Schools out ! Time to travel….

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Shwedagon pagoda, Tachileik, just after a storm.

 

Well, the language school is finished after about one term too many and I’ve been able to get out and about again. What with classes weekdays, and having to give some time to the GF, and it being the wet season here anyway, my opportunities to get around have been limited, which is one reason why I have not written here lately ..the other just being laziness.wlEmoticon-smile.png

So how was school ? The first two terms at Duke Language were excellent, with great teachers and a good textbook. The third term was not so good though, IMHO. All three textbooks use the same group of characters and their experiences to teach vocabulary and grammar while at the same time teaching about Thailand. The third term was rather heavy on subjects like religion, festivals, culture, etc which apparently formed the basis of a now abolished test for foreign students, but something which many schools still teach. Some people might regard it as nationalistic brainwashing …think like a Thai ! Most people who have been here a while would already know much of this, and might even raise an eyebrow or two when told that all Thais are “greng-jai” (considerate) when they remember being almost run over by an inconsiderate motorcyclist riding on the footpath ! The third term syllabus did not teach much new grammar, and most of the new vocabulary would be of limited day to day use for most expats. In retrospect I would have been better off using this time to attend the reading/writing course.

While most of the Thai language schools offer a free trial lesson to check out their classes, it is always going to be a crapshoot on what teacher you actually get. The teachers for the first two terms were excellent, the 3rd not so good IMHO. Duke Language uses a total immersion method of teaching, using only Thai and charades for instruction. That’s fine if the teacher speaks clearly and slow enough for students to understand her but this one teacher spoke too fast and her diction was not so good while explaining things, again IMHO. Speaking “native speed” is fine for dialogue practise but if your students do not understand the lesson you are teaching, then you are going too fast. Also she never corrected and returned any of the written homework we did ….what’s the point of doing homework if we don’t get any feedback ? I did look at changing classes but she was teaching the other class too so that would not achieve anything …..

Overall I would still suggest that anybody wanting to learn Thai at least check out Duke Language School but I would also suggest that they might be better off doing the reading/writing course than conversation 3. I will possibly go back next year for the reading and writing course.

Anyway, with school finished and the worst of the rainy season hopefully finished too it was time to start travelling again. The GF has a couple of brothers living in Chiang Rai province and a daughter working in Tachileik (Myanmar) so up north we went.

AirAsia took us to Chiang Rai, where one of the brothers picked us up and took us to Mae Sai, the “Northern Most (point?) Of Thailand and the border crossing into Myanmar. A short walk across the bridge takes you into Tachileik, and back in time several years. Although Mae Sai is nothing much to write home about you can clearly see the difference between it and Tachileik. All the late model cars had Thai plates, the old jalopies had Myanmar ones. The  last time I came here, many many years ago, the Tachileik market was notorious for openly selling all sorts of contraband, from AK47s to protected wildlife (live and dead). Nowadays it seemed to be full of cheap Chinese crap. Apart from the market the only thing of interest to most western tourists would be the “Elephant Temple” and Shwedagon pagoda. The town does get many Thai and Chinese tourists who go to the casinos there though, I was kind of hoping to get to one of them, curious to see what a Burmese casino looked like but never got a chance.

The daughter had booked us into the “1G1 7hotel” where she works, nice enough rooms but a bit noisy from the all night entertainment downstairs …. I was not expecting rock concerts until 7am in Myanmar ! It’s a bit too far from town centre to walk, but the Shwedagon pagoda was nearby, a walkable distance.


If I was not with my GF visiting her daughter one night in town would have been more than long enough for me but I did meet one tourist who had spent a whole week there just pottering around. After a few days the GF decided she had done the dutiful mother thing long enough so we headed back into Thailand for one night in Mae Sai before the brother would come and pick us up to stay with them for a while. Going back through Myanmar immigration I did have a few anxious moments as when coming in to the country their computer had been down, they wrote down my details and said they would enter it later. But apparently they forgot ! When exiting I was told to go into another office, interviewed for a few minutes, but allowed on my way once it was all cleared up.
More photos from around Chiang Rai to come in a later post.

Posted in Expat life, Language, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Travel, Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy 100th Birthday, Hualamphong !

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This weekend just passed saw the 100th anniversary of Hualamphong, or Bangkok Railway Station as it is officially known. After reading the publicity blurb in the papers, and with nothing better to do, the GF and I went off to check it out.
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I’ll be polite and say I was underwhelmed …

With just a few steam engines on static display, a few food stalls, an empty stage waiting for something or somebody, and no ‘vintage market’ as promised in the publicity there was not much to see.

So after snapping a few photos we headed off to Chinatown for lunch, via Wat Traimit so Porn could pay her respects to the Golden Buddha. I’ve seen it enough times that I don’t need to pay another 100baht for the privilege.

 

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Yes, we have no bananas today, but will have plenty soon !

So I waited in the shade of the banana trees below while she went and did her thing.

