Lamthap, Krabi Province
My placement is in a small, rural town called Lamthap in Krabi Province. The close-knit community and the opportunities to create bonds with the locals are what makes my placement special and unique to me.
I am the only foreigner in Lamthap, which positions me on a pedestal of curiosity and speculation. At first, I was uncomfortable with this unfamiliar and constant attention but I quickly accepted it and even embrace it. I have taken each stare as an opportunity to smile, greet, or introduce myself and I think it has really helped me achieve acceptance with the Lamthap community. With the small population, it is easy to remember everyone, create bonds, and engage in personal interactions. I pass the same families outside their houses on my way to the market and engage in a friendly conversation everyday. I have made friends with several market vendors who are so sweet and helpful. I accept rides from many locals who just want to do something nice and get to know me better. The intimate nature of Lamthap negates all chances of feeling lonely or friendless. I really cherish the close-knit, interpersonal community here.
The aspect of my placement that I’m most pleased with is living on school property with my director and a handful of family members. They constantly have friends and other teachers over so it’s always a lively place to be. They are all really enjoyable people to be around, and despite the language barriers and cultural differences, we have a lot of similarities and our humour is very much the same. In no time, these people went from being strangers to my second family who wholeheartedly welcome me into their world. They’ve shown me so many aspects of Thai culture I likely wouldn’t experience in another situation and have made me feel completely at home.
Though my town may be small, it doesn’t falter in its abundance of food options and local activities. My host family and I often make dinner together or go out to eat around Lamthap. Every few weeks, I welcomingly take on the responsibility of buying the ingredients, cooking, and preparing for them a Western meal in their kitchen. It’s both exciting and fun to get to do something I love (cook) and introduce them to dishes they haven’t tried. They have also introduced me to so many new dishes that I likely wouldn’t have tried by myself. There is a beautiful, locally owned restaurant beside a river with quaint wooden tables, glowing lanterns and hand-made decorations where we often go for dinner. We relax and socialize with other Thai families amongst plenty of food and beer. For exercise, my host family and I will go on bike rides in Lamthap, which has exposed me to a lot of lovely places I didn’t know existed. My town doesn’t have a gym but even better, the front yard of my director’s house hosts a massive pool surrounded with giant palm trees, which I gratefully indulge in everyday after school.
Typically, my mode of transportation around town is walking. The center of Lamthap is a 10-minute walk from school so I embrace it as an opportunity to get exercise and save money. In other instances, I’ll accept a ride from my host family or locals. For longer distances, it is very accessible and cheap (80 baht to Krabi!) to catch minivans passing through Lamthap onto more popular towns.
As far as accommodation goes, ultimately, I can’t complain. I live in a satisfactory-sized room with a bathroom, feet behind the director’s house. It has lime green walls, no window, no AC, cold water, and a rock hard bed. At first sight, these were major disadvantages of my accommodation but very quickly I adapted and decided to see the positives. The colour of my bedroom is irrelevant, a window isn’t necessary when I am hardly inside, my powerful and efficient fan will do as good a job as AC, the Thailand heat makes hot water unbearable anyways, and a hard bed will probably do good for my bad posture. In addition, I was provided with a clothes rack, a small fridge, a toaster, a kettle, and multiple shelving units, so really, I think I hit the jackpot. I went into it with a positive attitude and very little expectations, and as a result, I am very happy with everything I have.
My weeknights have become quite routine here, which is a great balance with the event-filled weekends. Almost every evening after work, I’ll go for a swim. At first my Thai co-workers would laugh at me but now a couple of them have joined in with their kids and we’ll indulge in the much-needed refreshment together. Afterwards, I’ll typically walk to the market or go out to dinner with my host family and end my evening with a TV show and early bedtime.
My weekends are always jam-packed with activities to look forward to. Whether it be a fishing trip with my host family and co-workers, drives to Krabitown and Ao Nang for lunch or dinner, a community celebration, or small gatherings at the local restaurant, there is always something fun to look forward to. Something that I’ve really appreciated about my particular situation is that my host family will show me local attractions and activities that aren’t bombarded with tourists. They have taken me to a Thai army gun range, up a mountain in Lamthap with a beautiful view of lush-green mountains, a hidden restaurant in Ao Nang that overlooks the glorious rock formations scattered about the sea, local hot springs, and gorgeous Thai weddings. My school holds quite a few events on the weekends with the students so I’ve had a lot of fun participating in those too. The odd time I will venture off on my own to Krabi, Ao Nang, Railay, Koh Phi Phi Island, or Phuket for the weekend.
The best near-by trip is to one of our teacher’s houses. He lives down a long dirt road in a very rural part of Lamthap. Around his house there are miles of palm tree forests, climbable mountains, a pond with copious fish to catch and cook, and an area where we’ll shoot beer cans with pistols and shotguns. We spend time enjoying good food, good company, and nature’s beauty. I love the simplicity of it and find myself to be most content and happy in these moments.
The biggest tip I could give for new teachers to my town or any town is to become a “yes” man. The first couple weekends of being here, I was off on my own pursuits trying to explore all the tourist attractions of southern Thailand and kept declining my host family’s invitations. I quickly realized this wasn’t the way I wanted to experience this unique situation I was given. As soon as I stopped making my own plans and started saying yes to every single invitation from my host family and co-workers, I was unearthed to incredible experiences and completely immersed into the Thai culture, language, and community. This, and having such an incredible host family, is what I believe has set my experience here apart from others. In addition, my ability to start out and stay open-minded, flexible, and super welcoming of novel opportunities is what has generated extraordinary outcomes and has had such an impact on my life and well being. For future teachers, being a ‘yes man’ and maintaining the right attitude will undoubtedly generate positive results and an unforgettable experience.
I couldn’t be happier with my school, my town, the experiences, and the people I’ve met. I’ve learned a lot about myself these past couple months and I’ve gained a deeper perspective and values that will likely stay with me forever. My heart is full and I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience.