I wouldn’t say dragged from reality kicking and screaming, but it was certainly a shock when I found I would be based in the middle of nowhere. Chaiyaphum was described in the lonely planet guide as a ‘nowhere town…you were more likely to see a tiger than a tourist and this is not a place for seeing tigers. Understandably I was concerned as to where I would be headed, but I was pleasantly surprised. Although you can cross the town in less time than it would take to visit the toilet after some dodgy food, the town is quirky, quaint and most importantly, very Thai. The tour book was right: there are no tourists in this town, but with a number of schools in the area and the Thai governments ASEAN program now in full swing, there are a number of English teachers from across the globe including America, France and the Philippines (I am yet to meet a fellow Brit). I should be in my element right? Wrong! Most of these teachers are here because of their Thai girlfriends or wives – a.k.a. strange, seedy old men! Those that are single, young and not in relationships with Thai nationals are not up to my high standards and I am not that desperate (yet).
I digress, back to Chaiyaphum. I have found a little piece of heaven; it may not have a beach or sex on legs but I can sit on my balcony, plan my lessons and write my blog whilst looking out over a beautiful unspoilt natural lake. If you turn on one of those annoying hippy cds with the sound of the jungle going mad, that is the sound that I hear everyday (and even louder at night) but for some reason, here, it is not annoying. Once you get past the stage of wondering what each sound is and just enjoy the chorus, it is quite nice. The wildlife around here is also out of this world: with at least 3 geckos living in my room I definitely feel at one with nature. Whilst in the UK I swerved pheasants, dogs and the occasional squeal in my little car, in Chaiyaphum I have already swerved cows, an elephant and many frogs on my little scooter – and this is not a unique experience, more like a daily slalom course.
The landlord and lady are so pleasant and regularly cook for me from produce grown on the site. The landlady is giving me Thai lessons, and in the short time that I have been here, I have learnt so much. I am by no means fluent but I can order my food, barter the price and understand the response. Living in the back end of nowhere does have its bonuses, I have to learn fast to get by.
Without speaking much of the language the food that you get can is hit and miss. Sometimes the food is out of this world, other times you wonder if it is for human consumption. Being here you can’t stick to safe food: besides KFC there isn’t a western restaurant in the town, and even your fried chicken is served with rice. The market stalls here have food to die for, with all the fresh vegetables and no preservatives it is definitely the most healthy food I have eaten in a while. Team that with my organic lifestyle and maybe I will lose a few pounds and pull a real hotty next time I see civilisation.