The weekend of my birthday, a couple of days after pay day, I found myself in the local city- Ubon Ratchatani. It’s around an hour’s drive from Kanthalak, or 2 hours if you go by scooter.
I’d gotten a lift sorted by one of my Thai friends over to Ubon, and the majority of the journey was spent trying to learn a bit more Thai. I’ll be completely honest, when I arrived I found it to be an unfathomable language to learn let alone understand. It’s tonal and the sounds between different words seem so subtle it’s really hard to decipher let alone pronounce to throw another spanner in the works, the actual area I’m in, they speak a different dialect to the rest of Thailand, Issan. All the same I persisted and could just about manage the proper pronunciation of ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hello’. The numbers I could suss out really quickly, infact the numbers are dead easy. You’ve got 1-10. Learn these and then when you go into teen figures you say 10-4= 14. When you hit the 20s all the way up to 100 you say 4-10-2 for 42.
I’ve found the best way to learn really is repetition, repetition, repetition. When I hear a new word, I’ll check it with a Thai person, and say it a few times. Then I’ll try and use it on a separate occasion. The students love it when I speak a bit of Thai, and it’s a good way to win a crowd, so for any English teachers reading this, remember that!
So anyway after learning and forgetting various Thai words we arrived in Ubon. It’s a small city, maybe not much bigger than Leeds. It’s a pretty modern city, with everything you’d expect to find in most cities in the UK. We were meeting some English teachers over there at an Italian pizza place. There were about 10 farang teachers there; from the states and the UK. The pizza place itself was run by an Italian guy who had a proper wood burning pizza oven so as pleasant as you’d find anywhere in the UK. A lot of the teachers had come through AYC so there was a good community of people to hang out with.
After the pizza we went to a bar by the river where I was introduced to a couple more Thai friends of friends. After a couple of beers by the river we headed over to ‘Mix’ which was a big Thai nightclub in the centre.
Another top tip for anyone going out on a night out in Thailand- if you want to save some money, drink Thai Whiskey. It’s not actual whiskey, it’s actually rum- so grog basically, but it’s significantly cheaper than beer and you can drink it with soda or coke without it tasting too bad. When we got into the club, our group had a good 50/50 split of farangs and Thai’s, which was actually pretty helpful as a) you don’t get ripped off on price, b) all the people I’ve met so far have been really sound people and most importantly c) They’re able to point out what’s apparent in Thai, to the not so apparent farang customers. Case in point, after a couple of drinks- enjoying the music and relaxing, you have a good look around the club, there are a lot of very scantily dressed girls. Unbeknownst to the farang about 40% of these ‘girls’ are actually ladyboys waiting to pounce. Now the farang doesn’t know this- for him the association with the transvestite is Lilly Savage and Pantomime Dames at the Christmas panto. Whilst we were in the club, there were a group of very good looking girls. I noticed them and thought to myself skeptically.
My farang friend on the other hand had no such qualms. He went up to them to chat, they shared their drinks with him and were dancing with him for a while. Whilst I was chatting to one of my friends I’d noticed the advancements my friend had made with this group of girls. Out of the corner of my eye I had a moment of clarity which he unfortunately didn’t. Remember the story of Little Red Riding Hood, when she goes to see her grandmother who is the wolf in disguise and starts to comment about the change in dimensions. I made the same connection with these ‘girls’. I turned to my Thai friend and said ‘You see those girls that Bill’s with, are the Ladyboys?’
He took one look and nodded ‘Yeah, they ladyboys, I see them here a lot looking for
We stayed out late into the night, and we all got a taxi back to the hotel. The next day we went out to ‘Moon River’ which is a pontoon restaurant on a river. We ate good food, had a laugh about the night before and went to a coffee shop. At about 5pm I went to go and rent a scooter from a contact that my friend had in Ubon. (Renting a scooter is a bit of a must if you want to get around in Thailand. Where I’m based, there aren’t any Tuk-Tuks and so if you hire yourself a scooter then you can get to and from places much more easily.) and then drove back from Ubon to Kantharalak. The journey was easy as it’s a straight road over there, the only hiccup was running over a snake, (which I thought was a stick until it tried to slither out the way!).
Teach in Thailand,
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