Chiang Mai!

Opps it’s been a while since my last post (8 weeks) sorry. So much has happened since then, so I’ll try and remember as much as possible! I guess I’ll start from where I left off (again).
Week 1
The last week before Chiang Mai both myself and Lorna came down with the flu, which meant no school and a lot of bed rest. By the time the weekend rolled around we were feeling considerably better, which is good given the fact that Tonicha and Emily had come to stay on the Friday. On Saturday we finally packed up our flat (which we’d only been in for two weeks!) and got on a night bus to Chiang Mai. 7 hours later we arrived in Chiang Mai and since none of us had gotten any sleep or had ever been to Chiang Mai we felt very disorientated. We found a songthaew (which work as taxis, instead of buses, in Chiang Mai) and made our way to the guest house where we found Kate and Molly fast asleep, as they had arrived two hours before us (4am). We met up with the others as they slowly arrived and then we wandered off to find a 7/11 and found some lovely temples along the way, the we headed to a nearby market, held at Thapae Gate. Tonicha and I completely lost the group and wandered for about 2 hours. We rang the others and found that they where at The Saloon! We jumped in a taxi and finally met up with everyone! By 4pm it was time to head home get some dinner. I spent the evening catching up with Alice, it was lovely to talk after, what seemed like forever, apart. On Monday we began our language course at AUA, we were all very enthusiastic, but thai is extremely hard, and I found it hard to concentrate as everything was just becoming more and more jumbled in my head😦 the heat was definitely not helping, however Chiang Mai is much colder than Nakhon Sawan, but still. We continued at the course Monday to Friday for 3 weeks, it was interesting but its going to take a lot of practise back home before I get the hang of it. That night we went out to celebrate Emily’s birthday, it was a class night! On the Tuesday after school we all head for a nearby lake! For i think 120 baht each (80 taxis and 40 entry), this is roughly £2.30, we spent 3 hours at the lake and the taxi waited for us. It gets dark very early at the moment, which meant no one really wanted to go in the water, we had split in to 2 groups to get some food but as soon as we met back up, myself and Molly decided that going for a moonlit swim was a great idea, so jumped in! 3 of the lads who where coming to meet us saw us swimming and shouted us to come back, next thing we no those 3 are jumping in and so is everyone else. We messed around for a bit, but then everyone bar me, Molls, Martin and Paddy decided it was time to head back to the city! So they got the songtaew back to the city and we stayed for another hour or so and got a taxi later, finding a taxi was a nightmare😦 the lake was so gorgeous, definitely jealous of Euan and Paddy for living so close to it. It was such a lovely evening and I can’t wait to go again! On Thursday we headed down to Mae Sa Waterfall, which were breathtaking! Almost all of us went into the water and a few of us continued up to the higher levels of the falls. Somehow I managed to sprain my wrist, usually I would blame this on my extraordinary clumsiness, but I’m not quite sure how it happen, one minute I was standing and without moving I managed to be sat on my bum? Other than that I left with only a few cuts and bruises, but at the end of the day I can’t expected to climb up waterfalls and not leave a little bruised at the least🙂 It was a great evening out, spent with great friends, and this is something I wouldn’t mind to do again at all! On the Saturday we attended school again, this time though Nici had come to give us a lesson on teaching and it was very helpful. On the Sunday 8 of us went tubing. This is basically sitting on rubber rings, drinking beer and slowly floating down the river. All was going great until the monsoons hit😦 it rained like you’ve never seen for about an hour. On more than one occasion we thought we might die, but it cleared up, all in all it was a great experience. When we returned to the (fake) beach we attempted slack lining, which I was awful at, I managed only a half meter before I fell off. As we were about to begin a game of volleyball the second wave of the monsoon hit and we resorted to hiding out in the storage room until the rain was light enough for us to jump in the pick up van and head back to the city and meet up with the others.
Week 2
