Published: April 8th 2012April 6th 2012
We’re back from Bangkok! Thailand has to be one of my favorite countries. The trip was absolutely incredible! We saw and did so many things that probably aren’t available anywhere else in the world. It is definitely a place that I would recommend going to. The first four days in Bangkok, we spent at the EARCOS (East Asia Council of Schools) teacher’s conference. There were about 1400 teachers there from all over Asia. Mostly from international schools, therefore, lots of white people. Definitely the highest concentration of white people we’ve seen in about 9 months. I’ll give you a run-down of what we did during our 8 days there.
Wednesday-Saturday: Our flight wasn’t until late on Wednesday night, so we didn’t leave Baguio until about 10am, so we still taught our first block class. Then we left for the trek down to Manila with a Brent driver. Much better than the bus. It only took 6 hours! Yes, I know, it’s still ridiculous. 150 miles in 6 hours is not something I should be bragging about. So we got to the airport quite early, but that was good because it took us forever to go through immigration (emigration?) because our
visas are still in their final stages of processing. Flight went well, a little late, but not too bad. We had arranged for a taxi to pick us up in Bangkok, because we didn’t know what the public taxis would be like. We stayed at the Shangri-La for the conference. It was incredible! It was a little ways away from the main part of town, which was fine because we were busy with conference sessions all day and events at night. The hotel was huge. It was right on the river with a gorgeous pool and outdoor area. Tons of meeting rooms. Huge buffet breakfast. It was great. Food and drinks and spa were American priced (so ridiculously overpriced for Thailand), so we didn’t really do much at the hotel during our spare time. We just wandered around the area. The conference was pretty great. It was really cool talking to other teachers from other parts of Asia. Some of the schools seemed pretty incredible. Baguio is really lacking in technology, and a lot of these other schools had everything they could ever want. So that was a little disappointing. However, I’m pretty sure I had the best class sizes
of anyone (2-14 students), so I’m not gonna complain too much about our lack of resources. Four of the ten sessions that I went to were by a guy who was one of the creators of Geometer’s Sketchpad (it’s a pretty common math computer program for high school and college students). Those sessions were awesome. He obviously knew everything about the program since he created it, so there wasn’t a question that he couldn’t answer. I had only used the program a little in college, so I wasn’t too familiar with it. But I learned how to use it in settings from Kindergarten through Calculus. Now I just have to convince the school to buy it. Those four sessions were definitely the best that I went to. There were a few that I was like, “Um, I could have done a better job. Why did they fly you all the way from ____________ to present this?” So that was a little disappointing, but at least those four on Sketchpad were awesome. There was another one that I went to that was all about Singapore math for elementary school. Even though it doesn’t directly apply to me, it was really informative
and I think I’m going to try and get part of that curriculum implemented in the elementary school here.
Two of the nights of the conference, there were receptions for all the teachers. That was pretty fun. We got to socialize with teachers from all over Asia. While eating some pretty great (and fancy) food provided by the Shangri-La. And drinks, of course.
The other night, there wasn’t any teacher event, so us Brent teachers (6 of us went), wandered and found a really good local restaurant. After that, Brandon, Marissa and I decided that we needed to try a fish spa. We had read and heard about Bangkok being famous for them, so we figured we’d give it a go. It’s pretty much just a bunch of sucker minnows in a tank that you stick your feet in and they nibble the dead skin off your feet. It tickles so much! But it was pretty cool.
Sunday: The conference ended on Saturday night, so we had to check out of the Shangri-La on Sunday morning. No way were we staying there when we had to pay for it on our own. Marissa, Brandon and I had
decided to stay an extra four days in Bangkok, because it was Brent’s spring break. So we took a taxi to our other hotel. This hotel was not nearly as nice, but definitely in a more ideal location. It was about a block off of the main road (Sukhumvit). That afternoon we had hired a tour guide to take us to a few of the main attractions in Bangkok. She met us at our hotel and then we took taxis from there. As long as you can get the taxi to use its meter (easier said than done for a white person), the ride is very cheap. That’s why it was great having a Thai guide with us. She took us to the Grand Palace, the reclining Buddha, and the Chatuchuk weekend market. The Grand Palace is the biggest temple in Bangkok. There were a lot of buildings at it, but the one that’s the most famous is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. When reading about this, I was expecting the Buddha to be big. Or at least decent sized. It was quite a disappointment when we got there to see that it was only about 25 inches tall.
