Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whiskers, uncombed

During the weeklong break between terms here at Siam English School, Autumn is teaching an English camp. Emily is teaching an immersion student instead, but couldn't miss out on this project from the "body parts" lesson.


That's right, rainbow paper mustaches.

Quite a fashion statement!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's a girl, my lord!

This doesn't happen in the States, does it? I was walking through the parking lot to the grocery store when a truckload of Thai boys asked to have their picture taken with me. Only if they'd take one with my camera too.


(It kinda looks like I'm being felt up in this picture, but I'm not. There woulda been some smack laid down.)

I was on my way to get supplies for the amazing dinner down at the windsurf place across the street. The last time I spent time there was when they had the amazing strawberry soup. I just don't hang out there very often, mostly because of the communication barrier, but I stayed all afternoon. They have communal meals like that nearly every night, and the weekends are the largest. I helped make fried ravioli dumpling things which were good, and there was sashimi, which various people used to test their wasabi threshold. The heat from wasabi goes away so fast though compared to the heat from Thai food. It was a breeze.

There had been talk of taking a speedboat to Ko Samet, and as the night went on I wanted to test my "it'll still be a great weekend if I have to sleep on the beach and a dog poops in my hair" theory. So despite calling nine guesthouses ahead of time and finding each one full, Autumn and I trusted Bert's "you can always find a room" and landed on Sai Kaew beach at about 11:30 at night.

Thankfully, we actually found an open guesthouse. It was a ridiculous walk from the beach, and more than twice what we'd normally pay, but it beat sleeping on the beach with the dogs. And so. The act of finding and transporting ourselves to the room proved to be just enough exertion for the evening, and since we didn't check out until noon we could have just waited and taken a ferry in the morning, but... it was an adventure.

And after breakfast Sunday Autumn and I spent about four hours in the water, leaving only briefly to eat lunch. It was kind of awesome.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Risin' up to the challenge of our rival

I'm not generally one for attending sporting events, but Muay Thai is Thailand's national sport which makes it a cultural event. A dirty, sweaty cultural event occuring in a usually vacant field, at night. So Friday after work, that's what I did.

The Muay Thai ring was constructed in a field and the whole area was enclosed within a tarp and bamboo fence. It had rained heavily that morning, and the winged ants were out in full force that evening because of it. Attracted to the three incandescent lights swinging above the ring, they frantically fly about until they lose their wings and fall. The first order of business, then, was to sweep the spent insects out of the way.

(Don't think of these shots as blurry--they're frenzied and energetic.)

Before each match, the fighters stretched and prayed in the ring. The first fight was between children. They looked 9 or 10, so they were probably 13 or 14, in the 30kg class. Muay Thai is vicious to look at, and for the first few fights the action was entirely in the ring. As the night went on, the crowd got more involved (and invested) in the fights and the energy was divided between the crowd and the fighters.

There were a few gimmicks: a Thai-vs.-Falang match (the falang won,) and a short, stocky fellow in red against two taller opponents in blue (red won.)

Red's kind of invisible in between his opponents.

Nobody cheered when the falang won.

There were twelve fights of five rounds each. The whole spectacle went on from about 8:30 to 1:30. As I left the enclosure was already coming down. The Muay Thai stadium turned back into a vacant lot by morning. It was an entertaining night, and I found myself yelling along with the crowd by the end of it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reptiles abounding

Whenever I spend time in the kitchen here, I earn a few more mosquito bites. The kitchen has the standard cinderblock-with-decorative-holes ventilation system, which is fine.

Except that the mosquitoes are fat. They're the fat stripey tropical ones that carry dengue (they don't actually carry dengue here) and that I'm a little hesitant to smack because of the mess they'll make.

And my air-conditioned, generally mosquito-free bedroom just has a couple of little flat-tailed house geckos, but this fella is proof that I'm at the bottom of the food chain when I'm in his kitchen.


He's a Tokay Gecko. That's a normal-sized (4") house gecko next to him.

Monday, March 22, 2010

there's a light

I love Ban Phe. It's quiet and when I walk through town (town being a straight, two mile road along the water) I always see people I know and that makes me happy. Some people might call Ban Phe boring, but they've probably never seen this random traveling market that cropped up overnight.

Welcome to Ban Phe Municipality, indeed!


You can buy mattresses, shiny wood furniture,


or an entire rainbow of spongy cakes (there was a much greater variety the second time I visited, but I didn't take a picuture, but you can imagine: Taro! Coconut! Corn! Other Flavors as Well!)


And the most popular booth (often the only one with customers) is the Thai equivalent to a $.66 store, the ฿20 store!


I bought some knit shorts to sleep in. They have a panda on them. I did not take a picture.

And the market vanished this morning on the breeze...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Down came the rain

On Saturday night, Stephanie and I sat at a table full of Thai engineers (and one who was Japanese.) We talked about the stuff you usually talk about with Thai engineers, and I taught them the hottest dances from America: the Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Macarena. They were very receptive and gave me some new moves for a real cultural exchange.



I was impressed that they also remembered my name when I encountered them again later that night. And a little ashamed, because I remembered none of theirs.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Drink up me 'earties, yo ho!

Thailand has a lot of Johnny Depps. Some of them are the goateed-and-bespectacled sort, some of them are Captains Jack Sparrow, and some are just shaggy-haired 1990s heartthrobs. This one of the Captain Jack persuasion is a taxi driver on Ko Samet.


I didn't actually catch his name (he said it's "Fan," which means boyfriend or girlfriend, so I'm not sure I believe him.) I only met him briefly late Friday night, but our interaction expanded my Thai vocabulary with things it's not polite to share.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Like a rhinestone cowboy

In his time on Ko Samet, Audi has perfected many techniques for impressing the ladies, including breakdancing, suavely spewing playing cards in all directions, magic tricks, and pumping iron.


