We've waited a long time to get some feedback on Ratchaburi (the home of the clay-fired earthenware jar) which is surprising because it's got a booming TEFL industry. Hasn't it?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
It's the first year that Ratchaburi has been entered. Best to avoid this place because no one speaks English.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
A few schools now have an English program and there are two private language schools. Some teachers from the local schools do some extra work here.
More and more farangs are showing up - I believe there are already 30 farangs here. The pay is good, its very cheap here and so far all of the schools provide a living place. Starting salary is about 28,000 baht.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It's only an hour and a bit to Bangkok. Places like Hua Hin are only half an hour away although it takes about 2 hours by train.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
The only thing to do here is to drink or to shop. Plenty of nice little cozy bars here and there and there are also a few nightclubs. These are best avoided to be honest.
However, never ever does a farang have to pay the entrance fee, which means you can spend this money on a bottle of J.Walker. Cable / satellite TV never lets us down either.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
A typical house will cost about 2,500 baht per month, however, as far as we have been told the school pays for this.
Some schools have got amazing living quarters on top of the school. Great deal. Free living a stone's throw away from the school and the bars are all very close.
Shopping malls, department stores?
We have a huge Tesco, Robinson and Tops. The local stores and markets provide the same for less.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Yes!!! Not just stared at but kids running away crying cause they spotted something different and the breasts are a bit bigger than mommies. It has happened because a lot of new teachers that arrive here, don't socialize with the Thais.
As I quote from one teacher: Why are you socializing with the Thais? That's sick! I still wonder how this Canadian guy survives here in Ratchaburi.
Ratchaburi is a big military town so when the boys come out to play once a month you might wanna be a bit careful with what you say to these guys. And please don't moon these guys - it left one teacher here in the hospital. His face was cut with a razor blade.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Songtaews, tuk tuks, motorcycle taxis. The only taxi you will find here is if one got lost on the way to the floating market or if a few farang teachers have been partying in Bangkok till the early morning.
(Taxi from Bangkok to Ratchaburi should not cost you more than 1000 baht!!!)
Main advantages of living there?
It's so much cleaner than Bangkok. The city is pretty and it's got some nice sightseeing things.. It is so cheap.. Where can you get a large Heineken for 55 Baht? Its not far from other places and it's easy to travel. The train station is downtown and the bus station is in front of Tesco.
The people are so friendly and nice, it rarely happens that we have to pay more than 200 baht for a night out. Everyone wants to be your friend here. Treat them nice and you get so much back! It's a good place if you want to save some money. Don't come here if you are anti-alcohol though! The food is nice, even though we are far away from Isaan.
At every corner there is a food stall that sells Isaan food. Yum! Ratchaburi is also famous for the noodles they make here ( no not just the pottery). We are civilized, we have one KFC that does delivery and one pizza company. A very large choice of what to eat! (Not)
And what are the downsides?
It is hard to find someone that speaks English. Hey but that's why we are all here.
The hardest thing is to order from Pizza Company - it usually takes 50 attempts. They will keep hanging up on you. And once you want to order you have to tell them in such baby language that you end up having everything wrong. ( NO no its their fault we don't get what we ordered for.) You are on the verge of becoming an alcoholic.
The people are so friendly, but I can't talk to them cause I don't speak friggin' Thai
Any local attractions?
The oldest monastery, monkey caves, hermit caves, of course the pottery ( the ones with the dragons on them are all made here.) Yes, and the farangs that live here are probably the biggest attraction to the locals.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
They are not hard to spot, but it does rarely happen you see one. Usually when you see them they are together like a pack of white sheep.
Update by Mark in September 2015
Since the last 'update' on Ratchaburi there have been some big changes. The biggest change is that Hua Hin is no longer half an hour away. It's moved and is now 120 kilometers and a good hour and half away. Tectonic plates and all that...
The lonely Planet got it right... Best to avoid this place - no one speaks English.
The teacher population is almost entirely old white men between 45 and 70. If you are NOT an old white geezer between 45 and 70 then you'll find work here very easy to come by.
Like many cities in Thailand, it's very expansive, so the better your mode of transportation the better your opportunities will be. There's a no-name language school that pays rubbish and doesn't seem to have enough customers to make ends meet.
You probably won't want to move here unless your girlfriend or wife wants you to. It's far from rural but not very cosmopolitan, either. We have Tescos, Big C and a Robinson's. There is a small IT mall across from the Tesco's. It's great for mouse pads and 4 gigabyte memory cards! There is also a really good Advice.co.th regional HQ here which can supply most IT things. It's not far from the Tescos and has good parking.
There are lots of dirty, sweaty markets where you can buy cheap things.
Things are getting better. A year ago we got a McDonalds... although you'll need a car to get to it. It's opposite the out of town Mazda dealership. We also have a new Oishi... yum yum! And every where you see a big shop there's an MK, of course!
OK, it's not all bad... There's a pretty good military golf club not far from the Big C. Green fees are cheap and there's a pretty good clubhouse. (Keep your valuables nailed down because the monkeys are everywhere.)
There are loads of local attractions to wander around... bat caves, old churches, etc. The run down promenade down by the river ain't exactly Hong Kong, but it's there... you can smell it!
The Cowboy Cafe is the best place for Westerners to get ribs, pizza and other treats (like garlic bread with cheese.) Again, you need a car to get there. It's not in the center of town. (And go at night, because the service and quality of food is not as good during the day.)
Utilities are reliable... internet is good now. Accommodation is pretty cheap, but city living in Ratchaburi is a dirty, squalid and very noisy affair. Get yourself a car and rent a house.
There is no 'expat community' at all. The people that live here are either family men with lives or drunks hanging outside coffee shops swapping spit about the old days.
If you like Thai food you're in for a treat... that's pretty much all there is! On the upside there are some really good fresh fish restaurants. If you like drinking beer and also like mosquito, rats, dirty food, noise and indifferent service then Ratchaburi may just be the place for you.
Skirting the town is a Home Pro and a Macro. Again, you'll need transportation of some kind to get to and from these places. There are a few minibus hubs that can get you to and from Bangkok for 120 baht each way. They stop running after about seven in the evening... even earlier if there aren't enough customers to fill the van.
There's one half decent hotel in Ratchaburi but even that is only marginally better than sleeping in your car or in a tent by the side of the road. The Western Grand is acceptable and reasonably priced. Good location, too. Nice and central.
If you are early enough, the Western has decent fresh pastries. All the other hotels you read about on line are miles away from the actual city so... once again... avail yourself of good transportation.
The best thing about Ratchaburi is the location. Not far from Bangkok, Hua Hin and many other cities. If you have a car there are loads of fancy (and expensive) villas, spas, sheep farms, waterfalls and trekking sites.
Frankly, Ratchaburi is a pretty dire move for a teacher. But don't take my word for it - come see for yourself.
The Article on Ajarn.com paints a pretty rosy picture in my opinion, but what do I know!