Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pattaya, the "City of Sin"

After my harrowing adventure at Poipet we headed for Pattaya where we had already pre planned to stay for a couple of nights before heading back to Ayutthaya. Pattaya as you will know is an infamous place in Thailand rife with go-go bars, russian mafia and dirty old men with young Thai girls,  all that being said I figured that I couldnt really come to Thailand and not go to Pattaya. We first went to pick up Fais friend Bew and there we were on our way. We had pre booked a hotel at a resonable price, it had a big room with everything you'd expect of a hotel including a swimming pool, it was slightly out of the heart of the city itself but was still directly opposite the beach. We arrived in the early evening around seven and by nine we found ourselves in walking street, the most infamous street of all. At first glance it lived up to its reputation,  there were many a red light, lots of go-go bars, lots of russians and numerous other farang walking up down in a drunken stupor, thankfully though nothing that I would consider inappropriate.

After walking around drinking on the street for a while we headed into a bar, it was of great benefit to me having friends who are are girls as I knew if I got hassled too much I could just say one of them was my girlfriend. The vibe in the first one I wasnt really feeling so we decided to get a few more drinks from the 7 Eleven and walk along the beach. Here there were dozens of freelance prostitutes but none of them were in your face which is what I thought would happen, we just casually carried on walked around and drinking until we found the perfect bar.

My post cuts short here as I really dont need to write up anymore but what I will say is I had a blast in Pattaya and I was sensible. Pattaya from what I saw was a pretty cool place, I didnt see anything like the media portrays for which I was relieved, in fact Im sure I will return, perhaps for NYE.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Visa run to Poipet, Cambodia

With only a few days remaining on my visa it was time to do the dreaded visa run to activate my second 60 days in Thailand.  There are numerous companys set up to arrange transport and everything for you, but from Ayutthaya to Poipet, the border town in Cambodia it's only a 4 hour drive and Fai said she would take me. I thought we should stay one night in Poipet to break up the journey, I also wanted to visit the casinos, such things that don't exist in Thailand. It's coming up to Christmas and I wanted to treat myself. We found our way to the border very easily and I even drove Fais car for some of it. Upon arrival to the border it was ridiculously unclear on what we were supposed to do or where were supposed to go, we thought we would be able to take the car accross but turns out we couldnt. We found somewhere to park and headed to border control stupidly leaving all our stuff in the car, we thought we could go back to get it but no, we got that very wrong.

After finding a place that looked official (there are dozens of fake touts trying to sell you false information/directions) we handed over our passports and got a stamp officially departing us from Thailand. We then found ourselves in no mans land, we weren't in Thailand, we weren't officially in Cambodia, just on a very bizzare stretch of road full of scammers, casinos and duty free markets. It was then very apparent we couldnt go back to the car. Many expletives were said on my behalf, I knew if I was to go back to the car I would have to activate my second Thai visa thus wasting it. It was then at that point that a guy approached us and said Fai could cross back to Thailand easily so she could grab the bags while I wait, I thought that wasnt too bad so off she went back accross the border while I waited desperately. I figured she should only be 10 minutes but over 20 minutes had passed and I was getting very restless. This place was seriously was a hell hole, I thought she might be in trouble. I decided it was time to ask someone whether I could go back accross the border without activating my second Thai visa, perhaps by paying a small bribe. It was a long shot but to my astonishment they said I could and I didnt even part with any cash. Off I went back accross the border, the wrong way, with no paperwork, it was all incredibly sketchy.

As soon as I was accross I ran straight for the car, here I found Fai with someone I thought was hassling her though I quickly ascertained that he was indeed helping her.  I think he was part of the police or army and he came to her aid after she was being followed and hassled by someone else. I thanked him greatly and offered him a couple dollars, without him who knows what might have happened. After we had our bags we headed back accross into no mans land where I now had to work out how to get a visa to let me into Cambodia.

After chinning off the multiple people offering us bullshit fast track visas I found one place that again looked offcial, they had convincing uniforms but looking back I very much doubt they were. I knew the price was 20USD but he was asking for $35. I told him it was too much and I wouldn't pay it, I tried my hardest to have it dropped but only managed to knock off $1, he had me in a vice really so I had to cough up. He then disappeared across the road somewhere with my passport and 5 minutes later it came back with a sticker. Honestly there were no clear directions here on what to do, I understand the basics of crossing into other countries but this process was absurd.

So here we were in Poipet. My thoughts? That it's an absolutely stinking sess pit covered in clouds of dust and rubbish. You could immediately tell it wasnt Thailand, I mean Thailand has its fair share of rough places but nothing on this! We found our hotel we booked where I immediately cracked into an Angkor (Cambodias national brew) I seriously needed it at this point. After getting our heads together we bravely ventured back out to the streets to hit the casinos.

I expected more backpackers to be in the casinos but in fact I was the only one, the vast majority are Thai who come here to gamble as its illegal in Thailand. I had a 3000 baht limit and played a bit of roullete and pontoon (there was no black jack anywhere?!) The croupiers all looked very jaded and bored and I wasnt really feeling it, after a hour or two I ended up making 500 baht. There was free alcohol so I was playing slowly and just taking advantage of that, it wasn't a good of a night as I had envisioned so we headed back to hotel very much ready to leave the next morning.

