06.10.2012 - 10.11.2012
SATURDAY 6th OCTOBER
My stay Udon Thani was pleasant enough and apart from the day I arrived it didn’t rain at all. I was able to fully explore Central Plaza, the new shopping mall, which was very interesting.
Before leaving Sai Moon Ajarn Tippakorn, the Thai English teacher, had asked me to help her purchase an air ticket from Bangkok to Udon. This was because she does not have a credit card and cannot make a booking online and as there are no travel agents anywhere near Sai Moon I agreed to help but it involved at lot to to-ing and fro-ing to get prices and it took up a lot of time. Naturally, she wanted the cheapest ticket but she insisted on flying from Suvarnabhumi airport which restricted the choice of airlines to Thai Airways. I could not use a credit card to pay for her flight as she would have had to show the same card at check-in. The only other option was to pay using an ATM.
Although it was a Sunday, unlike the UK, all banks had branches open in Central Plaza and I went to one of them to pay for the flight. ATM machines here have a Thai or English language options but, even so, I was unable to figure out which sub-option to use to pay for the flight so I asked one of the cashiers for help. She very kindly came to the ATM machine and tried to find it but it took repeated guesses pressing different buttons to find the right one. To illustrate the open nature of Thai banks I took a photo for you.
MONDAY 8th OCTOBER
I flew Nok Air to Chiang Mai where I spent the next ten days. As before, I hired a Scoopyi motorbike and zipped around the city and had a very pleasant time but there was a near disaster.
Not a motorbike crash but a computer disaster. My laptop was taking a very long time to boot up and close down and in between it was slow too. So I decided to take it to one of the many shops in the huge IT Centre to see if they could help. After a discussion it became clear that the best option was to reinstall the operating system. I agreed and they said they would save everything for me and that it would take a day.
Next day, I went to the shop to collect my laptop but I quickly discovered that all my photos had disappeared, some 5,000 of them! I tried to stay calm because I knew that to get annoyed would be counter-productive. I tried to convince the staff that my photos must still be on my hard drive and that they could be recovered. I had read newspaper reports and had seen TV news items about how the police could do this and reasoned that these experts could do the same. Somewhat reluctantly they then ran a program to recover the data from the part of my hard drive which had been over-written by the new operating system installation.
It took five days to run the recovery program day and night but I was eventually able to collect my laptop the day before I left Chiang Mai and everything was OK. Well, sort of. The photos have been recovered but most of the date taken info for each photo has been lost along with any captions. Even worse, the recovered photos are not in albums as they were but in one huge file and all missed up together so it will be a huge task and take a long time to sort them out again.
Whilst in Chiang Mai I went to the Saturday evening Walking Street Market. You might recall that on previous trips to Chiang Mai I visited the Sunday Walking Street Market and posted a lot of photos in my gallery. The two markets are not the same and have very different characters and different types of items for sale in all the stalls. I had never been to the Saturday market before so it was very interesting. I took some photos for you to enjoy as well.
As I was walking along with all the other people I came across two boys performing a Gangnam Style dance in the middle of the street. They were having so much fun and they had such big smiles that I just had to take their photo. Take a look in my gallery and you will feel the fun they were having too.
By the way, I hope you are au fait with Gangnam Style...yes or no ????
SUNDAY 18th OCTOBER
I flew from Chiang Mai to Bangkok where I got a cab to take me to Pattaya for the last leg of my holiday. I would never rent a motorbike in Pattaya as there are just too many other crazy people riding them as well as much other traffic. In many ways, Pattaya is not a nice place at all but the upside is that it is close to Jomtien beach which is nice though not one of the best beaches in Thailand.
You might recall that in October last year I was unable to book a room at the guesthouse I usually stay at and was given the use of a condo instead with breakfast included at the guesthouse. The same thing happened this visit and I was happy with the extra space the condo had. On the first morning I went over to the guesthouse for breakfast and found that they had a new member of staff who I had met a year ago in Chiang Mai and we got chatting. He told me he was looking for a room to stay in and that he preferred working at night rather than during the day as now. I gave him some suggestions the next day but unknown to either of us the guesthouse owner was in his office adjoin the breakfast room listening in. Rather than joining the conversation he remained silent and hidden.
