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Meeting Locals and Making New Friends in Thailand

Meeting Locals and Making New Friends in Thailand

written by Tarah Mason

One of the scariest parts of packing up and moving across the world is the anxiety of meeting new people.  I’d like to consider myself a fairly outgoing person, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about making friends when I chose to move to Thailand alone.  What if my roommate didn’t like me? What if I just didn’t click with anybody? What if all of the locals in my town hated me? What if…the list could go on and on and I’m sure some of you have felt the same way. Here are a few ways to get in with the locals and make the most of your time abroad!

 1. Find a few restaurants you like and go there again and again…and again.

meeting locals in ThailandThe first few weeks of being in my town I tried out a bunch of different restaurants and eventually found myself frequenting just a few. Being one of the few foreigners in town, the restaurant owners started to notice my constant appearance in their restaurant and we began to form a bond.  Now, they help me with my Thai (and think it’s incredibly funny to listen to me attempt to order in Thai) and I think I’ll miss them equally as much as I’ll miss my students when I leave.

2. Be Yourself.
I know, I know, this is so cliché. I really tried to come up with a less cheesy way to say this, but nothing came to mind.  When you arrive in Chiang Mai or Hua Hin for your TESOL course, be yourself and I promise you will make friends.  Everyone else arriving is going through the same thing you are and it’s easy to bond over that.  The relationships I formed during this first month are some of the strongest friendships I have at the moment and I have no doubt they’ll be in my life far past my time in Thailand.

My new friend in Thailand

 

5. Get Involved at Your School
One of the best lessons I’ve learned since being in Thailand is that you don’t have to speak the same language as someone to have a relationship with them. Most of the Thai teachers at my school speak little to no English, yet I consider them friends. I’ve been on trips with them, gone to a funeral with them, and they even share their curry with me at lunch (a true sign of love in Thailand, in my opinion).

3. Make Friends with Your Tour Guides. 
In my personal opinion, a tour guide can really make or break an experience.  I’ve been lucky to have some really great guides, and actually stay in touch with a couple of them. Casey, my tour guide from a hike in Malaysia, sends me emails every once in a while to see how I’m doing and has even offered to help me train for my first half marathon!

4. Be Open.
Be open to making friends with people you think you might not otherwise be friends with.  Don’t close yourself off to making friends with someone because you don’t think you’d click with them.  You never know what someone has to offer until you actually talk to them, and I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the people you meet.

My new friend in Thailand

6. Live in the Moment.
I think this might be one of the most important tips I can give you. We all have friends, family, and people we are leaving behind in order to live in Thailand, but don’t dwell on that.  You made the decision to move to Thailand, so embrace it. Of course, make time to stay in touch with and FaceTime the people that are important to you, but don’t let it consume you.  The people who love you will always be there, but your time in Thailand will end eventually.  Enjoy it while you’re here and you’ll have some great stories to tell them when you get back.

My new friends in Thailand

Don’t let the fear of making friends stop you from moving to Thailand to teach English.  The hardest part will be pulling the trigger and making the move; after that everything will fall into place.  Teaching English in Thailand is an experience that simply cannot be replicated and I promise you won’t regret it!

Are you worried about meeting new friends abroad? Or did you find it really easy and have other good suggestions? Comment below, as we would love to hear from you!

To find out more about Tarah and her adventures in Thailand, check out her blog www.travelwithtarah.com

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.

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

Guide to Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Thailand

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.

 

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Kai Nokratha

Deep fried breaded banana and potato balls.

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

Kanom Krog

Sweet and Savory Grilled Coconut-Rice Hotcakes

Vegetarian Food in Thailand

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.

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!

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

What Lies Between Worlds

What Lies Between Worlds

Travel will change you.

Your departure into unknown lands marks a beginning, an ending, an interlude. You seek novelty? Adventure? Growth? You will find it. And in pursuit of all this, you will inadvertently stumble over your own worldview, trip over your own expectations and preconceptions, and collide with unfamiliar ground. Then you get up, dust yourself off, and look around to see a world that appears a little clearer, a little brighter. Of course, the world hasn’t changed— it’s the same as it ever was.  

I’ve had my share of confusion and made more than a few cultural blunders in Thailand. In exploring a country so different from the United States, I’ve had to adapt in ways that cause me to analyze my own values. So, here are three observations about Thai culture, and what might be learned from them:

One of the many beautiful temples in Thailand

Perceptions of Time: Sabai Sabai

In school, my teachers called me the White Rabbit. I was always looking at my watch, always hurrying to get to the next place, spread thin between too many classes and sports and extracurriculars. It worked well enough in a competitive, individualistic society where we’re raised to seek achievement and accolade.

It is not the Thai way. Here, people seek fulfillment.

