The Journey Continues

The Journey Continues
Hello everyone!  Sorry for the neglect, I’m way past due for updating everyone at home!  A lot of things have happened since I last wrote, so here’s a (mostly visual) update on my adventures in Thailand!
While in Hua Hin during the TESOL course, we got a big group together and went to Phrayanakhon Cave.  We had to hike up to the caves and then climb down into them.  The hike was steep and the weather was, as it always is, blisteringly hot.  It was worth it!  The caves were absolutely amazing.
Ryan and Emily were excited that we’d made it to the caves!
The trail
The view of the beach along the hike.
I thought this was really awesome – it was the site of an ancient underground stream that slowly closed itself off by depositing silt.  What was left behind was a really cool formation!
In the first part of the cave, the ceiling had fallen in in two spots, letting light in and letting all these plants grow!
On our way back from the caves.  We called a taxi and were expecting large vans, but 2 songteaws came to give us a ride.  we had about 15 people in each one.
Here’s an image of the king and queen of Thailand as a young couple.  Images of them are all over the country – in all houses, buildings, large posters out on the streets, along the highways, in front of markets.  They are very well respected in Thailand.  They are now much older – in their 80’s I believe – and they live in Hua Hin.
At the night market, posing with the lady who makes my favorite coconut milk tasty treats!
Overlooking Hua Hin.

Before we left Hua Hin, we wanted to check out the Dinosaur Market.  It was a neat market, mostly with wholesale foods for sale.  We were the only non-Thai people in the market, and got smiles from the locals when we took pictures of their items for sale.

Mystery food.
Oink, oink.
Chicken feet

Then comes the time for goodbyes.  Our TESOL course ended on April 24th, and we parted ways with all the friends we made along the way.

A group picture with the employees at our favorite restaurant in Hua Hin.
The TESOL class of April 2014.
Me with my awesome, crazy TESOL course instructor, Jaco.
After graduating, we decided to treat ourselves with fish pedicures and massages!  (Fish pedicure = letting little fish eat the dead skin off your feet.  Kind of freaky.  I could hardly handle the tickly sensation!)
This was the outfit I had to wear for my Thai massage.
Cute little elephant towel creations.

The day after I graduated the TESOL course, I was shipped to Bangkok for the day to participate in a English Camp.  I ran a class by myself where we “made ice cream” which means we froze syrup in little bags and then ate it.  It was quite the experience!  The kids could hardly understand me and I ran through my material in 20 minutes when I had a full 60 to entertain the kids.  Yikes!

After making ice cream, I was assigned to the class of 5th graders and made hats with them.  This boy was willing to ham it up for a pictures with me!

When I got back to Hua Hin from English Camp, Emily and I set out on a mission to wring Hua Hin dry of every last adventure possible.

Adventures started that night by going to El Murphy’s, and Irish/Mexican bar with a kick-ass band that plays every night.  They called for requests, and I called for Guns N Roses.  The lead singer was awesome, and killed it!
Then we woke up the next morning early to watch the sunrise.
That day, we went to the Black Mountain Waterpark.  It was awesome!
Strangely, for a country with no rules, we had to wear helmets to go on the waterslides.
After the waterpark, we went to check out the train station in Hua Hin.
The station is supposed to look like a gingerbread house, and is something that the people of Hua Hin are very proud of!  It was so cute!
Walking home from the bus station, we saw the fire station in Hua Hin.  This one is for you, Kai!
Riding the songteaw home, we pulled up to someone’s house and they put a TV in the back with us.  Haha.
Goodbye, Baan San Pluem, our home of four weeks.
My bags all packed!
The crew at Baan San Pleum getting ready to leave!  The lady in orange was on the staff of our building.
Then we loaded into the fifteen seater van with all our luggage.  Being small and not prone to carsickness, I took the back corner seat with the luggage.

I was placed in my school through an agency called MediaKids, and were required to attend an orientation with them in Bangkok the week after our TESOL course was done.  My roommate, Emily, was placed through the same agency, in fact, the same region of the same agency, so we packed up our bags and headed to Bangkok for a week.  The orientation was held in the Sudapalace Hotel, which looked spiffy from the outside… but super dated on the inside.

This was the, uh, “nightstand” between the beds.  The knobs were once wired to the radio and light switches.
Here’s the lovely bathroom.  On the fourth morning, we woke up to a massive water leak running down the wall near the sink.  It was the one night I didn’t leave electronics charging in the plugin in by the sink.  Thank goodness!

We had two free days before the orientation started, so Emily and I, along with our friend Chloe,  decided to see the sights of Bangkok.

I found a massive pile of rambutan!  In Thai, rambutan = ngaw, but I don’t think I’ll ever pronounce it correctly.
We took a water taxi to the temples.
There is a strict dress code in the temples, as shown by this poster.  Basically, keep your body covered to your knees and over your shoulders.

The following are pictures of inside the Grand Palace complex, which includes Wat Phra Kaew.  On display inside Wat Phra Kaew is the Emerald Buddha, a 1.5-foot-tall statue of a Buddha carved from one single piece of green precious stone (nephrite).  (Wat = Temple)

Wat Phra Kaew, home of the Emerald Buddha.  Of course, we couldn’t take pictures inside, because it is too holy a site.
The artwork on some of the buildings was a 3D mosaic of painted tiles

After seeing all the sights within the Grand Palace, we headed next door to Wat Pho, which houses the Reclining Buddha, as shown below:

Each Buddha was unique to the next.
We found some sweet corn after visiting the temples.  Yummmm.
And after the temples, we met up with Emily’s friend Johan, who works at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, and he took us to a neat little outdoor restaurant.

