Tag Archives: phukettourism

Loy Krathong in Phuket

I won’t lie, the holidays are hitting me right in the feels, and I am homesick. Luckily, the Loy Krathong Festival happened to be the day before Thanksgiving this year, so I was given a nice distraction from being far away from my family.

I had read up on a few holidays before coming to Thailand, and Loy Krathong was one I had flagged as  “not to miss.” I saw pictures on Google and in guide books that showed thousands of paper lanterns floating up into the night sky. That was basically my idea of what it was supposed to be.  You would think I’d know by now that I need to stop drawing expectations from what I see online. The total number of lanterns I saw? One.

Loy Krathong (important note here that the “h” is silent) is an annual tradition of creating floating vessels (krathongs) and sending them off into a body of water to send away the bad energy, wish for good luck, and pay respect to the water gods. It is also a bit of a romantic holiday. I’ve read so many different interpretations of the holiday, so any information I’m going to provide here is based solely off of observation and imageinformation from my coworkers.

On Wednesday morning, my Thai teacher insisted I be in her classroom at
1pm. It’s normally my planning period, but she told me she wanted my help with making krathongs with the students. I was excited about the opportunity, because I didn’t really know what they were traditionally made from, let alone how to make one. Making krathongs with the kids ended up being a blast, as I think they helped me more than I helped them.

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This is Silmee! (Pronounced “Simee”)

The base is traditionally made from a stump of a banana tree. It is wrapped with banana leaves that are pinned into place with little metal pins. It is decorated with flowers (and lettuce, and whatever else you can find), and 3 incense sticks and a candle for good luck. Something that really caught my attention was everyone’s willingness to share materials. Each kid brought in their own grocery bag full of tree stumps, banana leaves, flowers, and pins. I was amazed to see kids walk over to each other and reach into their classmate’s bag to find a flower they needed, and nobody cared. I don’t think I’ve seen children interact in such a collective manner. Since I didn’t have any materials  to make my krathong, they insisted I use theirs. Some of the kids’ krathongs came out much better than mine, but I think it was okay for my first try!

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This is Nudee- probably my most artistically inclined student.

After the sun sets, the krathongs are taken to a body of water, where the candles and incense are lit and the little boats are floated away. Some of the teachers invited me to go with them to Saphan Hin- a park in Phuket Town with the biggest celebration of Loy Krathong on the island. The park is on the eastern coast with ocean access, and also has a lake in the middle. The water in the ocean was choppy, so everyone was floating them in the lake. At first I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t release mine into the ocean, and then I realized that in the excitement of the holiday, I hadn’t realized how horrible the festival is for the environment.

Floating away the bad energy in the ocean seems so mystical, but in reality it’s kind of a mess. My krathong was made from banana leaves and imageflowers, but it also had a ton of metal pins in it. Other peoples’ boats were made with plastic, or sugary cake. Some of them were made out of fish food, which is something I can get behind, but for the most part, they were not really good for fish. I figured that releasing it into the lake had better odds of it being disposed of properly.

It is good luck to send off the krathongs with a lock of hair and money tucked into them.  I couldn’t believe that some people were swimming in the lake and picking through the krathongs to find the money in them! Nobody said anything about it. I took a picture of some of the krathongs in the water, and then a little boy popped up out of nowhere and counted the money he had found.

imageAfter about an hour of watching the festivities, I asked a coworker about the paper lanterns I’d seen in pictures on Google. I had previously seen in the news that they were banned from Phuket, but I thought it was for environmental reasons. She told me that they were banned because they were flying high enough to potentially be sucked into the engine of an airplane. Not for environmental reasons.

Loy Krathong is definitely magical, but after all is said and done, I feel bad for the environmental cost of having such a holiday. The following day, I read in the news that a mass cleanup of the park generated 14 tons of trash. WHAT!! That’s insane. For a holiday meant to give thanks to the water gods, and water as a resource, it’s pretty crazy to celebrate by polluting the waterways. Even so, the krathongs that were made from organic material are going to be sitting in a landfill and not biodegrading. It’s a pretty crazy palm-to-face realization that the celebration is magical and whatnot, but it’s coming at the cost of the environment.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the cutesy pictures of us trashing the environment. *sigh*

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Koh Yao Noi

Despite having going to Koh Yao Noi the night before I had written my last post, I thought that the island experience deserved a story to itself. As promised, here it is:

With the chaos of school last week, I had decided that my weekend was going to be spent on a peaceful island. Instead of searching the web for the “best getaways near Phuket,” I decided to ask around to some of the teachers at my school to see what their opinion was on the best place to go. My only request was that it was a relatively short ferry ride.

