Adventuring to the North, home stays & trekking.

12 Dec

Cambodia to Bangkok – Let the Journey Begin! :)

In a previous post I mentioned the bus trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Like I mentioned, the trip was relatively painless and easy which led to our decision to bus back to Bangkok at the end of our stay in Cambodia. This trip costs $28 and the ticket is bought at the Nattakan Cambodia Company in town – which is also the final destination when arriving in Siem Reap. The bus leaves from Bangkok at 8AM daily, with a free pick up service from your hostel/hotel on the morning of your departure.

Our trip back to Bangkok was definitely more draining and complicated than our trip to Siem Reap – primarily due to the long and tedious border crossing into Thailand. We were made to offload all our luggage off the bus, carry it across the border, up and down a steep flight of stairs to passport control. Lack of signage and incredibly difficult border officials who spoke minimal English, meant that people were reaching the front of an hour long queue, only to be sent to the back of another – with little or no reasonable explanation… My mom decided to bus back with us, rather than fly  and I am extremely grateful that we were with her to guide her through the mixed hand signals, abrupt officials and offer a little bit of support. I, once again, felt incredibly sorry for the many young travellers (particularly females) who were left to edure this crossing alone. We arrived back at Mo Chit Bus Station in Bangkok just before 5PM. (We were told the bus journey back would be 7 hours – but bank on 8/9 hours to be safe!) With 5 and a half hours to spare before our 9:40PM bus departed for Chiang Mai, we headed off to our favourite little coffee shop to relax and get ready for our next journey….

Direct bus drop off and departure point in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Direct bus drop off and departure point in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Double Decker Cruising, Local Living, Elephant Riding and Ranting Roosters

Our first class bus tickets to Chiang Mai were booked on the top level of our extremely comfortable double decker bus. Having not travelled such a far distance by bus in Thailand, we were slightly unsure of what exactly to expect of our chosen mode of transport. However, we were pleasantly surprised. Ample leg room, reclining sets, a complimentary blanket and clean toilets on board – resulted in one very easy trip to the North! I highly recommend catching the bus at night if you do not want to spend an entire day travelling – you arrive at your final destination (although a bit tired) with a full day ahead of you, so you can choose whether you want to recover or get exploring!

When looking for a place to stay in Chiang Mai – I will admit that I was completely overwhelmed by the number of options and entirely confused of my bearings and figuring out where the best place to stay, proved a little challenging for me. Many an hour on TripAdvisor had me follow some trusty reviews and book 3 nights at a home stay I’m one of those people that likes to plan, compare options, ask for advice and book accommodation in advance – especially since I knew we would be arriving at 7AM after more than 24 hours of traveling from Cambodia. So, what’s a home stay? A home stay is a type of accommodation which allows you to rent a room/bungalow from a local family. I booked the Rice Field Hut  at the Ban Chunsongsang Home Stay –  located a fair bit outside of the main town of Chiang Mai. I thought it would be nice to try something different and having received a Certificate of Excellence in 2012 and 2013 from the trusty TripAdvisor site, I was pretty confident we would be happy with our stay! Miss Nong (the owner of the home stay) and her family are some of the most lovely people we have had the privilege of spending time with in Thailand. Always willing to offer advice, help out where she can and converse in excellent English – made us feel so welcome and happy with our decision to stay.

Our first night was filled with amusement… Just as we were about to fall asleep, a round of shots exploded outside of  our bungalow! Our terror was mounted by the fact that we suddenly realised that no-one actually knows where exactly we are! After we awkwardly managed to reassure each other that we were not under attack in a tiny Thai village in the middle of nowhere – we dozed off to sleep. Only to be woken up by the loudest rooster I have ever heard in my life. There must be daily meeting at dawn where every cockerel in Chiang Mai meets in the fields alongside our bungalow – because never ever have I heard such a racket!! Anyway, on a lighter note – we were informed at breakfast that in Thai culture – when a member of the village passes away, fire crackers are let off momentarily in order to lift and aid the deceased’s spirit to the Gods.

…Gunshots explained.

With the intention of staying in Chiang Mai for only 3 nights, we decided to book a Tour Package – which was recommended at our home stay. The three of us decided to take the complete package which included a little bit of everything… Elephant trekking, bamboo rafting and walking through the mountains to experience a local village and tribe. So, once we joined the rest of the group, we were off. Our first stop was at the elephant trekking………….

This experience left the 3 of us quiet and – quite honestly –  ashamed to be taking part in such an activity. These poor elephants, who looked completely sedated,  were made to walk laps all day – just to impress a bunch of ignorant tourists who had little comprehension of the absolute beauty, power and elegance that these incredible creatures inherently possess in the wild. We stood back for a few moments – reflecting on just how blessed we are to come from South Africa, to have seen these majestic beasts roam free. I managed to put my feelings aside (either that or I was going to tell the guide how I really felt – which probably would not have been the best idea…) and enjoy as much of the experience that I could. After a 40 minute mountain trek on the back of one of these beasts, my blood sugar dropping, my heart racing and my ‘expressive’ face displaying my unease, I was more that ecstatic to have my feet on the ground and move onto the next stop.

