Sunday, 24 March 2013

Four years in Thailand and a trip to Sukhothai.

Day 2477 update. I've been in Thailand for four years. I have no idea how this happened. I was meant to be going to China in 2009 and I took a wrong turn. I remember arriving in Trang on the 21st of March 2009 and ingratiating myself with the expat community. Some of those lads are now my fondest friends.

Another top lad I've met more recently is Dave from Birmingham. He's very artistic and teaches drama at my school. You can see him by clicking on the videos menu. After a chat about our previous lives in the Royal Marines and Royal Navy he penned the following poem on a scrap of paper. I was moved by the creativity and kept the poem so that I could share it here:

Mariner’s Tale

Sliding ‘neath the Great North Sea
A grey-green sub slips its seaweed shroud.
‘Nae Hollywoodin here!’ the wrecker man’s decree.
Topside miles and years and other tales
Of the albatrosses old and new
Another Military ex eschews of life; a spinning carousel,
the watches bell, a woman’s spell
and what was once was sometimes heaven,
sometimes hell.

I feel very fortunate to have bumped into Dave, meeting him has been one of the highlights of my Bangkok chapter. A little bit of Submarine jargon for you land lovers: A Hollywood means having an illegally long shower (dobie in Jackspeak) thereby wasting precious fresh water. The Wrecker, ironically, is the man who polices this as well as repairing the washing machine.

Brushes with death

My time in Asia has not been without incident. On the 9th of December 2006 I was in the Philippines when Typhoon Utor killed at least 78 people. It passed right over me on Malapascua Island at the northern tip of Cebu Island in the Visayas reaching speeds of 160km/h. Damage from the typhoon was estimated at $1.9 million. I remember walking through the jungle to the furious sea with a Scouse bloke when a coconut dropped between us. Had it landed 30cm either side it would have killed me or him! It was quite scary I can tell you.

On Friday the 7th of September 2007 at 01:51am there was an 6.2 magnitude earthquake in Taiwan. The epicenter was 110km SE of Taipei where I was living it the time. It was very confusing as I woke up and the whole apartment block was shaking. 
Only one building was damaged but it was still quite scary I can tell you.
This was the worst of the bunch. On the 21st of June 2008 Typhoon Fengshen passed by Mindoro Island in the Philippines. This 165km/h storm killed over 1,300 people including the sinking of the Princess Of The Stars ferry. I remember sitting in Sabang drinking a San Miguel in a wooden shack that was being shaken to pieces. 1300 people died! Thousands of homes literally blown away. It was quite scary I can tell you.

Bangkok life. There were some elections in my locality. This polling booth was right outside my apartment. The orange-jacketed motorbike lads from Isaan explained to me in perfect English the complexities of a local election. They went on to describe in fine detail the drawbacks of proportional representation and how Thailand prefers a voting system based on plurality. It's all irrelevant to me because I'll never be allowed to vote despite paying taxes for years on end. England, please take note how other countries treat foreigners. Hardly red carpet treatment.

These girls voted though. I bumped into these traditionally dressed ladies after a session in the gym. I feel inappropriately dressed here!

I can't believe I just typed: after a session in the gym!

I like this photo of the students using a clinometer to find the trigonometric height of a building. In the UK the school kids have knives. In Thailand they have clinometers. I know which school I'd want my kids to go to.
I feel a bit embarrassed showing this. It's been exactly 100 days since I quit alcohol and cigarettes. I've been going to the gym for about one hour twice per week. Look at the difference. I was tragically underweight (66kg) when I arrived in Bangkok but now I'm a much healthier 73kg. I can run 2.4km in the time a 16yo needs to do it to join the Royal Navy. Very proud of myself but a little  concerned about that facial expression.
Online dating. This is Katy, 30 from Bangkok. We've been on a couple of outings (Die Hard 5 - gripping plot) and she seems like a canny lass. I met her on the internet, however, I find online dating challenging here where the art of conversation is stilted at best and insanely boring at worst.

It always seems to go something like this. You see a photo of a girl you like and you initiate a conversation with a basic "Hi, how are you?" to test the water. What follows always strikes me as robotic inanity:

"Hi, how are you?"
"Er....where do you live in Bangkok?"
"What do you do there?"
"Are you single?"

By this point I'm thinking 'f*ck this'. Mono-syllabic answers and no attempt at a reciprocating question of any kind. Would this even be classed as a conversation anywhere else? I feel like some kind of quiz master so by this point I normally start asking ludicrous questions:

"If the Cypriot government goes ahead with its economic proposals, do you think other EZ nations might be inclined to follow suit? And what might the ramifications be for European banks?"
" you like spicy food?"
"Does Bangkok have a lot of traffic?"
"Do you like to eat durian?"
"Do you know my name?"
"Are you looking for a bf?"
"What was the point of this exchange and why are you on a dating site?"
"Learn English."

Needless to say this has driven me bananas and I've given up. It's about as rewarding as having something stuck in your eye. My question banks simply run dry.

Tutoring. I started tutoring a young Italian girl who lives on the 19th floor of this Condo. We spend Saturday afternoons discussing the finer points of GCSE mathematics. The Mother seems to really like my teaching style as I have a canny knack for breaking things down into simpler chunks. She has asked me to go more often but I have refrained as these are my days off. Private tutoring is WAY less stressful than a class of 25. Pretty lucrative too at 1500bt for 2hrs.
The views from the balcony are great. The mighty Chao Praya river meanders under the Pinklao bridge on its way towards the Gulf of Thailand about 30km away.

