Ko Samet

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I have been very fortunate with the amount of paid holidays this semester since we had another 3 day weekend July 28-30. This time I visited a small island that took about 5 hours to get to by van and ferry. Ko Samet is a very small island that can be either very expensive or fairly affordable depending how you travel. For example, the ferry took about 20 minutes and had a pretty view but they also offered a speedboat option, which cost double the price of the ferry. They had a 20 baht entry fee for everyone just to enter the pier (but 20 baht is less than $1 USD so it’s not a big deal).

It was extremely crowded since it was a holiday weekend so I definitely saved a lot of money by booking a place to stay ahead of time. The hostel I stayed at was called Samed Thanee. They were the cheapest option I could find with wifi and AC included. It was very nice and clean but on the opposite side of the island from the good beaches, however you can drive there on a rental scooter easily in 10 minutes or less. The plus side of this location was that it was very quiet at night since it was pretty far away from all the touristy bars and party hostels.

There were also lots of food choices for about 150 baht on average but I managed to find meals for 60 baht since this was the end of the month and I had a very low budget. I also went to the beach early enough in the day that I didn’t have to pay the 200 baht they normally charge foreigners since the good beaches are located inside a national park.

The first beach I went to was called Ao Prao and it was fairly empty which was surprising considering that there are resorts located directly on the road on this beach. There were tree swings, which were fun to relax in the shade on especially since it was an extremely hot and sunny day. There was some trash which is a problem with a lot of the beaches I’ve visited around this area of Thailand but they at least have workers picking it up and have signs put up that ask tourists not to litter.

I stopped at one more beach that was next to Ao Prao (not sure of the name of this one) but this beach had very soft, white sand so it was very beautiful as long as you kept your eyes open for broken glass around the entrance. Overall, it was definitely an enjoyable weekend getaway with gorgeous views!

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Bang Sean- Chonburi

 

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picnic area 🙂

Our school had a 3-day weekend from July 8-10 due to the Buddhist holiday, Asalha Puja. It celebrates the Buddha delivering his first sermon. I decided to use this time to do a little traveling. I chose Bang Sean, a part of Chonburi, since it is only about an hour away from here and would be a lot less costly than some other destinations. It also has a beach, which was pretty much all I was looking for to relax near this weekend.

I soon found out this is not a very touristy area. I had to rely on the very little Thai that I knew at most restaurants and at the hostel but some of the servers at restaurants and bars did know a little English. It felt like a very Thai town but offered some different activities than Chachoengsao. It was perfect for me as a pescetarian because Bang Sean has a huge seafood market and the seafood is extremely fresh everywhere. They were even selling giant crabs and squid right along the beach.

The beach was nice enough but wasn’t as clear water as some of the places I’ve seen before in Thailand. The beach was also very narrow and crowded but it had a cool vibe with lots of groups of Thai people having picnics and lots of families relaxing and enjoying the holiday. Because of the holiday the whole weekend most bars were closed and 7/11’s were not selling alcohol. Of course, if there’s a will, there’s a way definitely applies here as people will discreetly sell beer on the street and we did manage to find one bar that was part of a hostel that was open.

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gorgeous beach!

I also visited the Burapha University aquarium at the Institute of Marine Science and received a discount since I finally completed my paperwork and now have a Thai work permit so that was a nice plus and saw some beautiful fish.

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Bangkok Part II & III

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Part II:

This time around I took the train from Chachoengsao to Bangkok to attempt to bypass the traffic I’d inevitably run into on the highway on a Friday evening. The train was moving very…let’s say…leisurely but it’s very old so it most likely can’t run any faster. All the windows are left open with just a few ceiling fans to cool the passengers. It was fairly crowded but it only costs 13 baht so you can’t find anything cheaper. The view was pretty interesting since in between the cities is mostly rural area and some very poor living conditions.

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I had to then transfer to the BTS to get to the hostel. It was located near Silom road. I tried Thailand tacos at Sunrise Tacos. It was average and pretty pricey since you’re mostly paying for the comfort of the food and not the actual quality of it. However, they did have endless tortilla chips with about 8 different salsas.

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The next day I visited Siam Center, which is a huge mall with stores as upscale as Balenciaga and Dolce & Gabbana but also included more affordable options such as H&M and Uniqlo. It had 6 stories of shops so it was easy to spend the better part of a day inside especially when I found a bookstore with a big selection of English books!

Part III:

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This time around I stayed near Khao San Road, which I had read is very backpacker heavy. It turns out it is even more of a tourist trap than I had expected. It was very much a party area which is alright if that’s what you’re looking for but even so it was overcrowded, overpriced and overrated. It just so happens anyway that I am on a little break from drinking so this was truly the worst place to go during sober times.

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I don’t look very happy here but I am! I bought this cool shirt from a street vendor

I stayed on the street parallel to Khao San thinking it would be a bit more quiet like the reviews online suggested but instead ended up unwillingly staying up until about 4am due to bars blasting music and extremely thin hostel windows.

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As much as I love Thai food, I eat it everyday for every meal here in Chachoengsao so when I go to Bangkok I like to order things I can’t get where I live. I ate a Greek salad, which was delicious by all means but also triple the price I usually pay for a meal. The worst part about this was all the salesmen who would not stop pestering me while I’m trying to enjoy my meal. They continuously offered scorpions on a stick, handmade bracelets, fidget spinners and more while I tried to wave them away with a mouthful full of salad.

