My first week of teacher training is complete.
Saturday I rode on the back of a motorbike around Ban Phe. I actually tried to drive a motorbike, much to the amusement of the hotel housekeepers who were hanging out of the window laughing at me. Jerk forward, screech to a halt, jerk forward, lean sideways, screech to a halt. I'm sure you'll have no difficulty visualizing this. I'm much better as a passenger. I don't think they make motorbikes with training wheels.
In Bangkok and here in Ban Phe there are motorbikes all over the roads but helmets are rare. Some of them pile on three plus people, including children on their laps. I've seen women ride sidesaddle. They don't really have enforced traffic rules so the motorbikes dart in between cars when they can. As a result, at a stoplight there is always a hoarde of motorbikes blazing forward first when the light turns green.
This fella was hanging out in my condiment tray.
Is it sad that it took me until Saturday to get past my knees in the ocean? It was a hot day, and shortly after sundown I took a dip in the warm ocean. I've never been in a warm ocean before, and it was wonderful. I luckily missed the torrential end-of-monsoon thunderstorm, which waited until I was safe and dry in the restaurant/motorbike rental/convenience store/Internet cafe next to the Condochain.
When the rain let up, I walked back to Condochain to the cacophony of the competing karaoke bars on either side of the hotel. I think that the one next to my side of the building has the advantage. Being in a covered pavilion outdoors, the flashing disco lights draw people and moths alike and the music has a much straighter path through the crack where my sliding glass door doesn't slide all the way shut.
Sunday five of us went to Khao Chamao national park. This trip was amazing. I don't know what I was expecting; we knew there were waterfalls and wildlife (elephants and tigers and bears, oh my!)
The first wildlife I saw was this gigantic black and yellow spider:
The hike to the waterfalls required a park ranger as an escort, and they did not let us bring food or water to the hiking trail. It turned out to be a 2.6 kilometer hike each way, but it was very intense. It was an uphill climb through the jungle. The trail went up and through little streams, and required a lot of energy to find the best place to step among the rocks and tree roots. There were about six waterfalls along the trail, and of course they were beautiful but so was just walking through the jungle. The sounds were amazing, the flora was amazing, the sudden drop in temperature as I stepped around a corner and into view of a waterfall was just amazing!
I bought a bag of fish food for 10 baht (33 cents) at the desk where we gave up our water bottles. The first (or second?) waterfall we passed had hoards of fish beaching themselves to get at this food. I tried out my camera's underwater capabilities here, which was a little tricky since I couldn't see the viewfinder.
The hike was grueling, especially without water. Up near the top, we passed an area with a very zoo-ish smell. The guide said it was tiger. We didn't actually meet a tiger. When I emerged from the jungle after four hours (I think?) I was covered in a slimy film of sweat, sunscreen and insect repellant. And leeches. Also leeches.
I pulled this sucker off my ankle:
It was so worth it though!
It started to rain just as we were leaving the jungle, and I had lunch at the park under a little pavilion while the rain turned into a downpour. The largest animal we met at the park was a deer.
One can rent a bungalow and stay the night at the park, which I think would be amazing. After returning to the Condochain I took a dip in the warm ocean and took pictures.
I tried to get a picture with an awesome wave crashing behind me, but it didn't work.