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Category Archives: Thailand

Reflection: March 11, 2012

I wrote this one week and one year ago in a private note on Facebook. Something that I needed to get out of my system, and one of those rants where I can only collect all my thoughts when I’ve properly written everything down. It’s funny to think that I’m in almost exactly the same position as last year, but in reverse.

As people start leaving and goodbyes continue, I’m lonely again, but in a very different way. I feel confident that I have made friends from all around the globe that I can literally pop in on any time and be welcomed with open arms and tears of joy. This time I’m just sad that everyone’s moved on, and the implication that I may never see some of them again.

I’m doing the whole full-time  job search, but for positions in Toronto this time. Related to anything that I find remotely interesting – mostly travel agency related.

I’m questioning my future, what direction it should take and what coming home is going to be like. But I wanted to share this, because I think it’s what everyone goes through when they’ve packed their bags and moved to the other side of the world.

I have to be honest. I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to prove or learn about myself by being here. I thought my life had direction; I’m a published writer with a degree willing to start at the bottom and work my way up. But instead I’m here. Throwing my life on an entirely new path, not because I had no idea what to do with myself, but because I felt like I was given a chance, a sign and I ran with it.

But now that I’m here and I’m going through the motions of job interviews and planning and researching what town I want to live in, I’m asking myself, “is this what I really want?” I should have done the soul search before I said goodbye to everyone, before I applied for the course, before I had even researched all my options.

I was happy at home. I realize that now. As unfulfilled as I might have felt, I finally had a group of friends, three even after new years, which consider me an integral part of their crew. I may have been losing my job, but I hadn’t really tried that hard to find another one.

My biggest challenge in the past two weeks has been spending so much time on my own. I’m not one to be that much in my head. I don’t over think a situation unless I have a strange gut feeling, and I try to take the world at face value, rarely expecting more or less than what I’m given. As much as I love my personal time doing absolutely nothing, quiet walks and my “me dates,” I’ve also realized that I’m mostly a social person, I need to get me out of my own head. I’m a Leo for crying out loud. I’ve learned that for me, home is where friends are. They could be friends for a month, a year or for life, but I need the built in support that people that love and admire you provide. Not having that built in support has been emotionally draining these past two weeks. I fear that something will happen to me and no one would know. The question still hangs in the air: would anybody here even care?

It would be so easy to give up now. To pack my bags, get rid of any excess and charge the next plane ride home to my credit card. However, I do know myself well enough to know that as soon as I got on that plane, I would beat myself up for not sticking it out, for not taking the jobs that are being thrown at me and for caving in to my emotional wreckage. I don’t want to have to live with that regret.

I want to be stronger. I want to be that woman who does things without needing approval, who can go to a movie alone and not feel awkward eating alone and doesn’t need to run her decisions by anyone.

I want to make the right decision, I want to pick the right job, and I want to do what I originally came here for.

Just as I wrote the above self-doubting rant, “Let Go” by Frou Frou came up on my ipod. It’s been randomly showing up recently on shuffle, but the lyrics have this perfect soul-calming quality. It’s like the voice of a friend telling me not to stand on the sidelines waiting for life to happen and that it’s sometimes okay to be an emotional wreck.

“So let go. Jump in. Well whatcha waiting for?
It’s alright ‘cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.
So let go, just get in, it’s so amazing here.
It’s alright, ‘cuz there’s beauty in the breakdown.”

It reminds me that I’m doing this because I’ve always thought about it, because I didn’t want to have the itchy traveller’s foot for the rest of my life without doing something serious about it now.

The choices I make in the next week are going to shape the next year of my life, yes that’s true. But I don’t have to make the drama out of it that I have been in my head.

I am extremely glad that I’ve taken the last year to do the things I’ve done, to meet the people I have, to teach the most wonderful children in Thailand and that I didn’t cave into fear and pack my bags for the next flight home.

My flight home is now booked and I’ve seriously started the job search / interview process and can only cross my fingers that when I get home I’m not going to feel the same about leaving Thailand as I did when I was trying to get settled. I’m sure that the support of friends that I’ve so dearly missed, and a comfortable atmosphere will mean the difference between despair and irritation, but you never know when that black wave of self doubt can rear it’s ugly head.

Koh Samet: Still my favourite Thai island

SaiKeaw Beach on a weekday

SaiKeaw Beach on a weekday

Despite how many places I’ve been in Thailand, and despite anyone else’s interpretation of favourite, I think that my favourite island will always be Koh Samet. Not only was it my first island away from any of my friends from home, it’s basically where I did my TEFL course. I have so many amazing memories of the island; of what I used to think where the worst bungalows in Thailand at Naga, of the all-night dance parties, of late-night swimming, of partying with Thai’s for the first time, and of course of all the amazing people that I was there with at different times throughout the past year.

