It has been hard to write… No inspiration, no time, no ideas, no adventures… Finally, teacher training has come to an end and I can think again. It was intense, enjoyable, frightening, fun and an incredible learning journey. I have a job as a Pastoral Leader in an international school nearby and am very excited to start in August. New start after 3 years without a job, also a new experience which I have not enjoyed so much, lost my financial independence and work identity but learned to be alone and to immerse myself in new experiences.
Where to start?! Today! We went off exploring Bangkok, the new Bangkok I find ugly, busy, smelly, materialistic and not very inspiring. However, there are still areas of old Bangkok where I can feel I have been transformed to a different place altogether and I love spending time in these “secret” places. One such place is Khlong Bang Luang on the West side of the Chao Phraya River. It is a laid back neighbourhood, a small village with stilted wooden houses along an old canal. There are plenty of narrow alleyways with art galleries, studios, shops and local eateries. Along the canal runs a rickety boardwalk where you can let your feet dangle above the water and feed the hundreds of catfish that live in the Bangkok canals and rivers. The artist house was our main destination – Baan Silapin, coffee shop below, gallery atop and painting and colouring activities on offer. Great place to relax and while away an afternoon.
Another place we really like is Kho Kret, a small island not far from our house. It is, once again, like being transported to another time and place. A path runs around the whole island and it is a great walk which goes through a local market, past various temples and pottery making places. We always try something new to eat when we go there and mostly it is suspect (such as barbecued frogs!) or other stuff that we do not know and tend to throw away as it does not agree with our taste buds! It is a wonderful place to while away a few hours, have a look:
There are numerous vendors cooking up a number of local treats mainly Thai and Mon snacks and desserts. Favourites that the island is known for include “Khao Cher.” This dish is a Mon specialty of rice served with chilled fragrant water and a number of little side dishes. It was a royal favourite for hot summer days, but now is hard to find most anywhere besides here. “Tod mun pla nor gala” is another treat. This is spiced fish cake with the shoots of local ginger variety. Gives you an idea of the variety. I just love wandering about the paths and through the market trying out stuff and soaking up the atmosphere. At the weekends the place is full of Thais visiting the temples and the markets so pretty busy!
On another note, today is 37 degrees and it feels rather balmy. We have returned from a few days in Kanchanaburi where the famous bridge over the river Kwai is. The temperatures there reached 46 degrees, I never through Bangkok could feel cooler than it does right now. Kanchanburi is not far, about 2/3 hour drive, it gets more and more jungly as you drive into the countryside. The river is beautiful and we stayed on a floating cabin which was peaceful and beautiful. Erawan falls were one of our destinations, a series of 7 falls which you have to walk up to, higher and higher. The great thing is that the higher you go the cooler it gets and the less people there are. The first 3 falls are packed with Thais with their huge lunch boxes and ice drinks. At the top were the tourists who have little to carry such as us! Highly recommend it.
As we had visited the war museum and learned more about how the railway was build and its awful history, we decided to take a trip on the Death Railway as it is known. The initial part of the trip was beautiful although old train and heat does not bode well. Still, I thought about the poor men who were transported in closed metal carriages for up to 3 days without much breeze, food or water… No wonder so many died building the railway, around 100,000!
It was quite moving to see the bridge and to travel part of the way (a lot of the railway is no longer in use) on such a well known part of our history. It is hard to imagine the suffering of those who toiled and the cruelty of those who enslaved so many. After a thoughtful and roasting day, we returned to our river cabin and proceeded to float down the river which has a pretty strong current, as we found out! Great fun and wonderfully cooling.
So Thailand is full of surprises. The old and the new co-exist side by side in the most unexpected ways. It is such an alien culture and language that I feel it will take me years to even feel I know what is going on around me!