How to decide where to start TEFLing

One of the best things about teaching English abroad is that there are so many destination options! With a high demand for TEFL teachers all over the world, the list of where you could teach is endless. So, how do you decide where to start TEFLing? Start by asking yourself these questions…

What do you want to get out of the experience?

It’s important to ask yourself why you want to teach English abroad. Some people might want TEFL to broaden their horizons, give them a chance to get paid to travel the world and see some amazing sights. Whereas, others might want to save money and boost their CV. Where you end up will depend on what you want to get out of the experience. If it’s a good salary you’re looking for, places like China, Japan and the UAE will be perfect for you! But if you’re dreaming of travelling on your days off, you might be better looking at Europe or South East Asia, where it’s easy to get around and you’ll generally have more time off.

Woman walking through street with backpack

What are the job requirements?

Job requirements can vary massively from country to country. From places like Mexico – where you’ll be able to bag a job with just a TEFL certificate – to Dubai, where you’ll need a degree in a relevant field and at least 2 years’ experience along with your TEFL certificate. It’s really important to look into the requirements of each country to make sure you’ll be able to land a job there.

Can you get the correct visa?

With most TEFL jobs, you’ll need a visa to work in that country. There are a few countries where you might be able to get a temporary visa, or a working holiday visa, if you have the correct passport. If you don’t fall under these categories, you’ll generally need to apply for a work visa. Always make sure you check the visa requirements for your chosen country as some places require you to have a certain passport and a degree.

How much money do you want to make?

Will you be happy just breaking even or do you want to make enough to save or cover additional travel costs? In most countries, as a first-time TEFL teacher, you’ll easily make enough money to pay your bills, live comfortably and still enjoy life. But if you’re hoping to be able to put away savings at the end of the month, you’ll have to think carefully about where you want to TEFL. Check out our job guides to get a rough idea of how much you can make and how much it costs to live in each country.

money pot with map

What till the start-up costs be?

Start-up costs for teaching English abroad can vary depending on where you want to teach. If you land a job in Japan, the UAE or China, your TEFL contract will generally include flights, visa fees and accommodation, so you don’t need to worry about start-up costs as such. Just make sure you have enough to cover your living expenses for your first month or so (before you get your first TEFL pay cheque!). For other TEFL countries, you might need to pay for your own flights, accommodation and maybe even visas.

Who do you want to teach?

If you want to teach children, you’ll find thousands of teaching positions all over the world in private and government schools. But if you’ve got your heart set on teaching adults, you might have to choose you country more carefully. China, Japan, South Korea, Costa Rica, Chile and parts of Europe are prime destinations for adult education! Grab yourself a specialist course in teaching Business English and you’ll increase your chances of landing a job in one of these countries.

Can you see yourself living there?

Ultimately, it can all come down to this. Where can you actually see yourself living? Are you dreaming of spending your days off lazing by the beach? Do you want to be able to travel to local countries or have you always wanted to live and work in an uber-modern city with looming skyscrapers? There’s a TEFL country to suit everyone, you just need to work out what you want and if you’ll qualify for the jobs there.

Woman taking picture at Mexican market

 

Still unsure? Take our handy TEFL quiz to find out which destination suits you!

Five steps to teaching English abroad

So, you know that you’re ready for a change; a brand new start. But you’re not sure what shape that new start should take – should you get a new job? A pet to care for? How about move to a new town? Take up an exciting new hobby? Or move to the other side of the world to experience an exciting new country and gain skills for life teaching English abroad?

Teaching English overseas is an unbeatable way to discover all the wonders of our vast world, whilst getting under the skin of a brand new culture in a way no tourist would be able to. Uprooting and moving to a new country may sound scary, but if you’re ready for a new adventure it could be just what you need – and the process can really be quite straightforward.

We’ve distilled the journey of teaching abroad into a simple five-step plan; it really can be this simple.

