Suphanburi has been described as one of the dullest provinces in Thailand, However, those few foreigners who make it there usually tend to stay long term. What's Suphanburi's secret?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Guide books virtually ignore Suphan Buri, does that mean that there is nothing to see or do here?
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There are a lot of schools, both government and private, in the city center, as well as plenty more in the suburbs and outlying districts. Many of these are constantly "looking" for foreign teachers. On top of that there are an increasing number of private language centers. There are also a couple of university campuses, vocational and technical colleges, as well as a sports institute, an art college, a nursing college and college of dramatic arts.
So the jobs are there, although they are not always advertised. Starting salaries are around the 30,000 mark, and hourly work ranges from 300 to 750 an hour. Schools here generally do things by the book, so you need to have the correct paperwork/qualifications.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
Suphan Buri city is around 120 km from Bangkok. There are regular buses and van service (120 Baht) to various destinations in Bangkok. Buses and vans also run to Kanchanaburi (100 km) and Ayutthaya (80 km). For destinations like Chiang Mai you can take the overnight bus which leaves at 8 p.m. and arrives at 7 a.m. in Chiang Mai for only 600 baht. If you would like to travel further afield, Don Muang Airport is only an hour's drive away.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
There is plenty of entertainment, most of it Thai style - movie theatres, 3 night clubs, numerous live music venues and a scattering of bars and karaoke bars - so staying out late isn't a problem! A couple of places have pool or snooker tables and, since CTH, live football at the weekend. There are however no girlie bars, the closest thing would be coyote dancers in the nightclubs. Suphan Buri FC was also promoted to the Thai 1st division last season, so the home matches are always good entertainment, and attract a good crowd.
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Basic one bedroom apartments start at 2000 a month plus bills. Better 2-room apartments range from 4000 - 6000. A better option is a semi-furnished 2/3 bedroom townhouse which can be had for 3500 - 4000 per month plus bills.
Shopping malls, department stores?
A few years ago there was only a Tesco Lotus and one small shopping mall. However, in the last few years Homepro, Robinson's, Thai Watsadu, and most recently Big C have all opened their doors here. There is also an abundance of 7-11s. The malls are virtually the only source of anything resembling farang food. The Tesco Lotus Mall has a Major Cineplex which plays movie in English but you must check the show time for the English versions.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Internet cafes abound, and most apartment buildings have an included internet connection. Speeds are good, and all the major suppliers are represented (TOT, 3BB, True etc,) CTH, True Visions and Suphan Cable TV are also available.
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Quite likely neither! You are more likely to be largely ignored. There is no anti-farang feeling here, but neither is there any pro-farang feeling. It takes a while to get to know people here, but when you do you will be treated the same as a Thai. The town feels generally safe and you'll probably only find trouble if you cause it yourself.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
There is motorcycle rental here and the average cost is 2,000 Baht / month. A foreigner can rent one from the main Suzuki bike shop near the clock tower (just ask for Boy)
You can also buy one, or alternatively you can get a bicycle.
Yellow songthaews go all over town (and beyond) on various routes, so it is possible to get by with only public transport. Motorcycle taxis and samlors are also available.
There is a bus station in the town center and at least four minivan stations. The railway station is outside the center and has only a very limited service (one train a day to Bangkok) There is no airport, but as mentioned above, Don Muang Airport is just an hour away.
Main advantages of living there?
Great infrastructure, safe, quiet, cheap, no lengthy commutes, no traffic jams, good salaries, no dodgy agencies, serious schools, endless possibilities for extra work, and it's in a great location for weekend getaways.
And what are the downsides?
Although I sometimes miss a good steak, I can't really think of any, unless you need Bangkok style nightlife - no-one is going to call you "handsome man" here! Oh and you might need to make an effort to speak Thai!
Any local attractions?
The famous yearly Don Chedi festival, Ban Harn Tower, Buffalo Village, Bung Chawark aquarium and zoo, Suhan Buri F.C, Sam Chuk 100 year market, and National Parks (including the site of the Lauda Air crash).
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
There are a number of foreigners here, but there are no real farang hangouts. However, being a relatively small city you'll inevitably run into the other teachers here. Most are quite friendly and can offer good advice. Most other farang are in transit between Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya (no direct bus) and have missed the last onward bus. These are the ones that have probably given rise to the false impression that Suphan Buri is boring.