I have had some requests to post a little something about my home away from home, Bang Yai. There is not much to tell aside from that it is a city suburb about 40 minutes north of Bangkok. There is a giant highway running through it, and eventually, by August I think, there will be a BTS skyline train stop here, as well as the largest Central Mall in SE Asia. We have a market called BB, or BangYai Bazaar, 2 Big C's (kind of like your Walmart or Target), and The Square, which is a Mall of sorts and also where my apartment complex is located. The school I teach at is a short 5-10 minute ride away, and the school sends a van to pick us up each morning and drop us off in the evenings.
The BB market in the background
The highway...in the distance you can see my apartment complex and to the left of the picture is the BTS line, which is under construction and should open in August.
During the month of December and January an outdoor bar was set up with live music.
This is from one of the Big C parking lots.
At least once a week I went to lunch at this restaurant near school called HeartMilk...my favorite dish was called the Ryan and was a spicy pumpkin dish over rice.
This a post dedicated purely to the yum-azing food in Northern Thailand. Seriously, no matter where we went we could hardly go wrong.
This is Khao Soi...it is a Burmese inspired noodle soup dish that is a staple in Northern Thailand. I don't think you can even get it in the south, so be sure to try this if you ever visit Chiang Mai....and yes, that is mango sticky rice in the background as well.
This is a grilled port station at the night market, and I'm pretty sure it is by far the best pork I've ever tasted. The guys running the stand are kinda dicks though.
I didn't try the seafood, but doesn't it look awesome considering Chiang Mai is land-locked
I didn't try the quail, or whatever small fowl this is, but I had to post a video because I found the presentation both horrifying and hilarious. Seriously, how could someone eat one of these poor birds after watching their little heads flop around like that!
We decided to spend a short 2 days of our Songkran holiday in the far northern town of Pai, a 3-ish hour drive from Chiang Mai, because I missed visiting here last time I was in Thailand and I kept hearing from people how much I would love it and that I belonged there and so on. Basically, I needed to make this happen, and I have to say Pai did not disappoint. It's a small town, with a hippie vibe nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand. 762 turns to be exact, up and around the mountains from Chiang Mai to Pai. It is a ride not made for the weak of stomach. One woman on our bus was retching most of the way. Once you get there though it is certainly a place you can get lost in, as is evident by the population of young and aging, free-thinking, dred-sporting hippies that have all but taken over the town. Our hotel was about 8km out of town, away from the hustle, at a place called Pai Treehouse. That is right, we stayed in a legit tree house. We arrived in the evening, so we could hardly take in the coolness of our situation until the next day, but ladder climbing into the trap door of your hotel room definitely makes an immediate impression. We decided not to go too crazy on our two day excursion. The hotel was the perfect place to just chill out and enjoy the serenity of the surrounding hills. However, when we heard about Pai Canyon, a popular hiking spot just a short 2km away, the adventurers in Christina, Cece and I just had to check it out. We easily walked the 2km from our resort over wooden bridges, through fields and villages, and along part of the long winding highway to the canyon which was a stunning sight. The hiking paths were along thin ridges that you could see winding their way around the rocky, tree-filled canyon. Parts of the ridges jutted far out into the expanse with a daunting drop below. Other parts of the path you needed to climb to get through. We didn't bring much more than flip-flops with us so many times it was easier to take off our shoes and climb these areas bare footed. We hiked for over two hours, hardly noticing the killer heat of the day, which had to have topped every bit of 90 degrees. By the time we got back we were exhausted, but we still made an effort to go into town for dinner and to walk the evening market. The food was amazing, no mater what we tried we could not go wrong. Unfortunately the next day was our last and we hopped a van back to Chiang Mai around mid-day. I wish we could have stayed longer. I would have loved to do some more exploring around the area.
For anyone interested it was easy to book a van from the Chiang Mai bus station to and from Pai for only 150 THB (or about $5) each way.
This basically says it all....762 turns. Bring your Dramamine
Pai Treehouse resort
Our awesome tree house in the light of day
Branches through the room and trap doors in the floor...yes this was a legit tree house
Found this little guy one morning
Getting up and down was tricky but awesome
getting all zenned out in the birds nest....it was much harder getting out than getting in
On our way to Pai Canyon over bridges and through fields
Pai Canyon was a maze of these walkable ridges, really spectaular
taking in the views, contemplating life.....and stuff
I couldn't resist the call of Chiang Mai for my Songkran holiday. I spent Songkran 2013 here, so I always thought that this time around I would spend the holiday somewhere new like Bangkok or the islands. But I couldn't help myself! I fell in love with Northern Thailand last time I was here and I hadn't had a chance before now to visit so I heeded the call, and this time I brought some friends along for the ride. Fu, Cece and Christina are teachers at my school. We have become fast friends, but will be going in separate directions just after Songkran. So our week long trip to Chiang Mai, with a stop over in Pai was our last hurrah, until we all meet again, which is sure to happen one day I'm sure. I will break this down in to days, with separate posts for Pai, because this could get long. Songkran is technically a 3-day holiday to celebrate the Thai New Year, but celebrations tend to start a day early and overflow as well, so it's more like 5-days of water throwing, soaked-to-the-bone insanity. I'm not sure of the history of the so-called "water festival", but I'm pretty sure it started off as a friendly gesture of washing your slate clean for the new year, perhaps a cup of water poured gently on a friends shoulder. It has now become an all out water war, complete with super soakers, buckets of ice cold water, dumping trash cans on water on unsuspecting victims from your 3rd floor balcony, and so on. It is actually pretty fun for 2 or 3 days, but after that grace period you just want to be able to get from point A to point B without getting soaked to the bone.
