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Smile 8 – Try something new!

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So today was a day for new things; exploring new places, meeting new people, seeing new movies and new modes of transport! I took my first motorbike taxi! It was a little alarming when my driver donned his helmet and left me without one, but I really enjoyed zipping through the traffic. I really like travelling by motorbike/scooter, just wish I was brave enough to drive one myself! Though maybe not in Bangkok!

First day of school, here we go!

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We’re ready to learn to get some knowledge!

Yesterday was my first day as Teacher Katy, working in one of Bangkoks largest and most prestigious Catholic girls schools. Surprisingly considering how ridiculous I’ve been recently I wasn’t that nervous, maybe it’s because I had to be up at 6, who has energy to waste that early when you haven’t worked in 3 months?

My apartment is only a few minutes walk from the train station, with school a few minutes walk the other side of the 15 minute journey so commuting wise I’ve had worse. One thing I have noticed though in Thailand, there’s no such thing as rush hour…busy hour yes! Rush? No. Thai time takes on a whole new meaning when you, as a fast paced westerner are trying to duck and dive between commuters who are, quite literally ambling along (!) while simultaneously managing to take up the whole stairway in the process. For a nation of tiny people this is quite a feat! I’d love to see my friend Jen try this, after walking behind her in London and witnessing the tutting and eye rolling she directs at confused people on the tube I think it would be hilarious! (love you!)

Anyway at 07:30 I was in school, after a funny lift ride (see previous blog) I was sat at my desk and ready to roll!

I forgot about Thai time…again!

Three hours later I was still sat at my desk. First period had been cancelled due to first day administrative stuff, I don’t have a second period on Monday and when you take into account morning morals and break time it was 10:30 before I was on my way to my first class. Many of us hadn’t brought anything to occupy our time either, and being the first day there was no work to do so….100% serious… People napped! At their desks! On the first day of work! Welcome to Thailand!! Ha!

There are around 5000 girls at St Joseph’s, around 500 in p4 which I will be teaching, so between my co teacher and I I’m going to have around 250 9/10 year old girls calling me Teacher. This week the lessons are quite simple, we start with an introduction…first the girls all stand and say ‘gooooood mooooorning teeeeeachaaaa’ ‘good morning girls, how are you?’ ‘fiiiiiine thaaaaaank you and youuuuuuuu?’ ‘we are fine also, please take a seat!’ ‘thaaaaaaaaank you’….’this is Teacher Loriel! He’s from Ameeeerica, Hawaaaiiii! And this is Teacher Katy, from the UK, hands up who knows the UK? *small spattering of hands* Ok who knows England? *more or less hands appear* and who knows Wales? *no hands*. No? You don’t know Wales? What about Prince William and Kate? *all hands up*. Yay for having your own Prince!! Or Prince of Wales to be anyway 😛

After this we have been asking them to write their name, nickname and student number on a sign in sheet and draw their own name tag. Thai people seem to have a ridiculously long name, a shorter nickname and then each class is numbered 1-50+. Some of the nicknames are amazing, for example some of my girls are called Proud, Film, Ice, Nokia, Dream, Love and Nice! While Loreil has Japan, Cheetah, Pond, Sea and Quit. Going to be fun remembering all these! Though with their name tags I shouldn’t have to initially. Going to use my old SRC trick too and write all their names down on a seating plan to help me remember.

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Makes me think of Doctor Who! Come on Pond!

Lunch followed third period. There are two (at least) cafeterias, one where the teachers (or some of the teachers) eat and one for the kids. The kids one is WAY nicer! They have a huge choice of food, deserts, ice cream, fresh fruit etc. Staff can eat there also but at their own expense, where as the staff food is free and delicious! You only have one option (yesterday it was some sort of spicey green curry!) which comes on what resembles a prison tray, haha, buy it was yummy!

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We had one more class after lunch, a really spirited and seemingly intelligent bunch (the first group were so timid and the second group just didn’t get it!) then last period was free so yippeeeeee early finish! I had a few errands to run such as getting a letter from the agency office which will allow me to open a Thai bank account, and I also needed to provide 24 photos for my work permit. That’s a lot of copies of my face!

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All in all it was about half 5 by the time I was done. I hopped on a 15 baht taxi boat to pier 13, home of Khoa San Road. I love being on the water so this is definitely my preferred mode of Bangkok transport!

