Saturday, February 28, 2009

Island Life on Koh Chang

After 12 hours on a night bus we arrived in Bangkok earlier Monday morning, caught the first bus to Trat, which was another 5 hours bus ride. Then we had to take a small tuk tuk 45 mins to the pier, then a 30 min ferry to Koh Chang, then another 45 mins in a crowded tuk tuk up crazy windy roads. So in all it was a 20-hour journey to get there but as soon as I saw the island, I knew it was worth it. We were so lucky to have Dan with us so he could bargain and navigate us there, or else it would have been a lot more stressful.
Koh Chang was an amazing place. A relatively small island on the verge of becoming a tourist hotspot. You can see where they are tearing down the old hut bungalows and building large concrete resorts. It’s crazy that just 30 years ago the island was completely inhabitant by wild elephants. We stayed on Lonely beach, which has become a favorite spot for backpackers to chill out and relax, so there was tons of vegetarian food and everything was pretty cheap. There ended up being about 6 of us staying there, so all shared a couple of bungalows right off the beach for less then $7 a night. Don’t get me wrong; this was by no means the Ritz. Our bungalows were poorly put together by bamboo, wholes everywhere, perfect for mosquitos and geckos to get in. There was no AC just a small fan and one large bed with no blankets. You have to pretend that the mosquitoes net is really saving you from getting eaten alive at night but it’s really hard to complain when your surrounded by such beauty.
Beside the bugs, one of my favorite things about Koh Chang was all the animals. There was wild monkeys climbing on the telephone polls, elephants walking down the street and tons of stray dogs that just come and ate off your plate. At our bungalows alone we had two cows, a dozen cats ( a made really good friends with cat in particular he looked just like my child hood cat spunky but I called him boots) millions of geckos that make crazy noises at night and huge cockroaches. it really was a jungle!
A typical day: We wake up around 11, walk to our favorite breakfast place that is practically on the ocean, we lounge in our hammocks, order fresh fruit shakes and amazing curry dishes. Then walk to the beach and float in the crystal clear warm water for a couple hours soakin up the rays. The best part was once you swim out and turned around all you can see is white sand and the bright green jungle with rolling mountains, truly paradise. One day we even swan to this isolated island that must have been over a mile away. It was very difficult to get to shore because of all the rocks but it was quite the accomplishment to get there. We even found a fresh coconut that we broke open on a rock and drank the milk straight out of, it was right out of a movie screen. After hours of tanning and throwing the Frisbee or rugby ball around, we’d watch the sun fade into the horizon, take a short nap and shower, then we’d head to one of the local bars that are always putting on free barbeques (they even had tofu bbq). Every night one of the bars would host a party, the island was so small you were bound to see everyone from the beach that day and everyone you saw last night.
After 7 days in Koh Chang I had to say goodbye to my English boys. We’ve spent the last 4 weeks together all day everyday and I really become of the mates, for better or worse. They went off to Cambodia to hang out and look for teaching jobs. The girls and me stayed on the island too content to move, we even extended our trip by an extra day because we couldn’t imagine a better place to be or better people.
We meet some really cool people during our 11 days there. A couple of chill guys from Sweden, a group from South Africa who were so sweet and generous, a super friendly Canadian couple and of course a bunch of new English blokes. Its so crazy how we can all come from every corner of the world but we all have so much in common. Everyone is young, loves to travel, out going and completely liberal in all senses of the word. Every time we’d meet new people they were so surprised to learn we from America, they all said they rarely meet any while traveling Southeast Asia and that we were by far the coolest. It was so surprising to hear how excited and appreciative foreigners were to America for electing Obama, they really have a lot of faith they he can restore America’s name abroad.

