My Last Week in Thailand

This post is long overdue, but now is better than never.. right? So here it goes, the adventures of my last week in Thailand. July 20th was the last day of teaching for the 8 of us U of M practicums, but since we had a 90 day Visa into the country and we wanted to utilize every last day that the Visa allowed, our flight home was a week later, July 27th. So we had an entire week to do whatever our hearts desired. For myself and 2 of my¬†colleagues, this was to explore more of the south, since we had experienced the north twice, and seen much of the central part of Thailand (places very near to Bangkok), but we had only seen Phuket, which I argue that we didn’t really see, we did but it was just not what we expected. Either way, we all knew that there were some really chill places in the south, so we decided we would check them out!

We arrived at school that last Friday with our backpacks packed and ready to go! Our first destination was the train station. We ended up getting a really good taxi driver that got us there in record time. The problem with this was we had so much extra time that we found ourselves sitting around in the train station waiting for our train. Guess it could have been worse and we could have been late or completely missed our train…

Bangkok Train Station

Bangkok Train Station

Finally it was our turn to board. I felt like I was in Harry Potter, walking around trying to find our Platform.

We were not on Platform 9 3/4 :(

We were not on Platform 9 3/4 ūüė¶

The neat thing about this train was it was a sleeper train. We were in 2nd class sleepers with A/C. It was actually a very comfortable ride with beds that were just big enough for my tall frame to comfortably fit!

My little bed, with a lovely privacy curtain.

My little bed, with a lovely privacy curtain.

Our train ended up being¬†delayed, so the the 9 hour ride ended up being closer to 12 hours. It really didn’t make much of a difference though, since I slept the entire time! Upon leaving the train we hopped on to a truck which brought us to the pier where we boarded a boat to our first destination, Koh Tao. This was probably the best morning I have had it Thailand. Since the boat was pretty full, I sat outside with my back leaning up against all the luggage. I would argue that I may have had the best seat in the house! The wind was blowing in my hair, and the sun was rising over the water. It was absolutely beautiful!

Breath-taking!

Breath-taking!

I spent the majority of the 4 days in Koh Tao simply chilling on the beach and relaxing. I did go out snorkelling one day, but that was quite relaxing as well.

On Tuesday evening we left Koh Tao on a night boat (I would NEVER recommend a night boat…), and headed to Railey. After the boat, a van ride, another van ride, a truck ride, and a long-tailed boat ride, we finally reached Railey.

IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! (I think that is the theme of this week… beautiful places!)

Land Forms in Railey

Land Forms in Railey

I wasn’t feeling well, so the 2 days that we stayed in Railey consisted of me curled up in the hotel (which had A/C!). I did manage to get out a couple times to have a little to eat and to take a couple pictures, but mainly I just felt horrible. (More on that in a potential coming post…). On Thursday we headed back to Bangkok, and Friday we departed to head back to the Peg!

Overall, I would say my experiences in Thailand were overwhelmingly incredible. There were things I did that I thought I could never handle, and things that I did that I never thought I would ever be given the opportunity to do in my entire life. Maybe, someday, I will be given the opportunity to do it all over again!

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Goodbye BKK

I have less than 10 hours left in this city, and to tell you the truth, it is kind of bitter-sweet. I said goodbye to my students last week and it actually hurt! As much as I yell at them (to get out of the shade and start participating in gym class), and push them (academically), and get them mad at me, and get mad at them, my last day I had the opportunity to show them that I really did appreciate each and every one of them, and they showed me that they respect me and that they will miss me. It’s hard to realize how much of an influence I made on my students, and how if I miss them, that means that they will miss me too. Since it was a Friday after a week of exams, and I teach PE on Fridays, I gave the students an opportunity to relax. I played a game with them for the first 15 minutes of class, but gave them the remaining 30 minutes to talk or play games or do really whatever they wanted to do, within reasonable limits. Some of my M3 students sat on the grass in the shade outside on the field and invited me to sit with them. They¬†surveyed¬†my limited Thai (which I don’t think they realized was THAT limited, but it gave us some good chuckles), and then they asked me about my life at home, and I asked them some questions too. It was so interesting to have an non-academic conversation with them and really get a feel for who they are as people, not just as students. I think they felt the same way, for after that half hour it was so, so difficult to say goodbye. I will admit that I shed a couple of tears since I am not sure if I will ever see them again.

Saying goodbye to the staff at Lertlah was also difficult. I have made friends here that I hope to stay in touch with in the years to come. I have learned to rely on them when things are not going well in the classroom, and also to help them out when they are not having the easiest time either. There are a few people in particular that I look forward to connecting with back in Canada.

