Home and Away

Well well! Where do I begin! My visa run to Cambodia feels like such a long time ago now, urgh and what an experience…I won’t be crossing into Cambodia anytime soon that’s for sure (sorry Cambodian’s!)

The past few weeks go something like this; panicking my credentials are somewhere out there in the world, teaching next to nothing, having observers in the school, bird rescuing, eating toxic fruit (!), partying in Bangkok, visiting markets that float on water (well, sort of) and preparing for Australia, phew! A mixed bag of fun and excitement sadly seasoned with a pinch of boredom hah! So if you’re sitting comfortably, the Readders reveals all…

Helen the Hamster! 

“Hey, I’m Helen the Hammy! I’m the schools pet Hamster! You can feed me tit bits if you like and watch me run across the floor from time to time but be careful…let me out and I might not want to come back!” Haha, well, I’m sorry to say, but that is exactly how I’ve been feeling these past few weeks. My teaching services were slowing down until they came to a complete halt! I got the ‘It’s not you, it’s the curriculum’ story which is fine but I’ve been pretty darn bored haha! Although, on the plus side, I have been able to do a lot of planning etc…

We’ve also had a lot of observers coming and going…you know…the kind that are watching you, watching them! They’ve actually been staying in my house so I’ve had to learn to share my toys for a few weeks after having the place to myself hah! Some have been really nice but some have just been really quiet and said hello but then they’ll run up to their rooms haha, quite funny actually.

Deliciously Toxic! 

Of course, being the schools pet, the children kindly came over to my house one weekend to ‘feed me’ some tit bits hah! They brought me some kind of savory fruit that was encased in a green tough shell…it looked like a giant broad bean! Well, a few bashes to the ground later and it opens…you then peel it open like a banana and reveal what I would describe as white acorns inside. There isn’t much taste but the texture is like a soft moist nut…like a wet hazlenut (strange description I know but that is exactly how it is!). So it was quite nice actually.

Later on over at the office, I showed one of the teachers some photos of this funny wet nutty fruit to find out what it was….

“How much did you eat?” The teacher nicknamed Star, said the words in a sharp and slightly raised voice almost as though she was telling me off but there was a tinge of concern in her tone…she then eyeballed me waiting for my response. With her reaction to my photo, almost instantaneously I could feel panic starting to rise up from the pit of my stomach! ‘Oh great, have I gone and poisoned myself?’ ‘What have I just eaten?’ With wide panicked eyes I replied with “Oh, not much at all”. Star looked relieved which seemed to instantly banish my feelings of panic. Isn’t that funny how you can make someone ‘feel’ with just a few words? “Ok, that’s good then. This fruit is toxic. If you eat a lot you will get a tummy ache”. Phew, well, I’m sure I have a tummy made of steel now but still, I was glad I’d only had a few nibbles hehe! So yeh, thanks kiddo’s, trying to kill off the pet hamster haha!

Mynah Encounter

So it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting in the schools office. Photocopying some bits and bobs I spot something behind the machine! ‘What the….’ Moving the machine slightly, I can see it’s a small brownish bird trying to keep it’s presence hidden from my curious eyes! But it’s too late, he’s been revealed hah. Then suddenly, all these kids came out of nowhere all trying to get a look and play with the baby bird…it was as though the kids all had ‘spidey senses’ that suddenly alerted them to a distressed bird hiding behind the photocopier haha. Well, I told them he needed looking after so we put him in a box with some straw and a bowl of water.

I took him back to the house to give him space from all the small nibble fingers prodding and poking him about. He actually didn’t look too bad, well, I couldn’t see anything physically wrong with him. Maybe he’d just been attacked by a cat and he probably flapped his way into the office to seek solace from behind the photocopier haha. So apart from looking a bit scraggly, I guessed he probably just needed a few days rest to get over the shock and recover a bit. I took a few snaps of him and again when I was back in the office, I showed one of the teachers to determine what he was.

“Oh that looks like a Mynah bird” Creasing her face, June was studying my photo through her thick rimmed glasses…”We get them a lot here in Thailand, they are the birds that you can teach to talk” A Mynah bird hey! “Oh wow! I’m just looking after him for a few days until he’s well enough to set free. I think he was attacked by a cat…I found him just over there” I enthusiastically pointed at the huge grey industrial sized photocopying machine. “You are so kind Helen!” Ah that was nice of June to say so but then I was thinking, wouldn’t anyone else do this kind of thing then? So it was then I decided to comically call my bird Morris! (Morris Mynah)

Later on back at the house, I spoon fed Morris water…that was quite funny actually. He was acting like a baby and wouldn’t open his beak so I practically ended up showering the water all over him so he had no choice but to drink! ‘Hmm..now what to feed you’ I thought. Well, I had plenty of boiled rice so chucked some of that in the corner of his box along with some of the giant juicy ants that are always in my bathroom oh and one of those clumsy army beetles that was flying around my lounge and repeatedly bashing itself into the TV! So in the box he goes too haha! Not a bad selection I thought, a bit of pick and mix!

