Thank you, Thailand for the best year of my life

Thank you, Thailand for the best year of my life

Saying THE BEST YEAR OF MY LIFE sounds quite dramatic, I know but seriously I have never been happier or more fulfilled than I was in the 12 months that I spent teaching English in Thailand and I know you’ve heard this song a million times. My life before Thailand was not horrible, don’t get me wrong. It was really really good. I had a cool enough job and lived in a nice part of the city where I could travel by Gautrain to see my friends on whichever end of that railway. I loved my tiny cottage house and all the other things that I had spent my time doing in the four years of being a working adult but I knew I could be happier, you know? It’s a little strange because it hadn’t clicked until I contacted Travel Bud (like three months before the programme would start) that I really truly just wanted to be extremely happy a lot of the time, that I was a smile chaser. Smile chaser sounds like a term that already exists but I mean it in the way people chase sunsets (which I also kind of like doing?).

Fast forward to October 2017 and I’m landing in the most humid place I have ever been in, the loudest and busiest place I’d ever visited and the furthest I have ever travelled from South Africa; Bangkok, Thailand. I felt nervous and scared but also very open to it all, and man that first month in Hua Hin, courtesy of XploreAsia, set the whole journey up beautifully. I shopped at bustling night markets, learnt basic Thai and the trickiness of a tonal language, visited an elephant sanctuary, went hiking with a horrible hangover, studied to become a teacher, became a big fan of the big Chang and met the most amazing people who I now consider my friends for life.

I’m about to name some names so you can skip to the next paragraph if you want to 🙂 Thank you for Zama, my roommate in Bangkok, Jess, my chill AF roomie in Hua Hin and Cassidy my roommate for a big chunk of the time and my little sister who’s also my big sister, my smallhouse soulmate. Thank you for my Hamilton darlings, Kelsey and Cassie and my Mass babes, Jeff and Gage – I love this gang a lot. Thank you for Beth and Mike, my favourite couple. Thank you for Rhea and her high energy kickassness and Lisa and her different kind of high energy kickassness. Thank you for Ellie and Molly and Alyssa and all the ladies I spent G baby’s birthday weekend with – the best to ever do it. Thank you for Pat and his doll face, and Andrew and Macgregor who are also very pretty. Thank you for Alex and his quiet kindness and Robyn and her loud cheerfulness – my boot. Thank you for Dana and Haley, my favourite blondes and thank you for Amanda, a beautiful badass. Thank you for my fellow South Africans, Stefan and Chloe and the twins, for making being away from home more bearable with familiar accents and inside jokes and sunniness that made my heart full. Thank you for Carly and Gabby and their adorable sisterhood. Thank you for literally everybody in Hua Hin October programme, seriously. And I’m also thankful for all the people that I met because of the friends I made in Hua Hin. Tarah, my tall glass of blonde carefreeness, Wendy my beautiful sea goddess, Brent and his gorgeous long hair and Dalyce who cannot keep time but whose smile is so warm it gives me chills.

There are a lot of things I will forever love Thailand for giving me, maybe too many to even name, but the most important is my kids and my time at Anuban Phang Nga and Phang Nga overall. Those little boys and girls who made me realise my true passion and taught me so much about friendship, patience, optimism, joy in simplicity and generally being a cool ass person. I couldn’t have asked for a better school or group of kids or better colleagues and town. Thank you to all my babies and to all the staff at Anuban Phang Nga. Thank you, Teacher Kitty, Teacher Bank, Teacher Jib, Teacher Cha, for being my guides and my rocks while I was learning on the job. Thank you to my brother from another mother, Jack and my sister from another mister, Christina, for Krisha and Charmaine, the Filipinas who own my heart, and for Jen and Cathie and my darling Mandy – I couldn’t have done bi-monthly notice board posters and stressed out about reports and tests with a better bunch. Thank you for the farang village and the farang family, Alexis, Phoebe and Alex, and Sam and Calyn. Thank you for Julia Yang and the Deebuk teachers and all of the parents and lovely people of my tiny town.

