Happy ‘Straya Day!

It was Australia day here yesterday (Sunday 26th Jan) to commemorate the 1788 landing of the first fleet of British ships on Aussie soil.

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On Friday at work they bought us pies and lamington cake, both so good!

Today it’s a bank holiday (monday) and lots of local celebrations. We spent the day on St. Kilda beach, having a few drinks and enjoying the sun and sea! In the evening we headed to the docklands for the night market (food and crafts) and fireworks. I was really impressed with the fireworks, they went on for 15 minutes and were very good. After we headed to Federation square to see the last of the Australian Open tennis and enjoy our lord of the fries dinner. Whilst queueing for our food a guy put a cockatoo on Pauls’ shoulder, as you do. Also on the train home we saw a guy pulling a rabbit home in a wheely case too. Not as crazy as Thailand but a fab weekend!

St. Kilda beach!

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Docklands at night

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And the cockatoo….

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Categories: Exploring Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary is an Australian Wildlife park about an hour and a half drive from Melbourne. We rented a car for the weekend and took it to the Sanctuary to celebrate Pauls’ 25th Birthday. The night before we also went out for Mexican food at the Fiesta restaurant in South Yarra. It was yum with big portions, enough for leftover dinner the next day!

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En route to Healesville, our housemates Giuseppe and Manuel joined us for the day there too. Road trip!

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The Sanctuary costs $30 for adults, $23 for students. We also paid $12 extra to play and feed the kangaroos and Paul also paid $12 extra for feeding an echidna. We were able to get close and see so many australian animals and this time it was nice that quite a few of the nocturnal ones were awake or being fed. My highlight was seeing Steve, the baby koala, and his mum run on the ground to get the fresh eucalyptus leaves. There was also a talk about tasmania devils. An animal I had never seen before was a platypus, they were so much smaller than what i expected but so cute. The trainer did a talk about them and tickled its belly and let it play in the water with them. Customers can pay an extra $195 to play with the platypus but I felt that although a great idea, it would break the budget! Scroll down to see photos of the cute wildlife.

Our “magic moment” with a roo named Crystal.

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Platypus..

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A koala caught mid-yawn

 

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Mummy koala on the run.

 

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Baby Steve

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Tasmanian Devil

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Paul having a “magic moment” with the echidna.

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Categories: Exploring Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Phillip Island Day Tour

For Christmas my family gave me money towards doing something off of my bucket list whilst here in Melbourne. Since Chantal was also visiting and it was her last weekend we decided to do a day tour outside of Melbourne and visited Phillip island, most famous for the Penguin Parade. This is where the largest colony of (little) penguins in Australia return home at sunset and waddle up the beach to their nests in the grass.

There are many similar tour operators and the one we eventually chose was through Bunyip tours. There were pick up points in the city but we chose to be picked up in St. Kilda as it was easier to get to from where I live, for 10.30am. We then picked a few others up and then went to the office to pay for the tour (we had booked it over the phone the previous evening, it was  a spur of the moment decision.) Our tour guide was really friendly and told us lots about the penguins and other sights we would be seeing throughout the drive to Phillip Island (about 2 hours from Melbourne in traffic.)

The first stop was Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Wildlife Park, home to lots of Aussie protected wildlife and where we had lunch. Since it was midday and lots of the animals are nocturnal we mainly saw the feet of sleep animals hiding in burrows or tree logs. I saw advertised a nighttime walk through the park and I would think this would be a lot better for seeing the wildlife not snoozing if you were in Phillip Island for a while! Wombats feet;

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However it was still a good place to stop. They sell food for the wallabies for $2 but the ones we found were over fed and skittish. Not at all hungry and the children running around were scaring them off. We decided to head in a different direction around the park and found a couple feeding a (huge looking) kangaroo (after the small wallabies.) She was hungry and after the couple finished feeding her (and after my excitement and falling over and twisting my ankle) the kangaroo let us come close and ate the food out of our hands! We even did a selfie with a roo ha.

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We also paid extra ($10) each to stroke and have a photo with a koala. I was impressed with how the sanctuary dealt with this. It is illegal in Victoria to cuddle a koala, so here you can only stroke one. Also the place where this happens is right next to the koala enclosure so if they don’t feel like being petted they can chose to go into the enclosure. The first koala did this so they got the other guy out and he fell asleep almost straight away. We learnt lots about them, and the one in the photos is much bigger than i imagined and thats because he is male.

