Teaching English in Thailand: Living and Working in Khlong Luang

Teaching English abroad has become a popular way to travel the world. It allows travelers of all ages to experience new cultures, while at the same time maintaining an affordable lifestyle. Becoming an ESL teacher (English as a Second Language) not only allows you to see more of the world, it also allows you to immerse into cultures you might otherwise just pass by.

Within Southeast Asia, Thailand will offer you the perfect combination of modern Asian culture and rural countryside experiences. Thailand’s capital Bangkok is one of the region’s main hubs and is regarded as one of the world’s major cities “where east meets west”. Throughout the years, Bangkok adopted all the comforts of the Western world, yet maintained its sense of self majestically.

In the city, heavy traffic conditions are counteracted by a state of the art public transportation system, huge shopping malls are situated next to tiny, family-owned shops, big restaurant chains compete with small food stalls, and the tranquility of the Buddhist temples merges with the city’s bombastic red-light districts. Nevertheless, within less than 100 kilometers from the city, you can still find yourself lost within the country’s rice paddies, fishing villages, and floating markets…

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Travel the Globe
Teaching abroad is considered one of the best ways to explore the world (Credit: Pixabay)

Khlong Luang

One of those places is the Khlong Luang District, situated45 kilometers north of Bangkok along the road to Ayutthaya. Khlong Luang houses around 100 tiny villages, as well as Thailand’s largest campus, Thammasart University. The campus in Khlong Luang is known as the “Rangsit” campus – and was founded as an extension of the university’s campus in Bangkok. With its bright yellow and red flags, the esteemed university attracts students from all over the country.

The Rangsit campus has become a small village in itself: within the last decade student apartment blocks, coffee shops and 7-Elevens spurted out of the ground between the rice fields of Khlong Luang to tend to the needs of the district’s new residents. Several idyllic canals lined with waterlilies still run through the campus and offer passers-by a surprising amount of wildlife: not a day on campus goes by without a confrontation with a large, several meters long monitor lizard.

Monitor Lizard
One of the campus’ many amphibious residents (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Thammasart Rangsit is far enough removed from Bangkok to shed all the capital’s touristic hubbub, yet still buzzes with activity day and night due to the high amount of residential students. Outside the campus, the canals between the rice paddies are still adorned by small wooden houses.

Due to the arrival of Thammasart Rangsit in the district, special services were set up in and around the campus, tailored to the needs of Thammasart’s students and teachers. These services include private schools for studying English, a kindergarten, and a primary school (for the children of the local staff). Thammasart’s on-campus facilities also include a library, a temple, a stadium, an aquatic sports center, a tennis court, a gym (with a swimming pool), a gas station, a post office, a hospital, and a pre-school childcare center. Off-campus there are shops, hairdressers, mini-markets, cafés, and clubs. Faculties, offices, and dorms make up for the rest of the campus.

Map of Thammasart University Rangsit
Map of Thammasat University, Rangsit (Credit: Thammasat University)

Teaching Opportunities

There are plenty of opportunities to teach English in Khlong Luang. First and foremost, there’s Thammasart Rangsit and the adjacent Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). Both require well-qualified teachers with considerable experience. The workload at universities in Thailand is light, while the pay is quite high: expect to earn north of 60,000 baht (€1.590 or $1,880) per month.

Just a few steps outside the southern gate of Thammasart Rangsit lies the vivid U-Square, where several language schools have set up shop. These schools usually offer part-time work at around 350-500 baht (€9,30-13,10 or $11.00-15.50) per hour, with an average class duration of 1,5 hours.

Thammasart University Rangsit
The Rangsit campus of Thammasart University (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Within 10 kilometers of the Thammasart’s campus, you will also find a host of international schools, offering high salaries averaging at 45,000 baht (€1,192 or $1,410) per month and up. Most of these schools are situated around Future Park Rangsit, one of Asia’s largest malls halfway towards Bangkok. In the area, there are also a few private schools, which usually pay around 40,000-60,000 baht (€1,058-1608 or $1,250-1,900) per month.

Last, but not least, on Thammasart Rangsit’s campus grounds there is a kindergarten and a public elementary school. Working at a public school in Thailand pays around 30,000-45,000 baht (€795-1,193 or $940-1,410) per month. The workload is intense and often exceeds 40 hours per week, but in return, teaching at a public school will allow you to completely immerse into Thai society, unlike any other type of school.

While living in Khlong Luang, my (also CELTA-certified) partner and I combined a full-time job at Thammasart’s elementary school with an evening job at a local language school. Additionally, we set up our own private tutoring classes at the Golf View student community village. Our private learners ranged from students seeking to quickly advance their language skills and students preparing for a language test to young professionals preparing to move abroad.

Elementary Students at Thammasart University
Students gathering for a ceremony at Thammasart Rangsit’s primary school (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Housing, Community, and Cost of Living

Among the countryside dwellings of Khlong Luang lies a colorful complex of apartment blocks named Golf View. This is where my partner and I settled during our stay in Thailand.

