Time to…

For those of you that have worked in ESL Teaching, I’m sure you’re aware of the delightful term “office hours”. Unlike normal use, this term doesn’t refer to the time you spend at work. No, it refers to a blank space in time where nothing get’s done… Nothing! Zip! Bugger all! It’s the period of time between lessons, in which you are obligated to simply be there!

Lesson planning doesn’t quite fill up this time. as a result I’m currently sitting in my office chair (one that leans just a little bit too far back) having an online rant about these dreaded periods of empty time.

I know what you’re thinking… “Who does this idiot think he is?! I have to slave away all day to make a living!”

And you’d be right to have that thought. I’ve read books, had naps, played games, watched films, had naps and many other easy-going activities. But that is the very problem, I’ve done it all, and I’ll do it all again before the week is out, but how long can a person really spend doing pretty much nothing?

I enjoy my job, I genuinely enjoy teaching. However, coming in to work to do what I could do at home isn’t really my cup of tea. Actually, it is a cup of tea. I hate tea!

This is why I’m about to make yet another empty promise to no one in particular. I promise to be more productive with this temporal vacuum. I promise to learn things, write things, research things, build things… right after this nap!

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Bitchin’ ’bout Bangkok!

Bangkok is… well, let’s just say it’s a busy city! Bangkok is to tourists/backpackers, what a beehive is to bees, or a seedy club to under 18s on a Friday night. You remember the place? Good! That is essentially Bangkok with westerners.

I’ve been to touristy places before, but never anything like this. Westerners are herded like sheep through the entrance gates of temple after temple, to see amazing, wondrous things, whilst surrounded by thousands of other gawking westerners! Ok, so at this point you can point out the huge hypocrisy of this post. I am of course a tourist! My camera hanging eagerly around my neck, sweat dripping down my reddening face as I gaze upon the wonders laid before me. However, I am also British! Which, if sticking to stereotypes, allows me to have a moan from time to time. For that reason, Bangkok was a little bit of a huge disappointment!

So instead of an insightful post into the many attractions and delights of Thailand’s capital, here are my top 5 tips on how to survive it:

1. Just buy the damn suit

For anyone who has been to the legendary Kao San road, I’m sure one of the main things that stuck with you is the delightful suit salesman. Oh yes, in the million degree heat these guys will joyfully come to you and charm you into their shops with the promise of air-con and a cool drink, only to discuss business attire which you’d surely drench on your walk home. This may not be so bad if you weren’t stopped 50 times in the same 300m stretch.

Now, you can barter these guys down fairly low (which makes me think they still make a killing), and I guarantee when you get home and receive that wedding invite you’ll wish you had. So, my advice, buy the suit and walk down that street like a boss! Who’s gonna’ stop you now!

2. Middle of the market

Along with Chinatown, the best part of Bangkok was easily the Chatuchak weekend market (also spelt Jatujak). This is the largest market in Thailand at a huge 35 acres. With over 15,000 stalls you’re truly spoilt for choice, and can easily get lost. But before you worry about losing your way, head a little deeper into this shopping heaven and you will be rewarded as prices drop dramatically.

Yes that’s right, even just 2 to 3 rows behind the outer stalls, you can get similar or even the same products for half the price. I can only speculate that the sheer number of tourists on the outer edges has made the stall owners immune to standard bartering techniques. They just don’t budge! In the middle however, you’re treated to lesser crowds, cheaper goodies, great food, and some pretty interesting artworks!

Delicious paella in the Chatuchak market

Delicious paella in the Chatuchak market

Monks for sale

Monks for sale

'nuf said!

‘nuf said!

 

3. Beg, borrow and steal

Ok, so forget the last one… and the first for that matter, but hear me out. For those of you who haven’t been to Thailand before, you may not be aware that you need to cover up before entering many of the temples, and the palace. This is just one of the many cultural differences you have to accept when visiting another country. However, what you needn’t accept is the extortionately priced pyjamas that are sold opposite all of these sites.

This is a great trap for panicking tourists, worried that they won’t get to see that golden Buddha, or the inside of the Grand Palace. Now I know you’d look fantastic in those elephant print, cotton genie pants… but are you really going to wear them when you get back to your dull everyday life? Didn’t think so!

The truth is, that many of these sights offer genie pants (not sure of the real name) and/or scarves FREE to borrow whilst you look around. Yes, that’s right! You don’t have to pay 5 times the entry price for a cheap pair of trousers you’ll probably give as a joke gift.

