Another Awesome SE Event – “Unseen Surat”

We’ve had a ton of great SE parties and events throughout my time here so far. Peter has treated us to pool parties, staying at Rabaingsai resort, nice dinners, taking a trip to the floating bungalows in Khao Sak, yummy Thanksgiving dinner, and a Thai culture party, just to name a few. This month, Peter had the great idea to have an “Unseen Surat” event, the idea being to show us some cool places around Surat that most of us teachers haven’t seen before. Peter decided to keep the planned events for the day a surprise, which was a lot of fun. All we knew is that we would be starting with lunch and going to some places in Surat from there.

We kicked the day off with a tasty lunch, provided by Peter, at a local Thai place near Super English. Lunch was served to us family style and everyone loaded their plates with yummy curries and tasty Thai dessert. Next, walked across the street to the river, where we found a long-tail boat waiting for us that the Thai staff and Peter had arranged. Everyone was really excited, because nobody had been on the river in Surat before. It is something a lot of people talk about wanting to do, but nobody had. We loaded everyone up in the boat, along with some totally awesome hats provided by the boat driver to give us a bit of shade. First we drove to an island in the middle of the river and took a quick tour of this nice vegetable garden. Then we hopped back on the boat and enjoyed a leisurely ride through some of the canals in the jungle, on the non-city side of the river. I particularly enjoyed this part, because our house is in this area, near the canals. At least 7  other teachers live in the part of town too, near the canals, and we actually passed the bungalows where 4 SE teachers live! The ride was really relaxing and the jungle was so beautiful. We even saw a few monitor lizards moving about.

Our last stop on the boat trip was this really awesome homestay that the boat driver runs. It is probably only 5 minutes from our house, but I never knew it was there, as it is hidden on a canal deep in the jungle. Supposedly there is some road or path to access the homestay by land, so maybe I’ll have to look for that sometime soon. Our boat driver also turned out to be an expert in all kinds of Thai handiwork. He spent the afternoon teaching us how to use various leaves from the jungle to make Thai desserts, thatched roofs, and baskets. We also got to try some tasty Thai drinks. Towards the end of the afternoon, he hacked open some young coconuts for us to enjoy, before we hopped on the boat and headed back to the city.

This event is definitely towards the top of the list of the my favorite SE events. Everyone had a lot of fun and really enjoyed getting to see some hidden places in Surat that we wouldn’t have seen if Peter and the Thai staff hadn’t planned this event for us. Thanks to Peter for providing another memorable experience for us, and thanks to the Thai staff for planning the boat tour for us. Enjoy the pictures!

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Beer

After living in Asia for about 2.5 years, you’ll get pretty sick of the poor beer selection. Actually, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be pretty sick of it in a lot less time than that. I lived in Korea for a year before coming to Thailand. The beer in Korea is actually worse than it is in Thailand, where it’s not even mediocre on its best day. When I got to Thailand I remember thinking “alright, the beer here is actually good!” Not true. My standards were so low after being in Korea that I actually thought the hangover inducing pond scum that is passed off as beer in Thailand was actually… good. It’s not. You may not think that when you first get here but you will eventually.

It’s true, you can find good beer around Thailand but none of it’s Thai, nor is it cheap.

In the last few months a few of us started to brew our own beer to fill the growing void, which was once filled by quality malted beverages. For a few thousand baht we got the equipment necessary as well as the expertise from a local American guy. After a few supervised brews and lessons on how to get from point a. to “point drinking our own beer,” we’ve been successfully brewing up some of our own concoctions.

So far we’ve had a rather hoppy brown ale, a pumpkin spiced brew for Thanksgiving, a honey chestnut brown ale, a peach wheat, a raspberry hefeweizen, an English pale ale, an oatmeal stout, and we’ve got a citrus (and maybe apricot?) hefeweizen on the way. We’ve also got some bottles of our own homemade wine. Most of it’s turned out pretty well and some of it’s turned out great! It’s been a fun hobby and a good way to get some good cheap beer back into our lives.

Tea Shop

Thida runs on instant coffee, and I imagine it’s not too good for you. The coffee is great at the coffee shops, but 50-60 baht for a coffee is a bit much for me to do everyday. I wanted to knock the coffee habit completely, so I thought Green tea would be a nice alternative. I mean I could drink nothing but Chai Yen for years, but that’s probably not good for you either. Twenty baht, what a deal!

Anyways, I tried a couple brands of Green tea from Central and Tesco but they don’t taste great. Recently, I went to a tea shop near the pier. If you’re looking at Sweet Kitchen, the Chinese temple is to the right, and the tea shop is to the right of that. There’s a greenish blue sign with white lettering (in Thai) hanging down in the front like an awning. They sell all kinds of stuff in there, from honey to herbal laxatives to herbal soaps and shampoos. They have a good selection of essential oils, as well.

When you go in to look around, they bring you a little tea sampling complete with a saucer. It’s very pleasant. One of the women is willing to try to answer your questions using some English. I was interested in a tea made from mushrooms and flowers, and she was able to tell me it’s a detox tea, to boil it for ten minutes, and to drink it once a week. She even invited me to come back on a Tuesday, as they all drink the detox tea on Tuesdays.