Thailand also gave me the ability to travel. I got to see quite a bit of Thailand, especially the South. Thank you for your gorgeous islands and blue beaches, and mountains and waterfalls. Thank you for seaside town clothing stores that open at night for tipsy shoppers and thank you for convenient and cheap local transportation. Thank you for Seven Eleven on every block and for scooters and the open road (REALLY, THANK YOU FOR SCOOTERS). Thank you for Loi Kratong and Songkran and the King and Queen’s birthdays. Thank you for talkative cab drivers I could practice my broken Thai on and thank you for random last minute public holidays and for fun bars and karaoke rooms in every city. Thank you for hilltop temples and magnificent views and even your scary monkeys. Thank you for allowing me to see your neighbours, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in a way that I would have never done or thought to do, I made some of the best memories in these gorgeous countries and it’s all because of Thailand.

Thank you for awakening quite a few very good feelings and things in me. Thank you for taking me in, with your lovely colourful people and your amazingly beautiful and vast land, and allowing me to call you home for some months. Thank you for being the best decision I have ever made. Thank you, Thailand, I will forever love you and I’m forever grateful.

Number of times I used ‘Thank you’ in this post: 31. I’m very sorry about that and thanks for bearing with me.

Photos courtesy of the people in the photos and me.

Turning 28 in Thailand

Turning 28 in Thailand

This year I spent my birthday 9000 kilometres away from home, in a tropical paradise with the amazing new mates I made. If you had told me last year at this time that this would be my reality I would have said duh, I’m planning for the trip over right now, you nincompoop. But if you had told me that this would be one of the happiest and most memorable moments and statements I would make in 2017, I wouldn’t have been sure.

Birthdays have always been an odd obsession of mine and I’d explain why this is so if the origin story wasn’t so dark. Essentially I rate people should be very grateful to be alive and to have been birthed (if this is what they wish of course). And every year, I come together with the people I hold dear to me – my female friends – and spend the day that I came out of my mom, jaundiced and cute as all hell. This year I asked my mother what time I was born, I figured she’d told me before and I’d just forgotten. She also doesn’t remember because how was she supposed to keep track of the time while enduring labour pains? Her words. But it was apparently any time between eight and ten, and I’ll take that. This explains my preference for sunsets over a sunrise. I’m a night queen (GoT wink).

My good friend Wendy invited me over to Phuket – to a less populated beach on Nai Harn and it was like something out of an actual dream. We started the day off at We Café for lunch where all of the produce is fresh and in-house. The rest of the day was spent on a beautiful blue water beach with cold beers in our hands and the sun gently embracing us, the water was cool enough and the beach was empty enough and my stomach and heart were full enough. In the afternoon we drove our scooter up a beautiful winding road, hugged by palm trees and other greenery on both sides, to the viewpoint overlooking the rest of Nai Harn and some islets off the gulf – I can still feel the breeze from up there right now.

Christina came in from our town in the evening and we sat down for a quiet al fresco meal at a Mexican style restaurant on the side of a busy road before heading to Patong for a more rowdy end to the night. We sang and danced and drank the night away – Grey Goose and Rihanna spurring us on – and returned to the hotel at the 3 in the morning. A fitting end to a wonderful birthday weekend. It sure felt really good to turn twenty eight.

