Preparing for Cambodia

This year, I will spend Christmas and New Years in Cambodia. Holiday in Cambodia! Here are a few things you need to know before leaving.

So you’ll need a re-entry permit if you’re holding a Thai visa expecting to get back in. You’ll also need a Cambodian visa. This can be obtained online, at the airport, or at most border crossings. Online, the visa is $30 USD plus a $7 USD processing fee. It takes three days to process. I’ve heard and read that the immigration officers at the Thai borders will try to ask for the visa payment in baht, generously rounding up. I am going to have the $20 USD in hand, smile politely, and tell them I would like to pay $20 USD. If going in person, have two passport photos with you.

Many establishments or businesses in Cambodia accept USD, so if you have them, bring them along. Apparently you will sometimes get change in Riel, Cambodian money.

From Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Train Station, you can catch a train to the border town of Aranyaprathet. There are two trains you can take, one at 5:55 in the morning and one at 13:05. It is recommended to take the morning train as the afternoon train will not put you in Siem Reap, after the bus from Aranyaprathet, until midnight. This train is 48 baht. Yes, 48 baht.

Online Visa

Train Travel Reap

Mai Sei Tung

One of the first things I noticed after moving here was the abundant use of plastic bags. I quickly learned the phrase, “mai sei tung ka/krup,” which means “without bag.” Usually when you don’t get the bag, you don’t get the plastic wrapped straw for your drink either, which is okay with me. With some light planning, we can greatly reduce the amount of plastic and styrofoam we use everyday.

I carry a small backpack everywhere to avoid needing a plastic bag. Inside I keep cloth bags just in case I do some shopping that will require more space. While grocery shopping, try to buy things that come in little to no packaging, like fresh produce. Keep an eye out for products that come in reusable containers, like glass jars and tupperware. You can use the product, and then save the containers for future storage. These will come in handy if you buy in bulk, another good way to cut down on using packaging. If you buy eggs from a store the first time, you’ll get the plastic holder. Save it and bring it to a market to be filled up again.

If you get take out a lot, bring a container with you. I’ve never found a problem handing my box over to the staff at a restaurant. They know what you want them to do, even if they still put your tupperware in a plastic bag. Another useful phrase is, “mai aow chaun,” or “don’t need spoon.” Use a metal spoon.

Thailand is so beautiful. I would love to come back again and again for many years, and see clean rivers and beaches. Let’s try to take care of it. This is our home after all, even if it’s temporary.



Wear the Colors

Right away, I learned to wear yellow on Mondays. I was told we do it for the King, but more so than that, it is Monday’s color and he was born on a Monday. Friday’s color is blue, and the Queen was born on a Friday, so her color is blue. This tradition comes from an astrological rule, which has its influence in Hindu mythology, that assigns a color for each day of the week. The color of the God who protects the day determines which color you should be wearing. Careful, though! A lucky color one day is an unlucky color on another day.

Sunday red blue Sun Surya
Monday yellow red Moon Chandra
Tuesday pink yellow and white Mars Mangala
Wednesday (day) green pink Mercury Budha
Wednesday (night) grey orange-red None Rahu
Thursday orange purple Jupiter Brihaspati
Friday light blue black and dark blue Venus Shukra
Saturday purple green Saturn Shani

Swallow Hotel

Have you ever noticed the tall buildings all throughout town with little uniform squares circling their exteriors? I found out these are built for the purpose of housing swallows. The hope is that they will like this little condo and build a nest. Swallow nests, particularly from the Swiftlet, are one the most expensive animal products to be consumed. They are used in the ever popular Bird’s Nest soup. It seems the packaged “essence of bird’s nest” is more popular here in Surat Thani. I did a little research, and an average nest sells for $2,500 per kilogram. These factories are best placed near the sea, as the birds like to stay close to it. Here’s a picture of one near the pier that even has a swallow sign.


