The Perfect 24 Hours in Bangkok

24 hours in Bangkok is certainly not enough but you can get a lot done in that space of time with some careful planning. The key to accomplishing this is to choose your activities that are all based in a similar area or close proximity to one another. One of the most ideal areas to do this in is in and around the Old Town of Bangkok.

Start your morning off bright and early to avoid walking around in the humid heat. In all honesty, this will probably happen anyway but at least you can enjoy one sight in the hot but cooler temperatures. Head to the Wat Pho Temple when it opens at 8am in order to avoid the hoards of tourists and the midday heat. Before even entering the temple grounds, you will be in absolute awe of the colours, intricacy and pure size of the temple. No words can truly explain the beauty that you will witness but maybe hopefully these pictures will give you a slight glimpse. Additionally, Wat Pho is home to the giant reclining Buddha. The entrance cost is 100 baht, which is more than reasonable.

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Next, take a stroll to the Floral Cafe at Napasorn, which is approximately 1km away. This cafe is seriously beautiful. The combination of its exquisite floral themed decor and its delicious drinks and cake menu make this cafe such a hit. It opens at 10am, just in time for a refuel after exploring the temple. Additionally, the cafe is strategically placed in between the bustle of the Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market, which is next on the agenda. Check out my post dedicated solely to the Floral Cafe at Napasorn here.

 

As you step out of the Floral Cafe at Napasorn, you will enter the main road of the Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market. This is a thriving wholesale flower market which supplies most of Bangkok with its daily dose of fresh flowers. Here, you will find a variety of different flowers that range in colour from natural to artificial. It is well-worth going to and will leave you with a boosted and refreshed mood, ready to move onto the next adventure.

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Just around the corner from the flower market is a little organic ice-cream parlour that is definitely worth a visit. Farm to Table, Organic Cafe serves some of the best ice cream in Bangkok, which is often needed in the heat. However, if you are looking for a more Thai ice cream experience, this cafe’s has got you covered at their other location, farm to table, Hideout. This cafe is literally around the corner, hidden down an alley-way. Besides the delicious ice cream, their decor is on point too.

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After this little sugar rush, take a walk to China Town, which will take you along the Chao Phraya River and some side roads until you reach the hustle and bustle of people, vendors and chaos (the good kind). China Town is a maze of the weird and wonderful. You will see the most foreign foods that your mind probably won’t be able to fathom as to what it could be, you will be surrounded by hundreds of people in every direction and you will have a whole new cultural experience. If you don’t feel up to trying some of the street food, there are plenty of restaurants around. If you are looking for something trendy yet well-priced then head over to Lhong Tou for some dim sum.

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After a long day of exploring, you will probably just want to grab a cheap meal close to your accommodation or order room service. However, if you have some energy and feel like being fancy, head over to the Char Rooftop Bar at the Indigo Hotel. The view accompanied by a delicious cocktail won’t disappoint!

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Hope this has helped anyone in or headed to Bangkok soon! Another awesome 24 hours can be spent in Ayutthaya, just outside of Bangkok.

Kelsey x

 

 

 

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The Most Beautiful Cafe in Bangkok

Bangkok is filled with beautiful cafe’s, many making use of the tropical weather that encourages plants to overflow with life. However, the Floral Cafe at Napasorn has a more delicate and alluring feel to it as you sit surrounded by a botanical garden of flowers.

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You walk in to the first level where, on the left, you are met by a sprawling display of different antique and modern vases, with delicate tea cups and saucers dotted in between. On the right, there is a cold room filled with a variety of blooming flowers from which the florists carefully picks their desired choice for the display they are working on. The next level up is by far my favourite of them all. You enter the level where you’ll be met by a friendly barista, a glass cabinet filled with different cakes and the most exquisite flora filled wall.

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However, the true gem of this cafe is the room right next to the barista’s station. You are met by an abundance of natural light rushing in through the open plan windows, which lights up the various displays throughout the room. The first thing you will probably notice is the ceiling that is draped with flowers (that change throughout the year might I add) and chandeliers that glisten in the natural light. If the flowers aren’t enough to make you feel the love, then the quoted mirrors definitely will. “You are the cream in my coffee” captures the essence of this cafe in a quote.

