Tag Archives: chiang mai

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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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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A Lesson in Remembering How to Teach

Coming back to school after Christmas and New Year, I feel as lethargic and tired as I did when I was a student. The kids have been running riot, certainly not helped by the fact that their parents kindly fuel them with sugar for their breakfast, so it’s like having a class full of hyperactive monkeys flying around my ankles, literally jumping on my back and tugging on my skirt.

It’s been a wild few weeks, with “Children’s Day” where the children get to eat so many sweets and just dance all day, amongst other events that has filled them with excitement and cheer.

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I’m in there somewhere

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A picture from Children’s Day, where they get to dress “freestyle”, and many choose to wear princess dresses


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Butter wouldn’t melt…

So after resuming normal lessons again this week, it was a challenge to regain control of the class, and to keep their attention.  It was time to step up my lesson planning game.

It’s easy as a teacher to deliver lessons, in which I just regurgitate junk, which is not interesting to a 5-year-old child, however you feel like you’re doing the right thing in the name of education. Maybe my TTT (Teacher Talking Time) needed to be reduced.

Therefore, I felt with their lack of interest and attention lately, I had to remember that I am teaching Kindergarten, and fun is the name of the game if I’m going to keep them interested and engage them more than I have been.

They don’t seem to get much story time; next to none from the Thai teachers and I am left with a very small selection of books printed in the English language. They’ve heard them all already and don’t seem to be inspired by hearing these dull stories about Terry the Turtle or Floppy the Rabbit for the millionth time.

So after a bit of using old trusty Google, I found some cut outs for paper puppets to go alongside the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I coloured these in, and stuck them to old Popsicle sticks once they’d been cut out.

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First I used YouTube to play the fairy tale, alongside an animation. After this, to ensure they’d understood, I used the paper puppets I had made to retell the story, using stupid voices, and adding extra twists to the tale.

After this I handed out the paper cut outs to the children, asking them to colour them in and glue them to the Popsicle sticks themselves.

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This was a huge success, and the children loved it. Once they’d finished and had a full set of puppets each, I could see them acting out the story themselves too: quoting lines of “Who’s been sleeping in MY bed?” with their own puppets.

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Helping to clean up the aftermath

It was lovely to see them so excited and captivated, speaking English when recognising parts of the story, and engaging themselves within the lesson, rather than sneaking off to exchange sweets and plastic rings in the toilets; which they seem to be rather fond of doing as of late.

So the lesson I’ve taken away from the past couple of hectic weeks, is not to forget that a good teacher is not one that just stands and talks; but one that intrigues and captivates. I must remember to get them to be as hands on as possible in order to ignite their lust for learning as much as possible.

Next week, the topic is “Eggs”. Having just finished my week’s lesson planning, there will certainly be a lot of hands on learning and experiments.

Christmas in Thailand

The last couple of weeks have just passed me like a whirlwind.  I feel as though I haven’t blogged in an age, and that Christmas was just a tornado of too much food and drink and nonsense, and now it’s all just gone for another year.

Christmas Eve saw the Christmas show here at the school.  I came in, full of Christmas cheer, which was amplified tenfold when I saw all the children dressed up in Santa Claus outfits, and sparkling dresses.  Even though this was not a huge holiday for them, they put such a lot of effort in which was really lovely to see.

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We all walked over to the main hall, where Kindergarten all sat together, and the other grades sat behind.  After some speeches from teachers, it was time for the songs and dances to begin.

My class was second to go up, singing their rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”.  They were great, if a little shy with the rest of the school as their audience, however I was so proud, taking photos and videos like some over enthusiastic Mum.

We then sat and watched as the older children took it in turns to perform their songs and dances.  There were so many great acts from the kids, and it was so lovely to see smiles on everybody’s faces.

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After the days antics it was time to get ready for the grown up side of Christmas.

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All our friends we have here in Chiang Rai and the surrounding towns live in accommodation that mainly consists of a double bed, a wardrobe, and a shower / toilet room.  Eating out here is so cheap; we don’t really have a use for kitchen.  As we were all away from our homes and families this year, we agreed that it’d be nice for us to have use of a house with a kitchen.  After looking online, it was clear that using Airbnb.com was our best option.  Not only did we manage to rent a place with a kitchen, it just so happened that it was a beautiful villa, with swimming pool and next to a little lake.

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The best bit being that as there were so many people wishing to make use of the house, split between us all, in only came to £7.92 per person.

A few of us went to the shopping centre, where we bought all the provisions necessary to see out Christmas, before returning to the house.  We had a lovely Christmas Eve with a handful of friends, where we wore Christmas hats, drank wine and danced to festive songs.

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We awoke on Christmas day to a beautiful misty haze hovering over the pool.  After cleaning up some clutter from the previous night, Emma made pancakes and eggs for breakfast, as we drank our coffees in the rising sun.  Being the first Christmas I’d ever spent out of England; it was certainly preferable to the freezing cold mornings I’d experienced every other year of my life.

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From here on we lazed by the pool, enjoyed some drinks, and slowly more and more friendly trickled in from finishing at their schools.

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Finally, everyone was present, and an amazing Christmas dinner was cooked.  We all sat around and said Grace, before tucking in round a big make shift table, before retiring to the living room to watch Elf and feel fat.

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There are some things that remain the same whether in the UK or Thailand.

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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Bye Chiang Mai, Oh Hi Chiang Rai

I arrived in Chiang Rai after a quick three-hour bus ride, direct from Chiang Mai.

