Wine I Love You

As one who loves her wine I just had to go and check out a bar which I had found through BK Weekend- an online magazine that give you information about places in Bangkok.
After much searching I finally found Wine I Love You nestled in among some other cool little places that make up Groove @ Central World, in the Rajadamri area of Bangkok.

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Wine I love You

It was empty when I was there but I can imagine that the place would be buzzing during the evening. I was nearly disappointed when I looked at the menu to find there were no glasses of wine to order-only wine cocktails. I love drinking alcohol but even I have limits, and as it was only 1.30pm I wasn’t really up for wine and rum in the same glass.
I thought to myself-an establishment calling itself “Wine-I love you” must have glasses of wine, so I sat down and asked, and 5 minutes later I had a glass of very lovely tasting red wine in my hand.

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Red Wine-mmmmm

 

They do a good range of food-appetisers, salads, soups, pasta, pizza, seafood and burgers. Both Thai and Western- with prices ranging from 95 baht for garlic bread, up to around 700 baht for steak.
There is indoor and outdoor seating and because it is situated in a small complex, if you choose to sit outside, like I always do, then you are shaded from the ever present Bangkok sun.

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Outdoor Seating

 

Drinks are reasonable as well-cocktails around 235 baht and the best news of all is that when I asked for the bill for my (two) glasses of red wine I was pleasantly shocked to find the bill came to 250 baht. I was expecting a bit more than that. I was a very happy girl.

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

I will definitely be going back at some point. It will make a nice evening out, someplace different. But the main reason is-Wine, I really do love you!

A Week in the Life

Saturday

I started a new term and my schedule has changed. I now work 9am-11.30am and then 3.30pm -6pm. So still two classes but I am on a split shift for which we get paid for an hour for doing nothing. Not complaining! I could go home but I decided to stay at work and busy myself with learning new things to do with my camera.

Sunday

I have two new groups so new students to get to know, and I think we have bonded already. It is important to connect with your students, that way you will get more out of them, they won’t be so nervous to get involved and it will be more of a pleasure to teach them. Sunday evening I met my friend, Chris, for a few drinks. We ended up staying out until after midnight. That was not the plan. The plan was to be home by 9pm but that never happens with us. There is always one more beer to be had. Thankfully we talked ourselves out of going somewhere else.

Monday

I left work at the usual time of 9.30pm and went to the bus stop. There are a number of different buses that pass by so you never have to wait long. However, one stopped which I hadn’t seen before, a white one, so I got on, thinking that it must go by my place because they all do. I told him I wanted to go to Supalai Park and he charged me 15 baht- a different fare to all the rest. Anyway the bus started to go in the direction of my home but then turned around and started to go in the opposite direction. I sat there for a few seconds and thought to myself; I need to get off, otherwise I am going to end up further away from home. I got up and moved towards the bus conductor and said:

“Bai Novotel?” (“go to Novotel?”- the hotel just opposite my place) to which he gestured that he didn’t understand.

“Bai, Novotel?” I said again slightly louder and more annoyed.

And when I realised he wasn’t going to understand me, I kind of stormed away from him and pressed the bell to be let off. When I got off I gave him a…”for f**** sake, I told you where I wanted to go, you took my money and now we are going in the completely opposite direction” sort of glare, and may have sworn at him under my breath.

Finding myself back where I started, I got on the correct bus and was home a few minutes later. Afterwards, I realised that it wasn’t the poor guys fault. There is another condo building called Supalai Park in the direction of where the bus was going. Plus it was me who had boarded the wrong bus. And I don’t speak enough Thai to say exactly what I needed to say. I was going to ask for my 15 baht back but again the language barriers are difficult to say the least. This is another reason why I need to learn more of the language.

Tuesday

Having got home at around 9.45pm I was having a cigarette on my balcony and I saw a huge bright, white light from one of the buildings opposite and heard a muffled bang. A few seconds later everything went black in the whole of my apartment building. Another huge bright light and muffled bang followed a few minutes later. I saw torch lights coming from the direction of the bang and light, and also torch lights coming from the apartment a few floors above me. It almost looked like they were communicating using Morse code. But my imagination aside the only thing to do was to go to bed and hope the electricity came on again soon enough to start the fan again. It did and I was saved from an uncomfortably hot sleep.

