Category Archives: Travel

The biggest lol-iday of my life.

When I first got to Thailand, I stayed in a hostel in Chiang Mai and was put in a room with three other girls; Amy, Pooja and Alex.

These girls turned out to be the three most hilarious, beautiful and ridiculous people I’ve ever met.  Straight away we bonded, and never stopped laughing the whole time we spent together.

Being a girl, it’s common to make friends with groups of other females, and unfortunately find there’s bitchiness and annoyances and other negative vibes happening in the group.  With this group of gals I sensed none of that; and it just felt so care free and fun to be with them.

Sadly, we all got placed at different schools, and whilst Alex and I were close by in Chiang Rai, Pooja and Amy were placed down South in separate locations.

So with this being the last weekend in Thailand for many of us, we agreed we had to meet up in Bangkok for a big old last goodbye.

I flew in from Bali on the Friday, checked into a hostel on the Khaosan Road where I met up with Cailin and Mayuree who I knew from teaching up in the North of Thailand.

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At 4am Pooja arrived and came and got in bed with myself and Cailin.  It was so awesome to be reunited, and as we spotted each other we screamed and ran into a romantic embrace. The kind from the movies; but for some reason I’m eternally single so share these moments only with other gal pals.

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“Do not PISS” Slightly awkward as I’d already started.

The next morning Pooja and I made our way to the hotel that we would be staying in with Amy. (Unfortunately Alex was not yet in Bangkok so couldn’t join).

As a special treat; Amy had paid the majority of the price for staying in the hotel where the Hangover Part Two was filmed; The Lebua State Tower. The posh bit; not the bit at the beginning, which is more of a crack den really.

Pooja and I got there first; and we rocked up in a tuk tuk round the corner, with backpacks and plastic bags, pulled our heads up high and pretended we belonged in such an environment as we introduced ourselves to the reservations desk.

This place is a five star hotel. There was a man playing the grand piano, marbled floors, insanely comfortable seats. This certainly was no Khaosan Road Palace Inn.  (Which ironically, is very far from being anywhere near a palace, rather misleadingly).

We were escorted upstairs by a beautiful Thai lady in a power suit who showed us to our rooms; later joined by a bellboy with all our luggage.

We squealed with joy and delight as we noted our living room, sofa area, amazing marble floor and bathtub, kitchen area and huge fluffy white beds.

The bell boy then decided to watch and stare in silence as I struggled with the patio doors to the balcony, telling him and Pooja that we’d been given a dud room, before smiling, calmly taking a key from his pocket, and gently opening the door for me with great ease.

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We squealed some more, took some photos, and decided to hit the pool.

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We then went to the back to the room to wait for Amy. When she turned up we absolutely lost it. Although I’d spent New Years Eve with her in Chiang Rai, we hadn’t all been together since October.

It was like we’d never been apart. Straight away we were screaming and laughing together, and doing the whole “wah check us out, we’re at the hangover Hotel” girl thing.

We decided to go downstairs to the pool area, where we lay on the large circular sofas and enjoyed a cocktail each.

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Everyone staying at this hotel looked like they belonged. They all had that certain look of class. We all had that certain look of not having had our hair cut in months and could probably do with some make up and clothes without holes in them. We styled it out regardless, and managed to pretend to be classy whilst ordering the cheapest drinks on the menu.

Pooja harbours a deep and intense fear of pigeons. There were loads of pigeons hanging around the pool area. When the drinks were brought over to us, we had a complimentary bowl of nuts to accompany them. Pigeons spotted said nuts, and well…went nuts. And then Pooja went nuts. And Amy screamed. And I got out my iPhone and videoed it.

And then the waiter tried to remove it, the bird got scared and catapulted into the swimming pool. At which point EVERY single posh person sat around the pool was watching us screaming at the flying vermin with total looks of disgust upon their stiff faces.

Being the eternal “want to save the world and all pigeons in it” wannabe hippie that I am, I then proceeded to strip off my dress, where luckily I had my bikini underneath and climb into the swimming pool to save the creature. I was then being shouted at that I would catch something from this bird (I’m not into bestiality so presumably not chlamydia) and was thankfully thrown a serviette rather than a condom.

I’m glad to say the bird was saved, and I didn’t catch any diseases from the creature, and we all survived to tell the tale.

We quickly knocked back our drinks, and proceeded to smuggle our own affordable booze into the room where we were super cool and grown up and pretending to be Biggie Smalls.

We showered, drank, joked about how this would be like the actual film, The Hangover, and generally got our sass on, whilst polishing, shaving and preening every part of our bodies.

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We took endless amounts of selfies, ya know, cos we don’t do this kind of vacay-ing often, before our friends Mayuree, Cailin, Grant and Emma arrived.

We applied yet another layer of lipstick before heading up to the Sky Bar at the top of the building, and that’s where the memories start to fade.

We had a beautiful view over Bangkok, and were surrounded by beautiful people in beautiful clothes and very over priced drinks.

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We stayed for just the one before agreeing that as lovely as this was, it was time to hit Khaosan Road; the land of debauchery and backpackers.

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It started in Burger King. We were there. Pooja had something revolving around crispy chicken. I had a fillet of fish burger. This we remember.

We then met up with the others who had taken a separate tuk tuk. There was a beer tower.

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There was a club. There were more beer towers. Before we knew it a few hours had passed. Emma and Grant had gone home, Amy, Pooja and myself were in a state of intense slurring. Intensely slurring “I Love You” at each other. And then we had the amazing idea to get tattoos to show our deep and intense love and friendship, which we would always harbour for one another. Obviously.

Mayuree and Cailin have since helpfully filled us in on the remaining facts. We entered one of the many tattoo parlours on the road. Pooja announced that she requested a tattoo, and specified that she would like “one of your non HIV needles”. As if this was an option or service that the business provided.

We GOOGLE searched images unil we found what we wanted. Pooja wanted an elephant. I didn’t, I wanted a peace sign.

We kept running in and out on beer runs to the street vendors outside. We were sat downing Leo’s in tattoo chairs. At this point none of us have any memories.

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fully aware of how cringe inducing this is. The Wolfpack. 😎

 
We hear there were more trips to fast food chains, and then we disappeared into the night.

