Friday, 26 November 2010

Been around the world and I I...

I haven't suddenly developed a fascination with Lisa Stansfield but the title is more a description of what we did in the summer. Yes, the summer was almost 4 months ago. Yes, many details have since been forgotten but we can't really blog about our travels and miss the biggest one out. The only reason it wasn't posted before is because of the 'pause' in our activities owing to the malevolent trucker (see previous post).

Writing this a few months later will probably work out much better anyway as, hopefully, I'll keep it brief(er).

The whole reason we ended up with a round-the-world ticket was purely for economical reasons. Nothing satisfies me more than spending hours, no, days trawling the internet to find hotels/insurance/flights at their cheapest price. I feel a masochistic sense of pleasure when I've managed to save a whole £5 off a hotel room. A fiver is a fiver after all. If you add them all up over the year...

Anyway, I was looking for a cheap ticket to get us home last summer when Trailfinders offered a 7-stop ticket for a couple hundred quid more than a standard return. Bloody hell, this was better than a fiver saved!

So we came home in the summer (and had a great time-thank you) and then did a whistle-stop tour of the following places:

Visited all over really but would recommend a trip to the south west of the island for its rugged landscape and completely unspoilt beaches. Recommend a stay at Jake's. Want to live there. Probably can't afford to for the next 15 years.

Did Vegas (avoid unless you have a gambling addiction, are alcohol dependent or have a fetish for the badly-dressed morbidly obese), San Francisco (great as always and got to see the Giants play. All good until charged $7 for a portion of chips!), LA (as exciting and seedy as you'd expect) and all the small towns in the desert (not much to say about them apart from they were interesting to look at. Got a speeding ticket though. Probably won't be able to enter America again until the $300 bill is paid...)

Cool for surfing. But I don't surf. Would recommend the Waikiki Circle Hotel. It's right on the beach front, cheap by Hawaii prices, clean, comfortable and friendly.

Another place I want to live. Brilliant city (thanks Andy & Midori for putting us up and showing us around. You also have the best behaved children in the world). Would recommend Japan to anyone. Didn't see the infamous crazy kids in the park, however. Must have been their day off.

Was exhausted after it all but enjoyed every minute of it. Will be slowing down the travels after Christmas though. Can't keep it up forever. Mores the pity.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Although based on real events, names of participants have been changed to protect their identities

A few months ago, the other half and I made the blog 'invite only'. This wasn't because we wanted some kind of private club (we are painfully aware that only our friends, and the friends with too much time on their hands at that, are the only ones to read what we write) but because our privacy had been infringed.

I can see you laughing back there. And you rolling your eyes thinking "Who does she thinks she is? Last time I looked, she wasn't Madonna". However, when you are a teacher you are not the same person in front of the kids as you are at home. The kids do not know about J's filthy jokes or what I was like as a student. They don't need to. But you all do. As our friends and family, you already know what we're like. As for any strangers who have stumbled across this blog, I'm assuming you don't really care but quite like what we've written about different countries. The kids however...well, that's quite a different story. In school, I am Ms D***** and the old bean is Mr J*******. We do not have a private life. Some of the kids don't even know we're married. That is how I wanted it to stay.

But a malevolent force with special powers (and a charming range in trucker tatts) found this place we call a drop-off for our musings and showed it, during a lesson to the kids. Who then said they'd look us up at home. I didn't want that. Why should I want that? It's not like J and I actually DO anything offensive but I still don't really want the kids to see me with a glass of wine (or 3) in hand in my civvies.

So, we made the blog private. Then we just stopped writing on in altogether. But, we like to write. Writing in a diary isn't quite the same because no one (hopefully) will read it. And let's be honest, there's a little bit of a show-off in all of us. As kids we showed our paintings to our parents, as teenagers our piercings or new cds off to our friends. In this new fandangled age, we show off our thoughts and opinions on a blog.
So here we are again, except this time we've changed the web address and the name and erased our names. If you want to leave us a comment, call us D or J or 'the clever one' and 'her husband'. Only messing! Honest.

We're not coming home just yet and so call this is a way of us all communicating. Aside from email. And Facebook. And Skype. And Twitter.
See you soon x

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

"I am just going outside and may be some time".

