The Low Down (like.. really low)

IF there is one actually a thousand thing that people overlook when traveling to Thailand, it’s the toilet situation. In most tourist places (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, etc) you’ll find the good old fashioned sit-your-ass-down toilet seat. But there is a little squirt gun (similar to what you find to do the dishes with) next to it. It’s there to spray your ass after you $hiT. And with all the curry and spicy food your body isn’t used to, it comes in handy. You’ll also find hopefully a trash bin next to the seat and you are expected to throw your toilet paper into it. Thai sewers aren’t quite as updated as our western ones are. Just respect the country and toss it in the bin.

BUTT – there is something else to warn you about. If you are like me and don’t go camping every weekend, or hike, or do the nature thing in general, If you are the type who will hold it until you get home (or at least somewhere you’re comfortable going to the bathroom at), some of the smaller towns and bus stations will come as a shock. You will politely excuse yourself from the table and find this stall that may or may not have a door attached. In the middle of the ground is a what looks like a metal toilet seat with ridges on the top. “Why is this toilet seat so low?” you’ll ask yourself.
.. it’s a squat toilet. You have to squat. Don’t work out? Too bad.

If you are a woman, you stand on the ridges facing the wall and squat down like a baby would to pick up a bug they found on the ground. Then you do your #1 and hope you remembered to bring the tissues. Should your bowels be a moanin’ and a groanin’ you will face away from the wall and squat (see previous description) and let it all out. And then hope you brought EVEN MORE toilet paper. And sanitary wipes. And a Glade scented candle.
When you have finished doing your dooody, you will (hopefully) see a trash bin with water filled in it. You will take the bowl that is floating in that water and proceed to ‘flush’ your by-product down the hole. A few good bowl fulls should do it. If not, you’re shit out of luck (ha!!).

It’s disgusting. Some people don’t mind. Some people say it’s better for your posture and blah blah blah. I will NOT miss this. I went 5+ months without having to use one of those bastards. Then I had a reallllly bad stomach one day during class and had no choice but to do the squat. And it was HORRIBLE. You may dribble on your shoes, you may miss, you may spatter, you may want to throw up. And no, you don’t get used to it. At least I didn’t.

My favorite quote concerning squatters: “F- that.”

Advice:

  • ALWAYS carry wipes or toilet paper
  • Have toilet shoes/sandals
  • carry hand sanitizer
  • avoid if at all possible
  • learn to hold it
  • wipe tiger balm under your nose before going in – it wreaks.

That’s the toilet story. I had to warn you, my cyber friends. Good luck.

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Spa-aaaaaaaah

I have been a massage therapist for 7+ years and have never had a proper spa day. yes, i have gone out and gotten my hair and nails done. yes, i have gone out and received a massage. or a facial, or sat in a sauna. but never all at once.

I have just finished nearly a year of teaching English to students in Surat Thani, Thailand and all I wanted was to spoil myself. But first, I needed to complete some massage courses in Chiang Mai. I discovered a pamphlet (well- many pamphlets). It offered a special promotion:

1 hour aromatherapy massage
1 hour facial (mask, cleanse, scrub, etc)
30 min body scrub
15 min jacuzzi
15 min sauna
_____________=1600 baht (USD $50ish)

I booked that for right after a cooking class (a different entry for later).

There were some technical issues concerning people not showing up on time, but otherwise, the owner picked me up from my hotel and drove me to the spa. It was in a quiet neighborhood-type of area. It was an old huge house converted into a spa. I was immediately given iced tea and slippers. I confirmed my preference and was given a sarong to change into. I was led to a small wooden box: the sauna. I didn’t make it through the entire 15 minutes (although it felt like 20) due to boredom. Then after some bananas and warm tea, I was shown outside to an enclosed patio with a HUGE jacuzzi. It was a perfect temperature and had plumerias floating in and around the water. I enjoyed this for the full 15 minutes with an ice cold glass of water at my disposal. Mind you, it had been over a year since the last time I sat in a bath. When my 15 minutes was up, I dried off and changed into a robe and went into the massage room.
The body scrub came next. I have given plenty of body scrubs before and have rubbed my own legs and feet with it, but have never gotten a full body scrub. DAMN. That shiz is rough! I realize now why the scrub is BEFORE the massage: a person gets tense when being scrubbed with mango scented salt for 30 minutes. She started with the legs and feet, continued my back and arms. She then turned me over and did my legs and arms again. Then without hesitation or warning, my upper body was exposed and she scrubbed my stomach and tatas! WHOA! I didn’t have time to react. In the US, draping is required and we normally put a towel over a lady’s chest before exposing the stomach. Magawd it was not pleasant. WORD OF ADVICE: when receiving oil massage or body scrub outside of the US – let them know in advance that you do NOT want your tatas rubbed (unless you do). 

After that awkward body scrub, I was taken to a shower and brought back to the room. She started the massage. Her pressure was way too deep Thai-style so i asked her to ease up a smidgeon. It was nice after that. But I caught her before she took the top of my blanket off this time – I said ‘no chest or stomach please ka’ and she didn’t.

