Realizing the Inevitable

Underneath the stairs, its scurry is heard,
Waiting for my foot to take its last step.
My imagination piques the absurd
About all the places it has crept.
I see a claw dart into the shadows,
Next to the glow of iridescent eyes.
As the deep terror within my hear grows,
I seek the inevitable surprise.
It will gather me into its clutches,
And whisper to me the stuff of nightmares.
It will corrupt everything it touches,
Making me a servant of its dark lairs.
As my vacation arrives at its end,
The horror of reality begins.

Fizzling Out – The Last Hurrah!

It is not like I had grand plans for these couple of nights in downtown Bangkok. The whole reason I had come down here was to get some paperwork taken care of so I could move to Jordan next year. I also did not plan for it to be my last hurrah in Thailand as the rest of the year looks like it will be online and in my home. Like the rest of the world, it will be looking at the simple life and staying safe, and I just have to accept that this is the way of the end, not an a grand epic image, but a quiet fizzle sitting in my hotel room after getting some business taken care of.

Granted, things could open up again and I might have the possibility to have a quick trip to a nearby national park I haven’t been able to see yet, but the new cases in Thailand have stayed at a steady 1,500 a day, and the holiday of Songkron had sent people all over the country creating what will likely be a super-spreader event. Thailand has still not rolled out the vaccine yet waiting until the fall before they set their plans into motion, so it does not look like relief will happen soon. People will just have to hunker down and hope for the best.

Even my school is starting to dig into the trenches. There were a couple of close calls over the last couple of weeks, but finally a person has come down with the disease and nobody is allowed on campus anymore. Luckily, most people have not been on campus for a couple of weeks because of Songkron break, and the fact that we had gone to online learning right before the break, but it is still disconcerting to know that Covid is creeping ever closer.

But for a lot of other places in the world, this has been the norm, and nothing new. I have been lucky that most of the time I have spent in Thailand was Covid free and I was still able to get to know this country I had just moved to. But there is really no way to keep this pandemic from reaching the borders of all the countries in the world. Even though North Korea claims that they have never had a case, I’m pretty sure that it has visited there as well.

With all of this in mind, it just means that my time goes out in a fizzle. Rain kept me inside most of yesterday after I got my chores done, and even if I wanted to go out and explore, a lot of the businesses are starting to get ready for the oncoming onslaught as well and it just meant that things would be hit or miss to begin with. But with each ending, there is a new beginning. Things may be looking down right now in Thailand, but they are starting to improve in many places in the world. I have a new adventure to look forward to soon by moving to a new place in the world, and in a couple of months I will be back in the United States and get to see my family again. So even though this is not the ending I was hoping for, the beginning is looking good.

Staying on Top of a Mall – The Last Hurrah!

The view from outside my hotel window at the Centara Grand hotel on top of CentralWorld in downtown Bangkok, Thailand

The big department store in Thailand is Central. It is basically like any other department store that you would find in any other mall across the world. When you enter one, you have the option of many different levels you can go to with each one designed to meet the needs of certain individuals. There are usually two levels designed for women, one for men, one for children, a combination of all three for sports gear and sports equipment, and couple more for toys and knick knacks, and another for kitchen supplies. Central takes it one step further with having some of their department stores adding one more level that features many fine restaurants that you can dine at like a five star food court including glass ware and fancy silverware.

Central also takes things one step further than many of the other department stores around the world. Though all of their shops are found in malls like many other department stores, unlike the other department stores, Central owns a lot of the malls that they reside in. They don’t only make money off of their own store, but they also make money off of all of the real estate that they rent out to the other stores in the mall. These big monstrosities are in all the big cities across the country with Bangkok having a few sprinkled throughout the city.

The biggest of all of these malls that I know of is the one in downtown Bangkok off of Sukhumvit, the main thoroughfare in downtown, called Central World. Just like any other mall, it is filled with a bunch of the biggest brand name stores, and tons of restaurants to eat at, both quick and sit down. It even has a movie theater. But what makes it stand out over all the other malls would have to be the luxury hotel that has been built on top of it.

