Monday, March 16, 2015


Gorgeous view of the mountains in Pai
The resident tortoises at the Thavorn Resort in Karon Beach
No, I'm not lying in a ditch somewhere in Thailand, I'm alive and well! The idea of blogging after such a long silent spell has just seemed daunting, but I've come to terms with's time. What's that saying? You pooped your bed and now you have to lie in it? Something like that.

HAHAHA at this sign-off on the last blog, whoops! "I promise to cover all of these in my next blog, which shouldn't take as long to get up since I'm done with trips for a while and back to real life." Yeah right Sarah, ya big liar. 

Anywho, rather than try to recall all the events of the past 3 months, I'll touch on some highlights and then we can just move on from there, deal?

Random sunset photo from Surin Beach
When we last left off I was fresh off a full moon party and a weekend in Krabi,  which was quite some time ago. Here's a short list of a few things that I've done since:
• Christmas visit with the family
• New year's in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai and Pai)
• Bungee jumping in Kathu
• Phi Phi island
• Krabi round 2
• Coral Island
• 2 school trips
•  Lots of new Phuket beaches!
• Jungle trekking in Khao Sok National Park

James Bond Island
So rewind about 3 months and we've got the Schneiland Christmas vacation (see what I did there?). That's right, the whole clan made the not-so-short trip to SE Asia. Although I still had to be at school for several of the days during this visit, I was able to hang out with them quite a bit. The Schneiders, minus Sarah, stayed at a really nice resort in Karon Beach called Thavorn Palm Beach Resort. It was about a 20-30 minute ride away on my motorbike, so I was able to see them after work and stayed for that weekend. Our most fun-filled, adventurous day was Saturday—to say it was jam-packed would be an understatement., stay tuned.

Botttom: Taowee and dad bonding over his
Marine Corps jacket
Top: Kayaking through the caves
On Friday, the fam came to Phuket Town to see my condo and my school and grab some lunch. When the hotel van dropped them off at the wrong condo, we called upon my good friend and taxi driver, Taowee, to help shuttle everyone to the correct location. I met Taowee one of our first weekends in Phuket when he drove myself and a friend to Nai Harn Beach. Taowee is a  Renaissance man, he not only drives taxis, but he also arranges day trips. Our family had been wanting to arrange something, and Taowee was more than willing to help us out. Before we knew it, Taowee had set us up with a trip to Pang Nga, where we would go to James Bond Island, go kayaking amongst the sea rocks, eat lunch at a floating fishing village, go elephant trekking, ox cart-riding, rubber tree tapping, get fish pedicures and go to a fruit one day. I know what you're thinking, there's no way you can get all of that done in one trip. That's what we said! In fact, we had quite the comical vision playing out in our minds, where we would jump off the back of a moving elephant into an ox cart, which would take 3 steps through a fruit garden and we'd be whisked off into a kayak, etc. Amazingly, we fit everything in. The day was fun-filled but exhausting. The kayaking was probably one of the best parts of the day. We would lay down on our backs in the kayaks and barely squeeze under some stalactites only to enter a sort of open water cave.

A beautiful display of Chinese lanterns we stumbled upon in Chiang Mai
View from our hostel in Pai
A shot from the back of the pickup driving
through the mountains
Before we knew it, the family vacay had come to a close. Coincidentally, my family was leaving the same day I was leaving for Chiang Mai to meet up with some friends for New Year's. I actually got to see them in the airport before we both left, just happened to be walking by! The plan for New Year's was to fly up to Chiang Mai for a night, then head further north to Pai for a few days, and briefly back to Chiang Mai before returning to Phuket. We met up with a bunch of girls we'd met during orientation—the same crew that we  met up with for the Full Moon Party. We had an early bus the morning after our late arrival in Chiang Mai, so we didn't do anything too crazy that evening. The drive to Chiang Mai is famous for its curves (just like me....juuuuuust kidding!), 762 curves to be exact! The mountainous drive was a bit intense, but the views were beautiful. Pai itself is amazing. The mountain views are gorgeous, the food is delicious and the people are really nice. Perhaps one of the best days in Pai was when we set up a little travel excursion with a man named Chai. Chai has packages of trips that he sells that go to several places in Pai. We, however, only wanted to go to three: the lookout, the canyon and the waterfall. Chai made some arrangements
Chilling in Pai Canyon
and he was to pick us up early the next morning. Sure enough, he showed up with his pickup truck. We piled in the back (safe, right?)  and we were on our way. The waterfall was nice, not Niagra or anything but pretty cool. After the waterfall we went to the viewpoint, it had an amazing view of the mountains *please see photo. Finally, we headed to the canyon to do a little hiking and watch the sunset. I wasn't sure what I was expecting with the canyon, but this thing was crazy! Steep drop offs, narrow, 1-foot winding pathways, vertical rock climbs—honestly a safety hazard that would never exist in America without sizable guardrails...but mai pen rai! The sunset at the canyon was gorgeous—definitely somewhere I would go again before I leave Thailand. However, one of the best views of the day was from the back of that pickup truck. Driving through the winding mountain roads, there were some amazing views. It didn't hurt having the mountain air whipping through your hair to add to the ambiance.

