Melaka is a world heritage site 2 hours to the South West of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I wanted to go there to take photos of the oldy worldy buildings and test out the settings on my new camera with all the colourful architecture.
To get there we got the LRT to Bandar Tasik Selatan train station which is attached to Terminal Bensepadu Salatan Bus station. From here the buses go to Melaka Sentral Bus station every half hour or less as there are a few companies that travel in that direction. After a 2 hour bus journey spent napping and admiring the countryside we spoke to information and caught the number 17 bus heading to the Clock tower, which took about half an hour.
As we left the bus we were greeted by Bob, the scorpion man. He owns a bicycle rickshaw decorated in flowers and scorpions and offered to show us around for an hour at 50 Ringgit. We haggled a while and said we would walk for a bit but eventually agreed on 30 Ringgit (£6ish.) Bob the Scorpion man cycled away and we were able to learn a little about the city and stop for photos at various points of the town. Halfway through the ride when we were outside of the rickshaw Bob told us he had a surprise for us. He lifted up the seat and in a small glass tank was a live black scorpion. It’s name was Black and we had fun holding him and learning about scorpions.
The most enjoyable part of the trip was the Porta de Santiago and St.Pauls Church where after climbing a few stairs to reach it, there were views of the sea below.
Bob then dropped us back at the Church and we took a wander around Chinatown aka Jonker Street. There were lots of dainty shops all with interesting designs selling not just chinese souvenirs but cafes and temples too. We stopped at one, Geographie, for some local food and I recommend it.
Melaka for me was a great day escape from KL city and was it was nice to see another part of Malaysia.
Koh Nangyuan is an island that has pristine beaches that make for a perfect postcard picture. It is situated close to Koh Tao and my family and I travelled to it from Koh Samui, a 2 hour speed boat ride away. It’s expensive to get to but so worth it (2,000THB each roughly £40 for a return day trip on the speedboat, lunch, insurance and snorkelling equipment included.)
Nangyuan is actually 3 private islands joined together with a strip of white sand. To the East of the island is “Japanese Gardens” a coral about 5 metres away from the shore teaming with underwater wildlife. I saw all types of colourful fish, big and small – there were lots of variety. Another part to visit is to climb up one of the islands to the rocks on top to get an ariel view of the beaches. It takes about 40 minutes to go up and down. There are a lot of stairs and at the top you have to climb up and over rough rocks but the view is amazing. Pretty sure its the view on those postcards you want to send home!
My Dad and I, being silly with snorkels and at the top of Ko Nangyuan (Sweaty!)
This ceremony takes place every year in Hat Yai, when 10,000 monks from 10 Asian countries come to visit to collect Alms from people and practice Buddhism. It was the first time in Hat Yai (that I have experienced) commentary not only in Thai but English and Malay too, emphasising what an international event this was.
It was held on Sunday 18th August on Sai 3 road in the centre of Hat Yai, which was closed to traffic all morning. It is advertised as starting at 6am, but we got there at about 7am and the procession of Monks start walking down the lines around 8am. However if you go next year, go early and you’ll get a good spot near the front. We were lucky and were able to sit on the floor very close to the procession.
Photos above taken from http://www.dmc.tv
The reason for giving alms is for merit making in the Buddhist religion. (I’m not an expert, but I believe this allows for better karma in future lives.)
[Below is adapted from http://www.dmc.tv/pages/en_news/morning-alms-round-Hat-Yai-2013.html]
Here are the rules to follow;
- Wear white, or at least a white shirt. You will look stupid and stand out if you don’t, everyone is in white, except the Monks in orange.
- Offer only dried food and make sure packs of rice are sealed.
- Don’t donate money straight to the Monk, but give it in at the stations around, where it can be kept safe.
- Be respectful, let the people in front of you offer their alms first, then move back to let others through once you have placed your Alm in the Monks bowl.
- Have happy thoughts when giving the Alms.
The reasons people offer Alms to the Monks;
- You will live a long life with nice skin and be happy and healthy.
- You will be rich and prosperous.
- You will be reborn into a Buddhist country in your next life.
- You will attain Dhamma easily.
