Posts Tagged With: Cambodia

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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Chong Jom / O’Smach visa run…

As you may remember from my last blog, I was quite worried about this visa run. Having an over-active imagination as well as hearing about visa scams etc, it was only natural for the Readders to fret a little. All I could hear in my head was the ‘What if I do get scammed?’ ‘What if I get refused a visa?’ ‘What if they detain me?’ Haha. My busy mind was soon put to rest when I found out my lovely colleague and friend Beau would be accompanying me 😀

I wanted to write about my personal experiences (and include photographs) to help other travellers who may be independently entering (and exiting) via the same border entry point.  I found it quite difficult to find all the information so I really hope fellow border trippers find this of use (of course, feel free to message me and I will happily help if I can).

Today has been a rather eventful day and one which I care to forget! Most people don’t have any problems I’m sure but just mark my words…have your wits about you and never let your guard down, not even for a second! Here’s why…..

Road Trip! 

Ok, a few days earlier than planned…Beau offered me a lift to Cambodia (Thursday 11th July) for my visa run. I snapped the offer up otherwise, I was looking at 2/3 buses plus an overnight stay which I really didn’t fancy much! With my passport packed, a passport photograph, 2,000 Thai Baht currency (overboard incase!) my camera, ipod and mini speakers for the car journey (of course!), we were readdy to rock!

The drive from Nang Rong, (Buriram Province) to the Chong Jom / O’ Smach Cambodian border didn’t take as long as I thought, about 2hrs tops with the traffic. It’s pretty much a straight road from Nang Rong which connects you to Surin, Sisaket, Ubon Ratchathani. It’s a pleasant drive too, lots of beautiful scenery to take in – rice paddies, buffalo oh and there was one field that had lots of suspicious looking plants growing on it haha!

We pulled into a coffee shop for a quick fix. “Oh can we stop by a foreign exchange place en-route so I can make sure I have $20 USD for immigration?” I asked, whilst ordering an iced chocolate over the usual cappuccino. “Sure, we can find a bank on the way”. Fab! At the current exchange rate, I calculated $20 to be around 627 THB so I rounded this up to 650 THB to be sure. Back in the car, it only felt like 10 minutes before we came across a bank! Beau did all the talking for me (useful hey!) and it turned out the bank only had $3 or a $100 dollar bill?! Very strange! Well, I certainly didn’t need $100 and $3…you call yourselves a bank of ‘money’ hah! “Don’t worry, immigration accept Thai Baht” The Cashier convinced me it would be alright but I’d read on other peoples blogs that you should show up with the correct money – well heed this warning fellow border trippers…YOU DO!!

“We’re here!” (best said in the style of the little girl from poltergeist!)

An album or 2 later from the ipod and we finally arrive at the border line. We are soon ushered into a car park so we can walk in to sort the necessary paperwork. There are 2 car parks…the first one is rather expensive so if you can, enter the 2nd one (which is literally straight after the expensive one!).

With all relevant documents, we take a walk over to the first check point which is the ‘Passport Control Departure’. For me, I had to pass through  3 points (the 2nd was where I had to obtain my Cambodian visa so for those of you who already have the visa, you won’t need to worry about this bit).

1st point: 

Nice and easy. Here you will complete your Thai departure card and be given new ones to complete and keep for if and when you return to Thailand. These are normally stapled into your passport but here they are not so put them in your pocket or bag!

Once you’ve filled in your departure card, you will then hand this to the Thai Immigration Officer through the small window at the border pass office so they have a record of you ‘leaving’. I got a telling off here because you’re not allowed to take photos! So I snapped what I could and am happy to share them at the end hehe!

Once the easy bit is over with, you then walk through to what I call ‘no man’s land’ You are greeted by all sorts of people here…listen to no one and just keep walking! Tuk Tuk drivers, people promising you ‘help’ with your visa oh and then there are the beggers.

As cute as these kids may be and as harsh as this may seem, I would encourage you NOT to give them any money. Thai people have always told me to give them things like empty plastic bottles which may seem odd but they can use these bottles to earn a living from (recycling or something). But anyway, these kids are professional pick-pocketers! Fagin would certainly be a very proud old git!

With small, nimble and very fast fingers, even the most savvy person needs to be weary! To give you an example of how good they are; say you’re watching a magician and you’re watching good and hard and even with your sharpest pair of eyes on, you still can’t figure out how he did it…well yup, that is how good these lil kids are!

As soon as Beau and I entered ‘no mans land’…we were swarmed by small begging children. In fact, I think this is how they are so good because it confuses you, you don’t know where to look first! Well, it certainly made me feel bewildered. My eyes were busy darting all over the place when suddenly, the swarms seemed to disappeared as quick as they had arrived! Finally having the space to breathe, Beau and I had a walk around. Most people were going into the nearby Casino – apparently this crossing point is known for visa running athletes  or casino spenders!

After a bit of fun of taking each others photos with one foot in Thailand and one foot in Cambodia I realise my arrivals / departure card is missing! “Oh my god, where is it?” Panicking, I turned all my pockets out and practically tipped the contents of my bag on the floor. I routed through everything…nothing! We even retraced our steps and did a huge sweep of the area and still nothing. I then gasped… “Those kids….those lil beggers!” Beau agreed, “Oh no, they must have taken it” Beau came with me to report it to the Thai Immigration Officer who assured me it will be Ok. “Don’t worry about the card, you receive a new one when you leave Cambodia and re-enter Thailand. And no one can do anything with your passport number unless they have the actual passport” Ah well that’s ok then isn’t it, I’m sooo relieved, not!

Finally giving up the hunt and accepting that someone somewhere now had my ‘details’, we moved onto stage 2.

2nd point: One Visa please…?! 

Ok, so this part only concerned me as Beau is a Thai national so she didn’t need a visa to enter Cambodia.

Walking over to ‘part 2’ I had to fill out the required documents for my Cambodian tourist visa.

Immediately, the Officers had a different ‘air’ about them…I certainly didn’t get a good feeling from them and Beau (having chatted with the officials) told me she found them to be very rude.

Filling out the paperwork with my right hand, my left hand was tightly clutching my 600 THB and I made sure they could see my wad as I wanted them to know that I ‘knew’ the procedure and also that I had figured how much was needed! Handing it all over a new ‘Officer’ appeared. He spat the words “1,100 THB” and looked down his nose at me. “No it isn’t. A visa is $20, the conversion is just over 600 THB!!” Even in my most assertive voice he simply shook his head and said “1,100 THB or no stamp” Trying my best not to get annoyed (as this is called losing face remember) again I ‘politely’ disagreed with him. At deadlock point and neither party budging, Beau asked what the problem was. The ‘Officer’ said he’d only accept the right currency but he wanted $25 and if not, then it had to be 1,100 THB! We put our foot down and said no way, the visa is $20 and that’s all they’d get. Finally, agreeing at $20 the Officer told us to change the money in the building just across from us (which was the final check in point).

So, off we trot to the ‘sign in’ point to get the Thai Baht changed into Dollars. “No, you can’t change the money here, you must go into Cambodia to change the money!” WHAT!! Ok, I was really starting to get annoyed now for there was no way I was overpaying for a visa that is officially $20. How dare they try this on. Were both check points syndicate to some kind of scam here? Both say no so you end up having to cough up the money to get your stamp?! Poor Beau agreed to run into Cambodia for me to change my money as she was pretty much good to go…all Beau needed was a quick stamp in. Handing Beau 700 THB, I stood in wait and watched her hop on a motorbike taxi and disappear into Cambodia! Luckily, Beau was only about 10 mins. Handing me a $20 bill, I then marched on over to check point 2.