During the day on any given weekend the beach can get quite crowded. However, during the week, the place is almost a ghost town. Considering how close it is to Bangkok, many Thai’s and teachers come down for the weekend to let off some steam and get in some beach.

The fire shows are simply amazing, and the bodies on the guys doing the crazy acrobatics and fire throwing make it even more entertaining. I would have to say the fire show at Ploy Bar is, by far, the best I’ve ever seen.

Jep's Restaurant, waiting for our speedboat

Jep’s Restaurant, waiting for our speedboat

The sand is only slightly whiter than I was when I arrived in Thailand, and the waters are almost always calm. Jep’s restaurant and bungalows is always my first choice of places to stay and eat. Their ridiculously extensive menu has very little in the way of disappointment, and I’ve eaten pretty much every meal there every time I’ve been there. It’s also this part of Ao Phai beach, just around the mermaid from SaiKaew, that is my favourite spot to lay out and chill out. It’s significantly less crowded than its neighbour and the chances of seeing Russians in Speedo’s decreases the farther from SaiKaew you get. But you will always see the one we call “leather woman,” who has been on Samet for at least 2 years walking her severely anorexic, brown old self up and down the beach.

UV Paint on the wall in Naga Bar

UV Paint on the wall in Naga Bar

The Lopburi crew went back as a final group trip of the year. It was a chance for us to cram ourselves into a mini-van together and leave our dusty town for some sun, relaxation and crazy nights on the beach. I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. While the sun didn’t come out until the day we left, we were all able to get a little too much sun (damn you clouds for making us forget sunscreen!) and a lot of fun in the sea tossing a (Canadian!) football in a circle for hours on end, or lazily floating on the surface of the calm waters.

But by nightfall, we all had our game faces on. Naga Bar ended up being our base and we stayed until the wee hours, when the bar staff

Drinking games turned photo shoot

Drinking games turned photo shoot

shut off the lights and the music and left us to our own devices in the dark. It was at that point that a couple people decided to get into the Muay Thai ring and have a go, having a seriously scary girl-on-girl fight that ended in bruised and damaged faces. Another night, we planted ourselves on the beach in front of Naga Bar to participate in what I could only call a teachers circle of seriously dangerous drinking games. (“Mango, mango, banana, banana,” “I’m commencing a yee-haw to my right,”) As well as card games made up on the spot left us entertained until weirdoes came and stood around us and dogs needed to be buried in the sand. The only thing left was to cover ourselves in UV body paint and dance like idiots until the early hours.

Acting the fool

Acting the fool

Despite my current plans to travel around the South of Thailand, I feel like my teaching career has come full circle in the past year. I started my TEFL on the shores of Ban Phe, and we had our last Lopburi hoorah on the shores of Koh Samet. Considering that it’s my favourite island, I couldn’t be happier.

Road Rage in Thailand

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There is only one road rule in Thailand: don’t hit anything.

Everything else is pretty much open to interpretation. Despite my failure at learning to drive at home, I’ve been driving a motorcycle in Lopburi for the past year.

On the wrong side of the road!

Despite everyone saying that everyone has at least one, *touch wood* I have yet to have an accident.  I have only 3 more weeks of driving left before I head off on another month long travel and then return home. I haven’t come off my bike, I haven’t laid it down, I haven’t gotten any scrapes or bruises from any sort of accident. I’ve definitely had some close calls, but beyond some insane driving from everyone on the road, I’ve steered clear of anything major.

But I’ve learned a few things along the way about driving here.

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March is Phoneography Month: Pets

As part of my continued participation in March is Phoneography Month, I’ve organized a collection of my Thailand pets. Seriously. Sometimes I think that people have a camera on their phone for one sole purpose: To show the world their pet.

I’m a victim as well. There are so many photo’s of my dogs Rocky and Buddy that I think my phone should just self-implode.

But since I’ve been in Thailand, I have had a chance to have, or help others have, some other amazing pets. First there was the kitten who was too young to be in a pet shop and whom my boss instantly adopted.

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Then there were some seriously adorable puppies who just helped themselves up onto our porch. A photoshoot ensued, obviously.

Then, the best of all, Jing Jai. (Means “real heart” in Thai)

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Random in Rayong

For our long weekend in November, all we wanted was to swim in the ocean. That was literally our only requirement. That’s a good thing, however, because that’s all we got.

