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Khao Yai

IMG-20171023-WA0000It was an eventful start for our trip to Khao Yai, and as it’s me, i’m not at all surprised. For those of you who don’t know me, I should probably mention now that things rarely run smoothly; mainly due to my scatty personality. So, back to Khao Yai. I will start from the beginning: Rob and I met Kai and his friend Nicola at Ramkhamhaeng airport link, where we were planning to get the train to Mo Chit, from there we could then catch a bus that would take us to Khao Yai. Having met at the station I then realised it would be quicker and cheaper to get a taxi as I had in my head that Mo Chit was central Bangkok (Its not). Quickly, we ordered a big taxi and were on our way. Once arrived at the bus station I knew we needed ticket counter 49. As we were looking around we found the desk numbers 47, 48, 50, 51… Where the hell was 49!? After walking around looking like lost tourists (which we were, kind of) we decided to ask someone and quickly learnt it was upstairs (phew). Having bought the bus tickets we then had 3 minutes to catch the bus, so off we ran. Realising the bus wasn’t quite what I had imagined it would be I decided it was wise to go to the toilet before embarking the 3 hour bus journey. So I dumped my stuff on the floor, including the tickets, and ran to the loo. Once I was ready to get on the bus I was asked to show my ticket. As Rob and Kai were already on there so I assumed they had my ticket – a quick phone call later and I realised no one had the tickets. I had lost them (sorry guys). Off I ran back to the loo to search for them whilst everyone else looked through their bags. I searched every cubicle, tried to ask the toilet attendant (she spoke no English) and even looked in the bins. To no avail they were not found. In the end Kai had to run all the way back to the ticket office in 30C+ heat to reprint the tickets (thank you Kai!!) and in the mad panic he accidentally shoved a monk out of the way (maybe this is why Kai has the luck he does…) The bus itself reminded me off the old school bus I used to catch every morning, only this one was built for Thai people; It was tiny, smelly and very very clunky.

3 hours later we finally arrived! As we walked into the hotel I was genuinely speechless, no photos do it justice. The hotel is very open so the building blends into the outdoors seamlessly and it instantly feels like a 5* retreat. In fact, I felt as though I had just entered rehab (in a good way) after a week in Koh Phi Phi. Soon after arriving I found myself relaxing in the restaurant with a Darjeeling tea waiting for our room to be ready. They were running late so we went to check out Kai and Nicolas room, which was amazing; they had a plunge pool in their private patio and a huge open plan living and bedroom area. 2 hours later our room was finally ready! In comparison to the other room ours was a lot smaller but had a huge balcony that hosted a bath overlooking the mountains! It was beautiful.

 

 

The next day we woke up early to join a tour in the national park. Having set off we joined a group of 8 other people, some French, some English and some Austrian. Everyone in the group was lovely and it didn’t take long for us all to start talking. The first part of the tour was a 3 hour trek through the jungle where we got to see poisonous snakes, spiders, monkeys and even some horn bills! After a quick stop for lunch in a watch tower over looking a watering hole where all the wild animals go to eat (unfortunately there weren’t any there when we went) we made our way back to the truck. The next stop was visiting the famous waterfall that was used to film “the beach”. After a steep climb down we were rewarded with an amazing view of the waterfall with a beautiful rainbow at the bottom. With Kai being Kai, and not being built for the jungle life he didn’t dress appropriately; with a pair of shorts (trousers were advised) and his red designer trainers, paired with sexy leach socks, he nearly fell in whilst standing on a big rock trying to get a good photo – fortunately he managed to stop himself in time otherwise it may not have ended so well! (Although it would have been funny for us!)

 

 

The last part of our tour involved driving around the park searching for wild elephants. It didn’t take us long to find one as we entered the elephant zone of the park. 5 minutes later we got stuck behind lots of cars turning around, flashing their warning lights or simply waiting. Ignoring all these cars our driver overtook and slowly drove down the road only to be met by a wild elephant! I was in awe of this amazing animal; so intimidating yet gentle. The elephant was in the road for a good few minutes before crossing over and heading back into the jungle. As we turned around and headed back up the road we were then greeted by another elephant crossing the road! It was such a surreal moment and one I won’t forget any time soon, it was simply amazing.
Upon arriving at the hotel we were all feeling tired and decided to eat the hotel restaurant out of convenience. As we walked in we noticed the staff learning how to say “the restaurant is full” in English which I found ironic as the restaurant was completely empty – in fact, every time we went there for dinner we were the only ones there! As we left the staff all wanted a photo with Rob, maybe it was because they thought he was famous.. Or maybe it was just because we were their only customers? Probably! We all  headed back to Kai and Nicolas room to chill out for a bit, only this was far from relaxing! As we entered the room we soon realised that they had left the patio door wide open and as a result, a giant beast like moth decided to chill out in their room. I wish I had a photo but I was too scared to get that close to it. It took over an hour to get it out as we were all too scared to go near it and in the end Kai wrapped a towel over it and chucked the towel outside, wafting it about 10 times to ensure it was gone!
The next day we had a lazy morning by the infinity pool before embarking on the second part of the tour. In the afternoon we met the tour group again who took us down to a natural spring to go swimming. This was a lot smaller and a lot busier then I had expected it to be, almost spoiling the view. However, I have never seen water quite so clear or fresh, despite the amount of people there. The next stop was visiting an underground cave that was originally used as a temple before the monks were given the funds to build one above ground. Whilst in this cave we got to see a tarantula, hammer head spider and various other scary looking insects. We then had to squeeze and climb through a very narrow part of the cave which then opened up to a very large bat cave. As the sun was setting we made our way out and traveled to another cave. Here, we stood outside and waited until we got to witness millions of bats leaving the cave; a constant stream of black in the sky for over an hour as they headed out to hunt. The same thing happens every night, at the same time, at the same place like clockwork. As the night came in we were then shown a millipede that the tour guide had found, who then, without hesitation put it onto Kai’s face! I had absolutely zero interest in touching any of these creepy crawlies and kept well away. To end the tour our tour guide then got out his telescope and lined it up with the moon. The sky was so clear; you could see so many stars and never have I seen the moon look so clear as I did that night.

