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3 posts categorized "Olivia Massey"

Lesson Learned- The Time is Now


As soon as I let go of the irrational fear that I might die a shark death here, it became my new favorite place. Railay Beach, Thailand

I wanted to take a little time to answer some of the questions I have gotten from friends and family about traveling and living in Thailand. For those who have the same reoccurring thoughts about living or experiencing a different life, that quickly get pushed away to the part of your brain where memories from freshman year of college live, this one goes out to you. To those of you who is looking at participating in the CIEE program, and anyone that wants to travel but is scared, this one is for you too.

The Unwritten Rules-

There are unwritten rules in life that we follow. We don't know how we know them, we just do. These include but are not limited to treating your server like a queen because they hold all the power, whistling in any context is only fun for the whistler and absolutely no one else, and responding to a text with "k" is code for, go sit on a cactus. 

The same things applies when traveling, don't be "that," traveler that adds to our countries bad name, cover your shoulders especially around holy places, and live fast, travel slow. Don't try to mm-bop, Hanson your way through the country.  My best advice on traveling in Thailand is that spending quality time in one place outweighs going to many places in a short amount of time. What does that mean? If you are going to come to this country, figure out how to be here not just spark-notes skim over it, there is too much to understand it takes time to truly unfold. 

To Work it or Not-

 There is a stark difference to living abroad and working abroad. As a teacher in a foreign country, I have a purpose and a direction to stick to, and Mondays still feel like Mondays. If you like to multi-task, a pay check and a beach vacation at the same time, find a job abroad. They are easy to find especially if you have heard about resumes, and actually utilize them. It is mostly a good option if you are anything like me and your current bank account balance is equivalent to one road-trip worth of snacks at 7-eleven. 

 If taking a side road to your career and life is in the cards and you can put things on hold, travel to all the places, see all the things. For the love of all things right in the world, find time to shower. I am sick of dodging bed bugs in places that foreigners rain down upon in great numbers.

You Can Go Your Own Way-The Bucket Un-list

I read a quote recently that said, "travel not to find yourself, but to rediscover who you have always been." This struck me because, this isn't the typical song and dance that you hear. You always hear ideas about finding yourself, growing, changing, becoming the person we are meant to be. To me, that just sounds like a lame way to describe the life cycle of a butterfly. Those things already imply that you are lacking something and that you will have to travel many miles, in order to stumble across some profound, Societies-level insight about life. It doesn't work like that.

Go out in the world to find out what exactly you’ve got to work with already. We are equipped with many more abilities then we actually use, (see: drive through windows and online shopping.) Discover your own dark side of the moon, so to speak, the areas of yourself that can only shake out when you’re forced to live a different life. Turn that Bill Nye like, potential energy, into forward movement. I don't know much about science but I feel like I gathered that nothing changes if nothing changes. 

Koh Phayam or Bust

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Koh Phayam-

Koh Phayam is an island off the coast of Ranong, where Myanmar and Thailand come together and share the sandbox. This once, uninhabited island is a well-known German get-away, and is slowly becoming more popular for travelers of all walks of life . Koh Phayam is a low-key beach paradise and should be on your radar if you are in or around Thailand. If you're not on a Thai journey, then I guess I can't really help you. 

Getting to the Island of Koh Phayam- 

From Chumphon, I took a small mini van to Rangong, about a two hour drive. From the pier you make a quick executive decision based on the following premise, do you want to be sea sick or do you want to move at a glacial pace? I chose the slower option. This ferry, calming as it was, took two hours from the Pier. The other option is a 45 minute speed boat, a little faster for those in a rush to be beach side as soon as possible!

However you decide to get here, get yourself a tablecloth, I mean wrap, and a sun hat because cancer, you have arrived. 



This thing tops out at about 5 km per hour, but definitely buckle up for safety!

Rent The Bike-

Advice: Once you get to the docks, rent the motorbike, any motorbike. DO IT. There are no cars here, your only options in transportation are motorbike taxis, bicycles, and your own motorcycle rental. If you are on the fence about renting motorbikes, remember that you aren't Vin Diesel and this isn't Fast and the Furious. You will be fine. I didn't not rent the motorbike, I opted for the good old bicycle option. While the little 6 mile up-hill climb was certainly something, it didn't let me to explore the whole island. It really only allowed me to understand what it feels like to swallow bugs and bath in my own sweat, while in 100 degree weather. Not what I was looking for, but maybe that's just me. 



Ao Yai Bay-

Ao Yai is on the southern facing side of the island. Although it is a bay, it has a larger opening and feels more like you are exposed to the open ocean. As the island starts to flatten out here, there is many more accommodations, a small strip with bars and restaurants, and of course a few travel companies ready to whisk you on all of the deep sea adventures. After speaking to the other non-parents on the island, this is the side to go if you are not a kid person. Although there are children here, there are less of them. In my experience, screaming, naked, babies like to hang 10 on Buffalo Bay instead.


