Category Archives: Travel

Leaving Koh Tao

All good things come to an end, and after over 2 months on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, it was time to say goodbye.  After a lovely farewell dinner and late-night drinks with Deb and Rick, Anna (a longtime friend from Scotland visiting Thailand for 5 weeks) and I headed off the following night for the island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee!!).  Koh Phi Phi Don, located in the Andaman Sea, just south of Krabi on the mainland is the larger of two islands there (the Phi Phi islands) made most famous by book “The Beach” by Alex Garland.  Well, more specifically Maya bay on Phi Phi Ley (south of Phi Phi Don) was the filming site for the movie of “The Beach”.  The book was written after the author visited and was inspired by the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, south of Koh Tao in the Gulf.

We traveled on the night ferry, which left the dock around 9pm.  Before boarding however we stopped in to 7-11 to stock up on some booze and snacks (of course!) for the journey, then after dropping our stuff of at our beds in the dorm room of the ferry, we headed to the top deck for some fresh air and to properly wave Koh Tao goodbye.  We were one of only 3 people on the top deck but seriously had the best view and air quality there than any other place on the boat!  We hung out for several hours on the top deck watching the stars as we lumbered along, sipping on Smirnoff Ice and chatting away.  Around 11pm we started to pass the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park (inspired the book “The Beach”!), watching the scattered islands appear in silhouette forms lit only by the moon.

A little after midnight we headed to the dorm room for some sleep (we were due to arrive on mainland again at 5am, so sleep was necessary!!).  The beds were decently comfortable but at first I had a very hard time sleeping as the smoke from the engines smelled like it was being pumped directly in the dorm room and it felt like I could barely breathe!  I almost took my blanket and pillow back up to the top deck so I could sleep without being choked by the smoke, but ended up passing out nonetheless in the dorm.

A little before 5am we arrived at the Suratthani mainland dock and were escorted to a local eatery.  We hung about there for several hours, then were picked up by a mini-van for the 4 hour journey to Krabi.  I don’t recall much of that part of the trip as I was mostly passed out (though we were pretty tightly packed in!!) but once we arrived in Krabi we were once again dropped at a local eatery for more food or drinks if desired.  From there it was another hour until we were taken via tuk-tuk to the Krabi dock for the almost 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don.  By far this was the longest stretch of traveling I’d done so far in Thailand to get to the next destination; over 14 hours in total.  What we arrived to ultimately on Koh Phi Phi Don was, well…. Interesting to say the least!

On to Favorites From Koh Tao

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Talking Thai

As this blog not only serves as a site for information for fellow travelers, it also serves the purpose of being my memory.  Something that years from now I can read about and think fondly back on.  As the Thai language is a very foreign and tricky, before I forget all the words I know I wanted to jot them down:) You will notice that several of the Thai words seems to be the same, yet have different English meanings.  This is because depending on how the word is spoken (i.e. an inflection or intonation) the meaning changes.  And of course I’m not writing the Thai words as they would actually be spelled, but rather in the way they sound so the pronunciation is correct.  So here we go…

  • Poured: Please
  • Sa-wah-dee-ka: Hello/Goodbye (spoken by females)
  • Sa-wah-dee-kap: Hello/Goddbye (spoken by males)
  • Khob-Khun-Ka: Thank you
  • Mama: Very
  • Khob-Khun-mama-Ka: Thank you Very much 🙂
  • Chai: Yes
  • Mai Chai: No
  • Ka/Kap (female/male): Sure, Yup, ok, uh-huh, your welcome
  • Hong: Room
  • Nam: Water
  • Hong nam: Bathroom
  • Sue-Aye: Beautiful
  • Ma (long A sound): Dog
  • Ma (short A sound): Come
  • Ma (long A sound with voice down): Horse
  • Klap Ma: Come back
  • Mayo: Cat
  • Sah-bye: Good
  • Mai Sah-bye: Not good
  • Sah-bye-dee: Good health
  • Mai Sah-bye-dee: Bad health
  • Tong: Stomach
  • Gai: Chicken
  • Kai: Egg
  • Kai Gai: Chicken egg
  • Tao-Rai: How much?
  • Ah-you-da Rai: How old?
  • Moo: Pork
  • Ooo-ah: Vomit (this one was an animal clinic word I learned and NOT learned because of the next word, lol!)
  • Mao: Drunk
  • Naan Tell-lie: How long?
  • Lawn: Hot
  • Mack: Very
  • Lawn mack: very hot
  • Nit Noi: Little bit
  • Mack Noi: A lot
  • Wah-Nee: Today
  • Prune-Nee: Tomorrow
  • Maroon-Nee: Day after tomorrow
  • Moon-Nee: Yesterday
  • Numb Ken: Ice
  • Toe-Who: Tofu
  • Mee: Bear
  • Mee Panda: Panda Bear 🙂
  • Ko: Beach
  • Tao: Turtle
  • Took-kay: House gecko
  • Baan: House
  • Phone: Rain
  • Non (pronounced like Noni -as in the juice- without the I): Sleep
  • Pah-ah-tea: Sun
  • Sabaidee my ka?: How are you?

