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One of the great benefits of teaching English abroad is enjoying the opportunity to experience the celebrations and festivals of different cultures. For those teaching English in Thailand, this is certainly the case when mid-April arrives and the nation seemingly erupts into a giant water fight to commemorate Songkran - the Thai New Year, which is certainly one of the most colorful and unique festivals in the world. The most striking element of this ancient festival is the ubiquitous splashing and throwing of water - by hand, water-gun, hoses, and even elephants - upon others, which is regarded as a New Year's blessing.
Perhaps no city in the world is more of a study in contrasts than Bangkok, a dazzling metropolis of 10 million that serves as the capital of Thailand. Here soaring glass skyscrapers overlook centuries-old palaces and pagodas while monumental shopping malls stand blocks away from traditional floating markets. This is a city where clean-shaven Buddhist monks rub shoulders with Armani-clad businessmen and zippy little "tuk tuks" (motorized rickshaws that serve as Bangkok's favorite taxis) weave around sparkling Mercedes on traffic-choked thoroughfares that run alongside serene parks and ancient temples. Bangkok is the city where you can eat a sumptuous world class meal in a five-star restaurant for hundreds of dollars, or dine on mind-blowing curry or soul-soothing noodle soup prepared street side for a dollar or less