Homemade Yogurt

Over October break, I travelled to Pai. I met a Swedish guy there who owns a bakery/sandwich shop. I was telling him how I used to make my own bread, hummus, and things. He gave me a great idea, make your own yogurt! The yogurt here is delicious, but like Jade said recently, it’s because it’s full of sugar. He has been making some of his own yogurt lately, but this method is just a but different.

Use 1/2 of a yogurt cup.

I would buy plain, 0% fat, reduced sugar yogurt. If you can find no sugar at all, all the better. The brand Yolida is sugar-free and it is sold at Tops in Central. The dark blue Bulgaria is a reduced sugar version and it’s sold at most of the chain stores.

1 liter of milk.

I’ve seen some good quality milk in Tops, Tesco, and Family Mart. Again, the less fat in your milk, the less fat in your yogurt.

Bring the milk to 82 degrees Celsius. Use a thermometer.

Be careful not to burn the milk by doing this very slowly. I would suggest using a double boil method. Use a base pot to heat water, and a metal bowl on top of the water to hold the milk. Stir constantly.

Turn off the heat. Cool to 46 degrees Celsius.

This should take two to three hours. If it’s not particularly warm outside when you are making this, you might need to wrap the container in a towel to keep the temperature from declining too quickly.

Add yogurt and stir.

1/2 cup will be plenty.

Bottle and cool.

You can use the liter milk container to put this mixture into. Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. Check the firmness frequently by tilting the bottle. Be careful not to let it sit out for too long, as it can spoil in this stage. Always do a smell or small taste test before enjoying.


Put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or until the whole bottle has cooled.

Save a bit of this yogurt.

You can continue making your own yogurt with the yogurt you just made! You only need to buy some more milk to do the whole thing all over again.

Say cheese.

I’m not sure where cheesecloth is available, but you can go even farther and make cheese. Squeeze your yogurt through a cheesecloth and store the curd in the refrigerator overnight. Stir it from time to time so it does not harden on the outside.

Music Collections

I know many of you bought a laptop when you came here. If you didn’t bring a hard drive with your vault of tunes, might I suggest a tedious yet worthwhile venture. It’s nice to have music in case WiFi isn’t available. You might also want a song to play for your students, with most classrooms lacking WiFi.

Find the song you want on YouTube. Copy and paste the URL into this nifty website.

Save it to your computer. In iTunes or your respective music organizing software, upload the file. Done! This particular website, favored by me because of its reliability, only allows you to convert a video that is less than 20 minutes in length.

I’m sure there are a plethora of others, some which might let you do the full album, though that means you can’t separate the tracks without skimming through. Some converters will even let you convert to mp4. All those “full” compilations and movies on YouTube seem even more appealing now.

Shrine to the City God

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When talking to my Thai teacher one day, I referred to the large ornate monument near the bridge as the “white temple.” She informed me that it’s not a temple, but a “shrine to the city god” or “city pillar shrine.” In Thai, it’s “Lak Muang.” There are no monks at the shrine, where there would be at a temple. I found out that it is meant to show that Surat Thani is the center, or capital, of the Surat Province. It also serves as a place for newcomers to Surat to pay their respects to the city god and to pray for success in the region. The offerings are what you might be familiar with already: incense, candles (oil candles to prolong your prayer), flowers, colorful fabric (to wrap around the ornament inside), and gold leaf. Thai dancers will often perform at the shrine to appease the city god, showing how beautiful they remain. All of these items are available for sale at the shrine. If you haven’t been yet, go and let your presence here be known!

Camp Games

I have a camp coming up soon so I’ve been perusing the internet for some fun games to play at my station or during one of the assemblies. Here are a few that might help you if you have a camp coming up, or might deserve a go in the classroom.


First off, I realize some of us work at a Catholic school. Maybe calling the game “Evolution” is a bad idea. It could be called “The Change Game,” “Intelligent Design” or “Denial?” Your call.

Have everyone start out as an “egg.” Have them place their hands over their head and together to make a circular shape, like an egg. Once you say “Go!” each egg will pair with another egg and play Rock, Paper, Scissors. The winner becomes a chicken, then placing their hands on their ribs to create wings. Encourage them to cluck and peck. The loser remains an egg.