I know that the next part was the facial. But I don’t remember it. I was passed the fuck out. I dreamed heavily as always. I dreamed the massage was over and I realized I had fallen asleep so I woke up in my dream and then in real life. I took off my eye covers to realize that I had the mask on and my session was NOT over. So I laid down and passed out again. Dreamed of school peers from middle school. ((Matt Heafy, lead singer of Trivium, and other school mates were gathered to ask me if I was attending their concert the next day. No offense, Matt, you have talent, but metal is not for me!)) Anywayhoo – I didn’t realize she was back in the room until a cool compress was washing away the mask. She continually tried to clean the mask from my nose and nostrils and I thought she was trying to suffocate me. . . until I drowned in a frozen lake felt the ice cold compress covering my entire face. You wanna wake a girl up???? Put an ice cold compress on her face!! Asshole. Way to tense me right back up. Goddamn. Anyway, facial was finished, I was utterly exhausted. My face felt soft without me even having the touch it. My body was floating down the stairs and into the changing area. I tipped the lady, and the owner drove me back to the hotel.

If you ever visit Chiang Mai, I recommend you treat yourself to Sinativa Spa.

Secrets of Surat Thani – a short movie by RTapps

Video

A Refresher in a Friend

I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it. I have spent the last few months quite unhappy in my situation – ready to quit at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t homesick – but I was finding myself lonely in a room full of people. My comments were ignored, my jokes missed and disregarded, my laugh was forced (if I laughed at all). It was a form of depression that I wasn’t accustomed to.

Today I feel great. The conditions are a little different I think though. It’s the last month of school and all the tests are done. The light at the end of the tunnel has finally appeared. But the real booster was a visit from a friend.

It was not his intention to come to Thailand to see me – he was just going because he could and something told him it was a good idea. And it happened that I am here. I found out 2 weeks before he came out (about 2 weeks before he knew he was coming out for sure). I was stoked. I have known my friend since high school. We were never particularly close but our mutual friends kept us in minor contact.

Anyway, the sun started to shine a bit more since he decided to come to Thailand. I had something to look forward to that wasn’t the end of school. The schedule got blistered a bit and it took another 2 weeks for him to get to my part of the country. But he got here and my soul’s thirst was quenched. I felt like a little kid – wanting to show him all my classes and what my students can do. (He missed the best class – but they’ll be famous in their own rights one day). I wanted him to try this and that and everything.

But the best part was finally when I relaxed, my words were heard and my jokes were laughed at. I ventured into humor that is borderline incredibly offensive. But the timing was good and it was influenced by my friend. I observed his style and realized it was similar to mine – and none of my coworkers really got what either of our styles. I wasn’t alone for once in this room full of people. I was here and with someone who I could be myself around. My ridiculous attempts at different accents was met with even more ridiculous attempts at accents. I was encouraged to speak my mind rather than hold it in. I realized how great of a person this guy is (not that I didn’t know before – but hey .. haven’t seen him in years!).

I’m only a minor part in his experience here but it’s something to relate to later and a story to share with our friends. I realize how much more fun I could be having here if I had someone like him around: someone to bring out the best in me because I can actually be me. I laughed more this past weekend with him around than I have in ages (sober or not).

 

So, my friend, I dedicate this entry to you.

I hope we can share more adventures in the future wherever we may be.

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Holiday Show Happiness

"Mai" a student dressed in MJ garb

“Mai” a student dressed in MJ garb

In August, our manager informed us of a ‘holiday’ party in December that we were expected to perform at. Cue: Collective groan. Then she told us we needed to prepare our students for a performance as well.

I played a few songs for my P3 class (7-8 y/o) including the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, and India Arie. Apparently this was NOT cool. They wanted Lady Gaga. I scoffed because we had just gone over ‘Like/Dislike’ and in my ‘Dislike’ category I had written Lady Gaga. Then it hit me: Michael Jackson.  The students were familiar with the name and enjoyed rockin’ out to his music during dance time.

So we played lots of MJ songs until I  we collectively decided on singing “man in the mirror”. We started rehearsals immediately. I taught the students the words and we sang a few times a week at the beginning of class. They loved it. I loved it.

After they learned the lyrics I choreographed a fairly complicated easy dance for them. They caught on quickly. I caught on to the few that were not coordinated and put them in the back – as any good drama geek turned teacher would do.
We rehearsed with the other half of the class that another teacher taught. Without sounding too cocky – my class was WAAYYY better than hers.  they were all very good.

December came along and we gave them the outline for their outfits:
Black button down/zipped shirt with long sleeves
white t-shirt
black pants
white socks
black shoes
fedora

Students were bringing in amazing outfits to put together. I realized that there were 2 key element being forgotten about 2 weeks before the performance: the sparkly glove. No MJ performance would be complete without it!! So they brought gloves and we decorated it with the devil glitter. Also, they needed to know how to moonwalk! So they practiced moonwalking down the hallways for about 30 minutes. Not an easy task. But HILARIOUS to watch.

Our director loves me and came to watch the students perform a couple times. She loved it. I loved it. We all loved it.