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The next stop on the tour was Churchill Island. A very picturesque old farm where you could watch sheep being sheared. We arrived late for this thanks to the traffic. Coming from England, with lots of history, this old farming island wasn’t too interesting for us, so we quickly wandered around then enjoyed the views and hot weather with an ice cream sat in the shade. I thought this house was pretty though. And the garden with the sunflowers.

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We briefly stopped at Cape Woolamai Surf beach where the sand storms were so strong we couldnt stay out the van for long. Ditto at the Nobbies and Seals rocks. We didn’t see any seals. For dinner we headed to Cowes where we took takeaway down to the beach and had an hour to enjoy the sea. Then it was the grand finale…

26,000 little penguins coming in from a days swimming in the sea to feed their chicks. The tourists all sit on benches arranged in a seating area overlooking the sea. At around 8.30-9.00pm as the sun sets the first penguin swims towards the shore. Then waddles, then the waves catch him and he goes back in the sea. Repeat this a few times, until he finally comes all the way out and checks the coast is clear. Then “rafts” (groups) of penguins between 5-15 come out of the sea and do the same thing, waddling up the beach to their nests in the grass above the hill. The penguins are so little with such small legs that they fall over a lot, over pebbles, grass and just wobbliness. After the first few rafts of penguins have headed in shore i suggest you move from the seating to the walkways. This is what we did and we were able to see groups of penguins right in front of us waddle up and greet their fluffy chicks. You can hear their squeaks to each other as they try to find their family members. We also saw many chicks run out of hiding places and squeak at every penguin go by, as if to ask “Are you my mummy? I’m hungry.” And then get nudged out the way by the penguins trying to find their real families. It was adorable.

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Photos are banned so as not to harm the penguins – the ones above were taken from the penguin parade website. We started back home at around 10pm and arrived back by midnight, running to get the last train! It was an eventful day and great way to spend time with Chantal and I wish her safe travels in New Zealand.

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Categories: Exploring Australia | 1 Comment

Living in a Land Down Under

After a year (13 months) in Thailand being in Australia is kind of easy. Most of the time being in Melbourne and having lots of rainy/cloudy/sometimes hot and sunny days it almost feels like I am back home in the UK, especially now that I’m living with friends from home. So this is a bit of an intro into my life here and how easy it is to settle down on the other side of the world.

The boring stuff first…

Medicare card (for cheaper bills if you have to visit the doc) is easy, get the form online and fill it in, then take it to your nearest medicare family assistance office. There are a few about, then you receive the number there and then and the card a while later. I say a while, its been 2 months and mine hasn’t arrived yet.

Banking – rock up to a bank and sign up. We chose Commonwealth as they are everywhere! But other popular ones are TAB or Westpac. Pretty sure they’ve now got a way to set it all up before you even get out here. You can register the address to the hostel you’re in and your UK phone number and change them when you’re sorted.

Phone – I went through a company called Global Gossip. Since we signed up as 3 friends together we have free texts and calls to each other ALL THE TIME. Pretty fab because they’re the people i talk to most. It’s also great for calling house lines at home. I spoke to my parents for half an hour and it cost less than $5. I’ve only used $30 of credit since I’ve been here.

Housing – Some people say stay away from Gumtree.com.au but nearly every foreigner i know who lives in a share house here found it through gumtree. We tried the proper route of signing up to agencies to properly rent a house but hardly any here are furnished and they were miles away form CBD. Plus we wanted to live with more than just the 3 of us. In the end we used http://www.housesharemelbourne.com.au. In theory the idea is great. (I say in theory, for a month we only had 2 forks for 11 of us. And sometimes the landlords take a while to deal with problems) All their properties are close to public transport, and near supermarkets and are all pretty newly made (so new that when we moved in my friend still didn’t have walls to her room for first 2 days.) Plus you can sign the contract for as little/long as you like but you pay different prices for different rooms and length of stay. We are in Caulfield South, 25 mins on train from the centre and there are 11 of us living here, the place is pretty big. I pay $250 a week everything included for a double room, desk, cupboard, bedisde table, bedlinen etc with tv. Singles here are $200 a week, all the same as above but no tv, based on 6 months contract. Yeah its expensive but its simple. Our house is international, living with Italians, Swedish, SriLankans and Brits, its a good mix! Sometimes it reminds me of being at uni except people are more grown up (sometimes) and we go to work instead.

