Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The adventure begins...

I finally landed in Bangkok around 11 am local time. I was drained from all of the traveling but luckily I still had 3 more hours until I reached my temporary place of residence. After an hour taxi ride into Bangkok (costing roughly 8.50 USD), I hoped in a bus that took me two hours North to the city of Singburi. Upon arriving in Singburi, I was picked up in another taxi which was drastically different than the one I rode into Bangkok. This one was a truck converted into a taxi with open seating in the back and enough room to uncomfortably seat 1 to 15 people (pictured at the bottom of the post). I finally arrived to my 'Eco House', about 30 miles outside of Singburi and 35 hours away from little old Worthington, Ohio.

The Eco House I am staying in is located in a very remote and rural part of central Thailand. When I go on walks around my house I am the center of all the locals attention. Little children laugh at me or simple look at me with a tongue gaping stare, dogs bark and chase me, chickens and roosters scatter from the sound of my foot steps, bulls begin slowly walking towards me in efforts to make sure I do not intrude on their space and the local men and women look at me with a bit of confusion but nevertheless seem very friendly. I don't think I will ever get over the poverty I see all around me. Living in small shacks by a neighboring river is very common to see in central Thailand. Nevertheless the locals seem completely content with their lives. I suppose the Buddhist belief that extinguishing all desires means to be freed from the illusion of false happiness is put to the test everyday in these small villages.

I am sharing a dormitory style house with about 17 other people from all different parts of the world, but mainly Europe. We are all here for different reasons, but mine is unique in 2 ways: I am the only one teaching and I am staying in Thailand the longest. The rest of them are either heading on to different countries in Southeast Asia or flying back home to their native country.

There is no such thing as a warm shower in Thailand, and frankly there is no reason for one. By 7 am, it can get up 90 degrees and is very humid. They say I will get used to the heat, but I'm still not buying it. Since being in Thailand I have seen two python snakes, one of which was in a river about 100 yards from my room. Thailand is a very tropical climate so I better get used to making friends with snakes and spiders and for those of you who know me very well know that most things that move, including my own shadow, make me jump so it should be very interesting. My first week here is an intro week to Thailand. Up to this point we have gone to an Elephant farm and fed the elephants, visited 3 Buddhist temples, spent time in the ancient Thai ruins in the city of Ayutthaya, participated in traditional Thai dancing and music, had dinner on a boat floating down the Lopburi River, visited a monkey temple in Lopburi where we were among thousands of monkeys who could and would very easily jump on your back and try to steal the girls earrings and everyone's bottled waters. The city of Lopburi is flooded with monkeys who cautiously cross the crowded streets by looking both ways to make sure they are not hit by an oncoming motorbike or car rushing by. At red lights it was not unusual to see a monkey jump on top of a car and walk around the roof until the car began to move where then the monkey will proceed to jump off and carry on with his or her business. We visited a school for a day and Henry and I taught a class of 13 and 14 year old students. We didn't know that they were expecting us to teach so we were unprepared but our improvisation turned out to be pretty good. We worked on basic words, which they knew very well so we moved on to some harder sentences. We would ask the students to stand up and tell us what their parent's occupation was, if they had any siblings and how old they were. I was very impressed with their basic understanding of the English language. During their recess I started a game of soccer tennis which proved to be a great time for us and for them.

Over the weekend, we took a trip to Erawan National Park, which is a rain forest about 3 hours away from Singburi. Hiking through the rain forest was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences I have ever witnessed. While hiking through the lush green rain forest we encountered wild monkeys, snakes, spiders as well as 7 majestic waterfalls. The rain forest was filled with limestone, making the water an aesthetic shade of light blue-green. The densely packed mountains surrounding us were marked with different shades of green which were painted on by the intense sun and the clouds above. At the edge of each tiny pond created by the waterfalls, hundreds of fish gathered to feed off of the algae growing on the rocks. When I put my foot in the water, about 4 or 5 fish swam up to my foot and clung on to me by sucking the dead skin off of my foot. It was an extremely strange feeling but you literally cannot set foot into the water without having them come up and suck on your skin. It is not until you swim to the middle of the tiny pond that you will find peace from the hungry fish. We jumped in the water at waterfall #3 and swam about for a while until we were able to reach the waterfall. It was there that we pull ourselves onto a rock while fighting against the falling water from above. When we made it to the top of the protruding rock, we sat behind the waterfall in a tiny, limestone cave. It truly was a sublime experience viewing the world from behind this waterfall. We then went to our "resort hotel" which was located an hour away from the waterfalls. This "resort hotel" was the first decently warm shower I had since being home. The rooms were pretty clean and the accommodations were nice, but the kicker was that it only cost me 6 dollars per night to sleep there. The next day we went on a safari and saw everything from lions and tigers to giraffes and crocodiles. Finally after a long and fun weekend, we made our way back to Singburi for a good nights sleep and thus, concluding my first week in Thailand.

Click on pictures to make them larger.

Outside a Buddhist temple

Playing with elephants

Ancient ruins in Ayutthaya

Dinner on a river boat

The classroom we taught for a day

Erawan National Rain Forest

Mountains in Erawan National Rain Forest

My friends and I under a waterfall

Our taxi

Outskirts of the Monkey Temple

A giraffe entering our safari bus

The Bridge over the River Kwai

Waterfall in Erawan

Local enjoying Erawan, notice the fish that suck your feet

Playing soccer tennis with local students

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