I thought about going back to Phi Phi, since it’s absolutely beautiful, but I wanted to experience a new place. I love going to Phi Phi, but the ferry takes about an hour and a half. It’s also packed with tourists, advertising, and overpriced meals. Oh, that reminds me. It has been brought to my attention to note that the correct way to pronounce “Phi Phi” is “pee pee.” I’ve gotten so used to saying it that the silly factor doesn’t phase me anymore. Same with Phuket. It is pronounced “poo ket,” but it’s still a little bit funny to say it the way it looks like it should sound.

Talk about a tangent.

My teacher friends recommended I go to the island of Koh Yao Noi, as it’s a short trip away from the Phuket mainland, and is a laid back place to relax for a weekend. I didn’t fully comit to the mini-trip until it was Saturday morning. My body’s alarm clock has been set at 6:00am since I’ve been waking up for school, and doesn’t turn off for Saturdays. I took advantage of it and decided to head out early.

The best pier to leave for the island is in the north of Phuket, and it’s called Bangrong Pier. A friend had told me that you can catch certain longtail boats that will allow you to bring your motorbike with you. I found a schedule online and saw that the first longtail left at 9:15, so I set out at 8:30 to make it on time. It’s normally a 30 minute trip.

imageThe pier itself was nothing like I had expected. I have previously left for trips on Rassada Pier, which is a highly commercialized port for ferries. Bangrong Pier is a completely different story. It’s a pier in a rural northern Muslim community, with its main traffic being fishing boats. I was expecting it to be a tourist extravaganza, so of course I stood out, as I was wearing a tank top and jean shorts with flip flops. Everyone was extremely friendly though.

Traffic ended up being horrible, and I didn’t make it to the pier until 9:20. I had missed the boat that would allow me to take my bike with me, and the next one wasn’t leaving until 12:30. There was a speed boat leaving at 9:50, so I decided to leave my bike behind. Luckily there was a house with a garage nearby advertising bike security for 20TBH ($0.56 USD)/day. I dropped off the bike and got onto the speed boat.

The speed boat ride was choppy, and a little scary at that. Each wave that we hit rattled the boat and made an unsettling sound. After we had been imagegoing for about 15 minutes, we heard the captain yell something and he stopped the boat. There was a little bit of panic within the passengers on the boat (there were maybe 10 of us), and we were all looking around to see what happened. We eventually saw another boat pull up beside us, and an old man got off the front of the boat and onto ours. Everyone laughed a little bit after we saw it.

The boat ride took a little under 30 minutes, and was beautiful scenery throughout. Once we had arrived on the island, we were surrounded by a few motorbike taxi drivers who were looking for customers. I asked the driver if he knew of any bikes to rent, and he immediately showed me over to one. His price was 300baht (~$8 USD) , which is a little steep by Phuket standards, but I decided it was worth it to explore the island.  He handed over a helmet and the keys, and told me to leave it back where I found it when I was done. I was amazed that he didn’t ask to see my passport or make me sign any paperwork. Later I had explained my surprise to a local, and she said, “It’s a small island. There’s one way in and out is at that pier. He knows you’re not going anywhere.”

The immediate vibe that I got from the island was absolute tranquility. After I had driven off of the pier, I found myself driving through beautiful green shrubs and flowers on my way to my accomodation. There were more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in nature. So many butterflies that the drive through the island left me in some deep contemplation that when you’re on a bike, your face is the windshield. The sheer amount of bugs that get smashed onto the windshield while driving a car, well, that was pretty much the face cover of my bike helmet.

