A Gringo Guide to: Soups and Salads (Gringo Guides Book 12)
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The best thing about that: you can even have a private room for a really good price — so treat yourself and enjoy having privacy to recover after a long night out. I chose the Wild Rover for my stay and enjoyed the fact that they also had a really good restaurant inside the hostel. Nevertheless the breakfast is pretty basic and the WiFi is really slow like everywhere in Bolivia. The fact that there was no kitchen to cook your own stuff didn't bother me, cause I used to eat out every day. If you have any tips or hints feel free to join the conversation — post a comment below and share your experience!
Moreover you can share this article with your friends on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus by using the related buttons on the left. Disclosure: My accommodation in La Paz was supported by Hostelbookers. All the content I provide from my travels is completely my own — this goes for opinions and views as well as for recommendations.
Auf dieser Seite gibt es mind. Willst du YouTube dennoch freischalten? YouTube aktivieren Ohne YouTube fortfahren. La Paz city. This post is also available in: German For Budget travelers Bolivia is like heaven — actually its the cheapest country in South America and offers a wide range of activities as well as stunning landscapes to discover. HolaGringo Deal I'm proud to tell you that I could get deals for every Gravity activity listed above. Tags Bolivia. You may also like. September May February Click here to post a comment. This is a good idea for many reasons: The embassy has a notification network in case of civil emergencies; it helps you to establish residency in Nicaragua for income tax purposes U.
The most dangerous market is the Oriental Market in Managua. It is said that over half of the crimes committed in all of Nicaragua occur here pick-pocketing, etc. Huembes market in Managua is safer. Masaya has two good markets. The drawback is that the stores are crowded together and the atmosphere somewhat claustrophobic. There are pickpockets and there is no security. You are on your own. At any market, you should keep a firm hold on your money and refrain from wearing valuable jewelry. They have safe meat and a selection of staples.
Plastic grocery bags are not provided free but can be purchased at the cash register. You bag your own groceries. Only cash is accepted. In Managua, La Colonia and La Union have a wider variety of foreign foods and good selections of meat and fish. Many large grocery stores accept credit cards for payment, especially Visa. Local markets are often the best source for cheap fresh fruits and veggies.
General Household. A wide variety of household goods are in the markets such as plastic goods, household items, clothes and shoes. You can get practically anywhere on the Pacific Coast by bus see Transportation heading in the directory section but the buses are often packed sardine-tight. City buses in Managua are reported to be rife with pick-pockets. In Managua, use registered taxis red and white license plate.
With taxis, negotiate the price before getting in. Ask to see the room you will be assigned in the hotel before you pay for the room. In smaller hotels, you typically have to pay up-front for your room. Hotels generally will ask to see your passport and will record you passport number in their ledger. They are required to do this by law. Air Travel. This is a good way to avoid the long check-in lines. The lounge is a comfortable place to wait for your flight and light refreshments one sandwich and two beverages are offered.
Reservations may be made in advance. You can rent a vehicle in Managua and other select cities. Some companies also offer the optional services of a driver. If you choose to drive yourself, you should be prepared for adventure. In addition to the condition of secondary roads, the lack of street names and street signs as well as the ubiquitous presence of pedestrians, bicyclers and variety of animals on the shoulders of the roads and highways make driving a challenge. In Nicaragua, addresses rarely contain a street name or number. Rather, addresses are directions to the site in question beginning from a well-known landmark.
This means you start at the city park, go 2. Meters, yards and varas roughly a yard are used along with blocks cuadras to measure distance in the city. On the highway, kilometer markers serve as a convenient and reliable reference point for directions. Kilometers markers are often painted onto small concrete poles alongside the highway. The most confusing thing about directions is that they sometimes refer to landmarks that no longer exist. This is where having a local driver or gui It is really quite logical, once you get used to it.
The law regarding traffic accidents is a bit stricter than the U. The practice is more or less similar to strict liability in tort. If there is an accident where someone is injured, it is probable that the driver of the culprit car will spend a night in jail. Being a foreign national makes no difference. The good side is that Nicaraguan police tend to be the most polite in Central America and often times go out of their way to accommodate an unfortunate foreigner as best as they can.
But this element of the law is why many well-to-do Nicaraguans have chauffeurs rather than drive themselves. They figure that is better for them to spend time getting their chauffeur out of jail than to have their chauffeur trying to get them out of jail. When you add up all the above factors, you may decide to stick with public transportation, despite the crowded old vehicles and lack of published schedules. Another alternative is to hire a taxi. You can negotiate a reasonable rate for a long-distance one-way or round-trip or even arrange a day-rate for sightseeing.
If you hire a taxi to take you to another city, you may want to switch to a local taxi once there as the local driver will be more familiar with the area remember, no street signs and often no street names or numbers. Utilities For all utilities, it is important to review your bill carefully, pay it promptly, and keep receipts as proof of payment. Failure to pay your bills on time can results in termination of services and you will face additional fees and hassles to establish reconnection. Claro TV carries over 50 channels, including all-English and all-Spanish channels.
Satellite T. Claro TV charges U. There is a modest installation fee and a one-year contract must be signed to being services. You will receive a receipt at the time of payment. Note that of all the utilities, cable is the most prompt to terminate your service for non-payment. Electricity is not cheap. Also, the more electricity you use, the higher the cost per kilowatt hour the opposite of the bulk-buying principle. Electricity is reported to be billed at a lower rate during the night hours. So if you must use an electric stove, cook at 2 am! Bills, based on meter reading, are delivered to your home each month and payment may be made at most bank branches.
Trash is picked up by the city on specified days. Leave your trash on the curb on the curb on the specified mornings. Be aware that stray dogs and the occasional passing beggar will break into your bags looking for food or salvageable items, leaving a mess for you to clean up. Under no circumstances, however, should you leave your trash cans at the curb, unless, of course, you wish to replace them with new ones every week. A good option is to have a raised, metal trash receptacle with lid built into your side-walk.