At the village party!
On our way back from the canyon, Chai asked if we would like to go to a party in his village. Apparently one of his friends had just bought a house and they were having a big, celebratory house-warming party. Chai also informed us that he had never brought any "farang" (foreigners) to his village before.  We had nowhere to be, so we thought, why not? The villagers were quite intrigued when Chai pulled up with 7 white girls. As soon as we sat down the beer started coming, followed by numerous plates of spicy noodle salad. One particular table of Thai men enjoyed visiting our table, asking for kisses on the cheek or poking us and running away. I was even asked to dance, and, not wanting to be rude, agreed! We took quite the turn on the "dance floor" in front of the karaoke stage. Did I mention this party had professional karaoke? Talk about a legit house-warming party!

Inside of the caves in Pai
The next day we tagged along on another trip with Chai. He was taking a couple to some caves, so we went along for the ride. The caves were a bit of a drive, and we didn't account for the cool temperatures in the mountains that evening, so the truck ride was slightly less pleasant. The caves were really neat though; we entered on bamboo rafts and then, once inside, disembarked to do some exploring. The caves have all of these steep, somewhat sketchy staircases built on the sides so you can climb up and explore some of the different areas. The cave guide was extra excited to show us the caves famous "boob". Yes, that's right, a stalactite that has formed to look like a woman's breast. It's their favorite feature to show. On the way home from the caves, we stopped to watch the sunset. We were actually so close to the Burma border that we were actually looking into the Burmese mountains.

Susnet at the Burma border

When it came time to leave Pai it was pretty rough...who wants to leave friends and great food?! Lyndsay, the other Phuket teacher, and myself still had two more nights in Chiang Mai. One of those nights we got to go to the famous Chiang Mai night market. This market is set up on the weekends and is HUGE. It covers streets and streets with art, food, music and performances, jewelry, clothes, basically anything you could want. We did some damage that night, and I think our wallets were happy we were returning home the next day.

Ok, this is getting lengthy. I will have to touch on some of the other highlights from recent months in my next post. I'll leave you with some bungee jumping photos; we did this on a whim, deciding the night before. The jumps was 50 meters, which really wasn't as high as I was expecting (although mom, you would still hate it). This bungee jumping place is in Kathu, a town not far from Phuket Town, which also boasts a nice little waterfall that we visited. You jump off the platform over a lake, with an optional "dip" at the bottom...I didn't opt for that. It was a fun time!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

3 Weeks in a Nutshell

Amazing sunset in Ko Phan Ngan

I'm going to bypass the apologies for my lack of bloggging lately and just jump right in; hope that's ok.

Don't worry, we shared

So, as promised in my last post I will begin with filling you in on the details (or lack thereof) of the Full Moon Party on Ko Phan Ngan. I'll be honest and say that the trip there was grueling. It consisted of 12 hours of vans, buses, ferries and tuk tuks. When we FINALLY arrived at Haad Rin Beach (the beach where our hostel was and where the Full Moon Party takes place) it still took us a good 30 minutes of walking around before we could find our hostel. Imagine our relief when we could finally drop our backpacks and relax. We met up with several girls that we got to know during orientation in Bangkok the first week. Most of them are teaching in Northern Thailand or near Bangkok so we haven't gotten to see them since, so it was great to all get together again. Full Moon was on Saturday, but we got there on Friday. The night before Full Moon they always have a "Jungle Party". It is exactly as it sounds...a party in a jungle. I'm talking real
jungle - like you have to walk a good 200 meters through some trees and brush to get to it. This party was crazy, there was a huge stage/DJ setup, bars, a muay thai fighting ring, body paint stations, the works. Myself and a few others went back to our hostel around 3 am and the party was still going strong - I couldn't imagine what the ACTUAL Full Moon would be like after witnessing the "pre party".

