Thursday, 16 April 2009

Songkran and Thai-musician parties.

Politics

You may have seen the news about the Thai political situation being as precarious as ever. Here in Trang nothing has happened at all. Last year the yellow shirts had a 'yellow uprising' bringing Thai airports to a standstill. This year the red shirts are having a 'red uprising' causing all kinds of havoc. They managed to disrupt an Asian summit in Pattaya where very important figures had to be evacuated (e.g. Japanese and Chinese premieres). I am somehow reminded of a Norwich City vs Liverpool football match.


Waterfall

Yesterday I visited Sai Rung waterfall (namdoc) with Stefan and James. It was about a 1hr motorbike ride out here through tropical jungle and glorious sunshine. On arrival Stefan plunged into the nearest pool while James and I endeavoured to climb up through the jungle to a more secluded spot higher up the mountain. James expained how superstitious Thais don't like to come here anymore as a landslide killed 50 people here 2 years ago. With this in mind we ascended a difficult trail with some degree of trepadation. We stopped and jumped into a deep pool to de-sweat ourselves. It was very refreshing as the fast flowing water cooled us.


On the way back down we got lost in a ridiculous thunder storm. It suddenly became ominously dark and we were fighting off justifiable panic. Stefan, becoming increasingly worried for our safety, managed to get an 'armed' Thai search party to look for us. They blew whistles but we never heard them. We regained our composure, backtracked, and eventually found the original trail with some relief. I descended barefoot since my flip flops were hardly appropriate trekking attire. I was worried about snakes and thorns. It's really scary been lost in dense jungle and it's so easy to become lost!

Riding home in the rain was bloody freezing. It's hard to imagine how you can get cold in Thailand. However, when it rains, particularly in the mountains, it can get pretty chilly. Exacerbating this is that you always seem to be inappropriately dressed. The wind chill experienced on a motorbike is quite a force too.

Rain

A strange sunset from my window after masses of rain. It has rained everyday here for the last few weeks. Apparently the weather was superb until I arrived - bloody typical.

After a particularly severe storm (38mm rain in 1hr) the aftermath was devastating. Here are some shredded banana trees at the back of Stefan's wife's small restaurant.

My room seems to have a leaky roof. During the 'mad' rain I had cascades of water pissing through the ceiling. The floor was like a paddling pool and I am thinking of moving to a new place next month.

Falang Friends

This is Mac's back, Richard (left) and Stefan enjoying some ice water and food at his little Thai restaurant. Stefan's a canny lad. He's going to be an English teacher having just completed an intensive TEFL course. I went to his house yesterday. It's gorgeous. It reminded me of my life back in Blighty. He has all the comforts of modern life. Things I have been lacking for the last 3 years. I felt a combination of awe and envy as I sat drinking a coffee on his sofa watching a DVD in plush, organised surroundings.

This is robotic Phil and I showing off our motorbike crash wounds. Motorbike scars are called 'Thai tattoos' here since many people have them. It's a kinda ritual one must go through before being accepted. I've had two crashes now so I'm doing exceptionally well. Canadian Phil was only meant to stay in Trang a couple of days but he got stuck here for about 10 days. He was great crack. He kept taking the piss out of me for being single (probably the only single Falang in Thailand). I responded by explaining how he sounds like a robot as he stumbles through his sentences in electronic fashion. He was also born on Friday 13th - canny lad!

Thai Friends

This is Si from Khorat who sometimes gives me a massage. She's pretty fit but like most girls here she doesn't fancy me! The necklace I'm wearing was a present from Joe the musician. These things are Buddhist symbols that most Thai men wear. They represent good luck and can get outrageously expensive. I feel a tad silly wearing it but since it was a present from my new Thai mate I figured it's the least I can do.

Here's Joe. He plays guitar in a bar called Yoo Nai on Thanon Ratsada. He's a great bloke too. I went to his bar last Sunday for a quiet beer and ended up singing English songs on stage as part of his band! We then went to a party until 6am with more of his rocker mates. We finally went to sleep at his house at 8am. I woke at midday at had to almost resusitate Joe (the drunken bum) as I didn't want to miss Songkran.

Completely sober at the party. I'm not sure what the cowboy hat and medals are all about! In fact I can't remember this at all.

Here's Joe and Brown teaching me how to dance.

Party Thai-style. Great night from what I remember.

Rock Star? Performing in the bar earlier in the evening. I sang 'Hotel California' and 'Yesterday'.

I even got a polite round of applause from the Thai clientele.

Relaxing with the waitresses outside the bar.

Wan cooks my meals everyday. She's a nice woman who helps me speak Thai. Her food is delicious. She's married with 2 kids who help her in the kitchen. Often small birds will bounce around on the pots and pans here.

Songkran

Songkran is the Thai new year. I've never been in Thailand for this before. It is absolutely mental and great fun. Joe and I woke at midday and proceeded to down a bottle of Leo beer for breakfast in order to 'get in the mood'. We then motorbiked to his bar where we went onto 'play Songkran' for the rest of the afternoon. Basically, you get drunk, wet and have a laugh in no particular order. If you are on a bike people stop you to drench you and rub talcum powder on your face. People drive around in pick up trucks with loadsa folk in the back with a drum of water. It's just one huge water fight on a mammoth scale. In Trang it lasts one day but in Chiang Mai it goes on for five! One day is enough - believe me.
Some of the lads doing songkran at Yoo Nai.

Culture

Here's a Trang tuktuk. They are distinct from their Bangkok cousins. They have a more rounded front.

This is one of numerous temples in Trang. However, this one reminds me of an ice cream for some reason. If it had a flake it would be a 99!

This is a Chinese cemetery near Trang. Memories of my 9 months in Taiwan came flooding back.

Work

Ian received an application for 'my' job. It was from a woman who is infinitely more qualified than me to be a maths teacher! Talk about luck? He was laughing as he explained that had she applied earlier I would not be sitting where I was - hehe.

Here is my medical report. No, I can't understand a word of it except my name! The contracts look similar to this. You wouldn't believe the amount of paperwork involved in working aboard.

Opening a bank account in Kaisikorn (formerly Thai Farmer's) Bank.

It's Thursday, I've had a week off. Apart from the waterfall I haven't left Trang. Tonight I'm going around to Mac's house for a game of poker and a couple of halves of shandy.

See dam = black
See deng = red
See nam tam = brown
See kow = white

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