“20 dollars” I barked! Wow, I never thought I could do the ‘mean face’ but I definitely found it that day! Well, after having my arrivals card stolen from right under my nose and then all of this visa pa-larva, strewth, it’s enough to give anyone a bad case of the grumps right?

The ‘Officer’ snatched the money and issued me with my Cambodian visa. We later found out that this ‘Officer’ was indeed not an official officer! What the! It just gets worse. What a strange set up…the officers at the check point were real of course but looking back, they seemed like ‘silent sitting puppets’…they issued the visa (don’t worry, that was real too) and did the paperwork for me but the guy demanding the money said to Beau afterwards that he ‘knew’ the officers and would give them the money?! Huh. In other words, he would have pocketed the extra if I had paid in Baht! What surprises me is that this actually happens in front of the official officers? It all seems very corrupt to me. And I would suggest you DO NOT give in and just ‘pay up’ as it will only encourage this kind of behaviour further.

Beau and I did report it when we finally left Cambodia but the Thai Immigration Officer didn’t even seem surprised by it..clearly a regular occurrence. He said we did the right thing though. It doesn’t even bear thinking about what the hell I’d have done if Beau wasn’t there! She was my angel that day and I’m so very grateful.

Final check point

Phew! With all the ‘dramas’ over with, I walked over to the final check point and filled another form out. Here you have to state where you are going so it’s fine to just pop down ‘Siem Reap’ – in fact, the Officers pretty much told me to state that!

Both possessing ‘legal’ entry into Cambodia, Beau and I decided to each hop on a motorbike taxi and visit the local market to find something to eat. That was our original plan to go into Cambodia for lunch and then straight back out again haha! Beau had already been to the market as this was where she exchanged my money earlier.

The market felt so dodgy and again, I’m really glad Beau was with me! For it felt as though people were ‘watching our every move’ – The market has eyes haha! ‘The square shaped market felt more like a second hand jumble sale. Similar to ordinary markets, we could see an array of clothing stalls, fake handbags and fragrance brands, displays of  jewellery and various food stalls trying to entice us but to be honest, neither of us really fancied eating there.

Locals were either sitting by the roadside on dirty old knackered plastic chairs (or actually on the curb’s edge) or they were chatting to each other in their groups whilst sitting on the backs of motorbikes as if waiting for business. Wide, dirty and dusty roads guided us round to more stalls and new aromas (most of which were all bad). Well, we’d seen enough so after a quick walk round, we hopped back on a motorbike and went to the border once more.

The Exit

Easy peasey of course! You simply get stamped ‘out’ at the point you were stamped ‘in’ ! The Officers didn’t look too happy though for whatever reason. I’d heard of people being asked for money to exit but I wasn’t asked for a dime, dollar, pound, nothing! You are NOT required to pay anything so do not let yourself be fooled by them if you are indeed asked!

The Officer just looked at me , raised an eyebrow and questionably said “So you are not going to Siem Reap?” I cheekily replied with “Nope!” With that, I was officially stamped out.

You simply then walk back over to the Thai Immigration point, fill in your Thailand arrival card and come on back in! Woo hoo! 🙂

“Right Beau….let’s go find something nice to eat!” And with that, we practically wheel spinned outta there!

Summary

– Go in with the right money IN the right currency

– Stand your ground

– Be vigilant

– Trust no one!!

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Great Adaptations!

Wow, so I’ve now survived 3wks, nearly 4 as an English Teacher, phewie! The past 2wks have been all about adapting and learning to set boundaries. Whilst it has been a good couple of weeks, it has also left a ‘serious after thought’ in my mind. My first week was all about ‘Wow, there’s an english person here to help us learn and teach’ ‘Wow, look at the white person’ etc..but now, life at the school has had to get real. I guess, if I could just pick words to summarize the past few weeks…I would choose; ‘frustration, heart-ache, hard work, thought provoking, and yes…tears’ !!

Always on call! 

I tell ya, I have a whole new respect for teachers! Well, I mean, not that I didn’t respect them before of course, but now having played a part in their routines and lessons and ‘worn the teachers hat’, I just don’t know how they do it each and everyday! Oh my word have I been tired! Instead of being the newbie who is meant to be full of energy, I am just tired all the time! I guess this is because I am living onsite at the school so wherever you go, whatever you do, you will always bump into a kid or 3! You literally have to be on your best behavior, giving the biggest smiles and the ever attentive ears at all times! Even at the weekends, you get ‘disturbed’…the kiddies will come to the house to see what you’re doing or come to drag you out to play which is rather sweet but at the same time, I do like my own space just like we all do and all need at times. Swearing has far left my vocab now (for my Mum and Dads ears – not that I swore a lot of course haha! 😉 ) but anything you say, they will mimic and remember! Actually, now there’s a thought…why do kids always seem to remember the bad words hah! I bet if you taught a lesson swearing throughout, they’d remember the dam lot haha! Swearing the phonics at them, they’d be b****y geniuses!

Clingons….not in the star wars sense, nor any other sense!

Ok, now the serious part! It became evident after the first week that I had the beginning of a small fan club. I’m not saying this to sound big headed but the teachers did warn me that you may experience a few ‘clingons’ haha. Being new and different, the children naturally see you as a new play mate right! Well, Lek (the lady boy who I introduced you to in week 1) was my main clingon, then there is Gun, another cute little fella who is just lacking love and attention! Other followers include a few young girls who just want to play with my hair and draw pictures of me…so cute!

Lek was really my own main problem. From the start we were watching Youtube videos together almost everyday! Well I had no idea that the students weren’t allowed in the computer rooms unless they were doing homework / projects etc…oops! The students are fully aware of the rules of which I wasn’t so he took advantage of my ‘newness’! But other problems arose…Lek really wanted the DVD collection of the British hit Merlin! One evening I was skyping my Mum and Nana’s and he came over and interrupted asking them “Have you ever heard of Merlin? I want the Dvds, series 1,2,3 and 4!” Well, of course my poor Mum and Nana’s agreed to get them for him to which he replied “Don’t lie to me!” Well, in the end, I had to tell him this wasn’t going to happen for 3 reasons: 1. Dvd regions are different 2. It will all be in English and 3. I can’t be seen getting one student a Dvd and not all other 700 of them! Eventually (and even though he didn’t look happy about it), Lek understood!

Finally with that drama over with another one started! “I’m staying at my sisters on the weekend. We can take you to Phanom Rung Ruins” Lek sounded really excited! My first response was “Sure” but then he asked to borrow my mobile to call his sister which I stupidly let him! “Great, she said it’s all fine! I can’t wait!” He then clapped his hands and then ran off to class. Um, hang on a minute…what just happened here? At lunch time in the canteen I consulted Tomb and Pinto…”I may have got this wrong but I think Lek just invited me to stay at his sisters house for the weekend and he’s taking me to see the ruins?!” I explained! “Can someone just talk to him for me and let him know that I’m not comfortable with that. I don’t mind a day out but not to stay over!” “Oh no! Of course, we’ll speak to him Helen don’t worry!” A surprised looking Tomb exchanged a glance and nodd with Pinto for they would deal with him after lunch! Later on in the day, Tomb and Pinto explained that Lek had been spoken to and they were really pleased I informed them both. Not sure I can go into details but it didn’t exactly sound ‘safe’ for me to stay at the house (not that I was planning to anyway) but they also brought it to my attention that even if I did have a ‘day out’ with him and his sister…should anything happen to either of us, I would be the one liable! Umm…Ok, I was thinking, can we just forget the whole thing!? I’m more than happy to take myself off to see the ruins anyway! Lek did come and find me a few days later saying how upset he was that he couldn’t take me to see the ruins but I just laughed it off. I later found out that he even asked one of the teachers to drive us both there and back seeing as I couldn’t stay over…the cheeky lil thing! Anyways, drama dealt with! Since then, Lek has backed off and he seems to be leaving me to get on and ‘teach’ which is a good thing!