Being at times, humiliated by a country who feeds its children gargantuan amounts of food and names them things like Chuck, Eugene and Bub, is the equivalent to being beaten to the South Pole by a Norwegian.

Terry, Lampard and the rest of the London council estate scrubbers posing as England footballers should do the decent thing like a true Englishman- take the example of Captain Oates on Scott's fateful mission to the Antarctic and walk into the equivalent of a snowstorm citing 'they may be some time...' and are never seen or heard from again.

Walking into district 6, Cape Town with PW Botha masks on would be a fitting contextual equivalent or walking into some friendly fire from the US in Afghanistan would also suffice....

Oates: True Englishman, standing for the Great British values of humility, bravery and self-sacrifice in a moment of true shameful embarrassment.
Terry: Scrubber, standing for modern British values of arrogance, lethargy and cowardice in an equally monumental moment of shameful national embarrassment. And the cause of my sore throat on Sunday 13th June 2010.
District 6: modern "snowstorm"
Botha: Sexier than Terry?

People's Republic of South Yorkshire- World Cup Winners!

More World Cup mania- players eligible for the PRSY- scrubbers from S2, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley are not eligible!

Eat your heart out Our Glorious Leader KimJong Il and North Korea

Players from Sheffield Wednesday that have played in a World Cup- it's quite an impressive bunch really:

-------------1. Ron Springett

2. Roland Nillson 5. Peter Swan 6. Des Walker 3. Nigel Worthington (c)

8. Chris Waddle 11. John Sheridan 4. Wim Jonk 7. John Harkes

-----------9. Trevor Francis 10. Albert Quixall

Subs: 13. Woods, 12. Viv Anderson, 15. Kevin Gallagher, 16. Simon Donnelly, 14. Dan Petrescu, 17. Deon Burton, 18. Marc Degryse, 19. Klas Ingesson, 20. Niclas Alexanderson, 21. Efan Ekoku, 22. Scott Carson, 23. Kenwyne Jones,

Reserve list: Martin Hodge (cruelly left off the '86 squad by a media friendly Gary Bailey) Darryl Powell (significantly a waste of money)

Manager: Jack Charlton

I'm sure these lot would win!

If the Wednesday made England teams...

Due to the World cup mania and counting the days down till we go home and having no Wednesday representatives in the World Cup, I thought this might be interesting...

Worryingly the Blades have had more England internationals thanks to their superior prowess in the 50s and our pre-war internationals having their careers disrupted by war as well as superior & humungously talented forward players around in the 30s, 40s & 50s- such as Matthews, Finney, Greaves etc

So here goes:

-----------------------------1. Ron Springett--------------------------

2. Mel Sterland (c)------------5.Des Walker--------3.Andy Hinchcliffe

--------------------6. Tony Kay---------4. Carlton Palmer------------

---------7. John Fantham------------------------10. Albert Quixall----

8. Chris Waddle------------9. David Hirst-----------11. Ellis Rimmer

Subs: 12. Peter Swan CB 13. Chris Woods GK 14. Ron Staniforth RB 15. Thomas Crawshaw CB 16. Michael Gray LB 17. Jackie Sewell AM 18. Jackie Robinson AM 19. Gabriel Agbonlohor CF 20. William Clegg CF 21. Trevor Francis CF 22. Redfern Froggatt AM 23. Brian Marwood LW

Reserve list: Ernest Blenkinsop LB, Francis Bradshaw CF, John Brittleton CM, John Brown GK, Harry Burgess AM, Horace Burrows DM, Earl Barrett RB, Edward Catlin LB, Nigel Clough AM/CF, Mark Chamberlain RW, Scott Carson GK, Henry Davis RW, Edward Davison GK, John Hudson DM, Francis Jeffers CF, Fred Kean CB, Thomas Leach CB, William Marsden CM, William Mosforth CM, Stuart Ripley RW, Fred Spiksley LW, Jackie Sewell AM, George Stephenson AM, James Stewart AM, Alf Strange DM, Andy Sinton LM, George Wilson CB, Gerry Young DM

Manager: Howard Wilkinson

Justification for formation/tactics

I've gone for a mix of youth and experience... the pre war players would be used to playing like this which is a slight defensive rework of the old WM formation that served English sides so well before the late 50s/early 60s- it also is quite contemporary in its outlook when you look at the better technical sides- although not England sadly.

