All 23 entries tagged Thailand

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March 21, 2006

Going to Yala

After the amazing Issahn experience, Vic and I turned up the style, flying back to Bangkok and down to Songkhla where we were met by Joob and her father who had arranged for us to stay in the poshest hotel in town with a room overlooking the beach. We had only been there 15 minutes before I took an evening dip in the sea. As you might imagine, Joob had us treated like royalty for a few days, being driven around Songkhla and Had Yai, and eating lots of nice food (some of it free cause Joob knows half the town).

On Friday we got up early to offer food to the monks who walked past the house before sunrise. Then it was off to our next destination, and unfortunately I had to say goodbye to Sis who was returning to Bangkok for a day of shopping before going back to England. Joob and I sent her to the airport and then we headed to the bus station to catch a bus to Phuket!

We arrived in the afternoon to be greeted by Tam — my fellow computer scientist — who we were to stay with for a couple of nights in this bustling tourist destination. Actually it wasn't as touristy as I thought it might be; away from the beaches in the town there were very few tourists. The first night was a trip to Phuket FantaSea, an evening of entertainment featuring the very best of Thai culture — food, music, dancing, and animals! It is well worth a trip if you are planning a trip to Phuket, the show keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, and I especially liked the animals. Chickens sliding around the stage, goats, birds flying around the theatre, and at least 10 elephants on stage all at one time. Issahn dancing was good too. I am going to buy me some instruments to bring back to England and form my own band!

The next day got even better with a trip to Koh Phi Phi, one of the most famous islands in Thailand, the home of the movie The Beach, and also heavily damaged by the Tsunami over a year ago. Although it has mostly been cleaned up now, you can still see places where trees have been destroyed. The island itself is beautiful, from a distance it looks like a big rock protruding out of the sea and as you get closer you realise it is covered in lush green vegetation. There are so many small islands surrounding it waiting to be explored! We had a great time on the boat tour, swimming, snorkelling and generally getting a bit of a tan. The water was so clear I was swimming underwater without any mask. I really wanted to stay there longer!

On Sunday though, I took (yet another) flight back to Bangkok and prepared myself for the final part of my trip — to the north.

Note: I didn't actually go to Yala.


March 16, 2006

Ban Yahng Noi

There is a place far from my home,
Different and opposite in every way,
Where life is disjoint from my norm,
But somehow it draws me near.

A simple lifestyle out in the country,
Spicy hot food, fresh fruit, sticky rice,
An abundance of meditative forest temples,
Is where some of the appeal lies.

But the rest is all due to the people,
Warm–hearted, kind, friendly and fun,
Thank you Por, Mair, Bom, Joob, Bank, Mew,
and all my family in Bahn Yahng Noi.


The Thai Wedding

After a night with 70 students on summer camp in Sattahib, and a night out with the liveliest farang in the best club in Khorat, we arrived in Chaiyaphum on Friday afternoon. A quick tour of the town for Vic kicked off proceedings, including a snack of som tam and sweetcorn juice at the best veggie restaurant in Thailand (or at least I think so). The main event, and the reason for our trip here, is to witness a Thai wedding, that of P'Michael and P'Ae whom I know from teaching in Chaiyaphum and summer camps all over the place. This being my first Thai wedding I was pretty excited, and I was not disappointed.

The wedding started the evening before the ceremony with a party at the school. It was great to meet so many familiar faces: teachers, students, and family that I had not seen for a year at least. The party featured performances by students from the school — the Thai dancing was really good. It was very professional, easily competing with our Warwick Grand Thai Night (and the food was better!). Most people retired to bed after the show, ready for the 6am start the next morning, and I was pleased to do the same after partying (and avoiding arrest) until the early hours of the previous night in Khorat.

Despite being told that it was strictly farang time the next morning for the wedding, Vic and I rolled up just before 7am in perfect time for the start. The ceremony was in the biggest hotel in the town, and it looked like half the town had actually turned up. There were monks for the ceremony and we started chanting and taking the precepts as soon the proceedings began. The farang were looking a bit bored and disinterested after 10 minutes, but it was good to see farang joining in. The married couple offered each of the monks some things, including a bowl and other useful monk stuffs. Then the monks broke into the parittas chanting — I couldn't help smiling at the thought of the farang (and the Thais) sitting still for this super-long chant! Luckily for them we had to go pour water on the bride and groom halfway through, which somehow took the fun out of sitting there watching them practice the art of endurance! There was food and alcohol served almost as soon as the five precepts had been taken. Luangpor would be appalled that people's precepts didn't even make it to the door with them — there were large piles of them strewn about all over the floor. After speeches, dancing, singing and a burst of karaoke, there were a few of us vegetarians getting pretty 'hungry rice'. Dan, Pond, Vic and I headed to my favourite 'J' (veggie) place where we proceeded to order nearly every dish they had.

In the afternoon, after I had caught up the family, we met up with the farang again and set off to the nearest waterfall in the National Park. It was packed with Thais who were surprised (and probably disturbed) to see 10 farang get out of a car and start wallowing around in the water, jumping off rocks, and attempting to climb up the waterfall. It was great to cool off after an exciting day and an amazing end to my first Thai wedding experience.

