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!

 

 

 

Conversations… frustrations.

Conversation between myself and a Teacher I Barely Know (TIBK) this morning;

TIBK: Teacher Kylieeeeee. I waiting for you every day last week. After school finish.

Me (I wish): Where? Why? Who are you?

Me (the reality): Oh, why? I’m sorry (yes, apologising without knowing what I have allegedly done wrong).

TIBK: Over there (pointing to the building that I don’t teach in, have an office in or even walk through AT ALL throughout the week). For the training for the sa-pelling beeeee.

Me (I wish): OK, number 1: Me worky in this building. Me no go to that building. Number 2: Me training student already in this building, every morning and some afternoons, UNPAID. Already.

Me (the reality): Oh, the spelling bee. Well that’s alright then because I’ve been training with my student here instead. I didn’t know you were holding your own training you wanted me to help you with, sorry (again, apologising without being entirely sure if I have done anything wrong).

TIBK: But who you training?

I tell her the name of the student I have been meeting with every day. EVERY DAY for the past 2 weeks.

TIBK: Oh yes, you training her but she is not in the competition. You training other students with me also.

Me (I wish): WHY AM I TRAINING A GIRL WHO ISN’T EVEN IN THE COMPETITION? WHY? WHY?!!!!!!

Me (the reality): Oh! Well who am I supposed to be training?

TIBK: HAHAHA! (Evidently something is funny here) – I don’t know the names! But they are in Matthayom 3 OK? They are boys.

I don’t teach Matthayom 3 and the provision of only the gender of my trainees does little to shed light on who they are.

TIBK: (Grabbing my schedule from my desk and holding it one inch from her eye) – Ahh OK I can see you have a lot of free time today…

Me (I wish): Well, not really because actually on Wednesdays we are able to go home early UNLIKE EVERY OTHER DAY WHERE WE HAVE TO STAY REGARDLESS OF WHEN OUR LESSONS FINISH.

Me (the reality): Yes, a lot of free time…

TIBK: OK so I tell to them to come to see you. You waiting here (points at my desk) OK? Between 11.00 and end of day OK? No moving.

Me (I wish): Actually I need to EAT, PEE, HAVE A LIFE. Why don’t you tell me their names and I will track them down when it suits me?

Me (the reality): OK, yes I will wait here. Sorry (WHY AM I SO EFFING APOLOGETIC?).

 

Considering this conversation happened immediately after being informed that I will be working when everyone else is going to have the day off because I have to judge another effing competition, I can feel myself reaching towards my contract and inspecting it.  Don’t I work for an agency so I can avoid this bullshit?

We all know that is the me that I wish I could be.  In reality I’m just all like, “Let me bend over backwards while I act as a doormat for your precious feet.”  Damn my kind nature.

 

So let me just let rip here instead.  Apologies.

I’M APOLOGISING AGAIN!

Raaaaaah!

 

7lRoj

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)

Five for Friday – exploring food in Thailand

 Image copyright Google images

When I came to Thailand five years ago on a four week backpacking holiday, I seem to recall only eating either Pad Thai or Green Curry.  Whenever I go to the Thai restaurant back in Falmouth (big ups to Mali Thai – good food and bring your own booze – what more could you want?) I exclusively order Red Curry with coconut rice, oh and maybe some spring rolls.  But that is it.  Despite having been to Thailand myself, my Thai menu was limited to three things.

Now I am living over here, and I very rarely eat any of my three go-to Thai dishes.  In fact, it is almost impossible to track down a Red Curry where I live, and until recently I couldn’t find anywhere that would cook Pad Thai.  Over the past ten months I have been on a culinary adventure, starting off only being able to order one thing (Khao Pad Gai – chicken fried rice – for lunch again anyone?) until my fledgling Thai language abilities enabled me to begin to order new dishes which I soon realised tasted far better than what I had stuck to before.

