my travels around Thailand and Asia

Posts tagged “Thung Song

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A Cascading Affair

This post is a little late and happened a few weeks ago. A busy schedule at school has kept me from finishing this one on time. A couple of weeks back we were invited to spend the day at a co-workers house (who lives in walking distance of Taphae waterfall in Nakorn Si Thammarat). The chance to visit a new waterfall is always an exciting one and is hardly ever turned down.

This all happened, because for the last few weeks we’ve been teaching adult classes at the municipality. These adult classes came as a big shock to us, as they were not part of our contract and were never really discussed with us. At first we were told we would be teaching 60 adults, 5 times a week, from March until September. We were certainly not happy with that at all and made a little bit of a fuss. It then changed to three days a week, and eventually after some more negotiation from our side, we got it down to 2 days a week. This was perfect for us, as we take Thai lessons on Mondays and Wendesdays and could teach the adult class on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Friday being free time.

In the beginning we were really nervous about teaching adults, as it would be a first for both me and Angela, but the classes have turned out to be quite enjoyable and the students that seem to come every week (about 15 or so) are motivated and excited about learning English, which always makes our job a little easier. Over the past few weeks, we’ve become friendly with some of the Thai ladies that frequent the class and after an evening of coffee and roti (a type of pancake filled with egg and banana) at one of the popular road side stalls, the idea for all of us to visit Pee Sila (works at the municipality and is in charge of sorting out all our admin) at her home near the waterfall, came about. Everyone seemed interested, so plans were made and we were to meet at the municipality at 1pm the following day. From there we would be picked up and taken to the waterfall, which was about 45 minutes in a car. On the menu for the day was a late lunch, and then some fun time to explore and swim with our new friends.

the house is perched up on a steep incline. a good workout making it up that path everyday

the view from her dining room.

this is what we were greeted with when we arrived. a full seafood platter with prawns, squid and fish.

the bbq was ready and smokin

Pee Sila making some naam prik Thai (chilli sauce) and yum ma-muang (mango salad)

Angela, Pee Noi, Mot and Pee Ning

Angela hard at work

Pee Sila cooking up some seafood

having a little taste before the big sit down

yum wun sen talay (spicy glass noodle seafood salad)

some grilled prawns

some fish on the bbq

this dish is called yum plaa (it's a fried fish with a Thai salad on top). very tasty!

some bread we had made at home. no one really went for it. hahaha!

naam prik Thai (chilli sauce)

everyone tucking into the feast of prawns, squid, fish, seafood salad, fish salad, spagetti, raw veg. and bread

After the feast was done, I could hardly move. Honestly, I was ready to explode. There was so much food. Thai’s seem to eat a lot of food, but over a long period of time. I have seen some slim Thai woman eat twice as much as I do. I still can’t figure it out. I think they must just take little bites every so often, unlike myself, stuffing my face full of everything in the first 10 minutes.

A thai meal is a little different than what we are used to.  The food is mostly shared amongst everyone, with different dishes placed in the middle of the table for everyone to pick at. This happens at restaurants too, where a few different dishes are ordered and everyone shares whats on the table. I quite like this way of eating, firstly because you get to try a bunch of different dishes and aren’t stuck with a big plate of something you don’t like and secondly everyone seems more social and chatty, while they take small tasters of whats on offer.

After all the food, it was time to see the waterfall. We had actually been once before with ollie pup and Jack (we had found it trying to find a view point, which we didn’t end up finding that day. We did however find the waterfall, but bad weather didn’t allow us much time there, so we were pleased to make it back).

By the time we had reached the entrance most of the people had left and it seemed we had come at the perfect time. All you could hear was the pounding of falling water, rushing over the tired rocks, creating a rhythm so peaceful, your body couldn’t do anything but follow it’s beat. At this point there is only you and the waterfall. Nothing else matters. Meditation is happening, even though you are doing nothing. Your soul awakens and a feeling of calm encompasses your entire body. It’s quite an experience.

everyone ready for the swim

You can’t evade this Roulade

We recently had a lovely barbecue at our friends Scotts house. I’m not really sure what the occasion was, but I think it was a pre party for Bills (another ‘farang’ Thung Songian) birthday. Thung Song is a small place and sometimes there’s not much to do, so when someone offers a venue for a bbq we all do handstands and jump for joy. This session can last for 10 minutes sometimes. It doesn’t even matter where you are. If you hear the good news while you are teaching, this doesn’t stop you, if you are having a haircut, shopping, or playing the guitar, the outcome is the same. LOL! Maybe this only happens in my mind, but I’m sure everyone has the same feelings of happiness.

