Monday 22 March 2010

Phuket or Rayong?????

UpdateFour years ago I was in Morpeth vaccinating myself against rabies and a whole host of other 'foreign' diseases. I remember fretting about prioritising Japanese B Encephalitis over Typhoid. Is Diptheria dodgier than TB? Is Hepatitus B better than Meningococcol Meningitis? Does Cholera kick Yellow Fever's arse? And what about Malaria? Shit, we still can't cure that! My arm was like a pin-cushion. It was all very painful, expensive and an absolute waste of time. In hindsight, I wish I'd never bothered.

Three years ago I was in Phnom Phen, Cambodia. I was still in the everything is new and interesting phase of my trip. Having said that, Angkor Wat was unbelievable.

Two years ago I was doing monthly visa runs from Taiwan to the Philippines. That was after being blacklisted by the Taiwanese Labour department. I was, in effect, an illegal immigrant!Last year I had just arrived in Trang to start a one year contract as a maths teacher. That feels like a long time ago now.

Right now I'm contemplating my imminent visa run to Malaysia. This is necessary because I don't want to end up in some kind Thai holding centre/jail with all the illegal Burmese. I'll probably go to Penang on Monday next week.
Trang - the end of an era

I came to Trang one year ago yesterday. This is my last week at Saparachinee School after seeing through a one year contract (which expires Wednesday 31st March). I need to go to Penang in Malaysia next week to get a 60 day tourist visa (before 31st March). I was thinking of leaving Thailand for good but:

1. I have a motorbike (my only possession) here.
2. I can't think of anywhere else to go although Indonesia keeps surfacing in my thoughts.
3. I can speak and read basic Thai.
4. The relative ease with which I can secure employment here. Luckily, maths teachers are thin on the ground.

Phuket/Ao Nang

After a short week at school last week I left for Phuket Island on Thursday morning for my interview in Phuket Town on Friday 19th March. I stopped at Ao Nang to pick up my friend Pla, 30 from Surin. We chilled out on the beach for a while before commencing the two hour drive to Phuket. This is the first time I've had a passenger on my bike for a long ride. The section of road between Krabi and Phang Nga must be one of the most spectacular drives in Thailand. This 100km stretch is festooned with beautiful scenery. We crossed the Sarasin Bridge and ended up in the On On Hotel in Phuket Town.

My friends Monkey and Richard were in Patong having a beer. Pla and I rode across a perilous mountain road to meet them. This road is very dangerous. Exacerbating this are the lunatic drivers here. I drank water? with the lads as I didn't fancy driving back across the mountain with beer in me! I also had an interview to think about the following morning!

Richard was having a break and Monkey is three weeks through a four week TEFL course. TEFL stands for Teach English as a Foreign Language. It's a certificate most educational establishments deem a pre-requisite before you can embark on an English Teaching career. They cost around £800. I like to boast about how I don't have one, yet can still conjugate verbs in the future continuous tense with the best of them.


Friday morning I was up early. I was shaved, booted and spurred for my impending interview. I was a little anxious since I had to do a demonstration lesson. There were 25 grade 1 kids expecting a 20minutes maths class. There were also 6 teachers from Satree Phuket School assessing me. Even after teaching for one year this is still quite a nerve-wrecking thing to do. It's a bit like doing a driving test.

As the 'Cartesian plane' class ended the teachers retired to discuss my performance. They later invited me in to inform me of their findings. I was relieved to hear that they thought I was OK. They suggested that I could improve in a couple of areas but on the whole they were impressed which was nice to hear. They offered me a position there and then.


It had to happen. I remember being in this situation just over one year ago deciding between Bangkok, Thailand and Linfen, Shaanxi, China. I've been to two interviews and been offered both positions. I have more schools in Isaan to visit but I think I'll neglect them and decide between Rayong and Phuket only.


Phuket Town
Klaeng, Rayong
£760 (38,000THB)
£600 (30,000THB)
Teaching Hours
Student Age
Class Size
3000 - 5000
Free + Free school lunch

Phuket equates to a 27% salary increase over Trang. However, the cost of living is higher there than the rest of Thailand. The classes are larger which can be a pain. Offsetting this is the fact that I should never be bored in Phuket - there's loads to do. There's enough nightlife to last a lifetime. Sublime beaches are everywhere. There's even a cinema with English movies.

In Klaeng I would be teaching smaller classes at the level I would ideally like. The free room and food is worth about 4000THB/month. However, this is in a remote place, 40km east of Rayong Town. I'd be living with the other teachers which could impinge on my privacy somewhat. Klaeng's administration seems far more organised which is a big consideration here in Thailand. Klaeng would begin on 25th April whereas Phuket starts 3rd May which gives me an extra week off!

I'm still undecided but I'm hedging towards Phuket right now. People pay £1,000s for holidays here and I could be living there - fecking awesome as an Irish Yank would say.


Happy after another confidence boosting interview, I decided a boozy night was in order. We checked out of the On On Hotel and headed to Surin beach to see Pla's mates who work in salons. We ate som-tam and kaoniao (sticky rice) with our hands while downing bottles of Leo beer on a gloriously hot Friday afternoon in the tropics. Pla and I headed to Rawai beach in the south of the island to stay at Pussy Towers. We went to a few pricey bars and then sat drinking by the sea to soak up the atmosphere and save some money.

On Saturday we headed back to Ao Nang. We spent the night eating and drinking before retiring to Pla's bungalow set in an idyllic garden at the foot of an impossibly tall cliff face.

I spent all day Sunday swimming/sunbathing/sleeping on the beach with Neung from Khon Kaen. We ate some tasty suki (a Thai dish related to the Chinese hotpot dish shabu shabu although it sounds like the Japanese dish Sukiyaki). I had an early night while Pla (her name means fish) went to all kind of discos. She is one hot chick man! I woke up at 0500 this morning and drove two hours back to Trang. It was a very cold drive at that time in the morning. If you drive at 60km/hr you won't feel so cold but it'll take you ages to get home. If you drive at 120km/hr, you'll get home quick but you'll be brass monkeys. I opted for brass monkeys and a hot coffee when I got home.


They say a change is as good as a rest and I'm certainly looking forward to a change from Trang. I've experienced the 'real' Thailand and I'm now ready for the 'not so real - easy' Thailand. I've enjoyed my time here enormously and learnt much about Thailand, its people, culture, education system and the sanuk (fun) one can have here. I've made some great friends that I hope to keep in touch with. I'll never forget Pat, the lass I spent six months with. The fantastic trips I've had on my chopper. The fun I've had down at Russel's and Nat's bars. I know I'll miss Trang once I've gone.

I have that uncertain feeling again of not knowing what's around the corner - nice.

One small problem - I have one month's salary to last two months - arse!


Any ideas for what I can do for my 1 month holiday in April? I fancy a motorbike tour of Isaan and the North. Or perhaps see what Austrian Armin is up to and join him somewhere.

doncam = opposite
lae gor = then
sa lop sa lai = knockout
pee sue = butterfly

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