Buffalo Bay-

Buffalo Bay, also known as Ao Khao Kwai, is on the western side of the island and features a few bars, accommodations, a mangrove forest, and some top-notch views of the descending sun. The water is still and shallow, so float on Modest Mouse, you aren't going anywhere. When the tide is high, you have an insta-ocean backyard. When the tide is low, there’s about 200 meters of uncovered sand exploration to be had. On this beach, there are also frat parties, I mean full moon parties every month for the neon-paint, party seekers at a bar made into a ship called, Hippie Bar.  


When the tide is low, you hunt crab, or just mess with them...either way.


The children of Buffalo Bay, doing children things.

Just So You Know-

There is a bug on this island that sounds like Jimmy forgot to unplug the amp after sound check. I believe is it’s a larger, louder version of a cicada. If you have the misfortune of crossing paths with a pack of these bugs in mid-transit, duck and cover because they will mess you up. 

Another thing to be aware of is the fact that this island is inhabited by 20% humans 80% jungle. While humans have found inhabitants along the shore, the core of this island is all the the jungle book entails. There is limited drinking water, bottled water is still shipped daily from the mainland. Electricity is powered by generators and in the heat of the night keep your water close, there’s no ac. Even though I definitely just made that statistic up, hopefully you get the point: more jungle, less humans.

The pier is on the eastern most side of the island. Although there are accommodations on this side, it is not the preferred side to be on. When the tide is out, you can get a glimpse of all the things that people like to pretend aren't happening, like seeing the human dumping ground that we sometimes call the ocean. 

As far as accommodations go, you have a choice between a bungalow on the beach or a bungalow behind the bungalow on the beach. Tough call. These lovely sheds, are the perfect way to enjoy the ocean views and relax after a day of fun in the sun. Bring your bug spray and mosquito net because creatures of the nights may feel the need to co-habitat your bed while you are alseep.


JJ Seafood and Bungalo-

This place was amazing. JJ and his wife are very welcoming and accommodating and will do anything to get that good rating, I mean make your stay more comfortable.

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A beach bungalow complete with three decks. One in the front, one in the back, and one on the roof. 


Koh Phayam Market-

A place situated between the two main beaches where you can find locally made goods, food, and all coconut everything. 

Mangrove Forest- 

This is a forest where mosquitoes like to party, with a river that converges with Ao Khao Kwai (Buffalo Bay). Many accommodations  have kayak or canoe rentals and allow you to paddle up this secluded wonderland. Go forth and find your center and such.

Rasta Baby Bar-

A place where Bob Marley's memory remains celebrated. Here you will find good food, good music, and that chill island vibe.


Water Activities-

At the resorts there is plenty of gear to rent and try out. I was able to try kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling for less than 3 US dollars. The only advice I was given was, "just get past the break, man." So hopefully that helps when you are carrying a large plastic boat, trying to get over the oncoming waves. Or you can be like me, and get Shack-style rejected multiple times in front of many concerned observers. Either way, if you succeed, the ocean sports are a good time to be had.

Hippie Bar-

This bar hosts full moon parties and was made by the owner completely out of washed up drift wood. It is also the "unofficial" best place to watch a sunset or so I am told. 


If You Don't Know, Now You Know-

As always, this is a little bit of me mixed with some cheap, unsolicited, non-credible advice. Take what you need and leave what you don’t.


A visual representation of what I mostly did while on this island!

Thai time, all the time.


I’m officially an expat, now what?

   Life in Thailand so far has felt a lot like an intricate cha-cha.  Take two steps forward, three steps back, actually take a seat and watch the professionals do it. Some of it has been very frustrating because in this dance, you can’t control many aspects of your immediate reality. I’m learning patience and trying to develop that go with-the-flow attitude that I was so sure I had when I came to Thailand, I was wrong. I am living in this space that is not quite a traveler but definitely not a local and I’m desperately trying to find out what that means. Although some of the experiences have felt like sandpaper to my face, living here has many upsides that I hold on tight to until everything else falls into place. 

Which brings me to a list of important lessons I’ve learned...the hard way.

1. Patience is a virtue. The most important of all lessons I am trying to master. In Thailand there is a lot of waiting. You might wait for the bus to leave on time, or not. Or you may wait for the one truck in town that drives to the beach, it might come that day, or not. Wait for things to be ready, wait for the answers to questions you feel like are very important. There has been times that I have been told to wait and I didn’t even know what exactly I was waiting for. Things move in  retrograde here compared to my pre-programmed fast moving cultural mind-set, and I will not have a choice other than to develop patience. 

2. Develop ninja like reflexes. So far I have almost been attacked by a rat taking out the trash, saw a scorpion emerge from the depths of my sink drain and got bitten by a fish in the ocean. I  encountered countless packs of disgruntled stray dogs, had to matrix dodge a flying ocean fish (look it up, they have wings), cohabited with a few lizard, and killed endless armies of ants, spiders and cockroaches. I have also had encounters with many well-trained monkeys, like the one seen chilling like Bob Dylan, below. Most recently, I have even seen a large snake randomly fall off the roof at my school. After being extracted from the large bush, it took five workers and countless garden tools to finally kill the thing. Who knew snakes kept going for it after being cut in half like some sort of magic trick? Many species of plants and animals look like they came straight out of the Mesozoic era, and lurk around with no shame.  All of these examples, and many more have taught me to always have my game face on. Nature is much closer to humans here than it is in the United States and it is definitely something to get used to.