Scott had said that all the meat and fish would be supplied and we should just bring ourselves and our beverage of choice. I did hear margaritas were being made which made a lot of people really happy! Then Henk (my South African nemesis) told me he was going to be making his famous potato salad, so I felt a contribution from my side was surely needed. “How about a loaf of some delicious homemade bread” I thought to myself. It would be the perfect addition to the barbecue. “What to bake though?” Keep it simple or go all in and try something different.

I had started making a basil and oregano loaf, when an idea (to try something new and different) dawned on me. This hardly ever happens by the way! I have attempted focaccia before and really loved it. Why not add a spin to that by using the same ingredients, maybe different ingredients inside the bread instead of on top of it. YES! This would be my ultimate offering to the good peeps at the party. I’m sure Thung Song has never seen bread like this before. I will say, this type of bread has obviously been around for ages and you can find many recipes online with different ingredients, so I can’t take any credit for coming up with this one. I do like to tell myself things like that sometimes, just for a little bit of a laugh. The loaf is called a ‘roulade‘ and can be made using savory or sweet ingredients. I think it’s a French word that means to roll. I choose to go the savory route with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, cheese and yogurt. My mouth waters every time I think about it! Anyways, I ended up making both loaves, one reason being, I had already started the basil loaf and the other, if the roulade was a flop, I always had the basil loaf to fall back on. Well, let me tell you, both loaves came out perfectly for a change, so this little experiment was a success.

Mushroom, tomato and basil roulade topped with chia seeds

What you need for the dough: 2/3 cup milk, 2 eggs (1 slightly beaten and the other separated into the white and yolk), 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp yeast, 2 tbs salt, 1tsp sugar, 3 cups flour, a handful of chia seeds (you can also use poppy, sesame or flax)

What you need for the filling: a cup of tomatoes, two small onion, a cup of mushrooms, a handful of fresh basil, a cup of cheese, a cup of plain yogurt, oregano, a cup of basil, salt and pepper.

heat 2/3 cup of milk, add yeast, and leave for ten minutes. if there are no bubbles after 10 minutes your yeast is dead

mix in the beaten egg, the egg yolk, the olive oil, salt and sugar

mix in the flour and hopefully you will get something like this. knead the dough for six or seven minutes on a floured surface

put the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for 45 minutes in a warm place

this is what it should look like after 45 minutes.

flatten the dough into a rectangular shape and transfer to a well oiled baking tray

cover and let rise for another 30 minutes

the filling consists of cherry tomatoes, mushroom, onions, basil, plain yogurt (greek if you have) and mozzarella cheese

chop everything up and get ready to saute

a few droplets of olive oil and we are ready to go

saute the tomatoes with oregano (you can use thyme as well.) another option is to roast them in the oven for 30 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of basil or thyme. use your creativity. the options are limitless.

next up the onions, mushrooms and basil. saute the onions for 5 minutes until nice and soft, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes. finally cook the basil for a few minutes until the basil is all shriveled.

spread the yogurt over the puffy dough. try and cover the whole area.

sprinkle the cheese over the yogurt

layer the tomatoes and the onion, mushroom and basil mix over the cheese

roll the dough and flip it, so the seam side is facing down. do this so it doesn't explode while baking

cover with a cloth and let rise for another 30 minutes

take some egg white, brush the roll and sprinkle the chia seeds (you can use poppy, sesame or any other seed that you might like)

pop into the oven at 220 for 10 minutes, then 180 for another 25 minutes and it should be perfect

all done and ready to eat

there she is. the finished product. I must say it was really tasty and had great texture too

mmmmmmmmmmmm! delightful. now its time to tuck in

A night out at the Grand

So my sis came to visit for a little bit in November and among some of the things to do in Thung Song, going to the Grand is one you shouldn’t miss. It’s the only nightclub I know of in this town (I think there might be more, but can’t be sure), but the nights we have, always seem to go in one direction. Down hill!  Now you must be thinking, one nightclub, this must get lame, but it just doesn’t. It seems we find ways to make each time at the Grand something special, often waking up with sore heads and mild memory loss (not all the time, it’s the dam tequilla shots, thanks Henk). So anyway I had to take my sis through to experience this once in a life time opportunity. The chance to be exposed to an authentic Thai nightclub, no one could turn this down. Well, she was up for it, so we rallied the troops and made it happen. Thai nightclubs, well most nightclubs in Asia are a little different from we what we are used to. There are no dance floors (lots of tables), most have stages for live music and dancers (most of the time they’re highly entertaining, but sometimes a little over the top), and then there is the amazing service (your drink always seems to be full, and I’m not complaining).

