If you drive several hours south from Bangkok - and can avoid the temptations of Pattaya on the way - you'll eventually end up at the beaches and industrial estates of Rayong. But are there any schools for teachers?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
In May of each year Rayong's fruit reaches its peak season. The Rayong Fruit festival has a lot of activities such as musical performances, fruit eating competitions, poetry readings and heritage exhibitions. Rayong has frequent bus connections to elsewhere and the little port of Ban Phe has ferry services to the popular island of Ko Samet.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There are quite a few schools in Rayong town as well as a couple of international schools in Ban Chang. There are a few language schools and private schools but no universities. Most of the teachers work at the government schools or private schools in Rayong town or Ban Chang.
There's an increasing demand for English with the industrialisation of Rayong province so private students can also be found if you're looking for extra cash. There's also companies looking for ESL teachers if working with kids isn't your thing.
The opportunities are actually better in Ban Chang (20 minutes west of Rayong city). There are two international schools there (GIS & St Andrew's) that pay approx 100k salaries but you'll need to be qualified. There is also a bilingual school in Ban Chang called REPS that pays around 60k+ if you're armed with a degree.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Rayong is almost 200 kms south of Bangkok and the journey by road takes between 2-3 hours depending on how crazy the driver is. The international seaside resort of Pattaya (whaaa-hey!) is only an hour away so can make a nice weekend break.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
There's a main road in the middle of Rayong town called Sai-Lang which has numerous bars but most of them cater to local Thais, with live Thai music. At a lot of these bars you might find yourself being the only foreign face in there.
There are three main expat-orientated bars in Rayong town, Y33 and Bar Because on Sai-lang and Wizards, next to Star Market and Tesco lotus.
More farang-oriented nightlife as well as girlie bars can be found in Ban-Chang about 20kms outside of town if that's your thing. It serves as a mini-Pattaya for the area..
Other than the usual KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Company, there is a good German restaurant on Sai-lang, near the Kameo hotel (the big pointy building). Bizarre Island and Laemtong also have western food.
Rayong town also has a lot of Japanese food. However for more diverse cuisine and nightlife, you need to travel to Pattaya.
Vibrant Pattaya, just an hour drive or crazy minivan ride away, is easily accessible for daytrips / weekends away.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Cheaper than Bangkok and Pattaya but not as cheap as the rural areas. I rented a nice studio apartment with bi-weekly maid service for 6,500 baht but you can pay more or less, depending on your necessities.
Shopping malls, department stores?
Laemtong and Central have the most shopping and are the two major malls in Rayong. There is a daily night market next to Tesco Lotus and Star computer center and also a night market on Sukumvit Road, opposite the Golden City Hotel.
Once a month there is a market in the old town of Rayong with lots of traditional merchandise, food, music and generally a good atmosphere
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Coverage is excellent.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
You may get stared at in Rayong town but not as much as in the rural areas. And generally the stares are inquisitive more than malicious. Most people in Rayong town are not actually from Rayong town but Issan, working in the numerous factories in the province and they probably haven't seen many farangs before. Out in the boons, you'll definitely be a novelty.
For the most part, people in Rayong are far friendlier to farangs than in Pattaya. Getting beaten up is unlikely unless you go causing trouble. In the Thai-style bars, you will be treated well and may even be bought drinks by friendly locals.
There is a closely knit community of farangs in Rayong town as well as expats in Ban Chang and on Koh Samet.
The huge industrial complex at Maptaput employs a large number of expats, whilst Ko Samet attracts even more tourists. So, more often than not, you won't be given a second look.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Rayong town is fairly spread out and combined with the bad pavements and traffic that seems to race at full throttle at all times, walking and cycling is difficult and impractical, reserved mainly for crazy homeless people and the odd farang backpacker.
Transport is fairly limited in town at night-time. There are only a handful of taxis (often found around Laemtong mall and the bus station in the old town), no tuk tuks and songthaews stop running at around 7pm.
Often times, you may find a moto-taxi is the only way to get home late at night. Having your own transport is the most practical way to get around especially at night time - so drink driving is rife in Rayong.
Sukhumvit Road runs straight through the province and is serviced by all sorts of public transport from coaches to minivans to pickups to motorbikes. Take your pick or hire your own wheels.
Main advantages of living there?
For me, the best thing about Rayong is its location. It's two hours by road from Bangkok and one hour from Pattaya, meaning day trips and weekends away are easy should you crave your western comforts.
Even Ban Chang (mini Pattaya) is a fun place and is only 20km up the road. There's some beautiful beaches in the province, on Koh Samet and east of Ban Phe, some of which you may find yourself the only person there. There's also a couple of interesting national parks in the vicinity too.
The city itself has everything most expats would need but still maintains its Thai feeling and hasn't been Pattaya-ised. Local expats are welcoming unlike a lot of the larger cities and the locals are generally pleasant too.
Also, Rayong is geographically situated on the coast so isn't subject to quite the same extremes of heat as the inland areas. It's one of the drier coastal cities in Thailand (far less rain than the south or even Chanthaburi and Trat just down the road) and unlike those places, doesn't tend to flood much.
It's one of the few places outside Bangkok where good paying jobs are available. Another advantage is Utapao Airport which is actually in eastern Rayong.
And what are the downsides?
Relatively few farangs for a town of its size and the nightlife gets old fast.
Rayong city itself lacks character and is mostly just the usual Thai hotch-potch of ugly concrete buildings, faceless malls, 711s, dodgy power cables and traffic. The factories in Maptaphut are not only unsightly as you drive into Rayong from the north/west but are also completely unregulated and cause very bad pollution and high cancer rates across the province, particularly during the dry season. The fact that I mentioned the best thing about living in Rayong is it's proximity to other places says a lot. I get away from town most weekends.
Beaches on the mainland in Rayong town itself are filthy and I certainly wouldn't want to swim in the sea so close to all those petrochemical plants.
There are also a few fruit orchards inland where your ticket includes as much freshly picked fruit you can handle.
Any local attractions?
Rayong town itself has little to interest tourists other than Wat pa-pradu (the only left-reclining buddha in Thailand), chedi klang nam (a buddhist shrine at the river delta) and a few temples.
Koh Samet has stunning beaches all round and some nice beaches can be found on the mainland east of Ban-Phe. Inland, Khao Chamao is a nice national park and there's a waterfall close to the Chanthaburi border.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
Farangs are normally seen at night-time in places like Y33 Bar or milling about in Laemtong Mall or Tesco Lotus during the day. Most farangs in town are teachers so tend to be at school during the daytime.