Posts Tagged With: Tuk Tuk

The Thai of my life!

Yesss, I finally got a window seat for my flight to Bangkok! Although saying that, I felt kinda blue peering out of the window and watching Penang shrink into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below! I was sad because I knew that Bangkok was to be the last destination. Now, each time I board a plane, it feels as though it’s bringing me closer to ‘that day’ when I finally have to step onto the last airport shuttle headed for Heathrow 😦

Phew! Ok, so I’ve touched down in Bangkok…again haha! But this time of course, it’s for the last time on this leg of my journey *sighs. But anyways, I was really looking forward to seeing my Thai pals and hanging out in the city once more. I know my way around and well, just where to hang out and let my hair down so I will be making the most of my final week or so.

I got through immigration and customs all ok and had another stamp bashed into my passport allowing me up to 30 days stay. Hey, hang on a minute, I tell you what…I managed to get through Penang security AND Bangkoks with a 2ltr bottle of water in my hand! How that happened I don’t know but hey, that could have been ‘bomb’ liquid for all they knew muwahahah! That’s never happened before…I normally get my water taken off me but not that time haha! Just a random observation…

My fab friend Ken (or Kendoll as I call him) offered to come and meet me at the airport which was sweet of him. He even assisted me with my luggage and getting me to my hotel which was great actually and it avoided hearing all the ‘Excuse me Miss, you want taxi’ etc. Once I’d checked in, we went straight to the movies! Well, I had some movies to catch up on hey lol! So we had some food and watched Gravity (which is FAB for anyone who loves their space movies!)

30 degrees of Rain!

Oh noooo! The rain’s followed me all the way from Penang! And it’s determined to scrub off all proof of the slight jaundice looking tan I’ve achieved right before I hit Heathrow haha! Nevermind. I wasn’t going to let the rain put me off having a good time either on my final week of being a free spirit!

I tell you what though…I love the rain abroad, it’s so warm! Who needs wellies when you can wade through the puddles in yer flip flops! * Sighs, if only the rain was like this in the UK…wet and warm haha! The only bummer is that yes, you still get really dirty feet haha. Sometimes I’d look down and think, ‘Huh, since when did I get black grubby toes!’ hah! So yup, I will miss the ‘hot rain’ 🙂

The Flower Market

My friend Kendoll told me about a Flower Market near Koh Sarn Road and asked me if I’d been there before. “No, I haven’t. I’d love to see it though before I leave Thailand” I excitedly replied. “Yes, it will be good for your pictures”. So Kendoll agreed to take me there and show me around. It was amazing, I loved it! Plus it was a brucey bonus having a local to hang out with and speak ‘Thai’ to everyone for me haha!

It was just gorgeous! I could see the market folk all setting up their stalls ready before the customers flocked…although saying that, it didn’t actually get all that busy but again, another bonus for me! I could see trucks delivering bags FULL of flowers! Some Thai words were exchanged from the drivers to the stall owners and they’d then drive off. I watched as the marketers then opened each bag and literally picked out flowers one by one and ‘arrange’ them either in glorious bouquets or just singly in their rows.

It was just fascinating to take a slow walk around and see stall upon stall, row upon row and bouquet upon bunch of flowers in every shape, size and variety! Oh and the smells….WOW! For once it disguised that Bangkok ‘stench’ that I had become all too familiar with haha! It wasn’t just a flower market….it was like walking through a perfume factory! Oh and the colours, you would not believe it but the sellers even decorated their stands with the flowers by colour! So red with red, pinks with pinks etc…now that must have taken forever but it was quite an impressive display.
I found a Rose stall and stood and watched for a few moments as the market lady picked out what looked like a dozen roses and bundled them up with speed. Can you believe, that a dozen red, pink or yellow roses were the equivalent to 1 English pound….yes 1 POUND! Everyone would be buying their Mums or lovers a huge lorry load of them if they were that price in the UK right? Although it would probably cause our roses to become extinct at the same time too!

Once the flower stalls diminished, new stalls were revealed with a different variety of produce to entice… Wow, fruit and vegetables! Most of the fruit and veg still seemed so foreign to me (of course) well, I mean, a lot of it I had now tried but to name them….ppfftt, forget it! Un-hygienically, the stall owners even let their pets crawl all over their produce! Hmm…2 cats and a puppy – if that happened in the UK, they’d probably get shut down! It was cute all the same though because I wasn’t IN the market for buying that evening haha!