Around midday, I was in the condo when there was a knock on the door. I opened it and the guesthouse owner was there. He gave me a sheet of paper saying that I had twenty four hours to vacate the condo. He had overheard my conversation with his staff member, he said, and was upset about it. He then left. I was speechless and felt really annoyed and felt he should be talking to his member of staff about any problems and not me. However, it seemed I had no choice but to find somewhere else to stay.
Luckily, there was another guesthouse not far away which I had stayed in about three years ago. I walked over there and found they had a room free and I got a motorcycle taxi to help ferry my bags to the new place. In the end, everything was fine as far as a room was concerned.
In addition to being evicted I also had a double dose of the runs. Immediately after breakfast at the guesthouse on my first and second day I had to race to the toilet. I took Imodium as instructed but, for the first time, this didn’t work. So for the first two days in Pattaya I felt I had to stay close to the condo and to the toilet!
I am afraid that the guesthouse owner didn’t take into consideration the consequences of his action. He knew I had written a good review of his guesthouse on tripadvisor.com after my previous stays there but my review this time was very negative and I will never stay there again.
SUNDAY 28th OCTOBER
I got a taxi to Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok where I got a flight to Khon Kaen. Jasper had agreed to meet me in his car but, as always with his car, there was a problem which had to be fixed at a garage and I had to wait more than an hour after arriving for him.
When we arrived at the teacher’s house I found that Mr Yor had put a padlock on the kitchen door and had not left a key with anyone so I had no access to the kettle of the fridge which was really annoying. He keeps doing this sort of thing as he thinks for some reason that the house is his and he needn’t think about anyone else.
MONDAY 29th OCTOBER
A few teachers had come to school early to do some admin including Mr Weang and I went with him this evening to play snooker at Kranuan. Today was the start of Khao Pansa, the beginning of the Buddhist Lent, which is an excuse for fireworks and bangers. Most of the locally bought fireworks, probably made in China like so much else here, either fizzle on the ground or produce an ear-splitting bang. A very few, perhaps the more expensive ones though I am not sure, actually rise in the air and produce a starry display.
What locals like to do is to throw a banger into the path of an unsuspecting motorbike rider and wait for a reaction. The key is to be wary and keep calm as this will go on for the next couple of days.
This evening there was a Mor Lam concert in Kham Yai which many locals and students attended. I passed by the site with Mr Weang on our way to Kranuan. There are a number of Mor Lam shows, both large and small, that travel around Isaan mostly but also visit places such as Pattaya and Bangkok where many people from Isaan go to earn money. The concert in Kham Yai was for one night only but the same show will also perform in other villages around the area on succeeding nights.
TUESDAY 30th OCTOBER
For some reason the internet connection via my Air Card was very slow today and many pages didn’t load first time which was also extremely annoying.
Thailand has just had an auction for a 3G network which is mired in controversy. The UK, by comparison, is currently rolling out its own 4G network. Neighbouring countries to Thailand have had 3G for more than a year, including Laos, which gives you some idea of the slow pace of development here.
WEDNESDAY 31st OCTOBER
All the teachers went off to Buakhao School today, almost three hours away by car, to take part in the welcoming ceremony for their new Deputy Director – Sai Moon’s former Deputy. We arrived about midday and the ceremony opened with lunch for us and all 200 or so Buakhao teachers – it is a large school with 3,000 students. One of the Buakhao teachers acted as MC and their school Director gave a speech welcoming everybody as well as their new Deputy who followed with a speech of her own thanking Sai Moon and large floral bouquets were presented to her. The whole thing including lunch lasted about one hour and then we (all the Sai Moon teachers) set off again for Somdet School – which is about one hour back towards Sai Moon – where there was a similar ceremony to say goodbye to their Deputy Director who is moving to Sai Moon.
