Long weekend in Koh Sumui (sa -moo-ee)

Because Shrewsbury starts its school year so much earlier than schools in the UK it means that all the new teachers have only a very short summer holiday in the year that they start. In actual fact I didn’t get a break at all as it was all go packing up and sorting out the house and then it has been straight here for induction then the start of term. So the school gives everyone a long weekend in the third week of Sept and very welcome it is too!!

Kevin booked us a weekend break on the Island of Koh Samui, which has a reputation for being less touristy than Krabbe or Phuket. It was only a short 45mins flight from Bangkok and flights are so regular that it is more like a  bus service really. Bangkok Airways were fantastic, they have a lounge for all travellers with drinks and snacks freely available. Then they fed us a proper three course meal when we were in the air!

We stayed in the Banana Fan Sea Resort which was direclty on the white sandy beach. We had a marvellous time resting and relaxing with a Thai massage on the beach for only £6 (bargain) on the first day. 

We did the ‘tourist’ thing and went on a full day Safari Tour of the interior of the island. The first stop was the temple (Wat) Plai Laem which is new, being finished only in 2004. This Wat has a colourful giant ‘Happy Buddha’ who represents wealth and prosperity and so is a popular one to pray to… Next door is a huge statue of Guanyin a Chinese goddess of Mercy and Compassion who has 18 arms. She has so many arms because she is said to protect children, women, the sick and the poor (and of course, there are lots of them who need her protection.) In another legend she was the daughter of a king who was at war and she was forbidden from fighting (being a girl) so she prayed to be able to assist and the gods granted her the extra arms so that she could help in the battle (which her father then won unsurprisingly!) Either way in a religion which depicts males over females in much of its culture and iconography I was please to see a strong and powerful woman being revered. She is known locally as the ‘Lady Buddha’ although technically only men can attain Buddha-hood.

We then visited a Big Buddha which was golden and sat serenely surveying the landscape around him. I was delighted to see the steps which are adorned with colourful dragons for protection. We have been warned that if we encounter a monk here that we are to shown respect by stepping aside and under no circumstances whatsoever are women allowed to touch a monk! I kept away from them when they were receiving offerings from the villagers. I did however love the golden statue of a priest for its depth of expression and the cute little golden monkey making it’s own offering to his Master. It wasn’t a baking hot day (to our immense relief) but this meant that the photos don’t look too bright as it was quite cloudy.

After that we had a white-knuckle ride in a 4 wheel truck up some very rutted and steep mountain tracks in the interior of the island. It was quite a bone shaker experience but the waterfall we visited was very calming and Kevin was even brave enough to have a dip in the rock pool.

After lunch we were given a demonstration of rubber collection which took me straight back to my GCSE Geography days. I remember learning about how rubber is collected but never thought that I would actually see it.

The highlight of the day has to be TaLim’s Magical Garden. Ta means ‘Grandfather’ so this translates as Grandfather’s Lim’s magical Garden. Buddhists believe that you should do good things in this life to help you with future re-births so Ta Lim created a garden on the hillside. After his death it was opened to the public and it is a place of peace, beauty and mystery in the shade of the trees. Delightful. All topped off with the creamiest coconut ice cream ever!

It was nice to have the opportunity to see more of this country’s wonderful and varied culture and to share some of the images with you. We still can’t believe how fortunate we are to have this opportunity to experience another land and another people. And we got to have breakfast on the beach… what more could you ask.

City Campus

Shrewsbury is expanding rapidly and opening a further 4 Junior schools in September 18. Two in China, one in Hong Kong and one in Bangkok (to be called the City Campus)

Yesterday after work we had a visit to the new campus/building site which will become the new school. It has just rained so the site was awash with mud but we were all suitably impressed although as with any building project it all looks as though it can’t possibly be ready in time!!!

The new library building hasn’t been finished yet & there is much to do to get it all set up. You can see a picture here is a sample classroom.

The school certainly do know how to do hospitality and the spread was delicious. We even had decent wine which is particularly hard to come by here.  Trust me to be impressed by the food!

I have offered to assist with developing a new library- the adventure continues… and if anyone fancies a job out here we will be recruiting 

Wai Kru Ceremony

Today was the Junior School ceremony of Wai Kru. Kru means teacher and in Thailand teachers are respected as second parents. The Wai is the formal bow with the hands together.

