Sleeping in until 8am has become a luxury. Due to the loud noises at school that begin at 6am even if I wanted to have a lie in, or ‘lion’ as I used to say, it is just not possible. In the rainforest there were no speakers and to my joy I slept past 8am, just, and went for a solitary walk through the trees down to the river and sat for a while just listening to nature sounds and watching it pass by, this water that has travelled so far already, and has so far left to go. I took a couple of pictures on my camera and got frustrated with the quality so kindly Caron let me borrow hers for a little while before breakfast.
The turn out was quite impressive, almost everyone came to eat breakfast at the ‘Matthews’ tables (the booking was under his name). It was an ‘American Breakfast’, which for the meat eaters consisted of small Thai sausages, a fried egg, a bit of salad and some toast. I concentrated on stocking up on toast, which meant battling with the toast machine. I think the bread was quite reserved so it had to go through twice before reaching ‘maturity’. There were three bowls next to the toast; butter, jam and something white that I was convinced was condensed milk. It was salad dressing. So when I bit into my toast expecting it to be sweet I was a little surprised. There was Heinz tomato ketchup on the table with Thai characters on the bottle. Anyway, that’s enough of breakfast, for sure.
The resort is renowned for being environmentally friendly and sustainable. In fitting with this one of the owners runs a farm down the road and invited us all to come along. We happily accepted and as we ventured down the dual carriageway we experienced a fair bit of hooting from cars passing by. Ken, who is the owner and speaks good English, took us through the farm in stages. We saw the fruit and vegetable plots, the chickens, the pigs and various pieces of equipment that use natural resources to create useful products like biogas, fertiliser and a kind of petrol but to name a few. There was one section laced with hammocks where we took a break from the heat. Some of the other ETAs fed the pigs while some children were mucking them out (if that term can be applied). The children come from local educational institutions and agricultural families and agree to work for pay at the weekend to help them afford materials that they need for school.
The ‘wall of happiness’, I think it is called, has been created and is displayed near the entrance of the resort. Visitors are invited to write on a nicely shaped bit of card what happiness means to them. Most of them were in Thai and dated according to the Buddhist calendar, so some of the others (the girls, I might add) contributed. I particularly appreciated the one that said, “Happiness is being half way around the world and still feeling at home. ” It reminded me a little bit of looking through Project Trust literature.
After one last look at the river and a brief, relaxing sit down at one of the huts we had to pack up and leave. Somehow all fourteen of us managed to fit into two vehicles, it was a squeeze, but the journey up to the village was not very far. On the way our bus passed us going in the opposite direction meaning we had to wait outside a little corner shop by some mango trees for about an hour. Somebody had left their iPod at the resort (there is a recurring theme here), and one of the members of staff drove back specially to return it, how kind. The company made the time fly by both waiting for the bus and during the journey. The trip was beautiful, and very tropical. The back door of the bus was tied open. I was sitting right next to it and the warm air swirling around me made me sleepy, but I couldn’t resist taking in all of the views of green pastures, rugged, dark green mountains and little wooden huts raised out of deep mud and water where people live. Earlier on I saw a ‘tourist map’ that had Tesco marked on it. This made me laugh but when I saw it, and when I heard that it is the biggest Tesco outlet in the whole of South East Asia I was more forgiving.
A number of the gang left at Phitsanulok, taking other buses to transport them to other areas (some of them as much as 5.5 hours away). Ten of us remained and after a ridiculous negotiation we crammed ourselves into a Tuk Tuk. The woman had tried to charge us each 120 Baht (£2.50) meaning the journey would cost £25 in total rather than £2 in total, which is what we paid. The standard price is 10 Baht each and we were not going to be ripped off, keep in mind we have local salaries. We nipped briefly to Helen’s and then back out to the market, which for the first time I saw was closed. The meat eaters found a stall and acquired some rather tasty fried goods and noodles. Frances (a fellow vegetarian) and I pottered off to try and find an alternative. I fell upon some bananas and bent down to pull four off the bunch. Frances warned me not to, but I didn’t heed this. As soon as I laid my fingers on them the woman ‘manning’ the stall screamed quite loudly at me and hit my hands away, brandishing a sharp knife. I obeyed and moved back. Then she cut four off for me, I paid and left, and realised that some of them were still too green to eat. Frances got coconut water, which, by the sounds of what she and Polly said, is quite filling, very refreshing and delicious (but also nothing like coconut milk).
By this point it was about 3pm and most people were flagging, with the exception of Will, who seems to be endlessly jolly and sociable. It was very hot and it felt like we had lost our sense of direction. Two of the others- Maddy and Will- were heading back to the bus station (which is too far to walk) so we got a Tuk Tuk together and no bargaining was required. My bus was supposed to leave at 4.30pm, so I was glad I was early because it actually left at 16:00. It was the same bus conductor as I had before, we gave each other a familiar look and I sat down at the back. Somehow I had to slip my tights on without anyone noticing because I had the feeling I would be judged when I got back to school. The change was relatively successful, barring the point when I saw the bus driver looking at me in the mirror all the way from the front of the bus.
The route to Wang Sai Phun is pretty picturesque and the smell of the white flowers with the yellow middles (I should really know their names by now) was exquisite. As my bike had been removed from the bus station I had to walk from the 7 Eleven to the school for the first time… ever. I have always cycled or been given a lift in a motorbike or a car. It took 10 minutes and I must say I prefer cycling, as it is a good way of avoiding embarrassing or intense eye contact. When I arrived home the bike I have been using for the past few weeks was gone without explanation. This was an upsetting discovery as it is my main means of getting around and more importantly getting away from the school grounds. However lovely it is to live here I do depend on being able to get away and drift through the countryside immersed in its beauty, and my own thoughts (or a good book). I realised that my main sources of pleasure: reading and cycling were no longer possible as I have ran out of novels and no longer have a bike.
French toast (or eggy bread, depending on what you call it) has made up a large proportion of my dinners for the last week. It is delicious, cheap, easy to make and full of protein (relatively). Just writing about it is making me want to have some more… now! I also had some mango, which I am becoming a master at cutting, because a while back the director donated about 20 mangos to the Philipino girls and I for our own consumption. Hence why breakfast often consists of rice and chopped mango.
In some ways I was glad to be back to living somewhere where there is exciting wildlife inside as well as out, the mosquitoes were not so welcome though after two nights of living without them. I was so tired that I fell asleep after listening to two songs, a record!