The island has a reputation for preserving its local feel, and frowns upon any sort of commercial development. They are huge proponents of ecological conservation, and there was only one 7-11 on the island. This is quite a feat, as 7-11s in Thailand are normally across the street from one another. The “untouched” feel of the island was a huge breather from the tourist overload of Phuket.

imageBefore I had left Phuket I had found a bungalow online that was close to the beach. I splurged a little (Note: By splurge I mean I spent $28 USD), and went for one with great reviews. I was not disappointed.

The bungalow was an uphill hike away from the main road. It was surrounded by lush jungle, and I felt totally secluded. All I could hear were the sounds of jungle. It was awesome!! There was a hammock on the little balcony, and I spent almost 2 hours just lying there enjoying the peace. It was the definition of tranquility.

The location was also killer. It was only about a 2 minute walk from the beach. The beach had an incredible view of the notorious limestone cliffs of the Andaman Sea. I think there were maybe 4 other people on the beach. I found a deserted hammock in the shade, and did about 2 more hours of relaxing in a hammock.image

The bungalow was on the eastern side of the island, and I wanted to see the sunset, so I drove all the way across to the western side to see the sunset. It took me a whopping 11 minutes. I found a seafood restaurant with a perfect view. I ordered blue crab, and watched as the chef walked down to the dock and pulled the crab out of a net in the ocean. I think it’s safe to say it was the most delicious crab I’ve ever eaten, and one of the most peaceful nights spent watching the sun set.

Although my time in Koh Yao Noi was brief, it was just the type of relaxation I needed after a crazy couple of weeks of teaching kindergarten. I am so incredibly spoiled to have paradise in my backyard.

 

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The Vegetarian Festival

Less than 24 hours from my previous post, and I decided to write again. How’s that for predictability?

Last night I went to the Vegetarian Festival right after publishing my previous blog, and I think it’s crucial to write about it now, before I head to Malaysia tomorrow.

I realized that the major factor that was preventing me from going to see the events in Phuket Town was that I didn’t want to drive through the madness and traffic. I realized I was being silly, and I hopped in a taxi and made it over there. I have recently discovered the app GrabTaxi, and I’ve found it has saved me a ton of time and money. This isn’t a plug, but they should definitely be paying me as their promoter. The app allows you to set your pickup and drop-off destinations on a map, it estimates the fare, and shows the metered taxis in the surrounding areas.  If you’re walking down the street in any part of Phuket, it’s normally very time consuming to find a metered taxi. All of the taxi drivers, tuk tuks, and motorbike taxis set their own rates, because they know they can make far more by ripping you off. For example, I was once charged 350 baht for a normal taxi to take me from my place in Kathu to Phuket Town. Yesterday, it cost me 180. That’s a difference of about $5, and $5 goes a long way here.

imageAnyhow, I was incredibly relieved that I hadn’t driven, because the traffic was out of control. The taxi driver dropped me off at the apartments that I used to stay in, and I met up with Michelle, a friend from my TEFL course. We walked to the festival with plans to grab dinner along the way. The streets were packed with food stalls offering an overwhelming amount of food. It was funny to see that although it’s a vegetarian festival, a few of the stalls had managed to make imitation hot dogs, and other food that looked like it was meat. As I usually do, I bought a little bit of everything, and then only ate about 1/3 of it. I get really excited to try new things, but then I’m way too full to eat all of it. My favorite of the night were some super spicy deep fried seaweed fritters. Everything tastes good fried.

We walked down to the end of the street where the Jui Tui Shrine is. The online schedule said that the fire walking was supposed to start at 8, and we made it there at 7:30 to secure a good spot. The festival is so noisy due in part to the sheer amount of people, but definitely the major contributor is the firecrackers being set off everywhere you look. I’ll get to the fireworks in a bit. We were standing out front of the Chinese temple, with a pretty good view of what was going on in front. There were about a dozen imagetattooed men standing in a circle, showing only the whites of their eyes, chanting and shaking their heads back and forth. They were all barefoot, and wearing white pants and multicolored bejeweled aprons. There was one elderly woman in the circle, and she was wearing a bright pink outfit that looked exactly like a graduation cap and gown. I’ve read online that the men in aprons are the mediums, that they are the ones who channel the gods during the ceremony. I have no idea about the woman, though. Man, I wish I knew.

