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What it Takes to be a Good Teacher Abroad

What it Takes to be a Good Teacher Abroad

Have you ever wanted to see the world, live in a different country, and feel like you’re really leaving a lasting impact in the lives of the people you interact with?

Backpacking is one thing, but feeling like part of a local community and getting the opportunity to leave your mark in what was once a “foreign and unknown” place, is an extremely rewarding cross-cultural experience with the potential to change your life and many others around you.

Teaching abroad provides this opportunity. Every day, more and more young professionals who are looking to start their careers, but also want to see the world, turn to teaching as a means to quench their thirst for adventure whilst doing something positive for the community and gaining valuable work experience. Of course, you can never be too old to embark on this journey. If you’re an experienced professional who is looking to get away from the routine and have an enriching experience abroad, teaching might also just be right for you!

If you have ever pondered this idea, or have asked yourself whether you would be a “good teacher” this guide will serve to outline some of the essential qualities a successful teacher should possess in order to have a fulfilling and positive time working and living abroad.

how to be a good teacher?


ADAPTABILITY

Different countries operate in different ways. Each culture has their own standards on education which more than likely differ than those of your own country.

You must always present yourself in a professional manner. However, it is important to keep in mind when you are working abroad, things may not always run on time. Last minute changes are not uncommon and you may be required to think on your feet more than you’re accustomed to.

Always have extra lessons on hand and remember not to let the little things get to you. As long as you keep a positive attitude and focus on the task that is at hand, you will be more than ready to confront anything that may be thrown at you.

CREATIVITY

This is perhaps one of the most important skills a successful teacher should possess. It is vital to use different methods of teaching, as different students learn in different ways. You can have some fun with your students by incorporating games in your lessons and breaking out of the daily structure to teach a lesson in a new, dynamic and playful manner.

By getting creative in the classroom you not only encourage your students to explore different ways of learning but also break out of the daily routine to share some laughs together.

would I be a good teacher?

You may find these are the most valuable moments you will experience as an educator. Seeing the kids respond to your ideas with enthusiasm and energy is one of the great joys of this job.

what it takes to be a good teacher


PASSION

Sometimes, you may find it useful to do some self reflection and remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Not everyone has the opportunity to change someone’s life, especially not the lives of young children who live half way across the world from you. On days that are hard, long or just tiring, if your intentions are in the right place, you may find the energy you need in the passion you have to truly make a difference. You have the power to make any situation into a lesson not only for your students but also for you. Both as a teacher and as a human.

If you’re ready to learn, this experience will teach you a lot about yourself and perhaps help you find that balance you’ve been searching for elsewhere.

COMMITMENT

Living in a new country can be very exciting, it is very easy to get caught up in the novelty of it all but a “good teacher” should always have the best interest of their students in mind. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun, or go out on weekends, but as an educator, you hold a great responsibility to shape the lives of the new generation to be better people and eventually become contributing members of their society. Not to mention you are also acting as an ambassador to your country in the eyes of your kids.

would I be a good teacher?

Be mindful about your priorities and remember to dedicate some time for planning outside of school and you should have plenty of time to balance both your personal and professional lives abroad.

So, if you think you’ve got what it takes.. what are you waiting for?

***Having a TESOL certificate is a huge advantage for any potential teacher looking to get work abroad. A TESOL will provide you with the skills necessary to run a lesson effectively and maintain discipline in your classroom. This is perhaps the most invaluable and practical certification any teacher should have before arriving to any school.

Five Surprising Things about Life in Thailand

Five Surprising Things about Life in Thailand

                                                                                                                                              By Chelsey Dunham
I did tons of research before moving to Thailand so my husband Cole and I came prepared for all the big stuff: the fabulously low cost of the living, the “mai pen rai” attitude, the students being extra naughty during English class, the extreme heat, the delicious food, etc. Yet, Life in Thailand still managed to catch me off guard in a number of ways. The following are five things that may surprise you, as they did me, about Thai culture and life as a teacher in Thailand.

1. Any temperature below 70°F (21°C) is unbearably cold

One evening in December, four of us American English teachers went to our city’s weekend market to eat and shop. We arrived dressed in long pants and long sleeves yet found ourselves shivering as we ate. By the end of dinner we felt so cold that we decided to skip shopping at the market entirely. I checked the temperature and laughed out loud when I saw that it was 68°F (20°C)! What would have been a comfortable temperature to us at home sent us running back to our apartments now that our bodies had acclimatized to Thailand’s hot weather.

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand
On cooler days our students come to school in cute little jackets and sometimes full-on winter coats complete with gloves and earmuffs

“Thailand’s slow-paced life means you’ll always have time to sit and watch the sunset”

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand

2. You will have copious amounts of free time

When I pictured life in Thailand, I imagined my days being action-packed and full of adventure. But after settling into my teaching job, I actually found the opposite to be true in the most wonderful way.  My life here is very relaxed and stress free.  You can easily get all planning and grading done within the school day while you are not teaching.  This leaves you with evenings and weekends completely free to travel, exercise, explore your town, spend time with friends, or just binge watch shows on Netflix.  The relaxed pace is completely opposite of how I lived my life in the United States.  I have enjoyed researching topics that interest me, writing a blog, going for long walks at a local park, and chatting with my Thai landlord in my new-found free time.

3.  Many students suffer from rotten and decaying teeth

When I first arrived at my school, I was shocked to see so many of my students with black and toothless grins.   We teach at a private school where most families can easily afford dental care, so why are these kids suffering from tooth decay at such a young age?  The initial shock of seeing this problem wore off but I am still perplexed by the issue.  The students brush their teeth everyday at after lunch at school but this is apparently not enough to combat the problem.  I have tried to include lessons about dental hygiene, avoiding sugar, and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables for each of my classes.

It obviouls doesn’t make them any less adorable
life in Thailand, Thai food

I had some delicious shrimp pad Thai courtesy of this boat for less than $1 US

4.  You may shed a few excess pounds

After living in Thailand for three months, Cole and I were pleasantly surprised when we stepped on the scale and realized we had both lost weight.  Now after seven months in Thailand, most of the clothes we packed are too big. Many Thai dishes consist of freshly cooked ingredients and are served in small portions, which is a welcome change from the processed food and gigantic meals we were eating back home.  The produce we buy at a local market is also fresher and much cheaper than in the United States. If you stick to a mostly Thai-food diet combined with other healthy habits (exercising daily, avoiding sugar, eating fruits and vegetables, etc.) you may be flying home a little lighter than you came!