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Our house came with free Possums in the back yard!

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Finding work – This is not easy. No one is going to offer you a job if you don’t write a CV and start applying for roles. Gumtree.com.au and seek.com.au are the best websites. Also many cafes/restaurants/bar work require you to complete trial shifts or have an RSA to work with alcohol. I had interesting experiences with jobs here. My first job was advertised on gumtree asking for you to phone if you wanted to work taking coffee orders at Melbourne cup, paid cash in hand. I figured I could do that, phoned them, chatted about experience and what was expected of me and told how to get to the race course for 2 days later for 4 days work. (Melbourne cup is a HUGE horse racing event here.) I really enjoyed the work and have worked on and off for the company at other events this summer, including a few gigs. Although the coffee stuff was good i was also looking for a full time job and got a role as door to door energy sales. The company was pretty lax on rules and no training. Then someone got high on the job and i realised it definitely wasn’t professional enough for me. After applying for i think around 50 jobs i had a phone interview for a Telesales job at a really good company, then i had a full 3 hour assessment day with them including roleplay on the phones, taking calls, to see how well we did in a “real” situation. Basically don’t stop selling and keep trying. Then I had online assessments with them and was eventually offered the job. I had a full weeks training and am now working 11.30 -7.30 during the week for them. Pretty good hourly wage plus commissions on sales. If you have just graduated be warned that the companies want to give grad jobs to Aussie Citizens because we can only work 6 months for the same company. Below, the view of my job at Melbourne Cup…

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The fun stuff….

Exploring Melbourne! There is so much to see and do. Our hostel was located in St. Kilda and I am so glad we chose this spot! It’s stunning and has something for everyone.. a beach, shops, lots of bars, froyos (every other shop sells diff flavoured frozen yoghurt) and cafes, famous cake shops, iconic Luna park, Palais Theatre and little penguins at the end of the pier each sunset.

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Sunset at St. Kilda

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A little penguin (also called Fairy or Blue penguins) found at the end of the pier..

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St. Kilda beach for dinner one night

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Other free/cheap things we have done are wandering around Melbourne city and seeing Federation Square. If you are a student the Melbourne Museum has some really great exhibits for free (£10 if not a student) We also went to the docklands to see some random statues and did a train trip to Brighton beach where the brightly painted beach huts are. My Christmas party with work was at the ACMI, the Australian Centre of Moving Image which has some fabulous exhibits to do with films and music videos (silent disco thing) which because of the party being there i got to see for free!

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Close to the centre is the Shrine of Remembrance, which is a nice building commemorating those who served in the wars. If you climb the stairs to the top there is a view over the city and the Kings Domain park and it looks really pretty. In November another event we went to was the Night Noodle Markets in Alexandra Gardens for Goodfood month. For 2 weeks they had stalls selling lots of yummy Asian food. Everyone sat on picnic rugs in the gardens and listened to the music and ate good food.

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Coming soon… Trips away from Melbourne!

Categories: Exploring Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2013 in Review

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Categories: Exploring Thailand, Festivals, Teaching - Science Week, Teaching Thailand- Government School, Teaching Thailand- Private School | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Melaka; Melacca

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Melaka for me was a great day escape from KL city and was it was nice to see another part of Malaysia.

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Ko Nangyuan

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!)

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Science Week 3

This was a couple of weeks ago now, but I’ve been hectic since and this is the first chance ive had to upload photos and write! Science week was at the end of August. As I knew this was the last one i would be doing with the students I wanted to make it special and put lots of effort into thinking of things the student could make, rather than watch me at the front demonstrating something to them and thats how I decided on these experiments.

 

My year 4s learnt how to make Hoop Gliders. They fly better than a paper aeroplane and are really simple to make. I thought the students would be super quick making them so that we could spend the rest of the lesson outside throwing them and hitting targets. But no, there were 3 strips of card and the students took most of the lesson decorating the card. All you need is 3 strips of card (5 inches long, 1 inch wide) a straw, and tape. Curl one bit of card into a small circle and tape it. Make the other two into a big circle and tape it. Then tape the small hoop at the bottom of the straw, and the bigger at the top of the straw. Voila, you have a hoop glider. It takes about 5 minutes to make unless you want to decorate or unless the students struggle putting tape on (some of mine did!)

