Guidebooks often describe it as a stop-off between Hat Yai and Surat Thani - but what are the pickings like for a TEFLer?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
It's a 'rewarding' stop off point between Hat Yai and Surat Thani.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
Even more schools have opened in recent years making TEFL work very easy to come by. Hiring season is most active in March and April with another peak in September and October for the second term.
The majority of schools have an English programme with one employing up to 50 farang teachers. There are private, government and language schools as well as some universities close to town. Best bet is to join the local Facebook group to see job postings.
The average pay is around 38,000 baht with the opportunity to get up to 45,000 within a few years. The relatively low pay is offset by a low cost of living.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Nakhon is well served for transport. The airport (15 min from town) should soon become an international airport, but who knows how long that will realistically take after the decision was made in January of 2015.
Only a 1hr flight from Bangkok with 3 airlines now running up to 10 flights a day.
Trains take considerably longer, about 14 hrs
Buses run regularly, 9+ hrs
"Songkla and Hatyai"
3 hours drive away.
Also served by van, bus and train (3-5 hours)
"Suratthani and the islands"
Surat is approx 2 hours by road
Donsak(for the islands) is 1.5-2 hours away + ferry. (1.5 hour ferry to Samui, longer to the other islands either direct or through Samui)
"Krabi and Phuket"
3- 4hrs respectively by bus or minivan, less if you're driving yourself.
minivan: first to Hat Yai (3 hrs) then to Penang (5 hrs)
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
There are countless Thai restaurants with new ones opening what seem to be on a daily basis. More and more Western style restaurants are opening up and even in the last year many restaurants have added an English menu.
Coffee shops are also popping up all over the place serving real, decent coffee (not just Thai instant coffee). Check out Retro Cafe, Pixel Cafe and Ethiopia Coffee.
Live music - there are a handful of places where live music is played in Thai Bars. Farang owned "Roots" is also a popular bar recently opened next to Country Home (a popular Thai bar with nightly live bands). Bliss Bar is a thai owned bar that plays a great selection of Western music. If you don't like loud rock music there's always the karaoke joints which are in typical thai style all over town.
Central Plaza opened in 2016 in the South end of town offering English movies to Nakhon for the first time along with a few chain restaurants and the only Starbucks. No Western brands like H&M unfortunately.
A new, massive mall Central has opened and they have Starbucks etc. A flagship Swensen’s store also opened up in the city.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Normal fan room in one of the guest houses will cost you around 3,000/month. For those that don't like living in boxes, small town-houses or detached thai style houses (outdoor kitchen) will cost around 5,000 baht a month.
A nice 3/4 bedroomed houses with garden etc start from around 8,000/month. There are a few nice gated communities that boast pools and parks where a small townhouse (3-bedroom / 2 bathrooms) with cost around 7,000-10,000.
Shopping malls, department stores?
In the south end of town there is a Central Plaza Mall with a cinema, Tops Market and mostly Thai brand clothing stores. More central, there is 'Ocean Plaza' which currently houses a large Robinson's department store, a TOPS grocery store, coffee shops, fast food, and independent and chain retailers. There is also a Tesco Lotus, Big C Supercenter and a Makro.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
As Nakhon is off the tourist trail, yes, you will get 'looked' at every now and then but it will mostly be with smiles and waves. As there are over 100 farang in town now teaching, the looks and stares are less frequent.
As for getting attacked, Nakhon still has a pretty bad reputation within the country but here, as with most places, the farang is pretty safe.
There were a couple of farangs murdered a good number of years ago. One was stabbed outside a hotel and had his camera bag etc nicked. The other guy had a business here, obviously seen as competition and was shot. On the whole, no worries. Act wisely and you should have no problems.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
There are taxi companies that must be called for pick-up, can't be waved down, and they are mostly reliable if you can speak enough Thai to explain where you are and where you want to go.
Grab is now available though and the number of drivers are increasing.
There are still hundreds of songtaews that run routes on both major roads from north to south. Fares are cheap but they mostly stop running around 8:30 at night. Plenty of buses and minivans serving the neighbouring towns as well as the major cities.
Most farang rent or buy a motorbike to get around. Costs are around 2,000-2,500 baht a month or there are always used bikes for sale as teachers come and go for around 10,000-25,000 baht.
Main advantages of living there?
It is still well off the tourist trail and so manages to keep its Thainess, which is good for those that are fed up/don't want to be around too many Westerners. The locals, on the whole though are very nice and helpful.
It's big enough to have most of what you want yet still small enough to be in the countryside within minutes. Another advantage is the low cost of living. The 30,000 baht starting salary will go a long way here compared to the islands!
And what are the downsides?
All farang seem to miss or complain about different things. Many crave a variety of foods like Mexican or Indian, while others get frustrated at the lack of English spoken in town.
The local schools adhere strongly to variations on the no-fail policies rampant across the Thai education sector; verbal abuse of students by Thai administrative staff at private schools seems to be particularly common, with little to no recourse available for victims.
There are few resources for emotional and psychological support within the community. Traditional attitudes stigmatising physical disabilities and mental illness are the norm.
Any local attractions?
By far the most important attraction in Nakhon is (if you're into old temples) Wat Phramahat - the most visited site by Thai tourists and foreigners.
The small town of Kiriwong is worth checking out and there are many waterfalls within an hour drive of the city.
The beach towns of Sichon and Khanom are 45 minutes and 1.5 hours away - both with beautiful and deserted beaches.
If you're into swimming and can't be bothered with the trip to the beaches, the 'Twin Lotus Hotel' as a fairly decent outdoor pool on the 3rd floor. Cost is 50 baht and they also have a gym if you're that way inclined. There is also a pool with a restaurant in the mooban Siam Thani for 60 baht.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
The expats in town are about 90% local English teachers and very friendly. Overall the farang community is pretty small but welcoming. Roots Bar and Full Moon Bar are the places you are most likely to run into expats on the weekends.
For the most part the farang are very friendly and helpful to each other in town. Christmas and Thanksgiving potluck dinners are organized for anyone in town and free clothing swaps are frequently planned for the females in town to get together.
There are the usual few older farang you rarely see about town with their Thai partners, but other than that there is a good mix of young and middle-aged people from all over the world. However not many families in town or farang children.