Life is now slower on Koh Lanta and hopefully we will have more time for our website.
October to April is our busiest time and we haven't had much time for keeping our website up to date. Instead we have enjoyed getting to know new nice students and welcoming back old ones. This is the best part of working at LILS - all the fantastic new people we get to know. You can see some of them on the photo below.
Life is now slower on Koh Lanta and hopefully we will have more time for our website.
Loy Krathong was celebrated a month after the King passed away. Thailand is still in mourning so the traditional beauty contests and music concerts were cancelled out of respect. Instead we all focused on the core of the tradition - to let our krathongs peacefully float onto the ocean with wishes of letting go of the bad and sad things from the past year and start anew.
We made our own krathongs as you can see below.
October 13 started out as a happy and delicious day with the fun of making and eating papaya salad together. When the power came back to Lanta we were reached by the sad news that the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) of Thailand had passed away. Even though the King was old and had been sick for a long time we were all very shaken by the news.
As King Rama IX had been head of state for more than 70 years very few Thai people has experienced life without him. He was a very loved King as he spent most of his time traveling around the country to meet Thai people. For example many Thai Master and Bachelor degree graduates have received their degree certificates from the King himself.
King Rama IX's main objective throughout his life was to help the Thai people in every way. He initiated many successful agriculture, social and infrastructure projects and he has also been the peacemaker in times of unrest.
Many foreigners believe that the Thai people's love for their King has been all forced acting but our experience and feeling is that the love is real. When we received the message of the King's passing both teacher and students were too upset to continue our evening classes and in the following days both teachers and students shared their sorrow. We cried and didn't feel like singing, playing music and laughing like we usually do.
The whole of Thailand has turned into mourning. For one month parties and festivals are cancelled or toned down, people wear only black or white clothes and all Thai TV-channels show documentaries about the King. To our foreign students it is an interesting experience to be part of a community that comes together in mourning to such an extent and very few believe a similar thing could happen in their home countries.
Today we had a planned full day power cut on Koh Lanta so we decided to make our late morning classes a cooking class so we could stay in the cooler reception area. We chose to make the Thai dish som tam which means papaya salad. It's a very delicious dish that combines many flavours - spicy, sour, sweet and salty.
Many foreigners believe that there is no papaya in som tam as thay can't find the ripe orange papaya flesh in the dish. But the reason why they can't find it is because we use the papaya before it has ripened, the flesh is then white and crispy.
Som tam is traditionally supposed to be very spicy and Thai people can put 10-20 chilies in one salad. Some foreigners like it that way too but many prefer it a little less spicy. But even if you ask for "not spicy" a Thai chef might put 3-5 chilies in your dish anyway as that is considered to be not spicy at all. If you want it less spicy it's better to specify the number of chili fruits you want. Start with one and work your way up.
The standard papaya salad is made from green papaya, long green beans, tomatoes and peanuts with garlic, chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar as the flavoring. But there are many variations and common extra ingredients include carrots, corn, dried shrimps, fermented crabs and salty eggs. So feel free to improvise if you make your own som tam!
Koh Lanta's garbage dump is unnecessarily big as only part of the garbage produced on the island is recycled. A lot of the garbage consists of food waste from restaurants and resorts and this year the local community has initiated a campaign to inspire Lanta people to start their own composts. The goal is to turn most of Lanta's food waste into fertile soil instead of sending it to the dump.
But everyone doesn't have space for making their own compost so the campaign also includes starting a community compost station where food waste can be dropped off by businesses and locals.
A community compost needs initial funding and in order to raise money a few businesses came together to arrange an event where all the income would support the project.
The event was called Lanta October Fun Fair and visitors to the fair could enjoy food and drinks, learn more about the project, buy handicrafts, participate in games and win prizes in a raffle.
Lanta International Language School helped by selling Thai food and donating all the proceeds to the project.
Totally more than 160 000 THB was raised and the next step is to start building the compost station.
The majority of Thai people are Buddhists and today we made a visit to the Buddhist temple in Lanta Old Town to learn more about the religion and traditions. Yesterday our teachers taught us how to dress and behave in a temple in order to be respectful to the monks and religion. We were also instructed to buy some food and medicines if we wanted to make a donation to the temple.
As (strict) monks are not allowed to handle money they have to live on donations made by generous people. But the generous people also benefit from this arrangement as donations to monks are considered to bring very good karma.
Our teacher Eak has been a monk for some time so he told us what it's like to live in the temple. The other teachers shared their experiences of how Buddhism influences the daily life and family celebrations in Thailand. After that we got to meet one of the monks.
The monk told us more about Buddhism on Lanta and the Buddhist holidays which are celebrated at the temple. He also taught us how to meditate and then we got to try sitting meditation for 30 minutes. After that he answered our questions and then it was time to donate our gifts. This is also done in a special way as our heads need to be lower that the monk's head and the monk is not allowed to receive gifts directly from women so he had to use a piece of cloth instead.
After donating and thanking the monk we walked around the temple area and our teachers told us more about Buddhist funerals and weddings.
It was a very interesting day and we learned a lot about Buddhism and what it's like to live in a temple or in a Buddhist family.
Koh Lanta's green season starts in May and lasts until September or October. During this time the rain comes and goes but the weather is mostly good. Many businesses close as most tourists leave the island, so it's a perfect time for studying Thai. You'll have less distractions and more relaxed Thai people to talk to.
You can also find cheap accommodation and automatically eat cheaper food as most expensive restaurants take a break during this season. If you like partying there are still some places open but a weekend in Ao Nang or Phuket provide more options and more people.
You'll still have your school mates around on Lanta island though as Lanta International Language School is open all year.
There are a group of batik painters located on Lanta Noi, the island between Lanta Yai and the mainland. Batik clothes and scarves are popular in Thailand. Both government officers and kindergarten kids wear batik uniforms once a week. It's also popular to wear batik clothes on the Thai New Year; Songkran.
Most of us had never tried to do batik painting so a big group of us went to Lanta Noi to see and try the technique. It was very interesting and we were happy with our creations. Below you can see some photos.
Of course we needed some roses for our Love Week and staff and students spent an afternoon making them from ribbons, wire and green tape. There are a couple of techniques to use and they require some patience and skill but eventually everyone managed to make as many flowers as they wished to give away.
This year we decided that the week leading up to Valentine's Day would be our Love Week. During love week everyone becomes a "Secret Angel" to someone else. The Secret Angel is supposed to show appreciation to their "Human" by giving them small presents or do nice things for them without revealing the Angel's identity.
The Friday before Love Week everyone wrote their names on small pieces of paper and we put all of the names in a box. After lunch everyone took a name from the box and got to know who their Human was. The following week lots of presents in the form of notes, cards, noodle cups, coffee, chocolates, poems, flowers, magazines, music CD's and all sorts of things were exchanged. The atmosphere became loving and cheerful as many gifts were presented in humorous ways.
One week later we revealed the identities of the Secret Angels during our morning break, and this event was as much fun as the Love Week itself.
Love Week is a common tradition at Thai universities and we can really recommend any school, organization or company to make one week of the year into a Love Week. It really creates a good feeling among students and staff.
Updates and news about our school and Koh Lanta written by our staff.