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Things to Love about Thailand

I’ve been traveling in Thailand now for over 5 months now, so I thought perhaps now is the best time to break out with a few things I love or at least find the most interesting about Thailand:)

It will be a working list and isn’t in any particular order with the exception of the first one.  🙂

#1: NO SHOES!!!
I absolutely adore how before entering any building, home or place of work you must first remove your shoes!  This goes for just about every place, with the exception of some grocery stores (though no one would squawk if you didn’t have your shoes on) and with some restaurants as well.  But for the most part (including in the vet clinic where I volunteered) you have to kick off your shoes before entering.  I will admit sometimes it’s a pain to do so (if you are wearing anything other than flip  flops) but otherwise, the no shoe rule is my favorite cultural behavior and one that I will be using wherever I end up for good:) I love, love, LOVE it!!

No Shoes
No Shoes

#2: Nature
The diversity of the landscapes here are extraordinary!  From the beaches to jungle to islands, mountains, rivers and lakes, Thailand seems to have just about every kind of terrain one would want to find.

#3: House Geckos
I just adore these creatures!  They are simply a much larger version of regular geckos and they are quite beneficial to have in the home since they take care of the majority of other insects in the home (including spiders, yay!!).  They also make the cutest and most interesting sound.  They start off with a quick series of chitters, then make a series of staccato sounds in repetition.  When I first heard their sound I thought I was crazy because it sounded like they were saying “F you” in slow repetition.  However, I’ve come across many other travelers and very-well-spoken-in-English-locals who have also pointed this out, so I guess I wasn’t as crazy as I thought, LOL!

#4: Animals
I know I just wrote about the geckos, and they technically would qualify in the animal section as well, but I just love those little buggers so much that they got their own section.  However, I do also adore the large variety of other kinds of animals here in Thailand.  From elephants, street dogs and cats, variety of monkeys, flying squirrels, regular squirrels, lizards, birds, the diversity is so rich!  You just never know what you are going to find!  The sea life is also beautifully diverse and lush!  From corals to sting rays, sharks, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, and a huge variety of fish, it’s amazingly impressive!

#5: Kind & Honest People
The people are generous and kind, patient and welcoming.  I have yet to run into a rude local here and though I’ve heard from other fellow travelers that it all depends on where you go, in my opinion and experience the people have been nothing but kind.  In addition to the generous and kind nature of the people here, they are also very honest.  In particular when it comes to money.  I’ve been other places where I’ve handed over too much money (from being tired or just not thinking the correct exchange rate) and they’ve gone on their way with the extra money in hand.  Here, there have been several occasions where I’ve handed over too much and they immediately return whatever over I’ve paid, even if it’s just a single baht!  I’ve gotten so comfortable with their honesty that there have also been several times when my mind wasn’t working properly to understand how much I owed in Thai that I’ve simply held a bunch of bills and let them pick what they needed.  I love that kind of honesty as it makes one feel more comfortable in their surroundings!!  Now, that’s not to say some people won’t try to overcharge you for something (cab ride, etc) but if you ask upfront what something will cost, they stick by it.

#6: No sleazy men
Traveling in Latin American countries, one thing I had to get used to that also really annoyed me at times, but just had to learn to ignore, was the cat calls, whistles, stares and hissing sounds (they literally sounded like snakes to be honest) men would constantly make toward any female as you walked by.  Here, no such behavior exists!  The men are much more respectful in that way and even to the point where I sometimes wondered why I wasn’t getting any looks from locals, and it simply is because their culture, unlike others, is to not display emotions of affection in any way in public.  Hence, no cat calls, uncomfortable stares or hissing sounds!

