The Barlow’s Guide
Or…Things I wish I’d known when I first arrived on Soi Lasalle!
By P.M. Barlow
(Edited August 2010)
Do this…… Don’t do that 3
Soi Lasalle & Map 4
Places you might want to go 6
Health matters 10
Local wildlife 12
Money matters 13
Paying bills 13
Odds and Ends 16
Random Bits & Bobs from Jen Bramwell 17
(Class of 2008)
This booklet was produced by Pat Barlow in August 1996 to help new colleagues settle into life on the Soi. It has been updated several times since then and gives brief insight into life in Thailand. It will hopefully help as you start exploring your new home particularly the map found at the back of the booklet. Pat left Patana in July 2004 having worked at the School for 12 years. She always helped new staff to settle in and I know I will miss her help this year. If you have any suggestions for the next edition please let me know. I know when she contacts me next she will ask how the class of 2010 is getting on. (Jackie Houghton)
There are plenty of books available in Bangkok giving advice on how to settle in and make the most of your stay here. I would recommend that you take the time to read some of them as they are full of useful information. The following are particularly helpful:
Bangkok Guide Australian-New Zealand Women’s Group
The Thai and I Roger Welty and Community Services of Bangkok
Healthy Living in Thailand Thai Red Cross Society
The Big Chilli Bangkok's news magazine
These books are all available in the school libraries and if you want your own copy they can be bought in most books shops (Asia books will give you 10% discount if you show your Patana ID card.)
The Barlow’s Guide to Bangkok is based on what I wanted to know when I arrived here and what other new staff have asked over the last few years. Most of the information is just what I have gathered over the years and I believe it to be fairly accurate, some of it is personal opinion. If you find that something has changed or there is something else you think I should have included, please let Jackie know. I hope you find some of it useful. Hopefully by next year, you will be so settled in Thailand that you will be answering all the questions for the new staff! I hope you enjoy yourself in Thailand as much as Steve and I have done. It’s not all perfect and we also have our off-days but generally it’s a great place.
In your first few days and weeks out here there will be plenty of people who will help you settle in and answer your questions. As the weeks go by and you are no longer ‘new’ the support will become less obvious but it is still there for you. If you need to know something or you are worried about anything just ask. Usually your colleagues will be able to help.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS……PLEASE ASK SOMEONE
Do this……Don’t do that……
As with all countries, Thailand has various practices and customs that are quite different to those of our home countries. Please take the time to find out a little bit about them so that you avoid offending anyone and/or embarrassing yourself. Here are a few to start you off…
The Thai Royal Family are very highly regarded. If you do talk about them, do so with respect, ‘lesse majeste’ is an offense in Thailand and can result in a jail sentence. If you go to the cinema or theatre the entire audience, including children, will stand silently while the King’s Anthem is played.
Buddhist Wats or temples are sacred places and appropriate dress should be warn when visiting them. Buddha images should always be treated with respect. Women must never touch a monk or give him something directly. If you are a woman, don’t sit down next to a monk.
‘Heads are high, feet are low’. In general terms this means don’t touch Thai people on their head and don’t point your feet at them. Pointing your feet at someone’s head is definitely out of order. It is also impolite to push something with your foot especially if you are expecting a Thai to then pick it up. I was once even advised not to stop a rolling coin with your foot, it has an image of the King’s head on it, although that sounds rather extreme.
Keep calm no matter how difficult the situation may seem. If you lose your temper you will be causing people to lose face and as a result you will lose respect and no matter how hard you try, it can be very difficult to regain it.
When entering someone’s home you should remove your shoes. Some shops are also homes so if in doubt look at the doorstep. If you see shoes or sandals there… remove yours, just follow the example of the Thais. You may not want to remove your shoes when you enter your own home but it’s a sensible habit to get into. If you keep your shoes on, you will be treading dust and dirt into your home and that can include small worms, insects and their eggs.
Generally speaking, a combination of ordinary good manners and a touch of common sense will be all you need to survive the possible pitfalls of Thai etiquette.
Soi Lasalle is the name of Sukhumvit 105, it takes its name from Lasalle College which is one of the worldwide group of Catholic schools founded by the French priest Brother La Salle. In the Thai language, if a word ends with the sound ‘l’ it becomes a ’n’ sound. Soi Lasalle is therefore pronounced Soi Lasan. If you want taxi to take you home ask for ‘Sukhumvit loi-haa, Soi Lasan.’ (105 is loi-haa)
There are Soi buses running up and down Soi Lasalle. They cost 5.50 Baht no matter how far you go. There are also motor-cycle taxis. The riders wear waistcoats with numbers on. They are quick and cheap but can be rather scary. (Personally I don’t use them any more as I fell off one a couple of years ago when another motorcyclist drove into us, it hurts!) If ever you fall off a motorbike-taxi, make up a different story for the hospital, rumour has it that your health insurance does not cover this. If you want to go to the end of the road just point in the right direction and say “Pak Soi.’ When crossing the road, always watch out for traffic going the wrong way and watch out for cars and motorcycles that drive around with no lights on at night!