The next day, after a failed beach adventure, we stumbled upon a bar (purely by accident) with an amazing view and a pool. What more could you ask for? We spent the majority of Saturday lounging around the bar pool deck and taking in the sights (please see amazing sunset photo for reference). Prepping for Full Moon was quite the ordeal. Obviously we had to purchase neon's just a thing. In addition to the neon, we had to adorn ourselves with neon body paint, obviously. Our hostel provided the paint, so we spent a good amount of time being "artsy" while sipping on buckets prior to going to the actual party. When I say buckets, I literally mean buckets. The majority of beverages sold at the Full Moon party are served in a bucket, I wish I could tell you why. Next, it was off the official beach party! To be brief, the craziness that ensued included dance stages, DJs, fire dancers, and general craziness on the beach. It was basically a big rave/party. The night ended at about 7 am for me, so I got a solid 3 hours of sleep before we had to get up and make the 12-hour journey home, woo! Travel is here is a ludicrous process. Basically you buy your travel voucher beforehand at a travel agency and you get a receipt. You show this receipt at the bus station and they slap a sticker on you. This sticker is usually colored and has the name of the place you're going on it. The rest of the trip you're herded around like cattle, and you have no choice but to listen to where you're told to go, because you honestly know no better. Our trip home started on a ferry, then we were shuffled onto a bus. At this point we had already lost half of our group in the travel craziness, we were down to 3. Once off the bus it was straight to a tuk tuk (a sort of open pickup truck). From here we were taken to a holding area of sorts (I think these lengthy waiting areas are just agreements with the business so the disheveled, hungover travelers will buy their food). After about an hour we were then put into 16 passenger vans. Another 2 hour van ride later we were dropped off at Tesco (essentially the Walmart of Thailand) where we had to take a taxi. FINALLY we made it back, around 11 pm or. Work the next day was not fun.

Amazing view from the bar we stumbled upon, whoops!
Banana Beach
Banana Beach
Wednesday after Full Moon was a holiday (Constitution day) so we had no school, woohoo! We decided to go to a little known beach about 30 minutes away called Banana Beach (named for its crescent-like shape) for a day trip. The beach was almost deserted, with about 20-30 people there total, most of which came on long tail boats via some sort of tour and left after an hour or so. To get to the beach we had to hike down a jungle hill - it's pretty hidden, hence the lack of people. The beach itself was beautiful. The water was clear blue and calm, and it backed up to the jungle, lined with palm trees. I'm pretty sure this is the beach that postcards are made of. After a long, hard day of relaxing, we went to meet some friends who had been at a nearby beach for a quick sunset viewing. We ended the day at an adorable restaurant on the way back to Phuket Town which actually had some quite delicious mac 'n cheese. Perfect ending to a perfect day!

Dinner on Rang Hill view
The next weekend was a chilled out one spent in town. We went out for a bit on Friday, but nothing crazy. Saturday Lyndsay (another teacher from my school) decided to take our bikes to go see Wat Chalong (a Buddhist temple just a little south of Phuket), however, as my luck would have it, my motorbike broke down before we even got out of Phuket Town. I ended up having to replace the ignition entirely. Luckily bike repairs are cheap here, and it cost less than $30. However, our plan was thrown off a bit by this time suck, so we just ended up going to Rang Hill. Rang Hill is, well, a hill in Phuket Town which is home to the 2nd biggest Buddha on the island (it used to be the biggest, until the BIG Buddha was built not too long ago). Rang Hill also has a nice lookout of the city and a restaurant that we grabbed some dinner at - it actually had an amazing view. Not the day we had in mind, but a good one nonetheless.