We were woken around 6am to excessive traffic noise with people sat on thier horns, it was pain staking. After a few more hours of restless sleep we checked out and headed back to the border. It was here I made the fatal mistake of not properly departing from Cambodia before I joined the hour long que at Thai immigration. After finally getting to the front the incredibly grumpy officer said "you not depart Cambodia,  you not depart Cambodia" I was very confused, I figured the que I was in was to both depart and enter me from one country to the other, I didnt see any other place that I was supposed to go first. I now had to go back out onto the street to find where I obtained the departing stamp, after finding what looked to be the right place I got the stamp, went back to the immigration officer where I was luckily able to jump the que, and there I was, back in Thailand. Thank god!

My first visa run I have to say was nothing but a big headache, I think doing it on my own was a good though, if I had gone with a visa run company who would have done it all for me then theres no real challenge. Its also good because I now know exactly what to do when I finally go to explore Cambodia further in early February. What I also know is I will not be stopping in Poipet, I will cross the border and get as far away from it as quickly as possible.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Beach resort in Chantaburi (English Camp)

After a few days off it was time for the next camp, this one was to be at "Had Saithong Beach Resort" in Chantaburi province, about four hours drive from Ayutthaya. I was really exited for this one, not only was I was going to be do something I love but we were going to be on the beach, I had a feeling it was gonna be awesome. We went up the day before and arrived around 3pm, after check in we headed straight into the sea. It was a beautiful, quiet, secluded spot and the water was so warm. The kids were travelling to us from Sukothai, about 10 hours away, they wernt due to arrive until around 9am the next day so the evening for us was very chilled, we got a fairly early night so we ready for them in the morning.

The next day around 9ish two big buses turned up, there were only 72 kids for this camp with mixed ages (12-17) one kid I noticed had bought a guitar which I really happy about, I envisioned a little jam later on. Once they had all got their room keys and dropped off thier bags we started the program. At first I wasnt sure how well they could speak English as they were a little shy and seemingly very tired but it didnt take long for me to realise these were very smart kids and their English level for most of them was high.

After running the normal activities in the morning we had lunch and then briefed the kids on the afternoons outing, we were going to head to "Kung Krabaen Bay" a nature center not too far from the resort. Here they were given instructions of things to find and take pictures of, it was a great afternoon. When we got back around 4pm we had a two hour break before dinner, all the kids and some of us teachers went straight into the sea, we messed around in there until dinner it was a good laugh. After dinner we had two hours of activities which bought us up till 9pm it was then time for the kids to head to thier rooms whilst us teachers had a well deserved drink. A bottle of Hong Thong later I realised it was 2.30am and well and truly time for bed, the bed I had was hard (something I've noticed very common in Thailand) so I "borrowed" some of the cushions from the outdoor chairs to stick under the sheets, it turned out to be a brilliant idea as I had a great nights sleep although it only a few hours.

Day two came the usual drill, up at 7 for breakfast to start a new action packed day. It turns out the hotel staff thought some of the kids stole the missing cusions whereas they were still on my bed, when the room got made up they realised it was infact one of the teachers, it was pretty funny. After the morning activities it was time for our second outing,  this time we had two places to go, the first "Ocean Sea World" to see a dolphin show and then to "Namtokphilo National Park" to visit a waterfall, the kids group assignment was again to take pictures and also create a short video talking about the different places. It was a brilliant afternoon. Upon returning to the hotel it was straight into the sea again, then dinner, activities and bed time. Much like the night before we got another bottle in and got stuck into that. Half way through the evening Save and Non, two of the kids came and found us with guitar in hand, they should have really been in bed but hey, whatever, none of the other kids were actually asleep anyway. They played us some Thai hits which were really enjoyable. The time came for us to go to bed, tomorrow would be our final day finishing at midday.

I felt a bit sad waking up knowing I would be saying goodbye to such a great group of kids. It had only been two days but I'd made a good bond with some of them. After some awesome games in the morning it was time to say goodbye, the last thing to do was to pick one student from our group to give a prize for being the best overall. I gave this to Boss, a remarkable boy who stuck out to me. He thanked me for everything and told me he would never forget me, that truly meant a lot to me, he will grow up to be an outstanding adult, he will go far as will many of the others.

This camp was by far the best for many reasons, the kids, the location, the trips, it was just perfect. One thing I must point out which didn't impress me (in fact which made me a bit angry) was the blatent use of child labour at the resort. The waitresses can only of been around 15 but the worst was the two boys doing labouring work, one maybe around 12 the other 10 at most, I saw him lugging around bricks and stone basically cleaning up after the builders, the work was too strenuous, he should have been at school. Im not naive, I know this stuff happens in this part of the world bit it is not nice to witness.

I hope to visit some of the students again in Sukothai at thier School, I plan to visit there again with Barnesy my friend who is coming over from England towards the end of January. I have one of the teachers contact details and will call him when im in town.

Today im off to Cambodia to do the dreaded visa run. Fai is driving and we're staying at a hotel in the infamous border town of Poipet filled with nothing but casinos.  We're spending one night there then swinging by Pattaya on the way home for a couple of nights. It will be a little Christmas holiday within a holiday. Im looking forward to it (minus the part of dealing with the Cambodian officials of course)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Lop Buri - Monkey City

Having been in Thailand for a while now and having not seen any monkeys yet, I asked Fai if she would take me to Lop Buri, a town notorious for them roaming the streets. Although she's not the greatest fan of them she said she was happy to drive the hour or so journey so I could see them. Upon arrival to the main center you could immediately spot them hanging off power lines and just wondering the street. The only time I'd seen this kind of thing was at Longleat Safari Park in England when I was much younger. This was kind of like that minus the safari park, these were monkeys were free to do whatever they want.

