Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Scares and Excursions in Surin

I've been here in Surin now for just over two weeks, I've been working at the Surawhittyakarn School doing my last English Camp (for the time being anyway) We are teaching Mattayom 6 students which is the equivalent to the British 6th form so the majority of the students are 18. The school has 4000 students so its pretty big, we have had to run five, two day programs to enable us to get through all of the year. The school is one of the best in the city and houses some great minds, I have been working with students who will soon be going on to university to study: medicine, pharmacology, engineering and more, they are a seriously good bunch with a great sense of humour! All of the other camps I've worked have been for a maximum of three days but with this camp It's been considerably longer, we've been staying at the pretty decent "Petchkasem Grand Hotel", the thing that pleased me the most when I encountered it was the soft mattress on my bed, it's something I had been without for a long time.

We have been working from 9am until 4pm each day and have been free to do whatever in the evenings. The first night we went out, Will and I decided (of course) to find some bars, after a few drinks we thought we should head back as we had an early start the next day. The problem was we couldn't remember the way back to the hotel or even the name of it. Whoops. Feeling somewhat tipsy we decided to try and retrace our steps, we came accross some familiar looking places but ended up after some time just walking around in a circle. We kept walking until I spotted this very dark, very sketchy looking road come alleyway and I had the bright idea that it was a good shortcut to get where we wanted to go. You're very unlikely to be mugged or attacked in Thailand like you are in England so I wasn't scared of that but why, oh why, did I not think of the wild dogs that could have been, and were lurking down there. Shortly after entering the road thats when the barking started, what we had stepped on was a canine territory I'd wished we never. We thought we play it cool and just keep walking as at that point we couldn't see the dogs, maybe they were barking at something else (we hoped). It then became much louder and it was very aparent that it was getting closer, there was no chance of us running back so we had to bolt it to get to the end. The faster we ran the louder the ferocious noises became, I quickly checked behind me and saw at least four dogs chasing us but assumed there to be more. My heart was pounding and the adrenaline was pumping, there were no other people around in earshot so if these creatures caught up with us we were in some serious shit. I was running in flip flops which is almost impossible so I made the decision to kick them off to enable me to gain more speed, from here we just kept running as fast as we could until we reached the main road at the other side. It was here that the dogs stopped chasing us and we were safe, it was also here that the realisation of what could have happened sunk in, my heart was going a million miles an hour and it took a while for us to catch our breath. We were now out of immediate danger but I was minus shoes and we still weren't in any better position, the street looked vaguely familiar but again we still weren't sure. We continued to traipse the streets all the while my feet collecting everything Surin's streets had to offer. That day seemed to be the day the cockroachs were out in full force, it was pretty rank. Finally we found what we were lookin for; the hotel. Yay! I gave my feet a thorough wash and went to bed, that was enough exitment for one day.

After working the first five days we had the whole weekend off to explore,  naturally we went to find motorbikes as its the ultimate way to do it. We didnt really have a destination so just headed off out of the city to find some inspiration. After an hour or so we started to encounter some incredibly rural areas, the most rural parts of Thailand I've seen to date. As we rode through the village we got some strange looks coupled with some amazing smiles, it was certain that these folk did not encounter farang too often if even at all; they were all highly curious. After riding on through ducking and weaving all the chickens and cows we continued our journey until we spotted a big Buddha statue on a hill, this was obviously now our destination so on we went up the hill to check it out. When we reached it there was the most spectacular view from the top. After taking it all in we continued, in the close vicinity was a number of other interesting places, we found a replica of the Buddha's footprint in a peculiar looking building and a nature trail which we took by foot and nearly got lost in. It was then time to head back, sunset was soon upon us and we knew there wasnt a single streetlight for miles and miles. We made it back to a main road in time, what a fantastic day!

The following day we headed off again, it was much the same although this time we went much further. We came across another village and found a place selling beer, during our refreshment I quickly checked my GPS app to discover we were closer to Cambodia than we were to Surin so we thought we'd head to the border to check it out, we'd also heard of a big market there and wanted to visit that too. As we got closer it dawned on me that I wasnt carrying my passport and there are always police checkpoints in the border town areas. The worst that could have happened is I would of had to of paid a 1000 baht fine (£20) but I didnt really feel like doing that, that sum of money has been lasting me days recently. In any case we thought we'd risk it; might as well. The roads towards to the border were incredible, almost brand new, we picked up some serious speed and it was a mega rush. After an hour riding we reached the market and stopped to check it out, there was lots of stalls and I picked up a couple of Buddhist charms, one for me and one for Sorn my friend from Streetlamp who had kindly given me one a few weeks before. When we were finished with the market we headed the last short distance to the border itself. Almost immediately we encountered an immigration checkpoint although it looked very quiet and it was quite possible the policeman was asleep. We decided to just caine it straight through with no intention to stop, it worked out just fine. A bit further down we passed another and did the same thing, again all was perfectly fine. Then here we were at the border itself, it was a much smaller crossing to that of Poipet and immensely less chaotic. We had only come to quickly observe as we didn't want to push our luck our luck by sticking around too long so we turned around and headed back,  it was again the most excellent of days.

My impression of Surin has been entirely welcoming, it epitomises Thailand's slogan as "The Land Of Smiles" there are some great very friendly people here. It's not a common backpacker destination so should I not have had work here I probably would have never have visited. Tonight is our last night here so we're off out to have a few drinks, im looking forward to heading back to Ayutthaya now as I will be meeting my friend Barnsey who arrives in the country tomorrow. I will be moving out my apartment in a few days to continue my travels and start a new chapter.

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