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The detail of this cafe does’t end  in the decor, the drinks are made with care and elegantly served on a wooden saucer, in a class mug and accompanied with a porcelain spoon. When placed on a rustic wooden table with a single flower in a thin vase, it makes for a pretty good insta/photo opportunity.

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Another positive aspect of this cafe is its proximity to other attractions in Bangkok. Check out my post on The Perfect 24 Hours in Bangkok to find out!

Kelsey x

My first week as an ESL teacher in Asia

Today marks a week since I started teaching English to Thai children just outside of Bangkok and wow, it has been a whirlwind of emotions.

Growing up in South Africa, it was compulsory to learn a second language that was either Afrikaans or an African language (depending on where you grew up). So I can understand the struggle. However, the difference was that these teachers could speak English. Therefore, when we didn’t understand instructions, they could translate them for us or at least help us along. Unfortunately, I can’t speak Thai fluently and getting instructions across to the kids is pretty difficult. However, you live and you learn. My Thai is improving and i’m learning to simplify my English to a new level.

The first day was chaotic to put it simply. Being in junior school, the students are at the age where they are excited to start/go to school. Each child was literally a bundle of energy and I wasn’t prepared for what was about to hit me. The day before starting, we still hadn’t received any credible information about what our first day at school would be like. We were told to create a lesson that allows for the class to get to know the teacher and each other, whilst being fun. In doing so, we were able to get a feel of their level of English proficiency and boy, was it low.  Imagine being told to do something and understanding maybe three words at most out of the instruction. Pretty frustrating for both the students and teacher I’d say.

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In all honesty, my first day is a bit of a blur. After doing the in-country TESOL course, we were encouraged to be the fun and friendly teachers as Thai teachers are generally very strict. However, I think that backfired on me as the students basically just viewed me as a pushover. The kids were running around the classroom, wrestling each other to the ground and speaking over me, even when I raised my voice. Actually, this was mainly the boys. The girls are angelic students. I’m not being biased, just the straight up truth. This pretty much carried on until the third day.

Then I grew a backbone, learnt the necessary Thai words and showed the kids who is in charge of the classroom. Although the kids are still fiery balls of energy, they seem to be slightly easier to handle. After all, they are just being kids. Its been a tough first week but I can already feel it starting to get easier, meaning it can only get better from here.

In all honesty, us English teachers kind of feel like celebrities when walking around the school. The kids are fascinated with us. Every child waves, Wai’s (sign of respect in Thailand) or greets us when we walk past them, and when I say every child, I mean it! When the young one’s enter the class, they touch us as if to make sure we are real. It’s all very sweet and does make us feel very welcome in the school.

I have already learnt so many life lessons on this journey but one of the latest lessons I’ve learnt is to be grateful for what I have, such as growing up speaking English as my first language. Teaching the language has made me realize how hard it actually is to learn. If there is one tip that I can provide for people starting to teach ESL, it is that nothing prepares you more than experience. Basically, it will get better with time.

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After writing this, I realized that I have no photos of my school or kids, so I have just placed some quotes in between because sometimes all we need is some inspiration.

Kelsey x

 

Culture Shock 101

I am an adventurous person by nature. I love seeing the world through new people, places and experiences. However, moving to a foreign country is completely different to actually visiting one. When I say foreign, I mean outside of the Western world. I know many people who have moved countries within the Western world and yes, its tough. However, moving to a country with a completely different culture, language, food and way of life has bee one of the most daunting yet worthwhile experiences I have ever been through, well still going through.

Language Barrier

When moving to Thailand, I knew that there would be a language barrier. However, I was shocked at how much of a barrier actually exists. In the city of Bangkok, most locals can speak simple English but where I have been placed, barely anyone can. Its been difficult and frustrating at times when I’m trying to get a simple message across, figuring out what it is that I are about to eat or just saying where I would like to go. Even with the basic Thai that I have learnt, I am often misunderstood as the language has five different tones that i haven’t mastered, yet. Additionally, I don’t think my accent helps the situation either.