Bo in the Big City

Yay, my friend Bo from the School in Nang Rong came all the way over to Bangkok just to see me and party one last time woo hoo. So Ken, Bo and I all went out for dinner as soon as she arrived. It was sooo good to see Bo and I immediately threw my arms around her when I spotted her getting off the train at Thailand Cultural Centre. “BO…..how are you! So good to seeya again!” I screeched! “HELEN! I missed you!” Awww….

After a huge (and of course, rather cheap) plate of salmon and veg, we had a walk around town before hitting the city centre. It was rather funny actually because we found some 3D paintings on the walls….you know, the kind that you stand in and it looks like you’re abouts to fall into a black hole or something when really it’s all an illusion! That was fun. After much mucking about of pretending we had angel wings or were surfing the ocean, we then caught a tuk tuk into the Big C itself…

One last hit…

We all hopped out the tuk tuk (and probably all looking rather windswept too!) and took a slow stroll around Koh Sarn Road.

“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Koh Sarn Road before Bo?!” I said, giving Bo a wide eyed look. It made me chuckle though…’Hah, an English gal showing a Thai national around her own city!’ hehe.

It was so amusing to see Bo’s face as we walked past the usual stands selling all the tat I’d seen many a time….the wooden ‘croaking’ frogs, the brightly sewn bracelets with every obscene word you can think of, the ‘slinky’ penises! And then there were the stalls selling the edible bugs – scorpians and tarantulas on sticks, the giant locusts, bowls of hot fried meal worms YUK! Oh and don’t forget the clothing stalls displaying T-shirts in vivid colours with slogans of ‘I love BKK’ or ‘Chang Beer’. And then there are the club promoters bombarding you as you walk past their bars….”Hello Miss, you come inside. Buy one get on free bucket” Oh my goodness…and how could I forget this…”Hello Miss, you want to see Ping pong show? Or how about a happy ending?” You have to laugh at it all really. But I’m also glad I saw and heard all of that and glad Bo experienced it too even if she did look kinda shocked (same as me the first time hah!) And again, you have to avoid the limbless beggers sitting in the middle of your path which of course, is horrific to see but I have been told they are professional beggers who have made a trip specially from Cambodia because Koh Sarn is where all the tourists go! You know, when we were walking around, I was thinking to myself; It’s kinda like….you have to experience the darker side to see it and believe it – believe that it all goes on so you can appreciate all of the good, the beautiful and the wonderful things of this world if that makes any sense!?

We were pacing in slow motion for a while and in silence for most of it because I wanted Bo to take it all in. After hearing the many chants of “Excuse me Miss” this and that and the constant flow of hard and heavy bass music mixing into softer tones of live acoustic Bob Marley to Green Day variations, we decided to hit a club….yup, the one and only ‘The Club Koh Sarn’. I laughed to myself again thinking ‘The amount of times I’ve stumbled out of this club hehe’ Well, it just had to be done one last time……

Heights, Flights and….Hangovers!

Yup! You guessed it! Bo, Ken and I all had a wicked night in ‘The Club’ on Koh Sarn that night. Bo and I were also loving mucking about with the free glowsticks you get given when you walk in which immediately makes you feel 12 again haha, funny that! It was also fun chatting to the many different nationalities and hearing about where people had been or where they were off to next… One guy from Dublin came and sat with us and immediately plonked down 3 shots on our table “Drink with me!” He slurred and then promptly hiccuped! “No no, you go ahead” I replied….I really didn’t fancy doing shots that night as I knew that would kill me! The Irish fella was harmless though, just way more drunk than we were haha. He downed all the shots, chatted to us for a bit and then……threw up right at our feet! GROSS! Shame really haha. What a conversation killer that was so yup, we moved away sharpish and left him for his mates to clean up hahaha!

Ok, so falling out the club at 4am we grabbed a cab back to our destinations. We weren’t that drunk (well, not as bad as the Irish dude that’s for sure) but we were at that ‘happy state’ lets say! “Oh my Buddha! I have to be up around 8-8.30am to get ready for my flight!!” Stumbling with my words was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay….well, the TIME was a sure sign I needed to hit the hay hahah! Saying our goodbyes, we all headed our separate ways.