I went out this evening to get something to eat with Jasper and we had a couple of beers as well. When we got back to the teacher’s house it was about 9.30 and the house was in darkness due to a powercut so I ended up going to bed early.
I don’t know the cause but it persisted all night.
THURSDAY 1st NOVEMBER
The school opened today but only about half the students turned up for assembly whether the others couldn’t be bothered, or forgot, or have decided to stop learning remains to be seen.
There were no classes today anyway. The students spent their time cleaning classrooms and doing other chores.
It is a new term and there’s a new timetable. Ajarn Tippakorn is going to teach Chinese and each class will have one lesson a week. She is also going to have the lion’s share of English classes which will leave me and Jasper with nine lessons per week each which is back to the number I had this time last year which left me with too much free time.
FRIDAY 2nd NOVEMBER
Once again, few students were at assembly and afterwards they were given cleaning tasks to do. Sai Moon’s own welcoming ceremony took place at midday with all the Sai Moon teachers present along with some from Somdet school. The ceremony followed the style of the others last week with lunch, speeches and floral presentations. This time, though, karaoke followed at which point I made my excuses and left. After I packed my bag Jasper took me in his car to Nam Phong where I caught a bus to Udon Thani from where I will go to Vientiane tomorrow to get a new visa stamp in my passport.
SATURDAY 3rd NOVEMBER
As usual, I stayed at the Silver Reef hotel in Udon and had breakfast this morning at the Corner Cafe around the corner from the hotel which is always very nice. I got a motorbike taxi to the rather out-of-the-way bus station for buses to Nong Khai and then a tuk tuk to the immigration office on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge.
I had a Thai friend with me who had never been to Lao before so we did a short tour around the city by minibus and I took some photos which are in my gallery for you.
It was a very hot day with a clear blue sky which would have been nice except for the sudden agonising pain I got in my stomach mid-morning the like of which I have never had before. When the pain came it lasted for a minute or two and then disappeared but returned at intervals thereafter.
I had a light lunch which was ok and we continued the tour as before. I decided the best thing to do would be to go to a pharmacy back in Udon and chat to the pharmacist since in Thailand they are qualified to dispense advice as well as medicines. Gaviscon was the answer. One liquid sachet (lemon flavour!) did the trick and I purchased a couple of spare sachets just in case of future pains.
SUNDAY 4th NOVEMBER
I did some shopping this morning and managed to find a cushion for my chair in the office back at school which is rock hard and painful to sit on for more than about 15 minutes at a time.
After lunch I got a bus to Nam Phong but, once again, the bus sailed past the stop I wanted to get off at, where Jasper was waiting in his car for me, and I had to call him to come to the next stop to pick me up.
The rice fields around Sai Moon are beginning to turn a nice golden colour and the sugar cane in the many fields is over six feet tall. Rice cutting has already started on some paddies and such workers get a mere 150 baht per day, about £3.
MONDAY 5th NOVEMBER
All the teachers got their new timetables at assembly this morning and as expected I have nine classes a week now but Wednesday and Thursday mornings are now completely free. I am disappointed but I also know that some other teacher/s have lost classes to make space for Ajarn Tippakorn’s Chinese classes.
The new Deputy Director introduced himself to all the students this morning and although I have only spoken to him once briefly he seems a nice person.
I had one class this morning with M2 and I had M6 after lunch. Most of the M6 students were either absent or late which, on the first day of term, was disheartening. I discovered that four of the female students had gone to Khon University this afternoon to take the entrance test though I suspect that they will find the English segment of the test difficult.
You might remember when Mr Kumin joined Sao Moon that I mentioned his heavy whisky drinking background. It turned out that he is a lot better than I had been led to believe. However, he seems to have relapsed into his old drinking ways during the holiday and he has been distinctly odd since I returned to school this time. He is now going into a rehab clinic tomorrow and his classes will be divided between the other teachers which may mean Jasper and I having 2-3 more classes added to our timetable.