 
Wednesday

Coming home on the bus again, yet another incident of not speaking enough Thai. I get one of three or four buses to and from work, and I only know that the air-conditioned number 207 is 12 baht. This time I got the number 133 home, as I did the previous night, and gave her 10 baht because I couldn’t remember how much it cost. She gave me 2 baht change and a ticket that said the cost was 4 baht. Either she had thought I had given her 6 baht or I was mistaken and she had given me the correct change. I wasn’t. Do I question her over a mere 6 baht? I was torn between wanting to ask her and thinking well it’s only 6 baht. Again not speaking too much Thai I am sure it would get lost in translation. Lesson for the day- until I can speak more Thai learn the cost of all the different buses and give the correct money.

Thursday

I went to the gym to work out on the treadmill. After I had finished I went over the other side of the gym to work out with weights. Whilst I was doing that a Thai guy was sat astride the shoulder weight machine and he kept looking over. But it wasn’t a blatant stare. It was one of those that when someone wants to look at something they do a kind of sweep of the whole area, but their eyes actually stop for a millisecond on the thing they want to stare at in the first place. We are all guilty of it. I just thought: No.1- I thought the stares would stop, now I was living in Bangkok; and No.2-get on with your bloody workout and stop looking at me! Maybe he was impressed with my weight lifts!

 
Friday

I normally go to Thai lessons on Friday but having had a late night and feeling a little hung-over I got up later than planned. I decided not to go to Thai lessons and just hang out at home. Later on in the afternoon I started to get cabin-fever, as I normally do if I don’t venture out of my apartment all day, so I decided to go to the park to take some photographs. I have been learning more about my camera and wanted to take some shots out of AUTO mode. I took a motorcycle taxi to Suan Luang Park only to find that the park was closed. It is being tidied up for the King’s birthday on December 5th. The motorcycle taxi turned around and I asked him to drop me at the top of the road. I decided to walk back to my apartment and on the way I managed to take a few photos. You know when you get something in your head that you want to do and then you can’t do it for whatever reason? I was disappointed to say the least, but at least it got rid of my cabin-fever.

🙂

Diving in the Andaman Sea

A few years ago I went on a three day diving trip off of Ranong, on Thailand’s west coast, in the Andaman Sea. The Andaman Sea is part of the Indian Ocean and touches the shores of Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Malaysia and Sumatra. This is a very popular diving location due to the colourful coral and many species of tropical marine life-including whale sharks, leopard sharks and manta rays. As part of my TEFL course, I had paid for the four week course, accommodation and a job guarantee which was their full package, and because of this they threw in this diving trip for free.

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My Diving Buddies

I have a love-hate relationship with diving- actually to be fair I have only done it twice- but it is one of those things, for me anyway, that I never look forward to doing but once I have done it I want to go back for more. The problem is that I have terrible trouble with my ears. It is very painful to descend into the watery depths. If I don’t get rushed and can take my time I am fine, but descending too quickly and the pain is just unbearable.
We arrived in Ranong and boarded the “Sea World”- a 25 metre vessel especially equipped for these live-a-board trips. The air conditioned rooms are all located on the main deck providing sea views, sun decks and the communal “saloon” where you can relax watching TV or listening to music. The crew was fantastic, providing delicious meals for us in between dives, and looking after us while we were aboard.

We left Ranong around 9pm and more or less went straight to bed. It took about 8 or 9 hours to reach our first dive site- Koh Chi, 2km off the north east coast of Surin Nua. Imagine waking up and leaving your bunk to be greeted by a huge expanse of blue water, with no noise other than the squawking sea birds. The calm swell of the ocean as you sleepily get into your diving gear. It was rather surreal.

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Morning on the Ocean

Koh Chi has an average of 15 metres visibility and I saw a lot of marine life- clown fish, trumpet fish, bat fish, trigger fish, puffer fish, parrot fish, moorish idol, and blue starfish. In fact, looking in my dive log, this is the site where I saw the most fish. It’s very calm and relaxed down in that other world. The fish are just hanging out, going about their daily business.

Castle Rock was our next dive and this is where it went pear-shaped for me. This was our second dive of the day at 11.00 am and I only lasted 15 minutes. Actually it was 10 minutes, the last 5 minutes was ascending. I got my diving gear on and my diving buddy told me that there was a strong current at the surface so I had to descend quickly. I tried, I really did, but I had trouble equalising and I was in so much pain. Because I was trying to descend but couldn’t, we got swept away from the dive site. I gave up and signalled to my buddy that I wanted to go up. Reaching the surface I realised my nose was bleeding, and then I started to cry. I think I was a little shaken at how easily we got swept away. Plus the fact that I don’t like giving up on anything.