 

 

Kai and Nicola headed back to Bangkok the following day, whilst me and Rob had one last day. We spent it relaxing by the pool and ventured out for dinner to the Chocolate Factory in the afternoon. As it was the day of the Kings funeral, everyone was dressed in black, literally everyone – apart from Rob; Rob was in bright colours having not thought about it, and as the restaurant got busier and busier Rob grew more awkward, much to my amusement!
My time in Khao Yai has been so relaxing and chilled, quite the opposite to Koh Phi Phi and it was exactly what I needed. I had a lot of thinking time on this holiday and times it felt very surreal; Staying in a 5 star hotel with a bath on the balcony, an amazing view and an infinity pool, I could not afford to stay one night here if it were in England! Fortunately with Thai prices and a discount through a booking agency it was affordable in Thailand and I feel incredibly lucky that I have these opportunities.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/240360403″>Khao Yai 2017</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user73037337″>Sarah Szeithauer Adam</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Koh Phi Phi!

Having been in Bangkok for nearly 2 months now I was feeling very ready to see more of Thailand. So, after much debate on deciding where to go me and Rob finally decided to head down South with friends to visit the Island that is Koh Phi Phi and I was extremely excited!

Before going to the Island I thought it would be a great idea to buy a massive unicorn lilo (because you cant enjoy your holiday until you’ve got a good Insta pic, babes!). I didn’t quite realise just how big it would be, and fitting it into my hand luggage was a struggle. Once at the hotel Rob and I ventured out to buy a pump for the lilo, as Kai had told us that you could buy them everywhere on the island (Thanks for that Kai…), turns out, nowhere sells them. In the end we borrowed a very small hand pump from a very kind lady in a very small shop. It took us half an hour to pump the bloody thing up. Half an hour! When we returned to the hotel pool we were getting some very strange looks, we definitely looked like ‘daddys credit card backpackers’. 

Out first night in Koh Phi Phi was interesting, and I cant say I remember much to be completely honest! It all started relatively calm with a few pre drinks and a nice meal out; it all went wrong when we decided to have a bucket whilst watching Thai Boxing. For those of you who haven’t been to Thailand before, Thai Boxing is very popular with drunk tourists volunteering to beat each other up, literally. After a bucket Kai’s friend Charles (the most British person I’ve ever met) decided to have a go. 10 minutes later he came out of the ring slightly worse for wear and ordered another bucket to numb the pain. A few buckets later and we decided to hit the beach rave. I don’t remember much but what I do remember is fire dancers, neon paint, more buckets, dancing like crazy and Rob ending the night straddling a giant penis with a bucket on his head. The walk home I was informed that I was demanding a McDonald’s (there are none on the Island but it sounds like something I would say!) and rob turned into the crazy cat man* stroking every cat he saw (there was a lot) so it took us a long time to get home.

The next morning I awoke feeling rather worse for ware. Wanting to embrace the day I got up and took our newly named unicorn, Roy to the beach. Carrying him there was not easy, Rob and Kai took it in turns to carry him on their head, bending down every time there was an electric cable, canopy or whatever else was in the way. We had a lot of funny looks, comments and even people taking photos! (I can only imagine how we looked). The beach itself was stunning and I will never forget the view, it was literally paradise. That was until my hangover kicked in and I suddenly had a dodgy stomach, casually walking over to the toilets like nothing was wrong I suddenly realised I had to pay 30 baht, which I didn’t have… Panicking by this point I ran back over and, not so politely asked Kai “have you got 30 baht? I’m going to shit myself!” (The glamour of living in Thailand).

After prancing about in the water on Roy for a while Kai was heading back when he got stung by a Sea Urchin! Which previously we had seen a warning sign about them being life threatening! Fortunately, after a trip to the clinic and a very blue finger he was told he would be fine with some pain relief and antiseptic.

22711884_10159683271330106_1436483116_oLater in the day, having returned to the hotel to recover, Kai thought it would be wise to leave his balcony doors open. As I was on my balcony I saw a monkey casually stroll into his room! Heading over to warn him I found Kai hiding in the bathroom and the monkey raiding the bin, the fridge and then Kai’s bag. At this point I decided to be the hero and get the monkey out. Picking up Kai’s flipflop I threatened throwing it at the monkey, but as I did it hissed its giant teeth and ran towards me. I have never been so scared, I had visions of it clinging and biting my leg. I literally ran for my life, but before I could, Kai shoved me out of the way and left the room first. Eventually the monkey left, after peeing all over Kai’s clothes.

 

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That night we met some friends for dinner, and after planning to have a calm one – we ended up drinking buckets back at the beach rave. This time I was (very embarrassingly) trying to learn how to hula hoop and ended up on the Rodeo Bull ride, I am very proud of the fact that I thrashed Kai and Rob on it but did end up with a very swollen, sore little finger and a very sore foot.

