Living on Convenience and Chaos: Becoming an Expat in Bangkok

Sawadee ka and greetings from Bangkok, Thailand! 🇹🇭

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enjoying my new rooftop pool

This past month has been a whirlwind of events! For starters, within 48 hours, I had interviewed for, accepted a job offer, bought a plane ticket, AND flew to Bangkok, Thailand.💜

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BTS sky train near National Stadium in central Bangkok with a mural of the former king

Bangkok was a city where I had lived as an expat in 2015, so it was not unfamiliar ground; however, this time I would be teaching and living in a completely different area of the city. 🧡

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Hindu temple in my old neighborhood of Bangkok
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BTS sky train near Victory Monument and my new work area
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street vendors near my new school
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street vendors in Bangkok line the train lines to sell their food to passersby

I was also vacationing in Europe at the time, so I obviously had nothing practical to bring here for my new job and life other than my bag full of suits and sundresses. Hah! 💃

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Shopping stores are EVERYWHERE in Bangkok. Top: Here, even the toddlers and drag queens keep you in check with your style.😂 Bottom: Of course, they also love cute cats clothes and Hello Kitty. 🐈

Strange side note: It is surprisingly difficult to find blonde hair dye in this city, so pack your own if you plan to stay awhile and color your own hair. It is also shockingly easy to find skin products with bleach, since they idolize fair skin here. Make sure you read the label before purchasing! 😲

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this was the lightest hair color I could find after looking at both Boots and Watsons beauty store; however, it’s easy to find lightening products for your skin, like in lotions and deodorants

BANGKOK ESSENTIALS!!

Getting in:

When you first land in Bangkok at Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can either take the public transport or a metered taxi to the city center. The Airport Rail Link costs 45 Baht and takes 26 minutes. As an alternative, a taxi costs approximately 300 Baht depending on where you’re going. ✈️

300 Baht= 9 USD

45 Baht= 1.45 USD

Side note: There is another airport in the north of Bangkok called Don Mueang, but it is mostly for low-cost national flights. If you’re traveling to/from there, I recommend a taxi for about 300 Baht, because it is much more convenient.

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raspberry flavored diet coke and a shot of taxis in Bangkok

WORD TO THE WISE: I also highly recommend downloading GrabTaxi if you are trying to hail a cab from the city center. 🚕 Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Taxi drivers are notorious here for NOT using a meter and charging a ridiculous price to foreigners, so GrabTaxi will eliminate this problem and calculate a fare price.
  2. It will also calculate your drive time and you can pay with credit/debit card using the application.
  3. If you DON’T speak Thai, it can be hard to explain where you want to go. Using this app, you will enter your destination, so there is no need to get frustrated trying to speak with the local driver.

OK, here are some other tips upon landing.

Getting around: Bangkok is SUPER well-connected using both the BTS Skytrain and the MRT underground metro. It is so convenient and affordable that you could travel from one end of the city to the other for less than 60 Baht (2 USD). By using a kiosk at the station, you can enter your destination and it will print you off a single-use ticket, or if you plan to travel a lot within 24 hours, it might be more cost-effective to buy an unlimited journey one-day ticket. Also, if you plan to travel on a daily basis, there are Rabbit cards, which are cool and convenient, because you just add a large amount of money to the card at once, then each time you use public transit, it will subtract that amount from your Rabbit card like a debit card. There are also many promotions and perks for frequent travelers, like 10-20% off at various shops and restaurants. Like everything else here, you can add more money to the card at 7-Eleven or at the station.

Getting around after hours: 

Public transit only operates from 6 AM until midnight. If you want to travel outside of those hours, I’d suggest a metered taxi. Tuk tuks and motorbikes are also an option, and fun for the experience, but usually involve haggling a price. ALWAYS make sure your taxi driver is going to put the meter on before getting into the car!

