The name in Thai means 'heavenly city' - but is it a heavenly city for chalkies?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Nicknamed "The Heavenly City", Nakhon Sawan is built alongside the convergence of the Nan and Ping rivers to form the Chao Phraya. The largest freshwater swamp in Thailand is located just minutes east of the city. It has a population of about 100,000 and is 240km north of Bangkok.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There are several private and government primary/secondary schools in Nakhon Sawan, and many private language schools of various sizes located in the city center.
There are also two large universities in town and a technical college. Salaries are generally in the 30-40,000 baht range, although it's quite easy to supplement that with private lessons at one of the language schools or on your own.
Because the number of foreign teachers here is still rather small, the demand certainly exceeds the supply - there always seems to be a position of some kind going somewhere.
The crowd of foreign teachers is quite young for the most part, which means positions do open up regularly as most teachers do not stay here for more than a year or two.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Getting to Bangkok is convenient and inexpensive. Buses and vans run continually throughout the day; travel time is about 3-4 hours and they cost in the region of 180-250 baht.
There are several buses from Bangkok which stop here on the way to Chiang Mai, which is 6/7 hours away.
Other interesting cities such as Mae Sot, Phitsanulok and Sukhothai are 2-3 hours away.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
There are many great restaurants and lots of bars and clubs dotted around the city, particularly near the park. Most are ‘Thai-style' with (very) loud live music and classic table service.
The restaurants are fantastic with every taste and budget covered. If you're looking for decent foreign food, there are really only two or three reliable places outside of your fast food joints.
There are a (apparently) couple of large clubs which are open till the wee hours for those who need to shake off a week of teaching.
In addition, there are the usual snooker clubs, live music joints, bowling alleys and coffee shops with more bars and cafes opening all the time.
Norman - There is plenty of Thai nightlife but Western entertainment, in the shape of bars at least, is a bit thin on the ground.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
If you're happy with a ‘Thai-style' place with just one or two rooms you can find somewhere for around 2,000 baht a month. That's not for everyone though and you can rent a one-bedroom apartment with aircon for around 4,000 baht a month. Houses are available for between 5,000-10,000 baht a month. The main problem is knowing what there is available as there are no letting agents so ask around!
Shopping malls, department stores?
There are now three shopping centers and in the supermarket stakes we have a Tesco Lotus and 2 Big C's in town and a Makro out of town.
Norman - there are plenty of fresh markets, supermarkets and shopping malls here now.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
I've never had any problems, although I don't use 3G. I haven't heard anybody complaining about it though.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Although this is not a tourist-driven town, there are a fair number of farangs living and working here, so you don't get too many stares for the most part. Some areas and restaurants are more likely to have heads turning in your direction, but once they've had a quick look people lose interest quickly.
Mostly people are very friendly and keen to chat, especially if they have some English. The likelihood of a good beating is extremely small.
Norman - You don't see many foreigners at all but the Thais are always helpful and friendly.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
There are public songthaews and tuk-tuks, as well as motorbike taxis.
Public transport is pretty convenient and cheap here, although once the songthaews stop running in the evening it can be difficult to get around so most teachers buy or rent their own motorbikes.
Norman - You can get aroud town by motorcycle taxi or by songthaew but it can be difficult after about 6pm (9pm for motorcycles)
Main advantages of living there?
The cost of living here is very low as it's not a big city like Bangkok and Chiang Mai, yet both cities are still within striking distance for the occasional visit.
The atmosphere of the town is quite relaxed, and there's plenty of opportuity to get to know Thai people and their culture. But it is also a city that is changing and more and more 'trendy' cafes, bars and restaurants are opening and thriving.
Basically, it has a great balance and shows the full cross section you'd expect from a developing nation.
Norman - You can live a very cheap and easygoing lifestyle in Nakhon Sawan. It manages to be a busy but peaceful place at the same time.
And what are the downsides?
There's not a lot of foreign food, and very little of that is any good, so if you don't like Thai food you might struggle. For the most part though, it's a great place to live and work.
Any local attractions?
Bung Boraphet is the large freshwater lake east of the town and is popular with locals. If you go early at the right time of year it is filled with vibrant lotus flowers.
Utthayan Sawan is a lake in the center of town with a nice park surrounding it, and a large island in the middle. Locals go there in the mornings and evenings to exercise and socialise and it's one of my favourite things about the city.
There are numerous temples and Wat Kiriwong on the top of the hill is worth a visit for the views over the city.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
I'm not sure as I never seem to see them. Mercy Coffee shop is popular with foreigners (and for good reason - I would highly recommend it) but there's not a specific hang out that I know of.
Norman - Nowhere specific but Analog Bar is worth a try.