Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For anyone who's ever complained about walking uphill in the snow both ways...


I spent the past few days trekking through the jungle, sleeping in a hill tribe village, riding elephants, and bamboo rafting. I'm very proud to say that I survived the jungle trek (clearly), and when I say survived, I mean it! There were seriously moments that I feared for my life, like when I almost slipped off a cliff (several times) or when I crossed paths with a cobra. I don't really know what I was expecting when I signed up for this, but this definitely wasn't it! I'm not sure I can say I was having "fun" for a lot of the time, but it was still so amazing and a really, REALLY rewarding experience. I'm so glad I did it!

Before venturing out into the jungle, I went to a waterfall (picture of that at the end), some hot springs, and Hellfire Pass. As I was walking out to see the Hellfire Pass (which is a railway cutting along the Death Railway built by forced labor during WWII) I got my first taste of Thailand's wildlife. Yes, it was as big as the picture makes it look.

After the little warm-up of a morning, I started my trek into the jungle. First was an hour of trekking by elephant, and I swear the whole thing was straight out of a movie! The scenery was picture perfect, and so were all the locals.

Me on my (misbehaved) elephant somewhere on our way up the mountain. I think I'm going to have to find a travel buddy that knows how to take a decent photo for me.

Mommy and daughter elephants! I'm pretty sure the one in the front is the mother, and the one in the back is the daughter. They're 45 and 27... I didn't know elephants have the same lifespan as humans! This is where we left them (don't worry, guides brought them back to camp) and started our 4 hour trek by foot.

Since the terrain was so rough and dangerous as it was, I didn't want to complicate matters and take my camera out. About halfway there, we got to this waterfall and stopped for a break. This is about the time it hit me that I was TREKKING THROUGH A FREAKING JUNGLE IN THAILAND.

Just after dark, we got to the village we'd be spending the night at. It's at the very top of the mountain and it's inhabitants are the people of the Karen hill tribe. Obviously being so far away from "civilization", there's no electricity or running water or anything modern that we take for granted. We cooked dinner over an open fire grill type thing... I got to learn how to cook some Thai dishes, which was awesome. We were treated to some traditional Karen music during dinner, our guide told us some traditional stories, and then I headed off to bed for fear of passing out at the table due to exhaustion. We slept in a little hut, right along this stream. This was the view I woke up to!

We took a different path back down the mountain, and this time it was MUCH easier. Somehow most of it was still uphill, and it since it's the rainy season, everything was super muddy. We walked through the whole village before heading back down, so we got to walk through fields of all the different things they farm.

One of our guides... he's a member of the Karen tribe, but like most of the younger generations, he lives in a village at the bottom of the mountain. On our way back, he picked us lots of different fruits and plants for us to try. As per my request, he found us some guava (which has become my favorite fruit since I got to Thailand... I eat at least one every single day). He got a kick out of a farang asking for farang, as the Thais always do. "Farang" is the Thai word for foreigner, and it's also their word for guava.

Walking through some more (very muddy) fields. As if walking on this steep of an angle wasn't hard enough, the mud made for a lot of slipping and sliding on my part.

One of the Karen men smoking on the edge of the village. I think I might actually be bigger than him, and that's saying something!

Giant ants who were having fun ruining my peaceful break by a waterfall. This picture isn't deceiving- this is a normal sized piece of bamboo. These ants were HUGE.

After we got back down to the bottom of the mountain, we took a bamboo raft down the stream back to camp. I can't imagine something more "Thailand" than that! We got back to camp, were treated to an amazing lunch of BBQ chicken and sticky rice (my favorite!) and then hopped on an old train (the former Death Railway) which brought us close to the city. We finished the last leg back to Kanchanaburi in a MUCH appreciated, air conditioned van.

And what jungle trek would be complete without a few HDRIs to show for it?

This is the first waterfall we stopped at in the morning (along with Hellfire Pass and the Hot Springs). It was SO pretty. I climbed to the top of it, where a Thai family insisted I pose for 5 minutes worth of pictures with them.

I took this one while being attacked by those giant ants (on my way back down the mountain). There's a mini waterfall that leads into this, and one a bit bigger where it drops off.

Of course these pictures don't even come close to doing anything justice, but I think this was a valiant effort at showing what it was like. I guess you'll all just have to come to Thailand and do the trek yourselves now!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Neung farang?? NEUNG farang!?

