Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Thai Culture Course, test drives, beaches and rain.

Thai Culture Course

I've just had one of the most tedious weekends of my life in Nakhon Si Thammarat. I did some inane, mind numbing stuff as a Royal Navy Submariner but nothing compares to this.

Officially it's the "Thai language, culture and professional code of ethics course for Non-Thai Teachers". Unofficially it's the biggest steaming load of bollicks I will probably ever have to endure. To say it was a touch boring would be like saying 'That Ronaldo bloke cost a few bob'.

Coincidentally, as if having to go wasn't painful enough, this three day course ended up ruining a five day long weekend - the only break I get all term. The course itself sounds like a good idea - to improve the awareness of foreign teachers working in Thailand. However, the reality is that the course felt like nothing more than a nice little money spinner for the Teachers Council of Thailand. I didn't learn a single thing even after only been here three months. I would go so far as to say that you could read a Lonely Planet and glean as much information.

Anyhow, I have suffered the torture (although not as much as most folk since I accidentally 'missed' a fair chunk of it - much to the others' envy). I now have all the boxes ticked to obtain a work permit but to be honest I'm not really sure which bureaucratic hoop this course was designed for me to jump through.

Ironically, this is former PM Thaksin delivering a speech on the 'professional code of ethics' element of the course.

The audience were literally riveted to their seats to prevent a mass escape. The bloke standing against the wall turning his head to his right lived in Pegswood in the '80's!! The Rylands estate no less!! Small World eh?

These three guapa Filipinas behind me made the whole experience more tolerable. On the plus side I had a nice Hotel room and drank an amazing amount of beer. Paradoxically, I experienced more Thai culture boozing with the locals than the course offered.


Pat has it in her head that she needs a car. I pointed out that she can't even drive yet. However, her excitement is contageous and I went with her to spend a day looking at prospective candidates. I've promised to teach her how to drive in exchange for.....................I'm sure I'll think of something! I want to point out that second hand cars are worth a fortune here in Thailand. I couldn't believe the asking prices and thought Pat was winding me up. For example a 20 year old shagged-out Toyota can easily go for around £1500 or 80,000THB. It would fetch around £100 back home!!

This was the first one. The newest and priciest. I've tried to talk her out of it as it would involve trips to bankstards.

Look at her face!

Discussing the finer points with the owner.

Onto the next one in 'Ban forgot the name'. This 1993 Toyota is going for around 160,000THB but Pat (being a lass) doesn't like the colour. Too right pet.

I was more impressed with the animals in the garden. Can you see the elephant, zebra and giraffe? Looks like Jumanji in there. This is quite a popular thing in Trang - a plastic zoo in your garden.

This was the 3rd rust bucket in Huai Yot. It's the eldest of the four motors and therefore the cheapest. We didn't like this one!

She liked the last one the best. It remains to be seen whether or not she'll become one of the World's 600million plus car owners.

I had to test drive the cars for her. You need eyes in the back of your head on these roads!


After all the car hunting we headed to Hat Hua Hin near Sikao. I spotted (well, you couldn't really miss them) these curiously shaped mountains. The little house in the foreground contained an old Muslim lass NOT selling beer.

A view through the Causarina trees.

Getting arty with the phone camera.

Old boats.


You have to rub your head after wearing an old minging helmet for a while. What better place to do it than AngTongNamDoc between Sikao and Trang.

Trying to do a joint pic as sunset nears. We then headed to a market where I purchased a phenomenal amount of rambutan fruit.

We then had a cup of coco at this coffee house cum hair salon on the Northern edge of Trang. Another nice end to an amazing day in amazing Thailand.


Some guy applied for a job as an English teacher here. Nothing unusual about that right? However, I bet you've never read a CV like this before. Under hobbies he claims (rather modestly) to be a literary genius. He writes in the third person. He claims to have written a novel which is like a good vintage wine - it should be sipped slowly and relished for the bouquet of the prose. To be suitable for mass publishing the novel would have to be edited but no one would be capable of such a feat except the man himself.

Aren't you a little over qualified to be teaching retarded English in a Thai government school?


I still love the palm trees and the lamposts topped with golden dancers. Everything feels exotic - even after 4 months!