That at least keeps the four- legged foragers away. Garbage is picked up from residential neighborhoods according to the following schedule: Calzada Street, Carmen Noguera School area- Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Someone is sent to your house to collect this fee every so often.
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Gas for cooking is sold in tanks, not piped directly to your house. The most common tank sizes are 25 pounds which last most people about a month and pounds. Tanks are usually installed in a secure, outdoor location and connected to your stove via tubes or pipes. It is a good idea to get a professional to connect your stove and tank or to check the pre-existing installation. You do not want a gas leak. Tanks can be purchased from Tropigas or Once your tank is empty, you can take it to the closest dealer and exchange it for a full one, paying only for the gas itself prices fluctuate considerably- currently about For the big pound tanks, one normally pays for a gas truck to come and refill it at your home.
Most people elect to have two tanks to avoid disruption in their ability to cook. Monthly bills are delivered to your home and can be paid at most banks, the post office or by phone telepagos : for Credomatic payments and for payments through Citi Bank. You should examine your bill to ensure that the charges are accurate. Some people have reported problems with charges for calls to cell phones i.
If you need to, you can ask the phone company to put a block on your phone so that cell phones numbers cannot be dialed. You can still receive calls of all types. Life in Nicaragua in some ways resembles living in the United States in the past. It is typical for many families to employ a maid, and also perhaps a gardener or driver. The Nicaraguan Labor Code provides that Nicaraguan law covers all employment situations of Nicaraguans, including maids, gardeners, and drivers. A person can work on a trial basis for up to 30 days; if the work is not Sat,isfactory the worker can be let go without any adverse results, as long as they are paid in full for their work up to that time.
After 30 days the Labor Code goes into effect. These are basic rights given by the Labor Code and they are mandatory in all situations. Moreover, they cannot be renounced by the worker in any fashion, and if the worker renounces any of these rights in writing, he or she can file a claim in the local Labor Tribunal the next day claiming those renounced rights, and will win. That bonus MUST be paid to the worker Paid vacation must be taken every six months, or in the alternative the employer may pay the worker the value of the vacation. Severance pay is due and payable within 10 days of the worker quitting or being let go.
The worker is entitled to a severance payment, plus accrued or prorated Aguinaldo, and any unused but accrued vacation.
You may have only one employee, but the Labor Code applies. In disputes at the Labor Tribunals, the Labor Code has a built in presumption that the worker prevails. What this means is that one should never take casual household labor for granted and one must keep excellent WRITTEN records at all times. At the very least the employer should keep records of: the day, month, and year when the worker began work; the pay scale, and dated, signed receipts for all payments made.
When a worker leaves the service of the employer there should be a final liquidated amount broken down that clearly shows that all employer requirements have been met. This should be signed and dated by both parties at the time the final payment is made. In order to fire an employee and not pay ANY of their labor rights you have to get a prior order from the local labor inspector, which is just about impossible.
The normal work week is Monday through Saturday, eight hours per work day. Finally, the customary pay periods are weekly or the 15th and last day of the month. It is also a good idea if one reads Spanish to pick up a copy of the Nicaraguan Labor Code, promulgated in , as a handy reference. Other Tips On Owning a Car If one comes to Nicaragua to stay a while, it becomes obvious that owning a car is a decided advantage. Public transportation is not always convenient and figuring out routes and timetables, almost none of which are published, can be confusing. The alternatives are to bring the family vehicle to Nicaragua, or, a much better idea, to bring along money and buy a vehicle down here.
Importing a car, unless one has duty free importation privileges, can be an expensive and time consuming process, especially if one is not conversant in the Nicaraguan dialect of Spanish. In addition, some imported cars may not be up to the rigors of Nicaraguan roads. A decidedly easier proposition is to bring money and buy a new or used car already nationalized. The time period for processing the paperwork on a new or used car is usually a day or two at the most.
Unless one is going to spend most of the time in Managua, owning a SUV with four wheel drive, air conditioning, and diesel engine, is a very good idea. There are dealerships for most brands in Nicaragua, but the Asian brands are the most common and easiest for which to find spare parts. Recently, the traffic code was changed and now a foreign license that is not expired is valid in Nicaragua. Presently all vehicle owners are required to maintain a small amount of insurance to protect third parties. A very good idea is to obtain adequate coverage to protect the value of the car and cover at least minimum liability for each passenger.
Automobile insurance is from many different companies and is usually cheaper than in the US. Unlike Costa Rica, Nicaragua does not have an active group if immigration inspectors who maintain vigilance over wayward Gringo wetbacks. But the laws now in effect can be quite unforgiving. For starters, a tourist card, the immigration documents that allow most foreigners to enter Nicaragua, does not grant any rights to work.
A tourist stay for 30 to 90 days, depending on nationality, only grants the right to be a tourist and travel and spend money within Nicaragua. You will have to pay this in order to leave Nicaragua. In order to work in Nicaragua, you must have resident status or be in the process of getting it and have a temporary work-permit from Immigration. The process to become a legal resident is not difficult, but takes some time and costs about U. Residency is for a one-year period, but after several residences you may apply for a five-year residency.
Retirees may be eligible for a longer residential visa based upon their status as a rentista, or person with a retirement income. The other legal effect of working is that it generates income tax. Like immigration matters, collection of the Nicaraguan income tax, called the Impuesto sobre la Renta, is lax. On the other hand the tax rates are more progressive than those in the United States.
Nicaragua is not a tax haven. Take two examples of stew-like dishes, Mondongo and Baho. It is best eaten in Masatepe, where it is world-famous. It is served in a very large bowl and makes a full meal, especially when eaten with the thick Nicaraguan tortillas. It was undoubtedly an import from Spain, as it resembles nothing so much as the tripe soup that is popular in the Madrid area. Baho, another savory stew of plantains, quequisque, yucca, tomato, and salt beef, was a widely consumed delicacy in pre-Columbian Nicaragua, though there is reason to believe that the original recipe called for human meat.