Soi Lasalle is in the Bangna area of Bangkok and is quite near to the river which is tidal. In previous years the road has flooded during the rainy season. This usually occurs if the rainfall coincides with a high tide as the water cannot flow away down the drains. It can be a nuisance but the new, larger drains that were put down during the recent road-building programme seem to have alleviated the problem. Some parts of town still get very wet, grin and bear it, buy some Wellington boots and go out and look for unusual sights such as Thai children fishing in the middle of the road! If you do have to walk through flood water be extra careful of pot-holes and the occasional uncovered drain-hole!
There are a few roads off Soi Lasalle that lead straight to the Bangna-Trad Highway. These can be very useful to know as they save you the hassle of driving right down to either end of the road.
The public have right of way through Moobahn Saraniwade 2 (1.5 km) and they can also use Taworn Ni Wade (1.9 km);
Pranda Jewelry is a private road but allows traffic through. Sripong 1, Sukhumvit 105 Soi 55 (3.4 km) used to be a private road but now cars are allowed through;
In Moobahn Tantawat (3.9 km) the guards sometimes let ‘farangs’ through although it is supposed to be access for residents only.
Places You Might Want To Go
Central City: Ask for Central City, Bangna. There is a Post Office at the back near the stairs by Kentucky Fried Chicken. Marks & Spencers is at the back of Central. There is also a Body Shop and a branch of Boots the Chemist. TOPS Supermarket is on the Ground Floor. It has good quality food and does a home delivery service. There is a large cinema on the top Floor and an open air swimming pool.
BIG C: A large hypermarket located next to Central and is good for buying household goods.
Seacon Square: One of the largest shopping centres in South East Asia. About 2-3 km down Srinakarin Road. Lotus is good value for food but it gets very crowded at weekends. There is a good IT centre. There are several cinema screens if you fancy going to the movies but take a jacket as it gets really cold sitting in the air-con.
MBK Center (Mah Boon Krong): A multi-level, maze-like shopping centre on the corner Rama I and Phayathai Roads (opp. Siam Square). BTS: Siam or National Stadium. It is popular with locals for ‘market-style’ general shopping at good, usually negotiated prices.
Seri-Centre: A large mall on Srinakarin Road, excellent for computers. There is an entertainment area on the top floor which is good for children. 10 pin bowling, cinema and play area.
Makro,Tesco Lotus, Carrefour: Large supermarkets located on Srinakarin road where you can buy lots of household goods.
Foodland: This is a 24 hour supermarket on the Srinakarin Road. At the end of Soi Lasalle, turn right and drive a few kilometers down the road. It is just before the Golf Driving range. Good quality food and full of western foodstuffs. Also has a good selection of wine. There is an ATM there but they will not accept credit cards. The café is good to eat at quality food and reasonably price.
Chatuchak Weekend Market: Ask for Su-an Ja-tu-jak. Open Saturday and Sunday fascinating place but very busy and very hot, make sure you keep stopping for a drink. Very good for Thai Handicrafts. Traffic is usually worse on Sunday. Very large animal section…. Some illegal and many diseased. I recommend you group together and hire a school bus then you can load it up with all your shopping and return to buy even more things! It is the last stop on the sky train.
Suan Lum Night Bazaar: This is located near Lumpini Park which is in central Bangkok. It is a good place to take visitors to buying souvenirs. There are also some good places to eat. There has been talk that it will close down but the vendors seem to be ignoring this fact.
Imperial World Shopping Samrong: This is located on Sukhumvit Road, Thai in style. Not as many westerners go here but it has an ice skating rink, cinema, and bowling alley at the top.
Villa Supermarket: Sukhumvit 33 (Soi sam-sip sam) is the original one and there are now several other branches around Bangkok. This is the place where you can buy imported foods that you can’t usually find elsewhere. Excellent wine department is upstairs. Behind Villa is The Bull’s Head, a British style pub just in case you are missing home already, selection of seafood, karaoke if you wish. The Londoner is also nearby and it shows major sporting events on TV. There are even TVs in the toilets so you don’t miss the goals! The Dubliner Pub is also here and does good Sunday Lunch.
