Phayakkaphum Phisai (Phayak)
Phayak may not be glamourous, but it has everything you need. 711, Tesco Express, an evening food market and food cart “restaurants”, a 20 baht shop, a couple of coffee shops and numerous ma and pa stores you can get anything you need. Everything is located within a couple of blocks of my apartment, so no motor bike is needed. All you need around here is a good pair of walking shoes or you can splurge on a bicycle!
My advice to future teachers placed in Phayak is to get to know the people. Don’t be scared by the language and culture barriers. Make yourself known in town. Wai and say “sawadee ka” to anyone you see. Smile. Don’t turn down any invitations; you may find yourself in a van with 8 Thai teachers road tripping through Northern Isan. Love every moment and laugh as much as you can!
If you take great joy in appreciating the simple things in life Phayakkaphum Phisai may be the place for you! There is nothing glamorous about Phayakkaphum Phisai. It does not offer any western restaurants or many restaurants at all, there are no fancy gyms, there is no neighborhood bar, the town shuts down around 7:30pm and everywhere you look you will see stray dogs, cats, chickens, and cows. I am woken up at all hours of the night by street dogs in barking matches, roosters crowing or cats in heat. There are no beaches, no mountains, no rivers, no forests, no hills. Just miles upon miles of flat, desolate landscape.
If you want to go to a mall or have any sense of western life you will need to take a bus to the cities of Maha Sarakham or Buri Ram, about an hour to an hour and a half away from Phayak. Buses leave frequently from the terminal located about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. From Phayak you can take a direct bus to Korat, Buriram, Bangkok, Surin, Maha Sarakham and Khon Kaen.
A typical Saturday night in Phayak consists of either going out to eat at a food stand “restaurant” or picking up dinner from the evening market. After dinner the real fun begins! There is a Tesco Express and 711 across the street from each other, so we often find ourselves going back and forth between the two to find the perfect ice cream treat from the cooler! This can take up to 20 minutes! After choosing the perfect ice cream delight everyone goes back to their apartments to catch up on Netflix or a good book! Oh those crazy Phayakkaphum Phisai nights!
I have been very well rested during my time here and I have never read more or been so caught up on television shows in my life! I typically go to bed around 9:00pm and awaken around 6:30am for school. My commute to school is 50 steps, so sometimes I have to leave as early as 7:28 to get to work by 7:30! After my daily obligations are complete I walk to the market to pick up dinner and head back to my apartment. To keep up a sense of health here I have downloaded some exercise videos from you tube or I go to “the gym!” You are welcome to sweat to the oldies with me if you stop by Phayak! After eating dinner I will typically do some more reading, lesson planning or watch another show on Netflix and be tucked into bed between 8:30-9:00pm.
So, that is life here in Phayakkaphum Phisai. It is not what I was expecting upon choosing to move to Thailand, but it is an experience I would not trade for the world! I absolutely love it here and am proud to call Phayak home. What it doesn’t have in fancy amenities or beautiful landscape it makes up for in people and culture. Phayak is the warmest, most welcoming community of people you could ask for. I have had the privilege of taking part in many festivals including Loy Krathong, Father’s Day, Children’s Day and the welcoming of a new Buddha. I have been invited to weddings, memorial services, dinner parties and weekend outings. When I got sick my landlady came to my room with an electric kettle and mama noodles. When my lightbulb burned out six teachers asked me if I was ok. When I walk to the market people stop and ask me if I need a ride on the back of their motorbike. When walking through town people yell “Teacher Tracy!” I have been shown more gratitude, appreciation and sense of belonging here than I ever have in my life. It is an incredible feeling and I find myself smiling more here than I ever did in America!