I’ve arrived in Suphanburi! We spent our last two days of orientation at the lovely (and Jurassic Park – esque) Pavilion Resort in Kanchanaburi, a province northwest of Bangkok. On our way to Kanchanaburi, we stopped at the Bridge over the River Kwae (prounounced Kw-aaa, not Kw-ai, contrary to popular belief). Our last dinner together was on a floating (yes, floating!) restaurant down the river.
On Friday, we got up early for our last group activity – floated down a river in a bamboo raft, followed by riding elephants. And petting baby elephants. All before 11 a.m. Did I mention there were baby elephants?
Most of the group traveled back south to Bangkok after our time in Kanchanaburi, but a small group of us met our school coordinators early, since it made more sense for us to travel to our school directly rather than backtrack to Bangkok. So, rather quickly, we had our ‘last lunch’ with new friends and were whisked into a van on our way to Suphanburi.
Let me back up. The driver of our van was named Mr. Legend. The van itself was the most luxurious minivan I’ve ever seen. (It put the Toyota Previa of my 1990’s youth to shame. Sorry, but it’s true.) Oh, and there are four of us who will be new teachers at Sanguan Ying School, so I was honestly relieved to know that we’ll be able to swap stories, lesson plans, and explore our little pocket of Thailand together. We rode with two of our school coordinators, who were kind and friendly and eager to talk about Sanguan Ying School. After an hour in the blingy minivan, we arrived at our apartment building in the town of Suphanburi.
My home for the coming months is a spacious studio with an ENORMOUS bed, a balcony, A/C, and Wifi! All of this is rather unbelievable to me. Each of our apartments has an interesting array of personal items / clothes / books that have been left behind by other teachers. So in my apartment I have, among other things, three huge bottles of bug spray, a copy of 50 Shades of Gray, a tambourine, four pairs of size 9 women’s shoes, two tennis racquets, and a yoga mat. You can guess which of those will get the most use.
After a quick drop off of our bags, our coordinators took us to the school, which is about two blocks away. We were invited right into the director’s office. (Shoes left outside, of course. I think this should be common practice everywhere. It’s amazing how it puts you at ease.) We sat, had coffee with him, and were generally delighted. The four of us kept exchanging “Can you believe this is happening?” glances at one another. One quick phone call later and the director of our school had set us up to meet another English teacher, an Aussie named Brett who has lived in Suphanburi for many years. To our surprise, he drove right over to the school to meet us (keep in mind that this is still summer break for students and teachers) and made a plan to tour us around town the following day.
Brett picked us up at 9 a.m. and took the four of us all over Suphanburi – we wandered the temples and the markets, he showed us where the good restaurants and shops are, we fed fish in the river, met his wife and daughter, walked through the mall (shopping is BIG in Thailand but I’m convinced it’s mostly due to the glorious, abundant air conditioning), and learned where to pick up songtheaws and tuk-tuks for riding around town and vans to Bangkok for weekend adventures.
The town of Suphan is medium sized and is definitely NOT one of the usual backpacker/tourist routes. In fact, it doesn’t even have a mention in Lonely Planet. But that’s not to say it isn’t charming or beautiful, it’s just a little off the map. I love this. As Brett said, “You all will experience the true Thailand while you’re here.”
After our day tour, Brett met us at 7 p.m. at “The Cowboy Bar”, aka “Mr. Wit’s”. Let me see how to describe this. It felt like the House of Blues meets steakhouse meets Thai karaoke bar. They get an amazing lineup of Thai musicians and they have live music every single night from 7:20 pm to 1 a.m. To my visitors – we WILL go there! We listened to music and ate an adventurous dinner – including soup with chicken feet (I had the broth) and fish stomachs (tried it – like a fishy mandarin orange.) My recent forays into vegan eating have been put on pause, obviously!
We also found out that our school doesn’t start until Thursday, so we have four full days to explore the town, get unpacked and settled, and fit in some day tripping adventures. Tomorrow we’re off to Erawan National Park to swim in the famous seven-tiered Erawan waterfalls. And the forecast for tomorrow is 39 C (100F), with 51% humidity. Waterfall weather, surely!
I’ll leave you with a catch phrase that was posted all over the bar last night: “Give 100%, Live 100%.” That’s just about the most perfect, succinct way to describe what this place is all about. I could go on, but here is what I’m really trying to say: I’ve never felt so welcome. I expected to walk into a classroom in rural Thailand and wing it, not knowing anyone and hoping like hell that I could convince the students I knew what I was doing. Instead, there is a small entourage of kind people who are so happy to have us, and who have literally gone out of their way all weekend to welcome us to this town. And the thing is, they don’t think anything of it. This is just how it is.
Onward and upward. Thanks for being wonderful, Thailand.