5.  Your comfort zone will expand immensely

Before moving to Thailand the thought of being stranded in an unfamiliar place, where no one speaks your language, praying for the right bus to drive by would have given me a minor panic attack; now that’s just a typical Friday night.  Living in Thailand has put me in all kinds of situations that would have made me uncomfortable before—being lost and unable to ask anyone for help, eating unfamiliar foods, communicating with people whose language you can’t understand, performing a traditional Thai dance at your boss’s retirement party, the list goes on and on. Looking back I’m astonished at how quickly my comfort zone grew to include these situations. Living in Thailand has helped me be okay with no knowing and not being in control. After a few months in Thailand you may find that you’ll feel comfortable and at ease anywhere and with anyone.

life in Thailand, teaching in Thailand

 

As apprehensive as a I was at first, I had a great time learning traditional Thai dance and performing at our school director’s retirement party.

To read more stories about living and teaching in Thailand, check out our previous participant, Chelsey Dunham, blog through the following link https://candcoverseas.wordpress.com/

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

Living and Teaching Abroad as a Couple

 

 

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

 

Living and teaching abroad as a couple can be a unique and rewarding experience that is sure to bring you both closer together and teach you things about each other you never knew you needed to know.

That being said, an adventure of this sort definitely comes with a set of challenges that may test your relationship in ways you never anticipated. However, the rewards can be great when you learn how to roll with the punches and find creative ways to deal with the different issues you may be faced with as you begin life with your partner in a new country.

This blog will feature stories from the perspective of three different couples who decided to embark on this journey and take the leap towards a life changing adventure that shaped their lives forever.

Beth and Mike
Mike and I met each other in Nelson, New Zealand. We were both staying at the same hostel and our friendship just never stopped growing! That was almost 9 years ago.

After returning to Canada, we battled a long-distance relationship for a while, all whilst knowing we wanted to be together but didn’t want the cookie cutter lifestyle that we were feeling pressured to follow at home. I had explored the idea of teaching overseas for sometime and once I shared this with Mike, he was sold.

We quickly realized after being placed in Amphawa, Thailand, the lack of English speaking connections was causing a lot of pressure at home to “entertain” each other. We really needed to find things that we could do on our own that the other could support yet not necessarily take part in. We had to be mindful of each other’s journey…

It took a month or two for us to find the roles we needed to play in each other’s lives here, as they differ greatly from the norms of home. Living with your partner is one thing, but adding in school and after hours with the same person everyday brings forth new challenges.

Obviously, any pair that embarks on a journey together, from friends to couples will grow a bond that is undeniably stronger from when you began. The things you encounter in Thailand alone, are just sometimes unexplainable to the western world. These memories and moments are things you will share with your partner for life. 

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Mike and I have grown tremendously as a couple. We are both so much more aware of our own, and each other’s needs. Being secluded with someone you love in an unfamiliar land brings a sense of terrifying adventure. It can go either way – crash and burn or hit some turbulence and keep going. There isn’t a smooth sail and we know that. We are both so proud of one another for overcoming so much already and are excited to continue growing as teachers and as individuals! We love XploreAsia and all the opportunities it has provided us!

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

Enrico and Philippa
We both attended the same farewell back in 2012. I went there with another girl, one of Philippa’s close friends actually and had no idea whose bash I was attending. We sat across from each other and spoke every now and again.

A couple of days later, I found her on Twitter and sent her a private message. We chatted during a hectic exam period and then met up after that for a drink and the rest is history.

We had hit a rough patch and felt like things were stagnating on both an individual and collective basis. We were both unhappy with life in South-Africa and after successfully travelling together the year before, we were unsettled in our birthplace. We spoke about moving abroad from the moment we got home the previous year and the topic simply did not fade away.

After this feeling continued for well over a year, we knew we needed a change, but something completely different. Not the typical move to London like every other 20-something South-African does, something and somewhere that was uncharted by our circle of friends and colleagues in order for it to be just the two of us. After some initial discussion, we settled on Thailand.

If I had to offer any advice to a couple considering moving abroad I would say….  It is so cliché, but take the plunge. It doesn’t matter what state your relationship currently is in; happy or going through a rough patch, this experience is unbelievably refreshing for one’s soul and sharing it with the person you love makes it even more special. The love you’ll receive from the Thai people -your students especially- is so overwhelmingly amazing. It’s unconditional nature is like nothing you’ve ever likely to have experienced before. Your relationship will also reach new heights, it’s almost as if you’re reliving that honeymoon phase when you were new lovebirds.

You’re likely to face the same issues as those who come here on their own such as the initial steps in making the decision to move abroad, homesickness and tough days at the office. From my experience being here with a partner makes each problem significantly smaller and easier to deal with.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

This path we have taken with XploreAsia has helped us get back to where we were before, when our relationship was healthy. From the airport pickup to the activities during the orientation week to eventually becoming actual teachers and living life to its full potential, have all been part of a process that has helped us find more meaning to life. It hasn’t been about discovering ourselves, but rather a path of rediscovery.

This experience has made us unconditionally happy with the beauty that comes from living a simple life outside your comfort zone. We’re so grateful that XploreAsia held our hand back onto this path and are always a little behind us for a nudge in the right direction should we need one.

Emilie and Melvin
We met each other in college at a mutual friend’s birthday dinner. We hit it off the night we met and have been inseparable ever since!

Our community has been very supportive of our relationship. Both our friends and family were very excited when we first started seeing each other, and I believe their support and love have been growing ever since.

But as for Thailand, it has been an interesting experience. Not to say that it is a norm, but it is more common to find a farang (foreign) male and a Thai female. We happen to resemble the opposite. Since I look Thai, many Thailand natives give us strange looks or stare when they see us together.

We have definitely learned a lot of new things about each other. When you get two people moving across the world completely out of their comfort zone, there are going to be uncomfortable moments and we learn what really makes each of us feel uncomfortable and how to help each other through it to become a stronger person. Melvin definitely has too much energy in the mornings when getting ready for school.

The biggest challenge is not always knowing what to say to the other when they are feeling down or  or just homesick. You want to comfort the other but sometimes just being sad or feeling a little down is just part of life and it means you’re human. And we know that those negative feelings will pass. Normally, one of us just needs food or a nap.

