Welcome to Thailand! Photos From Week One.

Welcome to Thailand! Photos From Week One.
Thailand.  It’s one of those places you can never really explain to someone who hasn’t been there.  It’s a wild combination of heat, smiles, a shocking gap between wealth and poverty, delicious food, crowded streets, buddhism and stray dogs.  Oh, and elephants and monkeys and ladyboys.  I’m not one for words, so let’s let the pictures do the talking.
I arrived in Bangkok on Saturday night, spent one full day in Bangkok on Sunday, and on Monday morning, we were bussed down to Hua Hin, where we will live for four weeks while we receive training.  The first week of training was all cultural immersion.  The following three weeks will be an intensive TESOL course to teach us how to be teachers in Thailand!
Chatuchak Market
My purchases on day 1 – a dress, a fan, sunglasses, three pairs of earrings, and a bag of little mangos.  I’m pretty sure I spent about $30 total.
Driving from Bangkok to Hua Hin
Rice paddies
My first pad thai in Thailand… The first of many.
Mango and sticky rice = new fav
Washed up stingray
Beach in Hua Hin
Military boat off the coast of Hua Hin.  The Thai King is living at his palace in Hua Hin right now, and there are several of these military boats off the shore near the palace.
A buddhist shrine statue, in Chinese style.
Kite-surfers in Hua Hin.
Pony rides on the beach
A lobster at the Night Market.  It was enormous!
More goodies at the Night Market.  These are little waffle things with coconut and lemon.  So tasty.
It’s hard to explain the motorcycle culture in Thailand.  Motorcycles or scooters make up about a third of the vehicles on the road, and they often carry an entire family, as shown here – mom, dad, and two little ones.  It’s really quite impressive.
Stray dog in Hua Hin.
Here is the classroom where we are taking our classes.  It’s a “typical” Thai classroom, complete without air conditioning.  Thank goodness for the oscillating ceiling fans.
Lunch at my favorite restaurant.  This day was chicken Panang curry with rice and a mango smoothie.
This is one of my favorite dinner places.  It’s a little foodcart they pull in at night, and it serves the most simple and delicious pad thai.  A plate of the delicious stuff is 35 baht, which is just over a dollar.
Here it is – pad thai.
Here is the songteaw (bus) we took on our excursion day.
This is Jaco, my awesome TESOL instructor from South Africa.
A man giving his dog a bath
This is inside the Buddhist temple we visited last week.
A large-bellied Buddha outside the temple – this style of Buddha is chinese.  The Thai Buddhas are tall and skinny, and are often standing.
The view from the temple.
A typical Thai Buddha.
Climbing to the Buddha on the top of the hill… barefoot.  We spend a lot of time barefoot in Thailand – in the classroom, in the temples, on the beach.  When it’s 90 degrees out, it feels pretty good to be without shoes.
The Buddha on the top of the hill.
The view from the top.
A picture of my entire TESOL class.  There are about 30 of us, primarily from the US and South Africa, a few people from the UK and Canada.
Crammed in the songteaw on the way to the pineapple farm.
There were also honeydew melon for sale at the pineapple farm.  I love how they leave the vine on.
Creeper shot of an adorable Thai girl.
Lunch.  A simple soup with broth, thin glass noodles, pork, bean sprouts, and green onions.
Dessert at my favorite gelato shop near the school.  This day, I got mango (bottom) and Thai tea (top) flavors.  Mmmmm.
Fried sweet potato goodies at the Grand Market.
On Thursday, we went to a Muay Thai class.  This guy was the buffest Thai man I’ve seen, and he was a blast to train with.
The whole class at Muay Thai.
Me, Emily, Kathryn, and Fallon treated ourselves to a nice dinner after going to the beach on Thursday.
Drinks and seashells.
A eat a lot of cut-up fruit here.  There are street vendors everywhere selling fruit – mostly pineapple, mango, green mango, roseapples, cantaloupe, and watermelon.
On this day, we unknowingly wandered into a Vietnamese restaurant.  The meal with boiled chicken and rice, cucumbers, sauce, and chicken broth, as well as some not-so-palatable chicken parts on the side.  We think they were liver and heart, but no one is for sure.  We left the questionable parts on the plate.
Pepsi, written in Thai.
The class with our amazing and beautiful Thai language teacher.  She is the stunning one behind me in the white top.
Another plate of pad thai from my favorite street vendor.  Did I put two pictures of this on here?  It’s THAT good.
On Friday night, we went to a Thai movie party at Michael and Bpang’s place.  Michael is the Managing Director of Xplore Asia, the company who is training and placing us.
Inside Michael and Bpang’s house.
After the movie, we went out dancing.  On the left is Victoria, one of the girls in my class.  On the right is a guy/girl we were dancing with.  There are a lot of guys who are girls and a lot of girls who are guys in Thailand.  It’s culturally acceptable to be anyone you want to be.  It’s pretty awesome.
Getting our dance on.
I took a motor taxi home.  Don’t worry Mom, I made him promise to drive SLOW.
Spring rolls
Garlic chicken
Here’s the little restaurant where we had lunch on Monkey Beach.
Monkey Beach is next to Monkey Mountain, which is literally a mountain covered in monkeys.  I researched it and I believe they are crab-eating macaques.  They are not aggressive unless you aggravate them.
Fallon loving life on Monkey Beach.
Monkey Mountain
Monkey Beach
Monkey Beach
Litte sand crabs.  Each crab is about the size of my thumbnail.
These castings are from a sandworm.
Thai Buddha
Fallon taking a picture of monkeys on the roof of a bathroom on Monkey Mountain.
A big, beautiful plumeria bush.  I can’t get over how beautiful these are.
A man sharing his ice cream bar with monkeys on Monkey Mountain
For a small donation, you could feed these cows owned by the monks.  Look at their cute floppy ears!
Some monkeys taking a nap.
Bells by the temple on top of the hill.
Kathryn and I from the top of the temple.  We were given sarongs to cover our bare legs, thus showing respect for the temple.
The temple
Some monkeys grooming each other…
… and eating leaves.
Looking up the stairs to the temple
Someone fed the monkeys a basket of bananas and fruit, and they went crazy.
A momma monkey with her infant baby.
Look at that baby’s face!

So far, this has been an incredible journey.  I’m starting to experience and understand the Thai culture. The people are inexplicably friendly and warm.  They value the good of the community over the good of the individual.  Everyone pitches in – for example, at dinner last night, the four year old daughter was serving our dishes while her dad cooked them.  The pace of life is a little slower than our Western pace, which is probably mainly due to the heat.  Harmony is valued above all else, which is why the people smile so much… even when they don’t feel like it.  The king of Thailand is adored by the Thai people more than you can even imagine.

Week one was everything I could have hoped for.  Now it’s time to dig into the coursework and get ready for the teaching responsibilities that are coming.

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