We had the following Wednesday off at school, again, so we decided to do another beach day trip. We went to Ya Nui, a small beach in the very south of Phuket. It was a little rocky, so not as good for swimming, but great for snorkeling! *Note to self to bring snorkeling gear next time*

Approaching Tonsai Bay, Krabi in our longtail boat
Fire dancer at a bar in Tonsai
At this point, midterms were fast approaching. We had one last weekend before the craziness of testing set in, so we decided we should spend it in Krabi. Krabi is actually part of the mainland, but you would think it's an island. It's surrounded by amazing cliffs and has some great beaches. There's also a big rock climbing scene there, so I'm bring my shoes next time for sure! We spent most of our time in Krabi at Tonsai Bay, a teenie little "town" where the electricity is turned off for the majority of the area from 5 pm - 7 am. Tonsai was the most chill, relaxing, not-a-care-in-the-world place. Upon being dropped off on shore by a long tail boat, we walked down the dirt road and found some bungalows in the jungle for pretty cheap - we'll take 'em! After securing our lodging, we suited up for the beach. Railay Beach is a main beach in Krabi and is right next to Tonsai. You have to hike through a jungle to get to it from Tonsai, but it's only about a 10 minute hike. We made the trek and spent the afternoon doing what we do best, lounging around. Some of the girls got foot massages - they will actually come straight to you on the beach, you don't even have to get up! After a long day of beachin', we headed back to our humble abodes, and when I say "humble", I mean a thatched hut with a sink that empties right onto the bathroom floor, whatever. We spent the evening at some of the local bars (there weren't many) watching fire dancers and sharing drinks with the locals. Everyone there is so nice, always saying hi and wanting to chat. We ended the night at Sunset bar, in a tree house with 3 Thai men, singing John Mayer and perfecting our own fire dancing skills. Success. The next morning we had breakfast and sadly made our way back to our island of Phuket, until next time Tonsai!

To make this brief I'm going to wrap up with a couple of funnies...

Student/Teacher converstaions with Ajarn Sarah:

Student: "Ajarn, do you have freckles ALL OVER your WHOLE body?'
Aj. Sarah: "Err yeah, most of your worksheet."

Student: "Ajarn, do you have any kids?"
Aj. Sarah: "No, do I look like I'd have kids?"
Student: "Yeah"
Aj. Sarah: "...Great"

Student: "Ajarn, you have so many freckles, do you have melanoma?"
Aj. Sarah: "I hope not!"

Random, unrelated photo of a monkey in the
parking lot at Rang Hill
As you can see my student never cease to entertain with their comments and questions.

Another recent occurrence that had me stifling my laughter was in a bookshop in town. I was just looking around, perusing if you will, when I hear a Shania Twain song coming from the Christmas display. When I investigate further I discover it a singing Santa figure, shaking his hips to none other than Shania Twain's "Gonna Getcha Good" - "Don't want ya for a weekend, don't want ya for a night, I'm only interested if I can have you for life." These lyrics sound a little creepy coming from a Santa, and I'm not sure what the marketing team was thinking, but I actually almost bought it due to its pure absurdity. Oh Thailand, you've done it again.

As I conclude this post, I have to admit that I'm leaving out my family's Christmas visit and my own trip to northern Thailand for New Year's, along with our recent school trip to the south of Thailand. I promise to cover all of these in my next blog, which shouldn't take as long to get up since I'm done with trips for a while and back to real life.

I'll leave you with the link to this music video filmed entirely in Thailand :)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Island Trips and Holidays Away from Home

Ferry ride to Koh Yao Noi

The above photo was taken en route to a little island last-minute getaway last weekend. We'd been talking about it during the week, but hadn't planned anything yet. After seeing the Hunger Games last Friday (yes, they have movies in English here), we were all hanging out and just decided to get up early and go. So Friday morning we packed a bag, hopped on our bikes and headed to the pier where you can take a ferry to the island (Koh Yao Noi). It's only a few bucks to take the ferry, and for less than $10 you can also take your bike on the ferry. This ended up being a wise choice, because the pier actually has a lot of monkeys who will reek havoc on your bike if you leave it - I literally saw one eating someone's bike seat. On the way there we sat on the top of the ferry, which is where this photo was taken. The ferry ride was really awesome because you could see all the "floating islands" and it was gorgeous.