Not quite the stairway to heaven

Not quite the stairway to heaven

Attention to detail in the Grand Palace

Attention to detail in the Grand Palace

Rooftops, the Grand Palace

Rooftops, the Grand Palace

 

4. Tik-tok Tuk Tuk

There are a few ways to get around Bangkok. The cheapest, if you forget walking, is the bus. Of course, unless you know the routes these can be very tricky. The tube offers a service to some areas, but is lacking where the main sites are concerned. So, that of course leaves taxis, and the famous tuk tuk.

Tuk tuks

Tuk tuks

 

Tuk tuks are fantastic fun, and a great way to see the city, but unless you find ones that will take you to 3 or 4 sites for an agreed upon price, they can be costly. I had drivers quoting me 150 baht for a short ride. If you hear this, just say no and laugh it off.

Taxis will do much the same, unless you get yourself into a meter taxi!

Meter taxis are easy to spot. They’re the ones where the driver doesn’t shout numbers at you. My first 2 days in Bangkok I was oblivious, and just thought that was the cost. However, after a ride in a meter taxi costing 30 baht (150 baht the day before) I was finally educated. Save your money for the markets, and look out for this taxi!

Erm...

Erm…

No guns!

No guns!

 

5. Get out!

If you like being over charged, herded about, sold stuff you don’t want or need, and you enjoy they constant fear of being pickpocketed, then by all means stay in Bangkok!

However, if you agree with me, the best advice I can give you is to get out by any means necessary!

Thailand is an awesome country, with so much going on. You could venture north to Chiang Mai, and experience a bustling city with a fraction of the tourism, or lose yourself on one of the many islands that litter the coasts. Whether it’s by bus, plane, boat or train, get out and enjoy Thailand, and don’t base your opinion on Bangkok!

Koh Chang sunset

Koh Chang sunset

Island getaway

Island getaway

 

 

So you call yourself a blogger?! A Hong Kong story

Given the past many months of not very much, I think it would be a long shot to call myself an avid blogger. There are those that post everyday, with quick quips on daily life. Others that amaze us with their incredible imagery and profound ideas on a weekly basis. There are some who blog monthly just to let people know what’s going on in their lives. I am currently none of these.

So, forgive me readers for I have sinned! It has been 11 months since my last (non lazy) post! Since then I have done many amazing things, travelled to wonderful places, and had an all round incredible time! For that reason, I will now catch you all up (those still reading… thanks mum!)

Enjoy!

HONG KONG

I’ve wanted to visit Australia since I was in my early teens, and having worked in China for a full year I finally had enough cash to make it possible. However, I also fancied a bit of south-east Asia. Hong Kong was calling!

I packed up my things, said goodbye for now to all my friends, and early one morning, headed to the airport with my Girlfriend. CANCELLED!!!

All you want to hear before setting off into the lesser known, but being the laid back person that I am (most of the time) we spent our time riding around on airport trolleys. Being a big kid is always more fun.

Eventually we made it onto a plane and jetted off to the amazing city that is Hong Kong. We were amazed by what awaited us. The bright lights on a whole new level to Shenyang.

The colourful streets of Hong Kong

The colourful streets of Hong Kong

We roamed the streets for a while looking for food, eventually giving up and going to the first noodle place we’d seen. Then, exhausted by the days travel, returned to our reasonably comfy hostel bed and passed out.

Day 1

Rising the next day, we eagerly made our way to the supermarket for brunch and sandwich making materials. A brief pause to stuff our faces and then we were on our way to the Peak Tram, Octopus cards in hand. If you ever visit this yourself, don’t be put off by the queue. It moves fairly quickly and is well worth the wait. As you can see below the tram is packed like a… well, packed like a Chinese tram I guess. The steep climb is made all the more fun because of it. Standing high at the front to take this picture, I almost flew down into the arms of the dear old chap at the front there.

Passengers on the Peak Tram

Passengers on the Peak Tram

Unfortunately my photography fell short at this point, if helped a little by the smog. However, it is an incredible feeling being on terra firma, looking down on the colossal towers of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong skyline from The Peak Tower

The Hong Kong skyline from The Peak Tower

Not content with the skyline, we took a stroll further up and around the mountain. The crowds disappear instantly, apparently unconcerned with a bit of exploration. This worked for us as we traversed around on the Governors walk. A small path with quaint lamps and benches, hidden mostly by overgrown tropical foliage, which breaks to reveal stunning views of Hong Kong’s south side.