After parking up we headed to the shop as I wanted to feed them something. I picked up a bag of crisps and put them down on the table outside so I could put my wallet back in my bag, within seconds though, out of nowhere a monkey jumps up and snatches them, it was funny to watch as he sat down, opened them up just like a human, and started eating them the same. The shop keeper came out with a bamboo stick to chase it off, I guess for the people that live in the town they can only be nothing more than a nuisance. As the first bag was snatched I stupidly decided to buy another one thinking "I'll keep hold of it this time". Oh how wrong I was. As I was walking down the street a few clocked onto what I was holding so I hid them under my t-shirt, this proved to be futile though as one jumped up on me and had those away too. I decided that I wasnt going to be able to feed them civilly so I scrapped that idea and we headed over to the "monkey temple" where the vast majority of them hang out.

There is supposed to be an admission charge of 150 baht for farang but as I with Fai and her friend Biw they explained I was a teacher and the fee was wavered. At the temple there were dozens of monkeys of all sizes, the bigger ones were somewhat intimidating but the baby ones were so cute. They pretty much ignore you (I guess because I didnt have any food) but after crouching down by some of the small ones a couple jumped up onto my back trying to open my pockets up and pinch the bracelets on my arm the cheecky monkeys (no pun intended) the keeper (if thats what he's called) warned me to be carefull they dont bite and told me to keep a tight grasp on my camera which I'd already figured. I also didnt want rabies so was being extra vigilant with the little buggers. After playing with the monkeys outside we went into the old temple, it was only after Fai pointed it out to me did I see all the bats hanging from the low roof, it was pretty freaky, I wanted to spook the girls but resisted the temptation to clap loudly as the thought of any of them moving scared the hell outa me let alone them. Just before leaving I had a some water left in my bottle which I wanted to give to the monkeys, I had one jump up on my knee and it was so cool to feed it, Fai filmed it and at the end of it another monkey out of the blue jumps up on her to snatch the camera, she kept it safe though, it was all pretty crazy.

After the monkey visit we headed to Pasak Dam, the largest resoviour in Central Thailand, here we fed hundreds of fish scrambling around in the water with a couple dozen large soft bagettes, it was great was fun. The dam is here to not only generate power but to prevent flooding at the place I am currently living, Ayutthaya.

Tomorrow I head to Chantaburi on the border of Cambodia to work another three day camp, since my last post I've worked a three day camp in Ayutthaya with kids that had travelled to us from Surin province. This camp was much diffrent as the hours were considerably longer, rather than the usual 8.30 till 4 this was 8.30 till 4 and then 7 till 9. What was great about this camp though is that we went on field trips to the temples and floating market which made it all that much more fun, but at the same time all that more exhausting. This next camp is the same hours but ive caught up on some sleep now and im ready to rock and roll.

Monday, 25 November 2013

More English Camps and my new apartment

I've now worked at four English Camps and each has been incredible. The days are long, hot and tiring but it is an amazing experience none the less. Each camp is held at a diffrent school and its fun to be in a new place as I never really know what to expect. The second camp I did was actually teaching Thai teachers English, some of whom had been teaching for more than 20 years, it was strange to have them listening to me. We ran a similar program to the one we did with the kids and they got almost as silly and as loud as the kids did. It was a good chance for them to let thier down, they all really enjoyed it.

The third I worked was held at a scout camp, it was three hours drive away so we went up the night before and stayed over. When we settled in we were invited to drink whiskey and sing karaoke with the scout leaders/teachers but sadly I had to decline, I was shattered from a heavy one the night before so I had to get an early one. 10AM the next day, when it was break time, I disappeared down to the lake to have a ciggy. Here I came accross three of the teachers still awake, still drinking, and karaoke was still being sung. Obviously they had the day off and apparently a 24 hour karaoke party is the norm in Thailand but it was just so strange because it was all happening on the grounds, that definitely wouldn't happen in England. The English Camp with the scouts was good, they were 16-18 years old and most enjoyed it but I got the feeling the level of English they knew was low and nobody wanted to volunteer for anything, I had to almost drag some students to the front to get them to do anything. The camp was only a one dayer and in the evening we headed back to Ayutthaya where I was given the keys to an apartment, I was told so long as im working for LS I can stay here for free, I was pretty chuffed with that as it will save me a fair bit of money.

My first thought on opening the door to the apartment was that is was quite big, bigger than the rooms I've been staying in at the guesthouses.  It is basically one room with double bed, wardrobe, dressor, fridge and TV. It has AC and a fan, a pretty big bathroom and small balcony to hang out the washing.  My second thought of the aprtment was that it was filthy! My company rent this long term and have various people stay in it that work for them, I dont think any of them bothered to clean the bathroom in a long time and the sheets on the bed were only good for burning, luckily though there was a clean set so I could change them. I was pretty tired again so switched on the TV searching for for something English, my options are CNN, HBO movies and MTV. I got an early night again as I had to be up at 6AM for another camp.

Upon arrival to this new school I discovered we would be teaching primary kids of 10/11 years old, I was exited for it. There were 250 of them so I had a big group of nearly 40 to look after,  they had bundles of energy and it was a full on day. It was extremely hot that day as we were outside with no fans but this camp turned out to be my favourite of them all. All the kids were willing to participate and there was no shortage of volunteers for anything, they truly were great kids. This camp was again only a one dayer and for the last activity we did the baloon toss, it pretty much turned into a huge water fight, it was a good laugh for all. At the end of the day we headed back and I went back to my (still dirty) apartment.