3. Brutal honesty is always the best policy, in Thailand. At any given time it will be made known to you if perhaps you aren’t having the best hair day, if you do not carry a small Asian like body frame, or if your outfit for the day lacked good judgement. In Thailand, it is not an insult to tell people about their appearance, it is just said as a fact. Swallowing pride, getting used to brutal honesty, and rolling with the brass-knuckle covered punches, is all part of the process. I don’t know if a little kid, telling you your hair looks, ‘very messed up,’ will ever be an easy pill to take. 

4. Live outside of your comfort zone. There is a big difference between trying things that are new and eating, sleeping and breathing things that are out of your comfort zone. Living in Thailand takes you from dipping your toes into new things to throwing you into the deep end and hoping you come back up for air. Ending up in one of the biggest red light districts in Thailand on accident, buying a bus ticket to the wrong place due to communication errors, or eating food that I have no idea what it contains are all examples of living this new level of discomfort. It’s worth it and I am growing and finding my way through each experience, but much like residual sand stuck in your bathing suit, it isn’t the most comfortable of all things.

5. Building community is key. I have only been in Thailand for about 2 and a half months. I now have what the young kids call, "my people." I have met both local Thais, vagabond-wanderlust seeking travelers and everyone in between. The community of people here has most definitely propelled me forward and make it easier to build a life in this new place. 
 Let me just tell you if by chance you end up on Khaosan Road on New Years Eve with thousands of other people packed together like sardines, you are going to thank some higher power, that you have friends to hold on to in the crowd, and laugh about it when it's over. Having people around that know what you are going through and will band together to help you get through the ups and the downs may be the only way I make it out of here all in one piece.
IMG_1800This is an ancient Buddist tradition that is even more magical in real life than in the picture. I don't know how many trees are here, wrapping around each other and growing together, but it is a pretty cool sight to see. 

6. Failure to communicate is a real problem. Communicating with people in the USA has been difficult to say the least. I feel like I am solving a difficult math equation, trying to convert military Time back 14 hours to the United States. Then finding windows of time when each participant is available to speak. Let alone finding a phone plan that lets you call abroad. Shout out to my family for helping me figure it all out. This double life thing is complicated, but I get by with a little help from my friends, family and basically everyone I know. When I say little, I mean the largest quantity of assistance at all times, possible. Communication between locals and foreigners is also difficult. Finding yourself in that no-mans land between spoken languages. That area where there are no words in either language that both parties can exchange for any type of mutual understanding. Although my communication style usually entails delivering my best charades performances, I am usually met with confusion or a smile and nod. In the instances that I am asking a yes or no question, there is a 50% chance that I get the answer that I need. Needless to say, learning the basics in Thai has been crucial in getting by here. I hope to learn more but there are some sounds in Thai that just haven't found a way of being formed in my mouth/ vocal cords. 

8. Holidays aren’t the same when you are away from family and friends. This year was the first year in my entire life that I wasn’t near a single relative or friend during two of the biggest holidays, Christmas and New Years. It was a strange feeling. I ate Chicken and rice, the only Christmas tree I personally had anything to do with was a design in the coffee I bought, and instead of having a white Christmas, I had a tropical drink at one of Bangkok’s infamous sky bars. Thailand doesn’t celebrate Christmas as much as it just decorates for it. In typical Thai fashion everything is decorated in lights, fancy back drops, two story sized blow-up polar bears, but when you aren’t at home in your normal life, it all feels a little tacky and gimmicky. Coming from America were consumerism is off the charts, that is a bold statement. Getting a little perspective never hurts, and I will definitely appreciate the time I have with friends and family in the future.
9. Learn how to mix the old with the new. Living in Thailand has been like creating a DJ mash-up remix of an old school jam with all the new things I have seen here. One thing that I have noticed is that in Thai there are many words and phrases for the concept of, "it is ok." Mai Pen Rai, Mai Leo, Sabai Sabai, are all different ways to basically say, "everything little thing is gonna be alright." There are many more words that also share the same meaning, but I am still in the beginner course and haven't gotten there yet. Point being, they don't just have words to say these things, they have so many words to convey this because there is a mindset here to match it. As I have said before, life here can be very frustrating, but if you catch on to the laid back attitude and the slower paced lifestyle, it might ease the pain a bit.

The ultimate example of Thai time.This is a work truck and a hammock lounge. 
An activity I did with my students for Father's Day in Thailand. Who wouldn't wear these?

I'm not a blogger so I don't know for sure but I feel like this is part where I tie it all together and add some quote about living and learning. I'm not going to do that, that is what bumper stickers are for. All I know is that I have no idea what I am doing here, I just know that for as long as I am here, the sun will rise again and I will live on to fight giant spiders, another day.

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