We finally landed in Bangkok around noon on Friday morning and grabbed the shuttle provided by OEG to the Royal River Hotel where we would be staying. It was the biggest relief to finally dump our bags and be able to take things out! Luckily, none of Emma or my stuff was taken by security or customs on the way over (we were really worried about the peanut butter we brought)!! On Friday we just went our rooms, got our new Thai sim cards, relaxed and got dinner before heading to bed early. I have never been so exhausted in my life, but it was so exciting to finally be in Thailand!
Jetlag is so real!!! I woke up before 6 AM the next morning, and could not fall back asleep so I headed out onto our balcony where Emma had already been awake for 2 hours! Despite the jetlag, we were able to watch our first Thai sunrise over the Bangkok skyline and it was truly beautiful. That morning we had our welcome to the OEG Teach in Thailand program, and met Kristen and Derik, the two coordinators from the program. We were introduced to Thailand, our program, and began to meet some of the 200ish other teachers on the program with us. It was overwhelming to say the least! Then we had our first Thai lesson! Our Thai teacher, Fluke, was so sweet and funny, and taught us so much Thai in just the short week we were there. A quick Thai lesson:
Sawatdee ka- Hello!
Khun chu arai ka?- What is your name?
Chan chu Emily.- My name is Emily.
Yin dee tee dai roo jak ka- It is nice to meet you.
Chan ma jaak pra ted America- I am from America.
Definitely have lots more to learn!!
We also had our first TEFL class where we learned about lesson planning and discipline within the classroom. This course definitely made me feel a bit more prepared and ready to begin teaching!
Our second day was mostly the same, we had our Thai lesson and TEFL class, and at the end of the day we were welcomed to Thailand with a Thai Traditional Welcome Ceremony! It was very beautiful and we were each given a small white piece of string to wear on our wrist as a reminder of our beginning in Thailand and to wish us good luck.
Most of our days of orientation were the same with different sessions every day on things like Visas, work permits, ethics and culture. We also had a session with the U.S. embassy on all the precautions we should take while abroad.
My favorite part of orientation was our day trip to the Grand Palace. It was surreal to look at how ornate and large the Palace and Temple were. We were also able to see the Crematorium where the King had been cremated the week before which was amazing because it will only be there for a few more weeks. I loved seeing the Palace in all its splendor, and would definitely recommend visiting there if you are ever in Bangkok.
Despite the jetlag, Emma and I really took advantage of our evenings there and tried to see as much as possible. Early on in the week we went to Asiatique, a night market right on the river. It was large and had a Ferris Wheel (which we of course had to go on), and lots of small vendors. It definitely seemed like a more touristy market, but it was colorful and fun and a great evening out. We took our first übers here which we found to be helpful because they have a set price so we didn’t have to deal with bargaining with the taxi drivers. That night for dinner we had our first street food! It was a delicious crepe like dessert made with eggs, bananas, and sweetened condensed milk (a HUGE staple here). Another night we ventured to the famous Khao San Road, a major attraction for tourists all over the world. It was bright, touristy, dirty, and overpriced but nevertheless we felt we had to stop by while we were there. That evening we ate at a vegetarian/ vegan restaurant, and were able to relax a bit knowing we weren’t eating any random meat in our meal like we had been the rest of the week.
We were also able to go to a local flower market one afternoon which was full of wonderful flower arrangements of all different colors and shapes. I had never seen anything like it, and would definitely recommend to others who may be visiting in the future. It was nice to see a less touristy part of the city!
On our last night in Bangkok, we explored a few different parts of the city! We went to the Ratchada Train Night Market and ventured up to the top of a garage to get a great view, took our first tuk-tuk (and bargained it down!!) and went to The Sirocco & Sky Bar which overlooked all of New Bangkok (and was also in The Hangover 2). Lot’s of adventure packed into just a few days but it was all worth it because Bangkok is pretty far from us and who knows when we will be able to go back!
Our last day of orientation, we went on a bus journey to Kanchanaburi, a region in Central Thailand. We walked through the local market, visited a temple, and had dinner on this raft floating down the river with beautiful views of mountains and trees. We stayed in a different hotel that evening and were able to enjoy the pool the next morning before heading back to Bangkok to begin our journey all the way up north! Orientation was great and we were able to meet some really cool and interesting people, but by the end I was definitely feeling ready to settle in to my new apartment and meet my students! Up next, the journey to Phayao and my first week in Chiangkham!