Do your research

As with anything in life, it’s important to approach TEFL with your eyes open and with a realistic point of view. There are different requirements for TEFL depending on what your aims are: for example, to take on a paid job you may need a university degree and a passport from an English-speaking country. Also, when you’re handing over money to a company to help you achieve your TEFL dreams, you’ll need to make sure they’re everything they’re cracked up to be.
Unfortunately there are plenty of dodgy agencies and companies around, but you needn’t get caught out; the internet is great for a lot of things, and digging up dirt on dodgy companies is one of them! Check out teflcoursereview.com for detailed course reviews, and sites like Trustpilot and Reviews.com, give your chosen companies a ring and have a chat to them so you know you’re buying wisely.

Get TEFL qualified

This is an essential first step to have in place when you start getting excited about where you want to teach. Not only will you need to know your stuff, but most overseas establishments will ask for a qualification of at least 120 hours too. There are lots of different types of TEFL course ranging from 120 hour online courses to heavy duty CELTA qualifications, but unless you’re seriously looking to make a career out of TEFL, you’re probably best sticking with an online course that can be completed relatively quickly in your spare time. Our 120 Hour Online TEFL Course is accredited by the ODLQC and can be studied anywhere, on any device – and you won’t pay through the nose. You could qualify in as little as six weeks with the help of an expert tutor, so that you’ll feel totally prepared for the reality of teaching English overseas.

Secure your position

Now, it’s time to decide what route you want to take in your TEFL journey. Are you ready to uproot for a year or more with a paid teaching job? Or would you simply like to visit a new location for a few months whilst getting some great experience for your CV? There’s all sorts out there for aspiring teach-and-travellers; here at i-to-i we offer paid jobs in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Spain, as well as a series of fully supported TEFL Internships that offer up to six months of hands-on teaching experience in colourful locations like Thailand, Colombia and South Africa.
Great placements will usually offer accommodation included in the price you pay (so that’s one less thing to sort out) and you may even receive free meals during teaching at your school. With paid jobs, it’s really important to thoroughly read your contract to make sure you’re happy with all the stipulations, and to raise any concerns before you’ve signed.

The boring (but important) bits

All this preparation will be for nothing if you don’t remember to tick all the appropriate boxes before you travel, so don’t put off getting the ‘boring bits’ sorted. Vaccinations are a must when you’re travelling to a new country, so get booked in nice and early with your doctors and be prepared for a bit of extra expenditure. Your doctor can help you organise any prescription medicines as well.
Visas are also essential; depending on where you’re from, you need particular paperwork from the government of your host country to confirm that you’re able to work in the role you’ve taken on. Assistance with your visa is available from I-to-i when you travel with us, so don’t be put off by the thought of all the admin. Failure to sort your visa out before you travel could easily result in being refused access to your chosen country – and working illegally will cause problems further down the line. Then – last but not least – you’ll need to get your flights booked!

Get packed & go!

You’re nearly there! Just remember that over packing will only cause you a hassle once you touch down. Pack, unpack, re-pack and do this all again until you’ve slimmed down to the bare essentials. You may want to get in contact with any fellow travellers if applicable to see if there’s anyone you can make the journey with, and remember to stay hydrated on your flight so you feel fresh when you touch down. Your adventure is just beginning!

We hope that this simplified list has given you a more realistic idea of how easy teaching English abroad can actually be – there’s nothing to it!

Kanchanaburi, Thailand: an insider’s guide

I am falling in love with this city, and I want to give you a piece of it! I have compiled a list of tips for you based on my experiences so far. Hopefully you can use them someday if you’re ever able to visit. If not, you can live vicariously through me.