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The best part of the trip was actually breakfast because I found a place with American breakfast and it was really refreshing. (Until another salesman came up and I had to ask him if he wants me to try to sell him sunglasses during his breakfast haha).

Wai Kru/Teacher’s Day

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A few of us blinked at the wrong time unfortunately.

Excerpt from Asia Pacific International University’s website(http://www.apiu.edu/2016-news/wai-kru-day-in-appreciation-of-all-teachers-mentors) :

“Teacher’s Day around the world is celebrated in honor of teachers. Unique to Thailand, Wai Kru Day, or Teacher’s Day, celebrates and honors not only teachers in the classroom but all who contribute to sharing wisdom including parents, religious leaders, relatives, and friends. Celebrated on the first Thursday at the start of every academic year, Wai Kru Day is marked by the giving of “paan” and flower garlands in honor of educators. Wai Kru is an integral part of Thai culture and fosters a deep appreciation for wisdom and education within the cultural traditions of Thailand.”

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At the school I teach at, each grade had their own Teacher’s Day assembly. Since I teach Kindergarten, I attended the ceremony for pre-K through K2. We had a rehearsal for this occasion a few days before so the students would know what’s expected of them.

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I sat on the stage with both American and Thai teachers while the students sang some songs. Then each class would have 2 students (one boy and one girl) carry flower arrangements up to the stage and present them to the school’s director. They were each collected and displayed on the stage.

 

All of the speaking at the assembly was in Thai but it was an honor and a fun experience to be apart of even so (especially after only teaching here for a few months so far). The kids seemed to really enjoy it as well. One of my students brought me a handmade flower garland, which I believe her mother made.

Teaching in Thailand Part II

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We are now on the third week of class. Each week there is a predetermined topic to base lessons around. The first week was “orientation,” the second week was “school,” and the third week is “body parts.” In addition to teaching them English, I also teach English math and English science. When I am not teaching, they are either in Thai class, Thai science class, at the playground, eating lunch or taking a nap. I also teach an art period and a “movement” period (which is basically PE but mostly dancing along to English songs for kids).

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Each week I prepare worksheets, phonics flashcards (for both the letter of the week and for the topic of the week vocabulary), at least one game/activity, several videos to show and an art project. The best part of lesson planning by far is when I get to color a worksheet/picture for an example for the students. I am grateful for the freedom I have within the curriculum to choose what worksheets and other resources I use especially now that I have accessed their English skills. There are actually big differences in knowledge between classes of the same grade here- possibly due to the frequent turnover in teachers at this school.

As the semester moves forward the students are not only improving their English but also becoming more comfortable with me as their teacher and in turn becoming more confident in their speaking. Last week a student was able to communicate to me exactly something that happened between two other students in the class (one pushed the other) and that was a great feeling to share that understanding. There have been a few moments so far where things didn’t go as I planned such as a certain activity not working out as well as I had hoped but the students are so funny and always immediately raising my spirits with their positive energy.

I am learning a lot from the students and hopefully they are learning a lot from me and we’re all having fun doing it so far!

Elephant Nature Park

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Elephant Nature Park is mainly a sanctuary for elephants but they also have dogs, cats, buffaloes and many other animals they have rescued. We were told during our visit that they have around 70 elephants and that their oldest elephant at the sanctuary is 100 years old. Additionally, they make sure to educate their visitors about the plight of elephants in Thailand.

You’ve probably heard about elephants being treated poorly in Thailand. I did and that’s why I did my research to find a sanctuary to support rather than a camp where elephants are trained, tortured and generally mistreated.

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Our tour guide, Mike, with his favorite elephant, Kaboo.

Our tour guide, Mike, was very passionate and knowledgeable about elephants. He showed us an elephant that had no hair on her back due to the saddle on which tourists rode her before she was rescued. He also showed us an elephant that had a misshaped head due to being beaten with hooks during training by its previous owners. Another elephant had a deformed foot from stepping on a land mine before its rescue. While these things were absolutely difficult to see, it was comforting and completely reassuring seeing the proper love and care they are now given at ENP.

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Here is a few more details about this from ENP’s website:

“They are forced to walk on hot tarmac roads by gangs of elephant owners and beg for fruit and food. The owner often buys the elephant purely to obtain begging money from sympathetic passers by. As he has scant experience with animal training, the hapless creature is cruelly treated and beaten as the rider becomes impatient. In the city the animal cannot possibly get the 200-300 kg of food and 100-200 litres of water necessary for it’s daily nourishment so it plods the hot polluted streets, thirsty hungry and confused. These animals quickly suffer from stress through polluted air, poor diet, dehydration, loneliness and their sensitive ears are soon damaged. Much of the fruit purchased from local sellers has been treated with chemicals and causes serious stomach problems and eventually death.

Other forms of, less apparent abuse come in the form of pet baby elephants featured at hotels and entertainment complexes. Although the animals may seem happy enough they are invariably fed the wrong diet, suffer from loneliness and boredom and will soon die. Many unwitting tourists, delighted at the sight of a “cute” baby elephant, are completely unaware that the lifespan of the creature is likely to be only a few years.”

I love that at ENP, the caretakers are extremely compassionate and attentive to the needs of the elephants and that the elephants get to relax and roam freely all day.

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On our visit, we got to help feed the elephants one of their many daily meals. We fed them watermelon, cucumbers and other fruit.

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We also helped them cool off in a river at the sanctuary by splashing them with buckets of water.

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This was definitely an experience I will remember for the rest of my life!