 

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I was thinking of lunch at a proper restaurant, maybe some seafood, but Porn had other ideas and chose a small hole in the wall noodle shop …she’s a cheap date🙂

 

 

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Back to school.

 

I’ve decided to have another attempt at learning Thai, so for the last week have been heading into town every day for 3 hours at “Duke Language School“. Whether it will be more successful than last time remains to be seen ! With lessons every day this is more intensive, and hopefully I will retain more and not forget it🙂

The teaching style is completely different, what their brochure calls “edutainment”. There is a lot of role playing and games to practice what we learn. After teaching us numbers and classifiers (types of things, used for counting in Thai) they set up a ‘shop” and gave us play money and items to buy and sell.

After learning directions, how to get around town and use public transport they set up a map on the floor so that we could get around from one place to another as the teachers called out directions.

At the last school we started with 13 pupils to one teacher, here we had 8 and 2 teachers so that’s obviously a better ratio. Even better as one guy seems to have dropped out already…

Before we would get used to the teacher’s voice and her tonal range, but now with the two teachers you also get to hear 2 different voices saying the same words slightly different which is a good thing as Thai is a tonal language. There is also another class running at the same time so sometimes the teachers swap over and give us even more listening practice.

In the classroom the teachers try to avoid using English whenever possible, relying on charades and repeating simple Thai to get the meaning across. While I can understand the method sometimes a bit of explanation in English would be nice🙂

While it is still too early to know how much will sink in, from the first week I would put Duke Language School on the list of anybody wanting to learn Thai here in Bangkok.

 

 

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Vampire weather…..

As anybody who is in Thailand right now and reading this will know, the country has been going through a very hot and dry spell lately. This always the hottest part of the year but has been several degrees hotter than normal, for longer than normal, in many parts of the country as we wait for the rainy season to get here. I was used to hearing the word “drought” in Australia, but it was not something I was expecting to hear and read so often here ! It was only a few years ago that the dams were overflowing and much of Bangkok was flooded.

So I have been coping by acting like a vampire lately ….staying inside out of the sun and in front of the air-con or fan during the day, and only venturing out after sunset to enjoy the relative cool of the night.

After dark in Chinatown ..the only time to venture out !

After dark in Chinatown ..the only time to venture out !

As a retiree with no necessity to go out usually I have managed to stay reasonably comfortable, but it’s not exactly exciting….which is my excuse for not posting anything lately Smile

That, and a change in personal circumstances lately in the form of a new relationship which progressed rather quickly to the point where she moved in Smile So I naturally had to devote a lot of time to her, putting this blog aside especially with nothing to write about.

But hopefully the weather will change soon, I get my mojo back and have something to write about…….

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Bangkok Motor Show 2016 …. the “pretties”

A slightly more politically incorrect, sexist, NSFW look at the Bangkok Motor Show “pretties”, the models hired to decorate the carmakers stands. While they are officially called presenters, not all actually present much and many are there just to look good while draped over the cars and motorcycles.

Anyway, make up your own mind :

 

 

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Cars and cleavage ….Bangkok Motor Show 2016

2016_motor_ show-13Another catch-up post ! As I mentioned last time I have not had time to download a lot of photos from my camera because of personal stuff requiring a trip out of town recently, so I had many photos to sort through.

These are from the Bangkok Motor Show held out at Muang Thon Thani early this month, supposedly the biggest and best auto show in SEA, but I’ll take that with a grain of salt.

Traditional Siamese dress !

Traditional Siamese dress !

Before the show started Big Brother at the Ministry of Culture had urged the car companies and the “pretties” to dress in a more traditional Siamese way, and not to wear anything too revealing.

As most Siamese women customarily went topless or just with a loose scarf slung over the shoulder until the 1930s, when the Prime Minister of the time mandated that everybody should be “civilised” and wear western dress that could have been interesting !

traddress_headerAs it turned out nothing much changed, there was still the usual number of girls draped over the cars and motorcycles with what was probably silicone enhanced cleavage on display, especially with the motorcycles and audio equipment stands.

 

Who needs sexy girls when you look like this ?

Who needs sexy girls when you look like this ?

 

 

The upmarket manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini did not need to use such tactics, their vehicles attracted enough attention on their own.

Their models were classy, not trashy …

 

 

Who buys these ?

Who buys these ?

Once again there were several motorhomes and caravans on display, and being sold, yet you never see them on the road here in Thailand. No, actually I have seen one motorhome on the road, but never a caravan.

 

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Somebody bought this F type for a mere  10,999,999 baht !

 

But there plenty of more reasonable deals on offer too, not that I plan on buying a car here anytime soon.

Also lots of motorcycles on show, big and small :

I don’t know if the Minister of Culture would be happy with these :

But I bet he would not have approved of the Audio Show outside the main hall :

He would not have liked the way the coyotes dressed or danced, nor would he have liked the “music” played by about 20 modified sound trucks, each with at least one girl dancing on top. It was deafening !!

2016_motor_ pretties-15 For more of the girls click here.

 

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