On Day 1, we were walking through the streets on our way to buy some water guns. We passed a beautiful temple and decided to take a look and fill our water bottles with the free water they offered. Free indeed. We didn't get far before we were ambushed by these little monks with super soakers. They were assassins! When we finally got our guns at the local 7-11 we returned for some revenge and partook in an all out battle, which we lost because their guns were bigger, there were more of them then us, and they are super cunning. We all had a great time and it is one memory I will cherish.
We bought our guns at 7-11 and they were only too happy to arm us and check our guns. My first one was faulty so they let me choose another.
My horse head water gun had people trembling in the streets.....because Italians say it with a horse head. (And when I say trembling I mean shaking with laughter)
We walked around the city soaking and getting soaked. The city gates had stages set up with music and partying. For the most part everyone is just having a good time. The game is to try to avoid the people with blocks of ice in their buckets. Those people are evil. They take far too much pleasure in the squeals of their victims as they douse them with buckets if ice-cold water. Usually they are the ones driving around in trucks or camped out in front of their homes or hostels. Its almost impossible to avoid.
The old city is surrounded by a moat. During the festival people line it for free amo. Basically, if you don't want to get splashed with buckets on moat water, stay far away from the moat.
At one of the temples people use a pulley system to send water to Buddha. All of the temples are still open during the holiday, and for the most part you can dip into one for a short reprieve from the madness.
Even this elephant got in on some Songkran action.
We decided to take the defensive at the hostel. This is the best way to do it by far. No one escapes the splash. I avoided hitting motorbike drivers, but I was pretty much the only one who was that nice. Basically everyone else on the road was fair game: Pedestrians, definitely, people in the back of trucks, songtows or tuktuks, absolutely. Its okay, most of the time they were also splashing back.
Ha! Nice try.
If you are in the back of a tuktuk, you are officially a target
Two years ago I stayed at the same hostel we stayed at this time around, Chiang Mai Backpack House. It may not be the nicest place around, but the owner, Tony, is awesome. On the left is a picture of his daughter the last time I saw her in 2013.....the right is the same little girl in 2015. Unbelievable how kids grow.
The Next couple of days were spent in Pai and that we be in a different post. To end this I will simply say...another successful Songkran in the books.
There are 2 summer semesters here in Thailand, one in October and one in April. Many families travel during this time but some continue to send their kids to school. I decided to teach the summer course mainly because an extra month salary sounds pretty good to me. The hours are shorter, the curriculum easier, and you get paid the same salary. Plus, I'm tied into another month at my apartment and if I teach I get my rent paid by the school. Basically, financially, everything works out. What's also kinda cool is that I get to teach older students, which is a nice change. I actually still teach my K1 classes in the morning. The K1 students are required to start in the summer. This gives the kids, basically just out of the womb, time to acclimate to the classroom. I see each of my 11 classes, of 36 students each, once a week in the mornings. This is way harder then I imagined because these kids are so green that they don't even parrot yet. So, it's basically me standing in front of gaggles of googling 2-3 year olds. Some are crying, some are soiling themselves, they don't understand a word I am saying, and I am probably the first white face they have seen in their lives. Its exhausting....it requires a lot of singing and clapping, which the kids love. It includes making funny faces and basically acting like a clown for a full 60 minutes. I give them a worksheet that requires tracing the letters A-F and coloring, and there might be a handful out of the near 400 students that can actually handle it. But in the afternoons I get an hour and a half with only a handful of first graders. I see them every day, so I get to really get to know them, and them me. Because they have a basic understanding of English, we get to play games, and I can actually teach them lessons and see them grasp the concepts of when to use A vs AN or plurals vs singular and so on. This is exactly the kind of teaching I imagined myself doing when I decided to come here, and I'm happy to be getting this chance. My kids names are Nan, Graph, Pancake and Auntra. Nan is a sweetheart. She is so well behaved. Her opposite is Pancake. She is the epitome of a handful. Graph is an excellent artist and really smart. Auntra is a little slower than the rest but he tries hard and is adorable. Unfortunately he is always sick and drippy. In the 2nd half of the month I will also take on a fourth grade class twice a week. Graph's sister is in my fourth grade class and she is smart as well.
Auntra drawing S words
Nan and Auntar
Auntra, Nan and Graph
One day I showed them how to make paper airplanes. I did a contest where they could earn points by answering questions about the lesson. Each point gave them a throw at a bullseye on the board. They could win candy with each throw. They loved the planes and loved the game.
Nan, Pancake and Auntra seeing whose plane would go the farthest