To say it’s been a busy past few weeks is quite an understatement! With assessments, grading and reports amongst the holiday craze, things have been hectic! But it hasn’t taken away from the amazing vibes that flow through Thailand this time of year. There is much to celebrate and much to take part in, which has only deepened my love for Thailand and the Thai people!
Rainy season in the South of Thailand is upon us, but we still try to explore the city of Hat Yai and its surrounding province of Songkhla, even if that means we get completely drenched and muddy from one of the many downpours. A few weekends ago, we decided to check out the Khlong Hae Floating Market. This market is filled with music, shopping, food and beer (always lots of beer). The market gets its name from the many docked boats that line the peer. On each boat sits a lovely lady or gentlemen, usually under a cute umbrella, preparing and cooking their specialty food. They hand you your food in a basket attached to a long stick. It’s pretty adorable. Like I’ve mentioned before, Hat Yai has very few westerners, so it’s always a fun experience going to places like this because everyone is beaming with kindness and excited to meet us. I do have to admit that the constant staring and whispering on a daily basis gets a little weird. We often hear the Thais say to their friends “farang, farang” (meaning foreigner/white person) … which is then followed by a group of Thais turning their heads and staring at us in bewilderment. But we’ve decided to embrace it and just smile back!
Each November, a huge festival takes place, called Loy Krathong. Loy Krathong is translated to mean, “to float a basket”. Thai people use a banana tree trunk that they then wrap and decorate with banana leaves and flowers. On the basket, they light a candle and incense. Traditionally, they place a clipping of their fingernail and a strand of their hair in their basket to let go past transgressions and negative thoughts. People dress in beautiful, traditional Thai clothing to honor the day.
We had a lovely celebration of Loy Krathong at our school where the teachers and students all came dressed up and created our very own Loy Krathong baskets with our students! The students had been learning how to make the Krathong baskets in their Thai class with their Thai teacher so that they could teach their Western teachers how to make them during the school celebration. It was very fun getting to be the student while my kids showed off their talent and taught me how to make the Krathong! Prior to the day of the festival, the Thai staff that I work with took the western teachers to a fancy Thai dress store. At this store, they have traditional Thai attire that you can rent or buy. All the ladies rented colorful sabais (suh-byes), which is the wrap you wear on the top of your body. We also rented colorful, long wrap-style skirts. The outfit is topped off with gold sparkly jewelry and a belt. It was really amazing getting to be apart of the festival alongside our passionate Thai co-workers and students! They were so happy to see us taking part in their celebration. At night, is when everyone goes out to release their krathongs into nearby bodies of water. A group of us headed to Hat Yai Municipal Park to release our krathongs into the lake. There was so much music, food and happy people. We made our wishes as we released our lit krathongs into the water and enjoyed some yummy street food. It was a very memorable experience!
|The girls working hard at making the krathong!|
Not being home for Thanksgiving this year was kind of sad, as it is one of my favorite holidays! Some of my co-teachers felt the same and so we decided we would throw a Friendsgiving potluck in Thailand! Erica and I hosted the gathering and it was quite the success! Although there was no turkey in Thailand this year, we managed to find a delicious roasted chicken that when eaten with gravy, tasted just like turkey! Easily the best part about our Friendsgiving is that one of the girls managed to make scrumptious homemade mashed potatoes while Erica found freaking STOVETOP STUFFING at a higher-end grocery market (who would have thought that would exist in Thailand?!!). I loaded my plate with these two luxuries and fell into the greatest American-style, carbohydrate-filled food coma. I have no complaints about my Thanksgiving in Thailand, except for the pound or two that was added onto my hips<3.