Golf View serves as a small self-contained community. The complex counts 22 colorful seven-story flats, supported by a host of little restaurants, launderettes, hairdresser, mini-markets, a gym, a sports hall, and a swimming pool. Each of these shops is family-owned and operated. The community of Golf View consists of students, young professionals, teachers, and local entrepreneurs. A host of recurring faces serve the residents their daily meals, which makes living in Golf View feel like settling down in a small village.

During our first week in Golf View, we still had to find our bearings: no one at the local restaurant spoke English and in the beginning, it was a continuous challenge to prevent our food from being overly spicy. Even “not spicy” still meant a pepper or two. During one of our dinners, a student came up to us. In broken English he asked whether the proprietor of the restaurant could take a picture of us for his Facebook page; the man was apparently very proud to have Caucasian guests. It felt a bit awkward to be asked for a picture just because of our skin color, but we understood. Despite these first, strenuous interactions, however, we were able to pleasantly ease into the community once the novelty factor of our two white faces had worn off.

Golf View, Khlong Luang
The colorful apartment blocks at Golf View (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Living in Golf View made it easy to emerge into the daily life of Thai people, something we quickly learned Bangkok would have never allowed us to do – at least, not to this extend. During our stay in Khlong Luang, we met less than ten Westerners in the entire whole region; three of them were our colleagues, one of them our boss.

Living in Khlong Luang was perfectly affordable. Our rent came up at 6,400 baht (€170.- or $200) per month, plus approximately 1,500 baht (€40 or $47) per month for the internet, water, and electricity. The rent included an unavoidable 200 baht “white people tax” charged for “the view of the rice paddies”; something we noticed our Thai neighbors were not paying for. Due to our double salary, we were able to live quite comfortably: we had a new, fully furnished apartment with two rooms. Most of our colleagues, however, rented single apartments at 2,600 baht (€68 or $81) per month.

Of course, there are many other housing opportunities in Khlong Luang. Accommodation opportunities range from simple one-room, on-campus flats to freestanding houses in the middle of the forest.

Our first full year in Thailand we spent about 1,000,000 baht (€26,446 or $31,270) together, which includes any and all costs – even holiday expenses.

Lizzy the Common House Gecko (Tjitjak)
When living in Thailand, every once in a while you will have a new roommate (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Eat, Drink & Party

Food prices around Golf View and Thammasart Rangsit’s campus come up at 40 baht (€1.06 $1.25) per person for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; 60 baht (€1.59 or $1.88) including drinks. The prices in Khlong Luang are so low, it makes absolutely everything in Bangkok feel expensive.

Around Golf View, AIT, Interzone, and U-Square there are dozens of cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants. I would definitely recommend the coffees at AIT’s Hom Krun Coffee, Indian food at AIT’s Som Tam Eatery, club sandwiches at Interzone’s Kissing You, and of course the Thai classics Som Tam with sticky rice and Tom Yam Kung from proprietress Joy’s family-owned and operated restaurant in Golf View.

The Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand (AIT)
At the Asian Institute of Technology you can find amazing Indian food (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

As for parties, in 2015, the Thai government issued an amendment to the country’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act: it was no longer be allowed to sell alcohol within 300 meters from any educational institute. This caused many of the local pubs around Thammasart Rangsit to close, or to scratch alcohol off its menus. Thammasart’s students simply shrugged off the government’s law, though, and took a short ride towards the now incredibly popular range of cafes situated just outside the government’s booze border. For some major partying you can take a dive into Bangkok’s crazy nightlife – go crazy with the other “farangs” at Khao San Road, or party with the locals in the less touristic areas of the city.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday markets are set up on campus grounds. At the markets, you can buy freshly made food, clothes, and a wide range of accessories. We especially liked the Interzone Market, which offers the possibility to eat Western food. Living in Khlong Luang, far from Western society, non-Asian food became a real treat! Aside from every Thai meal imaginable, vendors at the Interzone Market offer potato-based dishes, Italian food, and many other Western meals.

Though at Golf View we sometimes visited the local Italian restaurant, the chance that they actually had Italian food was always slim. We once had to wait over a month for the chef who made the restaurant’s pizzas to return… and when he finally did, he didn’t have the right ingredients to make pizza.

Transport Around Golf View and the Campus

Transport between Golf View and Thammasart is regulated by Golf View’s administrative office. Minivans continuously run between the community and the campus all day, leaving whenever a van is filled to capacity.

Walking across Thammasart University’s campus will take approximately 30 minutes, but due to the heat, it is not recommended. As an alternative, there are five types of transportation available within the campus. There are several small yellow busses offering free transport across campus. The routes these yellow busses follow are additionally frequented by songthaews, which cost 4 baht (€0,11 or $0,13). The songthaews, however, are quite uncomfortable during the day as even a five-minute ride can feel like a fifteen-minute sauna experience.

If you are in a hurry to get somewhere, you might consider using a taxi. Regular taxis and motorcycle taxis can be found at each of the campus’ entrances and along the major roads surrounding the campus. Any given place within the campus can be reached for approximately 30 baht (€0,65 or $0,77) by regular taxi service, or for 20 baht (€0,43 or $0,51) by motorcycle taxi. Unlike in Bangkok, motorcycle taxis are quite safe on campus as the roads are spacious and the traffic is light.

