Been in Thailand for 24 days… and what a wonderful/strange/exciting time it has been. Met so many people that have instantly became great friends and done some things that even I have thought “Have I seriously just done that?!” A message from a friend summed it up nicely when I told her about canoeing out to a deserted island, trekking and swimming with the elephants then back out I the canoes to watch the sunset “You have such a funny life right now” and its true… I do!!
Koh Chang was amazing as I have already said and I thought it was going to be pretty hard to beat some of the experiences I had whilst there… but then came along Bangkok. Arrived back in the capital to start a Culture course (made compulsory by the Thai government for all foreign teachers) First day of the course was quite interesting as it was all about the Thai culture, language and essential need to know information. (As the course progressed I don’t think I stayed awake longer than an hour… how can you when they speak about fruit for 2 straight hours?!?!
I did learn some things however such as how to Wai (A hand gesture similar to that of when we pray) however this is used to greet, to thank and to respect… and it’s not just as simple as people might think. There are different Wai’s according to your age, your social status (i.e. superior like a doctor or teacher) the Royal Family and Monks. All of which I am a master at now!
We also had to learn a bit about the Royal Family as they are so well respected here that you are actually told never to get into a conversation about them. It’s really nice to see how passionate the people are about them… so much so that the speaker on the course burst out crying when she was telling us. Their presence is felt everywhere…. From pictures in every shop/house or restaurant to massive (and I mean MASSIVE) posters out on the street.
We also learned about the “mai pen rai” attitude, or no problem attitude that all Thai’s have. In fact on the bus to Phrae which is where I am right now we got to experience this as the bus was 35 minutes late… but no problem! Which is another aspect of Thailand that is hard to adjust to…. Thai time! I’ve heard so much about it but it’s hard to grasp unless you are here… Thai culture is so so so relaxed about time keeping almost EVERYTHING runs late, even the 10minute breaks on our culture course turned into 30min breaks!! Takes a while but you get used to it…. Mai pen rai and all that jazz!!
Out with the culture course we got to experience ‘real’ Thailand. Our course took place in a part of the city I can only describe as the Soho of Thailand. There were no pubs only GoGo bars. The first night we went out as a group and was very strange… not the kind of place I am used to. The shows were something that will never leave my memory and the calling of “free ping pong show” is something I will always remember but not in a good way!! Enough said about that I am sure I don’t have to explain!
We also took a few trips out to MBK one of the biggest shopping malls I’ve ever seen in my life… with over 2,000 stores you can understand how big this place is. One BIG thing I have learned is how to barter… never accept the first price!! My favorite Thai phrase I have learned is “de Chan Ben crew” basically “I am a teacher” I said this to the man I wanted to buy a laptop off and I got a 2,000 baht (40pound) discount off an already sale laptop and got all the extras chucked in… a laptop bag, a cooler, cleaner, mouse, mat and keyboard protector! ACE!
After the culture course had finished we went straight onto the orientation course… more chilled out (easier to deal with when hangovers) and more interesting (at parts) as it was about teaching! Go more information about where I was going and even met another teacher going to my school… another Glaswegian no less!!!
Hayley, Cat and I went for a Thai massage on one of our nights off and as with most things in Thailand it’s an experience I will never forget…. As the girls got taken with the girls…. I got left with a man…. Not just any man…. But a lady boy!!!! Was actually very nice although he found it hysterical as he was “only used to men” and not quite used to someone who cracks as much as me! An hour and a half later and I felt so relaxed I went to bed and had the best sleep I think I have ever had!
Before I knew it the course was over (with the certificate to prove it!) and we got a few days free time. For most of us this was goodbye… people I had been with for over 2 weeks I had to say bye to as we all went our separate ways and started to drift off to our provinces. Was sad as I had made so many great friends.
I went off with Hayley, Cat, Alex and Luis and booked into a completely different part of the city called Sliom… finally the Bangkok I had imagined!!! Big skyscrapers, actual pubs and restaurants and nice wee markets! Our first day of free time we took ourselves off to finally be tourists and visit The Grand Palace. WOW.