A few days passed and Morris seemed to be making a fine and fast recovery. I had to shut him in my room when the observers were in…well, I didn’t want them to see him and let him go if he wasn’t ready. One day when I came back to the house after school, I rushed up to my room to see if he needed any water…I opened the box and he wasn’t there! ‘Oh no! Where has he gone?’ I then heard a noisy squawk above me and there he was…clinging to the net curtains hah! He was clearly peering out the window wanting to get a taste of freedom. I gently tugged his little clawed feet from off the curtains and lowered him back into the box so I could take him outside to set him free. It was so funny, he turned his little head towards me and let out a series of super loud squawks! I think he was swearing at me! “Alright, alright! I am letting you go silly!” But as soon as I popped Morris into the box, he flew straight back out of it! He was flapping all over my room…from curtain…to cupboards…to stopping for a min to poop on my clean clothes…thanks Morris! He finally came to a halt on the top of my head! “Awww isn’t that sweet Morris! You do like me after all then!” Admiring our reflection in the mirror I was thinking that we were sharing a moment together….then felt a warm wet trickling down my back! “Oh well, that’s just super Morris…thanks a bunch! It’s definitely time you were leaving hahah”

Outside, I reopened the box to see Morris’ little face staring up at me but his gazed soon looked past me and over to the fields and trees behind me. Within seconds he’d hopped onto the edge of the box, got his bearings and then flew onto the lawn. He was letting out a series of calls to his buddies to come and collect him but it was rather sad because no one came 😦 Well, I’d done my bit and couldn’t mess with mother nature anymore…I’m sure he’s now reunited with his buddies and is living a normal Mynah’s life out there somewhere 🙂

Bangkok here I come (again!)

Yep, I decided to take myself off to BKK again for another break hah! Yes I know, smelly BKK is not my favourite place in the world but it makes for such a great base, plus, I have friends there now.

I guess I’m getting bored quicker with the lack of teaching but also I am missing my independence and um also the small matter that I am supposed to be travelling here and I seem to be getting stale in this current situation…It’s not that I am ungrateful for having this wonderful opportunity at my feet, I’m just getting itchy feet! Also, the school was going to be closed for 4 days due to it being a Buddhists holiday so everyone was going home anyways so perfect time for me to get away.

So I took a whole week off and caught up with some of my pals and I had a fab time! Love doing my own thing! I get such a buzz when I take myself off for a day out somewhere exploring…it’s like a sense of  achievement! I never would have done anything like this before, I would have been to ‘afraid’ of ‘oh no how do I get there, where do I go when…..’ etc..but now, I absolutely love it!

Just like before, I crammed a lot in on my week off! Shopping, partying, going to the Saxophone bar and cinema oh and a floating market! I was going to scoot down South and see the islands but there simply wasn’t enough time to do all of that and to be honest…I wanted to see more culture than actually staying on a party island…sounds strange for party girl to not want to go to Koh Phi Phi hey but perhaps another time but for now, the floating market actually appealed more! The party islands are usually filled with drunken tourists anyways and I’d rather see and do what the locals are doing…you know, emerse myself in their culture, not the tourist scene! I mean yes, I did do some partying, I just didn’t need to do it every night.

Oh and the cinema was funny! I am getting used to the timings of when they are abouts to play the Kings short film now (you know, when everyone in the cinema has to stand up!). To avoid the embarrassment, I can almost time it right so I can sneak off to the ladies just like my friend Ken did the last time hah! So anyways, Ken and I went to see a film one evening  and I was laughing so much that apparently a Thai guy turned round and said “Who the hell is that girl?!” haha! Oh well, I can’t help it that I have an infectious cackle of a laugh hehe, I was enjoying myself!

Hostels not such a fav!  

Ok, so I did check into my fav hostel but only stayed for a night ha! It was more of a convenience thing for me though because I’d booked a tour through the hotel next door (which was pretty expensive to stay in) to take me to the floating market in the morning….and get this, I had to be up by 5.30am gasp!

