Thailand; it’s NUTS!

Time to kickstart this blog, with a post of real use. The primary reason for this blog, was to offer useful insights to allergy sufferers who planned on travelling to Thailand. There are many blogs which may offer advice upon allergies, but not many by allergy sufferers. So here we go;

Upon arrival in Bangkok, I had mushroom soup. I know ‘creamed’ soup contained coconut milk  as opposed to water, so I thought I would play safe and opt for non-creamed. Still, a problem occurred. Part way through my meal, I felt my throat tighten up. I stopped eating, and drank a lot of water. This is when reality kicked in. I’m not sure what was in it, whether the mushrooms had been fried in peanut oil, or whether there was just cross contamination, but it was enough to up my caution. Fact is though, if you live in Bangkok, you will not struggle to survive. There are Western restaurants, Tesco Lotus and 7-Eleven for all of your requirements. Just be careful. Personally, I wasn’t a massive fan of Bangkok, but it provides a safe alternative to rural Thailand, if you really want to visit the land of smiles.

Up until I moved to Nongbuadaeng, I played much more on the cautious side. 7-Eleven offers food which they can make for you in store; toasted sandwiches, croissants, rice pots and various burgers. That shop is thus effectively responsible for my survival, from October 20th to October 30th.

Nongbuadaeng was the turning point. As you’ve seen, I’ve met many great Thai people who have been great regards the food scene. Regarding Thai food, I’ll list what I’ve eaten thus far;

  • Som Tam – the famous papaya salad. In Thailand, it can be very spicy. If you want it without spice; say ‘mai sai pik’. If you want medium spice; ‘nid noi’. BEWARE; medium is not medium. It’s f’n hot. Ensure you have a glass of water at the ready.
  • Khao Tom – rice soup. I’ve joked with Thai teachers before, as they say this is the meal to have when you have a sore throat. It’s very bland just to go to a restaurant and eat. Simply rice in water, with vegetables and pork/chicken/soya.
  • Kapow Gai/Moo – Rice, with meat! If you have an allergy to rice, stay away. Kapow gai or moo can again be spicy, so use instructions given above – regards som tam. Kapow Gai is chicken mince served with rice, while kapow moo is pork mince served with rice.
  • Mooping – Pork on a stick. Available from your local market, accompanied with sticky rice. You get many foods on a stick, but be careful as some foods are fried and peanut oil may be used. Mooping is grilled.

Dependent upon the market size, some stalls sell chips. Dependent upon the area itself, you may even be lucky enough to have a western restaurant. NBD contains an ice cream shop, which sells western food; so, for example, battered fish was on the menu for Christmas dinner.

BEWARE. The above foods I have eaten, but the dishes can be altered slightly, dependent upon the restaurant. For example, Khao Tom can contain egg. DO NOT let this scare you. Research prior to my arrival in Thailand, led me to this; https://www.brokerfish.com/food-allergy-translation-cards/nuts-thai . Hand this card to the waiter/waitress or whoever, and they will react accordingly. In a Thai restaurant I went to, I wasn’t sure what to eat as I cannot read Thai – yet. They went away and discussed with the chef, and minutes later I was served kapow moo. The Thai people are very friendly, especially in rural areas.

If you plan to be in Thailand for more than a couple of weeks, your chances of survival can increase… I like rice, but having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner can prove a little much. So I bought myself a microwave. It costs around 2,000baht, £40, but monetary value doesn’t matter as much in a situation like this. What to cook then? You can purchase a range of vegetables from the market; potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, tomatoes etc. In addition to vegetables, there’s a wide range of fruit, from banana’s to dragon fruit. If you take a trip to Tesco Lotus, then you can also stack up on tins. They sell beans, mushroom soup and corn soup, to name a few.

So; if you have a nut allergy and want to travel to Thailand, I cannot encourage you to do so. I would simply state that if you prepare, then survival is possible. Here’s a survival kit;

  • Allergy Card (as above)
  • Prescription medication, e.g. an epi pen or rather, epi pens!
  • Thai phrasebook.