TUESDAY 5th NOVEMBER
I imagine that the UK news outlets are having a feeding frenzy with the various abuse allegations as well as the U.S. Election tomorrow. Here, I am mercifully out of the loop though, of course, I can opt in if I want by looking online. I occasionally get the chance to look at one of the two English language newspapers here, the Bangkok Post and The Nation, but their international news coverage is minimal and their focus is mostly on the interminable squabbling between the Pheu Thai party of the government and the Democrats who lost power at the last election. Politicians here spend their time impeaching or filing suits against each other or against any policy they don’t like. Parliament is just a rubber stamp and it probably wouldn’t make much difference if it did not exist.
The US Election does get mentioned of course, as it must do on TV from time to time but as I don’t have a TV I am spared the onslaught. Most Thais and most people in SE Asia, according to a poll, favour Obama. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY 6th NOVEMBER
There was another power cut this morning though it didn’t last very long. It transpires that our electricity supply comes from Non Kung Sri, about 10km away, which I hadn’t realised before.
I spotted something by the checkout in Tesco Lotus today. It is a small square plastic dispenser containing small globular capsules mounted on a display card. The product name is Nude and is described as a ‘Breath and Belly Mint’ and costs just 5 baht (about 10 pence). I just wondered if you have to be naked to use them ? There’s a photo in my gallery. What do you think ?
Well, the Thais and those polled in SE Asia have got what they wished for with Obama securing another four years. I would have voted for him too had I had one to cast.
Many students were not in school today, especially those coming from Phimun and Ban Det villages, as they are making merit, Bun (pronounced like a short ‘boon’). It seems odd to me that this should take all day and they should miss a day at school, the third day of the new term. I would have thought Buddha would have preferred to give merit to students attending school not having a day off!
THURSDAY 7th NOVEMBER
Ajarn Tuk decided this morning that students should have an oral test every week because, she said, otherwise they will forget. So I suppose that next Friday we’ll have to conduct oral tests for the whole school immediately after assembly.
After school finished there was the first teacher’s meeting of this term which lasted an hour and a half and was better managed than any other recent teacher’s meeting. It has been realised that Mr Kumin needs much more than a quick fix rehab lasting a weekend or so. So the Director has decided to give him one more chance to change his ways and behave in school. If he fails, the Director will report him to the head of education at the Admin Office in Kalasin and he will be sacked.
The Director also stated at the meeting that he now expects all teachers to submit lesson plans and to submit an outline of the curriculum they are teaching. More paperwork! But I can’t see this system lasting more than a week or two.
It was also announced that teachers are to be assessed daily according to a set of about 17 criteria by the Director and Deputy. The criteria include things like being on time, dressing smartly, doing one’s duties (Thai teachers do more than just teach) etc etc.
The Director also told everyone that they must not play cards/gamble in school any more. As they only play when the Director has left school or is away, and as the new Deputy had already joined the other teachers playing cards for small money I can’t see this edict being adhered to at all.
The one thing that wasn’t discussed, of course, is what to do about the students who drift into class late, or don’t attend certain classes at all, or who go to the canteen after class and then drift into the next class very late.
FRIDAY 8th NOVEMBER
I discovered this morning that the apple thief had struck again. I had some apples in the fridge at the teacher’s house which I bought in Udon last weekend and when I opened the fridge this morning I saw the bag had been moved and that there was only one apple left whereas yesterday evening the bag was still almost hidden under another bag, which is where I had left it, with four apples inside. This is not the first time this has happened....so annoying!!
SATURDAY/SUNDAY 9/10th NOVEMBER
A quiet weekend at the teacher’s house with visits to Kranuan and Kham Yai plus the usual chores but with time to relax as well.
I saw on the internet on Sunday that PM Yingluck is to visit the UK this coming week and will meet the PM and have an audience with the Queen. So I have decided to change the theme for the vocabulary board for next week at assembly and create sentences to reflect this upcoming visit.