travel

What I miss most about Bangkok

Even though I am happy to be back home and even though I now have a deeper appreciation for Cape Town, there are things that I miss about living in Bangkok.

I miss the fruit, on every corner, everywhere and the fact that it is so cheap. The fruit there for some reason tastes so much better than the fruit here. Mangoes are sweeter and juicer.

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I miss the availability and options of public transport. A cab at 3 in the morning? No problem. The Skytrain runs until midnight and is always clean. Buses that costs only a few cents to get all the way to the other side of the city. Motorbike taxis that zip through traffic to get you somewhere quickly. The Chao Praya Express boat if you want to get around the city on water. Never  having to take tuk-tuks because they are such a tourist rip off and knowing how to get around using all the other options.

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The friendly people, more importantly, the friendly Muslim neighbourhood I lived in. Becoming regulars at the restaurants and with the street vendors and having them keep my favourite things aside for me.

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Malls!! They are simply amazing. Which is surprising because I despise malls and avoid them like the plague. From major fashion designers to quirky little boutique stores they have everything and the aircon is pure bliss.

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Free WiFi everywhere and I mean everywhere, even at temples. My YouTube addiction was activated in Thailand and now that I am back home the price of data bundles absolutely kill me.

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7 Eleven – perhaps a weird thing to add but 7 Elevens here are something else. They sell everything from make-up to painkillers, DVDs to pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs, stationery and quick meals for one. They also don’t have insane mark-up and are sometimes even cheaper than supermarkets.

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There are so many more little things that I miss that I cannot even think of now and of course there are many things that I do not miss. One thing that I do know is that I do not regret a second of it all and would love to go back one day.

 

 

 

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travel

5 reasons why every daughter should travel with her mother

1. Well there are the obvious bonding reasons. For me personally though I already have a good relationship with my mother but travelling with her strengthened it.

2. You get to see a side of your mother that you would not ordinarily see. You will get to know her better as a person and not merely a boo-boo fixer. She will be more relaxed as there are no distractions or major motherly duties for her to attend to.

3. That being said you still get a bit of home on the road. You are still her little girl and she needs to know that you’re okay, not hungry, not tired or thirsty.

4. On the flip side you get to level the playing field. We all have our strengths, mine is an excellent sense of direction and I am a super organised control freak. It’s great to be able to let her take the back seat and for you to look after her for a change.

5. You will have perfect opportunities to collect dirt on her which can be used for blackmailing purposes later when you’re back home. Those awful photos? They might ‘accidentally’ find themselves uploaded and tagged on Facebook. Just kidding, cos that would be too mean, right? Or would it?

 

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travel

There is no wrong way to travel, yes I am talking to you travel snobs

I read a lot of travel blogs and travel websites and I noticed an alarming trend. Long-term travelers telling others how to travel. There is no right or wrong way as long as you’re being respectful to the locals and their culture. Below are some typical things you will come across when reading these annoying articles:

Step off the beaten track: This might be your idea of a perfect vacation but what works for one person does not work for the other. Some even go as for as to discourage you from visiting the Eiffel Tower when in Paris and the Taj Mahal when in India. I’m not saying there is no merit in stepping off the beaten track but if you’ve only got 2 weeks in a country and you’re not sure if you would be returning then checking out the major sights would be pretty high on my list. I might not have to time or money to come back anytime soon. Who travels all the way to Rome and then does not bother to go see the Colosseum?

Don’t book holiday package deals: I personally don’t believe in booking holiday packages or cruises but only because I happen to love the planning and organizing, to me that forms part of the whole travel experience. That does not mean I can look down on others who don’t want to go through the hassle of finding deals and booking everything themselves. The whole point of vacations away is to relax and sight-see and truthfully some people just have busy lives and do not have the time and energy to do all this grunt work. Yes, maybe you end up paying a little bit more and maybe you do get taken to a few tourist traps but if you’re still having fun what does it matter?

