Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Singburi to Bangkok

After nearly two weeks of living like real people, we packed up our backpacks today and left our temporary home in Singburi. We miss it already.

Our English students were just as sad to see us go. They changed their last day of class by one day so that it coincided with our last day, and someone decided that instead of a normal class, our last day would be a send-off party at Peetim’s house. Even Peetim’s not exactly sure how that became the plan, but she’s good at hosting parties, so she readily agreed.

The party started before I even got out of bed. I left our room to brush my teeth, and I was faced with a table full of our students, greeting me with, “Good morning!” Peetim had been up since 5:00 running to the market and getting everything in order, so some people showed up early to help. Before I knew it, tables were being set up for lunch and a crowd was beginning to form. On the lunch tables were round grills I had never seen before.

Whoever invented those grills (apparently someone in Korea) was a genius. They produce delicious food. But TJ and I didn’t know that yet, so we stood still for a few moments and tried to figure out what was happening. Eventually, a couple of our students caught on to our cluelessness and helped us out. Amidst lots of laughter and, “No, no. Like this!” we managed to grill small slices of marinated pork on the top part of the grill while adding some vegetables and noodles into the bowl around the grill to cook in a mix of broth and meat juice. We even added in a few pieces of squid as we got more comfortable.

The grills were kept hot throughout the afternoon, so lunch never exactly stopped, but once most people had their fill, we moved inside for a few good rounds of karaoke. Some of the Thai songs included lessons (for me and TJ, at least) in Thai dancing, which TJ and I tried to repay when it was our turn to sing. We ended up with a nearly empty room instead.

Not to be deterred, we joined the crowd outside once again. Different Thai fruits had been added to the table, along with a tray of fresh popcorn one of the men popped over a nearby open fire. One of the fun things to do at a table full of so many different foods is to point at different plates and ask “What is this?” The Thais wants to know the English name, and we want to, well, know what it is we’re about to eat. (The most frequent answer we get is “pig”.) With a lot of the fruits, though, don’t have an English name, or at least, we have no idea what it is. Like small, orange apricot-looking fruits that grow on a tree in Peetim’s front yard. Or little clusters of pods with white flesh that taste slightly similar to soy beans. I have no idea what to call them in English, and I’m not sure of their Thai names either.

After presenting certificates to all our students, we let the games begin! We repeated a few of the games that we learned from the monks, like rolling a lime across the floor by swinging a cucumber.

We learned a new game with balloons. Each of us had a balloon strapped to our ankle with a rubber band. The supposed goal is to hop around trying to pop everyone else’s balloons without having your own popped. The actual goal is to get a good laugh at everyone hopping around, so we had extra balloons at the ready. As soon as your balloon was popped, you simply slipped on a new one and jumped back into the game.

As the event was coming to a close, our students decided to wish us good luck on our journey by pelting us with white clay. The white clay is only made in Lopburi, a town near our homestay, and it is used in central Thailand to usher in the new year. You slap a handful of clay on your friends’ faces and wish them “Good luck!” as they, in turn, douse you with ice cold bottled water.

After saying goodbyes all around, we cleaned up and set out for the bus station. Our friend Peemoo gave TJ one last ride on the back of his motorbike, while I rode along in Peetim’s car. We climbed onto the minibus that Peetim reserved for us and settled in for the two-hour ride to Bangkok.

We started recognizing signs for places in Bangkok, but we weren’t sure where to get off the bus. If in doubt, sit still, I guess. So we rode the bus until it pulled into a parking lot and the driver told us the ride was over. I had left my map of Bangkok in Singburi, so I was slightly panicked. Where in Bangkok were we? How would we know which direction to go? TJ took charge and said we would walk down the nearest main street until we found either a map or a sky train. We headed toward the main road and decided to turn left.

Very quickly, we noticed that things seemed terribly familiar. TJ even commented “I almost expect to see our first hotel right here. It looks just like that street!” Maybe all streets in Bangkok look the same? Then we noticed a mall where we had eaten dinner before and looked around some more. Sure enough, there was our hotel, just down the street. We knew exactly where we were!

From there, we used a combination of sky train and tuk tuk to find our new hotel on Khao San Road. With just enough time to drop off our bags, we headed straight out again, this time to the airport to meet up with my sister, Jamie! We collected her from her flight, brought her back to the hotel and promptly climbed into bed. It was 2:00 am, and we have a busy day planned for tomorrow!

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