Six umbrellas and counting...
Trip Start Mar 26, 2006
52Trip End Nov 11, 2006
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As everyone here keeps saying, it really should be brightening up for high season now. But no... Since March, I've had THREE sunbathe-able days. I don't want to hear a word about the European summer heat wave when I get home, ok?!*
Well, I've made it to my last (planned) destination of the grand voyage
I did finally get there and do it, but it was certainly no holiday. The massage school I chose is supposedly one of the very best in Thailand, and don't get me wrong, it was very..nice, but perhaps a little hyper organised. Everything had been planned down to the very last pastel shaded detail which I personally found quite unsettling! There were names tags everywhere - on our mugs, clothes baskets, lockers... like going back to first school and having your own cloakroom peg. A gong was bonged to signal break and lunch times, and the staff tried to encourage us to take naps at lunch time, or spend time in the meditation room. Not for me though, I rebelled and managed to leg it across the road to explore the local market (dressed in granddad pyjamas and name tag - stunning). One day, I even managed to persuade the soldiers at the local military coup checkpoint to pose with them by the tank for a photo.
The lessons themselves were an unexpectedly steep learning curve! A shocking reminder of how short my attention span has become lately. In the five days though, we did have to memorise 134 moves to make up a two hour full body sequence - email with your massage requests now and I'll put you on the waiting list! There was a lot of observation, then we had to practice the moves on our massage buddies. It wasn't as serene as it sounds though; the teachers homed in on stray fingers/thumbs as quick as a flash and stood over us saying "nooooooo" until we shifted to the correct move
After that exhausting week, I then spent a delightful day on the minibus to Burma. Not as exciting as it sounds unfortunately: I had to get out of the country to renew my 30 day tourist visa yet again. I sat wedged between Paddy, an old retired Irish expatriate, and an old English/Australian English teacher with a keen interest in bird watching. So spent much of the journey listening to ranting about the cost of living in the UK, and sitting back to let eco-man birdwatch out of the window with his binoculars. I thought that maybe we'd have time for a little jungle exploration, meet some rebel soldiers or something, but I spent no longer than 15 minutes in Myanmar (real name for Burma in case you don't know, cause I didn't). On getting to the border, we hopped out, burned under the sun for 30 minutes in the immigration queue, assured Myanmar customs that I was keen on spending a day shopping and sightseeing, then walked over the bridge to Burma. And looped straight back into Thailand
The day after that non-adventure, I had to start my journey down south to Koh Chang. I couldn't; face another day on a bus, so had booked an overnight train to Bangkok - a vry good choice as it turned out! The journey started off soberly enough...I found my seat (nice and roomy, more space than Indian trains - but minus points for no chai wallahs!) Then I wandered down to buffet car intending to get something to eat and an early night before. Turned out to be no mere buffet car but a veritable party palace! Banging Dutch pop at full blast, and flashing disco lights.. Met a crowd of Canadian and American travelers also going down south and had lots of fun cavorting with the Dutch tour group of middle aged women who were taking full advantage of the Singha stashed on board. Luckily someone had an ipod so we spent a very surreal night whooshing through Thailand; windows wide open, listening to The Streets. I made it back to my seat which someone had very nicely transformed into a little curtained bed and got a little sleep before arriving into Bangkok at 7am. Way more exciting than a coach and definitely worth the extra Baht (the 12 hour journey in 2nd class cost about 10 pounds!)
After that spent a while arguing with taxi drivers trying to rip me off
Issue number 2 - none of the contact numbers I had would work either so I basically found myself stranded on a strange island with nowhere to go and no way of contacting anyone! All this is actually quite funny in retrospect, but at the time, problematic. I decided to stay put for the night as it was getting dark and drizzly, so sent out an SOS email to all t2t contacts! Thankfully this worked and they sent me directions to the volunteer house. But to just get a taxi there would have been far too straightforward. Oh nook... The taxi driver dropped me by a wat which was by the school - but nowhere near the house as promised
Holidays for the next few weeks so school is out! Did a summer camp in the school by the wat which was fun although very tiring - lots of songs and jumping around - I'm getting too old for all of this... We are also teaching in local hotels and Koh Chang's biggest bar. So far I've had a lesson with a Thai and two Cambodians, all illiterate and clueless about English. This makes for difficult teaching! Yesterday's lesson in Sabay Bar consisted of sticking labels all around the place, so by the end of it we had big red "LIME', 'BOTTLE' 'ASHTRAY' etc signs plastered all over the place. Makes for a refreshing change from the ABC!
And then there was Cambodia... but I'll save you from any more for the moment! As usual, I've typed away for far longer than planned so that will have to wait till the next installment. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon!
* since time of writing the weather's finally taken a turn for the better, hurrah! Just as well cause I think I really have lost my umbrella.