Teacher Diaries / Thailand

A Young South African’s Journey Through Thailand


Lindsay Biffen

May 23, 2018

As an English teacher in Thailand, the first month of being in Thailand is spent completing your TESOL teacher training course on the beach in a spectacular resort town called Hua Hin. After spending a month in Hua Hin you start to become accustomed to living there. You know the area, your new friends are there, and you have a routine. After one month you feel ready to call Hua Hin home. Moving on from this can be a painful part of your journey in Thailand. You will say goodbye to the people that have been like family to you for the past month and will continue on your journey. These goodbyes are bittersweet; you will feel that sense of panic of doing this alone again while simultaneously thinking that if you made it this far there is nothing stopping you now.

TESOL students in Hua Hin

Let the teaching begin

English Camps in Thailand

Regardless of the time of year you come to Thailand, landing a teaching position with a school through TravelBud is inevitable. Many people will advise you to head over during the school year and to avoid coming over the summer holiday, as this ensures getting placed at a school immediately. The summer holiday in Thailand falls during March and April. While this is true if your interests are to begin teaching at a school as soon as possible, coming over during the summer holiday can provide a whole different kind of experience. Those that come during March will have the entire month of April to work on English camps and travel. Many English programs and summer camps run during the course of the summer break and they are always looking for staff. Working at these camps can prepare you for what it will be like working in a school. It is less formal and creates a fun platform to put those newly acquired teaching skills into practice. These English camps often provide free accommodation and, an attractive salary if you are lucky – you will however come to realise that it is not about the money you earn through teaching in Thailand that makes this experience so worthwhile. They also tend to last no longer than a couple of days. This provides ample travel time and allows you to meet up with your new friends and explore Thailand together.

Teaching at an English camp in Thailand

Teaching at these camps will remind you why you came to Thailand. They are fun, interactive, and the students that attend are for the most part, eager to learn. Getting this small taste of teaching will make you excited to start working at your school.

English summer programs and camps have a wide range of students that attend. Although teaching a class of different ages can be a challenging task, it will provide you with a set of teaching skills that cannot be taught but only learned through experience.

Time to get tropical

boat blue water 2

Having either worked hard at English camps or having just finished the TESOL course, the urge to be a typical tourist in Thailand and seek out the infamous island lifestyle will be a dominating feeling. Summer attacks Thailand during March and April, leaving many people hot and sweaty for most of the day. Naturally one of the first destinations on most travellers minds during this time of year is to seek out an exotic beach, with clear and sparkling turquoise water and the much-needed sea breeze. Finding a beautiful beach to travel to in Thailand is effortless. The only struggle is deciding which one to explore first. Tropical islands flank both the coasts of Thailand and offer different experiences. Those after an inexpensive hidden jewel that is not highlighted in most tour books should look up Koh Lanta.

Koh Lanta

boat blue water 1out on an island is a perfect way to spend the summer holiday in Thailand. The carefree attitude associated with being on holiday will be adopted within the first few minutes on this island. Koh Lanta offers scenic appeal and a wide range of nature-oriented activities as well as vibrant beach bars to spend evenings partying with locals and other travellers.

Island tours

Many companies in Koh Lanta offer what is called an “island tour”. This is a tour of the surrounding islands. Island tours are a common tourist activity in Koh Lanta, and for obvious reasons. A touring company will take you to five different islands off the coast of Koh Lanta. You will take a ride on a traditional long-tail boat that will sail through the clearest water you have ever seen. During this tour you will swim through a dark cave to a beach within an island that was originally discovered by pirates. It is an overwhelming sight swimming out of what has been named the Emerald Cave into the secluded beach surrounded by tall rock face and limestone cliffs.

snorkellingSpending a morning snorkelling in nature’s swimming pool with bright coral reefs and schools of multi-coloured fish really does fill ones soul with adventure and joy. Visibility is something of an IMAX documentary, as the water is no colour at all, perhaps a faint turquoise if anything.  Those that partake on one of these tours will enjoy local Thai cuisine on a deserted island and engage in conversation with locals about life on an island, growing evermore respectful for one another’s culture and the natural landscape and environment.

Island sunsets

Koh Lanta sunset

Mother Nature will not stop showing off during the entire course of your stay in Koh Lanta. Exquisite sunsets will send off your day and stars will flood the night’s sky undisturbed by the non-existent city lights on Koh Lanta. It will feel as if you stepped out of reality and into a post card.

Transport in Thailand

Getting from one end of Thailand to the next is just as easily said as done. Within each town or city there are different forms of public transport available. Bangkok has the sky trains and city taxies, while smaller cities will have Songthaews – a bakkie with benches fitted in the back. Scooter taxis are common in every area, but in some smaller towns they are quite often the only form of public transport. Abandon all preconceptions of public transport when coming to Thailand. Public transport is part of the journey and one should embrace every moment.

sky train

The trains will take you through the country, showing off the tropical lush country side of Thailand/ These rides are long but inexpensive. Many people opt to take the night train, let the train rock them to sleep and wake up in their destination. Train stations are filled with all kinds of people from all parts of the country all with a similar destination in common.  Travelling from north Thailand to the south could not be easier. Although Thailand runs on what people call “Thai Time” implying that nothing is ever done on time and takes longer than expected, it all adds to the experience and forces those that are highly strung to relax a little.

Reaching any town or island in Thailand can be done by hopping on a mini-van. Mini-vans are a popular form of transport when taking day trips or needing to reach a destination at a specific time as they have proved to be the more reliable form of transport. Although many Thai people have cars, public transport terminals are often buzzing with people waiting to reach a destination.

Here for a long time AND a good time

good life

Falling in love in Thailand is inevitable. You will fall in love with the people you meet and the places you visit. It will become impossible to not visit the same place more than once as each place you visit will have such a special hold on you. Many tourists pride themselves on being “not here for a long time, here for a good time”. However, after a short time in Thailand you will realise that you want to be here for both a long time AND a good time. You will want to participate in many Thai celebrations and festivals, you will want to experience life as locals do, taking trains and buses and eating from street vendors. Life in Thailand is filled with flavour – once you get a small taste of it you will simply want and crave more. It will enrich you and grow you in ways people write about in great novels.

sunset 2

Teaching English in Thailand has been an overwhelmingly eye-opening and liberating experience. Through my journey through Thailand so far, I have seen and done things I never imagined possible. I have provided so many of my students with the gift of being able to understand and communicate in English and at the same time, have learnt so much from my students and the incredibly hospitable and appreciative Thai locals. I am so grateful for all that I have seen and experienced so far and cannot wait for what is to come.

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