Khonburi, while small, is a nice place to live. The people here are very nice and welcoming. There are not a whole lot of English speakers here, but the people who are able to speak a little bit will always strike up a conversation because they are eager to practice the little amount of English they do know. You will feel like a celebrity here. People will stare at you a lot. They will ask you why you are here, where you live, how long you will stay, etc. It’s interesting having so many people be curious about who you are.
Isaan has a lot of good food to offer. I usually get food from the market and I have a few favorite stands to buy from. It is a nice feeling to see a familiar face, so I would recommend finding a couple of meals you like and visiting those often because it is a good way to get to know people. You will start being welcomed with a warm, friendly smile when they see you are back. Plus they will remember your order, so you can get a break from the stress that comes along with the language barrier! My favorite market meal is a bag with cut up pork, cucumbers, spicy/sweet sauce and sticky rice. There is a lady boy who speaks good English and her mom that run the stand. The other place I frequent is a restaurant down the street from the market. The woman who owns it, Noi, is the nicest, most patient person I have met here. She will sit there and listen to me butcher my order in Thai, but she always figures out what I want even if it takes 10 minutes! Her food is a little more expensive (60-90 baht range), but the quality is much higher than other places. She always has really good veggies on hand (bell peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, baby corn, etc.). I usually order khao pad paak ruahmeet gai (stir fried veggies with chicken and rice). She also has excellent green curry, sweet and sour chicken, and tom yum khung. I have literally never been disappointed with a meal Noi has cooked me! For drinks, my roommate and I would go to Heng Heng. It usually has live music and has a good atmosphere. Plus the menu has pictures so it is easy to order just by pointing to what you want. They also have Korean barbeque.
For fun and exercise I enjoy going to the park after work. There is a basketball court, football goals and space to workout. There are always people there in the early evening. I like to go there to juggle the soccer ball or shoot basketball. Usually some of my students are there and it is fun to play sports with them. Around 5pm there is a free aerobics class. It is mostly older women and the workout never looks intense, but after it is finished it is a good area to do your own workout because no one is there to stare at you and you can listen to music! Another place I go is a sidewalk area that loops around the pond across the street from Heng Heng. It’s a nice place to run because there aren’t any dogs around to chase you, but it is fairly small. About 6 laps= 1 mile.
To get around I rent a scooter for 1500 baht/month from a teacher at school. The department head of English set it up for me. For the most part I walk everywhere I need to go. You could definitely be fine just walking or having a bicycle if you aren’t interested in renting a scooter. I rent it more for fun than anything. I also enjoy riding it out into the country to see the sunset. It is nice to have to quickly get to school.
For living, I share a 2-bedroom/1-bathroom house with 1 roommate. It is a small, gated area that has 6 houses. I am only about a 5-minute walk from the market and 7/11, and there is a place to wash your clothes right down the street. It says it closes at 8pm, but it stays open later. They won’t lock you out if they see there are clothes in the washer! My house has very good Wi-Fi and air con in both of the bedrooms. We get charged 610 baht/month each for all utilities. The landlady doesn’t speak very much English, but she is very nice. She brings us little gifts and fruit most weeks. She let us borrow an iron, a frying pan, and put chairs on our porch.
I traveled about every other weekend. Khonburi is fairly quiet on the weekends, but there are things to do. The first Sunday of every month there is a fairly big market in the morning (ends around 1pm). They have everything from household items to clothes to food stands and everything in between (for a cheap price). This market is at a field close to the normal market near the round a bout (you can’t miss it). On the weekends you stay in Khonburi, I also suggest just walking around town because you never know what you will run into. One of my favorite nights here was when I stumbled into a memorial service/party. I was welcomed with open arms. I was given free beer and food, and danced to a live band for hours. All of this happened because I heard music and I walked over to see what it was and immediately was taken in.
Some weekend trips I took included Korat City, Bangkok, Khao Yai National Park, and Ayutthaya. Korat City (2 hour bus ride) can be a nice day trip. It has a pretty big mall with a movie theater and western food. There are also some temples and the zoo is worth a visit. It is about 15 kilometers from the bus station and it cost 100 baht to get in and for 20 baht more you can feed the giraffes! At the zoo, you can rent a bike, golf cart, or just walk around. I walked and was completely fine. A taxi from the bus station to the zoo is about 200-300 baht each way (depends on your haggling skills). If you are fairly comfortable driving a scooter, you can rent one for 200 baht/day. I did this and I was fine, but Korat is a busy city and you will be on a highway for 5-10 minutes. Bangkok is a little far, but I took weekend trips there once a month. Plan for it to take 8 hours total each way including getting from the bus station in Bangkok to your hostel. Ayutthaya is a cool place to visit. It has a lot of ruins and temples. You can get there by van. The van pick up in Korat is at the mall. I also recommend visiting Khao Yai National Park through Greenlife Guesthouse and Tour Company. You can do a full day or half-day tour for 1300 or 500 baht respectively.
- The bus from Khonburi to Korat City takes between 1.5-2 hours. It leaves roughly every hour on the hour. Air con bus it 41 baht each way and open air bus is 29 baht.
- The last bus back to Khonburi from Korat is 9:20pm. If you miss that bus, a taxi cost between 600-700 baht. Your other option is to stay at a hotel and get up early to catch the 5:30 or 6:30am bus and still make it to school on time.
- Walk around through the town and if someone says hello to you, then make an effort to have a conversation with them. If you get invited to do anything, always say yes!
- When traveling to Bangkok, make sure you get on the VIP bus. It is only 50 baht more. Trust me when I say it is worth it.
- Every Wednesday there is a slightly bigger market than the normal one on the same road as Khonburi High School. It’s open from about 3-7pm. Just take a right out of the school onto the main road and keep driving until you run into it.
- Practice Thai as much as you can. People here loved it when I would try to speak their language even if I was saying it wrong. They appreciated the effort I was making.