Journey from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang: two day slow boat

IMG_20151007_154453  With my phone buzzing at 4.45am to get up, I showered and ate some toast before walking to the bus terminal to catch the 6am old-looking, simple bus to Chiang klong (65 baht). On the bus, we were the only westerners but managed to communicate with a mum and daughter from Lao. They were so adorable. With their little English and our little Thai, we found out about them.FB_IMG_1444267005487

From here, we jumped into a tuk tuk (50 baht each) to the Thai immigration. Once we changed our money, we simply walked through the border without any complications, where we needed to get a coach (25baht) to the Lao immigration. The border was fully with people with no clear signs on how to purchase a visa on arrival. After talking to some people, we queued in the right line first to give our passports and applications the joined the left queue. There were a bunch of Chinese, who were trying to skip the line. However, this failed for them as they showed each passport in order, where there was a $35 fee.FB_IMG_1444267035986

We walked through passport control, where a man offered us a songtaow to the slow boat. It was 10.30am and we knew the boat was due to leave at 11. After a distant drive, we purchases our tickets to Pakbang (110,000 kip)then dropped our bags off on the boat. We were told that they would not be selling anything on the boat so we got a baguette made for our lunch, which we later found was not true ad you could purchase drinks and snacks onboard.FB_IMG_1444267029720

After an amusing complication of being stuck against some other boats so the locals had to strip down to their underwear and jump in the water and leaving just before 1, we headed to Pakbang. The journey was pretty uneventful, with regular stops to let off some Laos people, and beautiful scenery, floating down the Mekong River.IMG_20151007_135301

By the time we reached Pakbang, the sun had disappeared with darkness filling the air. There were many local hotels advertising rooms, where we stayed in a three bed room. It was pretty basic but had a hot shower and WiFi so for 25,000 kip, it was really cheap.

Once we settled in our room, we went down for dinner, where I had a delicious pineapple fried rice. We walked around to see what this place had to offer, which wasn’t much so we rested for the night.FB_IMG_1444267038702

The hotel owners worked like a military operation, where they banged on our doors at 7.30am to wake up as they wanted us to buy breakfast. We wanted to save some seats on the boat so we weren’t at the back as it was an extremely noisy ride the day before, so we carried our backpacks around 8.30am to the slow boat. Once we got some food for the journey, we waited for the boat to leave.

Again the journey was uneventful. It was amazing to see the scenery as well as people working on the fields and children playing football and swimming.FB_IMG_1444293477547

Once we arrived at the port, a group of us girls got a songtaow to our hostel (50,000 kip each).

Muay Thai lesson

As part of our orientation week, we had the chance to learn Muay Thai. It is a typical Thai sport, which originated here. It’s kind of a mix between martial arts and boxing. We were split into groups with an instructor, where he taught us lots of different moves including punching, side kick and front kick. I wasn’t very good at Muay Thai as I know I’m not flexible. It was a great experience but also very sweaty.

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Xplore Asia orientation week

IMG_2642Leaving Bangkok meant that I would be starting my orientation week with Xplore Asia, which was an exciting prospect. This is real. I have moved to Thailand to teach. Hua Hin is south- west of Bankgok by the beach, where I soon discovered that a lot of tourist come here for holiday. IMG_2767

First stop was to drop our bags as our hotel, Baan Ton Mai, before heading straight to the mall (I’m starting to use American language as I’m hanging out with them too much). Here, we mooched around getting our phone sorted, getting a bite to eat plus buying water. This is a strange concept to me as I never buy water from a supermarket but it’s not safe to drink the water from a tap. Feels like a novelty but I will be spending lots of money on nam (water) as it is extremely hot. IMG_2768

For the rest of the day, we settled into our hotel, had a rules/regulations session at the school where we were based and grabbed some dinner in the local community. Our hotel is a little outside of centre Hua Hin. It’s a lovely community full of small restaurant, where little english is spoken, a 7/11 (of course), a cheap market, a bar, a massage parlour and gym. Walking around on the stony pathways with motorbikes speeding pass, you feel relaxed and this feels like it could be home; all the Thais are completely friendly. What more would you want?IMG_2764

The Thai school which we are based in is along a main road in the centre on Hua Hin. On our first day here, there were no children but since they have been around. I find that generally they are shy even when I wave manically or say Sa-wad-dee-ka (Hello). However, I think they are getting use to foreigner being around so some do communicate. The school has a courtyard and canteen area as you walk in with classrooms all around. Climbing up the stairs to our class is a mission as we are based on the third floor. Definitely will be fit. IMG_2667

Over the next few days, we attended many lessons learning about the Thai culture and language plus basic information about Thai schools in general as well as many incredible excursions.