Before a Dive

Before a Dive

After a Dive

After a Dive

Afterwards, my ears felt like they had the whole ocean in them, but I pulled myself together and decided to stay on board for the next few dives and just watch the others from a “non-nose bleed and painful ears” vantage point.
The next few dives sites- Coral Garden, South East Point, South Point and Hin Kong were all done successfully, even though the nose bleed had put me off somewhat. But it was the last dive, at Richelieu Rock, that was the most stunning, and I was so glad I didn’t sit that one out. There was a bit of a current, but it was mostly calm making the conditions perfect for diving.

Richelieu Rock at Low Tide

Dive Site at Low Tide

Richelieu Rock is located about 200km northwest of Phuket and lies about 18km off the shore of Surin Island. It was discovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau as a recreational scuba dive site, and it is considered to be one of Thailand’s most iconic dive sites. It is a horse-shoe shaped reef, rising 50 m from the ocean floor to just below the surface at low tide. It attracts all kinds of marine life including scorpion fish, moray eels, and groupers which I saw. Other divers have seen the occasional manta rays and whale sharks passing by as well.

The corals, as well as the fish, are beautiful, ranging in colour from red to purple. And it’s from the colours that the rock gets its name. Some say that it is named after the red robes of Cardinal Richelieu, while others say it is named after a general in the Royal Thai Navy. Either way the colours of the coral are simply stunning. I spent 50 minutes in the company of the rock and its inhabitants. And for those 50 minutes I forgot about painful ears and nose bleeds and enjoyed what I was seeing.

Blue Andaman Sea

Blue Andaman Sea

I never looked forward to any of these dives, but once I was down there I relaxed and started to enjoy myself. If I get the chance again I will go diving again but I am not quite ready to go out and buy my own dive equipment just yet.

A-One Diving
256 Ruengrad Rd, Kaoniwate, Muang – 85000 Ranong – Thailand.

Mobile: +66 (0)81 8915510
Tel: +66 (0)77 832984
Fax: +66 (0)77 830984
Email: info@a-one-diving.com

My First Foray into TEFL

Back in 2009, having landed back in my beloved Thailand after three months at home, and spending a few silly drunken nights with a friend, I took a flight to Phnom Penh. I was spending the next two weeks in Cambodia’s capital city, as part of a month long TEFL course (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

My TEFL Course-Mates

My TEFL Course-Mates

I was told to meet the director of the course at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok, so I went to the designated meeting point, and spent the next few hours feeling on edge, not really knowing what was going on. He wasn’t exactly the most talkative fellow I have ever come across, and he didn’t seem to want to engage in conversation. But I arrived in Phnom Penh later that afternoon and met the other people that were doing the same course. I was slightly perturbed at the seemingly lack of organisation, and basically being left on our own not really knowing what was going on until the tour of the city and welcome dinner the next day.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh

The people were nice and hailed mostly from America. There was Lucie, who I am still friends with, from Czechoslovakia, and Bradley from England. Maybe it was because we were both British but Bradley followed me around a lot, which I didn’t mind too much. I think he was just a bit nervous to meet new people, which we all can be in certain situations. But being the social butterfly that I am, I made him have lunch with everyone one day, just so he would mix with the others a bit more. I remember one afternoon I wanted to get out and just have time to myself, so I went to a nearby bar and not long after I heard rustling in the bushes, and before you knew it Bradley had appeared and was asking if it was ok if he joined me. I couldn’t say no, so we sat there discussing our common love of Thailand.

A Little Visitor

A Little Visitor

The accommodation was, in name, grander than it actually was. It was called a villa. What do you normally think off when you hear the word “villa?”- Luxurious? Private pool? It was sadly neither luxurious, nor did it have a private pool. Granted, it was big and had enough bedrooms for most of the group- the rest were in a smaller place down the road. The villa was a little dated to say the least, and it was located in an area of Phnom Penh where all the street lights were turned off after 8pm. Not exactly party central.

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh

After two days of classes I found it was going OK but it was very tiring. Strangely, I kept wanting to burst into tears- part excitement at the prospect of working in Thailand, and part scared at how the hell I was going to be a teacher. So those first few days were a little up and down. We did activities together that were quite nerve wracking- we practised teaching exercises, and teaching classes using drama (I am no drama queen), but we were all in the same boat, so we just kind of got on with it and did what we had to do to pass the course.

Finally made it to the end of the first week. It was really tough going in parts but, after a long time off work, it was good to get my brain thinking again.