I wasn’t so lucky this time of getting the 6 bed dorm to myself…each and every bed was taken. I’d made friends with a couple of people in the hostel though who were also from the UK and we decided to rent a Dvd from reception and chill for the evening. Well, the dvd didn’t work, actually, a whole bunch of them didn’t work hah so we decided to just sit and watch family guy repeats and exchange travel stories.

When it was eventually bedtime, I flopped onto my lower bunk and soon fell asleep but my blissful coma was soon interrupted by 2 giggling girlies! Bright blinding light filled the room but only for about 3 seconds after they’d realised there were 3 stirring bodies in the bunks! Finally, once all their banging and bashing about with the lockers was over, everyone was falling asleep once more…….then another person waltz’d on in…oh great! Well, that’s hostels for you…revolving doors of travellers coming and going. Oh well, I knew I’d be getting my own back in the morning getting up at the crack of dawn for the market hehe!

I then thought to myself, with the money I’m saving at the school, I may as well take myself off and stay someone nice and reasonable (and all to myself)…so I did just that 😉 And I can highly recommended it to the flash backpacker: Prom Ratchada near to Thailand Cultural Centre. The rooms are super comfy and offer free wifi in the room as well as free use of the computers downstairs along with the gym and pool woo hoo!

A Market that floats – Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

What’s that awful cheap electric sound? The music sounded like something from a bad Amiga computer game which was slowly getting louder and louder and rudely entering my dream! I could picture the Mario Brothers running along platforms and jumping over spikes or crocodiles….I then realised it was my alarm – I also realised it had woken all 5 of the other log like bodies which were now stirring and groaning haha! Well, I said I’d get my payback! 😉

So I had a quick shower, packed all my stuff up (in the dark I might add!) and checked out in reception. I quickly whizzed over to a 7 Eleven store to grab something for brekkie and then met all the other market tourists in the hotels reception next door. There were only 5 others…A cute Brazilian guy (who sadly didn’t speak a word of english!), a Swiss couple and 2 Chinese girls who just kept themselves to themselves.

Well, of course, Thai time meant the minibus driver actually arrived at 7am and not 6.30am but I didn’t mind, it gave me chance to gobble my greasy croissant! (all their pastry products do leave the roof of your mouth coasted with somekind of grease…and I know this but still seem to buy the dam things hah!).

So we’re on the bus and the ‘guide’ tells us the journey will take about 1.5hrs to the pier followed by a short 10 minute boat ride over to the market. Well, it must have only been 30 minutes into the journey and already I was fighting to keep heavy eyes open when suddenly the bus driver slammed on the brakes and skidded and swerved sharply to the left! Naturally everybody looked at each other as if one of us had an explanation and then diverted our eyes to the front of the bus….the sound of screeching tyres and the smell of rubber filled the minibus when…….BANG……….BANG!! It felt as though the whole bus tilted to the left as the right side rammed into and over something….’What the hell?’ I have a terrible feeling we hit a dog but I never did look back over my shoulder at the road behind us and I was too afraid to ask so I blocked that thought from my mind 😦

Well, the bus was now tilting to the right! It was clear we had 2 flats from the intermittent ‘flapping’ rhythm of slackened rubber hitting the road. The gaps of the loose ‘flapping’ noise increased as the minibus slowed down. We finally came to a natural halt on a rocky hard shoulder. Oh and what a coincidence….you won’t believe this but we actually stopped right by a tyre company…of all the chances hey! 30 minutes later and 2 brand new tyres and we’re back on our way to market!

Ok, so an hour later and we arrive at a small pier. All 5 of us boarded a narrow long boat which took us to the market. First thing I noticed is how dirty the water was! We’re going at a relatively good pace too and I can feel the occasional splash of this dirty water land on my cheek or upper lip – so I held my hand over my mouth to prevent any ‘sprays’ actually going IN my mouth, gross hah!

I sat at the back just in front of the driver so with the splashes, the constant ‘buzzing’ sound of the engine and the fumes of smoke and fuel surrounding me, it’s no wonder I felt a little nauseous! Sights reminded me of some parts of Thailand I’d already seen before or Cambodia even. Houses on stilts and people living in awful conditions. I even saw one woman washing her dishes in this dirty brown water and there I was, hand over my mouth terrified of even getting a drop in my mouth – it made me feel as though I was being stuck up but of course I wasn’t. I’m sure our immune systems are set up differently. The waters seemed pretty quiet at this point too…apart from the odd boat going our way, kicking up a few mini waves as they scooted on past!

Finally! We’ve arrived at the market. The ‘tour’ guide showed us where we could get the boat around the market and also our meeting point for ‘home time’. To be honest, I wouldn’t class this guy as a tour guide…just someone who was on our bus who got out and pointed us in the directions we should go and that was it! Great job! He didn’t come back with us either so I don’t know where he went.