As soon as my head hit the pillow….well, actually, I can’t remember that bit but I do remember the horrid video game alarm of mine going off at a most unholy time! “Oh nooooo!” I groaned but miraculously was up, out and in a cab to the airport to catch my final flight to KL. I was feeling dehydrated, a little nauseous and ached from all the dancing we did the night before. But above all of that, I felt sad and had to fight my watery eyes from actually turning into waterfalls haha!

Finally boarding the plane to KL, I sat and watched the air crews usual safety routine of ‘what to do if’ and then sat staring out the window (yay, another window seat!) whilst listening to the tones of my ipod playing ‘One day I’ll fly away’. The rain outside was hitting the window (another symbolic moment hah!) as I stared blankly out into the distance. I then watched the run way lines gradually speed up and up until they became one continuous line….then the ‘G-force’ facelift feeling hit and we were up! Once more, I watched the airport, the buildings, the roads and cars all turn into nothing more than a ‘toy town’ below. It was almost as though the higher the plane went, the more ‘fake’ the toy town below became hah! Nausea crept over me once more and reminded me how much of a blast I’d had with my friends just hours before! Heavy eyelids encouraged me to make use of the 3hrs ‘free time’ to sleep the hangover off so I gave in resisting and soon drifted off into a sweet slumber…

“Hello Miss….MISS? Can you please open the window shutter” That must have been the 2nd or 3rd time the air hostess had muttered those words to me but the nudge from the person in the middle seat abruptly brought me back to ‘reality’ when they interrupted my slumber with their pointy elbow! “Sorry! Are we landing now?” I stuttered. “Yes, we are now arriving at Kuala Lumpur” Came the reply. “Great stuff!” I tried to sound enthusiastic but I was kinda blue knowing that actually, this was to be my final 3 days before heading home!!

I found the shuttle bus to my hotel straight away and was soon on my way to ‘hibernation’! No, I won’t really be locking myself away for 3 days but I am looking forward to taking it easy and catching up with some telly etc…oh and MTV, who’s at number 1 right now, I have no idea haha? I will also be looking forward to catching a few of my Malaysian pals too and seeing what they are up to.

I will also have to think about what I’m going to do with my blog right? 😦 I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this but I guess I won’t have a lot to write about until the next time I explore the world and believe me, this is just the beginning (until I save up again!) Now I know I can do it, I have well and truly been bitten by this beautiful bug and I don’t intend to stop now! 😀

But this post isn’t the last one, don’t worry! I still have another one in me yet but that one may be coming to your screens from the good old UK!

So thanks again Thailand and for giving me the Thai of my life! 😉

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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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Oh my Buddha!

Wow! Where do I start? I have had the most amazing time in Chiang Mai! The Readders has been hanging out with Hill Tribes, trekked up and down mountains, taken a bamboo raft down the river and ridden the back of an elephant into a tribes village! I have met the most amazing people and made life long friends…this is one experience I will never ever forget!

As so much happened over the 8 days tour, I think it’s easier if I list some of my experiences down in order of days!

Saturday 6th April

After my hectic arrival in Bangkok and dodgy tuk tuk ride to my hotel..I check into my room and flop onto my bed..ahhh the aircon is kicking in and cold air is slowly filling the room. I know I’m sharing a room with another person on the tour but I haven’t met her yet..so I start unpacking..flip flops first – my poor feet feel like they’re suffocating, they’ve been crammed in my hiking boots for hours and at 34 degrees odd, it feels so nice to get them ‘naked’ !

After much faffing about, I suddenly hear the other side of my hotel room door clicking and clunking…it must be my roomie! I’m wondering what she’ll be like and of course, wondering if she’ll like me! As soon as the door opens, that’s it, we’ve clicked straight away! Frankie and I fast become acquainted and take comfort in the fact that we’re both single travellers and decide to explore some of Bangkok together before meeting up with the others. Frankie is wicked! She is so sweet, much younger than me too so I feel bit protective of her (and eventually the other people I meet too!)…Frankie made me forget about the home sick feeling that started rising up in me (which happens each time I’m alone) and hopefully, I did for her too.