It’s one thing being a friend to the students, but my first lesson has taught me that you must set the boundaries!

Summary of Week 2!

With the tiredness aside and clingons finally loosing their grip, I am now pretty much set up here! I share a timetable with Pinto so I know what I am teaching and as long as I have my lesson plans in place and enough material to last a 50 minute session I’m fine. I am treated more as a ‘floating’ teacher. If another english teacher wants to ‘borrow’ me for a lesson, I now get ‘booked’ up which is rather funny…I feel like an english consultant or something hah!

– Thai Time

Yes, there really is such a thing as ‘Thai time’ if I haven’t already banged on about it! The 2nd week was a bit of shambles in my opinion. Teachers booking me up but then either showing up 20 minutes late or sometimes not at all…well, we all know that famous saying ‘The show must go on’…well, I had to make it happen, I couldn’t just not teach right? That was funny, teaching english without having a translator in the room! I could have waffled on about anything I liked and no one would have known a thing haha. The older grades were a pleasure to teach, they wanted to learn and even though they probably didn’t understand everything I was saying, at least they tried. The younger kids however, well, they would just run riot and if there wasn’t another teacher present..they were little monsters but saying that, as soon as the bell went, they would turn into angels and fetch my paper work and other bits and pieces and carry them back to the office for me! Huh! Annoyingly cute eh!

I’ve mostly been teaching the parts of the human body and also the names of english food for all of my 2nd week. The kids no matter the age, all loved the stickers game (sticking the word of the body part on to the volunteer!) and also the part where I would invite one of them up to draw me a skeleton on the blackboard (mainly because I simply can’t draw one of those hehe!)…They love it when they have to do something be it, singing, drawing or colouring in and each and everyone of them are amazing at drawing! Are kids just budding artists the minute they are born? I remember a time when I was good at drawing cartoons…I’d love to tell them to never stop drawing, no matter how old they get hah!

Oh one little boy has stuck in my mind actually, he is so funny! I was teaching his class about singular and plural…so I would go through the body parts and point out 1 eye or 2 and invite them to suggest what the plural word would sound like. Well, every time a pair came up, this little boy would shout out really loud at the top of his voice in a monotone pitch “S”  “Yes! Correct, well done, but how does it sound with the word?” I would reply…but again I got….”S” haha! Oh dear, we’ll get there eventually (I hope). Then I taught the same subject to a different class and right at that very moment, I asked them all the same question…this little boy walked past, popped his head around the door and shouted “S” through the doorway, I shouldn’t laugh but it was so funny! One of those moments where you had to be there really.

– Dinner lady…there’s a fly in my lunch, oh and another, and another!

Yup! The School’s canteen (well, everywhere you go in Buriram is riddled with flies to be honest) may as well open a separate tuck shop just for the flies! I can think of 5 types of flies that I’ve seen buzzing about but only 2 species are super annoying. You have the normal black fly that you get back at home and then there are the eeny weeny tiny flies which are massively annoying!!

The common black flies will land on you, your glass, your forks, chopsticks, plates and of course – your food! No matter how many times you swot and sway your arms about, they just don’t give up! I’m almost certain I ate one the other lunch time, they are that determined to grab themselves a free lunch! In fact, someone told me that it’s not a bad thing?! Really!! Because apparently it shows your food is natural and not full of chemicals. Hmm..not sure if I’d rather have a mouthful of flies or mouthful of chemicals?

So you have the ‘I love food and I love annoying humans’ kind of fly but hang on…keep your eyes out for the teeny weeny flies, literally – if you don’t look out for them, they’re certain to look out for you! Yep, they have a weird fetish for the human eye ball! I don’t know why but these little fella’s are determined to get inside your eye! You are constantly swotting them away! Being a contact lens wearer it’s a ‘germ concern’ well, of course even if you’re not but they are so irritating! I sit outside of an evening to skype my Mum, Dad and Nana’s and these flies are persistently buzzing around your face, your eyes!

Health wise, I haven’t actually been 100% since I started here at the school you know. My guess is because I haven’t stayed somewhere for too long so have been lucky to avoid bugs and germs but being surrounded by children, different food and fly infested food at that…I’m sure I’ve have had more tummy troubles than a bottle of Pepto Bismol could keep up with ha! I’ve even had all kinds of rashes and some in places I can’t even reach to scratch hah! Well, I’m sure by the time I move on, I will have an immune system as strong as an ox 🙂

– Plotting and planning

Among all the teaching, I have very busy getting back to basics, yep, plotting and planning again! Lesson plans, new ideas / subjects to teach and talk about  as well as trying to think ahead…I have also been busy planning a careers workshop ‘Route to Recruit’. It was like a light bulb suddenly exploded in my head “OMG, why don’t I hold a careers workshop after school for the 18 year olds?! I mean, that’s what my job was back in the UK, to get other people jobs right?” Bingo…I went straight into see June and she thought it was a great idea. Coincidentally I was teaching the 12th graders that day so we put the idea to them…”Yes, yes!” They all shrieked! Fab, sounds like a good plan then. So in the computer rooms of an evening (whilst flitting between facebook and hotmail) I have been putting together a 4 week course for them. This isn’t about teaching english, this will be teaching young adults how to prepare themselves for an interview and hopefully what to expect. I have been allocated a translator for all my speakers notes as well as on the night as I’m sure they’ll all have questions!

I have also been (trying!) to make my own personal plans…what the hell am I doing after this…where and when?! Well, I think I almost have the where’s covered, but I just need to figure out the when’s. I’ve had one dream to visit the beach where the ‘Beach’ was filmed…yes, yes, cliche whatever you want to call it. You can’t come to Thailand and not do that ‘beach’ right! It’s like going to Paris and NOT going up the Eiffel Tower right? But we are now in the rainy season and there have been storms a plenty over that way plus there is the threat of the dreaded dengue fever in the air. I know at least 2 people who have contracted the infection since going near this place…hmmm…maybe I’ll go there for a few days and back but I can only plan this around the weather. Then I’d like to whizz over to Australia for 4-6wks and then hit Indonesia for 4wks! I’d love to do another jungle trek but this time on the hunt for the illusive Orangutan! After Indo, I’ll fly back over to KL for 2-3wks before heading home!! Wow, home time is coming up faster than I thought! *Sighs*

I also need to plan a visa run in all of this too! Being close to Cambodia is such a bonus…I will bus or train it there, get stamped out of Thailand and into Cambodia and hang about for a few hours, maybe the night? Then it’ll be a quick stamp out of Cambodia and back into Thailand for my 3rd and final stamp! I will need to have my wits about me too as there are a lot of visa scams entering cambodia. I have also heard the immigration like to try their luck and ask you for money just to exit again! I read on someone’s blog that they laid down on the floor and pretended to ‘go to sleep’  to avoid parting with any cash..well the immigration wanted to get rid of him sharpish to avoid any embarrassment but I’m not sure I’d have the guts to do that haha! I’ll have to think of something..