Hinchcliffe and Sterland would look to push on and carry the ball when in possession like a couple of Brazillian full backs and as such Carlton and Tony Kay would be looking to keep back on these instances. Fantham and Quixall would be an equivalent Gerrard and Lampard looking to pull the strings and weigh in with their fair share of goals from distance.

Waddle and Rimmer supplying the crosses of course, for a glut of goals with head and foot for the ultimate centre forward that England never had.

Justification for selection

1. Springett- already a veteran of the '62 world cup and would've been a shoe-in, in the real world if it wasn't for the maverick brilliance of Sheffield's own Gordon Banks.

2. Mel is frankly SWFC through and through and the best homegrown product I've ever seen. He would also make a great captain and if it wasn't for southern media bias for Gary Stevens/Viv Anderson should surely have been on the plane for Mexico.

3. Hinchcliffe- strange choice but was loads better than Le Saux and Gray in this team and I think poorly managed by Hoddle for inclusion in France '98

4. Carlton- again much maligned by England fans- nearly as good as Viera comparisons aren't really far off the mark.

5. Des- Quite frankly the best player ever to wear an England shirt with SWFC connections in my lifetime. Man of the tournament in Italia '90 for me. Only just edges Swan out because of my age as I believe he would've been a world cup winner but for the betting scandal in place of Jack Charlton and of course was first choice centre half in '62.

6. Tony Kay was apparently a legend in this position according to older relatives- would make Gareth Barry look like Solvedt I imagine- hard running, fearless and never lost the ball. Our loss was Everton's gain- the change in formation where wing halves weren't cool, the prison sentence and Alan Ball, Nobby Styles and various London team midfielders can't have helped in the 60s.

7. John Fantham was also very unlucky because of Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst apparently. My dad used to play against him in the '50s and regularly kick him into the stands in schoolboy football and he also once asked my mom on a dat when my dad was doing his national service in '59. Pathetic I know, but it's my team- I guess Starling (the ubercaptain of SWFC) Robinson (a cult legend for SWFC if ever there was one in a Wednesday side who were like the Man U of the 30s) Froggatt (post war appearance record for SWFC and up against great players in the 50s and missed out on a regular spot due to too many good inside forwards around and Wednesday's topsy turvy decade) and Sewell might be pissed off, but I'm the gaffer like I said...

8. Waddle- what can I say. Speaks for himself- don't think Chamberlain/Sinton should be too disappointed.

9. Same goes- bizarre that Dooley never got a cap- but again short career, not as good/consistent as Lofthouse et al and played in an up and down team- Hirsty didn't and would be the best espcially in this formation.

10. Quixall- again a legend in north Sheffield- the origianl old big 'ead who used to puke before matches in reality. Was snatched by Man U post Munich and the rest his history- didn't live up to expectations as Britain's most expensive player. By all accounts (from my mother who used to live next door to he and younger brother George were regularly beaten by their father- an evil brute of a man who I guess wasn't on his own in those hard times of the early post war austere 50s- apparently George was more talented but had no talent because of this- and Quixall was more or less golden bollocks in his father's eyes) Again another Selfish one but i doubt many would argue against his inclusion in the starting 11.

11. Ellis Rimmer- an absolute SWFC legend and after listening about him from my gran and his grandson who I went to uni with was very unlucky not to add to his few caps with such good players around again. (if only we had that dilemma now) Was always going to get the nod over my childhhod fave- Brian Marwood.

I'm sure all of these could show Jamie Carragher a clean pair of heels alive or dead...

Name Change

The names have been changed to protect the innocent- D and I, thanks for logging in.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

4 posts in one month? But madam, you are really spoiling us!