Once we got to the island we biked to this cute little area where they've recently built some little bungalows right on the water. One of our friends in our group had been there before and it was where he had stayed previously. It's owned by a local Thai family and they're adorable. It's technically "high season" so the bungalows were going for about $30/night, but we talked them down to $25. Not bad for a place right on the water! Shortly after we arrived it rained (booo rainy season is supposed to be over!), but it resulted in this awesome rainbow!

The evening we arrived the tide was out, which made for
some really neat photos!
After hanging out on the island all day, we went to a local Italian place for dinner and it was soooo delicious. They had an English guy there who was playing some great cover songs, and they had WINE! Wine is hard to come by here, and it's expensive...but it was worth it.

Last picturesque photo from Koh Yao Noi
We had to leave the next day, but not before we ordered some amazing breakfast from our bungalow owners - I got some banana pancakes with honey which were so good - but the best part was that they bring it out to you, so we got to eat right on the beach.

So basically island trips are awesome and I can't wait to go back!

Once arriving back in Phuket Town it was back to real life. School went smoothly last week and I was definitely entertained by my 7th graders. They had an assignment where they had to pair up and do mock interviews. The interview questions were ones that are commonly asked, including "What are your weaknesses?" The kids had a tough time understanding how to answer this, but I had to laugh when I saw "I'm ticklish" and "I'm scared of lizards" as answers to that question.

Thanksgiving dinner, not too shabby!
Thursday was Thanksgiving and were weren't sure what we were going to do. Most of the teachers here live in little apartments which don't even have real kitchens, so a potluck or "friendsgiving" was out of the question. We went to a trivia night at a local bar on Wednesday and the bartender was handing out "free Thanksgiving meal tickets" to the first 25 people there. It turns out the bar is owned by an
American and she was hosting a Thanksgiving meal there. FREE Thanksgiving you say? With real turkey? Sign me up! The bar was packed with expats the next night. Luckily we sat close to the food table so we got to everything before they ran out :) It was actually really good - better than I ever could have hoped considering I figured I might be dining on fried rice and pad thai for Thanksgiving dinner. There was turkey, stuffing, rolls, mashed potatoes, GRAVY, the works. I went home fat, happy and thankful.

This past weekend was a fun one. We went out with some of the other teachers on Friday after work to celebrate one of their birthdays. I actually learned that one of our English teachers, Peter, who is from Australia, went to University of Hawaii, which is where my mom went. Upon further investigation, I also learned that his mom is from Hawaii and went to the same high school as my mom, what are the odds!? It's a pretty small world. Another English teacher who came through the same program I did, knows my childhood best friend who lived down the street from me in California. He lives in D.C. now which is where she's from, wild.

Anyways the night continued and we stayed out until 1 or 2 in the morning. One of the other teachers was planning on doing a run Saturday afternoon, and of course in my semi-inebriated state I told him I would love to tag along! Imagine my surprise when he held me to it the next day. The run is actually something this group does every Saturday here - they're called hash runs and their slogan is "A drinking group with a running problem". I believe they have these groups all over, but this is the Phuket chapter. Each week is at a different location, sometimes a beach, sometimes a jungle, etc. This run was a jungle about 15 minutes away. The way the run works is that you take off and follow a paper trail (literally, it's bits of colored paper scattered around). Sometimes the trail will lead to a dead end or be a false trail, which we of course happened upon more than once. After about an hour we finally made it back (the total distance was probably less than a 5K), but it was pretty fun. After the run everyone circles up and drinks beer and hangs out. The majority of the hash running group is old white men who make fun of each other and make people drink for various reasons including doing something stupid during the run, etc. I was called to the middle of the drinking circle with a handful of others because it was our first time there. We had to drink cup of beer without using our hands, and then got iced water poured all over our backs. Fun?

