Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas in Nakhon Sawan

Nadolig Llawen

The roaring fire has been replaced with a fan and I will be eating vegan duck instead of a stuffed goose but don't worry, we know it's Christmas time...

Here in Nakhon Sawan Christmas doesn't happen unless you make it yourself. So that's exactly what we've done. We've filled our flat with fairy lights and paper chains, the fridge is full of chocolate and cheese and I am listening to Carols from Kings as I type.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Here in Hong Kong #2

Hong Kong

Back in Hong Kong six months down the line and at the end of a three week holiday we saw the city through very different eyes. The sea of sharp suits seemed strange and unusual. The duvet and soft mattress seemed a luxury (as did the wine and the black coffee). The endless choice of cuisine was amazing but overwhelming and we couldn't even begin to keep up with the nightlife (in fact we didn't even try).

Friday, 5 December 2014

Wish we could be there!

Today I am feeling like a bad friend.

One of my oldest and bestest friends is getting married and I'm 6,000 miles away.

I met Rachel when I was 10 - she was the new girl in school and we bonded over both being freakishly tall for our age. Since then we've been through teenage crushes, unwise experiments with alcohol and some rather questionable fashion choices as well as hundreds of wonderful memories.

Since university, we've lived far from each other (although this is by far the furthest to date!) but when we do see each other, nothing has ever changed.  I miss the days when I would pop round her house after school for a cup of tea and Neighbours but she is still one of my best friends and as I get older I realise that time and distance are not barriers to a good friendship.

When we whiled away hours after school gossiping and discussing how we definitely wouldn't get married before 24 before we were strong independent women and we wanted to have careers first (because obviously after 24 you're past it and you can't possibly have a career once you're married) I never dreamt that I wouldn't be there when you 'tied the knot'.

So today I will be feeling slightly sad that I can't be there with you but mainly thrilled that you are both starting an exciting new chapter in your lives. I may not be able to celebrate your wedding with you today but I am sure there will be countless opportunities to witness and celebrate your marriage in the many years to come.

I love you and miss you - CONGRATULATIONS!

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Here in Nakhon Sawan: Loi Krathong

Apologies for being lax on the blogging front lately, being back at school has kept us busy but I promise there is a Hong Kong post and a video from way back in July coming your way.

Our first week back in Nakhon Sawan coincided with the Loi Krathong festival which celebrates the end of the rainy season. Thais Light 'krathongs' (traditional made from banana tree and leaf but these days can be anything from plastic to bread)  and set them off on the river along with all their bad feelings. Some people also set off lanterns and in Chiang Mai, where this festival is a much bigger occasion, it can be quite a spectacular sight!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Here in Kuala Lumpur

We had bought our bus tickets from Penang to Kuala Lumpur the previous day, so full of optimism we turned up at the advertised time of 1130. We waited a bit and just after 12 we were ushered into a mini-bus which was to take us to the bus station.

It actually took us just down the road from the bus station, where we clambered onto an amazingly comfortable bus with huge reclining seats and bags of leg room. Feeling excited, we got to the bus station about 12.30pm for our fellow passengers to hop on. 

But they didn't. Or rather they did, but soon realised they weren't actually supposed to be on our bus and got off again. Or they got on and quibbled over who's seat was who's. The staff had about as much idea as the rest of us but eventually we departed just after 1.30pm

Friday, 7 November 2014

Here in Penang

A big highlight of Penang for us was the food but I’ve written about that here so I won’t repeat myself.

Our visit did not start very well. After a 12 hour trip which involved two mini-vans and a car (luxury!) we were dropped right in the heart of backpackers-ville on Penang.

In colonial times, Penang Island was an important outpost of the British Empire and the bustling city which sprung up has kept it's colonial name: Georgetown. These days Georgetown is a UNESCO heritage sight. However, none of this rich history commands that money exchanges must stay open beyond 9pm. So, we found ourselves in the middle of the hustle and bustle with no Ringit (Malaysian currency) and our preferred guest house full to the brim.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Here in Khao Sok

After a week lying on the sandy beaches of Koh Phangan, we are all beached out and ready for adventure. So we headed back to mainland Thailand and to the striking limestone cliffs and jungles of Khao Sok National Park. Arriving in the dark and rain, we briefly missed our warm, sandy bungalows but soon we grabbed some dinner and booked ourselves on to a two-day guided trip to Cheow Lan Lake, starting 8am the very next morning.

