Monday 27 July 2015

Bureaucracy and Bikes


Recently, I've struggled through a whole plethora of expat bureaucracy. It started with a one year visa extension which means I'm good until 10th June 2016 - exactly a decade after leaving Geordieland in June 2006. I reached the Ted-Shed in pitch black at 0400 only to find myself 12th in the queue. I got home at 1300. 9hrs is better than the 12hrs it took last time. I met two Jehovah's Witnesses from the USA (13th and 14th in the queue) who were fluent in Hmong!! I was glad of their company as they eased the passage of time which seems to stand still here.

The next obstacle was motorbike tax. I've had nothing but trouble with these. Two years ago, 2557 got blasted off by a pressure washer. Last year, to avoid that, I put 2558 in a plastic cylinder - that leaked - turning it into mush. This year, to avoid that, I've sealed it with superglue. So far so good. The police regularly ask to see them so it's a good idea to have it visible if, like me, you're averse to fines. It took a mere ten minutes to get the insurance (600bt) and tax (100bt) at the vehicle office opposite the swanky Holiday Inn - perhaps these vehicle bureaucrats could give the Ted-Shed folk a few pointers?

The elusive Thai Teaching Licence is an object coveted by foreign teachers. I should have had this years ago but unknown forces conspired against me. Basically, you need to have attended a 4 day Thai Language and Culture Course (did - 2009), taught here for at least one year and have a PGCE (got - 2011). I fumbled through the confusing application process unaided but was delighted to finally receive it in the post. Success - at long last.

A Teaching Licence permits the holder to attend Wai Kru day. A day at school where students honour their teachers. There are songs, dance performances and gifts. I love these cultural events - could you imagine something like this in England?


Sometimes we drink beer at Noi's little motorbike workshop. I love drinking in junkyards - we sit on old motorbike seats. Noi (middle) isn't looking too happy here - perhaps he's not used to cameras? Or perhaps it was my turn to run to the shop for beer? He's forgotten more about motorbikes than I'll ever know. One afternoon I watched him strip an engine while teaching the Thai word for each part. Mint.

NongAe has sold drinking water where I jog for the last couple of years. Last month he left CM for the sunnier climes and rice planting opportunities of Lampang Province. I miss him and his wife. We'd discuss how many laps I'd ran, who Newcastle/Chelsea were playing and if he'd seen any fit birds at the park.

No sooner had I gotten to know Fah ... she'd buggered off to work in Bangkok. I tried to tell her Bangers is an overcrowded shit hole (like London) but she wouldn't listen. Her mind's full of bright lights and streets paved with gold. She's a canny lass - I hope she isn't seduced by the 'easier' money making options down there.

South Of Thailand

I took my first ever domestic flight in Thailand. A 3000km return from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani costing only 3000bt (£60). That's 1bt/km - cheaper than riding my motorbike. A bus takes about 20hrs compared to a 90min flight. How can air travel can be this cheap?

Rusty Balls

I went to visit Russel, an Aussie lad I first met in Trang in 2009. I never realised he lived 100km from the airport so I felt guilty that he'd driven out to collect me. I bought the beer that night - least I could do. I was either too drunk or hungover to take photos so here's one from a few years back. We enjoyed shooting the shit as the sun set over the ocean. We've both had some life changing events since we last met so there was much to discuss. The best part was looking for lawnmowers in Thaiwatsadu - a massive DIY store. I reckon we spent the best part of an hour browsing axes, compressors, generators and welding machines. Loved it.

Swedes in Thailand

In 2009 I lived in Trang. In November of that year Swedish Eric and I turned 60 and 36 respectively. Both multiples of 6. This year we turn 66 and 42, again both multiples of 6. He had driven up from Surat Thani for a few days in Chiang Mai. Twas good to see him again. He was in the Swedish Navy as a young man and ended up tattooing his left forearm - himself! Only person I've ever known to do that.


On a recent Mae Hong Song loop, just before Mae La Noi, the bike hit 50,000km. Maybe it's the data freak in me but I enjoy watching the odometer slowly clicking up to these milestones. I've ridden about 100,000km on two bikes in 6 years in Thailand. Or more than twice around the equator. Am I bored of it? Hell no.

Been on a few rides with Heinz who runs guided bike tours around Tibet. He's a very skilled rider and I found myself lagging behind him on some remote twisty roads. We did the Samoeng loop and remote northern Lampang Province together.

Another day I was bored and jumped on the bike intending to go somewhere for a coffee. I ended up riding to remote Kalanyawattana district and back. A 200km round trip. This district is Thailand's newest having been formed in 2009. You can see this from the newness of the sign here.

I ended up having a crack with these two Karen lads at a viewpoint.

On the way back I spotted this overturned bus.

This is why we do it.

And this.

Chiang Mai Marathon

I've applied for this year's 21.1km half marathon in December. I ran 2014's in 1h59m and I'd be delighted if I could match that at the age of 42. I'll need to stop drinking and smoking so much for that to happen though. I run at least 5km every other night at the local park and try to do 10km on Fridays. However, nights on the lash are very detrimental and I need to be more disciplined if I'm to succeed.

When I arrived in CM almost two years ago I could barely manage a single pull up. Now I can do 20 followed by 3 sets of 10! It's amazing what a bit of motivation can do.


I'm currently enjoying a fortnight off after teaching a 'Bridging Course' for 12 weeks. Dealing with pre-year7 inanity has been tiring at times but we got through it. I begin teaching A Level Maths and Physics in August and I'm looking forward to getting started. First lesson will be deriving the formula for motorbike lean angles.

I was astonished to learn that I'd been unwittingly teaching General Nerdah Mya's daughter since April. General Nerdah Mya is the leader of the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO). I don't think I made any mistakes. Fingers crossed. I'd love to meet him at a parent/teacher meeting in the future.

This is my third International School and therefore the third time I've been on a school's teaching staff page. Right down at the bottom.


Have been woeful this season. They're second bottom of Thailand's second tier having just lost to the bottom side. Last season I never saw them lose at home - this season I haven't seen them win.


รายละเอียด = Rai-la-iet = Details
โครงการ = Krong-gan = Project 
กำลังใจ = Gam-lang-jai = Encouragement

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