Teacher Jennifer guides us around the town and province of Phrae, a beautiful corner of Thailand that always seems to have a friendly welcome.
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Not much in all honesty, and that was unsettling for me before I came here. As a province, Phrae only had a tiny paragraph saying how it’s known mostly for making the famous blue shirts that are worn by older gentlemen all over Thailand. And Phrae is famous for its teak houses apparently.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There is lots of choice here. I live in the city and there seems to be language schools everywhere you look these days. There always seems to be someone looking for an EFL teacher. Knock on a few doors and I’m sure you would get results.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It’s a long, long way from Bangkok and you are talking a bus journey in excess of eight hours. It will take you several hours to get to Chiang Mai as well.
Is there any entertainment or do you invite friends round for Scrabble?
It depends what you are looking for. There are many pubs dotted around and there is one nightclub (which will not be to everyone’s taste but is good for a dance!) There are no cinemas as such but one pub does have a free pool table. There is a Tuesday night market which is worth a look, and on the first Sunday of the month, there is a huge street market running along the main road.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Renting accommodation here is dirt cheap. I actually stay in a hotel-cum-apartment and it costs me just 3,500 baht a month for rent. Add on a hundred baht for water and electricity and the whole deal comes to less than 4,000 baht. Now that’s what I call a bargain.
Shopping malls, department stores?
What have we got? There’s a Big C, a Tesco Lotus and also a department store. And for those looking for a fast food fix, we can even boast two KFCs.
Internet cafes? (snail-speed Hotmail default page or fatties playing Ragnarok?)
There are loads of internet cafes or places to check your e-mail but I have never used them. Most schools have wi-fi for teachers to use and my accommodation also has free wi-fi.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
The locals here are very friendly and you will often get looked at or shouted at - but never in a negative way. It’s just their way of being friendly and trying to communicate with a foreign face. I once got stopped by the police just because they wanted to say hello. It’s all quite nice once you get used to it!
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
There are buses to just about anywhere in Thailand. There are a few songthaews and rickshaw bicycles around that ply local routes but you would never describe them as ‘in plentiful supply’. I’ve only ever seen one taxi in all the time I’ve been here. Scooters are very cheap to rent (1,800 a month) and generally they are the best way of getting around.
Main advantages of living there?
As you will have already gathered, it’s a cheap place to live and work and you get to experience the real Thailand. But you can still have some home comforts. There are hundreds of temples if temples are your bag and some of them are truly beautiful. There are also a few farangs around town so you are not completely on your own.
And what are the downsides?
It’s going to seem awfully quiet if you’re a city person. I think the lack of a cinema is also a huge downside.
Any local attractions?
Loads! There is Phrae’s ‘Grand Canyon. There are many temples as I’ve said. There is also a massive reclining Buddha. We’ve got waterfalls and caves nearby as well if you like exploring.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
I think all the farangs are lovely here and we all get on well. Usually, foreigners can be found in one of the local pubs at the weekend but you can also see them around town from time to time. Why not come up and say hello to us.