Small Town England Meets Small Town Thailand


Hey everyone!

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.

At Central Park, NYC.

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.

Lumphini Park, Bangkok

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.

-Janet

Do I Regret Leaving Thailand?


Hey everyone!

I’ve been back home in England for just over two months exactly now, and the longer I’ve been at home amid this pandemic, the more I think about my time in Thailand. I often find myself thinking what if I’d stayed? Of course, there’s no real way of answering this question. I’ve played multiple different possible scenarios in my head of how things could have been if I was still there… but there’s no way of knowing for sure.

As far as I know, the school I worked at hasn’t re-opened its doors for the students yet. Of course this is understandable given the times we are in. So if I had stayed, there’s no guarantee that I’d have any work, or any means of getting paid. However, I know that the school needs English teachers so I would still *technically* have a job, and some kind of security.

I had already decided that I wanted to just do one term long before I left Thailand, and as I’ve said before, I felt that I was very out of control in making decisions about flying home early, or continuing my life in Thailand until the date that I was supposed to leave. It was incredibly stressful, but I think at the back of my mind, I felt it was right for me to go home when I did. I didn’t want to be stuck anywhere with no means of getting out, or getting stuck somewhere with no money. I’m very lucky that I was able to afford the flight home, and in many ways, everything worked out in the end.

I am now safe, I am at home with my family, and yes, I am happy. I’m glad I’ve been able to spend lots of quality time with my family; I’ve Facetimed and Zoomed and Skyped so many people; more than I ever have before in this time period! Even more than when I was in Thailand for 5 months! It’s been amazing catching up with people this way, and for the most part, life in English lockdown hasn’t been all that bad for me. But as time goes on, I find myself thinking more and more about whether I should have stayed in Thailand. I really do miss it.

I think it’s safe to say that, had I stayed, I would have the exact same thoughts but in reverse. I would be wondering about life at home; I’d be thinking about my family and friends the whole time; I’d wonder if I had made the right choice in staying. But, like I said, there’s no way of knowing what my life would be like right now, if I had stayed in Thailand. I still have friends who are there, and they seem to be doing okay. I wonder if I would have been able to spend time with them, since the restrictions in Thailand are quite different to the UK. I wonder if I would feel safer from the virus, as it doesn’t appear to be as bad in Thailand as it is in the UK. I have so many questions, and not enough answers!

It’s safe to say that, looking back on it now, I really did enjoy my time in Thailand. It’s possibly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, emotionally, but I would definitely do it all over again. I think this is why I really want to go back; Thailand will always have a place in my heart, as I learnt so much while I was there, in more ways that one. I became more independent; I learnt to love spending time by myself; I went and accomplished things I never thought I could. I know it’s one of those places that can be incredibly touristy, and sometimes it’s frustrating being surrounded by tourists. But I am so glad I spent time away from these crowds for the most part, because I think I got to know what Thailand is really like, and the beauty it really has to offer.

So, to answer the question: do I regret leaving Thailand? I don’t know, in all honesty. I feel like I’m sitting on a fence. Part of me regrets leaving, because I felt like there was so much more to explore. Part of me is glad I left, because I know for a fact that the 40 degree heat was not something I enjoyed, and I’m glad that I’ve left that behind! But, regardless of how I feel about having left Thailand when I did, I do know that I want to go back one day. Whether it’s to work, or just travel, I’m not sure yet. But I do want to see it again.

-Janet

A Weekend in Hua Hin


Hey everyone!

Last weekend, we visited Hua Hin, which is a beach town situated a couple of hours or so away from Bangkok. I didn’t really know much about it before I arrived, but it was a nice chilled out weekend, and it was nice to visit somewhere different! As I’ve just got two months left in Thailand, it’s been a good opportunity to see more of the country in the time I’ve got left!

We arrived on the Friday night, and after being charged way too much for a mini bus to our hostel (the joys of being a foreigner in a popular tourist destination), we just went into our rooms and pretty much went straight to sleep. I went on a quick trip to 7/11 for something to eat, as it was already quite late and I didn’t feel like wondering around too far in the dark on my own, and potentially getting lost! We stayed at Victor Hostel, and it was okay. It was fine for a couple of nights, but it was by no means a top quality hostel! It had a nice pool, which was greatly appreciated as the days were very very warm!

On the Saturday, we went for lunch, and then strolled down our street towards the beach. We chilled out there for an hour or so, just chatting, and then we decided to make our way back along the street to our hostel. As I said, it is a popular tourist destination, but from what I gathered while I was there, is that it’s more popular with the older generation. That’s by no means a bad thing at all, but just to give you some perspective! There were a lot of bars around, and a lot of western restaurants, as well as some Thai places to eat as well. It’s a good place to visit if you’re not ready to completely delve into local Thai food and lifestyle!

Later that evening, we went to this other Hotel, and got some drinks on their beachfront bar. The drinks were reasonably priced, and of course I went for a cocktail… or two! We had planned to go for sunset, but the ocean was to the east of us… which meant we couldn’t see the sunset over the see at all! But it was still a really lovely evening.

This was followed by wondering around the street market for a while (which I really recommend doing!) and then finding some food. We went to the Hilton restaurant, and again the food was reasonably priced. I just got a pizza and some water. The staff were very accommodating, and even gave me some bug bite spray, and they put an anti mosquito incense… thing under our table!

After this we went up to the top of the Hilton to their rooftop bar just for one last cocktail, and we had some seats that looked out over the ocean and the town of Hua Hin. It definitely would have been a great place to see the sunset, but generally in Thailand, the sun is down by 6:30pm, and the rooftop bar only opened at 6pm, at which point the sun would have already started to set. But anyway, it was still worth it!

The next day, we went to this beautiful cafe, the name of which I can’t remember for the life of me! Although it was on the more expensive end, the food was amazing, and I was left feeling full for the rest of the day. I got a mushroom omelette, and a chocolate muffin, as well as a pot of English breakfast tea. I know, I know, it might seem like I’m not embracing the Thai lifestyle, but hear me out. I’ve been living here for three and a half months, so when I can get myself a good cup of tea… I’m going to take it!

Then we wondered around the streets some more, before trying to find somewhere to do a foot massage. Some of the others that I was with were convinced there was a massage place on the beach front, so after taking a tuk-tuk to the bus station to secure our tickets, we walked all the way down the beach back to where we started, and there were no massage places on the beach front. There were loads of others elsewhere, but we realised that we wouldn’t have had enough time to get one in the end. Slightly disappointing, but you live and you learn!

And then we took the bus home. The bus on the journey back was definitely a lot longer than the one we took there, as the first bus was a proper coach, and went directly to Hua Hin. The one we took on the way home was one of the local mini vans, that made regular stops to pick up and drop off people on route. We also had to get off at Nakhon Pathom, and get a second mini van to get to our town, which we managed to get just in time!

-Janet