Though it is sad to say goodbye, I know that there are some pretty amazing greetings coming at me back at home! I’m so excited to see my family again, and hug my parents, and chat with my sisters, and smother my niece with kisses. I also look forward to seeing my friends and spending the rest of the summer chilling out with them and maybe hitting up some not so nice but totally doable beaches ūüėČ I look forward to sharing stories of my adventures (which another blog post will come, telling a bit about my week of travelling southern Thailand…) and hearing about things I have missed in my 3 months away.

I am currently lying on my rock solid Piya Apartment bed, anxious and ready to haul my stuff to the airport and head home. I’m okay with leaving this temporary home behind and picking up with the adventures back in Canada with the people I love. However, I am not ready to say goodbye to Thailand all together, but rather, I would like to say ‘see you again, sooner or later’! The beauties of this country will always have a place in my memory, and someday, I will make the opportunity to come back and see this beautiful place again.

But for now… I’m going home.

Weekend Inning #11 ~ Bangkok One Last Time

Since I knew I had a week away ahead of me, I decided I could afford to spend one more weekend in Bangkok. It saved me a couple baht, and also gave me the opportunity to visit with someone from back at home that I have not seen since March! One of the guys that is in the same cohort (AKA. home room class?) as 3 of us U of M students that are teaching here was travelling around Thailand and some of the surrounding countries for a few weeks with his brother and friend. The other neat thing is, this guy is also my second cousin! So, the weekend consisted mainly of relaxing and spending an evening with the guys.

Blaine, Elise, Me, Aisha

Blaine, Elise, Me, Aisha @ Saxaphone Pub, BKK

I also had an opportunity to visit China Town (which is strange, since I am surrounded by Asian influences everyday, but it is evident that China Town gives off a much different vibe), and one of the many gigantic malls that are scattered among downtown Bangkok.

It was a very chill weekend with lots of walking around, enjoying the city, and relaxing!

Weekend Outing #10 ~ Pattaya

Though I may have been to Pattaya before, this weekend getaway was much, MUCH different than my previous experience. Pattaya is the sex tourism capital of Thailand, however, this is not why we choose to visit there for a weekend. Pattaya is also one of the closest beaches to Bangkok, only a 2.5 hour drive. So, a few days before we left I researched a couple different hotels and ended up booking one that had excellent reviews and was near the shopping malls and the beach. Perfect, right?! First off, it was so insanely difficult to find! I had the address of the place, but no map since we can usually rely on taxi drivers or locals to help us out, and they are often more reliable than the maps that are in Thai, or translated from Thai to English where things can get lost in the translation. However, this time the locals were not so friendly. We were told numerous different ways to walk, and then we were told to walk back to places we had already walked, and then we were told that it was so far that we could not walk, and others said it is just around the corner. It was dreadful. There were 4 of us white girls lugging around our backpacks, tired from a long days work, walking around the sex tourism capital. SKETCHY! Eventually we found a cab that helped us out, and after we convinced him that we were from Bangkok and we knew the standard rates of taxi rides, he didn’t rip us off too bad with the price.

We got dropped off at the end of the street that our hotel was on, which shockingly ended up be ‘Boyz Town’… a.k.a… the street with bars and¬†night-life¬†that caters to gays. It was flashy and loud and quite uncomfortable. There was absolutely nothing in the reviews when I had booked the hotel that it was in this area of town. However, there was one huge perk to the place… none of us girls ever felt threatened by the craziness around us because none of the guys were interested in us! What the reviews did say though was true.. the hotel was very quiet at night, very clean and comfortable, and within walking distance to the beach and mall.

Friday night we went for a stroll down the walking street, which exposes the sad reality of the sex tourism and trade in Thailand. I have been told that sex trade is very prevalent all throughout Thailand, but Pattaya is very open about it. There were strip clubs with women dancing in windows, sketchy bars that were selling more than just alcohol, and prostitutes lining the streets. Coming from a modest background, it is and understatement to say that I was uncomfortable with my surroundings. It made me sad and angry and overwhelmed to see what was all going on, and then thinking that the same thing goes on all around Thailand, just often behind closed doors.

Walking Street - Pattaya

Walking Street – Pattaya

I did not stay on the walking street for long at all! I headed back to the hotel and a great sleep in a very comfortable hotel room that had heavy curtains, which allowed me to actually sleep in past 8 AM!

The next day we decided to check out the mall and found that there was a Ripley’s Believe It or Not and many other attractions in there. So, we paid for a package that included 3 of the attractions. The first that we entered was the Ripley’s museum. I have been to one of these in Wisconsin, but it was still neat!

