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.

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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