Tales from Thailand is a series that will be written over a course of a year of my daily life in Thailand as I live abroad teaching English. These tales will include the good, the bad, the funny, and sad. I hope they entertain you and encourage you to try living abroad!
I have officially moved to Thailand! Crazy eh? Or am I just another person to add to your list of friends you know who have moved overseas to teach English? Let’s just pretend that not that many people do it…
For those that don’t know how I managed to find myself in this situation, it started earlier this year when I was going through a really rough patch. I wanted something from my life that I knew I wasn’t going to find in Canada. I had an intense urge to travel but had little funds since I blew pretty much all of them on my Europe trip only a couple months earlier.
I did a ton of research and the one thing I kept seeing come up was teaching English overseas. Many bloggers advertised it as their way to afford travel, or as a way to get them going in a foreign country. I thought it sounded cool so I decided that I liked Thailand and started on my path to becoming a teacher.
Fast forward 8 months and I saved enough to get me across Canada for 3 weeks and to fly to Thailand. Now here I sit in my new apartment after only a week in Thailand. Since I’ve never even been on the continent of Asia before there were a couple things I needed to get used to.
Motorbike with baggage
My first day I landed in Bangkok after an 18 hour journey and needed to find my way to Pattaya, where I would undergo my training. I had clear instructions from my boss on how to get from the airport to a bus station, and then how to buy a ticket for the bus to get to Pattaya. Think I got on the right bus? Nope.
I was told to take public transit from the airport to the bus station, but since I was carrying a huge pack, a smaller backpack and then a purse all weighing about 45 pounds I decided to take a taxi. The taxi driver did not understand English and sent me to a kiosk in the airport that had buses running to Pattaya every hour. “Perfect!” I thought. At this time I did not know that this bus would not go to the same bus station, or any station at all.
An hour and a half later I found myself standing on a random busy street (or maybe it was a highway) with all my bags at my feet. I showed a man who was organizing taxis the address of my hotel and he pointed to one of the motor bike taxis. I looked at him and back at the bike. “Where am I supposed to put my bags?” I don’t think he understood.
Next thing I knew I had my pack on and purse around my neck, my last bag at the drivers feet and I was hiking my maxi skirt up so I sit on the back and hold on for dear life. With no helmet, I used my hand to brace myself from behind in case he drove too fast and the weight of my bag dragged me off.
I made it to the hotel, and exhausted, slept for the rest of the day.
where’s the shower?
I knew that I should not expect bathrooms (I’m sorry, I mean toilets…this is what they call bathrooms here) like what we have in Canada. But I did hope that I might get lucky and get a nice bathroom. I did not. Greece had very similar showers to what they have here in Thailand, and I did/do not enjoy them.
I have not had a hot shower since arriving in Thailand, though they say the showers are heated. And what are those things beside the toilets called to clean yourself after doing your business? Those are going to take some getting used to. Until then I have learned to carry around a roll of toilet paper in my purse. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with any squat toilets yet. That will be another adventure on its own I’m sure.
city of white men
The first city I had my training in I was warned of. People told me it was not a city to visit, especially for females, and I had read about its heavy prostitution and nightlife. Pattaya, needless to say, was not a city I was excited to visit. And people were right.
Though nothing bad ever happened, the city did make me feel rather uncomfortable. Every meal that I had at my hotel I enjoyed while being stared at not by the Thais, but by all the creepy old men who were also staying in my hotel. I’m pretty sure I was the only female guest.
The city is used to tourists so I was nothing special and no one stared at me, but I did have people yelling “taxi!” at me constantly. Overall their malls were very Americanized and I even got Baskin-Robbins one day after eating a very spicy meal.
I did like the convince of things, and how there was a beach. I spent my entire day off there and chatted with a very friendly man from the Middle East (who I’m sure was gay) about travel. But, I was very excited to leave the city and get settled in my new home of Phitsanulok.
back to Bangkok
I was not warned beforehand that I would need to get my degree certified once I got to Thailand. This had to be done at a Canadian embassy and the closest one was located in Bangkok. This meant that on my way to Phitsanulok, which is located in the lower North, I would need to stop in Bangkok and go to the embassy with all of my bags.
I woke up early that day dreading it. I once again caught a bike taxi with all my bags and managed to find the bus station and get on a bus where a woman yelled in Thai. I hoped it wasn’t information I needed to understand.
In Bangkok I followed the directions my boss gave me very carefully, as to not repeat what happened when I didn’t follow the instructions. I managed to use two forms of public transportation in the city and find the embassy after walking into the wrong building and then through a market where a friendly woman who spoke English directed me to the right spot.
Through all of this my body was shaking from carrying my bag for so long, and the sweat was coming out of every pour on my body. I didn’t think the embassy was going to let me in because I was cutting it so close, but luckily they did.
Once there I didn’t only have to pay for my degree to be certified, but I also had to get an affidavit to swear that the name on my degree (that included my middle name) was the same person as the name on my passport (which did not have my middle name).
Back on transit for another hour and a taxi (this time in a car) I made it to a different bus station and on a bus to Phitsanulok.
Through the process of getting onto public transportation you have to picture me and my bag (also the size of another human) squeeze onto very busy subways full of people who looked at me like I was crazy. I was also not informed that you are not supposed to bring large bags into the underground system. Security let me get through after opening all of my bags so they could scan them. I had to do this four times and was not impressed. Putting my big pack back on takes way more effort than I like to admit, and it will knock someone over if they come too close while I’m putting it on.
am i the only farang?
Farang, is commonly used to refer to foreigners. And I thought, until today, that I was the only foreigner in this city. I did see a European looking man sitting next to me at the bank and got very excited at the thought that he might be able to speak English.
I do have my two bosses here that speak English, but it’s not like a conversation with someone who is from an English-speaking country. It makes everyday things extremely intimidating and sometimes frustrating.
In Phitsanulok I feel like there are constant eyes on me as almost everyone stares. I have met two people who could speak a few lines in English other than my two bosses, and I’ve had a cab driver yell at me in Thai even though I clearly did not understand. It was kind of scary.
speaking of cabs
Do you have any idea how terrifying it is getting in a cab or on a back of a bike taxi and just hoping that the driver understood where you want to go? I almost got dropped off in a random alleyway on my way home from shopping. Google maps saved the day when I showed the driver where to go. In fact Google maps has been my best friend this week.
eating is no longer a social thing
I’ve eaten pretty much every meal by myself since I got to Thailand and I very quickly got used to it. At first I thought it was lonely, but in only a week I’ve begun to appreciate the silence. But you know having someone to talk to is nice as well…
things that confuse me in Thailand
Apart from all that has happened to me so far there are other things from home that I crave because things here in Thailand are just different, but I will have to live without them for the next year.
- Top sheets are not a thing here. You have your fitted sheet and comforter. That’s it.
- So you want to cook? Good luck finding a kitchen. I bought a hot plate that I could use to cook myself eggs in the morning on my balcony.
- Walking is not what the locals do. Apparently Thai people don’t like to walk anywhere. They use their motorbikes and cars to get them pretty much everywhere. This does make sense though since the sun is ridiculously hot. And I have a bike (which has a basket), but I feel like I’ve showered after my 10 minute ride to work (aka drenched).
- Can I please find a shower that isn’t my entire bathroom? I would like to have a shower and then be able to walk into my bathroom later without the floor still being wet, or having to wipe down my toilet because it got soaked when I took a shower.
- Their wi-fi here is better than all the wi-fi I’ve seen in Europe and the carrier I’m with is better than what I had in Canada. Not complaining about this one.
- The best thing of the week? I found an apartment for only $128 CAD a month including internet…mind blown.
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