After the elephant experience, we were off Bamboo River Rafting down the Mae Wang River. We were told by the guide that we would get “97% wet…” so we were half expecting some extreme water rafting and rapids. Once we made ourselves comfortable on the long bamboo raft – and after not a single safety rule was given to the group, even though a large sign loomed in the car park declaring all guests must wear life jackets – we began our decent downstream. Well, the trip down the river was very relaxed and we all enjoyed the scenery around us. The best way to describe the bamboo river rafting, is to compare it to the Thai type of supping – the increasingly popular water sport.

Oh yes, I must add – I was highly unimpressed with the water snakes which kept popping their heads up and down along the way – but Jecket (our raftsman) got the drift pretty quickly that I’m not a snake lover and trying to toss them onto the raft with his bamboo oar, was not a good idea… Once the river cruise was over, we headed off for lunch – which was lovely and located on the side of the road en route to our next activity.

The final activity for the day was trekking and visiting the Karen Village. If you are expecting to visit a tribe filled with locals and see first hand the way in which these people live – then change your expectations. The walking was lovely and stopping off at a powerful waterfall along the way was wonderful, but the village did not appear to be lived in by anyone – with a few tables set up, selling souvenirs for the many tourists passing through.

All in all, we were exhausted by the end of the day but content with our decision to do the tour. Chiang Mai is difficult to navigate on your own and with an abundant amount of tour operators and guiding services on offer – it is not easy to decide which package is the best. Personally, I am no fan of the elephant trekking, but I do understand that we are extremely privileged to come from South Africa and have a different understanding and respect for these animals. Next time, I will definitely opt to spend a bit more money and go on a tour which is governed by environmentally friendly, Eco, motives.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – I really do appreciate it! Have a happy day everyone! :) 

A Breathtaking Ancient Wonder & the Kampong Phluk Floating Village.

8 Dec

Unfortunately, no words or photographs will be able to sum up how magnificent the Angkor region really is – with thousands of tourists flocking to Siem Reap every year to catch a glimpse of this incredible Wonder of the World. We decided to make the most of the day, waking up at 4:30AM, quickly gulping down a cup of coffee and heading downstairs to meet our tuktuk driver, Adam. With the crisp morning air breezing past us, we zooted off to buy our tickets (20 Dollars for a full day pass, 40 Dollars for a 3 day pass) and to begin our day. Sunrise is breathtaking and although there are heaps of fellow tourists plonking themselves wherever they can catch a glimpse of the rising rays, there is more than enough space for everyone to find a piece of tranquility and absorb one of the most beautiful sights at such a special time of the day.

After sunrise and a stroll around the grounds, we walked outside of the temple and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Blue Pumpkin restaurant – where our wonderful guide, Mr V, met up with us. Once we were all ready, we jumped back on the tuktuk to begin our day exploring the Angkor region, being fed incredible information from an experienced tour guide. Paying the 30 Dollar guide fee for the day, is worth every single cent! Being able to ask questions, know where exactly you are and have an array of knowledge sitting next to you – means that the experience is made that much better.

Kamphong Phluk Floating Village

If you are planning a trip to Siem Reap, you have to go and visit a floating village! I desperately wanted to see one but the reviews were mixed and I did not want to spend unnecessary money being ripped off in another tourist scam. However, we decided to take our guide with us, which (once again) made the experience even more wonderful and ensured that we did not get ripped off. As a treat, Mr V organised an old World War Two Jeep for us to get from the guest house to the port – how lucky we were! :) The drive through the local villages, off the beaten track to the port of departure set the scene for what was to come. The drive allowed us to see how the Khmer people live, how the locals ride their bicycles from one point to another and what a local market looks like.

This year has allowed us the privilege of travelling and exploring a number of different places, but very few places can compare to the floating village experience. After cruising through the village, passing floating government buildings, a school and community hall – we stopped off at a point where the engine boat could go no further. We decided to pay $10 and hop on a much smaller, slightly less stable, canoe – paddled by a local woman. Once we managed to collide comfort with stability, we peacefully glided through the alleyways of the floating village, seeing the most incredible sights and gaining a glimmer of insight into the way in which these fascinating people live.

During the wet season, the houses are floating. During the dry season, the stilted houses stand proudly off the ground. When we visited, the water was still a considerable 8M deep. Seeing children paddling home from school, babies being bathed in buckets and fishing nets being erected around us – was a truly magnificent experience. The locals were friendly, taking little notice of our presence – often appearing blissfully unaware of the magnitude of awe and manner in which we silently pondered just how people across the world survive and the depth of gratitude we felt to be exposed to such a unique way of living.

