Saturday, 28 April 2012

5 things I hated about living in Thailand


It’s difficult to hate aspects of such a marvellous country, but during the seven months I lived in Thailand there were a few things that tickled my nether regions. These are in descending order. This blog is as seen on the i-to-i TEFL blog.

Mad traffic in Bangkok
Traffic
Traffic was horrendous in Bangkok. I lived in Bangkapi, about 12 km from the centre, and the first, and only, time I bussed into the centre it took three hours. One day I spent four hours in a taxi trying to get from one side to the other. Despite the stench, I was relieved to discover the klong (canal) taxi system as it only took twenty minutes to get downtown. The metro is excellent but has limited scope so you have to get a tuk tuk (great fun) or a taxi. Make sure you set a price before you set off. (Photo by denniswong)

Relations between the farang and Thai teachers
I doubt this is the case in all schools in Thailand, but there was a nasty relationship between the Thai and farang – foreign – teachers where I worked. When I first arrived I thought everything was fine; most Thai teachers seemed friendly and welcoming. However, over time I noticed a divide. Each of the farang teachers worked closely with a Thai teacher. Most got on well, but there was a lot of gossiping and moaning behind backs.

After three months I discovered the reason for the tension. Because the farangs were native English speakers they got paid almost three, sometimes four, times the amount of the Thai teachers. I felt guilty, especially because most Thai teachers worked harder and longer hours. Our wages were decent, about 35,000 baht a month (£700), but I couldn’t imagine living on a third or quarter of that. Some Thai teachers had families to feed too.

And it burns, burns, burns.
Getting addicted to spice
I became aware of the hot and spicy chilli flakes during my first meal in Thailand. I was with Siriluck, the Thai woman who’d found me a job.

“What are these?” I asked, holding up the glass jar while shaking the flakes about.

“They good, but hot, you be careful.” She wagged her finger.

“Sure, I lived in South America,” I said, like an idiot, covering my plate of egg fried rice in a sea of red flakes. I took a mouthful, the spice hit the back of my throat, and I spluttered rice all over the table.

“I told you, many farang think not hot, but hot,” she said, cracking up.

The strange thing was that I became determined to get used to the spicy flakes. It took a while, but after a month or two I couldn’t have a meal without them. I became addicted, which damaged my taste buds, and was even worse for my stomach. (Photo by Christian Haugen.)

World's largest outdoor market, Chatuchak
Living so close to work
Falling out of bed and landing in the playground definitely had its advantages, especially at 7.30am, and having students and parents wave to me as I went running in the evenings was funny.

However, life in Bangkapi became intense. After about two months the novelty wore off and I wanted to disconnect and have my own space. I used to bump into teachers and parents in the supermarket and even walking about at the weekends with a hangover I saw people from the school.

I’d recommend living away from your school if possible, but be warned; it’s quite common for farangs to have to live in the school’s lodgings. (Photo by mkismkismk)



Shacks by the Klongs
Witnessing poverty
The unequal distribution of wealth was shocking. Not as bad as some places in South America, and from what I’ve heard about India, but at times it was disturbing to witness.

The journey into the centre on the klong taxis passed wooden, windowless shacks where Thais lived. Often kids would be messing about, jumping into the stinking canal and swimming in sewage. The funny thing was they were normally laughing.

Walking about the centre was sad at times too. Some areas in Bangkok are really built up, but a lot of beggars roam the streets. The most shocking scene I saw was at Chatuchak market. I was with my parents shopping when we saw a man lying on the floor. He only had one arm and stubs for legs and was pushing a blue plastic cup along with his head begging for money. I hated seeing the poverty, but it’s also good to appreciate how lucky we are sometimes. (Photo by Will Ellis)

So yes, go to Thailand, you’ll love the country and have an adventure, but prepare yourself because it won’t necessarily be an easy ride; but then again, the world of TEFL never is. Have any more reasons to hate living in Thailand? Leave a comment and let us know.

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