Samut Prakarn

Be careful you don't get hit by a motorcycle or fall down a big hole in the footpath because Samut Prakarn can be like one giant obstacle course. But actually there are plenty of schools and teaching jobs in the area.

The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?

I'm not sure The Lonely Planet guidebook even considers it worth a mention, certainly not on their website. However, according to Wikipedia, Samut Prakarn is part of the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Neighbouring provinces are Bangkok, to the north and west, and Chachoengsao to the east. Thailand's biggest airport Suvarnabhumi is in the Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan Province. (is that boring enough for you?)

In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?

Although Samut Prakarn is a fairly ugly place to live (and make no mistake, I'll be getting on to that later) there are lots of schools in the area and loads of teaching opportunities. There must be at least half a dozen major primary and secondary schools within a five-minute drive of where I live (if the traffic is light) and I don't think a 40,000 baht+ salary would be very hard to find.

There are also numerous tutor schools tucked away down the small sois that shoot off the main roads but I'm not sure that many would employ foreign teachers. They certainly wouldn't pay much of an hourly rate.

How far from Bangkok or civilization?

Now that the sky-train Sukhumwit line has extended deeper into Samut Prakarn, making the journey into Central Bangkok is no great hassle. I can get from my house to the Sukhumwit Asoke area in about 30 minutes door-to-door.

To many people, Samut Prakarn is a separate entity to Bangkok but to others it could almost be described as a Bangkok suburb.

What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?

There is plenty of nightlife in these parts but it's very much a 'Thais only' scene. Very few foreigners have braved a raunchy night out in Samut Prakarn.

When darkness falls, parts of Srinakarin Road and Theparak Road light up like Las Vegas and the glitzy karaoke bars, night clubs and massage parlours start pulling in the punters. There is a lot of industry in this area and these entertainment joints are popular places for Thai bosses to entertain customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the ramshackle, wooden drinking dens and sing-a-songs. Groups of young women in impossibly short skirts will sit on stools at the roadside and flash a bit of leg in the hope of attracting a horny (or desperate) passing motorist. The bars are basically four bits of nailed-together plywood, a set of rope lights and a decoration above the door that says 'Merry Christmas' (even in the middle of June) You get the picture. I can't imagine a worse place to spend an evening.

In terms of eating out, there are stacks of Thai restaurants and streets like Theparak have a vibrant street-food scene - but for a Western food fix, you need to know where you are going.

Samut Prakarn is like the Bermuda Triangle of Western food retail. In the 12 years I've lived here, I've lost count of the number of times a nice-looking coffee shop, bakery or fusion restaurant has opened, only to close a few months later because the owner didn't have a clue how to run a business. And in terms of customer service, I'm convinced you see the very worst of what Thailand has to offer in Samut Prakarn. Lazy, disinterested staff who have an uncanny ability to memorize five dishes from the menu - and then forget three of 'em.

It's not all bad though. There are some decent restaurants serving up fish and chips and pasta dishes, etc - but you need to know exactly where they are. And if you find a nice restaurant, make hay while the sun shines. It might not be open much longer.

Many Samut Prakarn people choose to eat in shopping malls at the usual suspects like MK Suki, etc.

How much to rent a house or basic apartment?

Much of Samut Prakarn's population are working-class Thais, who work as engineers or factory workers on the nearby industrial estates.

Get up early enough and you'll see scores of people in their company uniform, standing at the roadside in small clusters and waiting for company buses, songthaews or mini-vans. Therefore most of the housing in this area is of the cheap apartment block variety. 3,000 baht a month (or possibly less) with four people sharing a room - that sort of thing.

There are a few better moobarns (housing estates) dotted around but I'm guessing most of that real estate is purchased rather than rented.

Shopping malls, department stores?

A surprisingly good choice if you are willing to brave the Saturday traffic (which can be even worse than during the week) Although technically not in Samut Prakarn, you're only a relatively short skytrain-ride or taxi journey from Central Bang Na, Paradise Park and Seacon Square (both on Si Nakarin) and my own personal favourite - Megamall Bang Na.

There's also a huge Tesco Lotus on Srinakarin Road towards Paknam.

I actually much prefer the down-to-earth feel of the shopping malls in this area to the glittery, pretentious offerings in Central Bangkok.

The JAS Urban Mall on Sinakarin Road opened for business at the end of 2016 and had all the usual suspects (Burger King, Swensens, Boots, Starbucks, TOPS, Pizza Company, Dominos, etc) and a movie theatre and fitness centre. Initially I was excited to see a new modern shopping centre open up just a stone's throw from where I live, but I worried that the developers had made a grave error of judgement. The place is depressingly quiet most of the time and a number of businesses have already gone to the wall since it opened.

How is mobile / internet coverage?

Internet and mobile signals are both excellent.

Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?

You don't see that many foreigners in Samut Prakarn at all, except maybe in the more up-market Foodland Supermarket on Sri Nakarin Road. And even then they'll stock up on imported cheeses at eye-watering prices before speeding off in their four-wheel drive company cars. It's only idiots like me who soil their shoes on Samut Prakarn's treacherous excuses for footpaths.

I've never experienced anyone getting a good beating but walk around the area long enough and there's usually some chancer who will stand in your path and stick his hand out for a donation.

Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?

The usual buses, minivans, songthaews, etc - and about five million taxis on any given morning. Except when you desperately need one.

Main advantages of living there? it's gone. Oh yes, we've got a nice local immigration office and the staff are very helpful.

And what are the downsides?

I was dreading this question. Dreading it. I don't know where to start. If there's an uglier and more neglected province in the whole of Thailand, then I'm yet to see it. You can plant as many flowerbeds as you like, you can't polish a turd.

I walk around my neighborhood and sometimes feel like I could burst into tears at any moment. Isn't there just one person here who has an ounce of pride in their environment? Just one.

At the moment, much of Samut Prakan resembles a building site as the construction of the latest sky-train extension is now in full swing. In addition, footpaths are being torn up to lay new sewage pipes, etc.

Everywhere you look there are bins overflowing with garbage, torn up paving slabs, twisted metal, broken concrete and advertisement hoardings that have blown down in the previous night's storm and are now just strewn across the footpath. The water in the canals is almost jet black.

People drop litter where they stand. Parked cars block footpaths and force pedestrians into the busy road. Motorcycles come at you from six different directions (even when you are walking on the pavement) And you can build as many flyovers as you want, the traffic is always choked.

I've asked Thais why the local council or authority or whoever is in charge doesn't do something about it. "They have no budget" is the most common answer. My wife has a completely different theory but I'll leave that for another conversation.

I often refer to Samut Prakarn as Thailand's 'ghetto province'. Everywhere I go in this country, I see improvements being made, progress being made - and people taking more and more pride in their surroundings. But not here.

Any local attractions?

I think Muang Boran (The Ancient Village) is actually one of the best attractions in Thailand. I love it there. What a shame it's just so expensive to get in if you're a foreigner.

The three-headed elephant, which towers over the Erawan Museum, is also something to behold.

The Pak Nam area, down by the river, is an old Thai-style neighborhood with a certain charm.

But I must confess, if I got a job with the TAT, I probably wouldn't be their number one choice to sell Samut Prakarn.

Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?

Samut Prakan has a couple of Thai League clubs and you will see a handful of foreign football fans on match days.

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