Our first holiday weekend has passed to celebrate the 84th birthday of the King Of Thailand!
The last week has been rather easy as about 80% of my classes have been cancelled due to an Asean Camp. This is so the students get to know and understand more about the Asean countries. The school have been playing the Asean song everyday for the last month and we have been left wondering what is going on. I would turn up to a class and half would be missing, when I ask the children ‘Where is everyone?” I would get the reply “Teacher… Asean!” Me- “okay…”
The camp took place over Thursday and Friday, out in the assembly area different stalls were set up for each country along with one for the “Asean 6” (India, New Zeland, Australia and 3 others) Each stall contained information about the country, the key language phrases, the food, the dress and information and props about the culture as well as children dressed in the traditional clothing!
Unfortunatley after I did the rounds on the stalls, got pulled about for pictures and force fed some truly awful food I skipped out of school as everything was taught in Thai…. not much use for a English teacher! However at one point I was put in front of a hall full of kids and told “Teacher, you speak to students, help them brain storm and teach them about Asean” All I managed to say was “Good afternoon, how are you…. ummm” My knowledge on the Asean countries is not the greatest. After that I thought it was best I left before being dragged into something ridiculous!!
On the Saturday Andy and I had a super lazy day as we were both shattered and in need of a little chill out time…. especially for our next adventure…
On Sunday we took Andy’s big motorbike (not a scooter but a massive
motorbike!) down to Uttaradit. This is a province 70km down from Phrae and also where one of Andy’s friend live. I have been on the bike a few times now and I surprised myself that I was no longer petrified of sitting on the back and was able to put on some music and enjoy the ride!! We took a detour to the Uttaradit dam which was 50km outside of the city it was a lovely drive and it was very beautiful once we got there. It actually reminded me of the reservoir near my home in Scotland as the leaves were off the trees and it was surrounded by small mountains and forest with the sun behind the clouds.
We stopped for a picnic in the park beside the dam where (the most shocking news ever) I ate chicken…… and some of Andy’s fish…….and liked it!!! after 20 years of refusing to eat fish Thailand is slowly turning me!
There was also a Thai garden full of lovely flowers, hedges made into elephants, and a mini petting far which included two MASSIVE pigs I felt like a wee child!
We got back on the bike and drove another 60km to Pond’s house (Andy’s friend) who’s boyfriend is an excellent professional Muay Thai boxer and is even on TV in professional fights! Pond has 17 cats (Yes I did say 17!!!!) For someone who hates cats it was a bit of a “Oh no” moment but luckily most were kittens and did not come near!! Pond took us to a fair which was on for the King’s birthday where we got to watch some boxing which is always good fun! After a good nights sleep in an AWESOME hotel/bungalow we set back off on the bike home to Phrae and came across this bike!!
The ride home was quite relaxing, if you exclude the two mental drivers who overtook cars on the opposite side of the road from us and came WAY to close to us for my liking!!
Once home in Phrae we had to quickly get ready for the Kings ceremony. We had to wear formal clothing as well as Pink which is the Kings colour. (Yellow is also for the King however Pink has been adopted after the King came out of hospital in 2007 from a stroke wearing pink and is now worn as a symbol of good health for the King)
We met our friend Lee who invited us to sit down to dinner with his family before going with his mum to the ceremony in a small school with only 100 or so people there (all in pink tops) Its actually very nice to see how the King unites the country as there is so much respect for him. It is hard to imagine back home that a member of the royal family can command such respect of a nation. For example in my school we have to wear pink for 9 days!
We were all given a small yellow candle and stood infront of the Kings image
with offerings from the people there. A massive yellow candle was lit from the center of the stage as a big screen above us played the ceremony that was taking place at the same time in Bangkok. We then we sang the King’s anthem. This is played every morning in my school and you hear it from time to time in random places/ on the news etc if it plays in the morning and you are walking you have to stop and stand still as it is rude to walk while the song is playing (like the national anthem) I have head it so many times that I can sing some lines and could hum the tune no problem without ever having studied it!! We sang two more songs before the crowd chanted several times “Long live the King”. (In Thai obviously)
Candles were then lit from the main candle and this was used to light the first row of candles which people held…. then those were used for the second row and so on. It was funny as once I had my candle lit several people behind me rushed to get their candle lit by this strange farang! Once all the candles were lit they were placed in a shrine underneath the King’s image.
It was funny as the presenter for the Kings birthday could be heard speaking in Thai with “farang’ thrown in as Andy and I placed out candles in the shrine. Will never know what he said but you can bet your bottom dollar it was about us! Ha! There were fireworks- most of them were at the stadium, however we got one that was so close the remains fell right beside us!!!
The last part of the night was possibly one of the highlights of the weekend…. Lights!!! Most of them were up for the Kings birthday however as there is a Christian hospital in Phrae we also have our own (tiny) set of Christmas lights! It made me feel like it was slightly Christmas time and gave me some of my Christmas cheer which has been lacking this year!
Being away from home at this time of year is very strange, despite my Christmas tree in my apartment it does not feel like Christmas in the slightest. For the first year ever all my money has not gone on Christmas presents, all my time has not been spent in shops, or working in a shop until all hours of the day and night, I do not hear Christmas music at every available opportunity nor is there any frost let alone snow!!! It makes for a very strange and slightly upsetting December especially as it is a time for family and loved ones…. and all my family are across the globe. Its times like these that I would love just one day to be back home and see my parents, brother, family and my close friends as 8months without seeing them is a LONG time!
However, all is not lost as we have another holiday Monday to celebrate constitution day so this weekend we are heading back to Chang Mai where I might even get to see Twilight…. yes I know that is sad…. but when your nearest cinema is 200km away and EVERYONE talks about a film you learn to appreciate it that wee bit extra!