5000 views!

Yesterday this blog reached the milestone of 5000 views!

It’s not just my mum that reads this!

I only started writing this to keep people back at home up to date (hi mum…) and so that I had some sort of record for myself.  Over the past nine months I have slowly but surely built up a small but steady following (actually, I passed another milestone of 100 followers last week too) and it’s nice to think that there may be people out there reading this who are also living and working abroad, or are maybe considering it.

The great thing about WordPress is that at a click of a button I can get al sorts of information about who is looking at my blog, where they are in the world and how they got there.

Some of the strangest search engine searches that have brought people to my blog are;

“ladyboy“… many, many times…

“what to pay a ladyboy for a week?” – I’m not sure exactly what this person is planning to do with a ladyboy for an entire week but there’s something almost Pretty Woman about it.  Maybe it was actual Richard Gere.

Most disturbingly I also had, “can I pay a local student for sex [in] hatyai?”.  I have no words.

I have had blog views from the UK, USA and Thailand to Puerto Rico, Russia, Kuwait and Jordan.

In fact, here’s a handy map to illustrate exactly how I am taking over the world (insert evil laugh here).

map views

Here are some completely useless and barely interesting facts that also include the number 5000;

A hummingbird flaps its wings 5000 times in one minute.

There was once a $5000 bill.

The largest game of dodgeball ever had 5000 players.

5000 students participated in the world’s largest Physics lesson in Denver, Colorado.

OK, so the rest are mostly about people dying etc. so I am going to leave it at that rather than put a massive dower on things.

Thank you to everyone that helped me to reach this milestone!

Here’s to the next 5000!

 

A quick thought (rant…) on negativity…

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
~ an excerpt from The Twits by Roald Dahl http://www.quotegarden.com/attitude.html

roald dahl 2(Image source: Google images)

Negativity breeds negativity.

Don’t accept a job abroad in a different culture of your own if you are going to be negative.

If you are looking for negativity; seek and ye shall find.  There are a zillion things that I could think of if I wanted to.  But that’s the key – I don’t want to.  I came here to try my hand at a potential new career path and to experience a completely different way of life.  I knew that things would be different from what my western mind is accustomed to.  I wanted that.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when the geographical distance between this world and your own is half of the actual planet that the cultural differences are going to be vast.  And that sometimes, those differences don’t sit so well with what I am used to.

So the next time the cook gets your order slightly wrong,

or you have to take your shoes off to go into the local shop,

or you have to cover your shoulders,

or the food doesn’t ‘taste the same’,

or something just doesn’t make sense to you or ever-so-slightly inconveniences you…

REMEMBER; YOU chose to come here.  YOU chose to enter this culture.  You more than likely won’t be here forever.  Cherish the experience.  If you want to walk around with ugly thoughts all over your face then that is all you will see reflected back at you, and your experience will be an ugly one.

I’m much happier spreading sunbeams.

roald dahl quote(Image source: Google images)

Thailand; the Land of Smiles and Helpful Hands

We actually made it out of the door in good time for school so of course we were bound to get a flat tyre, such is the nature of sod’s law.  And this was no little flat tyre – we are talking super puncture, jump off the bike and hopelessly walk about a sleepy village in the already searing sun kind of flat tyre.

Luckily for us this is Thailand, and within 20 seconds a couple of elderly women sat sipping chai yen in the shade were gesturing down the street to us, in the direction of the nearest place that could help us.  It wasn’t even 8 am so we were doubtful that anyone would be open.  Every few people that we would pass, someone would continue to gesture down the street.  When we reached the first place that was inevitably closed, it wasn’t long before another set of helpful people were sending us off to the next potential place.  When we got there they obviously weren’t open but as usual, this business place also doubled as a family home and before long we were being offered a seat and the bike was whisked off by a young man still dressed in the boxers he slept in.  As we waited for the tyre change I was shown a baby with fifteen chins by a proud grandmother, and after a few minutes we were back on our way to school.

