1. Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is my favorite place in Thailand. I visited this renowned island with the TEFL Heaven Phuket trainees during our first week of TEFL training and again, recently, over Valentine’s weekend. With its legendary panoramic viewpoint, paradisiacal beaches, pristine water, impressive sunsets, chilled reggae atmosphere and classic Thai beach parties, for me, it is the epitome of Thailand.
Elephants are extremely important to the people of Thailand, not only are they a huge tourist attraction but also hold a deep religious meaning within the Buddhist religion. You can go elephant trekking almost everywhere in Thailand, however Chang Mai is the most famous and apparently best place to do it. I am traveling to Chang Mai in April for Songkran so the countdown is on.
Nothing beats a Thailand sunset.
4. Tong Nga Chang Waterfall
Ton Nga Chang Waterfall is located in Southern Thailand in the city of Hat Yai. Seven tiers high and situated in the middle of a rainforest, it is recognized as the most aesthetic waterfall in the South. The waterfall is named after the third tier, where the stream divides into two waterfalls, apparently resembling elephant tusks. “Tong Nga Chang” translates as “Ivory Tusk Falls”.
5. Ao Nang Beach, Krabi
Krabi, located on south east of Thailand, was named one of “the places to go in 2014” in the New York Times. Ao Nang Beach is one of the more popular areas in Krabi – the playful monkeys, picturesque rock features and the ten minute long-tail boat journey over to the beautiful Railay Island, makes Ao Nang one of my topspots.
Thailand is famous for its lady boys. This social acceptance can be linked to the high value placed on tolerance in the Buddhist religion. The culture is prevalent even amongst the young – I teach twelve and thirteen year olds and there is at least one lady boy in each of my classes.
Students in Thailand cannot “fail” exams. The lowest score that I am expected to give a student is the passing rate of 50%. This applies even if a student never completes homework, has a bad attendance record and has received less than half marks in the final exam.
In Buddhism, the head is the most scared part of the body. As a sign of respect, students duck their heads when they pass a teacher.
Corporal punishment has been illegal in Thailand since 2006. However, it is still common practice for students to receive ‘the cane’ as punishment, ie for being late to class, not having the correct uniform, being disobedient, etc.
It is normal for classrooms not to have air conditioning. The temperature at the moment is 32 degrees Celsius with 89% humidity.
Everyone in Thailand has a nickname. Some nicknames are completely random and others are bestowed based on appearance, personality or interests.
“Mai Pen Rai”, the first three words I learned in the Thai language. Not only is it the most popular phrase amongst Thai people, it also has strong affiliations with the Buddhist religion and is embraced as a philosophy for life. The phrase means ‘no worries’, ‘life goes on’, ‘what will be will be’, etc.
Thailand is recognized as the ‘Land of Smiles’, referring to the general cheerful and friendly nature of Thai people. “Saving face” is extremely important in this culture, that is to say that Thai’s prefer to completely avoid confrontation rather than deal with it. Negative emotions tend to be concealed with a smile.
The greeting in Thailand is called the ‘Wai’; it is the way to say hello, goodbye and thank you, and also the way to apologize and to pray. The ‘Wai’ consists of a slight bow, with the hands pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. The level the hands are raised and the level of the bow, corresponds to the amount of respect that is being shown.
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the country’s people have a deep respect for their King. A picture of the King’s face is printed on Thai money and for this reason it is considered extremely offensive to stand on Thai coins or crumple Thai notes. It is actually against the law to say anything disparaging against the King.
To find out more on Thailand’s intrinsic culture, follow the link below http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293915-i3686-k5649704-Do_s_Dont_s_in_Thailand_Culture_Basic_Thailand_Etiquette-Thailand.html
My new address. It’s official. I live in Thailand.
TON NGA CHANG WATERFALL
Definitely the best thing about living in Hat Yai is Ton Nga Chang Waterfall. Seven tiers high and located in the middle of a rainforest, it is recognized as the most aesthetic waterfall in the South. The waterfall is named after the third tier, where the stream divides into two waterfalls, apparently resembling elephant tusks. “Tong Nga Chang” translates as “Ivory Tusk Falls”.
Second best thing about living in Hat Yai.
KHLONG HAE FLOATING MARKETS
On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, street food stalls congregate on Hat Yai River in Khlong Hae. Thailand is famous for its floating markets; the Khlong Hae market was officially opened in August 2008 making it the first floating market in the Southern Region.
MAHAPANYA VIDAYALAI TEMPLE
The Temple is part of an international Buddhist college (Mahapanya Vidayalai roughly translates as “University of Wisdom”). It includes a nine-storey Chinese pagoda, hundreds of golden monk statutes, and a large golden buddha. We were waiting for a tuk-tuk when a Vietnamese monk called Guan invited us to visit.
One of the highlights of my stay in Phuket was our visit to the Big Buddha, or the “Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri” Buddha, as it is known by the locals. This sacred construction is one of the islands most important landmarks, a place for both tourists and devout Buddhists to visit.
Thousands of prayer bells are attached to the trees at the Big Buddha. If you make a donation to the temple, you can buy a bell, inscribe your wish on the bell and attach it to the trees.
Some of us went for a special blessing in the nearby temple, the monk attached a string bracelet around our wrists as a keepsake.
On our way home we stopped to watch the sunset over Patong Beach.
Phuket “TEFL Heaven” Graduates 2013
“For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience.” The Beach (2000).
During our three weeks of TEFL training we traveled to different places every weekend.
Phi Phi Island. Definitely one of my favorite places in the world.
Koh Phanghan and the Full Moon Party.
My favorite part of TEFL training was definitely English Camp. “English Camp” consisted of two days teaching in “Orborjor Baanmaireab”, the local primary School. First official day as a teacher in Thailand. Scary. However, we were soon infatuated with the beautiful Thai children.
What do you get when you mix a “quarter life crisis”, an intense case of wanderlust, and a superfluous of clichéd “you’re only young once” conversations from friends and family…a one way ticket to Thailand apparently.
Feeling like a benign version of Christopher Mc Candless in the movie “Into the Wild”, I quit my job, sold my car, packed my bags and booked my flight.
Forty hours later including; nine hours of delays, one missed flight, two rescheduled flights, eight security checks, three random bomb searches plus two impressively large cankles later… I arrived in Phuket Airport.
I waited by the baggage carousel for my luggage. I waited, and waited, more waiting…. and nothing! Transpires my suitcase went missing in Dubai Airport. Wonderful.
My first few days in Thailand did, definitely, make up for my horrific flight experience. I stayed at the Novotel Phuket Vintage Park Resort – a fabulous hotel with a poolside cocktail bar and the best buffet breakfast I have ever experienced.
I spent the following few days exploring Phuket with other TEFL trainees; we drank “Mai Tai’s”- the local Thai cocktail, discovered the infamous Bangla Road and watched some incredible sunsets on Patong Beach.