Top 20 Things I Love About Thailand

A list of things I’ve enjoyed the most and will miss once I’ve left the land of smiles….(I will be attaching pictures….it is just that I’m currently working in Myanmar for a couple months (more on that soon!) and the wifi speed here is ATROCIOUS).

  • The FOOD!! Need I say more?
  • My students. At whatever school I’ve taught at, the students have been great and I really enjoyed teaching them
  • Koh Chang, my favorite place in all of Thailand
  • Lonely Beach, Koh Chang; where many days were spent relaxing and partying late into the night
  • Bangkok; I’ll miss the excitement and energy this city has
  • I spent a month here doing muay Thai training and for that it will always have a place in my heart
  • Chiang Mai. The laidback vibe, historical sites, and memories from the Songkran ultimate frisbee tournament
  • The temples….and a girl who .ibe, historical sites, and memories from the Songkran ultimate frisbee tournament own I dated on and off before it ended abruptly
  • Authentic muay Thai training; nothing beats it
  • The low cost of living
  • The women; I’ve dated a few Thai women and two of them were the most memorable women I’ve ever dated, for better or for worse
  • Cheap domestic travel
  • Driving a motorbike on a daily basis
  • The friends I made at camp
  • The cool season
  • Saritdidet public school, I’ve taught at 3 public schools, but this one was by far hands down the best in so many ways
  • My Thai co-workers, besides the Trat debacle, I’ve found them to be super helpful in every way, more so than what I experienced in South Korea
  • The abundance of hidden gems; forget the crown jewels of things to see, there are so many other natural, cultural, and historical sites to see that I’ve only really scratched the surface
  • The sabai sabai vibe of Thailand, this is one mellow country and I applaud it. Sadly, recent events and trends are beginning to change this
  • Low cost of rent, for $280USD you can get a decent sized apartment in a high rise building complete with access to a gym and swimming pool

With the good come the less than pleasant experiences, what I WON’T miss about Thailand:

  • The poor service at restaurants; probably one of my biggest pet peeves is having to wait ages for food with no explanation or apologies offered as would be the case in a Western country
  • The visa process to work here as a teacher is long and overly complicated
  • Tourist scams, foreigner pricing, overzealous vendors; anything that targets foreigners
  • Teaching agencies…..they are bloodsucking leaches who see teachers as nothing more than a paycheck
  • General low pay for foreign teachers; unless you are a certified teacher back in your country Thailand just doesn’t pay enough for most ESL teachers to stick around for longer than a year or two
  • Long bus rides
  • 711 food…..in smaller towns 711 might be one of the only options for quick/late night eating…

So what do you think? Is there something I missed on either list? Let me know in the comments below, cheers!

The Legend: Sathorn Ghost Tower

One of the most interesting and lesser known, until recently, off the grid attractions of Bangkok was the Sathorn Unique Tower, or more widely known as the Ghost Tower.  This towering building today stands abandoned, decaying, and its future still unknown but back in the heady economic boom of the 1990s it was very different.

Backstory

The 90s were a great time to be alive and in business, not just in the West but also in the developing world where the benefits of globalization were beginning to manifest outside of just the ‘Asian Tigers’ of Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore that had blossomed economically from the 1960s onward.  Countries like Malaysia, the Philippines, and indeed Thailand were beginning to catch the interest of overseas investors beginning in the 1980s and peaking in the mid 1990s.

Of particular pride for Thailand and a sign of its seemingly upward mobility in the world economic order was its acceptance into the World Trade Organization in 1995, made all the more remarkable when you consider that China, who’s global economic impact was already huge, was not accepted into the WTO until 2001.  By the time Thailand was accepted into the WTO in 1995 it was not only a growing tourist hot spot but also gaining ground through trade and industry.  With money flooding into Thailand in the 90s and elites eager to display their new wealth, a construction boom was well under way by 1995.  Here the story turns to the Sathorn Unique Tower, AKA the Ghost Tower.

