Meet Harold.

People think it’s strange when they find out how long I’ve been in Thailand and that I still haven’t mastered the art of the motorbike.  Well if those people saw me on the humble bicycle they might start to get an idea why I haven’t embraced the 2 wheels and probably never will.

It’s not that I haven’t tried – even five years ago when I first first came to Thailand travelling, I rented a moped in Pai and failed spectacularly at riding it.  I just lost all ability to control my limbs, my balance, to distinguish from left and right – all basic motor skills were null and void as I hurtled (can you hurtle at less than 10km per hour?) through the street shouting at the hippies who were walking in the road (I didn’t know where the horn was) that they should GET OUT OF THE WAY BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW HOW TO.  They really shouldn’t rent these things to just anyone.  I ended up returning the bike in less than an hour with four times as much fuel in it than when I had taken it.

Fast forward four years and I had just arrived in Thailand on a more permanent venture.  Again, I had a go at riding up and down a back road near the hotel I was staying in for my TEFL.  All I could think about was how much I had sucked the last time so of course I lived up to my own pitiful expectations of myself and was such a wobbly, nervous wreck that I gave up after about 3 minutes.

And that, dear friends, is my motorbike journey in it’s entirety.

Not riding my own bike means that I have been 100% dependant on T to give me lifts to school and to take me to the shop if I need something.  Moving to Phuket made it even more apparent that this wasn’t going to work out if we were both to have our own lives.  I have taken motorbike taxis, I have even hitched a ride home from school a few times – but it has been a growing desire of mine to get my own set of wheels… and if I’m unable to handle two, why not go one (or two) better and get four?

Introducing HAROLD.


I didn’t name him but it suits him so much I decided to continue the tradition.  He has spent the past year serving some fellow teachers who are returning home; now it is his turn to be my trusty steed, my key to freedom and my shelter from the rains of the monsoon season that is upon us already.

Second hand cars are not cheap in Thailand, people seem to just get a car and hang onto it forever.  Harold was cheap, but Harold is also 20 years of age, is rusty and is lacking in the suspension department.  His seats are a little worn and he likes to be warmed up before you ride him (ooh err Betty!) – but I think that despite all of those things, with a little TLC (and a lot of engine oil) this could be the start of a very special relationship.

I smell a road trip on the horizon!

Phuket Baba Wedding

The Baba, or Peranakan, people are descendants of southern Chinese immigrants who made their way through Indo-China, finally settling in Phuket with the tin mining boom over 200 years ago.

Peranakan is Malay for ‘mixed race’.  As their ethinicity has traits of Thai, Chinese, Malaysian and Portuguese it is clear why.  Locally in Phuket, the group identify simply as Baba.

A staggering 70% of Phuket’s population is descended from Peranakan roots (source) which has heavily influenced the distinctive architecture found in older parts of the island, especially in Old Town, the different flavours found in food, the Batik clothing shops and the Chinese temples dotted across the island.

Once a year in Phuket, a special wedding ceremony for Baba people is held with multiple couples taking part.  This not only enables them to hold onto their unique traditions but helps to promote their way of life to the public.  With a procession through the streets of Phuket Old Town, the families taking part are able to show off their traditional costumes and the public are lucky enough to see all the colours of the parade and hear the brass bands and Chinese drums.

I headed down on Sunday afternoon with my camera to take a look for myself, you can click on any image to view it full size.


Teacher Tuesday: Following instructions FUN activity

One thing that I have stumbled across time and time again is that people rarely read instructions properly. (Note I said ‘people’ – this certainly isn’t limited to students…). With multiple tests throughout the year it is important for students to learn this skill and how important it is and this activity is perfect for doing just that.

I first came across something similar to this on a training course. It’s a bit of a trick but mostly a way of highlighting how so few of us actually read instructions fully and completely. Let me tell you, out of a group of twenty adults, we all fell for it.

There are many versions of this activity on the internet but this is one that I put together with language that I knew my students would understand.

The key with this activity is to not say too much. Hand out the worksheet (I have included a link to the PDF file at the bottom of the page) and simply say that students have to follow the instructions written on the paper, then sit back and see if any of them actually do that.

