What do teachers like least about Surat?

“The motorbike exhaust when I ride my bicycle. How difficult it can be to accomplish a simple task due to language barriers and shops keeping odd hours.” Erica Ambrose

“Lack of ethnic cuisines. Don’t get me wrong, the Thai food here is amazing. Probably the best anywhere. But it would be great to also have some American Chinese food, maybe some real steak, maybe some tasty Middle Eastern food, perhaps some Mexican, the list goes on.” Peter Meltzer

“The stinky smells” Clair McCalla

“The bubble effect; in other words the feeling of being truly cut-off from the outside world outside of an internet café, however, some people thrive on that kind of experience.” Scott Saier

“Pollution, car exhaust, foul smells, dogs that chase me.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“The noise. It is really loud (motorbikes, music, chickens, dogs, everything!) Lack of dance floors; lots of dancing but no designated area.” Victoria Biggs

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What do teachers like most about Surat?

“That every day I am forced to challenge myself in some way or see a bizarre, hilarious site that makes me question if normal actually exists anywhere in the world.” Erica Ambrose

“That after every day I still see something new and interesting – even after 11 months.” Ryan Johnson

“The friendliness of the people. I have been here for 7 years and the people are still are friendly as when I first got here.” Peter Meltzer

“The kids, hands down.” Scott Saier

“Everyday adventures. My bicycle. My friends. My smelly, smelly street dog. Getting “Hello Teacher” on the street. The big smiles. My students.” Victoria Biggs

“The people that live here – Thais and foreigners. The exercise I am getting with normal life – biking, swimming, teaching, running away from dogs. The food. The leisurely pace of life. Access to the beach and other great places to go. Cheap taxis.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“The people!” Clair McCalla

Teachers’ Favorite Nighttime Places

Ma Hey – it’s really big club and great for dancing. They have a live band and a DJ so music varies. The drinks are quite pricey. Teachers’ Houses – Great for hanging out in to watch movies, play games or cards. Bigg’s Bar – It’s like a living room with good music, a library and great burgers.” Erica Ambrose

“Slower, more relaxed bars with live music. If you want to sit and talk, dance, drink a little, drink a lot, the big places with lots of tables have something for everyone.” Ryan Johnson

“There are a few different places I enjoy visiting at night: the night market, with its variety of foods and Thai merchandise; the new restaurant Casa, run by the incredibly hospitable Neung, who was born in New York and is always up for a good conversation, and there’s free Wi-Fi as well; Big’s Bar, with its ping-pong table, dart-board, good music, open-air atmosphere, and fully-stocked shelves of used books available to check out.” Scott Saier

“Downtown night market – great salads, fruit shakes, sushi, along with many other things. The river – nice place to get a beer, some som tam salad and some bbq chicken. Big’s Bar – very laid back bar with ping pong and darts. Ma Hey – good club where you can put your dance moves to the test. Donnok Soi 9 night market – great boiled beans and noodles. Soi Farang – street with a bunch of foreigner teachers, reminiscent of college life.” Clair McCalla

“My favorite places are other teachers’ houses. As far as drinking: wine at Milano’s or Big’s Bar. Ambiance: back yard of Casa’s. Food: curry at Popeye’s, Earth Zone, night markets, Luckey’s and the Vietnamese restaurant across from where we teach.” Caleb and Codie Kostechka

“Cowboy Bar – live music and dancing. The first time we walked in they were so happy to se foreigners that they played an English song for us. It was a medley of happy birthday and jingle bells. Priceless. Ma hey – formerly a hot spot but not so ‘cool’ anymore. Plenty of room to dance. I can’t stop dancing like a Thai man. Teacher house parties – when you feel like having an English night. P’roons Restaurant – hit it after the bars. Great food, hilarious staff and beer until 4 in the morning.” Victoria Biggs

Things Teachers Would Have Liked to Know Before Coming to Surat

“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand. Things really don’t just happen, you need to get out there and discover them for yourself.” Ryan Johnson

“That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet! That I would enjoy it so much and want to stay for way longer than a year.” Erica Ambrose

“How hard it would be to save money my first year. You can do it but it isn’t easy. It is good to have some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.”Victoria Biggs

“You can seriously find just about anything you need over here. So pack light, but make sure to include some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case! Also, the blind approach to learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