Cultivating a relationship in a “safe” or normal environment where everyone is just comfortable is, in my opinion, not the best way to build a relationship. Life has a way of throwing curve balls and making things difficult. Working together to get through rough patches and challenging situations really becomes a testament to the strength of the relationship. We didn’t embark on this journey to test our relationship, but as a way to strengthen our bond, knowing that after this, we can make it through anything. But we didn’t get into this to be in seclusion from everyone else! My suggestion is don’t just always spend time with just your significant other. Still go out there together and make friends! The friends we have made during this experience have been one of the best parts of this whole journey.

Although this journey has had its challenges, it has all been worth it. Irreplaceable memories created on the other side of the globe in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand
teaching abroad as a couple, Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

How We Found Love While Teaching in Thailand

All You Need is Love..

 

But a Little Help From XploreAsia Doesn’t Hurt!

Connections can form quickly when embarking on an unknown adventure, spending hours lesson planning and learning to be teachers. Other times bonds form during long bus rides, spontaneous adventures or even just at a local bar. Meet just some of our couples who happened to do just that and fall in love while teaching in Thailand.

Avery and Cole teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cole and I met outside of the Hua Hin mall on the first day of our XploreAsia TESOL course in June, 2015. I had just graduated and he had recently decided that there was more to life than a desk job. Our conversations throughout the course made me feel like home wasn’t halfway around the world and we kept in touch once we moved to our respective placements. We traded stories and words of encouragement with each other. After traveling to Cambodia with mutual friends, we decided to be placed together for the next semester. Fast forward through our teaching adventures in Nakhon Nayok, volunteering in Nepal, and romping around Asia to this fall when we moved to Spain. Here, we’re continuing to teach English, navigate the wonders of a new culture, and yearn for more khao soi together. Thank you, XploreAsia for all your help and support!

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Amy and Sean teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

In September 2015, I arrived in Thailand with one of my best friends to do the XploreAsia TESOL course. The plan was to teach for a semester or two and travel as much as we could in that time before heading back home to Canada. Turns out, things don’t always go the way you expect.  I met Sean a couple of weeks into the TESOL course in Hua Hin, and we got to know each other talking in the halls on the course, on beach days, and nights out. On the day that I was leaving for my placement, we went on our first “date” and then had to say goodbye.

Sean was placed in Ang Thong Province, about an hour drive North of Bangkok, and I was placed in Hat Yai, in the far South. With the distance, I don’t think either of us expected that we would end up talking everyday. Like, all day…everyday.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandAfter being apart for almost two months, we met up in Phuket with a group of friends. And that was it! We then did everything we could to see each other at least every two weeks. We met up in Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Ang Thong and Malaysia throughout our placements. Once the semester came to an end, my parents came to visit, met my new, mysterious boyfriend, Sean, and we all travelled together for almost three weeks. We went back to Phuket, then to Koh Lanta, Krabi, and ended in Chiang Mai where Sean and I stayed for a while.

Fast-forward eight months, and we now live together in Newcastle in England, (Sean is British) and will be moving to Canada (I’m Canadian) in the summer later this year. I think I speak for both Sean and myself when I say Thailand, and the last year and a half, has not been what we expected. Lucky for us, it was more than we could have ever asked for. 

Morgan and Darren  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
My name is Morgan. I’m 25 years old from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl so when I came to Thailand in April of 2016 to start the TESOL course through Xploreasia, I was beyond excited. Throughout the duration I was able to meet incredible souls from all over the world. I made great friendships with many other students in the program and made some especially close bonds with a smaller group. One of the people who made my experience truly special was a student from another group. His name was Darren and he was from Ireland.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in ThailandOur two groups of friends often overlapped and so Darren and I became pretty close. We were busy with the course and had our own agendas but anytime we happened to be together we always had a really great connection. When the course finished, I left for my position in Lampang (Northern Thailand) and he went off to his position in Bangkok. We kept in touch and usually heard from each other a few times a week to check in on one another. From that, a few times a week became nearly every day. That quickly turned into every day, and soon we messaged back and forth every day for most of the day. For our first long weekend I went to Bangkok to meet my group of girlfriends from the course and ended up seeing Darren just as much as I saw everyone else. Soon I was going to Bangkok to visit him for the weekend and after a time, he came up to Lampang to visit. We now often talk about his first visit to Lampang. We went to dinner and talked for hours at a small local Riverside Restaurant.
We have said since then that visit is when things really blossomed into more than we ever thought or expected it would. A relationship was something both of us were actually quite against when we first came to Thailand. But at this point, we both knew this was something a lot bigger.

That was in August. It is now almost 6 months later and he is the first person I message in the morning and the last person I talk to at night. Though we are 8 hours away, he never fails to make me feel loved, supported and helps me stay positive when the distance drives me crazy. We laugh and go on ridiculous adventures. We support and encourage each other and challenge each other to always be our best as teachers.

It has been so amazing to me how two people from opposite corners of the world could have such an incredible bond. I feel so lucky to have been able to find a person I call my best friend and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and what adventures we will go on next.

Cameron and Janie teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Cameron and I were both in the Hua Hin TESOL course for October 2015. Throughout the course, we became good friends: we lived across from each other, sat next to each other in class, and even worked as partners on the English camp day of the course.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

Cameron was always optimistic and lighthearted, so he was a great person to have around during such a crazy time. We were disappointed when we were placed so far away from each other; I was moving down south to Songkhla and he was headed East to Trat province. Luckily though, our TESOL group remained close, and we were able to meet up several times throughout the next semester. Fast forward a few months, we both decided that while we weren’t ready to leave Thailand, we needed a change, and we individually decided to move to Phuket. Over the March/April break from school, we ended up traveling through Vietnam and northern Thailand together and some friends and the rest is history! 10 months later, we are both still teaching in Phuket and we are now planning our next adventure together in Canada.

Jamie and Amien  teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand 
Amien and I met in Thailand and both participated in Xplore Asia but during different years. Amien had already been teaching in Phang Nga a full year before I arrived in 2013. Like all the classiest of love stories, we met at the only bar in our town (we taught at different schools).  We started to spend every afternoon together and before you know it, every afternoon turned into a year.  We had so much fun exploring Thailand from the islands in the South to the Mountains in the north. We also survived many visa runs together to Malaysia. Sitting next to someone on a bus for 16 hours and not wanting to kill them is a sign of true love.