Say “Go!” again. Now, chickens battle other chickens and eggs battle other eggs. The winner of a chicken vs. chicken match becomes a dinosaur, making T-Rex arms and roaring/screeching. The loser goes back to being an egg.

On “Go,” dinosaurs will battle other dinosaurs, chickens other chickens, and eggs other eggs. A winner in a dinosaur vs. dinosaur match becomes the Ultimate Human, placing their arms, fists made, out and straight like Superman. The losing dinosaur goes back to being a chicken, etc.

On one more “Go,” Ultimate Humans battle other Ultimate Humans, dinosaurs other dinosaurs, etc. The winners remain Ultimate Humans and the losers go back to being dinosaurs. The remaining Ultimate Humans are the winners. I suppose dinosaurs can be second place winners.

T-Shirt Relay

You’ll need one extra large t-shirt for each team and one judge for each team. The judge should make sure the shirt is pulled all the way down on each camper and no short-cuts are taken in the heat of competition.

Have the teams line up in single file. The shirt is given to the first student in each line. On “Go”, the student puts the shirt on and then holds hands with the next student in line, facing that student. All the other students work the shirt from one camper to the next so he or she is then wearing it. He or she then turns and holds hands with the next student, and so on.

Teams need to have the same number of players or some need to put the shirt on twice.

I doubt they’d ever forget the word “shirt.”

Frisbee Dodgeball

It’s the same as Dodgeball, but with durians.


I’m thinking about making a Twister game, buying one, or simply taping colored paper on the floor. Ambitious teachers will make a spinner, others might write “left foot,” “right foot,” “left hand,” “right hand,” “green,” “blue,” “yellow,” and “red” on pieces of paper and put them in two different bags to be pulled from.

Health Benefits of Fruit Found in Thailand

There is no shortage of fruit in Thailand, and each have numerous health benefits. You might be missing bread, cheese, wine, and salsa but you can (try to) trade in those cravings for something much, much better for you. These are my top 5. I love fruit. I love Thailand.

Papaya was called “the fruit of angels” by Christopher Columbus. He might not have got all things right, but I’m on his side on this one. Papaya is also known for having papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. It’s strongest when the fruit is unripe. Som Tom with marinated pork or barbequed chicken… Genius.

Mangoes are said to be great for clearing skin, helping with digestion, boosting the immune system, and lowering your cholesterol. They are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Also, if you juice a green mango, drinking it with water and a sweetener, you can apparently remedy heat stroke. I would argue that eating it with sweet sticky rice makes it a little less than half as healthy.

Bananas – Do you teach Anuban? Do you need a seratonin booster? Eat some bananas. Are you hitting the gym after school? Need energy before and muscle cramp relief after? Eat some bananas. Got the runs? Did I just say that? Eat some bananas.

Mangosteens, the Queen of Fruits. Get these things while they’re hot. I’m not sure what that yellow stuff growing on them is all about, though. She’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries, containing some of the most potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds in nature.

Coconuts can kill you if one decides to fall on your head. We should all remember this. Coconuts can also save you from being dehydrated as well as help you take the Cosby kids to the pool.

Little Library

If anyone is getting tired of their Kindle or other such device, I have quite a few books in print. I have not read all of them, so I might ask for the book back when you finish it, but I’m happy to play library.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven – Sherman Alexie

Finding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin

All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann

The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Shining – Stephen King

Bodily Harm – Margaret Atwood

The Help – Catherine Stockett

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence – Robert M. Pirsig

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Wild Ducks Fly Backwards – Tom Robbins

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

East, West – Salman Rushdie

The Madonna of Excelsior – Zakes Mda

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

I Drink For a Reason – David Cross

The Irish Way – Robert Emmett Ginna

Hell’s Angels – Hunter S. Thompson

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

I also have a variety of travel books on Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.