Siem Reap travel tips…

If you are planning a trip to Cambodia, with a few days to spare in Siem Reap, don’t have an excessive budget and are looking to make the most of your time – I highly recommend hiring a tour guide and dedicating one day to the Angkor region and another to exploring a floating village. We were privileged to know people who had already spent a considerable amount of time in Siem Reap, so we did not need to spend much time figuring out the simplicities of the town, pondering what we should/should not do. I am certain that without a guide accompanying you to the floating village, you may run into some complications relating to being ripped off. However, if you do decide to go alone – you are likely to be charged $20 per person to hire the engine boat, rather than $20 for the whole boat. Also, on the optional canoe trip through the village – you will more than likely be charged a per person fee, rather than the $10 flat rate which we paid for the trip – which lasts about 45 minutes.

Bangkok to Cambodia, Noodle hot pot & just chuck it…

3 Dec

Friday marked the start of our travels and the end of a wonderful teaching era in Bangkok. Packing up our apartment, saying goodbye to the truly dear friends we have made this year and getting ready to move onto the next chapter of our lives – was by no means easy. This experience taught me a tremendous amount about myself, about others and the divine truth in realising that as human beings – we are all the same. We come from vastly different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds – but, no matter where we have been brought up, no matter where in the world  our hearts lie – we are all the same.  The sweeter end of the bitter-sweet farewell was knowing that we have some well-earned travel time ahead of us – starting off in Cambodia! :)

First stop, Siem Reap…

Deciding on how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia proved to be one of those ok, yes – lets fly. No, wait – lets bus. Oh no, lets fly. But, if we fly…….  And so on. The difference in price from flying to bussing was enormous – especially for those, like us, who are on a budget. Much reading and online research led us to the conclusion that a 750 Baht bus drive was our chosen mode of transport, rather than the almost 4000 Baht cheap flight. Reviews and advice had us feeling confident that we had made the right decision and reading countless tips from experienced travellers on Tripadvisors definitely aided our decision. Booking your ticket from Bangkok to Siem Reap is easy-peasy! You can either go directly to Mo Chit station, or call the Thai Ticket Major call centre on 022623456. Phoning the call centre, allows you to book your tickets over the phone – collecting and paying for your purchase at 7/11 with the booking code provided. You will be issued with a receipt which is then handed over at the Thai Ticket Major desk at the station prior to your departure.

So, in a nutshell – the bus drive is absolutely fine!! Yes, it is long. Yes, it is not the most comfortable and yes, you do need to be prepared for border/visa scams – but, overall it is an easy, extremely affordable and comfy enough trip. We opted not to acquire an online E-visa from the Cambodia Embassy before our trip as neither of us had access to credit card funds and were equally concerned that the visa would not arrive in the specified 3 working days (although I have only heard positive feedback from fellow travellers about this online service – so go for it if you have the time and have access to a credit card.) The bus leaves from Mo Chit Station (which, by the way – is not near the Mo Chit BTS station – but rather a taxi drive or quick bus drive away.)

Leaving Bangkok is easy, arriving at the Poi Pet border has the potential to be rather challenging – but be prepared, and you are A for Away! :) Before you arrive at the official border post, you will stop at an area where a man will go on the bus claiming that anyone without an E-visa needs to get off the bus and follow him to get your visa… DO NOT go with him. He leads you to a plastic, collapsable table, with an A4 printed sign saying “Make Visa Here”. If you have spent some time in South East Asia, you will know not to fall for scams like these – but unfortunately, there are many people who still do – aiding corruption and giving these arrogant individuals the power to continue ripping off innocent travellers. No sooner had a few naive tourists (determined that this was in fact the border) stepped back on the bus, was the makeshift border post folded away and the scene cleared of any evidence…  Hmmm.

Once the first visa stop is made, you will continue to the official border post where a visa is easily and legally attained. The visa cost us 800 Baht each and took all of 30 minutes to be issued. The only waiting we did was in the prefabricated building where we had to pass through the Cambodian arrivals section once our 30 day tourist visas had been issued. We stood in a long queue which moved at snails pace for over an hour – which I could imagine could be rather unpleasant in the harsh, humid summer climate. Other than that – our journey was painless, quick and easy – coming highly recommended to those travellers who are looking to travel cheap, save some cash and have the time to spare sitting on a bus soaking in the Thai and Cambodian landscape.

Wonderful Siem Reap, Cambodia.

