Pai, Hua Hin and the rest…

Last time we posted I mentioned that we were about to head off to Northern Thailand. Seems like a long time ago now but it was immense. The mission began with the overnight train to Chiang Mai which itself is an absolute occasion.The train is kitted out with bunk-beds and it is one of the most popular ways for backpackers to get from Central Thailand (Bangkok) to the North. We took on some snacks, snuck on some booze, and the job was a good’n. We both slept pretty well and it was really nice to wake up in the morning to see the train passing through the hilly countryside.

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We spent one night in Chiang Mai, where we have already been, so I will not spend too much time on that. Let’s just say Chiang Mai is never a let down.

From Chiang Mai we moved further north, via a mini-van journey which entailed 762 uphill twists and turns, to little town called Pai. We fell in love with Pai as many other people do. The town itself has a strangely wonderful mix of people. Lots of backpackers, lots of hippies, a few Thai rastas and a strong Thai-Muslim community. We spent 4 fantastic nights there and done some immense things. Our favorite thing was learning how to ride a moped. We actually met a great Thai bar owner, who was so passionate about keeping people safe in Pai, that by day he offered motorbike lessons for 150 baht (£3). We done it and loved it. After that, we rented a bike and head through the forest on a bit of a mission. It was such a good experience until the storm came and we had to take shelter in a wooden hut. But that’s a story for another time. Another quality thing to do in Pai is visit the natural hot springs. A pretty tranquil experience and we left feeling pretty good. We also visited another waterfall, a temple at the top of a hill and the Pai Canyon.

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The view after walking up 250 steps to see the temple on the hill.

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Hot Springs. In the picture on the right a man is boiling his eggs in the designated egg boiling area.

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Pai Canyon, Dan wouldn’t let me stand on the edge so the picture on the left is of someone random.

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The waterfall we visited.

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Me (Kelsey) practicing during the lesson.

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If you look close enough you can find our names on the guesthouse wall.

After that we were back in Ayutthaya and back at school. Never a dull moment here. Our friend Michael was having a party/BBQ but before that he decided to organize some pre-drinks on a boat. We took a tour around Ayutthaya and saw some amazing temples and general scenery. At one point we stopped to tow an old woman, a younger woman and a teenage boy, on there long boat because it was raining.

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Boat trip

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On the left a temple on the river. On the right a fellow boat hitching a ride.

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Two little munchkins at the BBQ.

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The following week we had sports day at school. Sports day actually lasts 3 day in our school and, as expected, they managed to involve free food, music and ladyboys. We didn’t really get to join in with any activities but discovered some cool Thai sports. We liked Patong which is a bit like bowls but instead the throw a metal ball on gravel towards a smaller ball. It was surprisingly entertaining. The kids at our school never fail to impress (apart from in class) and it’s actually amazing to see how talented they are.

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The Sports Day Parade.

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Volleyball and 100m Champions.

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……And Cheerleaders.

Following sports day we had another four day weekend because it was the Queens birthday which doubles up as Mother’s day in Thailand. We took this chance to head to the beach. One of the closest beaches to us is in Hua Hin and we also have a friend who lives there so it made perfect sense. We spent four nights there and loved it. We partied pretty hard at night and enjoyed the beach during the day. We decided to get pulled by a jet ski on one of those doughnut thingies and that did not end well for all involved.

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Horse running across the beach.

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Lots of drinking and the best western food we have had so far, a roast!!

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New best friends!

The fun and games is temporarily over for the next 4-5 weeks until our three friends from home arrive and we finish school for 6 weeks. We have managed to save a good amount of money so far for our travels but have picked up some extra tutoring hours to boost our balance that little bit further. I (Dan) am tutoring Mon, Tues, Wed, Fri at the Learning Link and Kelsey is there on a Friday too. I have two students. A thirty something guy who works, in HR, for a Japanese company and needs to improve his business English, and a sixteen year old lad who is studying to get into college. I really enjoy the tutoring and it’s great experience. Especially teaching business English. Kelsey has a group of four girls who are studying towards the exams. She likes it too so we really aren’t too fussed about the extra hours.

As I said, school is coming to an end and it has really flown over. We are preparing our kids for their speaking exams at the minute, then we test them, then it’s the end of term. Absolute madness. It’s been a great couple of months and we are happy to be returning here to teach next term but definitely looking forward to the time off!

Everything up to now

Hello people. We are back. Sorry for the lack of update but we have just struggled to get round to it.