I left Bangkok yesterday and headed out to Kanchanaburi. It's about two hours northwest of Bangkok. It's very Thai and a great little getaway spot. I really like the town itself, but there's not much to do. It's kind of a gateway to lots of awesome things to see and places to go just outside of the town. Today I went out to a "safari" park… basically a zoo that you drive around and the animals come up to the van. I was the only one there at the time, so I had my own personal tour guide and safari (which sounds so much more exciting than it actually was). But, it was still pretty fun and it was an awesome bus ride out there, so that alone made it worth it!

No trip to Kanchanaburi is complete without seeing the famous Bridge Over the River Kwai!

As if having the street names on fish isn't awesome enough, using the Engrish spelling of Australia is even better.

Long live the King! Things like this are EVERYWHERE in Thailand. Thais really love their King.

Giraffes are my new favorite animal. I've never seen them up close and personal before today, but they're awesome.


Oh, hello there!

He loves me =)

Who knew there were ostriches in Thailand!?

Meet my new friend, June.

Due to the fact that I was the only one there, and the fact that there is an insurmountable language barrier between myself and everyone in this country, June and I had a nice little photoshoot.

Sorry to put you through this June, but you were a good sport. And you made my day!

Goodbye, June! It was nice meeting you.

Sunset from the dock outside my bungalow (side note: I have my own private bungalow with a porch overlooking the river)

It was SO pretty.

HDRI of the war cemetary

HDRI that I took at sunset. it's still blowing my mind... it was so dark I could barely see. I have no idea how it captured so much detail!

Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to the jungle for a day of elephant riding, trekking, and hot springs. I'll spend the night in the jungle with a hill tribe, and then continue the jungle fun the next day. I'll head back to Kanchanaburi on the Death Railway at night, and then my plans are completely up in the air.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A day of SANUK before leaving Bangkok

I'm leaving Bangkok in the morning but I couldn't leave before sanuking one last Saturday first! It's only been a few hours and I'm missing those kids already. Luckily, I'll only be living about an hour and a half bus ride outside of Bangkok so I'll be able to come back for a few Saturdays here and there!

A is for Apple...

The morning class at Yommarat.

Some early morning vocab...

This girl was making the most disgusted faces while eating this cookie... she told me she didn't like it, but she refused to stop eating it!

Everyone loves snack time!

Someday, I WILL see this girl smile!

The kids running home down the train tracks after our class... these little shacks are there houses. I still have trouble wrapping my head around the idea of people actually living like this.

These are the mot beautiful little girls I have ever seen. Someone's not very happy though!

Brushing up on some vocab...

I LOVE this little girl.

I say it every week, but THESE KIDS ADORE DWIGHT.

The afternoon class is a group of budding photographers...

Friday, September 17, 2010

I am a teacher [full stop]

No pictures today, but I thought it necessary that I update the world:


Today was my last teaching practice and my last day of training all together. I'll be staying in Bangkok until Sunday, then heading to Kanchanaburi for a week, where I will be playing with elephants by day and sleeping in tree houses with hill tribes by night. Then, I'm off to Mae Sot for a few weeks to stay and volunteer at an orphanage for Burmese refugee children. I'll be there until the end of October, at which point I'll go to Saraburi just in time to start teaching on October 26th. MY LIFE IS AMAZING.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When did "double line" and "affective filter" become a part of my everyday vocabulary?

Today we had our second teaching practice at the Somapa School. We had a class of 9 to 11 year olds and I taught them about different jobs. These kids were ridiculously smart and SO into learning! I still can't believe how strong their English skills were. Needless to say, I had another great teaching experience today. Just a few minor things I need to work on but I got a good evaluation, and overall I'd say it was a complete success!

So attentive!

All smiles =)

Disco, rap... I like cowboys? One of the other teachers taught a lesson about music. One side of her vocab cards had different types of music, and the other side had a sentence explaining why a person might like that genre.

Doing my warmer with the kids. We played Word Jumble, where I scrambled up the letters of some vocab they learned earlier in the day, and two teams had to race to unscramble each word first. They really enjoyed it and I was so impressed with how good they were. They were able to figure out some words before the other teachers in the back of the room!

Teacher Brie!

I look like one of the kids! No wonder people laugh when I tell them I'm a teacher...

It's a great feeling when the kids have such a positive reaction to your lesson.

This girl was adorable... and her name was Best...

Tomorrow we're going back to this school one last time. I'll be teaching the same age group again, but this time my lesson will be about shopping. I've got my lesson plan and materials all prepped and ready to go! My vocab includes 7 eleven and slurpees... how can it not be a fun lesson!?