Pampering: There are two hair-dresses on the Soi that people from Patana use. Dao’s Salon at La Salle Market and Panipa’s which is at Todsamon. Dao’s salon has a massage place above it called the Ladies Hideaway. A great place for a relaxing massage.
Places to eat near Soi La Salle:
Thook Lae Dee at Foodland: (means cheap & good) is a good place to eat serving quality food at a reasonable price.
Chili La Roni Restaurant: This place is located in quiet private area of Bangna near the Novotel where you can enjoy Thai & International cuisine such as famous Italian pizza made in wood fire oven, charcoal grill steak and Homey Pasta.
Novotel & Royal Princess Hotels: These two hotels do a reasonable buffet lunch and dinner.
Fai Kam Restaurant: This is located on Bangna-Trad Highway. Excellent Thai food and very popular with Thai people.
Bua Rod: Serves good Thai food and a clean café style restaurant on Soi Lasalle.
Krua Khun Oan (Red & White): This is located in front of Todsamon. Delicious Thai food, not expensive although a little spicy. Remember to ask for “Mai Ped” – not spicy.
Royal Dragon: The largest restaurant in South East Asia located on Bangna-Trad Highway. A Chinese restaurant serving Thai food. It is a good place to take visitors as there is a Thai dancing show.
Krathorn (Flying Chicken): Located on the Bangna-Trad km.1. They fire chickens through the air and a man on a unicycle catches it on his head. Honest!
Areas in town:
Silom: This is a road in town with plenty of bars and restaurants, ranging from Irish pubs through to considerably less reputable places. It is here that you will find the notorious Patpong, well-known for its dubious nightlife but it also has a large night-market. The bars in Patpong are full of tourists and as such the prices can be steep. Bars downstairs are safe to drink in and if you like Elvis or Tom Jones then there is a bar with pretty good impersonators. Some of the upstairs bars run scams… it could work out expensive.
Soi Thong Lor: Sukhumvit 55 (ha-sip ha) / Soi Ekamai: Sukhumvit 63 (hok-sip sam) These Sois are developing and have good bars.
Khao San Road: Backpackers paradise. Cheap drinks, accommodation and tourist shopping.
Bars, Pubs and Restaurants in the City:
Here are a few places to check out in the city that have been recommended by staff: (Thanks go to Lorna Dolby for compiling the list.)
Vertigo @ The Banyan Tree Hotel – Thanon Sathorn
A classy, open-air, rooftop bar and restaurant on the 61st floor of this 5* hotel. Well worth a visit for a cocktail and amazing views of Bangkok.
V9 @ Sofitel Silom – Thanon Sathorn
A wine bar and restaurant with well priced, good quality wine and great views of the city.
Long Table @ Column Residence – Sukhumvit Soi 16
A funky bar and restaurant on the 25th floor with indoor and outdoor bar areas and good views.
Titanium – Sukhumvit Soi 22
A small bar with a live all-female band playing every night. Upstairs is an ice bar serving flavoured Vodka shots.
Sin Bar – Sukhumvit Soi 4 (Nana)
Past the seedy Nana Plaza and Hanrahans Irish Pub, turn right into a small car park and Sin Bar is on the right in between a range of other bars (look for the concrete stairs). This rooftop bar is a pleasant place to have a drink and shoot some pool.
Noriegas – at the end of Silom Soi 4, Patpong.
A small, lively bar with bands on some nights and salsa music on others.
Cheap Charlies – side street off Sukhumvit Soi 11
A street stall with interesting decor (!) and, as the name suggests, cheap drinks. A good place to start or end the evening.
Woodstock Bar and Grill – Thong Lor Soi 13 (at the cross roads)
An American style bar with a good selection of Western food and reasonably priced drinks.
Bedsupperclub – Sukhumvit Soi 11
A giant white spaceship of a building with beds instead of bar stools. Described by one staff member as ‘the most self-consciously cool place in Bangkok’. Worth going for a meal here too.
Glow – Sukhumvit Soi 23
A small club tucked away on a side street off Soi 23, this club has a good selection of cocktails and plays funky house music.
Tapas – Silom Soi 4, Patpong.
An intimate club with two levels which plays funky techno music and bongo drums!
RCA (Royal City Avenue) – off Rama 9 near the Thai Cultural Centre
A whole street of bars and clubs playing a range of music depending on your choice of venue. Quite a young crowd go here but it’s a good night out if there’s a group of you.
Dubliner – Sukhumvit, nearest BTS station is Phrom Phong.