As we were meeting my mom in Siem Reap who arrived a few days earlier, our accommodation was already booked at a lovely little place called Sweet Dreams Guesthouse. This guesthouse is conveniently located just out of the main hype of Siem Reap town, in a street filled with lots of other guesthouses. A double room with  fan and hot water costs 8 Dollars a night, the rooms are spotlessly clean, the restaurant makes delicious coffee, fruit shakes & food and the owner is delightful! I will be sure to write a full review of our stay at the end of our week! But, before we could settle our exhausted minds – Mother Dear decided to invite us along to a local dinner with some of new friends. Um, yes – this was definitely an experience… Upon arrival – besides being the only foreigners in sight – I was rather confused by the tremendous amount of litter on the restaurants floor. I was about to have sense of humor failure, unable to fathom why we would be coming to this filthy place – when my mom quickly prompted our tour guide, Mr V, to explain that in Cambodia – it is normal and acceptable to throw your litter (napkins, used chop sticks, tissue paper, beer bottles etc.) onto the floor (“just chuck it”…) – as all the rubbish is then swept and cleaned at the end of the night. I am still struggling to fathom the logic behind such a trend as it seems easier just to save time and energy by throwing your rubbish into a bin at the time – but after a while, I awkwardly followed the locals and started slipping my rubbish onto the floor. The meal? It was a traditional beef, noodle soup prepared in a hot pot – which is heated on on a gas stove, neatly placed in the middle of the table. The meal was interesting and the experience wonderful. Sunday night bedtime was warmly welcomed and our excitement to be in a new country and the realisation that we were travelling again began to settle in! :) :)


It’s about Time.

29 Oct

Admittedly, my commitment to writing and updating my blog has been rather shocking. To those who enquire where I have been – I can only say that I just haven’t been in a good ‘writing space’. After 8 months of living in Thailand, we decided that October would be the perfect month to go home whilst the Thai schools closed for the end of the term. Time in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by friends and family finally allowed me to clear my head and get back on blogging-track!! :)

Home is where the Heart is...

So, we have been teaching English in Bangkok since May this year. We came to Thailand to travel, experience a new culture and soak up the invaluable lessons which come with living abroad. Unfortunately, our experience has been (for the lack of a better description) – bitter sweet. Thailand is the most incredible country, filled with wonderful, caring and genuine people – but (like anywhere else) is not perfect. One thing I cannot say enough is that traveling a country and actually living in a country are two entirely different things. People are often firm believers that if they have spent a night or two in a city, they are completely acquainted with the challenges which come with residing on a permanent basis. The lesson which I learnt from such, is that you cannot base your decision or predict your own experience to be like anyone else’s… Your job, your colleagues, your income and ability to save all influence your overall experience and cannot be based on  Jack or Jill’s 2 week getaway in 2005.

Along with its beautiful beaches, passive culture and smiling faces – Thailand is one of those places that unless you have experienced first hand what it is like to live there, it is very difficult to explain or generate understanding from people – even those closest to you. Whilst at home, I met people – people I know  well and people I had just met – all of which had lived in Thailand, taught English and could instantly relate to my joys and frustrations. On one of my first nights back home, I crossed paths with a girl who taught English in Thailand last year and I think we were both so relieved to meet another South African who could really relate to each others independent experiences. Those who believe that living in an Asian culture is all about sitting on the beach all day, beneath palm trees with a coconut in one hand – you are mistaken. Living in Bangkok has been difficult. Adjusting to the lifestyle and fitting into the Thai culture has been challenging, but we have done our best to make the most out all the situations which we have been faced.

We are now back in Bangkok after a wonderful month away. After settling back in, we were once again reminded of the reasons why we love Thailand and why we have stayed in this country for close to 9 months. I look forward to the many adventures which are still to come, the beautiful neighbouring countries which are yet to be explored and the people we will meet along the way. I miss South Africa, I miss my home and I miss my family & friends – but for now, we are on a journey which has forced me to grow up, laugh when all I want to do is cry (although, sometimes I just sob!) and taught me more in 9 months than I could ever have imagined…

Here’s to the next chapter of our adventure! :)


Monsoons and Macaroons.

16 Jun

The Rainy Season – It’s no joke.

It is safe to say that the rainy season has hit Bangkok… In a big way. In all honesty, I had completely underestimated what the rainy season actually meant or entailed. I thought there may be a few showers every now and then – providing a welcome break to the blazing city heat that dominates Bangkok daily – but no, these are no showers… These are torrential downpours – the degree to which I have not witnessed before. On Tuesday afternoon, I returned back to the office after a particularly long day of teaching at a school situated 2 hours outside of Bangkok. As the taxi got closer to the city, the massive black cloud which had been lingering for much of the day, become increasingly prominent. As we pulled up to the office, the pitter patter began and I was grateful to be indoors – perfect timing! So I thought.

Um well, that pitter patter did not last long. Within minutes, a fierce combination of rain, thunder and lightning were coming down in full force and I was left wondering how the heck I was going to get home… Almost an hour later, Kyle and I were standing on the entrance steps to our work building – surrounded by Thais who looked equally perplexed and indecisive as to whether it would be a good idea to just brave the weather or hang around for a little while longer. After awkwardly prancing around the entrance foyer (secretly hoping a Thai person was going to offer some miraculous solution to the force of Mother Nature) –  the rain appeared to be calming down –  so off we went…

Our intention was to walk outside, jump in a taxi and be dropped at the entrance to our building. Um no – that ain’t gonna happen. The roads were flooded, the gutters filled with fast-flowing water, traffic was grid locked and no taxi’s were insight. At this point we realized we were going to have to walk. (Please note, we don’t walk home on a normal day). The 2KM walk home involved my mood declining and sense of humor failing dramatically every 100M. The rain started coming down harder and harder. Cockroaches were swarming to find higher ground. The streets were flooded knee-deep in water. Power lines were flickering above our heads. And there we were – two foreign fools walking home, in a monsoon. We had no umbrella. We had no rain coat. We are fools. We arrived home drenched to the bone and highly irritated but we managed to laugh and agree – never again!