It was up high a huge pedestal and we couldn’t take pictures inside. Only through the window on the outside. So visiting that temple was a little anti-climatic. However, at the other temple (reclining Buddha), the Buddha was much more impressive. The temple itself was not too great, but the Buddha was huge. 42 meters in length. And it was gold plated. After these temples, we went to the Chatuchuk weekend market. Like the name says, it’s only open on weekends. It was huge. 8,000 stalls. We obviously only saw part of it. It just went on forever. If we hadn’t live in the Philippines for almost a year, it would have been incredibly stressful and too overwhelming because it was so hectic. But after living in a different third world country, the crowds didn’t stress us out too much. We bought a few things for pretty cheap (not quite as cheap as the Philippines, but still way cheaper than the US). After that, we went back to our hotel and rested for a little while, because we had an exciting evening ahead of us.
That night, we went on the “Bangkok Hangover 2” tour. I’m very glad we
Thai iced tea
My new favorite drink
went on the tour, because there’s no way that we would have gone to some of these places without having someone show us around. We started out at Soi Cowboy, one of the main bar roads that’s featured in the movie. We had two guides. A Thai woman and a British man who had been living in Bangkok for 15 years. They took us to a wide variety of places. Some more raunchy than others. He also told us that each girl that’s dancing can be “bought” for the night, for about $15. You can just hang out with “your” girl at the bar that she’s from, or you can bring her wherever you want as an escort. If you want to have sex, than it costs more like $60. I can’t believe how prevalent that stuff is there. It’s crazy. It was also really sad to see how so many of these girls (and lady-boys) live their lives. But apparently that stuff is just not a big deal there. I’m glad we went to those places to see that part of what Bangkok’s famous for, but it’s definitely not something I ever need to see again.
decided just to take it easy and walk around Bangkok on our own. We took a taxi to one of the big malls, because we didn’t know where it was and taxis are super cheap. However, once we got there, we realized it was only about a mile and a half along Sukhumvit from our hotel. So we explored there for a while. I just looked up facts on it to compare to Mall of America. MBK has 4 times the amount of stores, but has 1/3 of the area. So that gives you an idea of how big it is, and how cramped it is and how small the stores are. The stores are about the same size as ones here at SM in the Philippines, so I guess that shows you how different shopping is in SE Asia compared to the US. We also go Thai massages at a place near our hotel on the way back from MBK. I actually talked Brandon into getting one :) It was quite interesting. In a Thai massage, the masseuse using his/her body to stretch you in weird ways in addition to normal massage techniques. That was a little bit challenging
for the Thai guy that was doing Brandon’s. He was about half the size of Brandon. Brandon and I were in the same room, so I could kinda watch to see the masseuse attempting to bend Brandon in weird directions. There is a Thai massage place in Baguio that I’ve been to numerous times, so this wasn’t my first, but it was Brandon’s. And I can’t say that he’ll try it again. We did do a foot massage at a different place that he said he enjoyed, so maybe he will come with me for one of those again :) That night we just hung out at the hotel because we had to get up really early the next morning for a day with tigers and elephants!
