow trousers. I was really styling now! The lady had me lay flat on my back as I waited. I ended up getting a tiny old Thai lady who was more gentle on me than her fellow coworkers (no standing on my back). To my surprise, the whole experience was really relaxing. It started to thunderstorm while we were in the shop and it was so cozy to just lay there and hear the rain, thunder, overhead fan, and women talking in Thai.

As the people before me finished up, they began talking to the shop owner, who turned out to be fluent in English and was super friendly and funny. Suddenly a dog from outside pushed open the front door and came into the shop.

“Sammi! Go to the back!” Apparently Sammi was the community pet dog who decides to stroll in whenever he likes. As I finished my massage, in came a little girl who ended up being the shop owner’s daughter. The shop owner began to urge her to do something and gently pushed her towards me. Quickly, she said “Hello, my name is Lily and I am 11 years old. It is very nice to meet you. What is your name?” I told her my name and hesitantly tried to respond to her in Thai. I guess I responded and pronounced everything somewhat correctly because the shop owner grew really happy and had me sit down with her daughter to talk more. Looks like my days of Youtubing Thai conversations came in handy!

The shop owner then started asking me where I was going to be living and teaching.

“Are you French?” She suddenly asked me.

“Umm, no. American.”

“You sure, you look different. Your eyes look different.”

At this point she got super close to me and looked at my eyes. I think I actually took a step back. Not really sure how to respond, I said, “well, my mom is Irish, Polish, and Italian and my dad is German.”

“Ahhh. I knew it,” she said.

So I guess I’m not American? Huh. Good to know…

At this point, it had stopped raining and we were ready to go. Our new friend told us to come by and see her if we needed anything or had any questions.

“I have free Wi-fi too” (told you this lady is a marketing genius!)

In summary I have learned that:

  1. Cold jacuzzis do exist and are awesome.
  2. Maybe I do like massages.
  3. Thai people are quirky, yet extremely helpful and kind people.

More to come!