Moral of the story – do not underestimate the rainy season. 

Mr Jones’ Orphanage

Now that my little rant about the weather is over – I can tell you about some happy things! :) On our four year anniversary, we decided to celebrate in style and plan a day filled with things we had wanted to do in Bangkok for a while. One of our stops was Mr Jones’ Orphanage – a cake shop in the Thong Lor area. Words cannot really do this adorable little store justice so I do hope that the photographs do a better job! We indulged in the KitKat cake which was one of the most delicious tasting pieces of cake I have tasted. The outside of the cake was lined with pieces of KitKat and the top was sprinkled with M&Ms – a taste sensation any chocolate fan would savor for days. Once we were finished eating, taking photographs and attempting to avoid calculating our calorie intake for the morning – we ventured upstairs to the attic where we relaxed on the couches, allowing the cake to settle and sugar rush to kick in.

Celebrating in Style

June is also the month wherein we celebrate Kyle’s birthday… We had planned to go somewhere for a nice dinner, maybe have a glass or two of wine – but some last-minute spontaneity (and bravery as it started to rain minutes before departure) led us to Wine Connection. One of my best friends Mom’s back home had told me about this Wednesday special where between 5:30 and 8:30Pm you could drink all the wine and indulge in all the tapas you desire! Its one of those things which seem too good to be true – so we just had to go and see for ourselves. Well, were we impressed… When we arrived and realized that the decadent food stands on display were actually for us and the rest of the Wednesday special peeps, we just about did back flips. Having not eaten much Western Food in the last 4 months, and seeing vast amounts and variety of bread, cheese, salad, cold meats, pasta salads and basically any other tapas you can imagine – made us feel like we were in Heaven! Oh, and the most unbelievable thing? Three hours of unlimited food and wine costs only 300 Baht – a whopping R100! Sounds crazy, right??
So yes, we had an amazing evening, ended up drinking far too much wine, ventured off to one of the clubbing districts we have not been and woke up feeling like we had definitely had a decent birthday celebration! :)

Teacher’s Day

Thursday was Teacher’s Day in Thailand and at the school I teach at on a Thursday – English teachers and Thai assistants were invited to attend the ceremony – that’s what I was told. No one mentioned or emphasized the fact that we were going to be center of one of the most humbling occasions I have ever been apart of.  We were positioned on the stage in front of the entire junior school alongside the headmaster. Students came to school wearing  traditional outfits and bearing beautiful, individually created bouquets of flowers. Starting with the youngest grade, students walked onto the stage in lines, bowed at our feet and graciously handed over the bouquet which they had been holding onto throughout the morning – which was followed by a traditionally Thai wai. At first I was a slightly confused by the whole thing as it was not what I was expecting, but it did not take long before I was holding back the tears as I realized that these adorable little Thai children were honouring and showing their appreciation for their teachers – a truly humbling experience which I am so grateful to have been apart of.

Now that we are in a routine, the days and weeks are passing quicker than ever. I can honestly say that I am loving the teaching experience, that I am learning something new each day and enjoying every minute of the challenges and triumphs which our journey continues to bring. Bangkok is an amazing city which I just don’t think any foreigner can claim to know in a short space of time. Just when you think you have seen it all, something happens which changes your mind completely. I have learnt to keep an open mind and to just go with the flow. Because if you don’t, you might as well book your flight home… Friends and family back home – Princess is coping just fine… :)


Please Sir, Can I have some More?

9 Jun

When it Rains, it Pours.

2 Jun

Teaching is terrifying….

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our third week of teaching in Bangkok… So far, I have found the teaching experience to be entertaining, humbling, exciting and (most of all) exhausting. Each week I teach a variety of kindergarten and lower primary school children. Most of my classes are full of children with a lot of  energy, who demand a lot of attention. Its not rocket science to know that kids pick up on your energy levels, mood and feelings very quickly – so being bubbly, enthusiastic and full of energy all the time has taken some getting used to! At the end of our first week, I have never been more excited to welcome a public holiday in my life. But, by the end of our second week, I felt far more alive and I think we are slowly adjusting to the schedule, early mornings and late afternoons.

Before I actually started teaching, I thought that the younger the children/age group, the better. Well, I was mistaken. Don’t get me wrong – the little Thai kids who are just starting their first year of kindergarten, are ridiculously cute… They are also ridiculously dumb struck at the sight of a Western face – and at times, terrified. Most of my first kindergarten lessons consisted of a symphony of crying and screaming petrified 4 year olds. Oh, and the few who did nothing but wet their pants… Literally. I’m used to seeing the home room teacher discreetly exit the classroom, only to return with a mop and a child no longer dressed in school uniform – but a dry set of pyjamas. Teaching a class of 25-30 little kids who are genuinely petrified of you, takes some getting used to. But as each week passes, they seem to be getting more and more comfortable with the sight of my Western face, ‘hairy’ arms (the Thai’s do not have much body hair at all) and bizarre sounding voice.