Food

If you thought you could move to Asia and carry on eating the way you always have, think again. Western food is much more expensive than the local Thai food and isn’t as easily accessible. The average street food meal will cost you between 40-60 baht, whereas a Western meal could be anything between 150-500 baht. However, sometimes the prices isn’t even enough to put you off! Sometimes the craving and familiarity of home just becomes too much and you will probably give in.

Thai food is delicious, honestly. However, sometimes the ingredients they use are so foreign to Westerners that it puts us off even trying the meal. I know its daunting, trust me, I’m going through it right now. But you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how delicious some of these ingredients are when developed in a meal the Thai way.

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Way of Living

The local way of living is vastly different from the Western way of living, which has been a major adjustment. I live in a big apartment block with 20 floors. My apartment is a big room with everything I need as a bachelor. However, as I walk through the corridors, there are full-on families living in most apartments, to which I have one to myself. I almost feel guilty every time someone sees me entering the apartment alone but it is simply a cultural difference that I have to get used to. Additionally, most houses/apartments don’t have a kitchen, which is totally foreign to me. Guess it’s Thai street food for me every night!

As I am living just outside of Bangkok, the local people don’t often see many Western foreigners (known as farangs but pronounced falangs). I’ll be casually walking around the local shopping center and look up to find a couple of people staring at me, and with no shame might I add! At first it was pretty intimidating but I’ve learnt just to take it in my stride.

There are so many differences between our ways of living but these are the things have stood out to be within my first two weeks in my new ‘permanent’ home. I’m sure plenty more will pop up once I start teaching.

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Reality hits…

Let me be real. Culture shock is hectic. You think, “Ah i’ll get used to this food” but that pizza craving just won’t go away and cheese is just so expensive. You practice your Thai and then someone says a short sentence to you. All of a sudden you are back to square one and don’t understand a single thing they just said. You think “I’ll just buy some pasta and sauce to make in my apartment”, then you realize you don’t have a kitchen and even the Western ingredients are expensive. You may feel like everything is counting against you and there might be a few tears involved but there is hope.

Tips

  1. In all fairness, you should really delve right into trying and testing the local food cause chances are, it’ll be really great. It will also allow you to interact with locals on a more personal level. This is especially the case in Thailand where food is something that brings people together. You will probably end up trying some weird but wonderful foods, that you would never have the opportunity to do so back home.
  2. Keep yourself busy – Go see all the attractions you want or even take a day trip somewhere just outside of your area. This way, there is always something to look forward to.
  3. Put some effort in and try to learn the local language.
  4. Do as much in your local community as possible – join the gym, buy their local produce or start Muay Thai.
  5. Treat yo’self! Be it that pizza, chocolate or cocktail – do it every now and then.
  6. Take in every experience and learn from it.
  7. Things aren’t always going to go your way but make sure you tackle every challenge with a positive mindset.
  8. Rather than simply consuming what is around you, create positive experiences.
  9. Work on a ‘passion project’ on the side (Mine is this blog and its been truly instrumental in keeping me up-to-date with what i’m doing but my emotions too).

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Kelsey x

A Guide to London’s Street Art

I have a short break between finishing my TESOL course and actually starting to teach, so I thought I would compile a post about my London adventures, well one aspect of them. Strangely enough, London was never on my list of top destinations. However, that all changed when my boyfriend moved to London to kick-start his career. I suddenly found myself working a ton of waitressing shifts to get there by Christmas 2016 and I did.

Despite the freezing temperatures (that is for South African’s), I was completely taken aback at how much I enjoyed this city. One of my all-time favourite things to do in London is to go looking for street art so I thought I would put together my own personal guide on the topic. I definitely haven’t captured all of London’s street art but can’t wait to explore the lesser known street art destinations in this beautiful city.

