One of my favourite provinces in the whole of Thailand. It's certainly a wonderful place to live. But is it a wonderful place to teach?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Chanthaburi is proof that all that glitters is not gold. Here, gemstones do the sparkling, attracting international traders, including many South Asians, dealing in sapphires, rubies, emeralds, agate and jade. Thanks to the gem market and Chanthaburi's multicultural history (French, Vietnamese and Chinese), the so-called ‘City of the Moon' is surprisingly diverse for a regional Thai city.
Its well worth visiting for an appreciation of the economic and religious sanctuary Thailand has long provided in the region.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
Living and teaching in Chanthaburi for a few years now, I find it's a place you can settle down for a while as it has everything you need for a foreigner living in a Thai city.
Known for gems and many varieties of fruits, you won't be short on either if that's what you're looking for. But as for the teaching, it has more than enough schools and it's also an easily adaptable place to live. If you're a first timer teaching in Thailand, Chanthaburi is definitely a sensible starting point to get the ball rolling.
There are quite a few public schools, a private Catholic school, tutoring centers, and also a couple of colleges stand out. There is enough choice for qualified teachers looking for work.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Chanthaburi to Bangkok - it's about 250 kilometres away or a 3 to 4 hour minivan ride depending on traffic.
Civilisation or island getaways however, can be as short as just a couple of hours to the white beaches of Koh Samet in the Rayong Province or the scenic jungle island of Koh Chang.
Chanthaburi to me is a lively enough city to live and teach in but as it's conveniently located to the major tourist hot spots it's not from far from civilisation. Bangkok, Pattaya, Koh Chang, Koh Samet, to name a few.
Transport in Chanthaburi is readily available at certain times from the main bus station, or minivan services beside Tesco Lotus and Robinsons.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Thai music, Thai bands, Thai clubs, the nightlife is very Thai and if you don't mind listening to Thai music every weekend there are a few places that do cover versions of English songs believe it or not. It's kind of nice to hear badly worded English songs once in a while. Forget the lyrics, just give me English music.
But to be fair, the nightlife in Chanthaburi, Thai or not, is pretty decent. You have the likes of Orbit pub/club which is open near enough every night. Opposite is The Craze house which do very good quality food, Thai and Western. Wednesday night is student night or near enough every night?
A few favourites are Rads bar which has an outdoor roof terrace and plenty of seating with a club indoors. Hangout bar is more of a chill out spot to eat and drink with a live band from 9-11. Then you have a few karaoke bars which are always fun.
Chan also has the likes of the old town (also known as the Chantaboon Waterfront Community) by the river which have a few nice places to wine and dine. Chanthaburi is not short on the nightlife, you just have to go and find it.
Eating out is a very social thing in Thailand so there definitely isn't a shortage on where to go. You have the scenic area of Old Town which is mainly Thai restaurants, however if you do find yourself there wanting your Western fix, one of my much-loved places to go is ‘Lolipops', they do a lovely breakfast menu and moderately priced. Scenares is just a delight on a Sunday morning. Selling waffles and pancakes for breakfast, all homemade!
To find a little piece of Vietnamese heaven, there is a quaint little place beside the cathedral that does some great food at a great price! Majority of the menu being under 100 bht. The only downside is that it's open very early and shuts around mid-day so are you an early riser? But worth getting out of bed for and why not check out the cathedral while you're there. A tourist attraction in itself.
In conclusion, Chantaburi is quite lively and getting better all the time. There are plenty of cool cafes, restaurants, and bars to get your Western fix.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Luckily with my school I got free housing, standard living arrangements but it's completely fine and it's free? Who cares! It comes with air con and wi-fi so it's all good. I only fork out my electric and water bills which are less than 1,000 baht p/m.
But if you are looking for a place to stay, you can expect to pay anything from 3,000 baht per month for an unfurnished or partly furnished studio apartment to a fully furnished house for 8,000-10,000 baht per month depending on your budget and standard of living.
You need to spend a minimum of 3,000 baht a month for the most basic, livable, place. New developments are going up all the time in this neck of the woods.
Shopping malls, department stores?