A series of unfortunate events…

Construction began on the 49 floor luxury apartment tower in 1990 and was plagued by a series of unfortunate events that continue to haunt it to this day.  First, you have the fact that the tower is believed to have been built on a former graveyard causing the construction and all those associated with it bad karma and the tower itself being filled with angry spirits.  Then you have the drama that surrounded Rangsan Torsuwan, the designer and developer of the building.  In 1993 he was charged with allegedly plotting to murder the President of the Supreme Court of Thailand and although he was eventually acquitted in 2010 after initially being found guilty, the court case has made it hard to find financing to continue construction.  But perhaps the biggest impact on the tower was the onset of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis which led to construction being halted as investors and capital fled the country.  Since then the building has been left to decay, which brings us to more recent events.

The legend grows…

The tower gained notoriety on the web among travel bloggers and backpackers at least from 2010 and quickly gained popularity as a unique and eerie place to visit among the more intrepid and persistent visitors to Bangkok.  From what I’ve gathered, initially you could just find a hole in the fence and go right on through to the top. Then homeless people and hard drug users began to show up, asking for money to allow people through, which most people obliged as it only added up to a few hundred baht or so.  Soon, more and more people began showing up leading to a man claiming to be the owner to block people from entering the premises by having guards stationed at the bottom….unless people paid a fee.  Visitors kept pouring in, paying money, posting pictures, writing posts, and then apparently the true owner found out and took action against the imposter.  The true owner (Rangsan?) put his own guards in and threatened legal against a few bloggers to make an example of them and prevent more people from coming.  This all came to a head in 2014 when a Swedish backpacker was found to have committed suicide there and indeed it is possible other people met their ends there, only adding to the whispered legend of the ‘Ghost Tower’.

From what I’ve been able to piece together, 2014 marked the tightening up of security, except that the guards were still taking money but were cautious in allowing too many people in at one time and only at certain times of the day.  Some of the later events described in the last paragraph may be a little out of order but it is hard to be certain as much of what has been written is unconfirmed and unreported besides what is written in other travel blogs.

Too little too late…

Fast forward to August 2015 and I hadn’t even heard of the Ghost Tower until I was in Bangkok doing my CELTA course.  After seeing a picture from a friend of him being there I was instantly captivated and immediately planned on going, except my course turned out to be way more intense and I never got around to going.  Still, interested in the subject I’d Google it now and then to see if new information came up and to see more pictures.  After my course I went through Laos backpacking and then onto Pai in N. Thailand for muay Thai, and finally back home to Canada for a couple months before returning to Thailand on Boxing Day of the same year, 2015.

By this time it seems I was too late.  Rumors of more death and an increasingly firm set of guards, not to mention big locks and big metal doors preventing people from moving on from the first floor, meant the game was up.  From what I gathered the locks and metal doors appeared sometime between August to November 2015 though I may be off by a month or so.  The Ghost Tower is officially closed for business….or is it?

A hypothetical fictional way up to the clouds…

What I write next is in NO WAY intended to encourage people to go there and break the law (in fact I’m writing about a fictional hypothetical building), but if you do, it is your decision and you face the legal consequences, if you are found out, of going forward with your intent to reach the top.  Putting together information from the most recent blog posts from 2016, I think it is hypothetically possible to bypass the locks and barred metal doors but you need to be extremely well determined, have a plan, and be able to locate the necessary resources. 1)  I imagine you need some heavy duty bolt cutters 2) you need to camp out and learn the movements of the guards and the daily movements of people around the site 3) you may need a 30ft plus steel ladder to bypass the locked doors and go around the side.  So, yea, you need to be a James Bond/Macgyver type person and probably need a few people to pull it off.

I will also state that I’ve never actually been there and everything I have written has come purely from what I’ve found online and from my active imagination as to how you could actually do it.  I have also purposely not mentioned specifically where the tower is to further not encourage anyone to go there.  Perhaps the only thing this tower is good for is pictures like the one I posted and the fact it seems to a battlefield in the eternal struggle between Coca Cola and Pepsi as in my picture you can see Pepsi plastered over it and in other pictures online you can see Coke.  I’m a Pepsi man myself, Pepsi Max for the win!