The next morning, you can only imagine how rough I was feeling. But once again, not wanting to waste the day we booked a half day boat trip on a Thai long boat. Firstly we went to a place called Monkey Beach, which is exactly what it says. I wont lie about the fact that me, Rob and Kai were all petrified by these little monkeys after the hotel incident. The next stop was Maya Bay, where “The Beach” was filmed. It was much quieter then I had hoped and it was absolutely beautiful, no pictures do it justice! Moving on we then went snorkeling, which was all great until Kai got stung by ANOTHER Sea Urchin!! I have never known someone to have luck quite like Kai (this is one reason why I love him, he cracks me up) – fortunately he takes it all in his stride and is one of the most positive people I have ever met! Despite nearly passing out from the pain, he carried on, almost as though nothing had happened.

On our last afternoon we hired Kayaks and ventured out to sea where we soaked up the view, swam in the clear water and then lost half our possessions from capsizing the boats trying to get back in! The rest of the holiday was pretty chilled in comparison, apart from me being poorly for most of it (partly self inflicted from one too many buckets).

Tomorrow we are off to Kao Yai, a National Park just North of Bangkok. This trip will be a completely different vibe to Koh Phi Phi, exploring the jungle and hopefully seeing some wild elephants! I cant wait to see another side to Thailand and will fill you all in on my next blog.

 

*Koh Phi Phi has a lot of cats, and I mean a lot. They are all very tame and friendly, and I’m gathering, fairly well looked after (for strays anyway). After our first day of being on the island a cat followed us upstairs to our room, Rob started stroking her and not long after she started following him around the whole hotel. If Rob walked into someone else’s room, she would follow. Rob then decided to buy cat food the next day. The cat then returned every morning and night and waited outside our door to be fed. By the end of the holiday we had named her Roy Junior and she was chilling quite happily in our room!

Surviving as a Teacher

Finally! I have somehow (I’m still figuring out how…) managed to totally wing it and survive my first term as a Teacher! And to my surprise, I have really enjoyed it. I have had a few different jobs in my time; working in retail, as a care worker and in the Film & TV industry working in Costume. But I have to say that so far, Teaching has been the most rewarding; working in Retail is awful. Full stop. Literally just awful, and working as a carer was extremely rewarding but unfortunately the hours, management and money really let it down. Having studied for years and dedicating so much time to make a career out of Costume it was a hard decision to put that on hold for a few years, if not forever. I made the decision to leave the Industry because I wanted to travel and see the world; I was tired of working long hours, tired of being tired and I was tired of the Film & TV Industry generally that I found, for me, to be very superficial and not very rewarding.

So here I am, writing a blog about being a Teacher which, if someone had told me I would be doing a few years ago, I would never have believed them. I always hated the idea of being a Teacher, and to be fair – I still do in some ways. I’m not sure I could ever teach in England and I definitely could not teach older kids (does anyone else find them intimidating or is that just me?). At the moment I have a class with 10 2 year old’s who I absolutely adore.

The main challenge I have faced is the language barrier and the different levels of English the children can speak. It’s easy to see who has been to nursery before and who has parents teaching them English at home. Some of my pupils had never spoken English before coming to Nursery and none of their family members speak it (communicating to the parents is always a struggle!) so getting them to understand my instruction can at times, be very difficult. Having said that, It’s amazing to see how much they absorb from you so quickly. All the pupils have now settled in and we have a set routine. Not every day is a good day though, there are days when the pupils don’t respond to the lesson’s very well or they are getting distracted all the time and wont listen, It’s a constant battle on days like that and it can be quite draining (especially when you have a pupil who wont stop crying). The good thing about teaching 2 year old’s, that can also be a problem, is that they copy you and they copy each other; It’s a good thing because at that age they become more aware of whats going on around them and part of the learning process if through copying; But the reason this is also a problem is because one pupil in particular likes to copy what I say; If i’m telling someone to be quiet, or sit down, or stand nicely he likes to copy me. The other issue I find is them copying each other; if one starts jumping on the bed at nap time about 3 others will start doing it. I find myself constantly telling them to stop jumping on the bed! (One part of teaching I struggle with is not laughing. Quite often the children will do something naughty or silly, that is actually quite funny, but as I need to tell them off I have to keep my poker face!).

Because of the language barrier I have naturally picked up a little bit more Thai from the children which has helped me to communicate with them in order for them to learn what that word means in English. Technically you are not allowed to speak Thai at school but for the first few weeks I found I had to otherwise they had no clue what I was saying! Some key words and phrases I have learnt are;

“Ngiiap” – Quiet!

“Nang-Long” – Sit down!

“Bpuuat-chii” – Pee pee

“U u” – Poo poo.

“Mai” – You add to the end of a word to make it a question; “U u mai?” (Poo poo?)

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The working hours at the school, compared to my previous job are absolutely amazing. Every morning before the school day starts everyone gathers to sing the Thai National Anthem and raise the Thai flag*. My Pupil’s arrive at 8.30 and have left by 2.30; I leave school at 4pm and am generally home within half an hour. When I first started work I found myself not knowing what to do with myself in the evenings, but It didn’t take long for me to get used to it. When the Sun is out (which doesn’t seem that often at the moment, bring on the dry season) I can go to the swimming pool, sometimes I go into town, to the gym, the cinema or just chill out at home. I have joined a netball team on Monday evenings which initially, I didn’t actually like and only joined for social reasons but now I find myself enjoying it and look forward to it every week.

For the October half term we initially only had 1 week off, however, it was announced earlier in the year that all schools would have to close for 1 week from Mon 23rd for the late Kings cremation, meaning we now have 2 weeks off (hurrah!). It has been a whole year since the King died and the anniversary of his death was on Friday 13th October which meant we had that day off work. For the month of October we have been advised to wear somber colours and dress modestly, keep any leisurely activities and entertainment to a minimum and all Thai websites are now in black and white. The cinema has very minimal showings and some places are not serving alcohol. On the week beginning 23rd October events will be running all week for the buildup to the Kings cremation on Friday 26th October. On this day, most shops will be closed, including supermarkets and some public transport will be free in order for people to attend the Kings cremation in the evening. We have been advised to leave the city for that week as there will be not much to do, and incredibly busy and intense in town. So now its half term and I am off to the South of Thailand visiting a beautiful island called Koh Phi Phi for a week on Monday, and then to Khao Yai – a national park 2 hours north of Bangkok for the second week. I cant bloody wait!