We have a, Robinsons, Tesco Lotus, Big C and even a Macro. There are a couple of shopping malls but nothing compared to the shopping meccas of Bangkok.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Unless you're living in the mountains, the internet courage is perfectly fine. I have the 399 unlimited internet package and have never been without a signal. There isn't a shortage of coffee shops in Chanthaburi either, all with accessible wi-fi.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Hmmm... Will you be stared at? Yes you will, but it's mainly inquisitive stares. The only time I ever notice that I'm being stared at is when I'm on my own at the market or when I'm wondering up and down the aisles of Tesco.
If you go out looking for trouble, the result is you'll most likely find it. No matter where you are, right? You're not going to get a good beating just because you're a foreigner if that's what you're wondering.
There are plenty of foreigners living in Chanthaburi now and they include teachers, gem dealers/middlemen, semi-pro footballers, long-term expats, etc.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Renting a motorcycle most definitely helps with my commute to/from school and around the city.
If you're not a fan, then there are many known taxi scooter spots and Mazda taxis around Chanthaburi, although good luck getting a taxi after 10.00 pm. No chance unless you have your own personal 'taxi guy' who is willing to pick you up.
There are a number of moto-taxis and songthaews around the bus station and in other busy places. If you want to enjoy Chanthaburi and not waste money on public transportation every day then renting a motorbike/scooter is your best bet.
Main advantages of living there?
A main travelling advantage of living here is that I'm so close to an island if I ever need a weekend escape, my favourite being Koh Chang.
You have the backpacker vibes of Lonely Beach and then more upmarket family resorts of White Sands. Not forgetting Koh Kood and Koh Mak, which are both truly an untouched find in Thailand. Such a rarity and a must see if you ever find yourself on this island.
The Cambodian border is not far from here either, if you ever find yourself stuck for something to do and you fancy nipping to the nearest country... grab a taxi or head to the bus station that will take you to the nearest border crossing (around 1.5 hours). The ride to the border is picturesque and beautiful. I did 5 border runs last year before I eventually got a Non-B visa to get my work permit so I know the borders enough to know they are all safe.
Currently saving for future travels, another advantage of living here is that I can save at least a third of my wage each month which is not bad considering 2 out of the 4 weekends a month I'll pack a bag and head somewhere for the weekend.
It's a Thai city with a very authentic Thai feel. It's a great place for fresh fruit and it's not far from the island of Koh Chang if you've got your sea legs on.
And what are the downsides?
I would say the majority of people here don't speak English enough to get an order correct or even have a small talk conversation. Learning Thai helps a lot, even if you just speak the bare minimum. Brush up on your Thai and it will go along way with the locals.
There aren't many of us here for the size of the city and considering how many schools there are in Chan as well, which is a shame as I find its hard meeting new people. I just wish there was a bigger expat community.
Getting to Bangkok can be a bit of a bind if you need to go (a round-trip can take eight hours depending on the traffic) and there isn't much to do in Chantaburi if you are not willing to get out and meet people.
Any local attractions?
Yes there are! Nam Tok Phlio National Park is a short drive not far from the centre. Home to waterfalls and forests, the park is also the site of a stupa and chedi from the reign of King Rama V.
If architecture is your thing then this French-style cathedral, across a footbridge from Th Sukhaphiban, is the town's architectural highlight. A small missionary chapel was built here in 1711, when Vietnamese Catholics and a French priest arrived. The original has undergone four reconstructions between 1712 and 1906 and is now the largest building of its kind in Thailand.
On weekends, the streets and side streets near Th Si Chan (or ‘Gem Rd') overflow with the banter and intrigue of the hard sell of gem dealers. Gem Market is worth checking out if you find yourself passing through. Pull over and take a look at what Chanthaburi is famous for.
There are some nice national parks nearby and they make an excellent half day trip.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
I think the most popular place would be school, however for me this isn't the case with 3000+ students, 206 Thai teachers and only 6 foreign teachers, though many other schools, especially primary schools, have an abundance of foreign teachers.
Other places I would say... if it's Western, then you're more than likely going to run into someone you can spark up a conversation with, especially in coffee shops. Us teachers need our caffeine, that's for sure!
A long weekend in Chantaburi - A trip to one of Thailand's best kept secrets (travel blog by Bangkok Phil)