Mostly, people are just standing around their tables drinking bottles of whiskey that they have bought at the club (this is a common thing to do, buy your own bottle from a shop , bring it in and thats that, no waiting at overcrowded bars, everything is where you need it, when you need it), the odd table will have people unenthusiastically dancing, lifeless (to the extremely lively music I might add) and then there will be us. The ‘farang’ (foreigner). Now I must admit there is only one way to get through a night at the Grand and that is to just go with the flow. I actually dont know what we do in there most of the time. The music is so loud it’s difficult to make an audible conversation (I mean we speak to each other but I think half the time no one really knows what the other person is saying, there are a lot of blank stares going around). We seem to be like the energizer bunnies in there, dancing like crazy people in a country where no one seems to care, making dance moves that will last an eternity. We do have a lot of fun though and all the Thai’s seem to enjoy us being there. We sometimes make new friends, some who speak English and some who don’t (the conversation where a smile, thumbs up and a nod mean a lot), we get onstage and get kicked off (it only happened once and harmlessly I might add, I did make friends with the manager doing that), we sing and dance and then it’s all over. The lights come on and it’s time to leave.

Before we do this eating is a high priority, well for me at least. Getting a meal when you really need it isn’t a problem, as most restaurants seem to stay open until some ungodly hours in the morning. I’m talking full on sit down restaurants, where you can order everything on the menu at 4 in the morning. If you want a steamed fish you can have it, but mostly I order fried rice (kao pad), because I don’t know how to say anything else. Speaking Thai aint easy especially when you have a few whiskeys in you. No doubt your confidence is high and you’ll go at it all night, trying to practice your Thai even if it’s not relevant to what you’re trying to achieve at that very moment. She will always look at you with that empty stare thinking ‘what the hell is this fool saying’, ‘what do I look like here?’, ‘just give me your #@$^& order please, it’s 4 in the freakin morning’. This is when I say ‘Chan ow ning kao pad mungsawelaat sai kai krap’ (I want one vegetarian fried rice with egg please), time stands still, ‘does she understand’, I think to myself, and then the nod of approval, she does, mission achieved. Food is on the way! Great Night at the Grand.

pre drinks at Poms (great live music)

Eugene, Ang and Henk going strong

booze on the table

you see what I mean

more crazy moves

Eugene breaking it down

Loi Krathong

Three weeks into the new term, everything seems to be settling in nicely. The kids are starting to warm up to us and spending time in the classroom seems a lot more enjoyable. We have moved into the new house and are extremely happy there. We scored a unbelievable bargain price-wise (touch wood, nothing is in stone yet), we are in walking distance from the new school and have some great neighbors (our previous neighbors were a little rough, if you know what I mean).Sometimes it’s good to take a break from all the kids and being able to skip out every now and then for a home cooked lunch is a good feeling (especially because we love cooking and some cravings can not be satisfied at the school canteen). However they do have good ‘som tam’ (spicy papaya salad), which we eat on the days we don’t have time to leave. Here are a few pictures of the new school and a little information about loi krathong.

the incredible view from my classroom

pee dumprick (the super friendly music teacher who does amazing things on a wood saw) and wayne sporting that fashionable hat

angela in full pose

m1/1 (my top dogs)

hard at work (just pretending)

grace (the english science teacher)

m1/3 (the bad boys)

teachers hard at work preparing for 'loi krathong'

extraodinary detail

the before shot of the 'krathong' that won first prize

1st prize

Loi krathong is a festival in Thailand that we had no clue even existed. Arriving in Thailand in December 2010, I missed it by one month and over the next 11 months it never came up, even though we took part in Songkran (the biggest festival in Thailand also known as the water festival). One day at school Pee Dum (the friendly music teacher, who has actually made music on a wood saw, no word of a lie) asked us to speak about ‘Loi Krathong’ at the morning assembly. With shock we looked at him and said ‘Loi Krathong’ what, whats that. Bemused he laughed at us and asked if we could do some research and speak the next day, so this is what we found out. Loi Krathong also known as the festival of lights is held on the full moon in the 12th lunar month of the Thai calender. In our western calender this would be November.  They chose this day, because the tides are meant to be at their highest and the moon at its brightest, creating a beautiful setting to celebrate this festival.