Happy New Year, from Kho Phi Phi! [VIDEO]

Happy New Year, from Kho Phi Phi! [VIDEO]

My first New Year’s Eve in Thailand and my entrance into 2017 saw me and my XploreAsia friends hop on a ferry for 2 hours to go and make a mess of the famed Phi Phi islands, while also exploring and experiencing and just generally doing all the things a large group of excited and exhausted teachers would do during a well served long weekend. My friend Pat was kind enough to collect the priceless footage chronicling our amazing time on the beautiful island. Watch:

Hello everyone! Decided to finally put my GoPro to use and make a video of my New Year. First video I have ever made so let me know what you think! Everyone who is tagged is in it at least once (along with others who I am not friends with on Facebook yet). Thanks for the memories guys, this will be a New Year I will never forget :)Songs: Lost Frequencies – Reality (Kygo Remix) Kodaline – High Hopes (Filous Remix)

Posted by Patrick Herndon on Sunday, 8 January 2017


A Minute in Malaysia

A Minute in Malaysia

So a few weeks after destroying myself with Big Changs and building myself up again with Bloody Mary’s in Krabi, Thailand, I went over to Malaysia for a bit on official visa business (I’ve always wanted to say ‘official ____ business’, pardon me). I went on a 12 hour solo minivan trip to pretty Penang and spent 48 hours there. Forty-eight hours isn’t a lot of time to fully explore and get to know a country but it’s enough time to get the taste of a town and let it make you fall in love with it so you want to come back and stay longer. This is what happened to me in Penang.

Travel in Malaysia

On day 1: I arrived in the morning and didn’t waste time messing around with complimentary hotel breakfasts (I’m vegetarian so its usually bland AF  for me), I showered and pretty much bolted out of my hotel to the first and nearest hippie sign I could find; this is always what I look forward to when travelling, I only ever really want to meet the chillest people in a country I’m in. And then I found Why Not Bar and my day was off to a good start, with a good breakfast served with a nice adult drink. After that, it was good chilled vibes for the rest of the day as I met with one of the XploreAsia gals, Kat and we went off to explore the Art district in Georgetown by foot (you can bike but like, why?). We walked – and got lost – for hours taking in so many different forms of art and taking a few snaps here and there when we’re done marveling*.

Art in Penang Malaysia

We headed to Little India – which literally I swear for 4 or 5 whole blocks I thought I was India – and grabbed a truly life-changing authentic Indian meal and I think I cried while eating because Indian is my 2nd favourite cuisine and I would risk it all for paneer tikka masala. We ended the evening (the following morning?) on the bar street not too far from my hotel and made a jol of it all at the Raggae bar where I met a fellow South African, Kyle and a really cool Indonesian lass, Feeky. Penang’s nightlife was just as laid back and eccentric and engaging as its day-life. Fun was had, yo.

Art in Georgetown Malaysia

On day 2: I did exactly what I did on Day 1 and it was still awesome. Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia I thank you and I’ll be back! 🙂

*This is not a travel blog so details are as sparse as your unwilling Movember attempt at a moustache?


Incredible Krabi! [VIDEO]

Incredible Krabi! [VIDEO]

When the holiday season rolled round and we all found ourselves missing our respective homes our friend Jack decided that Friendsgiving would be a great idea to get us all together from our different towns and cities all over Thailand to celebrate the holiday and to see each other and wish each other a Merry Christmas as well. What followed was nothing like any of us had experienced during the holidays. The Americans had no snow and no turkey, the South Africans had no braai and Reconciliation Day, and we all had no family and no regular Christmas. What we had was Krabi and parties. IN ABUNDANCE. My friend Gage was cool enough to document most of what we got up to. Watch:


What TV Shows Teach Us About Female Friendship

What TV Shows Teach Us About Female Friendship

“What’s significant about Broad City and Girls is the way they center friendship among the twentysomething set (now the largest living generation in the country), when so much else during that age is transient: jobs, identities, apartments, paramours. As the hype over these shows has ebbed, their most recent seasons have doubled down on this premise. They make a case for the primacy of friendship above all else, even when — especially when — it’s under threat.”