TIGER KINGDOM!! On Tuesday Tonicha, Daisy and I headed to tiger kingdom and it was INCREDIBLE! I thought one of the big tigers might kill me but only once or twice🙂 the baby tigers were so cute and fluffy. They were so lively and jumping all over the place. We only had 15minutes with the babies, but as it was quiet we asked for a little longer and the trainer gave in after the millionth time we asked and let us stay longer🙂 Anyone who knows me, knows that tigers are my favourite animal and that I have always dreamed of being so close to one and this certainly didn’t disappoint in the slightest!! On Wednesday we spent the evening at Doi Suthep. A huge temple on the top of a mountain. It was beautiful, however not what we expected and a little disappointing. It was rather sad to see so many people there who were clearly unaware of certain expectations which are upheld within Thai temples, even the simple things like covering your shoulders before entering, which were completely ignored, however it wasn’t all bad, it was, at the end of the day, another experience that I had the privilege of sharing with such a wonderful group of people. Throughout the weekend we disappeared into the jungle, on a trek. However I will right about it a separate post.
Week 3 and 4
On the Monday we celebrated Daisy’s birthday, which was such a lush evening! And before we knew it we were heading down to Pai! On Saturday we travelled down to Pai. It was very touristy place, way more farang (foreigners) than thai people, which was really odd. When we arrived we walked around for about a hour trying to find a guest house, once we had, Molly, Tonicha and I went for a wanders around the place when we bumped in to the lads. We decided to disappear off to find a waterfall and it was a lot of fun, although the waterfall itself was pretty naf. On the Sunday us girls decided we needed a girly day to just relax and found a hot springs spa and resort. It cost 100baht for the day (£2) and since no one else was there it meant we got 2 swimming pools and 2 hot springs all to ourselves. It was absolutely lush! Paradise. We didn’t really do much over the next couple of days, just went out at night and recovered in the morning! On Thursday we got up and did some sight seeing, however this is limited as everything to see in Pai is actually outside of Pai and unless you want to ride a motorbike, then its a taxi, which were rather pricey! But nether the less, we went to the White Buddha and the Pai Canyon. The White Buddha was ok and the Pai Canyon wasn’t the best place to go given my fear of heights, but all in all it was a good day.
Week 5
The following day me and Tonicha headed back to Chiang Mai and met up with Kate, Daisy and Alice who had left earlier that morning, 2 hours later Lorna, Molly, Emily and Euan arrived back, and so we all checked in and then headed for bed! The rest of the week I didn’t really do much, just relaxed, read my book, played pool and tried to spend as much time as possible with the other volunteers before they all left. And then the day came for me and Lorna to head back to Nakhon Sawan to get ready to go back to school.
Week 6, 7 and 8
When we got back to school we jumped right back in. We have started at a different school, and will be here for the remainder of the semester. I will be teaching nursery, primary, secondary, M2 (Year 8, although the ages range from 13-16) at the novice monk school and starting next week at the Vocational College. So i’m teaching from the age of 3-18🙂 Last Thursday we joined our host family in celebrating Loy Koythong, by raising Chinese lanterns into the sky and by placing little floating lanterns into the river, it was truly breathtaking! They do this to make merit, our family explained that because the river is so important to there lives, as it provides them with food, water, a place to clean and so much more, that they like to show there appreciation towards it. That weekend we where reunited with Kate and Molly, it was lush to see them again after what seemed like forever, but in reality was only a week. During their stay we trekked down to the Chinese temple, which although it is currently under construction, was beautiful. We gave them a tour of our school and took them to all our favourite restaurants! The following week we continued to teach, on the Wednesday we were invited by Peter to go to the Buddhist Monk University to hand out welfare grants from SET to the students who needed them, it was an incredible experience, especially knowing that without the support of SET they most probably wouldn’t be able to go to University. Therefore we have set up a 4th project, teaching conversation english in this University, we are so excited to start here and they seem very happy to have us there and it is a pleasure that we were welcomed with such open arms during our visit🙂 Over these past few weeks (and still currently) we are working on setting up a 5th project at one of the local orphanages, where we will volunteer once a week.
Over this past week we had a little trip to Laos, due to Visa issues, however I will cover this in a upcoming blog post!
Until next time,
Rhiannon x