Hope you enjoyed reading this post! I really quite enjoyed writing it and I hope it inspires people to find DIFFERENT ubran exploration adventures in Bangkok as there are many to be discovered. Cheers everyone, like and SUBSCRIBE!!!

 

Eating Out 1: Nai Meng in Bangkok

Hello everyone and happy New Year and all that jazz! It has been a while but I’m back with a quick post that will be sure to tempt the taste buds and kick off a new feature I’ll be running on the blog.

Eating Out with cover the food porn I come across along my travels and while it will focus on cheap eats for the backpacker at heart or just budget conscious, from time to time I’ll post about more upscale joints.

What better way to start off this series than a post set in the backpacker capital of SE Asia; Bangkok.  With the help of my viisting childhood Taiwanese friend and her desire to sample the delights of Bangkok without breaking the bank, she found us a super little Chinese/Thai noodle shop that packs a punch above it’s weight in the value and taste departments.  The restaurant, called Nai Meng, is situated near the Sala Daeng BTS station and is truly the definition of a hidden gem.

It is located near exit 3 (I believe!!) and if you weren’t looking for it you would just walk right past this unassuming place as I most definitely would have if it weren’t for my friend’s keen eye.  Inside you are greeted on the right by the staff as they prepare the noodles and other dishes right in front of you.

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Such is the popularity with the locals that you may have to wait to get a seat but boy is it worth the wait!  Upon sitting down we were offered a menu, with English translations, and very quickly you see the wide range of selections as the menu has two sides and with the vast majority of the selections in the 40 to 60 baht range (a little over a pound or under $2USD!)

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Personally I’m a carnivore at heart and went for a more meat heavy offering with different kinds of pork, and rice topped off with a brown soy based sauce(?) that also came with a bowl of chicken broth.  Either way it was super delicious and as a side dish I added pork dumplings.  All together this mouth watering meal came to a total of around 90 baht!

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SO, if you’re in the downtown Bangkok area near Sala Daeng, I HIGHLY recommend this sweet little place.  The prices were great, we were served swiftly, there was a large selection of dishes, and the portion of the main dish with the side of dumplings was perfect for me as someone who likes to eat a fair bit. This place really is ideal for those wanting breakfast, lunch or dinner.  Check it out and let me know how it goes!

Safety in Thailand

Long referred to as the Land of Smiles, Thailand has had a rough past few years as public policy reforms, bombings, and most regrettably, the passing of HM the King, have taken their toll on the nation.  While these events have impacted the stability of the country, Thailand is still open for business.

Current Situation

At the foremost of many backpackers, travelers, and teachers’ minds is the situation.  Since the passing of HM, there has been a month of official mourning, and as a further sign of dedication to the King, the ruling junta has declared a year long period of national mourning.  The difference being that the month of the immediate aftermath was the time when entertainment centers were either closed or had to close early.  In public, people were also expected to wear black or white, or failing that a black ribbon available for free throughout the country.  At the current time more people seem to be wearing normal colour clothes.  As a teacher at a public school, I wear a black, grey, or white shirt with grey pants.  To be safe, you could ask people in Thailand through social media groups what they feel to be appropriate in their part of the country.

As I mentioned, the entertainment centers of Thailand; Bangkok, Pattaya, and the islands, were closed for a certain time, but are now back up and running.  The Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan is operating.  While there are less people from abroad visiting Thailand currently, it does mean that good deals can be found on accommodations as resorts do their best to compete for few customers.  You can also expect great deals on drinks as bars seek to out compete each other in a tough industry.

Lèse-majesté

You have probably heard about the strict lèse-majesté laws in Thailand that forbid people from criticizing the monarchy.  Punishments can be severe, including substantial jail time, for any comments thought to disparage the Thai royal family.  Whatever your opinion you may in that it infringes upon people’s freedom of speech, it is wise to keep it to yourself.  My best advice is to simply not talk about it, much better uses of time than being overheard and carted off to a cell and being in deep shit.

My Opinion

Having been in Bangkok the night of the bombing last August and having been worked and lived across quite a few locations in Thailand, I am not worried.  Granted, I live in Chanthaburi, which is not a big traveler destination.  I will say that I have never been a victim of violent crime in Thailand, nor have I felt unease when out in public even in small villages in Isaan where there are few, if any, foreigners.