Some other highlights of the past few weeks include going to the cinema to see Hunger Games (in English!!) and falling in love with Indian food. I’ve always said how I hate Indian food, but WOW, was I wrong! For one of our co-teacher’s birthdays, we went to this little Indian restaurant that the Brits love, which is actually in the front dining room of the owner’s home. You have to call ahead to place your order or else it could take up to two hours of waiting. The family is so sweet and very proud of their cooking… and they most definitely should be because it was some of the greatest flavor I have ever tasted. I ordered chicken curry with coconut milk, rice and garlic naan. I ended up dreaming about the meal that night <3<3<3. I officially LOVE Indian food.
As I mentioned earlier in this post about the crazy craziness of the holiday craze… well, it has been mostly fueled by the preparation for our school’s Christmas Concert and Gala. Now, this was no ordinary school Christmas concert. Our school went BIG. Many Thais absolutely love Christmas and everything about Christmas. Our school decided to throw a huge concert/gala where each class performed a Christmas song, dance or musical act, followed by a whole school finale dance to the High School Musical theme song. All staff, families and friends who attended had to dress in red or green themed formal attire. They had a classy hotel restaurant cater the gala and had quite the spread. For the past month, our school has been getting totally decked out with Christmas lights and all sorts of decorations around all the campus buildings. They even set up a humungous (mall-sized) Christmas tree at the school entrance, where prior to the start of the concert, they held a tree lighting ceremony. Class teachers worked hard at preparing their class’s performance for the last couple of months. My class performed Frosty the Snowman and they were FANTASTIC! I am so proud of them. They loved dressing up in winter clothes since they never have any chance to wear winter clothing otherwise! However, I did feel a bit guilty for the costume choice when I saw them getting super sweaty walking around campus in full costume amid the tropical heat, but gosh were they cute!! Our male western co-teachers had been preparing a big, secret performance for the Christmas Concert. They call themselves the Blooms Boyz and like to pretend that they are a boy band, but that’s mostly because the Thai staff loves them and thinks that they are a boy band, or look like a boy band. They put on a hilariously perfect performance of “Last Christmas” with a huge, ridiculous “Blooms Boyz” backdrop. The Thai girls loved it <3. It was an incredibly impressive and fun night and it definitely helped me feel like Christmas is coming even though I am so far from home!
We are currently enjoying a three-day weekend. We have this Monday, December 7thoff of work because it is the King of Thailand’s birthday, which is also known as Father’s Day for the Thai people. It is one of the biggest celebrations of the year and everyone wears yellow, as that is the King’s color. It is a dry holiday and everyone engages in some type of celebration for the King. This week, there is a huge “Bike for Dad” event going on countrywide. It is in honor of their father, the king, and for months everyone has been wearing these shirts in preparation and excitement for the celebration. I have even purchased a “Bike for Dad” shirt. I am actually wearing it right now as I type this. All day since I have had this on, I have gotten so many sweet smiles and loving gestures from the Thais. Maybe they like seeing a westerner embrace the celebration that is so dear to them. It has been a very interesting thing to witness and experience!
This weekend, we took our beloved motorbikes for a ride to Songkhla City. *Side Story- We have officially given our bikes a name. I named my baby, Marcy, and Erica named her’s, Susie*. Each time I visit Songkhla, I love it even more. It is a bit greener and a bit more tropical looking than Hat Yai; it can be a nice retreat from the big city. We went to a delicious café called the Secret Garden. They have a variety of Western dishes that are actually done right! It was a nice break from Thai food, even though I still crave Thai food every day. I often think about how I am going to cope with this when I am back in the States :/. After the café, we headed to Tang Kuan Hilltop, which has a park with stunning views of Songkhla, the ocean and of course, monkeys!!
This upcoming week is our last week of term already! Friday, December 11thmarks the last day of school and the last of parent-teacher conferences before beginning our three-week holiday break! I am constantly amazed at how quickly time flies by and must remind myself to be taking in every single moment of this journey as much as I can! For the school break, we have been planning an adventure-filled trip! Erica and I are heading off to Cambodia —> Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
—> Bali —> Gili islands! We are SO excited to step outside of Thailand to explore what else Southeast Asia has to offer! Stay updated on my travels through Instagram and Facebook until my next post!