Sanook. Enjoy.

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English Camp

English Camp must be attended a minimum of two times, per semester. That is a fundamental aspect of the contract I am on. It’s unpaid, but effectively provides you with a weekend away to party with teachers and students alike. For English Camp in November, myself and others from Nongbuadaeng Wittaya, were lucky enough to end up at camp in the beautiful national park that is Khao Yai. (See map below)

English camp consists of various activities, with the primary objective to learn some English. Having fun appears to be a lot more important though, so activities are created accordingly! Games and activities included; the chicken dance, man and monk, traffic light game, friend to friend, learning about ASEAN and the powder game. I believe pictures portray more than words can on this part, so here’s a story in pictures…The long songthaew journey begins...SongthaewsArrival at Khao Yai!

Scenery in Khao YaiTraffic Light Game

Hello, hello, hello...


The journey home...

Nong Bua Daeng; the story so far!

Having tried to see the positive in a negative situation, I now consider myself very lucky to have ended up in Nongbuadaeng Wittaya School! This post comes later than I had planned, simply because I wanted to spend some time exploring the town, before I gave you an insight. This article should focus on; the general community and Nongbuadaeng Wittaya School!

The community in general appears to be very tightly-knit, although I suppose the lesser population is partially to thank. I am one of 3 Farang’s teaching at Nongbuadaeng Wittaya, although there are another 2 nearby. Generally, we are all welcomed by the local community with confused but warming smiles from the locals. Focus then, must be on the 3 F’s; food, facilities and festivals!

Regards the food front, Nong Bua Daeng did seem very basic; with 7/11 is the closest you’ll come to a supermarket for 50 miles. That being said, as you venture more, the food front becomes a lot more interesting and exotic. The night market provides a feast of foods, as stated within my last post. Night market food is generally as British as Pad Thai, but there’s something for everyone, EVEN IF YOU HAVE A NUT ALLERGY. Hot dogs and other strange sausages, on sticks. Pork, on sticks. Chicken, on sticks. Shrimp, on sticks. Octopus, on sticks. All available with sticky rice! You get the picture, yes? In addition to all these foreign delights, Nong Bua Daeng does boast a small ice-cream shop, named scoop, which sells a variety of Western meals. Fact is, you won’t starve here, nut allergy or no nut allergy.

Less focus on food then, and more on the facilities in the surrounding area. Sports wise, there’s lots to do. If you’re a teacher, then there are various after school sports. Football, futsal, volleyball, badminton, basketball, sepak takraw and even ping pong. Even if you do not teach, and like the sound of the area; there are football and futsal parks, in addition to a basketball court and a loch for running. Don’t run at nights though. The locals might be friendly 24/7, but the local dogs become a bit rowdy after dark! Theories behind this are inconclusive, but I reckon they see farang’s as vampires, or ghosts.

Food? Check. Facilities? Check. Time for some festival talk then! Thai’s love a festival. It’s great fun for everyone in the area! Early December has saw a massive festival enter the town of Nong Bua Daeng, for the kings birthday, featuring everything from acrobats, to live music shows, to a Thai elephant! (below) The set up is great too. Stalls featuring everything from games, to t-shirts with messages which cannot be spoken on here… All in all, this place is ace.

Feeding an elephant

OK, onto Nongbuadaeng Wittaya (below). The school itself looks great, although the facilities inside are not quite up to Western standards, as you’d expect. Majority of classrooms contain a whiteboard, so life isn’t so bad on that part. The only negative, is that many classrooms do not contain a fan. Now a classroom of 40-50 lively kids can get very hot, but luckily lessons only last 50 minutes. Learning a little Thai can go a long way on this part though, using  words such as ‘neap’ (quiet) and ‘grasip’ (whisper) to calm them down. In the long run, I hope to provide some additional tips to help you in the classroom. I’m still new to it all though, so would rather get more experience under my belt!

