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.