The primary school kids are great! Most of them have already been taught English for a number of years and are not scared of me (thank goodness!). I love being able to interact, have a laugh and converse with them on a basic level. Most of the students are extremely eager to learn, practice their English and participate in the lesson which you have prepared. It does, however, break my heart when these young kids – no older than 7/8 – come rushing up to you shouting “Teacher! Teacher! ——–“ and then start rambling off in Thai. Their enthusiasm sets the tone for an incredible story or adventure and I, unfortunately, can do nothing but smile and ask them to please tell the Thai assistant teacher. The disappointment in these little kids faces when they realize you have no idea what they are talking about is terrible, but my minimal Thai (for now) just does not permit two-way conversation! :)

Oh, the names… I have to mention the names. Not a day goes by where I don’t have a little giggle at the names of the kids in some of my classes. Each child has a Thai name and an English nickname which they are given at birth. I have a Chesecake, an Autopilot, T-Pain, Pancake, Gun, Pooh, Fart and Coffeegrinder… And that’s to name just a few! Sometimes I catch myself thinking – are they for real??! All in all – I am teaching at two wonderful schools, the kids are lovely and my days are predominately full of fun!

Let’s be friends?

One of the benefits to waiting so long to sign and formalize a teaching contract in Bangkok, is that we really did our research into the company which we are now working for. We both wanted to work in an environment which would allow us to meet other foreign teachers, make friends and socialize with young people in the same boat as us. And that is exactly what we have done. We have honestly met some of the most wonderful people since being over here… People who will come and go throughout our Bangkok journey, but who we will stay in contact with for many years to come. I miss my friends back home terribly – but meeting new people over here – people who I can relate to and have a lot of fun with – makes things so much easier!

So, how’s the weather?

The general topic of conversation is the weather at the moment… Primarily because it has become much cooler in Bangkok in the last couple of weeks, compared to when we first moved here in April. I couldn’t be more grateful. It is the start of the rainy season here. What this means is that we have a thunder storm almost every day or night. Unlike back home in South Africa, thunder and lightening can light up the sky for up to two hours before there is any sight or sound of a serious downpour. Most of the thunder storms take place in the evening – a truly magical sight to witness from our apartment on the 26th floor!

Time is flying and I struggle to fathom where the last 4 months have gone. I have days where I hate every single thing about this city – the smell, the inability of the street food vendors to satisfy my craving for a home cooked meal, the pace at which I have to stroll to get to the BTS station, the weekend traffic and constant language barrier… But I only have these days ever so often. Most of the time, I continue to love Bangkok, the teaching experience and wonderful lessons I learn each and every day. I am so grateful to have airconditioned classrooms, a beautiful apartment to come home to in the evenings and an amazing person to share this adventure with. Long may these happy, cool days last! :) :)

Wishing you all a happy week x

Teaching and Thai Massages.

19 May

My lack of blogging activity over the past 2 weeks is solely due to the fact that I have not been so busy in over 3 months – not because I have lost interest or my new-found love for writing! :)

Teacher teacher

Since my last post, things have really gotten underway on the teaching front and I can honestly say it has been a while since I have been so exhausted. So, where do I begin? We finished off our two weeks of teacher-training on Wednesday last week and tomorrow I am off to teach my first lesson (alone)… I must say that (right now) my excitement exceeds my nerves and I am really looking forward to getting the hang of being in a classroom and getting to the know the children I am going to be teaching for the next while.

Monday and Tuesday last week were spent introducing and integrating us newbies with the rest of the staff who have been teaching at the company for quite some time… Most of which arrived in October (or around that time) last year. It is definitely the thing to come over to Thailand and teach for a year or so before moving on to either travel more or return to the real world back home. On Monday we had ‘Big Day Training’ and Tuesday, ‘Sports Day’. On Monday we had to catch the BTS Skytrain to the place where the training was being hosted… Words cannot describe how grateful I am to be living 1,2km and a mere taxi drive away from work in the mornings. My inability to deal with the heat, crowds and traffic just would not bode well if I had to squish into a sweaty train every morning and then  teach kids for the rest of the day. So without sounding like a brat, I am just so grateful we found our job first and then our apartment before settling into Bangkok.

