Well today was the field trip for my Thai II class to Phethaburi (which as you may recall, is the capital of the province which Cha-Am (the city I technically live in, is located). The trip was originally just supposed to be to go out and eat at a Thai restaurant as a class, but my Ajan (Thai for teacher….it’s a polite way of referring to them, like calling someone “Professor”) is from Phetchaburi and, at our request, decided to bring us there for some sightseeing as well as dinner.
We were supposed to meet at school at 8:45am (which is when the first bus arrives there). The first, and only bus that leaves VIP (where I live) before then leaves here at 8:15am. And I woke up at 8:16am! I’d set my alarm for 7:30am but I’d apparently slept right through it! Of all the days to over sleep!
After I freaked out for a brief moment I remembered that the teacher had called me once before, so she had my cell number and thanks to the wonders of call history, I had hers! So I tried calling her, and she was busy. In fact she was busy on a non-stop basis (I later learned she had 3 cell phones and only used the one I was trying to call her on to place calls). I also remembered that the TA had my number as well (thank you coup d’etat, as that’s why she had my number!) and low and behold, she called me at 8:50am wondering where I was! As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one who’d missed the bus to school. They were going to go to the Thai school, which was close to the university, and then send the van to pick us up!
When I arrived at the school there were hundreds of students broken into 4 groups, each one was led by one of my classmates (well one was led by our TA). I joined the one my TA had and I had to talk about myself in English to see if they could pick up on it. It was followed by a short Q & A session. Once we regrouped we all had to go to the microphone and talk about ourselves and then answer their questions in English. Our teacher (who is normally an English teacher) led them in a few games as well.
It was quite interesting to see what a Thai school was like. I already knew that Thai students wore uniforms, but in looking at them all today I noticed that they all have uniform haircuts as well. The boys had what we would call a “military-style” haircut and the girls hair was cut just below their ears. While many wore the typical uniform, others wore a uniform in a variety of different colors. Our TA (who is Thai) explained that the colors signified different activities they partook in.
It was also interesting to see the order in which they sat in this assembly-like setting. Boys sat on one side and girls on the other. Within those divisions, they were arranged in order of year, with the youngest students being in the front, and the oldest in the back. The school housed grades 6-12 (ages 11-18 I think). I don’t think we had the older kids there though.
After leaving the school we jumped in the van and drove up to Phetchaburi. We stopped for lunch at this little place that served what my teacher said was the best noodle soup in the world. They had no menu, which really wasn’t necessary, because they only served one thing…seafood noodle soup. I gotta say, I really wasn’t a big a fan though. For dessert, we had this custard thing that was supposedly a regional specialty. It was actually really really similar to flan, but not quite as sweet. It was quite tasty.
After lunch we moved on to our first stop–Wat Phra Non, home to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand (though not as large as the one at Wat Pho in Bangkok). I actually stopped at this temple in my last visit to Phetchaburi. We did learn about, and partake in this traditional Thai Buddhist thing where you essentially make an offering to the Buddha.
You make a donation and get several small pieces of gold leaf, a few sticks of incense, a candle, and a flower. You light the candle and place it in the holder. Then you light your incense and hold it, along with the flower, between your hands while you more or less pray. When your done you put the incense in the holder and then put the gold leaf pieces on a Buddha image. The various parts of the Buddha relate to various things. Putting it on the feet relate to safe travels. I believe the hands were for money, and the heart may have been for overall good luck or something. We repeated this process at several other temples. It was actually kind of nice (and no, this doesn’t mean I’ve become a Buddhist).
Our next stop was at the famous Khao Luang cave, a large cave that was filled with a variety of Buddha images. There were a few artificial lights inside, but the real beauty came from a couple of large holes in the ceiling that let the sunlight come streaming in, which made for some excellent photographs (check my photo site). It was really nice and peaceful (and cooler) there.
Outside the cave and along the road leading up to it were, of course, a bunch of monkeys! Our teacher came prepared, with bunches of bananas so that we could feed the monkeys. And once those bananas came out, they sure came running! It was funny, as it was definitely a bit of survival of the fittest. The bigger ones always got to the food before the smaller ones, so we tried to make a point of feeding the smaller ones, as they looked as if they needed it more.
Our next stops were at a variety of older Wats, a couple of which had these gorgeous murals on the interior walls that were over 400 years old! We also made a brief stop at a Wat that contained some old Khmer-style buildings. I’ll be excited to see Angkor Wat in a few weeks after seeing all these small Khmer-style buildings all over Thailand! They have a very recognizable style!
Our last stop was dinner, and of course, the menu was all in Thai. I don’t know enough Thai to be able to fully interpret a menu. I can read it, but I only know some of the words, like all the meats, many of the fruits, vegetarian, rice, fried, curry, spicy, and the beverages. Not really enough to understand what everything is, just some of the elements in it. Luckily the teacher ordered for us. We ate in traditional Thai style…family style. Dishes included a vegetable soup and plate of fried vegetables (one of the students was je…vegetarian), fried rice, fried seafood, this lemongrass salad, and this incredible glass noodle salad.
After dinner it was time to head back to Hua Hin. I’m really glad that I managed to make it today because it was a really cool experience! The rest of the weekend will be low key. I’ve got a term paper for my Buddhism class to write the weekend (my topic is the Theosophical Society) and aside from that, my cold is moving into my lungs. I couldn’t stop coughing today and have had a lot of trouble breathing. So I’m going back to the doctor tomorrow! I can’t believe it, but I’ve only got two weeks of school left!