Brick Lane

Who would have guessed? Everyone. Brick Lane is basically one big piece of street art in itself. I know this is a fairly obvious destination, but I just couldn’t leave it out. This is where I have found the most magical and breathtaking pieces of street art, from entire buildings, to whole walls to door frames.

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The trick to finding these pieces of artwork is to meander down all the side roads, where you are bound to find at least one piece of beautiful artwork. With the many side roads come the many steps that I racked up on my Fitbit. However, there are plenty of cute cafe’s with some of the most delicious treats. I can’t say I’ve tried them all but I had the best hot chocolate ever at Dark Sugars (Do yourself a favour and get one).

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Just down a pathway off Brick Lane, you’ll find the Nomadic Community Gardens where waste has been transformed into art by the surrounding community. When I was there, it was Winter and very quiet. From what I have read, it has really take off and more adjustments and transformations have taken place. I’ll definitely give the Nomadic Community Gardens another visit on my next trip to London.

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Portobello Road

So this is also a popular road, especially among tourists and for good reason. Besides the numerous shops and market stalls selling everything under the sun, there is some interesting street art too.

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Something Different

Street art, and art in general, comes in many shapes, forms and size. A different type of art that I have witnessed twice in London has been art by the homeless, which can be found in front of The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The artworks range from flags around the world whereby people can place small change on their native flag, to beautiful portraits of people to expressive forms of writing about the state of the world. Such initiative and innovation is something that is close to my heart as I have worked closely with homeless people in South Africa. Being homeless isn’t always a choice and these peoples circumstances are hard enough without the general public looking down on them. Fill your day with a random act of kindness and support this initiative if you can.

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Another good street art destination in London is Brixton. I was only able to spend a short amount of time in the area so I can’t say I have the inside scoop. However, my next trip definitely include a whole day there – I can’t wait!

If you are looking for a more comprehensive guide to London’s street art, I found a really informative blog called Inspiring City, which is definitely worth a look.

Kelsey x

 

The Coastal Gem of Hua Hin

Most of my month in Hua Hin was spent completing my TESOL course with XploreAsia, so I wasn’t able to explore as much as I wanted to. However, I made use of my weekends & made sure I enjoyed the little things on offer!

Pala U Waterfall

One of the most memorable highlights of Hua Hin was the Pala U Waterfalls. It took us about an hours drive to get there by Songtauw (form of Thai public transport), but it was well worth it. When I say that this place is beautiful, I mean it. The part of the river closest to the entrance was packed with locals but as we ascended, it become quieter & a lot more dense. To be honest, we actually lost the trail. Thereafter, we attempted to follow the river up but after a few falls and some serious boulders, we decided to enjoy how far we got. Besides the beautiful waterfalls & lush greenery, Pala U Waterfalls has another attraction – the abundance of beautiful butterflies in a completely natural setting is something I won’t forget.

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If there are any tips I would provide for potential visitors, they would be:

  1. Take bug repellent. Trust me, you’ll thank me.
  2. If you really want to reach the upper levels of the waterfall, go on a guided tour.
  3. Take water – for some reason, people always underestimate the strength of this sun, not to mention the humidity.
  4. There is an entrance fee (About 300 baht for foreigners) so bring some money.

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The Beach, Specifically Sunrise

You know how people always say that waking up early to watch the sunrise is good for the soul? Well, I am now an advocate of that. An early morning swim in the calm clear waters whilst the golden-orange-pink sun rises over the sea is something I wish I could do every morning in my new placement area.

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If you aren’t a fan of swimming in the sea, there are various resorts and hotels that have pools, which may be used but at a cost. Whilst in Hua Hin, I went to the Dune Hua Hin Hotel, which has an awesome rooftop pool. However, the drinks are pricey and on top of that, we had to pay to swim.

