Thailand’s Top Markets

Think you might need a snake, a coconut plate, some spices or a cure for insomnia? Or perhaps you are simply on the look out for some fresh fish and vegetables for dinner. If it’s bargains you are after – of any variety – then sampling Thailand’s markets is a must.

Even if you don’t fancy buying, markets in Thailand are worth a visit. The bustle, noise, colours and smells of a busy Thai market will either energise or exhaust you (or possibly both) – but either way, it will give you an experience to remember.

If you are in a purchasing mood, remember that bartering <link to How to Barter in Thailand> is an essential (and fun) part of the process. However, don’t worry too much about always “winning” a haggle. If you end up with a price you are happy paying then you have got yourself a bargain.

You don’t have to look far to find a market in Thailand. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started.

 

Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street (Chiang Mai)

Chiang Mai Sunday Walking Street

You might think you would be able to walk down Chiang Mai’s Walking Street. It’s a bit tricky though. Mainly because the huge array of handmade arts and crafts, coupled with delicious food and fantastic music, means that nobody moves very fast during this Sunday market.

In our opinion Chiang Mai’s Sunday Walking Street beats even the town’s Night Bizarre (Chang Lang Road, Chiang Mai) – although admittedly the Night Bizarre’s amazing variety of high quality silks, clothing and rugs do mean that the dusk to midnight bizarre is definitely worth a visit too.

However, we reckon Chiang Mai’s Sunday market is even better. The market showcases craftsmanship from northern Thailand – often made by the person standing by the stall – and really comes to life after dark. This is when the musicians, dancers and street entertainers make their entrance, giving the market a festival atmosphere.

Lasting from 4pm until midnight every Sunday, the market runs for about a kilometre from Tha Pae Gate to Ratchadamnoen Road.

Linger to buy a fresh fruit juice from a street-side temple food stall, have a break with a relaxing foot massage, or simply wander amongst the stalls as the music floats on the breeze – this will be a Sunday evening to remember.

 

Chatuchak Weekend Market (Bangkok)

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Whether it is a potted plant or a temple bell that you are looking for, head for the Chatuchak Weekend Market on (yes, you’ve guessed it) a Saturday or Sunday and shop to your heart’s content.

Covering an area of 35 acres and with around 8,000 stalls, the Chatuchak Weekend Market sells pretty much everything you can imagine – plus quite a bit more that it never occurred to you to buy. On top of that, you can watch artists and craft makers at work and enjoy scrumptious treats at the numerous food and drink stalls.

Whilst it can be disorientating when you are in the heart of it, Chatuchak Market is actually organised into 27 sections, based roughly on types of products. Maps are available from the information centre and throughout the market to help you find your way through the maze of stalls.

Try to come early, to beat both the crowds and the heat. And make the most of the food and drink stalls, to pace yourself throughout the day.

 

Khlong Toey Fresh Market (Bangkok)

Khlong Toey Fresh Market

Khlong Toey Fresh Market sells fresh products (I bet you would never have worked that out from its name!). A lot of fresh products.

In fact, it is said that if you have ever eaten a meal in Bangkok, at least one of the ingredients will have come through this market.

Khlong Toey Market is where chefs from five star restaurants mix with street vendors, all on the hunt for the freshest goods on offer in Bangkok.

This makes it a great place to pick up fruit and vegetables. Or crab, chicken, lobster, herbs – in fact pretty much any kind of seafood, poultry, fruit or vegetable that you might come across in Thailand is likely to be sold in Khlong Toey Market.

Arrive early (around 6am) to get the best on offer – or simply to watch and photograph, if that’s more your thing.

Just remember, most of it arrives at Khlong Toey Market alive. So if you are squeamish, make sure you look away before the chicken or crab you picked out for your lunch is “prepared” for you to take home.

 

Lard Yai / Sunday Market (Phuket)

Lard Yai Sunday Market

The Sunday evening Lard Yai market in Phuket is a great antidote to that end-of-weekend feeling. Combine a bit of souvenir hunting with sampling of southern Thai cuisine and make your weekend end on a high.

Lard Yai is a relative newcomer to the “walking street” market industry across the country (it made its first appearance in 2013). However its beautiful location in the heart of the Old Town district of Phuket definitely makes it one to visit.