One thing I enjoy about visiting this family is how I gain an insider's view of how the wealthy live. Their condo is the stuff of dreams - so far removed from my own reality. My lifestyle couldn't be more diametrically opposed but that is my choice and I'm happy with it as I'm working towards financial independence. Anyway, I arrived today and found the Mother in a tizz. She explained that as she was washing the silver with the maid, the water exploded from the tap. Nightmare! I hate it when that happens. Only last week my maid and I were washing our silver when I knocked my golden cup of coffee off the table.

I shouldn't mock as they're really nice folk and I normally stay for an extra hour to chat with them. We have interesting conversations as our life experiences are somewhat different. The first time I went I thought the Burmese maid was the student. I'd never met a maid in the flesh before! Another new experience.

Austrian Armin was in town recently so we went on long strolls around Bangkok. As per usual he was excellent company and really left me thinking about what I'm doing with my life. He took this shot of me next to this stoned looking baby. I was left it art?
These places are so naff. Japanesque? So the food only resembles Japanese food? Is it some kind of fusion food? Urban? Show me a rural restaurant in Bangkok. Couldn't they just call it something like: The Tokyo Grill. Japanese restaurant?

This reminds me of a conversation I had with Dave recently. I hardly ever watch TV and we'd been watching BBCWorld news on a TV in a hotel. We were both laughing at the ridiculous language the channel was using to advertise itself so, using some artistic licence, we stretched their versions a bit. Imagine some jackass suit shouting these sound bites in between regurgitated news:

"Ejaculating news onto your face 24/7."

"Fact x Truth = News......and we're bringing it to you as it happens from around the globe whether you want it or not."

"Newsrape - where we impregnate news and deliver it to you LIVE in an individually profiled news-bite from the epicenter of the action."

I have no idea how they could be any more attention grabbing without actually saying anything meaningful. You get the feeling that if a war broke out they'd all start masturbating. I will not be getting a TV anytime soon.

Sukhothai. We had a school trip here a couple of weeks back. I was last here in March 2012 as part of my mega-bike-tour around Thailand. I loved the way they'd built the pool. Great design - kinda like a cuboid of liquid.
We stayed at Sukhothai Treasure a 5 star boutique resort. What impressed me was this thing. That thing is a bath. I have not had one since 2008 in Taiwan. I was looking forward to a nice long hot soak, however, we were so busy on this trip that I didn't have time. I don't have many regrets but not finding the time to laze in this 5 star bath is one of them.
Sneaky dual pricing. The Thai says 30bt. The Thais have an expression: Falang luu luang. It basically means that Chalky knows too much about Thailand. Local people often say this to me (particularly if they're involved in tourism). Sometimes it's a curse though as you know you're getting shafted.
Great photo with all the kids. Two of them bought red wine when the buses pulled in for petrol. They got a one week detention for that little misdemeanor. Otherwise it was an very successful trip. Since we have quite wealthy students, we had a police escort wherever we went. Now I know how VIPs feel.
Inside the ancient city grounds. Dave and I made a few videos here which you can see on the videos menu at the top of this page. I have started to really enjoy making little documentaries and then doing all the video editing etc.

I've also spent hours improving this website. I have put menus at the top and lots of other little things that I won't bore you with. It makes no financial difference as this site has generated £3.40 in four years and three months. Or about 80p/year. Not a very lucrative passive income stream I think you'll agree. I'm not disappointed about this. I'm just concerned I won't live long enough to receive a payment as you need to have generated a minimum of £60 before you get the ££££. At this rate I'll need to live until I'm 110 years old.

My school is called SPIP and they have offered a new contract for the next academic year starting August 2013. They are offering a significant increase (although they're not sure how much yet).

I'm in two minds. On the one hand it's a great job. On the other it's in Bangkok and I'm not sure if I'd want another year here. I have also started to experience some major pangs of wanderlust. Australia, India, Nepal and Central America are all beckoning. It's a very difficult decision. One more year could secure financial independence and it is so comfortable living here as I know this country intimately after four years. However, maybe I've been here too long? 

When I set out seven years ago there was no solid plan. However, I'm pretty sure one of my goals was to visit South America and I still haven't. I would never have thought I'd fall in love with and get stuck in Asia for so long. Perhaps a break from teaching would be nice?

Too many questions to consider. Do like the Thais do and "Yaa kit mac." Don't tink too mut!

We visited a pottery factory and I quite liked this machine which struck me as anal-esque. How about that for the name of a restaurant?

My friend Nee visited Bangkok from Phuket. We used to work together at HeadStart International School. It was great to chat with her again.

My exgf Ice was back on the scene recently. She lives in Korat and was heading to Phuket so stopped over in Bangkok for a night. Luckily she didn't steal anything this time.
An interesting map. The red colours represent unfriendly countries and the blue friendly. I mostly agree with this except that Russia should be off-the-scale red. China/Mongolia should be less red.

Speaking as a Gerodie, it's highly satisfying being in the Quarter Finals of Europe. The Toon will be playing Benfica while Man U, Man C, Liverpool, Arsenal, Celtic and Rangers will be looking on admiringly.

No comments:

Post a Comment