Backpacker’s Strip

If you’re traveling through Kanchanaburi, then you absolutely HAVE to stay on the backpacker strip (also known as foreigner’s road) in the heart of the city. There are many quaint and affordable guesthouses, as well as a variety of food and bars. On our first night there the westerners were craving pizza, so we stopped by Bell’s Pizzeria and it hit the spot. However, if you’re just passing through and want some good Thai food there are many restaurants you can try, including On’s Thai Issan or Nut’s Restaurant. I spent my first two weekends in Kanchanaburi town, and I stayed in two different guesthouses. Blue Star Guest House was absolutely beautiful and very affordable. You walk outside of your room and you are surrounded by nature.  However, I would not recommend this place if you are looking for a hot shower, Wi-Fi, and a spacious room. The accommodation is very basic and you also run the risk of some “friends” in your room. I found a bug in my blanket in the morning! Otherwise the experience was wonderful. The next weekend I stayed at Noble Night, which was only a little more expensive and very nice. There is a pool, more space in the room and bathroom, Wi-Fi, a hot shower, and a comfy bed. I would highly recommend Noble Night and would definitely go back again. Other recommended guesthouses are Sam’s guesthouse and Tara Bed & Breakfast.

i-to-i interns relaxing at Bells' Pizzeria in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Waterfalls

Kanchanaburi is known for its plethora of beautiful nature spots, and I can attest to this. By tuk-tuk or taxi, you can get to the Erawan waterfalls in about an hour. Sai Yok is also an option for waterfalls, but my travel group chose to go to Erawan. Be sure to bring some cash, the entrance fee is 300 baht (8.50 USD or 6.50 British Pounds). Also keep in mind that if you are going during Thailand’s hot season (March-May) there is a chance that the waterfalls will be dry, so check beforehand.  I had a blast at Erawan, but I definitely ran into some surprises that I was not prepared for. First off, dress appropriately. The Thai culture has a strict dress code and they do not allow bikinis or men without a shirt. I wore sandals expecting an easy walk, and I was absolutely not prepared for a rigorous hike. Wear good hiking shoes or you’ll be slipping and falling like me, oops! Another thing I was not prepared for was the fish in the water. Yes, real fish, and they’re not shy. Don’t get in the water unless you’re ready for a swarm of fish to swim up to you and nibble (gently) at your feet. It is also important to pack lightly if you’re going to hike all the way up to the 7th waterfall. The hike is an hour up and an hour down. Overall, Erawan was a beautiful experience, and I hope to go back again.

i-to-i TEFL interns sitting at Erawan falls in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

WW2 History

Kanchanaburi is also full of World War II History, including Death Railway and the River Kwai Bridge.  I recommend starting your day at the Thailand-Burma Railway Centre and then catching the train and on the Death Railway from Kanchanaburi, over the River Kwai Bridge, through the Wampo Viaduct, and all the way to Hellfire Pass. At the end of the train is Hellfire Pass where you can find the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. To give you a little backstory, during WWII Australians and English prisoners of war were captured by the Japanese and were forced to build the Death Railway, which the Japanese were hoping to use to get materials to Burma. It is a fascinating piece of history, and also offers some beautiful scenery if you go by train. My group stopped at the Krasae Cave instead of going all the way to Hellfire Pass on the train, and that was a really cool experience. There is a giant gold Buddha in the center of the cave that tourists often pray to for good luck. This is also a great place to get off and take some pictures of the railway and the river.

i-to-i interns in a tuk-tuk in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Elephants World

This past weekend I visited Elephants World in Kanchanaburi, which was my favorite experience yet. Elephants World is a sanctuary for retired elephants, and it is a safe place for the elephants. Their motto is “Where we work for the elephants, and the elephants not for us”. They are a non-profit, and the only place I would recommend in Kanchanaburi for interacting with elephants. You can feed them, bathe them, and watch them give themselves mud baths and swim. The staff is also friendly and really cares about the animals. I highly recommend Elephants World!

Elephants at Elephants World in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Touching down to teach in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Our teacher Ellen has touched down to teach in Phnom Penh!