New Zealand really is an amazing place. I've never been anywhere where you can literally drive for hundreds of miles and only have sheep for company.
J and I decided to hire a camper as it was the easiest and cheapest way to see the country. Despite the freezing cold nights in the South Island, wearing socks, jumpers, jeans and hoodies to bed and hip pains from sleeping in the back of van, they do not take away from the fantastic experience travelling around in it was. The 'Super Tui' became our mucky friend.

As promised to a friend a few weeks ago, this is the rundown of what we did in our two weeks in New Zealand. Be prepared to break the speed limit and have a numb bum from so much driving:
In the North-Mount Mauganui, Rotorua, Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park and volcano, Wellington, Martinborough; in the South-Marlbrough Sounds, Kaikoura, Franz Josef Glacier, Tekapo, Twizel, Queenstown, Dunedin, Otago Peninsula and Christchurch!!! Our favourite bit of the whole trip was walking up and through the volcanoes at Tongariro-amazing. Thanks to Rochelle for making our trip that little bit more special.
After such a good time in New Zealand, I wasn't all that keen on going to Australia. J may have had a few choice words to say about the Aussie officials, but my opinion was much worse. I was actually cursing the day Jon convinced me we ought to at least drop into Australia seeing as we had to fly there. However, I'm pleased to say that my first impression of the country was wrong. Sydney was a lot nicer than I thought.
There's a nice atmosphere to the place and I can see why so many people want to settle there. Possibly not for me but there's definitely a lot going on.
We did the usual: Botanical gardens, the harbour bridge, the harbour, the Opera House (all of which are located around the harbour) and wandered around the districts of the centre. We also took a day trip to Manley Beach (nice but flaming freezing. No sunbathing to be had there) and an hours drive up to the Blue Mountains with a stop off at the zoo first.
As you can see, we didn't spend our 5 days doing an awful lot. The harbour sights took half a day and we didn't do a fat lot at the beach either. We had spent 14 nights in the back of a Toyota van with plywood and 2 inch foam sponge mattress as a bed. We ate beans, toast and more beans and toast from our camp stove. We did nothing but relax in Sydney and it's a good place to do it. Besides, we'd had to sell a kidney each to pay for New Zealand-Australia is also not cheap.

The highlight of our trip to Oz was not our meeting with Clint the Koala or seeing the view of the Blue Mountains but meeting Gary Kemp from Spandau Ballet in a very nice Italian cafe. He was sitting there eating, minding his own business with his wife, kids and mother-in-law. And I got J to pester him for a photo. Poor bloke. Never mind, at least I now have a picture that could make me £50 in 'Take A Break'.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The Land of the Long, White Cloud

There was a possibility that Thailand's memorable month of April would've been spent celebrating Songkhran and having water thrown over us and flor slapped across our chops in any of the wonderful holiday destinations around these parts.

As it was, we went 'back to civilisation' via the 3 blobs of island in the South Pacific that used to belong to the British Empire and have long been cherished as a 'once in a lifetime' visit for most of us born in the UK.

So revelling in the three week holiday, we were off on the first Saturday on the exceptionally good Philippines Airlines to Manila. Which was quite an experience as the overly-fussy, dressed like an extra from Tenko, Aussie immigration officer delighted in checking the bags, whereabouts and intentions of us in a crowded airport.

This was our first 'experience' of the Aussie authorities whose reputation precedes them as a bunch of boorish, ignorant racists who for some reason think everyone wants to stay permanently in their boring, cultureless, shite version of England/America that they are so precious over it stinks of inferiority.

There I've said it- I've never met an Australian I liked- there I've said that too.

On with the journey then and a long plane ride to Sydney let us have a quick one day stay before we landed some hours later in New Zealand.

A country of just 4 million souls of course, New Zealand has always been something of a mystery to most people. Famous for the sheep and the rugby and its supposed better treatment of its indigenous population and a mass migration for artisans from England in the 50s.

The only think I ever knew about it was my uncle nearly took his family including my mother when she was a young girl back in the 50s (so I wouldn't exist of course) and a Blue Peter summer expedition to both former colonies by, I think, Simon Groom, Janet Ellis and Peter Duncan back in the '80s. So two things really.

All that's changed recently of course with Peter Jackson's LOTR trilogy creating the ultimate tourist information film and probably quadrupling NZ's economy in the process.