After a little over a year, I returned back to the U.S (Austin, Texas) and Amien took a teaching job in China but we continued to Skype everyday. Amien came to Austin for awhile and then I met him in South Africa. However, we basically went months without seeing each other in person and it was hard (but worth it!). Finally in early 2016, Amien came to Austin and never left. Months later, Jamie and Amien tied the knot  and are now married! Thailand completely changed our lives. It not only allowed us to find each other, but allowed us to focus on ourselves. I now work in People Operations at Google, and Amien is pursuing his dream of personal training (All that Muay Thai!) in Austin, Texas. 

Our adventure continues beyond Thailand and I am forever grateful for this experience.

teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand
teaching in Thailand, finding love in Thailand

And Sometimes, Your Perfect Match is Just Your Best Friend!

teaching in Thailand, making new friends in Thailand

 Samantha and Lauren,  Best Friends

The first month was pretty much a blur. We became extremely close very quickly. I held her hand while she sobbed into a burger at Burger King. She carried me across a street that was flooded (for her own benefit because she wanted fries that badly and didn’t want to go alone). But it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. We would bicker. We both had strong accents (Londoner, and Welsh) and we’d both get frustrated with each other when we couldn’t understand each other. But the bickering always turned into laughter and that’s how I knew she was special.

 

The day came when we found out where we would be placed. We were apart. My heart broke. Lauren is placed in Phuket, and I’m in Krabi! Well that perked us both up and we were only 3 hours apart by bus. I wanted her 3 minutes apart from me. We had spent so much time together that first month, I couldn’t imagine life without her frizzy hair bobbing along by my side.

The time came for us to part. There were tears, promises and a slideshow of photographs of our time together. One month later, we reunited in Bangkok and I have never felt excitement like it. Waiting for her to come through those doors. I started to freak whenever I saw someone with a mop of curly afro hair. Finally, she came through those doors. Of course, she filmed it. Never gets off social media but I’m glad she did. The cheesy smile on her face, and my screams whilst I jumped on her was priceless.

I spent Christmas with her in Phuket and we celebrated New Year together on the island of Koh Tao. She is yet to visit me in Krabi. We can see who wear the trousers in this relationship and who does all the running around! Even though we aren’t together, we speak on the phone nearly every day and she was there for me 100% when I had a bad time at the start of the course.

James and Thomas, Best Friends

teaching in Thailand, making friends in ThailandWe got roomed together in H2 in Bangkok and just hit off from there really. We unfortunately didn’t get placed together in Hua Hin…but thanks to the wonderful and handsome, Jon Harman favors were exchanged and strings were pulled which ultimately led me and Tom sharing a room together in BSP in Hua Hin. Things just escalated so quickly… Now he’s in Trang and I’m in Bangkok, but we’re trying to make the most of it. They say it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all… I don’t regret any of my time with him.

What Living and Volunteering in Myanmar is Really Like

What Living and Volunteering in Myanmar is Really Like

Our Volunteer in Myanmar program offers the unique opportunity to truly feel immersed in a wonderful culture whilst making a difference in a local community that will embrace you as one of their own.

Angella Busacker is a XploreAsia alumni who spent a few months as a volunteer in Myanmar as an English teacher. The following interview was conducted earlier this year and tells of her experience whilst on the program.

 

Why did you want to volunteer in Myanmar?

I wanted to go to Myanmar particularly because it had been closed-off to the rest of the world until relatively recently and it’s still quite untouched and wild in many places.  I wanted to go there before it becomes overrun by commercialism, western food, and hotel chains. 

Having recently emerged from their hermitic existence, the Burmese people are very eager to catch-up with the rest of the world.  I felt compelled to help them in this endeavor and teaching English was an ideal option for me given I already had a Master’s Degree in TESOL.

Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar

Do you feel your time there had an impact on the people?

Absolutely.  I am very proud to say that there are now several Burmese children who can speak a few words of English, can sing a couple of English songs, and have wonderful memories of having a lot of fun learning English through music and movement.  (Even my driver, with whom I bonded during our several hours in the car, just sent me an email yesterday saying, “Hello Teacher, we miss you very much” 🙂 🙂 🙂 So yes, there’s no question I had an impact there.

Would you recommend anyone else to do this  program and why?

Teaching English to Burmese people (particularly to the little monks, nuns, and children in the countryside) was exceptionally rewarding.  They live in extremely basic conditions, have little resources and rarely have the opportunity to be taught be a Western native English speaker so they are extremely appreciative when they have one. 

In addition, in general, teachers are extremely highly respected in Myanmar (as in most Asian countries); for a Western teacher, this is a rare experience (unfortunately).  It was wonderful to walk into a classroom and already know that I would be automatically accorded this level of respect and therefore, could concentrate my time and energy on actual teaching and most importantly, having fun together

What is so great about teaching in Myanmar?

There were two things that made my teaching experience particularly special. Firstly, the children were absolutely wonderful. They were extremely respectful and well-behaved so I was able to focus my energy on teaching rather than disciplining or maintaining order.  They were very eager to learn English and found my presence as a Western teacher such a special event, that they listened to my every word, watched my every movement and engaged fully in every activity.

Secondly, teaching in monasteries and nunneries exposed me to a very special, very important part of Burmese culture which no ordinary tourist is normally privileged to see.  I felt honored to have been so welcomed in such culturally and spiritually important places, places far off the beaten path in the countryside while providing a service to the community.

Volunteer in Myanmar
Volunteer in Myanmar

For more fun photos of Angella’s time in Myanmar check out her instagram. If you want to catch up with us, check out our Facebook and Instagram accounts too to find out what all of our wonderful teachers are doing.

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand gives you the chance to explore this beautiful country, but finding suitable food can be a concern for vegans and vegetarians. Never fear! We’re here to help! Check out our guide to veggie Thai delicacies below!

Eating vegetarian and vegan food in Thailand can be tricky at times as there is so much food that contains meat or fish products. However, there are ways around it and you do not have to miss out on the wonders of Thai cuisine just because you’ve got a few restrictions.

To start off, when in Thailand, you may be overwhelmed with the selection of tropical & tasty fruit that is available. Delicious dragon fruit, mangoes, papayas, guavas, coconuts, and countless other exotic fruits are easily available at every market, and fruit stalls along the streets. Just take your pick. Furthermore, occasionally you may find an interesting addition at many stalls, sweet potatoes. Surprisingly, you can also find the purple variety!

Mango Sticky Rice, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Mango Sticky Rice

Vegetarian Food in Thailand, XploreAsia

Green Coconuts

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Fruit Selection

Sweet Potatoes, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Sweet Potatoes

Additionally, there are quite a few options for all sorts of snacks, like tofu, spring rolls, rice cakes, corn, and vegetables.  This can often be found in a deep-fried variety (yum).