On one of our weekends off we went to Siem Reap. Lucie and I decided that we were going to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat, so when we got to the hotel we went straight to bed and got up at 4am. We had arranged for a tuk-tuk to pick us up and, as you usually find in Asian countries, everyone is on a different time schedule that you. Eventually, he picked us up some thirty minutes later and off we went. When we arrived it was still pitch black. We had to stumble our way to the temple not knowing what was around us or indeed if we were going the right way. We just followed the crowd of people that had all had the same idea as us.

Slowly but surely the sun began to rise lightening the day with its rays. There are no words to describe just how amazing it was. Although, we didn’t have to get up quite as early as 4am, I was so glad I was able to experience this. The sun came up behind Angkor Wat and it was just stunning. We had a laugh at ourselves because we both, seemingly smart girls, had thought a giant yellow balloon in the distance was actually the sun.

Is that the Sun? er... NO!

Is that the Sun? er… NO!

We weren’t sure where the sun would appear and eventually we saw it……..

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Stunning Sun-Rise

Later on that day we went back again with the whole group and visited a few more temples. It is really nice to wander around the grounds seeing the different buildings. There are a few temples where the jungle has grown up and around it, and you can scramble over the ruined buildings exploring them to your heart’s content. One of the temples was called Ta Prohm, where Tomb Raider was filmed. We finished the day sitting on top of a temple to watch the sun set. It was a very serene experience as long as you ignore the hundreds of other people doing the same thing. I really need to go back to Cambodia and visit these temples again and then do some proper research about them.

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Angkor Sun-Set

 

Back in Siam Reap we went from culture to debauchery- we went out for pizza at a place called Ecstatic Pizza, where you can get “happy” pizza. Yup, your normal margherita or pepperoni sprinkled with a dash of marijuana. Just to point out I didn’t indulge, when I eat pizza I am as happy as I need to be, but in Cambodia you can get high whilst eating if that’s what floats your boat.

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Happy Pizza- Siem Reap

Afterwards we had a couple of drinks in a bar listening to a band, which were actually really good, and then….. My fun was coming to an end because the others wanted to go to a karaoke bar. At the time I was very much into my clubbing and we actually had to by-pass a club to get to the karaoke place. Thinking back I don’t know why I even went, I hate karaoke. Although, I have since been known to belt out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” a few times, but that was in someone’s house, not out in public. Anyway, this karaoke bar… you get escorted to what looks like a padded cell, they provide you with drinks and snacks, and a microphone and choice of songs and away you go. I tried to get into the party spirit of things but you can imagine my face in that padded cell.

Karaoke Frustration

Karaoke Frustration

After two weeks in Cambodia I was back in Thailand to complete two weeks of teaching practise and Thai lessons. I had my first class proper teaching with a group of 25-50 year old men and women at the local church. The classes lasted for two hours a day and, at first, I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough material. I needed have worried though, we kept going off on tangents here and there, even going into maths for a while, so in the end I had plenty of stuff to teach them. My students were so nice and they made me feel very relaxed. They said “thank you teacher, see you tomorrow.” So I left that first day hoping that they had enjoyed it, and that they liked me. In fact, after two weeks I loved it so much I stayed on for an extra week.

My Very First Students

My Very First Students

My first experience of teaching made me realise just how generous and appreciative the Thais are. At the end of my third week teaching, my students gave me some gifts. I was overwhelmed. I had bought them all bracelets but that didn’t compare to what I received. I got a t shirt, bracelet, diary, home-made beer mats, a key ring, and necklaces. They also bought food and we had a little farewell party. I cried afterwards saying goodbye. I will always remember those lovely students. They made my first days of teaching in Thailand very enjoyable.

Taj Express- The Musical

In my attempt to get to know Bangkok a bit more I took myself to the Thailand Cultural Centre to see Taj Express- The Musical, which was part of Bangkok’s 16th International Festival of Dance and Music.

The Main Entrance

The Main Entrance

From Asok BTS take the MRT to Thailand Cultural Centre and then it’s a short motorbike taxi ride to the centre itself. One of the centre’s entrances is tucked away down a little soi- I am not sure I would have found it if I had walked.

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Thailand Cultural Centre Foyer

 

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Foyer

There was a covered walkway leading to the main hall with a mini-mart at the end, and a bar set up where you could buy alcohol- at not too pricey drinks- 180 baht for a glass of wine. I sat watching the crowds arrive with my wine, feeling like a proper theatre goer. In the foyer, where everyone had gathered before the show, were huge paintings at either end, and a resident piano player who was entertaining the smartly dressed crowd. It all felt rather grown up.

