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.

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

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.

TEFL in Thailand: What Our Interns Say!

The fully-supported Paid Thailand TEFL Internship gives you plenty of teaching experience whilst having an amazing time exploring your new home!  But don’t just take our word for it, have a look and see what our interns have to say about their experience!

 

John’s story

Jon in Thailand

Name: John Campbell-Wright

School: Chaiburi Pittaya High School in Chaiburi, Surat Thani, Thailand

Teaching Period: November 2014 – February 2015 (John is stayed for an additional term with Chaiburi Pittaya High School)

“When I first landed in Thailand on my birthday I was unsure what to expect. I had never flown so far by myself and had never been to Asia. The only certainty I knew was that after a week of training in Bangkok, I was going to be teaching. I was greeted by the in-country support team and taken to the hotel where I met my fellow teaching interns.

I thoroughly enjoyed my training week in Bangkok, the other interns were a truly fantastic group of people. But soon enough it was time to swap contact details and head off to our new homes.

I arrived in my new town of Chaiburi, to discover a stretch of road with little villages located along it. Chaiburi is small but I have come to love it massively. I’ve learnt that the local people are very friendly and I always get a smile and conversation in the local shops, occasionally by complete strangers. Because Chaiburi is small, the community knows who I am and as the days go by I’m slowly learning who everyone else is.

The teachers at school are fun to be around, and I play sports with them after school. The students are brilliant, they’re compassionate, fun and have a good sense of humour. I’ve learnt how to handle each class as they all respond to lessons differently. But they’re are all willing to learn when you get the hang of adapting the lessons. I can’t leave my home without being greeted by one of my students, they’re always happy to say hello when they see me out and about.

I have also been able to travel to some fantastic places during my time in Thailand, some places I’ve discovered alone and others with my fellow interns. I was lucky enough to spend one of the best New Year’s Eve of my life thanks to a local family who virtually adopted me!

The in-country support has been invaluable, providing me with good support, and helping me handle Thailand’s complicated bureaucracy, including my visa, work permit and everything else has all been handled by them.

Although my internship in Thailand has been short, I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and have come to love this country and the amphur Chaiburi. I love it so much I would be overjoyed to stay; there are still so many things to see and do!”

 

Kenisha’s story

kenisha thailand

Name: Kenisha Naomi Douglas-Taylor

School: Anuban Surin Primary School in Surin, Thailand

Teaching Period: October 2014 – March 2015

“Being in Thailand has opened so many doors for me. The Thai people are friendly and go above and beyond when it comes to accommodating me. I’ve found that as a culture they’re very respectful to people in a higher positions, such as teachers!

Working with children has pushed me, but when I’m able to have a conversation with my students it’s the only reward I need! Living in Surin has been amazing, plus living in a proper Thai city with VERY few tourists has been so nice!

Learning the language has been a great experience for me as I’ve always been fascinated with Asian languages. Your experience with Thailand is what you make of it. If you embrace the people and culture, you will enjoy it; but if you hide because you don’t know the language, you’ll have a very bland experience.”

 

Emma’s story

Emma in Thailand

Name: Emma Victoria Parker

School: Watsumaisuwan Primary School in Chaiburi, Surat Thani, Thailand

Teaching Period: November 2014 – March 2015

“Teaching and living in Thailand has been such a life-changing experience. In the past five months I have learnt, seen and done so many new things, and been to so many new places. I have learnt how to ride a moped, speak a bit of Thai and most importantly, teach children English.

Teaching English as a foreign language is such a fun and fulfilling thing to do. Nothing beats watching the students’ English develop thanks to my teaching, this has filled me with such pleasure and pride.

Thailand is a beautiful country, filled with warm, friendly people and amazing food. If you want to teach English, Thailand is definitely the place to do it!”

 

Will you be our next Thailand intern?

 

If you’ve been inspired to TEFL in Thailand, you can find out more information about the Thailand internship.  Alternatively, we also run internships in China and Vietnam that you may be interested in too!

 

TEFL interns