ASEAN ‘pop up parties’, Outdoor Swimming Pools and Motorcycle Rides… Another Day in Sukothai

This morning the house woke to some commotion outside. There were lots of cars, trucks, and motorcycles by the edges of the football pitch in the school grounds of college. An exploratory adventure was required, so off we went.

The experience of walking into what is usually the canteen was transformed by the presence of multitudes of women dressed in matching shirts, or matching traditional outfits, or other kinds of matching shirts. Men were few and far between and it was clear that the ‘event’ was for and organised by women. From what I gathered this ‘pop up party’ was put together to celebrate ASEAN and to encourage women to get involved in its progression (or something along those lines). It seemed to be a very big deal: there was a section with big boards of information about all of the ASEAN countries with maps and photographs, information about money, climate, politics etc… and a man who seemed to be the official photographer spied out the farang (not too difficult to spot, what with being reasonably tall, and reasonably pasty), proceeding to take pictures of us at EVERY SINGLE board we stopped at. Somehow I doubt that we will get to see the results, maybe that’s for the best though. In Thailand matching outfits seem to be all the rage at big events like this. For example, at my school when we were celebrating mothers’ day, all of the teachers/ members of staff were given matching, fairly fitted, shiny, bright blue blazers made out of the same material but slightly different shapes for men and women.

After a quick iced tea (which is orange with lots of condensed milk- I’ll have to try making some when I get back to the UK) we were picked up from the school gates by Mr. Chan- another English teacher from Sukothai Technical College. As soon as we arrived his wife (and her mature English students) served a delicious, and impossibly enormous, lunch. Almost immediately following on from this, breaking the convention of having a break after eating to let the food ‘sink in’ we piled into the back of the pick up truck to go to the local outdoor swimming pool with Khing- a VERY excited (and reasonably chubby) 10 year old. When I saw the pool I instantly became aware that the pool at my school in miniscule. To do a lap in our circular pool it only takes two strokes of the front crawl. This pool was different though and the space felt even bigger because there were less than 40 of us inside. It was entertainingly like a high school swimming pool due to the ages of the ‘customers’, and their repetitive races and games and ENERGY!

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Quick nap in the back of the pick-up. Swimming is more tiring than I remember.

I get the feeling that many Thai people have different notions of near and far than people who live in the UK. Walking 10 minutes can be considered ‘far’, I guess near would be about 2 minutes. Khing led us to a bar around the corner where we met his father (Mr. Chan). Khing proceeded to eat a whole plate of tempura-fried shrimp as I nibbled on some (deliciously refreshing) cucumber before we headed back to the Chan residence for yet more feeding. This time, for a change, we ordered western food- pizza. Which, to our surprised, was considered to be only a started and so we were given noodles, vegetables, fruit, the full works!

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Khing.

The last time I visited the Chan’s I ‘made a little child cry’ purely by being present. This little ‘faux pas’ has earned me the reputation of being a ‘demon’, in contrast to the ‘angels’ that surround me. Today I was able to somewhat shake off the name, but not entirely. Khing, Nick and I went round to a neighbour’s house to see her and her son (the boy who I supposedly made cry). Although he did avoid eye contact with all of us he did not immediately cry on my arrival; I was doing well. However, after a couple of minutes and an incident, which involved mounting a toy tractor and hitting his head very hard off the tiled floor, the crying began again. Almost being run over by a jeep also featured in this little story, after attempting to play the titanic on a little xylophone we went back to the Chan’s house to sit together and listen to music.

For the first time in my life I tried riding a gearless motorcycle. There were 4 standing unused, three of them complete with a set of keys in the ignition. The Chan’s live right by a golf zone (putting green?!?) and just beyond that lie rice paddies and mountains. Idyllic would describe the area well, on the motorcycle I was able to zoom down the dirt track in time to catch the sun melting like golden honey behind the clouds, the porous mountains absorbing the light. What a luck demon devil.

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