Leaving the Land of Smiles – Insert sad face!

Ok, before I reflect upon ‘gushy’ sentimental goodbyes to Thailand, I must give you an up to date Readders Digest because hey, it’ll be the last one on Asia………or will it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Flip-Flop saved my life….well, my foot!

Haha, ok, total exaggeration…..I will explain!

Do you know what? Ever since I have been back from BKK, my house has been ‘alive’ with creepy crawlies. It is ‘them’ now sharing their toys with me (or so it feels!). It might actually have a lot to do with it being the rainy season too. It has rained here in Thailand everyday which in turn brings all the beasties out! Huge spiders that jump, (yep, jump) enough to make even the sportiest of jumping athletes envious, giant army ants through to the teeniest of tiny ants, ginormous flying termites, geckos, lizards oh and a crab – a singular side walking crab haha! That was so odd! I stepped out my house one wet evening, torch in hand and there it was – a grey palm-sized crab staring up at me through it’s funny boggerly eyes! Of course, I had to fully inspect him with my torch all the while he was ‘eyeballing’ me right back. The crab then clasped his little claws together, repeatedly opening and closing them (at this point, I imagined his claws sounded like a chef sharpening his knives on his sharpening block!) as if to say ‘You come any closer…..I’m not afraid to use these!’ hah, so I tapped him gently with the tip of the torch and off he scuttled in a sideways motion.

Another evening back in the house, I was standing over the sink brushing my teeth….of course, still sharing the sink with the giant army ants who set up residence in the overflow holes remember hah! They didn’t bother me anymore. If you cleaned the holes out, they’d just be back the next day anyway but the ants had become a regular common ‘fixture’ just like a soap dish or flannel – they’re always there!

Sitting back down, I noticed something on the side of my rubbery flip flop. ‘What is that?’ I noticed it was one of the giant ants. Thinking I’d accidentally squished one, I tried to flick it off…..it didn’t budge. A few more flicks and the giant ant was still firmly stuck to the side of the flip flop! I took a closer inspection…OMG! This giant ant wasn’t squished at all, this was obviously one of the soldiers and it was biting the side of my flip flop with it’s out of proportionately sized head! His huge jaw like pincers were ferociously ย attacking that flip flop as though his life, his Queen and country depended on it! Well, I’m so glad that wasn’t my foot! I’m not kidding but he was near on slicing into the rubber as though it was a lump of butter – yeouch haha! Finally, I gave up and just stared at him in amazement gnawing away. ย I was imagining him muttering away angrily to himself (with a mouthful of rubber of course) ‘Take that, and that!’ He finally got bored and scuttled off taking his funny looking ‘big head’ with him hah!

I think I’d better think it out again!ย 

So I’ve finally got my butt into gear and yes, I am leaving Thailand…the land of smiles as they call it. I just can’t believe it!

I’ve had to change my plans quite a few times actually and it’s taken much thought and careful consideration. I drafted ideas to take myself off to New Zealand after my Australian adventure….then off to West Papua, Indonesia to hang out with the loin clothed and bare breasted Dani Tribes (stop sniggering at the back haha!)….then another short flight up to the North Sumatra Province (still Indonesia) to trek through the dense jungles of Bukit Lawang in search of their resident ginger monkey (Orangutans) BUT I’ve sadly had to cancel those thoughts and fantasies because the FCO (coincidentally) believe both these areas of Indonesia to be unsafe for tourists right now. And asย my parents are reading this I won’t go into the details but all I’ll say is…..as the good old saying goes ‘better to be safe than sorry’ I’ve come up with plan b!

I’ve decided to continue with my plans to Oz (Thursday 8th August to be precise woo hoo!) and then jet set off to Ubud, Bali for a month and CAN’T WAIT. I have read Ubud is fairly similar to Pai in Thailand and that is one place I wanted to visit but didn’t. Pai is said to be a relaxed and almost hippy like town ๐Ÿ™‚ In short, Ubud looks to be bustling with culture, (markets :D), scrummy food oh and yoga, massage and healing practices! Being trained in Reiki, I would really like to experience ‘Indonesian’ reiki and in fact, pick up some new techniques if I am able to have extra lessons out there! ๐Ÿ™‚

After spending a ‘spiritual’ time hippy-ing it up in Bali, I will then fly off to Penang in Malaysia (near Georgetown) where I aim to trek the jungles of Penang State Park and also take myself off to visit monkey and turtle beach.