Tuesday: Our day started out at about 4:30am because we were getting picked up by our tour guide at 5am. We had a 2 hour drive to outside of Bangkok where we first stopped at the Bridge over River Kwai. Then, we were on to the Tiger Temple. It’s a Buddhist temple that’s run by monks and volunteers. They raise tigers and tame them, as much as possible. We started out the
morning by feeding the tiger cubs. All of the tigers were under 12 months old. Some of them were about the size of a springer spainiel, some looked like almost full grown tigers. The smaller ones were the ones that we got to bottle feed. It was so much fun! They were kinda messy though, so we had a lot of spilled milk on us, which got kinda smelly during the heat of the day. After feeding them, we got to play with the little ones. Some of them were quite playful and we could play with them like a dog, some just wanted to sleep. After that, we got the walk the tigers on a leash. That was fun. It was like walking a very hyper dog that just wanted to do its own thing. It was quite difficult to get them from not climbing the trees or wrestle with other tigers along the way. After the walk, we got to bathe teenage tigers. It was just like washing a dog. We had a hose and shampoo and the tiger just sat there on a leash. After that, we got to play with teenage tigers with their toys. You
know the cat toys that are like a ball on a string attached to a stick? Well, it was pretty much the same, only huge. The toys were long sticks with bottles and plastic bags attached to the end, so they would make noise. We rattled those around in the tigers’ faces and watched them attack. Sometimes, they got the bag, and it was a losing battle of tug-a-war with a tiger. So, some of the toys were destroyed. After that, we got to take pictures with full-grown tigers. And after that, we got to watch full grown tigers play with each other and some of the trainers. That was incredible. Some of the trainers were right up in the water with the tigers. Again, the trainers were using those toy stick things to get the tigers to jump. That was awesome to be able to watch the interactions. That ended our morning at the tiger temple. Then, we were off to play with elephants. First, we got to ride an elephant. Part of it was on a chair on top of the elephant, and part was just sitting on the elephant’s head. This was a little scary. It didn’t
feel like the chairs were well attached to the elephants (they obviously were though) and when I was sitting on the head, there was nothing to hold on to. And, part of the ride consisted of going up and down pretty steep steps, so that was scary, because we were about 12 feet off the ground riding on an elephant, not fully secure, and the elephant is walking on scary steps. But we made it. After the elephant ride, we took a different elephant down to the river to have a bath. When I read about elephant baths, I thought we were going to wash the elephant, like we did the tiger. I was in for a surprise. We got into the water while riding on the elephant’s back, and the mahout (elephant trainer) starting saying commands (in Thai, so we had no idea what was going on). And then the elephant starting spraying water at us through its trunk (probably not the most sanitary. Dirty Thai river water being sprayed through an elephant’s nose. But it was amazing. After we were completely soak, the mahout asked us to hold onto the elephant’s ears. We were confused, but obliged. Then
the elephant stuck its head underwater and started rocking back and forth, much like a (mechanical) bull, until were flung off into the river. That was amazing. A little scary at first, because we didn’t know what was going on, but it was so cool to see how the elephant was trained to do this. I’ll try and put a video of this on here. So we spent probably about an hour just getting splashed by elephants in the river. After that, we stopped at a local place for lunch. Very good, authentic Thai meal. After that, we were on our way back to Bangkok. Overall, probably one of the most fun days of my life :)
That evening we decided to go to a famous Bangkok restaurant called “Cabbages and Condoms.” It’s owned by a company that’s trying to help control the population of Thailand and keep STDs down. The food was authentic Thai, which was really good. It was a pretty big restaurant with a gorgeous outdoor seating place. Instead of after-dinner mints, condoms are given out. I guess it’s a good thing that there are places like these after everything that we saw on Sunday night!
Wednesday: We had arranged another tour for today. This time to a couple different famous markets. The train market and the floating market. Both about an hour outside of Bangkok. Our driver and tour guide picked us up at 7am, so not quite as early as the day before. Our first stop was at the train market. It seems just like a normal market, until you realize that it’s on train tracks. Active train tracks. A train comes through about eight times per day. So when this happens, the vendors have to quickly move their stuff from the tracks. After the train passes, selling resumes just like nothing happened. We were lucky enough to be there at a time when a train was going through. It’s amazing how inconvenient it is, and still it is a pretty big market. It’s probably because it’s such a tourist attraction. Next, we were on to the floating market. It was originally just a normal market with local food, but since it became so touristy, many of the shops are souvenirs. We had a guy paddling us around on a little boat going to the different vendors that were set up on the
See, it's so small!
edge of the canals. There were also some things being sold in various boats. We also got a tour of some of the private canal ways that showed some local Thai houses along the canals. No vendors here. So that was pretty neat to see some of the local ways of life. After that, we headed back to Bangkok. It was only about 1pm, so we spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering around Bangkok and doing a little shopping.
That night (our last night), we went on a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya. That was pretty neat. We decided to go on a small boat instead of one of the big ones. The boat could only hold about 25 people, but there were only about 10 people on it, so that was nice. The meal was a four course authentic Thai meal. Very delicious. It was a great way to spend our last evening.
Thursday: Not too exciting of a day. We got up early to make our flight. Flew from Bangkok to Manila and then a Brent driver picked us up and brought us back to Baguio. About 15 hours of travelling, because of
the ridiculous drive from Manila to Baguio.
Now we’re back and have a couple days off before we go back to school on Tuesday. We’re coming down the home stretch with school. Only 8 more weeks of school and then it’s home to the states for about 8 weeks. Can’t wait :)
I couldn't get the videos to upload on here. I'm in the process of putting them on youtube, so I'll put the links on here when they upload.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the videos
There are more photos below