We can thank the old pirate, embezzler, and intercontinental gossipist, Fernando de Oviedo y Valdes, for preserving the recipe after interviewing a chief, who supposedly knew that of what he spoke in As with the Mondongo, it is Its succulent ingredients blend into a taste that is truly Nicaraguan.
Other delicacies bear mention. It is the tradition in many Nicaraguan homes to eat the Nacatamale for Sunday morning breakfast. This is native tamale, in the shape of a human fist, wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. The contents of the Nacatamale include pork, more recently chicken, a bit of rice, a slice of potato, corn meal, spearmint, and a little chili pepper, very hot, in the shape of a pea. Another creation of exquisite delight is Moronga, the delicate sausage made up of pork blood, natural casing, chilies, and a lot of rice for binding.
It is sold wrapped in banana leaves, and when fried crispy it fills the kitchen with its delicate but slightly earthy aroma. All creatures big and small are attracted to its sizzling flavor. This delicacy has no Indigenous analog and it may be European in origin. Much more investigation must go into the subject of Moronga. A further dish of distinction is boiled beef tongue in a sweet tomato sauce. This is another probable Spanish import. It is done up with a sweeter flavor than in Spain, and it is delectable.
A nice accompaniment is the native chocolate drink, called cacao. Clearly, there is nothing else like chicha. Buying land in Nicaragua however, is not without its risks. Several steps can be taken to minimize risk and to obtain valuable land at much less expensive prices than in either the United States or neighboring countries such as Costa Rica. Some practices here are quite different, however, and must be understood to be able to navigate in the land market. For starters, the basic land unit is the manzana, about 1.
The manzana is about halfway between an acre and hectare in size. Construction costs are usually calculated by the square meter, which is about Sometimes land is sold by the square meter, so you just have to do the conversion to get an idea of land value. Easements exist, here called servidumbres, and work like easements in the U. Land titles are recorded in each department province at the land registry office Registro de Terrenos. Recording practices are a bit informal and recording of liens are much less systematically done than in the U. Getting a lien abstract at one Registro de Terrenos may not find all liens, for example, no matter where the land is located.
These only go back three transfers, as opposed to in the U. A much better idea is to obtain title insurance, now in Nicaragua. At least one company offering title insurance in Nicaragua says that in order to get this insurance, the company requires local attorneys to search the titles backwards in time until at least But as with any title insurance policy, be sure to take a close look at the exceptions.
One must also keep in mind recent history. The majority of parcels of land have metes and bounds descriptions so it is always a good idea to have a surveyor do a survey for you, the purchaser. Many times the land area will not exactly correspond with the land area stated in the title documents or the metes and bounds land description will not completely close up and exactly return to the point of beginning.
Finally, the Nicaraguan law of riparian rights does not allow for private beaches on seacoasts, thereby following the ancient law of Spain and also a more recent law. This matter is in flux and may change, but for the meantime expect visitors on the beaches in front of your beach house. Hours of operation Mon to Fri, from 8 am to pm, Sat, from 8 am to 12 pm. Bilingual Services info rcalvet. Hours of operation Mon to Fri, from 8 am to 5 pm, closed on weekend. Bilingual Services info pronicaragua. Hours of operation From Mon to Fri, from 8 am to 5 pm, closed on weekend.
Bilingual Services nicaexport nicaexport. Some of the common units of measure for Nicaraguans may be unfamiliar to foreigners. Conversion to regularly used terms, however, is easy when conversion factors are used. The vara is the Spanish colonial unit of length.
Cloth is still sold by the vara, some building materials are sold by the vara, and many deeds to real property list the distances in a metes an bounds property description in varas, not meters. Moreover, land titles may include the area described in square varas ad well as square meters. One manzana is another colonial unit of area, comprised of 10, square varas, or varas, or feet on a side.
In size it is about half way between the American acre and the metric Hectare. It is the equivalent of 1. This is the Spanish colonial for apothecary use. It was comprised of 12 granos, each of which was the weight of gold particles. Gold mining and panning is a common activity in the northern mountains and there is no legal prohibition against foreigners buying gold from miners. There are stretches of the Coco River, downstream from Wiwili where dozens of persons can be observed panning for gold.
There the gold is extracted from hard rock with mercury, so be sure to Measure specific gravity or you will be buying a lot of amalgamated mercury. The usual Unit of measure of tomines is a spent. He is also a gold miner, gunsmith, restorer of vintage firearms, author of five published books and four manuscripts that are ready to Published. Werner has authored several articles on Nicaraguan archaeology, colonial history, and related matters.
He also writes for sporting journals like Gun Digest under the pen name Carlos Schmidt. He was part owner and writer for the NicaNews, an English language newspaper in Nicaragua, from to In Werner was elected by the most distinguished historians in Nicaragua to a lifetime position as a corresponding member of the Nicaraguan Academy of Geography and History, the Nicaraguan equivalent o the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In his youth he worked as a market hunter on the Miskito Coast. Werner currently lives in Diriamba. A in Philosophy from Franciscan University and an M. A in Theology from Gannon University. He is a Ph. His dissertation is in the area of affective knowledge as explained by Jacques Maritain. She speaks native Spanish, English and Portuguese. She is currently a model of the Eleganza Models Agency. Her hobbies are traveling, reading, swimming and studying. It is important to note that both of us authors are foreigners who have spent considerable time in Nicaragua.
Comments From Karawala Cinema, one block west and one block north. We would recommend that you Bilingual services available sometimes. Many people in Granada consider this Bilingual hospital to be reliable, too. Police Data Hours of operation 24 hours. In front of the Hotel Granada. Comments Red Cross provides many of the ambulance services within Nicaragua. Comments Here you can pay your electricity bill; East side of Fire Department. Comments Here you can make your claims, pay your water bill or request a service. Atravesada Street. From the Fire Department one block north.