Papaya Salad, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Som Tam

One of the  staple dishes in Thailand is Papaya Salad. This is widely available, just remember to order it without shrimp (mai sai koong) and without fish sauce (mai sai nam bplaa) to stay on the safe side. Or just order Som Tam Jay (papaya salad, vegan).

At first, when you try to order vegetarian or vegan food at a restaurant it might seem like a bit of challenge, and you may be faced with confused looks from the waiter or chef at the food stall, or restaurant. Don’t worry, this is mainly due to the language barrier and to combat this we have put together a list of our favourite vegetarian, and vegan foods, along with a guide on how to order them.

However, before we go into details, it is good to know the difference between ordering your food as VEGETARIAN, OR VEGAN:

I am vegetarian = “bpen mang sawirat ”. This means that you do not eat pieces of meat and fish, including seafood, but other animal products like fish sauce, eggs etc. are ok.

I am vegan = “gin jay”, this means you do not eat any animal products and also no garlic, onion and few other herbs and vegetable that have a certain type of strong flavour. With this knowledge it’s often better to ask for food without meat, and animal products instead of ‘jay’ as you may find the food bland for your tastes.

There are different specialities in various regions around in Thailand. To make it even easier for you, we have put together a list of basic phrases that you can print out or save so you can bring it along with you and order your favourite foods with ease.

 

Here is a guide to COMMON VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN FOOD in Thailand and how to order it:

Pad Pak Bung (Morning Glory) mai sai nam maan hoi (no oyster sauce)

Kow phad pak (fried rice with vegetables) / mai sai kai (do not put egg) / sai kai (put egg)

Phad pak luam (stir fried mixed vegetable) / mai sai nam maan hoi (no oyster sauce)
Pad pak ruam prik gaeng mixed vegetables, fried with chili paste and kaffir lime
(however, be aware that many of the curry pastes have shrimp paste in them)

Phad thai jay (fried noodles vegan),
Phad thai (fried noodles), mai sai kai (do not put egg), mai sai koong (no shrimp)

Phad Thai, Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Phad Thai

Fried Rice Noodles

Phad see ew phak (fried wide noodles with soy sauce vegetables)

Phad see ew (fried wide noodles) with eggs (sai khai)

Tom Yam Het (mixed mushroom soup, can have either with coconut milk or clear)

Pad Gra Pao Het Jay Most of the restaurants can make this. It includes fried mushrooms, or tofu, and it’s fried with chillies and basil.

Yam Tuo Poo (green beans with peanut sauce). This is a crispy and savoury side dish to accompany any type of noodle or plain steamed rice.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Khao Soi Jay

 Rice noodle with sweet and sour peanut sauce. This dish may sometimes be hard to find, however, if you do, you’re in for a treat.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Phad faktoong (stir-fried pumpkin)

It  includes egg, but it is something that we would definitely recommend to try, because it is absolutely delicious

Additionally, if you have a sweet tooth, Thailand`s cuisine offers a vast variety of desserts for you to enjoy. Some of our favourite classics are:

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

KaNom Thai

Box of various Thai sweets, made with steamed coconut, toddy palm, banana and corn.

 

Kai Nokratha

Deep fried breaded banana and potato balls.

Kanom Krog

Sweet and Savory Grilled Coconut-Rice Hotcakes

KaNom Beaung

Crispy Coconut Pancake, and the black ones in the middle are even made with bamboo charcoal.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Sakuu Rad Num Kathi

Pandanus leaf pudding, topped with sweet coconut cream.

 

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Rotee

Even though Rotee, is not a traditional Thai dish, it is available in every market and in various flavours and toppings.

What do you think? Want to sample some vegetarian and vegan food in Thailand? Maybe teaching in Thailand could be for you! Teaching English can make a huge difference in the community, expanding the horizons of your students and allowing them to lift their families out of poverty. It also gives people confidence and leadership skills that can be transferrable to other careers. Start your adventure today by taking our accredited TESOL course. We can’t wait to see where your journey will take you.

Thai Street Food: A Tasty and Terrifying World.

Thai Street Food: A Tasty and Terrifying World.

A Thai Street Food Experience

Hua Hin, Thailand
thai street food, thai market, hua hin, thai food, xploreasia, teach english, Thailand

When you first walk into a local Thai market it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending line-up of food stalls, along with the mixture of scents that float all around as you attempt to find your way. But you shouldn’t let that turn you off from trying some of the local cuisine because on the other side lies a magical world of possibilities with some very interesting and delicious delicacies for your taste buds to feast on!

Most Thai street food is incredibly cheap. Therefore, you won’t ever have to pay more than a few dollars to have a full meal at any local Thai Market. I’ve often found the best places to eat are the ones that locals frequent. Although it may be hard to deal with the language barrier, if you have an inquisitive palate and try to keep an open mind there are many rewards to be gained!

As a foreigner (Farang, as the Thai would say) it is not easy to delve into the world of Thai street food. Therefore, this guide will serve to highlight some of the most curious and tasty treats you can find at a local market that are sure to provide that thrill factor you know you crave.

These photos were taken at the PAE MAI (Wood Pier) Market in Hua Hin. This is a market geared to locals. It is only open on Tuesdays and offers a wide variety of fresh produce as well as Thai finger foods and staples. Many families come here to buy their food for the week, it is a great place to interact with locals and get a break from what the tourists markets have to offer.

The following are only some of the many tasty and interesting treats you can find at PAE MAI Market:

STEAMED WONTON PORK BALLS

These tasty little balls are filled with minced pork which is then wrapped in wonton and
steamed to perfection. It is often accompanied with some soy sauce for dipping.

thai street food, thai market, Thailand, hua hin, thai food, xploreasia, teach english

DEEP FRIED PICKLED EGGS

As the name suggest, these are preserved eggs that have been deep fried and cut up for snacking!

 thai street food, thai market, Thailand, hua hin, thai food, xploreasia, teach english

STICK FOOD

You can find pretty much anything at the market either on a stick or in a bag. If you are adventurous enough, you can try one of the various options you can find at the market. Besides, who doesn’t love eating food off a stick!

