What do teachers like least about Surat?

“The motorbike exhaust when I ride my bicycle. How difficult it can be to accomplish a simple task due to language barriers and shops keeping odd hours.” Erica Ambrose

“Lack of ethnic cuisines. Don’t get me wrong, the Thai food here is amazing. Probably the best anywhere. But it would be great to also have some American Chinese food, maybe some real steak, maybe some tasty Middle Eastern food, perhaps some Mexican, the list goes on.” Peter Meltzer

“The stinky smells” Clair McCalla

“The bubble effect; in other words the feeling of being truly cut-off from the outside world outside of an internet café, however, some people thrive on that kind of experience.” Scott Saier

“Pollution, car exhaust, foul smells, dogs that chase me.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“The noise. It is really loud (motorbikes, music, chickens, dogs, everything!) Lack of dance floors; lots of dancing but no designated area.” Victoria Biggs

What do teachers like most about Surat?

“That every day I am forced to challenge myself in some way or see a bizarre, hilarious site that makes me question if normal actually exists anywhere in the world.” Erica Ambrose

“That after every day I still see something new and interesting – even after 11 months.” Ryan Johnson

“The friendliness of the people. I have been here for 7 years and the people are still are friendly as when I first got here.” Peter Meltzer

“The kids, hands down.” Scott Saier

“Everyday adventures. My bicycle. My friends. My smelly, smelly street dog. Getting “Hello Teacher” on the street. The big smiles. My students.” Victoria Biggs

“The people that live here – Thais and foreigners. The exercise I am getting with normal life – biking, swimming, teaching, running away from dogs. The food. The leisurely pace of life. Access to the beach and other great places to go. Cheap taxis.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“The people!” Clair McCalla

Teachers’ Favorite Nighttime Places

Ma Hey – it’s really big club and great for dancing. They have a live band and a DJ so music varies. The drinks are quite pricey. Teachers’ Houses – Great for hanging out in to watch movies, play games or cards. Bigg’s Bar – It’s like a living room with good music, a library and great burgers.” Erica Ambrose

“Slower, more relaxed bars with live music. If you want to sit and talk, dance, drink a little, drink a lot, the big places with lots of tables have something for everyone.” Ryan Johnson

“There are a few different places I enjoy visiting at night: the night market, with its variety of foods and Thai merchandise; the new restaurant Casa, run by the incredibly hospitable Neung, who was born in New York and is always up for a good conversation, and there’s free Wi-Fi as well; Big’s Bar, with its ping-pong table, dart-board, good music, open-air atmosphere, and fully-stocked shelves of used books available to check out.” Scott Saier

“Downtown night market – great salads, fruit shakes, sushi, along with many other things. The river – nice place to get a beer, some som tam salad and some bbq chicken. Big’s Bar – very laid back bar with ping pong and darts. Ma Hey – good club where you can put your dance moves to the test. Donnok Soi 9 night market – great boiled beans and noodles. Soi Farang – street with a bunch of foreigner teachers, reminiscent of college life.” Clair McCalla

“My favorite places are other teachers’ houses. As far as drinking: wine at Milano’s or Big’s Bar. Ambiance: back yard of Casa’s. Food: curry at Popeye’s, Earth Zone, night markets, Luckey’s and the Vietnamese restaurant across from where we teach.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“Cowboy Bar – live music and dancing. The first time we walked in they were so happy to se foreigners that they played an English song for us. It was a medley of happy birthday and jingle bells. Priceless. Ma hey – formerly a hot spot but not so ‘cool’ anymore. Plenty of room to dance. I can’t stop dancing like a Thai man. Teacher house parties – when you feel like having an English night. P’roons Restaurant – hit it after the bars. Great food, hilarious staff and beer until 4 in the morning.” Victoria Biggs

Things Teachers Would Have Liked to Know Before Coming to Surat

“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand. Things really don’t just happen, you need to get out there and discover them for yourself.” Ryan Johnson

“That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet! That I would enjoy it so much and want to stay for way longer than a year.” Erica Ambrose

“How hard it would be to save money my first year. You can do it but it isn’t easy. It is good to have some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.”Victoria Biggs