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I bought a Ginkgo Biloba tea along with the Green tea. Haven’t tried it yet, but I can vouch for the Green tea. It’s AMAZING! Try to find it if you’re a Green tea lover!

Bangkok Eats

Firehouse Burgers – http://www.firehousethailand.com/en/home/

Crinkle Cut Fries, Wedge Fries, Onion Rings, Milkshakes, and BURGERS! I haven’t had a proper hamburger since July, so when I was in Bangkok, I had to take my chance. The beef was from Australia and very good quality. You can choose from a number of styles, whether it be a traditional Cheddar Burger, a California Burger (Avocado and Swiss), or a Caprese Burger (Balsamic, Basil, and Mozzarella). The waitresses are all really nice, and they wore cute red mini skirts with high top sneakers. On point! Sitting outside on the porch was comfortable. Inside, it’s a bit cramped.
What aBAHT it?
Hamburger (comes with fries) 200-350 baht
Milkshake 140 baht

Il Bolognese – http://www.ilbolognesebangkok.com/

I’ll admit I splurged a bit here, but when I walked in the Italian owner said “Buonasera!” so excitedly that I couldn’t leave. Il Bolognese is open for lunch and dinner, though, so it can fit both budgets. They also take Visa, so that’s how they really got me for dinner. The ambiance is awesome. It’s a mix of modern and traditional Italian decor. Twig like breadsticks adorn each table, looking more like an artistic centerpiece than an appetizer. After you order, a member of the kitchen staff brings an amuse bouche. When I was there it was congealed tomato and creme fraiche. The menu is extensive. Try a wood fired pizza, some pasta, salad, cuts, or chops. We ordered Carbonara with thick bacon and Gnocchi with Lamb Ragout. To accompany, we had a bottle of Chianti. The wine selection is all Italian and all looks carefully chosen. Dessert was espresso, really great espresso. The staff was smart and swift and very polite. It was a true fine dining experience.
What aBAHT it?
Pasta Dishes 200-400 baht
Wine 1400 + baht
Espresso 40 baht

Serina – http://bk.asia-city.com/restaurants/bangkok-restaurant-reviews/serina

Serina is also open for lunch and dinner, and this time I was there for lunch. It’s a cozy little place, with just three areas to sit, surrounding hibachi grills. Hibachi isn’t available for lunch, but sitting in front of the pristine steel was still nice. The decor was very modern, very plain. There are no windows in the place, but nice lines and beautiful wood break up the monotony. The lunch sets are quite impressive. You basically choose your protein (served with vegetables), and it comes with green tea, a salad with ginger dressing, miso soup, rice, red bean and mochi dessert, and coffee. They course everything out, so as you’re finishing your salad, they’re bringing the main course, and as you finish that, they’re bringing dessert. My friend had the pork, and I had the salmon. Both were great! If Thailand has turned you into a condiment lover, you’ll love the dish of three sauces they give you to eat with the meal.
What aBAHT it?
Lunch Set 350 – 450 baht

Seems like all sit-down restaurants in Bangkok charge a 7% VAT and a 10% service charge.

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At Firehouse Burgers.

Haircut

I left home to start teaching in Korea about 2.5 years ago. The day before my flight I got a haircut. That was the last real haircut I’ve gotten since living in Asia, until Friday that is. 

 

After debating on whether or not to have my haircut for the last few months, with a bit of reluctance, I finally made the decision. Last Friday night the long hair was chopped and left to lay on the floor of the hair salon.

 

Since returning to school, my haircut has been met with mixed reviews from the Thai teachers and my students, who have only ever known me to have long pulled back hair. “very handsome,” “not good,” “like Justin Bieber,” “funny,” “you look like a woman (which I have yet to figure out because I went from having long hair to short hair.),” and on and on. I’ve even had a few students question whether I was the same person and weren’t willing to accept that I was in fact “Teacher Jade.” 

 

Either way, I’m happy with my decision. So be it. 

Christmas break and Scuba Diving

Well we’re into our first full week of school after Christmas break. I think I said this after our October break, but I’ll say it again: I never dread returning to work since I’ve had this job. I love working at Thida and I love my students. 

 

Over the break I splurged and went on a 4day liveaboard diving trip to the Similan islands off the western coast of Thailand in the Andaman sea. These islands are world renown for their beauty, clear blue water, and exceptional diving. Unfortunately, they’re really hard to get to unless you do a liveaboard, which can be quite expensive.

 

The real draw for me was the site known as Richelieu rock, which was discovered by Jacques Cousteau, and was at one point regarded as one of the top dive sites in the world. We were set to do 3 dives at Richelieu on the final day of the trip and everyone on board was really excited for it. For 3 days we did nothing but dive and eat until the 4th day when we could finally dive at Richelieu rock and hopefully see a whale shark or a giant manta ray for which the site is famed. So what happened? During the morning dive briefing we were told that the seas at Richelieu were too rough and we’d have to dive elsewhere. Bummer.

 

All in all the trip was fantastic. In fact, it’s been one of the best things I’ve done since my time in Asia began. Not to mention, I now have a reason to go back in March for Richelieu. March 4th to be exact. haha!

 

Life is good.