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I woke up with a very sore ear. I asked the girls what happened. They had no idea. I look in the mirror and I’ve got a piercing. Pooja says something about her ankle. She looks down and screams at the outline of an elephant blowing a Peace Symbol out of it’s trunk. It’s so sh*t we can’t help but laugh. She immediately explains that having a traditional Indian tattoo representing something through her Indian heritage would have been ok; her mother would respect that. But no. She got drunk as a fart on Khaosan Road and chose an elephant blowing a peace sign. Classic.

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I look down and have an equally as bad peace sign on my toe. Luckily it’s small enough for me not to really care.

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Pooja asks Amy who some guy is. Let’s call him Trevor. Amy replied “How do you know that name?!” in sudden shock and panic. Pooja calmly tells Amy that she was found in the middle of the night, passed out with phone resting on face, with Trevor just on the phone. Pooja walks over to Amy and takes phone, sees Trevor’s name on the phone, and kindly ends call. Trevor is a dark and distant ex boyfriend of Amy’s.

We spent the rest of the day stroking each other’s sore heads, equally combined with a great amount of ribbing of one another for poor life choices.

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And before I knew it Amy had to return to her town, as she had to be back at school on Monday.

I felt so sad, almost like those feelings you get when you break up with someone. My stomach ached form laughing so hard all weekend. These girls were the best. I love that I met them and I love that they entered my life and just made it so much better.

We headed back to Khaosan Road, minus Amy where we met up with Alex who was now in Bangkok.

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Thankfully, learning from the night before we took it easy and just had a few drinks.

Today we spent the day by the pool, laughing so hard again, stomach muscles (which I never knew I even had) hurting so hard through all the deep, intense laughs.

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I feel so sad to say goodbye to these people. I came to Thailand all alone, knowing no one. As soon as I met every single one of these girls I’ve met, we clicked. We laughed. We were SO stupid and messed around. I learnt a lot about myself, and learnt to stop over thinking, and to stop worrying about how I look, and learning that being beautiful really comes from having a bloody big old LOL.

I’m ready to leave Thailand now and to start a new chapter of my life, but I just wish I could take all these girls with me. I feel genuinely happy now. It’s not a false or a forced happiness. It’s a genuine warm, glowing feeling inside. I sit and think about all the times I’ve laughed so hard these past 6 months that I’ve snorted or even dribbled due to lack of ability to close mouth through crippling laughter.

I miss my kids from the school every single day, and the lovely teachers who worked there, I miss the girls I lived with in and around Chiang Rai and the girls I met in Chiang Mai at the beginning. I met the best people in Pai, and my travels to Bali completely resulted in me falling in love with the place and feeling feelings I hadn’t had for a while.

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I sit here with a full grin. However I’m not sad, I’m ready to leave. I look forward to new developments in my life and to seeing the ones I love again. Thailand; you’re the best decision I’ve ever made. Peace out.

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Bintang-alanging in Bali

As the boat ploughed along through the ocean, from Gili T back to the mainland of Bali, I was hit with more waves of euphoria. Sitting upon the top deck and looking down; random fish would jump up alongside the boat; almost chasing or trying to keep up with the speed. I felt like after swimming with the sea turtle and having such a great week; the joy of seeing fish skip alongside me, with the sea spray slapping me in the face; life couldn’t get much better.

  
The boat made a stop at the mainland to off load all passengers; whilst Abbey and myself stayed on board. The boat then made the quick trip, half an hour across the water to Nusa Lembongan.

  
We got off and onto a smaller boat; which then drove us up through the shallows and onto the mangrove beach.

   

From here a small truck came and took us to our accommodation; the Yoga Shack.

 
We dumped our stuff and whizzed off to the beach to watch the sunset and enjoy fresh fruit juices in the dusky haze.

 

  

 We already knew we’d fallen in love with this island; it was such a welcome change for it to be so chilled and relaxed; compared to the never ending pumping music of Gili T.

The next day we woke up early and went on a snorkelling trip on a local boat to see manta rays and untouched coral.

It was amazing. Unfortunately I can’t upload any underwater photos yet as my laptop has given up the ghost; but me managed to spot and swim with these huge ghost like manta rays which were just so stunning on so many levels. Although we knew they were entirely harmless they still manage to make you realise how insignificantly tiny you are when you get to see these wonderful creatures in their natural environment; and how we get to see a tiny part of this planet; with all these other worlds taking place under water.

 
The next few days were filled with yoga and healthy eating and lots of healthy juices.

We both took a surfing lesson which was incredibly difficult for me; someone who seriously lacks balance; but was at the same time incredibly awesome.

I managed to stand up a few times; and I knew my pop up was weak; but it made me so exhilirated just to ride a wave.  It was fair to say Abbey was significantly better though. 

   
  

 

The following days were more about relaxation than any more activity; as we hired a moped and drove to a couple of resorts on the island; where we were able to enjoy beautiful beach views, infinity pools and cocktails.

   
  

   

  
 

Before we knew it our few days were already up as we begrudgingly said our goodbyes to the island and the wonderful Andrea who runs the Yoga Shack.

We boarded a fast boat back to the mainland; where we had a hostel booked in Seninyak.

   

On the Sunday , Abbey had bought me (as a birthday present) an all you can eat and all you can drink brunch at the W hotel. It was amazing. I have no words that can describe nor do justice to the amount of food that was at the brunch.

There were stations upon stations offering foods; from oysters and crab claws, to a hog roast, to sushi, to Yorkshire puddings.
When we arrived we were greeted in my favourite fashion; by having a glass of prosecco thrust into our hands; and those glasses were never empty for the three and a half hours spent there.

   
     

We stuffed out faces in a disgusting fashion, really taking advantage of the whole all you can eat aspect.

 

a before and after portrait, quite aaccurately summing up the two looks we had that day

 
We nearly got matching tattoos of carrots but thankfully decided not to; before moving onto another bar further down the beach to watch the sunset.

   
  

 

Sadly, Abbey then had to board a flight back to her new life in Perth, Australia.

I spent the rest of the week hanging out with some people from Scotland and Wales who were all fully awesome and provided lots of laughs and good fun nights out in Kuta.