Central Park. In front of the Plaza Los Leones. Bilingual Services www. Embassy Data Hours of operation Mon to Fri, from am to pm. The 22 first time, in , the second-in-command was the redoubtable Henry Morgan, who reported that the pirates had to stop the Indians of Jalteva from slaughtering the Spaniards. Comments 24 hours ATM.
North side of Central Park, one block west on web site www.
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North side of Central Park, one block west Atravesada Street www. Comments Wire money transfer. La Libertad Street. Plaza Inmaculada Bilingual Services info hotelelclub. Take credit www. From the Mayor Hall one block east. El Caimito Street. Comments Inuit Kayak offers Nicaraguan food and dancing. From Central Park, one block toward the lake Barro Cero offers Nicaraguan food and dancing. BaryRestaurante melys. Beer cost one dollar. From Central Park, one block toward the lake. In front of the Central Park. From the Central Park, for blocks toward the lake.
The old Cathedral is at a different location and is no longer in In front of Metrocentro Mall. At Christ of the Rosary neighborhood. Comments DHL offers express service and other courier services. Bodan Avenue. West side of the Central Park. For lunch be sure to try one of the hefty sandwiches with homemade potato La Calzada Street, across from the Cathedral. From Petronic, gas station, four blocks west. Comments Mexican cuisine. Great Mole! Comments La Claraboya offers Gourmet fusion cuisine. Comments All varieties of pizzas, salads, breadsticks and natural juices. Bilingual Services La Calzada Street.
Comments The best Quesillos in town. From La Merced Church, one block south. Has Delivery service. Comments Hamburlooca offers delicious hamburgers. Comments This restaurant offers full breakfast, El Caimito Street. From Central Park, two blocks toward the lake. Has happy hour from 6 La Calzada Street. Plaza Independencia, one block north and 75 meters toward the lake pm to 9 pm.
In front of Bancentro Bilingual Services buffet. Has happy hour from 3 pm to 7 pm. Comments Gourmet cuisine, wine and tobaccos. Gift certificates available. From Central Park, five blocks west. Comments North side of Sandino Park. Comments The Canadian Consulate takes credit cards. Bilingual Services ambasciata. Bilingual Services 59 www. Across embamex turbonett. Mon to Fri, from am to 12 pm. Hours of operation Mon to Fri, from am to pm. Comments La Inmaculada Street.
Central Market west. La Inmaculada Street. Comments La Calzada Mini Supermarket offers basic groceries and household supplies. Arellana Avenue. In front of bus station. In front of Valencia. Edgar Javier Vallejo F. Hours of operation Mon to Fri, from 8 am to 5 pm. Comments Dentist jvallejo cablenet. The sun also shone across some of the Buddha faces making them look more pronounced. Although our second day at Angkor Wat was filled with the more famous temples of the area, we both agreed that we enjoyed the temples we saw on the first day more.
The final day in Siem Reap we decided to go see Banteay Srei. Banteay Srei was further out of town than the other temples at the Angkor complex, but was renowned for its intricate carvings. Although it was not built by a king, like the Angkor temples, a rich nobleman decided to construct the temple out of a different, higher quality stone red sandstone than the Angkor temples, which helped both accentuate and preserve the detailed carvings.
Banteay Srei was easily our favorite of the temples because the carvings were amazingly well preserved. After seeing that temple, we felt satisfied with all of the different areas of Angkor Wat that we saw, and called it a day. Since that was our final night in Siem Reap, I wanted to have a memorable dinner. Immediately piquing my interest, I told Ben and we decided to give it a shot. The restaurant was actually a very cool concept. His goal was to showcase bugs and insects through sophisticated cooking techniques, to show that they could be delicious just like any other ingredients when prepared in the right way.
He even sourced his bugs from a local organic farm, to further dispel of the notion of bugs and insects as only being low-class food. Overall, the owner did a great job of showcasing how to cook insects, as Ben and I both enjoyed the meal very much and found it to be a great experience. The next day we took the bus to Phnom Penh, satisfied with our temple adventures but ready to see something new. The bus ride took about seven hours and was once again slowed down by long sections of unpaved, dirt road along the main highway. We managed to find a tuk-tuk driver to take us to our hostel, but he was incredibly aggressive and would not stop asking us our plans for the next couple days, trying to arrange for us to take more rides with him the following days.
Fortunately, he finally let us off safe and sound at our hostel, and we prayed to never see him again. On our first full day in the city, we decided to just explore the city and see some of the sights including the Royal Palace and Wat Phnom. We were somewhat skeptical, as the gates to the palace were open, and we thought that the tuk-tuk drivers were just trying to scam us into riding with them, but then we found a guard who corroborated their remarks.
Frustrated, we walked towards the Sisowath Quay along the river, and followed the river towards Wat Phnom. As we walked, I was surprised to find the city cleaner than most parts of Bangkok, although not exactly pretty. Eventually we made it to Wat Phnom, which was alright, but far from the most interesting or impressive temple we had seen. After walking around the temple and taking some pictures we headed towards the nearby Central Market. The Central Market building was incredibly ugly and the market inside was unremarkable.
Again, after seeing many markets that all sell the same tourist trinkets, it all starts to look the same so we quickly finished browsing. Feeling hungry at this point, we stopped for a quick lunch before heading to the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace itself was not the most interesting or impressive place, as it was fairly small and all of the buildings were not very old, having only been built in the s.
We quickly walked through the Royal Palace before retiring back to our hotel.
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We first made our way to the killing fields outside of Phnom Penh. One of many killing fields during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, Choeung Ek was the site where many of the high-profile prisoners from S were killed, as well as other civilians. There was an in-depth audio tour, explaining the history of both the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields, with various stops throughout the site. It made the area that much more somber, as everyone there was listening to their own audio tour via headphones, so there was no chatter or noise from anyone. There were even interviews with survivors of the killing fields, as well as former guards.