– Readdy for the weekend! 

Friday 21st of June was a knightmare! Everything just seemed to go wrong that day. The kids forgot to bring me my brekkie canister so I was pretty hungry by the time I’d got into the office. Then I was booked up for lessons in which again, the teachers were either late or just didn’t show at all. Oh and I even taught the wrong class haha! Only the Readders could do that right! Ok, I can laugh about it now but at the time I was pretty frustrated and totally embarrassed! I was asked to teach the 11th grade (16-17yr olds). Great I thought, a nice age and a good subject. Well, I couldn’t remember where the classroom was! Unfortunately I inherited my Dad’s shocking sense of direction hah! (sorry Papz). Mine is pretty appalling…I will sometimes go into a shop and then come out thinking…um…which way did I come in?! Oh dear haha…how have I survived travelling for this long I wonder? Well, anyway, I asked a group of passing students “Where is Grade 11, class 3?” They all pointed me to a building at the far end, “Lovely, thank you!” I replied, and then carried along my merry way! I can imagine my pony tail was whooshing and whipping from side to side at this point too hah! So, I get to the ‘building’ and I’m faced with corridor after corridor of rooms and doors! Most of them open and each filled with kids off all ages. Oh crap! Ok, ask someone…I found 3 teachers all hanging about doing well, nothing really so I asked them the same question. They soon pointed me into a room full of 35 odd screaming kids! Oh my god, are they serious? They don’t look 16-17yrs old, they looked about 10-11! Despite my protests and resorting to drawing the grade and class number in the air and asking them repeatedly “Are you sure?”, I was soon ushered into the room so I had no choice but to teach. Before the door was even shut, one of the Thai teachers ordered the little people up on their feet to do their welcome chant of  “Good morning Teacher, how are you?” Oh no…so after uttering a silent sigh under my breath, I went for it! It was terrible! Well, they didn’t understand me without a translator but to be honest, I don’t think they wanted to either! So I struggled on through and thanked the skies when bell when it went off! Then the monsters turned into little angels and helped me pack my props away!

– Sing us another song!

Finally, it’s 3.30pm and it’s Friday afternoon…school’s officially out oooh yeehhh! Pinto and ‘M’ one of the lady boy teachers invite me out for dinner and karaoke for the evening, hell yes, I could do with a beer or 3 to help dull my memory of teaching the wrong class. We had a fun night munching on grilled fish (they eat that a lot here…it’s funny seeing a huge grilled fish laid out on a plate staring up at you with it’s ‘popped’ yellow eye! You just each grab a fork and well, tuck in!), drinking Leo beer and singing our hearts out to a random selection of Thailands greatest hits to some good old classic Brit hits! M has the voice of an angel by the way! He used to enter competitions when he was younger and apparently he won every time. Well, as soon as he opened his mouth, wow! I couldn’t speak and I felt as though I must have looked like a puddle of melted butter on the floor haha! I loved it. He sang all in Thai though so I have no idea what he was saying or singing about but I didn’t care!

Saturday was a pretty rubbish day. The kids didn’t feed me at all that day so I was famished. There are no shops nearby, nothing is in walking distance and there are no taxi’s or tuk tuks around either. Plus there are some dodgy looking dogs just at the entrance of the school and after my experience with that dog from the monkey school in Surat Thani, I really didn’t fancy another run in. That’s the thing actually, I have developed a small fear of dogs. I believe that to be a good thing in Thailand anyways as you never know if they have rabies right? I think once I get back to the UK I will be fine. So Saturday I ended up tidying and hand washing my clothes in a huge bucket that I found on the porch. Oh and I found a yellow scorpion in my bin! Thankfully it was dead but it still sent shivers down my spine! Even though it was awesome, it was a clear reminder that these things are very real over here and apparently living in bins hah! So from now on, I always check my shoes and even my sleeping bag just incase one crawls inside for a night cap!

– Not completely ruined

Sunday was pretty cool. Beau invited me along to see the ruins – the place Lek wanted to take me to! We were to have a day out at Phanom Rung Ruins with 5 other students. So the schools truck toots outside at 10am to pick me. Beau greets me and ushers me into the truck where I see 5 excited students all sitting in the back, gossiping and taking photos of each other before they embark on their day out! Pulling the heavy truck door shut, we’re off! We stopped along the way to grab some coffee (and I was glad because I was feeling sleepy as usual hah!) and snacks and then carried on.

It took us about an hour to reach Phanom Rung Ruins. My ears were tuned in to the chatter from Beau and the students but both my eyes were busy taking in the views and sights along the way. We passed many lakes that were covered by blankets of beautiful pink Lotus Flowers, it was just like being back in Nam! They are amazing, they only open when the sun shines down on them and as soon as the moon rises, they close up for the night! Down each dusty, bumpy road we travelled, I would see locals going about their usual business, families (yep, Mum, Dad AND the kids) all miraculously balanced on their dodgy looking motorbikes and lone stray dogs either sleeping in the odd patch of shade or sniffing about the food stalls. We also pass lush green rice paddies and also another field full of plants that looked suspiciously like cannibus plants!? I was thinking to myself, if I was to hire a motorbike for the day, I’d never find my way back to the school you know! I’m not kidding, all the roads look the same hah!

So we finally get to the ruins and the school very kindly pay for my entrance fee, bonus! I guess it’s because it’s classed as an educational day out hey! I can see hoards of visitors (mostly of Asian ethnicity) snapping away with their huge Canons or Nikons reminding me why the hell didn’t I bring mine with me? Hey my Sammy will do just fine for now (Samsung!). And I can also see the usual tatty souvenir shops all lined up next to each other each displaying the same stock; ‘I heart Phanom Rung Ruins’ T-Shirts, pens, caps, keyrings and fridge magnets etc.. As soon as we walked through the entrance gates, I can see the ruins in the distance and to be honest, they look like a mini Angkor Wat. “Excuse me Miss, can I have photo with you?” Hah! Well, this is actually becoming a ‘normal’ occurrence! The Asian culture just seem to love having their photos with us ‘Westerners’ for some reason. I had this a further 4 x that afternoon!

So, we’re walking round and taking photos and generally enjoying out day out when suddenly we walked right onto the set of a music video, opps! haha! Of course, I had no idea who the singer was but apparently she’s quite well known over here…you show her picture to anyone here and they will know her. We stopped and watched for a while and the team even let me have my photo with the dancers from the video which was pretty cool! After all the excitement, we left in search of food, gobble gobble.

Summary of week 3

So it’s a new week and there’s a lot to be done. My first careers workshop is Tuesday evening so I’ve been busy adding the final touches to my introduction slides. Monday evening we had a huge thunderstorm and I gladly welcomed it…the storms always managed to cut through the blanket of hazy heat the day had smothered us in and even kept it away the following day. I was in the computer room tapping away at speed on the keyboard while the rain was hammering down on the roof. Cor, it’s like there’s some kind of musical production going on out there…the porch just outside the computer room is covered by a tin roof you see so it sounded like thousands of tin..no…iron buckets were hitting and bouncing off the roof and I could also hear toads croaking and singing to each other to come out and play, the odd chirping of crickets probably telling it’s ‘kind’ to run back inside the safety of their homes and then there are the beetles! Huge hard shelled beetles all come out and fly to any glimmer of light they can see so they’re flying under the porch and whacking themselves into the underside of the roof making a ‘clunk’ sound – but imagine a whole bunch of them all doing this…the industrial sized buckets made of iron splashing down and then the clunking of beetles banging into the tin roof haha! I had also stupidly left the door open to the computer room so of course, these huge beetles are all flying in for shelter and their lightbulb ‘fix’. I sat and watched them for a while and it did make me chuckle…I imagined these beetles were like little army soldiers wearing hard hats but their navigation systems are all out of sorts because they just clumsily (and repeatedly!) smash themselves into objects…even ME! I even found one in my hair when I got back to the house…how the hell did I NOT notice that, so gross! And they cling on for dear life! Once they’ve got a hold of whatever they’re sitting on, you have quite the job getting them off, determined lil buggers hah!