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“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a
good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand.  Things really don’t just happen, you
need to get out there and discover them for yourself.”  Ryan Johnson

“That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet!  That I would enjoy it so
much and want to stay for way longer than a year.”  Erica Ambrose

“How hard it would be to save money my first year.  You can do it but it isn’t easy.  It is good to have
some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.” Victoria Biggs

“You can seriously find just about anything you need over here.  So pack light, but make sure to include
some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case!  Also, the blind approach to
learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

“That motivation is the most important part (along with dedication – lots of “tion” words) to being a good/effective teacher and to getting the most out of Thailand. Things really don’t just happen, you need to get out there and discover them for yourself.” Ryan Johnson “That it’s next to impossible to find good coffee or shoes to fit my giant feet! That I would enjoy it so much and want to stay for way longer than a year.” Erica Ambrose “How hard it would be to save money my first year. You can do it but it isn’t easy. It is good to have some money from home for your big vacation, especially if you want to leave Thailand.” Victoria Biggs “You can seriously find just about anything you need over here. So pack light, but make sure to include some closed toe shoes and conservative teacher clothes just in case! Also, the blind approach to learning how to teach is daunting but totally worth it!” Clair McCalla

A few of our favorite things

Scott
1.  Hearing the words, “Stand Up Please!”
2.  Gai Pad Med Mah Muang (chicken with cashew nuts)
3.  I actually do like the booty-hose in Thai bathrooms; saves paper
4.  Haad Yuan
5.  Walter Sobchak
Dez
my music
my coloring crayons
my rabbit (clive)
my sound system
“stop it and tidy up” cartoon

Victoria
Top five things I like about Thai men:
1. They spend more time on their hair than I do.
2. They have less body hair than I do.
3. If you have been away for an hour they will ‘miss you very very.’
4. They dig the whiskey.
5. The sniff. You gotta try it out.

Lizzie
1. detroit dancefloors (dirty techno)
2. koh phangan
3. new dresses
4. quiche
5. morning rain on a bungalow roof
Chris
1. Calvin & Hobbes – By far the best thing in the newspaper in the 90’s.
2. Curling – The winners always buy the losing team the first round of beer.  Now THAT’S a true sport.
3. Kettleman’s Bagel Shop in Ottawa, Canada – The greatest way to start a morning.
4. Pinball – Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball.
5. Adventure – I can’t wait for my next one.
Sonja
5. Favorite song => “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin
4. Favorite animal => Bull (I’m a Taurus, it’s inevitable…)
3. Favorite author => Ok, tie between Chuck Palahniuk and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
2. Favorite spot in Thailand thus far => Bang Bao, Koh Chang
1. Favorite leisure activity => Wandering without direction
Codie
Favorite outdoor activity (USA): Hiking to hotsprings and camping
Best way to unwind after a long day teaching (USA): Hot bath and a trashy celebrity magazine
Favorite outdoor activity (Thailand): snorkling in Koh Tao or Koh Lipe
Best way to unwind after a long day of teaching (Thailand): yoga in our home “studio” or a game of Settlers of Catan or Beenie.
Favorite drink (USA): Vodka Gimlet
Favorite drink (Thailand): box of wine from LotusCaleb

1. Favorite animal seen on posters in Thailand- Unicorns (every now and then the occasional narwhal but mostly just unicorns)
2. Favorite cross cultural food- Corn (I’ve even bought the yogurt with the corn on more than one occasion)
3. Favorite Sandra Bullock movie seen in Thailand- none.  Still haven’t found one that has crossed over to the enjoyable category
4.  Favorite culinary style learned in Thailand- eating with the spoon in the right hand and the fork in the left.  It just makes so much sense.
5. Favorite dog in Thailand:  Au Daang- the red dog that follows me around my soi and whines every night when we come home until you pet him for fifteen minutes