A krathong is usually a lotus shaped raft that floats in the water. Krathongs are made from basic materials (banana leaves, the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant) easily found around the towns or villages. They can typically take the shape of lotus in full bloom, swans, chedis (stupas), and Mount Meru from Buddhist mythology. However krathong floats in the shape of lotus blossoms are most popular. During the release of the krathong, Thai’s pay their respect to the water goddess and ask her to cleanse their bodies of all troubles and misfortune. They give offerings of flowers, small money, candles and incense. Some very superstitious Thai’s (us included) are also known to place hair, nails and pieces of clothing into the krathong.  At dusk, as the full moon begins to rise, the krathong is decorated with fresh flowers and the candles and incense sticks are placed in the krathong. The float is then taken to a waterway where the candle and incense sticks are lit and the krathong set adrift. The floats are carried downstream by the gentle current, candlelight flickering in the wind. Soon after, attention turns to celebration. The evening’s festivities consist of impressive firework displays, folk entertainment, stage dramas, song and dance.

We made plans to meet our friends at the ‘river restaurant’, a favorite of ours. The river restaurant is basically a persons house on the river that has some tables outside and serves some really outstanding food. The setting is really beautiful and the people are super friendly.  To name a few dishes, the ‘tom yum gong’ (lemony hot and sour soup) is something special, ‘plaa thord’ (fried fish with garlic) out of this world and the famous ‘som tam’ (spicy papaya salad) incredible. After filling our stomachs to their maximum potential and releasing our krathongs into the river, we found ourselves at O’s (our local hangout), had a couple beers and finally finished the festival off at the park, where the night transformed into a magical experience with fireworks, lanterns, more beer and good friends.

the full moon on loi krathong

buying the krathongs

taryn, micky and mini (apparently thats their nicknames, works for me)

the three of us ready to send off our krathongs

and there it goes, all sins forgiven

emma running wild

Introduction to Thung Song

Hey friends, this is now my second post, but the funny thing is, over a year has passed between the two posts. A lot has happened in this time, but I’m not going to dwell on it, rather I’m going to focus on what’s happening now in my life. I have been lazy and unmotivated to write about my travels, but I think now it’s time and I’m finally ready to give it a proper go. I am currently teaching in Thailand with my girlfriend Angela and we have just started a new contract with a school in Thung Song.

Thung Song (Thai: ทุ่งสง) is a district (Amphoe) in the southwestern part of Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand.

Southern Thailand

Thong Song is surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and waterfalls. The waterfalls are amazing and are a good place to go relax and get away from all the hustle and bustle of city life. When saying that, Thung Song is more like a small town, population 30,000, but there is still traffic and pollution and sometimes you just need to get into nature.

There are two waterfalls that are very close to the town center, around 10 or 20 minutes on a scooter and at least another 5 in the area that I know of. Namtok (waterfall in Thai) Yong is the closest, but most commercial and often busier than the other waterfalls. If  you are foreign you can expect to pay 200 baht to enter this waterfall. If you have a work permit (I have one) or are Thai (I am not one) you only pay 20baht. I don’t really spend much time at Yong as I feel waterfalls are meant to be appreciated with solitude and that they should have a meditative effect on the mind. I go there to forget, clear my mind and appreciate the silence.

Yong waterfall

A swim in the fresh crisp water can wipe your body of all negativity and I often feel a burst of energy running through my veins. The power of the falling water on my body cleanses my mind of all stress and It’s an awesome release from life. With the masses of people visiting Yong daily and the entrance fee  you can’t really appreciate the waterfall for its therapeutic effects.

However a bit further out is Namtok Plio, (also Pleu, Plew), we have actually seen it written three different ways. This is because there is no uniform system that has been devised in the our alphabet to represent the Thai phonics. This is different to what we experienced in China where chairman Mao’s government created the system of pinyin to help improve literacy. Pinyin is the official system to transcribe chinese characters into the roman alphabet.

Plio waterfall is about 20 minutes on the scooter, but worth the extra milage. The road is a little worn and rough, but when you get there you’ll be overjoyed you made the decision. There are hardly any people and it won’t cost a cent to get in, so you have all the beauty to yourself. At this point no one can disturb your feeling of connectedness with the planet. There are 5 levels you can hike to at Plio, so it really caters to everyone’s needs. Because no one really knows about this waterfall the paths up to the different levels have become overgrown and sometimes difficult to pass, however with persistence no path is impassible and upon reaching levels 4 and 5 the views become breathtaking.

Different levels at Plew

Level 4

'infinity pool' at Plew

Klong Chang Waterfall

This one has no name

I have grown to love Thung Song for its simplicity and friendly smiles. I was very happy when I decided to stay another year in this picturesque area and explore deeper into the unknown.