I've heard it described as an amazing place for those who are looking for a simple way of life. But does Petchabun offer enough to an English teacher?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
"A province of rich history and fertile soil, Petchabun is a province with great natural attractions; particularly its forested mountains and waterfall laden rivers that help create a climate that is cool and pleasurable nearly year round. The very name of the province derives from a name meaning "the land of crops and foods." Today, Phetchabun is a province with rich tourism potential. Its climate is pleasant due to the mountainous and forested areas, and it has a rich history dating back more than 1,400 years."
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
Pretty good. It's off the beaten path so there is not too much competition. It has quite a few government schools along with one private school and three universities. Salaries will range from 28,000-40,000 baht a month depending on experience and qualifications.
Tim - There are two large high schools and at least one university in Muang Petchabun
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It's a 5-6 hour bus ride from Bangkok. 9-ish hours from Chiang Mai. Phitsanulok is just a couple hours away and makes for a nice day trip if you want to visit their Central shopping mall or something. Also Khon Khaen isn't too far away.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Eating out? Thai food. Granted the food is really good and cheap, but most of your meals are going to be at an open air Thai place. There is a KFC and Pizza Company to satisfy Western cravings. And there's the typical Thai steak/pasta place that's not bad. Lots of decent coffee shops around as well.
Nightlife? There are three universities in town, so the nightlife is actually okay. Three nightclubs with DJs and Thai rock bands. Plenty of pubs and bars. A fun night out can be had for sure.
Tim - There's a nice area "downtown" for nightlife, and the local Tesco and Big C have Western fast food.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Apartments start at around 2,000 - 3,500 baht a month and will get you something reasonably clean and modern, though it's still going to be Thai-style. If you are looking for a room on par with the condos in Bangkok you're going to be shit out of luck.
Tim - There are some places available rather cheaply and the schools help direct you to these.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Tesco, Big C, Makro, Home Pro, a few street markets. That's about it.
Tim - Lots of local markets and a Topland in town. Just out of town lie the Tesco and BigC.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Great. True even has 4G mobile coverage.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Yes you will be stared at, but the people there are some of the friendliest I've ever met. Violence is confined to drunken bar fights or bickering teenagers. I never once felt in danger.
Tim - You might be stared at, but I felt absolutely safe the time I was there. There are a few foreigners around since there are several schools here.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
No taxis. Tuk tuks, songthaews, and buses are your options. Having your own transportation is essential.
Tim - I walked a lot. There are motorcycle taxis available, as well.
Main advantages of living there?
It's the easiest place I've ever lived. Life was just too simple (in a good way). Everyone is laid back, the weather was great, clean air, cheap living, beautiful surroundings, I could go on...
Tim - It's cheap to live there and easy to save money because there's not much to do. However, if you want to go to Bangkok, it's a 6-hour bus ride.
And what are the downsides?
It can be a bit lonely. You don't have much privacy as a foreigner. Not much to do once you get bored of nature and sitting around.
Any local attractions?
Khao Kho is a mountain rightoutside of town. Known as "Little Switzerland". It's a really nice place for a weekend getaway if you want to camp, enjoy the view, and eat fresh strawberries.
Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is an incredible Buddhist temple set on the side of a mountain, one of my favorite places in Thailand.
There are also quite a few other national parks that are all really nice. If you enjoy motorcycle trips then you'll be in heaven here.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
There are a few expat hangout places. Most are older married guys who tend to keep among their pre-exisiting social circle. Your best bet is to meet and maybe hang out with your coworkers.