Building 3 Building 4 Office for English Department View from English Department

When entering a school, no matter how fantastic the aesthetics may be, the real heart comes from the people within. In this case, I’m delighted to say EVERYONE has been very welcoming. Teachers and students alike. The school contains 2500-3000 students, all with a crazy level of respect for the ‘Farangs’. This makes the teaching much more enjoyable. There are tougher classes, as some children do not care for English, but there are ways around their disinterest. The Thai teachers are always very helpful within these scenarios though, with most able to speak very good English. This is somewhat comforting, with everything around the school being written in Thai! No words can express my gratitude for them, but maybe photo’s can help. They thought I said perfect a lot, so below you will see a new trend I’ve started in school! The other image, is self explanatory…

NBD (Thai Teachers Feeding)

From Cheesetown to Non Bua Daeng?

Alright folks, lifes been a bit mad. The initial two posts should give you an idea of who I am, and what’s happened so far. Those of you who have not read the most recent post, I’m guessing you’re asking; “Why the ****’s ‘Nongbuadaeng in the title?” Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? Unfortunately events occurred out-with my control, which now mean I’m teaching Nongbuadaeng Wittaya School, as opposed to Pua School. I’ll skip the boring details, and focus upon the new location… First and foremost, where’s Nong Bua Daeng? It’s North East of Bangkok, in the Chaiyaphum province and would generally take around 5 hours in the car. (See below)

A benefit of Nongbuadaeng already then, is that it’s around 4 hours closer than Bangkok, via car. Despite being more central than Pua, it remains very ‘Thai’. I have been informed there are numerous Expats who live here, but you’ll be lucky if you see even one tourist. I’ve not even seen an expat yet, that I’m aware of. That made it strange to begin with, as I received many a strange look. Not that they were angry, just curious to why Charlie Chalk was wandering through Nongbuadaeng. In addition, although there are many people who try to speak English within the town, many do not. Hopefully, as a result, my Thai skills will improve!

Having told you that it’s a friendly town, I’ll give you 10 brief points about the town. Just a list of facilities available. I can go into more depth when I explore the town further. The town contains;

1. A 7 Eleven. If you’ve been to Thailand recently, and not seen a 7 Eleven, you’re very unlucky! It sells all your basic grocery needs, from bread to cheese flavoured popcorn…

2. Thai restaurants. Would recommend one, but my allergies prevents this! Oh yeah, nut/egg allergy sufferers; find a western restaurant, 7 Eleven, and eat chicken/pork and rice on a regular basis and you’ll be fine.

3. A market ran on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; selling everything from BBQ pork, to chicken hearts. There is another market through the week; selling fresh fruit, vegetables and a mixture of meats. Plenty of seafood! If you are a brave chef, then you’ll be in heaven. Although I imagine there are similar markets in other locations…

4. It has bars. Fundamental aspect. I’ve yet to investigate all of them, but thus far they seem to have a friendly atmosphere. Oh yeah, Scots, whisky’s big…but it’s not whisky!

5. An ice cream shop, which sells western food. It’s called Scoop, and this I can highly recommend. Pizza, fish & chips, fruit & ice-cream. Sorted.

6. Coffee shops! If you’re going to teach English, this may be a necessity.

7. Tuk-tuks, one of my favourite things about Thailand. They are ridiculously fun, more so than they should be. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_rickshaw )

8. Songthaews. They could be the punchline for; what do you get if you cross First Bus with a tuk-tuk? Although Songthaews are more efficient. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Songthaew )

9. On a more boring note, there’s a variety of barbers and beauty shops, if you require them.

10. Finally, if you’re not happy, or bored….you’re located an hour away from Chiyapeum town. So head off to Chaiyapeum town and party the night away.

OK, so that’s an intro to the town. More information and pictures shall follow in time. Before I go, I’ll let you see my wee home, in Nongbuadaeng. (see below)

My house, in the middle of my street.

My house, in the middle of my street.

The street that I live on.

The street that I live on.

It’s located directly next to the two other ‘Farangs’ at my school. Both cool characters with great accents; an Aussie and a South African. It’s also located on a friendly but quiet street, within a 5 minute walk from….well….EVERYTHING. In this heat, it can feel like a 20 minute walk though. On that note, a massive thanks to Willis Haviland Carrier, for the invention of air con.