Granted, this is downtown Bangkok, one of the places in the world where any piece of real estate is worth a small fortune. Add on to that, that this is the central part of this downtown area. It makes sense to make the most out of any space that is offered. Building huge, multi-purposed skyscrapers makes the most perfect sense. The CentralWorld Mall has done a great job of capturing this aspect with a large sprawling shopping area, a convention center, and a Centara Hotel to top it all off. It comes with its own outdoor pool and two full-sized tennis courts. It offers comfortable rooms with amazing views of the Bangkok landscape.

It is a little weird having to walk through a mall with all of your bags to get to the elevator that will take you to the Hotel’s reception, but otherwise, it has been a great spot to get done what I need to get done in downtown Bangkok. It is close to all of the places where I need to go, and it is connected to a BTS station so I can get to any other place quickly as well. I know it is not the craziest experience of my life, but under the current situation and the fact that this will be my last hurrah for my time in Thailand, I will take it and enjoy it while I still can.

The Last Hurrah! (Maybe)

It wasn’t planned this way. Of course, a lot of what happened over the last couple of years have taken all of our plans, thrown them out the window, put the car in reverse so it could run over them and drive them into the mud, and then had gotten out of the car so it could have the pleasure of smashing them further with the heel of its boot. The common phrase I have heard during this time is that we will have to wait to see what happens, and then plan for the worst. And the worst is never the worst; the last couple of years have always found a way to make it worse.

But I have tried to keep a positive outlook on life, and luckily I have found myself in a place that was not hit as hard by the Corona Virus pandemic, so at least I could travel around the country of Thailand and enjoy it beaches and beautiful sights. I just couldn’t leave. It led to me making the decision for seeking a new position in a new country next year, and as the days ticked closer to the last days in Thailand, I kept anticipating the last trip I would take in this country. It would be my last exploration of this culture, the last run through the tropics, the last hurrah of Thailand.

But then Covid reared its ugly head again. It has come and gone many times throughout the last couple of years, but it was never a huge threat. It would just shut things down for awhile and then open them up again so we can go back to life with a semblance of normality. But it came again as I was taking on that final stretch into the end of my time out here, and now, what my be my last hurrah is not as exciting as I thought it may have been.

One of the things I needed to get done before I left was to visit the police station in downtown Bangkok in order to get a background check for my time out here in Thailand. It wouldn’t take that long, but I would need to take a day off in order to go through the process and considering that it is so difficult to drive down to downtown Bangkok and back, we decided to get a hotel room to take care of it. We could get a nice meal out of it, and hit our favorite spots down here one last time. But considering that everything is closing up again in Thailand, it might be the last time that we are able to get out of the neighborhood before we leave. It is not as exciting as I was hoping, but it is all I am going to get, so I have to make the most out of it.

It is a typical way of looking at what has been happening to not just me, but all of the people all over the world. The expectations we have had over the last few months keep getting put on hold, and we have to make these adjustments to allow for life to continue. Of course, it is not the ideal, but it is also not as bad as I thought it might be either. It just a lesson in being flexible and making the most out of what life gives us. It might not be the last hurrah, the amazing blowout, that I had hoped for, but I am still getting the opportunity to have a last hurrah. I should be happy that I am getting that because there are many people all over the world that are still stuck in their homes and haven’t had much to hurrah about over the last months at all.

And who knows? Thailand may get this outbreak under control quickly, and I will be able to have that last hurrah I was hoping for. Either way I will be ready for it.

The Importance of a Break

I have a good friend who grew up in Britain, and he is always making fun of my work habit. Growing up, I was taught that hard work and constantly pushing myself to accomplish the things that my company or organization that I worked for would make me a valuable member of society. I pushed myself so hard sometimes that I would feel worn out at the end of the day and would work for long streaks without ever taking a break. There was one time when I was earning my teaching degree that I had a streak of 28 days in a row where I commitments with either work or school. In my mind, this made me important.

This idea is still a part of who I am. Rarely do I take a day off from work. Granted, as a teacher, it is actually more work to take a day off from work than it is to show up sick and just work through the pain. Of course, my thinking about this has changed with the recent pandemic, and I have since taken a few days off when I have had a cold, but even then it was a struggle.

