Heather's Thairy

Heather's journey to Bangkok, Thailand: a year of adventure!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Parade" Day

Gung Hay Fat Choi: Happy Chinese New Year's!!!
Chris and I decided to go to Chinatown on Sunday to check out the New Year's celebrations. We had initially thought of going on Friday, but all the signs and information we saw seemed to indicate that Chinese New Year's was on Sunday, so we headed down on Sunday evening after a good dinner on Khao San Road.
We arrived to find crowds and crowds of people dressed in red. Wading through the human masses, we saw dragon lanterns and drums being sold, smelled delicious Chinese food and treats being cooked, and heard the excited hum of anticipation. The main street was barricaded to keep the herds off the road, though the traffic had not been stopped yet.

After a while, we got tired of being pushed around and settled on a spot where it was slightly less busy. Eventually, an important looking man told everyone to sit down and be quiet, it wouldn't be long now...which was a welcome thing, since we had been waiting, at that point, for about two hours.
The traffic ceased to flow and the surrounding people became restless. Soon a large number of cadets, soldiers and police officers came along the street and the masses quieted.
We waited...
A murmer of excitement...
A collective gasp of amazement stirred through the crowd...
And the Princess walked out of the restaurant directly to our left.
She, with a huge entourage, walked out to the street and past us. The Thais cheered and waved and were incredibly happy.
Then they all got up and left.
Chinese New Year's had apparently occurred already and the masses had gathered for this quick glimpse of royalty.
We laughed about it later, but I can't say that we were terribly thrilled to have parked on the pavement in polluted downtown Bangkok for three hours to not see the dragon dance, the lion dance, or any other Chinese New Year's celebrations.

Oh well, my concert dragon is coming along, and I think if I am a little more diligent about it, I can finish it tomorrow.

Until next time,

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Work In Progress

The school year is almost over, with the last day of review having been Friday. Next week is exams and on March 4th we have our year-end concert.
The year-end concert is apparently quite a big do, with every class presenting on stage for 5-10 minutes. I am working with the P6 class with the theme "World Culture: Song, Dance and Costume".
I decided to do a version of the Chinese Dragon Dance. It is appropriate to the season (it is Chinese New Year's this weekend) and I had some great inspiration from a project that my Aunt Bonnie did with her Grade ones in Maui.

We really got going on the building of the dragon this past week; I'm really excited because the kids are very enthusiastic and have great energy and ideas. More to come!!!

Until next time,

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Driving Miss Heather

Alisa, Ryan, Shandi (Ryan's friend) and I went to Hua Hin with other staff members this weekend. We rented motorcycles on Saturday and headed to the national park that is about 40 km away from Hua Hin. It is an easy, straightforward drive on wide roads with little traffic.
Hua Hin is a beach town that I have been to a few times now. I didn't realize the sort of landscape that surrounds Hua Hin: it is very surprising how the land changes as you drive South!
Our first stop was a temple that is nestled among huge rocky cliffs. The scenery is spectacular.

From this point, you can take short boat tours around a canal system that explores the mountainous area. It costs 100 baht a person and lasts about an hour; it is very peaceful and relaxing. We saw some interesting birds and some kind of amphibian that reminded me of mudskippers, though I'm not sure what they were.

After that, we drove to a lookout point that provides a 360 panoramic view of the area. I was lazy and didn't hike all the way to the top, but the view from partway was really nice too.

Some of the plants were really interesting, too: there were several types of cacti around, which was sort of weird to see right next to a palm tree.

Our last stop was a beach, which was practically deserted and covered in seashells. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle business of the beach in Hua Hin, it was nice to wind down the day sitting in a gazebo and enjoying the view.

Saturday night we went out for Indian food and I had a fairly early bedtime, being sort of exhausted from the day's activities. Sunday I spent a bit of time on the beach and headed back to Bangkok in the early afternoon. It's nice that there are such interesting places close to home to make for action-packed weekends.
One final note: Alisa is famous!

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Camping Adventure

Last weekend was a three-day weekend as a result of mis-scheduling of holidays. At first, we were allowed the option of either taking the day as a holiday or coming to work for bonus pay. I had decided to work, because at the time I needed the hours with my kids, but then it was made a holiday for all foreign teachers as there were not enough people willing to work.

So, I went to Phu Kradueng national park with Chris, Stephanie, Lauranne, Rachelle and Elizabeth. I had been interested in visiting Loei province, the area of Thailand with the national park, for quite a while: it is the province with the greatest temperature range, being the coldest and the warmest province depending on the time of year. The flora and fauna found in this area are exclusive to Loei province.

We flew out on Saturday morning- very early, 6:20 AM. We were scheduled to arrive in Loei at 7:20 AM, but around 7:00 the captain of our plane announced that we were to land in Udon Thani, about three hours away from Loei. Whaaaaat?
It turned out that there was excessive fog over Loei and the landing, at the time, was not possible. About two hours later, after herding us through the airport and packing us into a van and then out of the van and back into the airport, we were put back on the plane and continued to Loei. We got there around 11:45, which was much much later than expected!
Undaunted, we went to the bus station and got a 12:20 bus to the park. After the bus ride and a quick journey in a songthaew, we arrived at the base of the mountain. We purchased toques and scarves at the base- Alisa and Ryan had warned that although it seems strange to get these things in Thailand, they would be absolutely necessary upon reaching the summit.
The hike ranged from easy to incredibly difficult. Some parts were flat, but more often it was like climbing massive stairs...for over five kilometers. To add to the challenge, it was very sandy and slippery in many places.
Thankfully, there are many pitstops along the way that serve water and food; I broke one of my main rules of living in Thailand and ate mystery meat on a stick (it was good, and so far, no repercussions) as well as a roasted yam (also quite good).
We reached the top in about four hours, and then had to hike another 4 km to get to the campsite. The top of the mountain is an immense plateau and the final walk, although less scenic than the hike up, is very easy.