The orientation with MediaKids was four days long, and covered topics such as language and culture, curriculum, classroom management, etc.

As part of the cultural orientation, they brought in dancers to show us a traditional Thai dance.
Also, did I mention that we have a uniform to follow?  Black skirt to the knee, white blouse, and lovely MediaKids blue scarf.

After orientation was done, we had a full 13 days until class started, so I started making arrangements to head down to the island of Koh Tao to get my PADI scuba diving certificate.  Emily decided to join me, and our journey together continued. =)

Rock formations on the way out to Koh Tao
Our bungalow on Koh Tao
The bungalow had a porch…
… two beds, and a bathroom.  Simple and perfect.
We did our course with Sairee Cottage.  This is a picture of their pool, which is used simultaneously as a guest pool and a training pool.  We spent five hours here the second day of the course practicing skills.
Sunsets from Sairee Beach were absolutely breathtaking.
Emily and I had dinner on the beach.
One of the best meals yet.  Kebab, salad, baked potato, corn on the cob.  Mmmmm.
And while we had dinner, we enjoyed the fire show.
Here was the sunset the next night, with some Thai kids playing on a floatie in the warm, shallow water.
Don’t let the sign fool you.  He’s actually selling what they call “rotee” which is basically a dough they stretch out and fry with different fillings.
Emily and I after finishing our final dives.  We are PADI certified open water scuba divers!
Taking the taxi boat back to the shore from the diving boat.
Our view from lunch.  Who could ever get tired of this?
I wandered into a bookstore and found these cute kids tearing up the shelves.  Their mom (or aunt? or cousin?) was sitting in the back, watching TV.
Emily and I went on a hike one day to the north end of the island and found this cool lookout place. There were people snorkling down in the water, but we just hung out and enjoyed the sunset.
Cool little crabs crawling on the rocks.
I loved this shot – see the words “farango” and “gringo”?  Farang = white person in Thai, and Gringo = white person in Spanish
The night after getting my scuba cert, we went to a nice restaurant to have dinner and watch our scuba film they made during our final dives.  I splurged on a ribeye steak.  What see on top is garlic butter.  I was in heaven.

The last day on the island, we went across to the east side of the island to Tanote Bay.  It was remote, quiet, and beautiful.  We spent the whole day snorkling, sleeping and laying around.  In the shade.  We had had enough sun at this point.  The snorkling in this bay was amazing.  We saw tornadoing barracudas hunting schools of small shiny fish, schools of colorful parrotfish and other kids of fish feeding on algae off the rocks.  I saw a large triggerfish and made sure to stay out of his territory.  We saw Christmas Tree Worms, awesome little things that look like they came straight out of the movie Avatar. (Look them up on YouTube.  Seriously cool.)  It was an awesome day, and a perfect way to spend our last day on Koh Tao.

A panorama of Tanote Bay.
People would climb up this rock and jump off the end on the right of this picture.
And, the sunset over Sairee Beach once more.  Ahhhh.
Leaving Koh Tao.

After Koh Tao, Emily and I headed to Lom Sak, the city where she will be teaching English.  When we got here (which took a 2-hour catamaran ride, an 8 hour bus ride to Bangkok, one night’s sleep in Bangkok, then another bus ride to Lom Sak, this one 6.5 hours long, with a few more hours sprinkled in there waiting between buses)… when we got here, we heard music down the street, and went to check it out.  There was a festival going on, a festival that happens every Saturday night, and there was music, food, clothing, and toys for sale.

The event is called “huglomsak.”  Cute.
Men welding a knife
The river is a little low.  We imagine it will rise when the monsoon season starts.
Emily’s Thai teacher took us out for dinner to a Thai BBQ.  There are coals below the cooktop, and you serve yourself pieces of raw chicken, pork, beef, and seafood and cook them on the grill.  There is soup in the sides of the cooktop, so you can throw veggies in there to boil.  The meal was buffet style, and we could eat as much as we wanted.
You know you’ve been in Thailand for long enough when you start protecting yourself from the sun like the locals do.  (Thanks, GMC, for the umbrella!)
We found lunch at a little restaurant.  We were served a plate of noodles and ate it with different sauces that were on our table in pots.

So! That’s where I’m at in my journey.  I’m still with Emily in Lom Sak now, but tomorrow I’m moving to Ban Phet, the town where I will be teaching.  It’s just over two hours away by car.  School starts on Friday.  My life is about to change drastically, and being in Lom Sak is a good transition to getting there.  We have already gotten a lot of attention for being foreigners in a small town.  Emily’s Thai teacher knew we had gone to the Big C supermarket because her brother had seen us here and phoned her.  We went to dinner last night and the restaurant owner excitedly called his son who spoke English to come to the restaurant and make sure we got the right food and to talk to us in English.  We had a tour of Emily’s school, and she’s starting to get an idea for how things will work for her teaching responsibilities.  I’m nervous and excited.  I’m nervous for seeing how I handle life without A/C, I’m nervous for teaching, I’m nervous for what my apartment will be like.  I’m excited to see my town, to finally be in a place where I can unpack and settle in, I’m excited to meet people and find food vendors that I like.  It will be a mad journey, and I’ll try to keep you all in the loop as it happens.  Wish me luck!

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