One of the benefits of being a teacher though is having these times throughout the year where I get to take an extended break. With my work ethic, this does not mean that I stop working; it just means that I have more time during the day for myself. As an English teacher, I always have a stack of student writing that I have to chip away at, and during the summer, I have to read the works I am planning on teaching and coming up with ways that I can get my students to connect with them. But this only takes a couple hours a day as opposed to the ten to eleven hours I work on a normal school day.

If my British friend was reading this right now, he would be laughing at me and calling me a fool for putting so much effort in to an employer that would turn their back on me as soon as I decided to move on to another location. And I hate to say it, but he would be right. There are many other people that dedicate a lot of their time and energy to their profession. A lot of these people happen to come America because they are all chasing for that elusive dream that they have been told is out there. They just have to give a little bit more of themselves, and push a little harder in order to get it. What they do not realize is that this dream is already right in front of them, and as long as they accept that they already have what they are looking for, they won’t push themselves so hard to get that other things that the great American Dream is trying to sell us on. I would be a happier individual if I could only just accept this fact.

It shouldn’t come down to how much money I make in order to determine my happiness even though this is the thought that has been sold to me at a very young age. It also is sold as me working hard to make money for others so they could throw me bone from time to time and I will feel important. Another way of looking at it is trickle down economics. I work really hard to make money for somebody else, and it is not really about my happiness or how much I enjoy the work I am doing just as long as another dollar is made for the man on the top of the ladder.

But this is where my British friend comes in. Just not him, but all of the people I have met over the years from Europe. They have a different kind of thinking there. It is not about how hard you work, but how much you enjoy the work that you are doing. Now I know that there is not a single job out there where there will be a task that you will have to do that you will not enjoy. Being an English teacher is this way. I am not a big fan of reading developing writing about the same subject over and over again. It is really painful. But there is a payoff in the end. I do enjoy watching my students develop as writers as they slowly start how to get to that level as a writer that will make them successful in life. I enjoy talking about literature and thinking about the bigger ideas presented by the greatest writers in history. I love connecting students to reading and watching them become lifelong readers. I just love consuming media in general and I enjoy talking about how to consume it with an active mind.

This is where the problem comes in. For all of the things that I love that feed me energy to continue to do the job I am doing, the routine and humdrum existence of my job are enough to wear me down after awhile and make going to work a chore rather than a joy that I always hope it will be. I need a break from the routine to look at thing with a new perspective. I need to put the humdrum aside for long enough so I can get excited about all of the other aspects of the job that I love. For this reason, I need those breaks that so many people view as a benefit as opposed to something that I need in order to maintain my sanity. It is what allows me to be the effective and engaging teacher that I know I can be. 

But this is not the same attitude that a lot of companies in the United States take. They want to get the most out of their employees and they will do everything to make sure this happens. Yes, they will give them a couple of weeks vacation throughout the year, and they will close down for national holidays, but otherwise, they expect their employees to be there most of the time. This is taken up a notch in Korea too. They have their employees working ten hour days, and forcing them to spend their downtime with their bosses outside of work. They are not given much time off to recover from their hard work and they are constantly pushing themselves to do bigger things and more of them. The reality of the situation is that Korea has the most work hours out of any nation, and also the lowest productivity rate during those hours. Their workforce is overworked, and this is evident when you see the amount of effort they put in to get their job done. They spend more time scrolling through their phones rather than completing their tasks. If they were given more free time, they might actually spend that work time being more productive.

There is the other end of this spectrum as well. Scandinavian countries give their employees on an average three to four weeks of vacation time per year with Sweden claiming that the average worker there only works a six hour work day. Looking at the quality of life index and the rate that people are happy in that country, and you will see that most people are happier here than anywhere else in the world. It might be because they have a healthy balance between work and life where they do not have to feel stressed out about getting those little things done during the day and still have time to enjoy with other people. Now, I have never lived in any of the Scandinavian countries and only visited there for about two weeks over ten years ago. I cannot say if this is the reality of the situation or not, but I am willing to find out.

Basically, my point is that we are all happier when we take time off and enjoy the world around us. We all have stressful jobs, and working as a high school English teacher is no exception. Even though I still do work during those periods that I am supposed to be off, I value that time and look forward to it every time it comes close. I also find that I am more productive and a better teacher when I get back into the classroom after an extended break. I know this goes against the bottom line for a lot of companies, but if they started to do the same for their employees, they also might find a change in the work force production.

