Thailand Country Information
WorldTeach volunteers in Thailand will live and teach in the Nakhon Phanom Province in the eastern region of Thailand known as Isan. Isan is the area of Thailand which borders Laos, and therefore its culture is predominantly Lao. This can be seen in various parts of Isan culture, from architecture and art to the language and food. The food is distinct from Thai and Lao foods, but shares similarities with both. The most distinct characteristics of Isan food are its sticky rice rather than regular rice, and its spicy peppers. Popular dishes include tam mak hung, or in central Thai, som tam(papaya salad), larb(meat salad) and gai yang(grilled chicken).
The Nakhon Phanom Province is in the far northeast corner of Isan, along the Mekong river, on the border of Laos. The name Nakhon Phanom means "city of mountains," although the province is mostly plain. The mountains that the name refers to actually belong to Laos, which can be seen across the Mekong river from the provincial capital.
There are many ancient religious monuments in Nakhon Phanom. The most highly revered is Pra Thad Phanom in Amphoe Thad Phanom which dates back to the time of the Sri Kotrabun Kingdom. It is also the site of many other ancient Buddhist temples. Nakhon Phanom Province is also the location of Phu Lang Ka National Park, 50 square kilometers of forests and hills, with attractions such as the waterfalls Tat Kham and Tat Pho. This park is in the Ban Paeng district in the northern part of Nakhon Phanom and stretches out to Say Ka district in the eastern part of the Nong Khai province.
Important festivals in the province include the traditional dances of the Phu Thai ethnic group held during May and June every year. The Phra That Phanom temple fair is held every February, on which occasion many locals go to the temple to pay homage. At the end of the Buddhist lent in November an illuminated boat procession is held.
unique challenges for Thailand volunteers
Nahkon Phanom is a very friendly place and volunteers are treated very well. Thai culture can be very subtle, however. Volunteers in Thailand must always be thinking about how their actions will be perceived by those around them. Sometimes something as normal as a trip to the bar can cast the volunteer in a negative light. Volunteers may feel they are held to a double standard, as no one seems to care about other teachers drinking at school, never mind the bar. This is because volunteers are indeed held to a higher standard. Dealing with this is one of the hardest things about living in rural Thailand. Volunteers are expected to be a paragon of behavior.
Working with the other teachers can also be a challenge. It is common for local teachers to just walk up to the board, put five math questions up, and then spend the rest of the class talking on their cell phone. Volunteers often wonder why they work so hard when the other teachers seem to care so little. Yet this is exactly why there is so much work to do. Instead of getting depressed about the situation, our best volunteers use it as motivation.