Some of the stops were particularly horrifying. One tree was used by guards to smash babies against, and another was used to hang speakers playing music to drown out the screams and wails of prisoners being executed. It was really surreal to be in the location where such horrible acts were committed not too long ago.
Also, not having known much about the Khmer Rouge before the tour, it was amazing to me how much destruction and horrid acts Pol Pot and his comrades managed to commit in just their short three year reign. I was also surprised that many of the officials of the Khmer Rouge were still on trial in international courts, as it seemed that the amount of evidence and witnesses overwhelmingly implicated their crimes. After the tour, Ben and I had a quiet lunch before bracing ourselves for the next stop, the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Back in downtown Phnom Penh, the museum was actually an old school that was used to imprison some of the highest profile civilians during the Khmer Rouge. It was sad to see the pictures of people being tortured and killed, and after walking through the various buildings I felt very drained. Overall, the time I spent in Cambodia was very worthwhile and interesting. While I grew annoyed by the constant scam attempts and aggressive tuk-tuk drivers, I loved exploring the various temples of Angkor Wat, and appreciated learning about the Khmer Rouge, as horrifying as their crimes were.
It has been more than a week since I left Tha Wang Pha in the northern Nan province of Thailand , and although I really want to write about my thoughts about the final two months of my experience I have found it hard to sit down and put it in words. Part of the difficulty of writing about my final thoughts was the whirlwind of the last few weeks. The last two weeks of the semester were incredibly busy with finalizing grades, saying goodbyes to students, teachers and friends, and planning the trip that I am now amidst.
Thus, although I find it hard to define my parting thoughts at the present moment, while traveling in Cambodia, I know that the longer I wait to write something, the harder it will become. Saying goodbye to the students was bittersweet. The days of dealing with frustration at obnoxious, disobedient students already seem unimportant compared to the relationships I made with the nicer kids. Although I am glad that I am finished teaching, I will definitely miss some of the students and their cheerful smiles.
I wish it were easier to come back and visit the students but the reality is otherwise. I will also miss my friends and the teachers, but saying goodbye to them was less difficult.
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Though I will miss them, it is clear that they understand why I want to move on to something different, and though they jokingly mention seeing me again in Tha Wang Pha, they better understand how difficult it will be for me to return. I think that in order for me to write anything at all, I need to write my post in a lighter format than usual, just focusing on my favorite and least favorite things and experiences of the last year. Therefore, my favorite and least favorite things and experiences from the past ten months are as follows in no particular order. Thai people. Easily the best part of living in Tha Wang Pha was being incorporated into the community and getting to know different individuals throughout the area.
Thai people are definitely some of the friendliest, most generous people that I have encountered. They love to help you out and give you free food or drinks without a second thought. Thai people like to practice their English when they encounter farangs, or just get to know foreigners and it made me feel bad that I was unable to reciprocate in Thai.
Saying goodbye to everyone I met was difficult as I expected, and I will certainly miss a lot of people. The good students. While being a small minority, the good students are the ones that I will remember. Whether it was passing exchanges, helpful participation and attitudes in the classroom, or just overall friendliness and good humor, I am incredibly grateful for the great students I encountered, and their ability to turn my frustration and weariness into gratification and happiness. As I stated earlier, the less pleasurable experiences that I had with some students already seem insignificant in comparison with the positive experiences and connections that I was able to make with other students.
It truly was hard to respond when they would ask me why I was leaving or when I would come back, as I do want to see them in the future and thank them for creating some of the most positive, concrete memories of my year of teaching. The low prices. While I knew before coming to Thailand that everything would be cheap by American standards, I think I was unprepared for how truly cheap things are.
Especially in the remote north, where I was living, the prices for food, clothing, and massages were just ludicrous. I regularly went out to eat as it was actually cheaper to dine out than to fix myself a meal at my apartment. This was less surprising to me as I knew that Southeast Asia has become sort of a hub for producing cheap textiles. Finally, the massages were mind-blowingly cheap to me and I indulged frequently as a result. Since there were three masseuses in Tha Wang Pha, I cycled between the different options as I regularly got two massages per week.
One of the masseuses also offered foot massages, so I would go to him if I wanted a foot massage and to a different masseuse if I just wanted a regular massage. Exploring the country. While almost all of my travelling within Thailand is finished, with the exception of Surat Thani and Koh Pha Ngan in the South, I am very satisfied with what I have seen. From basic research on the country, one can easily learn that the South of Thailand is known for islands and beaches, the center is known for the hub of Bangkok and its surrounding cities, and that the north is known for its agriculture and mountainous areas.
However, it is also very interesting how culturally diverse the different regions of Thailand are. The center of Thailand, around Bangkok, is predictably the most diverse, international and commercially-focused area of the country. Here different cultural influences are immediately apparent, and within Bangkok it is also interesting to see how traditional Thai customs and norms converged and adapted to the modernizing forces of an international city.
In contrast, the north of Thailand and especially Nan, the province I lived in , is much more traditional culturally. Although Chiang Mai is a fairly big city that attracts a decent amount of tourists, the amount of foreign influence in the north is miniscule in comparison to the center and the south. Some people from the north that I talked to said that northerners were more conservative and traditional, and frankly I am unable to come to my own conclusions partially because I never lived in the center or south , but it was clear to me that Buddhism, the family, and the community seemed to be the most important aspects of life for northerners.
Finally, the south seemed to have a great deal of Western influence, as well as influence from neighboring countries i. Malaysia and Singapore , that gave it a much different feel than the north or even the center. Admittedly, I have hardly travelled in the south at all so I am not trying to speak too broadly, but this was the only region that I saw the open presence of other religions i.
