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.
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.