So the adventure finally began on the 16th of June, after lots of preparation, getting nervous and excited it was finally time to make the beginning step of the journey, starting the long flight over to Cambodia. The i-to-i team had sent our intern group an email to say how we would be picked up at the airport so that bit of worry was eliminated, no matter how the journey went we had a friendly face to meet us.We had also been guided by Kimlay who runs the team in Cambodia on the facebook group, he made us aware that our visa’s were fine to get in the airport when we arrived so another possible worry taken away. With the first weekend being organised for us with our intern group I felt quite safe for what I was going into, you don’t just get instantly thrown into the schools and new accommodation, you get a nice middle ground in a hotel that’ll feel luxurious.

After what felt like the longest journey ever, I arrived in Cambodia, after sorting out my visa (which as expected was very simple and easy, just on your way out of the airport) I walked out of the airport doors. I was greeted by Linda, part of the Nutty’s Adventures team in-country and a couple of interns that had already arrived. We were sat for a while chatting and getting to know each other before our lift arrived, we left Linda to continue welcoming other interns due to arrive and were in a minibus to the High Sky Hotel with Hong, another member of the support team. There were 6 of us that arrived together, we enjoyed chatting on our journey to the hotel despite most of us being absolutely exhausted from travelling. The city looked very busy, I’m not sure what I expected but it was quite overwhelming and amazing all in one. Lots of buildings and the roads are quite manic (something you’ll adjust to!). There aren’t really proper pavements and there don’t seem to be rules of the road but all the same its no too difficult to cross a street, locals are used to having to randomly slow down so you will feel safe here.

Hotel overlooking the Mekong river in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We arrived at a very nice hotel that would be the perfect welcome for the weekend, with a pool, absolutely beautiful view and food provided we couldn’t complain, it was just what we needed to get started. We had a welcome meal together where we all ate and slowly gravitated around the group to introduce ourselves once we got a bit more comfortable, my group had 21 interns and first impressions were all good, a nice mixture of ages and people from different countries.

For the weekend in the daytime we had orientation where Kimlay, Hong, Linda and previous interns Duncan, Hebe and Kinda provided us with extra guidance. We were informed about the history of Cambodia, aspects of the Cambodian culture, the schools we would be going to and anything else they considered necessary. It was all very useful, making you less panicked and more at ease about going to your schools and beginning teaching. In the evenings we went for meals out together, the Saturday night we were taken to a restaurant that was in a tin shed, definitely a new experience but it was exciting to be having some true Khmer food. What we were given was like a folded over pancake, inside there was pork mince and beansprouts, we were told to rip bits of the pancake off and wrap lettuce around it, I have to say it was a meal I thoroughly enjoyed and have craved since despite it being incredibly messy! It’s important to watch what you eat and make sure that where the food is cooked is clean, apart from that definitely embrace trying Khmer food, make the most of the different exciting culture.

TEFL interns in Phnom Penh

The Sunday involved more orientation in the morning, then in the afternoon we were taken to see the royal palace together. We were taken in tuk tuks, the local transport here which is basically a cart attached to a motorbike and not at all difficult to find whilst you’re out and about. On our way there we started to experience our first monsoon, luckily the tuk tuks have waterproof sheeting to shelter you from the rain, we arrived at the palace and all stayed in our tuk tuks. Kimlay went and got us all rain ponchos so that we could still make the most of the experience. All of us appearing out of tuk tuks wearing rain ponchos was absolutely hilarious, it was surreal but great fun, I’m glad we experienced our first monsoon together in such a funny situation. Also, very useful to know what to expect of a monsoon so early on, if you’re out in one you will definitely get soaked but when it finishes the sun comes out. Normally a monsoon happens when the temperature keeps peaking and the rain cools it down again and makes it more bearable outside.