So, where to begin. School is going well at the minute, we have just had a 4 day weekend, followed by another day off mid week, and next week we are off school from Mon-Mon because the kids have their mid-term tests so we are not needed.

We spent the 4 day weekend in Kanchanaburi which is famous for ‘the Bridge over the River Kwai’, the World War 2 Allies cemetery and the 7 tiered Erawan Waterfall. The place was different to anywhere we had been so far. It has a bit of everything, especially; culture, nature, history and nightlife.

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 On the second part of our journey from Ayutthaya to Kanchanburi.

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My Home Guest House, where we spent 3 nights.

We started with the bridge and we were hugely disappointed, and confused, as to what the point of it is. We found out, prior to arriving, that the bridge that masses of tourists flock to is actually not the original ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ nor is it anything to do with the thousands of people who died to build the original bridge. The whole purpose of the original bridge was for access to Burma (now called Myanmar) and this bridge is far from the Burmese border. It is at the end of the main tourist strip, over a random river, which has also conveniently had it’s name changed to ‘the River Kwai’. They have literally fabricated the whole thing in order to promote tourism and cash in on the money of tourists. It is all pretty stupid but we went to check it out anyways.

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 The not so River Kwai Bridge.

The highlight of Kanchanaburi was Erawan National Park where we went camping. The place is amazing and camping there was unreal. During the day we were climbing waterfalls and swimming in the pools.

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By nightfall we were boozing and barbequing with Thai families who had also set up camp. We had our own drink but they invited us into their circle and did not stop feeding us for the entire night. They really do look after foreigners here and they are more than happy to invite us into there lives. It was immense.

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The next morning we woke up early to revisit the waterfall in the hope that it would be less busy, we headed straight for the 4th tier. When we arrived it was empty, we had the pool to ourselves and the natural slides.

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Dan on the baby slide.

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Kelsey on the mans slide.

Anyways, today at school was ASEAN day. It was basically a celebration of the fact that a group of South East Asian countries have recently came together in unity. Something similar to the EU. Our school had a major festival and each country was represented by a different set of students and teachers. They were dressed head to toe in the traditional gear from the regions and had stalls selling cuisine from each nation. Our school loves a big celebration and they definitely know how to organize a party. It was such a good day and the students really, really got involved.

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 One of our Ladyboy students.

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Our attire for the day.

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A variety of traditional ASEAN outfits.

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We are travelling north next week and will be visiting Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pai. We are getting the overnight train on Monday so next time we write we will have more stories to tell.

We have missed A LOT out of this blog because we haven’t updated in so long. We will try to fill in the gaps with some pictures. Enjoy.

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 The elephant world cup in our school.

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Teacher Appreciation Day.

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Dan’s classroom selfie.

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BBQ with our neighbors.

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Visiting the temples on our doorstep.

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Another visit to Ayutthaya floating market.

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Another school festival to celebrate one of Thailand’s greatest poets.

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Jamming with the band.

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Fishing from our balcony.

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Celebrating July 4th with Thais and Americans.

Back to school

We have just finished our fourth day of teaching and so far it has been a crazy experience. We teach two year groups, Matthayom 1 (year 7) and Matthayom 4 (year 10), and each year group has 18 classes with around 50 children in each. Between us, Kelsey and I, teach around 1,800 students per week. The classes are ranked from 1-18 with 18 being the students with the lowest level of English.

The classes can be absolutely mental with kids just bouncing around all over the place but majority of them run surprisingly smoothly. We have Thai co-teachers in each lesson, who help discipline the students when necessary, and a microphone which is our secret weapon when trying to get 50 kids to listen to us. So far we have only taught around 50% of our classes so we are still doing introductions in every class. Next week we are going to be starting with topics from the exercise books that the Thai teachers use in there classes. Other than those text books we have been given no indication of what they expect us to teach. Some Thai co-teachers leave it to us to do whatever we want and others want us to teach from the book. All in all it is pretty chilled.

We teach 18 hours a week and have a lot of free periods during the day. We have to be at school for 8am everyday and on Mondays and Fridays we finish at 4pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 3pm and Thursday we finish at 1pm. We can leave school as soon as our lessons are over so we get plenty of time to ourselves.

We are 2 of 6 native speaking English teachers at the school. There are 2 American girls, a Canadian girl and an American guy. The American guy has taught at the school for 4 terms but the rest of us all started at the same time. On Friday there is a teachers party, on a restaurant river boat, which has been organized by our employers. It should be a good laugh and we get to meet the teachers from other schools too.

