So, I’ve been traveling and living in Thailand now for about 2 months. In a short time I was able to accomplish visiting many places so I’m pretty pumped about that! Places I’ve visited so far include Bangkok, Krabi, Koh Lanta, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Khao Sok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and a few places in between. I stopped my travels when I took a job teaching English, Math and Health/P.E. to 29 kindergarten students in Kathu, Phuket. I got the job by contacting my TEFL program and connecting with a previous grad through Facebook. Facebook seems to be a great way to find jobs in Thailand!
So anyway, I found an affordable (7,000 baht/month) apartment in Phuket town that allows month-to-month contracts so I didn’t have to be tied down to a place so quickly. It came with some nice essentials, but it didn’t have a kitchen. As I settled in and began the process of getting assimilated to Phuket, I started having troubles. I’ve been told that these woes are common and that you just have to push through them, but I’d like to share my gripes so far. So let me explain by going back to some of my first days in Phuket.
First things first, I had to drive a motorbike to work! I was dreading this day. I had been cruising as a passenger on the motorbike up until then, and I was filled with fear and anxiety at the thought of driving on my own. As a passenger I got to see how insane it felt to drive through Thailand traffic. To some degree, anything goes on the streets. People don’t stay in their lanes, drive through red lights if they see an opportunity, drive onto the road without looking to see if there’s oncoming traffic, or just go ahead and drive towards oncoming traffic to pass another motorist. It’s more of an attitude of “whoever is driving near me will see me and move accordingly.” Well I try my best to avoid collisions but dam it’s frustrating to subject myself to such high stress every day! I was seriously thinking I wouldn’t be able to drive and that I’d shamefully have to quit before I’d even started.
So, I rented a bike the day before I was to start my new job. The school is a good 30-minute drive away. I practiced getting to a huge intersection at Central Festival mall, since that seemed to be where I’d lose my sense of direction. It’s an intimidating intersection for sure. It’s under construction, lights and signs pointing in all sorts of ways, traffic piling up at the 180 second stop light, uneven pavement, and aggressive drivers who are unforgiving to sad little bikers like me who are still finding their courage to drive.
During my first rides I was trembling and moving very cautiously, but I was doing it! I remember feeling so amazed with myself. I definitely conquered a serious fear. I can’t remember when I gained my current confidence, but it happened, and now I catch myself doing some moves I never imagined I’d do. It’s common for bikers to squeeze between any areas possible in order to make it to the front of the pack. I’m squeezing through with them. Stopping to turn on a solid yellow line? Scary, but I do it. (As I’ve seen countless other people do it too). Driving towards oncoming traffic to pass someone? Nope. I don’t do that. That’s just too wild. Despite all these ‘risky’ maneuvers, I have not thrown my caution to the wind. There are just different rules of the road that I’ve adapted to. I’ve been going on about the bike riding, but it’s a huge part of living in Phuket. Taking taxis or public transportation everywhere is just a hassle and can be costly.
Another trouble I was having in Phuket was the food. Sorry to say that for me, Thailand has not been the glorified, orgasmic plethora of food as it’s been described to me in so many blogs and by so many people I’ve met. (Blasphemy, right?) Maybe it was hyped up so much that no matter what I was going to be disappointed. I quickly grew tired of noodles, rice, fried foods, and vegetables bathed in oyster sauce. I need more variety! To be fair, my palette is minimized because I can’t handle spicy food, although my tolerance has improved, thankfully. I would cook for myself, but my apartment doesn’t have a kitchen and doesn’t allow plug-in cookers. If I had my own kitchen it would ease the tension for sure. Overall, I’m not thrilled by the food and that’s greatly been affecting the quality of my life. (Although I have had my share of scrumptious, cheap meals!)
Another thing I realized is that I’m not really a person who thrives in a tropical climate. The rainstorms, the humidity, the heat! I didn’t think much of it as I was traveling. I took it all in and embraced it, but living in it has been annoying. Hot, restless nights with just a fan because I don’t want a huge utilities bill from using my AC all night, driving in the hot sun or the pouring rain, always feeling hungry… I’ve realized that living here isn’t what I thought it’d be.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of things to love about living in Phuket. I’m close to many beautiful beaches. I enjoy my job despite the stress of dealing with such young kids. I feel welcomed to the teaching team at my school and the curriculum is set up nicely and professionally. I’m paid well. I’m learning a lot about teaching to young learners. I found enjoyable spots to eat at and I’m sure with time I would have found even more. The driving, despite the stress, is quite fun and I enjoy taking my bike out for a ride when I know there’s less traffic. There are many perks and I’m sure after another month I’d be able to say I’m really enjoying myself since I’ve slowly begun to forget about my troubles and just take everything for what it is. Unfortunately I’ve had some issues arise, so I’ll be leaving Thailand sooner than planned. I still want to see a few more areas before I depart so that I can end my time here on a more pleasant note. Up on my list is Koh Tao, Chiang Rai, and Chiang Mai again! I really enjoyed myself there, but I’ll talk about that in another post dedicated to that special spot.
Until next time!
**Edit/update: Looking back on this post, I think it would have helped me immensely if I would have had more time to get to know people in the area, find a room to rent in a house so I’d have a kitchen and probably pay less for rent, and also find a home closer to work to avoid the longer drives everyday. If these things were in order, my adjustment would have been much easier. Rookie mistake I guess. But now I know for next time 😉 Thailand, I’ll be returning to you one day…