Thursday, February 26, 2009

Last Day of School

Today was my last day at the pre-school. Only because I was there last week when Shawna and Sabrina had their last day, did I know what would happen. All the kids have a flower, stand in a circle and sing a song. I got to go around and hug each kid and collect a bouquet of flowers in the process. It was great. My class also colored fish that are now made into a mobile that I will carefully pack so that it survives the last week of my travels. I will display it proudly when I get home. I should be packing right now, but as Ryan said, "it's hard to be motivated to pack when you're leaving paradise." He's lucky, he's staying in Thailand until May.
Tonight we went on a bike ride in the country. Lots of kids waving and saying "hi" as well as a huge group of teenage boys who busted out with the "I love you." Also saw the ever present bulls with necklaces on and people seriously flying kites. We have one last hurrah tomorrow morning, we're all going out for dim sum for breakfast before the other volunteers leave for a weekend camping trip to Taratao and I head to the airport on my way to Chiang Mai.
I have nothing but good things to say about my experience with CCS. I would do it again in a heartbeat. And since I always am planning ahead to the next trip, it's time to ponder, where next?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

If It's Bob Marley, It Must Be Thailand

I have heard more Bob Marley here than I have heard anywhere else that I've traveled. In the car, at restaurants, on boats and naturally on the islands. I've even heard covers of Bob Marley songs. This is an improvement over the Thai karaoke that was played on my bus ride back to Trang from Krabi. It's also better than slow jams from 1989 where Bryan Adams and Whitney Houston seem to take center stage.

In Ko Lanta, we were at the We...Why? Bar and were exposed to Thai Reggae. Click here to hear some of Job 2 Do on You Tube. Much more fun.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Some of the things that I've noticed so far during my stay in southern Thailand....

*Men taking their bull for a walk along the side of the road in the morning
*More mopeds and motorcycles than cars...on average 2-4 people per moped
*Spirit Houses - these go outside your home or business, some are simple, some are ornate. I want to bring one home but they're too big and heavy. You usually leave offerings including rice, water, and sometimes red Fanta. They are on a stand and often have a small ladder.
*Merit Baskets (gifts for the monks) for sale at Tesco and neighborhood shops
*Seafood flavored snacks - Norai Seaweed, Chili Squid, Garlic Softshell Crab
*Flower Garlands - made by hand with jasmine and roses, hung on rear view mirrors and on spirit houses or statues of the Lord Buddha
*Thailand uses the Buddhist calendar. It is the year 2552. This plays havoc with some if the computer clocks.
*$6 Chanel sunglasses, designer knockoffs and pirated DVDs and movies are readily available and very cheap
*Ladyboys - apparently everywhere in Patong, near Phuket, did see a few on Phi Phi
*Thai ice cream - has coconut and corn...can't remember the name of the flavor, but it starts with an R
*Birdcages - many home and businesses have birdcages hanging outside. These are not just pets, but participate in singing competitions.
*Thai has 44 consonants - vowels can go over and under the consonants. Also, there is not mandatory spacing between words, you can run it all together if you like.
*School uniforms everywhere - they vary in color and style, and often there is a "sport" day where the girls can wear track pants rather than a skirt.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thai Pancake

One of the specialties (at least here in the south), is the Thai pancake. They are quite delicious, and not like our fluffy American pancakes. They are made on a big round griddle and are folded into a square shape. This delicious confection pictured was banana and chocolate. And like all street food, it is served with a stick.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beach Games

In the US there are many pesky rules that are for our safety and protection from lawsuits. No such concerns here. At night there are parties on the beach that include games to help get you social with your fellow travelers and party goers. Exhibit A: Flaming Jump Rope. It was tempting, I just didn't want to catch my skirt on fire. But my friend made an excellent showing on Friday night with the flaming limbo. As they say here in Thailand: Mai Pen Rai (no worries).

Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi consists of two islands off the western coast of Thailand. This it was one of the areas devastated by the tsunami in December 2004, so almost everything on the island is rebuilt or new construction. Phi Phi Don is where all the lodging and services are. Phi Phi Ley (of The Beach fame) is part of a national park, and you can day trip there to sun, kayak, snorkel and watch the sunset. The first picture is from the view point at the top of Phi Phi Don...nothing like climbing a bazillion stairs on a hot, tropical, Friday afternoon, but the views were worth it. The two sunset pictures are from our afternoon and sunset snorkel boat trip to around Phi Phi Ley yesterday.