Emily
5. Outdoor music festivals
4. The kids in Lil’K at High Point Church – They are my favorites!
3. Twinkle lights in the park against fresh sparkling snow
2. Hiking through the woods in the fall when the leaves change color
1. I love art!
Tristan
5. My External Hard Drive – more movies, TV shows and music than blockbuster video
4. The Vietnamese Restaurant opposite Suratpittaya high school – I miss Vietnam
3. Mums breakfast joint – The best noodle soup in Surat
2. Trips to Khanom – Like Haad Rin without the idiots or the high prices
1. Earthzone – The best food in Surat hands down, and the owners are the best Thai teachers I
have ever had
Peter
Favorite Non-Technological Item: my punching bag
Favorite Place I haven’t been to yet: Macau
Favorite Restaurant Back West: Shanghai Village, Bethesda, Maryland
Favorite Villain: The Joker
Favorite Mellow Album: Sea Change – Beck
Lize
1. Warm coconutty custardy cakes from the Surat nightmarket
2. A nice glass of chilled wine
3. Pizza from Milano’s (near Super English)
4. Random drink nights
5. Playing dress up
David
1. I love bufffalo chicken wings.  Other than my family, it’s the only thing I miss from the States.
2. Going to a Florida Gators football game with 92,000 friends.
3. Kayaking or canoing down a nice, quiet river with a few friends on a hot summer day with a cooler full of cold refreshments.
4. Planning, and executing, the perfect surprise party for a loved one.
5. Traveling and visiting brand new places, but also getting to know those new places well.
Dylan
Favorite movie: The Labyrinthe  (David Bowie, cod pieces, fairies, enuf said)
Favorite dwarf: Dopey
Favorite sport: thumb war
Favorite musician: Prince
Favorite drink: mojito

The Super Surat Guide

The Super Surat Guide is intended to give prospective residents an idea as to what there is to do in Surat as well as give current residents suggestions about things they might not have tried yet.

The Guide is based on a “Wai” rating, the wai being the way Thais greet each other and show respect. The higher the wai rating, the higher the opinion of the place. 5 wais is the highest and means it’s a place that should not be missed.

Place: Earthzone

  • Location: Chalokrat Rd , near the teacher’s house
  • Review: The best food in Surat hands down, in my humble opinion. The hosts (Sak and Pui) speak English and are the nicest people you will meet anywhere, the staff are always friendly and there is a real homely quality to the place. Possibly the finest example of Thai hospitality in Surat .
  • Wai rating: 5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Soup restaurant on Talad Mai

  • Location: Corner of Talad Mai and Talad Kaset 1 Bus Station
  • Review: Great soup, and the two guys who run the place speak pretty good English if your Thai is lacking.
  • Wai rating: 4
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Street cart on Chalokrat Rd

  • Location: Chalorat Rd , about 100 yards past the Amphur Intersection
  • Review: This place is the real deal – the don’t dumb anything down for westerners. Penang curry with rice is my personal favourite. You might have trouble here if your Thai language is non existent or lacking, as nobody speaks a word of English.
  • Wai rating: 3.5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place : Donut man’s breakfast joint

  • Location: Amphur, near the Chalokrat intersection
  • Review: Besides Donut man being very hospitable, this is the only place that serves meatballs and donuts in the same meal. Try the jok (rice porridge), it is excellent. I have never had a bad meal there. Donut man does speak a little English.
  • Wai rating: 4.5
  • Teacher: Tristan

Place: Sweet and Sour Restaurant (don’t know the real name)

  • Location: Donnok Rd, on the corner across from the art supply shop (don’t know the address)
  • Review: Excellent Thai food, but occasionally very slow service. This is because they only have one guycooking everything. Try the Tom Yam Goong, Pad Pak Boong, and Pad Preaw Wan Gai. All topnotch. A little bit pricier than other restaurants but much tastier too. Try it once to experience authentic Thai style home cooking at its best.
  • Wai Rating: 3.5 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: MK Suki

  • Location: Big C and Lotus Shopping Malls
  • Review: Unique, hot pot style restaurant. Most people fall in love with the sauce that comes automatically with every meal. The food is always fresh, tasty and quality control checked. This is an indoor restaurant with specially prepared dishes, so the prices are pretty high for Surat. However, it’s worth it to try it at least once and they do have many single dishes which are reasonably priced.
  • Wai Rating: 4 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: Koh Lampoo Island

  • Location: Middle of the Tapee River
  • Review: A scenic island with fitness trails, basketball courts, football fields, badminton nets, exercise
  • equipment and places to rest. Ideal for an afternoon bike ride and/or picnic. Usually very quiet and clean.
  • Wai Rating: 3.5 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