   
         

I’m so glad I decided to add the holiday on to my trip; I feel I fully deserved it especially after having to have had my stay in Chiang Rai tarnished by someone I thought was a good friend unfortunately showing their true colours as a vile person. This and Pai have certainly made me feel myself again and I feel on top of the world.

I now am currently about to board a flight back to Bangkok for a long weekend with good friends before the next chapter of my life in the UK and it feels good. ❤️ ✈️

Two Old Sillies on the Gili’s

Abbey and I boarded the little boat, sat on the roof, and kicked back with a Bintang Beer each, as we quipped through the waves, music blaring out from the boat and massive smiles on our faces.

We got off the boat, after about two hours of beers and sun, and walked straight to our hostel on Gili Trawangan.  There are three islands altogether making up the Gilis’; Gili Meno, Gili Air and Gili Trawangan.
We were staying in the simply named “Gili Hostel”; and plonked our bags down and headed for a wander down to the local reggae bar; Sama Sama.

Here we sat and enjoyed a cocktail and some food with two other people that were in our room; before heading back again to wash up for our first night on the island.


The next day we woke up and went for breakfast. It was the morning of my 26th birthday. For years now I’d dreamt of swimming with a sea turtle; and having lived in Fiji I would have thought I’d have achieved this by now. However, unfortunately, due to the Chinese and their black market, sea turtles, amongst other creatures, are becoming increasingly rare.

So after eating, Marco said he’d come snorkelling with me in the persuit of one.

On the first snorkel we didn’t see much; just some fish and some dead coral; however over the next few days we persisted and my dream came true.


We paid a guy we had met in a bar to take us snorkelling on his boat with a few other holiday makers. He guaranteed me 100% he would show me a sea turtle. And he did not dispoint.

We did a few jumps into the ocean that day, and already by the first we had spotted the turtle. The only thing being; it was about 20 metres below us on the ocean floor and unless you had some serious free diving skill, it wasn’t that easy to get to.

We saw a couple of these and most of the people on the boat trip appeared to get a little bored after a few of hours of seeing turtles on the floor.  As everyone was making their way back to the boat, I saw the turtle moving a bit more, and noticed it was swimming up towards me.  I thrust my GoPro camera into the hands of the local guy, and I swam towards the turtle. I swam along side it, and held its shell for about one minute, before it delved back down again to the depths.  It was the most amazing one minute of my life, and I think I will go as bold as saying that that resulted in the best day of my life. It was so magnificent and beautiful, and I feel so lucky that I managed to get so close to such an amazing creature in its own habitat.



The rest of the time of the island mainly revolved around eating, drinking and more snorekeling, however after the sea turtle experience the rest of the swimming seemed so tame.




I had a great time here and met some awesome people; who all contributed to me having the most relaxed and care free, fun packed birthday to date. 




I received no cards nor presents, yet got hoards of love sent to me from friends and family all over the world; so what more could I really want?

Next stop; R&R at the Yoga Shack, Nusa Lambongan.  Leaving the party behind in exchange for some good healing vibes. For now at least.


The most romantic night of my life

So after writing the previous post, my plan was to have an early night and wake up at 3am for my flight to Denpasar, Bali. However, instead I laid awake, thinking of all the exciting times I had ahead with my best buddy. So I left the hotel and travelled to DMK airport, Bangkok, where I boarded my flight. IMG_1101 IMG_1105 When I arrived at Denpasar airport, I took a taxi to my accommodation which I had booked previously online at Bookings.com. I just wanted to go somewhere that was cheap, and had a swimming pool that I could use, whilst I waited for my friend to arrive. So I found this cute place online called Alam Puri Art Museum and Villa. It was only £10 a night each so we thought “perfect”, and booked it.

I arrived at the hotel and was immediately blown away. The place was like a dream. It was a collection of little private villas, all situated so that you wouldn’t even know anyone else was staying there.

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The architecture was incredible, massively playing on the Hindu roots of the country. I felt as though I’d been transported to Hampi, India, with the stone statues of Ganesh, covered in a wet moss and offerings to the various Hindu Gods laid around the gardens. I was led into my villa, which had its own private splash pool and seating area. I then took the stairs up to my SUITE. Suite. Not room.

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There was a massive four-poster bed with white linen, and white drapes surrounding it. A huge television in a beautifully carved wooden cabinet. The bathroom was a neutrally tiled room, with an enormous stone bathtub that could easily fit four people in it. After squealing in total delight and running round opening all the cupboards, I thanked the guys that had helped me with my bags and changed into my bikini. I went to the large communal pool, where I sunbathed, ate a salad and had a cocktail.

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When the sun had disappeared behind a building and I was in the shade, I returned to my room, where I treated myself to a bubble bath, and basically swam around in sheer delight and joy; blasting out my favourite songs from my laptop and just feeling so incredibly joyful. I spent the entire day alone and being thoroughly lazy and indulgent but I didn’t care. I was in paradise and it was amazing.

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At about 10pm I hear a knock on my door, and in walks one of my best friends in the world; Abbey. She goes through the same range of emotions as I; squealing with awe and shock of such an amazing place.

The place was totally designed for and catered towards couples, so I do wonder if the staff thought Abbey and I were gay, but oh well; its 2015.

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We ordered a bottle of wine from room service, ran ourselves another massive bubble bath, donned our bikinis, and sat there feeling totally in our element, whilst watching Fifty Shades of Grey on my laptop. We then spent the rest of the evening rolling around on the humongous bed and laughing at what a treat this was – £10 each. That was it. God I love Asia.

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I woke up in the middle of the night, rolled over and couldn’t even see Abbey. The bed was that big. I almost had to shout out to ask where she was. “Top left hand corner!”

In the morning I woke up lazily with the sun creeping through the double doors and onto the white linen.  Abbey had got up first so I woke alone, and stretched out all to myself. I do love Abbey but I definitely had the thoughts of how lovely it would have been to wake up with someone special there. Unfortunately I am not in love with anyone right now, so Abbey will have to do.

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Abbey’s romantic yet creepy photography

We went to the restaurant where we had a great breakfast (all included in the price) before a car met us and took us to the port so we could catch a boat to the Gili Islands.