Sunset on Victoria Peak

Sunset on Victoria Peak

Day 2

A trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Tian Tan Buddha (The Giant Buddha) and the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. We took a pleasant train ride to the base of the mountain and queued up (much longer this time) for the gondola to the top. The ride is pleasant and the views plentiful, but my eyes were continuously drawn to the path below. Cutting in and out of the treeline, up and down between ridges and gullies, it looked to be a long but exciting walk. Next time!

Arriving at the top you are met with what can only be described as the Las Vegas of monasteries. Ok maybe not quite, but the place has clearly been polished and rebuilt to turn it into 100% tourist attraction. I’m not entirely sure what I expected, but if you fancy getting off the beaten track, Hong Kong is not your destination.

We had booked ourselves on a boat ride around the Tai O fishing town, so headed over to the busses and made our way down the mountain. The town was bustling when we arrived, but quieted down as we ventured further in. The small streets and drying fish making for an exciting wander.

A Chinese family in Tai O

A Chinese family in Tai O

Fish drying in the street

Fish drying in the street

Local transport

Local transport

After exploring we jumped on a boat. Boat rides are always fun, and this was no exception! We weaved our way through the stilted homes and restaurants, then opened up the engines as we breached into open water.

Back on dry land, and up the mountain in the bus, we finally made our way to the base of the famous stairway to the Giant Buddha. Those Brits among you may remember it from “An Idiot Abroad”. So we made our way up, enjoying ourselves much more the Karl Pilkington, enjoying the amazing sight both up and down.

The Tian Tan Buddha

The Tian Tan Buddha

It was a truly exhausting day… so far! On our way back, as we still hadn’t seen the Hong Kong lights, we stopped of on the Kowloon river bank and watched this…

Hong Kong light show

Hong Kong light show

Hong Kong reflected

Hong Kong reflected

Next time… Thailand!

North Korea in pictures

North Korea has been a hot topic worldwide in recent weeks. Headlines are a plenty, Kim Jong Un is receiving visits from the likes of Dennis Rodman, and nuclear missiles are being prepared to level the ROK and Guam. So, being a short way north of the border, I thought I might go have a little peek.

Yes, that’s right! Myself and 2 friends took a little trip down to Dandong (A Chinese city on the border with North Korea) over the Qing Ming holiday…

Writer’s block is a b*tch! Dandong was nice, seeing Korea was amazing! Here are some photo’s.

 

Looking over the Yalu River

Looking over the Yalu River

Chinese tourists in front of the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

Chinese tourists in front of the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

A pier between the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge and the Yalu Jiang Duan Qiao bridge

A pier between the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge and the Yalu Jiang Duan Qiao bridge

Yalu Jiang Duan Qiao bridge

Yalu Jiang Duan Qiao bridge

The Ferris Wheel

The Ferris Wheel

The next group of photos were taken from within North Korea, on a boat trip for 50RMB. Yes that’s right! For only £5 you can pop over the border.

A North Korean dock

A North Korean dock

A North Korean souvenir salesman

A North Korean souvenir salesman

A cyclist

A cyclist

A ferry between Korean islands

A ferry between Korean islands

A Korean village

A Korean village

A Korean villager watches the tour boats

A Korean villager watches the tour boats

Myself, Dane and Alex in North Korean waters

Myself, Dane and Alex in North Korean waters

Kids say the ******* things!

Having grown up in relative urban non-existence (Wikipedia tells me my home until I was 11 had a population of less than 200), I’ve began to see that I am in fact a bit of a country boy!

Having moved from Plymouth (258,700 population) to Shenyang (8.1 million population), I’ve begun to miss some of the finer things in life. The colour green is a good example

Dane enjoys a stroll through the local flora

Dane enjoys a stroll through the local flora

 

Ok, so it was a long shot expecting to move to an industrial city and be greeted with a “Chinese” Dartmoor (my old playground) just a 15 minute bike ride away. But I wasn’t expecting my mood to dip so much as a result! Don’t worry, this isn’t a whine and groan post, read the title…

 

In my extreme depression (slight downer) I took to looking through all the funny things my students have said in the months since my arrival. It’s way past time I shared these with you, so here they are!

 

DISCLAIMER: All quotes are the expressed opinions of the children involved. They by no means represent the thoughts of this bloggist. They’re just all so very rude! (None have been exaggerated!)

 

  • “Cumcake” (cupcake)

 

  • “This is my dickhead!” (This is Dicks head) – Dick was not amused!

 

  • “Potpiss” (puppet)

 

  • “Bollocks” (box)

 

  • “This is a truckbird.” (The bird is on the truck) – The critically acclaimed prequel to CatDog.