– Tomi Obaro, BuzzFeed News Reporter

I place a lot of value on my female friendships. At some points in my life – most points – it has even felt like my friends are more important and vital for my survival than family itself. That might be a taboo thing to say but I’m a millennial, whattaya gonna do? I think I only became vocal about the necessity of wholesome, healthy and fun female friendships in my mid twenties. I’ve always felt a harsher sting when leaving friends, fighting with friends,or any negative intrusions to my friendships than I have with any other relations. I’ve also felt a stronger intensity at my happiest points shared with friends, feeling content with friends, and exploring and adventuring the world and myself with friends (don’t do it). So yes, I’m sure you can tell that I’m a BFF kinda gal – and I have many and love and cherish all of my girl mates.

There have been many a girl cast/female friendship TV show and I’ve enjoyed all the classics like Sex and The City and Girlfriends, but… those shows weren’t really made for me. Not only was I quite young when I watched them, those women were career ladies in their 30s and the only thing they didn’t have figured out is love. So even with a re-watch later in my life, that premise was and still is foreign to me because I have absolutely nothing figured out. So, maybe a stretch for now and I’ll try them again in my thirties but enter Girls and Broad City and 2 Broke Girls and New Girl and Zoe is finally a happy girl. All of these shows are cool in different ways and I do like to sit in on a Friday with some wine and chuckle at all of these young women’s’ adventures, but Girls and Broad City have been more personal for me because of their focus on female friendships. And guess what? I bumped into an article that perfectly conveyed all those feelings for me 🙂 So without further ado, please read this amazing essay by What “Girls” And “Broad City” Teach Us About Female Friendship

Image: Red Bubble

“With the rise of #squads, complex relationships between twentysomething women are finally having a pop-culture moment.”

Lee Min Ho is me as an actor

Lee Min Ho is me as an actor
Lee Min Ho is me as an actor

Lee Min Ho is an actor from the hit Korean drama ‘Boys Over Flowers’ – my first and best kdrama. Now this isn’t a post about my love for kdramas or Korean pop culture in general, but about Min Ho and his wish for a slothful professional existence.

Have you ever seen just how blissful and happy and content Lee Min Ho in his lazy scene outtakes? It’s inspiring. It’s so inspiring that if I were to be an actress in my next life, I would only take jobs that make me feel the way Min Ho feels about his lazy scenes.

I am Lee Min Ho and Lee Min Ho is me. “Almost paaaaradiiiise!”

This year’s birthday came in the form of a Pub Crawl in Johannesburg

This year’s birthday came in the form of a Pub Crawl in Johannesburg

As a person who takes birthdays fairly seriously, because you’re alive another year goddamit, I’ve made sure my special days are always that; very bloody special. But even for  the name day enthusiast, 27 is a lot of years, and 7 years of cool/awesome/significant birthday themes/places is a hell of a lot. When I was thinking about what terribly amazing thing my friends and I would be doing this year, I was honestly stumped. It had to be something really fun but not too rowdy, because we’re adults okay. We had done the comedy club, the beer and wine tasting, the theme park, the expo and the night club (eek), concerts and fests. So what could we do, that we haven’t done that was hip and fun but wouldn’t give us extreme social anxiety? Pub Crawl!

It came to me in a dream. No, it did’t. I was surfing the internets randomly for chilled stuff to do during the weekend in Johannesburg and stumbled upon one of those ‘100 things to do in Jozi’ lists. I was already bored because I’d done some of that stuff and most of it was shite I would never do. Like, the zoo? Respect me and respect animals. And then, like a gorgeous message from the god of alcohol, the Curiocity Backpackers Pub Crawl popped up and I was sold. Because, well… it’s me we’re talking about here. Seven historic pubs, bars and taverns in the city centre for a few randelas with some good friends sounded like the best way to enter my late twenties. So we did it. On my birthday, which was on a Friday because I’m fabulous, we all knocked off of our jobs and headed to Lisa’s – because sleepovers mos – and then off to start the night. Seeing that side of Johannesburg was as exciting as it was scary. The first few bars and pubs were your usual hipster establishments but the last few were actual taverns and I feared for my life a little under the adrenaline rush. It was a great night with my favourite ladies and I was smiling and laughing and happy the whole time. And birthdays should be like that.