Thai food is an attack on the senses with its combination of four key flavours; sweet, salty, sour and spicy.  Each dish will lean more towards one or two, but they are all there.  Sweetness is brought to you by spoonfuls of sugar, sourness with vinegar or lime.  Spiciness from chilies; red, green or yellow, and saltiness from nam blaa  – fish sauce.  It’s all about the balance of the four flavours – although the thought of eating fish sauce, which stinks to high heaven when being added to the stir-fry, may put you off – without it the meal wouldn’t quite taste right.  Once the dish is brought to your table you can further adjust the flavours by adding your own condiments from the table.  Usually there will be a pot of sugar, a sour chili sauce, chopped chilies in fish sauce and chopped green chilies in white vinegar.  Much like the salt and pepper you would get at home.

Thai food is widely varied and I haven’t touched the surface when it comes to sampling everything on offer, so here is my top five for food in Thailand, in no particular order.

1.  Pad Grapow Moo – stir-fried pork with holy basil and chili

I first tried this dish in a beach side restaurant on Koh Samui during my stay on the island for my TEFL training.  A few of us had gone to find the Grandmother and Grandfather rocks (see my post here for when I finally actually went to visit them again) but I was either tired or hungover or just lazy, because when I saw a hint of having to walk slightly uphill I opted out and found myself a seat overlooking the beach in a nice looking restaurant.  I wasn’t particularly hungry so I thought I would order something different just to try it.  It was really tasty and quickly became a firm favourite of mine from then on.  For a while I was eating this every other day, sometimes two days in a row.  We had found a restaurant in the village that we moved to and this was the only thing that we knew that they could cook for us.  It varies from place to place, sometimes using minced pork, other times thinly sliced instead.  Some places throw in some carrots too.  It’s usually served on rice with a fried egg, but as I don’t eat fried eggs I sometimes have a little omelette or nothing at all.  Pad Grapow is usually pretty fiery and the fragrance brought to it by the holy basil gives it a unique taste that I really love.

 

2.  Pad See Ew – fried noodles with dark soy sauce and vegetables

When I discovered that I wasn’t able to easily order Pad Thai, this quickly became my go-to for when I need that noodle fix.  Stodgy and filling, with a bit of green veg to boot.  Something I miss about Western food is the portion sizes.  The majority of your plate in Thailand will wither be noodles or rice – it’s a carb fest out here.  At least there’s not so much bread; I think that was my downfall back at home.  Portions of meat are small and I don’t mind that, it’s the equally small helpings of vegetables that I wish were bigger.  Anyway, I digress.  Pad See Ew can use a variety of noodles from wide and thick to thin and yellow.  I always give mine a helping hand with a spoonful of chili sauce.  This dish is particularly good when hungover.  It’s not quite a full English but it helps to soak up any leftover booze.

 

3.  Moo Klob – crispy belly pork with sweet Chinese sauce

I’m a lover of pork belly and this is the one way I am able to get my fix of roasted meat.  The pork is roasted, or maybe boiled, and then fried so it is a perfect mix of falling apart flesh and crispy fat.  The sweet sauce is a welcome change from the same-same-ness of many Thai stir-fries and at this particular shop you also get a serving of sweet Thai sausage which kind of has the consistency and appearance of a cured sausage like chorizo, but a completely different flavour.  Again, I spice this up; this time with sliced green chilies in white vinegar, which the owner of the food place seemed to suggest was the normal accompaniment.  We go to one particular food seller for this favourite, aptly named by us as Moo Klob shop.  The thing is with living in ‘real’ Thailand is that menus are written in Thai script so unless you can read Thai you have to use your spoken Thai and knowledge of what that particular place have on offer.   This place is owned by what I assume is a husband and wife pairing, and they are really lovely.  The first few times we went in they excitedly showed us which sauce went with which dish, and they took much enjoyment in offering Tom a bowl of tiny raw garlic cloves, “For spice!!” and watching him munch them down.  Safe to say our home was vampire free for the next three days!

