Winter Semester Holidays

I’m on a break between semesters right now. My next semester is starting on October 24th. That doesn’t mean I’m not working, however. I go into the office every day to do some planning for next semester. One of my tasks today was to make a calendar of winter semester holidays and figure out how they’ll affect my classes. There sure are a lot of holidays! There’s nearly one for every week, and I hear that the school cancels class periodically during this semester for various special events, like when the princess comes to town. So I’m expecting to lose even more teaching periods throughout the semester.

There are a few interesting sounding holidays. For instance, we have University Day. We’ll celebrate the fact that Thailand has universities by not going to them that day. There’s also Constitution Day, which sounds fishy to me since Thailand now has no constitution. My favorite, however, is “Unofficial New Year’s Holiday” which is on the school calendar right next to “Official New Year’s Holiday”.

Reminders of the Tsunami

Our pictures of Phuket include some shots of tsunami hazard zone & evacuation route signs.  We saw these signs everywhere on the island.  I was surprised, however, that these signs were the only reminders of the tsunami in Phuket.  I expected to see some damaged buildings and maybe even a memorial of some sort, but there were none.  If it weren’t for those signs, it would be hard to believe that it ever happened.

I have to admit that I had a strange fascination with all things tsunami-related while we were in Phuket.  I think it was just a little surreal to me to be in the place where it happened.

My New Favorite Drink

While Dave was here, he was looking everywhere for Thai iced tea. I’m sure you’ve seen it before. It’s that orange tea that’s served in Thai restaurants. It’s called chai yen (cold tea) here. I didn’t know where to buy one, mostly because I didn’t think I liked them. Dave never did find a place that served the tea. I found one the day after he left! I went to a coffee/tea shop with Mod to buy some tea I could make at home. The store also has a little cafe area and we decided to get something. I was going to order my usual iced coffee, but the owner told me that the chai yen was really good and I needed to try it. So I got one, and it was great! That was Saturday. Since then, I’m seeing that many places serve chai yen. I just didn’t realize that before. I bought one yesterday at the complex, and I’m already planning to get another one today when I go to the bank!

A Strange Bar Development

So the weather has been pretty cool the last couple of days. I’ve turned off my air conditioner and opened my window. The new bar isn’t open yet (it opens tomorrow), but they are already playing music. So far I’ve heard some Enya, the “glory of love” song from Karate Kid, and some Celine Dion. The bar also now has a sign that says “Retro” on it. I never would have expected this.

Festival at the Lake

Last night I went to the lake with Mot and Doy for a festival. I wish I could tell you about the purpose of the festival, but neither Mot nor Doy knew what the purpose was. The only thing I learned is that it coincides with the “Dragon fire ball” festival that takes place in another town in northeastern Thailand. There is a river that has bubbles of fire that come to the surface every year at this time. People travel to this town and sit by the river waiting to see some fire balls. It sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Mot and Doy told me that they went last year and it was horribly boring. They didn’t see any fireballs and they sat around in the dark for 3 hours!

Anyway, the festival was really interesting. There were a lot of young monks at the festival. Some of them looked to be between the ages of 7 and 12. They were making floating lanterns out of banana leaves, flowers, candles, and incense. People bought the lanterns, lit the candles and incense, and put them in the lake. The floating lanterns were really beautiful. People were also buying fish, eels, and baby turtles to release into the lake. Doy said that you are supposed to make a wish and then release the animal. A few people also made some flying paper lanterns. I took a couple of pictures of someone trying to light one of these lanterns. What surprised me about the lighting of the lanterns is that they actually set the grass on fire and then lit the lantern with the fire from the grass.

While we were at the festival, we also stopped to watch a tournament for a game that involves throwing metal balls around. I didn’t catch the name of the sport, but the players said that it’s a French game. It was fun to watch the game for awhile, but the highlight was interacting with the players. They were so friendly! The Thai people Dave & I interacted with in Bangkok and Phuket were nice, but none of them were as friendly as the people here in Khon Kaen. Last night I was feeling really lucky to be in Khon Kaen.

We wanted to watch a Thai dance performance at the festival, but we had seen everything and didn’t want to wait around at the lake for the hour before the performance was to start. Mod and Doy totally surprised me by going to a bar to have a beer. Everything I’ve read about Thai culture has said that it is unacceptable for Thai women to drink alcohol. Mod is particularly traditional, so I would never have imagined that she would step foot in a bar. Mod actually didn’t drink because she drove us to the lake. Doy ordered a pitcher of Leo Light beer for us to share. The strange thing about the beer was that it was served with ice in it!

We went back to the lake to watch the dancing only to learn that the dance performance had been postponed to 11 pm. We decided to leave. It was a really fun night. It was the first time I had met Doy, and I had a good time talking with her.

Click here to see some pictures of us at the bar and of the paper lanterns being lit.

Is My Thai Comprehensible?

I went to lunch with my friend Mot today. She asked what I would like to drink and I said “nam plow”, the Thai word for water. She and the waitress laughed and complimented me on how clearly I speak Thai. I get this compliment a lot in Khon Kaen. I did not get this compliment in Bangkok, however. On the contrary, when I ordered “nam plow” in Bangkok I got a lot of confused looks. No one understood any of my Thai, so I eventually stopped using it and only spoke English. I told Mot about my experience in Bangkok. She thinks they were expecting me to speak English and were confused when they heard Thai. Even if that’s true, I think it means that I don’t speak as clearly as people here say I do.