10 Moons – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Most of the time I do not concern myself with the places I stay while traveling. I rarely spend time in my hotel and I am usually out and about, so why would I spend a lot of money at a place I would only use for the bed. But there are certain places in the world where the place can make the difference between a great stay and a forgettable one. The island of Koh Lipe is one of the places, and though I cannot compare the place I stayed with other places on the island, I was so pleased with the experience that I had at 10 Moons resort that if I ever came back to the island, I would stay here again.

10 Moons is located on the Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe just over the edge where many of the other resorts park their longtail boats for the evening, so when you come down for breakfast or hang out on its sandy beach, you do not have this eyesore to look at. Instead you get to look at a clear blues water that stretches out over an expanse of coral reef. And if you get up early enough, the sunrise is worth the alarm clock. I did not do it every morning, but was happy that I had gotten up at least once during my stay there. The mornings are a calm time on the island and the view is just spectacular.

There are plenty of fish swimming around the coral reef which makes it the perfect spot to go snorkeling. 10 Moons have a plethora of snorkels that are free to use if you are a guest there, and they did a great job sanitizing them during this time of Covid, so it made me feel safe to use them.

And if you tire of the scene right out of the hotel, 10 Moons included a snorkeling day trip for us to an even larger stretch of the coral reef with even more fish swimming around it. It was a long day the day we went, but it was worth the effort. The sights I saw while swimming over this expanse of ocean forest was mind blowing, especially for a guy that has spent more time in the mountains than looking out over what nature has to offer in the oceans. If you like more adventure and prefer to do scuba diving, this is also offered at the hotel. Another group that was staying there with us went out every day scuba diving and went on one trip that was organized by 10 Moons itself.

There is a ton of wildlife that is able to be spotted on the shore as well. I came across many crabs, both soft shell, and hermit, as well as a ton of bird including crane, and monkeys and monitor lizards. You also have the soi dogs that can be found anywhere in Thailand, but they are friendly out here and not very teritorial.

10 Moons basically adopted the most famous of the all, Smiley. When I first saw her when we first arrived, I felt sorry for her and the obvious deformity around her mouth, but we were told her story about how a couple of the local boys tied plastic around her mouth when she was young and she lost her lips because of it. Once we learned this, we felt sorry for her, but that soon faded as well. She just became a part of the place, and was always wandering around with her tail wagging. She never really learned about the way she was mistreated because of the amount of love she received from the staff and most of the customers.

The rooms were very comfortable as well. There are a couple of them that are available right on the beach with their own deck furniture, and there are more on the hill that sprawls out behind the resort. Each place has its own patio with amazing views of the beach below though the higher up you get the more likely you are going to lose the view of the sea and the sunrise to the trees. But this is a small price to pay for the comfort of the rooms. The wifi got a little spotty if you left the resort’s reception which was a little annoying, but at the same time, I was not out there to be contacted by work, and this was the best excuse as to why they couldn’t get in touch with me.

The restaurant had decent food as well with option both in Thai cuisine and western dishes. I liked to eat there for lunch because of its convenience, but there are many other places on the heart of the island which served better food. But the staff was friendly and they got to know us pretty well and our tastes as well.

It is a little bit of a walk to Walking Street, the heart of Koh Lipe, and I would not recommend going down there during the heat of the day. But as soon as the sun starts to set, it is only about a fifteen minute stroll down there, and there are a lot more restaurants to choose from down there. You can get any type of food you want as well with restaurants serving Thai, Italian, Steaks, American pub, and breakfast 24/7, but my favorite was the Box. It is a Spanish tapas places with a couple of Mexican items on the menu, and the food is pretty authentic. If you plan ahead and make a reservation the day before, they can even put together an amazing paella dish that would rival some of the best I have had in Spain.

I do think that Koh Lipe is a place that everybody should add to their itinerary if they are planning a trip to Thailand even though it does take a little while to get down there. If you go, do plan on staying for a few days, and I would highly recommend staying at the 10 Moons resort while you are there. It is one of those places that will stay with you long after you have left.