– The teacher becomes the taught! 

So we’re all sitting in the canteen having our lunch to which (as usual), I can’t really eat. Dam I’m missing all kinds of food right now. What I would give for a crispy bacon sarnie drowning in ketchup with of course, a good old English cup of tea mmmm!!! There is a selection of food in amoungst the fly infested chow to chose from..rice (as always), some kind of fermented fish soup and a plate piled high of dried out crispy fish! Oh my goodness did it smell, I actually felt rather nauseous..um, rice for me then! Laughter and chatter filled the air in the canteen with the odd interruption from a chinking fork or glass. Suddenly a man walked into the canteen carrying a big box in his arms. Everyone seemed to know straight away what was inside! Chairs screeched and scraped on the floor beneath them and teachers were practically skipping over to him! Before the man could get the box open, teachers were already extending 1 or 2 fingers at him as if to give a ‘pre’ order! I watched in curiosity as the first teacher exchanged a few baht for what was inside the goody box. A clear plastic bag full of a ‘black mass’ was handed over in exchange. Pinto came back with 2 of these bags…oh noooo! It’s black crickets! Gross! I should have recognised them. “Mmmm, delicious!” Pinto was already opening her bag and popping one straight in her mouth! My curiosity had to be satisfied…with one eyebrow raised I asked “Is there anything that us Brits eat which you Thai’s find gross?” “Um..yes, there is actually..cheese! Especially that mouldy one. Thai people can’t bear the smell, texture or taste!” Pinto then popped another 2 crickets straight in her gob. “Have you not noticed how we don’t even sell butter or milk?” Pinto was practically spitting crickets at me..I was worried I might get a cricket leg in my rice if she carried on talking with her mouth full hah! “Ah yeh, of course, that’s true. So you just don’t like dairy products full stop?” “I guess it’s just how we differ from you, we are more into our fish and rice”. “So what do these crickets actually taste of then…chicken haha?” I asked, shoving a spoonful of bland steamed rice in my mouth. “Prawns!” Pinto replied. “Oh haha…I was expecting you to say chicken! In England, we say everything tastes like that you see!” “Haha…everything here tastes like prawns!” (well, that’s kinda true actually..it’s either that or spicy to me!) June then walked into the canteen. She looked rather disappointed that she missed the ‘cricket man’ but Pinto offered her a handful with her lunch..yummy, fermented fish with a side order of crickets haha!

“Helen, I’ve been speaking with our music teacher. I realise how much you like music so I’ve arranged for you to take part in the lessons each week if you’d like?” June was already munching on her crickets before her main course (that tasty see!). “Wow, thanks June! I’d love to!” How exciting, I get to be a Thai music student. “When can I start?” I excitedly asked. “You can start after lunch today if you’d like?” “Yes, that’ll be FAB, thank you!” So that’s just what I did…

The school bell soon called me to my first music lesson and I couldn’t wait. The music department comprises of a small building stood on it’s own, it’s actually suspended on stilts hovering over a little lake, it’s rather sweet actually! Inside, the teacher welcomed me and enthusiastically ushered me to an instrument. Looking around the room before the class began, I could see an array of dusty music books, music stands, drums of all kinds – some on stands and some set on the floor. I could also see other instruments about the place, wooden panpipes, stringed instruments which were almost like horizontal violins that you pluck and ‘twang’ to change the pitch and tone..and then there were the wooden xylophones, that’s what I was learning today. Ok, doesn’t sound very exciting but it does actually produce a far from boring sound…it’s almost like a timbale but a wooden one of course hah! The instrument curved upwards at both ends so it was almost like a big ‘C’ shape. When I first hit the notes with my muffled beating sticks I thought the thing was out of tune – well, either that or I was hitting the wrong keys but no..that’s how they are meant to sound. Incredibly, when all the instruments are played together at the same time, they all come together and produce this very unique sound…the sound of traditional and rather beautiful’Thai’ music. No language was needed either, I found it rather easy to understand the teacher. The notes were written on the keys of the xylophone and the teacher would write what notes we were to play on the board. Again, I found it easy to realise when to play another bar or repeat certain lines etc..that’s the beauty of music, you just go with your gut and ‘read’ the teacher and ‘feel’ when to come in or drop out etc..I may have inherited my Dad’s appalling sense of direction but hey, with the ‘Readdys’ music in my blood, this is one trait that certainly makes up for it! 😉

At the end of the lesson I caught up with June to let her know how I got on. Apparently the music teacher had said I have a ‘good music sense about me’ 😀 “Helen, I also wanted to let you know, that we are getting the piano upstairs fixed” June sounded as though she couldn’t wait to tell me! Not sure if I mentioned but I spotted a piano here and the only one but the plug was missing..it’s an electric upright. “Ah wow! That’s great! So I can have a play in my free time!” I was rather excited..I had been itching to play again and see what I could remember etc..”I’d like to hear you play and also to the children. I want them to see you as an idol so it will give them encouragement to learn too” Um…what!! Ok, so I used to be able to play and to an ok standard (in my opinion). I used to practice everyday aspiring to play like the great gods of the music world including Bach and Beethoven but I haven’t tinkled on the ivory’s properly for some years now. It’s a great shame too. I could never read music, I really struggled with it so instead I would ‘listen and learn’ but by the time I reached grade 4, it became apparent that listening wasn’t going to cut it anymore and I had to be able to read to pass the exams, hey ho. I really hope I can learn to play again in my own time before I have a small audience hah!

I have also joined a pottery class too with the kids! Again, it was something June arranged for me..now it’s not like I’m a budding ‘potterist’ hah but it was fun all the same. When I got to the class room, it looked like the typical ‘arty’ room just like it did when I myself was back at primary school. There were ‘readdy made’ pots and vases and deformed looking animals and mugs etc..all sorts that had already been blasted in the kiln. It was quite funny, the teacher didn’t speak much english so he took me by the hand, guided me to a work bench and handed me a huge lump of clay! What was I supposed to make with that haha?! Then in Blue Peter style, he showed me a pen pot he’d made earlier! Ahh I see, so you want me to make a pen pot..ok, let’s do this! My lovely cleaned and pruned nails were soon clogged up with thick charcoal grey clay but that didn’t matter..we were all getting stuck in with our pots. Mine actually ended up looking more like a vase than a pen pot..or a pen pot for a giant and his giant stationary haha! Either way it was fun and the kids loved it and it was a great way to interact with them.

– Readdy to Recruit!

My first careers workshop is upon us and actually, even though I am a little nervous, I’m really looking forward to getting started!