I’m not Buddhist so I went to see lots of Monks and be part of the traditions and do my good deed of the day by offering Alms. It was funny, I was so interested in the Monks, as they walked along before the alms were offered I found myself taking many photos, and in some cases the Monks were just as intrigued with me, a farang (foreigner.) I saw 2 monks walking along taking photos of me too, one with an iphone and another on camera, but i think he was recording the crowd in general. I think the pictures explain more than words can but for me it was great to be part of something so nice, and worth getting up early for!
My photos; Rowenna, myself and Linda waiting for the Monks to arrive.
The start, all the Monks walking to line up!
Older Monks.. see he’s taking a photo of me!
The End; the Monks receiving the Alms, which the Cadet boys then rounded up and put into big trucks to help feed the poor.
Ko Yo is a sleepy little fishing island about 40km from Hat Yai. To reach it you must drive over the longest concrete bridge in Thailand at 2.6km. The oddest thing about the island are the many houses on stilts out in the sea. These are mainly restaurants (famous for they’re fresh just-caught-this-morning seafood) and homestays. Wooden (wobbly and creaking) platforms lead the way across the water, past fisherman nets and boats to the little homes.
We met some locals who were waiting for the fish to come in, so we sat with them awhile and had an ice cream then wandered round the island. Some of the homestays are adorable looking and painted in bright colours and others look like they are about to collapse but I think that was the charm of this village.
As Karen is leaving Thailand we wanted to see more and her Thai friend offered to drive and show us this island so I used it as a way to practice photography that I haven’t done in a long time!
House on stilts
Fisherman with fish
Weighing the catch
Loading the fish into the truck
Nets for fishing
View from land
Boat repair shop
Me being silly with a net, but behind you can see the colourful home stays!
Since I moved to Hat Yai at the start of June I haven’t really explored the area at all! Henry, my chinese friend who I met in Spain 2 years ago came to visit for my birthday, also decided to stay a while in Hat Yai so I thought it was a good reason to start being a tourist!
One evening we tried to catch the sunset by going on my scooter to Hat Yai Municipal Park, which is along the main scary road but really not far from my place. We ate an early dinner then rushed to get there. Once we reached the park we went up the mountain around windy steep roads until we found the cable car site. We got a bit lost and couldn’t find a good view point, but instead found this 3 headed elephant statue.
After talking/motioning to some Thais they pointed us in the direction of where we wanted to go, and so we continued on our bikes to the viewpoint overlooking Hat Yai city. This is also where a standing gold buddha statue is and a planetarium. It was dark by the time we got there, with just a tiny hint of red in the sky but it was so pretty! It was nice to look at the city and work out where my place is.
By the time we left it was dark and the hills going back down were pretty steep too, another hairy ride on a scooter whose brakes aren’t the best!
The following evening after school we went to Greenway market, which is also nearby to where I live. It’s a night market that sells clothes, new and secondhand, toys, beauty stuff, sunglasses and jewellery and most things. It also has alto of food stalls at the back and to the right, with plastic chairs and tables to sit. It’s quite well organised so that everyone can get all different foods from the stalls then sit together. I usually get the same thing, a banana shake (25THB, so 50p) and Duck and rice (40THB so 80p) but this time next to the duck lady was a man selling barbecued chicken with satay sauce, toast and salad. I fancied some bread so I got that for 60THB (£1.20 but was 10 pieces of skewered chicken!) and it was the yummiest satay I have ever tasted!
Also at the back to the left are some little stalls that are pop up shop style, and behind these are where the pets are sold. For sale were bunnies in tutus, (not sure if you go the tutu too) baby squirrels, ducklings, tonns of hamsters, kittens, puppies and I’m sure if you wanted anything else she probably would have found it for you! I played with a baby albino hedgehog, after trying ages to pick him up without getting pricked. The prices are pretty low and I’m sure if I were staying in Hat Yai longer I would have taken something home!
On Saturday we went sightseeing near the big Tesco area. There was a Chinese temple and a big Buddha that we wanted to get close to and we found a whole area that had chinese statues and a cemetery. Henry was able to talk to the Monks there (women aren’t allowed) and found out that there was a university to train as a Monk on the grounds too. Later in the day it was too hot so we went to the cinema to watch Wolverine and get blasted by air con!