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We were sad to leave our little spot of luxury; however it was time to get back to it and be the grubby little backpackers that we are at heart. So typical Kate and Abbey style, we boarded that boat with a bag full of Bintang beers, sat on the top deck, and toasted the next two weeks of stupidity and laughs.

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Let’s get Bintang-ed.

The Life of Pai

I’d heard before leaving; that on the journey from Chiang Mai to Pai, there were over 700 winds and bends; as the town itself is situated in the mountains. This wasn’t a lie. I would usually go and back this with photos as proof, however I spent the whole time concentrating on not being sick, so didn’t manage to take any.

I got off the bus feeling nauseous, and rather un-fresh, however spent the evening writing my previous blog post and taking it easy.

I woke up the next day with the feeling of nausea in my chest and stomach still, so just quietly took a wander around town and then had a sleep. This was pretty much how I spent my first two days in Pai. On my third night I was feeling a lot fresher, and up to drinking and socialising.

The hostel I was staying at, Pai Circus School, was the perfect place to meet fellow travellers. I’d walked past many other guesthouses and hostels on my wanderings and not one of them seemed to have the same sociable vibe as this one did. The bar / reception area is all open, looking out onto the grass where there’s a tightrope, surrounded by people practising their hula hooping, fire throwing and juggling. If you’re not interested in the circus antics, there is a large seating area with music, and a pool table, where people sit and have drinks.

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Jack Daniels…the Hoola Hooping Pooch. Kinda.

After getting talking to a few people from a variety of countries around the globe, mainly being the UK, the US and Australia, a group of us made our descent down the old dirt track, through the paddy fields, across an old bamboo bridge and to a quaint little live music venue called Edible Jazz. Groups of travellers gathered on bamboo elevated seating areas and drank cocktails whilst listening to a variety of musicians perform covers from your standard jazz music to artists such as Tracey Chapman. It was a really cool and chilled out vibe, and I sat there chatting away I felt flooded with the warm tingly feeling of total content-ness. I’d found a slice of paradise. Yes it was a town FULL of farang backpackers, but they were generally all the kind that were all there for the same reasons, and full of love and smiles.

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I saw a guy who I’d met in Chiang Mai the weekend just gone, so went to sit with him, and from there started talking to a guy and girl from England who I ended up sticking with for basically the rest of my time in Pai. What I love about travelling is that you are forced to shake all the inhibitions and insecurities, which you would hold on to when at home. I would never go and plonk myself down in a pub garden in London with random people without fear of being judged. Unless of course I’d been drinking far too much prosecco. Maybe we all should though, as it’s how you end up meeting the most loveable and awesome people.

We stayed out for a few hours longer and then we headed back to the little huts of our hostel and so to bed.

I’ll skip talking about the next day as I had clearly eaten something bad and was suffering with some pretty gnarly food poisoning.

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A creepy lizard

The next morning I was feeling much better, and already it was my last day. A group of us all hired mopeds and we decided to go exploring. We got a map and noted some waterfalls and a canyon and sped off. Unfortunately, with it being dry season, the waterfall was totally dry. So we went up to the canyon instead.

We walked across a couple of the thin ridges, however at midday and having become very dehydrated due to yesterday’s food poisoning I started to feel a bit dizzy so chose to sit that one out.

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We went to a strawberry picking farm and had some strawberry shakes and sat in the sun.

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Cheery little strawberries…

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After this we seemed to have exhausted most the things highlighted around the town on this map. Sam and I decided to keep driving for a bit, having paid for a day’s rent of the bike, so just followed some small back roads in the countryside.

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It was really pretty and nice to just drive aimlessly with the wind and bugs smacking in my face.

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We stopped off at a small river, which had bamboo huts along the banks. We paid 60 baht and lay on our bellies as we fed the fish swimming downstream. What we thought would be a relatively boring activity turned out to be more fun when the fish turned out to be pretty aggressive and fought each other for the food. We shared a large Leo, sat and chatted in the sun a bit more and then made our way back to the hostel.

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Sam feeding the fish

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After a few drinks with a large group at the hostel, we made our way back to town, where we all got in trucks to take us to a full moon party. Thailand is renowned for its full moon parties, however that’s more down south; specifically Koh Phangan. This was by no means on the same scale, however we had fun, and it was where all the friends I’d made were. Some of the guys from the circus school had come down and were spinning fire, as a bunch of us looked on; madly impressed at how they can do that without setting themselves on fire.

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The next day was mine and Lucy’s last, so we spent the day by the pool with everyone, sunbathing and chatting about how much we’d fallen in love with Pai and didn’t want to leave. It’s such a cool little place, and although I didn’t really done much whilst there, it had a wonderful atmosphere and is a great place to meet a bunch of amazing and similar minded people.

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With heavy hearts we boarded the last bus back to Chiang Mai, and took the 700 turns to the city.

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I felt so sad. I’d met such a great group of people; however I guess that’s the thing with traveling. Hopefully I will see some again when I get back to the UK.

I stayed in a cheap hotel, which was beautifully decorated downstairs, however it was seem by the time the decorators reached the floor I was on, that got tired and gave up. However it was somewhere clean and walking distance to the old town, so I took myself out for dinner to an amazing Burmese restaurant called The Swan, before walking back to my room to binge watch House of Cards and take it easy.

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The next day I woke up in time to catch my flight to Bangkok; when I realised I was a day behind what I thought; as it occurred to me I would be spending not one but two nights in a crumby hotel next to the airport.

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When I arrived I went for a walk around the area. There is nothing but a large food market for the locals living in the vicinity. The things I saw were even more stomach churning than at the food markets in Chiang Rai.

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Apart from the standard worms and duck heads, this market also had some frogs, stomach up, with their entrails out and bound around their stiff bodies. All garnished with a fresh lettuce leaf obviously.

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The sight of that churned my stomach, so I found a supermarket where I bought some cheese and wine, and retreated to my hotel room to once again binge on Netflix.

Today I have spent the day by the hotel pool, and unfortunately resigning myself to eat a fish burger from McDonalds, as I am pretty stuck for options here.

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Tomorrow I end my solitary confinement as I fly to Bali to meet my very best buddy from school, who is now living in Australia. So that promises a few weeks of stupidity and fun before I say goodbye until I don’t know when.

