Is this real life?

To my dearest QUT – the most generous university of them all,

First and foremost, I would like to express my extreme gratitude to Andrew Paltridge, his team, and also the QUT Exchange department for sending me here to Thailand! A few times this week I had to stop and think, “Wow – this is breathtaking; it is so cool to be here.” Then I went on to feel so sorry for Andrew, his team and QUT staff and students for being locked up in their offices and lecture theatres while I’m out here on this idyllic island, lying in the sizzling sun, swimming in the beautiful blue ocean, snorkelling with the dazzling topical fish,  trekking through the lush forest, partying on the sand with the full moon and having orgasmic Thai foot massages to the sound of the waves … As a result, I thought it would only be too appropriate for me share some photos with you, just so you can live a little through me … (but only if you want to, of course).

The stunning sunset after a mountain hike

Gaby and Sam go searching for Nemo!

…the beach where it all happened.

Over the last ten days, 12-16 of us exchange students escaped from Bangkok and went down to two Southern Islands – Koh Phangan (the Full Moon Party Island) and Koh Tao (the Full Moon After-Party + Snorkling and Diving Island). We really needed a break from Bangkok, as it is very loud and hot and there seemed to be the start of a Measles break-out amongst the exchange students here at Evergreen. Nevertheless, whilst we were away we all started to get a bit homesick, yearning for Bangkok! When I think about it, I can’t decide what specifically I missed: it wasn’t the air we choke on, it wasn’t the smells that make us feel like vomiting, it wasn’t the mysterious parts of animals that turn up in our food, it wasn’t the air conditioning that causes our lungs to fill with mucus, it wasn’t the ladies at the end of our street constantly yelling, “Thai masssssaaaaarr [massage], Foot masssssaaaaarr, Oil masssssaaaaarr,” it wasn’t the sassy uniform we need to wear to university, and it most definitely wasn’t the homework that we needed to do!

Instead, I really missed the kindness to normal Thai people. Thai people (especially the ones at Chulalongkorn) are so gentle, kind, caring, lovely, and smiling. They really have your best interests at heart and genuinely care about your well-being. This is not the case on the tourist islands, where people are quite often rude (sometimes understandably), and don’t care for you more than the money you give them. I therefore conclude that if you are a short-term Tourist in Thailand you will not see the best side of Thai culture and its people. That’s why I recommend a semester abroad at Chulalongkorn University … why would you go anywhere else? I also missed the food here in Bangkok; we eat so well here, for so cheap! I missed my morning fresh-pineapple ($0.30), my daily iced Mocha ($0.50), my should-be-weekly-but-is-consumed-daily deep-fried bananas ($0.30), my chicken-noodle soup ($1), and my favourite chicken, chilli and basil dish ($1.10). Needless to say, I’m putting on weight. Moreover, I think I just missed Bangkok’s vibe – it has character, it’s cosmopolitan, it’s sassy, it’s chic, it’s yesterday, today and tomorrow … or maybe it’s just something in the brown tap-water that we brush our teeth in.

The guilty pleasure of being the only caucasian in a class…
Me: “Sorry professor, I need to go on holiday during the first week of exams. Do you mind putting your exam on Dec 2?”
Professor: “If it suits you, Okay.”

BUT! What about the Full Moon Party? OH! What a night…. for three nights in a row! My expectations were low: we were all going to get food poisoning, all our belongings would be stolen from our hotel room, we’d all catch some horrible disease from standing on used needles, we’d get our drinks spiked and end up dancing naked on the bar, we’d then wake up married to someone we didn’t know, in a town we hadn’t heard of, in a country you can’t enter without a police escort and have three children named Cornholio, Myrtle and Wolfgang.