Inside the zorb ball!
After the hash run we were talking to a few other teachers that we ran into there (who work at another school). They said they were going to a big event with a bunch of other teachers from all over Phuket. It was an all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-zorb party. What is zorbing you ask? A zorb is a giant inflatable ball which you get inside and roll down a hill. Obviously we agreed to join and went straight from our run. These zorbs had water in them so you're constantly slipping around - it's impossible to stand. Because we went at night I didn't get great photos, so for the sake of understanding I'll put this photo I found online. If you ever get the opportunity to zorb I highly recommend it, it was so fun! You can also put multiple people into a zorb at one time, which makes it even more interesting (and if your zorb partner has pointy limbs or sharp nails, maybe more dangerous). Perhaps the funniest part of the zorbing was the fact that they had us wear life jackets inside the ball. "Were you zorbing into a pool of water?" you may ask? No....the life jackets were for the 6 inches of water inside the ball that they put in to make it more slippery. Not sure what a life jacket is going to do for you in 6 inches of water, but first?

After zorbing a bunch of people were going to Patong (Thailand's notorious party beach). Of course we decided to join, why not? Soooo what I thought would be a simple afternoon run turned into a zorbing-and-partying-until-4am night. Not even mad about it. I will say showering after all of craziness was great....sweaty hash runs followed by being doused in zorb water makes for a pretty gross feeling.

Atlas moth, larger than my hand!
Ok, this was really long and I think I need to wrap things up. Stay tuned for my next blog, which will include my first full moon party experience, which is happening next weekend! I'll leave you with this photo of an Atlas moth I spotted at school the other day. World's largest moth species!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Livin' the Thai Life

Nai Harn Beach
Coming up on a month in the "Land of Smiles' and every day gets a little easier. The transition was rough the first week at our new schools. Being thrust into a new job with zero experience in a country where almost no one speaks's not the simplest of transitions. We're now in our 3rd week of classes and my lessons are going smoother by the day. My 10th graders are great - so eager to learn and excited for the lessons. My 7th graders are...well they're a fun bunch. A little more difficult to control, but overall good kids and they can understand most of what I say, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the other teachers in other cities. All of the kids here are given nicknames by their parents when they're young....the nicknames are typically a random English word, but sometimes an actual name. These can be very entertaining. Some of my favorites of my students include Milk, Cartoon, Thanks, Copter, Spy, Bonus and Magic.

Loy Krathong Festival - Chalong Pier
Our first weekend here we went to Loy Krathong Festival. This is a Thai celebration in which they send off little boats made of flowers and banana leaves with candles or incense into the river and other bodies of water. These boats are used to signify casting away hatred and negativity, and you can make a wish as you send your boat off into the water. Also, couples will often cast away their boats together. They say if your boats stay side by side you're meant to be together, but now many couples will just tie their boats together before they put them in the water....I guess this makes for a less awkward Loy Krathong. We went down to a nearby bay to send off our boats, but many Thais will also go to rivers for this festival.

Crystal clear waters at Nai Harn!

This past weekend we had a 3-day weekend due to the Asia Beach Games. This year, Phuket was chosen to host the Asia Beach Games. This is basically a week of sports competitions that take place on some of the larger beaches. The games include things like beach volleyball and surfing, but also things like basketball and handball. All of the schools were advised to close on Friday due to the heavy traffic and craziness with Asians coming in from all over for the games. Many of our upper level students are actually out this week working the games. Most of them are acting as translators and are even getting paid for each day they're there.  While the games sounded fun, we were ready for a calm beach weekend away from crowds. Myself and another teacher chose a smaller, less touristy beach in the very south of Phuket called Nai Harn. Friday afternoon we packed our backpacks and got a taxi - didn't even have a plan, but that's kind of how you have to do things around here. The taxi dropped us off right on the beach...we hadn't really thought things through, so we ended up having to make a 20-minute walk back towards town to find a place to stay and drop our stuff off. After going to a couple places, we finally found a little bungalow for 800 baht/night ($26 U.S.) with A/C and hot water - we'll take it! We hastily dropped our stuff off and immediately set off for the beach (again). Luckily our place was close enough to walk. Nai Harn is an adorable little beach with a cape to the left side. While there were plenty of foreigners there (lots of Russians actually), it had a little bit of a local feel. The water was beautiful and the temperature was perfect. The first day there were some sizable waves, even a couple surfers were out. The next two days, however, it was pretty calm.