We are employed by a company called the Learning Link and they recruit for a lot of schools in the area and employ teachers to work at their centre too. They have really looked after us so far, they drove us around lots of apartments, took us to buy our bikes and generally offer assistance with anything that we need in Ayutthaya.

We don’t start teaching until 10:30am tomorrow so it will be a nice relaxed morning chilling in the air-conditioned teachers room, followed by 1 lesson, and then lunch. The school dinners are amazing and really cheap. You get curry and rice for 20baht which is like 40p and it is sooo good. They sell loads of other stuff too and it is all around 20baht.

So far it is all going really well. I can definitely see that this job will have it’s ups and downs but we plan to stick it out for at least 1 term, save £400 a month, and then travel afterwards.

Let’s see if we are still feeling chirpy by the next time we post…

Arriving in Ayutthaya

After a 9 hour bus journey we finally arrived in Ayutthaya at 5 in the morning. The journey wasn’t too bad, however, we forgot to pack our mosquito spray to hand and were bitten to pieces for the entirety of the trip. When we arrived, on the outskirts of Ayutthaya, we still had the problem of making our way to the apartment with all of our bags. After finally finding a taxi, which was basically just a man in his car chancing it outside of the coach terminal, and getting directions from Andy (The Landlord) we arrived in our new apartment. The apartment is amazing and now we have unpacked it is starting to feel like home, which is good cause we are staying here for at least 4 and half months. On our first day in Ayutthaya we went for dinner with Andy, his Thai girlfriend, and the owners of the apartments Note and his girlfriend (both Thai). The meal was amazing. Dining with Thai’s means lots of different dishes, that you probably wouldn’t have the balls to order yourself, are chosen for you and shared around. Some of the best food we have had so far! After dinner, which was kindly paid for by Andy and Note, we headed to a nearby Buddhist festival which was held for the Royal Ploughing Ceremony. A Thai national holiday to celebrate the start of the rainy season.

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Our apartment is a little bit out of the city center and we knew we needed to figure out a form of transport to get us from A to B. After witnessing the traffic in Thailand, there is no way I would risk getting a motorbike, even though we would be rented one with no questions asked. We have decided to go for, good old fashioned, bicycles as our mean of transport. Baskets, bells and all! On our second day we rented a couple from Note and cycled to the floating market. The floating Market has many different stalls and traditionally the market traders would arrive with their produce by boat and start selling directly from the water. Now this is upheld more for the tradition than the convenience but there are plenty of narrow boats which prepare, cook and sell food from the water to people passing through the market. We purchased some amazing food from the boats, sat on the floor with our legs crossed, knees tucked under the table, and ate it Thai style. Unfortunately we did not take our camera but I think the market is on every Saturday so there will be plenty of opportunities to get some pictures.

We start work on Wednesday and we are both really nervous but also excited as this is after all the reason we are in Thailand.

By the time we write our next post we will officially be teachers in Thailand!

Bangkok and Chiang Mai

So, we are now 9 days into our trip and we have experienced some crazy and wonderful things in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Our flight was amazing and I would recommend Jet Airways to anyone. The plane was pretty empty so we had a row of seats to ourselves, each chair had it’s own interactive screen with games and new films. We watched The Wolf of Wall Street, and American Hustle, on the way to Mumbai and ate some pretty decent Indian food and drank as much as we wanted.

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When we arrived in Bangkok were overwhelmed by everything but really struggling due to tiredness. We opted to get a taxi directly to our hostel thinking that this journey would be straight forward and pretty quick. We were wrong. Our first 2 hours in Bangkok were spent crawling through traffic whilst watching motor bikes weave in and out of the cars. Next thing we know one of the motor bike drivers had been wiped out by a car and was on the floor. First rule of Bangkok, be extremely careful with the traffic because it’s unpredictable.

We eventually made it to our hostel, Nap Park, on Khao San Road. Khao San is famous for being a lively hub for the backpacker community in Bangkok and this was obvious from the start. Long haired hippy looking travelers and young western fun seekers dominated the streets. The place really came alive at night and the bars were thriving! Our first meal in Thailand was bought from a street food vendor on Khao San Road. 2 portions of Pad Thai and 5 spring rolls came to 110 Baht which works out as £2!!!  Not only was it cheap, but it was amazing too. On that night we went out with some fellow travellers from Nap Park and partied on Khao San Road. It is literally mental. Every bar is bouncing and selling booze but the bucket load, street food stalls are everywhere and a pop up market runs through the whole street. We bought 2 pairs of Havaianas for 350 Baht and Kelsey got some baggy hippy pants/trousers for 130 Baht. Everyone told us that we are meant to haggle,which we did, but at these sort of prices we were happy regardless.