Tropical paradise

Food Gems

Being in a completely different culture, knowing minimal Thai and being a Pescatarian (seafood & veggies only) was pretty difficult. There are four places/foods that come to mind immediately when thinking about my food experience. First is Ruean Thong Vegetarian Food. Honestly, their food and their staff made my day most days. It is a family run restaurant that puts some serious love into their food, which is a mixture between Thai and Chinese cuisine. Everything is freshly made and changes daily. If you have a chance, you should definitely try Pad-See-Ew (Soy fried noodles with vegetables), Red Curry with jack fruit over white or red rice , add their delicious mushrooms to any meal and their Pineapple Curry, which I wasn’t able to try but it’s still on my list to do so.

Secondly, just outside the school our training took place at, there was a little street food stall that sold the most delicious doughnutty pastries with condense milk. For South Africans, they were like Vetkoek but lighter. For 30 Baht, you can get a packet full of freshly made deliciousness! P.S. They are only open in the mornings.

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Third is the Korean BBQ. Where do I even begin? This was probably one of the most fun and engaging food experiences I’ve had in a long time. Each table gets a helmet-like cooking ‘stove’ that is placed on coals. You fry your meat on the elevated part and can boil noodles and vegetables in the stock-filled rim. This place has all kinds of meat, even jellyfish! Also, they have a large variety of vegetables, side dishes and Thai desserts.

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Fourth, coconut ice-cream. Do yourself a favour and buy some (or three in one go like me) from a local. You won’t be disappointed.

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Flower Power

Whether I’m at the Colombia Road Flower Market in London or flower-gazing at the slow markets in Cape Town, I absolutely love being surrounded by flowers and there was no shortage in Hua Hin. The streets were lined with different types of flowers and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of happiness.

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Hua Hin is a little gem on the coast. If you have the chance to go there or pass through, I would definitely suggest doing or eating some of things I have mentioned.

Kelsey x

The Journey Begins

Although I plan to share my past travel experiences on this blog, I thought I would start with exactly where I am right now, which is Hua Hin, Thailand. I’ve ended up in this little resort town through a company called XploreAsia, through which I am doing a TESOL course to become an English teacher. Before I got started on the actual course, XploreAsia organised an orientation week to welcome us to Thailand, as well as to become familiar with the culture, which is vastly different to that of the Westernized culture I’ve grown up in. The first two days were filled with admin and interesting talks that gave us a clear understanding about the culture, politics and history of Thailand.

Then Wednesday rolled around and the real adventures began. We started off the morning with a visit to a Buddhist temple called Wat Tham Khao Tao, which had beautiful views of the ocean and a giant golden Buddhist statue at the top of the stairway. If you plan on visiting this temple, which I genuinely suggest you do, be sure to go in the morning as climbing those stairs in the heat isn’t much fun!

Wat Tham Khao Tao
Beautiful Architecture
Midway up
Midway up
Golden Buddha
Golden Buddha at the top

After the temple visit, we visited another temple where we learnt how to meditate. The grounds of this temple is home to a wonderful organisation called Rescue Paws, which is dedicated to improving the lives of the many stray animals in Thailand, specifically Hua Hin. We took some of the loveliest dogs down to the beach for a walk and dip in the sea. I’m not sure who enjoyed the experience more – us or them!

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Happy pup!
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Penny lapping up all the love
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Sprite loving all the attention

That very evening, we were taken to a truly local Thai food market, in which we were the only farang’s (western foreigner…or guava) to be seen. We were split into groups and had to buy the ingredients needed for our Thai cooking class the following day. However, there was a catch. We couldn’t speak any English, nor could we point, forcing us to practice our Thai. The market was filled with fresh Thai produce (fresh to the point that some of the fish were still alive) that had an array of colours. The following day, we made the most delicious Som Tam, which is a spicy green papaya salad. I wish I had some pictures for you, but I was way too preoccupied with eating it.

Our final adventure for orientation week was visiting the rescued elephants at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation. These elephants have all been rescued from adverse circumstances and are looked after through a joint partnership between volunteers and the mahouts, who are the local elephant herders. Although I struggled to look past the fact that the elephants spend part of their day chained by the foot, it is obvious that they are well-cared for and loved by the mahouts and volunteers who are doing their best with the available resources.

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Can’t wait to share what we have been getting up to on the weekends 🙂

Kelsey