Two statues outside the chinese temple
In the evening 5 of us went to the Sky buffet. It’s in Lee Gardens Plaza at the top, supposedly on the 33rd floor. However when we got there it was under refurbishment so it was moved to the 10th floor. Luckily there were still floor to ceiling windows and we sat near them so we had a good view! It costs 160THB (£3.50) for all you can eat thai buffet, including salad, fruit, rice, different curries etc and coffee and icecream and jelly puddings. The only downside was that there is only water to drink with the meal but everyone still enjoyed themselves!
Karen with the view!
Well, it was, as I’m a little late posting this!
My Birthday luckily fell on a long weekend, which meant not only did I have Saturday to party, but Monday and Tuesday to recover as well as time to travel, so a bunch of friends and I went to Ao Nang (again, yes I know this is my 6th time there, but I love it!)
On Friday evening after school we took a mini van from Hat Yai to Ao Nang, which was definitely a bumpy ride! I don’t know if it was because we were at the back, above the wheels but it was definitely the worst drive I’ve had there! We arrived at Ao Nang backpackers hostel at about 10.30pm after a 6 hour drive! Koe was there to welcome us, and we got stuck in to some Hong Thong that Lesley had bought, and beer that Koe donated to me. (Both Andrea and I had previously stayed at this hostel, at separate times and we went back again because it was so clean, the beds are comfy, the girls room comes with its own bathroom with hot water, shampoo and body wash and because Koe is a great host. It’s also a bargain at 150THB a night, so I reccomend this place to any travellers!!) That night we also met other travellers and they joined in with my early birthday celebrations! At midnight (as it turned into my birthday) Koe put Happy birthday song on loudspeakers and everyone sang, and then i opened my pressies and cards that had arrived in the post from home (Thanks everyone at home!) Also Karen and Andrea bought me a gift too, a scrapbook and a cherry hairband! And Koe gave me an Ao Nang backpackers tshirt, which i really like! Shortly after everyone became sleepy so we went to bed.
The following day, my actual birthday I went to Ao Nang beach and Andrea directed us to Lilys! Can’t believe I’ve been here so many times and not met Lily before. She owns Lilys massage place, right on the beach. Theres lots of places all the way down that part and she is at number 3. We sat on her chairs on the beach and she got mats out for us to sunbathe, pillows, water, fruit and coffee, and pretty much looked after us the whole time! All the ladies had massages and painted nails and toes, so it was a lovely pampering day. We also met a kind man, who sold corn on the cob (millies to the SAs!) cooked on coconut dusted coal (thats what his sign said) which he mimed that I should read because he is deaf. He carries the barbeque around with him on his shoulders and is super smiley, and all weekend he waved hello at us. Even though he was deaf his sign said he still wanted to work and still enjoyed meeting people. After he made the corn for us and we were all munching away he did a thumbs up sign, presumably asking if it was good. We responded, hopefully conveying it was delicious!
We nicknamed him the Millies Man. ( I was with South Africans and thats what they call corn, though I don’t know how to spell it!)
In the evening we returned to the hostel, met some more travellers, and headed to Crazy Gringos the (only) Mexican restaurant in Ao Nang. It was a really fun evening, with a live band, lots of good food, yummy cocktails and singing and dancing. Henry, my chinese friend who I sat next to in University in Spain 2 years ago, came to my birthday too. I knew he was travelling in Thailand and we arranged it to come visit for my birthday! (Thanks!) After the restaurant we headed to Chang bar too for more dancing, until I felt like I’d drank way too much and went home.
Laughter at Crazy Gringos with Henry, Karen, Carmen, myself and Andrea.
Cheers at Ao Nang Backpackers!
Salsa Dancing? (Not… but we were having fun!)
The following 2 days were spent relaxing on the beach again at Lilys. Everyone split up and did different day trips but we met up at the end of the days. One day I was with Andrea and Lesley and the other was spent catching up with Henry. It once again involved doing nothing but sitting on the beach, occasionally going for a swim and another massage! Perfect holiday bliss and a very happy birthday!