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Apparently most of my school avoid this place like the plague as it’s full of annoying tourists, haha, but I kind of like it! I wanted to visit a bookshop Robbie and I had spied. Another Thai lesson? Take photos of stuff! One book shop looks very like another and it took me AGES to find the one with all the books I wanted, especially ones which weren’t photocopied! A lady called Ky leant a helping hand finding a few that I wanted and has offered to hold one for me when it comes into stock, so that’s cool! Need to go back in two weeks. Think this lot should do me till then…

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One recommendation from Miss Peg, one from Mr Young, one I’ve wanted for a while and a random one…good start to my Thai collection, for the bargain price of £8! Armed with my new entertainment I headed over to Shewa Spa for a pedicure. One thing you realise when travelling is you need to take care of your feet! Sounds like something out of Forest Gump. Now I’m working at a job where I stand up all day, after months of travelling…spa time was needed! Firstly I met Em who told me off for not coming sooner (oops!) and called me nalak (cute) for being ticklish! Then I went to see Eve for a deep leg and foot massage, Em explained how ticklish I am to which Eve replied ‘oh no! Please don’t kick me!!’ haha’ I explained that reaction was saved for my brothers!

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It was almost 8 by the time I was done and I was feeling peckish…noodle soup time!! Robbie and I had had some really good stuff, while being entertained by a guy with a guitar so I took a seat and enjoyed listening to Proud Mary, American Pie and Leaving on a Jet Plane with a big bowl of veggie noodles. Yum!

I love this place at night, it becomes so bright, colourful and for the most part chilled out (until later). I took some time to wander around, enjoying the cool evening before jumping in a taxi back to the BTS and home for Skype times with my mum!

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All in all it was a really good first day and delicious evening. Might have to make that my Monday routine, or at least a monthly treat!

Day 2 is going well so far…check out what we had at lunch!

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The AC crew will appreciate that one, feeling more at home already!!

Back to Bangkok

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Hello from Bangkok! Back in the big city I guess I now call home. Just need to actually find a home in it somewhere so I can vacate Kaleys sofa, especially at the moment as there are 4 people staying in a 28ft studio apartment, cosy! Apparently it’s quite easy to flat hunt round here, you just need to go to the place you want to live and walk around. Next week I have to be in the office for 4 days of training so I’ll have lots of time afterwards to explore the area around my school and find somewhere to live. Kaleys done an amazing job of looking online for me but that’s just not the best way in Thailand. I’m quite torn about living on my own, half of me is looking forward to having my own place while the other half is slightly terrified. Guess we’ll see how it works out!

Anyway I’m getting ahead of myself again. The day after I left you was pretty much lost to travelling. Firstly a scooter to the bus station, then a bus to Chiang Mai (back up the windy road!), songteaw to the airport, plane to Bangkok, taxi to Khao San and back to our hotel. Phew! It was pretty uneventful really, apart from the crisps! Always good to have some snacks at hand when going on a long journey so before leaving Pai Robbie bought a few bags of crisps, water and of course chocolate milk (my fave!!). The plane to Bangkok was delayed slightly due to this

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So out came the crisps! Usually we’d played it pretty safe on the snack front but this time purchased these

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I had one but honestly to me they tasted like cheese and jam, strawberry jam, which I am allergic to so, not wanting to risk it (as unlikely a flavour as that it!) I stopped eating them. Shortly before the entire bag was gone curiosity got the better of me so I asked twitter if anyone could solve the flavour mystery. Within a few minutes I had the answer, cheese and puréed Maeng Kee Noon. Duh! So, maeng kee noon, you know what that is right? Nah me either. Google did though…it’s this

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I wish I had gotten a picture of Robbies face when I told him. Yummy scrummy bugs in a bag!!! I’m amazed he didn’t hurl. So funny.

That evening we went to the road next to khao san for noodle soup and live music. There was really good guy on guitar, I thought he was good anyway but Robbie plays so could really appreciate the complexity of the songs we were hearing. The usual street sellers weaved in and out of the diners as we sat there and these guys a few tables over ended up buying one of the famed Thai frogs so they could tap along to the music. A few minutes later there was one on our table too… Haha! They’re so annoying!! But probably one of the most memorable things from that area. The frogs are made out of wood, with ridges along the back which when you rub with the wooden stick which comes with it make a sound like a frog. The sellers walk along ribbiting at the tourists making it one of the most common sounds you’ll hear!

So this brings us to Robbies final day in Bangkok…it got touristy! After a mammoth lie in for us both we strolled down to the river to get a 15 baht taxi boat (50 baht is a pound remember) to Wat Po.

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The boat took around 20 minutes and after a bit of souvenir shopping, some pad thai and a bag of watermelon we paid the 100baht fee and entered the temple. It’s actually one of my favourites. There’s a large fountain in the central courtyard which is home to koi and a few turtles

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And the grounds themselves are just very peaceful to be around. The temple is home to around 364 golden Buddahs as well as the worlds largest reclining Buddah. We had just bought postcards of him but they just don’t prepare you for how big he is! Shoes off as a sign of respect we entered the temple

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Pretty impressive huh? We placed coins in the 100+ bowls meant to bring prosperity (and also help fund the upkeep of the temple)

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before catching the 3 baht ferry over to Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn. Honestly though by the time we got there it was too hot and we were a bit templed out so just walked around the outside rather than going in. Was still pretty impressive though

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A few people had mentioned Lumphini Park as a good place to visit so a short taxi boat later we were there. The park is home to huge monitor lizards which just roam around. We only saw two or three but still, have seen less interesting things in a park!