The evening was spent chilling out with Nong Tan and her family whom I must thank deeply for taking care of us in Chaiyaphum. Just before midnight we boarded a bus for our next destination. Before I knew it, I was woken up in Ubon bus station!


The Khorat Constabulary

We were fairly tired on Thursday evening in Khorat after two long bus journeys, but somehow the Dragonfly guys with whom we were staying persuaded us to go out for 'one drink' at midnight. Driving back to their house at 3am, having enjoyed several hours and rather too many drinks in Khorat's best club 'Zoom Zoom', we spied several policemen standing in the road up ahead. There was a fair bit of nervousness as we approached the inevitable meeting with the local constabulary, not least because of the state of the 6 occupants squeezed into the car, especially the driver Jake, who was British and drank like one too. Sure enough, we were pulled over and I have roughly translated the following conversation into English for your amusement.

"Are you drunk?" says the officer.

"No sir, I am not drunk," replies our blurry eyed Jake.

"Have you been drinking whiskey?"

"No, no whiskey!"

"Are you sure?" the officer persists.

"Yes, really, I am really not drunk."

"So why are you driving around at 3am without your lights on?"

"Oh I am so sorry officer," Jake replies having realised his huge mistake.

"Well, do not do it again."

"Ok officer."

"Off you go then!" and the officer waves them on.

Jake thanks the officer, switches on his lights and we are back on our way.

The next hour was spent laughing about how Jake, with no driving licence, got away with driving with no lights at 3am in the morning completely drunk. Very occasionally there are advantages to being a farang!


March 09, 2006

A sister's view

"My brother got us up at 7am for the third day in a row so that we could begin our travels around the country. Apparently we have many provinces to visit, but as always, nothing with Ant is certain! We made our way to the bus station to catch a bus to a place called Sattahib — all that I know is that it is near the beach. As we approached the station there were plenty of people to hurry us on to a bus. Ant was chatting away in Thai and as usual I had no idea what was going on. Eventually we were ushered onto a bus and paid the bargain fare of one pound fifty. According to Ant, the journey was supposed to be 2 hours. I settled down and caught up on some of the sleep that Ant had deprived me of."

"A couple of hours later we were awake and telephoning the camp organiser to pick us up. Ant spoke to the woman collecting the fare who assured us that we were only 'about 40 minutes' away from our destination. An hour passed and we were getting concerned, as were the people collecting us. After another hour I was beginning to regret drinking a whole bottle of water at the 2-hour stage. And also doubting my brother's ability in catching buses around Thailand. I think I would have been better off staying with the lovely girls in Bangkok — P'Bua and P'Lyn know how to organise a good trip! Eventually, after the longest 2 hours in history, we arrived in Sattahib 5 hours since leaving Bangkok."

"Ant had not told me much about this trip except that we were going to a Summer Camp where 60 English undergraduate students would be waiting to meet us. By the time we arrived they were halfway through the days' activities, so we showered and ate before the afternoon trip to temples and the beach. When we met the students they were very shy, with many of them afraid to speak English to us. By the time we had visited the temples, a few of the students had began to ask some questions and as the day progressed more of them were getting confident in asking what these two farang were doing here. They were most pleased to hear that Ant and I were brother and sister, as opposed to boyfriend and girlfriend!"

"Ant was enjoying the occasion being surrounded by cute 19 year old girls who couldn't stop smiling at him. Actually he has been surrounded by girls every day of the trip so far — no wonder he keeps coming back to Thailand. On Sunday he had lunch with 10 girls (and only 2 guys), on monday he was dining alone with 5 girls, and on Tuesday he was escorted around by 4 girls. The only time there have been less girls than guys was when we took 4 monks to Wat Phra Kaew — Ant somehow managed to find these monks to join us on a tour of Bangkok. Another random thing that happened that day was that I got a Thai lesson from the abbot of one of Bangkok's most important temples."

"Back to the Summer Camp and a trip to the beach. After feeling the warmth of the sea, everyone couldn't help being relaxed and the English started to flow. Combine this with seafood and all the Thais were happy! The evening passed with some games before heading for bed in the small hours — have to be ready for 7am in the morning for another long journey!


March 07, 2006

The Tiger Temple

Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/aharfield/gallery/kanchanaburi/

Words cannot explain our experience in Kanchanaburi today with 18 tigers. Thank you to Lyn and Bua for the amazing trip! :)

March 05, 2006

Bangkok — Day 1

Last night I was welcomed at the airport by Irene and her mother, who took me back to their house and gave me the most amazing meal since I left Thailand last year. Spicy aubergine salad and sour orange curry — aroi mahk mahk! I was a bit too excited to sleep, but I eventually got some rest only to wake up late this morning.

