Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shirley's temples

This is my friend Shirley from the TEFL course I did last summer in Krakow, Poland. She's currently working as a teaching assistant in her native Hong Kong and came to Thailand two days ago for a holiday with her colleague Jennifer. Serendipitous or what?

The three of us met soon after they arrived and took a stroll over to the Rajdamnoen Stadium to watch Thai boxing with Jennifer’s Canadian friend Greg. To add some colour, I should note that I’m the only one who doesn’t speak English with a North American accent. I’m also older and perhaps more world-weary, but when it comes to teaching English I have to admit I’m the novice.

We enjoyed the Thai boxing - which is a bit like ordinary boxing but with added bowing, ceremonials and kicking - and managed to have a worthwhile chat in the meantime. I confessed to Shirley some of the doubts and insecurities I have when it comes to teaching in Asia and she told me that I think too much. I think she might be right.

I was grateful, too, for Greg’s advice over the next 24 hours. He had a couple of choice tips about where might be a good place for me to work and he put my mind at rest regarding the relentless negativity of teachers on EFL forums. “Other teachers are too busy enjoying their lives to post there,” he said.

Yesterday the four of us did Bangkok’s biggies: the Grand Palace (and its shrine containing the super-sacred Emerald Buddha); Wat Pho (a temple with a 45-metre-long gilded reclining Buddha); and Wat Arun (across the river from Wat Pho and equally made of awesome).

I’d like to describe the dazzling and freaky ostentatiousness of the Grand Palace but, to be honest, my ownership of a camera makes that unnecessary.

“No commentary?” asked Shirley as I waved my camcorder about silently.

“No,” I said. “It would only be: ‘Ohmigod I can’t believe how amazing this place is!’” (Although, oddly enough, in the five years since I was last here, I'd forgotten.)

Similarly, there are no words to adequately describe Wat Pho, so here‘s a couple of photos:

Then came Wat Arun, which was a revelation to me; I’m not even sure I knew it existed on my visit in 2005. We arrived as the sun was setting, bathing its five towers in a golden glow (the sun, that is, not us) . Long before we headed back, I was buzzing with the thrill of it all.

Perhaps inevitably, today was something of a letdown by comparision. Left to my own devices, I’ve visited an arts and crafts exhibition and been on a guided tour of the all-teak Vimanmek Palace - but as cameras aren’t allowed inside and I’m very shallow, I’m sure it’ll seem to me soon as if I was never there at all.


  1. One of the roof tile at Wat Pho has my name on it! They were rebuilding it when I did the tourist bit in Bangkok (um 2002?) and selling roof tiles to raise funds!

  2. (realised I should have explained who I am.. Michelles friend Nikki in London!)