#7: Packaging with plastic bags
This one I personally struggle with from the environmental perspective and really wish they would cut back on their use of plastic bags, but I do also find it interesting and entertaining how they package to-go food or drink items.  Coffee, sodas, rice, soups, and more are packaged in a plastic bag tied off with a rubber band for take away.  Other items like rice and pad thai are put in styrofoam containers, so it’s one evil for the environment versus the other… While I can understand the simplicity and ease of using plastic bags, I wish in general they would cut back because they insist in using a ton of bags for very few items.  I’m always refusing bags (as I generally bring my own or just don’t need one) but you really have to be on the ball to say you don’t want a bag as they are very quick to snatch one out.  The straws also drive me nuts (though technically from the hygienic perspective it’s better) as they will give you one for each can or bottle purchased (including for beers) so if I walked in and bought 2 bottles of water and a soda they would put in 3 straws!

#8: Built to last
Another thing that really impresses me about Thailand is the construction of their homes and buildings.  Yes, there are several homes that are made entirely from bamboo and other wood (though bamboo is a very highly resilient wood to begin with!) but many homes, stores and general buildings are built to a very high quality standard and are built to last!  It’s amazing watching them construct a home or other building because their scaffolding is simply rickety looking pieces of wood that you wouldn’t think would hold people walking or working around them, yet the finished product is brick and concrete with tile throughout.

#9: Muay Thai
Whether it’s enjoying an evening out watching fights or joining in training yourself, Muay Thai is entertaining, engaging and a real real-kicker!  Granted not all fights are created equal as some are much more entertaining or gruesome than others, but all the fighters have a real sportsmanship about them that isn’t as easily found in countless other sports.  What I love the most is the fights where it’s evident that the competitors are friends.  They encourage each other between fighting rounds but when the bell goes off, all bets are off and “may the best fighter win” kicks in.  Another thing I love about Muay Thai is the sense of tradition and culture.  The fighters respect the ring, the judges, their opponent and their God.  The more I train in Muay Thai, the more I understand the fights as I watch and questions I had before while watching fights are now answered because of my own training.  I won’t go into that here, but will in a future post for sure!

To be continued…

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Debating ‘Falang’

One of the first things I learned when I arrived in Thailand was the word ‘falang’.  It is the word that Thai’s use to describe a foreigner.  Now, whether this word is meant to be an insult or not, I still haven’t figured out for sure.  According to some fellow travelers however, it is meant to be an insult, an impolite expression to describe people basically with white skin.

While I’m not entirely sure the exact connotation this word is supposed to carry, here is my take on it.  Perhaps at one point this word was supposed to be an insult.  Perhaps even today, depending on how the word is spoken (whether spat out with spite or generally inserted to refer to specific people present) it may or may not have a derogatory meaning attached.  But what my opinion is overall on the issue: it just doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of words out there in the World that people of one race or origin use to describe other people who either don’t look alike or are from somewhere entirely different.  And though I know that even today many of those hateful words are still used to inflict pain or rile up others, to me, allowing a word to change my attitude or way of thinking or feeling is just ridiculous.

I’ve been called a falang countless times while here.  And while sometimes I could say that the way in which they said the word was rude or hateful and meant to be an insult, why bother letting it bother me?  To give a negative reaction back to someone who may be trying to be hateful is to allow them to win.  For me to be upset at being called a falang means that I’ve given my power over to another.  I’ve allowed them to change my behavior for the negative.

This is why personally, I find no offense in the word or being called a falang.  Falang simply means foreigner in my book, no matter the tone in which it’s spoken.  Because let’s face it, that’s what I am!  There’s no debating that.  I can’t tell you the number of times traveling with others that I’ve had a discussion on ‘falang’ and what it means.  And it’s even more surprising to me how many find it insulting.  Again, perhaps once upon a time it had a bad meaning attached to it, but today I don’t see why people are still carrying around the idea that it does.