Also, exercise the same level of caution you would when you visit anywhere abroad.  Watch your pockets in crowded places, avoid confrontations, smile, look out for each other, and keep an eye out for people behaving strangely.

Consulting with your country’s travel advisory page is another excellent way to answer any questions you may have.  Lastly, take the necessary precaution and don’t leave home without decent traveler’s insurance!

Summer English camps in Thailand

Are you a teacher, backpacker, or digital nomad in Thailand and looking for an exciting opportunity? English camps are a great way to try teaching for the first time while also being rewarded for your time. If you are a backpacker or digital nomad thinking about teaching ESL then these English camps give you an idea of what teaching can be like  before committing to a full semester or a full year required for most ESL jobs in Thailand.  Non-native speakers can also apply for some of these jobs if their level of English is high enough and they can speak in a relatively clear accent.  Here’s the rundown on English camps in Thailand and how I fared recently trying to find a job for the holiday in October.

English camps are a part of daily life for English teachers in Thailand and are most often ran by teaching agencies and the schools themselves.  These events typically last for a day or two, or even three days.  The English camps are ran by the teachers and sometimes agency staff who come up with a theme, activities, songs, rewards, etc.  I have done a few English camps here in Thailand and similar style events in Korea and I quite enjoy them as a way to have some much needed fun outside the classroom.

As for your duties, these are quite light with teachers operating an activity station in a circuit with other teachers for one or two hours and taking part in other camp activities that incorporate learning English in a fun and entertaining way. For example, you may run a flashcard type activity for 20mins with a group of kids before the groups switch stations and a whole new batch of students stop by.  But what I didn’t realise until recently is how big and popular English camps really are in Thailand.

Schools and agencies run English camps pretty much all year round.  If you work at a public school directly you will probably do at least one English camp a semester.  However, if you work at a public school through an agency, you might be asked to work additional English camps at other schools, which can include meals, accommodations, and additional payments.  While you can find English camp job ads posted online most months, the most lucrative months are March-April and October as these are the months most public schools close for the holidays meaning lots of teachers are free to work at English camps. Wanting to earn some extra money, I looked online for English camp jobs recently.

Basic English camp jobs start at 1000THB ($30USD approx) a day and often include meals, accommodation, and transport.  I went to my usual spot Ajarn.com and gave Craigslist a try.  Sure enough, there were ads looking for English teachers to work at English camps in September and October.  Pay for those jobs ranged from 1000-1500THB and lasted for two or three days meaning a Friday to Sunday camp could net at least 3000THB ($85USD) which is not bad considering you would have accommodation and meals taken care of.  I thought of applying for them but then I came across the top tier English camp jobs.

Big private schools in Bangkok offer top money for English teachers during the peak months of English camps.  The jobs that I saw were offering 2000-3000THB ($60-85USD) a day for 10 day camps teaching phonics while also playing games and singing with young learners under 10.  20,000-30,000THB ($570-860USD) for a 10 day job, with a weekend in between, is not bad at all especially when the starting salary for ESL teachers in Thailand is 30,000THB a/m.

There was no way I wasn’t going to at least try for the top tier jobs.  With my past and current experience with younger learners as well as the English camps and big school events I have worked, I was able to snag two interviews in Bangkok.  After a long ass day that involved waking up at the crack of dawn for a 4hr bus ride to Bangkok, having the first interview, and then hanging around Terminal 21 in Asok for hours before the second interview, I was pleased to be offered a position at the second school before even leaving the interview.    It just shows how fast you can make an opportunity like that happen if you do a little research and line up some interviews

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V for Victory! At Victory Monument, Bangkok

I hope this post helps teachers,backpackers, or nomads who are traveling or living in Thailand and looking to try teaching and be compensated for your time and efforts.  The work is fun, the days are not that long, and a 10 day job at 30,000THB could cover a month of your stay in Thailand!  Food for thought indeed.

 

Where have I been?

