Get away from the tourists as much or as little as you like. Enjoy great Thai food and beautiful scenery along with an abundance of available work. Sounds like a great place for teachers.
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
More than anywhere else in Thailand, the Phang-Nga coastline is still reeling from the devastation of the 2004 tsunami. In fact about 6,000 of the deaths - well over half the national count - occurred along this section of the Andaman coast, particularly in the Thai Muang, Khao Lak, Bang Niang and Bang Sak regions.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There are plenty of schools in the area ranging in age from kindergarten to high school and very few teachers to compete with. I approached the local education office and ended up with a 16-hour/week job paying 10,000 baht/month in cash.
My girlfriend and her co-teachers took their job through British Language School in Phuket (who are quiet honestly brilliant) and although she has to be on school premises from 7:30am - 4pm, she is earning 30,000 baht/month for a few hours extra teaching.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Phang Nga Town is located about 476 miles from Bangkok or 11 hours by bus. Patong, Karon and Kata can be reached in under 2 hours (bus to Phuket town and a songthaew) and Krabi is about 1 hour away by bus and from there you can access Ao Nang, Railay and Phi Phi. Khao Lak is about 1 hour away on a scooter.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Not much entertainment in the traditional sense. There are a few bars in the area but it gets pretty quiet after 8 or 9pm. Stefan's Pizza Parlour on the main road stays open until everyone goes home and features great food, free pool and cheaper beer than 7/11. There are also a few little bars here and there but don't expect to see many farangs.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
A semi-furnished 2-bedroom house with covered parking, a Western bathroom, a kitchen and a living room can be had for 4,000/month. We pay 5,000 at Phang Nga Court for a bedroom/bathroom that includes all bills and internet.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Huge selection in nearby Phuket but you need to go to Phuket town first. Krabi has good shops and is generally cheaper but nothing like Phuket.
We eat out every night here at cheap restaurants and the markets (2 every evening) and spend no more than 100 baht each (usually 50 baht each).
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Excellent. And many cafes and hotels have wi-fi.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
You will be stared at and people can look pretty threatening but flash a smile at them and they will return it, irrespective of what they are saying about you. The town feels really safe and I've not heard of any anti-farang treatment going on.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
We rent a scooter for 2,000/month although the teachers at the schools here can often lend you something for free.
There are songthaews but I don't know where they go or come from. Buses roll through town every 5 minutes on their way to Bangkok, Hat Yai, Trang and Phuket and its easy to flag them down at the side of the road.
Main advantages of living there?
Cheap as chips, quiet during the week, good wages if you go through an agency, beautiful mountains overlooking the town and easy to access Phuket and Krabi for a bit of fun on the weekend.
And what are the downsides?
You will need to make an effort to speak Thai, things get REALLY quiet after 9pm and people will stare at you.
Any local attractions?
Good rock climbing in the area, elephant trekking, white water rafting and ATV tours just out of town (pay a fraction of what the tourists from Phuket pay). Cave tours in the local mountains, nearby Khao Lak for a bit of beach action and Phang Nga Bay is beautiful (where The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed).
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
You will know all of the permanant resident because its a small community here. You will see farangs now and then, but they tend not to stay more than one night here on their way to or from Phang Nga Bay.