Thai language is a lot easier than I first thought. It is logical and no tenses. However, they use 5 different voice tones, whereas in English the tone doesn’t matter.

First few days in Bangkok…

After a long time travelling on a couple of planes, I have arrived in Bangkok. I was a little scared I wouldn’t get picked up for the airport by a driver. As I walked with my rucksack, I was searching for that piece of paper, ‘Xplore Asia’ and my name. It was there. He didn’t speak much English. He just placed me on a seat and told me to wait. I waited. What was going on? Has he disappeared? One and half hours later, he reappeared with an a guy from Texas. Relieve filled me.

Once I had got to the hotel, I found out I was sharing a room with a girl from New Zealand. As it was late, I found a restaurant  as I was starving with the guy from the airport. Sitting outside in the hot, humid weather with delicious food in front of me, I realised I was in Thailand. I’m actually here and will be here for at least six months. Seems a bit crazy but this is the life I’m leading.

Even though the time difference is seven hours, I managed to fall straight to sleep that night. It was bliss.

Next morning, I started meeting the teachers on the same programme as me over breakfast. Majority of them were from the USA. I guess, these are going to be my friends at least for the next week. Between us, we wanted to do different things so we split up into two groups: one going to the Grand Palace and the other walking around the weekend market. I joined the latter group.IMG_2584

Once we had taken the BTS,  the market was in our face, full of hustle and bustle. There were narrow rows of walkways with stall and shops, which were divided into different sections. While wandering around, we soon discovered that this market sold everything. Literally everything. Round every corner, there was a new discovery. There were things like fluffy dogs in cages, different types of food, watches, clothes, endangered animals. It was all there. The deeper we went in, I felt like this is not going to end. Would I even find my way out? It was just such a manic place but I love the feel of wandering around a market. IMG_2578

It was hard to see that a man with no leg in dirty clothes crawling along the food, begging for money. This is Bangkok.

In the evening, a group of us went out for a girls birthday to a rooftop bar. The view was spectacular. No photo would ever mimic the incredible sight. Bangkok is so huge. Miles and miles of skyscrapers, dazzling lights and traffic. Crazy traffic.

Sunday was the day of relaxation along Khao san road, which is a famous road in Bangkok known for being touristy. Clothes stalls on both sides of the road in front of rows massage parlours, travel agents, restaurants and men shouting Ping Pong.

After enjoying a delicious Thai meal, glass noodles and prawn in cased in egg, we did the thing I’ve been wanting to do since I booked this trip. Back, neck and shoulder massage. It was incredible. Lying on a thin mattress while some rubs massages body. The funny thing is that they start by washing your feet. When we walked down the stairs, the fishy feet pedicure was staring at us. Yes we did. Drowning my feet in the tank of water was just amazing. The fish swim around nibbling at your dry skin. I had so much that they were masses of them kissing my feet and legs. IMG_2623

When we were done with relaxing, we travelled on a boat down the lake, where the skies opened momentarily. By the time we arrived at our hotel, we headed to the rooftop pool to relax a little longer before having our first Xplore Asia meeting, where we discovered all the members of our time.IMG_2586

Bangkok was beautiful but I’m sure I’ll be back soon.

Farewell England, Hello Thailand!

As I sit on the coach for the first leg of my journey, I still can’t quite believe I’m actually doing this!

The last week has been a total whirlwind. Six days ago, I was saying farewell to South Africa and the ICS family I have been around for the past 3 months. Filled with emotions while hugging the Creche owners, teachers, my team and other beautiful people I met. 

Since, I have been back in England; catching up, hanging out and sharing stories with my friends and family. It was a swift hello and goodbye. I am totally blessed to have encouraging and loving people in my life. 

While packing today, I felt a mix of emotions while praying and listening to worship music. Do I want to leave? Do I want to be back in South Africa? Should I stay in England a little longer? How do I feel about my next adventure in Thailand?

I can tell you that I am feeling excited about what the next six months holds and the people I will meet; nervous about not knowing the details or God’s exact plans for me. However, I know that God has walked this path before me, he will protect me and be my side throughout this adventure. Over the last few months, God has shown me in wants me in Thailand. 

Over the next six months, I will be in Thailand teaching, not sure where or which age group but i will be in this beautiful country. Once I arrive in Bangkok, I will be taken to a hotel to start meeting people, who have also stepped out of their comfort zones. Then on Sunday, we will be taken to Hui Huan, where we will have out orientation to get ready. Majority of people will be staying to complete a TESOL course, however as I’m already a teacher, I’m having three to four weeks travelling time before starting a teaching job in May. I have kind of a journey planned to travel but it might all change. Hopefully I will be visiting Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos but we will see. 

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