The heart of Lard Yai can be found between 4pm-10pm on Sundays along Thalang Road, where the lovely old Sino-Portuguese houses are lit up with an ever-changing display of colour. Meanwhile, on the busy street you will find an array of mainly local arts, crafts and souvenirs sitting fighting for space with open air performances and stalls serving up freshly made edible delights.

Arrive ready to eat – as you will definitely want to be tempted by the huge variety of food on offer.

 

Pak Klong Talat Flower Market (Bangkok)

Pak Klong Talat Flower MarketPak Klong Talat (literally, “market at the mouth of the canal”) has been around in one form or another for over 200 years. Originally a floating market during the reign of Rama I, it has been a fish market, a produce market and is now one of the largest flower markets in the world – with fruit and vegetables also on offer.

The market is based on Chakphet Road and is open 24 hours a day. However, if you really want the genuine flower market experience, try visiting before dawn. This is the time that the boats and trucks arrive loaded with flowers from all across the country – and the local florists and traders visit to choose their day’s stock.

You are best simply watching, yawning and keeping out of the way of the professionals during an early morning visit. However, smaller purchases are welcome during the rest of the day. So if you fancy some fresh blooms to brighten up your room, this is the place to come.

 

Amulet Market (Bangkok)

Amulet Market

If you think you need a bit of luck to spot the bargains in all these markets, why not head for Bangkok’s Amulet Market.

Running south from the Phra Chan pier, the capital’s largest amulet market is a dense network of covered market stalls.

Here you can mix with monks, men working in “dangerous professions”, taxi drivers and tourists to search amongst the thousands of talisman for that perfect token that will ward off evil spirits or transform your fortunes.

The amulets tend to be quite small (generally holding-in-the-hand size) but otherwise take numerous different shapes and forms. You can find Buddha images, pendants allegedly with particles from sacred temples, or even body parts such as pieces of bone or hair.

It is up the individual buyer to discern whether their potential purchase has any real value (whether spiritual or otherwise) – which can make this a fascinating place for people watching.

Oh, and when you have finished bartering your way through these land-based markets – remember there is whole set of floating markets to move onto next.

Ten Things to Do in Bangkok for Under $10

To help you make the most of your teaching wage, here are ten of our favourite things to do in Bangkok for under $10.

 

 1. Be Mesmorised by a Traditional Thai Puppet Show at Baan Silapin (Thornburi)

Performed in a 200-year-old wooden house, in the company of human-sized statues dangling their feet towards the river, this is certainly not your stereotypical production. Bann Silapin (the Artist’s House) is worth a visit in itself. However it is the traditional Thai puppet shows, using intricate, hand-carved puppets to narrate stories based on Thai folklore, that is the main draw. With free performances most afternoons, you can relax and be entranced.

Puppet show in Bangkok

2. Learn Meditation at the Wat Mahathat (Na Phra Road)

Free meditation classes in both Thai and English are held daily at the Wat Mahathat. Learn how to focus your concentration on your breathing and rid your mind of thought through the “Vipassana” meditation.

3. Escape the City at Lumpini Park

When you crave a break from the hectic city life, pop into the huge inner-city Lumpini Park. Whether you want burn off some energy in the free, open-air aerobics sessions, read a book in the shade of a tree, spot some rare indigenous flora (or even a passing water monitor lizard), or simply people watch, this is a perfect spot in which to do it.

Lumpini Park

4. Watch Money being Burnt in Chinatown

Be prepared for your senses to be assaulted when you take a trip to Chinatown’s array of street vendors, market alleys, gold shops, temples and vibrant energy. Wander down here by day or night and the assortment of smells and colours – not to mention the possibility of sampling “insect snacks” – will give you an unforgettable experience. If you have money to burn, you can literally do so and no-one will bat an eyelid. Burning of money and pretty much any other goods are part of the offerings to ancestors at Chinese New Year (though, on a $10 budget, you might be better following the locals in using replicas only!)

5. Ferry Yourself Around

If you fancy a different viewpoint of Bangkok, why not take a river ferry? A simple crossing of the river only costs 3 bhat, river taxis cost from 10 bhat or buy a day ticket to the tourist boat for 100 bhat (around $3) and hop on and off all day long, visiting the attractions as you go.