 

Here are the picture of my classes throwing the gliders at me!

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My Pratom 5s had more of an activity week rather than strictly science but the activities i followed were in a science book! For the first lesson the students made a guitar from a shoe box, old pens and elastic bands. It was super easy and taught them about high or low pitch, depending what size pen was used. For the second lesson they made a basic harmonica. All you need is more straws, card and double sided tape. They put the tape on the card then lined up all the straws and then cut the bottom diagonally so that when you blow into the straw different pitched sounds can be heard. I had a fantastic eureka moment with one class who finished early. So i made them put all the harmonicas the same way round and had them copy my tune. At the end i made them put all the tunes together and we made a sort of melody. I think its possibly the first time teaching that every single student knew what to do and did it in time. It felt fantastic! Didn’t sound half bad either…

 

Was too busy making melodies to take photos so here is a drawing instead.

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For the year 6s they were instructed to make mini water turbines in groups. This was not simple to make and needed a lot of stationary and parts! Including; big water bottle, 6 screw top lids from bottles, a heated glue gun, 2 discs of plastic, a knife, 30cm wire and strong waterproof tape. Also a bucket for the water to run into.

 

The students started by giving the disks of plastic and the lids to to the teachers who put hot glue on, then they were able to set them out they way they wanted to make a functioning wheel. A pin was then used to make a hole to thread the wire through. The wire was then bent to hold the wheel in place and taped to the bottle. A knife was used to make a hole in the bottle for water to pour through.

 

Some of the experiments worked and some didn’t. It was better if the hole was lower because then the water had more pressure on it and would come out faster and hit the wheel stronger and turn it. Most students had to keep the water flowing from the tap to get it to work correctly and a few broke the wheels. I also gave them the option of making the plastic disks smaller. These worked better as the less weight meant it was easier to turn with little water falling onto it.

 

Once again didn’t get a photo so here’s another drawing.

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Past tense postcards

This is a really enjoyable consolidation lesson for students who have done a topic on simple past tense verbs (regular and irregular verbs.)

I started the lesson off with a mind map on the board and asked students to put their hands up and tell me all the activities they like to do on holiday! For Thai students sunbathing is a complete nono, they want to keep light coloured skin. Also amongst the suggestions were “Study English, do homework etc” but tried to steer them into vocab such as “make sandcastles, go snorkelling, go swimming.”

 

Then I went round the class and the students took it in turns to change the verbs into past tense. I also reminded them of “It is” becomes “It was.” I then taught the students how to write a simple informal letter – ie a postcard.

Dear Mum and Dad,

Wish you were here!

Miss you.

Lots of Love,

xxxxx

Also explaining that in the UK we use “x” to mean kisses, which sent the class into giggles.

Students wrote full sentences in their books as a mock postcard, then when corrected they copied it onto actual postcards to keep and give to their parents. If they had time they decorated it too. This class also decorated it for homework (without me even asking) and bought them in next lesson to show me and get more stickers!

The first 2 are from the basic level of Year 5 and the rest are from Kings class (advanced.)

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The one below is from Phat, my A*student. He got 100% in all his exams this term. Can you see why? (He doesn’t like colouring, so no pretty pictures but the English is great!)

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10,000 Monks in Hat Yai

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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.

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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;

  1. 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.
  2. Offer only dried food and make sure packs of rice are sealed.
  3. Don’t donate money straight to the Monk, but give it in at the stations around, where it can be kept safe.
  4. 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.
  5. Have happy thoughts when giving the Alms.

 

The reasons people offer Alms to the Monks;

 

  1. You will live a long life with nice skin and be happy and healthy.
  2. You will be rich and prosperous.
  3. You will be reborn into a Buddhist country in your next life.
  4. 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.

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The start, all the Monks walking to line up!

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Older Monks.. see he’s taking a photo of me!

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Young Monks

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The End; the Monks receiving the Alms, which the Cadet boys then rounded up and put into big trucks to help feed the poor.

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Categories: Exploring Thailand, Festivals | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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