However, nothing like this happened (almost). I never thought I would say this, but the three nights of partying on the beach were some of the best nights in my life. Our group had such a nice vibe about it – it was a fantastic bonding experience and I think we are now all pretty close – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically for some. Our days went like this: slept until the afternoon, then dressed-up in our tacky fluro outfits, painted ourselves with a mixture of rainbow flags,  naughty song lyrics, and pretty patterns, then we’d have a cheeky bit of foreplay in our room (drinking a bucket of soda-pop), before hitting the beach to dance all night long! There were 3-5 main dancing areas along the beach, each with a different type of music. We’d start at one end and, as we emptied more buckets, we’d move along the beach. Our group always danced on the tables and stage – a great way to find our people and also to look at other people…and By Jeepers George, there were so many amazingly good looking people on the beach. I think the majority of us were just thinking, “I wanna do bad things to you,” whenever we saw another person. There were hot English people, hot French people, hot German people, and most surprisingly, so, so many hot Israelis’! But as a matter of fact, being surrounded by extremely good looking people is so distracting. You become so entranced  by these people that you just become addicted to looking at them and their erotic physiques and can’t focus on just dancing! Nonetheless, most of us left with some permanent ‘souvenir’ from the party. I left with a burn from someone putting their cigarette out on me, a friend left with a burn from a firework that exploded on her (‘cause baby I’m a firework…), two friends left with large burns from jumping with an alighted skipping rope (such a stupid idea), while others left with the fond and mind opening memories from their ‘happy shake’ experience at Mellow Mountain. Then some left either without their mobiles, camera’s or dignity. Due to the large amount of motorbike accidents that have already occurred within our exchange student population, we took precautions and as a result there were no vehicle related injuries this time around. Nevertheless, there seem to be as many hospitals (including psychiatric wards) as people on this beach, which is both reassuring and disheartening. I’m not sure if it was something in the Thai Red Bull, but I really was floating on a cloud for the three days…. I felt so much like David after visiting the dentist: “Is this real life?” It was just so awesome!

Somehow I missed the only Chula group photo!

The American and I

We then went on to Koh Tao, “Turtle Island” for some much needed R&R. Of course, everyone else from the Full Moon party had the same idea, and we partied just as much. This island is well known for its diving courses (PADI Licence for just $300), but we decided that would require concentration, so we opted for the day of snorkelling instead. It was a fabulous day of  “Searching for Nemo,” swimming in the beautiful clear blue ocean, and visiting another island which was pure paradise. Just like Darryl Kerrigan, I was always thinking, “How’s the serenity? So much serenity.”

...we're a bit wet after the long hike to the beautiful view

The gang of fish-lookers.

I think my housemates were a little sad that I hadn’t talked about them on this blog. So, Michael is a blonde-hair and blue-eyed Norwegian, who is tan, works-out a lot and likes to walk around in his underwear… (need I say more?). He has the most scandalous love-life of us all, which he doesn’t like to talk about, however he quite often finds himself confronted with questions about it from me.  He has only eaten McDonald’s once this year and he has taken on the role of being my other housemate Kjell’s mother. Kjell is very, very special indeed. I don’t quite know how to capture the essence of him in a few sentences, but Roald Dahl writes a good explanation in the Big Friendly Giant (BFG). He likes to cough throughout the night (he’s sick), spend private time on the internet (reading annual reports) and to participate in live shows (about Thai culture). Together, Michael and Kjell were generous enough to buy me a sassy bread plate with my photo on it (see below) . Lovely, aye? Finally, there is Axel (as in Axel Rose from Guns’n’roses). He is a really good bloke from Sweden, who I think is actually a bit of a cheeky wolf dressed up in sheep’s wool. Axel is super friendly, and the type of guy who gets along with everyone. He loves chewing tobacco, quite often stumbles into bed at 3am and, in my opinion, has a future in writing poems.

What a sassy gift!

You know I love you,

XO XO

P.S. If you have a bit of naughty shabu-shabu with someone in the night, and then in the morning they either don’t address the topic or say, “Wow…I was so drunk last night,” does that mean they do or don’t want to do it again?