Geographically, the different regions of the country provided for great, differing experiences in every place. I loved scuba diving and relaxing on the beaches of the south, exploring the huge urban expanse of Bangkok, swimming in the peaceful River Kwai, observing history firsthand at the ancient cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, seeing the confluence of modernity and ancient culture in Chiang Mai, as well as getting to know the agricultural and rural lifestyle of the people in Nan. While there are always more places to be seen, I am satisfied with how much of the country I was able to see and experience during the past year.
I am also incredibly excited to finish my time off in Thailand in the south, hopefully scuba diving with whale sharks and getting invigorating massages on the beach. The language barrier. Obviously, I knew about this from the beginning, but I did not anticipate how vast and challenging it would be to overcome. Initially I viewed Thai as an interesting challenge; I wanted to learn as much as possible and become proficient in the language. However, as more time passed, I became discouraged and disheartened that I would even be able to attain basic proficiency.
Saying that Thai is a hard language to learn is an understatement, and I am no better at hearing or understanding different tones than I was in May. While I picked up some words and phrases and could occasionally understand what people were saying, I found it near impossible to speak Thai. Often I would speak some Thai words or phrases and the listener would either laugh or not realize that I was speaking Thai.
Other times I would try and learn Thai words from someone, only to hear them say something slightly different each time they repeated the word. The lack of formal structure and tenses also bothered me, as I felt that learning individual words or phrases really did nothing to enhance my communication skills, as I was still unable to string together what I would consider basic sentences.
The language barrier was obviously even bigger in the classroom. Most of my students never understood what I was saying, and many were not able to read any English. I often tried to use Thai in the classroom, but this often failed too and my efforts were just met with blank stares. The Thai education system. I could write a long diatribe about the Thai education system but I will keep it short.
The Thai education system is broken and a failure at every single level. Although earlier and in other posts I allude to frustrating students, the reality is that the bad students are only one symptom of the horrible education system. The education system focuses on rote memorization, and encourages students not to think or engage with material. Every time I would ask the students critical thinking questions assuming I had a teacher translating what I was saying into Thai , the students would simply sit there and wait for me to feed them the answer.
The curriculum is garbage and changes almost every year. The other Thai English teachers assigned the students the most pointless and horrible assignments I could imagine. Cheating was also so much more rampant and obvious than I ever would have expected, that it was really just farcical. There were literally some teachers who refused to teach the classes of bad students, and simply sat there while the students did whatever they wanted.
Other teachers were clearly more concerned about increasing their salaries through various avenues than providing any sort of education i. There is much more of a focus on appearance than on results. Students literally told me that maintaining a cleaned-up appearance was critical to being a good student, but expressed little concern over academic performance. Finally, the administrators and officials in the Ministry of Education seem to be seriously inept and incompetent. Although I was told many times that officials who had studied in the U.
The weather. Thailand is ridiculously hot.
Food and ambience
I thought I had experienced heat and humidity before coming to Thailand, but in reality I had not. Summer is literally a boiling hell, and given the general lack of air conditioning or public pools I have no idea how people survive. I refuse to live another year in such a hot, humid place. The lack of infrastructure or modern amenities. Again, I should have expected this, but I had no idea how hard it would be to find modern amenities in Thailand. The hardest thing for me to give up was easily playing the piano. I originally tried to bring my digital piano, and when that failed I told myself I would find the occasional piano to play.
Other things were equally hard to accept, one being the lack of public pools. During the summer, it was so hot and muggy that I wanted to swim every day. However, there were no pools anywhere in Tha Wang Pha, and the nearest waterfall was about forty minutes away by motorbike and not great for swimming either , so nearly inaccessible. Another hard to face reality was the lack of a grocery store.
Sure, if I wanted to buy junk food, soda, or premade cheeseburgers I was in luck, but if I wanted to buy real food, meat, cheese, cereal, etc. I was out of luck. The last inconvenience that regularly annoyed me was the lack of diverse food options. Granted, I expected this from the start but I think I at least expected the Thai food options in town to be delicious. Surprisingly, all of the restaurants in Tha Wang Pha were pretty mediocre and I would honestly say that Thai food in Davis, while slightly Americanized, tastes better and is prepared with better ingredients.
In twelve days in Japan I was able to have many more amazing foods than I had the whole year in Thailand. Anyway, rants and recollections aside, it was quite the year. Although the challenges and negatives were hard to deal with, I never once regretted my decision to teach in Thailand. It certainly taught me a lot about what is important to me, and put in perspective many different things that I took for granted in the past. I am incredibly grateful to all of the people that helped me throughout the year, and to all of the students who I hope to see again someday. It was great timing; I got to see my folks for the holidays as well as break up the semester.
My vacation started on the Friday after Christmas, so I decided to take the bus to Bangkok on Thursday night and arrive early Friday morning. My parents booked a hotel by the river, and I had printed out a map from the hotel website that had the address written in English and Thai to give to a taxi bringing me to the hotel. Nonetheless, I finally managed to arrive at the hotel around six A. The hotel was absolutely fantastic; it was right on the river so there were great views, I had a giant suite all to myself, the service was great, and the breakfast buffet was absolutely amazing.
After not being able to find American breakfasts anywhere, I found myself with unlimited access to fresh breads, cheese, eggs, bacon, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, and real coffee. I found it hard to stop myself, and always felt tempted to keep going back for more and more food to stuff myself to oblivion. The hotel also had a pool and a gym which I enjoyed using as well. Details of the hotel aside, it was also great to see my parents. Although we have been skyping on a regular basis, it had been eight months since I had seen them, so it was great to be reunited.
I was curious to see how they would enjoy traveling in Thailand, and I wanted to see some new sights with them as well. We took it easy the first few days in Bangkok because Mom was recovering from food poisoning the previous week. On Friday, we decided to check out nearby Lumpini Park, which is known for its population of monitor lizards. The park itself was pretty nice — a serene green patch in the urban jungle of Bangkok, but it was truly bizarre to see giant monitor lizards swimming through the pond or lazing in the sun right next to the pedestrian paths.
