We left the chaos of Khao San Road and eventually flagged a cab that would take us to Lat Phrao which would be home for the next 5 days. It should be noted most cab drivers in Bangkok don’t seem to know their way around outside of the main city or different areas, even though we had a map it took at least 10 attempts until a driver actually understood where we wanted to go and agreed to use the meter rather than an extortionate set price.
We arrived at Bansabi Hostel and were greeted by a very confused looking Thai man asking us why we were not waiting at the airport for him (even though we confirmed with the company a week ago that we would be making our own way there.)
We were given a very nice spacious twin room and unpacked our things with the 5 hangers that were available.The first night in Lat Phrao was when we finally felt like we were in Thailand as we tried to communicate and point at food to get the food vendor to understand what we were asking for. Obviously I hadn’t prepared myself with Thai translate apps or brought my translation book at this point so we failed miserably and ended up ordering food at the hostel instead.
My first early start in weeks, we were up for breakfast at 8 where we met many other teachers who looked just as unsure as us with what to expect. There were numerous other English teachers and a few Americans and South Africans.
The agency did not hang about, they got straight into the lectures and confusing/scaring/exhausting the teachers with dos & don’ts and how we should dress and act around other teachers etc. It wasn’t until the 4th day (a day before we were leaving the hostel) that we were told where our schools would be. I was given a high school in Chiang Muan, Phayao. Seeing high school on that piece of paper completely threw me. This whole time I was expecting to teach in a primary school, it didn’t even cross my mind I might be teaching teenagers and I did not want to at all. Luckily, another teacher, Al, was in the same area as me and he was given a primary school. After my minor hissy fit, he agreed to swap schools with me (THANK GOD) and I was now prepared to do the gruelling 2 day mini bus ride up to Phayao to teach at Bansra School.
I didn’t know much about Phayao and Chiang Muan district beforehand and even after searching through my Lonely Planet book and the internet I could not find much information about the area at all, other than Phayao is a popular tourist destination for Thais and that there’s a huge lake. Wow. I was really going into new territory here, even in England I avoided all things to do with the countryside, I’ve always been more of a city girl.
On the Friday, 4 of us left to head up North and said goodbye to the other teachers. It was harder than I expected it to be. After 5 days at this hostel I had actually formed some really close friendships and saying goodbye to the girls made this feel so much more real and terrifying knowing I wouldn’t be seeing them every day.
Two of us were heading to Phayao and the other two teachers were in Lampang and Lamphun. After a day of driving, we had a stopover in Kamphaeng Phet, which is pretty much exactly in the middle of Bangkok and Phayao so it started to make sense how far up North we were actually going.
The next day we got up early and had our last breakfast together. The mood was becoming more and more quiet as we carried on driving and it was becoming more scary that we would be on our own very soon. The further up North we went, the skyscrapers and modern buildings were replaced with small towns and mountains. I was pleasantly surprised actually, this was far more beautiful than anything I’d witnessed in Bangkok.
We managed to get to Lamphun and Lampang within a few hours to drop two of the teachers off. Myself and Al were freaking out at this point after seeing how unorganised everything was with the other two and how little the other teachers spoke English. We convinced ourselves we would be living in a rock in Chiang Muan and to just be grateful if we found somewhere with wifi and a fan.
Another few hours of driving, we arrived in Phayao around 7pm and were told we would be stopping over again before driving to our town in the morning. Getting out of the minibus and having a look around the area I was really taken aback. This place was stunning. I had seen images of the lake before but actually witnessing it in person was a million times better. Not to mention we got there at sunset. Me and Al both took it in and realised we might not actually have a bad deal at all; this was the most beautiful thing I’d seen so far. That moment of seeing the lake with the mountains silhouette glowing under the sunset for the first time will stay with me forever.
We visited the night market and finally got a taste for ‘proper’ Thai food. We wanted to buy everything! The problem with Thai markets are that there’s so much variety you can’t just buy one thing, you want it all. So you end up with like 5 different bags of food and when it comes to actually eating it you’re left in a minor food coma and housing a solid food baby.
That night in Phayao was my first experience of what I would say is actual Thai living, being surrounded by jungle trees, geckos and witnessing my first Thai rain storm.
Another early start, we were kitted up with orange life vests to ride a boat along the lake to the floating temple. The temple itself is very small however it was so calming being entirely surrounded by water and as it is only accessible by boat, there would never be more than 8 people in the temple at any one time.
We got back into the minibus for another 2 hour drive to Chiang Muan district. Driving through the jungle, we had no phone signal for most of the journey and were starting to panic at how remote we were going to be. So far everyone we asked about the area just laughed at us and told us “it’s very quiet!” So we had no idea what to expect and were preparing ourselves for the worst.
We arrived at my school first, a small school just outside of Chiang Muan. The views were incredible, even now I still find myself getting distracted whilst teaching as I witness the mountains and feel blessed to be teaching in such a beautiful place.
I met the Thai English teacher at my school, Kru Nongkran. She told us she would meet me at my accommodation after visiting Al’s school (thank God, we had accommodation then!)
We got to Ali’s school, which was much bigger, definitely a high school. We met two other teachers, who spoke great English and were super friendly. They got into the minibus with us to show us to the three accommodations available for us to pick from.
The first one I did not like at all. My teacher kept asking if I liked it, would I want to stay here? I didn’t want to be rude in front of the landlord but it looked like the sort of place a cockroach would happily make itself home in so I was definitely eager to see the other two places.
We arrived at a hotel down the road called Ma’seema L. The teachers showed Al a wooden cabin to the back of the hotel. It looked amazing with a walk in wardrobe, bedroom, bathroom and separate lounge area. He looked really happy with it and agreed on the spot that he wanted it. They showed me another room, an actual hotel room. It’s a standard hotel room with an adjoining bathroom and balcony. It was very clean, plus my 5000 THB rent included wifi, laundry and all bills, so of course I was happy.
We both had a moment to take everything in and were just grateful not to be living in a rock! This place was already so much more better than either of us had expected and it felt so good to be able to properly unpack my suitcase after the last 2 weeks in Bangkok.
Temple on Phayao lake
Driving through the jungle