Then it’ll be more jungle trekking down at Taman Negara National Park before hitting Kuala Lumpur once more.

Let me clear my throat!ย 

Oh my goodness! What a wonderful send off I had on Friday morning! I was sooo nervous the night before because June asked me to do a ‘goodbye’ speech in Friday mornings assembly! ‘Speech!!’ I thought…..’Oh no!! “Is that Ok?” June asked, peering over the top of her familiar thick rimmed glasses. Perhaps she could sense my hesitancy by the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ expression on my face hah!

Well, I had to reply with; “Of course, I would love to!” Suddenly that injection of adrenalin was drawn up and injected straight into the pit of my stomach. I could already feel the adrenalin travelling through my system and I imagined the chemicals taking a ride on my red blood cells as though it was on some kind of ‘tubing’ adventure rushing through my veins!ย It brought back memories of when I did my welcome speech! ‘Oh, stop it Helen! It should be easier this time because you know them all now….right!?’ Well, easier or not, it still made me break out into that cold sweat like before haha!

So Thursday evening after I’d booked a few flights and accommodation for Bali ๐Ÿ˜€ I then went straight back to the house to write up a short speech. I thought it would be great to finish by saying something in Thai followed by all of us singing one of their favourite songs that I’d taught them…’Wherever I go!’ Ken text me some Thai words and with that my speech done it was time for bed!

Beetle Bum!

As usual I did my daily routine of shaking out my inner silk liner and then my sleeping bag because one thing I’ve learnt out here…is anything can be lurking in your shoes, under towels OR maybe sleeping bags! With everything shaken out (and nothing falling out), I got tucked up, rested my head on my brick of a pillow and soon started to slip into the land of nod…..

I woke up suddenly around 4.30am and couldnt get back to sleep. I felt itchy, hot and bothered. Trying to ignore these annoying sleep interrupters, I forced my eyes shut and tried desperately to get back to my lovely little dream of working the red carpet at the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival hah! (been on my mind a lot this week you see!).

Suddenly, it felt as though something crawled over one of my legs! ‘What the hell?’ Surely I’d imagined it and it was just my silk liner brushing against my irritated skin? Nothing can get in here, I’m wrapped up snug as a bug in this and not with a bug right!? Nope, there it was again. Scratching the back of my leg from under the sleeping bag, I tried to ignore it for a second time! This time, I felt something crawling over my butt and when I went to scratch, I felt something!! ‘AARRRRGGHHH’ I screamed haha! If only this was on tape…it must have looked so funny! Well, I was trying to scramble out of that sleeping bag as fast as I could but I was encased and trapped in the silk liner and the sleeping bag so picture this: my legs were frantically kicking about so much that I could have sworn I looked like I was pedaling one of Fred Flintstones leg powered cars hahah!!

Finally escaping the prison of my sleeping bag, I jumped up and brushed myself down….nothing on me! Ok, lets shake out both the bags….and there it was….a small black beetle GROSS! God knows how it got into the inner liner but I wasn’t happy. I spritzed the place with bug spray and then felt comforted enough by that to soon rejoin the land of slumber. But then it only felt like a few moments later when the awful electric sounding alarm went off!! :/

Graduation Day?!

Right, it’s speech time! It actually felt as though it was my very own graduation day or something. I was nervous but at the same time, felt quite sad too. I know I banged on about becoming ‘bored’ nearer the end of my time at the school but actually, I’d come to realise just how much the school had become a part of me.

So, it’s 8am and the whole school have begun congregating outside for their Friday mornings assembly. The children all walked over neatly in their lines and sat down together row upon row. All the teachers then sat at the sides so they could keep an eye on them all! Waiting for the assembly to begin, I looked around and saw all 700 little faces sitting down and staring straight towards the front. As usual, they all looked so well behaved and so ‘regimented’. Following the usual morning ritual, the first kid walked up to the front and began speaking in Thai and then the Thai’s National Anthem would be sung whilst one kid would raise Thailands’ flag up the pole. Flag now flying, June stepped up to make an announcement….I was suddenly transported back to my first day, my first speech. The injection of adrenalin was once again ready to shoot it’s dreaded concoction of poison into my system! I was waiting for my ‘turn’ and in turn, waiting for the reaction of pure fear to take over for I knew June was building up to my ‘leaving’ speech!