The Three Beaches – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Anytime I find myself on an island, the first thing I ask myself is how are the beaches. Koh Lipe is no different. The island has basically three different sides, and each side offers its own beach, and each beach has its own thing to offer. The first beach I saw was Pattaya Beach. It stretches in a horseshoe on one side of the island and has a couple of docks along it. It is the place where the ferries drop people off and it has quick and easy access to the Walking Street. The sand is nice, and the water is warm, but every time I made it to this part of the island the shore was covered with boats and tourists wanting to get on and off the island with their bags. It is an extremely crowded part of the island, but I also came out here during one of the busier times of the year, the Songkron holiday, and I am sure that if I had planned a little better, it wouldn’t have been so crazy.

Looking out over to the west is the Sunset Beach. This is the least developed part of the island. Part of the main reason for this is that the beach is completely covered up here during the high tide, and the only thing that is left is a rocky shore with a couple of hotels. The beach is wide open during the sunset and there are a couple of ways to get there. You can follow the shore line until you get to the tip of the island or you can head inland and walk down the main road until you get there. It is a great place to view the sun as it dips over the large island just a little ways away from the shore, but it is usually crowded and once again that might be because of the time I was here. The people who stay on this side of the island like the quiet that is offered during the day, and the ability to quickly leave to head out to the many dive sights that around the area.

I stayed on the Sunrise Beach. The tide does take away a lot of the beach, but there is always enough room to find a nice spot to relax on. There are a bunch of resorts that line up and down the beach, and each of them likes to park their longtail boats just off shore during the night. During the day, most of these boats are used to pick up customers from Pattaya Beach or taking people out to the many spots on the other small islands around the area. Luckily my hotel was at the very end of the beach where there was a little more privacy and less boats, and offered what felt like my own sandy paradise.

All in all, it doesn’t matter where you stay in Koh Lipe, all of the places here are great. And if you are not supper happy with the place you find yourself, it does not take much time to move over to another spot, and enjoy the view from there. Koh Lipe is just a great place to be for vacation and I am glad to have been able to make it out here during my time in Thailand.

Dri-Dock, A Review – Koh Lipe, Thailand

It is a common sight to see people walking around the island of Koh Lipe with either scuba diving gear, or on a lesser note, snorkeling equipment. The island sits right next to a huge corral reef, and there are amazing spots to go check out the fish and what else might be hiding in between the nooks and crannies underneath its sea. We were able to go just off shore from our hotel to see some amazing sights, but yesterday we took a trip to another island to check out the reef in all of its majesty.

In anticipation of this event, I made an impulse buy on Walking Street, a phone case that claimed that I would be able to take pictures underwater up to 30 meters down by a company called Dri-Dock. Considering I was only going snorkeling, this seemed like the perfect thing to take out on this trip. I took my purchase back to my hotel and tested it out in the little bay just a few steps away from reception.

First of all, it did keep my phone dry. In fact, it did a really good job of this. I was impressed by the way the slip of plastic would seal up and prevent any form of moisture from getting through. And when it was above water, it did a great job of taking pictures. It did not look like the phone was in any case whatsoever, and the pictures turning out as great as the normally would.

But when I tried to take underwater pictures, it did not work as well. Now, keep in mind that my phone is an iPhone6 and I know that the technology has gotten better over the years since I bought it, so some modern phones might have a better ability to take these pictures. But I would press the button on numerous occasions, and sometimes it would click, and sometimes it would take a burst of photos sometimes up to 275 of them, or it would just not work at all.

When there were no fish in the picture, it did much better, but that is not why I wanted this addition in the first place. This corral reef had some amazing fish swimming around it and I would have loved to have gotten a couple of pictures of some of them. If I did get a picture of a fish, it was too blurry to really see what it was, and I just had to settle of photos of the underwater landscape.

I can’t complain too much though because I was able to get a couple of great pictures that I would have never gotten otherwise. It did do a good job of keeping my phone dry, and I only spent twelve dollars to have this ability. Overall, it was worth the purchase.

I don’t plan on going snorkeling again anytime soon, but I will use the Dri-Dock bag again on one of my many adventures on a kayak or out on sea. It will give me the piece of mind of have been looking for when I go out on these adventures and I worry about taking my phone with me. Now, I can get those shots that I have always hoped of getting. I just wish it worked a little better underwater.