Real travelers stay in cheap hostels with only one backpack: Again we don’t all want to share a 10 bed dorm with dirty, smelly strangers (okay not all of them are dirty and smelly) who stumble in at 3am and noisily have sex in the bunk above yours. Hostels are great for meeting people I won’t dispute that but not all of us have this constant need to be surrounded by loads of new people. If you’re not a party person it’s perfectly fine to find a boutique hostel and get your own room or heck even book yourself into a 5 star hotel cos you know what, it’s your holiday and you can do whatever you like. Hostels also tend to have what I call one-uppers. They will always try to outdo you and have a better story to tell. Saw the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy? Well they sneaked in at the dead of night and bungee jumped off it, try not to get into travel story swapping situation with this type of traveler. It’s exhausting and seriously, getting diarrhea is not something to be proud of. It’s not rite of passage.

I merely scratched the surface but I am not in the mood to go into a full-out rant. Just remember that others don’t know what’s best for you, only you do. So spend your well-earned break how you see fit.

 

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travel

Teaching at an International School in Thailand

The contrast between teaching at a Thai government school and an International school in Thailand is stark.  It’s like day and night, black and white, yes it’s that different from each other. After tiring of teaching English in rural Thailand I was craving for the bright city lights and decided to head to Bangkok. After weeks of job hunting I managed to get a job teaching English at the Everclever summer camp at Wells International School along Sukhumvit Road.

I ended up teaching two 1 hour lessons daily and then accompanying my class to Gym, Art, Performing arts and Readers Theater. I had 10 students in my class, only three of which were local Thais, the rest were from Japan, Russia and Taiwan. The great thing about teaching at an international school is that the entire curriculum is in English so my students could already speak English well. I was able to teach Grammar something not entirely possible at a Thai school, where I would usually only teach 8 new words per lesson.  Apart from being able to teach Grammar I also taught them many games which took up half of all the lessons. I dredged up a few long forgotten games that I used to play as a child.

I was also fortunate to be able to participate in all the additional activities on offer to the students. At no cost to myself I was lucky to attend movie nights, visit temples, go on canal cruises, a weekend away in Kanchanaburi where we went to the Tiger Temple and Erawan waterfalls.  We also went to Kidzania, Dusit Zoo, Science center, Bangkok parks, Siam Niramet cultural show and I enjoyed every minute of it. This and the fact that the other teachers were American and all over the world meant that I was not the only English-speaking teacher made my time at the school memorable. When I was asked to stay on for longer because they extended summer camp I jumped at the opportunity and was sad when it finally all came to an end.

With my return flight date confirmed I knew I was going to miss this school and my students very much. I was happy when they asked me when I would return to Bangkok as they would love to offer me a full-time teaching position. Will I go back? Definitely. When? Right now I don’t know but I like that I have options and this time I will be more prepared and do things differently.

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Humorous, Life, travel

How to piss off a South African

The Matador Network is website all about travel and they have a series of articles that they run called “how to piss of a/an [insert nationality]”. These articles are almost always sarcastic and make fun of how we stereotype people from other countries. I thought it would be fun if I added my 2 cents. So here is my version:

South Africans are generally a friendly bunch. We love big get-together’s, great food, sports and go out of our way to make visitors feel welcome in this beautiful country of ours. That’s not to say that you can’t get us riled up.

Africa is a continent, South Africa is a country

More accurately Africa is a gigantic continent and in comparison South Africa is a small country at the southern tip of Africa. No, I don’t know your friend from Kenya. How could I possibly? No, I’m not from Nigeria. Nigeria and South Africa are two completely different countries separated by thousands of kilometres and different cultures.

No, elephants and lions do not roam the streets freely. Seriously though, they just don’t.

Hard as this may be to believe but we do have paved roads and traffic lights and the only thing that may jump at your car would be young kids wanting to wash your windscreen at a red light for small change. Sure some parts of the country is rural but even here the only wildlife you might see wandering around is a horse or a cow. If you want to see lions or elephants please feel free to visit one of our many spectacular game reserves. We also have large cities with buildings, running water, western toilets, electricity and ATM machines.

South Africans are sport obsessed

If you want to turn a friend into an enemy all you have to do is say that the Australian cricket team is the better cricket team. We have a sports rivalry going back decades. This will not endear you to the locals as it is common knowledge that the South African cricket team fondly known as the Proteas are the best in the world. In fact not even Australia’s rugby team comes close to our mighty Springbokke the South African rugby team. You would do well to remember that anything Australia can do, we just do better.