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Leaving Chiang Mai Bus Station

Leaving the other friends I’d made in Chiang Mai, I felt really sad, as we’d all got on so well; however, now it was time to go to our own placements, in areas all over the North of Thailand, and therefore everyone had their own adventures to now embark upon.

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The Journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang rai

However, another girl from the programme, Emma, was on the same bus, and had already moved to Chiang Rai, where she took me back to where she was living, so I could see if that’d suit my needs for accommodation too.

The property was basically a block of about 12 “apartments”, split between two levels. Each apartment is basically a double bed, wardrobe, fan, and an attached toilet / shower room. This seems quite the norm for Thai living, with no need for a kitchen, seeing as the option of eating out is so wonderfully cheap.

After seeing Emma’s room, I called the landlord, who quickly zipped over on his moped, from across town, where I’ve heard he also has another business owning a little noodle shop. He showed me the room next to hers, and I agreed to take it right there and then. At only 2600 Thai Baht per month, from what I can tell, this was a pretty good deal.

So that was the first hurdle jumped, the next was to make it look a little less clinical, and a little more like home.

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After showering, and unpacking we both took a walk to the city’s night bazaar; much smaller than that of Chiang Mai, however still charming in its own right, with musical performances taking place each night, and a large food court where you can eat anything from worms to sushi, to Pad Thai. Passing perhaps on the worms, it’s a great place to come and eat for cheap, however I wouldn’t want to every night, due to the canteen style seating and the sometimes oppressive local music.

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Tasty Selection of Treats (!)

Over the next few days, I tried to get myself as settled as possible, and also discovering the local things on offer, including lots of nice cafes where I’d like to wile away the hours, drinking iced coffees.

One place we visited was near to the Kok River, called Chivet Thamma Da. It was simply beautiful. I’d first heard about it from another blog I follow, called 8 Miles From Home. I saw the pictures on this blog when still back in England, and knew I needed to visit.

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Chivet Thamma Da is a beautiful old house situated on the riverbank. Part of it is also a day spa, however we just visited the coffee house part. We walked in, and were greeted warmly, and taken to the back of the house, which opened up to a beautiful garden. Lanterns, birdcages, and flowers decorated the split-level garden. We sat, and were instantly in love with this place. There was a piano against a wall and framed pictures hanging. The menu was extensive and looked fabulous, however a little on the pricey side, but this is to be expected with somewhere so lovely, and certainly different from the norm. The house reminded me of the one from The Notebook, when Noah buys it and does it all up for Ally. It was just so romantic, with old wartime music playing in the corner, and swings hanging from the trees by the river.

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We both shared a piece of amazing banoffee pie, and possibly a white chocolate cake too, which were both so incredibly good.

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I’d certainly recommend this place to anyone who visits Chiang Rai, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so, seeing as it’s ranked at number two, on Trip Advisor’s list of best restaurants in Chiang Rai.

The next few days consisted of more settling, and nesting, in which I bought a little bicycle too, for me to get around the City more efficiently. This can be done on foot, as it a relatively small place, however having a bike does make it that little bit easier.

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I’ve joined a gym at the Pinmann Inn, where I also use their outdoor saltwater pool. The bike ride is really easy from my apartment to the pool, and makes the half hour walk seem a lot more inviting when it turns into a ten minute cycle ride.

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My Local Pool 

On Saturday the 25th October, I woke up with a slightly sore head from the night before (we visited Coconuts Bar in town; a new favourite bar of mine now).

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Journey Home 

Before coming to Thailand, I’d heard online about the Lanna Yi Peng Festival. It’s a festival celebrated in Thailand, and certain parts of Burma and Laos. Translated, Yi means “two” and Peng means “full moon day”. The festival is in celebration of the full moon day, in the second month, according to the Lanna Lunar calendar. (Remembering Lanna refers to the Northern area of Thailand, which was once a Kingdom until the 18th centaury). AND BREATHE.

As I was saying, I woke up, thinking I really couldn’t be bothered to travel down to Chiang Mai, and bed was far more appealing; however I dragged myself up and got on a bus, after telling myself not to be such a lazy hung over fool. I can honestly say that going, and visiting the festival, was in the top ten best decisions of my life.

To celebrate this festival, swarms of people descend upon the University grounds in Chiang Mai. In the evening, prayers are said by the Buddhist Monks, whilst spectators from the other side of the riverbank release a few lanterns. The prayers last a couple of hours, paying homage to Buddha, and are all said in Thai. This bit was difficult to enjoy, as the crowds were so thick and intense, and you couldn’t see the ceremony, for all the people. However, what came next made it all worth the wait.

In excess of 10,000 paper lanterns, (Kohm Loi) were released at once into the sky. Words just cannot describe how wonderful it was. It just was one of those moments that was so humbling, and I just stood there in awe of being such a small and insignificant part of this incredible world.

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Luckily, I heard about this event online, as it being the original and Buddhist celebration. There is also a more tourists-friendly version, where the prayers are spoken in English, and a meal is included, however I hear that this is as much as $100USD, whereas the one I saw was free.   The ticketed one takes place on Thursday 6th November.

The festival certainly made me miss Julien, as it was such a romantic and beautiful sight, and I wished so much that he could have been there to see it with me. However, I then realised how intensely hot and sweaty I was, and as a result, maybe a little stinky too, so perhaps it was for the best that he was in London.

Now I am back in Chiang Rai, and have been into the school where I start working as a Kindergarten teacher on Monday. I am so incredibly happy right now, and so excited to get into the school and start working. I feel so lucky to have been able to make this dream of moving abroad and getting this job, working alongside GVI, come true, and can only hope it continues to be so wonderful.

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Miss Tim, Myself and Miss Chay; Kindergarten Teachers