Audi and I sang some karaoke, which always makes for a fantastic night (even though I'm the only person in Thailand who doesn't know any Jack Johnson songs.) I'm particularly proud of our rendition of "Rhinestone Cowboy." I rocked "Joy to the World" myself, among other things. Um, like 6 other things. There weren't many people in the karaoke bar.

He's also an accomplished stylist, and despite his previous attempts to beautify her with a butter knife and a lighter (not at the same time) Stephanie trusted him with shears and was rewarded with a pretty sweet haircut.



Monday, March 15, 2010

Once upon a dream

Guess what I did this weekend. Yeah, I went to Magical Crystal Island. Stephanie came back into town and we went to the island on Friday night and stayed until Sunday. Autumn and Bert joined in the fun on Saturday with some of the TEFL students. Autumn asked "how was your night?" and I realized that even if the answer had been, "we didn't find a room so we slept on the beach and there were mosquitoes and then a dog pooped in my hair," it still would have been followed by an "It was AWESOME!"

In an effort to avoid posting the same AWESOME stuff I post whenever I go to the island, this is the first of four posts this week about interesting people I met on the island this weekend.

I watch Lost. Or I did, until I came here. I am not up on the new season. Without spoiling things for those of you who have not yet been converted, it's kind of reasonable to think that by some twist of space and time, Lost island ended up a few km out in the Gulf of Thailand. It's more reasonable once you realize that Benjamin Linus runs a burger joint there.

ko samet 033

He claims that he's never heard of the TV show, and he thought we were kidding when Autumn and I asked for his picture. The logical conclusion is that if Ko Samet isn't Lost Island, then this isn't Ben Linus. Otherwise I just hope he doesn't move the island away now that his cover is blown. I don't think I could cope.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I've got a feeling

Our Bec left Bangkok for China today for her next adventure. On Friday night after work I took a speedboat with Annie to join her for a farewell to Magical Crystal Island.


It's a pretty sweet feeling to storm the beach under the cover of night, and in the middle of the fire show.


Bec and I danced, and Annie and I sang Karaoke, and we all met some interesting, colorful people. Like ya do. I put my camera away kind of early, so these are the only interesting, colorful people we have on figurative film.




In the morning, a floating flock of Thai boys posed for pictures.


I got water up my nose.


And Bec posed gloriously like David.


And I'll miss her!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Appen, appen, appen

Last Friday I went to an English camp all day. It was a nice surprise to learn about it on Thursday, because it gave me a short day followed by a camp day followed by a weekend.

The camp was for a college that TEFL International uses for teaching practice. It took place at HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Herbs Garden, which is a beautiful garden arranged according to the medicinal properties of its plants.

Some of the students taught me a dance and song about fruit, and I learned the Thai chicken dance, and shared "If you're happy and you know it."

I also learned a new method to choose someone from a group (who goes first, or is the leader.) Everyone stands in a circle and puts one hand into the middle, with their thumb facing up, and shakes their hand back and forth until they decide to go palm-up or palm-down. Whoever's hand his facing the opposite direction of everyone else is "it."

ban phe 009
Can you find me?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yellow is the color of my true love's hair.

After the success of Annie's new color, Autumn and I thought it would be brilliant to highlight one another's hair, so we ventured to the beauty supply store for highlighting stuff ($1.50) and set to work one morning before work.

I wish I had pictures of the great blondeness that was the front of both of our heads. Autumn had thick, white-blonde streaks. I had a Bonnie Raitt thing going on. We each overdid it a little bit, and the next day, we each tried to correct the color by dying over it. I chose strawberry blonde. I don't have a picture of my result in daylight, but here's a nighttime pic that gets the point across, from Ko Samet last weekend.

(Yes, that is my Ko Samet uniform.)

I'm happy with the result. The strawberry blonde darkened my highlights and didn't lighten the rest of my hair too much. The highlighted part is getting kind of peachy as it fades, but we'll see.

Now Autumn is not a redhead. She chose a dark nutty brown color to dye over her highlights, but her result was very similar to mine and her bangs were pretty pink the first day. Luckily, it's faded to a lighter warm brown as the days went on. I don't think I'll dye my hair in Asia again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pattaya, Pattaya!

Friday before last, Autumn, Annie, Bec and I brought a couple of bottles of wine into our tricked-out taxi van and ventured forth to Pattaya, den of sin. In the taxi, we played truth or dare and were girls.


Pattaya's "Walking Street" is open 24 hours a day, which is different when you're used to spending time in Ban Phe. The street is full of (not bad-looking) ladyboys, prostitutes, bar girls and touts with drink and entertainment menus. We dropped our things off in a guesthouse room (one big, squishy king-sized bed is plenty for four girls) and walked out into the city.

To get to walking street, we hired a couple of motorbike taxis and rode three on each, and Bec and I both said "I want the cute one!" and then chose different drivers. Mine really was cuter. When we got to Walking Street, we got food (I had a baguette with melted cheese on it!) and walked up and down the street, admiring the sights.

This video conveys Pattaya pretty well, and has a catchy song:

There was a little bit of dancing, and we ran into two of the teachers who took the TEFL class with me and Autumn. And we went back to our big squishy bed and were in it around 4. It was a great night!


In the morning we went to a real western-style shopping mall, where I didn't buy anything (I did pay 100 baht for a 200 baht pair of flipflops out front, on account of I only had my new fancy rhinestone ones and they were slippery and causing blisters.) And then we went to a supermarket with western style foods! I got goat cheese and tomato crackers! And rolos! And some cookies that actually aren't very good. And a slice of quiche for lunch. We also saw a restaurant selling birds nest soup, but didn't have any.