Anyways, I headed straight for the boat trip around the actual market, it was 150 baht for 30 minutes (which is a little over 3 quid). I think we got slightly more than 30 mins too because of the traffic on the waters, loved it! So glad I booked this tour, it was 450 baht for half a day (10 quid) and that included all transport to and from however, no lunch but it’s so cheap to eat at the markets I wouldn’t worry! Just bring snacks for the bus and your ipod!

So an even narrower boat pulls up which you just ‘step’ into and omg, it’s so wobbly! You all have to sit in perfect balance to avoid it tipping hah! I was 2nd in front – in front of me was the rather cute Brazilian who I noticed was also into photography! Enviously eyeing up his Canon, I found it interesting watching what he was taking snaps of but I also remember thinking ‘Why isn’t he taking this shot, or that one?’ But hey, that’s the beauty of everyone being unique and individual right?

What an experience! I absolutely loved this place and could have stayed all day long! You sail past static stands either side selling all sorts from hats, to shades, scarves and ‘tourist tat’ and if you even so much as made the slightest bit of eye contact, they’d pull your boats in hah! But my favourites were the mobile boat ‘shops’ The boaters would slowly row past you with rich offerings of mango’s and sticky rice, tins of Chang beer or spring rolls or you’d see boats piled high with banana’s or coconuts…it’s a wonder they didn’t sink hah! One boat even had furnace going….heating up oil so the ladies could fry some bananas for you as a tasty treat! Yummy, gobble gobble! The UK’s health and safety commissioner would have had a field day here I tell thee!

Every sense gets a treat here! Smells of spice clashing with sweet aromas hit my nose with such explosions and my eyes were treated to authentic sights of how I imagined a ‘true Asia’ to be. Bright colours, hustle and bustle, people chanting (or yelling!) “For you Miss, special price”, exotic smells and explosive tastes! Was I in fact in India?? It also felt like the set of a James Bond movie! I’m sure Roger Moore was filmed running along the top of these narrow boats in one scene hah?

After a few hours exploring and much fun bartering, it was time to get back on the bus. An underground train later and I now had Prom Ratchada in my sights!

Colourblind Colourist! 

Well…I decided to finally face the choppers and go in search of a much needed haircut for my locks were now seriously matching those of Worzel Gummidge! (for those who don’t remember him, search google images)

I found a nice local hairdresser who seemed to understand what an inch was. Heck, she even convinced me to have a splash of colour….yeh why not, 26 quid was considerably cheaper than the UK and it could do with ‘something’ to make it look anything but scarecrow like! So a nice looking caramel / honey blonde and a trim sounded great right…..wrong!!

The colour was on and gradually setting. I remember looking in the mirror thinking ‘hmmm, it’s looking a little orange up top! Ah maybe that’s just the inbetween stage?’ Well……it wasn’t!! Once everything was finished, washed out and cut….I was just lost for words! Yup, I had a carrot top hahaha! I actually find it funny now but at the time I wanted to cry. The hair dresser knew I didn’t like it and offered to change it but after she showed me photos of how she thought it’d looked (glamorous photos of blonde actresses etc) I could see she saw differently to me and kindly declined! Oh my goodness….her version of blonde was actually borderline ginge – and of course there is nothing wrong with ginger, it just doesn’t suit me!

Well feeling a little sorry for myself, I decided to take me, myself and my carrot top out shopping! I picked a place on the map and went for it!

Victory Monument

Victory Monument in Bangkok is a great place to shop. It’s full of markets for one – yes, yes, you’d think I would have had enough of markets by now but I just love the bartering too much! I’m not always good at it…some market owners just won’t budge but it’s fun trying all the same and you get such a buzz when you ‘win’ haha! It’s like real life ebaying I guess!

I just love getting around BKK too, it is SO easy. I have attached a map below for other travellers to have a look but you’ll get an idea of how easy it it! To get to Victory Monument from Thailand Cultural Centre…I needed to get the underground (pale blue line) to Sukhumvit where you then change to the Sky Train (blue line) at Asoke station (just across the road from the Underground) and that’s it! So much easier than London.

Later on, I arranged to meet my pal Tomo for a night of partying oooh yehhh! Being a Buddhist holiday though most places were closed (and no alcohol will be sold for a further 3mths!! Boo!) Tomo found a place that would be open – Red Sky Bar in Grand Centara Hotel which is by Chid Lom station….so again it would be a trip on Underground followed by a few stops on the Sky Train = sorted!