“You can seriously find just about anything you need over here. So pack light, but make sure to include some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case! Also, the blind approach to learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

Related articles:

“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a
good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand.  Things really don’t just happen, you
need to get out there and discover them for yourself.”  Ryan Johnson

“That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet!  That I would enjoy it so
much and want to stay for way longer than a year.”  Erica Ambrose

“How hard it would be to save money my first year.  You can do it but it isn’t easy.  It is good to have
some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.” Victoria Biggs

“You can seriously find just about anything you need over here.  So pack light, but make sure to include
some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case!  Also, the blind approach to
learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand. Things really don’t just happen, you need to get out there and discover them for yourself.” Ryan Johnson “That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet! That I would enjoy it so much and want to stay for way longer than a year.” Erica Ambrose “How hard it would be to save money my first year. You can do it but it isn’t easy. It is good to have some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.” Victoria Biggs “You can seriously find just about anything you need over here. So pack light, but make sure to include some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case! Also, the blind approach to learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

A few of our favorite things

1.  Hearing the words, “Stand Up Please!”
2.  Gai Pad Med Mah Muang (chicken with cashew nuts)
3.  I actually do like the booty-hose in Thai bathrooms; saves paper
4.  Haad Yuan
5.  Walter Sobchak
my music
my coloring crayons
my rabbit (clive)
my sound system
“stop it and tidy up” cartoon

Top five things I like about Thai men:
1. They spend more time on their hair than I do.
2. They have less body hair than I do.
3. If you have been away for an hour they will ‘miss you very very.’
4. They dig the whiskey.
5. The sniff. You gotta try it out.

1. detroit dancefloors (dirty techno)
2. koh phangan
3. new dresses
4. quiche
5. morning rain on a bungalow roof
1. Calvin & Hobbes – By far the best thing in the newspaper in the 90’s.
2. Curling – The winners always buy the losing team the first round of beer.  Now THAT’S a true sport.
3. Kettleman’s Bagel Shop in Ottawa, Canada – The greatest way to start a morning.
4. Pinball – Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball.
5. Adventure – I can’t wait for my next one.
5. Favorite song => “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
4. Favorite animal => Bull (I’m a Taurus, it’s inevitable…)
3. Favorite author => Ok, tie between Chuck Palahniuk and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
2. Favorite spot in Thailand thus far => Bang Bao, Koh Chang
1. Favorite leisure activity => Wandering without direction
Favorite outdoor activity (USA): Hiking to hotsprings and camping
Best way to unwind after a long day teaching (USA): Hot bath and a trashy celebrity magazine
Favorite outdoor activity (Thailand): snorkling in Koh Tao or Koh Lipe
Best way to unwind after a long day of teaching (Thailand): yoga in our home “studio” or a game of Settlers of Catan or Beenie.
Favorite drink (USA): Vodka Gimlet
Favorite drink (Thailand): box of wine from LotusCaleb

1. Favorite animal seen on posters in Thailand- Unicorns (every now and then the occasional narwhal but mostly just unicorns)
2. Favorite cross cultural food- Corn (I’ve even bought the yogurt with the corn on more than one occasion)
3. Favorite Sandra Bullock movie seen in Thailand- none.  Still haven’t found one that has crossed over to the enjoyable category
4.  Favorite culinary style learned in Thailand- eating with the spoon in the right hand and the fork in the left.  It just makes so much sense.
5. Favorite dog in Thailand:  Au Daang- the red dog that follows me around my soi and whines every night when we come home until you pet him for fifteen minutes

