Singburi: Doing the Wrong Thing.
by Chelsea Carter
I have a confession. I normally declare with great pride and gusto that I traveled alone and without a plan. It’s a half truth. The plan was to teach English for 6 months. I quit.
We bundled in to a tiny mini van with plastic coated seats and very weak AirCon, and sweatily sped two hours North from Bangkok to Singburi. Upon arrival, we made ourselves at home in little rooms for four (containing 2 bunk beds, and a bathroom largely inhabited by lizards). It was a site just for fellow volunteers from all over the world, of different shapes, sizes, creed and color. It was a bloody pleasure to get to know each and every one of them.
That first week was Siam Culture Week – led by 3 wonderful coordinators from the local area. They showed us Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya, a place full of heroic tales, beauty and holiness, a must visit for those who may be in the Bangkok area during their travels, as it’s only a day trip and is the perfect awakening to Thai history and culture. Another day they took us to Lopburi, the home of the Monkey Temple, cute on paper – in actuality just little bastards that liked to jump on people, pull hair and jewelry, and bite. Never trust a monkey.
Travel advice: Rabies jabs only give you an extra 24 hours, not immunity, as one poor girl learned.
Alongside these trips, we were given cooking lessons, language lessons and driven to Tesco (quite the novelty to visit in Thailand, I hope you would agree). I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the country. However, what made it even better was the time spent with my incredible co-volunteers. I heard of their past and future travel plans, and with that a seed was planted in my head.
The following few weeks, we moved to a similar complex – with even more volunteers. By day I went to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) lessons and by night I sang karaoke, drank Chang beer, ate traditional Thai barbecue and learned Dutch (Naar de Klote!) with my new friends. Gradually, they left Singburi to venture on their worldly travels, and then it was my turn to go. Except, I only moved 30 minutes in to the nearest town so that I could teach at the local school.
I was lucky to have a couple of friends remaining, where others where sent far away alone. However, teaching at the school wasn’t the fulfilling experience I’d hoped. To begin, this was a private school whereby parents had paid a significant amount of money for their children’s education. Merely across the playground was the public school – these children did not have one single native English speaking teacher. The private school had 6. Secondly, I agreed to work as an unpaid volunteer, I quickly found out I came with a fee of approximately £300 per month, which the school was paying to my volunteering agency. In London.
These factors, along with my ever-growing longing to see the places my new friends spoke of pushed me to the drastic decision to (to put it briefly) run away. A fellow volunteer and I had the whole plan worked out like a heist; The curfew implemented by the military coup in Thailand at the time meant we could avoid our superiors ’til 10pm and sneak back after dark, comforted in the knowledge that (thanks to oppressive and authoritarian laws) they were stuck in their homes. The following day, at the crack of dawn, we jumped on our borrowed mopeds and fled in to town. There, we generously tipped a local taxi man to take our selves and our backpacks back to Singburi bus station.
Next destination: Pattaya – The Devil’s Playground.