Koh Phi Phi and Khao Yai ❤

*(at 8am and 6pm everyday the National Anthem is played, and it is expected, when out in public, to stop what you are doing and stand silently, and at the end bow you head to show respect. When you go to the cinema, before every film, the National Anthem is played and again, you must stand up to show your respect). 
**All photos I have attached have come from the schools FB page and Website (not my own personal images…). 

 

 

A city of extremes

After writing my last blog I continued to feel home sick over the next few days. I found myself not wanting to embrace any Thai culture, I was feeling stressed at the fact nothing is ever easy (like getting a phone contract*) and not wanting to leave the house. After a forcing myself out to go for food and to the cinema with friends I felt a little better but ultimately what I really needed was a lazy Sunday lounging around, eating my body weight in food and binging on Netflix. Which is exactly what I did, and I felt so much better for it. Since then I have managed to cook spaghetti bolognaise, mexican, and now we have bought a work top oven we cooked chicken wrapped in parma ham, stuffed with mushroom and blue cheese with honey BBQ sauce and mash potato! This was definitely a pay day splurge but well worth it. Now I’m back to loving Bangkok and want to explore it and embrace it again.

Despite no longer feeling homesick, something I am still feeling is missing my family and friends from back home so so much: I miss going to The Pilot (my dads favorite restaurant) on a Friday night when visiting my family for the weekend, or driving down to see my best friend in Miton Keynes and making friends with the local transvestites on a night out (hahahaha). I miss taking Robs nieces out for the day and spending time with his family! My sister has just had 2 amazing things happen to her – and being over here makes it hard because despite having access to skype and facetime its never quite the same as seeing and spending time with someone in person; you cant hug them and share the good news in quite the same way!

Moving to Bangkok has been a city of extremes, a city of opposites and a city of ups and downs: I have seen extreme wealth and extreme poverty: I have had posh bottomless brunches at 5* hotels and amazing street for that cost just 60 baht: And my emotions been all over the place, I have felt tired and emotional and seem to cry a lot easier – but then I’ve had some of the best times, made the best memories already and always get the surreal feeling of “Omfg, I live in Bangkok!” And would I change any of it? No way!**

*I bought a phone contract when we first arrived – I specifically asked for a rolling one and not a 1 month tourist card. However, I seemed to end up with this any way without realising (either as a scam or due to the language barrier, i’m not quite sure!). After 1 month I topped up my card, 800baht for unlimited internet…. But 2 weeks later my internet completly ran out and I couldnt make any texts or calls. Feeling stressed about this (because I had no way to contact anyone if I was in trouble) I went to the phone shop as soon as I could. Once there they informed me that my sim card was now invalid and I ended up having to pay another 500baht to get a new rolling contract. Which also meant a new number – so if you need it WhatsApp me (I’m still registered as my old number on there).
**Apart from maybe shipping all my family and friends out here… Obviously!

 

 

Feeling Homesick

After a mare of an evening i’m feeling inspired to write this blog. This is about something everyone will struggle with at some point of other whilst being an expat; homesickness. No matter how strong you are, or how natural you find moving abroad, or how much you love it – at some point or other everyone will feel this way, even if just a little bit.

The main thing I have struggled to adjust to is the food. Thailand has a reputation for amazing street food; phad thai, green thai curry, papaya salad, morning glory- I could go on. Now don’t get me wrong, these foods, and more, live up to the amazing reputation! And when you find an amazing street food place that charges you 60 baht (less then £1) for a meal you know your on the money. The issue is finding these places; they are more common along the BTS line but not so much when you venture further out (not farang friendly anyway – you at least need photo references!).

It may sound silly but my current homesickness was triggered by a rubbish evening trying to find some good food: After Rob suggested we get some street food for dinner I agreed to go to a market he discovered near us, despite being super tired, wanting to get in my pj’s and do absolutely nothing. On the bike we got and headed out but it took us a while to find the market and when we did it wasn’t very farang friendly (as I said earlier, you need photo references!). After venturing up the street we decided to head over to Bangkapi market as there’s lots of food markets there too. As we were venturing through the market there were lots of hot pot places (where you are given a broth and you cook & add the ingredients you want) but not what we were looking for (I just wanted a phad thai!). We finally decided on a little street food restaurant along the side of the road, which annoyingly did not serve phad thai – instead I ordered a “mango salad with crispy fish” which sounds nice and relatively normal, I was picturing something along the lines of battered fish. But what turned up was not what I expected; at first all seemed normal. That was until I tried it; after asking for little spice, it was still overpoweringly spicy and what was supposed to be “crispy fish” was actually just dry fish skin. Both the smell and the flavour were so overpowered by the fish it makes me feel sick just thinking about it! Very quickly we decided to ask for the bill (Check bin ka!!!!!). With the staff looking very offended that we hadn’t eaten any (Thais really really love their food) we made a quick escape and swung by Mcdonalds on the way home. This is a good time to add that I am so sick of Mcdonalds! I have eaten more since moving here then I have in my whole life,  and on top of that I have started drinking beer and I seem to live of pizza and rice. I am trying to go to the gym to balance it out, but I cant help but feel sluggish from my rather poor diet at the moment!