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Tuk-tuks in Bangkok are usually colorfully decorated with lights and especially fun to ride in at night, but the price is also negotiable

Local Telephone: It’s easy to purchase a local SIM card at the airport or at any mall for 50 Baht (1.60 USD) and then you can just pre-pay for minutes or data. I chose AIS as my provider, as it has excellent coverage and the largest number of WiFi hot spots. The cost is about 1 Baht for every minute of phone use and there are various internet packages available. They also have short-term packages for travelers, like unlimited data for 8 days for only 13 USD. Personally, I have no need for data, since FREE WiFi is easily available all over the city, so I just have pre-paid minutes for calling and texting. Oh yes, AIS also has an application, which you can download on your phone to check how many minutes you have used, and you can easily add more minutes or data to your phone at 7-Eleven.

Communicating in Thailand: The most popular way to communicate in Thailand is with the Line application. It is almost ESSENTIAL to download this. There are no phone charges, since it runs off the internet, and the application has tons of adorable stickers. There is even a Line store here with the different characters, since it’s so popular!

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Brown the bear is a Line character and Rilakkuma is also a sticker you can download on the app

Oh Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven!

As you’ve noticed, 7-Eleven plays a major factor in the convenience of Thailand. It’s open 24 hours a day and has almost every item you could need (toiletries, drinks, prepared meals, decorations, office supplies, groceries, etc…).

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Here are typical 7-Eleven shelves with some delicious chocolate banana and mango koala cookies. Plus, when you spend a certain amount of money at 7-Eleven, you’ll get a cute stamp, which you can collect or turn in for discounts on your next purchase.

You can also use 7-Eleven to add money to your phone plan, metro card, pay for your apartment utilities, and so on. If you have 7-Eleven in your home country, it is NOT like 7-Eleven in Thailand. It is much more unique and special here. I stop here twice a day on average, and since arriving in Thailand, I’ve made it my mission to try as many foods as possible here, and I’ve BARELY scratched the surface, so get ready for more 7-Eleven posts in the future.