The following day was cleaning time, I asked my friend Fai to take me to big Tesco so I could get all the bits I needed. It was predominantly a lot of bathroom cleaner stuff to random bits like coat hangers and a small rug. I also wanted to buy foam padding to put on the bed as its harder than concrete. After a couple hours at the mall I had successfully aquired everything I needed, and in fact half of the stuff Fai said she could lend me which saved me some money. When we got back she offered to help me clean, I said of course she didnt have to but she insisted, she turned the bathroom around completely while I sorted the room out, she also cleaned the fridge and balcony for me. When everything was done I felt much better, im going to be here for a month of more so I wanted to make it nice. The only thing I need now is a big poster for the wall.

In the evening to say thank you I bought Fai dinner, she took me to a place I hadn't been to yet, it was a weekend market with food, clothes and.. pets. There were a vast array of animals for sale including, believe it or not, an alligator for 12,000 baht (£240). I felt pretty bad to be honest although surprisingly most of the animals looked reasonably well kept and healthy. We went to a bar to grab some food and shortly after sitting down two guys walk past with a frigging elephant! They were selling bananas so you could feed it but I found it highly unethical, the place we were was no place for an elephant. After a couple beers nature was calling so I went to the toilet, here I was taken suprise by an impromptu neck massage half way through peeing. Luckily I had read online that this happens in some places or I would have been seriously concerned. They have an attendant in there who comes behind you with a hot towel and starts giving a neck massage while you empty your bladder. When I was finished he then clicked my back for me, it was invigorating but very weird at the same time, I gave him 20 baht as a tip. Thailand never ceases to amaze me, everyday there is always something.

Last night I went to the cinema with Fai to watch the hunger games, they dont currently have any English speaking movies but I was happy to watch the subtitled version,  she called to check it had subs but there must have been miscommunication as when the movie started there were no subs in sight. I tried it for about half hour and fell asleep, shortly after so did Fai, she said the translation was very hard to grasp and she hadn't seen the first one either so we left. We went to a cool Thai bar where I was the only farang, later on we grabbed a bottle of Hong Thong and headed back to my (clean) apartment.

I have a few more days off before the next camp, this one will be a three dayer. I'm not quite sure where it is, in fact I never really do untill I get in the car. Im looking forward to it. On Wednesday Fai is taking me to Lop Buri about an hour or so north because I want to see the monkeys there that roam the temples.

Sorry this was a long post but I was a bit behind, I'd like to break up paragraphs with pictures but I write this from my 7" tab with the blogger app which is buggy. If I upload a pic it throws all the formatting out and takes a long time to correct which is why I havent bothered. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

My first English Camp in Thailand

It all started with a 6AM rise, I got out of bed, sorted myself out and headed to the office. Here awaited me a ride to the school; the first I would have ever set foot in in Thailand. Nervous was an understatement, I thought I was nervous going travelling on my own but this was something else, the plan for the day was extremely vague and I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

Just over an hour later we arrived, at "Princess Chulabhorns College, Pathumthani (Regional Science School)" it looked pretty modern and I was just praying it had air conditioning, after a quick security check point at the gate we headed to the hall. The staff consisted of: three Thais, two Americans, one Tibetan, one Ugandan and and myself, British. Upon entering the school hall I was relived to see and feel 16 air conditioners blowing down from the wall; that was the first worry over. After the opening ceromony we had to introduce ourselves to nearly 200 kids (girls and boys aged between 13 and 14). I was then pretty much dropped in the deep end, I was to be in charge of 30 Thai kids for the next two days with little or no guidance, just some very basic instructions, lets just say I had to think on my feet very very quickly, initially just getting them into a cirlce was challenge enough so I really was thinking wtf am I in for here. After some rapid ideas though, I had it sorted. My next mission was to get them all to think of a team name and a chant, most of them spoke reasonable English whereas others didnt, in the end we came up with the "Komodo Dragons".

To decribe the rest of the day would be very difficult but with every hour I was becomming more at ease,  the majority of the kids were very respectful and I was wai'ed to frequently. For those that dont know, in Thailand they have the "Wai" this is a traditional sign of greeting and thanks, it involves placing ones hands together and performing a bow. I havent fully mastered it, I think the higher position or status of the person the higher you hold you hands and the lower you bow. As a teacher you are (generally) granted the upmost respect, expect by the kids that see farang teachers as a joke, (kind of like I saw supply teachers when I was younger I guess) In Thailand, Thai teachers can hit the children whereas farang teachers generally cant, the kids know this so sometimes dont show as much respect but I never had any problems. I managed over the day to improve more and more and was able to get alomst all of the kids engaged,  it helped a lot once they got to know me and I no longer felt any apprehension or nerves.  The whole day was filled with a lot of dancing, singing and games and I worked up a serious sweat even with the air con on. One of the main games I ran involved big flash cards with letters from the alphabet. They were all spread around in the middle of the circle and I had a list of words that I would get them to spell. Instead of me teling them the word I would ask a basic riddle, for example, "I am a big animal very famous in Thailand",  they then scrambled on the floor and held the cards up high spelling out "elephant"  it was a great game. During the day when we had breaks the kids would bring us some snacks and drinks over. Lunch was pretty good too we headed to the cafeteria where we feasted on some delicious Thai food and had a chat to one of the teachers in the school.