Moments later (which felt like a lifetime of waiting!)……

“Helen, would you be kind enough to come up to the front please?” June was now looking at me and pointing the microphone in my direction. Now over 700 faces were also looking at me! Oops, there it goes…adrenalin is now tubing on my river red so it should help me through ha!

Taking the microphone, I nervously began my farewell speech to everyone. Even though I had written a few selected words, I couldn’t help but think…’do they actually know what I am going on about?’ ย haha! Towards the end of my chatter, I then said something in Thai to them all….now that (I think!) they did all understand! To end, I asked all the children to join me in singing one of their favourite songs which went down well.

Oh this is what I said in Thai;

Khobkhun mak kha

Tea hai oh kas di chan

Ma yooh tee nee

Mee kwam sook

Mahk mahk kha

This basically means thank you for having me, I’ve really enjoyed staying at the school and teaching English to you all..

Afterwards, the Sub Director came up to the front and began talking to me. He’d also put together a few words together for me! It was so touching! Although I didn’t understand the first part (which was all in Thai), he ended by speaking to me in English ๐Ÿ™‚ He expressed the schools gratitude for my help, kindness and for also sacrificing my time for them. He then also went on to say that I will always be in their memories and their hearts and I’m always welcome……*sobs! I was just lost for words after that….not knowing what to say, I just kept repeating ‘Thank you, thank you’ and glared back at him with watery eyes and a bright red chevvy chase! haha!

After the Sub Directors words, the school presented me with a beautiful handmade silk scarf that I will treasure forever. It was then that the kids thought it would be funny to bundle me hahaha little buggers ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sing us one final song

Once everything had become settled and all the kids were off in their classes, I was then booked up for my final lessons too. It was so sad…the children didn’t want the lessons to end and in fact, they ran over time which of course, I didn’t mind at all.

Back in the office, I was thinking, I really should get packing once schools finished but the school had other plans….

After ‘work’, the teachers all took me out for dinner and karaoke! It was my surprise leaving party ๐Ÿ˜€ I had no idea! We all enjoyed a banquet of food along with more ‘speeches’ and more beautiful pressies! The food was delish. Star was shoving all sorts under my nose, bowls of green soup like liquids, funny looking meat balls that came in different colours (white and brown), fishy things (steamed and grilled and yup, eyeballs intact)….. ‘Helen, you must try this and also this one!’ Star wanted me to try as much Thai food as I could before going on my way but I also think she was trying to fatten me up just like all mothers do (I saw Star and June as my surrogate Mums you see aww). Oh one embarrassing thing happened…when I tried one of the spicy meat balls, I tried to cut one in half with my spoon but as soon as I pressed into it…the thing grew wings and just flew right off the plate and onto the floor! I thought no one had seen but once I’d bent down and picked the meatball up…my eyes caught everyone elses staring at me! They all then broke into laughter and yep, once again, I had rosy Readders cheeks hahaha!

The final final speeches were getting quite emotional but the last one from June ended with “If you come back next year, we would like you to join us!” Wow, sounds like I have a ‘job’ in the bag there if I really wanted one hey! ๐Ÿ˜€

Joe and M, the ladyboys of the school asked if they could play barbie with me in the morning….they wanted to dress me up in traditional Thai gear, full make up, the works! Well, hell yeh! What girl would refuse a pampering right! Only downside was that I had to meet them by the office at 8.30am. I knew it would be worth it though.

At the end of the evening, June and Star dropped me back at the house and I was dreading it for now, I had a monster job of repacking my old friend the invisible man! :/

Well, I was up until gone 2 in the morning busy making sure I’d got everything. I checked, double checked and triple checked the house. Phew, I think I’ve finally got the ‘knack of the pack’. Roll, squeeze, cram. Heavy at the bottom, light at the top and just make sure as much air is squeezed out of the bags too. I’ve actually heard some travellers will get their bags of clothes vacuum packed before they go…yeh, I can see how that will help….will give you more space too.

Finally, wrapping myself up in my silk liner and sleeping bag, I said my last goodnight to the house before drifting off……

Helen of Thai

Again, it only felt like I’d been asleep an hour or so before the dreaded mario brothers alarm shrieked at me to get up! I literally through on some trews and a Tshirt and got myself over to the staff room where I met Joe and M.

And wow! What an experience! Straight away, Joe started slapping on my make up and I had the works!! Dark black eyeshadow blending into lighter browns and 2 full sets of fake eyelashes! To finish, Joe slicked on the brightest pink lipstick I’ve ever worn haha! I was then fitted with a long black wig! Wow, the Readders with long black hair….I couldn’t wait to see how different that was going to make me look! I imagined it wouldn’t look too good against my pale skin though, I would probably look more like a vampire than a dainty Thai!

