Monthly Archives: November 2014

Wat We Did at Wat Rong Khun.

Although, as I am fast discovering, there is an endless list of things to discover here in Chiang Rai, when researching the city before moving, there wasn’t a lot that came up on Google searches.  However, the one thing that did appear repeatedly, and I feel is the main pull for tourism to the area, is Wat Rong Khun, more commonly referred to as the White Temple.

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Wat Rong Khun differs hugely from the endless amount of temples you see in this country.  Apart from the main fact that it is white, with the majority of Thai temples being bright colours, mainly gold and red, Wat Rong Khun also has contemporary aspects to it, which makes it a more unconventional Buddhist Temple.

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The temple is the brain child of Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, and was built in 1997.  What makes the temple stand out as a symbol of the modern world is that it takes the beauty of traditional Thai art, however brings it a modern twist.  Upon first glance, the gardens surrounding the temple appear rather traditional and nothing out of the ordinary.  However, upon closer inspection, you see that the delicate architecture is made up from a pit of twisted hands, reaching up.

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Inside the main room, the art looks beautifully ornate, with images of Buddha everywhere.  However, peer a little closer, and you will find some Sneaky Prawns from the film District 9, or perhaps a minion from Despicable Me; and I think I’m right in remembering I saw Chewbacca from the Star Wars trilogy in there somewhere.  Unfortunately there were strictly no cameras within the main hall of the temple, so you will just have to take my word for it.

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We wandered around the grounds some more, dazed at how the sunlight reflects in the surrounding moat, and dances on the white walls of this incredibly individual building.  I fear that on a cloudy day, the impact would not be as wonderful.

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Some of the building is being reworked, due to damage caused by an earthquake, that struck the district on 5th May 2014.  At first, the damage was thought to be so severe that the temple would have to be demolished; however, upon closer inspection, only some parts need to be restored.

It is a simply breathtaking building, and I cannot stress enough, that if you ever find yourself in this beautiful city, certainly pay Wat Rong Khun a visit.  I don’t know why I waited so long until I did so myself.

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Elephants, Near Death Experiences and some VERY Small Swimming Trunks

Last weekend, I had to briefly pop into the school on the Sunday, to introduce myself to the Kindergarten children’s parents. This mainly involved smiling, having my photo taken on what seemed like a hundred mother’s smart phones, and listening to a massive presentation all in Thai. Needless to say, when I was finally released to enjoy my Sunday, I was more than a little over the moon.

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Meeting The Parents

I met up with my friends Johan and Conor, and a guy we’d met the previous night at the bar, called Jack. We decided to do something constructive with our day, so split between two mopeds; we all went on a mini adventure.

We drove out of the city, towards the direction of the prison, where slowly the buildings depleted until you could see no more, and instead it was just the luscious green hills of the forest and the dazzling blue sky.

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At one part in the road, we saw massive poops, and realised we were near an elephant camp. Unfortunately, I’d hoped that they would have been looked after and free, however they were chained and tourists were paying to ride on them. I found myself having a moral debate with each side of my brain, as I fundamentally do not agree with animals being treated in this way, however their trunks kept reaching out for the table full of food, so I decided to compromise with my two opposing opinions, and bought them some bamboo to chew on. This was until one elephant got a little too excited, and we couldn’t tell which end of the elephant was the trunk; we decided to swiftly leave the camp.

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Back on the mopeds we jumped, and across the River Kok again. We started to drive deeper into the forest and further up the hills, as the mountain roads started to bend more frequently and suddenly. We ascended a rather steep mountain in particular, where poor old John had to jump off the back of Johan’s moped and walk, as it was simply too steep for the weight of two grown men.

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When we finally reached the summit of this hill we descended straight down the other side; which still confuses me a little as to why we didn’t approach it from another way.

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Anyway, we drove through a very desolate and quiet village, and through a tea plantation, over some rather rocky terrain until we eventually heard the gush of Hauy Keaw Waterfall. From here we demounted the bikes, and started climbing the hill from which the waterfall was coming. We were looking for a kind of rock pool that would be situated half way between the top and the bottom of the waterfall, where we could have a swim.

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Tea Plantations

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After climbing quite steep and slippery surfaces, we eventually reached a rock pool. “Great” we thought. However upon closer inspection, we realised that we needed to cross a homemade bamboo bridge, over falling water and jagged rocks, in order to reach the access point to the rock pool. Adding to this, the bamboo was rotten.