ATI graduation

I thought I would share a poem/ speech that one of the guys in my program said during our farewell party, you might not get all the inside jokes but I thought it was a great way to sum up the experience:

Just when it feels like its time to settle in,
Im off again.
New country, unknown streets, unfamiliar people.
And now its time to say good to those crazy romances and long weekend trips.
In three weeks, this time did fly,
as many memories as Sang Som sips
Aye Tat Ta !!!!!
Its been a proper good time.
A bunch of geezers and birds in this random life of fate.
And now its time to say goodbye to new friends, crazy romances and long weekend trips.
So true how this time did fly
Making more memories then Song Som sips.
So we broke some windows, left our mark.
Anything goes with ATI after dark.
But through all the gossip of this and that,
one thing remains true
To Sinthana we will not be invited back
We got tricksters and hippies, hicks and Thai boxers
Some patient, some witty, we've even got porn stars!
So with more joy then misery, we should now rejoice
Because faster then Mc delivery, we will each be gone by choice.
So, I think I speak on behalf of the class,
when I thank our beloved ATI staff, for putting it all together
And dealing with all our shit.
Now its time, we each do our bit.
Phonology, grammar, context and games
Speaking and teaching American,
now matter what they say, does take brains.
We got to teach really very good and speak of course, totally smart
Remember to shower and hold in a fart.
So trim your beard and respect the culture.
Don’t drool over the young like a linger vulture.
Always remember the best teacher is a student.
So no hangovers, no piercings and always cover your tattoos
And always be prudent!
Remember chalkboard management and lesson organization
You’re more then yourself, you represent a nation
So be lively, do a little dance, sing’em a little song
And try not to be a typical farang.

Core Dialogue (teaching method we used obsessively)
A- We would like to thank our sponsors.
B- Who?
A- 7-11, Leo, Sang Som, Singha
B- You forgot McDonalds.
A- Super size me!

note: Sang Som was our favorite Thai Whiskey

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbye Chiang Mai ... Hello Kho Chang!

i just finished packing up my bags and checking out of the hotel. What a process trying to refit all my air-tight bags back in to my suitcases, but somehow I managed to make it all fit a little better then the first time. I plan to leave one of my suitcases in Bangkok while Im down at the beaches. Lacy, Brittany, the English boys and I are catching a night bus at 7 pm to Bangkok and we should arrive around 7 am Monday. Then we are getting the next bus (and ferry) to Kho Chang! I am so excited for some R & R in the sun.
I survived my visa run to Myanmar. It was the worst car ride I've ever been on! All twelve seats of the mini-van were full, the driver must have thought he was 4 wheeling. The ride was so bumpy and jerky, two people got sick and I was really close to being the third. Myanmar reminded me of Tijuana, nothing special. We literally walked across the border got our passports stamps, turned around and walked right back into Thailand. Overall the trip took about 9 hours, which isn't too bad but its just one of those annoying inconveniences of traveling.
i am sad to leave Chiang Mai and all the new friends I've meet. Now I've got friends to visit all over China, Korea and Thailand. It has been a lot of fun and a great experience.
P.S. I actually let my hair air dry for the first time in my life and its straight! I am a believer in this Japanese hair striaghting! It will be perfect for my holiday on the islands!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Elephants in the Streets!

I have so much to share since my last post ......

Let me start with teaching. On Tuesday we had our second practice teach at a local elementary school. My lesson went really well. I had the first lesson of the day so my students were really responsive and enthusactic. From Wednesday to Friday we taught at this massive private middle school, there was over 1.500 students. Day one was a little shaky, middle school kids are way more timid and self concsious about speaking English but by Friday I was way more confident and relaxed. My feedback was very positive, I've been told i have a perfect teacher voice. (By the way, my excessively loud voice has become the running joke in the program!, causing my instructor to move floors and a few upset hotel resident but I denay all charges of guilt) I've had an awesome time teaching these past two weeks and I've learned so much from peers. But Im glad this week is over, waking up early and planning lesson plans all night is pretty trying!!!
After all our hard work ATI and the resort threw us all a big going away party. We all got to wear traditional Thai costumes and we looked like Aaaaamazing! The karaoke portion of the night got a little out of hand and everyone was celebrating to the max! A great way to say goodbye as we all head our separate ways to teach but totally inconvientdent for my visa run!
Since I found out I have an extra week in Thailand, I have to leave the country tomorrow at 7am to get a 15 day extension on my visa. A group of us are taking a 10 hour bus trip to Myanmar (Burma) to cross the border. Im not looking forward to the trip but I love getting new stamps o my passport.
After the visa run, me and my new friends Brittany and Lacy are heading south.We are all on the same flight to Seoul so we are taking a little holiday before we have to get down to business. On Sunday we are taking the night bus to Bangkok and then finding our way to Kho Chang, off the Central coast of Thailand. It's suppose to be beautiful! Tons of islands you can swim to, cheap bungalows and the sun!!!. i already miss the beach and I can't wait to relax and work on my tan.