Cheers for reading folks, more to come soon regarding my visits to Pattaya (the Thai beach resort filled with Russians) and Bangkok (a place where ANYTHING goes).

Sa Wat Dee Khrap!

The Adventure Begins; Bangkok and Pattaya!

OK, I won’t bore you for too long. Here’s an insight into the start of my adventure;

Oct 19th; Arrived in Bangkok

Oct 20th; Explored the madness that is Khao san road, being offered everything; from a tailored suit, to a fried scorpion, to a wristband with the most ridiculous messages on them, you could possibly imagine. One example; chicken fanny. More examples, below;

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Oct 21st; Done the box standard tourist thing, and went to the grand palace. Although I’m not a religious man, and I studied Sustainable Architecture, the temple was outstanding! (See below)

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Oct 22nd; As we were in Bangkok, and remained tourists for the time being, it was onto another tourist type destination. The floating market. (See below) When you get to the floating market, barter. We did not, as we didn’t know you should….beforehand, so ended up paying 1000Baht (£20) per head. Despite overpaying, it was worth it!

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The night of the 23rd, was our final night in Bangkok. The thought then; go out in style and have a great final night on Kosan road! The result? The discovery of how much vodka are in vodka buckets. Too much. For the love of God, don’t go overboard.

Oct 23rd; A very long bus journey to Pattaya, were Russian is the second language. I kid you not, every sign was written in Thai, Russian and English. Anyway, this journey was followed by a very long sleep to recharge the batteries, before the orientation began.

Oct 24th; The orientation began, with the first news being, I was no longer going to Nan. Blog name ruined already!

Oct 25th; More orientation, more controversy. The night ended with some chilling at the pool. Be quiet by the pool though, or angry Russians will shout at you & potentially throw peanuts.

Oct 26th; Songthaew time. Hopped in the back of a pick up truck with seats, travelling half way across Pattaya, for a phone! Wee adventure with a couple of Americans, proved very entertaining. More bartering occurred.

Oct 27th; FINAL DAY of orientation! Then a 9 hour bus journey from Pattaya to Chaiyaphum. This is where the journey to Nonbuadaeng really begins…

Keep tuned for the next article, focussing on the change!

Introduction

Hi folks,

I’ve lived in Scotland for 21 years, but foreign lands await. Following graduation, I decided I wasn’t ready for the box standard 9-5 lifestyle. The question was, what next? That’s when I discovered TEFL (Teaching English in a Foreign Language)!  All you require is a degree certificate, TEFL qualification (preferably) and the relevant paperwork (VISA, CRB Check etc). No experience is required! This won it for me. Following 4 years of job hunting, with EVERY job expecting you to have experience, this was a TEACHING JOB requiring NONE! In addition, you get to live in an amazing country, discovering a new culture and language. This opportunity was too good to turn down. Before you could say Jesus backwards, I had signed a contract to teach English in the land of smiles! The location of my adventure, if you didn’t guess from the title, is Pua Nan, Thailand.

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As I’m travelling, I thought I’d join the blogging bandwagon. ‘From Cheesetown to Pua Nan’ is designed to provide an insight into my adventure, hopefully featuring interesting stories and valuable tips! Why should you stay tuned then?

1. I have no teaching experience, but I’m set to teach classes of 50 students.

2. I have a nut allergy. Nuts are a key ingredient and/or garnish in many Thai meals.

3. I have never travelled abroad on my own. Thailand will offer a massive culture shock.

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Before I complete my introduction, I’ll to clear things up for those not based in ‘Cheesetown’…

Cheesetown is the nickname of Kirkliston, a small town based on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Possibly to your disappointment, it’s not made out of cheese… The name ‘Cheesetown’ allegedly came from Irish navvies – based in Kirkliston – often eating cheese sandwiches during their lunch hours, while working on the construction of the Forth Rail Bridge.

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Lao Tzu once said; “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

On October 18th, I fly to Bangkok! Let the adventure begin!