Camera Play – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I have been told that it is no the camera, but it is the photographer that makes the picture. And to a certain extent I agree with that assessment. It is about the knowledge of how to use light and composition, and if you know those two things you can take some amazing pictures even using a disposable camera if you can still find one that is.

And I don’t claim to be an expert photographer and there is a lot that I still need to learn about the craft, but I think I take some pretty good pictures using an iPhone6. It has treated me well during the six years I have been putting together this blog, but I am starting to see some limitations with the device. The zoom features does not work great and cause me to get some pixilated pictures if I zoom in too far. When the sun goes down, the hope of taking a good picture gets thrown out the window, even with its flash feature. And when I am close to water I am afraid of getting it wet, and let’s not even talk about trying to get a picture underwater.

But I have reached a place with my phone that I am willing to take more risks to push the limited capabilities that it does have. Being in Thailand, there are many photo opportunities I did not try for because I didn’t want to ruin my phone. But considering the last time I took my cracked screen to an Apple genius and they laughed at me before changing their expression and saying, “Oh, you’re serious,” I think that it might be time for an upgrade.

This means that I went out and purchased my first ever accessory for my phone, a Dry Dock camera case. It is a camera case that seals up my phone airtight, and allows me to take pictures underwater. It doesn’t have the greatest capabilities and claims to only go down 30 meters. Considering that I don’t plan on going that far underwater ever, and that I will be going on a snorkeling trip to see the coral reefs off of the coast of Koh Lipe, it seemed like a safe purchase to make. I would still a little nervous about how well it would work, so I went out to take it for a spin in the area by my hotel.

The first time worked well. It take a little effort to take a picture, but it seems like I will get a couple of great pictures and my phone my survive for another year of taking pictures for my blog. So here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping for an amazing photo shoot as it becomes more about the camera and less the photographer.

Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I know a lot of people think about vacation and they get this image in their heads that all they will is find a hammock somewhere, nestle into it with a good book and ask the closest waiter to bring them another smoothie. And yes, a beach vacation involves a lot of that, but every once in awhile, you need to remove yourself from the hammock and see other parts of what the island has to offer. Koh Lipe has a nice section of the island devoted to this other activity and it is the perfect place to head to as the sun starts to sink in the sky, and things start to cool off, Walking Street.

Depending on which side of the island you find yourself on, it is either really easy to find or rather difficult. If you are on the Pattaya Beach side, there is a big entrance marking the street right across the sand from the plastic dock where the boats will drop people off at. But if you are on the Sunrise Beach, it is a little more difficult to find. First you have to locate the Anda Resort and then walk through its grounds and the nice big pool where everybody is relaxing. You then look for the big entrance to the right of the resort that will indicate you have made it to the bustling part of the island. You will have to watch out for the motorcycles on this street because it is one of the main thoroughfares but if you keep looking to the left, you will eventually find walking street and will be a lot safer.

Walking Street has a lot of shopping opportunities, but more importantly, it has all of the best restaurants. None of these establishments look over the ocean, so in order to attract the tourists that make it to this island, they have to try a different approach; they have to have good food. There are a variety of food options from vegan and vegetarian dishes, to Spanish tapas, American cuisine, Italian, seafood, and of course, a bunch of Thai restaurants. Two of my favorites so far are the Elephant which has a great bar and some really good burgers, and the Box which is a Spanish tapas place with a chef that came from Spain to add some authenticity to the dishes. If you call ahead, you can even get him to make a paella for a larger party.

It is not just the night life that makes it a fun place to visit. There are many sites that will keep you turning your head every minute, and of course, if you pay close attention, you will come across those minor details that prove that you are in a tourist destination. It is always one of my favorite things to read signs that have been translated from the native tongue into English in order to attract more customers. I don’t know if these mistakes are made on purpose in order to bring people in to have a little laugh, or if they discovered the magic of the mistake after it is made. Either way, it is always something to look for, and for some reason these are usually the places that have the most amount of customers.

Walking street is the place to make it to during the nighttime while in Koh Lipe. It gives this small island a little bit of everything you look for when choosing a getaway vacation. You have your beach living during the day, and vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down. It is a site that must be checked off your list if you ever make it this far south in Thailand.