If you ever come to Bangkok and can only do one think I would DEFINATLY recommend. I can’t even describe how beautiful the structures are all and how much detail has gone into all of them but I was in complete awe. Have attached a couple of pictures but as is always the case the pictures just don’t do it justice!
We also went to Wat Pho, another temple with the biggest reclining Buddha I’ve ever seen. It was a nightmare trying to get a picture of the full thing!! Again all the temples around were beautiful and so much work had gone into it. We also went to one of the temple and got to sit under a HUGE gold Buddha and just have time to reflect on everything, before we knew it there was a service starting as all the Monks started filtering in.
The next day has defiantly been the highlight of my trip by far… Floating Market and Tiger Temple.
The Floating Market is hard to explain… we were put on a boat and sailed down a river then all these stalls appeared on either side of the river, along with all these stalls set up on long tailed boats. Was crazy! At some points we couldn’t even move due t the amount of boats all lined up on the river!
After we had been there we set off to Tiger Temple.
There are 2 of these in Thailand and the one we went to is the one where the tigers are extremely well looked after (and not sedated like the one in Chang Mai) all the tigers have been raised by Monks, deliberately kept away from blood so they don’t get a taste of it, and reared so that one day some can get released into the wild.
To start with we all go our pictures with a big tiger that was lying down (although they had chains round their necks they seemed pretty relaxed although you were told pat hard, keep fingers away from the mouths, don’t make sudden moves or noises and always approach from the left hand side… and hopefully you will come back in one piece! GULP!) after, everyone was ushered away and watched as they took it in small groups to walk the tigers to the canyon (yes I got to walk a tiger on no more than a dog lead!!) we were warned that if the tiger runs there is not much they can do to stop it so whatever you do…. DON’T wrap your hand round the lead (something I learned whilst walking Rogie many years ago anyway! HA!)
Some tigers were put in the canyon with their monk and we were allowed to go round and get pictures with them and clap them. Was a very very very hot day and most of them fell asleep! There was a HUGE one that terrified me and even gave me the eye as I walked up but all 10 fingers remained!!
Our guide (who was ace!!) then took us to see the cubs, again they all had their own allocated monk… which can be tricky as there are so many rules for girls when it comes to monks!) But here I got the kiss a tiger cub (wouldn’t dream of doing it to the huge one! Ha-ha)
Just as we were starting to think that all the tigers were fast asleep we got taken to the play area where some of the tigers were having their ‘play time’ a huge enclosure where they can play in waterfalls, on the grass or in the water, and there are some people in with toys (like a cat toy with things to play with on the end of a stick) and some very brave/stupid members of the public. It was obvious the tigers were having a great time and was really nice to see… that and I got some AWESOME pictures! We never stayed for the exercise part as it was quite expensive… but basically all the tourists are put in a cage… put above the tigers and all the tigers are let off for some exercise!!
Was an expeierence I don’t think I will ever ever forget and was amazing!!
The next day was time to say goodbye to the girls and Alex… have to admit that it wasn’t easy. I’m terrible with goodbyes as it is but when you have been together for 3 weeks in a foreign country and shared some of these wicked experiences it was harder than I thought!
Last two days in Bangkok were extremely chilled out in comparison to the previous 3 weeks, Luis and I booked into a hotel with a pool on the roof… which in the heat was amaaaazing!! We went to Koh Sang road (a famous street full of markets/pubs and clubs) at night and had nice meals and chilled out listening to a man sing covers of Beatles and all of my favorite songs (he was amazing!) was nice just to relax even if it did go from being ridiculously hot to being ridiculously wet!! Was especially nice to be away from a big group which can sometimes be very hard to take with so many people constantly around trying to speak to everyone… it can get exhausting! With only one person to chat to I could totally relax… was a great end to a very very hectic 11 days!
It’s strange to think how close you get to people whilst travelling and it’s been awesome to meet all my new friends and get to know them all, without them this experience wouldn’t have been half as good.
Let’s just hope the people of Phrae are just as nice!!