Read on to see the instructions that students have to follow:

Please read all of the instructions before doing anything, you are allowed 10 minutes to complete this task.  There is a prize for the student that fully completes this task.

  1. Find a pen and paper.
  2. Write your name at the top of the paper.
  3. Write the numbers 1 to 5 in a line with 1 at the top and 5 at the bottom.
  4. Draw five small circles next to number 1.
  5. Put an “X” in the 2nd and 4th circles next to number 1.
  6. Write the word ‘encyclopedia’ next to number 3.
  7. On the back of the paper multiply 7 x 9.
  8. Put an X at the bottom of the paper.
  9. Draw a circle around the X.
  10. Underline your name.
  11. Say your name out loud.
  12. Draw a circle around number 4.
  13. Count the number of words in this sentence and write the answer next to number 2 on your paper.
  14. Put a square around number 1 and number 5.
  15. Draw 3 small flowers anywhere on the paper.
  16. Write your first name next to number 4.
  17. Write today’s date next to number 5 on your paper.
  18. Circle every letter ‘e’ you have written.
  19. Stand up and say ‘I HAVE FINISHED’ out loud, then sit down.
  20. Now that you read all of the instructions, only do number one and two! If you have followed the instructions correctly, you should only have your name on the paper!

Did you figure out what the trick is? The instructions clearly state that participants are to read all instructions before doing anything. If the students actually do that then they will of course read the final instruction that states that they only need to do the first and second instructions and nothing more. In reality what happens is that most, if not all, will do each and every instruction as they read it. It’s funny to watch as they all work their way through the different instructions and even funnier when it gets to the end and you have the pleasure of telling them what they should have done!

If you have any switched on students who appear to have not been fooled, try your best to make sure they don’t give it away to the rest of the class – no one likes a smarty pants.

Click here to download a PDF of this activity.

Why not have a go at this in your classroom?  You don’t have to be studying instructions specifically, this works as a fun warm up regardless.

This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.  



Teacher Tuesday: Pack your bags camp warmer

It is part and parcel of the TEFL experience to take part in a school camp.   Sometimes over a weekend, usually involving some sort of overnight aspect and almost always never actually involving any actual camping, the school camp is a great opportunity to get to know your students outside of the classroom and have some fun.

The school camp will often involve bringing together different groups of students who wouldn’t normally study or socialise together.  We’ve all been in those situations where we are thrust into unnatural groups and forced to take part in activities and the beginning stages of shyness and awkwardness are magnified when those being thrown together are Thai teenagers.

Cue a not-too-challenging, on topic ice breaker!

I made this activity to open a school camp for Matthayom 1 students who I knew already had the basic vocabulary knowledge needed to complete the activity.

Students are required to match pictures and words of a range of items and then sort the items into ‘pack’ and ‘not pack’ .  The activity can be introduced by saying that we are all getting ready to go on a school camp but firstly we need to pack our bags.

Students can work in small groups or against the clock, with the teacher reviewing the answers at the end and awarding a winner.


Click here to download the picture and word cards.  Simply print and laminate if you can – now you have your very own go-to camp warm up activity!

It’s just something nice and simple to get students talking and thinking.  You could also use this activity in the classroom if you were studying topics such as going on vacationclothing or as a general activity for more advanced students.

This is part of a new weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch 


Koh Panyee – football against all odds

All of the talk of the World Cup kicking off has reminded me of this short film that I stumbled across a few months ago.

Koh Panyee is a village in the Phang Nga province of Thailand, built on stilts by the Indonesian fisherman who originally established it.  It often serves as a lunch stop for tourists on boat trips in Phang Nga bay, but has so far avoided becoming part of the tourist trail.

This video is about the true story of the Panyee village football team, who built a floating football pitch to practice and go on to take part in local tournaments.  It’s a lovely short story that teaches the importance of perseverance and not letting things stopping you from going for your goals (both in the literal, and football sense).

It’s a nice watch and those of us who are teachers could probably do a whole load of different things with it in the classroom, but I will leave that up to you.