Conceptually speaking, time is different in Thailand; in the West, time is our linear master and we follow, clocking in and out with a tick-tock synchronicity, in perfect time to the minute-hand. In Thailand, people are at ease with all four dimensions of space-time; centered; 0, 0, 0; not straying from their axis; flowing around obstructions and inconveniences much the way that time flows across their beings. In Thailand, time isn’t a master but a companion. Sometimes, an irrelevant one. Needless to say, most punctual Westerners struggle with that aspect of the society. Particularly those of us who identify with a certain Wonderland character.

“You’ll need to fly to Bangkok next week” I was told. Oh, alright. A week would be more than enough time to prepare. Coworkers were to pick me up and together we would catch our 4:30 am bus to Chiang Rai.

4:25 rolled around.

4:28.

4:28:30. I snatched my bike from the lot and sped into the bus station at 4:30 am, breathless. A bus was just pulling out. I’d missed it, but maybe there was another bus that morning. While I was desperately pantomiming to a ticket attendant, a familiar voice called out “Look, she’s already here”. My coworkers were sauntering across the parking lot, waving, as if everything were fine. They had a few words with the very confused ticket attendant and then told me our bus was delayed until 5:00 am anyway. And so it goes in easygoing Thailand.

I call it thaiming… that slow, deliberate movement that characterizes life here. “No hurry” the Thai teachers tell me as I speed through the halls to my next class. “Not so serious” they say when I sit hunched over my work, brow furrowed and fingers flying across a keyboard. Or my favorite: “Stop working, come eat.” If you’re the kind of personality that gets caught up thinking about the future (or, alternatively, stuck in the past), come to Thailand for a free course in learning how to embrace the present. There’s a Thai expression that summarizes this quite nicely: “sabai sabai.” It’s a bit like “hakuna mattata” in that it means no worries; everything is fine; all is as it should be; easygoing.

To me, ‘sabai sabai’ serves as a reminder to slow down. Breathe deeply. Life isn’t a race but a gift; and above all, there is no finish line to be crossed, only a journey to be enjoyed.  

Chiang Kham Wittayakhom School, where Chiara teaches

Communication: What Goes Around, Sometimes Maybe Might Come Back Around 

One morning, my agent asked me what I had been doing the night prior. I told her I’d eaten dinner and gone to bed early. Whereupon she was most surprised, because the hairdressers who live/work under my apartment said I was being very loud in the wee hours of the morning.

“They want to know why you were up and what are you doing?”

“I was asleep, I wasn’t doing anything. Are they sure it was me? And…how did you hear about this?”

Apparently, the hairdressers had told their neighbor, who told the landlord, who told a fellow teacher housed in the same apartment, who told another teacher, who told my agent. Transpiring in less than twelve hours was the most elaborate, real life game of telephone I’d ever encountered. This is an element of Thai culture that I find particularly frustrating, because it stands in stark contrast to American assertiveness. If someone in the States thought I was being too noisy, they might say “Could you quiet down?” Or, as I’ve said on more than one occasion: “Kindly shut the [redacted] up, please.”  

Personally, I don’t find indirectness palatable. But quite often this conflict-avoidance has to do with “saving face”, which is an important social construct in many Asian countries. Consequently, rarely will a Thai person tell you what to do, but they will imply it. You learn to pay attention to subtle body language, as well as words like “should”, “could”, or “it would be better”… because chances are someone is trying to clue you into a crucial detail that’s gone right over your barbaric, unrefined head. For example, “maybe you could wear longer pants under your Muay Thai shorts” isn’t gentle fashion advice. It means that wearing shorts isn’t appropriate in a modest town like Chiang Kham, and you need to cover up.

To an extent, the Thai style of communication has only reinforced my preference for directness. On the other hand, we don’t have a true equivalent to losing/saving/gaining face. Being a disruptive force in the community is a sure way to lose face. While this can make communication frustrating, I’ve also come to admire the emphasis placed on social harmony. It manifests in some truly wonderful ways. For instance…

Chiara's students enjoy taking part in an engaging lesson

Kindness as a Duty: Living in a Collective Society

Regardless of their proficiency, there is one phrase every student at Chiang Kham Wittayokhom knows: “May I help you?” I get it a lot. When I’m carrying (and dropping) too many things. When my skirt gets caught in the tire of a bicycle. When I’m lost. “Teachuh, teachuh, may I help you?” And before I can answer, a student has swept my papers up off the ground, untangled me from a bike chain, or is leading me by the hand to my next class. 

One day, I had to walk to work. It’s not far, but when the elderly lady who lives across the street saw me, she hopped onto her moped and insisted on giving me a ride to the school. I’d never met her before. During my first few weeks, my supervisor was frequently at my apartment, helping me adjust or taking me into town. Whenever I thanked her she always responded with “no problem, it is my duty.” It’s a powerful statement.

This is the idea I want to capture. I want to wrap it up with ribbons and take it back with me to the States, giving it to every human being I ever encounter. Regardless of how you feel about the recent election, there is no denying that the U.S.A.’s political climate is polarized and volatile. Now, more than ever, we could serve to learn one of the most important lessons to be gleaned from collectivist societies; the significance of social harmony.