It has been an exciting and action packed last few weeks having started my vacation at the start of the month.  As I mentioned in a previous post April was always going to be busy, so here is a teaser of the posts I’ll be writing in the coming days…

My original plan for my school break was to head straight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok but I eventually decided to make a few stops along the way…..

….including a night on the beach drinking beer with a friend in Pattaya….

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…followed by a couple days of site seeing in Ayutthaya…

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….before heading to Chiang Mai for the 10th annual hat tournament, nicely timed for the weekend before songkran!

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Next up I had a relatively quiet songkran on Koh Chang and in Trat.

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And now I’m in Abu Dhabi visiting my father until the new semester starts up in May!  Stay tuned for some informative but fun posts in the coming days and weeks ahead!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly about Teaching in Thailand

As a follow up post to my my recent one, I present….

The Good

  • A great place for new teachers: Whether you are thinking of taking ESL as a career seriously, just want the experience of working in exotic Thailand, or in between traveling and looking to make some extra money for a few months, Thailand is a great choice for people who have not taught before.  All you need is a degree and while a TEFL certificate is desired, it is not a formal requirement for a lot of public schools.  Even then, you can get 120hr TEFL online certificate for a couple hundred dollars.  Also, there is less pressure in most Thai public schools because they realize a lot of the teachers have never taught before and therefore there Thai staff are very helpful and understanding in their efforts to help you teach and settle into the area.
  • Food: Come on, do I really gotta mention how good the food is? Thai cuisine extends far beyond tourist favorites like pad Thai, papaya salad, and tom yum soup.  One of my favorite things about living in Thailand are the local markets where I have almost limitless food options.  For $3USD at a market I can easily buy more delicious food than I can even eat!  Typically I’ll buy a main course, rice/noodles with veg and meat, a side dish, perhaps some sticky rice, and a dessert, my favorite being freshly sliced antelope.  All for $3-4!  The food alone should almost be enough of a reason to come teach in Thailand, it truly is a foodie’s paradise.

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  • Low cost of living: The essentials to life in Thailand, especially living outside of Bangkok, are incredibly cheap.  For example, my monthly food budget is about 5,400 baht ($150) and I spend 3500 baht ($100) a month on rent. On a starting salary of 30,000 baht a month, that leaves you with 21,100 baht ($600) left over to spend how you like!  If saving money is not a priority for you, then you could easily go on a weekend trip most weekends in a month.  But if saving is something you care about, you can still save about half your monthly salary (if you live outside of Bangkok) and still have money left over to have some fun, whether that is a few nights out at the bar or a weekend trip or two.  The life of a teacher even making starting salary is quite comfortable.
  • Long vacation time: If you plan teaching for a full year at a public school, 2 semesters, then you will be happy to know you will get at least 2 months vacation!  Of course, depending on your contract situation, whether you work directly for the school or through a teacher placement company/agent, you may or may not be paid for the vacation time.  My advice, try work directly for schools and they should pay the vacation time, or find a company/agent that pays for the vacation.
  • Some great students: the students themselves will play a big role on whether you enjoy your job.  But from my experience so far I’ve had some wonderful students who have proven extremely helpful in explaining things in Thai to the other students, telling the noisy students to quiet down, and then giving me goodbye gifts after having only known them for a short time.  I even received a hand drawn portrait of myself by a very talent student!  Another teacher who had taught at the school for a year received a handmade book of pictures taken from their classes and each student wrote goodbye messages to her.  Great students make such a difference and Thailand has them in spades.

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  • Location, location, location: Thailand has an abundance of every kind of place to live and work.  From small, rural, idyllic villages out in places like Isan, to towns up north in the jungle near Chiang Mai, big bad Bangkok, or down south near the island treasures of Thailand.  There is a place for every lifestyle in Thailand.

