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Monday, August 29, 2011

Chick Mountain Music Festival: มัน ไก่ มาก

I've become more than a bit obsessed with Thai music during the last few months. I admit that it took a while for me to get used to hearing it all the time, everywhere, but I've found some artists that I really enjoy - so when I heard that a lot of them would be performing at an all night music festival at a military training camp, I could hardly say no.
I first heard about the concert, Chick Mountain Music Festival (Man Gai Mak), from a few of my Thai friends. After looking it up and a lot of assistance from Google Translate, I discovered that tickets were not yet sold out so my friends Clare and Nell and I bought the tix. We prepped the weeks before by listening to the tunes of Bodyslam, Da Endorphine, Suckseed, Paradox and Palmy on repeat.  The concert was held in Kanchanaburi, about 30 km from the town center and started at 5pm.  We arrived to the giant field in the middle of nowhere (in military inspired hipster gear, of course) around 3, picked up our wristbands and waited in line, attracting plenty of stares and posing for a few pictures as we were some of the only farang in attendance. Since we were at a military training camp we had the opportunity to shoot guns and jump from a tower in a bungee contraption... but we opted not to!

At about 5pm it started to rain, a heavy/steady rain, thank goodness they gave everyone a free poncho at the entrance, and it did not stop for about 4 hours. The field turned into a muddy mess, but somehow it seemed the perfect setting for a music festival.  Once the show got started we gradually pushed our way to the front end of the crowd and had a great view for the main acts of the night.  The highlight was definitely Bodyslam, Thailand's premiere rock band, lead by a Suphanburi native, P'Toon! With fireworks and lights and confetti - it was an amazing performance, even better when Toon revealed his 8-pack ; )

It was really fun to see some of my favorite Thai bands live and I enjoyed the Thai music festival experience.  The show ended a little after 3am and by the time we made it back to Kanchanaburi we only had to wait around for a bit before we caught the 4:50am bus back to Suphan looking like hot messes. I'm hoping to squeeze in one more music festival this weekend starring my all-time favorite Thai band, 25Hours, here's hoping it all works out!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

EP Happy Family

Friday night Sa-nguan Ying held quite the party - singing, dancing, rapping, etc. - all in celebration of the EP Family and the amazing students that make it up. I had been looking forward to EP Night since I heard about it during my first semester of teaching, and I can't believe it's over already!

Every class put on an individual performance full of ukuleles, cowboy hats, American flag scarves, game-shows, and retro song and dance. It was so cute to see the students all dolled up and showing off their moves.  They put so much work into the performances and I know their parents and teachers were very impressed. I got a little bit emosh watching my students perform... I have no idea how I will say good bye to them next month!  The English Program (EP) at Sa-nguan Ying really is like a family, the students are so smart, so cute, so funny and so creative, I consider myself lucky to be a part of it.

The students had been practicing their performances for quite some time, but it was only about two weeks before the event that the foreign teachers were informed that we were also expected to put on a show. One of the teachers, Shea, had already planned on singing the Thai hit by superstar Bird, "Too Much, So Much, Very Much," so Nell, Clare and I thought it would be a good idea if we learned the dance and Ally picked up the rap to back her up.  With a little choreography by Nell, a lot of practice, and watching various music videos and dance instruction videos, we pulled together quite the performance in 2 weeks. When the time came to actually do the dance we were all freaking out and very nervous, but I think we pulled it off pretty well. Judging by the crowd's reaction, I would say it was quite the success, but I'll let you be the judge:

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chiang Rai: The Destination is Worth the Journey

As I mentioned in my post about the trip to Koh Mak, Thailand always has a way of making the destination worth the journey and this past weekend's trip was no exception.  Friday was a national holiday in Thailand due to Her Majesty the Queen's birthday which is celebrated in Thailand as "Mother's Day." In Thailand many people fittingly mark this day by returning to their hometowns to spend it with their mothers. Since my mother happens to be in West Africa at the moment, I decided to take the extra day to head up to the northernmost province of Thailand, Chiang Rai.

Nell and I opted for the overnight train for the first part our our trek - unfortunately, due to the busy travel weekend, we were left with only seats instead of sleeper cars.  We were prepared to sit up and sleep for the night, but we were not prepared for the -12 degree temperature inside the railway car - I have not been that cold since February 2010 in Boston - and I never want to be that cold again! I spent the night sneezing and layering up with the clothes I had and was extremely grateful to step off the train into Thailand's usual heat and humidity when we arrived early on Friday morning.

