Professional in Pink, Motorcycles and Running Water: Day 4 at Sukothai Technical College.

If you have ever tried riding a motorcycle wearing a skirt with very little give you will know that it results in well…indecency. For this reason, Mrs. Chan (who I now know… after weeks…as Tanawan) lent me a pair of ¾ lycras and even a ¾ length dress to cover my poor derriere for modesty’s sake again, though it was appropriately adorned with patterns of chaba (hibiscus) flowers. What a palaver.

Professional in PInk. Teacher Chaba, Mr. Chan and Teacher Falong (Mr. Nick)

Professional in PInk.
Teacher Chaba, Mr. Chan and Teacher Falong (Mr. Nick)

This morning was spent in the staffroom of Sukothai Technical College eating, being amused by the matching work uniforms of all of the staff (bright pink, floral shirts- one of the maths teachers was kind enough to lend me one so I didn’t stand out too much), practicing Thai, letter writing and of course munching leftovers. Notice: no teaching. Most of the English teachers have disappeared off the face of the planet… well, at least Sukothai… today. Dr. Suwat is at a meeting in Phitsanulok, Mr. Chan is in Chiang Mai, and Lek is busy with family things the list continues.

Getting started...

Getting started…

At around 1pm we were whisked off to the Chan residence with Mr. Chan, who doesn’t smile in photos in order that he doesn’t look too handsome. He has lent Nick (who has a full and valid driving license) a motorcycle… freedom. This means not having to rely on lifts to go anywhere/ everywhere and being able to explore much more independently. First stop was the post office where I encountered a member of staff who seemed much more interested in the film that was playing behind me than weighing my letters to send off the UK. In fact, when I requested stamps (as opposed to a specially generated exact weight sticker) he looked genuinely appalled.

The Temple beside Sukothai Historical Park.

The Temple beside Sukothai Historical Park.

Next stop was… yet again Sukothai Historical Park (at least the 4th time now), but we didn’t actually go into the park. There is a temple nearby the entrance, which is surrounded by a lake. The locals looked on amused as we sat in direct, scorching sunlight with our freshly sliced, juicy, watermelon. I really appreciate living in the tropics, if only briefly, for the dramatic skies, palm trees and amazing nature. Today was no exception; the catfish in the lake were hungry, but not tricked up to the surface by small stones and the beautiful sky reflected the surroundings above them like a sheet. On the island is one large temple, a couple of smaller ones, a small shrine containing Buddha’s footprint (which is rather large) and a mid sized open sided building made out of wood, bamboo and thatched leaves, which offered some protection from the hot, mid afternoon sun.

The View from the Sheltered Hut.

The View from the Sheltered Hut.

Closed!

Closed!

Going to the public pool in Sukothai near the bus station has become a bit of an afternoon fix. Many of the houses surrounding the college have had no running water for almost 2 weeks, so a dip in a refreshingly cool pool and a shower afterwards are welcomed with open arms. On arrival we were met by a large ‘closed’ sign, which enticed us into speak to the owner who said it wouldn’t be open again until tomorrow morning because it was being cleaned. The water was still and lovely, tempting, but it was not the time unfortunately. Ice tea, however, provided a distraction. Though the ice tea place that we had initially been planning to go to was closed it led us into the jaws, rather the entrance of Sukothai Buddha Park which is situated right beside the river. It is very impressive with lots of beautiful flowers, a couple of small temples and an enormous, rather unusual one which provides shelter for a number of large, golden statues of Buddha in various positions; sitting, standing, lying and (being Sukothai) walking.

Sukothai Buddha Park

Sukothai Buddha Park

A small ice tea joint provided us with a refreshing drink, a little wooden bench that became a prime spot to watch the world go by. Pick up trucks filled with novices in their orange gowns, songtaos (minibuses with no windows) ferrying large numbers of children back from a long day at school, a large farang man on a Harley Davidson who looked rather out of place, children walking by holding the finger of an older relative, cars with blacked out windows concealing mysteries within. As the blanket of night slowly descended we headed home.

Tropical Nature.

Tropical Nature.