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5 Men of Colour I’m currently obsessed with

5 Men of Colour I’m currently obsessed with

The 2015/2016 season has been very good to me as far as gorgeous dudes are concerned. I’m currently really into these five guys from all over the globe and its so much better to me that they’re all amazing and talented men of colour. This means I don’t have to have mad crushes on blonde-haired blue-eyed okes (only) anymore. At long last! I am honestly so greatful for representation on television and film, guys. Because, really, if Jesse Williams existed in the 90s the way he does now, I don’t think I would have even looked at David Lee Gallagher.

Listen, I know I’m always spouting rubbish about good looking humans and binge eating and other acts of binging like watching stuff and going out, sprinkled with some nostalgia pieces. But it’s been quite difficult thirst curating guys I genuinely like, because they’re all white, because I didn’t grow up seeing black or brown guys I genuinely liked on T.V. It was always the same guy – right into my teens I never felt a true emotional, I-want-to-kiss-the-screen crush on a dude of colour. And that’s mostly because the black guys in movies were just, I mean, I just was not into that one trope Hollywood and pop culture seemed to be obsessed with and obsessed with fitting black actors into. And the same goes for women of course, because racial and cultural representation in the abroad shows and films we watched was pretty much non-existent and/or bloody linear. I’m lucky I grew up in South Africa because I’ve been seeing people who look like me on television since I can remember and that’s awesome for a young black girl. But celebrity culture was/is not a real thing in S.A and I don’t think crushing on ‘hot SA men’ happened before like 2010. So it was Brits and ‘Mericans galore for me, and I’m not sure how that affects a young black girl.

Finally, though, the last few years have seen a rise in a bunch of really gifted (physically, mentally and otherwise) of, not only black guys, but non-black people of colour as well. Michael BAE Jordan may be thot-y at face value but he is a really impressive specimen and a very good actor. Jidenna convinced me that I should only lust over guys who rap in suits, and coupled with Blake Griffin, made me believe in the power of black gingers. Let’s not even start with Rami Malek. And Chadwick Boseman as the black panther is literally the only reason I would watch that Captain America movie repeatedly – it’s ridiculous what he does he does with his body and that character. It’s been a good half decade. Out of all these undeniably aws humans, there are five that I just #cannot with.

Dev Patel

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Slumdog Millionaire Dev was cute, The Last Airbender made me pay a little more attention and then the beard happened and I died. I really liked him in The Newsroom and I only just started started watching Skins. It seems like Dev has always been a dorky kind of adorable (I’m unfazed by that kind of attractiveness) with really good taste in movie/tv roles. And now he looks old/manly/rugged enough for me to have a crush on him. The moment of Impact: The beard/Lion (movie). He’s also goofy, which is a huge plus.

Rain [Jung Ji Hoon]

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If you haven’t seen Rain in Ninja Assassin then you won’t understand what the hell I’m talking about. I saw the movie in cinema 3 times – I kept dragging a different friend to go and see it with me. Apart from the badass fight scenes and overall perfection as far as violent action movies go, and Naomi Harris being a fave throughout, Rain was a very big part of why I loved that film so much. Afterwards I wanted to see more of him, I was like, ‘What other movie is he in?! Gahd!’. FYI, he’s also a hip-swaying pop superstar.

Alfred Enoch

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Alfie, Alfie, Alfie… How to Get Away with being gorgeous and black and British, amiright? We all knew Alfie as Dean in the Harry Potter movies and I was totes rooting for him and Ginny – honestly, I just wanted to be Ginny so I can make out with him in a dark corner at The Three Broomsticks. Of course, I have mixed emotions about his character Wes in HTGAWM but that first scene with him happily riding a bike through the campus made me not care for anything that followed, because dimples. I’ve seen clips of him in Shakespeare plays like Kind Lear & Coriolanus as well, so he’s that talented, so I never stood a chance, really.