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SUCH an idiot

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I shouldn’t really complain about this place; seeing as I have this massive white double bed all to myself; but I’m waaaaaay more excited about bunking up with my best mate; and spending some more weeks roughing it, the way I like it. 🙂

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Good-Bai Chiang Rai. Hello World.

I’ve met some amazing people in Chiang Rai. I’ve made friends that I will 100% keep for life. As a whole, I’ve been extremely happy here.

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When I arrived I was in a relationship. Unfortunately that relationship didn’t work, as we both realised that our lives were going in separate directions. It was sad however I think we could both see it coming. It was easier to move on knowing it wasn’t a loss of love; instead the realisation that there was no future between us.

I then became involved with one of my friends I had made in Chiang Rai. It is not my story to tell so I shan’t go into detail, however certain issues surrounding addiction reared their ugly heads, which a couple of weeks ago resulted in a situation which meant I could no longer be around that person, and didn’t feel safe.

So with the school term coming to an end the week just gone, I took the opportunity to leave school and Chiang Rai, spending a month doing a bit of soul cleansing and solo backpacking; getting away from negative influences in my life.

I was meant to stay in Chiang Rai for the month of March, just signing in every morning at 7am and returning again to sign out in the afternoon. Such a pointless idea, however they were still going to pay us for that month. The recent developments revolving my love life, combined with this knowledge meant I jumped at the chance to swiftly be able to leave town.   I handed in my notice, sacrificed my pay, and worked my final week in Kindergarten.

Having this radical change was a shock to me, and I suddenly felt myself completely not ready and terrified about leaving my little kids.

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Maxing and Relaxing after a 3 hour Nap

I had to finish testing them all for the final exams in English, and then awarding them with appropriate grades etc. After this was done I was able to have some fun with them and just play silly games.

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On Friday I went to The Big C (a large shop just outside of town) and bought the kids all sorts of sweets and fizzy drinks and other such naughty things so we could have a little party.

Fuelling them with sugar on a Friday afternoon, just before home time; I can guarantee the parents would not have been very impressed, but we had to celebrate. They all went nuts when they saw I’d got them cake, and all kinds of crisps and chocolate.

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A Series of Photos I call “My Spirit Animal”

So we sat on the floor and we watched cartoons and sang nursery rhymes until it was 4pm and time to go home. I gave each one a massive hug and inevitably broke down in tears, thinking what will come of all these amazing children I’ve spent the last few months with every day?

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Yes teaching and living in Thailand has been very hard at times; having to make way for big differences in standards of teaching and general cultural rules. But for every time I woke up and thought about how I couldn’t be bothered to deal with the politics and the bitchieness that happens all too often between Thai staff, I would think of those little kids, and how amazing it is to every morning have them running up to me and hugging me in mass and getting shouted “I love you” at you on a daily basis.

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My Morning Greeting

So with plenty of sobs and cuddles from the Thai and Filipino teachers, I took my backpack full of my current worldly possessions and headed off to the bus station to meet my friends for a last goodbye weekend in Chiang Mai.

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We spent the last two days together; myself, John James, Alice, Grant, Emma, Bethel, Felicita, Cailin, Molly, Hannah and Antonia, eating all the amazing food which wasn’t ever available up in Chiang Rai. (Seriously; try being a vegetarian in a country where they think vegetarian just means anything but pork. I’ve eaten noodle soup every day since November).

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Gal Pals For Life ❤

We all went for breakfast this morning at an amazing place called Good Morning Chiang Mai; where I had a croissant stuffed with scrambled egg and grated cheese; I’ve never been happier to eat something so basic.

When I returned from the toilet there was a notebook and some handmade organic soap on my seat. They’d all written me a personal message, which was just the loveliest thing ever. I feel so lucky to be so far from home yet have the most amazingly caring and wonderful souls surrounding me. There’s so much love in the world; it’s amazing to think all these random people all shoved into a situation side by side can form such strong and lasting bonds. It really touched me deeply.

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After saying our goodbyes, I wandered off to the bus station. I was suddenly overwhelmed with this feeling of total freedom. I was on the road again. I know everyone back home sees my Facebook and thinks my life is just a big old holiday, but I have been working really hard, and living in a small town such as Chiang Rai, you are somewhat restricted when it comes to freedom.

In my head, I started singing Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”; feeling free and proud to have achieved what I have on this trip. I feel as though I have bettered myself in more ways than one. I’ve tried to take on principles surrounding positivity, and more feelings of self-love. However don’t get me wrong; I’m still filled with moments of self-doubt and anxiety; but I feel I’m slowly learning to recognise what you should prioritise in life to fill yourself with happiness, rather than negative doubt.   Very slowly. But its happening.

As well as these philosophical improvements, I’ve also given up meat since the beginning of December (my favourite meal would have to be an absolutely massive, juicy sirloin steak, and Saturday’s are known to me and my friends back home as “Bacon Sandwich Day”); and have given up a ten-year DISGUSTING habit of smoking. (Sorry Dad). Its weird how I’d inhale that crap on and off for a decade, and now when I am next to someone smoking it repulses me. You can smell the stench on them and it’s utterly vile. I know I won’t go back to that. I guess I’ve finally grown up.

As I write this, I’m sat in a circus school and resort, in the small town of Pai; situated in the Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand. It’s renowned for being a hippy town, and although I’ve yet to explore, I can certainly say it’s living up to that. I’m sat with a Chang beer, whilst surrounded by dreadlocked travellers, practising fire juggling and tightrope walking. I know I won’t get dreads but am quite interested in juggling with fire to be honest.

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I finally feel free and at peace. I’ve got no one negative around me; I look around to mountains, forests and fire pits.

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Home for now

The accommodation is basic. I’m staying in a triangular hut, with holes in the floor and the roof. I’m living in fear that a snake will rear its head through the gap in the bamboo floorboards. Yet I’m insanely happy.

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Valentine’s Day with Nature ❤️

Valentine’s Day. I can’t remember the last time I’ve spent one with a boyfriend. I had a near boyfriend last year, however unfortunately I also had food poisoning on the same day; so it was far from romantic as I sat in bed with a bucket next to me as I hurled up everything inside me.