We are all products of our reactions.  If we allow our reactions to be negative or hateful, that’s what we will continue to be and to spread.  If we choose not to let words or allow ourselves to feel other people’s negativity, yet simply move forward in a positive light, then light and positivity will be all that’s spread.  Simple choice to me.

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Songkran 2015

When we first arrived in Prachuap, we had only paid for 2 nights because the owner said that for the 13th (what would have been our 3rd night) all the rooms were booked.  You see, Songkran, the Thai New Year (also known as the Water Festival) was just around the corner so many Thai’s were traveling to their favorite vacation spots to celebrate the occasion.  So while for the first day here was simply spent lounging on the beach, the second was dedicated to trying to find somewhere else to be for the night of the 13th.  As we wandered the main road trying to find accommodations for the 13th (and were constantly told ‘no space’) we kept thinking more and more outside of the box with suggestions like “well, if it’s only for that one night that there’s no availability at the Ban Thai Hut, then we can just ask if we can store our bags there and sleep on the beach!  No worries!”.

As fate would have it however there WAS space at our hut, it was just that the price was going to be increased for the nights of the 13th and 14th.  Of course for Holidays they would up the price…  Even though the price hike was annoying, it was really a God-send that we didn’t have to go anywhere because on the morning of the 13th (when we would have had to pack up and move locations) we woke up to an absolutely HUGE thunderstorm that rocked on with lightning and thunder for most of the day.  We kept laughing at the prospect that we had thought to sleep on the beach… Lol!

April 14th was the official day to celebrate the Thai New Year.  However in most places, especially larger cities such as Chaing Mai and Bangkok, they choose to celebrate for an entire week.  Songkran, as mentioned above is also known as the water festival, and is aptly named because for the duration of the celebration days of Songkran people go crazy with water fights!  Buckets of water are thrown on passersby, cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists, basically anything with a pulse (though they don’t target the dogs thankfully!! :)).  If you aren’t hit by a bucket of water, you will be hit by a hose, or a water gun, or by a truck driving by with people in the bed of the truck chucking out water all around.  It’s absolute water mayham!!  I loved it!!!!

There are a couple of confusions surrounding the Holiday however…  Well, the first isn’t a confusion as much as a concern really.  But apparently the number of motorcyclist deaths DOUBLE each year during Songkran because of crashes related to people chucking water on them while they drive!!  I did see a news report from Bangkok this year however saying the death toll was down more than 20% from last year, so that’s good…

Getting into the actual confusion bit about the Holiday; Songkran is the Thai New Year.  Yet on January 1st, their year turns over.  They went from the year 2557 to 2558 on January 1st.  So………..  The question remains in what way is Songkran the Thai New Year?  I have yet to have this explained to me nor to find anyone who actually knows the answer to this (and I refuse to Google it just yet as I’m curious to actually find someone who knows).  What I have heard from some is that Songkran is more of a “last chance” for water “festival” meaning that mid-April marks the beginning of their dry season where not so much rain can be expected for months until the monsoon season hits…  Still confusing is that they also celebrate the Chinese New Year… So essentially it seems in Thailand that they celebrate the Western New Year (January 1st) when their physical calendar year also changes, they celebrate the Chinese New Year, AND Songkran which is their “actual” New Year and/or perhaps just a water celebration before the dry season…  Anyone else confused?

Moving along, the actual day of Songkran (April 14th) was overcast but not rainy and in this sleepy little town of Prachuap, it was rather low-key.  About a 5 minute walk from our place were 5 kids set up on the side of the road equipped with a hose, large buckets, smaller buckets (for use to chuck water) and several water guns.  When there wasn’t any traffic to pummel with water they simply turned on each other or scooped up small buckets of water to pour on themselves, lol!!  It was great fun watching them and all the smiles on the faces of those going by who were hit with water.  And it was even more fun watching the random truck pull up and start a water fight from the bed with the kids on the street.