The mediums are highly respected- any time a person had to walk past one of them, they gave them a wai (folding hands in a prayer position at the chest, and bowing the head). The height of the hands during the wai changes with levels of respect, and the people were giving them the highest version of the wai, which meant they were holy figures.

Michelle and I were taken back just watching the chanting and the head shaking. There was a lot going on, and then one of imagethe mediums turned around and yelled super loud and motioned for everyone to sit down. There weren’t any chairs or anything, everyone just plopped right down where they were standing. Shortly after we had sat down, another man yelled and pointed and there was a type of panic set off. He motioned for everyone to stand up. Michelle and I just went with whatever the crowd was doing, even though it was somewhat alarming. When we stood up, two men walked through carrying a wooden sculpture. Another man yelled at us again to sit down. He was holding a long wooden stick with long blonde hair at the end, and was waving it in the air. I made a joke to Michelle (she also has blonde hair) that it was the hair of the foreigner who didn’t follow directions. The whole ordeal was confusing and intense.

They lit off some fireworks in the center of their circle, and then they left the shrine and walked down the street in a procession. Everyone was following them, so we did too. At this point, I realized that maybe we had gone to the wrong shrine for the fire walking. This was intensely cultural, though, so we followed along with them. We quickly realized that it is protocol for the bystanders to chuck fireworks into the crowd. There were pregnant women, small children, and elderly people throughout the crowd. Nobody seemed to bat an eye.

Everyone thought it was especially funny to throw them at the foreigners. When we were near the shrine, it was impossibleimage to escape them. The narrow alleys left us really no choice but to run through them. Once we got to the bigger street, we were able to stand behind the people who were throwing the firecrackers. It was so intense that we both had our head on a swivel, and we ran at even the sight of a single firework. I remember looking up and seeing one coming straight at my face. I wasn’t sure if waving a white flag would be a sign of surrender here. The whole crowd was dressed in white, and everyone seemed pretty cool with having fireworks thrown at them.

People had set up shrines in front of their restaurants that were in the path of the procession. As everyone was walking, some of the mediums would come over and bless the shrines. The children lined up on the side of the streets in a wai position, and the mediums would come over and bless them. All of my pictures turned out blurry, because I was taking them while dodging fireworks.  image

After it was clear that it was the end of the procession, Michelle and I headed back to the temple to see if maybe it was time for fire walking. I was pretty sure we’d missed it, but part of me was holding out hope that we’d get to see some. They had some projector screens setup, and they were showing clips from the face piercings earlier in the day. Upon seeing them, I realized that seeing them on a screen had been overwhelming enough, and I felt okay that I hadn’t seen them in person. I wasn’t even too concerned about seeing the fire walking anymore.  At this point, my ears were ringing so hard from the fireworks that it was painful. Next year I’ll bring earplugs.

We walked back to the temple on a side road, as to take a break from the fireworks. The ally was quiet, and we walked past a sweet old man sitting on his porch. I nodded my head and smiled, and just as I looked up, the old man had a lit firework in his hand. Before I could finish a “what the….?!” he started laughing and tossed it right at my feet!!! Of course I screamed and started running, but he got me good. I didn’t get burned, but I did feel the pings of them hitting me.

With enough excitement for the night, we decided to head home. I walked with Michelle back to the apartments, and then decided to walk a little ways out of the street to try to catch a taxi. I walked out and down a road that I knew had enough imagetraffic to have a taxi, but figured it was far enough away from the excitement. I was wrong. I walked straight to a different Chinese temple, where they were using the big boy fireworks to shoot them at each other. I quickly ran into a narrow alley for shelter, when I heard too little boys giggling. I looked down and saw both of them looking up at me with their ears covered, one of them with a lighter in hand. What the….. boom. These two little boys were all by themselves in a little alley, lighting off fireworks of their own. There was literally no escaping the boom.

Instead of waiting for a GrabTaxi, I walked straight up to a motorbike taxi (yes, they provide helmets), accepted his overpriced fare, and got the hell out of there. I actually got what I paid for with this guy, though. He is in a reggae band, and he loudly sang reggae the entire drive home.

I slept like a baby last night.