Ferry around Bangkok

6. Select a Bloom at Pak Klong Talad (Chak Phet Road)

For the early risers (or those who haven’t yet gone to bed) Pak Klong Talad – Bangkok’s largest flower market – is at its most lively at around 3am. An early-hours visit will allow you to glimpse wholesalers delivering blooms from across the country whilst traders come to purchase their stock. However, if you fancy a more leisurely experience, 3pm is an equally good time to marvel at all the colours and smells and sheer volume of flowers – and perhaps even select a few to take back at bargain prices to brighten up your room.

7. Be Invigorated with a Massage

After a long day at the office (well, in front of the class anyway), what better way to wind down than with a massage? Local massage shops are everywhere in the city and – at an average of 200-300 bhat ($6-$9) for an hour’s massage – they are also pretty good value. Just be aware that Thai massage focuses on pressure points and is rather more vigorous than its western counterpart. Ask staff from your school for their recommendations or simply pick one that takes your fancy on the street.

8. Let the World Float by at Taling Chan Floating Market

Officially just outside Bangkok, but close enough to justify its inclusion in our list, this is one of the smaller and (for now, at least) less commercialised floating markets. Sample the fish cooked fresh on the boats and listen to the traditional music drifting through the air. Not a bad way to spend a morning.

Floating Markets

9. Say Hello to the Giant Crocodiles at the Wat Chakrawat (Chinatown)

For a different type of thrill, pop into the Wat Chakrawat temple complex and peer at the three giant crocodiles lurking in a small pond, ready for their next meal. There are several theories as to why these crocodiles live here, although the most prevalent is simply that they were found in the local river. Whatever their origin, cleaning out the crocodile pond certainly adds a new dimension to the monks’ practice of mindfulness!

10. Experience Muay Thai at the MBK Shopping Mall

Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, is a martial art and national sport of Thailand. Whilst fights are held in stadiums all over the country, these tend to be expensive. However, each Wednesday evening you can watch a series of fights live and for free outside the MBK shopping mall. Even if you don’t like boxing, the energy of the crowd makes this worth dropping by – and you can always pop into the shopping centre if you find it all a bit much (although with around 2000 shops to tempt you, we can’t guarantee you will keep to your $10 budget there!).

Muay Thai Boxing

Ready to start exploring Bangkok? Check out our Paid TEFL Internship in Thailand! You’ll get plenty time to take in the sights and smells of this epic capital plus a whole lot more!

Teach English in Thailand: My First Week in the Land of Smiles

Thailand TEFL Experience intern, Elena, tells us about her first week in the Land of Smiles!

I made it!

At this moment in time; I am sat inside my teacher accommodation, at a lovely school, in the beautiful province of Kanchanaburi. My roommate and I are definitely the lucky ones when it comes to where we are staying!

So far I have had an amazing week, unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Already I have made a massive group of friends for life and memories that I will treasure forever. Ayutthaya was an incredible place; jam packed with a wealth of history and golden temples or Wats– what?!

Temples in Thailand

My new home

Kanchanaburi is definitely not what I was expecting at all. Honestly, I pictured my time living in a wooden hut with beds on the floor, in a tiny village with not much to do; apart from teaching and hiding from big insects. I was so wrong.

The town I am staying in is called Tha Muang and it is nearly as lively as Kanchanaburi town itself! We are so lucky with our location- we have a great night market, so many shops and restaurants and plenty of places to eat street food. We’re also a 5 minute walk from some other interns, as well as a short bus ride to the next town- where we can spend time with more friends and practicing Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)!

TEFL intern doing Thai boxing

Meeting the locals

When people refer to Thailand as the Land of Smiles they aren’t exaggerating. The Thai people are the most friendly I have ever met and will go completely out of their way to help you! Our teacher Pare, has welcomed us into the school with open arms and has taken us to temples, markets, bike rides and out for food more times than I can count – just to help settle us in and make us feel welcome!

Smiling TEFL students in Thailand

A typical day of teaching

Our timetable for the school is incredible. We teach for no more than three hours a day (it doesn’t sound like much but in this heat you welcome the break).  The days are jam packed with activities and we are surrounded by fantastic children that are all desperate to know us.

My roommate and I are provided with a beautiful lunch and there is also a massive freezer of ice cream that we have unlimited access to- shh don’t tell the other interns!

TEFL teachers playing with the students

Time to explore

Every weekend we have out here is free for us to do as we want, so I’m definitely going to make the most out of being in this incredible country. Sun, sea, new friends and a load of memories to make- nothing can go wrong!