We watched this activity for several hours drinking beers and chatting in between.  At one point I went back to the hut for my camera and saw some guys painting each other up with some festive paint (a new part of the Songkran tradition apparently) and after asking if I could take their picture, they proceeded to give me the blessing of slathering some paint on me too 🙂

Back at the bar where we were drinking, we met a couple for the UK who had been living in Prachuap for a while, and they invited us to “the wall” for some more drinks.  The Wall is literally the sea wall along the main road of Prachuap on the South side of the pier that splits the bay.  We had yet to go to that side, so took the opportunity (in our already quite intoxicated states as we had missed eating breakfast and lunch) to go.  We hoped in the bed of the truck and headed over to the wall.  I was furiously trying to take pictures along the way and totally neglected to think about the prospect that while the Songkran celebration was quite docile along our little local strip of the bay, it would potentially not be the same on the other side of the pier where it was known to be more touristy.

Just as we pulled up in the heart of the area we had to stop in the road because of traffic.  It was then that I realized how much celebration was going on and tried to as quickly as possible to put my camera away when I was hit from head to toe with a bucket of ice-cold water!!  Yup, they don’t care what you have on you, what you are wearing, what precious things you have that you may not want to get wet; if you are out and about, no matter your state, you will be soaked!!  They even have special bags they sell for phones and tablets so you can take pictures but keep them dry, lol!!  I was soaked and my camera also got hit through, but in the spirit of it all (I was warned it could happen) all I could do was laugh and enjoy the great cheer!  But needless to say the picture-taking came to an abrupt end!!

We got some more drinks and I purchased a roll of toilet paper to dry my camera with and simply sat on the wall chatting for hours!  The conversations lasted long after the sun went down until we were past the point of being in any way sober and were then in desperate need of food!  We parted ways with our “wall” friends and headed to find food and pass out accordingly.  Good times!  Another Happy New Year it was! 🙂

On to Wat A Cave!

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A Real Gem

I’ve debated several times whether to actually give away the location of this next place we traveled to (are still are after a week, with no plans to jump up and leave just yet)…  I honestly can’t believe it hasn’t been discovered more!  While there are a handful of Europeans living here, foreigners are a very uncommon sight.  Thai tourists and locals (of course) are the ruling majority.  It’s just my kind of place to really feel like a part of the culture and life!

We bought tickets for the mini-bus to this gem of a place from Hua Hin, and though were told it would only be an hour wait for the bus to arrive, it turned into almost 2 before we even got on.  And when we did get on, the bus was so full that literally 2 of the passengers had people sitting on their laps, all the seats were taken AND 3 people had to stand (rather uncomfortably by the looks of it) in the aisle of the bus.  Essentially a bus equipped to seat 14 passengers had 19 PLUS our huge travel bags (which are about the size of a small human).  Luckily within the hour or so however people started exiting the bus, so space opened up a tiny bit to at least allow everyone to have their own seat.  I suspect that the bus was so crowded because of the upcoming Holiday of Songkran.

Once we arrived, we set off on motorbike taxis to a place called Ban Thai Hut, where we were told had cheap accommodations.  We settled on a tiny hut complete with a bed, bathroom, fan and TV (which we’ve yet to actually plug in or turn on) just a short walk across the street from the beach.  The place is absolutely darling, and while very rustic (there are some parts of the room we fear to put too much weight on just in case the floor falls through) it has been suiting our needs quite well.

Prachuap Khiri Khan is the name of this adorable town.  It consists of 3 semi-circular bays separated by jutting hills and islands.  Farthest to the North is the little Ao Noi bay then the Prachuap Khiri Khan bay and finally Ao Manao.  Each location offers so many outdoor things to do that it just boggles my mind when the locals say tourists only stay here for a couple of days because “there isn’t much to do”.  Seriously??  They have a Wat inside a cave in Ao Noi, beautiful beaches on all three bays, hikes to a Wat on the top of a hill in Prachuap, a hike to another tiny Wat at the top of another hill (Khao Lommuak) which gives the highest panoramic view of the entire area, plus snorkeling (I still have to check that out myself!) and within driving distance several day trips could be planned to surrounding National Parks!  There is so much to do around here that when you add in days to just relax and beach, you would need at least a week to get it all done leisurely!

But I digress…  This place really is darling though!  I would recommend it over and over but hope that even when it does get properly discovered, the integrity of the place as it currently is doesn’t get destroyed.  The weather is always delightful (though admittedly quite hot), the beaches are never overcrowded, the beach water is deliciously warm and refreshing and there is a ridiculous amount of fun sea life to play with (hermit crabs, clams, sand dollars, etc).  Seriously, what more could one ask for?