Nowadays it's the ultimate destination for outdoor types, thrill seekers and people that want to drive on unspoilt roads without seeing others.

It truly was a beautiful island though and it seems we might have got there just in time before it might possibly change for good. It provided us both with some special memories. From the drive down the north island from Auckland through the volcanic areas and wine tasting and good company in Wellington, to the mammoth trips across the south island in a big loop taking in just about everywhere including a wonderful two day air safari across the Southern Alps.

We really are very fortunate to be in this position and we do appreciate the opportunity to visit such wonderful places on the other side of the world.

Also it was a great opportunity to avoid any of the political unrest in Bangkok at the moment. Hopefully that will die down soon though as Mr Thaksin slowly sees his billions of baht slowly decrease with the wages that are being paid out to his upcountry 'freedom fighters'.

Oh to be back in the land of the long white cloud.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


A long time ago, before I fell into the 28-35 age bracket on questionnaires, I was told by a French youth in a New York hostel that if I was going to visit anywhere in the world, I should go to Vietnam. Many years later, having gone from North to South of the country, I think the chap in question exaggerated somewhat, however, Vietnam is definitely somewhere that I would recommend to anyone wanting to travel round South East Asia.

As stated in the last blog, we had just 6 days to travel length of a pretty long country. We started off in Hanoi, the country's capital. It was 13 degrees and neither J nor I were particularly well prepared for the 20 degree drop in temperature. However, the city is vibrant, manic, distinctly Asian yet having a very French feel about it. Another by-product of colonisation.

The Vietnamese have been colonised a lot. And they are very aware of it. They celebrated Chinese New Year with banners, fireworks and a five-day holiday. They had been colonised by the Chinese from 111 BC till the French took over in the 19th century. As a result, their streets resemble French boulevards and they do the best baguettes outside of Paris (not my quote but one courtesy of the inflight magazine. Though I'm happy to admit, they were very good). The French didn't leave till 1940 when the Japanese took over. This was short lived as the Japanese surrendered to the allies and then...
Their national museum, Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum, the guided tour around the Cu Chi Tunnels all celebrate the fact that they avoided being colonised again- by the Americans.

Our stay in Hanoi was very lovely, very cold but also, sadly, very brief. We had to have a whistlestop tour of it's highlights by a lovely rickshaw driver who who had to pedal both me and J up and down hills in his little bicycle!

Next stop, Hoi An, a lovely little town on the coast which was also celebrating new year with gusto. After a few days there and a brief stop at the Royal city, we flew to Ho Chi Minh City which is still referred to as Saigon by Vietnamese people.

In Saigon, we visited the Cu Chi tunnels and the war museums. Our guide was a fantasist who, nevertheless, was extremely entertaining. We were given a rundown on the activities of the Viet Cong during the war, their tactics and their hiding place: the tunnels. Our guide Bean claimed to be a Vietnamese citizen born and bred who became a US soldier, leading a troop, and fought against the Viet Cong in the war. Somehow, I do not believe him...

Vietnam is busy yet laid back. The people are calmer and less materially orientated than their Thai neighbours. And although Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, I felt the smiles of the Vietnamese people were a little more genuine and a lot less rehearsed. I enjoyed everything about its multifaceted culture and its friendly people. I couldn't live there as I've got a little too used to how developed Thailand is. However, I would definitely visit Vietnam again, hopefully spending more than a week there next time.

Monday, 22 March 2010


I am feeling a little more awake today. Could this have something to do with the Easter holidays fast approaching?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The importance of being idle

I have meant to get another post on here for a while but, if I'm perfectly honest, I haven't had time. I've been rather busy being a lazy oik.

I like this feeling. It's rare that you get the opportunity to do very little and, quite frankly, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first few months out here were very busy: trying to settle, making new friends, getting used to an unbelievably long term, getting used to how things work, being bewildered by the language. Now, we fully understand that we understand nothing and are pretty used to bumbling along. We are fully aware that this 'alternate universe' and way of living are temporary. We have a fixed contract and we can't stay over here forever. However, whilst we are here, we intend to take full advantage of it. When we go back to real life, this will be a distant but hopefully very warm memory. So, we've been trying to see as much of South East Asia as our holidays and wallets will allow. This February half-term we went to Vietnam.
Vietnam is extremely close to Thailand and pretty easy and cheap to get to. Despite its close proximity, it is actually very different. The people are very different. They seem to be more laid-back, less aware of how they look and far less interested in shopping (I never thought I'd say this, but it made a refreshing change not to see a shopping mall for miles).