The final activity of day was "baloon toss" It was throwing a normal baloon filled with water to your partner then taking a step back each time until it bursts. We obviously went outside for this but only after us teachers demonstrated it inside soaking loads of kids. It was a whole lot of fun. That then concluded the first day, I was absolutely exhausted but on a mega high. I really enjoyed it. The second day was more or less the same, we had some diffrent fun games that we ran with the kids which they all loved. For the final hour we had some drama games to keep them entertained, basically the kids all got very load and very silly which was great to see.

When the two day camp had come to an end we were inundated with requests from kids wanting our autographs,  it took about half an hour before we managed to slip away. It was the perfect end to a great couple of days, it proved that these kids really enjoyed themselves and that we had made a diffrence. It was very hard work and pay was low however it has given me a lot of insight and invaluable experience working with Thai children. I shall certainly being doing a few more of these programs.

Tomorrow I'm actually working a two day camp again but at a diffrent school. This time though its for Thai adults who are teachers themselves, I will be helping them better thier English so they can pass it onto the children. Im looking forward to it.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Making connections with local teachers

I've been in Ayutthaya just a few days and already have met many foreign teachers, most are from England and some American. It happened simply by chance, I was in my local "Street Lamp" sinking some Changs and started talking to some people who were all teachers. I met Nick one of the American ones through another guy I met from Indonesia, he's been here four years and has a wife and two kids, he lives a couple blocks from where im staying which is good. He teaches just a few hours a week as a private tutor and has it pretty sorted. He came over the guesthouse yesterday and we spent all day in the pool, in the evening we went out to his friends restaurant where loads of his mates showed up, again all of them teachers. We spent the night drinking tequila and playing guitar, turns out two of them also play so it was a good night.

A few evenings while I have been here I have sung at Street Lamp with the resident Thai band who do covers. At first I wasnt sure if it was cool to get up but turns out it was, everyone loved it. I have asked them if its possible to work for them maybe playing a solo set during the week. Nick the teacher said he knows the owners (in fact he knows everyone on this street) and knows there is a spare room upstairs of the bar, he says it is possible if I play there and bring people in I could stay there free with food and drink; now that would be sick. We are going for lunch there in a bit so I can talk to the main man about it.

Im bricking it a little as I start this job tomorrow,  I have to get up at 6.15AM but the worst part of it is im not sure how I will handle the heat, its unbearable at times wearing shorts, tank top and flip flops sitting doing nothing. Christ knows what it will be like running around with long pants and shoes on, hey ho, I'm sure ill get used to it.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Back in Ayutthaya, and got me a job!

Well im back in Ayutthaya, it's funny being back at a place you know. I went for a meeting yesterday with Roy from LS Thailand and I now have great new prospects ahead of me. The position I've been offered is working at what they call an "English Camp" its not a camp in the conventional sense like I worked at in America, its essentially a place to learn English through fun and games, everything is prepared so I just need to be my normal enthusiastic self and I should get on just fine. They run these camps normally once a week and they last two or three days. If I like the first one and im happy, I think I will continue to work for these guys for at least a month, maybe two, or maybe more who knows. They have also offered me a second "teacher trainee" position which involves working in a formal school environment teaching children, as well as adults occasionally. The pay for this is low at just 8000 baht a month (foreign teacher salary almost always starts at 25,000 or higher) however along with the 8000 they will pay for a furnished apartment including bills which sounds pretty good to me. After the meeting I had to nip to big tescos (yes they have that here i couldn't believe it) to buy some trousers and shoes as all I have are flip flops and shorts. I start on Tuesday.

Im currently staying at the P.U Guesthouse which is voted number 1 place to stay in Ayutthaya by Lonely Planet. I try to avoid if I can some of the LP reccomendations as it typically drives prices up but this place is pretty reasonable considering it's high season too. Im paying 300 baht a night for fan room and there is a huge swimming pool right outside my door. I told the owner that I'm to be a teacher and she was thrilled. The other morning after I'd just woken up she saw me and said "teacher teacher,  please help me" she had recived an email from a previous customer which she could read but she wanted to reply and struggled with this part, she gave me her phone and dictated what she wanted to say; it was pretty funny. She has a daughter here and her daughter has a friend called Fai who is 22, she speaks some English but wants to learn more as she plans to go to America to study. She has asked me to help her and asked what I charge for private tuition (obviously I hadnt thought of that yet) there was an American teacher staying at the guesthouse once who charged her 500 baht per hour. For the time being im happy to teach her about the English language and England in exchange for her to teach me about Thailand and its language. Last night a few of her friends were at the guesthouse and we talked for ages, it is incredible how diffrent this culture is compared to that in England. I find it fascinating.

This morning I went to the gas station and filled up but unknowingly I only had 40 baht in my wallet, the price was 70. I had to explain "I need go ATM, I come back pay rest" I also had to use some hand gestures as they still did not understand. They had a discussion between them and let me go, 10 minutes later I was back and they were smiling.  Afterwards I had a little chuckle too.

For the next couple of days im going to take it easy, I can see myself being by the pool a lot, I still havent been to an internet cafe to upload pics so I may do that tomorrow. Fai is coming by the guesthouse shortly and she told me she has a present for me.

Pai, what a place!

The small town of Pai has a population of less than 2500 people with a lot of refugees from Myanmar. The town itself is very tourist orientated however it is a very chilled out spot with some very cool people. My days here were used to relax in my hammock and do very little with myself, it was pure bliss. We rented scooters so were able to nip around town to pick up anything we needed. The street food here was the best I'd come across,  my favourite had to be the Japanese Pancakes, the woman seving them up was funny too, she wants to learn how to say thank you in every language of the customers she meets and learnt the dutch one from my friend Ralph. We even got a few spring rolls free for being loyal customers.