On to Songkran 2015

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Ode to Water

Refreshing and cool, clear and crisp,
Water should always be at the top of my list.

It’s just what the body hungers for first,
And for workouts or hot days, it’s the best to quench thirst.

It satisfies and nourishes in so many ways,
You’d think it’s what I’d reach for at the end of my days.

Alas, I must confess that instead what I do
Is reach for water turned into a brew.

It’s always the same: “Just one for today”
But as soon as it’s consumed I get carried away.

As the cans begin to stack and the fun buzz begins,
The memory of the hangover starts to sink in.

And though I am reluctant and try to not care
I know in my head I better prepare!

Guzzling some water at first is a chore
As the plain taste suddenly seems a bore.

But as the beer buzz is gently washed away
And sleep comes comfortably to bring a new day,

I think just how good that water did taste
And the miracles it worked in avoiding the next day being a waste!

Leaving Sangkhla

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Thankful

Normal life has set in.  I haven’t been doing anything special, haven’t been engaging in any new adventure or activity, haven’t gone off to some new exotic place…  No, regular life is in full swing.  I’m still volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand so the regular duties of feeding, caring for, and helping to heal injured shelter dogs takes up much of my time.  And by the time all is said and done with the dogs daily, while there is time to do something new, I’m just too tired to think about that “something new ” and instead always opt for a quiet night of sipping beer on the porch while watching Sangkhlaburi street life.

I haven’t written anything on my blog in a while because in my mind I haven’t done anything “interesting”.  I wonder what exactly to write about and whether people would even be interested in reading “normal life” posts.  One thing does always come to mind however, so instead of my usual adventure/travel stories or stories about my random drunken escapades, I will write about this: being thankful.

See, even though my life has settled into being “normal”, I realize on so many levels that it isn’t.  While there is a lot I still wish to accomplish and have in my life, I think daily on how thankful I am for the things I do have and have achieved and experienced.  It’s almost turned into a form of prayer for me.  Each day I try to take time out and think about all the things I’m thankful for.  The list always starts general, then randomly pops from narrows to specifics.  So here are the things I’m thankful for today.  Hope you enjoy and perhaps find inspiration to seek out and acknowledge all the things in your life that are worth giving thanks for.

Aside from the top 3, they are in no particular order.  Today I’m thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Good health
  • Being physically and mentally able to workout
  • Being in good company
  • Living in Thailand
  • Working with animals
  • Waterbelly (a sanctuary dog) NOT being run over by a car this morning
  • Emails from friends
  • Having traveled to several countries
  • The people I’ve met along the way in short bursts, yet who I’m still impacted by today
  • Having found apple cider vinegar here
  • The little girl next door who instead of holding a blank expression while looking over at us on the porch actually smiled and waved!
  • Learning a new Thai word from the market lady (“kai gai” is egg)
  • NOT seeing the neighbor behind us flash her body parts while walking along the road as she adjusts her clothing
  • Nambia’s for breakfast
  • Watching random firework displays light up the sky on the Mon side
  • Seeing the temple lit up at night
  • Having the relief of rainfall after a ridiculously hot and humid day, even though we aren’t supposed to get any rain (according to the forecast)
  • Watching the monks give morning blessings to people throughout the neighborhood
  • The support and patience of my family as I live a quarter to half way around the world from them
  • Knowing I’m loved by my family and friends
  • The hope to meet a man to love indefinitely along my travels
  • The dogs that survive the unthinkable
  • The dogs that move on to a better place, freeing themselves of the pain they were suffering here (of course it’s hard to lose them, and we always wonder whether there was anything else that we could have done for them, but I know ultimately they are in a better place)
  • NOT being woken throughout the night by either barking dogs or our neighbors insomniac tendencies
  • Hearing the dogs in a synchronized howl
  • My mosquito net!
  • Thursday and Saturday markets
  • Having a day off from the sanctuary
  • Learning something new everyday
  • Witnessing small kindnesses (a young brother was helping his younger sister take out several rubber bands from her hair and smoothed it out when done)
  • Watching the 9 chicks that live in our neighborhood grow up (and seeing all 9 daily)
  • The water delivery guy
  • Local community support for the sanctuary (Som Chai, Dr. May, Sai and Charlie)
  • Meeting new volunteers from around the world
  • Hearing of friends engagements
  • Hearing that friends struggling with health issues are doing better
  • My memories of times past
  • Being content with what I have and where I am
  • Feeling blessed in so many ways
  • The hope that I continue to be thankful and grateful for every little and big thing in my life
  • And lastly that I am able to continue to travel, explore, and give back to the life around me