Suvarnabhumi Airport

Dave and I were very lucky to fly into the new airport on September 30th, just two days after its grand opening. A Thai friend told us to take pictures of the airport, so we did. The airport is pretty nice! There is a really nice garden and some Thai artwork. There are a couple of gold-colored boats in the garden area, and there are supposed to be some Hanuman sculptures somewhere. We didn’t see those, unfortunately.

I knew about the new airport, but I didn’t expect it to be such a tourist attraction! Dave and I flew into Bangkok in the morning, left the airport, and then came back in the late afternoon. As we were driving back to the airport, we saw many Thai people along the road taking pictures. We also saw advertisements for tours of the airport! The new airport is a really big deal!

As for functionality, the airport is just ok. I was really disappointed that they didn’t put any paper towels in the bathrooms. They have the paper towel holders, but no paper towels. Thai restrooms don’t ever seem to have paper towels. They often have a big roll of toilet paper out where the paper towel holder should be. I don’t know who ever thought that was a good idea. Toilet paper is definately not a good substitute for paper towels. The airport also doesn’t have any vendors inside the gates. They don’t really have any outside the gates either, though. The only place we could find to sit down and get a drink was a ridiculously overpriced area near the observation deck. Finally, my last complaint is that the airplanes don’t come right up to the gate. You have to take a bus between the gate and the airplane.Š

The Mystery Building

After saying another (hopefully our last) sad goodbye to Dave at the airport this morning, I flew back to Khon Kaen. I would like to write more on our Phuket vacation, but right now I want to focus on the new building across the street. I noticed that a new building was going up several weeks ago. I started fantasizing about what kind of building it would be. Here’s a list of what I came up with:

1) A Taco Bell. I would LOVE a taco. I would probably eat there every day!
2) A movie theater (it would have to be a very small one) that plays movies with English soundtracks
3) An air-conditioned gym. My apartment has a workout room, but it’s so hot!
4) A hip little coffee shop with current issues of news magazines in English
5) An English-language book store. The nearest one I know of right now is in Bangkok. Of course, I don’t need any more books because Dad recently sent me a box full of them! Still, I like to go to book stores.
5) A Pizza Company. Daniel and I go to the one downtown fairly often. It would be nice to just walk across the street.
6) A really good Phad Thai restaurant that has a menu in English
7) A restaurant that serves American breakfasts. I got used to having omelets every morning in Phuket!
8) A 7/11-type mini-mart. It would be so convenient.
9) A mediterranean restaurant
10) A massage parlor. I like massages, but I never think to get them. I think I’d get massages much more often if I could just walk across the street to the massage parlor.

I’ve been daydreaming about this new building for weeks. Of course, I suspected that the building would be a bar and not a Taco Bell, but I still felt really disappointed when I saw the completed building today and found out that it is definately a bar. It’s scheduled to open on Monday, October 9th.

Phuket Highlights and Lowlights

Well, we’re coming to the end of our fabulous vacation. Dave and I will leave Phuket tonight and Dave will fly back to Arizona tomorrow morning. These last two weeks have been wonderful! It has been so much fun to go travelling around Thailand with Dave.

Phuket is a beautiful place. I’m really glad we came here! It has rained a little every day, but that’s been nice! It only rains for 5-10 minutes at a time. The skies are cloudy, so the weather has been (mostly) nice and cool. Yesterday was really sunny so we spent some time at the beach. We went wild and swam in the ocean even though there were red flags on the beach indicating that it wasn’t safe! (we didn’t go very far out, of course)

Here’s a list of the highlights of our Phuket trip:

  • Long walks on the beach every evening
  • Playing around in the ocean
  • Fantasea, an “amusement park” that is mostly a show and a bunch of handicraft shops. The elephant show and dancing was fun! Personally, I think the best part was the guy juggling wine bottles. He had a really geeky dance that involved kicking his legs to the techno music that accompanied him. Every time he finished something successfully he gave the audience a big smile and nodded his head in a funny way.
  • Banana fritters
  • LOTS of western food (though we ate some Thai food too)
  • a really long bus ride to Phuket town
  • Shopping in little shops around our hotel
  • Coconut ice cream with sticky rice and corn!! That’s right! Dave finally tried the awesome homemade ice cream. He’s hooked on it now!

And here’s a list of low points of our Phuket trip:

  • The market in Phuket town. The guidebook made it sound interesting, but it definately wasn’t. They have a big market downtown that we wanted to visit. It smelled horrible and they didn’t have any good stuff.
  • The movie theater in Phuket town. It’s true that they play English-language movies there, but the only one playing this week is World Trade Center. Who wants to see that while you’re on vacation (or anytime)?
  • Tuk tuk drivers. Tuk tuks are really expensive here. Ridiculously expensive. I think it’s because they have these new shiny-red vehicles that aren’t anything like the tuk tuks of Bangkok or Khon Kaen.
  • Tailors. There are so many tailors here. They stand outside of their shops and bug everyone who walks past them. We got annoyed with them after awhile
  • Mosquitos. Neither of us had any bites when we arrived in Phuket. Now our legs are covered with bites!
  • Gross rice. We went to two Thai restaurants that served us some bad rice. I found dead ants and mosquitos in my rice at lunch today. Yuck! 😦
  • Dave wants me to add sunburns to the list. He got really burned yesterday when we were swimming in the ocean and he’s uncomfortable now. I didn’t really get burned because I used a lot of sunscreen.