Later in the evening, we meet our tour group and our tour leader Ken. Ken is an out-going, chipper kinda fella who kept singing ‘Call me maybe’ haha! The rest of the group are equally as nice, few couples and the rest all single travellers too. The plans for the week sound amazing and we all can’t wait to start our adventure! Later in the evening, we all went out for dinner together to mingle and do the ‘get to know’.

Sunday 7th

Today was a bit of an explore day. Ken took us for a walk around China Town, then we visited Wat Trimit (Golden Buddha Temple) which was amazing! Then we had free time before we took our overnight train to Chiang Mai so we all decided to take a trip to Chatuchak Market….hectic just doesn’t sum up this experience hah! It’s definitely something you have to go and see and I do highly recommend it but just be careful! If you’re with other people, you will get split up so make sure you have their numbers! This market is one of the largest in the world presenting over 9,000 stalls! You can literally buy anything you want from clothes to food to animals…yup, pretty shocking but you can buy squirrels, chickens, dogs!

In the evening we took an overnight train to Chiang Mai..this journey was the funniest and by far, the most enjoyable overnight train I’ve taken so far! Ken warmed us up with a little whiskey and then showed us where the ‘party carriage’ was at hah! It felt so surreal to be on a train, drinking and partying with my new friends! Every now and then the train would jolt and most of the beer would end up on us rather than in but what an experience! Finally, we all decide to hit the hay and get some kip before arriving at Chiang Mai!

Monday 8th

Wow! Chiang Mai is so beautiful and the difference between the North and South of Thailand is vast! The North seems to be more laid back, life is in the slow lane and I certainly feel this place is more focused on the spiritual side of Thailand too. There are beautiful temples (and monks) everywhere…none of us want to leave!

So we check into our hotel and then Ken briefs us on what are options are for the day…in fact, we slightly changed his itinerary by all wanting to go to see the Tiger Temples! I’d heard of this place..you can have your photo taken within close proximity of Tigers!! So later that day, we all arrive at Tiger Temple in Chiang Mai and join the que of tourists all wanting to see and be photographed with the Tigers..You have to pick your Tigers ‘size’ which made me chuckle…so if you could chose your death (should anything go wrong)..would you like that with the big, medium or small cats?! Hmm…gotta go for the big cats right!

So we’re all waiting inside patiently…um, ok, maybe patiently isn’t the right word..but you can imagine, we are all terrified – you don’t just have you photo taken next to the Tigers…the keepers are encouraging you to lay your head on the tigers bellys or pick up their tails and place them over your top lips in moustash style hah! We’re all exchanging looks of ‘I can’t believe we are doing this!’ but brave it and go on into the ‘Tigers Den’ when called…

Oh my Buddha (as the Thai people say over here!)…wow, this is absolutely TERRIFYING! The keeper beckons you over one by one and you sit at the back end of the Tiger while your friends take your photo! You can take as many photos as you want (as many as you feel comfortable with anyway!) hah. I think in each of my photos, I have a rubber looking expression, half scared and half amazed..my face and body language not really knowing quite sure what to do haha! I laid my head down on his belly thinking that with each breathe in and out that this Tiger would suddenly turn around and swot me like an annoying little fly!? Phew, with that over with, the keepers then let you have you photos taken with 2 more big cats! Oh my Buddha, we are all petrified and almost wishing the experience to hurry up and be over and done with! Wow, goodness me though, looking back on those photos, I can’t believe we all did that! I can’t wait to upload some photos to show Mum and Dad!

Later that evening, we all had a meeting to be introduced to our tour trekking guide as the very next day we are due to embark on our hill tribes tour! We are told what to pack and also what to expect over the next couple of days. It sounds like it’s going to be really tough but the adventure of a lifetime!

Tuesday 9th

So it’s 9am and we’re all up and raring to go! Our taxi is waiting to take us to the local market for supplies (bug sprays, torches etc) before taking us to visit Mok Fah Waterfall before lunch…this was our treat before the trek!

