When I was preparing to go teach in Thailand, one thing I was really curious (and a little nervous) about was the housing situation.
What would it be like? Would it be modern at all? Or would it be a complete 180 from the American standards I’m used to?
When I got to my placement in Ban Ta Klang, I wanted to show curious minds how I was living in a very-not-modern village lol. In short, it’s nothing to fear! It wasn’t bad at all.
However, it should be noted that my place was nice by local standards–far from a representative picture of how locals in the village lived.
Check it out!
My place was a one-room Thai-style bungalow, in a complex of other bungalows and guest houses. I actually lucked out in that this homestay complex was built to house visitors from abroad, usually in town to volunteer with the local elephants. Unlike most of the village homes, these were up-kept to Western standards, with foreigners in mind.
With that said, it was still modest in the rural Thai way. But I was lucky to have luxuries like air conditioning, a shower head, and a flush-toilet (more on that later).
It was also really cute from the outside, and I loved feeling like my home had character!
The village is specifically known for its elephants. For centuries the local people have owned and raised elephants as a family, using them for work, tourism, elephant shows, etc. It’s all a bit problematic from a Western animal welfare point of view, but here they see no problem with it and consider elephants “part of the family” (despite the questionable quality of life they’re given).
Part of my special work in this rural placement was to include elements on conservation and animal welfare to the English curriculum. How do you change a system that’s been in place for centuries, especially when it’s become a source of economic livelihood for a whole community?
I was unique in that there was an organization sponsoring my placement in the village: The Elephant Story. We worked together to begin the hard work of transforming attitudes on elephant training, starting in schools with the youngest generation. The hope is that one day this practice will end, and all elephants will be left in the wild where they belong.
In any case, my landlords there owned a few elephants and kept them on site, so there was always an elephant or two within view from my porch or window. It was cool to see, but also sad at times from my Western conditioning.
Now, the inside!
That’s it! Lmao. My one-room palace. It was cute in that I got great sunlight, and I loved the wood floors/doors and natural bamboo finishing on the walls (House Hunters wya). But it was definitely tough living in essentially a tiny studio (bachelor really…) with no kitchen !!! Before getting to Thailand, cooking was my life and eating, my joy lol. So to live without an oven or stove–or even a microwave!–was a tough life indeed.
I did have a mini-fridge, and could have bought a microwave or hot plate situation…but the bugs were so crucial there that I didn’t even want to chance preparing food. I could leave an empty wrapper on the table for 10 minutes and have a storm of ants in no time…so I didn’t need the added stress of cleaning my microwave or whatever every time I heated something up.
Luckily 40 baht (~ $1 !) meals were easily found in my village, so it was honestly cheaper to buy food than make it anyway.
Anddd the bathroom! Like I said, I lucked out with a flushing toilet and a shower head.
Traditionally, Thai’s bathe by filling a bucket of water, and using a smaller handheld bowl (that comes with the bucket) to pour the water over their bodies. In speaking with my local teacher friends and visiting their homes, that was the standard style of bathing/showering in the village. My Thai teacher friend was in the process of remodeling her bathroom when I lived there, and even then planned to keep the bucket-style. Installing a shower is very expensive–a luxury.
My homestay gave the option of bathing traditionally (I guess for Thai visitors?) by providing the bucket + bowl you see next to the sink. I just used the shower head though. Handheld shower heads took some getting used to, but it was an easy adjustment…plus, you save a lot of water from turning the water off and on to lather instead of just running it the whole time. #ecogoddess 😉
You’ll also notice that there’s no divider separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom. This was probably my biggest qualm with Thai bathrooms (maybe it’s an all of Asia thing? I noticed the same in Bali…). The whole bathroom floor would be wet for hours after showering, though it was usually so hot that it dried quicker than you might expect. I never knew we were living well with separated showers in America (or at least showers in an enclosed tub) until I got to Thailand lol. #firstworldproblems??
As for the toilets, thank God I got a flushing one! Another thing I didn’t expect to have to worry about…but most places in Thailand (even restaurants and places of business) only use squat toilets. Flushing toilets tend to be reserved for homes of people with money, hotels, or places catering to foreigners–so, much of Bangkok, Phuket, etc. does have Western style toilets. But v rare in the Elephant Village!
Here’s a photo of a (really nice and clean, actually) squat toilet from a nearby restaurant:
Another super fun thing: the “bum gun.” All squat toilets have a sprayer attached, kind of like a kitchen faucet hose. After you squat down and do you business, you use toilet paper to dry off, then throw it away (never flush!) in a waste-bin they keep in or around the bathroom.
The bucket of water and pail are to “flush” the squat toilet manually…you pour water into it repeatedly until all your business is down the drain.
I do not miss these toilets! Lmao. Too much work! Closer to my bodily waste than I ever need to be! Haha. And frankly, I never felt fully comfortable with the “wipe and toss” concept for toilet paper…my mind can’t forget that there’s a bin full of wiped pee and poop in the other room LOL. But I’m extra and I know this.
One thing to not do is just flush your toilet paper. Many foreigners do this, and the results are not pretty. Thai pipes are notoriously weak, so flushing toilet paper is seriously frowned upon and most locals have been trained from birth to not do it.
Needless to say, I spent a comical amount of time avoiding squat toilets. I’d go home from school to use the bathroom if needed, but really, I just became a star at holding it all day. *shrugs*.
Alexa, play Diva by Beyonce…
So, that was my crib as a Thai teacher! Oh, and the cost? $300 USD a month lol. That almost brings me to tears now, living in the Bay Area.
I hope this overview demystifies what basic teaching accommodations might look like in Thailand! Among my foreign friends teaching in other locations, I had by far the most rustic housing. So if you are considering taking the leap, know it almost certainly will be better than this! (And this wasn’t bad at all!)
(photos by me)