We rented some tents, sleeping bags and other supplies and set up camp. It is relatively cheap to camp in Thailand, and generally people don't bring their own supplies (who would want to carry them up that ridiculous mountain, anyway?) as everything is available at the campsites.
The main grounds offer many services, including supply shops, a variety of restaurants, showers, bathrooms and bungalows that you can rent. We ate dinner at a really nice little place with great green curry. The owners were very friendly and we spent the evening there chatting and listening to Chris' portable MP3 speakers. We saw some deer and the others saw a wild boar, which I didn't see (I'm not disappointed, apparently it was huge, I think that would have scared me).
The night was extremely cold and we were all glad to have the extra sleeping bags and our winter gear. Apparently it drops to about 5 C at night.

In the morning, Chris and I got up fairly early and, after a good breakfast at the restaurant, started off walking around the plateau. We intended to visit a few waterfalls but when we went that direction, a man with a gun told us we couldn't because there were four wild elephants down that way!!!
So, we went to see a couple other waterfalls, both of which were dry (but still scenic).

We also saw a buddha statue. Along the pathway we found evidence of the elephants...

After that, we walked to a pond, which was peaceful and very nice. It was a long walk to get to the cliffsides, but it was worth it when we got there and saw the sights.

It was amazing how much of the scenery looked like we were back in Canada! We joked that so many Thai people are willing to hike up that huge mountain because they can take pictures and show their friends and pretend that they went overseas.

I had to get my stuff and head down the mountain so we went back to the campsite. I started the trek down around 1:15. It was, I think, more difficult to go down than it had been to go up. First, I was by myself, and not having people to talk to and distract me from the effort didn't help. Second, the angle is really steep, it's really slippery and it was really hard on my joints. However, I made it down without wiping out and in pretty good time, arriving at the bottom in around 3 hours. I took a songthaew to the bus stop and quickly got into a bus to Loei.
I realised on the ride to Loei that I had not brought my Lonely Planet book, and was totally without information or reference for what to do when I got there, but it wasn't a problem because as soon as I arrived a samlor driver pounced and asked where I wanted to go. I told him that I needed a nice hotel and he took me to Sunshine Palace, which was not only nice but better than I expected for really cheap. It was incredibly clean, had a hot shower (a MUST given how terribly dirty I was after the hiking and camping), a refrigerator and a television with 45 channels (about 5 of which were actually in English!!).
That evening I walked to a market and a 7-11 that I had seen on the ride to the hotel and got some dinner and some snacks.
Now, I had been scheduled for a 7:50 AM flight back to Bangkok, but about halfway down the mountain I got a phone call from Nok Air that told me that my flight was delayed...until 1:45 PM!!! Aaaugh!
So, in the morning I decided to venture out into Loei and see what it has to offer... and the answer is: nothing!!! Loei is almost barren. There is one really nice park in the middle of the town but not much else. There is one 7-11, one (closed) Family Mart, the shell of a Tesco (either ex-Tesco or Tesco-to-be) and rows upon rows of junky stores and restaurants selling odd things like gasoline out of glass bottles and used clothing. I got a lot of weird looks wandering the streets and got over my sense of adventure fairly quick. I headed back to the hotel and was really, really happy that it was well equipped...I am now very schooled in the news of Asia, courtesy of NewsAsia Channel.
I went to the airport around 12:15, arriving around 12:30...and the plane finally left the airport around 3:00. Another re-routing through Udon Thani and I finally got back to Bangkok at 4:30. I was a bit irritated by the delays of the weekend so I went to Foodland and treated myself to about $50 worth of deliciousness.
Overall, it was a fun and interesting weekend and certainly another great memory!

Until next time,

Hitting a Snag

So, I'm currently trying to get a post up and the site is determined to foil my attempts. Hopefully it will be up tonight or in the next couple days, but I figured that if I couldn't manage to publish the real post I should at least get a bit of print up to keep things sort of timely.
Things have been good, it is quite a bit colder here than it has been, and I recently experienced all the cold that Thailand has to offer on a camping trip. It was only 5 C during the night!
School is almost at a close, with Friday being the last teaching day. After that I have a week of review and then final exams. We prep for the year-end concert for a few days then have the big event- more on that as it unfolds!
After February, I have a lot of travelling planned. In March we have a bit more than two weeks of vacation and I'm headed to Borneo, Bali and Kuala Lumpur. We have a week or so of work (camp) and then there's more holidays: I'm first going to Singapore and then Sukhothai and Ko Chang. I might try to fit in another out-of-Thailand destination somewhere in there.
I work a few more days and then my contract is up on April 30th, when my friend Andrea is coming to visit and travel! We're going to Cambodia, Vietnam, Krabi and Chiang Mai!
I will be back in Canada in June! There's much to see and do before then, though, so stay tuned for more posts- if I can ever get this bloody site to cooperate!

Until next time,