“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

This year, I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Thailand. Which, and maybe this is a little obvious, made it seem like anything but the holidays. I mean, I LOVE Christmas. It’s my absolute favorite holiday, as I’m sure you noticed in one of my more recent posts. But here’s the thing, everything I love about Christmas, it doesn’t really work in Japan, or Thailand. In Thailand I think it’s because the country is almost entirely Buddhist. And I mean Buddhist. Not the general, yeah, shrug shoulders, point at a temple Buddhism you find in Japan. I mean seriously Buddhist. The rest of the country, and I’d have to look up some figures here, but I believe most of the remaining percentage is Muslim, with perhaps a few Christians hanging on. So Christmas in Thailand almost snuck by unobserved. Yes, everyone had on Santa hats and there were Christmas carols in the air, but I get the feeling that was going on long before I got there on the 24th, and it was going on after December 31st. Still, it’s better than Christmas in Japan which is basically a hallmark holiday. If you have a problem with Valentine’s Day, or even worse Sweetest’s day, (or white day if you happen to know what that is…it’s reverse valentine’s day in Japan) then you’ll definitely have a problem with Christmas in Japan. It’s basically another valentine’s day, with Santa, and parents giving their kids presents.

Anyway, Thailand!

The first day we went south, and stopped in Pattaya. Crazy foreigners, everywhere! I don’t know what it is, I mean Thailand is huge (compared to Japan), and maybe I just do more touristy things here, but I have seen flocks of foreign people almost every day I’ve been here. And Bangkok is a big city. So is Tokyo, but it always seems like there aren’t that many foreigners around when I’m in Tokyo. Bangkok has been the opposite of that.

Especially Pattaya. But we arrived and went to check out this museum that has all these optical illusion paintings on the walls and floor that you can just kind of play around with. So we did. We spent at least two hours in there, just posing and messing around with the camera angles. It was a lot of fun. (A lot of this trip has been posing for photos, but that’s okay, I rarely remember to take my own photos, so having someone else doing it is kind of great!

After Pattaya, we went to the ferry to Koh Samed, a gorgeous Thai island. All Thai islands are gorgeous, this one was no different. The best part of the island, for me, was the taxi service. Hear me out. Tuk tuks are frickin awesome. Tuk tuks are like the best way to get around, next to the terrifying motorbikes.

(A quick aside about Thailand roads: OMG! The scariest thing ever. If there are speed limits, I don’t know where they put them. I have yet to see a sign anywhere except the dead-man curves all over the freeways. But perhaps worse than there being no agreed on speed limits, high or low, is that any road lines appear to be more of a suggestion than anything else. Every day I’ve been in a car, we’ve regularly driven half in one lane and half in another, or riding along in the lane reserved for making U-turns (not the suicide lane) despite the diagonal yellow lines underneath. And crossing the entire highway width to make an exit. It’s been rough on the motion sickness. But I guess it works, since everyone is doing it. But motorbikes! They turn what is a three lane road into a seven lane road, weaving in between cars, moving or stopped. Traffic lights seem to be the only thing, most people pay attention to. Motorbikes and even the occasional tuk exempted.)

Back to the island, they didn’t have tuk tuks unfortunately, but they did have pick-up trucks that have these makeshift benches in the back. It’s like a mix of car and roller coaster and it is amazing! So we rode around the island, from ferry to hotel to beach, in these trucks. We spent all afternoon on the beach, in the water and relaxing in beach chairs. It was very nice. Leaving behind winter in Japan and enjoying the 90 degree weather was one of the best things I could think of to do. (Japan does not, after all have central heating.) The hotel was right on the beach too! Thai islands are like post card perfect vacation places.

Sadly, we had to leave to go back to the mainland, and Pattaya the next day. It was a nice leisurely day though. We went to the aquarium, and I was fascinated by the horseshoe crabs, because they were so weird to watch! They just sort of lie on their back and swim in a really awkward folding motion. I spent like ten minutes just looking at that tank. Then I watched some starfish move around. Much slower but equally fascinating.