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Every day at 6am and 6pm the Kings Song is played on the radio and in public parks. As a mark of respect the people of Thailand will stand still for the duration of the song. It was around half 5 at this point so we decided to stick around for half an hour to hear the song. There was lots to keep us occupied though as an outdoor aerobics class had just begun and rollarskaters were practicing weaving in and out of cones. People watching is one of my favourite things to do, while Robbie counselled a Thai lady who was having a fight with her American oil worker boyfriend of 11 years, eek!

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The plan after this was a repeat of the previous night but there was a kid on the BTS with an avengers cup holder which inspired a trip to Siam Paragon and the cinema. Maybe not the most cultured way to spend your last night in Asia but hey what the hell! Siam Paragon is a huge shopping centre, filled with designer brands all the food places (except a&w) you could imagine as well as a bowling alley and huge cinema complex. The fountains outside are like something out of Vegas but I was excited for the movie. It didn’t disappoint! I’ve loved watching the Marvel films, especially Iron Man and all of them together actually worked really well. We had some cheesy popcorn (again not really for me, has a funny after taste!) and 3d glasses. Was fun!

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After the movie we decided to take a traditional journey back to Khao San. I wanted a nice aircon taxi really but they weren’t having it so Robbie bartered for a Tuk Tuk and off we went. Oh wow was it a crazy ride! The driver was mental, pulling wheelies, slamming on the breaks yet still barely stopping before hitting the car in front, running red lights and laughing at the smoke coming out of the back and when things fell off. He seemed to enjoy our terror though as he had a huge grin on his face for the entire journey. It was like being at a theme park, haha! The neon lights flashed off and on and my hand was aching from gripping the handle all the way home but it was such a laugh!!

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By this point it was gone 11, we booked the airport bus for 5am the next morning and headed back to the road next to Khao San (I should really find out the name of that!!). Seemed little point in going to bed really! This time the music was even better, the guitarist was so friendly, dedicating songs to people at the bar and taking requests from anyone too. He had such a good voice and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting there singing along with a draft Chang beer and (io course) some noodle soup

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But all too soon his set was finished and there was packing to be done. Time to say goodbye to my R crew chum and get some sleep before my 9am meeting with my fellow St Josephs teachers. I’m so glad I had the time to see Chiang Mai and meet up with friends before starting work, it was was the icing on the cake of an amazing trip.

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But it’s not totally over yet. This weekend Kaley, Kati and I are headed to one of my favourite places in Thailand, Cookies bungalow on Koh Phangan to party it up at the full moon party. We’re on a night bus and boat leaving this evening and the party is tomorrow night, then have Sunday to chill out on the beach and recover before heading back and starting training on Tuesday morning. After that life here really begins, with house hunting, a totally new job and new friends to meet. I have to say right now I’m far more scared than I thought I would be, it all feels very alien. I’m sure I’ll cope though, in a few weeks time I’ll be quite at home. Just for now I’m glad I have amazing friends and family supporting me from all over the world, so lucky to have all of you. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the comments, tweets, whatsapp messages, emails etc. They mean so so much when you’re this far away from home.

Thanks for reading guys. Much love xx

Pad Thai, slurpeees and chocolate milk…

Sawadee ka!

Well it’s been an eventful few weeks. I got here in a rush after receiving an offer of a job in Krabi only to arrive and be told I had been placed in Hat Yai So that was fun! Deciding to decline moving to the land of bombs and earthquakes I returned to Bangkok to hunt for work. I’ve been so lucky with contacts here that within a day I had a job interview and less than 24 hours after that was offered work at one of Bangkoks most prestigious schools, St Josephs, an all girls convent school near Lumpini Park. I start on the 14th May after a week of intensive training…so yay! That’s that sorted!

I had a few fun filled days in Bangkok with Kaley and George. There was ladies night at a rooftop bar (unlimited free gin: free hangover included!), lots of time chilling by the condo’s pool working on my tan and generally enjoying catching up with friends. I took a ride in a Tuk Tuk, ate pad thai, tried mango sticky rice and started to get to grips with the language. A good first few days!