By the time I had arisen, Sis and Joob had already landed in Bangkok and eaten their first meal. Irene and I went to meet them after our amazing breakfast of Pad Thai, then we headed to Natee's house where I was welcomed by Kanom Krok — a second amazing breakfast! By this time we were already late for our lunch appointment at a funky pink restaurant to meet a big group of equally funky ex-Warwick students. I could continue detailing the food we ate, but I am sure most of the readers will have switched off by now.

After lunch, it was into town and meeting more girls, this time my friends from the north-east who I met for iced coffee. The final plan for the day was a trip out of town, to the province of Samut Songkhram at Umper Wahng. There I got my second portion of som tam as we walked around the floating market. After a proper dinner, when the remaining sunlight had dispersed, we took a boat trip around the local area to see the fire-flies. Hundreds of these tiny insects in every tree sparkling and flashing as we passed by on the river. An amazing sight. Once we had finished the boat trip we took some more time to walk around the market and fill up on other snacks and drinks more returning to Bangkok.

Everyone is quite tired now, it has been a great day, and no doubt tomorrow will be just as busy. Good night. :)


March 04, 2006

Poet on a plane?

Eagerly waiting

The magic is in the air,
Like a live Marley concert,
On a journey to another place,
Sparkling positive energy.

A hundred smiling faces,
Like a pack of playful dolphins,
The entire ocean as a playground,
Free, fearless, dwelling in the moment.

The warmth draws you in,
Like a strong brew of tea,
After a skin-soaking thunder storm,
It permeates you inner being.

An attractive uncertainty pervades,
Like the winding plot of a Shakespeare play,
Slowly, carefully, the mystery unravels,
Strengthening awareness each and every second.

Eagerly, the waiting is almost over,
Like a lucky child on the eve of Christmas,
Anticipating a stocking full of surprises,
It is time to land in Bangkok.

This is dedicated to those poets in the Buddhist Society. I know the quality is lacking, but I needed your help!


March 28, 2005

Final thoughts from Thailand in 2548

My final day in Thailand is coming to an end. My bags are packed, albeit bursting open from the volume of snacks and sweets I am bringing home. I have said many goodbyes. I have eaten my last big meal. Before I go, here are a few things I am going to miss when I am back in England:

  1. Freshly-made warm soya milk in the morning.
  2. Motorcycle journeys during rush hour.
  3. The variety of smells from the food stalls lining every street.
  4. Green buses (but not air-con buses!).
  5. Iced green tea from Seven Eleven.
  6. Jack fruit, mango and rose apples.
  7. Taking a shower four times per day.
  8. Seeing a som tam seller on every corner and checking my stomach to see if there is room for more.
  9. Saying, "sap bor".
  10. Laying in bed and listening to the sound of geckos outside the window.

That is just a small selection. I could stay up all night recalling all of the interesting and exciting things that have occured in the last three weeks, but I think that this is enough to capture the simplicity of things that I find so appealing. Thank you and goodbye to all my friends and family in Thailand.


March 27, 2005

Feasting out the final few days

The second day of my Uttaradit trip involved an awesome som tam feast with my top Uttaradit students. I also managed to meet a couple of the farang volunteers, some of the Thai teachers and plenty of students. Later in the afternoon we went to the best Pad Thai restaurant in Uttaradit. This continued my feeling that Uttaradit is the best place to eat in Thailand. I'm not sure why it is so good, maybe it is cause I am nearing the end of my trip and I am savouring every mouthful of food before I leave.

I eventually returned to Bangkok late on Friday night, leaving me a few days to meet a few people. Yesterday I went to a vegetarian restaurant which was really good — it is called Koko and is near Siam Centre Point for those that are interested. I had never noticed it before because the sign is written in Thai, but it is definitely worth checking out.

As I finished doing a bit of shopping (actually quite a lot of shopping for a British guy), I exited the large shopping centre and found that the whole street had stopped. I was a bit confused as to what was going on. I was up high on an overpass, and I could see that the road had been cleared and all the traffic stopped in all other directions. The crowds were not moving either, no one was allowed near the road or over it. I looked down the road and it was like this for as far as I could see in both directions. My friend wasn't reacting to this at all. She just calmly told me that it was the Crown Princess going somewhere. Sure enough, a few minutes later there were a string of Mercedes streaming past, one of which was carrying the Crown Princess. I was trying to imagine the logistics of this everytime the royal family wanted to go anywhere. I guess it is not that easy for them to just pop down to Seven Eleven to buy an iced tea! I thought it was quite a special moment witnessing this event. It shows the care and attention that everyone has for the royal family, and the diligence of those planning such events.

Another special thing that happened yesterday was that it rained — just for about 10 minutes. It also rained this morning for a little longer and it actually felt refreshingly cool walking around this morning — until about 10am by which time it was pretty hot again. Today I visited the Isaan girls and had dinner at a great Isaan restaurant at Lad Kra Bang. I am trying to eat som tam everyday at the moment — it is so good. Returning to the city I then had Japanese food for dinner. Tomorrow is the last full day I have so I am going to eat like crazy! I have bought so many sweets and snacks to bring back to England, I am going to have to sort out my case soon and maybe throw out my gay t-shirts to make some room.


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Plato
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