Monday, August 27, 2012

The Art of Living Slow

Many people have asked me my preference of the two locations I've lived in Thailand.

While I miss the seaside comforts and accessibility of my first home in Sriracha (an easy 1.5 hour commute from Bangkok), I've grown fond of my current residence in Ubon Ratchathani, nestled deep in the traditional region of Isaan.

Last term, my Thai co-workers shrieked in awe of my decision to move up to Isaan. "But, Bangkok is so far! There is no sea! And the food is NOT as delicious!"

It's true that Bangkok is no longer an easy weekend trip; the 10-12 hour bus ride has kept me from making more than one trip this term. And there may not be a sea nearby, but who knew the monotony of rice paddies could be so breathtaking? Just outside of Ubon city, the fresh air and well-irrigated lush green fields (thanks to monsoon season) nourish your soul in ways you didn't even know could feel so good. I'm convinced that everyone needs some natural green in their life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

แห่เทียน (Hae Thian) - Candle Festival

Asanha Bucha Day is the Buddhist holiday that commemorates the beginning of Khao Pansaa, or Buddhist Lent. Also known as the "Rain Retreat," this is a three-month period where monks are meant to stay inside monastery grounds for a period of study and meditation.

The most famous national celebration, the "Candle Festival," takes place right in my town, Ubon Ratchathani. Weeks in advance, workers prepare downtown Ubon for the event by building structures and cleaning the park. Massive wax sculptures are intricately carved and displayed at the local museum in anticipation of the festival.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Exploring the Hinterland

Since many Thai holidays are clustered into the second half of the year, I'd become accustomed to an ample number of long weekends in my first term of teaching. So, when a four-day long weekend (August 1-4) rolled around,  it was both very necessary and welcome. Finally, we had time (and a ride!) to explore the depths of our province.

Perhaps because this region is not on the typical tourist route, the national parks of Ubon are not readily accessible without private transportation. When a Thai teacher offered to take us foreign teachers on a day trip around Ubon, we jumped on the opportunity.

We set off early in the morning to make the most of the day, returning just after dark for the beginnings of the Candle Festival. Enjoy some photos from our one day exploration of the hinterland...
Kaeng Saphu Rapids (It's rainy season, so the rapids are submerged)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The End of an Era

This past weekend, my closest friends in Thailand gathered in the university town of Khon Kaen for our usual escapades. This time though, it would be our last weekend all together, as two of my best friends are leaving the semester early to travel before their September flights back to England. Bidding them a farewell has marked the imminent end of a very important era in all of our lives.

Last October, we arrived in Thailand as strangers and created steadfast friendships as like-minded recent university graduates looking for an adventure. Although a few of our close friends left after the first semester, a remaining five of us from our original cohort stuck around to build a nice little life for ourselves in Isaan. Not only will our routine be altered with the departure of two of our own, but their leaving has reminded me that the rest of ours is not too far off, either.
With two months of the semester left, this chapter is coming to a close. Although I will travel for many months after the semester ends, at ages 22 and 23 years old, it is getting to be time for all of us to go home - at least for a while.