This year; I’m still single. Which is actually fine, as I’m starting to doubt my compatibility with most men; as I realise my love of travel and new experiences kind of prevents me from staying still, and I feel more and more content loving myself and grabbing life by the balls, rather than the men.

So rather than spending another boozey weekend down at the local bar, me and three friends, two of whom are a couple, took a little wholesome trip out of town.

We got on a mini bus from Chiang Rai’s main bus station; costing us 300 Thai Baht return to the town of Phu Chi Fah.

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Phu Chi Far is a town, located in a national park of the same name, up at the east-edge of Thailand; in the Thoeng region of the country. Still in Chiang Rai province, it was only a 3hour journey, and a lot of the reason for it even taking that long was the steep and winding road, as the town is situated around 1,200 metres high up the mountains.

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As we climbed higher up the somewhat treacherous roads, with sheer drops of beautiful but dangerous valleys, our ears popped and the engine on the minibus groaned under the weight of all its passengers.

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We noticed there were many cars parked on the sides of the road leading to the main street of Phu Chi Fah, and these cars slowly turned into stalls, selling food, illegal DVDs and even Army supplies such as balaclavas and Taser guns. There were big bouncy castles blaring awfully loud and brash Thai music. It was such a random thing to see far from the big towns at the bottom of the mountain, and on this tiny little linear settlement up the top of a mountain.

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As the mini bus dropped us in the centre of the town, we were quickly informed that there was some sort of Thai festival taking place here this weekend, although I don’t for the life of me know what was being celebrated.

The bus driver asked us which hotel we had booked, to which we replied none; we were going to just turn up and see what looked good. All other passengers were Thai, and gave us a look as if to suggest we were crazy doing such a thing. They then proceeded to ask us if we had a tent to camp in instead. Looking around, we did notice a lot of tents placed everywhere, this was clearly popular for that; although as the sun went down, the temperatures dropped dramatically, and I can certainly say I am more than grateful for not having to be camping.

So bypassing the hotels lower down the hill, which looked a little lacking in character, we took a steep walk up to some cabins we had spotted from the road.

They were placed on a steep bank, made of wood with a double bed and an en suite each. They were so sweet, and really gave out a strong nature vibe, as they backed onto a forest, had plants sporadically growing from the banks, and also were covered in the largest moths I had ever seen.
They were beautiful, with these huge wingspans larger than one of my hands, but with the fuzzy thick bodies that I could appreciate from a distance, however I was happy for them not to land upon me during my stay.

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After gaping at our beautiful surroundings for a half hour or so, we decided to venture back into the town to find some food.

We found a small Thai restaurant on the edge of the cliff-side, where we managed to grab a table right on the outskirts. The sun was just setting as we raised our Leo beers to cheers the best Valentine’s Day I’d certainly ever had.

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After a few more of these, we took a stroll through the stalls on the streets, before heading back to our respective cabins for the night. It was to be an early start.

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The alarm went off at 4.30am, giving us a half hour to groan, rub sleep from our eyes before Conor and I went knocking for Alice and John James in their cabin.

We wrapped up warm, as the temperature had dropped so low, what with being so high up the mountain.

We all walked back down the hill and into town, where we found a driver with a pickup truck. We jumped in the back, paid him 30 baht each and he took us up the mountain to the highest point we could be driven to.

Here, stood stalls ran by local Thai women, all selling quick instant coffee for the sleepy eyed tourists.

We grabbed a cup each and started walking the last part of the journey, up the rugged grassy path to the top. Lucky being 2015, we all had torches on our iPhone’s; as it was pitch black and we could not see a thing. And it was a long way down had we tripped in the dark. 1,442 metres to be precise.

We reached the summit around 5.30am and sat down to wait for the infamous sunrise; the reason why tourists visit the mountain.

As the sun slowly rises up in the distance, it shines upon a sea of mist, which rolls over the mountain tops. You can see for miles, this eerily beautiful view, with mountain caps pushing their way through the mist, like ice bergs on a rolling sea.

It is absolutely mesmerising and certainly one of the most breath taking views I have got to experience. We were concerned that the mist would not be there, or that the visibility would be bad, however I don’t think we could have asked for a more beautiful day.

The sun started to become slightly visible at around 5.50am, slowly breaking its way through until it was fully above the clouds at 6.50am. I started trying to film this with a timelapse application on my phone, imagining bewitching footage of the sun slowly coming up as the mist literally rolls on in. I had my arm up and aching for so long, as I used my other hand to hold up my GoPro camera, capturing footage with that.

As one of life’s sick jokes, when I eventually decided to stop filming with the timelapse, my phone had ran out of storage, and so it couldn’t be saved.

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Luckily however, thanks to my GoPro, and John James snapping away, here are some photos of the views that morning:

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When the sun was fully up, we made our descent down to the car park, and into the pickup truck to take us to the town.

We reluctantly packed up our belongings from the cabins, and had a quick spot of breakfast, before being picked up again by our minivan, to take us back to Chiang Rai.

It was a beautiful little excursion out of town, and I’m so glad we braved the cold and the early mornings to see it.
Valentine’s Day is overrated. Being in love with the world, the nature and the appreciation of life and the good people you meet in it, is not. Future Valentine’s Days will be spent with the aim to do something pretty rad with at least myself; ‘cause if you ain’t gona love you; who will?

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Culturally Inappropriate Butt Cracks

Living in Thailand; away from the tourist hubs such as Ko Phi Phi, Krabi or Bangkok, where locals have gotten used to the farang, or white people, exposing every part of their bodies, up here in Chiang Rai, I need to be respectable, bearing in mind I am living and working as part of a community.

So when around colleagues and such, I try to wear a skirt that covers my knees at all times, and have my chest, shoulders and back covered as to not offend anyone.

I would like to think I am quite successful at this; hoping that they respect me more for not living up to the White girl stereotype and exposing my body.

Today one of the teachers had a birthday; and so kindly I was invited along with all the government teachers of the Kindergarten department to attend an all paid for lunch down by the river.

Thais love their food, and the dishes kept coming; catfish cooked with lemon grass, vegetable soup with tofu, papaya salad, tom yum soup and even frogs. We sat there and ate and ate until we are all stuffed.