Funny Signs

This weekend we went to Ko Phi Phi. Phi Phi Ley is the island featured in the movie The Beach. I haven't seen it yet, but got a quick 3 minute recap from a friend. We stayed in the main tourist village which is geared towards everything you might possibly need on a beach vacation including, but not limited to: groceries, alcohol, t-shirts, sundresses, fins, floating mats, sunscreen, Thai massage, internet, books, Thai pancakes, fruit smoothies and bamboo tattoos. There may be other quiet restful places on the island that people over 40 go to, but it was primarily backpackers from Australia and Europe in their 20s and 30s in town. These 2 signs were posted in the village, and I thought they were entertaining, so am posting them for your enjoyment.

House Maa (aka The Dogs Speak Thai Here)

There are a lot of dogs in Thailand. Some are pets and some are strays. Even the strays are pretty much welcome anywhere and run in and out of yards and storefronts. At the school we have a few dogs that hang around, primarily because they get all the table scraps from the students and teachers lunches. Whenever I have my camera out, the kids want me to take pictures and show them, so this is a close up of our house dog, or 'maa' in Thai.
I always talk to dogs in English when I doesn't occur to me that they don't know English phrases like sit or come here. The teachers at school laughed when I mentioned us giving the leftovers of our spicy (pet in Thai) food to the dogs: 'These dogs are Thai, they like spicy food."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pink Day

At school, there are a couple different uniforms for different days of the week. On Tuesdays, the uniform is pink. Not just a pale pink, but bright pink with gold weaving in the fabric. Pink for girls and pink for boys. Here are some of my students "pretty in pink."

In other Trang news: The weather continues to get more hot and humid. Late afternoon we we went to the park in town that has a beautiful jogging trail around a lake and got fit with the Thais. Tonight, a special shoutout to Mamma T and the fabulous mango sticky rice!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Farang is the Thai word for "white skinned foreigner." You will often hear a conversation that you can't understand that goes something like this "thaithaithaithai farang thaithaithaithai." And you know that they're talking about you. Today at the Tesco (Thailand's Walmart, complete with a KFC and Dunkin Donuts), some kids came up to us to practice saying "hello." Not too many farang in the store. I also had the opportunity to get some new flavors of chips, including Hot Chili Squid and Thai Chili Paste, so will enjoy those in the coming days.

When we went to Ko Lanta, our first thought when we pulled into Ben Sala Dan was "look at all the farang." The hotel where we stayed was full of Scandanavians, who apparantly like to spend a few months on holiday in there when there is no sunlight in their home country.

Sunday I took a bike ride in the late afternoon. I didn't know if it was the bike in the land of mopeds or my light skin, but I got more honks, hellos and little kids waving than I expected.

Tonight we rode our bikes to Cafe Africano for ice cream and waffles (not waffle cone, but actual belgian waffle with ice cream on it). They have a wall of pictures, so we took a few with the staff. There was also a wall of Valentine's post-it notes where you can put your messages, thoughts of love, and other comments. We tried to ponder our favorite quotes...including Sabrina's "If not now, when?" Something that all of us here are embracing.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wat Kok Yang Daycare

My volunteer work while I'm here is Wat Kok Yang Daycare with the middle class, the 3-4 year olds. The kids are too cute. They are learning basic English, like their ABC's, numbers, animals, colors, etc, so I try to come up with new games / activities to go with what they already have. The school has 3 classes. The day starts with games and outdoor activities, then moves to handwashing, then class, then lunch then more outdoor play, a little workbook activity, and then a nap ( favorite time). We eat lunch with the teachers, then Cha comes to take us home. When we're playing outside, the kids will ask to "moon" which means "spiral" or being swung around by their arms. These pictures are of some of the students in my class. Almost all Thai have nicknames that they use rather than their long legal names. The 12 kids normally in my class are Jab, Nice, Num, Fill, Pak-king, Play, Cream, Jay, Ja, Ja-ea, Mind, and Bai-Tan.