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Wat Chalong

Yikes, guys! I didn’t realize it’s been 6 days since I’ve last written. I’ve been slacking.

imageOn Wednesday I went to visit Wat Chalong- or Chalong Temple. I had seen it as I drove past on my way to the beach one time, but was improperly dressed an unable to go in. Wednesday morning, I woke up for a Thai lesson at 9am. After my lesson, I had decided that I was going to cover my knees and shoulders, and head to the temple.

Guided tours through the temples are available, but they end up costing around $45 per person. I gassed up my scooter for a whole $3, and found my way there. It was about a 20 minute ride through 100 degree sunny weather, with about 80% humidity. I’ve gotten used to the fact that if I’m going to be outside for longer than 10 minutes, I should plan on imagebeing smelly for the rest of the day. It’s hot here. Upon arriving at the temple, I realized that it wasn’t critical to show up with everything covered. There was a man at the entrance handing out sarongs to the people who weren’t properly dressed. I wish I would’ve known that before I had gone. I had passed the place multiple times, but turned back because I didn’t think I was wearing the right clothes.

Wat Chalong itself is considered the most important Buddhist temple on the island, and it is comprised of multiple structures. The original building is believed to have been constructed between 1802-1840, but the actual date is debated. There wasn’t much reading material as far as history went, so I basically just walked around and marveled at the architecture and artwork.

The temples all strikingly beautiful, and the site is well kept. I really enjoyed touring them, but couldn’t help but feel awkward taking pictures while people were praying. There were multiple stands to purchase offerings for the shrine. Common offerings include flowers, water, and cherry soda. Many people will bring food, small gifts, etc. The gifts are purchased specifically for the gods, and are left untouched at the shrines. Side note: At the place I had previously stayed in Phuket Town, the shrine at the restaurant next door always made me smile. The women brought so many shots of whiskey to their shrine. Occasionally they’d leave a plate of food, but it was almost always whiskey.

imageIn addition to people giving offerings at Wat Chalong, there were many people who were lighting incense and leaving them, chanting prayers, and leaving slips of paper throughout the cracks of the statues. I felt intrusive, and tiptoed around the whole thing, only taking a few pictures of the insides of the temples.

The main structure is huge- three floors high. It was a quick steep climb up the stairs to the top, but the view was outstanding.  I love the details of the structure themselves, and have somehow always been drawn to foreign architecture. In the bell tower of this temple, there is a lotus flower sculpture, surrounded by a glass casing, with holes to insert donations. I couldn’t believe the pile of money that was surrounding the area. I can’t imagine how much it costs to upkeep the temple though, as many of the Buddha statues are plated in gold.

After Wat Chalong, I decided to drive to the famous Big Buddha statue. The Buddha sits on top of a mountain, and it’s approx 148 feet high and 82 feet across. I’ve seen it multiple times driving through the island, but have never made it to the top of the hill. Well, I can say that still stands true now. I never ended up making it to see the statue, because I took a wrong turn and ended up at the opposite side of the island (about 30 minutes in the wrong direction). It’s funny how frequently this seems to happen to me. It’s easy to get lost here, but never difficult to find your way back.

I decided to stop at a restaurant and grab a bite, and I connected to wifi to figure out exactly where I was. I was less than a half a mile from Kata Beach. My location had me in a triangle between the statue, my apartment, and the restaurant I was eating in. Rather than go the 25  minutes to the Buddha, then an additional 25 minutes home, I figured I would just go home. I was starting to get tired, and I figured I probably shouldn’t be driving all of that way with a groggy mind.

I’d have to say that my temple day was definitely the highlight since the last time I’ve  written. It’s been raining quite a bit, which makes transportation on a motorbike limited. On Friday morning I experienced the largest downpour since I’ve been here. It dumped so much rain that the streets started accumulating water, a sight which I hadn’t seen yet. I looked up the weather forecast to see how long it was going to stay around, and saw on the radar that a huge typhoon is hitting the imagePhilippines right now. A very small tail of the storm was right over Phuket, which I’m guessing had contributed to the intense downpour. It’s  hard to say, though. I’ve only been here for about 7 weeks now, so I’m not sure if it was monsoon rain or due to the typhoons.