On to Ode to Water

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Laughs from Around the World

One of my favorite parts about traveling is learning about the differences in culture and ways that people express themselves.  From the friendly “buenas” greetings you encounter daily in Central America to the bows and prayer position hello’s given and received in Thailand, every culture has ways of defining themselves that makes them beautiful and unique.

Perhaps my favorite difference, yet similarity, in expression however is the laugh… And not just the physical laugh but more specifically the written or ‘text’ laugh.

In the States, to express laughter in a text we use a variety such as LOL, LMAO, LMFAO or the most basic: hahahahahahaha!

It’s the last of those “text laughs” that you find variations for around the world, yet the sound is just the same.  For example, in Spanish text they write “jajajajajaja” for a laugh because the”J” makes an “H” sound, so the resulting sound is the same as “haha”.

Just recently I’ve learned another form of text laughter in Thailand: 5555555….  Now you may wonder as most do when first coming across that as to what in the world that means.  But once you know that the word, or rather the sound that the word makes, for the number 5 in Thailand is “ha”, then it all makes sense!  Repeated 5’s in text literally reads as “hahahahaha!!”

Just love it!  I’m curious how many other variations there are out there to express laughter in text form from different countries… If anyone knows of any more, I’d love to hear about it!

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The “Bum Gun”

Bathroom activities are certainly not at all among the list that many want to talk about, but I just have to talk about the “bum gun”…  That phrase was actually coined by one of the first volunteers I’d met while here, Megan from Ireland, who also was the one who taught and told me its real function!

When I first arrived in Bangkok and stayed at the hotel near the airport, I noticed that while they had a Western toilet complete with a roll of toilet paper, they also had a hose connected to a water pipe with a nozzle at the end of it that when pressed would squirt out water.  I thought it was a rather clever way to clean the toilet and flush out the areas under the rim when scrubbing the bowl out.  I had seen this arrangement in every other hostel/hotel bathroom I had been in and continued to think how clever it was…

Then I arrived in Sangkhlaburi… And while J’s Family Homestay, where I stayed for the first couple of weeks, had a bathroom with a Western toilet with the spray nozzle attached, they didn’t have any toilet paper in the bathroom nor a bin stored in there to be able to throw away toilet paper that was brought in… Hmmmm…..  That made me wonder a bit and was quite annoying really to have to bring in my own bag for used toilet paper.

A few days after being in Sangkhlaburi while drinking at Baan Job with Megan, Nyzil and Omar (a volunteer from Spain), Megan and I went to the bathroom together (as girls always do) and she made a mention how she really quite enjoys the bum gun as it made her feel so much cleaner!  “I’m sorry, what??  The bum gun??”.  “Yea that hose attached to the toilet”… Now I was really confused.  So… That isn’t to clean the toilet but rather for… cleaning… instead of… toilet paper???

Yup.  Indeed the “bum gun” is used in place of toilet paper.  Several seconds of squirting water in the areas required is all it takes to get you feeling fresh and clean!  Of course you had to wait a few seconds to dry a bit after using it, but it seriously does make you feel so much cleaner!  Suddenly it made perfect sense as to why several places had no toilet paper but always had the hose and squirt nozzle!  A word of advice that Megan also shared with me however was to always test the pressure of the nozzle before pointing it to yourself as it can sometimes be a bit strong.

So there it is.  My knowledge of the bum gun.  Use at your will:)  Oh and I have thought to take a picture to show you all what exactly it looks like, but really don’t want to be caught walking into a bathroom with a camera… I can only imagine what people would think in seeing me do that, lol!  Funnily enough the bathroom at the volunteer house doesn’t have a bum gun… Otherwise I wouldn’t mind sneaking in there for a shot of one.  We have an Eastern toilet and utilize Western methods of cleaning since there isn’t a gun there.   Honestly I do wish it had the nozzle as it really does make you feel cleaner than toilet paper!

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