Has reading Elena’s blog made you want to teach English in Thailand? Our Thailand TEFL Experience runs throughout the year so why not sign up and experience it for yourself! Or if you fancy staying a little longer, check out our Paid Thailand TEFL Internship instead!

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.

Teacher Becca’s Teaching English In Thailand Food Adventure

Sugar, Spice & Everything Nice

 

While out teaching English in Thailand our Teacher Becca is coming across many different experiences. Today she’s focusing on food and like every culture people in Thailand have their own unique relationship with food:

A great mystery that I believe will never be solved is this:

All Thai people seem to do is eat, yet they remain so slender!

Let me walk you through the evidence.

The first afternoon we visited the school, we needed to go to immigration to check in and let them know where we would be staying for the next 5 weeks.

After this relatively painless experience, and of course after posing for a few photos with immigration officers, we were taken to lunch.

As with many of our future meals, the restaurant was actually an outdoor kitchen of someone’s house.

Since Pad Thai was the only thing I knew for sure I would like, I happily ordered some. It was delicious, we were all full and happy, and headed back to school. Mai Chai. Nope.

Thai dish from Teacher Becca

The Journey continues with…more food, yes please

 

Moments after pulling away from our lunch spot, we pulled over and bought fried plantains with coconut milk.

Ok, yum!

I didn’t really save room for dessert but they had juuuuuuust the right amount of sweetness for my tastebuds.

Then, just a few minutes away from school, we dropped off one of the teachers. Mai Chai again.

We circled around and picked her, and several bags of pineapple skewers, back up. Whew, more food!

Tough life, I know.

It was also in this moment that I learned the pink sugar with speckles included with the fruit was in fact spicy. Noted for future reference.

Upon returning to the school, we were directed to the canteen for school lunch. I’m not even kidding.

*loosens belt*

On another occasion which further adds to the mystery of the Thai figure, was a wedding we attended.

In addition to being a gorgeous feast for the eyes, the food was incredible, and aplenty.

In total, we were served 10 courses.

Although I stopped counting after the third saucy dish of whole prawns came out.

Thankfully when the spicy noodle dish arrived we were also given two important condiments: raw sugar and lemon juice. Trust me on this, it helps with the heat.

This past weekend, my roommate and I decided a spontaneous trip to Bangkok was in order.

We were ready for some Western-style food. And western-style food did we have! Pasta, parfaits, and even burgers!

Spaghetti Bolognese in Thailand for just 30 Baht

But yet again, the Thai people were determined to serve us their delicious culinary creations.

Exploring the Grand Palace…and there’s food!

 

Upon entering the Grand Palace, we were reminded a bit of Buckingham Palace due to the plethora of guards everywhere.

One notable difference, almost everyone seemed to be drinking some sort of green creamy smoothie with gummies inside.

Coming towards the intersection with the pink elephants, we were gleefully ushered over to a booth and handed free (!!!) spicy noodles and crab, fried pork crackers, and that green liquid.

After being served by the guards, a lady from the Department of Sanitation presented us with two complimentary bottles of chilled water!

It’s a good thing I am sweating so much here, or else those calories would never burn away!

Teacher Becca free lunch at Grand Palace Bangkok

Teacher Becca Pro Tips:

 

Eat your veggies. Your doctor is right on this one. It can be hard to find foods that we are used to, so it’s important to make every meal as balanced as possible.

• Some people choose the adventurous route and eat street food, some people are able to cook at school, and others opt for the delicacies of 7-Eleven. Whatever your choice, eat meals that will leave you feeling satisfied.

Say Yes! Thailand is of course the land of smiles, but you will find that a lot of time behind the smile is an invitation to try some food. Go for it. Thai people love to see your reaction, good or bad. My students and colleagues are always asking my opinion of Thai food. “Too spicy?Um, yes, but delicious as well!

Until next time,

 

Teacher Becca

 

If you’ve enjoyed reading Teacher Becca’s adventures teaching English in Thailand, why not take a closer look at some of our Thailand Travel options:

https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/

First Day Teaching In Thailand: Teacher Becca

Thailand’s Sights, Sounds, and yes…Smells

 

It is 7:15 AM but the heat outside of our door would suggest high noon. Before our morning shower, we can already hear the sounds of music honouring the recently deceased king of Thailand. Little did we know, that this loudspeaker would become our daily alarm clock.