Ready with my slides, speaker notes and handouts, the time has come for me to walk over to the allocated room. Along the way, I meet Beau who is my translator for the evening. I hadn’t actually seen the room so wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought maybe it was going to be just like any of the regular classrooms with a blackboard and few wooden desks? Well oh no…Beau unlocked the door and I was quite surprised at what I saw….

The room in my opinion was ‘President ready’! Everything looked so shiny and new! There was a raised platform ‘stage’ area with a huge pull down screen, a projector, a laptop, a speakers stand AND microphone! Omg! This was a full on professional conference room! When we first walked in, there was actually a movie playing from the laptop which was being projected onto the big screen. The Dolby surround speakers echoed and bounced the action scenes all around the room as though we were in a mini cinema! Well, they’ve certainly kept this little room a hidden gem! I suddenly felt super nervous and slightly under prepared. I wish I knew about the projector, I could have loaded a USB stick with my presentation rather than printing them but nevermind..it’s the quality of the pitch that really counts tonight hey.

So I’m busy getting ready and switching on the microphone and making sure all of my notes were in order. The microphone was awesome! My voice boomed from behind the speakers stand and it seemed as though my dulcet tones shot right to the back end of the room and straight back into my face hah! (I could imagine my hair blowing backwards at this point looking just as it would if you were riding up front in a convertible car haha. There goes my imagination again!) I actually really wanted to belch down the mic for a laugh! But of course, not very professional of me hehe. I think I was then punished for that thought as I then got a small shock as I twiddled the mic towards me. “YEOUCH!” Beau told me to put my shoes on (in Thailand, you must leave your shoes at the door you see but the electric shock let me off). Outside I could hear a storm brewing so I wondered what the turn out was going to be like. Maybe the kids will want to stay tucked up in their dorms rather than listen to me rant on about how to get a J.O.B? But then suddenly the door swung open and a few of the grads waltzed in, then a few more, and a few more until 30 odd filled the now not so vacant seats in front of me. Gulp..I’d better not freeze up here..mini pep talk going on in my head as usual ‘C’mon Hels, you can stand up and welcome 700 kids, you can do this too!’ Phew..a couple of rather large gulps from my pint of water (yes, yes, was totally wishing it was a pint of another kind!) Beau then looked at me and gave me the ‘nod’ to make a start!

“Hello! Good evening everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight for the first stage of ‘Route to Recruit'” I then started clapping, I don’t know why but it felt right..plus, it was almost biding me more time to think of where to take it next hah! Clapping is so infectious isn’t it..just like laughing I guess, it’s one of those things that people just instinctively copy. Before the clapping died down, I quickly scanned my notes to get the evening started. I was a bit nervous and you could probably hear it in my crackly voice over the super sonic boom mic but actually once I’d got past the first introduction and course outline, it was fine, well, it went great infact if I may say so myself haha! To finish, I asked the student to apply for one of the graduate jobs from my ‘fake job ad’ that I had created! The students at the end said they really enjoyed it and could I present stage 2 that same very week! So just like the weather outside, I guess you could say Route to Recruit went down a storm haha! So with the next evening / time agreed, I shot straight to the computer rooms after to make sure I had enough material for stage 2. I ended up working on stage 3 too so I could stay ahead.

The second stage again went well with the students. I loved it too because once the initial oh my god I have to talk to them about work fear was over…It became more about the ‘I really want to help them and I hope they find this useful (and take it in hah)’ Stage 2 was their interview invitations (from the fake job ad they applied for a few days earlier) and the ‘how to’ prepare for an interview / research etc. The 3rd stage will be ‘how to’ prepare themselves (i.e. what to wear), greeting the interviewer, body language and attitude and the general do’s and don’ts. The final stage will be all about the interview, the typical questions, how to answer them and then of course…the mock interviews woo hoo! I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to that one, not!

– Back to the Big Smoke!

With the end of the week approaching, I decided to escape for the weekend for a much needed break! As I mentioned, being on your best behaviour for 3 wks 24/7 is very tiring haha! So I arranged to meet some Thai friends and go party in stinky Bangkok woo hoo!

It was very sweet actually but June dropped me off at the bus station late Friday afternoon and she even chatted to the ticketers for me to make sure I got on the right bus, bless her. I didn’t have to wait long, within minutes my bus pulled in and immediately I felt like a kid when I spotted it was a double decker woo hoo…well guess where I’m going to sit..yup, up top of course haha! So minus the invisible man, I clamber on with a small kitchen sink haha… yes, even with my mini rucksack I still manage to bring everything I DON’T actually need but want and end up paying the price! So kitchen sink and Sammy slung over one shoulder (my Samsung camera!), it’s up top I go. Ah dammit, the front seats have all been nabbed…oh well, as long as I get a window seat I’m happy! June waved me off right up to the point I couldn’t see her anymore haha, she was like my stand in Thai Mum that day aww. On go the headphones, out comes the book and I’m sorted.

Half way there, I’m staring out the window deep in thought as usual when…oh great…just seen a dead dog slap bang in the middle of the road! It’s eyes were open and still twinkled in the sun so it must have just happened! I couldn’t get the image out of my head 😦 I’m surprised it’s still there actually..In Vietnam that would have been made into a hot pot already! You think I’m joking, dog is quite the dish over there!

Finally I arrive at Bangkok bus station and immediately before I’ve even stepped one foot onto Bangkok territory you get the chants of “Excuse me Miss…where you go…taxi Miss!?” Grrrr…I’ve learnt to never get the first ones you are greeted with..take a bit of a walk and you’ll soon find a whole bunch of registered (and metered) taxi’s. Again, just be careful to watch the meter thing – as you’ve probably realised in amongst my bloggings somewhere that some taxi dudes will try to rip you off by either setting a price to ride or just won’t bother turning on the meters at all. Metered taxi’s will always be cheaper. I love telling them no nowadays haha! They don’t get offended, just be firm with them and don’t get angry as they call this ‘losing face’. I’ve also learnt that if you upset one Thai, you upset a whole bunch of em! I witnessed a fight brewing in Koh Sarn Road between a German guy and a Thai tuk tuk driver. Things were getting a bit heated when a local joined the tuk tuk driver making it 2 against 1. I asked my Thai friend what was going on etc and he said the other Thai guy who spoke to the Tuk Tuk driver was basically saying ‘If you want me to hit him, let me know!’ It died down in the end but just goes to show hey! Anyways, sorry, going off on one as usual. So I get to my hotel, unload and unwind! Ahh a nice hot shower, beats the cold one at the school haha! Oh nooo, I realise I’ve lost the tablet to my charger! Well, either that or it’s rolled out my kitchen sink and under one of the chairs on the double decker! But I wasn’t going to let that ruin my mini break hah!

I had a great time! I managed to pack quite a few things in such as the cinema, bowling, karaoke, clubbing, a visit to the Saxophone Bar, a Thai massage, watched a break dancing contest oh and a little bit of shopping. Hey I even very randomly spotted a guinea pig in a bush by the MBK Mall!! Yes, a guinea pig in a bush! I walked over to it to see if it was alright?! Very strange, was this where it’s owner let it live or had it escaped? I grabbed the attention of a nearby security looking official and pointed at this ginger guinea pig…”Look, look!” I said waggling my index finger at it. He didn’t even batter an eyelid! There was in fact a rather large stick of cucumber tucked under the bush next to him so um…I guess he lived in there? But before I could do anything about it, the security guy ushered me away from it so I didn’t really know what to do !?