Wow! We pull up at Mok Fah Waterfall and we’re all instantly in our swimming gear and dive in! My minds transported to a scene from the film ‘The Beach’, it’s stunning! Surrounded by lush green trees and a huge fast pouring waterfall = splashing and mucking around with my new friends! It was so refreshing too! None of us wanted to leave when Ken called us back to the jeeps but it was time to move to our next stop for lunch.

After a much needed lunch of fried rice and vegetables, we were taken to our first trekking point. It looked like we stopped in the middle of nowhere (in a forest). Ken and our hill tribe tour guides waited patiently for us all to douse ourselves with our bug sprays and sun lotions and of course strap ourselves into our trekking shoes.

This was seriously hard work! We trekked up and down mountains climbing over rocky roads and slippery trails! We all did so so well though! The heat was hard going and the constant going up and down mountains made your calf muscles ache and your t-shirt feel like a wet suit but we kept each other going knowing that we would all soon be at the first hill tribes village.

We finally made it after 5km’s of trekking! Phewie! Forgetting the pain in our legs and feet it was now our eyes that were in awe of everything around us! We were in a real life hill tribes village! I couldn’t believe it..people still live like this and seemingly very happily too. The hill tribes were living in basic conditions of wooden / straw like huts..there were animals in wooden pens such as cows, pigs and chickens, children playing, women washing clothes in the river…it was just like we’d all gone back in time. We were shown our quarters and then introduced to the villagers. I loved it! I still get goosebumps now thinking about them all. We brought the children gifts of chocolate, biscuits and toys and couldn’t wait to hand them out! They were all to line up and receive a gift one by one..I’ve never seen such a small face lit up with so much joy to be handed a biccie! I was quite overwhelmed actually, I think we all were.

Later in the evening, the hill tribes cooked us up some tasty grub and then we drank and played silly games before bedtime! We needed an early night for Wednesday was going to be even tougher!

Wednesday 10th

Today we all got up at 7am for brekkie and repacking as we’re all off to stay at our next hill tribes village. Again, on go our bug sprays, sun creams and hiking boots as it’s an even longer trek to the next Karen Village.

Definitely an ‘Oh my Buddha’ day….we covered 13km’s of pure trekking! I was actually surprised at how much endurance I had / have! My legs weren’t hurting too bad either but we kept each other encouraged as today we had an extra special treat in store….an elephant trek!

Along the way Ken points out tarantula burrows! Wow…he poked a stick inside and out popped at least 6 legs! A big, black hairy (and rather peed off) tarantula threatened us to ‘back off’. I can’t believe I’m seeing this…this is the stuff from David Attenboroughs TV programmes! This is amazing! Ken is antagonizing it with this stick and the spider is coming further and further out of his burrow attacking the little stick (well, rather that than our fingers hah!) and Ken isn’t afraid one bit! I got some close up shots as well as a video clip, loved it! Oh, the link below should take you to the video I published on Youtube! Tarantula in Thailand

After 5 hours of pure trekking (and sweating!) we finally make it to the elephant camp! We settle down for lunch and wait for the elephants to be prepared for our treks! As soon as the elephants arrive, everyone was in a stunned silence! Wow, they are huge…we just can’t get over their size and beauty! We watched them being drinking and splashing themselves with water and then waited to be called up!

Getting on the elephants was fun hah! Sean, Stacey and I all clammbered on up and held on for dear life! Stacey and I were sitting in the carrier on the back of the elephant and Sean was literally sitting on his head haha! It was a bit like being on the camel ride I went on in Gran Canaria although on a much much larger scale! You had nothing strapping you in so you really had to hold on tight! Our elephant seemed quite happy plodding along to the next camp but the elephant behind was stopping every minute to eat bamboo or pick up sticks etc haha!

Near the end of the ride you start to get into the pattern of it all! Wow, what a way to arrive at our next camp! Once we arrived at the ‘elephant’ drop off point, we all gave our elephant a couple of bananas to pay for our fare and then we met our new hill tribe hosts.

This camp was more developed than the last and again, the people were happy as larry with what they had / have. I remember seeing one young boy playing in the river with his brothers and sisters and one of his arms were missing, he had a mere stump where his arm should have been but he seemed completely unaware and was so happy splashing about without a care in the world.

In the distance, the tribes men were building bamboo rafts…that was our transport for our way home tomorrow! Wow, we couldn’t wait!! A trip down the river by boat!