Proud to be coloured

This is a weird one but yes, you read that right. Do not tell us that we are free and that we do need not call ourselves coloured. We know we are free. Perhaps the term coloured is not politically correct in the rest of the world but in South Africa it refers to a group of people of mixed heritage and we are proud of that heritage.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white

Not just a catchy Michael Jackson song but you need to know that not all South Africans are black some of us are actually white. Yes there are white people in South Africa. Born and bred for centuries and some of them can even speak Xhosa. You do need to bear in mind that there are many unique and distinctly different tribes so please do not lump all black people together as one. I’m really not making any of this up. Shout out to the South African Indians many of whom can speak Zulu. We’ve got a whole rainbow nation thing going over here.

But doesn’t South Africa have a high crime rate?

Yes there is crime in South Africa but you know what, there is crime everywhere. The world is sadly a dangerous place but all you need to do is practice common sense and you will be fine. Don’t wander around all alone drunk at 2am down dark alleys.

There is a big difference between a South African from Cape Town and one from Johannesburg.

Ok so now you know where South Africa. Great, you’re making progress and I am so proud of you. I’m from Cape Town so please don’t mistake me for someone from Johannesburg. People from Johannesburg are landlocked workaholics who are only interested in making money. People from Cape Town are laid back beach bums.

See below picture for further geographic clarification:

Africa Political Large

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travel

Call the Fire Department! It’s Songkran

Songkran festival is celebrated every year between 13 – 16 April in Thailand to usher in the New Year. In recent years the dates have been fixed to fall over the weekend.  Songkran happens during the hottest time of the year, perfect timing for a water festival. Initially a time to pay respect to your elders but gently pouring water on them it has now evolved into massive water fights on the streets with parts of the city cordoned off. The throwing of the water on passerby’s are meant to be cleansing, a washing away of the bad and blessing you for the new year. Some Thais may also smear a paste/talc mixture onto your face.

I never knew about this festival until I decided to move to Thailand and I am glad to have had the opportunity to celebrate it this year in Bangkok. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I headed out to Silom Road Sunday evening, maybe a couple of kids squirting me with some water guns. Having low or zero expectations usually means you end up having a great time and in this case I have to agree. It was way more than a few kids with water guns, it seems the whole city came out to play. Apart from water gun fights there were also people on every second block with hose pipes and barrels of water. On every other block there trucks from the fire department hosing people with fire department issue hoses, that is huge ass hoses people, the stream of water is so powerful you have to close your eyes and walk blindly until you and passed the trucks. Then there are the people selling water for festival goers to fill up their water guns, they also join in and throw ice-cold water at passerby’s.

There is no way you can walk away from Silom Road dry, you will be soaked, if you clothing isn’t chaffing you by the end of the evening you doing it wrong. Every couple of minutes you will have talc mixture smeared onto your face (gently, might I add) which will get into your eyes and it will burn, but don’t worry it’s harmless. Never in my life have I experienced anything even close to this but I am so glad that I got to be part of an amazing celebration.

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Images:

http://samuiontour.com/About-Samui/News/koh-samui-songkran-festival-2012.html

http://apinyasomya.exteen.com/20090409/songkran-festival

http://www.zimbio.com/Thailand/articles/vZYFEwzatVK/Songkran+Festival+Canberra+Songkran+Festival

 

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travel

What the travel brochures don’t always tell you

You’ve been planning for months, saving, preparing, flights and accommodation booked, tired of looking at pictures of your destination and rearing to go.

All this preparation does not mean all will run smoothly, here is what the travel brochures don’t tell you:

You will encounter obnoxious border officials on major power trips who will make your life difficult and might not let you enter the country.

Applying for a visa can sometimes be a long sucky process of paperwork and constant following up.

Flights may be much cheaper these days but it still sucks flying economy for 18+ hours with zero leg room and a boozy chatty ‘neighbour’.

People are people, the locals won’t always be friendly. However you should ALWAYS remain polite and courteous.

You might find the locals to be strange and wonder why they do things in a certain way. Respect the differences and remember you are a guest in their country

Even when you pack light, carry your luggage long enough and it will become heavier by the second.

Being constantly on the go during your travels is exhausting.

You will miss food from home (strange but true) even though you are trying new cuisines sometimes you’re just going to want a belly warming stew. You might even get a little homesick but don’t worry to much you’re just missing the familiar.

Some places are normal, dirty, smelly just like back home.

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