I didn’t have any intentions to move town/school and leave my babies and I wasn’t actively looking for a new job. But I do believe everything happens for a reason. The week before last I went to Ao Nang beach, in Krabi, by myself. Since returning from home I was already feeling hemmed in, in Khaochaison and I wanted to do something with the long weekend, so I went away. It was nice and relaxing and whilst there I met a great group of teachers from Hat Yai in the South, about an hour and half from KCS. It made me realise how much I missed having people around, and that if I was being honest with myself I was getting lonely and bored in my small town. I just told myself that the end of term was only 4 months away and that I could stick to it until then.
However something intervened and on Saturday one of the teachers rang me to let me know there was a job going in Hat Yai and to find out if anyone I knew was still looking for a job. A teacher, who had previously lived in Dubai, was struggling to pay her mortgage in the US and so once receiving her pay check had quit the school and moved back to the US. After a brief pause I said I would be interested. I found out lots more about the school and job, and the agency spoke about me and wether I was suitable, and by the afternoon I was offered the job. It was really great news! What was horrible was telling my school goodbye. I thought about telling them a white lie to save face, but in the end I went with the truth, and told them how I love the students, and how the teachers really have been fantastic, but that I was lonely and craving a new challenge. They didn’t like it but I quit, and on sunday my new boss picked me and all my luggage up. Teacher Wa and Mummy Jai came to say goodbye, giving me hugs and making me cry, but Madam was super angry and didn’t say bye to me at all. I felt really bad letting them down, but I decided to be selfish and do this for me…Then I moved into my new apartment in Hat Yai!!
I’m now living on the fourth floor in a place called Bansuan, off of Pekasem road. I’m quite close to most things, and my school is only 15 mins drive on a scooter. I’ve rented a scooter but I’m still a bit nervous on it.. after driving round empty roads, driving on main roads in a city with lights and a tonn of other traffic all beeping and weaving in and out is pretty scary, plus I have no idea where I am going alot! I guess I will learn soon enough though!
Now a bit about my new school. Its called Sriswangvong school, and its a private primary school in the centre. Its very different to Tesaban Khaochaison. For a start the kids are really quite clever. They’ve also been assessed and put into classes relating to their level which helps a lot. The best of the year are put into one class, called Kings class, and these kids are super bright. I asked a Year 5 student yesterday “What do you prefer? Sunshine or Rain?” And his reply was “I prefer sunshine because when it rains there is mud, and I don’t like mud.” I was astounded, think I stood there in shock for a few seconds too long. Wish I could take credit for it, but I’d only just met him..
These clever kids are going to keep me on my toes! Other differences are that there are other foreign teachers, yay! I also have my own Thai assistant, called Ya, who is fab and helps with translating in class. I’m also teaching a lot more. I teach all of Pratom 4,5 and 6. There’s 4 classes in each so 12 classes, but I teach them twice a week so 24 hours. Yes, my workload has doubled! This week was tiring but it’s actually less time at work as once I’ve taught I don’t have to hang around in school, though I will be lesson planning! The last week of every month is also Science week. So I will soon be teaching 6 different science classes. If anyone knows of any good experiments kids will love that don’t blow the classroom up please tell me! I’m looking forward to getting to the know the children properly and having fun with the lessons. I’ve got a curriculum to follow and already have some ideas, now just got to put them in place and get organised. The only thing I’m missing about KCS at the moment are the babies. I never said goodbye, and I wished I could have hugged them (my new kids don’t hug me!) but I know that probably would be more upsetting! I think I will return before I leave Thailand.
On Thursday, after being at the school only 3 days, there was a long assembly for Teachers Day. (Think its Kun Crue in Thai.) Where the students all give flowers to their fave teachers. I wasn’t expecting much, but I actually received some flowers from my students which was cute!