Suraj Sharma

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The life of Pi star is a weird guilty pleasure of mine because I’ve literally only seen him in that one movie. I had to seek out interviews of him to see more and he literally has a smile that could kill a human. He’s super chill and so gifted, obviously. Can’t help but love this young man – and his mouth (sorry).

Daveed Diggs

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He’s currently making a huge splash in America’s new broadway obsession, the rap musical, Hamilton. I have never seen this show and probably never will but I’ve listened to the cast album a million times, especially the tracks with Lafayette and Jefferson. I recently listened to a podcast where he was a guest and I watched that interview he did with Katie Couric – and I couldn’t breathe or stop blushing (witchcraft). Daveed is actually a rapper, which is something I don’t usually find striking, but his style of rap and how much heart he puts into it is majorly admirable. How can one man be so amazing in every way?! Can you tell that I’m obsessed?

Guys… Daveed Diggs, hey…

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As fate would have it, @Li_Zwane posted a thread of good looking proudly South African men, You can have a look if you wanna. There are 2 or 3 ‘joke’ ones in the mix as well, though.

*all images sourced from Google.


The Big Writing Adventure

The Big Writing Adventure

whiners writers photo

In the past, the voices of black writers, especially black female writers, in South Africa have been quite few and far between. And honestly, even the books that I did read about a decade or so ago would not really strike a chord with me. Granted the household names of Ndumiso Ngcobo and Zakes Mda, etc. have provided entertaining and humorous reads and although they are also black people, theirs is not my story nor my life experience. I’m not a dude and I’m not like middle-aged or whatever (I don’t really know how old those okes are). So in the search for my artistic voice and a place in South Africa’s young writing world – well, young black writing world – I needed to at least find a kindred spirit or connect with some texts. I remember being very moved/affected by Bessie Head’s Maru in my teens and that was definitely the first female writer of colour I felt connected to. I was glad to know that this was a thing that could happen. A year or two later, I read Kopano Matlwa’s Coconut, although not my favourite writing style, I appreciated that there were some parallels and similar occurrences I could nod along to while reading the book. There was room for young women who grew up post-apartheid and had a different set of experiences and struggles in modern South Africa. And that’s the short of how I started considering myself a writer. I had a story and I wanted to tell that story.

Fast forward to a couple of years later, on a partly sunny day in April, Janine, Saneze and I sat at a cosy corner at Moo Moo’s to start The W(h)iner’s Circle. We have a lot of wine and we don’t actually whine, we discuss. Apart from my days on Perdeby (my uni’s campus paper) and a novel I wrote with Juliet, I have never actively tried to be involved in anything to even remotely acquaint myself with people who shared my literary interests until these two gems came along, and the obvious mental readiness I needed for that. It’s not in my nature to be on board with things that require effort but my admiration and belief in San and Jan made me jump at the opportunity. It was such a privilege and honour to me that I was even invited to essentially be a founding member of something we are all committed to and want to cultivate and grow. This is where we come to create and commiserate, where we come to produce content and bear witness to each others produced content. This is the place where we get our artistic juices refilled and voices heard and amplify the voices that are seldom heard. We read together, write together, consume all forms of art together and inspire each other. And are, of course, on a steady ongoing quest to find like-minded people to join us on this new adventure. This is something that I needed and am so proud to be a part of. I’m truly looking forward to the whole experience. Can you tell I’m pumped about this?!

You can follow Janine’s unfiltered commentary on everyday life, San’s random and loaded musings and my ridiculous tv and sports obsessed ramblings on Twitter: @komkuierdashian, @notpottedplant & @zoethewriter_sa

Janine also has a podcast and a Tumblr: The MMMBopcast and Kom Kuierdashian-Wys

Don’t be afraid to give us a shout if you find yourself drawn to the cause 🙂