Monday, February 20, 2012

Hot, Humid, and Hectic: TEFL in Bangkok, Thailand

It has been just under a year since I started life as an EFL instructor here in Bangkok, Thailand. For those of you unfamiliar with EFL, it means teaching English as a foreign language. For me, EFL was my ticket to traveling the world. It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life but I still haven't gotten used to the heat, humidity, or traffic here. Perhaps I should take a trip to the nearest temple and try to cool off while reaching for enlightenment. Golden Buddha's shimmering in the sun might clear the path for me. Wat Pho, known as the temple of the reclining Buddha is not too far away. The huge Buddha, reaching 46 meters long, covered in gold-leaf and mother-of-pearl would work like a charm.

I step outside my apartment and feel the heat and humidity hit me like a ton of bricks. The temperature can reach well into the triple digits, making life slow to a halt. It is like no other experience in the world. I can already feel the sweat being siphoned out of me. I have to make the train. My EFL class starts in one hour. The sweet smell of basil, lemongrass, and ginger fills the air as I make my way to the train station. Street hawkers fill the sidewalk, barbecue grills blaze, intensifying the heat. If you are looking for a cheap, delicious, and filling meal, look no further than the street hawkers. A few dollars a day is all you need, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I make it to the train station, climb the stairs, and wait in eager anticipation for that blast of cold, arctic, artificial air that flows from the open doors of the train. It's better than a cold drink on a hot day. It's like a cold drink on a hot day while submerged in the Indian Ocean. The Skytrain as it is called is not the only form of transportation in Bangkok but it is certainly one of the most reliable, affordable, and comfortable. There is no risk of getting stuck in gridlock, being at the mercy of a bus breakdown, or choking on noxious traffic fumes. Before I know it, my stop is called out in a most charming pre-recorded voice. It's time to wade out into the oppressive heat again. I exit the train, walk through the turnstiles, and head down the stairs.

Hot, Humid, and Hectic: TEFL in Bangkok, Thailand

My class is only a few streets away. The traffic never ceases and crossing the street can be a real challenge. Traversing motorcycles, taxis, buses, and street hawkers is not for the faint of heart. It can take over ten minutes, just to cross. I have plenty of time though, so I'm not worried. In Thailand, time is a concept that does not hold much weight. I make it to my classroom, sweating profusely while my eager class full of smiling faces waits for the lesson to begin. Thailand truly is the land of smiles. The sight of a sweating, rosy-cheeked, EFL instructor comes as no surprise. They see it every time I enter the classroom. That is part of life in Bangkok, Thailand.

Hot, Humid, and Hectic: TEFL in Bangkok, Thailand

C. Lipton taught EFL in Bangkok, Thailand for one year. Prior to this, he spent two years teaching EFL in Osaka, Japan. He believes traveling the world is the highest form of education. His interests include photography, snowboarding, and fishing. Find more of travel tales, EFL tips, and travel advice at


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