Colourful tuk-tuk transport on the road in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

On the Monday morning the intern group got split up and taken to their individual schools, I was lucky to be in a bigger group, including me there were two other girls and three boys going to my school. We were to be part of the CamFirst schools with the two other girls teaching in the school we stayed in and the three boys and I going on a school bus to the Norodom campus. We were welcomed to our new home by Sophea who runs the Baktouk campus, she was very friendly and showed us around our accommodation. The girls were put on the top floor where we had a big room with 3 camp style beds, a wardrobe to share and a desk. On our floor we also had our bathroom, a simple box room with a toilet sink and shower head, very basic but enough for what we need. We also had a balcony with some lines on to hang clothes and a washing machine, also leading off here was the kitchen with a sink, cabinet with bowls etc, a fridge, microwave and gas hob. The basic facilities could come as a culture shock but they really are all you need and make you realise how much you take for granted at home, I actually quite enjoyed the change and learning to live with less.

A typical intern bedroom at school in Phnom Penh in Cambodia

We were given a tour around our local area by Sophea and then left to our own devices before our orientation at our schools the next day. We visited the central market which was local to our school to get some extra teaching clothes. It can be a very daunting first experience, stalls everywhere and the locals tend to stare at foreigners. It’s nothing to be alarmed about though, the Khmer people are very friendly so simply smile at them and embrace their way of life. At the markets, bartering is a must, the locals expect you to do it so no need to feel guilty, they also will try and charge foreigners more thinking they will get away with it. Always barter and if they won’t budge on your final price then go to walk away and they quite often change their mind. Getting used to this takes some time but it is their way of life and you can buy things very cheaply out here. That is unless they are western items which you may be better off making sure you pack to bring with you instead.

The Monday evening we were all a little nervous and excited to begin our teaching experience the next day even though we would only be observing the first week. We had a nice relaxed evening together adjusting to our new surroundings, just the beginning of what would be an amazing two months.

 

Sawadee!: Jessi starts her Thailand TEFL Experience

Touchdown in Thailand!

Two weeks ago I said goodbye to America and hello to Kanchanaburi, Thailand as I begun my Thailand TEFL Experience. My first thought is “Wow, what a place!” There are so many differences between Thailand and my home, and I am loving every minute of discovery.

I didn’t arrive with many expectations because I prefer to be pleasantly surprised, but I did have some preconceived notions about what Thailand would be like. I expected to be surrounded by beautiful and glittering temples, and bright lights on the streets with tons of food vendors and bars. I have definitely found and enjoyed all of these things, but more importantly I have come to appreciate the inconspicuous beauty of Thailand.

Let me explain: while the popular tourist spots of Thailand are quite enticing, I have loved to become familiar with the more rural parts of Kanchanaburi.

Thailand intern Jessi teaches a class at school in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

 

Getting to know my new home

My tourist expectations went out the window as I realized that my new school was nowhere near the closest tourist hub. It took me a few days to adjust to this change in scenery, but I soon realized that this is the reason I decided to live in Thailand. I wanted to get up close and personal with this culture, and what better way to do this than to live like a local?

Around me are tiny family-owned shops, fields, a sugar cane factory, and reminders of the new culture I have entered into. I feel privileged to lift the curtain of tourism and to see behind it into the heart of the Thai culture. I believe this would not be possible had I decided to just backpack through Thailand.

 

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Doing it the Thai way

In just two weeks, the Thai culture has taught me to increase my patience and trust in others, and I have come to appreciate both my life at home and my new life here. I am grateful for my privileges in America, and I have realized that it is possible to live happily on less.

I look around me and see people living without air conditioning, western plumbing, fancy houses, or expensive cars. The Thai people live very basic lives, yet Thailand is known as “the land of smiles”. Everyone here seems to be at peace with each other, and will always offer up a smile to you, even if you are a complete stranger and a foreigner.

I have never felt so loved and accepted in a new place, and I am so grateful to my school for helping me to become comfortable in my new home.

School in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

 

Life changing for me and my students

Thailand has already showed me that my possessions do not define me, and the secret to a happy life is building meaningful relationships and finding purposeful work. I am enjoying my new relationships with the Thai teachers and children, as well as the other English teachers in my program.