Party at S39! 

Finally reaching Chid Lom Station, the Grand Centara hotel was about a 10 minute walk from there. I’m hoping it’s nothing like the Hangover’s Sky Bar as that was ridiculously expensive (remember hah!) Note to self: No very berry cocktails for sure tonight!! 😉

So I get to the hotel and you then have to get a series of lifts to reach floor 55 where the bar is…finally reaching the top, I’m walking around and spot my friend Tomo…”You hoo!” It was great to catch up over a raspberry vodka (ok, not quite a very berry though hehe!). I was telling her about my next plans to hit Oz when coincidentally a pair of Aussie guys were sitting behind us! “Firstly, you need to work on your accent!” Said the darker haired one of the pair! ‘Oh no!’ I was thinking ‘how long have they been there?!’ Anyways, they were giving me tips of where to go and what to do etc and then before we knew it, the bar tender announced last orders. We felt like staying out but everywhere was shut! Walking outside, Tomo and I asked a cabbie if he knew of anywhere open…the 2 Aussie guys were still ‘hanging’ around and asked if they could join us…hmmm, ok. After I warned them I had a whole can of mace in my bag and a Thai kick boxing boyfriend they promised we’d be safe hah!

Well, the taxi man knew of a club called S39 that was open to the wee small hours, sounded great! “I take you for free but you must go in” The cabbie man was beckoning all 4 of us inside the taxi. Well, of course we were all ‘should we, shouldn’t we’. There are horror stories of tourists being robbed down alleys etc but we figured with 4 of us together, we should be alright. “So, what’s in it for you if the ride is free?” I asked…..”I get bonus” He replied with a wink. “I see, Ok, let’s do it”.

Pulling up at the club, we could see a mix of locals and tourists coming and going. Entry fee was 300 baht (just under 7 quid) but you get a free drink with your entry ticket. On the way in you get searched by security. Just as I was asked to open my handbag, I jokingly said “I have a whole bunch of drugs and weapons in there!” but the security guy didn’t actually understand what I was saying so the joke was lost on him hah! The 2 Aussie guys offered to buy a round but don’t worry….I made them drink our drinks first so we knew they were ok hah! But they were harmless, they were just tourists like myself (Tomo lives in BKK you see so she’s a ‘local’ now) and we had a good night of dancing and socialising until the morning sun shone in…..By 8am we were all sat around in MacDonalds having breakfast! Woo hoo! Go hard or go home right!

By the time I got back to my hotel, well, that was it….out for the count Zzzz…..

I did skype my Papz later on in the evening and it was SO lovely to see and hear him as it always is when I get the chance to speak to ma folks 🙂 My Dad interestingly pointed out that whenever I mention the school, I call it ‘Home’ ! Oh dear! I never noticed that myself hah!

Home and Away! (Wednesday 24th July)

Ok, so I’m up, packed and checked out to head for the bus ‘home’ to the school! So it’s the underground to Kamphaeng Phet station, a short cab ride to Morchit Bus Station and then the Nakhorn Chai Air bus headed for Buriram. To be honest, I’m not overly joyed at the thought of going back…the hamster was set free for a week and she really didn’t want to get back in her cage, ho hum! Only another week and then I will be going to Sydney, Australia woo hoo!! And I can’t wait for a change of scenery! I feel as though my itchy feet have now developed into more of a bad case of Athletes foot, nice! So not too much longer until Helen the explorer can finally satisfy that itch!

5 hours later and I’m back! I see there’s a canister of food just inside the front porch too…”Aww, maybe they left me some dinner for my arrival?” WRONG….I opened up the first compartment and nearly dropped it in horror!! The rice was moving….yep, it was filled with hundreds of maggots YUK! I casually replaced the lid and then had my freak out haha! How gross.

Moving to the bathroom, I also noticed the giant ants had set up a full blown nest in the sink!! They’d blocked every hole with dirt of somekind and made smaller entry and exit holes within the hole if that makes sense….very strange! So the house had been taken over and needed a darn good scrubbing! I also noticed my family of geckos had laid a few more eggs too 🙂 Still no sign of the older ones hatching yet and it seems I won’t ever get to see them hatch now that I’m leaving soon.

Thursday and Friday I wasn’t asked to teach one lesson = a very bored and dull Readders. Oh well, this is ok for me now as my last and final week will be a week of ‘Home and Away’ planning and oh boy how I can’t wait to get back on that running machine of adventure and onto new and exciting ventures 😀

p.s. I have put more photos of the market in to the ‘Kodak Moments’ page 😉

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