Promthep Cape
So that's how most of the weekend was spent, days laying out on the beach, nights spent trying the local fare and hitting up the only bar in town "Reggae Bar", appropriately very chill and beachy. The 2nd night we were there we went to Promthep Cape, the cape that juts out just to the left of the beach. There's a lookout area above it where you can catch beautiful sunsets, so that's just what we did. Following the sunset we found an adorable Italian place that actually had pretty delicious pizzas. The only downside of the day was that I left my sunscreen in a cab. We only spent a few hours on the beach the next day, and I even borrowed my friend's 30 SPF sunscreen, but it was no match for this whitey. Needless to say it's 2 days later and I'm still looking (and feeling) like a cooked lobster. Oh well, mai pen rai (have you gotten used to this saying yet?).

Oh! I almost forgot a bit of exciting news. I'm now the official owner of a scooter! Most people in Thailand use motorbikes or scooters to get around. I bought mine off of another English teacher who is moving to a nearby island and won't need it anymore. It's not fancy, but definitely comes in handy here.  The non-existent sidewalks and plethora of street dogs roaming around makes walking more dangerous than I'd like. I'm still getting the hang of it, but I've driven it around a bit (even ventured out to the store tonight and drove back with TWO grocery bags! #wild). I'll include a photo of the scooter too. It's got some sassy stickers on the front including a Guns 'n Roses sticker and a peace sign....sweet. My goals is to get confident enough in the next couple weeks to take it to a beach. Most of the beaches are about a 20-30-minute drive from Phuket Town, so having your own transportation helps a lot with day trips, etc. I'll keep you updated on scooter progress, but for now I'm taking baby steps. Until next time, sawatdee kha!

My little Yamaha Mio

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Better Late than Never...

Somewhere over the Pacific ocean
First of all, let me apologize for this long-awaited first blog post. The truth is I've been here 2 weeks and JUST got internet in my apartment #FirstWorldProblems. I'll try to make this brief, though I could probably write a book.

The trip here was long, I mean looooong. Also, Asian flights like to serve you meals constantly. They served us "dinner" at 2 AM on the red eye out of L.A. It was 4 AM for my body clock so I wasn't feeling the weird chicken rice meal, but you take what you can get. All in all, after 3 flights and one lengthy layover, it was 27 hours of travel from St. Louis to Bangkok. In that time I managed to get about 6-7 hours of sleep, so needless to say I was struggling when we finally arrived.

Once in Bangkok, a bus picked us up to take us to our hotel. Our hotel was considered "close" to the airport, and it was at least a 30-minute ride. Maybe that gives you some idea of how HUGE Bangkok is.'s one giant sprawling skyline, I can't even tell where the actual city is. Once arriving and receiving our rooms in our hotel which was, well, not the fanciest thing in the world, we decided we had to keep awake to make sure we would sleep through the night and not wake up at 4 AM...which happened to many. We decided the local bar would be the best option after our long journey. Before long it was packed with about 50+ "farang" - this is what the Thais call foreigners. My roommate and I called it a night around 8:30 and passed out for a good 11 hours, it was awesome.

Shots from the Royal Palace
For the sake of keeping this brief, I'll sum up the bulk of the week in a few short words. Orientation basically consisted of a week of Thai language classes, teaching prep classes and other presentations sprinkled in here and there on the Thai education, culture, etc. The Thai language was somewhat helpful, but it was a lot to take in at once. The teaching prep class ended up not helping me much at all due to the fact that it was geared towards those teaching very basic English to entry-level students, and I had been placed at an international school with upper-level students teaching computers, technology and occupations (I know...what?). We still managed to have fun though - we went out on the town one night to a Bangkok bar with a pretty legit DJ, and tried out a decent Mediterranean restaurant the next night (which actually had pizza...and it was pretty delicious after a week of fried rice!). We also took a trip to the Royal Palace, which is absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail on every building was wild. Many of the temples had hand painted "wallpaper". The outsides were also intricately decorated with tiny tiles and gold leaf. I could make an entire post of those photos, but I'll just include a sample here. My Facebook page has more :)
The best part of orientation was the end of the week when we made our way to Kanchanaburi, a town a couple hours outside of Bangkok which is BEAUTIFUL - lots of mountains and lush green jungle.  Though we were only there one night, we stayed in a really nice hotel right on the River Kwai with an awesome mountain view.
View from the hotel balcony in Kanchanaburi