On Monday the fun went up a notch or two with a trip to the famous Khoa San road. This place is a one of a kind tourist trap that’s just so hard to describe. It’s a bustling street of stalls selling all sorts of clothes and memorabilia, interspersed with bars and clubs while street sellers offer pad thai, funky hats and annoying wooden frogs all around. You’ve seen The Beach right? The road with the snake blood…that was there! Not that I have ever been offered this delicacy but the last time I was there I ended up having a fish pedicure at 2am! This time there were sangsom buckets, hanging out of tuktuks, almost being charged 600baht to see some very seedy seeming ping pong show and dancing the night away with drunken friends. Welcome to Thailand folks!

The next day I had to go back to the office to sort my visa, then met the guys for lunch and a spot of shopping back on Khoa San before catching the night bus to Chiang Mai. I’ve caught an overnight train before now but this was my first bus experience and seriously, go for the train! Yes the bus is cheaper, 350baht rather than 700/1000 but on the train you get a bed and if you’re using this instead of accommodation then that’s priceless. I loved the night train, the seats turn into lower bunks and the upper bunks are folded down from the ceiling making it feel like something straight out of Harry Potter! Whereas the bus, while it did have seats which reclined quite a bit, also played some crappy movie at top volume for the first leg of the tour and then turned the lights off at 8. Aaaaanyway, moving on! The bus got to Chiang Mai for around 7am and having hardly slept on the journey it was time to make the most of the VIP guest house Kaley recommended and get some shut eye!

Chiang Mai has a very different vibe to Bangkok. A big red brick wall separates the old city from the new and the river has fountains and elephant statues all the way along it. The bits I have seen have a small town feel even though this is the largest city in the North of Thailand. It was nice to explore, have a delicious raspberry shake (I swear this country does fruit shakes like no other I have visited, yum!) and as dusk approached take a red bus to Doi Suthep, a hillside temple. Apparently around 6pm is the best time to visit this place as the monks perform a ceremony and blessings, sounds good to me! The songteaw wouldn’t go all the way to the top of the mountain, but the 10 minute walk was actually quite refreshing and cool, a nice change in hot season!

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Once you reach the top of the hill there are 300 steps to climb to reach the temple. Temples here are so ornate and just gorgeously peaceful. Doi Suthep is no exception, golden spires stretching into the sky and beautifully detailed hand painted scenes adorning the walls. It just feels special. For 10 baht you could buy a flower, incense and candles to aid you in following the tradition of the temple. First you kneel and light your candles, placing them in the holders provided. Then light the incense using the candles and walk round the temple three times with that and your flower. There are prayers to take with you as you walk, but sadly they were all in Thai and I just ain’t that good yet!

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After this the monks came out to pray and chant to the statues of Buddah. I learned there are 7 Buddahs, one for each week he was in the jungle representing the different positions he prayed in. The day of the week you were born on dictates the Buddah you will best relate to and so pray to. I think. I was kind of piggybacking onto someone else’s tour at this point, but it’s made me want to learn more about the religion.

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A songteaw with some English boys spending a few months Thai boxing later and it was time for a nice refreshing Singha beer or two and dancing at Zoe in Yellow. Good start!

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The following day held a visit to Bantang Waterfall, a place not many ferrang (that’s foreigners to you) know about but many Thai people love to visit with a picnic to enjoy after spending time in the natural mineral waters. You begin by climbing down some concrete steps (they’re made to look like wood) and immersing yourself in the falls at the bottom, then climb 1,500 metres to the top. The water is made up of so many rich minerals that over the years the rocks have made a sort of natural staircase. The water was the perfect temperature too, I didn’t want to reach the top! There was a terrifying moment where the guy in front of me lost his footing and slipped, getting caught in the flow of the falls and thank goodness stopping just before a huge drop. I can’t explain how scary it is to see someone fall like that, knowing how far you’ve climbed and so how far they could fall. Luckily he got off with just a few scratches and, most importantly (to him) didn’t break the camera he was holding. Good effort dude!

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After visiting the source of the falls and lighting an incense stick at the temple there to appease the spirits protecting the water it was time for lunch. Check out this for a view to have your dinner by…

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Beautiful huh? It felt like it was all too soon to head back to the city but actually it turned out to be perfect timing as the heavens opened within 10 minutes of arriving back. There was thunder, lighting and WOW rain! I forgot what downpours can be like here. Imagine a days worth of British rain but in the space of an hour…intense! I hopped on a songtaow (I explained they’re like buses right?) back to the old city…hanging out of the back of a covered pick up in the rain is hilarious fun! Sadly (I’m serious) the people inside made room for me after a minute or two and I felt too polite to say no so took a seat. Outside was far more fun!!

Then the last two days, well I think they’ve been the best I have ever EVER had. I’ve been at Baanchang Elephant Park, the trip of a lifetime, just wow. But sadly for you guys I have 7% battery left and this blog is already long enough so…that’s another story!

Till next time 🙂 xx