Home Sweet Home Base

For those curious about where I'm living, CCS provides housing in the "Home Base." Our house has 4 bedrooms with bunk beds, bath and shower facilities, wireless Internet, AC, and a fridge that is always stocked with fruits and ice cream. Pomelos are my current fruit du jour. And really, everyone knows that I try and have ice cream every day on vacation. Tonight most of the staff was around for some outdoor games after Thai class, and there was serious badminton (Cha killed Shawna) and some "hilarious" darts.

Currently there are 7 volunteers at home. 1 left last week, and 2 more leave at the end of this week. The next "class" doesn't arrive until March 7, and sadly I'll already be gone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crazy Transportation

So far in Thailand I have been on a plane, river taxi, sky train, car, longtail boat, kayak, tuk tuk, and mini bus. Today we returned from Ko Lanta to Trang via mini bus. Now, this mini bus was technically air conditioned, but with 16 people in it, mediocre AC did not do the job. We were in the back of the bus sweating for 2 hours. It was a relief to arrive in Trang and to take a tuk tuk back to our home base, and so much cooler too!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ko Lanta

Greetings from amazingly beautiful Ko Lanta Yai island off the coast of western Thailand on the Adaman Sea. We have the weekends off on our volunteer program to travel, so Shawna and I hopped a mini-bus to bring us to paradise. We're staying in a bungalow at Southern Lanta Resort. The laziness cloud, first found in Yellowstone in the summer of 2000, has followed us here. Swimming in the ocean. Loafing on the beach. Drinks by the fire pit. Ice cream daily. Monkey sighting. Sea kayaking. Longtail boat rides. My first Thai massage.

It's fantastic. That's all I can say.

Too Many Shoes

I have brought too many pairs of shoes to Thailand. Here I live a shoe-free life. No shoes in the house. No shoes in the school. No shoes on the beach. No shoes in the ocean. My goal is to wear everything I brought at least once, but it seems entirely likely that I will return to Colorado with shoes unworn. I may wear them on a flight just for fun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Saibaidee Tao (Happy Feet)

Last night, my feet were the happiest they've ever been. The 1 hour, 150 baht ($5), foot massage at the hot springs was incredible. I've never had someone poke at my foot with a wooden stick and have it feel so good.

Our cultural activity today was Thai Dancing. Thankfully the dance students at the school didn't laugh at me too much, even though my hands aren't designed for the movements.

I've now been in Thailand a week. I love it more each day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First Day of School

Yesterday was my first day of school. Mamma T even packed my lunch box for me. The kids are very cute and know their letters and numbers in English. Me, I'm learning to count to ten in Thai.

Weather Report: Sunny, hot, humid, probably close to 90 degrees.

Makabucha Day

February 9 is a national holiday in Thailand. It celebrates an event in Buddhist history when 1250 monks gathered together in one place by coincidence. Thai's make "bouquets" that include lotus flowers, 3 sticks of incense and a candle. After listening to the monks teachings, you walk around the temple 3 times. This picture is of my bouquet, including the lotus flowers I folded myself. When we finished circling the temple, we left the candles burning around the base of the trees and left the flowers as an offering.

Aroi Mai?

One of the best things in Thailand is the food. Fresh fruit and juices that are amazing. The incredible use of spices. And as always when you travel there are foods, flavors and combinations that just aren't found at home. And that's part of the fun.

Dim Sum madness for breakfast yesterday. Even had the famous Trang roast pork!

Tasty flavors of potato chips: Sweet Basil and Garlic Soft Shell Crab

Thai Mythology

In Thai mythology there are demons and monkeys. How do you tell them apart? The monkey doesn't wear shoes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

On The Coast of Somewhere Beautiful

Many more fun activities in the last 24 hours including massive dim sum consumption for breakfast today. I wanted to post a few pictures from our trip to the beach. On a map, you might look for Hat Yao, and Khem and Jack told me the beach was called Ao Bpao.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thai 101

Today we had our first Thai class.  My limited knowledge of Spanish and German does absolutely no good in this case.  Words that are pronounced with a "ng...." are a real struggle and one word pronounced with each of the 5 tones means 5 different things.   The good news is that I now have question words and can have the basic, hello, how are you, my name is conversation.  Tuesday we'll go to the daycare for our first day to observe and then we jump in.  I will be with kids somewhere between 2-4 years old, so we should have a good time, maybe do some letters, numbers, colors and songs.  When it doubt, we'll play until they get tired.  Good thing we all get nap time.  