Bridge over the River Kwai
In Kanchanaburi we got to do several really cool things. First we went to The Bridge over River Kwai - the story behind it is quite tragic, but there isn't really any signage near the bridge that explains its significance. Just looking at it, it just looks like a bridge's not fancy, but it's historical. There was a large Buddha statue you could see from the bridge that was pretty neat.
 That night we had a big dinner on a "floating restaurant" which is basically a flat raft barge thing that can be tied to others depending on how many people there are. We cruised down the River Kwai and then a DJ started playing some dance music and had a light show and everything. By the end of the 3-hour boat party, however, we were all pretty wiped out. We had to rest up for the upcoming day at the elephant park!

The next day we loaded up onto our bus and went to the elephant park. Upon arriving I was a little concerned because the baby elephants were cuffed inside their gate, however, after spending some time there and doing a little research after leaving I think it was a pretty reputable place. We almost immediately jumped on some elephants' backs and began a trek around the park. Myself and a friend were sitting on the seat of one elephant when our manhout (elephant trainer) jumped off and had us sit bareback on the elephant while he led and took photos. When our ride was finished we got to see the baby elephants (roaming free at this point) and feed them bananas as they did tricks. They were really cute and very social...and LOVED bananas! To wrap up the day we got to float down the river on some bamboo rafts, which offered some beautiful views. Some even got in a floated down the river in their life vests. Sadly, after a fun-filled day, it was time for us to head back to our Bangkok hotel where we were to meet our school coordinators and make our long journeys (for some) to our schools. For myself and the 2 other girls at my school, we didn't even know how we were getting to Phuket. By bus it was 11 hours, so we were praying for a flight, but hadn't heard anything yet.

When we got to Bangkok we were greeted by our coordinator, Took. The good news was that we had a flight, the bad news was that it was at 10 PM (we got back around 1:30). This meant lots of bonding time in the airport. We also had to say goodbye in Bangkok to all of our friends from orientation. In just a week we'd made a lot of good friends, so it was tough to leave! When we did finally arrive in Phuket after a LONG day, one of the girl's luggage didn't make it. Somehow it got left in Bangkok. Once we tracked down the missing luggage, we headed to yet another hotel. We were under the impression we were moving into our apartments/permanent living situations that night, so the thought of living out of and lugging around our suitcases for another day wasn't so great. However, the hotel they put us in was nice, so there's that.

The next morning we had orientation at 9 (could've used a few more hours of sleep to be honest). When we were picked up we were informed we were actually going apartment hunting! This was news to us since we thought our housing accommodations had already been picked out. It turns out the ones advertised to us aren't used anymore because a girl got robbed outside of it in the past....yeah I'll pass on that. They took us to a pretty nice apartment building, which happened to have 3 rooms available. We went to lunch after, but when we went back to sign contracts, one of the apartments had been swiped! Of course I was the one displaced, so one of our school department heads made a few calls and got me a place not far from the school. It's pretty nice, but I have to pay $1,000 baht extra per month compared to the other apartments and I'm by myself, but it could be worse.

After a weekend of moving, Thai American cover bands, near death experiences due to charging angry street dogs, and a few other dodgy experiences, our first week was upon us. The first day wasn't so bad teaching-wise. It was your basic "introductory" lesson, but the reality of teaching really set in. Myself and the other 2 teachers all had classes we hadn't been expecting, and were told to create unit plans and lesson plans for all of our classes. Remember, none of us has taught before,  much less made a lesson plan. As I previously mentioned, our students speak pretty good English, so I might as well be teaching computers, tech and occupations to American students. Each night this week has been devoted to lesson planning (which I actually have to get on right after this post), but I think we'll get ahead of it soon enough and get to enjoy our time outside of school with more fun activities. I'm currently counting down the days to Friday - we're planning our first beach trip and I could not be more ready after a grueling week of awkward first lessons. So there's my "brief" post. Hopefully now that I have internet I'll be able to post more frequently and they won't be so daunting :) Congrats to those of you who have made it this far, you officially have a longer attention span than the 7th grade students I'm teaching. Until next time (which will be soon, I promise), "sawatdee kha!"
Floating down the River Kwai