Another very random thing happened in the Mall…I walked past this lil cute kid and as I walked on, I heard his Mum say “Go on….” the next thing I know, this lil fella was standing very wobbly next to my ankles and he just stared up at me! haha…His Mum came over and said hello to me. “He wants you to pick him up. It’s strange because he never lets anyone pick him up or even touch him but he pointed at you as you walked past and wanted a cuddle!” Um…I was thinking…’Ok’ so I picked him up and made a bit of a fuss of him haha. I think I was blushing a bit because so many Thai people  were glancing over and even taking photos! My friend Ken was with me at the time and he offered to take a photo of me and this lil dude. Hey, maybe the kids can sense I work in a school now haha!??

Anyway, I managed to get a new charger for my tablet! Later in the evening, I plugged my new charger in to power up the tablet overnight and what a disaster! I was in the middle of watching a film, The Hunger Games (great film btw!) when suddenly….. ‘POP!’ What the hell!? Everything then blacked out! I was in total darkness for the lights, the fridge the TV…everything had completely shut down! Oh crap! The power had gone…all that was left was a stinky, burning plasticy smell. Um…must be the charger?! I opened the door and saw everyone still had power..yep, def something to do with in here. Carefully I unplugged the charger and it was burning hot..the plug was singed to a dark smokey grey…oh no…haha, I’m going to have to report this at Reception! Well it was all fine in the end. It was something to do with a power ‘reverse’ but they sorted in a matter of minutes…good o’, I wanted to catch up with my film haha..

– Back to School 

After a weekend of much partying, chilling and socialising it’s time for me to head back to the school and there is a lot I need to do right…for the careers workshop needs finishing and I must get on and get prepared for Oz and Indonesia! Then there are the visa’s to sort, oh boy! Cambodia run and Oz application! I’m sure it will all come together, it always does.

My bus is 30 mins late but again, I grab the Nakhorn Chai Air from Bangkok to Buriram. They are good these buses because you get given a bottle of water, a small dinner (usually chicken and rice) and then a carton of soya milk before you get off. They are nice and roomy too oh plus, the seats are massage seats haha! You just press a few buttons and away it goes…feels bit creepy to me though lol! Just be sure to take your headphones because they usually play a film but it’s all dubbed in Thai 😦

My bus arrived at Nang Rong Hospital where a lift was waiting for me (well, a motorbike). It was really nice actually because the school had left me 2 bags of shopping outside my house for my arrival..there were bottles of water, 4 packets of biscuits, a tub of butter and also a loaf of bread. Yesss butter! Now I can have a butter and jammy sarnie hah!

So I am now in my 4th week at the school! Wow. Well, it has certainly been easier than staying in the monastery and it’s gone a lot quicker too hah!

While my brain is still whizzing away like it always does, I will give your eyes a rest because for me now it’s plot, plot, plot! My next installment of the Readders adventures may be the last one from the school and more about my future plans? Lets see how it goes for sometimes things don’t always go the way you planned them BUT sometimes, the best things really are the unplanned ;)………….

oh and p.s…update on the gecko family living in my house..they ate 2 or 3 eggs, 2 still haven’t hatched and they’ve laid another 3! Watch this space, I’m determined to catch a glance (and photo) of a baby gecko so here’s hoping! 😀

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Cambodia

Wow! I made it to Cambodia and what an experience! It’s now a week on and I’m in a new destination so I shall recall the events from the past week or so..

Where was I? Oh yes, I was on my way to see Flick and Frankie and the crew in Bangkok for more shenanigans and I couldn’t wait! My flight was delayed by almost 2hrs but finally touching down, I rushed to the nearest taxi and made it to the Bangkok Centre Hotel. I asked reception to call Flick so they all knew I had arrived…the receptionist past me the phone so I gave Flick one of my booming laughs down the receiver and she instantly knew it was me haha! Aww it was soo good to see the them..Flick, Frankie and Howie came down to meet me in the lobby and help me with my invisible man (my back pack haha!) After catching up in the room, we were ready to meet the rest of the crew for dinner and drinks in the city..Koh San Road to be precise, that’s where all the back packers and tourists go! We had so much fun that night, it was like a hill tribes reunion! In the morning, everyone parted ways but I stayed in the hotel that day for I was meeting my new group for my tour of Indochina!

So I’ve checked into my ‘official’ room (the night before was a sneak in and crash with the girls job lol!) and I’m waiting for my new roomie..wondering what she’ll be like and again, if she’ll like me. Danielle eventually arrived late afternoon. She seems really nice..I wasn’t too sure about her to start with but having roomed and warmed to her for a week, I know she’s cool..I also realise now that I’ve met Danielle for a reason, she’s shown me it’s ok to be yourself. So, we’re doing the ‘get to know’ within minutes of meeting each other..Danielle is slightly younger than me and is from Canada and is training to be a boxer! After about 10 minutes, Danielle asks if I’d like to go with her to the National Stadium as she’s looking to buy some new boxing gloves for some pals back home. The stadium is about a 40 minute walk from the hotel, so I thought, sure why not, I mean we had about 3hrs to kill before our welcome meeting anyways. So we’re adventuring Bangkok in search of the stadium..it’s 40 odd degrees and we cannot find this place. Hours passed like minutes and then eventually we had to resign to the fact we weren’t going to find the place no matter how close we were!

Back at the hotel, it’s 6pm and we’ve just met Albert, our new tour leader. First impressions, he seems a lot more reserved than Ken but I’m sure he’ll be fine once everyone’s been introduced etc.. The new group are all lovely..all 9 of us, a much smaller group than the Hill Tribes lot. Albert gives us a run through of our itinerary along with a ‘tough’ talk with regards to safety..the places we are going will be a lot poorer than Thailand so we were made aware of bag snatchers, muggers, the tricks they may use etc.. I’m actually sitting there selfishly thinking ‘Oh my god..I hope non of this happens to me!’ and I can tell everyone else is thinking the same as we’re all exchanging the odd nervous glance and bite of the bottom lip! But I’m sure we’ll all be fine if we each look after each other and stay together when venturing out.

Tuesday 23rd April

Tuesday morning and we’ve set off early to head for the Cambodian border. It takes us 4hrs to reach the point where we must hop off the bus and walk into border control to be stamped out of Thailand and officially into Cambodia! With formalities over, that’s it, we’re in Cambodian territory. We can’t believe the difference between Thailand and Cambodia..for one, the soil is red! But already we can see a comparison in their lifestyle along with the poverty that seemed evident in the most parts we drove through. This stunned me to begin with..staring through the finger smudged window of the bus, I could see wooden houses, some on stilts, that literally looked like they needed to be knocked down and rebuilt..and inside these stick houses, it looked like they had very little in the way of creature comforts. The bus would only allow me to see so much before it sped past almost leaving my rubber neck behind but from what I could see, all seemed so bare within.

A further 2hrs road trip brought us to our final stop, The Mekong B&B in Siem Reap. We get time to freshen up before we’re taken to our first point of call..New Hope Foundation.

We hired 3 tuk tuks and travelled over a pot-holled dirt road and slum to reach New Hope. To say I was overwhelmed just doesn’t cut it..the people in the slums all cheerfully shouted hello when we passed them and children would come running out waving and grinning as soon as they heard the tuk tuks coming..some would even chase us laughing and giggling as though it was a game to try and keep up! As soon as we got off we were showered with cuddles from the kids, they seemed so happy to see us and they were even eager to have their photos taken..the best bit was showing them the photo after, it was such a joy to see their little bewildered faces confused perhaps trying to work out how the camera worked haha!

