Wednesday, 8 June 2011

5th anniversary and a trip to Trang.

Six years ago in 2005 I was a 31 year old drone pulling levers at a global corporation. I was a pointless cog who’d been assimilated into the Borg-collective. I existed merely to pay debts to a bank. Bizarrely, I found it completely acceptable that in order to provide myself with basic shelter, I would agree to be a docile wage-slave for the next TWENTY FIVE years of my life. Eh?


I quit my job as an IT Technician at Pfizer, sold my house and escaped the UK.

Five years ago, at 0500 on Monday 12th June 2006, I was standing at Central Station in Newcastle waiting for a bus to take me to Aberdeen and the adventure of a lifetime. I had a single backpack containing a passport, ATM card, tent, sleeping bag, hiking boots and various clothes; these were the sole possessions of my new life. It was a dark damp morning but my senses were electrified – I was in a curious emotional state – experiencing the duality of excitement and fear. Thrilled about exploring the unknown and trepidation about what might lurk therein.

I arrived in Aberdeen and boarded a ferry to the Shetlands, the Faroes and Iceland. I crossed the Arctic circle, climbed volcanoes and visited steam vents in this geologically fascinating country before sailing to Denmark, Sweden and across the Baltic to Lithuania. I travelled by bus to Latvia, Estonia and St Petersburg before taking the trans-Siberian train across Russia. I passed through the Mongolian wilderness and the Gobi desert on my way to China. I sailed from China to Japan and Korea before spending a month in Tibet. I visited Hong Kong, The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Indonesia before settling down in Taiwan to teach English for a while.

The last paragraph consumed two years of my life and contained enough adventure to fill a book. However, I was far from finished. The original one year journey had already become two.

Four years ago, in 2007 I was hiking through central Burma. I sailed down the mighty Ayerwaddy from Mandalay before swamping my senses at the sublime temples of Bagan. I spent time in Yangon’s discos chewing betel nuts as my visa was about to expire.

Three years ago in 2008 I quit Taiwan and spent two months on the Philippine Island of Leyte. I planted rice and lived without electric or running water in a bamboo shack with a family. I cooled down in the lofty Cameron Highlands in peninsular Malaysia where I met Armin my Austrian travel companion. I then lived on Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand for 2 months where I experienced the famous full moon party. Cambodia followed with a chill out in Sihanoukville and chicken farms in Koh Kong. Back to the Thai-Malay border where two bombs went off on the border bridge. A month in Islamic Malaysia was followed by a month in Angeles, Philippines. Back to Malaysia where I hung in Penang before obtaining employment in Trang, southern Thailand.

Two years ago in 2009 I had succumbed to employment again. After almost three years of work-free travelling the wheels came off. I can live very frugally but I still need some money. I spent a year teaching maths in Trang where I learnt to read, write and speak Thai. I bought a motorbike and toured the rural south of Thailand extensively during my free time.

One year ago in 2010 I moved to the island of Phuket in southern Thailand. I started teaching GCSE maths in an international school. I completed the PGCE teaching qualification with Nottingham University. I can now boast that in addition to teaching maths I can waffle on about Gardner’s mulitiple intelligences, Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development and Ivan Illich’s hidden curriculum. All a load of psycho-babble bullshit. Am I a better teacher? Possibly. Am I glad the course is over? Definitely. I have been rewarded with a new one year contract and a pay-rise. After a 6 week holiday next month I will work one more academic year from September 2011 to July 2012 at 60,000bt/month (£1200/month).

Not too bad considering only a year ago I was earning 28,500bt/month in Trang! Additionally, I now have a qualification that affords the opportunity of reasonably paid teaching work all over the world! Can’t be bad. I've also saved some money for a six week bike trip around Thailand during my summer break – it’ll be good to be on the road again.


Half decade reflections. In five years I have visited in excess of 50 countries. I have learnt two Asian languages. I have filled a passport. I have had two oriental girlfriends. I have learnt to use chopsticks. I have quit smoking about 100 times. I travelled from England to Japan without flying. I felt an earthquake in Taiwan and vicious typhoons in the Philippines that killed thousands. I got tattooed in Thailand and ripped off in Shanghai. I’ve travelled on the fastest mag-lev train in the world and I’ve eaten the most disgusting things ever. Liaisons with the opposite sex of all creeds and cultures has been mind-blowing. The last five years have easily been the best of my life and I hope I remain healthy enough to make it to a decade! I have still yet to reach Australia, NZ, and South America. I have become well and truly stuck in Asia.

Smoking

I quit smoking on Sunday 24th April. However, I've failed twice in that three week period. I'm now one week nicotine free but I have to stay off the beer. Next weekend is a 'stay off the lash' weekend. This is harder than it sounds on this alcoholic island.