The Bad

  • School organization: Having taught at two public schools here in Thailand, and having spoke with teachers working at private schools, a frequent topic that comes up is the strange way certain things are done at school.  Just as you’re leaving to go home a Thai teacher tells you ‘oh, by the way tomorrow is Open Day at school so no classes!’, or nobody knowing who to talk to to get class outline/lesson planning documents, or going office to office searching for someone and then finally being told that actually that person is not at school that day.  Issues like these are are a reflection of Thai culture in the workplace, which brings me to…
  • Cultural differences: There are always going to cultural differences; it is a part of what makes traveling and working abroad a great experience!  But some differences are harder to adjust to.  For instance, it is common to have lined up at a cafe or have been served at a restaurant and then see that the Thais who came after you have been served first.  For women choosing to work outside of big cities or places popular with tourists where the locals don’t have much experience living around foreigners, women will get a lot of looks from Thai men and women, unfortunately that is a fact of life in Thailand.  The same goes if a foreign man is seen in public with a Thai women, you will get a lot of looks from the locals.  These may not be major issues, but they are annoyances.
  • Visa status: The ruling Thai military junta and prior governments have been changing visa rules for years now so it is hard to know what the rules are for sure, and can often be decided at the discretion of the official.  To get the Non-Immigrant B visa to teach legally in Thailand you will either have to get it before you enter the country, or take a 2 day trip to Malaysia, Cambodia, or Laos to get it sorted.  Some schools will even encourage you to simply work on a tourist visa, which is illegal.  Having said that, it seems a blind eye is turned to those teachers who are on a tourist visa and working but are having their documents processed before leaving the country to get the correct visa.
  • Rowdy students:  Don’t get me wrong, while there are great students, there are also students who are plain rude and aggressive towards teachers, particularly in public high schools where classes can be up to 50 students!  It is mostly the less advanced classes that are rowdiest and they are predominately filled with boys, some entirely.  Those classes can be a drain on you mentally and physically as you have to shout and cajole them into behaving and learning something.   Thankfully, most classes are not like this and since coming to teach in Thailand I’ve only had one class that I dreaded teaching each week; class 4/11.
  • Isolation:  If you are working in a public school out in the countryside, you may be one of the only, if not the ONLY, foreigner in town and thus your every movement will be of interest to the locals as if you’re minor celebrity with less privileges.  It can get quite lonely if you don’t have a support network set up to beat back feelings of loneliness and boredom.  At my school in Chok Chai in Isan I was with 3 other foreign teachers and I still felt bored and lonely at times because there was next to nothing to do besides drink beer and watch Netflix for hours on end.  Do your research before taking a job somewhere out in the countryside.

The Ugly

  • A target for crime and scams:  As a foreigner in their country where most of the people have far less than you, it is unfortunately natural for some of the less honest locals to want to make a little extra money from you.  It can be a taxi driver refusing to turn on the meter or asking for a jacked up fare.  Selling you counterfeit goods while claiming them to be genuine.  The police targeting you for not wearing a helmet while riding a scooter and asking for a ‘fine’, or worse, them asking you to take a piss test for drugs in the street (illegal) and asking for a ‘processing fee’ to make the problem go away.  There are a lot more I could go on about but you get the picture.  As always when traveling or living in a foreign country, it is best to exercise caution and keep informed about news in Thailand.  I’m sure there are more ugly sides to living in Thailand but I think being a target for crime and scams are the biggest ones.

So what do you think? What other good, bad, and ugly sides are there to teaching in Thailand? Let me know in the comments!

Doing the CELTA: My experience

Wanting to be taken more seriously in the field of ESL I decided to take the CELTA as a way to become a better teacher and to invest in myself some of that hard-earned K-money from my year and a half in Korea.   I looked around Asia and settled on doing mine with International House in Bangkok. I’m going to say it now that this is more about the CELTA course and not about my experience with IH.

Overview

The CELTA, which is accredited by Cambridge University, is considered the gold standard of initial TEFL/TESOL English teaching certifications. Only the Trinity TESOL certification is comparable and there is a lively debate as to which is better/worth the money because as far as I’m aware the CELTA is considerably more expensive generally. I’ll make a future post about the CELTA vs. Trinity debate but for now I’m sticking to what I know; the CELTA and whether it was worth it.

The CELTA is a 4 week intensive practical teaching certification that includes 6hrs of observed teaching broken into 8 45min classes. That’s 2 classes each week. On top of the observed teaching portion of the course are 4 written assignments; 1 each week.