We only had a week and many people who had been before told us that it would be almost impossible to see the country in such a short space of time. They obviously don't know the resourcefulness of 'Team Booth' (please God, shoot me for saying that or at least ban me from saying it again)! We planned an itinerary that spanned both major cities-Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City- and allowed us a stop off in between at a beach called Hoi An.
Hanoi was cold. Not freezing but bloody cold compared to Bangkok. And in our wisdom and foresight we only packed t-shirts and beach wear. That first day in Hanoi I wore a sexy combination of J's socks with my sandals, 2 t-shirts, a vest top, a shirt and the only pair of jeans I'd packed.

Vietnam has been colonised a few times. First by the Chinese for a few hundred years; then by the French. The influence of both nations is evident in the city of Hanoi. There were times you felt you could have been walking along a street in Paris. And they do a mean baguette.

We arrived at the very start of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
(part 2 to be done when feeling a little less lethargic...)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Farang Kee Nok

Bird-shit foreigners are what the Thais call them. Who am I talking about?

Well that distinctive traveller come organic-hippy that can be fleshed out as students on gap years, ageing Europeans in pantaloons trying to 'find themselves' through an overpriced Buddha statue or just plain trampy tourists and bumbags with a penchant for dreadlocks and cheap hotel rooms without hot water.

Ever since Alex Garland ridiculed himself and other travelers in the 90s excellent social parody and dreadful film 'The Beach' Thailand has found itself innundated with what the Thais call Farang Kee Nok.

Thailand relies on the tourist Pound, Euro and occasionally Dollar just as much as any other third-world country but like any other poor place there seems to be a fair amount of piss-taking when it comes to this particular person who travels (nak tong teaow).

Why am I being so sniffy and derogatory? Well, maybe this type of tourist open themselves up to such ridicule and here's why:

Firstly, like many poor places, Thais are into clothes big time- apart from ageing peasants who probably don't have much time and money for clothing, most Thai people always dress pretty well- they certainly wouldn't think about dressing down for anything and observe this phenomenon from the other side of the world with mild curiosity. It seems a little bit, inappropriate and perhaps a bit condescending in a way that going round to your nan's looking a bit of a tramp on a Sunday might also once have seemed wrong too. Also these people are well-off and shouldn't be trying to act like a 21st century 'slummer' wandering the streets of poor places hoping to feel a bit less middle-class.

Secondly, an alternative lifestyle choice for two weeks or perhaps six months (if travelling through other parts of SEA) simply doesn't exist. The worthy way in which the traveller wanders around Bangkok being ripped off by unscrupulous Tuk Tuk drivers, tipping all the poor people and frustratingly driving up the economy for the rest of us, chatting with market traders as if they're somehow experiencing the real Bangkok, when really it's all very contrived and certainly not quite the 'experience' they think they're having. D and I have a few Thai friends and acquaintances now but the social connection is based on any other in England not some kind of idiotic curiosity in a pointy fingered 'Ooh look at this gnarled old-woman lets have our picture took' kind of way.

Thirdly, it's all such a sad well-trodden path metaphorically and literally. Ever since The Beatles embarrassed themselves in Rishikesh with Maharashi Mahesh Yogi in the 60s and other westerners attempted to find some sort of 'answers' in this part of the world following the excesses of the 60s, Vietnam etc there's been some sort of magnetic pull like that tractor beam on the Death Star in Star Wars and the way Muslims visit Mecca. The French especially and their obsession with Indo-China in the first part of the 20th century also seems to hold some sort of historical and cultural context despite the Frogs never being able to colonise Siam/Thailand and the British being content with Burma and what is now Malaysia.