Thai street food in Thailand, Hua Hin

THAI OMELETTE

A Thai take on a classic, this popular dish adds a mix of spices and your choice of tofu or chicken to go along with your omelet. However, this doesn’t have to be eaten only in the morning.. I’ve actually found there is no real concept of breakfast in Thailand. But the wide availability of fresh fruit and produce makes it easy to have multiple choices for every meal!

thai street food, thai market, Thailand, hua hin, thai food, xploreasia, teach english

DEEP FRIED CREEPY CRAWLIES

Don’t let the appearance of these tiny deep fried creatures fool you, aside from being a great source of protein, these crunchy little bugs are actually quite tasty!

Thai street food in Thailand, Hua Hin - Deep Fried Creepy Crawlies

STEAMED TARO (special root vegetable) topped with coconut milk

This is something you would definitely have to try and make your own conclusion, as some people love it and some people don’t love it that much again, to say the least.

Thai street food in Thailand, Hua Hin - Deep Fried Pickled Eggs

MANGO STICKY RICE
(Khao Neeo Mamuang)

This is perhaps one of the most delicious and widely available Thai desserts. Definitely a must when in Thailand!

thai street food, thai market, Thailand, hua hin, thai food, xploreasia, teach english

 

Whether you want to stick to what’s familiar or try something a little different, a trip to a local market is a must when visiting Thailand!

Three Days in Seoul, South Korea

Three Days in Seoul, South Korea

A Trip to One of South Korea's Coolest Cities

Before I started my internship at XploreAsia, I wanted to see more of Asia.  First on my list was Seoul, as South Korea had been on my bucket list for the past few years.  As a girl who loves fashion and makeup, the trends in South Korea have grabbed my attention. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie, and consequently a fan of Korean dramas and K-pop.   After seeing so many beautiful images of South Korea while watching dramas, I couldn’t wait to see this amazing country in person!

Day 1

Before arriving, I was a bit nervous about getting around Seoul as a solo traveler, as I don’t speak any Korean.  As soon as I got to the airport, however, these fears were calmed.  The airport was organized intuitively, and signs in English were everywhere.  As I took my seat on the cleanest train I have ever been on, I felt the joy and peace that comes with traveling to a new country that just feels “right”. 

I made my way to Hongdae, a neighborhood known for its nightlife and hip restaurants and shops.  I quickly found my hostel, and settled in for breakfast.  Soon after, a group of people came down and we started chatting.  I found out they were all teaching English in South Korea, and were here for a holiday weekend.  They were some of the nicest people I have met in my travels, and they were even kind enough to invite me to join them for the day.

South Korea, adventure, new friends, teach abroad

Our first stop was the Korean War Museum, which was one of the most informative, well-curated museums I have ever visited.  Most of the displays contained both Korean and English descriptions, so it was easy to follow along.  The museum also contained striking art pieces, and a section that simulated what it was like to be on the battleground in the Korean War.  For me, the highlight of the visit came when an older man approached me.  He put Korean flags in each of my hands, and told me to strike a pose.  He then took my friend’s phone and began taking what seemed like hundreds of photos.  He came closer and closer to my face, finishing by showing me one of the extreme close-ups and proclaiming “movie star!”

We then headed to lunch at a Korean-Mexican restaurant.  It may sound like a strange combination, but the kimchi burrito I had there was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. As we ate, my new friends told me about their lives as teachers and how they had all fallen in love with South Korea.  Almost all of them mentioned staying longer than their original one-year contracts and a few were discussing the possibility of staying there for the next 5 years.  They talked about their placements in the city of Busan and smaller towns, the hikes they went on, and their trips to the lovely coast.  Listening to them, it was hard not to be inspired.  I started to think that I might like to teach in South Korea in the future.

South Korea, adventure, teach abroad, XploreAsia

To finish out the evening, we did some shopping and exploring.  One of my favorite things about Seoul was that shops are everywhere, including at train stations.  Walking to your train, you’re bound to see some adorable tops and skirts.  We wandered and browsed the stores, including Western shops like Forever XXI.  Done shopping, we walked down a bustling street filled with street vendors selling everything from meat on a stick to oddly shaped ice creams.  I found myself quickly falling in love with this place.

Day 2

The next day, we grabbed some delicious green tea lattes then headed back out into the city.  Getting on the train, one of the guys I was with had some difficulties with his transit card.  A Korean woman walked him over to the attendant, and stayed with him until it was worked out.  I was shocked by this level of kindness.  Back in Chicago, a similar situation would have most likely resulted in the person in line behind him getting annoyed.  To see a stranger jump in to help without a moment’s hesitation was a pleasant surprise, especially in such a large city. 

In the afternoon, we went to a local park.  I love when cities have both skyscrapers and green spaces, and Seoul fit the bill.  The park was as pristine as I had come to expect from South Korea.  We walked by the water, and headed towards a bridge where there would later be a water show.

As the sun began to set, we made it to what would be my favorite section of the city.  Large flower sculptures sat on the water, with the skyline as a perfect backdrop.  We checked out the nearby buildings, featuring all kinds of restaurants and souvenir shops as we waited for the show to start.

South Korea, adventure, teach abroad, XploreAsia

The show itself, while nice, wasn’t much to see.  However, the night was still great.  Being in this beautiful new place, with these cool new people, was more than enough.

Day 3

South Korea, adventure, teach abroad, XploreAsia

My new group of friends left the next morning, so I spent my last day in Seoul exploring on my own.  After hearing from multiple people that it was a must-see, I made my way to Gyeoungbokgung Palace.  It more than lived up to the hype.  The palace is made up of multiple buildings, all built in a classic style of Korean architecture.  The grounds are a joy to walk around, taking in the beautiful mountain views and peaking in the windows of different buildings.

Done with the palace, I headed to the area of Ewha, which is located near a women’s university and consequently has some amazing shopping.  I browsed shop after shop, and had to be careful as I easily could have maxed out my credit card there!  I purchased some nice sheet masks for about 1 USD each, and received some free samples of perfume.  I stumbled upon one particularly nice clothing shop, and found an adorable button-down skirt.  The shop attendant, who was wearing green colored contacts, asked if I needed any help.  As we made eye contact, she smiled and exclaimed, “Green eyes!  So lucky!”  She showed me a few other cute items, but I ultimately settled on the skirt.  She looked at me, and as if considering, said, “For you, because you are so pretty, 10% off!”  While I’m sure she gives that discount to everyone, it made my day.