Other happenings.....
I got my hair chemically straightened, kinda like a perm. It took 4 hours! but it was super cheap and now I have Asia hair for the next 6 months. I think it looks pretty good and since I am without my usual utensil, its totally convenient.
I'm falling more in love with Thailand everyday, everything is walking distance and inexpensive. I took two huge bags of laundry to get washed, the next day they were clean and folded for under 5 bucks. It's quite the life here !

Now to the elephant ....
A group of us went to our favorite spot last week and on our way out of the bar, no joke there was a baby elephant just walking down the street! It was the craziest thing I've seen. He was so cute! He looked just like Dumbo but it was kinda of sad, he really shouldn't be walking down a busy street at 2am.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Teacher Maddy

Today was amazing!
Everyone did a really good job teaching and our kids sat through four hours of English lessons! I had to go last, so I had plenty of time to prepare but the kids were a little restless by the time it was my turn. Once I got up to the front of the class and started my lesson all my nerves disappeared. The kids I taught were in the third graders, they were so sweet. After my lesson a group of the girls came up and gave me hugs. One of the boys even gave me two oragami hearts. It made my day!
All the Thai kids were so excited to see us westerners walk on campus, at lunchtime the guys even played soccer with all the schoolboys. We will be going back to the same school four days next week, so by the time I get to Korea I will be well prepared. I cant wait to have my own class and meet my students in Korea!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Yesterday I ventured to the mall to find a skirt for teaching it has to go past my knees when I sit down! After two hours all i came home with was a box of Cheese-its and goldfish, no clothes but soooo yummy!
Tomorrow will be our first day of teaching in the Thai schools! i will be teaching a 40 minute class about fruits to 15 elementary students. I'm feeling way more confident after our second round of peer teaching today. I was more prepared and did all my homework this time. I even went to bed at a descent time last night!
Well, it wasn't all by my own choice. I have been singled out as the loudest American (especially at 2 am) and apparently my voice travels in the halls, keeping my instructor awake.... oooppppsss! So I've been asked to stay off the third floor when I come home at night. but really? Im not that loud.... am i?
Pretty much everyone from the program, about thirty of us, went to this great blues bar down the street last night. There was a local Thai reggae band playing some classic Bob Marley jams, so killer! Thailand has an wonderful culture, everyone is so friendly and kick back and the weather is still great everyday!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gettin' Physical

I finally went on a run! Me and some friends went to Chiang Mia University after class yesterday for a some exercise. The guys played a pretty good game of soccer with a large group of Thai guys while I got to run around the track for a couple of miles. I am a little sore today but it feels good to run again!
After our day of exercise, we went to one of favorite bars in CM. It's this great veggie, reggae, rooftop bar that over looks the city. You have to leave your shoes downstairs, sit on ground with small thin pillows and drink your beers off a low table. The bar has a great vibe and atmosphere, I wish there was one in Cali !

Monday, February 2, 2009

Temple on the Mountain

Just before sunset on Sunday night, a group of us to a pick-up truck to visit a Buddhist Temple on the top of the highest peak in Chiang Mai. After 20 minutes of traveling up a winding road trying not to slide out the back of the truck and 300 stairs, we finally reached Dio Suthep. The view from up top was truly breathe taking (besides the smog) you could see all of Chiang Mai. We got there just before evening prayers. We actually got to observe the monks chant for over 30 minutes. It was a humbling and peaceful moment to say the least.  It was a very serene place, the smell of incense and flowers was incredible. I took some pictures with a friends camera, so stay tuned......