5. Outdoor music festivals
4. The kids in Lil’K at High Point Church – They are my favorites!
3. Twinkle lights in the park against fresh sparkling snow
2. Hiking through the woods in the fall when the leaves change color
1. I love art!
5. My External Hard Drive – more movies, TV shows and music than blockbuster video
4. The Vietnamese Restaurant opposite Suratpittaya high school – I miss Vietnam
3. Mums breakfast joint – The best noodle soup in Surat
2. Trips to Khanom – Like Haad Rin without the idiots or the high prices
1. Earthzone – The best food in Surat hands down, and the owners are the best Thai teachers I
have ever had
Favorite Non-Technological Item: my punching bag
Favorite Place I haven’t been to yet: Macau
Favorite Restaurant Back West: Shanghai Village, Bethesda, Maryland
Favorite Villain: The Joker
Favorite Mellow Album: Sea Change – Beck
1. Warm coconutty custardy cakes from the Surat nightmarket
2. A nice glass of chilled wine
3. Pizza from Milano’s (near Super English)
4. Random drink nights
5. Playing dress up
1. I love bufffalo chicken wings.  Other than my family, it’s the only thing I miss from the States.
2. Going to a Florida Gators football game with 92,000 friends.
3. Kayaking or canoing down a nice, quiet river with a few friends on a hot summer day with a cooler full of cold refreshments.
4. Planning, and executing, the perfect surprise party for a loved one.
5. Traveling and visiting brand new places, but also getting to know those new places well.
Favorite movie: The Labyrinthe  (David Bowie, cod pieces, fairies, enuf said)
Favorite dwarf: Dopey
Favorite sport: thumb war
Favorite musician: Prince
Favorite drink: mojito

The Super Surat Guide

The Super Surat Guide is intended to give prospective residents an idea as to what there is to do in Surat as well as give current residents suggestions about things they might not have tried yet.

The Guide is based on a “Wai” rating, the wai being the way Thais greet each other and show respect. The higher the wai rating, the higher the opinion of the place. 5 wais is the highest and means it’s a place that should not be missed.

Place: Earthzone

  • Location: Chalokrat Rd , near the teacher’s house
  • Review: The best food in Surat hands down, in my humble opinion. The hosts (Sak and Pui) speak English and are the nicest people you will meet anywhere, the staff are always friendly and there is a real homely quality to the place. Possibly the finest example of Thai hospitality in Surat .
  • Wai rating: 5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Soup restaurant on Talad Mai

  • Location: Corner of Talad Mai and Talad Kaset 1 Bus Station
  • Review: Great soup, and the two guys who run the place speak pretty good English if your Thai is lacking.
  • Wai rating: 4
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Street cart on Chalokrat Rd

  • Location: Chalorat Rd , about 100 yards past the Amphur Intersection
  • Review: This place is the real deal – the don’t dumb anything down for westerners. Penang curry with rice is my personal favourite. You might have trouble here if your Thai language is non existent or lacking, as nobody speaks a word of English.
  • Wai rating: 3.5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Donut man’s breakfast joint

  • Location: Amphur, near the Chalokrat intersection
  • Review: Besides Donut man being very hospitable, this is the only place that serves meatballs and donuts in the same meal. Try the jok (rice porridge), it is excellent. I have never had a bad meal there. Donut man does speak a little English.
  • Wai rating: 4.5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place: Sweet and Sour Restaurant (don’t know the real name)

  • Location: Donnok Rd, on the corner across from the art supply shop (don’t know the address)
  • Review: Excellent Thai food, but occasionally very slow service. This is because they only have one guycooking everything. Try the Tom Yam Goong, Pad Pak Boong, and Pad Preaw Wan Gai. All topnotch. A little bit pricier than other restaurants but much tastier too. Try it once to experience authentic Thai style home cooking at its best.
  • Wai Rating: 3.5 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: MK Suki

  • Location: Big C and Lotus Shopping Malls
  • Review: Unique, hot pot style restaurant. Most people fall in love with the sauce that comes automatically with every meal. The food is always fresh, tasty and quality control checked. This is an indoor restaurant with specially prepared dishes, so the prices are pretty high for Surat. However, it’s worth it to try it at least once and they do have many single dishes which are reasonably priced.
  • Wai Rating: 4 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: Koh Lampoo Island

  • Location: Middle of the Tapee River
  • Review: A scenic island with fitness trails, basketball courts, football fields, badminton nets, exercise
  • equipment and places to rest. Ideal for an afternoon bike ride and/or picnic. Usually very quiet and clean.
  • Wai Rating: 3.5 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: Tesco Lotus Shopping Mall