On another note, playing the same “What do you prefer?” game in another class today, I asked a boy if he preferred girls or boys and why. He’s 10 years old and the question mortified him and made the whole class cheer and scream quite enthusiastically in Thai. So that it didn’t mean who they “fancied” I said that I prefer girls because they have pretty hair as an example but that didn’t help this kid. Ya later told me that he’s already beginning his transition into a ladyboy, and because of that if he said girls, the class would call him a liar, but if he said boys the class would go crazy at him admitting the truth anyway. I eventually clicked on to the situation and changed the question, but he later told me when it wasn’t in front of the class that he prefers korean popstars as opposed to Thai ones because they are more handsome, bless him!! I’m sorry for embarrassing you!
I’ve also been busy outside of school! On monday i attended Thai Class, and I’ve been to the cinema with my colleagues to watch Fast and Furious 6, and met my next door neighbour who is also a teacher, and went shopping with her, and even met new people out at the local thai restaurant!
This is what happens when children are told to hold flowers for 3 hours or so.. they get everywhere!
A Monk blessing us
P4 students grinning at me! Sky and Kon Kaen
So, the reason I had so long off (6 weeks) and didn’t blog as much was because it was the summer holidays here in Thailand (From end of March to middle of May.) I used that time to travel the North of Thailand (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Pai) and experience Thai new Year- Songkran, as well as return to the UK for 3 weeks.
Now I’m back and school classes started again on Wednesday 15th May. Everyone was excited for the new school year (I guess the kids didn’t really do much in the holidays, I don’t think most of them are wealthy enough to have a holiday away from town, so they were probably bored by now of holidays!) And excitement was in the air for all the new students starting Pratom 1. Most of these students has been going to nursery but none had attended “school” before, and had never gone through the whole process that is assembly, so all the parents watched on with concerned faces to make sure their children behaved and didn’t get too upset.
I started school at 7am at the gates, welcoming the students back with “Good Morning” and Wai-ing at them all. The school had prepared a gold archway and a banner that also welcomed the students to the Tesaban Khaochaison School. Assembly took place for over 40 minutes, where the students have to stand in lines according to classes, split boy/girl. For the babies to stand in a straight line seemed difficult, but all the nursery teachers were there to guide them.
After assembly, where it was so hot, and so long, a few of the children actually fainted (3) I went upstairs to receive my new teaching timetable. I was expecting more hours because the old year 6 class was only 1, as we only had 12 students in Pratom 6, but we had 3 classes worth of newbies coming up!
However I actually have less hours. I now only have 12 hours a week teaching time (before it was 13 – this doesn’t sound a lot I know, but I still have to prepare lessons and be in school from 7.30-4ish every day.) The school had decided to shake things up a little, and I’m not convinced its for the best. I’ll explain..
In my school there are 12 normal sized classrooms and 1 smaller classroom. Last term that worked perfectly as there were 12 classes with 40ish pupils and 1 class of 12 pupils. Everyone fit. During last term a new building was being erected in the playground, but this building is still not finished, it doesn’t even have walls yet, so all the new students (3 classes worth) had nowhere to move to. Last term I was told they would have rooms that are spare in the secondary school, (which is just behind our school) so it would just be a short walk to teach the newbies!
However over the summer they came up with a new plan. In year 3,2 and 1 there were 3 classes in each year. They’ve decided to split the 3rd class and merge the students with classes 1 and 2. This means there are now about 60 kids in both classes of years 1,2, and 3.
To me that seems crazy. They also don’t seem to have taken into account students grade levels, and have been mixed randomly (before class 3 were the lower ability, whereas 1 were the highest, so I now have mixed highest and lowest in one class which to me makes no sense at all.) Just to make it more fun they’ve changed the students round in years 4 and 5 too, though no-one has told me why.
Due to all these changes, the year 3 and 2 classes were really hard to teach this week. On one hand I had my fave students (class 2/2, now 3/2) doing brilliantly, filling out the worksheet, and then trying to tell me about their holidays. They wanted my attention so they could tell me about the animals in Songkhla Zoo, which made me smile so much they were so eager, but unfortunately i didn’t have time. With over 60 students, some very low ability, I had to show them how to do each tiny part of the worksheet, where getting them to write their name is an effort, as well as all the students calling “Teacher Teacher” at me to check they are doing it right. Luckily theres no naughty kids in that class, just some people that struggle.