I wandered the neighborhood in search of somewhere to get dinner.  I ended up stopping in a cute little diner.  I ordered some bibimbap, a dish consisting of a bowl of rice and veggies topped with a fried egg.  It is both delicious and one of the cheaper meal options available in Seoul.  As I fumbled with my chopsticks, I reflected on how lucky I was to be there.  I had made it to South Korea on my own, and there I was, enjoying a nice meal in this country I wasn’t sure I would ever be fortunate enough to visit.  My only complaint about my trip was that it was much too short.  I vowed to myself that this would not be my last time in South Korea, and to look into teaching there.  I knew I could easily spend years experiencing this amazing place and culture that I had so quickly fallen in love with.

Gyeoungbokgung Palace, South Korea, adventure, teach abroad, XploreAsia

Gyeoungbokgung Palace

Mary Leonard is an intern at XploreAsia.  You can follow her adventures in Thailand on her blog, Wide Eyes and Wanderlust

Our Beloved King

Our Beloved King

beloved Thai King, Thailand, XploreAsia
beloved Thai King, Thailand, XploreAsia

December 5th marks a special holiday in Thailand, Father’s Day! It is celebrated nationwide to recognize the contribution that fathers and father figures make to the lives of their children. This also marks the birthday anniversary of Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX – King Bhumibol. 

King Bhumibol was seen as a father figure to Thailand and Thai people celebrate this occasion on a grand scale to show gratitude to their beloved King, who is “more than a monarch.”

From the day His Majesty the King ascended to the throne as King Rama IX, words cannot describe the immense kindness and compassion he demonstrates toward the people of Thailand. King Bhumibol has continuously devoted himself to the improvement of the nation and the people that call it home. He is regarded as a symbol of unity and social harmony in Thai society. Reigning as King for exactly 70 years and 127 days, we celebrate this beloved father.

beloved Thai King, Thailand, XploreAsia
beloved Thai King, Thailand, family, XploreAsia

As we celebrate the life of King Bhumibol, which is actually pronounced Pu-mee-pon. Meaning ‘Strength of the land, incomparable power’, we look back on his early life and how a young boy became one of Thailand’s most beloved King’s.

  • Born on December 5, 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, King Bhumibol is the only monarch ever born in the United States.
  • His father, Mahidol Adulyadej, studied medicine at Harvard and his mother, Princess Srinagarindra née Sangwan Talapat, a nurse. Bhumibol was the youngest of three children with an older sister Princess Galyani Vadhana and an older brother, Prince Ananda Mahidol.
  • After his fathers death in 1929 the family returned to Thailand when Bhumibol was around 2 years old. Bhumibol’s mother took him, his older brother Ananda and sister Galyani to live in Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • King Bhumibol’s brother became King in 1935 after their uncle Prajadhipok abdicated the throne, making his 9 year old brother Ananda the King.
  • After mourning his brother’s death and assuming the role of king in 1946, Bhumibol made the bold decision to return to Switzerland to continue his studies. Originally majoring in science at Luasanne University, he switched to law and political science to better prepare for the demands of his reign.

 “I have to leave this capital and leave you because it is essential that I re-create myself,” he said in a radio address before his departure

  • While in Switzerland, Bhumibol’s met Sirikit Kitiyakara, the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. The couple married in Bangkok a week before his coronation on May 5th, 1950, and spent their honeymoon in Hua Hin. They went on to have three daughters and a son. Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak.
  • Bhumibol is often referred to as King Rama IX in English, however many Thais referred to him as Nai Luangor Phra Chao Yu Hua, which translated to “the King” and “Lord Upon our Heads”. He was also called Chao Chiwit “Lord of Life”.

Heart of The Nation: 5 Ways King Bhumibol Transformed Thailand

As the world’s longest serving head of state, King Bhumibol is enormously popular and so highly revered in Thailand, regarded as the heart of the nation.

King Bhumibol was a tireless worker with a kind heart and superior devotion to the people of Thailand. His accomplishments within 70 years are insurmountable, with his majesty receiving over 2000 honorary doctorates, initiating and developing over 4,000 development projects, both in rural and urban areas, and registering 20 patents and 19 trademarks under his name with some earning international awards.

His efforts to improve the life and state of Thailand are clearly evident in his work that far exceeded his kingly duties. He was an inventor, philosopher, professional painter, photographer, Jazz musician, composer, engineer, architect, book author and translator, an inventor and a visionary thinker. Here are 5 ways King Bhumibol transformed Thailand:

Developed the royal rainmaking technology
    • This technology took the form of cloud-seeding, a method whereby pilots disperse environmentally friendly chemicals to form cool and warm clouds at different altitudes in order to induce rain over drought-stricken areas. This was dubbed the “super sandwich”.
Industrialized the Chai Pattana wastewater aerator
    • With an effort to reduce the level of water pollution Bhumibol developed an irrigation system using a Thai-made aerator to treat polluted water by adding air.
Introduced ‘Doi Kham’ Royal Project
    • A rural farm development project aimed to provide income for Northern Hill Tribes by employing people who might otherwise be unemployed, and produce an amazing variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers for the commercial market.
    • The word “doi” means “hill” while the word “kham” is a shortened word for “thongcome” which means “gold”.
Designed a system of small ‘Monkey Cheek’ dams to regulate water flow
  • An initiative to prevent annual flooding in Bangkok by featuring reservoirs along the borders of the city to which surging water was diverted and later flushed into the sea or used for irrigation.
Conceived the philosophy of ‘Sufficiency Economy’
    • A philosophy based on the fundamental principle of Thai culture. It is a method of development based on moderation, practicality, and social immunity.
    • Sufficiency Economy encourages producers and consumers to produce or consume within the limit or limitation of existing income or resources.

“Economic development must be done step by step. It should begin with the strengthening of our economic foundation, by assuring that the majority if our population has enough to live on.”

Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX – King Bhumibol, family
Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX – King Bhumibol

King Rama XI has for many years captivated the world with his ability to lead an extraordinary life independent from his kingly duties.

It was during his earlier years in Lausanne, Switzerland where Bhumibol became interested in music. He began piano lessons that lead to a love for jazz music, into which he also began playing the trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone. At the age of 18 Bhumibol begin composing his own pieces and over several years he had composed over 50 songs, including a three-movement ballet previewed in Vienna and songs that are still frequently heard in Thailand. He also composed songs that were featured in the Broadway musical, Peepshow.

At 8 years old Bhumibol was given his first camera, a Coronet Midget. It was said that this Coronet never left his hands, as he developed a passion for photography and the arts. King Bhumibol was a professional self-taught artist, creating surrealistic oil pieces, along with sculptures, abstract and contemporary pieces, and frequently drew pictures of the Queen.