The background music is the sound of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and the occasional car or van circling through the courtyard to drop off the 1,300 students who attend Yuchieo Primary School. It’s time to experience the first day of teaching in Thailand.

Tuk Tuk in Thailand

As my roommate Louise and I walk out of our room ready for the day, we smell strongly of bug spray.

The distinctive smell of diethyltoluamide, fondly known as deet, is just one of many indicators that we are indeed foreigners. The students and 80 odd teachers will soon call us suay, and point out those other indicators with a smile.

Getting to know new students

 

As we pass the balcony and walk down the stairs, we are greeted by a swarm of tan, blue and forest green. Today is Wednesday, so it is scout uniform day. In other words, it’s just another day where our students are donning delightfully cute uniforms. In addition to the normal wai, we are also greeted with a two-finger scout salute.

Being none the wiser, we bowed to what seemed like every single one of the thousand plus students. To an outsider looking in, it was very clearly a frantic attempt to mumble “sawasdee ka” correctly, while bowing and giving a scout salute to every pair of legs that walked by us.

One of the Thai teachers in the English department took pity on us. She walked over with a bright smile, and in a combination of English and hand gestures, told us to only bow at fellow colleagues and not students. Phew. By this point my ears are buzzing from hearing “good morning teacher” on repeat, the loudspeaker music, and what I would classify as rush hour traffic.

Teacher Becca at Assembly

Fast forward past the blur of greetings and a whirlwind of a school tour, and my stomach is grumbling noticeably. Usually this index of heat prevents me from feeling hunger, but the vat of spicy something and pre-scooped bowls of white rice had my name on it. My new name that is…Teacher Becca. Fortunately for me, Rebecca is easily shortened to a more pronounceable Becca.

Unfortunately for my roommate, Teacher Louise is confusing for the children to say, despite the lengths to which your vocal chords may go.

Teacher Becca with smiling pupils in Thailand

Lunch at school and a break

 

In the canteen, my ears are buzzing again. This time from the sound of small metal spoons on blue and pink plastic bowls amidst a sea of smiling faces. I will be taking the lead from the students on this one, and filling my bowl to the brim with this deliciously mysterious lunch.

Fast forward twenty minutes later, when, despite the sensation that even my eyeballs are sweating, all I can think of is what else is in store for this afternoon!

School lunch at school in Thailand

A few hours later, we are in our rooms relaxing with what I swear to be the best air conditioner I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  We had spent the afternoon seeing some classes and smiling and nodding to our various welcoming committees.

After cooling down, Louise and I had a chat about some of the highs and lows of the day.

Looking back on the day

 

It was clear we were going to need to bring a lot of energy to the classrooms to match the enthusiasm of the children. After spending five days of orientation with our English-speaking counterparts, we had seriously underestimated the language barrier. We knew it would be important to take excellent care of our health as the climate, children, and cultural differences demanded it. That being said, we already had a sense that even if we gave 100%, the children would return that tenfold in love.

After dissecting every aspect of our busy day, it was shockingly already time for food again! So, one American and one Brit decided to wander about Kanchanaburi looking for tea…

Teacher Becca Pro Tips

 

•  Drink water. Duh, right? But you can’t underestimate the necessity for your body in this heat!

•  Get sleep. Restful sleep. Make sure you have a routine for falling asleep and waking up refreshed. Even though I am so #blessed to have air conditioning, my body was not used to sleeping with only cold air, so I quickly realized that my best overnight option was the fan.

Double Bed Image symbolizing sleep

•  On the subject of routine: create one at the beginning. Yes, the teaching brings something new and exciting every day.   But, you can’t give from an empty cup! Whether it’s recreating (to the best of your ability) your routines from home, or creating a new one in Thailand, go Nike and Just. Do. It.

 

Until next time,

Teacher Becca

If Teach Becca has inspired you to give teaching in Thailand a try for yourself, then take a look at our Thailand TEFL Experience: https://www.i-to-i.com/teaching-internships/tefl-course-internship-thailand-volunteer.html

More tips from Teacher Becca coming soon!

Top 5 Travel Writers for TEFL Adventure Seekers

It’s no secret that at i-to-i we’re HUGE travel fans. We live, breath and dream travel, which comes in handy considering the TEFL courses and travel advice we provide.