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crab dumplings with soy sauce served at my condo…presentation is key!
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Fried chicken wrapped in seaweed. I ate them cold, since it was over 90 degrees outside.
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Most sandwiches have a seafood filling, like crab, or fish eggs. Other fillings include shredded pork or ham with mayo. They also have exotic fruit juices, like Longan, which reminds me of pear. 🍐
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I also like how a lot of the sandwiches are uncrustable and these come stamped with a cute picture of what you’re eating. ☺️ The crab with sweet mayo was a yummy snack with this Kopiko volcanic coffee. In my opinion, the bottled coffees here are way too sweet, so I usually prefer to make my own.
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Other unique juices include beetroot, matcha green tea, and lychee. These drinks are loaded with sugar, and the lychee juice has small balls of lychee jelly inside.
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In addition to the standard chip flavors, there are also more exotic ones, like cool lemon, Thai curry, and sushi.
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Right outside 7-Eleven near Phaya Thai this woman sells crab lettuce wraps with a tasty, yet spicy avocado dipping sauce for about 1.50 USD! Yum!
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One of my 7-Eleven favorites includes these big pao buns, which have a warm, fluffy, and sweet dough. This salty pork and egg filling is the perfect balance to its sweetness. So delicious! 🍳
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This barbecue pork filling was hearty and flavorful, but it was too sweet with the pao bun. I prefer a saltier filling.
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A popular alternative to sandwich buns in Thailand is rice. This minced salmon was super flavorful, but incredibly spicy! The purple rice tasted almost the same as white rice, but had a lot more eye appeal!
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This rice sandwich was filled with chicken steak and smothered in a chili fish sauce, which was surprising sweet. 🍚
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This seemed like it was invented by a drunk person, but it was actually really delicious. The slightly spiced sausage was cooled off by the cheddar cheese and the sweet, buttery white bread. I washed it down with a coffee coke. These are not too sweet with just a hint of coffee. Definitely recommended for coffee lovers! ☕️
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Talk about false advertisement! This bacon and egg burger was smothered in a BBQ sauce and almost devoid of bacon. Still tasty, but definitely different from the picture on the package!
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chili fish, chicken with gravy, and shrimp omelet, all served with rice
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mini hot dog wraps covered in smoked gouda and Italian seasoning
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Fish sandwiches are one of my fast food favorites, and this one is really a tasty alternative. Not too much sauce or breading and very filling!
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Woah! This pizza ham and cheese sandwich was so yummy and this Indian chicken roti was so flavorful! It had a strong curry flavor, but the right amount of roti bread to balance it out. I often eat the sandwiches cold, since it’s so hot in Thailand. I’m sure it would be even better toasted! 🍕
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Another Thai take on an Italian classic the pizza roll with alfredo and sausage…Yum!
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Definitely one of my breakfast go-tos for less than a buck is this selection of filled croissants. The options are ham and cheese, ham and mushroom carbonara, salmon salad, and spinach with ham and cheese, which tastes like a portable spinach arichoke dip! The croissant is super buttery and flaky…just perfect with my coffee in the morning!🥐
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You definitely get what you pay for here…chicken and cheese with bread. It’s not spicy or very flavorful and could really use a sauce, but it was incredibly filling!
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This chicken cheese burger on the other hand was smaller, yet much more flavorful with a tasty ketchup/mayo and a seasoned breading.👌
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As well, this grilled pork sandwich came with an onion cheese sauce, which was ooey and gooey, and the sesame bun was the perfect, pillowy accompaniment.
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This croque monsieur was a convenient alternative to the French classic, and this mashed potato sandwich was the perfect way to enjoy carbs…with more carbs. Hah!
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Bulgogi is a marinated Korean BBQ pork, and this filling was ample and not too sweet. 👌
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This was the first sandwich I had at 7-Eleven after landing in Bangkok, and although it wasn’t the most photogenic it was my favorite by far. The shrimp stuffed burger with melted cheese was so satisfying! Almost worth walking back into the store for seconds! Hah! 🤣
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These 7-Eleven dinners are quite small, but they are nice for a quick lunch or savory breakfast. Fried basil chicken with egg is a popular dish in Thailand, and be prepared with a glass of water for the heat! 🌶
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The sweet curry pork paired nicely with egg and rice. I think Thailand knows something the West doesn’t know about how to make rice. It’s just SO MUCH BETTER here. I don’t know how they do it!
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Left: Such a strange combination, but I had to give it a try…chicken sausage, with sweet marinara, hot dogs, corn, peas, and noodles. Very bizarre, but not a bad combo! Right: pork porridge, fried chicken on rice, and shrimp soup-flavored snack sticks 🍝
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I’m not a huge fan of sweets, but these flavors are pretty wacky. Popcorn and milk tea-flavored kit kats, plus oreo-flavored moon cakes, which are a modern twist on a traditional Chinese dessert. 🥮

Other 24-hour favorites for me include Family Mart and Max Valu.

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This omelet is honestly my go-to for many nights of the week. The portions are incrdibly ample for only 1 USD. The omelet is stuffed with pork or crab with onions and chilis on rice. 😋
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Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake filled with crab, cabbage, and egg,, and topped with BBQ, mayo and dried seaweed

Other items on my bucket list include the breaded pork tonkatsu roll, Japanese pumpkin soup, coffee-flavored bread, the salmon teriyaki sandwich, red bean filled donut,the green curry fish sandwich, the basil chicken and egg rice burger, and an insane amount of flavored chips. 💚

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I’ve also enjoyed quite a few nights out with both Thai and international cuisine.

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Khao soi is traditional dish from northern Thailand. It is a sweet sauce served with chicken, fat noodles, pickled onions, lime and crunched fried noodles. Singha is also a typical beer similar to our Bud light.
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This is salted egg pork ramen and Japanese-style curry with pork belly and poached egg
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This is yen ta fo or pink soup with flat noodles, fish meatballs, tofu, Thai spinach, chilies, vinegar, fish paste, crispy crackers and red bean paste, which give it the color.
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Thai sweet BBQ pork with rice, cucumber and hard boiled egg
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Pad Thai is one of the most traditional dishes here and this particular one was completely vegan made with tofu, noodles, bean sprouts, carrots, soy sauce, brown sugar, chilies, peanuts, and lime.