On the first day your group (depending on the size) will be divided into smaller groups, and then those small groups divided again if necessary. The smallest groups will be the people who teach on the same day as you while the others in your subset group will be the ones observing you, along with a trainer. So for example in my subset there was teaching group A and B, both groups combined were then joined in the afternoons by the same types of groups to make one big group for the learning portion of the course.

Week by week

WEEK 1. Unit 1: Learners and teachers and the teaching and learning context. Your first 2 classes taught will be judged with less criteria because week 1 is more for your trainer to see how you deal with a classroom and the material given to you. After each class you teach from day 1 to finish you will be given an evaluation from your trainer and feedback from the observing group of teachers. In general you either get satisfactory or unsatisfactory which is a fail. You should not fail more than 2 classes if you want to be sure you will not fail the teaching portion of the course. In the afternoons you learn the Cambridge teaching methods. The first written assignment is also handed out and each assignment is related to the topic of the unit. Assignment 1 is typically the assignment which a lot of people have difficulty with. If it is judged to be unsatisfactory, then you are allowed to resubmit it by making corrections. You are only allowed 1 re-submission per written assignment; so it is ok to have to resubmit each written assignment once and still pass the course. It is also ok to fail 1 written assignment because more weight is put towards the teaching component of the course. I should also say that assignments 1 and 2 are the ones where most people have to resubmit.

WEEK 2. Unit 2: Language Analysis and awareness. You’re now given more leeway on how you want to teach the topic of the class. The topic of the class will be something from grammar, lexis, functions, vocabulary, writing, listening, speaking, and reading. Before each class you teach you will talk it over with your trainer and give them the lesson plan and class materials. Your classes will now also be judged using the full criteria to pass/fail the lesson. Your classroom time will be used to bring you up to speed and give you ideas about what to do when teaching something from this area. Assignment 1 will be due at the beginning of the week and Assignment 2 will be discussed and due the next week. Unit 3 is also released in week 2 but not due until late the next week. At the end of the week you will have a mid-course evaluation given to you by your trainer telling you what you’re good at and what you need to improve upon, and also whether you are par for the course at that time.

WEEK 3. Unit 3: Language Skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing. Now you will be free to choose one of the aforementioned topics you have not already done, or do one of the topics suggested by the trainer because they wish to see you improve upon your prior effort. I should also say that you will now switch learners; so if you had intermediate, you will now be teaching elementary. The classroom component will be more of the same except on the topic of Unit 3. By now most teachers are hitting their stride or nervous about the final legs, especially if they have failed one or two lessons or an assignment. Assignment 2 will be due early in the week and Assignment 3 I believe is due the same week but most teachers find it not nearly as challenging as the first two. Assignment 4 is issued by the end of the week, this is the easiest of the four written assignments.

WEEK 4. Unit 4: Planning and resources for different contexts, plus Unit 5: Developing teaching skills and professionalism. Again, teachers should be pretty confident by now especially being the last week as it is just more of the same from the previous 3 weeks but different topics. Unit 4 is the main emphasis of the week and Unit 5 is just a one afternoon thing where you discuss future professional development. Assignment 4 will be due back early in the week. On the last day you will have a free lesson to teach on what ever you like and it will be observed by the trainer. After that there is free time and depending on the center you take the course you will probably either have a little goodbye party with food with your students or have a lunch/dinner with your fellow trainees thrown on by the center. Assuming you have completed all the course requirements you will sit down and sign off on anything not already filled in.

Was it worth it?

I see a lot of people online questioning the value of the CELTA, especially because of how much it cost.  Mine cost $2,100USD.  Of course you can get online courses for MUCH cheaper but the quality is generally not the same, even if it includes a classroom component.  There are exceptions, but generally online English teaching certifications are only good if you want to get your foot in the door, not if you want to be taken seriously and make teaching English abroad a career.  From what I found online the Trinity TESOL is significantly cheaper by hundreds of dollars.  But what I guess what it comes down to it is the effect it is supposed to have on your ability to teach and job prospects.

