Thung Yao, Trang Province
The diversity in Thung Yao makes this small town one of a kind. There are large populations of Chinese and Muslims, each contributing their own cultures to Thung Yao. The surrounding physical landscape is beautiful and unique to our region as rubber tree and palm tree plantations surround our town with nearby mountains in the distance where we’ve been told indigenous people live.
We love food and most of our money goes towards eating. Fortunately, Thung Yao has some of the best food in Thailand. The diversity in people also contributes to diversity in exceptional cuisine, both at markets and restaurants. We always struggle to pick a place to eat at because there is amazing food everywhere. It is also great that there are places to grab Roti every five feet around town. Down the street from us, a fellow teacher owns a nice restaurant with amazing seafood Pad Thai. The garlic chicken and fruit shakes are superb as well. It’s always a great place to eat as you feel like a local since most of the workers are students and students and teachers always eat there.
Another great place to eat at is Bangwhan & Jatew. The nicest family runs the restaurant and the father cooks an out of this world fried rice. With plants everywhere, fun decorations and the family always around, this place always offers a great experience. We also love to eat at a restaurant with the best French fries, the only Western food available here. We were told there is live music during the weekends but we have yet to witness this so unfortunately, the live music remains a myth. Yet, the owner’s iPod is always pumping Thai hits to the point that we are starting to learn some of the songs. We highly suggest seeing where the locals eat and we can assure you, you won’t be disappointed. We discovered the best Somtam (mai ped) and Tom Yum (mai ped) because there are always people waiting in lines at each woman’s place.
There are many places to get your daily essentials around town. We usually go to Tesco Express and 711to get food/drink items like bread and water and “treat yourself” items like peanut butter. We also shop at our local “Target” where you can find almost anything that you need excluding food. Our local “Costco” is great because an amazing family (they helped us make our krathongs for Loy Krathong) owns it and we can get all of are favorite snacks in bulk while saving money.
Thung Yao is a very walkable town. We easily walk the stretch of the two main streets and surrounding side streets in about 30 minutes. If you are tall, you will do a lot of bending as Mike has continuously embarrassed himself by walking into awnings and the attached metal poles. This being said, most people drive motorbikes or trucks, even just down the street. There is no public transportation to get around town, but there are vans to take you into Trang Town. Although, we rarely use our bike to get around town, well unless we are feeling lazy after a long day at school or it is unbearably hot, we highly recommend getting a motorbike for evening and weekend excursions.
We refer to our accommodation as a glorified large storage unit. Our storage unit home was the only option available to us. The entire front wall/door is a gate that you can open completely to the outside. It is very spacious with two bedrooms and a kitchen area; we use a hot plate and a rice cooker, which also serves as our microwave. There is no air-conditioning or hot water, but hey it feels very nice to jump under the cold water after consistently being covered in a layer of sweat 24/7. We are also never lonely as there are always spiders, ants and geckos inside the home at all times. During rainstorms, we also got to meet some very large and menacing scorpions outside. The best part about our home is the front porch. We spend most days sitting outside on the porch talking and playing with the neighborhood kids.
On Mondays and Thursdays our small market doubles in size and people from our town and surrounding towns, including most of our students come to shop for food, clothes and other items. We always buy way too much food, mostly fried amazingness. Our chicken man, Nong makes the best fried chicken in town and we go to him so often we always end up with a few extra pieces of chicken for free.
After our long days dealing with hormonal secondary school students we like to do a variety of things to avoid just climbing into bed and sleeping. We love to play with the kids in the neighborhood. We usually throw and kick around a ball with them but we also play with sidewalk chalk or some singing and dancing. It is a lot of fun and probably the highlight of each day. Since we love to eat all the fried food and Roti we can grab, we also exercise and do laps at one of the local primary schools. It’s quite the social event as there are always children and parents playing on the field and others exercising, all of whom are super excited to see us and chat. Most recently, there have been the cutest puppies out and ready to play. We believe it is very important to get a daily dose of puppy love! Lastly, we do what all twenty something year old people do, Netflix and chill of course.
On weekends, we love to travel locally or around southern Thailand. There are so many places to see and discover from incredible waterfalls and caves to any one of the less tourist clad islands of Trang. We often go into Trang town, about an hour drive away to walk around the city, drink some Kopi coffee, visit friends and enjoy the air-conditioned mall, where we always run into students and fellow teachers. Sometimes but rarely, we will even treat ourselves and spend a night in town after drinking one too many alcoholic slushies. When we aren’t traveling we typically spend the day cleaning, doing laundry, relaxing and playing with our neighbors.
One of the best trips to do in the area is to go island hopping around the Trang Islands. You can spend the day or weekend traveling from some of the most beautiful islands we have ever seen. You can swim through a pitch-black cave in emerald green water to find a hidden beach on Koh Mook and swim and snorkel in the most beautiful turquoise waters on Koh Kradan. It does not hurt that our favorite boat tour has amazing food including heavenly chicken wings and somtam!
Locally, the best excursions are to Ton Te and Ton Tok waterfalls. They are a short bike ride away through some pretty incredible landscapes. You get beautiful views of the waterfall throughout several sections of the drive. Also you get to cool off by swimming alongside a bunch of Thai families! Even more locally, we also recommend going to Yongstar Cape to see wonderful sunsets over the Andaman Sea and islands off in the distance. Students love to come here so you will always run into someone you know! This also makes a great trip on a school night, especially if you treat yourself to the scrumptious coconut ice cream near the pier.
It is important to note that we weren’t always so enthusiastic about Thung Yao. When we first moved here, we endured culture shock and Michael in particular was depressed about our home, how small the town was and how everything is closed by 9 pm. It was after we made the decision to put ourselves out there and find the beautiful in everything, to focus on the positive, that we began to love Thung Yao. Sure Thung Yao can sometimes be boring and isolating but eventually that will not bother you. Our best advice: just take it all in, embrace and enjoy the beautiful landscape, delicious food and amazing people of Thung Yao.