This post is 100% inspired by my good friend Liz’s post, which you can read here, and it’s all about the time she spent in the small Thai town of Kamphaengsaen. Reading her post just filled me with so much nostalgia, and longing to go back and experience those things all over again!
For those who don’t know, I come from a small English town in the South West of England. I’m lucky that I’ve had a lot of experience travelling, and that growing up, my parents were always talking to us about diversity, culture, languages, and so many exciting things you experience when you travel. I remember a trip to Germany nearly 10 years ago, and at the end of the trip my mum asked us “so what German words did you learn on our trip?” We were always encouraged to embrace the world around us.
I think that’s why, as soon as I left university, I wanted to travel. University in itself was a challenge for me, especially at the start, but by the time I got to the end of my third year, I was ready for the next challenge. I packed my bags and flew across the Atlantic to spend my first of two summers at a summer camp. Of course, this threw all sorts of different challenges at me; it was the first time I travelled solo, it was the first time I worked abroad, and I was responsible for the safety of many young campers for the whole summer.
However, I was working in an English speaking country, with people who looked like me and had similar backgrounds to me, and were generally quite like-minded. Although this was a challenge, it was more like a stepping stone in the next direction. After spending two summers at the same camp, I was ready to embrace a new challenge, which would push me further out of my comfort zone than I could ever imagine.
In October 2019, I moved to Thailand to work as an English teacher in a primary school for five months. It was an absolute whirlwind of an adventure and it certainly had its many ups and downs. However, like always, I look back on it now and think of the good times. I lived in a town called Kamphaengsaen, and it was just the place I needed to be. It was close enough to Bangkok to be able to have a weekend getaway, but without the masses of tourists. It was big enough to not get bored on the weekends you decided to stay put, but also not as hectic as the bigger cities.
The school itself was bigger than I’d expected, but that was fine by me. The only downside of my time there was that I felt I didn’t get to know the Thai teachers as well as I could have, but maybe that’s because I only spent one term there. If I’d stayed longer, maybe that would be different. However, I don’t want to think about what could have been; I want to think about some of my favourite memories from my time in Thailand, and some of the things that could only ever happen there!
The first was meeting people. Obvious, I know. But you meet so many different people from all walks of life. This is the best part about travelling, for sure! A lot of the English teachers were from England; but there was my friend Liz, from America, Tony from Kenya, and Theresa from the Philippines, as well as the Thai teachers too! On our “Christmas break” we went to the island of Koh Phangan, and I met a massive variety of people; I spent the day with a group of Brazilians and we had a barbecue on the beach; I met another English guy who’d been travelling with his Swiss friend (they’d met while travelling) and we went out for some drinks on the beach; and of course, many nights were spent watching the Fire Throwers.
Although I went to some amazing places that were filled with tourists, it was always so nice to come back to the unknown town of Kamphaengsaen. Some of my favourite memories weren’t at the places filled with tourists, but in this very town. There was the time me and Liz tried fitting both of us on my bike, and cycling back to our apartment. Although it wasn’t a long ride, I nearly fell off from laughing too much. There were the Friday nights we went out to the local club XOXO, or the evenings we went to Cafe 23. The first time I went on the back of a motorbike taxi was an absolute thrill, and trying to navigate my way home in the dark with my broken Thai, and the driver’s broken English. I miss spending weekends sitting in Cafe Amazon or Savory Cafe and always getting an iced tea instead of a hot tea… You don’t get to experience things like that in just another English speaking country.
I remember coming back after my week on the island, feeling relieved, and like I had come back home. It was nice to be somewhere quiet, and with no other tourists. It was nice to have to think about what Thai words I needed to say to the bus driver, or the motorbike taxi man. It was nice not having people trying to rip me off, because I was a tourist. It felt like I was back at somewhere I belonged.
As someone from a small town in the South West of England, this was just the break from “reality” I needed. It still feels like a dream, and that I haven’t done all these amazing things… but I have. I know one day I want to go back to Thailand, and visit this small Thai town once again. I don’t know when that will be, but I want to make it happen.