The First Day – Thailand

Overlooking Southern Thailand

When the opportunity came to teach in Thailand, I took it. One afternoon I received a phone call from a close family friend, telling me that if I wanted to teach in Asia, there was a job available.

A job with very little pay, too many students and in conflicted southern Thailand. Of course I jumped at the opportunity, and within days I had shut down my Canadian life. I broke their record for the least amount of time between job acceptance and arrival.

I had no idea what to expect, but the serendipity of the moment could not be missed. My teenage daughter was spending the summer with Grandma and friends in Ontario, so I had some time to decide if I would be staying, and if she would be joining me.

Though I had travelled much before, I had never been to a tropical country. I have a very low tolerance to heat, which kept me fairly grounded in the northern hemisphere.

As such, I had never seen one of these little guys outside an aquarium before, and was entirely shocked to make his acquaintance in my bedroom.

Indoor Lizard

I would very quickly discover that these little cuties are the Thai version of house flies. They are in every home, and essentially harmless, so you aren’t to pay them any mind.

Though there are many varieties, the most common (upon very close inspection) really are quite cute. Nothing offensive, slimy or creepy about him at all – aside from the sticking to walls and ceilings thing. That made my adjustment a lot easier.

Little pets that you don’t have to feed or clean up after. Well, I did find little poops on the walls from time to time, but with all the other jungle things I had to adjust to, easy to wipe off gecko poos were the very least of my worries. More on that later!

My first sunset in the industrial town of Hat Yai did not disappoint. The view from my temporary room was tropical and pink. I had never seen an entirely pink sky before… I was about to see a lot of things I had never seen before!

Thai Sunset Many Motorbikes

Life really picks up here when the glaring sun sets, and the temperatures slightly drop. Every night in southern Thailand is like the most gorgeous summer night you have ever experienced. Light warm breezes, consistent storm-less weather, many people wandering about, lots of night time activities.

At one time, Hat Yai was officially 24 hours with malls and restaurants remaining open all hours. That changed but the lifestyle didn’t. Though the main shops are closed, there are night markets on almost every other corner and food vendors line the streets.

People are out in droves, every night of the week. My hosts decided to take me out to show me some Thai night life. I was shocked by the sheer number of ‘motorbikes’ on the road. Thousands! They far outnumbered motorcars. Economically speaking, a motorbike is the wiser choice.

It wouldn’t be too long before I was looking at buying my own ‘motorbike’.

On our night tour, I met the most adorable Thai Pomeranian. We immediately fell in love – I wanted to steal him from his owners, but he was well taken care of.

Having a pet dog or cat is not very common in this part of Thailand – though many run feral and wild in the streets.

Thai Pom

I had spent the day on the verge of passing out. More than once I stepped into the (cold water only!) shower, fully clothed to prevent myself from expiring. Within 20 minutes of soaking, my clothing was entirely dry! Amazing, and so, SO HOT.

It was quite intentional that part of our tour that night included the ‘BlueKiss ICE Bar‘.

I would end up frequenting this bar a bit, just to spend time in the ice room, pictured below. Below zero and always empty (unless a group were coming in to talk to me, the ‘crazy Canadian – she like the cold!’), the little refrigerated back room in the bar was a place I retreated to, for a few weeks.

By the time I was in my second month of teaching, I had physically adjusted to the heat and could no longer tolerate the below zero temperatures of the Ice Bar – much to the chagrin of the other patrons who were hoping to gawk at me and count the minutes I spent in the freezing room.

Often I would exit to a crowd and cheers!

In the Ice Bar Farrang Toilet

The toilets were a surprise to me. Though many chic clubs, restaurants and shops will install a farrang/fallang (Thai for caucasian foreigner) toilet, they still use it like Thais, which left me wondering what I was supposed to do!

They still do not flush toilet paper (or use it very often – paper products and wet tropical climes are not a great combo), so the used remnants are visible in a bin beside the toilet. And though it is not a hole in a pit, they still squat on it like one. Being a north american sitter myself, I took this photo to celebrate my first squat experience.

My hosts had a farrang toilet. They also had scorpions. I would meet one tonight, my first night, and have many, many more VERY close encounters. I had to pick them up to get them out of my house at least 3/4x a week!

Thai Scorpion

I hadn’t been very exploratory in the food department before moving to Thailand, and so started with some vegi noodle dish. I was impressed by the flavours and the packaging – how cool is it to have your spices right there under your meal? No extra packaging required. Brilliant.

1st Thai Dinner Spices Underneath

I also discovered that Thai Pepsi is the best, still made with sugar cane (instead of corn syrup) – just drink it quick. Having it anywhere near you sends a beacon out to the jungle;

‘Hey! There is a juicy farrang here & she has sweet drinks! Everyone, let’s go!’

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You can follow this trip by heading to the ‘Living In Thailand‘ section, or you can enjoy many more photos of Thailand by heading to the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.

(continued)

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6 responses to “The First Day – Thailand

  1. How fascinating, it looks like a very small aircraft that brought you into Thailand. Can’t wait to see your maps and read more about your routes and travels and immersion into the Thai culture.

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    • It was a very small plane from Bangkok to Hat Yai! Frightfully small actually – and I was one of 6 people on it! Kinda exciting :D.

      Thank you :D, I am looking forward to telling Thai tales too! 😀

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  2. Thanks for a great post. Lots of your piece reminds me of when I lived in Thailand for four years, in Nonthaburi and then Bangkok in the 1990s. I’ve just been back to Bangkok for the first time in 10 years and it’s changed hugely of course. But Hat Yai seems still to be similar to what all Thailand used to be like (and probably most is still like, outside of the Bangkok metro and tourism areas).

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    • Four years! Wow! That is a long time to spend in such an incredibly foreign country. I did find most of the ‘smaller communities’ to be very similar to Hat Yai. I don’t think too much has changed in generations, and I like to think it won’t! I didn’t get to spend much time in Bangkok, as it was about 17 hours away – but the little time I did spend there was very overwhelming! A fantastic experience to say the least. 😀

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      • My four years were actually in two stints: 1990-1993 and 1997-1999. Between 1993 and 1997, I went every six weeks, so it feels like I lived there longer than four years. It affected me profoundly and formed the basis for a lot of my creative and professional life. I have since written two books (one non-fiction, one fiction) and completed a PhD based on research on Thailand. Originally, I’d gone there as an “expat wife”, and had no idea the experience would provide such opportunity.
        Have you read Dream of a Thousand Lives, by Karen Connelly? She’s a Canadian from Calgary who spent a year as a school student in a small village in northern Thailand.

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        • Oh wow – fascinating! It affected me profoundly too – broadened my ‘world view’ to say the least. An incredible experience. I ahve not read the book, no – but now that you have pointed it out, I will have to look it up – thank you! 🙂

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