  • Location: The outskirts of Surat Thani Town
  • Review: Lotus is the biggest mall in Surat and is almost always crowded. They have a large supermarket, as well as KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Dairy Queen, Black Canyon Coffee, HomePro, Swensen’s Ice Cream, etc. Whatever you need, you can probably find it at Lotus. The biggest problem is transportation, since it is quite far away from the city center. You can haggle with a tuk tuk about theprice or try to find the free bus which drives around town picking up customers to take them out to the mall. Once you’re there, you’ll be entertained for hours.
  • Wai Rating: 4 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

The End of the School Year

by John Phelps

As I sat in an empty Prathom 3 classroom at the end of the day, I wondered at the soft sadness that unfolded over me like an old blanket. Sounds of children playing “paper, rock, scissors” slapped the concrete walls. Like any other day, I had sweated completely through my clothes and was gulping water by the liter. At the end of any school day, I can hardly think about more than a cold bucket shower and a nap. But today, the last day of class, was different. I kept thinking about the squishy hugs, origami hearts, and thumb wrestling matches of the last few hours. I realized I was going to miss all of this, even though I was only leaving for a few months.

When I started other teachers had told me this would happen, but I didn’t quite believe it. I had always been annoyed by school teacher friends in the US who said things like, “Oh, I just love my little guys.” I imagined they must have grown up dressing one too many stuffed animals and having tea parties. When I came to Thidamaepra School at the start of the second semester, I worried that I wouldn’t measure up to the classes’ previous teacher. My first day of class, when I split the class into teams, a few named their team after him. The kids had his name written all over their notebooks and pencil cases. I was sure a few had tattoos somewhere with his name in an arrow-pierced heart. I imagined myself as a bumbling substitute teacher saying things like, “Now, settle down class” like a pull-cord doll.

The first few weeks of the term, I spent hours designing lesson plans with tactics perfectly-calculated to increase speaking ability, generate endless fun and create a perfect teacher-student relationship. Then, in class, a militia of 55 would outgun me and trample my expert plans. One of my classes was so loud that I could not hear a student speaking to me from less than four feet away. I felt like they thought I had come half-way through their year to ruin the party. I could pull various tricks to get them to be quiet, but after holding their attention for about two minutes, the roar would return. They were right to call the class “Intensive English Program,” I discovered.

Some time in the first few weeks, I decided to adopt a new policy. I would up my level of generally ridiculous behavior in my class by 100 percent. I would become an inescapable spectacle in class. Also, I had noticed that some of the craziest kids were some of the brightest. Maybe they were acting out because they weren’t being challenged. I began to think of ways to channel their energy. At the same time, I would lay down a tough few rules and enforce them as fiercely as the valiant defenders of ‘No Liquids Over 8 Ounces on an Airplane.’ I began to make games that involved a risk of a bouncy ball to the head for those not paying attention. There were some showdowns with a few of the most stubborn troublemakers, and some days I wanted to simply walk out of class and not come back. However, I began to fall into my style in the classroom as a pantomime-comedian-meets-drill-sergeant. It was around this time when I started hearing “Again, teacher,” after a game in class. Looking back, I realized I did not have to be someone else to be a good teacher. All I had to do was just be natural, and put on a strict face if something got in the way of that. I moved through the day with a quiet happiness, because I knew there would be more rewarding moments than unpleasant ones. The knot in my stomach before my toughest class of the day was gone, and I laughed myself almost to tears a few times with them.

Then, stick-figures and cartoons featuring sometimes-accurate caricatures of me appeared in their notebooks. Sometimes I would leave the class with my chalky hands filled with candy, gifts from kids who I didn’t even think cared I was there. As I rode my bike through town I got the occasional ‘wai’ from a student on a back of a motorbike. The last day of class, a girl who I had to almost pull out her chair to get her participation in games came up to me. I expected her to ask to see her grades or point out the chalk stains on my face. Instead, she timidly held out a bright pink “Hello, Kitty” memory book and asked me to sign. She would be leaving Thidamaepra to go on to high school, and she told me she would come to visit me next year. All the small struggles to get her to come out of her shell had been worth it. Scared to speak a word of English when I had first met her, there she was talking to me confidently. My heart was slowly melting in a microwave. So, after my last class of the term, I sat waiting for the joy of a two month vacation to set in. But, I began missing the ‘little guys,’ I mean — uh, the students — already.