 

  • “I see a whore.” (I see a horse) – Soon followed by…

 

  • “Yes, you can pet the whore!” (…horse) – Brothels are different here!

 

  • “Peter Piper picked a pale of dilly willy.” – Ok, so this was a longshot, the adults also struggled.

 

  • “I can go to the loo.” (…zoo)

 

  • “Mum is in the chicken.” (Mum is in the kitchen) – How his mum got in there, we’ll never know.

 

  • “Fuck” (four) – A cornerstone of the English language.

 

  • “This is my cock!” (This is my cup) – Thankfully just a slip of the tongue.

 

  • “I like smoking.” – Mark is a little legend, and only 3 years old. I asked “What do you like?” again the next day, realising he shouldn’t say this and with a huge grin on his face, he said those exact same words.

 

  • “Ass crease” (ice cream)

 

  • “Pot King” (popcorn)

 

  • “The pig is in the bum.” (The pig is in the barn)

 

  • “I am in the pub.” – Lessons in the pub… Now there’s an idea!

 

Don't let his cuteness fool you...

Don’t let his cuteness fool you…

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my kids rude rantings as much as I have. I’m sure there will be more to come so keep visiting.

 

Peace

 

Fear for your life!

I’m not one to worry too much about going to hospital. After all, of the 3 times I’ve broken my collar-bone, I’ve only been to A&E on the same day once. So when I became ill earlier this week, going to hospital was the last thing on my mind. However, as valuable as it seems I am (to my employer at least) I was “strongly” advised to visit the Dadong Peoples Hospital (大东区人民医院) on my street.

Having been rudely awakened by my indescribably happy Assistant teacher, Happy. Yes that’s right… Literally Happy by name, happy by nature. I was chaperoned to the nearest hospital in an effort to determine what was wrong with me. My symptoms included swollen lymph glands, heavy breathing, lethargy, and a general aching feeling. Now I know what was wrong with me, having had Glandular fever last year, I recognised this was simply a throat infection. Happy on the other hand was absolutely sure I was wrong!

“Alright Dr Happy… You’re the boss!” I thought sarcastically.

So we entered the hospital, a building I pass every day, but rarely notice as much more than the big green building on the right. You’d be forgiven for not recognizing this as a hospital. But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself…

Told you.

Told you.

I’ve been to one other hospital in China for my medical exam. That was, I’m guessing, to make sure I didn’t give any of my nasty British germs to the children. During this exam I basically just walked from room to room for each test. You have blood taken and move on, get a chest x-ray and move on, pee in a cup and move on. This is fantastically quick, if lacking in any form of privacy, but for a medical exam where nothing is likely to be wrong you can take it on the chin.

I wasn’t quite expecting this exact same process for an actual ailment! But that is exactly what I got!

After entering the hospital the first thing you do is pay 4RMB to see a doctor.

They add an extra 1 to everything :(

They add an extra 1 to everything 😦

Of course after actually paying to see a doctor (not normal for us Brits. NHS ftw!), even if it is only 40p, you expect the VIP treatment. Instead, with 3 other patients in the room, the doctor concentrated on one minor symptom (pain in my lower back) and sent me immediately off for a urine test (no pictures of this I’m afraid).

9RMB and one pee in a cup later I’m back in the doctor’s room, trying to pick up on the few words of Mandarin I do understand. This leads to a barrage of trips to various test rooms, stopping off each time to pay the appropriate fee. After every one, returning to the doctor’s office to be told absolutely nothing.

In all honesty, the doctor may have figured it out early on. With my lack of language skills however, I was relying on Happy to translate. Happy knows best of course, and decided to continually tell me “It’s ok! It’s ok!”, “No you don’t need that test!”, “The doctor thinks so, but I think it’s ok!”

My delightful doctor

My delightful doctor

After having had enough of these numerous trips, Happy’s over happiness, and probably picking up a whole lot more germs just by being there; I locked Happy away in a room fool of radioactive waste and made a run for it!

Yes, I thought it was an x-ray room too...

Yes, I thought it was an x-ray room too…

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better as I sit here typing this on Sunday afternoon. This is in small part due to a fantastic Welsh victory in the Six Nations, but mainly due to the amazing job done by the staff at Dadong People’s Hospital. Thanks guys!

Ok, I lie! It’s all about Wales beating England!

Peace!

 

P.S. Happy later escaped from her makeshift prison cell, and is now at large in Shenyang’s Dadong district, with a newly acquired radioactive level of happiness. Residents are advised to stay in their homes and a DO NOT APPROACH warning has been issued! Those who do not take this into consideration do so at their own risk!