The previously mentioned 'The Beach' seems to sum it up perfectly as the protagonist Richard realises that there are no answers in this corner of the world any more than there are in the rest of the universe and the answers to the meaning of life all reside in one's head. Not in some ancient set of ruins or eating club sandwhiches down the Khao San Road or any number of the crustified hell holes that beautiful islands like Kho Pan Ngan and Phuket have become. Maybe these people already realise what a cliche it all is- or so they should do if they have any brains- but still they come, which makes it even worse!

Thailand has certainly, in the past, developed a niche for itself as a destination for backpackers etc. Indeed some of my colleagues choosing to return 10 years later (again trying to relocate themselves back through space and time like Dr Who to that innocent state of post-graduation when they thought, perhaps rightly, they could take on the world or at least visit...) and various other 'bumbags' and drifters living legally and illegally for next to nothing still pepper this part of the world.
Thailand needs them but sometimes you can't help wondering if normal holidaymakers wouldn't be better off with an affordable decent country to visit that helps the economy of the real impoverished people of Thailand and not greedy touts and rip-off merchants happy to exploit mega-rich students (indeed normal fresh-faced students simply can't afford to backpack around here anymore with the economy 10 times what it was 10 years ago- or did they ever anyway- everyone I knew at 21 and later having to get a job asap in most cases and having to live in the real world) with their electronic books, iphones, blackberries and mini-laptops attempting to get away from it all...

Although rich, educated and in some cases mature, they're no better than yobbos in Benidorm or Toremelinos although these people should know better. Their ignorant attitude, readyto pretend that they're going to be humble while really getting ready to lord it over the 'little people' over this end of the world already starts on the plane coming over if the amount of arguments I've had with them in the toing and froing (with the backs of seats also!) we've done is anything to go by. Us permanent folk over here can't wait till they return back home to a boring job in a bank in Strasbourg or somewhere, de-plait their hair, have a wash and count up the remaining baht they have left after having been ripped-off, stolen from and made culturally bankrupt for two weeks or sadly months in some cases...
Wish you were here? wish they weren't...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Hanging out with new chums!

A quick trip to the zoo and a friendly orangutan takes a liking to J. He was so taken by him, he was even seen fondling his left nipple as we walked away (that's our furry friend, not J!).

Monday, 18 January 2010

Hua do ya love? The old folk!

Two weeks in to the new term and I realised that despite having had both half-term and end of term holidays, we had had no rest and seen no sunshine (there is heat, intense heat in Bangkok but no actual sunshine. The sun not only has its hat on but practically wears a burkha). There are a few beaches not far from Bangkok and when you have an after school club on a Friday, you want to go as near as possible. We decided on the seaside town of Hua Hin just south-west of Bangkok.

We left school at 4.30 and after travelling by bus from the nearest mini bus station, we arrived in Hua Hin just before 7.30. Unlike the islands in Thailand, being a coastal town, Hua Hin is not picturesque. This often, unfairly, gives it the reputation of being a bit grotty. It is, in fact, rather sweet. There is a long sandy beach, lots of good restaurants and bars and, if you are prepared to hop on a moped, there are lots of cute little hills and wats to see. There does appear to be, however, along with a very large Scandinavian population, a very large number of old folk. Very orange and sun-damaged elderly people. I can only assume that Hua Hin offers special rates for the over 60s and that life for geriatrics is a lot kinder, and probably gentler, than other coastal towns in Thailand. Not that I have anything against the aged, I was just rather taken aback by the sheer number of them.

We stayed at a very basic, but also very clean and cheap, guest house just a few minutes walk from the beach. We had air-con, hot water and tv (which played the 80's cartoon Mysterious Cities of Gold and Scooby Doo for about an hour and a half so I was happy) all for just under £14 a night. During the day on Saturday, we literally sat on the beach and chilled out. This, I have to say, was heavenly especially as I'm convinced we still had jet-lag until just a few days ago. J, in his quest for some colour, went a shade of red in a rather unusual pattern on his tummy. I now have the permanent outline of my bikini top stencilled on!

The sea isn't a gorgeous turquoise like it is on the islands, nor is it calm. It is so choppy that, at one point, I thought I'd lost my husband in the waves. He was actually just enjoying himself and not, in fact, drowning.