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Some a little more than others, as I did not realise the zip on my skirt had come undone, as I sat there, surrounded by 13 elders from my department, not to mention other locals dining in the restaurant. This may sound not too much of an issue. However unfortunately; the zip was on my behind and the chairs in said restaurant look like this:

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And I chose to wear a thong today.

So as I write this I sit in the back of the head of kindergarten’s 4×4 feeling extremely awkward as she drives back to my house so that I can change my skirt.

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The best bit is she does not speak English, so I had to moon her whilst speaking the words “my bottom is exposed” so that the Filipino teachers could translate so that she understood.

The moral of the story kids; even if someone else is paying for dinner, stop when you’ve had enough, to lessen the risk of exposing those cheeky cheeks.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

I Skyped back home to my parents last week, and was at first a little confused when they told me they were just sat by the log fire, relaxing with some sherry, after finishing decorating the Christmas tree.

Although it’s gotten noticeably colder here, its’ still 17 °C; a lot warmer the Christmases I’ve experienced so far in the UK. That, along with it being a predominantly Buddhist country, I had almost forgotten all about it being “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Another little nudge and reminder, was a meeting that was called between all the English teachers of the school; to announce that we shall be celebrating the festive season, next Wednesday, with a school show, where each year group must perform something for the rest of the teachers and students.

So this week has certainly helped to make things feel a little more festive. My kids have teamed up with the class next door, to perform a rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” It’s so lovely to hear them shouting and screaming the words, whether or not they’re actually the right ones, and their little faces light up with glee. Obviously you get the kids that aren’t really too keen on singing, like you do everywhere, however, I find the vast majority of the Kindergarten children absolutely LOVE screaming songs at the top of their lungs whilst dancing along at their own tempo.

We will keep practising this every afternoon until the show on Christmas Eve, so hopefully I shall be able to get a nice video of them on the stage.

Back in the classroom, the topic this week is “Magnets”. The children are really enjoying this, as it’s science, which of course allows the students to become more involved, and be mind blown by lots of cool experiments.

I started off introducing magnets to them by giving examples of ones we may find around the house or classroom.   We then wrote a table of objects, and then proceeded to test these items to see if they would be attracted to a magnet.

I then went on to explain the north and south poles of the magnet, and how these can either attract or repel. The kids tried this themselves, loving being able to feel the push and pull of the magnetic force.

We then went on to play a game of fishing. I tied some string to a blunt pencil, and on the other end, tied a small hoop magnet. I then printed out lots of paper fish, and on each fish, placed a small paperclip. The children then got into teams, where they had to race, one student at a time, in a relay fashion, and each catch a fish. The first team to catch all their fish were the winners. The children loved this, and it was a nice little treat, at the end of a topic.

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As the week draws to a close, and magnets have been discussed in as much depth as possible with 5 year olds, it is time to start the Christmas festivities.

I’d been to the educational supply store earlier in the week, where I’d picked up some tinsel and things, to make the classroom look a little more festive.

We’d also previously made some elf masks, with paper glasses and hats, which the children loved, and looked incredibly cute in.

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We began today by going over “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” again. We are getting closer to not having “you’d better watch out” as EVERY LINE.

Even though being of a different religion, the children are more than familiar with the Christmas songs, and images of the big man in red, Rudolph, and the decorations that surround the holiday.

So therefore I thought it’d be a nice idea for the children to make their own stockings. I drew a rough template of a Christmas stocking, which I drew around on red craft paper, and cut out one for each of the children.

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I then asked them to draw a nice picture on their stocking, of anything that reminded them of Christmas. I got lovely results back, with the children drawing pictures of reindeers, snowmen, and writing sweet messages on them to parents. I then gave them all some cotton wool balls, with which they made a white trim at the top of the stocking. These were then hung on their personal cupboards at the back of the classroom.

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The children returned from their snack, and I had the second part of their Christmas crafts ready to go.

I’d been to the local shopping centre earlier in the week, and bought enough candy canes for them to have two each. I then gave each child one pipe cleaner, two goggley eyes, and one red ball.

Wrapping the pipe cleaner around the candy canes, which were turned away from each other, this bound them together, so that they looked like antlers. They then put a little PVA glue on each of the eyes and the nose, and then stuck these to the pipe cleaner to make a face.

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And ta-da: just like that the children had their own little Rudolphs to hang on their stockings. This was so simple, but the kids absolutely loved it, and couldn’t contain their excitement. Luckily I managed to grab a few quick snaps just before the pipe cleaners were hectically cast aside and the candy canes devoured like there was no tomorrow.

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All I can say is with that much sugar, I can only apologise to their parents, for how energetic those kids will at bedtime. Sorry.

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Trip to the zoo \ new experiences as not to become ostrich-cized

Last week I was in school, carrying on, business as usual with my Kindergarten class.

In the middle of teaching, another lady from the Kindergarten department politely knocked on my door, and asked me to sign a piece of paper, all in Thai.  This was nothing out of the ordinary, however I later released that I’d just agreed to being held partly responsible for helping to take all the kids to the zoo, and if any were lost or harmed, I’d be in a lot of trouble.

So the next day, in I came to school in my trousers, and best mind frame, to help take several mini bus loads of 5 year olds to Chiang Rai Zoo.

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Only my 5 year olds come with this much swag.

So all the kids were lined up with military precision, bar the odd finger up nose and kicking each other in between the legs; and I was assigned 17 little people, who speak no English, and told not to lose them, and to meet at “The Zoo”.

Onto a mini bus we climbed, whilst the driver lowered the television so we could all view some child friendly cartoons, as I’m sure you would imagine.  However; no.  Instead he decided to play a series of incredibly sexualised music videos, full of scantily clad girls, making very awkward suggestive dance moves, whilst all the five year olds on the bus sang along to every word perfectly.

After a 15 minute journey of both disbelief and actual travelling, we arrived at “The Zoo”.  We all offloaded from our separate mini buses and made our way to the front entrance, where there was a big sign in Thai, which one can only assume said something along the lines of “Welcome to the Zoo’.  Or perhaps no one even really knows.

We continued to get the children into some kind of order, with the head of Kindergarten bringing with her a microphone, attached to a mini amp, held in her handbag.  I thought that was a great touch (!)  Again, the children got orders screamed and shouted at them, which saw them stomp their feet in unison and scream things back in Thai.  I looked on in bemusement, trying to help with whatever I could, which generally speaking is trying to get them to stop eating whatever they find up each other’s noses.