Trang's main landmark: The clock tower. Not too far from my school, Russel's bar or the nightmarket.

Turn right for Phattalung, left for Sikao or straight on for Krabi. Be warned, you could be waiting at the lights for a while. Like in China, most traffic lights have timers indicating how long they'll be red or green for. Some lights are red for 120secs.


It appears to be the rainy season now - officially. Whoever comes up with these rainy/dry season demarcations can't be all there. I'd call the seasons 'wet' and 'slightly less wet'. I arrived 4 months ago in the 'hot/dry' season and it rained a lot. Now, it's torrential - constantly. I yearn for some blue sky.

Typically, when I'm at work the weather tends to be fine. However, come the weekend..........yep it lashes down inhibiting any exploratory activities. During the downpours the temperature can plummet. I noticed the mercury slide as low as 25C the other day. You may laugh but it does feel cold once you're used to living here - especially on a motorbike. You have to wear a ridiculous bin-liner style plastic overall thing that flaps around annoyingly.

A colourful Mosque beneath a threatening sky. The flashes of lightning followed by the roars of thunder are spectacular. This was on the way to Had Yao last weekend. Once you leave main towns in southern Thailand, you'll notice a large proportion of the rural population are Muslim. There are bombings and murders in Southern Thailand that probably don't make World news. The Thai army maintain a huge presence and the recent escalation in attacks is a worry. Teachers are easy targets for attacks - this concern is never far from my thoughts as I explore the countryside here. However, the bulk of the trouble is in the three 'far' southern provinces and, as far as I'm aware, Trang province has experienced no problems - fingers crossed.

A common site - a couple of helmetless six year olds piloting a scooter. I'm surprised there are only two of them since families of five often squeeze themselves onto a single scooter (with shopping). I saw a scooter carrying 12 big bamboo chairs the other day in Trang! However, my favourite scooter innovation are the scooter/restaurant assemblies. You basically have a kitchen welded to the side of a small motorbike. They typically sell SomTam which is sooo spicy it can double as petrol when oil prices surge!

Here's Ole rescuing our scooter during another downpour. Shortly after this his living room flooded! It's difficult to give an idea of the rain here. I know it rains a lot in Blighty but nothing like this. This is SERIOUS rain which commonly results in flooding. It feels like you get one month's worth of UK rain in 5 minutes here!

At least you wouldn't need to flush Ole's toilet.

During a recent deluge that left me stranded I snapped a pic of this furniture store. Plastic things are big in Asia. Look at all these chairs, basins, shovels etc.


These places are mint. The 99baht (£1.80) all you can eat buffets. You can have salmon, steak, chicken...........everything. I love it. You have to cook this stuff yourself which kind of defeats the point of going to a restaurant in the first place????

Chef Steve assisting Pat. We're making Geng Keo Wan (Thai green curry).


This, my friends, is a petrol station.

Mangrovey, jungly, swampy

I fancied a walk through this mangrove swamp but had second thoughts on seeing the dilapidated bridge.

This is near Yong Satar (near Palien for the geographically impaired - which itself is 45km south of Trang for the even more geographically impaired).

Palien sunset

Look at that orb of orange light just hanging in the sky. An Andaman sunset - nice eh?

Watching a traditional longtail fishing boat enjoying the last few rays of sunlight. Not bad pics for a 2MP phone camera.


I went to Trang's government hospital today to witness this chaotic scene of swine flu paranoia. I pulled a muscle in my side but I was worried that it was something worse as I couldn't sleep. After 2hrs the doctor told me I had nothing to worry about - phew. I was thinking my appendix/liver/kidney was needing replaced - hehe.

Pat came too. Like everyone else she's gone flu crazy.

Trang Hospital - a huge building. It pissed down a minute later!

White skin

The amount of adverts for whitening products here is unreal. On TV shows you rarely see brown skinned folk (who, IMO, are more beautiful). The whole country, like Michael Jackson, is going 'I must be white' bananas. The sooner this nonsense stops the better.


I played poker again last weekend. This time I WON. Yeah baby! 300bt to enter and I left 300bt UP! I even rang the bell in Russel's bar (after checking it was quiet enough - hehe).

Pob Gan Mai - Seeya

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