Chinese… tourists from hell?

They travel in large packs, barking angrily at one another and take over whole tourist spots leaving a trail of litter, spit and dirty toilets in their wake… no it’s not a pack of crazed Thai street dogs, it’s the dreaded plague of Chinese tourists that descend on Thailand at this time each year.

As the nation of China celebrate lunar new year they make the most of extended holidays to travel, with tens of thousands choosing Thailand as their destination of choice.

Anyone who has travelled in Asia will have experienced it – when you are in the vicinity of a group of Chinese tourists you certainly know about it.  The Chinese are very fond of coach tours and will often convoy around in trains of three, four or five coaches with hundreds of tourists in each travelling group.  Donning matching coloured hats or t-shirts, they traipse around in the heat en masse, blocking pathways and filling shops and blocking out views.  Good luck getting a serene snapshot of your day off if you happen to be sharing your venue with a Chinese tour group – and now with the addition of the selfie stick it is practically a health and safety hazard!

News stories have been cropping up of underwear being washed and dried in the airport departure lounge, purposeful damage to heritage sites, fights on planes and even one temple banning all Chinese tourists due to poor hygiene in the toilets (trust me, I’ve used a public toilet in China – it is not nice).

But it looks like Thailand has had enough.  Initial reports claimed that Chinese tourists were going to be banned, but before that extreme measure comes into place it looks like an official Thailand etiquette for Chinese tourists guide is on its way.  I can’t wait to have a read of that.

Below, Channel 4 news report on some of the bad behaviour being carried out by Chinese tourists:

DISCLAIMER: I have nothing against the Chinese.   In fact, Koren tourists are just as loud and large in number.  And let’s not forget some of the shocking behaviour us Westerners have got up to in Thailand in the past…

Top Tip: don’t walk into a temple in your bikini…
We’ve all slept on Khao San road but most of us opt for a hostel…
No, just NO.

I plan on writing a guide to tourist etiquette in Thailand very soon.  Will put a linky here when I do.  But for now, please just at least use your common sense!

 

 

 

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Phuket Sketchwalk 2015

One of the positive sides of moving to a more ‘foreigner friendly’ place such as Phuket is that there is much better communication between local people and non-Thais.  I guess it is ultimately down to the fact that the local people here are better able to speak and write English alongside the basic fact that there is just more going on around here than there was in Hat Yai… it is a tourist destination after all.

So when I saw an advert for this event taking place in Phuket, I was eager to get involved, especially as one of my new year’s resolutions (I do hate them but they are necessary to get me going each year) is to do more arty stuff.

Myself and a couple of other teachers who are artistically inclined decided to go along to the free workshops on the Saturday because a) everybody loves a freebie and b) the other events started at 8.30am each day which is basically not happening on a non-school day!

The event brought together Phuket Sketchers and Bangkok Sketchers, both of which are groups on facebook where people can share their art and organise meet ups.  It was really nice to see how many people locally are interested in art and hopefully this might be the kick up the bum I needed to get back into art in general.  During our mini workshop I ended up painting a picture of my coffee which isn’t something I would usually do but it was nice to simply set aside some time to doing something I enjoy with other people. The event was really well organised and the people running it were so helpful, providing us with English translations when needed and generally being really welcoming to the few foreigners that turned up.

Here are some pictures from the event.  I borrowed a couple from the Phuket Sketchers facebook page which you can find here if you live locally and want to find out more.  Hopefully there will be more events like this in the future as I now wish that I had been less lazy and had joined in the early morning sketchwalk activities too… always a next time (I hope).  Yay to me for getting off my bum and doing something other than going to the beach on my days off; it’s a hard life, I know!

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Our very own slice of jungle in Phuket

Another house hunting success!  Check out our new humble abode…

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Not so humble some may say, with three bedrooms and a garden that exceeds 150m in length (it goes waaaay behind the house too), boasting banana, papaya and mango trees.  This picture is from before we moved in so it all looks a bit sparse – more pics to come once we are all settled in.

When we moved from Hat Yai to Phuket one thing that I have always missed is our house – surrounded by the sounds of the jungle, swinging on a hammock… I just didn’t think that it would be possible unless we were willing/able to pay a premium for a beachfront property – not on my pay packet!

But after almost a year living in our little town house, situated close to my school and Phuket Town, it was time to find somewhere with a bit more space, more privacy and more jungle goodness.  And we found it!  Once again this house was not listed on any online letting sites (although you can check out DDproperty for some good options online) or any of the facebook property groups – T just happened to drive past while house hunting and saw a little sign on the gate, rang the number up (being able to talk Thai is a must in these situations) and hey presto, the house was perfect for us and we snapped it up.

It’s a bit of a hike in rent, and it’s actually 3x what we paid back in Hat Yai, but a) things are generally more expensive here on the island of Phuket, and were generally much cheaper in the deep south of HY, b) my salary is more than it ever was back in HY and c) it is so worth it for the quality of living – I have jungle in my back garden!  My very own fruit trees!

We are very much back to the same lifestyle that we had before – chilling in the garden, falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and cicadas (it surely beats any Sounds of the Jungle relaxation CD!) and waking up with the sun (and the rather vocal cockerels that roam around the jungle…) – it is bliss!