And of course, there’s always a plethora of street food, so you are guaranteed to have plenty of food options wherever you are.

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Sometimes the English translation makes me chuckle…eggs pimp and sea of friends?! 😂

Fast food chains also have different menus in Thailand, so be prepared to try something new!🍟

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Salted egg is a popular flavor in Thaila d for everything from chips to shakes and I found it here at KFC. I also found egg tarts at Mc D’s, purple potato pies at Burger King and crunchy seaweed tator tots at A&Ws.

And with all these convenient take-away options, they’re trying to reduce the use of plastic bags, so only take one if necessary. 🌎

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Finding a Condo:

Now, one of the most stressful parts of moving to Bangkok for me, being the indecisive person that I am, was finding a condo in Bangkok. There are simply TOO MANY wonderful options!

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Loving my rooftop pool! The ultimate chill spot after work!

I recommend using the website Hipflat, where you can search for condos by neighborhood, size, and price range. By expressing interest in a condo using the site, you will usually be contacted immediately by an agent who can help you view that particular condo and any others in the surrounding area. The agent doesn’t receive a direct commission from you, so don’t worry about having them hunt for condos.

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condo view with a common eating area and gym

After viewing three different condos, and various units in those particular condos, I decided on a lovely 1-bedroom unit with floor to ceiling windows, modern appliances, and my own private elevator.

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fully furnished with new seating, appliances, and linens

It also has a gorgeous rooftop pool, sauna, gym, rooftop lounge, library, and so on.

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Sauna in Bangkok…for those chilly 80 degree days! 😂😂

I absolutely love the shared facilities, PLUS the price for my own condo here was the same as what I was paying to SHARE an apartment in Barcelona with four other people! 😮

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Side note: 600-650 USD/month rent is on the high end for one person, but I really consider my apartment a haven for me at the end of the day, so it was worth the splurge.

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watching the twinkling city lights from the pool

Electric charges are typically an additional 15-20 USD/month, internet is 20 USD/month, and water is less than 2 USD/month. Also, this is quite an initial investment that is typically done all in cash. You usually have to pay two months deposit, plus the first months’ rent and most owners want you to sign a one-year lease.

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Laying out stacks and stacks of money for my initial deposit…it looks like Monopoly money, but it is definitely very real! 😂

Aside from my condo, I also love my local neighborhood. 🧡

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local basketball court and park near my condo
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This iconic bunny character, ‘Mardi’, is found all around town.

It’s near giant mega malls, like Central World and MBK with food courts, trendy boutiques and hip cafes, local night markets, like Pathumwan, and there’s always something to see in the street, from people selling food to cool street art.

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Here you can see the hustle and bustle of Bangkok at night with movie theaters, malls, and lots of action happening.
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hipster skate bar with live music near my condo
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rooftop bar near my condo
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Whether you want a quirky ice cream, like matcha tea and charcoal, a pick-me-up latte or a cheeky beer hidden in your water bottle, you can find it.
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Fabulous lady boys, towers of Chang beer, and rules for sitting on the toilet in Thailand
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the malls have coffee shops, trendy art work and quirky things, like toy machines with cat figurines and cat-themed cafes

And because I’m almost on the 30th floor, I have an epic view of the city and can watch beautiful sunsets and apocalyptic storms, depending on the weather. 😮

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the thunder usually comes rolling in around 4 PM each afternoon

Side note: Maybe you could buy some lotto tickets and hope to pay for your condo with your winnings, but I’m sure you’ll need to get an actual job if you’d like to pay for this type of place. 😉

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lotto tickets sold on many street corners

Finding a job: 

Now that brings me to what brought me here in the first place: my job. I knew that I wanted to find a teaching job abroad and I really enjoyed teaching here last time, so I started looking for positions in August using Ajarn and LinkedIn. May and November are the best months to look for jobs in schools, but I still found many openings during this month. To get a good job in Thailand, most schools require a bachelor’s degree, a teaching qualification, and teaching experience. My philosophy was to apply for every job that looked appealing and then see what kind of response I received. I had the advantage of being available immediately, which made me appealing to employers as well. When negotiating salary, make sure you take the whole package into consideration. Many schools will pay for your flight, visa costs, accommodation on arrival, and paid holidays.