In the other class where there are naughty kids however the whole class was a nightmare. When it came to worksheet time the boys were running around, shouting, ripping other peoples worksheets up etc. The girls really wanted to learn and I felt like such a crap teacher, as i was spending all my time trying to get the boys to sit down and write something, then over the other side someone else would misbehave, then a girl would cry because a boy ripped her work. When theres only 1 teacher to 60 kids its impossible to control them when they’re all hyped up, or give the right amount of attention to the students who deserve it. I tried shouting over the noise but you couldn’t even hear me. I did have some students who persevered and finished, but most had empty screwed up sheets by the end of the lesson. I realise I cannot cope or continue with a class like that, so on Monday morning I will be asking for help. If anyone has any suggestions, please leave a comment!
Luckily my newbies are a joy to teach. Theres 60odd in each class, but both were so well behaved. I think because they had never had a foreign teacher before, or even an English lesson, they were super intrigued by it all. It also helped I had an assistant, and was given a microphone. I feel a bit silly with a microphone i have to say, and I didn’t end up using it as they were so well behaved i didn’t need to raise my voice etc. We played catch with the ball and when they caught it, they stood up and said “My name is…” Such a simple game that was really effective. They all giggle because their throwing skills are not the best, and people miscatch or the ball hits someone by accident (its a soft ball, so no-one gets hurt, it’s just funny.) I then had them do an alphabet worksheet. When they completed this they came up to my desk and received a shiny coloured star sticker. The first girl who finished had the star on her work and literally sat for a full 5 minutes at her desk turning her paper from side to side so the sticker caught the light, with the hugest grin on her face. It was so cute, and this is why I love teaching!
Towards the end of the lessons the littlest students were just standing next to my desk with their stickered worksheets just so they can grin at me, i think they just wanted to be close to me so i practised them telling me their nicknames again in the hope i remember some soon (eek.)
Director Panida and I
Assistant head Teacher Wa
Newbies all behaving and filling in the worksheet
New building not finished and the students doing aerobics during assembly
Sa-wad-dee-pee-mai jow!!! Happy New year Thailand!
I’m now into the 3rd day of celebrating Thai new year (Songkran) which involves everybody regressing to children to join in the biggest water fight ever! I believe waterfights are held all over Thailand but in Chiang Mai its mainly around the moat area. Tonns of people joined in, kids, old men, grannies, monks, thais and foreigners all come to together to soak each other over and over. All the bars are open, music blaring, and ice cold water is smashed into your face, whilst someone cheerfully calls out happy new year! Its a really happy celebration, and i think the best part is everyone joins in, no one is exempt. In fact the rule at the hostel was if someone’s dry they’re just asking to be soaked! In the morning everyone in the hostel worked together to terrorise the people on the main road outside. Our rules were not in the faces of people driving mopeds (dangerous) but passengers were definitely allowed a facefull. Old western men with young Thai brides, people wearing tie-dye and people with football shirts of opposite teams were all decided by the people in the hostel as good targets too! The best was when a songtaow full of people (public busses) went by whereby the driver would slow down so we could launch buckets of water through the windows, great fun!
In the afternoon we made our way to Tha Pae gate, where everyone was on foot. There were huge stages with music pumping out and there had been a huge foam party, and people were going along on floats giving out free stuff; hats, water pistols and plastic cases so things didn’t get wet! The amount of people there was crazy, and water was constantly being dunked on us from all directions, some of it dirty river water, some with ice in that was freezing, some perfumed that people used little silver containers to pour on us so we were blessed. We stopped in a bar to refuel with water, and had a few drinks and jelly shots, then carried on to follow the crowd and ended up at the end of a procession through the old town, where all the more religious celebrations were happening. People danced in thai dress, and the monks sat outside the temples blessing people with holy water.
In the evening all the water from the songkran festivities had turned into rain showers, as the humidity had soaked all the water up. Ironically people were soaked from water fights but still walking around with umbrellas. When the sun went down people stopped playing and the saturday night market opened up right near the hostel, so i was able to buy lots of gifts and souvenirs.
Sorry for lack of photos, didn’t want to risk camera getting soaked too! Below; Some of the guests at the hostel, and Monkey playing in a bucket (Owners of the hostel daughter!)