As an ESL teacher, I think this is particularly visible in a classroom setting. They’re microcosmic by nature. So, if you want to get an idea of a country’s cultural values, step inside a public school for a bite-sized overview of what a place is like. There are a dozen points I could make about Thai classrooms in particular, but foremost in my mind is that I have never seen an outsider. They’re a type that is fairly easy to spot in Western culture—students who sit alone, who are often subjected to bullying. I’m not at all saying that loners don’t exist in Thai culture, only that they don’t exist to the same extent that they do in the States. There is an effort to bring everyone into the fold. Part of this is likely due to a set hierarchy, but I believe it especially has to do with the fact that Thai people take care of one another.

They go out of their way to express courtesy. Where in the West kindness might be described as a desirable personality trait, here it appears to be more of a standard. Imagine what our global community could look like if we all treated kindness as a duty.   

All smiles in Chiara's classroom!

Closing Thoughts                                   

Ultimately, travel is an amplifier. It intensifies the human experience; the joys, the struggles, the setbacks. If you’ve moved abroad to be a teacher, you might be surprised at how often you find yourself instead taking on the role of student. In fact, many wanderers I’ve met talk about ‘growth’ as being a motivation to travel. What exactly does that mean? When you choose to live in a foreign society, you are constantly met with the new and the different. Often it doesn’t make sense—why is no one on time? Why won’t people talk to me directly? Why are people so nice? If you’re willing to delve into a foreign culture and try to decipher some of these mysteries, you’re bound to learn something. Your understanding of people will broaden. Your capacity for sympathy will expand. Your own values and notions will be called into question. In challenging your own beliefs like this, you may be forced to reevaluate. Perhaps nothing will change. But it’s far more likely that you’ll discover new truths to questions you’d never had to ask before, and consequently, be changed for the better.

by Chiara Burns

For more from Chiara, follow her adventures over on her personal blog! – http://www.theroadtoeverwhere.com/

Medicine for the Soul

Medicine for the Soul

The Medicine for the Soul

The World Is A Book

Traveling and working abroad has been surprisingly transformative for me. I have to admit, I did not expect the change that took place simply from moving to another location, but this experience has been medicine for my soul.

If I had to have a conversation with my previous self from about a year ago, I might not recognize the person I was. My inner landscape has changed so dramatically that I can feel the difference every day. I dove into the cleansing waters of change and this country washed away the parts of my being that were doing me no good.

It’s weird to think that something so powerful can come from just living abroad, but it is that very act of diving into the unfamiliar and unknown that is so cleansing to the psyche. You can no longer hang on to habits or preconceived notions when you are presented with such a novel experience. You can no longer be in a comfortably sedated haze when everything is so bright, new, and present. Yes, that’s the word I’m looking for. Everything therapeutic about traveling condensed into one word: Presence.

Travel forces you to come to the surface of life and intimately connects you to the present moment. You forget about any heavy mental baggage and become as light as the air kissing your skin. You become the jagged mountain steps you’re climbing or the salty sea water you’re swimming through or the lights of Bangkok dazzling your eyes. You become the moment. And with that constant exposure to presence, your soul settles and becomes more grounded. It is like developing a habit of presence and seeing the sparkling beauty of every moment in life. There is no more room for heavy rumination. My spirit feels lighter as a result. Through exposing myself to the people and nature of Thailand I feel like I’ve cleared myself of those mental habits that pull me away from the moment. My sight has become clearer and now the present moment is always in view.

In Buddhism they make the claim that the doorway to enlightenment is in the moment. According to the Buddha, the roots of pristine happiness grow from presence. After being exposed to living abroad I can say this is true for me. In my home in the United States I was stuck in, what seemed to be, a fog of habitual thinking and ruminating. Similar to the feeling you get when you’re trying to sleep and you can’t stop thinking. Being lost in constant brain-chatter. Television static played over the symphony of your life. And you know what? I was not happy. I felt a dissonance, a weird sense of misalignment in life, like the tuning of my soul was slightly off and every time I tried to play it the music came out sour and left me wondering “What’s wrong?”. I was lost in time. Thinking about the past, worrying about the future, and never seeing the present. It’s a sort of illness, really. An illness who’s primary symptom is a deep sense of dissatisfaction.

The medicine for that which ailed me has been travel. Living abroad has washed away that diluted sense of presence with the dazzling brightness of the unknown and new experiences. I feel awakened to the beauty of life and I look back on my days of familiar and automatic routines as a time when I was kind of asleep and in a haze. But how can I convey this to you, dear reader, when it is something that can only be experienced firsthand. I implore you to dive into the unfamiliar. Travel, meet new people, and encounter new cultures and ways of thinking. See the world in all its stunning beauty. Walk the path less traveled and then forge a new one. I can guarantee this with all my heart, travel can be the medicine to heal the discontent in your soul.

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