One Month In!

Oh gosh, 3 weeks have past since my last post, so I had best start from where I left off. We had a great weekend with our host family in Bangkok. We stayed the night in our host sisters condo and in the morning myself and Sand went for a lovely rooftop swim, defiantly the best way to start your day.
Sunday, we decided against going to the beach so that we could go to a floating market, which was totally awesome. We even got to meet an elephant!
On the Monday we where picked up for school as usual, however we where unaware that that was the day we would begin teaching, which made walking into a classroom filled with 18 YEAR OLDS!!! (who could be only a few days younger than me, as there school year begins May 1st) was evening more daunting than I had ever imagined. The remainder of the day was very tiring and unpleasant, as I felt totally unprepared and horrified at how awful my teaching was. Myself and Lorna decided that we should give Nici (our PT Rep, who lives in Nakhon Sawan) a ring, and being the wonderful person she is, took us both out for ice cream! Which was so lovely, we got to meet her amazing boyfriend J as well. They reassured us that we weren’t awful teachers we were just unprepared and that things couldn’t get worse. The following day was 100x better, we tried to apply and consider everything Nici and J had told us and it really paid off🙂 On the Wednesday we went to Wat Kirreewong, (the Novice Monk school) for the first time, and we completely fell in love with the Novice Monks, they are so sweet and lovely (sometimes a little noisy and cheeky, but not often). Lorna will be teaching M1 and I will be teaching M2! On the Thursday we went back to our normal school, and then in the time it takes to blink, Friday had arrived, and we were given the day off school, so that we could move into our Flat!!!!
We were so excited for this day! However after only 2 hours of being in the flat we locked up and walked down to the Big C to catch a songtow(?) to Annaban Nakhon Sawan, where J and Nici teach. Nici very kindly let us observe a few of her lessons, so that we could improv on our teaching. Their students are incredible, I had a long conversation with a 9 year old, who had taught himself how to speak english from youtube!!! Many of their students speak better english than myself and Lorna do, which is a bit worrying. Later that evening Nici and J came over for a Housing Warming Meal, which was so lovely, we were up until 12.30am talking (lost track of time)!! The next day was spent unpacking and putting up endless photos, in the evening our host family picked us up and we headed back to Bangkok!
We began the next day with a swim on the roof! I can not get over who breath taking the views are from up there! We spent the day shopping, trying to get some teaching clothes. We went to Platinum and MBK!
On the Monday we went back to teaching and did so for the rest of the week. Watching Nici’s lessons really did help us, especially with classroom management, so if your reading this Nici, THANK YOU!! On Wednesday evening we went over to Peters house (Founder of the SET Foundation) and had what he refers to as a few Vodies! It was a lovely evening and we got to meet 2 ex-monks that are featured as novices in his book Little Angels. On Thursday those 2 ex-Monks took us to a concert that was INCREDIBLE!!! and so was the endless whiskey!
On Friday evening we picked up Tonicha and Emily from the bus station, it was amazing to see them both, it feels like an eternity ago that we where all in Bangkok together, so it was great to have them come and stay. That evening Nici and J came over for dinner again and it was a lovely evening! The next day we decided that during the hottest part of the day we would catch a songtow and attempt to climb hundreds of stairs up to a temple! It was beautiful, but all 4 of us where tired and sweaty and Tonicha managed to get stung by a hornet, just after hitting a bell, that would give her good luck. We both then sat and lit some incense, and as we left the shrine she wacked her head on a metal pole, it clearly was not a lucky day for her. That evening we took them to our favourite Japanese restaurant followed by ice cream at bitter sweet! On the Sunday, we had a long over due lie in (especially considering how much we had been drinking, every night since Wednesday). By 2pm we began to make our way to Fairyland on a songtow and before we knew it, Tonicha and Emily where on the bus heading back to Utani Thani. It was a wonderful weekend.
Tomorrow we are being given a tour of the local University, which I am very excited for!! On Friday Tonicha and Emily will be staying with us again and then on Saturday we are off to Chiang Mai for a 3 week language course!! Myself, Lorna, Tonicha and Emily (as well as a few other volunteers) have a further 2 weeks off after that, so we haven’t quite decided what we will be doing yet, but I guess I’ll let you know!
Until next time,
Rhiannon x

I’ve Arrived!