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Oh yeah and Dan ate a scorpion.

On the May 2nd it was Kelsey’s birthday and we had booked a really nice hotel on, Soi 33, Sukhumvit Road. It was such a nice place and it was huge. It was more like a luxurious one bedroom apartment than a hotel room. We spent the day sipping cocktails at the roof top poolside. We were splashing around in our swimming gear on the top of a 10 story building surrounded by sky scrapers and city life. We then ordered room service and drunk the expensive beers from the mini bar. We were absolutely thriving. On the night time we stayed local and watched some live music at The Londoner Brewery. It is an English style pub with a Thai edge. It was really good fun and we had a tab open all night which ended up costing way more than we anticipated and required me to run back to the hotel to get our debit card. Second rule of Bangkok, be careful what you spend because not everywhere is cheap!

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We spent 1 more night in Bangkok and we decided to pay a visit to the ladboy cabaret. It was pretty surreal. The next day we were off to Chiang Mai to stay at Julie’s Guesthouse. The guesthouse is immense and the staff are so friendly.We have the most expensive room in the place which is 500baht/£10 a night. They offer beds in the dormitories for as cheap as 80 baht/£1.45. It is crazy cheap! The city itself is immense, it is much friendlier and more chilled than Bangkok. It is easily doable on foot so you don’t have to constantly barter with taxi drivers. Luckily, we arrived on a Sunday just in time for Sunday Walking Street which is a weekly night market that takes over the area on the inside of Tha Pae gate. There are hundreds of stalls selling clothes, handmade crafts, souvenirs, food, drink and much more. It is packed out with a mix of locals and tourists/travelers. We spent our 2nd day walking around some historic temples followed by a Thai cooking course which was surprisingly fantastic. We got to prepare, cook and eat 4 Thai dishes which we chose from a menu. It was 4 hours of cooking and eating, and we managed to create some pretty good grub. Oh and halfway through the cooking course, all going well, and there is an earthquake! The floor shook and the building rattled. Everyone stopped and looked to the Thai people for reassurance and they were all running outside and panicking. It turns out that it wasn’t too bad for us because the actual earthquake was 115 miles away in Chiang Rai. Supposedly it  was 6.2 on the Richter scale but I don’t think there were any fatalities.

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Dan with some of the ladyboy’s after the show.

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Man making glass souvenirs at the Sunday market.

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Dan setting fire to his eyebrows

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Our Certificates for completing the course.

On our 2nd full day in Chiang Mai we arranged to go on a trip to the jungle in the north. We booked it through our hostel so we knew it was going to be quite touristy, but it involved riding elephants, white water rafting and jungle trekking, so we couldn’t resist. It was really really good and definitely one of our best days so far but we wouldn’t do it again. We were really looking forward to spending some time with the elephants but it was pretty upsetting to see the way that they are worked and treated. They are chained up when nobody is riding on them and, from what we saw, they spend the rest of there day walking up and down the same path with tourists on there back. We named our elephant Hercules because of his sheer size and strength. At one point we thought he was about to end it all as he was heading straight for the edge of a cliff, with us on his back, until the trainer managed to call him over  to safety. All in all, we learned from our mistake and will choose our excursions more wisely in future. We plan on saving a bit of money and spending 3 nights at the elephant sanctuary in Ayutthaya to get some real positive experience working with elephants.

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It is time to say goodbye to Chiang Mai for now. We have a coach booked to Ayutthaya at 8pm tonight to begin the next part of our journey…

Saying Goodbye

Hello everyone! First entry into our blog and we have so much to say that I really don’t know where to start. We have just about finished packing and will be heading for Heathrow airport, tomorrow morning, at 5:30am!! The last couple of weeks have been hecktick and surreal. We have had friends and family coming from all over to celbrate with us and say goodbye before we set off for a year. We have had this trip planned for what feels like a life time, we have done everything we possibly can, but we are still panicing over silly things. Thinking about what you need to put in to two backpacks, before moving across the world, is hard work!

We have a 15 hour flight ahead of us, which stops in Mumbai, and we will be landing in Bangkok, on Wednesday at 6:30am (local time). It will be a long day but it will be worth it and we can’t wait. We are flying with Jet Airways, who are an Indian airline, and we have been looking forward to the in flight curry since we booked up. Can’t wait to set foot in the land of smiles! We will try to keep you up to date with how we are getting on.

5 hours to sleep.

Good night.