Now for the clothes. Joe wrapped the top half around me (under my Tshirt) and measured me up. It was like a beautiful silk bodice. You basically get ‘stitched’ into all the gear while you’re still fully clothed! Again it was the same for the bottom half…you get wrapped into the skirt part (over your trews) and then you have to wriggle out your trousers and Joe then popped in the final stitches so it was literally made to measure. Well, I couldn’t breathe haha! I imagined I was wearing a corset or something and that Joe had just put one foot on my back whilst pulling the strings so tight that every molecule of carbon dioxide was forced out of both my lungs hah! Once I was measured in and secured and stitched up, Joe then wrapped a delicate see through pink shawl around my shoulders to complete the clothing part. Joe and M then both ‘decorated’ me with all the traditional Thai jewellery including a crown, belt, bracelets etc…

Done! Excitedly clapping theirs hands (in a feminine ladyboy fashion), Joe and M stood me up and seemed so pleased with their ‘work’ and couldn’t wait to show me off outside to the school! I tell you what, all that gear was so heavy, I felt weighted down with accessories and I was also starting to feel rather hot in my new thick wraps but I couldn’t wait to see the finished look. Handing me the mirror, I just couldn’t believe what / who I saw! Wow, that just isn’t me! I looked completely different and couldn’t stop staring at the strangers reflection!

Walking out the office, the first person I saw was June “Wow….you look like an Angel, so beautiful!” Well, that was it, I started getting my usual and all to familiar rosy glow haha. Of course, who doesn’t like a compliment but I guess I was so overwhelmed with the whole look and with everyone’s kind comments.

The teachers all wanted their pictures taken with me, the children, standing by the schools Buddha statue etc…and Joe and M kept asking me to stand or sit in what felt to me like silly poses haha. But great fun all the same and an experience I feel very lucky to have been privileged with. ย Thank you Joe and thank you M for transforming me into a full blown Thai!

Party in BKK

Finally, it came to say the last LAST goodbye to the school. Joe and M took all the gear back but I still had a face full of thick make up and I was fretting about the thought of sitting on the bus looking like a ladyboy myself haha….I pulled off the fake tarantula looking eyelashes which helped a bit and then heard June toot her car horn from outside the house.

Driving to the bus station must have taken at least 2hrs! June wanted to take me as far as she could you see which was very sweet of her. We chatted non stop all the way and it was actually this car journey that made me feel more ‘bonded’ with June than I had before…strange that and bad timing with the fact I was on my way outta there!

At the bus station, June helped me to get my ticket and gave me a big hug that felt like it seemed to go on and on. Both our eyes were welling up and June promptly said, “I have to go now, I can’t watch the bus pull away” and with that we both went our separate ways ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The double decker bus looked pretty empty so I zoomed straight up to the top to bag the front seat! Pulling out of the bus station, it was then I sobbed a little as I watched North Thailand disappear.

My bus was so late arriving at Morchit Station in Bangkok, it must have been 10.30pm. Once at Morchit Station, I then had to grab a short cab ride to the train station so I could catch the Skytrain to On Nut to meet my Japanese pal Tomo. Finally reaching On Nut station, the usual ‘thick’ smell of pollution and other stinky smells soon hit (and blocked up) my nostrils. ย I met my friend Tomo nearby and we then both had to quickly get ready to go out and meet the others and party!

4 of us all partied hard in the touristy area of Koh Sarn Road! Walking the streets together, I looked around thinking ‘In a funny kinda way, I’m actually going to miss all of this’ The hustle and bustle, the buy one bucket get one free, the being approached every minute to come and see the next ping pong show or the ‘you want laughing gas?’ or the ‘you want to eat scorpian?’ haha! I’d gotten used to the same old lines and right at that moment, I suddenly didn’t feel like the ‘tourist’ anymore and found I kept repeating ‘Mai ao Kha’ (which means no thank you).

We all partied until the early wee hours at ‘The Club’ and had such a fun night! And one thing that did make me laugh…I actually made friends with someone who lives 2 miles from my Mums house in Bedford!! How incredible! Such a little big world!!