So the last couple of days have been mental! After spending close to 24hours travelling to Bangkok, with very little sleep and a bit of wine, we finally arrived, with all our bags! Shortly after arriving we ventured into the huge, built up, city! After walking for miles we found a small shopping mall with a Starbucks which made my day! Myself, Kate and Molly went back to the hotel, rather than continuing into the city, and spent the afternoon in the hotel pool, which was lush! We were later joined by Lorna and Tonicha🙂

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That evening our 2 Thailand reps, Nick and Nicki treated us to a fancy meal in a near by hotel and presented Phoebe and Martin with a birthday cake, afterwards we were let loose to celebrate their 18th Birthdays on Khao San Road! It was INCREDIBLE, from going to my first real club (which was huge!), to watching people eat a scorpion :P … There were also many people from Powys, Shrewsbury and Oswestry which was great! We ended the night with a Burger King, which Alice was very reluctant to share.

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The next morning we had planned to do so much, however in true teenage fashion we slept in till 1pm! Once we had finally rolled out of bed a few of us jumped in a taxi and headed to catch a boat. We ended up renting a private boat which took us to the Reclining Buddah, which was BEAUTIFUL… But being as blond as I am, I totally forgot to cover my shoulders and therefore had to wear a neon green robe:/ I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to come to Thailand to go and see the Reclining Buddah, words can not describe how truly beautiful it is!

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In the evening our reps took us to have dinner, however this time we ate on the street, and when I say street I mean a road, with cars driving around us! The food was unbelievably good. After dinner we were taken to Cloud 47 which is a rooftop bar that looks out over all of Bangkok, it was absolutely lush, however very expensive! Around midnight we left the hotel again to go shopping! You can basically shop 24/7 in Bangkok!!!

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The next morning myself, Lorna, Molly and Kate boarded a 7am train to our projects, it was a very tiring journey, but totally worth it! On arrival we were greater by our host family and peter, with flowers and cameras. We were taken out by our thai family for Chinese food in a very posh restaurant and then went for a walk in Nakhon Sawan Park with our thai sister Sand! We fed the fish and then went for dinner ourselves in the Japanese restaurant in the mall.

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The next day we spent the morning going to 2 of the schools we will be teaching at and I spent lunch time playing basketball with some of the younger students. I cannot wait to get started in the schools! I will be teaching secondary and Lorna will be teaching primary. We spent the evening learning thai from our host sisters, it is a very hard language, but I’m getting there slowly🙂

Today we met the Lord Mayor of Nakhon Sawan and many of the council members, they were all so lovely to us. We then returned to the second of the 2 schools we visited and spent lunch with the youngest in the school (2-7). After work me and Lorna went shopping in one of Nakhon Sawan’s many malls and then returned home for dinner!

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Tomorrow we will be going the temple to meet the novice monks that we will be teaching over the next year, we will also be taken to our apartment so that we can see what we want to get for it before we move in next Wednesday!!! This weekend our host family is taking us to Bangkok until Sunday, which will be a lot of fun and then either Monday or Tuesday we will be going to the beach, which I am overly excited about! I believe we begin teaching full time sometime next week, so I had best get started on my lesson plans🙂 Sorry for the long post… so much has happened over the past few days and I don’t want to leave anything out!

Fundraising Finished! And Only 3 Weeks Left!!!

So as of today I have officially finished paying for my year in Thailand with Project Trust! Which is crazy, honestly never thought I would get it all together, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me over the past year, I am unbelievably grateful🙂 I received almost half my funding from charitable trusts, so thank you to all that helped me! Project Trust have been supporting me throughout the whole process, and without the support from the Project Trust funding raising team I’m not sure I would have got there in the end, thank you!

3 weeks from today I will be arriving in Bangkok, its insane!  Everything is all coming together now, just cannot wait to get on that plane and start this incredible adventure🙂

Wish me luck🙂

Some Changes!!

Ok some of you may have heard that on arrival at Coll I found out that I no longer had a partner to go away with. It made training a bit of an emotional rollercoster to say the least, however this morning I had a lovely phone call from Project Trust, they told me that I would be moving 2 hours north to a project in Nakhon Sawan. Instead of not having a partner I now have 2 incredible partners, Rebecca (right) and Lorna (left).