Cheow Lan is a man-made lake which is used to produce hydro-electricity. Damning the Klong Saeng river created the 165sqkm lake and more than 100 islands. The limestone cliffs jut out from the still water, dwarfing the long tail boats fishing for dinner or ferrying tourists.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Here on Bottle Beach

We swapped the postcard beach of Haad Salad for the waves, rocks and power outages of Bottle Beach and I loved it! Haad Salad was beautiful, it was everything a beach lover would want from a Thai island - the soft white sand, lined with palm trees leading you to calm, clear water warm enough to lie in for hours. There was an array of resorts and restaurants, some average but some served up really great Thai food. 

But still I have to say that I preferred Bottle Beach. It is more remote and can be reached by an extremely rough track or by boat. There are just four accommodation options and they all run off a generator which is switched off for a couple of hours each day. It was quiet. Very quiet. There were far more workers than guests and at one point we could have told you by name the only three other guests on the whole beach!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Here on Haad Salad

After travelling for 18 hours by train, bus and ferry we arrived on the infamous party island of Koh Phangnan. I was bit nervous about coming here because the island is so well known for it’s full-moon parties and we are far too boring to wear rave paint and drink from buckets. 

So we ventured further round the coast from the bright lights and beer bottles of Haad Rin and found that most of the island remains fairly unspoiled. We found some nice little bungalows set slightly back from the beach at Haad Salad and then it was a race to the sea!

We spent a lazy few days enjoying the tranquility of low season, dipping in and out of the warm turquoise sea and rediscovering the joys of hot showers. I wish I could start every day with a swim in the sea and accompany my breakfast with the sounds of gentle waves lapping the soft white sand. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Dokbua Games 2014

This is not just a sports day. This is not even just a sports week. It is the Dokbua games 2014 and I’ve never experienced anything like it!

Alongside the usual athletics and football it also featured tug-of-war, chess (don’t get me started!), table tennis and the Thai games, dacour and wing dial There are eight teams and they each have a colour so all week the school has been a sea of red, blue, pink, green, orange, yellow and maroon. Matt was on the orange team and I was maroon which was annoying because it’s the only colour that doesn’t appear in my wardrobe!

Almost all of the weeks lessons were cancelled and we spent our afternoons out in the sun cheering the kids. They all did brilliantly although my kindergarteners struggled with concepts such as which direction to run in and how to win the game! 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Here in Chiang Mai

A four day weekend saw us finally visit the northern city of Chiang Mai. This is the most northern part of Thailand we have visited and it was considerably cooler than our home of Nakhon Sawan.

It's seems that everyone had the same idea for the holiday and the buses were so packed that we ended up travelling as stowaways in with the luggage but it was surprisingly comfortable and I had a pretty good sleep as well as a free meal!

Chiang Mai is a tourist destination and we enjoyed the associated the perks which included plenty of markets, a variety of different cuisines and …… wait for it……. wine. In a proper, long stemmed wine glass. And that's not all……….. gin. That's right, I shared a litre of delicious red wine over some delicious buttery cheese filled pasta and then followed it with a gin and tonic. That's what I call a holiday!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Running in Thailand

Is sweaty. Actually, standing still is sweaty - running is something new. 

But the park here in Nakhon Sawan is lovely. It is the heart and soul of the town and I love running round it and seeing familiar faces.

In the UK, I exercised the keep/get fit. Here I exercise to socialise - I enjoy bumping into people and practicing the little Thai I have.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Here in Khorat

Thanks to the start of Buddhist Lent and the offical start of the rainy season here in Thailand, we enjoyed a nice long weekend in July. We were considering treating ourselves to some gin and tonics in Chang Mai but then one of our Thai friends invited us to go with them to Khorat where there is an annual candle festival. Keen not to pass up an opportunity to experience a bit of Thai culture and our first Thai festival, we took her up on this kind offer.