World's Tallest Man

World’s Tallest Man — AKA. Leanne’s Boyfriend

The next stop was the wax museum! I loved this place! However, the one downside to going to a wax museum in an Asian country is that I don’t have and idea who their popstars or movie stars are.¬†Luckily, we were able to find a few people we¬†recognized!

A young Hermione Granger

A young Hermione Granger

The 'King of Pop', Mr. Michael Jackson

The ‘King of Pop’, Mr. Michael Jackson

After we were finished at the wax museum, we headed over to the last stop, the Haunted House. No pictures for this one, as the flash would have ruined the scariness. This was certainly not my favourite stop! As I have grown older I have begun to HATE getting scared, especially when it is intentionally. I’d rather not put myself in the situation that I know I am going to get freaked out when there are often alternate options.

The weekend in Pattaya pretty much ended there, since I didn’t want to experience walking street again. We left pretty early the next morning to head back to Bangkok. Since we were back so early, one of the girls had a great idea of going to see The Amazing Spiderman in 4D. Yes… 4D!!! It was pretty neat. We got 3D glasses, and then sat in chairs that moved and blew air in our faces. I think it was the perfect movie for 4D as well. It felt like I was Spiderman at moments! I could feel the wind blowing through my air as I swung between buildings!

Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend, but I am certainly done with Pattaya. I think it was important for me to see the realities of the ugly parts of Thailand, but it is so far out of my comfort zone with all the drugs and booze and sex. It really makes me appreciate what I have that much more, and it encourages me to help out and be a positive influence to others.

 

Figured it out…

I am going to tell you about this girl that has lived in Bangkok for nearly 3 months and has taught Physical Education every Friday since she arrived here. This girl is me.

There are perks to teaching PE only on Fridays… one perk being that I only get really stinky at school once a week (remember… no A/C in the gym!) Another perk is that I only have to wear that dreadful uniform once a week! The main perk, however, is I only had to deal with the dreadful rash on my leg that resulted from the gym on Fridays. The horrible part is that it was always Fridays that the rash came, so my weekends were spent getting rid of the rash.

It all began the first week of teaching. The rash came, but it was not too horrible. However, a group of us went to Ko Samet that weekend and the abrasive sand irritated it quite a bit. But I was not about to let a little rash stop me. I had my suspicions that it was something about teaching gym that had caused this rash, but I had no idea if it was a heat rash (since I had worn pants in the gym and it is very hot in there) or something more serious.

Week 1 - Rash

Week 1 – Rash

Not knowing what the rash was from, I headed to the doctor¬†the day after we arrived back from the beach. Things were looking up. I got cream that worked quick and cleared up the rash before the middle of the week (I still have no idea what the cream was… lovely language barrier!). However, Friday came again, and it was time to teach PE again. Thinking that the rash may have been from the heat, I wore capris so I wouldn’t get my calves so hot. Surprisingly though, the rash reappeared. It was after this that I realized that it must be from the gym, and not just from the heat. The result this time was horrible though. My leg was swollen, the rash went up to the middle of my calf, and if any article of clothing even hit it, it felt like someone was putting a flame to my leg. It. Was. Dreadful.

Weekend 2 - Horrid and Painful!

Weekend 2 – Horrid and Painful!

The funny is, despite the pain and swelling, the weekend I had this rash was my weekend in Chiang Mai, which was probably the roughest weekend on my feet/legs (other than jungle trekking in Chiang Rai). I went zip-lining and rode on scratchy elephants with my 2 swollen legs that felt like someone had poured acid on them. Thankfully, I brought some antibiotic cream from home that I had received as a prescription just a few months earlier, and it seemed to be just what I needed to clear up the rash in a couple days. It was so strange though that the antibiotic worked so well. I knew for certain at this point that it was not heat rash.

For the next few weeks I went with the¬†preventative method… I would put the antibiotic on my legs on Friday mornings before I entered the gym. By the end of the day it was usually not too bad. Two weekends ago I tried something new: I¬†thoroughly cleaned my legs immediately after I exited the gym with¬†antibacterial soap. It was amazing the difference this made (and it was also amazing how dirty my legs had become from the gym!). There was minimal rash (just a little bit right around my sock line), and the rest was just fine!

This last Friday I tried something more. I bought some antibacterial hand wipes and wiped my legs down between every gym class. The result: NO RASH! ūüôā It was fantastic! I finally found something that worked! I have talked to some of the people that have worked at the school for a while and we have tried to figure out what it is in the gym that is causing this horrible side effect. Though that has been no definite conclusion, we have think it has something to do with the ducting and A/C vents in there. The vents are covered in a kind of insulation with tinfoil type stuff over that, but the tinfoil stuff is falling apart in places, so some of the insulation is falling to the gym floor. We think I may be reacting to whatever is in there (potentially asbestos or mould).