We went to a lot of the many bars on offer but the best we came accross had to be the Sunset Bar, owned by a rasta named Pat, and his Australian girlfriend Liane. November the 5th was his birthday and we had a mental party there with people fire eating. We bought Pat some chinese laterns as a present and he sorted us out in return some good glugs of Jager. Half way though the night he summoned me to get on the mic and bust some freestyle which was sick. The party went on until sunrise, a policeman showed up but interestly sat down and had a drink. They were certainty operating past the legal hours but there seemed to be no problem here. At the party I met a kid named Dream from Hawaii who goes to Pai frequently with his mum, he seems to know literally everyone in this town, its his 17th on January 12th and he told me to head back up to Pai for his birthday. If im in the north again around that time I may just do that.

"Dont Cry" was another bar which was pretty sweet too, we went there on the 4th and the owner said if I came back on the 5th to help him light a fire he would give me two buckets for free, unfortunately though I couldn't show because of Pats birthday. I meet some cool Thai people in this bar, one of which gave me the pendant from his necklace offered for good luck. It was a really nice gesture and was gratefully received.

I took an overnight bus last night to get to Bangkok, the whole journey lasted around 17 hours and it was pretty dire, not a lot of sleep was had. I am currently now sitting on a train in Bangkok going to Ayuthaya 1.5hours north, however due to large mass demonstration the train hasn't moved in the last hour. The train track has had a steady stream of people crossing with no sign of it ending. I had seen on the news 10,000 people took to the streets of Bangkok on Monday due to an amnesty bill being passed relating to the political turmoil in 2006. There was a huge riot police presence with road blocks as we entered Bangkok on the bus, I kinda just want to get out of here,  find a guesthouse and go to sleep.
Tommorow I head to LS Thailands office to go over some finer details about my job I, starting next week.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Motorcycling In The Mountains

The last three days in Chiang Mai we spent crusing around on scooters, it was without doubt one of the major highlights of my time so far. It was so easy to get hold of them, we just rocked up to one of the many places renting them and cut a deal paying just 150 baht (£3) a day. We were given 110cc automatics and what blew my mind was the extremely minimal paperwork required to drive these things away. Between seven of us they required just two passports, we were never asked if we had a license or indeed whether we had even ridden before, they didnt even take our names and asked for no deposit, it was maddness.

The traffic in Chiang Mai city was pretty crazy though not as hecktick as I thought it might have been. We quickly learnt the rules of the road are pretty much non existent here. A red light is generally optional to stop, the one way system can infact be two way and if you want to drive on the wrong side of the road past a police car (as a couple of us did by accident) well thats just fine too. It was an amazing rush weaving through the traffic, the bikes were incredibly easy to ride and had plenty of gumph in them to pull out of any sketchy situations.

The real fun came when we got out of the city and onto the quiet open roads. The first couple of days when we went exploring we came accross a temple on top of a hill, it was decorated inside with beautiful spiritual paintings with a spectacular view of Chiang Mai down below. On another adventure we came across some hot springs and boiled and ate some bird eggs (quail I think).

The last day we went out topped them all, it all started off with a mission to find the waterfall we had heard about. Upon finding it we climbed the rocky stairs for a what seemed an eternity until we reached the final fall at level 10. In this spot it was safe enough to get in, it was the perfect way to cool down as we were exhausted and extremely hot by this point. After the falls visit we decided to take the long scenic route back all through the mountains. It was the most exilerating ride of my life, we got so high up we were nearly on par with the clouds.  The roads for the majority of it were fantastic, very  smooth and very windy, it was like something out of Top Gear. Half way through we reached a viewing point where all that could be seen was a large lushous green landscape; it was amazing.

I am currently now in Pai, a small town further north close to the Burmese border. We have a huge group of nearly 20 of us now as we met so many in Chiang Mai. In the next few days I have to leave them all though as I am heading back down south to Ayyuthaya. The office I visited there earlier have contacted me and want me to work at thier three day English Camp which sounds like fun. It doesnt pay much but its a great way to get my foot in the door and gain some experience. They run them every week so I think I may settle in Ayyuthaya and work for this company for a while but ill know more after I work the first one.

Im perched right now in a hammock outside my bungalow. We are at "Darling Viewpoint Resort" which has an incredible view of the mountains right from our balcony. The woman running it is a crazy thai hippy, it's very chilled out here. There a nice little pool too so it feels just like im on holiday yet im paying pittance. I love this country!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Trekking in Chiang Mai washed down with Muay Thai

After having a blast in Sukothai we ventured off to the bus station to take the (supposedly) five hour bus ride to Chiang Mai. We paid for 2nd class tickets at least expecting a seat however this wasnt the case, what we ended up with was essentially a shelf at the back of the bus to fit all seven of us on. There was one mattress on half the side the rest highly uncomfortable steel, what made matters worse was the air conditioning was constantly dripping making the whole place wet. It was an interesting painful ride that actually lasted seven hours instead of the advertised five, but hey, this is Thailand.