The next day, we hired some mopeds and had a nosey at the rest of the town. May I just add that, this time, we did have helmets and drove at a respectable speed. It does make you feel a little fearless though and within 10 minutes of arriving back in Bangkok, both me and J were on the back of ONE motorbike taxi speeding down the dual carriageway (this time without the helmets) back to our apartment. I have no idea what the Thais must have made of two big farangs (avec luggage and driver) on the back of one small moped. Anyway, I digress.

Hua Hin is quite small but if you've got a spare weekend, it is definitely worth a visit. It has a very quaint little railway and another of Thailand's monkey temples. These monkeys are clearly deranged and at one point around 30 monkeys charged at a woman and her young son because they thought they smelt food. A very scary sight and a very, very traumatised child.

I have it on video.

We had a really nice couple of days and, I think, we've decided that we'll try to spend as much time at the weekends outside of the city as possible.

Next week, seeing a Thai singing sensation (allegedly) back in the city of sin itself, Pattaya.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

So that's that then.

Christmas in England-where were the Christmas lights? Where were the houses with the 18 ft inflatable Santa lit up on the roof? Christmas appeared to be credit-crunched.

This didn't dampen the citizens of merry England's spirits and everyone had a gay old time. Thank you everyone for your hospitality (we have bigger bellies to prove it).

In the weeks leading up to the Christmas break, I think I was starting to go a little insane.

Not full 'gaga', you understand, but definitely reality was beginning to become a little distorted. What was real, what was important, what you really should be concerned about-it'd all started to get a bit, well, fudged. And I missed people. I mean really started missing them which only started to kick in those final few weeks before the holiday. I wanted to go home.

It is very difficult to explain (and often when you try, people think you are either plain weird or just bloody ungrateful as you are in an enjoyable job in the sun whilst they are often fed up in England) but living as an ex-pat can be quite difficult. You are in a country which isn't yours and you can't claim it to be (even if you love it) because you're only there temporarily. You are always battling at being understood, because of a language and cultural barrier. Yesterday, I found out that to eat with my fork is rude. I must eat with a spoon. I didn't realise that for the last 6 months, J and I looked like savages when out to eat! Finally, you live in a very, very, very small world.

When we were in England, we had family, friends that we'd met together, separately and at a variety of different work places. You had acquaintences you could meet down the pub and really good mates you could share you heart with. These special people in your life are all very different and do different things. In Thailand, our world is each other and the teachers we work with. We have met and are friends with some of the nicest people we could ever have met, but it can get very claustrophobic seeing the same faces, having the same conversations day in-day out.

Hence, why I started to go mad. After 3 weeks back in Blighty, both of us getting flu and living out of (my new and rather snazzy) travel bag, I can see that tiny things that at home I would have been able to shrug off or laugh about had been stressing me out. You blow things out of proportion because you lose perspective. A bit.

Anyway, after seeing all our friends and family, I felt calmed and happy but ultimately realised that I did not want to come back to England. Well, not yet.

I might have been suffering a little cabin fever but, actually, I remembered why I'd got so excited about Bangkok when we arrived with its noise and its vibrancy and why I'd been so desperate to leave England in the first place.

Don't get me wrong, and not to sound like some nationalist nutter, but I do still love England. I was made patently aware of this fact this Christmas. We have free healthcare, free education and support for those who cannot (or will not) support themselves. England is, despite the difficulties, a good country. That is why London is full of Australians and why most people who are born there don't leave.

But, life is easier and happier here in Thailand. Yes, you are far from home (missing your family and friends) but the sun and our job means we can actually have free time and have fun. Real fun rather than trying to wedge 'forced fun' in from Friday night to Sunday that we did when working in Wednesbury and Selly Oak-and that was only if we weren't too tired.

Therefore, we've come back home (yes, Thailand for now is definitely home) and embracing our life. In fact, I'm writing this in a bit of a fuzzy state after we stayed out till after 4am with friends who, as I said, are very good people.

Now all J and I have to do is remove the 'Christmas insulation' we put on in just a few weeks at home before we can contemplate flashing the flesh on the beach.

Thailand-sanuk maak.