The next day we made our way over to Chinatown, which I had never visited. We first saw a temple with a large golden Buddha which was impressive, albeit a touch gaudy. After the temple, we walked through the streets of Chinatown which were extremely dirty and crowded with people. I saw a bunch of vendors selling fruit at the mouth of several walking markets.
The markets, while interesting, were so crowded with people that we were pushed like salmon upstream through the constant mass of people and trinkets.
It also seemed like you had seen the whole market after walking about one hundred meters, because all of the stands sold the same things for the same prices. After squeezing our way out of the walking streets, we migrated over to the flower market. It was also much more expansive than I was expecting, and the vendors actually seemed to sell different, unique flowers and bouquets.
Since our hotel was right on the river, we decided to take the river ferry back. After waiting a few minutes on the pier, an extraordinarily crowded ferry arrived and I expected a lot of people to disembark so that we could get on. As it was, I spent the whole ride jammed into the railing on the side of the boat, continuously deafened by a crewman who felt the need to blow an extremely shrill whistle anytime we started remotely approaching a pier.
Despite being sandwiched into sweaty tourists and worrying about the complete disregard for safety precautions, I enjoyed the boat ride and found it very comical. We disembarked with all of the other passengers at the central pier, where we took a much nicer boat directly to our hotel. Back at our hotel, we settled down for another dinner at the hotel restaurant. Having had access to pretty much nothing but Thai food since May, I unabashedly was on a quest to eat as much Western food as possible during my brief sojourn in Bangkok and thus settled down to a salmon fillet on top of some sort of greenery.
It was heavenly to enjoy a quality piece of fish that actually came with vegetables. One of my least favorite parts of eating only Thai food has been the near complete lack of vegetables in Thai cooking, so whenever I can I try and incorporate them into my diet.
Also, while I have eaten good fish in Thailand, it is almost always packed with bones of all shapes and sizes, so that I find myself spending much more time picking bones out of the fish and my teeth, than actually eating the fish. Our final day in Bangkok we took a tour in the nearby town of Amphawa, to see the Maeklong railway market, the floating market and a fisherman village. I was especially excited to see the floating market, as I had heard about it but never seen it in person. It took about one and a half hours to drive to Amphawa, where we first stopped at the Maeklong railway market.
The market is famous because of the Maeklong train that literally runs through the middle of it, although it is also one of the largest seafood markets in Thailand. There were also tons of stalls selling tourist trinkets, but it really was interesting to see all different sorts of seafood for sale including horseshoe crabs and squirming eels.
Our next stop was the Amphawa floating market. This market is famous its canals, along which vendors sell goods to customers floating by on boats. There were also tons of food vendors hawking their wares from bobbing canoes. At first, we walked through the parts of the market on land, which although interesting, were not what we had come to see. Finally, we were able to catch a boat to float down the canals.
As it was right around lunch time, our tour guide bought us each a bowl of noodle soup to eat on the boat. We quickly learned that if we pointed at anything or stared too widely, our oarsman would stop our boat so that we could buy something. Towards the end of the boat ride, I was surprised to notice a giant monitor lizard poking half of its body out of the side of the canal, like something out of a Jurassic park ride at Universal Studios.
Our next stop was a fishing village nearby. After hopping on a boat we cruised up a small inlet into a bay. Unfortunately, it was high tide so we were not able to see the just submerged traps used for catching crabs and other seafood. However, we were able to see several different fishermen retrieving their traps from the water.
One of the fishermen caught a couple horseshoe crabs and gave them to me to check out. It was interesting to see how the smaller male horseshoe crab simply clung to the larger female in order to get around. After checking them out and wondering how anyone would find any meat on their plated bodies I put them back in the water. As we continued cruising in our boat I noticed a giant bag of bananas which one of the crew had been carefully slicing. Sure enough, we pulled into another inlet where we were soon greeted by a large gang of hungry-looking macaques.
We threw them bananas and watched as they ruthlessly beat each other away from the food. I am somewhat scared by monkeys so it was kind of terrifying to see all of the macaques franticly cluster around the boat. Some of them began to get impatient and just swam to the boat to demand bananas. One of the larger ones actually jumped in the boat and began rifling through the bag. Fortunately, our boat driver immediately sped out of the inlet and the macaque quickly grabbed all he could hold before jumping ship.
It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time and thank god I am not as appealing as a bag of bananas so he did not harass me. As our boat cruised back to the dock, I was relieved to be away from the starving monkeys unscathed. The next day we left Bangkok for our first road trip stop, Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was the capital of the Siamese kingdom after Sukhothai which I visited in June , until At its height, its population reached almost one million people before it was put to the torch by the Burmese army.
Although I had already seen Sukhothai, which was the previous capital of the Siamese kingdom, I was curious to see how Ayutthaya would compare. While I certainly enjoyed Ayutthaya, I found it much less impressive overall than Sukhothai. One of the main sights is a Buddha head that has been covered by an overgrown Banyan tree. There was a decent crowd gathered around what turned out to be a small and frankly unimpressive Buddha face that was only somewhat remarkable because of the tree framing it. I found the other ruins in the park much more interesting, although there were less of them than in Sukhothai and they seemed to be in bad condition overall many of the ruins were tilted or lopsided because of unstable soil.
However, after seeing the main part of the historical park, we also drive to another ruin site nearby. I found this site impressive as it was fairly immense and seemed to be in much better condition. We took a few pictures before getting back on the road. That night, we were staying at a hotel in Kamphaeng Phet, about halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Not being the biggest tourist destination, most of the hotels in Kamphaeng Phet including ours were only named in Thai.