Since November is “Novel Writing Month” we wanted to give a shout-out to some of the most iconic travel writers out there.

We’ve put together our top 5 travel writers, who’ve painted such an exciting picture of the places they’ve explored that we felt part of their journey, and were inspired to get discovering.

Bill Bryson

For some of us, he’s the first travel author we ever read. His charming and entertaining writing style filled with tales of the amazing people he met on the way is so detailed that you really feel that you’re not only his best friend, but travelling alongside him.

He’s probably most famous for his novel “Notes from a Small Island”, which gives an American’s account of 1970s Britain. He’s since ventured all over the globe.

His 2002 best-seller “African Diary” details his trip to Kenya supporting CARE International projects.

His descriptions of Kenyan geography and culture have inspired many an African adventure.

Trekking party in Kenya

Elizabeth Gilbert

When you say “Eat, Pray, Love” a lot of people will respond with “Julia Roberts”. And while it was an epic movie, we do love the original book that inspired it all.

The true story of this book combined with the many destinations and life lessons described in such an honest and heart-felt manner is what truly makes this memoir a masterpiece.

At 32 Elizabeth Gilbert was a known writer with a white-picked-fence home and husband, but she didn’t feel fulfilled. After her divorce and an unsuccessful rebound relationship, she decided to hit the road and explore the world.

What we love about the book is how it’s layered out into 3 spell-bounding acts:

“Eat”

Giving her account of living, eating and enjoying life in Italy.

“Pray”

Depicting her 3 month journey across India discovering her spiritual side.

“Love”

In which she spent a year in Indonesia on the search of a balance between “Eat” and “Pray” and also fell in love with a Brazilian Businessman.

Bali, Indonesia, has such iconic landscapes that we’re sure she fell in love with the island, too.

Pura Ulun Danu temple. Indonesia.

Robert Macfarlane

Nottinghamshire born and bred writer Robert Macfarlane has a very unique approach to travel writing.

Typically staying on his home-turf of the UK, Robert nevertheless is a good example of travel writing inspiring Wanderlust.

He’s a literal wordsmith as he champions the language of landscapes and is a must-read for any aspiring travel writers or bloggers out there.

Also a handy reference for any TEFL teachers for lessons with teenagers. If you’re looking for lesson inspiration, why not use Macfarlane’s terms to delve deeper into the genre that is travel writing. Some of our favourite phrases from his latest novel “Landmarks” are:

“Summer Geese”

Yorkshire term for steam that lifts from moorland when hot sun shines after hard rain.

“Ammil”

South-west English phrase for vast glitter and gleam of sunlight on hoarfrost.

“Crizzle”

The sound and action of open water as it freezes, a term originating from Northamptonshire.

Inspiring sunset at the sea

Matt Gross

Matt Gross started out as a columnist for the New York Times, where he wrote about frugal travelling. Always handy to get tips on this.One day his editor gave him the chance to write something with less structure, which is where the column “Getting Lost” was born from, which opened the doors to a more immersive travel experience for Gross and resulted in success all round. Happy Gross, happy editor and happy readers. Nice.

His debut novel “The Turk Who Loved Apples” shows Matt’s journey around the world in which he let the destination itself guide him through what to see and experience. A travel method dubbed ‘breaking free’ and a truly inspiring account of what you can discover by choosing the path less-traveled.

Sea at Nang Yuan island Koh Tao Thailand.

Rolf Potts

If you’re a keen travel researcher you’ve probably encountered Rolf Potts’ columns and travel essays in the National Geographic Traveler, The Guardian and Slate.com.

Potts’ career began as a landscaper in Seattle before going to Korea to teach English at a technical college for two years, which is where he started writing about his experiences in this amazing country.

He’s since published two books “Vagabonding” and “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There”. Both are fantastic reads, which champion the value of travel while also giving philosophical insights.

Our favourite is “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There” as the end-notes offer the reader the chance to understand how travel narratives emerge from a variety of real-life travel experiences.

A must-read for anyone interested in developing their travel writing skills.

South Korea mountain landscape

Inspired to give travel writing a go yourself? Just need a destination, right?

Ever considered an adventure, where you can get paid as go by teaching English as a foreign language? If not, then opportunity may be knocking with our TEFL courses:

https://www.i-to-i.com/tefl-courses/

And if you’d like any course or travel advice, give our friendly team a call.