He was also an author, creating literature that spoke to his personal life and the life of the Thai people. One of his pieces was inspired from a beloved stray dog that he had adopted named Thongdaeng. Not surprisingly, he was also an avid sportsman, winning a gold medal at the SEAP Games in 1967 as a rather accomplished sailor and navigator.

King Bhumibol was a lifelong advocate of education. As an extremely well-educated man, he saw the importance of educating the people of Thailand, particularly those from poor and rural areas.  

“Education is for everyone and endless.  It is not one’s duty in any particular time.  We have to learn since we are born.  Once we reach higher education we still have to continue learning, otherwise we cannot survive.”

This message was crucial, as educating the populace is an important part of the development of Thailand. For example, by learning English, Thai people can get higher-level jobs in the business sector. They can then spend their salaries in their communities, supporting local business owners and the Thai economy as a whole. Those business owners can then afford to send their children to school to learn English, creating a cycle of growth.

We here at XploreAsia hope to honor the King’s legacy by educating and placing capable, compassionate English teachers throughout Thailand. We want to encourage our teachers to serve as positive role models and valuable members of their communities.  

“In order to develop the nation, one should have not only knowledge but other necessary qualifications. These include being ashamed to commit a sin, honest in thought and action, grateful to the country and benefactors, unselfish, unwilling to exploit others, but being good hearted and kind to others.”

What They Don’t Tell You About Being a Foreigner in Thailand

What They Don’t Tell You About Being a Foreigner in Thailand

Before I arrived in Thailand, a lot of people told me about their positive experiences in the country. I heard about the breathtaking beaches, the friendly locals, and the stunning temples. I found all of their stories to be completely true. Thailand has fully lived up to my high expectations! However, there are a lot of other things that happen as a foreigner in Thailand that none of these people mentioned.

You will often be stared at, and may even have your picture taken.

On our first day in Hua Hin, the other interns and I got into our first songtaew (local bus) to head to the mall. One of the other girls mentioned that someone was taking our picture. Since then, I’ve grown used to being an object of interest, and have come to enjoy when a stranger says “Hello!” to me in their best English. I have had my picture taken on beaches and in front of the Embassy to the Philippines in Bangkok, for no other reason than that my friends and I are farangs (foreigners). My personal favorite was when one of my co-workers here at XploreAsia informed me that I was the Facebook cover photo for a local salon. If you have ever wondered what it is like to be famous, you can get a small taste of it by simply moving to Thailand.

foreigner, photo taken, spa, famous

My claim to fame: the photo from the salon's Facebook page

People will be kind, unbelievably kind.

I had heard that the people of Thailand were friendly and generally lovely. However, this did not prepare me for the amount of generosity and kindness I have experienced here in Thailand. There is a woman at a café in town who not only makes delicious juices and Thai green curry, but has offered to let the other interns and I practice Thai with her. When my friend had to go to the hospital with an injured foot, the taxi driver took us all the way to our front door. A tuk tuk driver who drove us back from the mall helped us load our groceries into our apartment. Strangers in Bangkok have offered directions to me when I looked lost on the street, a kindness that in my experience is rarely seen in large cities. One of the most meaningful moments of kindness for me took place at a staff dinner for XploreAsia. Mae, the office mother and all-around V.I.P., made sure that, as a vegetarian, I had enough to eat, passing down dish after dish of delicious vegetables and rice. In that moment, I felt so cared for. That is a feeling you rarely get from strangers in America, and one I truly appreciate experiencing so often in Thailand.

locals, friends, Thailand, Hua Hin, adventure

My roommate, Angelique, and I with a new Thai friend. He liked us more than his facial expression suggests!

You can treat yourself without spending a fortune.

Before coming to Thailand, I was aware of the low cost of living here. I knew that food was easily a fifth of the cost it is at home in the U.S., and that other products were similarly affordable. What I did not realize, however, was how affordable spa treatments are here. At home, I never got massages because I found the cost prohibitive. Here, I can get an hour-long Thai massage for less than the cost of a movie back home. Pedicures can be even cheaper, costing about as much as a nice cup of coffee. After a hike or a long day at work, there is nothing better than popping into one of the many fantastic spas in Thailand to get pampered for an hour or two.

You will eat a lot of foods that you have never seen before. You will love them.

Most people in the West have some concept of Thai food. Back home I loved pad Thai, pineapple fried rice, and deep fried tofu. I was pleased to learn all of these dishes are widely available in Thailand, and even more delicious than those at my local Thai restaurant. I had no idea of the full range of delicious foods available here. I’ve eaten all kinds of fruit that I have never seen in the U.S., and each one was more delicious than the last. I often go to restaurants or food stands and simply say mang saw wee rat, the Thai phrase for vegetarian. I will then eat whatever the vendor gives me, and I have yet to be disappointed. My favorite is tom yum soup, which is always made to perfection at a small café on Soi 51. Generally these meals only cost between 30 and 60 baht, which is one or two U.S. dollars.

There are street dogs and cats everywhere.

Walking around Hua Hin, you are bound to see a few stray dogs and cats. Most of them will leave you alone, and some of them are even friendly. My street is home to a very sweet cat that my roommate and I have named McGonagall. Unfortunately, many of these animals have tough lives. It can be heartbreaking to see dogs with injured legs and stubbed tails. Luckily, there is a way to help these dogs. XploreAsia has a wonderful partner organization called Rescue Paws, which works to help care for, feed, and sterilize these street dogs and cats. With XploreAsia, I have been fortunate enough to spend some time at Rescue Paws, and the work they are doing is truly amazing. If you are interested in donating or volunteering at Rescue Paws, you can visit their website here.

You will change and grow in ways you didn’t expect.

If you stay open, you will experience many new and wonderful things in Thailand. You will learn about a beautiful and fascinating culture. It’s not always easy. Some days I struggle with the language, or figuring out how to get around. All of these struggles have helped me grow as a person. I have gained greater empathy for non-English speakers back home, and confidence that I can always find my way back eventually. Traveling to Thailand offers not only adventure, but the opportunity to truly widen your worldview and grow.

Rescue Paws, volunteer, foreigner, Hua Hin, adventure

Holding one of the adorable residents of Rescue Paws!

Mary Leonard is an intern at XploreAsia.  You can follow her adventures in Thailand on her blog, Wide Eyes and Wanderlust

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