Sunday was kind of a bust. I had not been as careful as I should have been with what I ate, and was sick all day. It only lasted about 24 hours though. So I was lucky there.

Monday and Tuesday were very lazy days. Waking up late morning and going to the zoo or an exhibition center for the afternoon. It was cool though. The zoo had a bunch of animal shows and a spy show that we saw. And you could feed giraffes!!! I love giraffes! But one tried to lick me, and that wasn’t so cool. And it was a good day of easy walking/driving after being sick. AND after the spy show I was asked by one of the random people there if I was from Australia. Which was weird. I guess in Thailand to a guy from India on tour in the Bangkok Zoo, I look Australian. I have been told that in Japan, if I don’t talk, I look like I am from England. (So where do I look American? OR do I ever look Canadian? Or….just a general….what…?)

The exhibition center was really cool. A lot of Thai history and information about the king and the palace, but they had a bunch of models or art styles and craft and clothing, and Thailand through the decades. I would definitely suggest going, and if you can, ignore the tour guides. They have pretty good English, but they rush you through, and you don’t get to read all the signs and information.

New Year’s Eve was also pretty chill. We went shopping and to the movies (which are SOOOOO cheap compared to America and Japan!) I had no idea what seventh son was about, and maybe that made the movie better, but it wasn’t terrible either. And shopping is fun, for me anyway. I didn’t have a lot of room in my suit case to bring a lot home though, so I didn’t get to do a lot of shopping. But I did eat some macaroons, which are my new favorite cookie! AND I saw a milkshake/ice cream/yogurt/something chain called ‘Hmm…..milk!’ which was interesting and I definitely made fun of it a little bit.

On New Year’s Day, we went to a place called Ancient Siam, which is this park like area that has recreations of temple and different ruins from all around Thailand. They also have some original designs of temples/buddhas/statues of various things. That was really cool, we got to walk around and take pictures; and because it wasn’t the original thing we were able to climb on the ruins/go in the temples. Within reason. You couldn’t climb/do whatever you wanted anywhere. But it was pretty cool. I had a lot of fun. AND, randomly, early in the day, while walking around looking for more places to take pictures, this random lady grabbed my arm and made me take a picture with her. So that was…nice, I guess. I choose to think it was because she thought I was pretty or someone famous or liked my clothes, and not because I looked funny, or something like that.

On the second and third we got Thai massages!!!! One of my goals for the vacation – massages! Apparently Wat Pho is one of the origin places for Thai massage, so you can go in and get them there. It was really nice. A little weird, because all these beds are just next to each other with no walls or anything, but you just change into some baggy pants and then whatever shirt you had on, and they start pulling and pushing your organs and muscles and limbs. I have never had all my toes and fingers and elbow and joint cracked like that before. It was really relaxing though. I loved it. Although she did bend my arms and knees into some positions that I did not think they would get into naturally. The second time was a salt scrub massage, and that was so nice! My skin still feels smooth and soft from that. It was great! I fell asleep too, until she started pushing on my stomach and I was awoken by my brain saying that “hey! There are organs in there.” It was good. And after a mini adventure with the car breaking down a little bit, we returned to watch this Thai drama that has like 30 characters.

That was the one thing that I was not prepared for. I knew that it would happen, but still. I do not know Thai (now, I know like 4 sentences…maybe 5 or so: but pretty useless stuff like this is an eggplant, and that is not a bird.) And constantly being surrounded by it was tough. In Japan, even though my reading skills are not the greatest, I can guess at a lot of things from what little I do know. But I cannot read the Thai alphabet, and don’t even know where to start with learning. And even if I could read, I don’t know what anything means. I really missed English and even Japanese. Or just having some ability to do things on my own, and not needing to ask, “what? what?” every time I went somewhere or someone talked to me.

