Apparently the food is amazing, the scenery is breathtaking and Roi Et has some of the friendliest Thai people you could wish to meet. If it's got plenty of teaching jobs, then this could be one heck of a place to be.
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Except for extensive stretches of the old city moat, Roi Et's long history hasn't followed it into the 21st century. The city still retains a distinct charm and a sense of identity all of its own. You wouldn't call Roi Et sleepy but it does seem to move to its own urban beat.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
Decent. Plenty of options (from kindergarten to university) and they always lack for foreign teachers, salaries will usually be 30K - 35K. There's an international school as well that pays more. There are some language schools that can be used to get some extra income.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Roi Et has an airport with cheap daily flights to Bangkok. It's a long bus ride to Bangkok so I wouldn't recommend that, but it is doable for the brave. The city is very centrally located in Isaan though, so you aren't too far from Khon Kaen and the other bigger provinces.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
Eating out can be a bit limited to Thai food (though it's usually excellent), but there is a large expat community there and there are some places catering to farangs, mostly pizza and pasta joints. There's also the standard KFC and Pizza Company. Some great dessert cafes as well.
If you are okay with doing things ‘Thai Style' then you'll never want for anything. Huge number of bars with live music, a few nightclubs that are pretty fun, and a "Rong Bia" style place with nightly live shows. Also a lot of molam pop-up events around town too, which makes for a good party.
It's pretty awful after 8 o clock though. The whole city seems to close down after this time. What's more, many establishments randomly close during any day of the week.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
3,000 baht a month will get you a standard studio apartment. That would be comfortable for shorter stays, but if you want to live here, then a house or townhouse can be had for 5,000 up. Modern condo developments have sprung up in recent times, but not sure on those prices.
Shopping malls, department stores?
There is a Robinson shopping mall, Tesco, Big C, Makro, Home Pro, all that stuff. There's a great market too.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Great. Fiber internet and 4G mobile coverage.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Westerners are a fairly common sight in the city although you might get a fair amount of stares in the countryside & districts. Violence is confined to drunken bar fights or bickering teenagers. I never once felt in danger. There are lots of older, married expats here so you aren't a total novelty.
Actually, I have never seen so many strange foreigners as here. They seem to like picking verbal fights with others at one of the establishments around the lake. Further, you will see some of them smoking and drinking practically the whole day at some of these establishments. As for the Thais, I found some to be quite rude and condescending, but the kids were nice.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
No public taxis, but private taxis can be arranged. Tuk tuks, songthaews, and buses are your options. Having your own transportation is essential.
Main advantages of living there?
A very slow and laid back lifestyle and the people are friendly. And there's minimal stress. The countryside can be quite beautiful and there is some amazing food. Isaan is a great place that just doesn't get enough love!
And what are the downsides?
Isolation. There are older, married expats but a lot seem to spend their days drinking off their hangover from the previous day. Not many young foreigners. You definitely need to learn to speak Thai. The lack of Western comfort isn't for everyone.
Any local attractions?
There are some really beautiful temples, especially if you travel a little out of the city (Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkol is one of the best sights to see in Isaan) and RoiEt Tower in the city is pretty impressive for such a sleepy city. RoiEt is also right in the middle of Isaan, so it’s usually at most a 2-3 hour drive if you want to travel on the weekends to other Isaan provinces.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
There are a few expat hangout places around the lake in the middle of town. I met some cool people but a lot seemed to have their own baggage. Your mileage may vary.