“Do you hear that?” punctuated by whoops from downstairs indicated a dramatic change of some sort. I listened intently and heard the faint trickle of running water. The possibilities. Showers, washing dishes… cooking, all sorts. This was to be the first meal I had cooked all week; partly because of the generosity of the other teachers but also because cooking with dirty pots and pans (and no water) can prove to be rather un-delightful. Even spreading butter with a knife that hasn’t been touched in a while can result in an ant filled piece of bread. After a quick jaunt on the motorcycle to Big C (a nearby supermarket) dinner preparations were well underway. Fresh egg noodles with pumpkin, broccoli, carrot, peanuts and onions as well as black pepper and soy sauce seasoning. It was rather satisfying to have a home cooked meal, in truth I rather enjoy the taste of my own cooking, there is some comfort in knowing that I have chosen everything that goes into it. Aroy Mak Mak (very tasty indeed).

The End Result... Amazing.

The End Result… Amazing.

Chiang Mai, take two (and an unexpected trip back to stormy Sukothai)

6am is the new 8am.I regularly wake up at this time; no alarm required. In fact, when the alarm goes off an hour and a half after I have woken up, I feel pleased and productive.

While the others slept I finished my book whilst sitting on a step next to a cat facing the car park. In the morning it is not too hot, it is best to make the most of this time. Chiang Mai is pretty far away from where I live in Thailand: 475km in fact. I knew that I had to plan my transport precisely so with a little help from an Internet café around the corner I found out train and bus times. I was surprised that at 7am on a Tuesday morning the Internet café was full of children (about 10-14 year olds) playing video games.

After feeding the others croissants for a quick and easy breakfast we went on a fairly epic walk to the riverside. En route we passed by an incredible bookshop called ‘Gecko Books’ which sells thousands of used books in European languages, including a fair few classics. I managed to pick up ‘The English Patient’ by Michael Ondaatje and also ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf for about £3 in total: not bad really.

For lunch, after being pointed in various (and opposite) directions by different Thai people we found ourselves at an open fronted vegetarian restaurant. Here, rather than every person having their own dish, a selection of different dishes are ordered and people just share and get a taste of everything. We got a vegetable soup, some noodles, pumpkin curry and rice. I particularly enjoyed the pumpkin and have seen it in the market before so will have to cook some for my housemates; a Mauritian specialty.

Lunch at the little vegetarian place.

Lunch at the little vegetarian place.

We got to the bus station about an hour before the bus was set to leave. I thought that this was pretty good form. ‘Full’, ‘Full’, ‘Full’; all of the buses to Sak Lek (which is about 6km from where I live) were packed for the rest of the day because it was a public holiday. Because of this I decided to get the bus back to Sukothai with the others and to get another bus from there to Phitsanulok. It was the only option as the trains wouldn’t arrive into Phichit (30 km from mine) until after midnight, and at this time I couldn’t expect for anyone to come and pick me up… or bear the thought of walking for 6 hours in my own on the dark.

En route to Sukothai I got a phone call from Frenelly, who I live with, asking how I would get home. Without going into too much detail the conversation revealed to me that it was impossible to get home that night; totally impossible. So, the only option was to miss half a day of work travelling back to Wang Sai Phun.

I read ‘The English Patient’ the whole way to Sukothai. As soon as the bus turned round the bend to Sukothai Historical Park we heard the thunder clatter and saw the darkness and the rain, fall like a blanket over the city. Occasionally the sky was lit purple by thunder and it is at times like these when I can see the rainy season is upon us. When we left the bus station, the three of us piling again onto Lek’s motorcycle, the rain wasn’t falling but the sky was sweating and ready to open up.

Stopping by 7 Eleven was perhaps not the best idea considering the weather, but we were hungry and did so anyway. It was here that I discovered Lek is terrified of frogs, there were many enjoying the rain, and I felt childishly amused by her fear (sorry!). The rain fell fast and heavy, unceasing. We waited for over an hour for it to die down a little, but when we left we still got totally drenched. My skin was cold and I felt it through to the bone. I think this may have taught me to carry an umbrella, but I still don’t have one. I saw that one of the neighbours had rigged an umbrella to their bike: see the photo.

Until next time! Image