Friday we soaked up everything we love about Chiang Mai: coffee shops, farang friendly hair salons, khao soy, bookstores with English books, and amazing market shopping.  We stayed at a cute and very cheap hostel called Little Bird and had a very relaxing day.  The next morning we left early for a 3 hour bus ride - VIP style - to Chiang Rai. We had done no research on Chiang Rai but we knew we wanted to see what is known as "the white temple." We picked out the first hostel mentioned in our trusty Lonely Planet guides and dropped off our stuff before hitting the streets to explore and do a little shopping.
We made our way to the white temple, or Wat Rong Khun, via tuk-tuk and it was a stunning sight.  It's definitely one of my favorite places in Thailand so far.  In the past 10 months I have seen hundreds of wats, and for the most part they are same same, but different... until I got to Wat Rong Khun.  It is a gorgeous work of modern art, all white (representing Buddha's purity), and the interior has murals of modern images such as Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, the Twin Towers, Spiderman and Transformers. It was started in 1997 and they are still adding finishing touches to various buildings around the main temple.

On Sunday we took a bus back to Chiang Mai where we spent the afternoon and early evening going BUCKWILD at the Sunday Walking Market.  I bought everything in sight. I have no idea how I will transport all of these souvenirs I keep picking up back to America but I think I'll have a very cute, very Asian inspired apartment one of these days! Our journey back should have been an easy overnight bus and then a minivan ride to Suphan to make it just in time for Monday morning classes... but that would be too easy, and this is Thailand.

The bus driver literally taking
apart the bus in an attempt
to fix it. 
The bus left Chiang Mai about an hour late, so we knew we would already be pushing it to get to school on time, but we still would have been fine had the bus not decided to break down 2 hours away from Chiang Mai. This time instead of being cold, we were suffocating from lack of air circulation inside the bus, it was hot and it smelled like something was not right with the toilet on the bottom floor of the double-decker bus - i ya. We sat on the side of the road getting eaten alive by mosquitoes for 2.5 hours waiting for a new bus to come get us.  When it finally arrived, we were disappointed to discover it was not a VIP bus but a regular bus with minimal leg room and seats that did not recline.  Needless to say, the rest of the trip was pretty miserable, and we made it to Bangkok just in time for morning traffic... which left us way behind schedule.  By the time we made it back to Suphan and into school it was already 11:40 and the day was half over.  Thankfully, I was able to make up the lost sleep by going to bed at 6:15pm on Monday night - amazing! As bad as the journey was, however, the destination and the time up North was well worth it and I'm glad I still have one more trip up North this year to look forward to.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sports Day at Sa-nguan Ying

This Thursday and Friday Sa-nguan Ying held its annual Sports Day celebration - a two-day event that took months of planning and many hours of after school time dedicated solely to drumming and screaming practice. It was an epic event that began with a parade through "downtown" Suphanburi featuring some very loud cheers, a marching band and some seriously amazing costumes.  The opening ceremony consisted of a series of explosions, singing and dancing, raining confetti, fireworks and a torch-lighting bit that was reminiscent of an Olympics opening ceremony. It was big, loud and amazing - classic Thailand. The days consisted of sporting events such as basketball, volleyball and soccer (football as it's known here).  It was fun to see my students being athletic, and I especially enjoyed some of the matches that pitted the M.1 (7th graders) students versus the M.6 (12th graders) students, most of the older boys were a good foot taller than the younger gang and the basketball games were hardly a fair contest but everyone was such good sports.  I loved watching the students "wai" (bow) to each other before the contests.  The dancing competitions were easily the highlight of the celebrations for me, I loved the intricate costumes and the mix of cheerleading, traditional Thai dance and gymnastics.  I was also very impressed by the decibel level reached by the girls when they added in a bit of screeching - "I ya!" (Thai for OMG). It was also hilarious to watch the girls that competed in the dance competition earlier in the day take the court later in the day for a basketball game in full makeup with elaborate up-do's in their hair - mai pen rai!  Here's a few pics and a hastily put together video of the events of Sports Day, enjoy!

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