This is our last night with the hill tribes. Again we were treated to dinner but we had the chance to help prepare it tonight..all hands on deck, we made a tonne of spring rolls, laid the table and then helped serve up. Afterwards, we played games, bought some handmade bracelets from the hills tribe women and then all slept under our mosquito nets in our bungalow hut.

Thursday 11th

Time to leave the camp today and head back via our bamboo rafts! Again, we’re up early so it’s all up washed, packed up and ready to leave. We head straight for our rafts!

Our raft felt the sturdiest as the other 2 groups had to have theirs reinforced hehe! So at the front we had the ‘captain’ steering us out of trouble, in the middle is the person helping to keep the raft going along smoothly and the person at the back again helping to guide the boat along.

It was so much fun, hard work but heaps of fun! We were all singing songs along the way keeping the happy vibe going…we had 5 hrs to keep this up and we knew eventually our arms were going to start aching. Plus, our competitive side kicked in, we didn’t want the other 2 rafts to reach our first stop off point before we got there right!! 😉

So, we’ve all had a go at ‘punting’ in the middle of the boat but then Ken asked me to be the captain whilst the tribesman did a quick repair job! Wow, I loved it!! I even managed to guide us through some mini rapids! It was such a challenge trying to keep the boat steered away from rocks etc but what a rush. It was the challenge of wanting to keep everyone safe plus keeping ahead of the others hah! Ken even said to me, ‘You make a good captain’ woo hoo!!  So I was really chuffed with myself! Today, I learnt that I really do have a lot more endurance and strength in my lil arms than I realised! Hmm, think I’ll be taking up trekking and canoeing when I get home!

During our first lunch time stop, Ken cries out ‘Helen! Where’s Helen?’  (typically, I was um, in the ladies!) He knew I was wanting to see a snake and had obviously seen one from all the ruckus I could hear going on from beyond the wooden shack! ‘Come quickly!’ So I go running out to where the crowd were and we see 2 snakes (in Ken’s words….) ‘making the sex’ haha! He said it was such a rare thing to see that not even the Hill Tribes see that! Ken quickly scared the snakes off afterwards as he said the Hill Tribes would eat them!

Once we’d finished our bamboo rafting (and yes, of course we beat the other 2 teams hehe!)..it was a truck ride back to Chiang Mai hotel 😥 We all got freshened up and then went out for a BBQ dinner. The BBQ dinner was interesting…there were mini BBQ’s in the middle of each table and you literally go up, chose your meat / food and then come back to your table and fry it all there and then!

After that, a whole group of us stayed out Thursday evening to party until the early wee hours!

Friday 12th

Ouchie! This morning we’ve all woken up with hangovers and sore heads! Thursday nights shenanigans! We all had so much fun drinking and dancing the night away! And it’s funny, the little things that I will never forget such as coming back to the hotel with Stacey and finding Sean passed out in the corridor and tucking Frankie into bed ahh bless haha! We still laugh about that now when we catch up!

So today is officially Songkran – the Thai New Year..they splash water over you as a means of cleansing you for the NY ahead..so getting rid of old / staleness I guess and ready for the new. As I mentioned, we’re all hungover and in need of a Maccie D’s! So off we go in search of a hangovers brekkie…and there is a full on water splashing fest going on outside! You just couldn’t walk past anyone without getting wet, well, soaked I should say. I got a little bit annoyed as my spare camera battery stopped working and even after it’s been dried out, it’s still not working but hey ho, not the end of the world and it was fun at the time!

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel to pack up the remainder of our stuff to take the overnight train to Bangkok. The journey back was so sad. None of us wanted the trip to end! We’ve shared an experience together than none of us will ever forget and plus we’d made some fab friends along the way! I am really looking forward to meeting up with everyone again though in a few weeks and again once we’ve all finished travelling!

I am so so glad I did this trip! We did a lot in 8 days which doesn’t sound a great deal of time but it’s certainly something that will stay with me for life!

Then Saturday afternoon on the 13th, we’d finally said our last goodbyes and then all went our separate ways. For me…it was off to Don Meung Airport to catch a flight to Phuket to head for Posiden Bungalows……

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