Since first arriving at school in early November, the teachers have been telling me about this trip in January where all of the staff from our 12 sister schools get together at one of our campuses throughout Thailand. This year we are going to Nakhon si Thammarat. Prior to leaving, I tried to inquire about what to bring, namely teacher vs. casual clothes. The most common answer I got was, “Yes.” So I brought it all. This past Friday, me, my massive bag, and our entire staff loaded into a VIP bus for the 16 hour journey to the South. As it turns out, this was much more of a team vacation than a work trip. And it was awesome. And free!
After 3-4 hours of slumber in a slightly reclining chair meant for people half my size, we got to our first stop in Trang. On the agenda for the day was a boat tour that included snorkeling, caving, and relaxing on tiny beaches. It was during this day that I realized that swimming is not a strong suit of Thai people from the North. While my fellow educators were bundled up in bulky orange life vests, I was busy showing off as my pale white form majestically dove and slipped through the water. Needless to say, they were impressed by my S. California water skills.
There was one point during this trip though that did require the floaty vest.
This place was called Morakot Cave. You get in a massive line of 50+ people and hold on to the person in front of you as the guides lead you through a pitch black cave. It was incredible. After 10 minutes you emerge into this completely isolated, circular beach engulfed by rock. If it were bigger and easier to get to, The Beach totally would have been filmed here. Unfortunately my camera isn’t waterproof so I don’t have any pics from inside.
In regards to the life vest. The most important strap on it is one that goes from your back, under your legs, and connects in the front. Mind you, these vests were built for the average Thai body type. Unfortunately, they were out of “large white man” size on this day. So I squeezed into the baby vest, and that under-the-legs strap spent those 10 minutes slowly massaging its way deeper and deeper within my person. I felt like a pig being halved for roast.
The next day we went to another cave called Khaokob cave. Now I’m not extremely claustrophobic, but this one pushed it. To get through this cave, you get in a small boat and the guide takes you through the miniscule passageways underneath this mountain. The tunnels are so small that the boat must have at least 5 people in it to not get stuck. At the most intense parts, everyone in the boat must lie completely flat as the guide pushes the boat through by hand and the rocks are 2-3 inches from your face… This was one of those experiences that was way cooler once it was over. The pic here doesn’t even begin to do justice to how tiny it got.
Food. Those who know me know that fish is not my “go-to” item at dinnertime. Well I was definitely forced to amend my anti-aquatic stance for this trip. Being that we were near the sea, all of our meals served the traditional and local fare from the region. So you can guess what each meal featured. But the one thing I dislike more than a slimy crustacean snack? Being hungry (and rudely refusing free food from my principal). So pile on the rice and spicy sauce and let’s eat.
Before we had our eventual teacher gathering, we made our way to Krabi, went to the beach, and saw a bunch of temples. Now in my time here, I’ve grown to enjoy being the only white guy and taking part in this culture that’s so foreign to me. The one exception to this I’ve found is being the only non-Buddhist and visiting a temple with a large group of Buddhists. As beautiful as everything is, I felt uncomfortable as a tourist as the rest of my staff prays and meditates. Religion is a very personal thing to everyone and I felt a like a bit of an intruder lingering in the background as they go through customs that are so important to them. However, despite most of what I just wrote, I did still take a selfie with Buddha.
We spent 2 days in Nakhon for our actual conference. The first day was a sports competition and big feast. Our school won the trophy for Takraw, which is an awesome combination of volleyball and soccer. The second day of the conference, in contrast with the rest of the trip, was mind numbing. All of the foreigner teachers had to sit through a 7 hour education workshop…spoken 100% in Thai. Now I understand you want to parade us Westerners around, but this was cruel and unusual. Oh and there was no wifi in the room. My notes from said conference can be seen below.
The last day of the trip was probably the best. Whereas all of our other stops were action packed, the last day was super relaxing. Somewhere in the Surant Thani province, we took a long-tail boat to these isolated floating bamboo cabanas. (Side note: If you’re ever in a large group of Thai people and offer up some your sunscreen, be prepared to part with the majority of it. Thai people don’t play around with UV rays). At the cabanas, there was no wifi and barely any electricity, so all we did all day was swim, kayak, play cards, drink, and of course… karaoke. Plus there was a big platform to jump & dive from. There was even another white guy who worked there. His name? Austin. And he was from California. However, he has been here for 2 years so his Thai was significantly better than mine. On one hand, it’s like, “Wow, that’s awesome dude.” On the other, it’s like, “Hey man, you’re making me look bad.”
The following morning, we boated back to the mainland to head home. Interesting part about the lake is that it was freshwater and artificial. Apparently it used to be a dry valley where families lived until 1982 when the government built a dam and filled it up. All of the families who lived there now have exclusive property rights to these floating bamboo cabanas.
Well I’m back at school now, and have the whole weekend until I have to teach again. Which means by the end of January, I will have taught a total of 10 days for the month. Not too shabby. This term ends February 28th so I have about 5 weeks until the next phase of adventure begins. Cheers everyone, until next time. Bald Eagle out.