Personally, though, I prefer the fifth and final option: renting a bicycle. For just 5 baht per day (€0,11 or $0,13) you can rent your own campus bicycle, which you are allowed to use until you no longer need it. You can arrange to rent a bicycle at the campus’ Sports Service Center, or at one of the bicycle storage facilities. The rules relating to bike-rentals change quite often, however, and it will depend on the mood of the employee at the bicycle storage facility what terms you’re offered. To make things easier, bring an interpreter to explain what you want.

I used my bicycle to get to work every single day. The campus is bicycle-friendly and has special paths allocated for cyclists – although Thai students often confuse these for footpaths. The campus’ scenery is great, cycling offers a bit of exercise and most important: it allows you to arrive at work without a single drop of sweat on your forehead, while your colleagues who took the songthaew will be running towards the nearest fan.

The Thammasart University Rangsit Campus
Renting a bicycle also allows you access to more remote spaces of the campus (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Surrounding Area

From Khlong Luang, popular destinations such as Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai are easily reached. There are busses, songthaews and minivans offering transport between Khlong Luang and Bangkok. Minivans to Bangkok run throughout the day from Thammasart’s on-campus terminal and costs 32 baht (€0,85 or $1,00). The minivans leave whenever filled to capacity and there are always plenty to go around.

A taxi covering the same 40 kilometers to the city center will cost between 200 and 300 baht (€5,30-7,95 or $6.25-$9.40) depending on traffic. Taking a taxi comes with the option of using the elevated high-speed expressway, which will cost another 80 baht (€2,12 or $2,51). However, other than being a fancy way of traveling, this won’t actually offer you a speedy arrival. During the day and at night both roads are clear; during rush hour you’ll be happily stuck on both roads.

From the local train station – which can be reached with the same busses and songthaews that go towards Bangkok – trains travel south to Bangkok and north toward Chiang Mai. Major cities served by the northern line include Ayutthaya, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, Lampang and Chiang Mai. Another major transport hub is the Don Muang airport, which offers both national and international flights.

Close to Thammasart Rangsit you will find Future Park Rangsit, one of Asia’s largest malls. The 280,000 m2 mall houses a plethora of shops, including two major department stores each at one end of the mall, several major supermarkets, over seventy restaurants, and food outlets, eight banks, over a dozen hairdressers, a post office, a fitness club, a host of language schools, a 2-acre cinematic megaplex and a whole floor primarily allocated to selling electronics. From Future Park bus terminal busses and minivans depart towards Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-In, and many other destinations.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya
Monthly meditation ceremony at Wat Phra Dhammakaya (Credit: The Bite-Sized Backpacker)

Lastly, Thammasart Rangsit is situated close to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the most well-known and the fastest-growing temple of the Dhammakaya Movement. Every first Sunday of the month, hundreds of monks and thousands of Buddhists gather at the temple for meditation. Join them, or take a few days off to attend the temple’s POP House Meditation Retreat.

A New-Born Community

Overall, Khlong Luang offers ESL teachers a unique view of a magnificent country. While many teachers hoping to find work in Thailand either opt for the riches of Bangkok or the bohemian vibe of Chiang Mai, Khlong Luang offers visitors something completely different: a once in a lifetime experience within an authentic, new-born community, risen from the country’s fertile rice fields.

More Information on Teaching English abroad

Job Search: most jobs for foreign teachers can be found on TEFL.com, Ajarn, i-to-i TEFL, Dave’s ESL Café, and ESL Base. TEFL.com and Ajarn often prove to offer most vacancies in Thailand, however, a more direct route into employment comes from speculative job applications. Apply directly at specific schools, either by e-mail or during a personal visit.

List of schools in Thailand: an extensive list of schools based in Thailand, compiled by ESL Base. When I was looking for work in Thailand, I applied at approximately 60 Thai schools, many of which are included on this list. Bear in mind that though many of these schools might have awful looking websites, this does not mean the quality of those schools is equally bad. Use your common sense before applying to each school; the quality of their response to your application will tell you a lot more about their qualities as an employer than their websites do.

Thai Visa and Work Permit: for each country, visa requirements differ. Most Western nationalities are granted visa-free travel to Thailand for a period of up to 30 days. If you don’t have a job before you move to Thailand, it is possible to directly apply for a visa with a 30-day extension at the Thai embassy or consulate, to allow yourself more time to find employment. Once in Thailand (and employed), it is possible to change your tourist visa into a Non-Immigrant Visa “B” 90-day work visa, which can in turn be extended for a period of one year from the date of your first entry into Thailand. Many schools will aid you in this process.

Thammasart University: Thailand’s second-oldest institute of higher education, Thammasart University, offers well-paid jobs in a professional environment.

Housing: around Thammasart University, there are many housing opportunities, such as Golf View and The Campus.

Transport to and from Thammasart University: Transit Bangkok offers a schedule of all busses within the region of Bangkok and also lists the schedules for the MRT (the metro), the BTS (the sky train) and the boats on the Chao Phraya River. Keep in mind Thammasart also has its own minivan service to Bangkok, and songthaews run the same routes as busses all day long.

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