Anyway, Big Day Training turned out to be quite eventful. Firstly, there were about 200 people in this one massive room – all foreign teachers, Thai assistant teachers and office staff. The chairs were positioned in a ‘U’ shape around the room, allowing adequate floor space in the middle – ensuring games could be clearly demonstrated. Well, my morning started off being a student and sitting in on a demo lesson which was being presented by one of the trainers. Within minutes of playing the circle game – I split my pants. Now, let me just explain… Finding black pants which are not too tight, not too loose and allow for decent movement – is not the easiest thing, especially when you cannot try clothing on at the markets. As a dived into my spot in the circle, after being chased around with a toy hammer, having 200 onlookers – hearing and feeling that rip sound made my heart sink. At first I thought I had torn a muscle. Thankfully not. Anyway, I spent the rest of the day walking around with a gaping hole in my leg – some looking at me with pity but most slightly confused as to how I could arrive at such a function with holes in my clothes!! :)

Those of you who know me – know that I am not really one for public speaking or having all eyes on me in front of lots of people. I kinda let go my fear of standing up in front of crowds last year but it has never been my fave thing. Well, something came over me on Monday and I decided to go up and represent my team and perform a demo lesson to everyone in the room… With a hole in my pants. Um, it went well – considering I have never taught before and I was quite proud of myself for not bursting into tears and running out the door. I realised that if I could do a lesson in front of 200 adults, I could definitely do it in front of 25 kids. I was in no way exceptional, but it was a good thing for my confidence and nerves!

Sports Day was fun… For the first hour or two. The event was set up outdoors. No aircon. A whole lot of people. Continuous physical activities. It was a scorcher, to say the least. The staff were all divided into teams and throughout the day we competed in sack race, 3 legged races, balloon popping, sliding on your bum in a line races. It was a lot of fun and it was great way to meet new people – but it was hot and by the time 3:30PM arrived I could not have been more thrilled to leave my fellow teammates and head home for a swim. (Oh, and our team came last…)

Cabbages and Condoms

Two weeks ago we met up with a friend from Cape Town who was stopping over in Bangkok en route to the islands. We went to a restaurant Cabbages and Condoms which we had heard so much about! The restaurant has a subtle display of props and decor all made out of condoms… Only in Bangkok! :) The food was wonderful and seeing friends and familiar faces from home is one of the greatest feelings! I am struggling to find the words to describe this restaurant – it’s one of those places you have to experience yourself. So, if you are stopping over anytime soon – I do suggest spending an evening here.

Home, away from Home

My love for Bangkok continues to increase. We have met some amazing people in the last week from all over the world, all of whom are in Bangkok teaching and in exactly the same boat as us.It always helps when people are in the same position as yourself – when they have left their home countries to experience and explore a new continent, country and city. The people we have met have all been so warm and inviting and have only further made us feel like this is where we are supposed to be. Although, the one thing I do struggle with is the pace at which the locals walk… There is very little concern for time in Thailand and people are generally ridiculously care free – never walking or moving in any form of a hurry. Westerners generally move with intention, on the left hand side of the road, sticking to one side of the elevator and moving out of others way. Not in Thailand. I have learnt to avoid any form of busy street (on foot) during peak hours. A 200M walk can take a considerable amount of time when you are stuck behind a group who is chatting or individual who is browsing. But yes, patience is a virtue… :)

Yesterday I (somehow) managed to convince Kyle to come for a Thai massage with me. I have been warned that this is not a normal massage in the sense that there are no oils used and you feel more like you have had a workout than a massage… But I thought I should just give it a try. Well, I am still not too sure how I feel about yesterdays experience… I had a little Thai lady standing on me, pulling me and moving me in directions I never thought possible. And the funniest thing was that Kyle was right next to me – enduring exactly the same thing! I walked out of that massage unable to feel my calves. My neck clicked more in 5 seconds than it has in the last 5 years and my arms felt like they were dislocated. Kyle claims to have enjoyed it – but I do not think I will rush back for a Thai massage anytime soon. If you are going to go for a Thai massage whilst in Bangkok, I suggest saying you prefer ‘medium’ strength… The language barrier does not really permit changes in strength to be easily elaborated on – something I learned very quickly. This morning I woke up feeling like I had just played a rugby match.

So, tomorrow it all starts. I am beyond grateful that Friday is a public holiday in Thailand as I do not know how my body is going to adjust to a full 5 day week of teaching… On Monday night, I was asleep at 8:15PM. And, the rest of the week I was out cold by 9:30PM. Every Monday I leave the office at 6:30AM, drive two hours to a school and then return at about 5PM (long day). On Tuesdays I am on standby – which means I only go out to teach if someone calls in sick. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I teach at the same school which is really nice! Most people move to a new school each day so I am rather pleased to be at the same school 3 days of the week. I went to this school’s introduction day last week and I could not believe how tiny the kids were… The kindergarten students (which I will be teaching) are ridiculously cute – even though most of them were sobbing hysterically because it is the first time they have been away from their parents! So yes, this is going to be a very interesting week and I will be sure to write an update next weekend! :)

Wishing you all a happy week x

Work Mode, Beer on ice & Pay Day.