Ill

I was off work again last week. I picked up something that made me sweat/shiver/poo/puke. I was in bed three days and finally emerged 5kg lighter. I'm now a paltry 64kg. The booze doesn't help and I had my first alcohol-free weekend since coming to Phuket (which helped with the smoking too).

Uni

I've completed 75% of the online PGCE with Nottingham University. I have one more research project to do. I'd like to finish this before the 6 week summer holiday (8th July) as I'm planning a massive bike trip around the whole of Thailand. Exciting.

Armin

left for Angeles a few weeks ago. He's sadly missed.

Date

I went on a date last night with Patti, 33 from Yala. She has lived on Phuket for 14 years and works as a PR officer for a big hotel in Phuket Town. She has a car which freaked me out somewhat! Don't know if we'll meet again? We enjoyed the views from Tung Ka restaurant at the top of Khao Rang Hill on the same night the Toon drew away at Chelsea.


Some pics

Drunk in OMalley's with a Czech lad. No idea where our tops are? This pic looks a bit too camp for my liking.

The last time I took a pic like this was in the lofty mountains of southern Taiwan. This pic is near Nai Thon beach near Phuket airport.





I had a near fatal motorbike accident last year and this helmet saved me. Imagine having that impact across the top of your skull?

My bike at Nai Yang beach in the Northwest of Phuket.



Nice weather, max 34 min 26.

This is Thailand's Southern Meteorological Center near the airport. I drove up here since I'd never been. I saw two planes land! TWO? Yes, two in 10 minutes. In Trang I never saw one plane in a whole year. I miss Trang.


This is the posh British International School. Costs a fortune to send your kids there hence the teachers being well paid. Nice building. I think my school provides a cheaper 'international' option at about one third of the price!






Phuket mining museum.


The Thai staff at my school invited me for a BBQ. I went, stayed sober and sung a karaoke song. It was Goong's birthday. Canny laugh.



Ao Sen beach near Nai Harn. There's good snorkelling to be had here.











My old girlfriend's new bar. I knew Pla when she worked in Ao Nang. She's just opened 'Pla Bar' in Kata.

I was thinking I'll only have one beer as the music was louder than a China-man on a cell phone. However, Guy (my Chalong bar-owning Mackem buddy) unexpectedly turned up and explained how my one-beer plan will never work. It wasn't all bad as there was these nice lasses to look at.


Here's a shot of Ao Yon Beach on Laem Panwa.










Phuket zoo. On the left window is Thai script. On the right window is Roman script. Luckily I can read both. The left window says: 'Adult 100bt and Child 40bt'. The right window says: 'Adult 500bt and child 300bt'.

Even though I can read the Thai and I have a Thai driving license/work permit/tax card they still wanted me to pay the 'white' price. A family of four would end up paying almost 6 times a local family. I'm all for screwing the tourists a little but not by a magnitude of 6.


This is a rare Sunday treat from the Islander Bar in Rawai. A 340bt traditional Sunday roast. They even let you have all the meats: lamb, pork, chicken and beef. You can't get meals like this in Trang. An old English lady cooks it and it's just like home! I hadn't had one in five years!




Here's where I normally eat: Phuket Town night market.








Trang

Here's the Trang lads wearing salon wigs. I drove down two weeks ago to catch up with some old mates.

I did my 90 day report at immigration, taxed the motorbike for another year and visited my old school in Phuket Town before embarking on the monster drive down to Trang.





I visited some old stomping grounds and was pleased to see Suchat now sells solvents alongside the wiskey in his junkyard karaoke joint!

Here's Monkey. His lass has just opened a karaoke bar in Trang so that should keep him out of trouble for a while.


Here's Irish Tom and Suchat. Suchat had only just been released from hospital because of liver trouble.

Tom gave me a present when I arrived: a red T-shirt with The people's republic of Cork emblazened on it! Old Tom loves Cork. This time he informed us that Cork has the second largest natural harbour in the world! 

Shan is the Physics teacher at my school. He hails from India and cooks great food. He invited me to eat Tosai one night. Canny lad. We often go for fillet steaks after work.

Here he is again at the kids' Wacky Olympics day out. English Josh and Russian Vlad are the two bairns. Our school has been operating (illegally) as a secondary school. The Thai Ministry of Education came to inspect it so all the kids had to vanish. The management sent us to Laguna for a fun day out.


More teachers. Kim is Zimbabwean and Ella is Irish. 
This is all the activities the kids had to do.






Here's little Alex in year 7. 










Hilarious. This team did not move. They had no co-ordination whatsoever. 

Here they are at the beginning - still. The other three teams had long finished.


Lingo:

anacot = future

kang lang = behind

kang na = in front

pra jam duen = period

wong glom = circle

kookao = kneel

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