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Foyer

 

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Pianist

Back to the Taj Express. I have had a secret passion for Bollywood for a while now but I have never been to a show until now- the proverbial Bollywood virgin. Straight from Mumbai, the Taj Express was electrifying- a pure kaleidoscope of colour, music and fantastic dancing and energy. Being the optimistic person that I am, I actually wrote that BEFORE I saw the show and I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. My expectations were more than met. I loved it and I was so glad I went.

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The Stage

In a nutshell the story goes something like this- a girl born in London but from Indian descent is a high-flying journalist and her phone and laptop are her life. She goes to India to write about a love story, never expecting that she would be in the leading role. She gets to Mumbai and her phone is stolen and this guy chases the thief and returns her phone. They arrange to meet and realise that they are attracted to each other. The guy tells her to stop the relationship with her phone and live a little- so she throws her phone away and they travel to her hometown where she learns that her father has died. She was told by one of the villagers that her father had travelled all over India to try and find her. He never realised she was in London and in the end he died thinking that his daughter had passed away. After a very moving scene where she and the boy scatter her father’s ashes in the Ganges, they get married and are together forever at last.

At the back of the stage was a huge movie screen and images of Mumbai were shown to give you the impression that they, and you, were actually there. In the scene where the girl’s phone gets stolen the thief runs away with the boy hot on his heels- they run off the stage and the movie screen showed a video of a guy running through the streets of Mumbai with said boy chasing him. When they run back onto the stage the movie screen went off. In the scene where they are scattering her father’s ashes, they kneel in front of the screen with a moving image of the water and floating candles. Apparently, this is the first time in Bollywood musical history that the producers have mixed music, dance and film on stage. And I thought it really worked.

Then the whole place went black for about 10 seconds. It felt like it was a lot longer. I am sure everyone starting thinking that it was a technical fault because I could hear and feel people getting restless-myself included. 10 seconds is actually a long time when you are sat in darkness not knowing what is happening. But I think it was supposed to represent death. I thought it was a nice touch and probably achieved the reaction that the producers were looking for.

The dancing was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G- a combination of classical and sexy routines. It was so energetic. The costumes were colourful and imaginative, and the music made my heart almost beat out of my chest. I sat there in awe throughout the whole performance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photographs once the show started but the experience has been etched into my mind forever.

I cannot tell you enough how exciting it is to go and see a Bollywood show. If you have been you will know what I am talking about. And if you haven’t- well, I thoroughly recommend you go and experience a magical two hours. I can’t wait to go again.

Weekly Photo Challenge- Descent

Descent in different places 🙂

Rayong’s Fruit Farm

I went to Rayong’s Suphattraland-a huge plantation where different kinds of Thai fruit is grown. This was a few months ago, before I changed jobs- I went with my grade 4s on their school trip.

Suphattraland Rayong

Suphattraland Rayong

From Bangsaen, it took around two hours to get to the fruit farm and once there we had to wait for one of the Thai teachers to get our entry tickets. We didn’t pay because we were on a school trip but the cost is 300 baht for Thais and 400 baht for foreigners, but that includes fruit tasting and papaya salad for lunch.

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Papaya Salad for Lunch

On arrival you get a free drink of iced durian juice which is pleasantly refreshing. Then everyone piles onto the tour bus, which holds about 30 people, and it takes you through the plantation so you can see all the different fruits being grown. It stops briefly for you to taste the rambuttan which have been plucked from the nearby trees.

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Rambuttan

The tour bus continues to a large area where you can taste a few more different varieties of fruit-like mango, pineapple, dragon fruit, jack fruit and durian. All these fruits, as well as many more, are grown on the plantation. It was the first time I have tasted durian and I liked it. It is a large fruit with a sharp spiky skin and it smells of rotting flesh. But if you can ignore the smell you will be pleasantly surprised with the taste. It is very sweet and has a slightly strange velvety texture. It was quite delicious.

Durian

Durian

We had lunch at a little restaurant in the middle of the plantation and then went to look at the honey farm, where they breed their own honey bees. There are products that you can buy at over inflated prices. Royal Jelly, which is apparently very good for you, was a little out of my price range at 2500 baht (46 GBP). So I bought a bottle of honey instead but I am sure I could have got the same thing in the supermarket for half the price.

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Honey World

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I liked the visit there, it’s interesting for me to learn about new stuff, and there were plenty of tour buses arriving so the place is a popular tourist attraction.

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Rayong Fruit Farm

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If you have a spare afternoon, and are located in that area, or if you just want something different to do, Suphattraland is located at Ban Khai in Rayong province and is open every day of the week, 6.30am to 6.00pm.

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