I am finding so much happiness in the ability to give the children of my school a life-long skill of speaking English. I know I will have made a difference in their lives after my two months are up, even if I can only inspire them to continue learning after I am gone. I am hopeful for the impact I can have on the kids and teachers in my school, and I know they have already made a huge impact on me.

 

 

i-to-i Thailand intern Jessi teaches her class in Kanchanaburi

 

Has Jessi inspired you to have your own Thailand adventure and make a real difference?

If so, why not download the guide for our Thailand TEFL Experience, or give our TEFL advisers a call!

What it’s like doing TEFL in stunning South Korea!

Today, we’re interviewing the lovely Emina, who is living and teaching in super Seoul, South Korea. Jealous, us?!

Hi, Emina! Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? How old are you? Where are you from?
My name is Emina Dedic. I’m 27 years old, and originally from Bosnia. I am a former refugee, and first generation college graduate. I am a career student, writer, activist, and world explorer.

How do you usually spend your spare time?
I collect currency from all over the world and vinyl records. I regularly contribute to a variety of travel writing and educational blogs. I’m very passionate about community activism and do my best to contribute to my local community as much as I can. I’m an avid fashion and coffee enthusiast.

i-to-i TEFL graduate Emina Dedic teaches her class in Seoul, South Korea

What’s your education history? College, degree, high school?
I have an associates and bachelors degree with a focus in Psychology from Charter Oak State College. I also have certificates in Victim Advocacy and Legal Investigation from Texas A&M International University, and Paralegal Studies from Georgia State University. Currently. I’m four classes away from finishing a BA in English while simultaneously working on my MBA as well.

Where are you now?
Currently, I live in Seoul, South Korea. I teach at a private academy. I’m currently in my second year, and I am loving it!

i-to-i TEFL graduates socialise at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea

What is it that drew you to teaching English abroad?
I have wanted to teach English abroad for about five years, ever since I saw my school career services website advertising open positions for the jobs online. I was held back from going since most places a degree is a requirement. I was very hesitant to take out student loans, so it took me longer than normal to obtain my degree, which is a requirement in this industry. While I worked a job and went to school full-time, I kept daydreaming constantly about how one day I would wind up where I am today. My patience and determination paid off, however, because now I’m living a dream come true.

Which TEFL course did you complete?
I complete the 120 hour online course. However, I also did some specialist modules. Teaching Business English, Teaching to Online Learners, Teaching Business English, Teaching One-on-One, and Teaching With Limited Resources were some of the skills related subjects I studied. I also took country specific courses in Teaching in Italy, China, Poland, Japan, and South Korea.

A park and lake in peaceful Seoul, South Korea

Why did you choose your teaching location? Do you feel you made the right decision?
I chose South Korea because the nation has a reputation for being safe and a comfortable place for new teachers. The benefits are also nice. Overall, safety, security, and reliability were the main factors.

Where are you teaching? How are you finding the experience?
I have been teaching kids of many different ages, usually in the range from 4 years old to about 11. I work at a private academy. I am really enjoying the experience, but it does get challenging at times.

What’s your favourite thing about living where you do?
Other than having a job that I love, I’m very close to Olympic Park and to a dog café I adore called Lucimon. There is a Pyrenees dog there named Podong I really love. I love grabbing some tea and hanging out with him while I work on writing travel articles or grading assignments.

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Are there any challenges you’ve faced? How did you overcome them?
I really had no prior experience with teaching children, so the adjustment process was a bit hard for me. Figuring out how to discipline properly as well as teach students in effective ways in different class sizes and age levels also proved difficult. Sometimes, it was also hard to juggle a personal life along with such a demanding professional life.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start out teaching English abroad?
Go for it, but don’t jump into it blindly. Do your research. Negotiate your pay. Get TEFL certified, and make sure any contract you look at is valid. Know your rights and employment laws wherever you work. Most opportunities are legitimate, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of, because scams do still exist and there are bad schools out there.