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Ok so a little about Nakhon Sawan:

It is a provincial capital full of hustle, bustle, and much more besides! It is the 5th biggest city in Thailand and consists of thriving markets that assault the senses with pungent smells of ginger and lemongrass, of blaring Thai pop music, and of bike taxis competing on the roads with horses, carts and hooting taxis. Its size provides us with the opportunity to experience a unique Thai urban culture, though with a population of 200,000 it is not so large that we won’t be able to find our bearings. It is a unique city because a large number of its residents are Chinese, and as such it becomes the number one place to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It is a city of incredible cultural diversity, a melting pot of Thai heritage and Chinese traditions. Yet for all its cultural interest, this vibrant and friendly city is off the backpackers’ trail.

We will be teaching in four of the eight inner-city municipal junior high schools: two in the first semester and two other in the second. Project Trust has sent volunteers to Nakhon Sawan for many years now however this will be the second time volunteers have worked at the junior high schools. We will be a full members of the English department team, with our aims being to make learning English fun and more appealing for the students. The standard of spoken English amongst the students is relatively poor so our main role will be helping to improve the level of spoken English. In addition to this, we will also spend 2 hours or an afternoon a week teaching at the local Wat (Buddhist temple) teaching novice monks. We will also have a generous holiday period, both to explore the country but also to become immersed in Thai life in other ways.

Here’s a map to show you where I actually am:

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Nakhon Sawan is around 4 hours from Bangkok, 8 hours from Chiang Mai and roughly 30 minuets from Uthai Thani, which is where another Project Trust project is based.

I cannot wait to get out there, it’s going to be a great year🙂

 

Charitable Trusts!

After returning home from a week of training in Scotland I received a Cheque for £500… It is incredible how willing people are to help out a complete stranger, I have received almost half of my funding for the next year from charitable trusts, and with out the support from them I would most probably not be going, so thank you so much!!

Rhiannon🙂

Training!

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Last week I made my way back down to the Isle of Coll. On arrival in Oban I met up with all the other Thailand volunteers. An amazing group of people who I am so excited to spend the next year with🙂 Over the week we spent most of our time in lessons/lectures, learning about TESOL teaching, culture shock, Thailand, travel, safety, health, and many other things. Needless to say it was a tiring week. We spent most evenings either at the beach, completing lesson plans or filling in our One Awards booklets (formally OCN). We spent most nights in, what we called, the sofa/japan room getting to know each other🙂 On the last night Project Trust held a ceillah (sorry for the spelling:/ ), the next day we headed back to Oban and began to say goodbye to everyone, it wasn’t fun walking people to the train and saying goodbye, regardless of the fact that we will all be together again in a months time. During training we found out all over flight information, up until this point moving to Thailand never really felt real to me, but being told exactly when your leaving really does make it real🙂 I can’t wait to get to Heathrow and see everyone again and begin this incredible adventure.

My Placement – Tharua Nittayanukul School!!

 

I will be living in Tharua which is a small town with genuine charm, located in the ancient province of Ayuthaya. It is set amidst paddy fields and has a rural and relaxed air, despite its proximity to Bangkok. Although small, it has an impressive number of spectacular temples and a wooden old town area that is bustling with activity. In the evenings, the streets are taken over by the night market, which fills the air with the smell of fragrant cooking.

 

I will be working in a school with around 2000 students, and I will be teaching classes of around 30 students each. Most of the students will come from relatively poor farming backgrounds, and others from the families of the growing industries on the outskirts of the town. I will be a full member of the English department, but with specific responsibility for conversational English.

 

The house I will be living in sits on wooden stilts in the corner of the school compound with a kitchen view out west to the sun as it sets over the rice plains. It is basic (and largely built in wood), though clean and well-equipped.

 

I am so excited to go to training on the Isle of Coll and meet, not only the everyone going to Thailand, but the person I’ll be spending the following year with. From there it is roughly a month until I moved to Thailand and I just can’t wait anymore.

 

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