I find it weird that I am the first one to react to the gym floor though. None of the kids have had an issue, none of the previous staff have had issues, just me. How lucky of me ūüėČ Anyway… I am just happy that I have found a way to prevent the rash from coming back every single week! The end.

What I Miss…

There are a variety of things I miss back at home. Don’t get be wrong, Thailand is great! However, there are some comforts of home that I really, really miss! So here it goes… the things I miss:

  1. Hugs from my family and friends
  2. A fridge
  3. Ruffles Chips and Heluva Good Dip
  4. Drinking tap water
  5. Not having to be scared of what kind of toilet will be behind the door
  6. Driving my car
  7. Hot showers that warm me up rather than cold showers to cool me down
  8. Cooking and baking things
  9. Home cooked food
  10. My bed & my pillow
  11. Wearing make-up… it melts off my face here
  12. Yard work
  13. Curling up on the couch in the evening
  14. Chai Tea
  15. Cool summer nights (though they don’t seem to be having those back home)
  16. High-speed Internet that is in fact ‘HI-SPEED’
  17. Wearing long pants and still feeling cool
  18. Walking on carpet
  19. Bonfires with friends and family
  20. Movie nights with my sisters
  21. Sloppy kisses from my niece
  22. Driving around with good tunes with my little sister
  23. Taco soup with my older sister
  24. Sleeping in a basement, not on the 4th floor of a large building.
  25. Getting to choose what to wear to work and not being restricted by a uniform
  26. Random rides to town with my dad
  27. Sunday morning breakfasts with my parents and Harry and Martha (look Harry… you made the blog!)
  28. Breakfast cereal and fresh milk
  29. Living in a small town
  30. Not having to constantly struggle through the language barrier, though it has turned out to be quite hilarious on quite a few occasions!
  31. Getting my hair cut! I have come this far, so I may as well get my hair cut in a place where there is no language barrier!
  32. Family dinners around the dining room table
  33. My friends! I miss playing pictionary, and going to McDonald’s for coffee and spending 3 hours there, and going to some friends place for dinner, and watching Disney movie’s, and just hanging out and enjoying each others company!
  34. My family’s house
  35. My family. It is actually hard to express how much I miss my family. I cannot explain how this experience has changed my perception of just how important family really is. I miss my parents, my sisters and brother-in-law, my niece, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins. I now understand how lucky I am to have all of them in my life!

Though there are things that I miss back at home, I know there are things I will miss here in Thailand too. I’ll save that for another post though…

Where is Home?

I only have 23 more sleeps left in Thailand. Of those 23, at the very most I will have 15 more nights in my apartment. As the time draws nearer to return home, I have started to think about what ‘home’ really is. I know that Thailand will not be the place I choose to settle for the rest of my life (I could never stand the heat here for the rest of my life!), but in a way, it has become my home for the short 3 months I have been here. My simple white apartment has a comfort to it. I would not want to stay in these apartments forever, but since I have settled into a bit of a routine in this apartment, and I have dumped and thrown my stuff all around the place, it certainly is my own!

Often when I am saying ‘home’ in a conversation with others though, it is not my apartment I am referring to. Home will always be where my family and friends are, home is where I feel totally comfortable, home is where my niece is just down the road from me, and my sisters and parents are there to enjoy life with. Though I may venture off again for another adventure sometime in the future, I know home will always be Manitoba with the people I grew up with and love.

It is quite surreal to think that in a few short weeks I will be back in Manitoba, back in my bedroom, back to having drinking water that comes from the tap, back to seeing the people used to see every day. And just a few short weeks after that, back to school for my final year off my undergraduate degree. I know it will be nice going home, but also think that it may be weird getting back into the routine of my ‘Manitoba Life’. I won’t have the opportunity to go on weekend¬†expeditions every single weekend, I won’t have the convenience of running down to the soi and grabbing a quick bit to eat, and I’ll be leaving behind some pretty funny students, not to mention other staff. I don’t think I would go to the extent of saying that I have built myself a life here in Thailand, but I have made myself comfortable enough in routines and such that it will be quite a change going back to Manitoba. I can’t believe that I will get to hug my family and see my friends in just over 3 weeks. I can’t even imagine how amazing that will feel!

So overall, what I have come to realize is that I can become comfortable somewhere and make it feel ‘home-ish’. This has taught me that I can be away from Manitoba and stay somewhere for a period of time and make it feel like home. Though houses and apartments and locations may change, family is not something that can be changed. ‘Home’ for me will always be where my family and loved ones are.