To the right is the typhoon in the Philippines. If you look at the top of the picture, where the “c” is in “dtac,” and then follow it straight down to the first little bit of red, that’s where I’m at. I’m definitely grateful that we’re not being significantly impacted by the storm.

I can’t believe this time has gone by and I haven’t checked out any more of the Vegetarian Festival!!! I’ve been kicking myself about it. Tonight there is fire walking and bladed ladder climbing, so I’m going to go check it out.

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Downtime in Paradise

I am starting to feel a little restless. “How is that possible?!” You ask. “Aren’t you in a top notch tourist destination? Why don’t you go to the beach every day? Go ride an elephant! I would kill to be in your position!”

I’m not saying that it’s anything short of awesome to be here, but my personality doesn’t like downtime. There’s always an something inside of me that feels like I need to be contributing. I’m not good at lollygagging. Also, I’ve had to stretch my budget to fit 3 months without income. I had planned for 2, hoping to get a job right after the TEFL course. As it all worked out with my poor timing, the schools are on vacation until November, and I won’t be paid until the end of the month. I’m stuck between wanting to keep busy and trying to be cheap.

The food and accommodation here are ridiculously cheap, and for that I am thankful. To put it into perspective, I can stay full on less than $4/day. Gas cost also goes a long way when you’re renting a motorbike, so I have no problem getting around the island. My ultimate downfall is when it comes to the endless range of activities for tourists on this island. If money weren’t a factor, I could start my morning on an elephant trek, then go sea kayaking through mangroves, see a imageladyboy cabaret show, and then throwback some Singapore slings while listening to live music on the beach. It sounds AMAZING. Unfortunately, that kind of day would cost me about 25% of the salary I will be making come November. For now, I’ve been trying to tackle all the freebie tourist attractions that I can. It may sound silly, but I can’t wait until school starts in November.

I must say there are still a handful of attractions here that are free and noteworthy. The first, as mentioned in an earlier post, is Monkey Hill. Now that I think about it, I think I could take a backpack full of bananas and spend an entire day there. That would sure create a sense of purpose in my life. I could become the monkey version of the crazy pigeon lady. That being said, I’m not sure I’d be able to make an escape once I ran out of bananas.

There’s always the beach. I can’t get enough of the gorgeous beaches here. I won’t go into too much detail about how awesome the beaches are here. They’re fantastic (see above). We’ll leave it at that.

Another free attraction in the area is the Kathu Waterfalls. The waterfalls are about a 2 minute drive up the road from the school I’ll be teaching in- they’re both on the road “Waterfall Road.” Last Saturday I decided to go check them out. The entrance to the park is a parking lot with a few local residences and restaurants nearby. Kathu is outside of the super touristy areas, so the place isn’t marked with a whole lot of obnoxious signs. The place was definitely constructed for tourists, though.

The climb is a long concrete staircase, with intermittent rest stops with bits of information. I’d read online that there are three waterfalls throughout the journey to the top. I climbed up a little ways and found the first. To my disappointment, it was man made. It’s my own fault for setting my expectations so high. It’s actually a beautiful park, and there were quite a imagefew local boys playing in the water.

The hike is increasingly difficult as you ascend up the stairs, but nothing too intense. It’s easy to forget that it’s man-made, because you’re surrounded by lush green jungle. Just as your mind escapes into “jungle trek” mode, you look over and see the trail of trash that’s left behind by the previous tourists. It made me really sad, because it was an absolute mess.

The 2nd waterfall was gorgeous. I’ve heard from Mr.B (my favorite taxi man) that the waterfalls are better now because of the monsoon rains. It’s not a huge waterfall, by any means, but it was serene to sit next to.

As I hiked up to the 3rd waterfall, the concrete stairs stopped and the path turned narrow, with stepping stones as a path. I have to admit, I walked about 10 feet in, and turned around and went right back out. For some reason, I got legitimately scared. I was by myself, nobody knew that I was there, and I had no idea what was tucked away inside that gorgeous rain forest. I thought about snakes, and freaked myself out. I was out.