Ooooh you give me fever!ย 

Ok, so I thought it was more than likely my fault but I ended up falling rather sick 2 days after our party night. Being hungover on the Sunday, I didn’t feel anything more than ‘hungover’ but Sunday evening I was engulfed by an awful fever which ended up lasting for days. My throat was so painful, it was on fire and my temperature was fluctuating from hot to cold quicker than I could put a jumper on to then whipping it off again. When I’d actually lost my voice, I got in touch with my friend Ken for help….squeaking away like sooty and sweep, Ken and I met up and he rushed me straight to the pharmacy. I was becoming panicky you see with nasty bugs flying around such as Dengue fever and malaria I thought I could have picked something up ‘Oh great, what if I have one of these diseases?’ ‘Did I pick something up from the school on my last day?’ ‘Crap, I’d better be 100% by Thursday for my flight to Oz!!’

Well, Ken and the pharmacist were chatting away about my symptoms and I was then issued with anti bacterials, some more pills to sooth the pain of sore throats and some throat lozengers. I’m so grateful Ken was around to help! Phew! I couldn’t get over the fact that the chemist could just hand out Anti-B’s like that too….it was as though she was prescribing me skittles haha! Well, do you know what, I didn’t care if they were going to even be the right ones because at the time, I felt so ill, weak and shivery that I was willing to take anything.

Even though I’d just started taking all these pills (and probably sounding like a rattling pharmacy myself!), I developed a burning red itchy rash which started on my throat and soon spread downwards until my whole body was scarlet..then my stomach decided it wanted in on the ill action and began cramping up (felt like indigestion or something). Yep, I knew exactly what this was….Scarlet Fever! I’d had this once before when I was at college…you’d think you can’t get this kind of illness anymore, and god knows where I caught this, strange hey!

Well, a few sweaty days later…I had beaten the fever and my voice was slowly coming back! The rash has died down too and is nothing more than a few itchy patches now. I’m not yet 100% but not far off so do forgive me if my blog’s not quite up to my usual Readdy standards ๐Ÿ˜‰

Goodbye Thailand

As much as I am looking forward to kicking up the pace on the running machine of adventure, I am actually going to miss the school as I said earlier and well, Thailand overall! I was starting to pick up their ‘ways’, their language (ok, so I only learnt a few words!) but I mean the way they speak, the way they talk to you e.g. the ‘Where are you going Miss?’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Are you married?’ – which of course, in the beginning, I took all of this as being a bit rude or nosy however, Thai people have to be the least rudest people you could ever meet. They are so kind, generous and sincere and always seem willing to help you no matter how trivial the need.

My Thai friends even said I was beginning to dress and act like a Thai hahah! Although my dietry requirements could never adapt to all the spicy food…my poor tastebuds, my tummy, boy will I be glad to be leaving ‘phet’ (hot) food behind haha!

This might sound very sentimental because right now, the theme tune to Jurassic Park has just started playing on my ipod and is reminding me of when Judith and I went jungle trekking in Laos haha! Hey, maybe you should put it on while you’re reading this, music really does help the imagination ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, here goes…..one door closes and another one opens (in the form of a plane haha)

Here we are! And what an incredible adventure Thailand (and Indochina) has given me but now, the time is right to go. I will soon be following the yellow brick road with my little wooden stick (white bag hanging off the end of it!) and waving goodbye with the other ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

So when I am on that plane Thursday evening, feeling the planes wheels turning to straighten up for it’s powerful boost along the runway waiting for the plane to gradually speed up and up until the ‘super jet booster’ button is hit projecting all passengers ‘G forced’ faces back into their seats and up into the air……my mind will be rushing with beautiful memories. The elephants, the temples, the Buddha’s, the culture, the markets, the crickets (and eating of them!), my gecko family (who I wish all the best with their new batch when they finally come to hatch!), the giant ants and termites (well, maybe!), the parties, the friends, the jungle treks, their simple yet beautiful way of life, Helen’s bug hunts, the weather, the school, the food, their laid back ways (Thai time), their ‘don’t worry’ attitude and their traditions! The list could just go on and on!

I’m so so proud of myself! I can’t believe I’ve completed and survived the first leg of my journey. I know my Brother would be so proud too and I know he’s been looking after me along the way and I reckon he’d also be thinking, ‘You did it!’

I will be looking down from out the planes window, watching with watery eyes as Thailand shrinks in size until it looks nothing more than a miniature toy town…and perhaps like something that I imagined ‘happened’

Always in my heart, always in my memory, forever…..

Love you Thailand โค

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