The last day, we spent at an amusement park. It was fun! It was also a good thing to do on the last day. That way we weren’t too sad all day. That happened in the airport. But instead, all day, we could focus on the rides and the different thing we could do. Of course we went on all the biggest roller coasters and spinning flipping rides. But we also did stuff like bumper cars. It had been years since I did bumper cars. It was a lot of fun, maybe more so now that I can drive, and super dangerous, probably. My car jumped completely off the ground a couple times after getting slammed into, and drifting it around a sharp corner was way too easy. I loved it though!

And they had a giant’s house, supposedly from Jack and the Beanstalk. There was a giant rocking chair you could climb into, and huge slippers and silverware and everything. It was little difficult for us to get up into the rocking chair, because we were so short, but it was really cool for taking pictures. I just wish the lighting had been better in the room.

Of course it wasn’t comparable to Cedar Point. Not for the first time have I realized how lucky? unique growing up in Ohio and having things like Cedar Point so close was. People all around the world have heard of Cedar Point. It’s one of the best amusements parks in the US and possibly the world. And for me, it’s normal. In fact, the only place that I’ve been that you can talk about rivaling it is Disney World. Also fairly close to Ohio, in the grand scheme of the world. Crazy.

Also, after coming back to Japan, it has been brought to my attention that having names for coins, penny, nickel, dime, and quarter, not to mention a 25 cent piece is odd. And confusing for people that don’t use such things. This came from my Australian friend, so maybe it’s different in, say, Canada or England. But it was a hard idea to wrap my head around – that dime is not an obvious description for a ten cent coin. Just a random thought to end a ramble-y post on. Sorry it took so long to get up. I’ve been lazy. I will attempt to be better. I will try. I hope.

Advertisements

“It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.” —J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I know! It’s been a long time. Again. And again, I have no excuse. I’ve been busy. With work, hanging out, worrying, fretting, planning, wishing, and maybe a little thinking, just to round things out.

But still I should have found the time. It is finally winter break! No school for two weeks! Which is great! Because for the past two weeks I have been doing nothing but JHS. And it kind of was super annoying. And sucky. Until last Friday, when EVERYBODY decided I was like, super popular, and they should talk to me….which was great. Except I had plans. And not with them.

I was going to meet a friend after work, at five thirty, because it was her last day before break and I won’t see her at work until the 13th. She doesn’t have to stay until five (lucky her!!!) so we were just going to meet at the station to get dinner. Instead, when five finally finally came around, after 6 hours!!!! Of sitting at my desk, everyone started talking to me. Which they have never done.
I learned a couple things. One I look 28 to Japanese people. This kinda hurt my feelings. I don’t think I look 28. Two, almost all the teachers are around 28/29 not a big surprise, but I didn’t know. Three, they can speak a good amount of english, and all are super eavesdrop-y. And four, they gave me all kinds of cake and chocolate to make up for english ability or lake thereof. And a placemat, because he didn’t need it.
So after 30 minutes when I finally got away, suuuuuuuper late and with no way to tell my friend that, I got to the station and saw the head teacher from my ES! Who proceeded to tell me all about the dinner with the teachers on this monday. Which I couldn’t go to, and I wanted to. Kinda.
Japanese drinking parties, while kind of mandatory, are intimidating. And have a whole culture just to themselves which I am not super familiar with. But all the teachers are super nice and awesome.

Oh well it was an adventure. I finally found my friends, almost 45 minutes late. We went to this all you can eat restaurant, which are called Vikings in Japanese, like バイキング! Baikingu! No idea why. I though she was saying biking and was like, uhhhh a what restaurant? Then I thought it was a chain called Viking. Nope. All you can eat. But over dinner we looked at bad/wrong/mistranslated tattoos in Japanese and that was pretty awesome. And funny.

More to follow from sun and beaches. Merry Christmas. Happy holidays. Joy and all that jazz!