 

4.  Khao Yum Gai Sap – breaded chicken with raw cabbage, carrot and onion, with a spicy and sour sauce, on top of rice

Another restaurant specific dish, this time brought to you by P.Noi, the lady whose food place (I suppose you can’t really call it a restaurant as it has no walls and bare earth as the floor) is right across the street from my school.  This is a one-woman-one-wok establishment and she cooks anything she has the ingredients for.  This lady is responsible for my first-tastes of many a Thai dish, including this one.  Actually, the first time I tried this I had seen a student with it on her plate and used what is probably my most useful Thai phrase to date – “…nee arrai ka?” – What is this? – I had never heard of this dish but I could see it was spicy, and the fact that it was mixed with lots of yummy raw veg instantly attracted me to it; it’s hard to get my salad kick out here without going to S&P and spending 150 THB (which admittedly is little over £3.00!).  You can order this dish without the rice by leaving the khao off the beginning as you order.

 

5.  Kai Teow Son Kruen – omelette stuffed with minced chicken/pork, vegetables and chili sauce

Compiling this list I almost forgot this beauty of a dish, mostly because I didn’t know the Thai name for it (I do now, thanks to Teacher Oh) and so only order it when (you guessed it) I go to one particular restaurant (a really good Muslim place opposite Lee Gardens in Hat Yai – they have a menu in English which is a rarity) or when I am with Thai people.  Some places don’t do this because I guess it’s a little fiddly.  It’s something that is definitely on my learn to cook list especially now I have a fully operational kitchen (even with a sink now that The Man has installed one!).  This is a thin omelette which has minced meat and veg (usually carrots, onions, maybe peppers – all diced nice and small) in a yummy, mildly spicy sauce placed in the middle.  The sides of the omelette are folded over the tasty filling and the whole thing is presented folded side down on a bed of rice so you have the pleasure of cutting it open and watching the tastiness ooze out.  (I need to get myself back to that Muslim restaurant ASAP!)

I’m not much of a food photographer (it is hilarious to see a table of young Thai people getting their food – they are so into social media that immediately iPhones and iPads come out to capture a picture of dinner, soon to appear on Instagram) but maybe for this post I will take a few pictures soon – watch this space.

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

 

Wai Kru day; sympathy seat for the farang, please.

Wai Kru day is an annual event across Thailand where students pay respect to their teachers to show appreciation.

My experience of Wei Kru day served as nothing less than confirmation that farang teachers are considered to be second rate teachers.

Classes had been cancelled to make room for the respect-paying ceremony, where students pray and present teachers with flowers as a form of appreciation

“Ok, so where do we need to be for the ceremony?” I asked, excited to experience a piece of Thai culture, and to be included in a whole school activity for once.

“Oh no, the ceremony is just for the other teachers…. you know, the rest of the teachers…”

So, everyone but the farang teachers then.  The proper teachers.  Great.

Well I was livid.  I’ve been at this school for half a school year already, I’ve taken part in work outside of my usual duties, at times I’ve stressed myself out and made myself overtired and ill for this school.  I was being looked at like I was completely insane, assuming that we would be included in the Wai Kru day.  Completely insane thinking I was actually considered to be a real teacher at this school.

I’m not going down to look like a fool, I thought to myself, steaming in the corner at my desk.  And so, the Thai teachers went off to take part in the ceremony and I refused to follow.  Well, my annoyance lasted about 5 minutes and then I buried my pride and headed down to watch the ceremony and take some pictures.  When some of the Thai teachers spotted me hanging around the sidelines taking pictures I could see that they felt a bit awkward.  Whispers were being exchanged and eyes were on me.   One of them approached me and took me to an empty seat.  Someone’s name was pinned to it but it transpired that she is Muslim and probably wouldn’t be taking part as the ceremony is Buddhist.

So, I got to take part in the ceremony, albeit given a sympathetic seat in the place of an absent Muslim woman.  It was pretty much a non-event; all the teachers were sitting in a loooooong row, students filed along on their knees and I was handed some flowers by some that I didn’t know (and who were probably really confused as to why there was a white girl sitting in their teacher’s place).  Those flowers were then whipped away by another pair of students who were lying in wait behind me.  And that was it.  I’m not sure what I got so worked up about.