What’s life like in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Thailand TEFL intern, Pashka, tells us what it’s like to live and teach in rural Thailand.

Welcome to my pad!

I am currently sitting in my new home for the next 2 months. It’s a Thai style house with a concrete downstairs, there’s an open space with a sofa, fridge, microwave, work desk, television and bathroom. Upstairs there’s a dressing room complete with an iron and ironing board and the bedroom. While it may not be a palace, it’s home and I love it!

I’ve definitely had the luck of the draw when it comes to accommodation as facilities vary from school to school. My first piece of advice – be open minded when it comes to where you’ll be living and be prepared for it not to live up to western standards.

I’ve spoken to some interns who have a spare classroom in the school with a bed and a shared bathroom a few floors down. While others have made a renovated school clinic home that’s “western standard” in terms of structure but not so much in terms of homeliness.

The culture shock is real

The one guarantee is a western toilet (as opposed to a squat) so you can breathe a sigh of relief if this was putting you off signing up!

Now for my second piece of advice – expect to be uncomfortable at times, you’ll endure the odd stomach upset, sleep on a hard bed and take a cold shower. This can be quite a shock for new interns but it’s all part of the experience.

I’m living in Thailand and I live like Thais do. I’m experiencing the true Thai culture, eating and sleeping like the other teachers – something no tourist would get to do.

Adopting the Thai way of life

The Thai attitude towards life is very different to the UK but the main thing you’ll notice is that they’re very laid back. Things only get serious when it comes to respecting elders and upholding traditions. Other than that the pace of life is slow, no one is in a rush to do anything and everything is subject to change. It’s probably the heat!

One thing that was said over and over at orientation was that every single person in the local area will know who we are and this was no exaggeration! When you first think of Thailand you probably picture the throngs of tourists in Bangkok and the famous beach parties but the reality is very different. The TEFL schools are in small, quiet communities, often out in the sticks and cut off from everything else.

For the first couple of weeks, walking down the street turned more than a few heads. The looks I get range from respectful recognition to curious glances that seem to say “what are you doing here!” A foreign face will be a novelty so get ready to be in photos and chat to the locals as they’ll want to try out their English, no matter how limited it is.

The rewards of being a TEFL teacher

It’s such a small community that every time I leave the school I’m bound to run in to a student and their parents. Being respectful and following the social norms goes without saying, and if you play your cards right you might be rewarded.

The other day I went to buy some shorts and after a friendly chat with the owner, in which we told him we were teaching English at the local school, he ended up giving me 50%off and a lift to town. Not bad for a TEFL teacher!

And it’s not just me who’s benefited from these perks. My partner plays football most days after school with the kids, one of the parents, touched by his involvement, gave him a big packet of Emmental cheese (cheese is notoriously hard to get here).

We’ve had a free massage from a teacher who owns a salon and even visited our English teacher’s family for dinner, including left-overs for the next day (or two)!

This sense of togetherness is central to Thai culture, everyone knows everyone, shares what they can and looks out for each other, very different to our home, London.

Making every weekend count

If I had to tell you the “thorn in my side” about living here it would be the noise at night. It might sound like an exaggeration but I have a more peaceful night’s sleep in a dorm room on Khao San Road than I do in Tha Muang, Kanchanaburi. If it isn’t every dog in the neighbourhood keeping me up with their relentless barking and howling, it’s the incessant whoop of a Koel bird that seems to nest directly above my head.

But I’m not completely cut off from the comforts of home. We’re lucky to have a bus stop nearby so we can travel to both Kanchanaburi town and Bangkok. I’m away almost every weekend with the other interns (there’s 30 of us in Kanchanaburi) and we often stay in a tourist hub where the menus are familiar, the showers are hot and the WiFi actually works.

We’ve managed to do it all, from touring the provinces’ famous “death railway” (The Burmese railway), river Kwae and waterfalls at Erawan National Park. To flying to Ko Pha Ngang for the famous full moon party, witnessing the lady boys show, witnessing tuk-tuk drag races and celebrating Chinese New Year in Bangkok. The weekends are usually so eventful that by Sunday night we welcome another “quiet” week at school.

 

If you’re ready to follow in Pashka’s footsteps and live the dream of teaching English in Thailand why not check out our Thailand TEFL Experience! Got a degree? Take a look at our Paid Thailand TEFL Internship and you can earn a generous monthly allowance too.

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

 

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