Dylan’s Notes on Thailand

by Dylan Bird

(Note: This is a very quickly typed, short note that I wrote to all friends from home that care to read my Facebook rambles. and for that reason it is a very true and honest view of teaching and Surat. I hadn’t intended any of this for an official website but for mates with whom I can speak honestly and open-heartedly. and thus is a very pure opinion of my time here. It may need editing as is written as I think and probably makes little sense (especially given my Yorkshire tones and bizarre English colloquialisms!!) but here it is- voila. I just thought this may be a nice natural piece from the heart!! enjoy.xxx)

Kay, so it’s been exactly six months today since i packed up my few possessions in a spotted hanky knapsack and trundled off to Thailand to try and spread my yorksha tones (as slight as they are) to some Thai nippers!! I have been living in a wee place in southern Thailand called Surat Thani for six months now (minus a months travels ooop norf) and in all honesty, I couldn’t be happier!! There are so so many things to talk about and tell and not enough time (or baht) to spend in a toasty hot internet cafe to write all, so I’ll just write the best bits (like one of them cheesy flash back scenes on the tellybox)

Working at a beautiful white marbled catholic school filled with nuns in white habits and thousands of beautiful Thai kids is a dream job!! I teach classes of 60 excitable and happy little smilers English by basically playing games, and the more ridiculous and rowdy the game, the better- as long as it includes the basic syllabus for the English programme, you can be as creative and crazy with the games as you feel. And really that can be the best and worst part of the week. Trying to think up some game or other to top the week before (and for me my aim is to get the kids as hyper and silly as I can in the hour that I have!!) is always a fun challenge!!

And the kids? The kids are just something else-so nice and sweet, and so so unbelievably loving. Having a class of 60 kids make up a song AND dance routine about you on your birthday is amazing. And every day my desk has some little letter or card or gift of some sort (cakes, sweets, handmade little bead bracelets, pictures, teabags, biscuits, a half-eaten apple). The bestest of best bits in a week is walking across the courtyard of maybe 4500 kids in the morning before we sing the I-love-the-king song, and getting mauled by tiny kids wanting to high five you! And watching the same 4500 kids every Wednesday doing morning exercises- basically half-assed dancing to bad hip-hop tunes, and the fact that once a week everyone in the school (including teachers-male and female, but thankfully excluding me) dresses up in scout uniform (picture grown Thai men with moustaches in shorts, a woggle and a hat), and me getting the kids to do the stupidest things in class – balance fruit on their heads, dress in my clothes, throw chalk at each other, play with poi, and run and jump around like nutters, all in the name of English speaking!!! Every day is so different and so much fun. Even after riding to school in the rain, on a broken bike, being chased by dogs that want my tasty white farang blood, I still can’t wait to get there. It’s the best pick-me- up in the world, and gets you over any kinda ridiculous trauma you think you might be experiencing- being in the classroom for a second makes everything negative disappear!!

And Surat itself? Well apart from the very obvious fantastic location- great for island hopping at weekends, for beach bumming, snorkeling, diving, partying, and all manner of wonderful courses in alternative hippy nonsense (I am racking up a few), and anything else you can think of doing right on your doorstep and only a night boat away! And the peaceful and serene and sssh spot of Khanom beach only a short drive away. And the breathtaking views of the Khao Sok national park with its mighty rainforest and lakes, again just a short trip-trap away from Surat. But this geography stuff is all for the guide books to inform you of.