If none of those people had shown us which direction to walk in we would have been searching for an age – this village is a real rabbit warren of a place.  Even though they couldn’t speak our language they saw that we needed a hand.  And bless the guy for getting his hands dirty when he hadn’t even had his breakfast or even put on any clothes!

This is just a perfect example of how helpful the people in Thailand are.  If you’ve got a problem, they will try their best to help you to find a solution.

Another example of this unfortunately also shows the darker side of Thailand.

A couple of months ago at the start of the term, a new teacher was staying at our house until she could sort out a place of her own.  We were on our way home, using a relatively quiet road that runs behind our school back to our village.  It’s a lovely stretch of road, meandering through rubber farms and large spaces of unspoiled land (proudly earmarked for new development, as the signs boast).  We were driving home in convoy, The Man and I on our bike and the new teacher just behind.  A couple of guys whizzed past us, waving.  A few hundred metres on they were pulled up at the side of the road, gesturing for us to pull over as they had no fuel.  There was no way we could help them so we shrugged and carried on.  After a few minutes, The Man and I heard something awry behind us and turned to see the two guys right up next to the new teacher as she drove along the road.   I thought that they were just messing around, but we soon realised that something more serious was going on when they were pulling the key out of her bike so that she rolled to a stop.  A knife appeared.  A big, scary knife.  Things start to feel a bit more real when there’s a knife involved.  Within seconds they were wrestling her bag from the bike while waving the knife in all our directions before making off, leaving us in shock at the side of the road.

Within about 30 seconds, the first of many people stopped to see if we were OK.  Despite being unable to speak our language they were so eager to try and find out what had happened and to try to help us.  Phone calls to the police were made.  People drove ahead to look for any sign of where the men may have gone. It was clear that we were in a bit of a crisis situation and unfortunately in the UK it is often the case that people will actively avoid getting involved, keeping their heads down, pretending not to see.  It was a crazy situation – we went from seeing Thailand’s ugliest side to seeing it’s most golden.  People were apologising for what had happened, and those apologies were sincere.  These people were on their way home from work or were on the school run, small children in the backs of pick-ups moaning that they want to get home.  We even met a little boy who had just finished his first day at school – excitedly keen to get home to his mother to tell her all about it – but instead he sat bewildered at the side of the road, at one point sweetly picking a flower and giving it to us – kids have that sixth sense and always know when something’s up, I guess.

After a couple of hours at the roadside completing police reports and posing for photographs (not for any official reason – for the officers’ personal collections – look, the day I helped a farang!), we made our way back to the village.  A crowd had already gathered outside our house.  Further apologies were made, a sea of sorry faces, genuine with concern.  For the next few days, people would stop us and ask us about what had happened – usually utilising the medium of mime, as none of our Thai is quite good enough. More apologies.  Even now, a few months on, we still meet the odd person who asks us about it, pointing in the direction of the road that it happened on and shaking their head.

What happened was really unfortunate for the new teacher.  Even just watching it left me shook up and unsure.  A wave of distrust swept over me.  But the show of support that we saw left a much warmer feeling, once the darkness subsided.    There will always be bad people wherever you are in the world, but in Thailand people overwhelmingly want to help you.  Whether it is the influence of being a largely Buddhist nation, or simply the way of the people – this innate need to help is one of the reasons that Thailand is known as The Land of Smiles.

This post was taken from my new blogging spot on Thailand’s #1 teaching website Ajarn.com.  To see these posts first subscribe to my RSS feed on the website.

Ajarn.com

Photo of the Day – Songkran in Chiang Mai

IMG_2858

A random respite from endless water fighting as a religious procession makes its way through the crowds on the streets of Chiang Mai, and on to the temple within the city walls.

Songkran is Thailand’s infamous water festival taking place in the hottest month of April, seeing in the Thai new year and offering a fun way to kep cool in the searing heat.  What was traditionally a trickle of water down the back of the neck has become all out warfare with super soakers and water cannons.  A must-do for anyone in Thailand at that time of year!