Place: Tesco Lotus Shopping Mall

  • Location: The outskirts of Surat Thani Town
  • Review: Lotus is the biggest mall in Surat and is almost always crowded. They have a large supermarket, as well as KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Dairy Queen, Black Canyon Coffee, HomePro, Swensen’s Ice Cream, etc. Whatever you need, you can probably find it at Lotus. The biggest problem is transportation, since it is quite far away from the city center. You can haggle with a tuk tuk about theprice or try to find the free bus which drives around town picking up customers to take them out to the mall. Once you’re there, you’ll be entertained for hours.
  • Wai Rating: 4 wais
  • Teacher: Peter

The End of the School Year

by John Phelps

As I sat in an empty Prathom 3 classroom at the end of the day, I wondered at the soft sadness that unfolded over me like an old blanket. Sounds of children playing “paper, rock, scissors” slapped the concrete walls. Like any other day, I had sweated completely through my clothes and was gulping water by the liter. At the end of any school day, I can hardly think about more than a cold bucket shower and a nap. But today, the last day of class, was different. I kept thinking about the squishy hugs, origami hearts, and thumb wrestling matches of the last few hours. I realized I was going to miss all of this, even though I was only leaving for a few months.

When I started other teachers had told me this would happen, but I didn’t quite believe it. I had always been annoyed by school teacher friends in the US who said things like, “Oh, I just love my little guys.” I imagined they must have grown up dressing one too many stuffed animals and having tea parties. When I came to Thidamaepra School at the start of the second semester, I worried that I wouldn’t measure up to the classes’ previous teacher. My first day of class, when I split the class into teams, a few named their team after him. The kids had his name written all over their notebooks and pencil cases. I was sure a few had tattoos somewhere with his name in an arrow-pierced heart. I imagined myself as a bumbling substitute teacher saying things like, “Now, settle down class” like a pull-cord doll.

The first few weeks of the term, I spent hours designing lesson plans with tactics perfectly-calculated to increase speaking ability, generate endless fun and create a perfect teacher-student relationship. Then, in class, a militia of 55 would outgun me and trample my expert plans. One of my classes was so loud that I could not hear a student speaking to me from less than four feet away. I felt like they thought I had come half-way through their year to ruin the party. I could pull various tricks to get them to be quiet, but after holding their attention for about two minutes, the roar would return. They were right to call the class “Intensive English Program,” I discovered.

Some time in the first few weeks, I decided to adopt a new policy. I would up my level of generally ridiculous behavior in my class by 100 percent. I would become an inescapable spectacle in class. Also, I had noticed that some of the craziest kids were some of the brightest. Maybe they were acting out because they weren’t being challenged. I began to think of ways to channel their energy. At the same time, I would lay down a tough few rules and enforce them as fiercely as the valiant defenders of ‘No Liquids Over 8 Ounces on an Airplane.’ I began to make games that involved a risk of a bouncy ball to the head for those not paying attention. There were some showdowns with a few of the most stubborn troublemakers, and some days I wanted to simply walk out of class and not come back. However, I began to fall into my style in the classroom as a pantomime-comedian-meets-drill-sergeant. It was around this time when I started hearing “Again, teacher,” after a game in class. Looking back, I realized I did not have to be someone else to be a good teacher. All I had to do was just be natural, and put on a strict face if something got in the way of that. I moved through the day with a quiet happiness, because I knew there would be more rewarding moments than unpleasant ones. The knot in my stomach before my toughest class of the day was gone, and I laughed myself almost to tears a few times with them.

Then, stick-figures and cartoons featuring sometimes-accurate caricatures of me appeared in their notebooks. Sometimes I would leave the class with my chalky hands filled with candy, gifts from kids who I didn’t even think cared I was there. As I rode my bike through town I got the occasional ‘wai’ from a student on a back of a motorbike. The last day of class, a girl who I had to almost pull out her chair to get her participation in games came up to me. I expected her to ask to see her grades or point out the chalk stains on my face. Instead, she timidly held out a bright pink “Hello, Kitty” memory book and asked me to sign. She would be leaving Thidamaepra to go on to high school, and she told me she would come to visit me next year. All the small struggles to get her to come out of her shell had been worth it. Scared to speak a word of English when I had first met her, there she was talking to me confidently. My heart was slowly melting in a microwave. So, after my last class of the term, I sat waiting for the joy of a two month vacation to set in. But, I began missing the ‘little guys,’ I mean — uh, the students — already.