Surat Thani itself, well Surat is a kinda small and very Thai town- there is nothing flashy or touristy about the place, and for that reason all guide books give it a bad rep. But for that reason, for me, I love it- it really is Thailand. Trying to order food in my baaad Thai, and going out listening to Thai rock bands (good, in a bad cheesy way) is all part of the wonderful Thai experience (except when you get fish head curry- which has happened!!!). I love Surat – the food is amazing ( i could rant for hours about the assorted treats- even for the annoying veggie that I am!) the Thai people are great, so lovely and will go out of their way to help you (even if you’d really like them to just leave you alone sometimes- their friendliness and helpfulness is overwhelming, and hearing the almost constant cheery voices shout hello after you as you peddle about really does make you feel special), the nights out spent drinking cheap cheap Thai whisky and listening to Thai reggae (Job to Do – I will never know or ever forget the words!!), or shaking my thang in Thai clubs. There are so many ace places to eat and drink, and I still find new ones everyday!! And of course the beautiful folk that reside here- a wonderful gaggle of Super English teachers from all over the globe and a great group of beautiful Thai friends who are making this place the fantastic place that it is!! Happy just isn’t a big enough word sometimes!!

There’s my little house, that I love, filled with all kinds of interesting creepy crawlies looking for a party, and water which comes on and off when it chooses (off when you smell the most and on when you can’t really be bothered to shower), and the electricity that trips out EVERY time you turn the stereo on, and the fan that electrocutes you, and the lights that burn, the lack of fridge (until last week-whoop whoop), and the ‘stove’ which is really a hole in the work surface with a metal dish that you must make and start your own fire to cook things on EVERY TIME you want to cook, then clear the ash up afterwards!!! It’s crazy, it’s Thai, it’s sometimes frustrating but ALL of the time fun, and I adore every single second of it!! And every water shortage (though smelly and annoying) is fun as you learn to wash your body, your hair, and your clothes aaaaand flush the toilet with the teensiest bit of water from a bucket!!) And furnishing your place with stuff you make or find on the beach, in the forests or in the bin. I love it, it’s the most fun house I’ve ever had!!!

Then there’s some real surreal Thai stuff that must be mentioned too , like hanging out at the monkey training school (train ‘em to climb trees for coconuts; the stories of this place are endless- furniture making, and playing with monkeys, and smoking out bee’s nests to eat the tiny bee larvae), or the crocodile farm, eating crickets and chicken feet at the night market, the factories that make birds nest soup by housing a million birds and stealing their nests to boil down to extract the saliva to make a nice broth-mmmm, the vegetarian festival where we witnessed maybe 30 men all sticking different things through their faces- swords, poles, tridents, a gas pump and my favourite, a fire extinguisher, and who beat their chests with axes, and cut their tongues with swords- crazy veggies!! or the very obvious lady boys, and the ‘special’ karaoke bars filled with girls in teeny hotpants and massive platform boots (good for a cheap beer and a game of cards).

I’m loving every crazy, surreal Thai second of it!!!


Five top Five Lists

Ryan Johnson’s Five top Five Lists (all lists are in no particular order)

5 best books I’ve read in Thailand

Good books are something of a luxury, especially in Surat. These are my favorites that I think are still floating around Super English or town somewhere: •

  • Three Cups of Tea—A former mountain climber dedicates his life to building schools for children in Pakistan and other countries. A powerful story that will inevitably touch every reader’s heart.
  • The Book Thief—Story of a young girl sent to live with relatives during World War II. Complications arise when the family agrees to harbor a Jewish man in their basement. Narrated by Death, the story is not unique, but is good and the prose is simple, enjoyable, and emotional.
  • Wicked—The (now famous) story regarding the upbringing of the Wicked Witch of the West. Interesting and entertaining, the book will make you laugh, mourn, and pause to reevaluate your feelings on Dorothy’s nemesis.
  • The Lovely Bones—Told by a young girl from heaven, the book uses the unique narrative structure to capture the life and feelings of her friends and family trying to rebuild their lives following her death. Well written and well paced, the story really finds uplifting themes out of tragedy and sadness.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns—The story of two women living in Afghanistan before, during, and after the rule of the Taliban. A good tale about victims of circumstance, it captures the hearts of those who find the power to change their world by overcoming an enormous amount of adversity.