Are you the same person as a year ago?
I would like to think that I am. I’d like to think I’m the same person, just a bit more aware about international issues, female traveling issues, what having to adjust to a culture is like when you’re completely alone, etc. I try to use my experiences to better myself as a person and use those tools to improve my community. I definitely learned I’m stronger than I thought I was.

Students on a field trip to the zoo in Seoul, South Korea

What three things would you choose to take to a desert island, and why?
Sunscreen (safety first), emergency supplies (in case I end up stuck or sick), and a really great book with a pen inside and some blank pages in the back so I could jot down some notes for an article I’d like to publish about the trip later.

Thanks for your time, Emina! It was great chatting with you. All the best in your future teach and travel adventures!

Top 10 crazy Thai foods

Imagine the scene: you’ve just arrived in beautiful Thailand, and are wandering leisurely around Bangkok’s packed-out Khao San Road taking in the exciting new sights and smells. Fire dancers mesmerise with their daring and dangerous stunts; street sellers hawk neon t-shirts and knock-off sunglasses; a smiling local approaches you with a tray piled high with enticing looking fried snacks.

You’re peckish at this point, so you catch their eye with a smile. Hand over your 20 baht or so, and receive a crackling bag of crunchy treats to nibble. Raise one to your mouth, and catch a glimpse before you bite – what is this?! A black form with spindly antennae, hard and shiny stomach with pointy limbs crossed over… all speckled with grains of salt. Little did you know, fried cockroaches are considered a delicacy in Thailand; and if you’re brave enough to crunch your way through its satisfying, salted-popcorn flavour you’ll find out why!
A street seller prepares fried cockroaches, a popular delicacy in Thailand

Thailand, along with many other Asian countries, is known for its wild selection of unusual foods that seem a bit… well, gross to the western palette – and fried bugs pale in comparison. That said, their resourcefulness in food preparation could serve as a valuable lesson to us in making the most of what’s available and minimising waste; so read on for some truly – let’s say, imaginative dishes. Here are our top ten mad meals from the Land of Smiles.

1. Kai Khao
Let’s start with something you may have heard of. A delicacy across many Asian countries, here’s a beer snack with a difference. Sit down at a pop-up bar and order an icy bottle of Chang beer in Thailand, and chances are you may see kai khao on the menu. Don’t be fooled by appearances, though – this is no innocent boiled egg.
Kai khao is, put simply, an unborn baby duck. Crack open the pretty blue eggshell and you’ll be greeted by a veined, pale, gelatinous mass complete with large yolk sac, tiny feet and eyes and even the beginnings of feathers. Locals love the intense poultry flavour and varied creamy-crunchy texture – chew it all down in one if you can face it!

Kai Khao balut duck egg, a delicacy in Asia

2. Som Tam Hoy Dong
The delicious, fresh, tangy and spicy som tam salad is a staple on many Thai restaurant menus, but the hoy dong in this particular recipe adds a none-too-appetizing twist. Take shredded green papaya, plenty of chilli, kaffir lime, garlic and crushed roast peanuts, and finish it off by adding some deliciously pungent fermented oysters. And then, drown the whole lot in a ruby red blood sauce. Serve with rice. Yum!

3. Durian fruit
This large, spiky-shelled monster is often called ‘the king of fruit’ – but from what we’ve heard, the jury is still out on that one. Banned in many public spaces and on public transport across Southeast Asia, the durian fruit looks (and smells) pretty threatening. You’ll smell it a mile off when browsing fruit markets: the stench is said to be like rotten onions, turpentine or raw sewage depending on who you listen to.

If you can get past the formidable spiked exterior and stomach-turning scent though, the rewards are apparently worth it: the soft fruit inside has a delicate, creamy consistency and a rich, sweet, almond-y flavour.

Durian fruit, a smelly fruit banned on public transport across much of Asia!