6 May

First Week of Training… Getting to know the System

I’m going to apologise in advance if I sound like one of those really annoying, happy people who are just over optimistic about life… But after our first week of training, I genuinely feel like one of those people! After spending so many tedious hours trying to secure a job, accepting we will be living in Bangkok, living on an extremely tight budget etc etc – we anxiously awaited this week to determine whether we had made the right decision to teach/live in Bangkok or not. I will try to summarise it all as quickly as possible…

Basically, Kyle and I are working for a private company which is hired out by school’s across Bangkok. The company is fairly large with about 45 teachers currently employed to teach English as a foreign language. Including Kyle and I, there are 12 new teachers – 8 guys and 4 girls. We are the only South Africans, the rest are from either America or England. (Hearing these lovely people attempt to discuss Die Antwoord is particularly amusing…) So, how it works is – teachers are separated amongst school’s across the week. So, every Monday I will teach at a certain school, Tuesday another, Wednesday another and so on. Each morning, all teachers meet at the company office in Ari where we are then transported with our Thai assistant teacher (TT) to our designated schools.

Whereas friends we know (as well as people we have met since being here) teach at one school, every day – our setup is different. The last week of training has been amazing – we have learnt so much and met so many great people! I love the fact that everything is structured, that there is constant assistance and none of the new teachers are expected to be exceptional from day one. On Saturday, new teachers went into the office to observe Weekend Club. We sat in on classes in order to get an idea of what is expected of us and what to expect from the children we are going to teach. After two, 90 minute sessions – I returned home and could barely string a sentence together. I was exhausted.

Photo Credits:

Photo Credits:

Beer on Ice

It is completely acceptable in Thailand – particularly Bangkok – to drink beer, on ice. Something I just cannot get used to… Others (someone I know particularly well) seem to have no problem with the watered-down beer taste – which I have found considerably amusing. When such beer-on-ice occasions occur, I am begged not to tell anyone… And if my phone is taken out to reveal photographic evidence, the beer is covered and the begging erupts once more! ;)

Across the road from where we work, there is a little restaurant which serves beer and is clearly the watering hole for teachers to meet at after a long day of teaching and planning lessons. The experienced people we are going to be working with, have been in Bangkok for at least 3 years, most pushing onto 5. I know it is early days, but I do believe we would have known after the first week whether we were going to enjoy ourselves working for this company or not. I know we have yet to teach a class on our own, but I genuinely feel like we made the best decision to come to Bangkok. I just cannot emphasize enough how wrong people are about this City – give it a chance, leave Khao San Road and you will be exposed to an entirely different world!

Chatuchak Weekend Market

A perk associated with training is that you get a little bit of cash each week to get you through until payday on the 31st. Since I have been wearing the same clothes since February (which consist mostly of shorts and t-shirts) I literally could not wait to go shopping! So, yesterday we went to Chatuchak Weekend Market – probably the most popular and well known market in Bangkok.

When we woke up in the morning, it was raining. Not drizzling, raining. I looked outside and could not believe my eyes – there was a big black cloud hanging over the city, rain splattering against the windows and a gusty wind – combining to make shopping conditions not particularly pleasant! It must also be noted that Chatuchak is notorious for being crowded and extremely hot… So I had spent most of the week subtly preparing Kyle for what was to come. Anyway, nothing was stopping me from going shopping, so up we went. In the rain.

To be quite honest, we probably went on the best day, at the best time. The rain seemed to put a lot of visitors off and the area was relatively relaxed. We managed to get quite a lot of shopping done under reasonably pleasant circumstances… As the sun started to clear the clouds away after lunch, hoards of people slowly but surely began to pack the narrow walkways – and that was when we knew it was our cue to leave!

People had told me that this market was cheap but I generally prefer to make these judgements for myself. But yes, Chatuchak really is that cheap. I got home and tallied up all that I had spent (ok I did not buy a lot, but enough) and I was shocked at how much it all came to! I spent a total of 550 Baht – which is the equivalent of R180 back home!

Oh, before I forget – we nearly bought a bunny. Actually, I think we will get a bunny. Another thing I had been warned about was the Pet Section. We made a joint decision prior to departure, to avoid this section at all cost as neither of us wanted to see puppies, kittens and basically any animal you can think of (domestic or not), trapped in a cage. But, we walked straight into the bunny section. These poor little dwarf bunnies are trapped in these MINUTE cages – they cannot stretch their legs or move about – nothing. Kyle said we could get one – so the decision is unanimous. We are getting a bunny. I also fell in love with the Labrador puppies… But I think a bunny will best! :)

Last week signified the start of a new adventure – no more traveling, for now – but time to make new friends, learn from others and become a teacher. I know from my gap year that kids demand a lot of energy and I am preparing to be absolutely exhausted after my first week (if not month!) Saying goodbye to our dear South African friends (Cleo and Kirsty) on Thursday was difficult as we knew we always had them to share a laugh, go for dinner with or just generally understand us. I questioned my decision about coming over here a few times – but now I know we have made the right decision… As cliche as it sounds – our time over here, how everything worked out, the people we have crossed paths with and could have missed by a minute – have all reassured my belief that Everything Happens for a Reason.

Coffee Beans, Musical Instruments & Unforseen Customers

1 May
Evelina Galli


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