Tag Archives: teaching in thailand

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.

Wat We Did at Wat Rong Khun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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