The lunches at school are free, so I shouldn’t complain but I cant help but feel that sometimes I’m not eating what they say I’m eating. Every day you have an option of rice, noodle, more rice, soup, some sort of meat (if your lucky it will have vej mixed in) and a very basic salad.. Sometimes it’s surprisingly nice but I cant help but feel that I have probably eaten dog at some point that’s been passed off as ‘pig’ or ‘chicken’ (everything is minced so you would never know). Your better off not thinking about what your eating, but for someone who doesn’t like to eat too much meat and would consider giving up meat its not very easy.

The biggest thing I struggle with is cooking. I love to cook and I miss it! Cooking healthy English food is so hard in Bangkok; the kitchens are small, you usually only have 1 or 2 hobs, no oven, and buying western food is expensive! So all in all it’s a whole lot of expensive faff. Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to find normal western food such as salt & vinegar crisps (anyone who knows me will know I really, really love my crisps), the sausages are made of chicken and they don’t farm beef or lamb in Thailand! They love adding sugar into bread, on top of toast and annoyingly on top of fruit (isn’t is sweet enough!?).

Don’t get me wrong, I do love Thai food and I love living here – generally I am very happy. But after a day at work, when your tired and drained from trying to get 2 year olds to listen to you all day and behave, you just want to get in, put on your pj’s and cook some good comfort food! Sometimes It’s a struggle.

The Laos Visa Run

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A few weeks ago I had to go to Laos for my Visa run. It was my first time travelling alone and I wont lie, I didn’t want to go. I was feeling stressed and anxious over it, and having only just settled into my new job I didn’t really want to take 2 days off. To my surprise though it turned out to be a really good trip! It was nice to get some ‘me’ time as the past few months have been very full on and iv’e not had any time to myself. I met some great people, made new friends and it pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is never a bad thing.

On the way there I booked a 1st class room on a sleeper train. After hopping on (or climbing is more accurate) onto the train I found my cabin. It was much nicer then I had imagined and I ended up having it to myself! The room had a sink, mirror, cupboard and even a TV. Wanting to get the “full experience” on a sleeper train I decided to try the food and walked down through the second class section and into the little restaurant – this was an experience! I think I was the only western person on that whole train and everyone seemed very excited about it; the locals helped me ask for a spoon and fork (ha) and sat with me whilst I ate my pork buns. They were interested in where I was from (everyone loves it when you say your from Manchester) and took photos of me! It was a good chance to practice the little Thai I have picked up and learn a few new words/phrases. On the way back to my cabin I got talking to the steward on my carriage and again, was keen to get a photo with me! He put his hat on me and insisted on taking lots of selfies to show his family.

Me & The Train Steward. 2nd class carriage. Pork buns. 

In the morning I was woken up by a tannoy announcing we would soon be arriving at Nong Khai, a small sleepy station just before the border into Laos. At this station I needed to buy a shuttle train and bus ticket to take me into Vientiane, the shuttle train takes you across Friendship Bridge and into Laos to an even smaller, sleepier station called Thanaleng. At this station you have to go to the immigration desk to get your Laos visa. Thailand have become more strict with visa runs as a lot of backpackers and expats work illegally in Thailand. On my form I stated I would be in Laos for 3 days and then traveling to Cambodia (so it didn’t look like a visa run). They were suspicious of me though when collecting my passport and asked me a lot of questions; Why are you only in Laos for 3 days? Why not longer? What are you doing in Laos? You have friend here? Where are you staying? Why no stay with her? Where are you going next? Where were you before? You like Laos? You been before? Ok! I hope you enjoy Laos and come back again! Bye bye! 

Shuttle Train 

Once through immigration I got the mini bus into town. I got talking to an old Laos local (who know lives in Bangkok) who paid for the mini bus driver, Per, to take me to the Thai Consulate. After dropping everyone else off I was the only one left and Per parked his minibus and told me we had to walk around the corner to the consulate, but, as a female traveling on her own with no phone you can understand why I felt slightly worried… (Where the hell was he taking me? I don’t trust anyone!). Outside the Consulate it was busy with people coming and going and on my way in a man asked for my passport, which in that moment I assumed was to send me to the right place inside. The next thing I know, hes walking off with my passport. I ran after him to the little makeshift tent he had where he started to fill out the visa application form I needed. I quickly realised he was going to charge me for this service but considering I had left all my paperwork and photocopies at home, I didn’t mind too much and 100baht to me is nothing but to him would be a lot. Once this was done Per came inside with me and showed me where to go and waited outside for me. I joined the queue to apply for my visa and after 1 hour I dropped my passport off, was given a ticket number and told to return tomorrow.

