Big City Life: Bangkok Style with Teacher Becca

To teach English in Thailand it’s not only good to be prepared for the classroom, but also for the culture you’ll be joining. Good thing, we’ve got Teacher Becca to share her experience and great tips:

Let’s start with the facts. Bangkok is the largest and most populated city in Thailand. It is *the* city.

As the capital, there are numerous cultural attractions to keep you busy.

Let’s do Bangkok by the numbers:

 

•    City population is roughly 8 million

•    The city spans 600 square miles, give or take

•    It was founded as the capital in 1782

•    There are just 2 lines on the Bangkok Transit System,
making it easy to find your way

•    Bangkok is technically the world’s hottest city, with a record high of 40 degrees. Thankfully it averages around 28. Brr.

•    The city boasts the world’s biggest Chinatown

•    There are exactly 169 characters in Bangkok’s official name, which is…wait for it…

        Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit

Which translates to…

        the city of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.

Bangkok Grand Palace

Tourism in Bangkok

Domestic and international tourism is the lifeblood that pumps through the veins of Bangkok. On average, Bangkok sees close to 30 million domestic visitors, and over 10 million international visitors every year.

That amounts to countless Baht brought in through both the official channels, and the street deals that occur regularly in the shopping, food, nightlife and entertainment sectors.

Don’t miss!

So, there is more than enough for a weekend getaway in Bangkok. If you are missing some of the creature comforts from the West, then head straight for the BTS, known as the Sky Train, and get off at the Siam Center stop.

BTS Sky Train

There you will find the famed MBK Center, which can be simply described as malls on malls on malls. It is the place to be for shopping, dining, and entertainment, ranging from high-end to boutique to street vendors.

A simple trip to the movies (in English with Thai subtitles- they know their audience!), and some familiar Western chain restaurants and shops serves as a nice air-conditioned escape from the outside world.

For the Culture Vultures

For a taste of the arts scene in the capital city, the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center is an absolute must. Free admission and the Guggenheim-esque spiral design makes this part-gallery, part-community center attraction fun for everyone.

Don’t forget to save some time for the numerous temples and of course a visit to the Grand Palace. With the king’s passing in October, it is a fascinating time to see the grounds.

Wat Pho, Bangkok Thailand

I suggest visiting the Wat Pho, just down the street, where for just 100 Baht entrance fee you get a bottle of water, a photo opportunity with the famed reclining golden Buddha, and plenty of time to marvel at the colorfully ornate decor of the temple grounds.

However you decide to spend your free time, Bangkok can guarantee something to please the eyes, despite the inescapable layer of smog.

Pro Tips:

 

• Park It:

Due to the traffic congestion and subsequent pollution, it is important to seek out the admittedly scarce green space.
Lumphini Park is a personal favorite and one of the biggest in the city, perfect for a relaxing afternoon post sightseeing.

• BTS, also known as Sky Train:

It can be tricky to get a taxi driver to turn on the meter, and with some of the worst traffic in the world, the BTS is a great alternative.

Payments can only be made in coin, but helpful English-speaking tellers are plentiful in the stations. A single journey will cost you between 15 and 52 Baht depending on how many stops, with a day pass at 130 Baht. Grab one of the free maps from the stations and you will be good to go.

• The Maew’s Meow:

“Cat” is one of the easier (one of the only if we’re being honest) Thai words for me to remember, and Thailand is full of them!
If you want to check out one of the famed Cat Cafés, of which Bangkok has 11, then I suggest the Caturday Café.

It’s walking distance from the shopping district and BACC, and serves Western food.

Then of course there’s the Hello Kitty Café and Unicorn Café but I don’t want to bore you with that right meow…

Sleeping cat at Caturday Cafe in Bangkok

Until next time,

Teacher Becca

Are you inspired to jet off to Bangkok? Don’t forget that i-to-i not only helps you teach English in Thailand, but offers supported travel.
You could be part of the next Thailand adventure. Visit our Paid Thailand TEFL Internship page for full details.

Don’t Visit Thailand Until You’ve Read This!

There are many differences between Thai and western culture. First and foremost, Thailand is a very modest country. This was one of the first lessons I learned before coming to Thailand. No packing my usual summer wardrobe of tank tops and mini skirts! Especially when going into temples, the dress code is pants or a skirt over the knee, and a top that covers the shoulders with no stomach showing. I can get away with shorts when I’m not visiting temples, but it’s important to dress smart when in public and also while swimming (no bikinis). With the exclusion of temples, Thai people will never tell you to cover up, but it is respectful to follow the cultural guidelines.

i-to-i Thailand interns together in front of a statue of the Buddha

Not only will a Thai person not tell you when your outfit is inappropriate, but they will never confront you. Thai people are extremely non-confrontational, and it is a bad idea to back them into a corner. During orientation for my program I learned that a Thai person will never show it when they are upset, so it is important not to push them into a situation where they lose face. This is most likely due to the fact that Thai people are raised to always show respect, and to care about the needs of others. They will therefore choose to remain kind and say “Mai Pen Rai” which translates to “never mind” or “it’s not important”. Thai people follow the philosophy of “Jai Yen” or “cool heart”, which means that even in stressful situations, they put others needs above their own and respond with a smile. It is possible for Thai people to have “Jai Rawn” or “hot heart”, but this is not the custom. During my time here I have seen both sides. The teachers and students I interact with show nothing but mutual respect towards each other, but I have also seen a few bus drivers loose their cool on passengers or traffic. Despite the few encounters I’ve had with a frustrated Thai person, I think we could all learn a lesson from their style of dealing with negative feelings or conflict. This is also not to say that you should take advantage of a Thai person’s good nature. It is important to be aware of the cultural norms and follow them as closely as possible.

i-to-i Thailand intern Jessi in front of a traditional temple

There are many daily rituals and occurrences that tourists must be aware of. First, Thai people constantly use the wai. A wai is a bow, and Thai people will always bow to you as a sign of respect. They do this by pressing their hands together as if they are praying and moving their head down. The height of the hands varies by the amount of respect the person wants to display. Elders, monks, and the King would get a higher hand placement. It is polite to return this gesture and to say “Sawadee” which is “hello” in Thai. I must also mention that while you may encounter monks and it is perfectly respectful to bow to them, it is forbidden to touch a monk. If you do accidentally touch a monk nothing will happen to you, but it will be very bad for the monk and his vows. Among monks, you will also encounter many Buddha statues. Buddha is a revered figure and it is illegal in Thailand to use Buddha as decoration or to defile Buddha. Do not ever touch or climb on a Buddha statue, and always be as respectful as possible. Lastly, Thai people believe that the head is the holiest place in the body, and the feet are the least holy. Therefore, never touch a Thai person on the head and never show a Thai person your feet or point with your feet. You also must be aware of restaurants and temples where shoes are not permitted. This may seem like a lot of rules, but I promise it starts to feel normal after a while.

i-to-i TEFL intern Jessi with a member of the long-neck Karen tribe in Thailand

The last Thai cultural norm I would like to touch on is my personal favorite. Thai people constantly say “sabai sabai” which translates to something like “relax, easygoing, happy, comfortable, etc.” This is how many Thai people live their life. I find this especially interesting because Thai people do not have many luxuries. Their happiness does not stem from physical possessions and material wealth. Rather, happiness comes from within them and with the bonds they create with their families, friends, and communities. “Sabai sabai” has definitely been impressed upon me, and it is something I will take home with me as I encounter the stress and fast-paced style of western living.

i-to-i intern Jessi in class with a fellow teacher and her students at school in Kanchanaburi, Thailand