We did not regret this decision and our 'family' of 6 plus chauffeur went on a 2 day road trip in a rather plush minivan including an unnecessary trip to the Cambodian border and a magic double banana.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Here at school ....

We've been working for six weeks now so I thought I'd write a little post about how we're getting on at school.

I (Ruth) am teaching Kindergarten 1 and 2 so am doing a lot of singing and colouring in and communicating mainly in hand gestures and flashcards! One girl in K1 has cried every day since the start of term - she must be exhausted! They are great kids though and very cute. Altogether I teach 530 children but there are two main classes of 25 that I see every day and so have got to know well (the other classes I only see once every two weeks.) I have a different topic each week such has five senses or fruit. 

Matt teaches more of a mixture but his main class is Grade 2 who he teaches for English five times a week and Science twice a week. He also teaches Maths to Grade 1 and Art to Grades 3 & 4. This means he gets to know a lot of kids which is cool although Grade 2 are definitely his bezzie mates!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Here in our little home

A little tour of our flat - it's not much but it's our new Thai home! Complete with a sofa bed for visitors :)

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Wai Kru

On Thursday it was 'Wai Kru Day' at our school. Wai Kru means Respect for Teachers and the focus is a ceremony where the students 'wai' their teachers and present them with flowers. *(Wai is the traditional Thai greeting; a slight bow with palms pressed together as if praying. The position of the hands in relation to the face and the extent of the bow depends on the status of the person/amount of respect they are showing)

There is no hall in our school big enough to cram all the students in so we had 3 round of ceremonies and as K1 and K2 teacher, I ended up taking part in two of them! Class by class all the students file on to the stage where their teachers are sat. They kneel in front of them, wai to them and then present their flowers. Each year has 7/8 classes of 40-50 so altogether it took about 5 hours! At times it was complete chaos trying to organise so many children in a hot assembly hall but it the whole day was a great experience!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Here in Nakhon Sawan #2 (and unfortunately not in London)

Today I turned 25 and spent my first birthday in Thailand. We are having a relaxing food filled day and enjoyed the views of our town from a local temple. It seems like a long time since I turned 24 and I'm looking forward to what the next year has in store!

In other news, two of our best friends got married yesterday back in London and we were obviously gutted not to be there. We weren't sure what to get them but then there was a military coup in Thailand and we got a day off work. So naturally we put the time to good use and made them a music video!

Take a look here:

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Here in Vientiane

We had to go to the Laos capital to get our visas. We got a sleeper train from Bangkok; I’ve never ben on one before and it was a great experience. Matt had the best night’s sleep he’s had since we’ve been in Asia and I slept okay although the train was very cold and bright! 
Vientiane is a very small capital and most visitors seem to be there to renew visas. It is quite similar to Thailand although the french influence means that they drive on the right and beef, baguettes and cake are readily available! It was a lot cooler than Nakhon Sawan and we appreciated this and spent most of our time, wandering between coffees shops, restaurants and our guest house!

We are now back in Thailand with our visas so job done but we look forward to exploring more of Laos.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Here in Nakhon Sawan #1

Welcome to Nakhon Sawan and our new home! We have found a great little bargain of a flat round the corner from our friends in a lovely little community. Our neighbours are very friendly and have really helped us out. It’s wonderful to have a place just for the two of us at last and we are slowly making it into our little home :)

Monday, 5 May 2014

Hong Kong Snaps

A few snaps from our few days in Hong Kong; an expensive city but a wonderful mix of high rise city life, street markets and beautiful countryside. 
Highlights were definitely the cable car and cliff jumping (and of course seeing Emma King!) 
Food wise, there is so much on offer and we ate very well but the best thing I had was Chinese vegetables and noodles at one of the night markets the first night we were there. 

Hong Kong, we'll be back!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Here in Sai Wan

Who knew Hong Kong was so rural and picturesque? Well I didn't! We got the metro, a bus and a taxi; we walked, we climbed and then we jumped off a rock into a pool!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Here in Hong Kong!

On 17th April we said our goodbyes to the UK and jetted off to Asia. First stop was Hong Kong for a little holiday and to visit Matt's sister. We've cobbled together a quick video of our first day there, the blur and shaky camera work is part of the charm ok? :)