So once again we have proven that with a bit of perseverance and some local knowledge you can find the perfect home for yourself – don’t be tied down to the condominiums that so many expats feel are the only option – your perfect house is out there too!

From TEFL… to TA… to…

Head of Pastoral Support Department!

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Another year in Thailand, another job…

I came to Thailand with the intentions that many have – get a TEFL, teach for a few months, travel around and go back home.  I managed to tick off most of the things on my list… apart from the going home bit which just hasn’t happened (sorry mum!).

I did the TEFL, I got a relatively good TEFL job at a Thai government school (I could have been on my own in the jungle, at least I ended up in a city) and I taught for a few months.  Which became a few more.  And then 18 months down the line I found myself at a crossroads that many an expat come across all too often – should I stay or should I go?

We all know the answer to that question (had I gone home I doubt I would be sat here right now overlooking my own banana trees in a tie dye dress in the middle of February…) – and so I relocated to Phuket, dazzled by the call of bright lights and seedy back streets (and the beaches, it’s all about the beaches now).  I took a job as a teaching assistant, not because it was my dream to be a TA but it was something I could do and it got my foot in the door of an international school (AKA higher salary, better job prospects and basically not in the Thai education system).

For the past year I have been a TA and it has been good but I never kept it a secret that it wasn’t my dream job or my long term career goal.  There are sides to being a TA that are great – no lesson planning, no parent-teacher conferences, far fewer responsibilities – but if it isn’t your career intention to be a TA for life (and there are some amazing people out there for whom it is, and I by no means think that there is anything wrong with that) then it can be so frustrating to be in a classroom (but it’s not your classroom) with a class of children (but they aren’t your class) helping to teach a lesson (but it’s not your lesson)… do you see what I mean?

And so another crossroads presented itself to me – do I sign another 2 year contract for a job that I enjoy but find frustrating?  Do I enroll on the distance learning PGCEi and qualify as a teacher (but only be able to use this qualification outside of my home country)?

Honestly, I didn’t really want either of those options.

Luckily for me, a third option appeared, and it couldn’t have been more perfect for me.

I am blessed to work at a school that recognises the strengths of its employees, is supportive in career development and isn’t afraid to be creative and take a leap of faith every now and then.  All too often when working in Thailand I have been met with “Cannot!” when something has threatened to be out of the ordinary.  As a TEFL teacher in a Thai school you are employed to that one job (and be a foreign face for the school to show off at token events, of course) and there is no route for progression, there is all to often no opportunity for promotion or pay rise or an increase in responsibilities – frankly they don’t expect you to hang around too long, with the average length of stay for a TEFLer being only 9 months (I’m sure I read that somewhere, but perhaps I am making it up…).  It has been really refreshing to be encouraged to try out something new and exciting and something that I never expected I would be able to do in Thailand.

And so, aware that I wanted to stay but wouldn’t be entirely happy remaining in the same position as TA, my school have asked me to develop and lead a brand new school department of Pastoral Support.  Hopefully this will make use of all of my skills from my work as a youth worker back in the UK while still enabling me to work within the school environment.  I have always swung back and forth from wanting to be a teacher to not – hopefully this may be the happy medium that I have been looking for.

For those of you wondering what on earth pastoral support is, I have a blog post planned and I will put a little linky in here when it’s done.  But put simply, it is working with children to overcome any barriers that may be stopping them from reaching their full potential be it personal, social, emotional or academic.  A bit like a school counsellor, only I’m not a therapist quite yet…

I am going to be working with the children individually, in small groups and as a whole school.  I’m currently juggling this between completing my current post as a TA (which I’m seeing out to the end of the school year) so I’m am pretty busy most days – I didn’t realise how un-busy I had been until I started this new role too… it has been non stop every day since I came back from Christmas break – the only reason I am able to write this now is because it is half term – and I have never been more in need of this break, although I spent last night trawling pinterest for ideas for work…

Expect to see lots more pastoral support/school counseling posts here soon.  I am yet to decide if I should make a separate blog or just let this one morph into whatever it will become – a bit like me I guess!

The whirlwind that is my life in Thailand

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Wow, what a hectic few weeks/months it has been.  As I always say, when I’m busy doing real life things, I don’t get the time to update the blog about those things I have been doing… and now I find myself on half term break (never have I been so in need for a week off) so I can finally sit down and take stock on all the stuff I’ve had going on, which includes…

…a new year…   …new year’s resolutions…   …a new job…   …a new house…   …countless new work projects…  

...trying my hand at some new hobbies…   …work permit stress…   …applying for my MEd…

It’s all go, go, go and new, new, new and while I do agree that the early months of the year lend themselves quite well to new beginnings and fresh starts, I hadn’t quite gotten over my whistle stop trip back to the UK.  And so today, Monday 16th February 2015 is the first time that I have stopped going at full speed since the year started.  And people say they move to Thailand to relax?  Ha!

But right now I am sitting at my new dining table looking out of the window at my new garden with a cup of green tea (one resolution that so far has stuck) and nowhere to be anytime soon.

Time to get my blog on – updates on their way!