We were then taken into New Hope. New Hope are amazing..in brief, they provide free healthcare and education to the locals who simply can’t afford these primal necessities. It was so touching to see all their hard work and how much they put into providing these services. We were lucky enough to catch 3 english classes going on upstairs in the school..so we were split into groups of 3 and allowed to ‘mingle’ with the students and help them with their english for around 20 minutes! I loved it! The students in our class were 15yrs old and my word, they were so good..some were fluent and a few rustier than others but I was so impressed!

New Hope then put on a yummy dinner for us all and answered any questions we had about their work.

I was emotionally drained when we got back to our hotel..how lucky I’ve been, how lucky I am..for the kids I saw today had next to nothing but they were / are so happy.

Wednesday 24th

Today was a seriously early start for we were off to Angkor Wat for the famous sunrise photoshoot! So we’re all up and out by 5am and its pitch black. Wow, this is early haha. The coach reeked of bug repellent (as the mozzies are also getting up at this time too) and no ones saying a word apart from our eager and frightfully chipper guide for the day!

We arrive at our first temple and armed with torches, we head down to the front of Angkor Wat temples to secure our photo standing point! Well, we must have waited for almost 45 minutes for the sun to appear. Tourists numbers were increasing and crowds were pushing everyone nearer to the lakes edge when the sun started to paint the sky a crimson shade! But what a disappointment..clouds denied us of a beautiful sunrise that morning but hey, I was just grateful to have been there to see it! We ventured on that day and visited a further 3 temples nearby.

Later that evening, some of the girls and I decided to visit a night market and have a nose round. I’m getting better at the bartering, in fact, they expect it and its fun seeing what you can get them down to hah! Then we tried some of the local beer which of course was called Angkor!

Friday 26th

Yes yes, I know I’ve skipped Thursday but I didn’t think a 6hr bus ride was worth mentioning but then, I guess I kinda just did haha..Thursday we all moved to our next location of Phnom Penh. It was here we went to visit the Killing Fields.

What a day! What an unbelievable moment of history! It is truly awful to think that such a horrid event could have ever taken place. All those thousands of people tricked by their own leader Pol Pot who then had them killed in the most horrendous ways..plus having them dig their own graves!! Beheadings, torture, children beaten against trees and babies thrown in the air and stabbed on bayonets..omg! It was naturally a very solumn day. Walking around the killing fields you could actually see the odd bone peeking out from under the earth which made it seem all the more real. Just lost for words! I wrapped one of my bracelets around one of the trees snd just hoped that the many thousands of innocent people were now at rest.

We also met one of the few survivors, Mr Chum Mey. That was very interesting..hearing his inside story of what it was like to be detained at the prison camp and what they did to him. Mr Chum Mey also explained how he escaped them and it was by the skin of his teeth..basically, as one of the soldiers of the Khymer Rouge was reloading a cartridge into the shotgun and he made a run for it and what an escape! I felt so sad for him for what he had endured but at the same time, I’m sure he’s now a very rich man and living a happy and altogether free life.

Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th

On a happier note and 4 bus riding hours later, Saturday and Sunday we moved to Sihanoukville..the Miami of Cambodia. My god its so hot but the beach is on the cards today so a nice swim and chill is much needed.

It really is gorgeous here but….we get to the beach and pick our loungers and are immediately bombarded by children selling bracelets! “You want bracelet? I make you..what your favourite colour?” Despite how many times you say no, they just don’t give up and it actually becomes rather annoying when you’re sat there trying to write your travel journal!! One of my favourite lines was this one..”You got boyfriend?” Me; “No” …kid bracelet seller; “That’s because you don’t have bracelet” haha, cheeky lil…The kids here arent as nice as the kids we met in Siem Reap, here they seem more..sorry to say..but tainted in some way. I reckon they’re not as innocent as they look but it’s because their parents have taught them to exploit as many tourists as poss?

Anyways, the beach was hectic as so you really couldn’t hang around for long or ‘chill’. Later in the evening, we all had a BBQ on the beach and then partied in a bar called Utopia which was so much fun..it certainly helped to shake off the emotional side of the week we’d had too. In fact, one strange but funny thing happened..it seemed to be all the rage to breathe in balloons of laughing gas in the bars here! Having mingled with some other travellers in Utopia that night, we were encouraged to give these balloons a try! Well, that felt so weird! You breathe in this awful tasting gas, give it about 10 seconds and that’s it..everything is then super hilarious for about 30 seconds! So, we did a couple of balloons..chin chinning them as though we were raising a pint and laughing and rolling around like school kids! Haha!

Monday 29th

Well well..today its Vietnam day..most of it will be spent on a bus..9hrs in fact..groan! We’re up at 6.30am and hit the road headed towards the Camb/Viet border.

Once we get there (5hrs later), it feels ‘illegal’ haha..you’re being stared at by everyone which is very un-nerving and each border control point looks ‘shoddy’ and basic and im thinking to myself ‘That could be anyone sat in that shack, nice little scam going on there’..but I snap myself out of my day dream and hey ho, onwards we go! Oh one word of advice, don’t go to the toilet here unless you really have to! One of the girls stepping in human poop is more than I need to say hah!

So we’ve made it with no hiccups..we’re officially in Nam!! But we’ve still got quite a way to go to reach our final point at Can Tho homestay.

Finally..4hrs later and we’re here. Tonight we’re staying in a small village homestay where the lives and living conditions of the people are simple but seemingly very happy. It’s like I’ve been transported back to one of the hill tribes villages! I love it..the food they fed us was amazing..rice pancakes, vegatables, spring rolls, chicken and pumpkin curry..yummy. They literally have all they need to survive, animals, food and accommodation.

Again, the kids here came out to greet us which was too cute, they were so happy to see us! My Dad will love this..I taught them the sliding ‘snapped off forefinger’ trick..actually, they looked a bit horrified to start with haha but I soon showed them how it was done..so Papz, the cute kids in Cambodia are now doing it haha!

Once our beds and mozzie nets were all set up, we sat around playing cards and other games including the new ones I’d learnt from Flick..’I went to market’ and ‘I took a plane to…’ so thanks Flick, both served me well 🙂

Tuesday 30th

In the morning we drove another 3hrs to our stop which brings me to today..Ho Chi Minh City!

My first impressions..a little bit like Bangkok but more Chinese hah..well, there is a huge amount of Chinese influence here, buildings are also a mix of french architectural influence so it’s all very interesting. Whats also got me are the amount of motorbikes! Apparantly the population in Ho Chi Minh is 8 million and there are 6 million bikes..well, can you imagine trying to cross the road!! Scared is not the word. It reminded me of when Frankie and I tried to get across the road in Bangkok but 100 times worse! The trick is..look the bikers in the eyes while you cross, keep going oh and DON’T run..they will go around you trust me! It’s still terrifying though hah..we even saw a motorbike crash right in front of us today when we tried to cross, thankfully no one looked hurt.

So after some exploration of the city, it’s out for dins and then back to our hotel. Wednesday we’re off to the Cu-Chi Tunnels which will be interesting..plus, I hear you can fire a live round on an AK47!!

Oh one last interesting (or not so interesting fact!)..I exchanged some of my dollars today into Vietnamese currency = Dong..not only does the currency sound funny but check this, I changed 100 dollars and got 2 million Dong, so yep, it’s official, I’m a millionaire haha.

So I will leave the adventures for another week or two and catch up once I’ve finished my tour of Nam! Until then…xxx

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