Paradise found.

My favourite go-to website for boredom busting (AKA Buzzfeed) just posted a feature on 10 Paradise Islands That Will Take Your Breath Away.  The ninth island in the list is Koh Samui – although I am glad that Thailand got a well deserved placement I can’t help thinking they haven’t managed to select the best island.  Those of you that have been following for a while will know that I did my TEFL training on Samui and went back for a break over New Years – while the island is a great place to go for a party filled holiday it’s not quite what I would consider a ‘paradise island’ and here is why;

  1. No paradise island should host a Tesco Lotus, Big C or any other chain megastore.
  2. Home delivery McDonald’s/KFC is not a requirement for paradise relaxation.
  3. I do not want to see a Brit pub boasting beer on tap or Eastenders on the telly.
  4. I don’t need the services of a prostitute, hostess or lady of the night thank you very much.
  5. Similarly, paradise will not be found amidst the sequined knickers of a lady boy.  ladyboy
  6. There should be no queuing on paradise islands, lest of all behind a 50-something year old man and his bored looking Thai counterpart, or topless UV-clad stag parties.
  7. The only thing I want to be looking over my shoulder for is mischievous monkeys, not scam artists or pickpockets.
  8. Dodging mopeds being drunk driven by steaming farangs does not lead to rest and/or relaxation.
  9. I want the alcohol in my cocktail to be what it says on the bottle, not ethanol.
  10. I don’t want to have to double check if I am in fact in Benidorm at any point!

Instead, I would like to nominate the island of Koh Lipe as one of the 10 islands that truly will knock your socks off.  And, in keeping with the feel of this post, here are ten reasons why it truly is paradise found;

  1. I have never seen clearer water in that perfect hue of blue-green-turquoise.  I mean just look at it!  P1050710
  2. This is an island where a beachfront hut truly is on the beach.  P1050745
  3. You can walk from one side of the island to the other in 15 minutes.  On one side of the island you have Sunset and Sunrise Beaches (about 5 mins apart at their closest points), with a view across to some of the other 50 plus islands that help to make up Tarutao National Marine Park.  A short walk through the Chao Lei village where the once-sea gypsies indigenous to the island live and you are at the Walking Street (with a mix of chilled bars, restaurants and little boutiques – all pretty much closed during low season) and then on to Pattaya Beach that is the more active stretch of sand but still a place of mega chill, massages and beachside cocktails.  P1050741                                                    A typical Chao Lei home on the island.
  4. Koh Lipe maintains an air of being unspoilt.  Yes, there were plenty of spots being developed when I was last there and it is no doubt going through a period of expansion, but there remains the feeling that it will only be developed so much – there aren’t any big vacant spaces that can be taken over by resorts with unnecessary swimming pools and sunbed reserving clientele.
  5. Koh Lipe is part of Tarutao National Marine Park which was only the second area to be given national park protection status way back in 1974.  This means that the islands in the area, the coral and the water have been protected for a lot longer than many areas in Thailand.  This makes for beautiful, crystal clear waters, amazing coral (fantastic for snorkeling) and limits on how much on land development can take place; making sure that paradise is kept in pristine condition.
  6. The only real road running through the island is little more than a glorified dirt track and is only used by the locals – there is no moped hire to drunken farangs here – yay!
  7. There is no McDonald’s, no Tesco, no KFC, not even a 7-eleven on this island!
  8. There is always plenty of space on the beaches (as in, they are crazily abandoned) and there are zero touts selling tickets, or crappy sunglasses, or neon things that spin around.
  9. I don’t think I looked at the time once while I was there, and I even let my iPhone run out of battery and didn’t charge it until I got home – this is an unknown occurrence for me.
  10. People do things like this with palm leaves and it just looks perfect.  P1050751

And there you have it – my thoughts on why Koh Lipe should be considered as a true paradise island.  We just spent four days here and we are already checking the calendar for our next chance to return.  It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been away and actually feel like I’ve had a rest.  Smiles all round : )