Friday, October 26, 2012

Back in the Saddle

We had a fun time in Bangkok, despite the constant traffic.  Bangkok is like a child's toy chest that has been filled with new toys every year, leaving all the old toys on the bottom.  Turn up one street and you find some of the largest shopping centers in Asia and just in back you find people living in tin shacks.  Bangkok is a town with everything you could want if you know where to look.  Every time I go to Bangkok, it seems my two biggest concerns are where to find what I want and how to get there.  The streets are a constant flow of cars and trucks and motorcycles along with buses, both with and without air conditioning, tuktuks, taxis and so on.   If you can't read Thai, you take a taxi or a sky train and pay the price.  With Nee along, we managed to take cheaper transportation, though lacking in such creature comforts such as a soft seat or cool air.  There is no real center of town, unless you think a shopping mall in the middle.  Every turn takes you to another place that seems as central as the last.  Getting around can take hours to go inches.  At least it feels like to me.

When I first came to Thailand, I found Bangkok exciting and full of energy.  However having been there multiple times now, it is more like being in with a room full of energetic dogs.  After a while, I just get tired of it all.  Chiang Mai, 10 hours north by bus, is about a quarter the size of Bangkok, or perhaps even smaller.  The center of town surrounded by a square mote.  Inside are temples, hotels, and endless back alleys filled with bookstores, restaurants, massage and markets.  It is the old part of town so getting around is for the brave.  The easiest way is by motorcycle though I prefer to leave the driving to songtauws.  Outside the square, the town is surrounded by three outer ring highways that are filling in with new homes and malls.  The pace is slower than Bangkok and much easier to get around.  When I am in Bangkok, the roads and buildings all look so similar that I never know where I am until I reach my destination.  In Chiang Mai you have the mote and the view of the surrounding mountains.

Our friends took us to the coast of the Sea of Thailand for a day to lie on a beach.  I told them that my goal was to eat seafood and they brought us to two different restaurants.  I had fresh fish from the sea as well as crab and squid.  We walked along the soft white beach to feel the sand in our toes, one of the best massages in Thailand.

We spent some time in Chiang Mai at both ends of our trip, visiting friends in one of the outer suburbs.  They are a family of vegetarian chefs who cook for local temples as well as families who order food from them.  They have a lovely home surrounded by rice fields and each time I go there, I feel my stress flow from me.

We enjoyed being out of Fang for a time, especially our one-room apartment.  We got to cook in Bangkok and visit friends at both ends.  Now, back in Fang, I have taught the first two weeks of the new semester with my eyes out for a larger home.  I hope to do some tutoring on the side and doing it here in the apartment is impossible.  Bringing guests home is also not possible.  Thus, the adventure continues.

On the Road Again

I wrote this four weeks ago before I left for vacation and then forgot to publish it.

Last week, the school was giving students their final exams for the semester.  Nee and I are heading to Bangkok during the three week break starting Wednesday.  Before I go, I will be a judge once again at a speech competition at my school.  Once again I will get the chance to meet other native English speaking teachers as well as students from all around the valley.  As school came to a close, Nee and I had a busy social life.

Thursday night we were invited to dinner by our Singaporean friend who is staying at a place owned by one of the local hilltribes.  Tek Hoi came here as a missionary from Singapore and made a lasting connection with the Lahu tribe.  Months ago, he took me and another teacher on a tour of their hotel where we ate dinner last night.  The tribe is based on a nearby mountain named after the grandfather of the group feeding us.  The museum has photos of the gentleman with the King agreeing to start raising food crops rather than opium.  Thailand, especially northern Thailand is filled with a rich history of challenges and intrigue.  This family has been running a tribe-owned hotel which gives its profits to the tribe.  We were treated to a meal of fried fish, boiled fish, black chicken, a Chinese delicacy, various vegetables and fruits and brown rice.  All came from the Lahu lands.  Throughout the meal we drank tea from the same mountain where Nee and I had visited a few weeks earlier.

Last night we were invited to join a cooking class offered by one of the teachers.  She is responsible for teaching Thai culture to the students, including cooking and dancing.  She is a traditional Thai teacher who loves the students and the students respect her.  We arrived at the house with another teacher, my partner at work, to see several students from my Matthayom 4 class.  "Hi, Teacher Roy," greeted me.  I spent the evening talking to a young man in my 404 class who wants to improve his English.  Nee occasionally had to assist though mostly he was able to hold his own.  I told him I would continue to help him throughout the year.

In the short time since we moved here, Nee and I have found ourselves with a bigger social life then ever before.