In hindsight, I really wish I would’ve given it a chance. I was already 2/3 of the way up, and I turned back. Oh well, at least it’s just up the street, and it’s free 🙂

Another option for free entertainment is to check out a temple, or a “wat.” The architecture is incredible, and they exist on every stretch of the island. I’ve been into a couple, and have definitely been impressed. It’s required to wear a shirt that covers the shoulders, and pants that cover the knees. It’s 89 degrees and 90% humidity here, so I’ve only been into temples on planned occasions.

The Kathu Shrine is between my place and the school, so it’s very close. Yesterday was the start of the vegetarian festival,image
and I decided to go see what it was all about. The mortifying body piercings don’t happen until a few days into the festival, so I just cruised up for some dinner. I was incredibly excited for the opportunity to eat whatever was in sight without having to worry about it being strange street meat. There are tons of food stalls, but I soon found out it’s important to pick one that has posted prices for their food. I saw some fried corn & chili fritters, so I indicated that I would like to purchase some. I watched every person in front of me pay 10 TBH, and when it was my turn, the lady asked me for 20. There wasn’t a sign advertising they cost 10, so I didn’t have any ground to stand on. I smiled and thanked her. Even though she ripped me off, the difference was about 25 cents. I knew the 25 cents meant more to her than it does to me.

During the vegetarian festival, attendees traditionally wear all white. I completely forgot, so I was in normal clothes. I was worried about standing out, and then I laughed and realized that I stand out no matter what I’m wearing. I did see quite a few Thai people that weren’t following suit. Nobody was sticking to the “sleeves” rule, so I felt okay.

I saw a Thai family struggling to fit themselves into one selfie with the shrine. I walked over and acted out that I would take their picture for them, and they were super happy. I took a few, and then one of the men grabbed his camera and indicated that they wanted a picture with me. They took quite a few. I thought it was hilarious. I even got my camera out and insisted that I have a copy of the same picture. Look at how adorable we are:image

Being the only foreigner with all of the chaos of the festival was pretty overwhelming, and I felt a huge push of culture shock. The small children were lighting off fireworks and throwing them into a pit. I watched a little boy (maybe 2 years old) wander into the pit when nobody was watching. Right before another boy threw a firework into the pit, another boy ran into it and dragged the 2 year old out. Everyone was laughing about it, but it scared the crap out of me. The festival is fantastic for people watching.

I could’ve stayed longer, but I was pretty overwhelmed. I’ve got 8 more days to check it out, so I have plenty of time until I leave for Malaysia on the 20th.

About that….

Today I received a call from Steve, one of the directors at the school. He is my contact for work permit/visa issues while Bronwyn is back home in South Africa. Steve is from the UK and to be honest, sometimes I have a hard time understanding him. Yes, we both speak English, but sometimes I feel like British English is a whole new language. Regardless, Steve had some bad news.

Apparently the application process for a work permit can be a pain in the ass. The timeline to get my work permit, visa, and teacher license is a stretched out process, and there are definitely setbacks along the way. I was initially told that my paperwork would take less than 2 weeks to process, and I cleared it with my supervisor that it was good timing to set my flight to Malaysia for 2 weeks out. I have to go to Malaysia to get my visa, and I have to have my work permit before I have my visa. I have to have my work permit and visa before I can get my teacher’s license. Steve got a call today that there was some issue in the review process, and my work permit won’t be ready for 3 more weeks. It was a bunch of political jargon that Steve was describing, and he basically just said, “I’m horribly sorry. I know it’s a pain. Welcome to Thailand.”

My tourist visa runs out on the 31st, and I have a nonrefundable ticket to Malaysia. It sounds like I’m going to have to go to Malaysia to renew my tourist visa, come back into Thailand, and then leave the country again at the start of November so I can re-enter with a Non Immigrant B Visa. It’s all a huge headache. Because it pertains to my personal visa, I have to pay for everything myself. On the bright side, maybe I’ll try Cambodia or Vietnam for my 2nd visa run. Who knows. I’m not complaining about the traveling part. A round trip ticket to these countries runs about $50. It’ another stamp on the passport!

That’s all I have for now! I’ve uploaded some more pictures of the waterfalls and veg festival in the pics section.

Someone eat a bagel with cream cheese for me. I’m salivating like a dog just thinking about one.

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