4. Goong Dten
Another one that definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. Goong dten roughly translates as ‘dancing shrimp’, and this dish is perfect for culinary adventurers who are desperate to know what a mouth full of live shrimp feels like (we imagine squiggly).

Tiny, see-through live freshwater shrimp are put in a bowl where they toss themselves around with chopped green onion, chilli and spices (thanks guys) before being munched, still wiggling. They ‘pop’ between the teeth in a salty explosion that is meant to be really delicious. Would you be bold enough to try?

5. Bpaak Bpet
‘Nose to tail’ eating (scoffing the whole animal with the minimum of waste) has been a popular food fad in the UK for a few years now, but the Thais doubtless got there first. Bpaak bpet is a duck’s beak, a couple of which can be picked up for just a few pennies at plenty of street food stalls in Thailand. The animal’s bill is marinated in a delicious sweet soy sauce and then grilled.

Though the tough cartilage takes a lot of chewing, the rich, fatty meat inside is meant to be really tasty – just make sure it’s soft enough to swallow!

6. Larb Mote Daeng
This is another crunchy creepy crawly dish that is supposedly totally delicious – after all, why should anteaters have all the fun? Red ants are cooked in their thousands with their large white eggs to create a dark, shiny mass speckled with creamy blobs. Close your eyes and take a bite – we reckon the sweet and sour crunch of the ants mixed with the rich, wholesome taste of the eggs is impossible not to love!

Amok chouk, red andts and their eggs cooked and served as a delicacy in Thailand

7. Mok Huak
Ever felt the need to plunge your mitts into the garden pond and scarf down handfuls of wiggly tadpoles? Somebody in Thailand has, and that’s how mok huak came about. Get a big bucket of developing taddies (legs and all, if possible) and cook them up with green onions, spices, chilli… and a dash of fermented fish sauce (pla raa).

Bon appetit!

8. Luu Muu
On a Saturday morning, you may find yourself tucking into a hearty fried breakfast complete with black pudding, made of congealed pig’s blood. Sounds gross but tastes great, right? What about luu muu?

Offal and blood feature heavily in Thai cooking due to their commendable attitude about non-waste. Iron-rich blood can be extremely good for you, or extremely bad (heard of Streptococcus suis?) so approach this dish with caution. Raw, bright red pigs’ blood is mixed with a tasty spice mixture and served up over deep-friend crisp noodles and garnished with kaffir lime leaves and cab moo, fried pork skin similar to the pork scratchings you can get down the pub. The rich, iron-y flavour is meant to be quite bracing.

Let’s not forget the words of many an esteemed doctor, though: the consumption of raw blood is not advisable.
A bowl of Thai blood soup

9. Bamboo rat
These toothy, oversized rodents are admittedly kind of cute, looking like a cross between mice and guinea pigs, and around the same size as the latter. They get fat on chomping through farmers’ bamboo stocks and as such are considered a bit of a pest. When you’re roaming around local markets, don’t be surprised to see a couple of these big lads locked up in cages awaiting their fate – a swift skinning and being roasted whole on a grill.

The meat is said to taste similar to pork but with an exceptionally fatty, chewy texture – for this reason, it’s usually served boiled up with veg and spices for a rich, meaty soup.

10. Laap
Back to the raw flesh and blood for a final hoorah – laap is quite similar to raw steak tartare, which is considered a bit of a delicacy in the west. This is another great way to make use of the whole animal when you’re eating – unspecified meat (whatever is to hand!) is minced up really finely with a generous helping of blood and mixed with pulverised cooked offal and skin. Mix with fresh herbs like galangal, kaffir lime and basil; whack in some fried onion and garlic, and a special dried spice seasoning paste. Serve up the dark red, quivering mass with some sticky rice. Delicious.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour around the culinary conquests of Thailand; and remember, you can always enjoy a pad thai if none of the above tickles your fancy.

Fancy sampling some of these mouth-watering morsels for yourself? Check out our epic two month Thailand TEFL Experience by clicking here.