Twenty-something tourists take whirlwind Khrungthep tour

Earlier in the week we had the pleasure of a visit from Mabel and her two friends.  A volunteer from the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, Mabel and I worked together for several years and in my absence this past March, took over my role of theatre operations manager.

DSCF8856 Mabel and her friends Lily and Angelina had just thirty-two hours in Khrungthep, finding it less expensive to travel from Hong Kong to Siam Riep, Cambodia by way of the Big Mango.  This provided a pleasant opportunity to do a whirlwind tour and their list of “want to see” places and “want to do” activities was much longer than a single day would allow.

We accomplished quite a lot, though.  First was a visit to Wat Phra Gaew at the Grand Palace.  It was a tremendously hot morning but there was a good breeze.  Thankfully, the crowds of tourists were very light, so as the ladies did their audio tour, I sat on the cool marble floor of an open-air sala – pavilion – and edited some documents for work.

Left: Mabel, Angelina and Lily pose in front of the Grand Palace.

After going through four taxis to find one who would drive us to Siam Square, we enjoyed a hair raising ride as at one point Angelina and Lily noticed that we were driving on the wrong side of the road past a long line of traffic.  Having successfully toured every small soi between the old city and Siam Square, we arrived for a relaxing lunch at T42 on the top floor of Siam Center.  Siam Center is home to many boutiques of local Thai designers, so the ladies spent an hour after lunch browsing the shops, coming back with only one modestly sized shopping bag.

DSCF8870 An afternoon freshen-up was called for so I sent the ladies back to their hotel, stopped by home to shower and change clothes, and was waiting at their hotel at five o’clock.  They got a taste of Khrungthep’s notorious traffic as we inched our way to Sathorn Road, arriving at the Health Land spa some ninety minutes later, a drive that would take at most ten minutes on a good day.

Two hours later, all the stress of the traffic jam and temple hopping had melted away after they were finished with an authentic Thai massage.  We concluded the night with a nice dinner at Taling Ping, located (thankfully) just a few blocks away.

Right: At the airport for an early morning departure.  This is one of those very rare pictures of me in shorts.

The next morning I picked the ladies up bright and early for a trip out to the airport so they could continue to their intended destination, Angkor Wat.  I hope they’ll come back and visit soon.  Nothing like a group of early twenty-somethings to make you feel like you have untold reserves of energy.  Or, after a day, to feel like those reserves have largely run dry!


Wednesday was the first day of regular English instruction at Bangkhonthiinai School.  Ken was off to Malaysia but Kobfa and Markus were both able to join me.  We learned that there is a good amount of English skill that was lost by the students over the summer break.  At the same time, there was also a good amount that was retained.  We decided to keep it light and tried doing as many exercises as we could.  This is especially difficult with the upper school (grades 4-6) which now numbers 24 students.

We played a game to review the alphabet.  It is a variation on a German game that Markus suggested.  Played with numbers originally, letters or even single syllable words can be substituted.


Above: The game starts.

The children sit in a circle, each holding a card (or in this case some padded floor tiles that have letters on them).  Beginning with the person holding “A”, he or she says “A calls…” and then identifies another letter.  This is done to a four-count rhythm, 1-2-3-beat, so that after the beat, the person who was called must jump right in and pick up the rhythm.  “A calls G” (beat) “G calls M” (beat) “M calls E” (beat) and so on.

We started without the rhythm just to make sure the students understood.  Once the rhythm was introduced, it actually became easier because the students seemed to “get” was was happening.  Then to raise the stakes, we set up the rule that if you missed the beat, you were eliminated.  The final two students would receive a prize.


Above: The competition begins to heat up as about half the students have been eliminated.

Along the way, every two or three times we stopped because someone would be eliminated, we would shuffle the letters.  This way, students had to learn multiple letters and pay attention.

The competition became quite keen as we progressed.  Students started being strategic, looking at one person but saying another person’s letter, in an attempt to knock out the competition.  Markus commented on his surprise that as children were eliminated that there were no protests about unfairness or claims of not being able to hear which letters had been called out.  Several students were dancing around and everyone was clapping in time.


Above: The final five students – the pressure mounts!

As more students were eliminated, we switched letters more frequently, including reintroducing letters that had been previously eliminated.  We finally narrowed the players down to a final two and while we did a intensely paced showdown in which letters were being switched as the game was being played, we declared both the students winners.

This game holds a lot of promise because as we’re introducing vocabulary, especially single syllable words, they can be reinforced by playing this game.  Memorization under fire.


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