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The chaos of organising Kindergarten

Thailand wouldn’t be Thailand without around a half an hour interval for photo taking, with an array of different poses, from the one finger in the air (bringing back thoughts of The Fugees singing “Killing Me Softly” from the 90’s) to a very enthusiastic thumbs up from all involved.

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After this, one of the staff from “The Zoo” took the microphone and handbag amp, and took us over to an open shed, where lots of cages lay.  From these cages, he proceeded to pull a series of reptiles.  Showing these to the children, they were all amazed, some a little scared, however it was good fun and a few of us enjoyed holding them.  And then he brought out two tarantulas,  at which point I made a fierce jump to the furthest possible point.  Still holding some form of lizard, too petrified to go near the staff / tarantulas, I spent a good 15 minutes watching from under a far tree, as the guy proceeded to shove these massive spiders in the faces of screaming 5 year olds, even placing one on top of a child’s hat, and laughing as the child had no clue.

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Once I’d been fully assured by a fellow teacher that these spiders were back in their boxes, I approached the staff, to remind them that I was still holding one of their reptiles.  With great thanks, (as he’d certainly not realised) he took the lizard and replaced it in its cage.

From there we moved on to these angry looking “Alligator Snapping Turtles”.  I’ll tell you this much.  They were not crocodiles; which is what this guy informed the children they were.  However, I chuckled and we moved on to the goats.

The ever famous "crocodile".

The ever famous “crocodile”.

Or the goats moved on to us.  We were all stood around the water tank when a herd suddenly charged, and joyfully jolted around these 5 year olds. The same height as the goats.   Which was beautiful to watch.  I don’t know who was bleating / screaming in each other’s faces more.

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After some goat feeding we moved on to the giant tortoises, and then some snakes kept in Tupperware (I didn’t agree with this place at all, and did have continued sympathy for these creatures), finishing with the salamanders kept in a tank roughly the same size as them.  It wasn’t nice, and it was far from a zoo, and I did point this out many times, however this is the norm for them, and they’ve never seen a zoo, or an animal rehabilitation centre like we have in the West, and I guess I just felt obliged to go along with it, even though this did result in me feeling somewhat guilty.  However, I still found myself taking a selfie with a giant tortoise.

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We then made our way about ten minutes back towards town, to Wana Ostrich and Horse Farm.

Here, we sat on mats that we had brought with us, and unloaded the packed lunches whilst the children fed themselves on rice and juices.  Meanwhile, the Kindergarten department had seemed to have paid for quite the spread for the teachers; as we tucked into piping hot roasted chicken, crunchy pork, and steaming rice with coconut milk.

After this, THE WHOLE group of children queued up to take it in turns to ride on a horse and carriage.  The horse and carriage took about 8 children at once.  There was one horse and carriage.  So I spent an hour and a half entertaining the rest of the waiting kids, by pretending they were aeroplanes and flying them over my shoulders.  Who needs the gym when you teach Kindy, hey?

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When the children had finished their turns on the horse and carriage, they were allowed to enter a paddock, which contained a few sheep, some goats and a couple of small donkeys.  Before this, the kids were encouraged to spend their 20Baht they’d each brought with them, on buying a bunch of grass, with which to feed the animals.  However, in this case, the animals had thought of a cunning plan, in which to outsmart these tiny people.  As soon as the children entered the paddock, the animals bombarded them.  All being the same height, whilst the kids were screaming with joy and excitement, the animals went straight for them, and grabbed the food right out of their hands.

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This, I have to say, is where most of this month’s wages went.  On me buying them all a fresh load of grass, and carrying it to the middle of the paddock for them, so that they could get further than two metres inside, without the whole lot being grabbed.

They ran around some more, playing arcade-like games, shooting targets, and throwing darts at balloons, before we all made our way over to the ostrich section.

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A very lovely Thai man took his time to explain to the children that ostriches are birds, and they lay huge eggs, and people like making handbags out of them, etc etc.  All this time there were two very angry looking ostriches behind him, running in circles sporadically around a pen, with a huge sign saying “Ostrich Riding…Once Time In Your Life”.  (Please note this was not MY typo for once).

At the end of the educational talk, I jokingly asked one of the Thai teachers if she’d take a ride on an ostrich.  Before I could do anything to stop this, she was excitedly telling the farm owner that the white chick wanted a go on the ostrich, whilst the entirety of Kindergarten erupted with “Chai Teacher Kate!  Chai!”.  You don’t have to be Thai to realise they wanted me to ride that massive bird.

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With severe apprehension, but wanting to do anything to make those little faces smile, I ducked under the fence, into the pen, and hesitantly towards the largest bird in the world.  They gave me a little step ladder, whilst one of the younger men pulled a blindfolded ostrich toward me.  Being rather famous for not being the brightest of creatures, not being able to see what was happening, made the ostrich very docile, and it just stood there as I slowly and shakily climbed up its back, hooking my feet underneath its wings.  There were no reins, and no saddle, so I was told to hold on by grabbing onto its wings, right by its armpits….or wing-pits if you will.  I leant back, and was asked if I was ready.  Not being able to speak through apprehension and sheer confusion, I grunted, and the bag was whipped of its head.  The children and staff cheered, as the bird suddenly realised it had a passenger.  I screamed as I suddenly realised I was on an ostrich.

Note the RIDICULOUS bag over its head

Note the RIDICULOUS bag over its head

It ran around the track wildly as I clung on for dear life, screaming and laughing, and thinking “my friends at home have actual jobs and I’m riding an ostrich”.  (Don’t take that the wrong way Dad, I still have a very serious job out here).

Here’s a series of photos to highlight the experience.  SO stupid:

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It lasted just a few minutes and was scarier than Space Mountain, however I loved it.  My only regret was not having my GoPro camera attached to my head to film it all.

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After

Maybe I’ll just have to go back.

And with that, and very sore back side, it was time to return to school.

I’d had a brilliant day, even though some parts went against what was right in my eyes, the kids were screaming with joy and delight, and when that’s how you finish your day; how can you  be sad?