Thailand Part 1: Arriving in Thailand (Bangkok)
I left for Thailand on October 12, 2014. I have been on flights before, but never a flight that would take me across the entire world. Marilyn and I booked a flight on Ethiad Airways. The flight was scheduled to leave at 12:30 pm ET and land in Bangkok at 7:30 pm the following day. The flight also had a one hour layover in Abu Dhabi. My dad drove Marilyn and I to the airport with my mom tagging along for the ride. We said our goodbyes and headed off to Thailand. The plane ride was great. There was a television on each seat with hundreds of movies and television shows from which to select. We were served four meals during the flight and had an unlimited amount of free alcohol. With the help of television, alcohol, and sleep medication, the flight was surprisingly quick and smooth.
Night one in Bangkok
Marilyn and I booked a hotel for our first week in Bangkok. We planned on hanging out in Bangkok until we had to report for work duties. When we landed in Bangkok, the hotel manager was nice enough to send someone to pick us up at the airport. We paid about $150 for six nights at a five star hotel. This is actually a high price to pay for accommodations in Thailand. We didn’t know any better, so we ended up staying at a very fancy hotel for such a great price. When we settled into our room, we realized how hungry we were after the long flight. We walked downstairs and asked the person at the front desk where we could go to eat. The man was kind enough to walk with us down the street to find some food. The street was dimly lit and we were being followed by wild dogs. It certainly was an eerie first impression of a Thai street. I was filled with anxiety and excitement walking towards our first Thai meal. I ordered soup and was greeted with the most spicy flavoring of my life… so far!
Adventuring in Bangkok
After a sleepless night due to jet-lag, Marilyn and I decided to explore Bangkok. We were told one of the nicest sites to see was the Royal Palace. We asked the hotel employees the best way to get around Bangkok and they gave us a copious amount of responses. We didn’t understand much of what we were being told and headed out to the streets of Bangkok. Bangkok was hot, REALLY hot. You could feel the heat, humidity, pollution, and smog hit you all at once the moment you stepped outside. We began to sweat profusely within five minutes of walking the streets.
After getting lost for a while, we found the BTS, which is Bangkok’s railroad system. The train was shockingly very fast and smooth. We got off the train and headed towards a boat. The boat would then take us near the Royal Palace over the Chao Phraya River. Here is a video of the boat ride:
We were dropped off near the Royal Palace. We passed a large amount of vendors trying to sell us basically anything from a pair of glasses to a single shoe. We were approached by many Tuk Tuk drivers who wanted to take us to the Royal Palace or around Bangkok. We were told by the employees at our hotel to be wary of these drivers. Tuk Tuk drivers try to make a quick buck from tourists by overcharging them and taking them to places they do not want to go. Marilyn and I couldn’t find the Royal Palace, so we decided to ask someone for help. The man we asked happened to be a Tuk Tuk driver. He told us it was expensive and difficult to get into the Royal Palace today and he would take us anywhere we wanted to go for the entire day. He wanted to charge us 150 baht. I didn’t really understand the conversion from baht to dollars just yet, but we felt like he was trying to rip us off. (We soon learned this is just over 4 dollars). After some quick discussion, we decided to trust the guy and let him take us around. He spoke pretty decent English, so we figured we would take a chance. He turned out to be a great person. He took us all around Bangkok and brought us everywhere we wanted to go with no problems at all. Adventuring in Bangkok photos
Marilyn and I hadn’t eaten all day. We were still disoriented from jet lag and anxious about basically everything. It was about 7 pm and we realized we really needed to eat. We walked down the street and passed a large market with a variety of Thai food. The smell was the first thing I noticed when entering the market. Think of an extremely dirty Chinese restaurant with twenty sick cats running around and multiply that by 50. I was repulsed by the smell, but knew I had to ignore it and hope the food we’d buy wouldn’t be so stinky. We didn’t really know what to get, so we got a small amount of different options that looked somewhat appetizing. We went back to the room and began to eat. After two bites, I realized I couldn’t eat the food. I was so repulsed by that smell and it was still lingering in my nose. I was nervous at this point that I wouldn’t ever be able to eat Thai food because of the smell. I later found out that wasn’t true at all, but for that moment, I was paralyzed with fear. Ten minutes later, we ordered pizza and everything was okay.
After a few days of not eating much food, I checked on the internet for more places to dine in Bangkok. I found a website dedicated to the “Princess Cruise.” The Princess Cruise is a ship that takes you around Bangkok on the Chao Phraya River while offering a buffet style meal, alcohol, and dancing to a lady-boy singing hits from America. Marilyn and I arrived at the ship about 30 minutes early. The ship was docked in a more ritzy part of Bangkok. There were shopping stores and many restaurants by the boats. I began to feel weak and stumbled as I walked due to the lack of food I ate in the last few days. I told myself I would eat everything I could possibly get my hands on on that ship tonight. The ship was beautifully designed. I didn’t expect much from the cruise because of how rundown everything else in the city looked. I felt way more comfortable on this ship than most places I had been in this city. When the buffet was ready, we all got up to get our food. The moment I reached the buffet table that repulsive smell crossed my nose. I was distraught because my appetite was ruined yet again. I managed to eat some french fries and watermelon. I still couldn’t face that horrible smell. Besides the smell, the cruise was a success. Seeing Bangkok lit up at night was a wonderful experience.
Island TEFL Description
Over the summer, Marilyn and I signed a contract with an agency in Thailand who called themselves Island TEFL. Island TEFL was an agency responsible for providing Marilyn and I with TEFL certifications (proof we took a class and are qualified to teach English in foreign countries), teaching jobs at a school in Thailand, a place to live, and help providing us with the correct Visas. Island TEFL is, or at least was, ran by a man named Philip Dunne. We payed over $2,000 to this agency/Philip, expecting to be provided with all the things I mentioned above. We soon found out this agency was a fraud.
Island TEFL Orientation
During our second week in Bangkok, orientation for Island TEFL was about to begin. We woke up early one morning to attend the first day of orientation in a large reserved auditorium for our group. There were about ninety other people who were using this agency with Marilyn and I. The orientation schedule told us we would be meeting from 9 am – 6 pm. At 9 am, Philip began to speak to us about Island TEFL and other nonsense about himself and his employees. We didn’t learn much from our first meeting and we ended up finishing by noon. There was no explanation as to why the meeting was cut so short, but we weren’t complaining. We left our first meeting learning absolutely nothing about what we are to expect while teaching here in Thailand.
On the second day, we all arrived in the room at 9 am. Philip and the rest of his crew didn’t show up until around noon. Philip had a raspy voice, his eyes were red, and he just looked uncomfortable being there. It was obvious he was extremely hungover. This meeting lasted about an hour.
On the next day, we were told that our jobs wouldn’t be ready for a few more weeks. Philip told us to travel around Thailand for this amount of time and they will contact when the jobs were ready. Panic began to run through my mind because we didn’t budget our money to be traveling around the country for this long without income. We thought we’d have a week or two in Bangkok before we started teaching and making money.
We began to hear people talking about how they have come to realize Island TEFL was a scam. We heard we wouldn’t be receiving our certifications, wouldn’t have secure jobs, or have a place to live. Marilyn and I decided to confront Philip and ask him what was going on. In a devious manner, he explained to us how there has been a little problem with everyone’s contracts and they will fix everything immediately. He told us to go with John (Island TEFL employee) and go down to Koh Samui (island off the coast of Thailand) and to relax for a few weeks. John hired a bus to pick everyone up and drive down to the island late that afternoon. Marilyn and I were wary of trusting this man, but decided to go down to Koh Samui because we really didn’t have any other option.