Upon arrival we headed to JJ guesthouse, the lady here was trying to sell us some tours that they do and offered a discount for our group, we decided on the one day trek consisting of a visit to: an orchid and butterfly garden, elephant riding, white water rafting, a visit to the long neck tribe village and a walk to a waterfall. The day was incredible, I have never done anything like it. Riding the elephants was fantastic, half way through I moved from the chair and rode right at the front of it desperatly keeping my balance. The long neck tribe village was bizzare, I'd seen it on telly before and really dont understand it, I guess its their tradition but im not entirely sure how ethical it is for them to have tourists walking through every single day, truth be told it was like visiting a human zoo. The white water rafting was incredible, a proper rush in some of the wilder rapids. On one of the calmer straight paths we jumped out and let the river carry us for a bit I narrowly avoided some serious damage to my feet and legs on rocks but it was awesome. After some freshly prepared pad thai for lunch (the best ive had so far in Thailand) we had a little trek to the waterfall, this spot was so good, our tour guide told us we could slide down it from the top and it would be safe, I was cautious at first but after he showed us himself I did it; over and over again. It was so refreshing as the water was freezing. That then concluded the trek and we headed back to the guesthouse.

In Chiang Mai they have Muay Thai fights every night. The lady at our guesthouse said she could get us tickets at a discounted price so we took 16, this was all of our group plus the others we had met on our trek. The seats we got were excellent, she must have a hook up there as less than half hour in, me and a few others were upgraded to VIP ringside for free. It was a brilliant night and we placed some small bets between us to spice it up further. Later came the final big fight of the night, New Zealand VS Thailand. It was a tough call on who would win and it ended with the Kiwi winning. When it was over we all headed to a bar that turned out to be the same place all the fighters were drinking too, I went over and got a picture with Richie, the champion of the night.

Our plan is to stay in Chiang Mai for a few more days. As my group only have two more stops before they want to go to Laos I may stay here and try to settle for a while but im still undecided. One of our friends Chooks is leaving to go back to London and tonight is his last night so were going for a nice meal somewhere.

Ive just come back from an amazing massage from a place that is literally next door to our guesthouse, it cost me £2! Tomorrow I think we are renting some scooters and going exploring.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sukhothai, Thailand's first capital

Getting to Sukothai was a breeze, a short bus of just an hour. When we arrived we were greeted by a couple of tuk tuk drivers offering us a ride to the "4T Guesthouse" it was bungalow accommodation with a pool, it looked pretty sweet and was a good price so we decided to take them up on it. As soon as we put our bags down we dived straight into the pool, it was a beautiful relief from the hot Thai sun.  In the evening we checked out a few of the local bars and by the end of night we had become a group of around 25 with people from all over the world. We invited them all back to the guesthouse for a pool party and it turned into an seriously good night, we partied long into the early hours. In the morning, while all the others were still in bed nursing hangovers, I headed back to the pool. I ended up  being in there for four hours playing frissbee with Jan, a German kid here with his parents.

Once the others surfaced we decided to head to the old city and hire bikes. The guesthouse staff said though that there wouldnt be time to get round it all on bikes. As an alternative they suggested taking a couple tuk tuks and thier driver's would take us all around on a tour, after some discussion on price we whittled it down a bit and set off. The day was spot on! The drivers were so funny and very knowledgeable, the tour was supposed to be three hours but ended up being over four, we had such a good day that we treated them to dinner, we gained a lot of knowledge through these guys, of Thailand, and the orginal capital city Sukothai.

On the way back to the guesthouse we drove past a car crash scene with police everywhere, we slowed to have a look and at the last moment I spotted Jan and his parents; it was them involved in the crash. We got out the tuk tuk to check they were ok, luckily nobody was hurt but the car had done a 360 in road. Jan was very upset and shaken up and his dad was having a nightmare trying to talk to the police. His English is bad and even if it were good Thai police generally dont speak English so there was no way they would have got this sorted. Our driver Dom saved the day by speaking to the police, our Dutch friend Steven also speaks some German so going three ways the information got through. They had to go to the police station to confirm insurance details, they had insurance so it looked like it would all be fine. Dom told us they could be at the station some time so Jans dad asked me if I would look after him and take him back to the guesthouse. I talked to him all night via a translator app on my tab, he told me he is an inline speed skater and competes nationally, when he is 18 he hopes to make the commonwealth games, he was a cool kid. Three hours later his parents returned and everything was sorted, they would have a new car delivered the next day.

Our guesthouse, the staff and its tuk tuk drivers made our experience in Sukothai. If I find myself there again I shall certainly return to the 4T Guesthouse. Our next stop; Chiang Mai

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Party in Phitsanulok

My last night in Ayutthaya was not a pleasant experience. This was soley made up by the fact I ended up in a room, where while I was sleeping, I was awoken by a ridiculously large disgusting cockroach walking accross my face. At first I thought I was brushing off a fly but when I swatted my face and opened my eyes I saw this monstrous thing fly accross the room. I immediately jumped out of bed to work out what the hell I was gonna do. I had to get it in a good place to swat it and finally, when i could, I hammered that thing hard with my sandals. It was nasty!