This turned out to be a big problem for our GPS, which typically responds better to English names and addresses. As we were trying to locate the hotel in the dark of night, we made several wrong turns and loops around the same couple streets, but finally I managed to find the phone number for our hotel and get oral directions to the hotel. The hotel was very bizarre; it was supposed to be a ranch, and all of the rooms were independent, hand built concrete structures with different themes.
Although the room was expensive by Thai standards, the hot water in the showers did not work and the beds were about as comfortable as marble slabs. Needless to say, I was not too disappointed when we hit the road to our next destination, Chiang Mai. Compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a much smaller, cleaner, and more chic city.
Although we were staying on a fairly random road, we were still pretty close to the city center which is a testament to how small the city is. After arriving at our hotel, we decided to go to the center of the city to see a few temples. Although I had seen these temples before, I figured I could show them to Mom and Dad and we could walk around the area and find dinner.
Wat Chedi Luang, the main temple I wanted them to see, is not only my favorite temple in Chiang Mai but also one of my favorites in Thailand. After seeing the temple, we walked through the central city to another famous temple, Wat Phra Kaew. Although we only spent one night in Chiang Mai, it was nice to be back in a city that feels worlds apart from the immense concrete jungle of Bangkok.
The next day, we began the fairly long drive to Chiang Rai. The drive to Chiang Rai was beautiful, but also very hilly and curvy. We finally arrived at our first destination outside the city, the White Temple. I had wanted to see the White Temple since arriving in Thailand because of its gaudy but beautiful white exterior, and eccentric, surrealist elements such as a statue of Predator and a painting of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden riding a rocket. To my dismay, instead of being situated in a picturesque meadow, the White Temple sat right on a busy road next to a shopping complex.
In addition, tons of tourists and police were strewn everywhere across the temple, shopping area and road. Still, the temple was quite a sight. It was just as eccentric and bizarre as I had been hoping, and its creator had gleefully shown off his taste for the absurd all across the complex in the form of grotesque statues amid overly ornate structures.
In one of the gift shops abutting the property, I chuckled at several garishly colorful t-shirts, wondering who would buy one before I saw Dad handing over some baht, clutching one with a bizarre design. As we were leaving I reflected that while I was initially disappointed, the White Temple ended up being exactly as I had expected.
Rather, I knew it reveled in its absurdity, and the fact that it was just so bizarre and incongruent. Although it was packed with tourists, I found that to be less off-putting than at other traditional temples I saw in Bangkok and Japan, where I was expecting a tranquil area and found a mass of tourists instead. After the White Temple, we headed off to see the Black House.
Apparently Duchanee often painted at night, and frequently delved into dark themes in his paintings, probably inspiring the creation of the black houses. Unfortunately, we arrived just as the area was closed for the day, but we were still able to take pictures from the outside of the main structure, so it was not a total loss. We shared stories of our vacations to that point Ben went to Khao Yai National Park , and ate pizza at a disappointingly bad restaurant before heading to the city center to observe the celebrations.
The main street had several stages with obnoxiously bad musical acts and was packed with people and street vendors selling foods and beers. Ben and I made our way to the clock tower designed by the same guy as the White Temple in the central area of the road to see if there was anything special going on there. Other than being packed with people drinking and canoodling, there was nothing special going on so we headed down the street to a to pick up some beers and prepare for midnight. It took us about twenty minutes to move twenty feet down the street as the street was too packed to navigate through.
Finally we emerged from the crush and were able to choose from two s, literally right across from each other on the street. As we headed back to the clock tower, we realized that we were not going to make it back before midnight. Settling for our current, packed location, we counted down to the New Year before joining the crowd shoving its way out. We had to dodge numerous fireworks as people set off all types in the middle of the street, which were shooting in all directions.
Finally, I got out of the crowded zone and made it back to my hotel, unburnt. Celebrating holidays in Thailand has always felt a bit odd, mostly because it never actually seems to be the real thing. Again, the Golden Triangle is the point along the Mekong River where you can see Myanmar and Laos just across the river. Although the opium trade is less prominent than in the past, the area still holds an interesting history of the now diminished illicit trade.
Gringo's Platter - Picture of Gringo's Mexican Kitchen Restaurant, Houston - TripAdvisor
Among other things, we saw the Opium Museum, which described the history of opium as well as the history of its production and trade in the area. There were also plenty of stands selling food and tourist goods, as well as a viewpoint that provided a nice vista of the convergence of the Mekong and Ruak River. After seeing the main area, we drove along the Mekong for a while before heading back to our hotel.
I finally convinced Mom and Dad to get massages at a nearby place, and enjoyed a foot massage before eating dinner. The next day was our final day together and thus we drove the final leg back to Tha Wang Pha. While the drive was beautiful, it was even windier than the drive to Chiang Rai, and I could do little to stop myself from ping ponging across the back seats. We got into Tha Wang Pha late afternoon, with just enough sunlight left for me to show Mom and Dad the school as well as a brief tour of the town.
Finally we had a simple dinner in Pua before parting ways as they had a long drive the next day and would be jettisoning early in the morning. It was great to see Mom and Dad, and explore some parts of Thailand with them that I had not seen. This past Friday was also the second Sports Day of the year, so I went to Nan with some of the teachers to watch some of the students compete in track events against other prominent schools in the province.
At this point, the hardest part about being in Thailand is not the teaching. Although there are times when it is very frustrating, I have become more used to them and better able to deal with the frustrations. The hardest part about being here is easily just living in Tha Wang Pha itself. Most weeks, I am looking forward to the weekend when I will have a respite from teaching, but then when the weekend rolls around I find myself thinking, now what?
What is there to do? And the answer really is… nothing. Weekend trips are all but impossible to everywhere but Nan and I have seen and done everything in Nan several times over. So really at this point my biggest enemy has become crippling boredom. I am incredibly grateful to now have a kindle, which I use frequently to check out books from the library so that I always have something interesting to read.