Personally, I really enjoyed learning the CELTA methods of teaching.  I had taken an online TEFL course like so many people but mine could not hold a candle to the methods I learned during the CELTA course.  I really like the idea of making your classes student centered and interactive.  Already here in Thailand my lesson plans are drastically different than what they would have been had I not learned the CELTA way.  People might debate whether it is the ‘best’ way to teach but for now I will leave that debate to them.  I’m a big supporter of what I learned and in terms of it making me a better teacher I say YES, the course made me a better teacher by giving me whole new approaches to lesson planning and teaching that I would not have known about otherwise.  In this regard, it was worth it.

As to whether it was worth it for the effect on my job prospects I still say YES.  In my first month of looking for jobs in Korea the first time around back in Nov/Dec 2013 I had just two interviews.  This time around, again in Nov/Dec during the height of the recruitment phase, I had 5 or 6 interviews for Korea.  Not only that but the general quality of the jobs I was interviewing was much higher.  The pay was significantly more than my first two jobs in Korea.  I did receive concrete job offers for Korea and I would have taken at least one of them if my recruiter hadn’t been incompetent and fucked up royally….so, yeah.  Personally I feel there has been a significant improvement in my job prospects as a result of me taking the CELTA.

This is just my experience and belief.  What are your thoughts?  Was the CELTA worth it? Is the Trinity TESOL better?  Where did you take your CELTA? Leave me your thoughts.

New Years Eve on Khaosan Road

Having chosen to stay at the Rainbow Khaosan Hostel and Guesthouse in a private room and not knowing there wasn’t much of a common room besides the Indian restaurant as you enter, my time had mostly been spent solo.  I had been preparing for the new job, working on the blog, and an afternoon at the teacher placement agency. Now it was the early evening and I had no solid plans besides meeting up with friend and her friend for a drink.  That and I had a drinks with a girl from Tinder in the works.

As I went to go meet them I was surprised to see the level of security on display.  Not only was the police out in force, but Khaosan Road had barriers up to stop people from getting in.  You had to line up, go through a metal detector, have your picture taken, and then show your passport.  It was clear to see that after the tragedy of the bombing in Bangkok back in August that the Thais weren’t taking any chances.

By stroke of luck my friend ran in to me as I lined up to get onto Khaosan.  To kick things off I bought us big Changs from 711 and the three of us strolled and sipped on our beers as we took in the sights around us.  Bright lights. Milling crowds.  Neon lighted headsets.  Pretty hostesses beckoning us to sit down at their bar or restaurant. Excitement and revelry in the air.

NYE1

After walking around a bit we rocked up at a less than capacity filled restaurant and bar with a prime located table to people watch and chat while nibbling on spring rolls and knocking back our beers.  We then decided to go for a walk down Rambuttri road where her hostel was located.  The scenes were similar to those on Khaosan; massive crowds and people priming for a big night out with bottles of beer and Thai whiskey stacking up on either side of the road at many of the tables.  I looked at my watch and said my goodbyes as I went to go find my date at a bar.

When I finally got to the bar after struggling through the still growing crowds she went radio silent on me.  I walked around the bar trying to see if I could spot her but to no avail.  Just when I thought my night would end on a low note another of the girls I had been speaking to said she was on her way.  Now I only I had to fight my way through the crowds, charge my phone for long enough to stay in touch with her, and then fight my way back!

NYE2

It took a good 20 minutes to get to the 711 where I was to meet her.  By that point the beer was starting to catch up with me and I completely lost track of time.  All of a sudden it was ’10, 9, 8….3, 2, 1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!!’ The crowds went wild.  People were shooting off entire cans of silly string into the sky and over anyone within spraying distance.  Absolute mental scenes.  It was truly the wildest NYE I’ve had and only last year in Sihanoukville can compare.

With a sigh of relief I at last reached the rendezvous point and there she was looking gorgeous.  We sat out front and drank beers before going to mix with the crowds as by that point they had begun to thin.  I won’t say how the night ended other than that we had a great time and for two people who had no solid plans, we certainly made the most of NYE for such short notice.

How was your NYE?  Did you spend it with someone special in an exotic locale? Were you on Khaosan road?! Happy New Years and safe travels!