5 best movies I’ve seen in Thailand

While the video-selection at Super English is fairly extensive, many of the movies are, in my opinion, no other way to put it, crap. Having said this, no other language school in town offers a DVD library for its teachers so that says something about SE. For one reason or another, these are my top five movies in the Super English Library:

  • A Fistful of Quarters, The King of Kong—This movie details a man’s attempt to break to world record in the Donkey Kong arcade game. Funny and unbelievable at times, the film is also very touching and a classic ‘The Little Engine that Could’ story. •
  • Once—A low-budget indie type of film that follows an Irish musician trying to get his break and simultaneously trying to win the girl. Raw and believable, the music is full of emotional expression and really encompasses the heart of the film.
  • The Dark Knight—Christian Bale as Batman and Heath Ledger as the Joker. Badass.
  • The Evil Dead—The original Raimi/Cambell classic, the film is one of the definitions of the horror/comedy genre. You will either love it or hate it. I love it.
  • Babel—A serious, heavy film set in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the United States; the script interweaves the stories of people all over the world with the focal point being an old hunting rifle. The imagery is so beautiful and powerful you could watch the film on mute and still walk away with a fulfilling experience.

My 5 favorite things about our fellow teachers in Surat:

  • Age differences don’t matter as much. This is a place where an eighteen year old and a person in their fifties are friendly and have much in common.
  • Communication difficulties between people from England/America/Canada arise often, usually with humorous results.
  • The various discussions regarding the advantages and problematic disadvantages regarding motorbikes vs. bicycles.
  • The inability to go more than an hour without somebody mentioning teaching in some respect.
  • Ordering food at a restaurant in groups (with various results) through a bittersweet symphony of broken Thai, English, pointing at menus and many confused looks and bewildered confirmations.

My top 5 favorite places I’ve visited in Thailand:

  • Ko Phangan—Hat Yao Beach: I’m not really a beach person and one pretty beach is as good as another but Hat Yao is close, affordable, and easily reachable for a weekend retreat if needed. Away from the bustle of Hat Rin, the beach is on the Northwest coast and is quiet, beautiful, a great place to swim, snorkel, or collect seashells and a perfect place to relax.
  • Bangkok—Siam & Sukhumvit: While Khaosan Rd. gets all the attention from the backpackers, the best of the City of Angels is mostly all within walking distance from a Skytrain stop. Shopping in air-conditioned malls (expensive at Paragon and Emporium while cheaper at Central or MBK) or a street market, Chatuchak being the biggest and baddest, is always a draw while restaurants (literally too many to choose from sporting menus from all over the world), parks, live music places, temples, bars, pubs, nightclubs, dance clubs, pool halls, and the most eclectic mix of people from nations worldwide make Bangkok a must.
  • Chiang Rai—the Land of the Golden Triangle: Hill tribes (accessible by trekking, driving, or longtail boat), legends of the past—or not so past—opium trade, giant teak trees, fantastic views of three countries (Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand) and the intermingling of multiple Thai cultures make Chang Rai a great visit. Adding to this, with it’s cheap shopping, delicious food from street stalls or restaurants, and constant entertainment adorning the multiple stages, Chiang Rai’s night bazzar is, hands down, my favorite in Thailand.
  • Pattaya—abandon all hope, all ye who enter here: Pattaya is, without a doubt, the craziest place I have been in Thailand. While not a place for children or those easily shocked or offended, a trip to Pattaya is one you will not forget. Spend the day riding jet skis, playing pool, golfing, or simply recovering, but it is the night scene in Pattaya that makes the trip memorable. Walking Street is, for lack of a better phrase, a place of stimulation overload (pun intended?). Walking Street is full of go-go bars, drag shows, night clubs, elephants, ladyboys, and more than is possible to absorb or comprehend but entertaining nonetheless.
  • Mae Hong Son and Pai—rustic Thailand: Small, calm, and tranquil, the best way to describe these Northwest towns is that they practice a beach-like lifestyle while living in the mountains. A distinctly Burmese influence dominates the people and architecture (the spirit houses in particular are an eye-catching kaleidoscope of colors and layers) due to the fact that many of the inhabitants’ ancestry can be found in the hill tribes that fled the governmental peresecution to settle in Thailand. There are countless hikes all over the area but the highlights definitely include trips to the hot springs, the hill tribes of long-necked or big-eared women, and watching people (by hand) tend to their picturesque rice patties. An added plus, you can fly from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son in about half an hour, thus eliminating a seven hour (or more) bus ride.

