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 can'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, but salaries will be the standard 28k-35k. There's a private school as well that pays slightly more. There are some language schools that can be used to get some extra income.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It 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 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 5k+. 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?
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. Lots of older, married expats 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?
Not really. There are temples and things but that's it. If you are a person who is unable to just enjoy nature and serenity than this place isn't for you. If you have a car or bike then you can visit lots of great provinces without difficulty - Ubon, Mahasarakham, Khon Kaen, Buriram, to name a few.
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.