Holiday-show-day was upon us. I walked into the GIANT convention hall and saw the itsy bitsy stage the students were to perform on. All i could think: “SHhhhiiiiiit. Someone’s going to fall off stage.” But then I saw their adorable little faces in the brilliant collection of MJ style costumes and no longer cared. For a few hours, I filled the room with Thai MJ impersonators.  No MJ fan could have been happier.
The performance itself was good. Not great.
Reason 1: No microphones. They took away the microphones because there was no room for it. So you couldn’t hear a damned word they said
Reason 2: The kids were so afraid of ruining their precious glittered gloves that they didn’t actually clap. They fake clapped! ((Insert: SMH))

———————–
On a side note: the girls of my P3 class decided to sing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. Of course when I say “decided” I actually mean our Thai director told me they were going to perform it. They dressed like divas and threw roses into the audience after the performance. They did a fantastic job.

I’m uploading the videos to youtube so you can see the performances at the show and the ones from their classroom (which are WAY better!!)

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The P3 girls and the solo sax player

The singers after the performance

The singers after the performance

Little MJs

Light One Up in Thailand

I really enjoy light, however. Thailand has some very pretty light things going on.

Their lanterns are fantastic. It’s amazing to see people celebrate their holidays with cool traditions like that. Thailand just celebrated a couple holidays recently: Loy Krathong and Father’s Day/King’s birthday. The lanterns filled the skies and turning into small specks amongst the stars. It reminds me a bit of Florida when the shuttle took off. Obviously those are completely different scenarios – I’ve probably offended some NASA people by comparing a lantern to a space shuttle – not my intention I ASSURE you.

But the way the light is so close and then just disappears really hits home. If you ever get the chance to send off a lantern, don’t pass up on it. (And if you’re in Hawaii, don’t pass up a lei – those things are fantastic.) You can get different kinds of lanterns too.. there are angry birds, angry pigs, doremon?, and zebra stripes, etc. So get creative with it!

I also reverted for a few minutes to my 5 year old self. I saw a firefly. A lightning bug. Amazing. They’re there and then they aren’t! It’s like magic. I was mesmerized by these little buggers. The Thai folk we were drinking with laughed quite a bit at my expense.. but I couldn’t care. How can one care when a bug that has a light-up butt be anything but the most important thing at that time?

The floating lanterns aren’t the only amazing light spectacles. All along the river the trees and light posts are lit up like christmas. There are these oversized and  ridiculous light fixtures on the side of the road. Some of bunnies that look a bit like a kangaroo, others are strange little people doing random things. I know that was very vague, but look at the pictures and you’ll understand.

There are some very cool lights, lamps, and lanterns all throughout Thailand and I love every moment of it. If you visit Thailand, make sure you take some of these light creations home. They’re not found in the US for sure.

Of course there are Angry bird lanterns.

Of course there are Angry bird lanterns.

 

Handmade floating flower arrangements with a candle and a prayer.

Handmade floating flower arrangements with a candle and a prayer.

Let the lantern go and blend in with the stars

Let the lantern go and blend in with the stars

Coffee shops

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Every traveller knows their favorite asset is knowing where the closest coffee shop is.

In Thailand I live in a southern city called Surat Thani. It’s the place that your guide book says to pass through without a glance back. I don’t blame it. But if by chance you find yourself here, here are a few coffee shop recommendations.

@Mycup is on Donnok Rd. it’s a two story adorable shop that offers hot, cold, and frozen beverages. There are a few sandwiches and snacks. There are lovely cakes and ice cream options also. The decor is a quaint collection of garden style seats and tables. The cabinets are filled with beautiful tea and coffee sets that are definitely only for display. The main display is covered in nonfunctional clocks and bicycles. Internet is available depending on the weather. The upstairs is more comfortable in the lounge type of feeling. There are Thai and English menus available. I highly recommend you try the Green Teacinno. The service and food quality rival each other in mediocrity.

ADay Cafe is on Chonkasem. It’s a large single floor cafe that is decorated in bright green and yellow walls. It’s frequented by Thai students as there are several schools around. The coffee is good and the service non existent. Once your order is placed you only are another grain of sand. While conveniently located its not my favorite place to frequent.

My newest coffee discovery is on a road that I ride on everyday and couldn’t tell the name of. It’s called Hom Coffee. It’s fairly new and undiscovered. It’s lovely. I walked in and was immediately greeted and given a verbal English menu. The shop is decorated with vintage knickknacks. I’m sitting at the table featured in the picture. It’s a block of tree trunk holding a glass table top displaying a Thai version of the Batman comics. My napkin holder is a pumpkin trickortreat bucket. My mocha yen (iced mocha) was great. The owner brought me almond wafer cookies and water as well as the wifi password. The terrible 80s style Thai pop was replaced with English R&B including songs by Otown and Destiny’s Child. The owner actually hummed some of the songs. It’s brilliant. It’s quiet and sweet. It will be frequented on weekends though due to their store hours mirroring my work hours 10-8pm.

If you come to Surat I recommend this spot but doubt you’ll find it. The easiest for visitors is probably MyCup.

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