Trang weather report:  sunny, hot and breezy
Fun food phrase:  Kin pet dai mai?  (can you eat spicy food).   The answer is "chai."

The Elusive Kanoon

Today we flew from Bangkok to Trang to start our program with CCS.   We flew on Nok Air (we fly smiles) the plane with the beak on the front.   The Trang airport is very small...there's one flight a day and that's it.   We were picked up by Cha and Jack and taken to our home for the next few weeks.  The house is great and there are 8 volunteers currently.  Even better the fridge is stocked with pomelos (my new fave fruit) and there's ice cream in the freezer.  Every Thai guidebook that exists is on the bookshelf in triplicate.   It's like each volunteer brought the same book and left it at the end of their trip.   

So as a "Welcome to Trang" activity, they gave us a list of tasks, money for a tuk tuk, and dropped us off in the middle of town.    One of the tasks was to find a kanoon, or jack fruit.   We searched high and low and in every food stall we found to no avail.  Many other crazy fruits, and found a pet shop selling squirrels, but "mai kanoon".  

Look for a jack fruit coming soon to a King Soopers near you!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Amazing Race Moment

At Wat Pho there is a building that houses the 43m reclining Buddha (the largest reclining Buddha in the world). Why is he reclining? This is when he died and achieved Nirvana. As I was looking at Buddha, I heard noises on the other side that sounded like pebbles or coins going into a bowl. When I got past Buddha's enormous mother of pearl feet, I saw it. You contribute 20B and get a bowl of tiny coins and there is a row of bowls along the other side and you put money in each bowl, probably while thinking peaceful, meditative thoughts, and making merit.
Instead I was thinking that in some previous season of the Amazing Race, it was a fast forward, where they either had to count the number of bowls or coins.

Wat Arun

When there's a bridge, a bell tower, or a wat to climb, I'm your girl. Today I climbed up the very narrow steps up the Wat. Wat Arun is decorated with pieces of Chinese porcelain, is apparently more in the Khmer style, and was a fantastic choice for my first temple in Thailand.

Chao Phraya

Chao Phraya is the river that runs through Bangkok. Today I took the aptly named "tourist boat" so that I could visit some of the famous wats (temples). It was sunny and hot, and since my luggage didn't make the connection in LA, I was still in my fabulous clothes from the flight, which were chosen with recycled air in mind and not tropical weather. Regardless, the sun was shining and I had a great time!

Wat Arun (above), Long Tailed Boats (below)

Fun with International Restrooms

Something I noticed in the Tokyo airport, which was again available in the spa here at the hotel are upgraded toilets that include bidet features and heated seats. However, the greatest feature I saw at the airport was a button with musical notes on it: doesn't play Beethoven, but does provide background "Water Music" if you want want others to hear you go.

It Looks Like Iowa

After 11 hours on a plane over the Pacific Ocean, with limited movies that weren't too exciting (City of Ember, anyone?) we finally approached Japan. Scenery is as follows: ocean, beach, flat brown fields. Once you got past the beach part, I swear it looked just like Iowa. I didn't have an opportunity to leave the Narita airport, so technically I haven't been to Japan.
However, if you ever have a fashion crisis, the Narita airport is the place to go: Hermes, Ferragamo and Coach all in one shopping concourse.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Practical Procrastination?

I'm getting there. Almost everything that is going in the general vicinity of Thailand is in my bedroom. Along with many things that don't need to go, including, likely, items already in my suitcase. I will do some additional pruning tomorrow afternoon. I'm only taking 1 big suitcase plus my carry on. On the off chance that I buy wood carvings or ornamental umbrellas, I'll buy a bag to bring it home in. On the little hopper flight, Nok Air, economy passengers can have 1 15kg bag, which is about 33lbs. I'm trying to make that my motivation to keep it light (and the fact that it's 90 degrees where I'm going). But I can deceive myself, because each additional kg only costs 50 THB, which is a little over a dollar. I will be irritated if I bring home anything that I didn't wear after being gone for a month!


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