After Per dropped me off at my Hostel I was again feeling anxious as this was my first time in a hostel, I booked it because I knew it would force me to meet people and go out, instead of staying in and lounging by the pool! The room itself was nice, there were 12 beds in the room and each bed had a little curtain, a light, hooks and in the room were lockers to store your valuables. As there was no one else in the room I decided to head straight out, even though I was exhausted, I was starving and needed to eat! In Laos there are lots of really nice French cafes and bakeries and just down the road was an amazing French cafe. I ordered a smoothie and a savory crepe with smoked salmon, spinach, cheese and lemon stuffing (it was sooo good!). Following this I wanted to visit the Buddha Park just outside of Vientiane to make the most of my time. I headed to the bus station but struggled to find the right bus stop; eventually I asked a tuk tuk driver who sent me in the right direction and finally I made it onto the bus. Unfortunately, it was 45 minutes of dusty bumpy roads – so much so that it made me feel travel sick (I don’t get travel sick, ever) and I as I was so desperate for a wee I honestly believed I was going to wet myself every time my bum came off the seat driving over a bump in the road. Fortunately, I finally made it; found a toilet and enjoyed a few sweaty hours walking around the park. It was smaller then I had imagined but was so peaceful. I was in awe of the giant and beautiful Buddha statues all dotted around the park. To get back I headed over to the bus stop where I saw 2 young people sat down with an ice cream, deciding to copy them I went and bought one to cool down and then they offered me a seat when we got talking: Bronwynn, who is South African was living in Laos and Moussa who is French was backpacking around Asia. They both took me under their wing and let me tag along with them for the rest of the day! Together we went to visit some temples in Vientiane where we got caught in a huge storm – to escape it we seeked shelter in one of the temple’s. Whilst there we got talking to a man who worked there, asking if we were interested in Buddhism me and Moussa said we were, straight after this Moussa walked off leaving me alone and being recruited into Buddhism! Although I do find it interesting, at the moment i’m not seriously looking at becoming Buddhist but I didn’t want to be rude – so the next thing I know i’m being taken into the worship room and taught how to pray to a Buddha! It was really interesting learning about their beliefs and seeing the Monks working. Moussa was talking to a group of them for ages, and I don’t know what he was saying but they were in stitches! Whilst waiting for the rain to ease off we sat at the top of the stairs of the Temple; as much as I love Bangkok, it’s so crazy and hectic that it made a nice change to stop, take everything in and watch the world go by. It was refreshing to be in a quiet city where the pace of life is slow and tourists are few and far between.

Buddha Park & Temples

The second day I ventured out on my own to the morning market which was an adventure in itself – I went to the wrong market and ended up in KhuaDin Market instead (across the road from the morning market). I really liked this market because it was very, very local; I was the only tourist there so it was really interesting to walk around and it mostly consisted of fabrics with an amazing variety on offer. I accidentally wondered into the meat section of the market which was not very pleasant; the stench was overbearing and people were sleeping on the counters next to the meat, whilst other people were swatting the flies away with large fans; you can only imagine the kind of meat that was on offer! I couldn’t spend much time in there because it smelt so bad and the meat didn’t look too appealing. Following on from this was the fruit section, which, oddly, had an overbearing smell that wasn’t very appealing either. Within this section was all the fruit you could possibly imagine piled high in bundles. When I finally did find the right market I was actually not very impressed by it. They had everything you could think of; fake bags, electrical’s, souvenirs etc but compared to markets I have visited before it was very small and as soon as you look at something, even vaguely, you get harassed and the staff wont leave you alone – this really puts me off and actually stops me from buying stuff, or even looking at anything!

Fruit & Meat section of KhuaDin Market 

In the afternoon I got picked up by Per and taken to the Thai Consulate where I had to collect my visa and passport. Once there I sat and waited for my number to be called out. After waiting 40 minutes I joined the queue to get my passport where I bumped into an Israeli guy I had met the day before. He was before me in the queue and noticed that lots of people were in front of us who should have been behind us. Asking to see their ticket numbers he quickly realised that they had jumped the queue so he got me and together we jumped in the front, payed our 1000 baht to get our visa and had our passports returned to us.

Monument & the view!

As I had a few hours before I needed to be at the airport Per took me to the top of the Monument to see the view over Vientiane and pointed out different landmarks. It was great talking to Per and learning about his life; He never has a day off and has never visited another country. Every morning he drives to friendship bridge to take people into town and the works as a private taxi the rest of the day and earns his living of this. He was very keen to learn about England and what life is like there and how things are in Bangkok! He was so helpful with getting my visa, showing me where to go and telling me what I needed to do, I would have been a lot harder without him helping me!

gopr1273.jpgMy luxury ride!

This trip has forced me out of my comfort zone and has made me more confident in knowing that I can do things on my own. To my surprise I enjoyed traveling on my own and would happily do it again, it forces you to meet people and work things out on your own – not having anyone else to rely on. Naturally, after moving to Bangkok with Rob I have relied on him a lot and its been easy to shy away from situations and let Rob deal with it instead. It’s a scary thing, moving half way across the world to a country that speaks another language, but I absolutely love it and the adventures that come with it, the new friends you make and the new language i’m learning. I wanted to live in another country to experience these things and I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

 

My life as a Teacher

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I haven’t written for a while now because, to be completely honest, i’m completely shattered! So much has happened since my last post but I’ve simply not had the energy to write anything. Rob and I are both beginning to feel more settled in our jobs after a crazy first week: Our first week was an inset week to ease us into the school year, prep our classrooms and do necessary training. I felt totally in over my head with all of this and had no idea what was expected of me. During ‘classroom’ time I was shown my room and left to it. The internet was down so I couldn’t access any lesson plans or print anything for my room. There were meetings I was late for because I didn’t know they were happening or didn’t know what room they were in and meeting that were cancelled because there was no internet. Throughout the week I found myself hovering about with the other teachers not doing anything, simply because there was nothing we could do! With this being my first time properly teaching I was fretting about not having lesson planned anything and my anxiety was through the roof as well as feeling shattered trying to take everything in. Before starting work I was feeling really settled but after starting it turned everything upside down and I was feeling really home sick. If it wasn’t for Rob I think I would have got the first flight home!

The saving grace of this week though, was the other teachers. There are lots of younger teachers who both Rob and I get on with and they are all very sociable! After our first day everyone went for drinks and from then I knew me and Rob would get on with everyone and be fine! On the Wednesday we found out we could work from home on Thursday so of course, we ended up having a night of drinking! Then on Friday we had a big night out, I’ve quickly learnt that there is never a normal night in Bangkok. At one point about 10 of us were getting moto taxis to the next bar – with 3 on each bike, all having a chat whilst waiting for the lights to change! Then we went to Soi 11, a popular street filled with bars, clubs and, oh yeah – prostitutes, big black African prostitutes (not the usual ladyboys!). Then at 3am ordering some Indian food (i did not feel good the next day!).