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THE Bridge

Johan, who used to be in the military, jumped over this with seemingly no problems. I was right behind him, so naturally it was my turn to go next. I was hugely uncomfortable about this, however, in the presence of three men, and being the only girl, there was no way I would be a stereotype and chicken out. Oh no. Of course I was going to cross the rotten bamboo bridge that was definitely not safe at all. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as I was crossing, the rotten bamboo decided to give way under my weight, and snap. My leg went straight through, and fortunately I feel like my life was saved due to my bottom being big enough to not follow it through.

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The Aftermath 

Too much cheese and wine in my diet proved to me a very good thing after all.

I stayed here, in shock for a little bit, waiting for the rest of the bamboo to slowly give way, and for me to drop to the rocks beneath me; however it didn’t, and I shakily decided to make my way back to the safety of Conor and Jack.

After we all laughed about how I could have died and how much of a downer that would have been to everyone else’s trip; we decided to descend again, where we found the safety of a rock pool that was flat, and easy to enter, and offered no threat of amputation or death.

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The Swede with his VERY short swimmers

Here we met a family of locals who had come for a late afternoon swim; and although there was the ever-impending language barrier afoot, we had the best time just being big kids and all splashing each other with water.

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New Friends

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With that, we dragged our damp bodies back onto the bikes, and started the journey home, back to the city, before starting work the next day.

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This city may be small, but it’s surrounded by surprises.

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The New Chapter Begins

I finally feel now that I have begun to settle into my new home in Chiang Rai. As well as Emma living in the same apartment block, we now have Alice who’s joined us, and also teaches at the same school.

On top of this, my best friend from the UK, Abbey, is currently staying with me, as a first stop before she embarks upon finding the world, and possibly herself, over the next year.

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Best Buds

With the girls, and a lovely bunch of people who we’ve met from visiting our favourite bar repeatedly, we have a nice little group in Chiang Rai; so that’s certainly helping to make me feel more confident and at ease in the city.

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My first day teaching in Kindergarten was a blend of amazing feelings, and beautiful kids who melted my heart, mixed with equal parts stress, confusion and the loss of my voice. However I loved it.

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Morning Dancing

I teach one of the Kindergarten classes, which contains 27 children, all either 5 or 6 years old. Speaking to the teacher beforehand, she advised me to just come in and observe the class for my first week, before getting more involved and planning in the second.

Perhaps I was naïve, however, this didn’t actually happen. I arrived, and was immediately told to stand up in front of all the Kindergarten children at the flag raising ceremony (which happens daily). A microphone was thrust into my hand, and straight away I had to talk to 300+ children and teachers, the majority of whom speak little to no English, whilst their blank faces looked at me in sheer bewilderment.

After this, I went to my classroom where I met the children. They’re all brilliant. They have this cute little uniform, which looks like a little sailor’s outfit. They have the most charismatic little personalities, even without being able to really speak English, they’re so loving and smiling and playful, that you can get along with them anyway.

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Little Sailors Off For Lunch

They all have such huge hearts, and will run and hug me as I walk past, or cuddle my leg for no apparent reason.

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My Class With Their Lanterns

Being told not to lesson plan, however, was a massive lie. There’s only one theme per week, as the children are so young, so last week was Loy Krathong; a festival celebrated around Thailand. Lesson planning for this, without any prior knowledge was a little challenging however we got there in the end, and the class and I ended up making our very own Kathrongs for the festival.

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Homemade Kathrong

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Kindy Kathrongs

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Class With Their Kathrongs

This week the topic is “Thailand” so using the Internet as my resource, I’m planning lessons surrounding Thailand’s Geography within South East Asia, and also cultural traditions native to Thailand, such as The Wai, which is how you greet someone, by placing the hands together like a prayer, and bowing slightly.

I realise it’s only been one week at the school, but I’ve never felt so happy within a job. I could wake up in the worst mood, but walking through the door every day at 07.30 and seeing 27 smiling and happy faces grinning back at me…well it’s certainly the best cure for bad moods and irrelevant worries that may have come with me from my previous life back in England.

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Lunch Time

I can only strive to keep these good feelings up.

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