In this ceremony representatives from the teaching areas sat up on the stage while a child came and knelt before us and presented us with a floral arrangement in a special golden bowl. We then gave blessings to the child and encouraged them in their studies. My little girl was from Year 3 and was SO sweet. This has to rank as one of the most memorable occasions in my life.

The flowers are on the library desk as I was accepting them on behalf of the whole team. And the other picture is with Sally, the Head of the Junior School. As you can see each arrangement is slightly different.

A Land of smiles

Thailand has been dubbed the land of smiles and it really is true. People here smile A LOT and it is part of what makes the place so friendly and welcoming. There are in fact 13 different types of Thai smile and they all mean different things
1. Yim thang taa: The ‘I’m so happy I am crying’ smile
2. Yim Thak Thaai: The polite smile for someone you barely know
3. Yim Cheun Chom: the ‘I admire you’ smile
4Feun Yim; The stiff smile, also known as the ‘I should laugh at the joke even though I know its not funny’ smile
5. Yim mee lessanai: The smile that masks something wicked in your mind
6. Yin yaw: The teasing or ‘I told you so’ smile
7. Yim yae-yae: The ‘I know things look pretty bad but there is no use crying over spilt milt’ smile
8. Yim sao: the sad smile
9. Yim haeng: the dry smile, also known as the ‘I owe you money but I don’t have it’ smile
10. Yim thsk thaan: the ‘I disagree with you’ smile also known as the ‘you can go ahead and propose it but your idea is no good’ smile
11. Yim cheua cheuan: ‘I am the winner’ smile that the winner gives to the losing competitor
12. yim soo: The ‘smile in the face of an impossible struggle’ smile
13. Yim mai awk: |The ‘I’m trying to smile but I can’t’ smile

Thais smile all the time, even if they are being told off in school or if they have no intention of doing what has just been asked of them. It can be very confusing for a westerner at tie as you think that your team are in agreement with you when you are greeted by a set of beaming faces. But it isn’t always the case.
I am hoping that I can get a photo to upload . It is one of the new teachers (maths),called Doy who is half Thai and who smiles as broadly as this ALL the time. e is a real pleasure to be around. He even smiled through the difficult bits in Zumba – something the rest of us were definitely not doing.

Anyway, today I an add another smile to the list.

Its 14. Yim Toner: the ‘my shipping is going to be delivered this morning ‘smile. Yippee!

At last we will be re-united with our stuff. All those things which we packed 10 weeks ago. It is going to be like Christmas. Finally our apartment will start to look more homely. Hot but homely.

I hope that reading these posts makes you smile as broadly as Doy


Koh Samet weekend

After three weeks of settling in, learning & finding our way around Bangkok we deserved a break so when the fellow newbies proposed a weekend in Koh Samet we jumped at the opportunity.

They organised the mini bus which was supposed to take 3 hours but actually took 4 as traffic out of the city was bad. Shared between 9 of us it cost £10 each which wasn’t bad. We all piled onto a speedboat for a James Bond-esq super-charged ride to the island (£5 each) and we were on the beach with a drink shortly after 8pm!

We had opted for the luxury end of the market & chosen a superior room which was a real bargain at £60 per night including breakfast and located right on the beach. When you consider that a bog standard Premier Inn can be £69 or more per night… I even had a fresh fruit platter on arrival (the pineapple here is way more delicious that what we get in the UK)

Everyone was highly excited on the drive down discussing what they were going to do. I said to kevin that I didn’t fancy the neon paint party or the bucket of cocktail… but we ended up joining in (ours was a bucket of pina colada) and I felt as though I was living in a Fascinating Aida song (‘getting down with the kids’ – which Jane, Philippa & Honor will recognise).

This island is stunning. We strolled along the white sands, snorkelled among the tropical fish and ate dinner on the beach. It was just the chillax we needed. The sea was the warmest I have ever come across and we have both caught the sun. But we return to the city refreshed and reinvigorated.

We still can’t quite believe that we live here now. We have to keep pinching ourselves. This isn’t just a holiday! If any of you are considering a move then I highly recommend this place. #livingthedream