Having sorted out a contact for some teaching work later in my travels I went to the train station to head north 4 hours to find my friends at Phitsanulok. Later that evening we headed to the night market, picked up a t-shirt then hit the waterfront where there was a strip of little bars. The place we sat down at was great, it was full of Thais not a single foreigner or "farang" as we are known. The table next to us was a family having a birthday party, there was a live band playing Thai hits which were very good. When certain songs came on all the kids at the table went mad, they all got up started dancing and clapping so we all got involved too. They absolutly loved that we joined in and I ended up practising some Thai with them, thier English was very minimal so it made for an interesting experience; they were very impressed with my efforts. A little while later we saw a boy who could only of been around 5 years old at most. He was with his mum selling roses and was absolutly fascinated when he spotted us. He came over and started pulling on our t-shirts wanting to be picked up, he was eager to see who these strange white people were. He ended up sitting at our table for a while getting in our pictures and trying to converse with us, we ended up taking two roses from him and he showed us all the money he made. He was absolutely chuffed to bits when we gave him a small empty chocolate box with a maget lid to put it all in, he ran off down the road with the biggest smile on his face. The evening continued, we ended up talking to lots of diffrent Thais who again had poor english but none the less they were very happy welcoming people, it was a great experience for all.

This morning we hit some more temples and I was very lucky to be blessed by a famous Tibetan monk. I knelt before him where he took some string and ran it through my hand muttering some words, he then tied the string to my wrist and with one last tap he was finished. I felt a positive sensation running though me after that. It was special.

Tomorrow we head further north again, to a place called Sukothai. Lets see what that has to offer.

Sunday, 20 October 2013


After a couple of days in Bangkok we decided it was time to move on so we arranged a minibus to take us to Ayutthaya the ex capital and highly historical city less than 2 hours drive north. We arrived to a sweet little guest house "Tonys Place" immediately noticing a much better more chilled out vibe compared to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. After checking in we were offered a 2 hour boat tour with two temple stops, the ride was great and the temples sensational. One of the stops included visiting Thailands biggest Buddha which was very impresive. Along the boat ride we saw many homes on the river bank were flooded because of the monsoon, it was sad to see, certainly made me think about how some of these people live.

Day two in Ayutthaya we hired some very sketchy looking push bikes and took the streets, lets just say it made for a very interesting day. Nobody died but it was pretty close a few times, we biked around finding lots of diffrent temples on the way it was absolute jokes. What's crazy about this place is the amount of wild dogs, I mean literally everywhere on every corner on every street down every ally; they're everywhere. They are all pretty docile and on the surface of no threat, they completly ignore humans and just seem to wander around aimlessly. I did have one pretty scary incident with one on our bike ride though where out of the blue one made a go for me, as I was on my bike I got away quickly but my heart was pounding. 

The rest of my travel buddies left this morning to head a bit further north however im staying back for another day or two as I need to visit a place that can potentially offer me some work teaching English. Although I dont plan on doing this just yet thier head office is in the city so it makes sense to pop them a visit. From my doorstep I can find someone to take me to where my friends are so its no issuse, all forms of transport here are in abundance and very cheap.
Thats it for now, its very hot so I think it's time for a nice ice cold smoothie.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

First Night In Bangkok

All my worries about meeting people sharply came to an end when I met no less that 8 people on the plane doing the same thing as me! Upon arrival to Bangkok we shared a couple of cabs and headed toward the Khao San Road. It wasnt as hot as I thought it would be luckily but man there was some crazy traffic (apprently the small narrow hard shoulder is used as a constant driving lane) We all checked into our various hostels we pre booked and met up for a drink, several hours and several beers later we decided we wanted a massage, we went for the full body swedish for an hour coming to a whopping price of five pounds. It was incredible! The night continued on walking up and down the Khao San, I think I must have been asked two dozens times if I wanted to buy a suit or if I wanted "cheep cheep tuk tuk ride" I read that this road is notorious for scammers and that it is.

The craziest thing of the night was involving a deadly black insect.  I always said jokingly that I would eat a scorpion off a stick in Bangkok not actually thinking that I would ever do it. Well it turns out I did. We were at a bar sat outside and this lady was walking around selling these terrifying looking things, I had plenty of dutch courage at this point so picked a medium sized one out and ate the thing whole. Suprisingly it actually tasted good, just a little bit too crunchy!

I write this post this morning from my hostel room, I think we're heading to MBK today (huge shopping mall) as I need to pick up a cheap phone, other than im not sure what the plan is, probably gonna get another massage.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

At The Airport

The trip to the airport was as you'd expect. We left at 5.30AM so it was still dark out, I was still tired and I had a million thoughts going through my mind, most of all the question, what an earth am I doing?! I kept telling myself "you're going on an adventure, you have done all you research, you'll be fine". Deep down I know I'll be fine, I figure if I wasnt worried at all then that in itself would be something to worry about; a little apprehension is surely good.

When I arrived at the airport check in was nice and smooth so I went out for one last smoke. When I came back inside, it was only to discover a piano in the middle of the lounge with a big sign saying "play me" I thought it would be rude not to so I walked right over and played a few litle songs for the busy people rushing around trying to catch thier flight. When I got up, only then did I realise I had a bit of an audience watching me, it was pretty good fun, a good way to kill a little time. Im currently sat waiting for my flight which takes off in an hour. Get me on that plane already!


Friday, 4 October 2013

Opening Post

To kick off my blog I guess I should explain what that whole thing is about. I have long dreamed to travel and after hearing and reading so much about South East Asia I decided to finally turn my dream into a reality. On Tuesday the 15th October I set off, starting my adventure in Bangkok. After many months of research and forum reading I decided to take a kind of 'go with the flow' attitude so have only planned a very loose itinerary covering 4 countries: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. I will slowly go wherever the wind takes me until April/May 2014 when I will return home.

This blog will be a place I document my adventures and stories along the way to look back on when I'm older, it will also be a place for you to keep up with me while I'm on my travels. Who knows it may even inspire you to start an adventure of your own.

That's it for now. Feel free to follow.