My top 5 favorite (rare) things to do in Surat:

Since we all live here and go through the hustle and bustle of town daily, these are the things I really enjoy doing but don’t do so often:

  • Watch a sunrise from a rooftop or exercise island. While getting up earlier than necessary is unfathomable, it occasionally does happen and Thai sunrises are spectacular.
  • Doing an all-night bar crawl that starts at a restaurant and hits at least three different places before arriving at Karaoke (2:30-3 a.m. at the earliest) only to emerge from the dark confines and discover, to general astonishment, that the sun has come up.
  • Late Night 7/11 runs that generally result in an obscene number of chicken-steak burgers being consumed (to one’s general discomfort the next day). So delicious yet possibly the most unhealthy thing you can eat.
  • Getting caught in the rain when riding home. You know you can shower, change, and drink something hot as soon as you get back so a good soaking (much to the delight of any people observing you struggle through the monsoon) is a sure-fire way to add enjoyment to any day.
  • Finding a new food shop. While many of the bigger restaurants are well known (and well frequented) there is no better feeling than walking into a random place and finding the people friendly, the food cheap and delicious, and subsequently adding it to the mental list of places you like to eat in.

Soaring Above the Treetops

by Erica Ambrose

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to fly through the treetops of the Thai jungle on Koh Samui. It was one of the most exhilarating, and slightly frightening experiences, of my life. A company called Canopy Adventures offers the ride of a lifetime on a series of 6 zip lines running through the jungle. This excursion is not for the faint of heart. The ride up to the site was almost more dangerous than the zip lines were! They run 4 trips a day that last about 3 hours in total. The cost is 1700 baht.

Our trip began at 2:00 p.m. which was a lovely time for an excursion for those of you not interested in dragging yourself out of bed for a 9 a.m. day trip. The first half of the journey was run of the mill. Then things changed as the roads became half paved but mostly gravel and fairly rough. We all had to keep alert to avoid getting whipped in the face by tree branches. As we continued our ascent the road became more and more bumpy and we were all holding on to whatever bars were available. It was a rocky ride most of the way up. Then we passed a sign that read “No vehicles beyond this point”. The road was essentially straight up and covered in boulders and decidedly not flat. This did not stop our driver from forging ahead. Thankfully we all arrived unscathed if only slightly jittery.

We were then suited up with our equipment. We each received a harness with numerous carabiners and clips, as well as a pair of work gloves that had seen better days. We were told they were for braking. Braking? We have to brake? We then marched up a mountain in the boiling heat for about 15 minutes and past a gorgeous waterfall. When we got to the 1st platform we stopped to rest and did some basic zip line training. We all got instructed on how to brake so we would not come slamming into the platform after the first zip line.

Reaching the top of the platform was exciting and slightly unsettling, looking down we realized we were about 200 meters above the ground, and the platform was none too steady! We also discovered we were above the tops of many trees, above the canopy indeed! Our guides assured us it was safe and away we went one by one jumping off the platform and zipping through the trees. The first jump was the toughest because I was concerned about actually braking and not screwing up! All went smoothly. By the second jump I was able to relax and enjoy watching the jungle fly by. The third platform was very steep and fast and was the most fun, but also the most frightening for those wary of speed. When we reached the fourth platform our guides said if we were brave enough we could jump without holding onto the zip line and experience a second of free fall. I leaped at the opportunity, and it was well worth it. The feeling of throwing yourself into the abyss if only for a moment is amazing!

Our Thai guides were very comfortable on the zip line and put on a show by zipping upside down and braking with their feet. Knowing a few things about high ropes safety, this is very dangerous. Our guides also enjoyed scaring us by jumping off the platform before we were unclipped, thus shaking the zip line, which made the entire platform shake and sway. It was crazy! “Safety First” is not the motto of Thailand. All in all it was a great trip, and an experience I will not soon forget. I would recommend it to anyone with an adventurous spirit.