To obtain the work permit in Thailand as an American, you will need to have your college degree certified. You can do this by making an appointment with the American embassy in Bangkok. Book early, since you typically have to wait around two weeks for an appointment. The cost for this diploma notarization is 50 USD.

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The American Embassy in Bangkok

After that, you will have to get that document certified at the Thai immigration office, which costs an additional 10 USD and takes 3 days for regular service. From there, you’ll have to apply for the appropriate visa and permit, which can cost a couple hundred dollars, so it would be good if all these fees were paid for by your company. It is also good if the company assists with these appointments, since it is difficult if you don’t speak the local language.

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Thai immigration in Bangkok

Teaching in Thailand:

So now I’ll get to the fun stuff. Since taking on this classroom of students, I’ve been having the best time EVER! As a homeroom teacher, I’ve been responsible for planning math, English, handwriting, grammar, spelling, science, history, computer science, and art classes. We’ve made our own rocket ships, played lots of games, like Memory, Simon Says and Four Corners, created our own Kandinsky artwork and salt paintings, learned about the life cycle of frogs, learned how to build strong structures out of paper, put on plays, practiced handwriting in different mediums, solved math mysteries, created map puzzles and place value accordions, made sushi, practiced meditation, read quite a few Roald Dahl books, like Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the Enormous Crocodile, supported with origami and mask-making, and celebrated many birthdays with cupcakes and pizza. What a blast! I also have a new class mascot, Norbert, the spiffy sloth!

Side note: Many of my resources and ideas came from Teacherspayteachers and Twinkl.

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The school is also centrally located, which is a rarity, so I get to walk to work in the mornings! I  usually stop at 7-Eleven for a cold drink, then stroll through the park on my way. What a treat! ☺️

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For decorations and resources to decorate my classroom, I shopped at B2S, Ikea or Daiso, but there are also some cheaper supply shops in Victory Mall and near Pathumwan Market.

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Daiso is Japanese, but they have lots of Moomin products, which are Scandinavian🦛

Another perk of being a teacher is the delicious school lunches. We also have at least two protein choices, like pork, chicken, egg, or fish, plus rice, noodles, cooked vegetables, and a fresh salad bar with lots of sweet and spicy sauces. Yum! 😋

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We even organized an overnight trip to icamp in Kanchanburi. The kids enjoyed swimming, relay races, arts and crafts, and a bonfire with a talent show. The food and the facilities were also spectacular! 🏕️

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Lastly, another benefit of a teacher’s schedule is all the paid holiday. Speaking of which, my first vacation will already be in a few weeks time. Stay tuned to hear all about it! Until then, here’s a short video of my apartment and surrounding neighborhood. From street performers with guinea pigs to lady boys dancing, this city is always full of smiles and surprises! Hope you enjoy! 😊

18 thoughts on “Living on Convenience and Chaos: Becoming an Expat in Bangkok

  1. Hi Megan.
    I see you left a like on my interview with A Place in the World blog. So, I took a look at your blog.
    Thank you, and welcome back to Thailand.
    This is some post. You packed in a lot, and sound excited about your move. I’d love to know how it goes.
    I alternate between Chiang Mai and Phuket, and if you are interested in what I’m up to catch up at jameskingbooks.com. Keep well. James

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t remember my school lunches ever looking like that! Haha. Your apartment looks amazing too! Sounds like you’re having a great time over there 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fun post to read, even if you don’t plan to live in Thailand. I visited Bangkok years ago when we lived in Indonesia. The world is such an interesting place – I’ve lived in several very different countries and it looks like you’ve got “the bug” too and are enjoying your life in Thailand, which is quite a change from Barcelona/Spain! Will you be there long?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! It’s been quite a change from Barcelona, but I’m absolutely loving it here. I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my wanderlust either. I’ll be based here for at least two years. Take care and safe travels!

      Like

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