My second week of work was the first week “teaching”. I say “teaching” because at the moment my job seems to be more about getting my 2 year old’s stop crying, getting them to sleep and stopping them from wetting themselves. So far, iv’e not done any real teaching! Just getting them to sit nicely in circle time is a challenge.

This is my life right now:

 

However, everyday is a little bit better. I have managed to establish a routine, my TA’s are amazing – they are holding this ship together right now! The children are so so so cute and everyday I see a little improvement in the ones who are struggling to settle in. It’s really hard because they keep talking to me in Thai, asking where there mummy is and I cant explain to them because I don’t speak enough Thai! It has definitely inspired me to learn Thai more though. Next week I plan to start teaching properly, this term is ‘all about me’ so on Monday I’m going to try teaching them about body parts… Lets see how that goes with a room full of screaming children!

…Wish me luck!

Man, my bum looks big! 

Home Sweet Home

 

We’ve been here just over a week now but I can honestly say that it feels a lot longer! Fortunately (despite barely sleeping on the plane) I didn’t seem to suffer any jet lag – just the usual tiredness anyone would get after a long journey and adjusting to the heat! On our second night here I was awoken by what I thought was the BTS train derailing outside our apartment. Turns out it was ‘just’ a thunder storm. I can honestly say that I have never heard or seen a thunder storm like it! But it’s amazing how quickly you adapt as it happens at least once a day/night and now it’s totally normal. What would be a big deal at home has become everyday life! Unfortunately trying to get a taxi in the rain is a near impossible task and the traffic is horrendous, and the public transport becomes incredibly packed – literally like sardines (thank god for air-con!).

 

For our first few days we stayed at an Airbnb studio in On Nut, along the BTS line which takes you straight into town. It made a great base for exploring BKK and checking out other apartments to permanently move to! After a few days doing touristy things and getting a feel for BKK we decided it was time to find a permanent apartment. This was a very hot and sweaty day, between walking and catching taxis we ended up looking at about 10 condos in one day. Some were stunning new high rise builds, others not so much… Some were filthy and looked like someone had been squatting there  with dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, photos of the owners on the wall, shoes randomly left on the floor… I could go on! The final place we looked at was a residential part of a hotel complex. We nearly skipped viewing it because we were so hot and bothered but i’m glad we persisted. The location is in a place called Bang Kapi – quite far out of the center but closer to work. Between 10 – 40 minutes to work depending on traffic, 30 minutes – 1 hour drive into the city, or 10 minutes to the Airport link that gets you into town in 10 minutes. Nearby is The Mall (Bangkapi) which hosts a Tesco Lotus, Gourmet Market (our new favourite supermarket), a night market, a department store, cinema etc. The condo itself has a gym and swimming pool and was the biggest apartment we looked at (62m2 – a lot for BKK!) After a big trip to IKEA and a few markets it’s already feeling like a home from home for us. There is a tiny little garden center (more like a plot of land with a few plants dotted around that you can buy) next door so we’ve even started a mini garden on one of our balconies!

 

The food here is amazing, and cheap! Although I must confess that our first meal here was a Mcdonalds (the shame!) but it was 12am, we had only just arrived and didn’t know where to eat at that time. Since then we have been exploring the street food more, including some incredibly spicy food as well as some really tasty food – phad thai, thai curry, papaya salad – all normally between 50 and 100 baht (that’s £1-£2 roughly)! As cheap as it is there isn’t any good street food near our current place (there is street food near us but not sure i would trust it…) so we have been exploring the supermarkets and cooking a little at home. Unfortunately we dont know how to cook much Thai food but we did try and make a Thai curry with freshly made curry paste from Tesco Lotus. This didn’t end well, we used 1/2 teaspoon of curry paste and 2 tins of coconut milk and our mouths were on fire (which caused a serious case of ‘delhi belly’ the next day).

 

After just over a week of being here, we’ve got out apartment and phones sorted and we start our new jobs on Monday. Rob cant wait, I however, am feeling a bit anxious about it but feeling ready to get started and now we are settled it would be nice to start meeting other people and making friends! We just need to get a bank account opened and oh yeah, I still need a work visa! (I’ve been told I will need to get the train into Laos, stay over night and then return the next day with a 60 day visa**. So that’s going to be fun! Maybe?!



 

I am aware I may come across a little negative at times about my experience in BKK but despite the craziness of it all, l love it and can see myself being here a while. I want this blog to reflect an honest experience or mine and Robs time here – my aim isn’t to paint a pretty picture of “what an amazing time we are having” and “see how perfect our lifes are” like so many social media apps do these days – there will be ups and downs, good days and bad days (we’ve had numerous people/taxi drivers trying to scam us already – more on that in another post!) and I want this blog to reflect that. 

 

**you need at least 30 days left on your visa before you can apply for a work one… And I entered the country with a 30 day tourist visa so I’ve not got enough time left on it to apply).

Will I ever stop sweating?

Well, the title sums it up I guess… Bangkok is hot, like, super hot. I know what your thinking – of course it’s hot! Did I not know this before? Well, I did! I just wasn’t quite prepared for it (is anyone though when you’ve lived in England your whole life?). Don’t get my wrong, I do prefer it to the cold and wet country I left behind, but it does have its cons. The humidity makes my hair go wild. I’ve only braved going outside with it down once and I instantly regretted it! Even with anti humidity spray – it does nothing!! (So don’t waste your money on that if your ever thinking of buying it). A 10 minute walk feels like an hour and back to my original point, you sweat! Well, I do anyway. And weirdly, not so much my armpits (the obvious part right!?) but anywhere else on my body you could think of. Mainly, my face. This is the biggest issue for me, I never feel like I look nice in this heat – i’m still trying to figure out how to “look good sweating”. I’ve not worn makeup since i’ve been here because, well, whats the point!. If anyone could share some tips with me or has some miracle cure as to how I can stop this problem please send them my way! (I do get very envious of the locals who don’t sweat a single drop and their hair is silky smooth. ((It’s almost like they were built for the heat!?))

