Friday, 14 June 2013

Life in Ayutthaya

Well life in Thailand continues to surprise, enthral, frustrate, tax one’s endurance and raise the spirits. Our current location is Ayutthaya ( pronounced A-you-tayer with emphasis on the last syllable). Once the capital of Thailand it lies 90km north of Bangkok in a low flat land that is prone to floods and claims amongst the highest temperatures in the Kingdom. It is a city of about 110,000 people with the old town surrounded on three sides by a river and the greater part sprawling out from this point. There are literally hundreds of old ruined wats, stupas and chedi’s (look em up) dotted everywhere. Many partially shrouded in golden cloth. These are quite magnificent ruins and whilst not on the scale of Ankhor Wat their very number means that anywhere in the city you are forever discovering them. There are lots of open parks dotted with picturesque bridges over canals and small ponds of lilies. The roads are invariably wide and driven on by the obligatory profusion of motorbikes, cars and tuk tuks (although here the traffic seems to flow so rarely is there a jam). The defining feature of the place for us, sadly, is the heat. Take this away or lessen it and Ayutthaya would be a great place to live.
 There are very few farangs (foreigners) and the vast majority of those are either engineers or teachers so we are able to enjoy being the curiosity rather than the norm. But we are very hot, sweaty curiosities and shower on average 4 times a day for both the joy of feeling warm water on your body (even the cold is warm here) and to keep smell down. People are friendly and approachable and the charming Thai way of non confrontational living makes this a easy place to be. They may drive like madmen with no consideration for direction, traffic lights, pavements etc but they do so with a calm smile and a wave.
Moving to Ayutthaya from Chiang Mai was more difficult than we thought it would be. Chiang Mai (10% westerners) was easy. We had friends, a swanky apartment, the weather was cooler and with all those western luxuries and entertainment it was not difficult to simulate our once normal lives. Here it is proper Thailand and although some western things are available the general life style is Thai. That’s cool. That’s why we came here rather than stayed but every day is a learning experience.
We now live in a little wooden Thai house. Imagine two big static caravans atop of one another and that’s about the size of our living space. Its sparse, as you can see from the pictures; The garden is concrete and the kitchen is virtually non existent but its ours and we have learned to adapt. Our bedroom is a little air-conditioned sanctuary that is always kept cold (by cold I mean that the air con runs at 28 degrees! It still feels chilly though!) The benched seating area outside is effectively our kitchen and where we tend to sit of an evening until the heat of the night closes around us. We have a little two ring cooker that runs on bottled gas and I (usually me as Rachel doesn’t trust it) will sit outside and cook two or three times a week. We have just started to populate it with pot plants to make it more homely. When not eating in we either eat at one of the stalls at the market or a restaurant. Food is cheap and the Thai are sociable so we are a rarity for cooking our own meals. By cheap I mean we can have something like Pad Thai and coke each for under about £1 each. Food is everywhere and you are never more than 50 metres from some form of food vendor.
Our jobs… Rachel (surprise surprise) hates children. That’s a little unfair. (No its not, she has just said as she glanced over my shoulder) She has been lumbered with several groups of mischievous (sorry, she butted in again “Mischievous? Evil little ******’s you mean”) 5 year olds and it really made her want to stop the whole teaching thing. Anyway after a couple of days of interesting stuff, a stern talking too by herself and long discussions with the language school it looks like the little darlings will be foistered upon someone who might enjoy them. Her new schedule involves some older students and a smaller group of dwarf devils so hopefully things will look up for her although she still has a huge gap in her teaching hours due tot he school losing a contract destined for her. Consequently at present Monday and Tuesday is spent doing housework, jobs and a bit of wandering about or prepping. I, am really enjoying the teaching and have teach a couple of 20 year olds for 4 hours, two groups of teenagers and some youngsters on weekends and then Monday and Tuesday teach maths and science in a private school to 10 different classes of children from 6 to 11 years old. Quite honestly the Sci8ence is a complete waste of time and the maths moderately so. Try teaching genetics to 9 year old thai students with little language and me with virtually no Thai. Even with a thai translating assistant it is pointless and something I keep saying to the Language school.
This blog has taken weeks to write and is a bit behind events so will post it and get on with new stud on the next. However in short I have bought a motorbike and we have been to Bangkok a couple of times and done lots of sightseeing - details to follow