We were going to head to Koh Samet, but since we started planning on Wednesday to head off on Saturday, we were going to end up without a place to lay our heads. So we decided to have a truly random, truly Thai long weekend. We booked a hotel on Agoda that was 50% off. The pictures looked ridiculous enough to at least make for a good story. What none of us really realized was that we were booking ourselves into a sex hotel.

Opting to travel on Saturday, we headed to Bangkok for a rip roaring night out on Khao San. Complete with random Thai’s falling in love with me (as usual, what can I say, I’m irresistible) parties in the street, and falling into bed at an ungodly hour of the morning. Leaving Bangkok was hard to say the least, and waiting hours for the bus didn’t make it any better.

Khao San Road at it's finest.

Khao San Road at it’s finest.

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Sunflower fields in Lopburi

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight obsession with sunflowers. So much so, that I have taken pictures of them, and have been saving pictures of sunflower tattoo ideas onto my hard drive since at least 2010.

So it seems fitting that I coincidentally moved into a town that is famous around Thailand for their mass amounts of sunflower fields. (Yet another reason to get that tattoo that I’ve been planning for the last three years.)

The sunflower fields are only fully in bloom for approximately three weeks in December. For those three glorious weeks the areas just outside town are so amazingly beautiful that I took to driving with my gaze almost completely on the fields and hardly on the road itself.

Sunflowers are a major source of the economy in Lopburi, aside from it’s main source – the army –  and are farmed for the use of sunflower oil, sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, to name a few.

But I can’t properly describe the amazing view of the fields, so I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

Merry Christmas, Joyous Apocalypse and Happy New Year

So it’s officially 2013 and has been for some time. I’ve obviously been a busy little bee this past month.

703840_10151189320640787_1280155560_oSpending the holidays overseas away from family and friends was a little depressing, but I coped with lots of beer and beach. Not to mention that my roommate and I made sure that we celebrated in true Western fashion for the entire month leading up to Christmas. With a mini Christmas tree, a whiteboard full of “Merry Christmas’” in other languages and advent calendars to indulge in every morning.

Since I work for a Western company, we got the full holiday season off to do as we please. So a close friend and I packed our bags and hopped on the first bus down to Koh Chang. I’ve been there before, but never wrote about our long weekend of indulgence. Maybe I was too hungover, maybe I wanted to keep the memories for myself. Either way, I’ll share now.

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Phranang Beach… and the most penises I’ve seen in my life

In conversation recently, I was asked what my favourite beach in Thailand is. Of what I’ve seen, I think I would have to say here:

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The water was perfect for swimming, the white sand perfect for lounging, the caves ideal for exploring, and the ingenious longtail boat restaurants made for a tasty beach picnic. The whole setting was something out of a photograph, a gift of nature that one could only hope to see. Aonang.com claims that this beach was voted one of the ten best beaches in the world. Who polled that, or when, I’m not sure because sadly there isn’t even a beach in Thailand on the National Geographic list. However, the beach surely is gorgeous; add to the fact that it’s not really a resort beach (I think there were only one or two in the general vicinity) or a party beach makes it that much more special. Read the rest of this entry

Tonsai Bay: The most beautiful place in the world

Tonsai Bay: The most beautiful place in the world
The beach on Tonsai

The beach on Tonsai

Once again on this trip I’m struggling to come up with words to describe just how beautiful a place is. Tonsai Bay took my breath away from the minute we stepped off our longtail boat. It was here that a friend claimed was his favourite place in Thailand and I can see why. There is little in the way of big name hotels or fancy establishments, everything is barefoot beach bars, wooden bungalows, dirt path roads and shirtless mountain climbers. Not to mention the view! The bay is completely surrounded by Karst Mountains and the only way in or out is by boat or a crazy trek through the mountains.

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Ao Nang: The town of the endless hustle

The marvelous view from Ao Nang beach

The marvelous view from Ao Nang beach

Walking up the street in Ao Nang reminded me a lot of being hassled in Cambodia, without the street kids tugging at your heart strings. Every step you take down the main strip there is a shop owner greeting you with a flyer, with a compliment, with a plea to just “buy something.”

I’m the kind of person who gets put off by pushy sales people in shops at home. Whether they are just doing it to be super friendly, or whether they are told that they must great every single customer with a complete run-down of everything that’s on sale in the store and instant help with sizes, colours or purchases in general. Some might see it as customer service, I believe firmly in service that’s there when you want it, not harassment. So needless to say, I’ve had a hard time in Southeast Asia where every market stall owner starts bargaining with you the instant you pick something up off the table.

In Ao Nang, however, the harassment was so intense that I nearly literally had a panic attack, walking with my fists at my side ready to punch the next guy who stood in the street and wouldn’t let me walk past without looking at his posterboard of “beautiful dress made special for beautiful lady.”

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