Hong Kong, The Final Part.

On our 3rd day we decided to visit the famous HK park. By this point in the trip I was feeling pretty tired and lazy so I wasn’t pleased that the park was built on a hill (as is most of HK)… However, we stumbled upon an old tower you could climb up, from somewhere I found the motivation to go up and I was not disappointed; framed by the trees, the many impressive skyscrapers and other buildings were shining through. The park also has an Exotic Bird Avery that’s not to be missed. As you walk through the well designed ‘rain forest’ an array of colourful birds fly past you and casually sit on the branch opposite as if greeting you. Just next to the park is the Zoological and Botanical Garden’s, as the oldest park in the territory it is divided in half by a main road; the right side has mostly birds such as Flamingos and Cranes whilst the left side has mammals including Orangutans, Gibbons and even Meerkats! With the vast amount of animals they have it’s basically a free zoo (which I loved!). Following this we hopped onto a Ding Ding tram as a laid back  way of seeing the sights.

In the evening we went out for food, but having not planned anywhere to go we ended up having Korean food, really, really spicy Korean food! To cool our mouths down we went to Ophelia bar (which took us ages to find because we couldn’t get used to the fact everything is built up, and not just on the ground level!). The bar is themed around a peacock and as you head through the curtains into the bar your greeted by girls dressed in traditional Chinese dresses posing on extravagant chairs, beds and swings (I did wonder if we had walked into a brothel…). Being a cocktail bar they pride themselves on unusual cocktails, and they didn’t fail; I ordered a rum and coke cocktail that also contained charcoal.. And glitter, hmm.

Our penultimate day was a busy one! We didn’t get out until lunch time so we decided to head straight to McDonalds to try a ‘Create Your Taste’ burger. It was good, so good; I ordered 2 different cheeses and 3 different sauces with caramelized onions and lettuce. When it came out the chips were served in a little deep fat fryer tin, very gourmet! Once we were full and feeling a little sick we headed over to the Nan Lian Japanese garden and Chi Lin Nunnary for a walk. The area was so beautiful and peaceful with the stunning temples and serene gardens. After a lot of debate we decided to go to The Peak, and i’m so glad we did. I thought the view from our apartment was amazing but this was even better! You cant beat it, the view made me fall in love with HK. Whilst at the peak we had an audio guide informing us about the surrounding areas where we learnt about an intriguing place full of fish, bird and flower markets called Mong Kok. Despite it getting late we decided to head over there. The fish market is a small area where nearly every shop has their fish all bagged up ready to go hung on display out the front. In between some of these shops were pet shops selling expensive breeds of puppies and cute little kittens all locked up in small glass cages in the windows. It was so hard to see this, some of the dogs looked so sad, bored and frustrated, as you can only imagine (would it be possible to buy them all and bring them home?). As we walked past one shop they had a huge 80 year old turtle (that I wasn’t allowed to take a photo of… Seems pretty dodgy?); I get the impression this is the area where you can buy any pet imaginable, legal or not. Leading on from this was the flower market, a similar set up as before but with millions of flowers, i’ve never seen so many! Towards the end of the road you follow the chirps of the birds to find the famous bird market. A much smaller area then compared to the other markets but filled with thousands of exotic looking birds, some caged and some perching freely on top of their cages. Mong Kok is such a fascinating area, one that I feel really captures the spirit of Hong Kong (maybe not the pets in glass cages though..). Continuing our busy day (by this time it was 9pm, I should probably mention..) we went for a trip up the Mid Level Escalators, the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world. Unfortunately we only managed about 100 meters but the entire escalator lasts 800 meters and is a series of 20 escalators and 3 moving walkways. A community has since been built around the area as it’s so popular, with many different bars and restaurants making it a a good night out!

On the final day our flight wasn’t till late so we decided to go to Disneyland. As it’s one of the smaller ones it meant we were able to watch 3 shows (which were all amazing) and see the parade. I felt like such a big kid queuing up for an hour just to see Micky & Minnie Mouse (Rob wasn’t impressed, but I thought it was worth the wait!) and relieving my childhood as I went on my favorite Dumbo ride. In fact I spent most of the day on kids rides as I’m such a big wimp and hate roller coasters. Twice i’ve been to Disneyland Paris and both times i’ve been too scared to go on Space Mountain, but after Rob tested it out for me and reassured me it wasn’t that bad. I finally went on it – twice in a row! (And then felt really sick). This brought us to the end of our trip as it was time to catch a taxi to the airport (Boo!).

 



Looking Back

Iv’e had the most amazing time visiting Cambodia and Hong Kong. They are both places I would happily visit again and still have so much more to offer. Before we left I felt excited, nervous and even a little scared with no idea what to expect having never visited this part of the world. As we traveled from the airport to our first hotel in Cambodia I was shocked and amazed by the hectic scene around me. I developed heat rash, mild heat stroke and an addiction to Starbucks (has anyone tried a pomegranate Mocha?!!!). What really surprised me though is how quickly you become acclimatized and adapt to where you are, before long, everything seems normal – then when you return home everything feels, odd. And you suffer serious post holiday blues! But the best way to get over this? Start planning your next trip!

 

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