A popular Irish pub with live music, quiz nights and good Sunday lunches.
The Bull’s Head – Sukhumvit Soi 33/1
Holds monthly comedy nights which are well worth attending. Tickets are B1,500. Sunday afternoon is the famous ‘Toss the Boss’; buy a round, flip a coin and it’s free if you win.
Molly Malone’s – Soi Convent, Silom
An Irish pub serving decent food, particularly the all-you-can-eat Sunday lunch.
Limoncello – off Sukhumvit Soi 11
A popular Italian restaurant serving great pizza and pasta dishes.
Crepes and Co. – Sukhumvit Soi 12
Serving over 350 varieties of both sweet and savoury crepes.
Kuppa – Sukhumvit Soi 16
A cafe – style restaurant serving both Thai and Western food, delicious desserts and good quality coffee.
Bamboo – Sukhumvit Soi 3 (Nana)
A Lebanese restaurant serving excellent food at very cheap prices.
Red – Sukhumvit Soi 53
Although expensive, this restaurant is well worth a visit for the modern Indian cuisine.
Eat Me Restaurant - Soi Pipat 2, Soi Convent, Silom
A funky restaurant serving modern cuisine. Expensive but a good place for an intimate or celebratory meal.
There are plenty of excellent restaurants and bars in the Sukhumvit area. Check the newspapers and local magazines for details or ask around at school.
(A word of warning… parents from the school could be drinking or eating in the same place as you… if you are an exhibitionist be aware that news travels fast around our school community!)
There are hundreds of different shopping areas in Bangkok, ask your colleagues where they shop. Shops selling similar goods tend to be in the same area and you can pick up some good bargains if you shop around rather than buy in the department stores. For example Sukhumvit 71 is great for electrical goods and football shirts; Sukhumvit 23-55 is good for furniture.
Dehydration: It is very easy to dehydrate without realising it especially if you are out doors in the heat. Don’t forget that sweating makes you lose minerals as well as water. The first sign of dehydration is usually a bit of a headache. The minute you start to get one, drink plenty water and the chances are it will go away. Coffee and alcohol can lead to further dehydration, water is the best answer. If you are out and start feeling faint 7-Up or Sprite can help out as it contains a lot of sugar. When shopping in Chatuchak market, I have a ‘7-Up stop’ every half hour! If you are into sports be particularly careful, you may well need to take some electrolytes. Children also dehydrate quickly as they tend to rush around a lot. If you have a cold, are vomiting or have diarrhea you will also be dehydrating very quickly so you must drink plenty. Rehydration salts are easily available; it may be worth putting some in your first-aid kit.
Sunburn: The sun is at its hottest about 1-2 pm. Be particularly careful if you have Caucasian skin as it is not designed for the sun out here so use your common sense. It is sensible to wear a hat, encourage your children to get into the habit of always wearing one if they are outside. The sun’s rays can get through fine fabrics so even if you are covered up be careful. People do not tend to get burned in Bangkok; I think the pollution filters out the harmful rays! Outside of Bangkok though..be careful. There are plenty of sun tan lotions in the shops, use them. At the beach you will see most Thai people wearing a T-shirt when they are swimming or snorkeling, it is a good idea. Don’t forget that you will also burn very quickly in the water. Keep an eye on your freckles and moles… if they start to change shape or colour, get them checked out at the hospital. It is probably nothing more than a warning to keep out of the intense sun but it is best to be on the safe side.
Diarrhoea: I think everyone will suffer from this at some time. Your body needs to get rid of whatever is causing it so it’s best not to use anti-diaroetic tablets unless you absolutely have to. Some people are incredibly fussy about what they eat and drink. It often seems to be these people who have the most stomach upsets. If you take things slowly and sensibly you will probably build up a good immunity to the local bacteria. Don’t rush out and eat off the food stalls during your first week, Steve and I sometimes eat from them and suffer no ill.
Water: Tap water… we brush our teeth with it, cook with it and wash our dishes in it. I’m quite sure we have been given it to drink when we visit our Thai friends and I have my suspicions that the drinking water bottles in some less reputable hotels have been refilled with it! If you become too fussy, you won’t build up any natural resistance. Just be sensible. When you first arrive use the bottled water for drinking and brushing your teeth then over the next few weeks gradually introduce tap water into your everyday life. Steve and I have only been ill from water once and that was when we returned to England… we went straight to the tap and drank some….. after two years away, we had no resistance to English bacteria!
AIDS IS VERY WIDE SPREAD IN THAILAND
Be aware of it and act accordingly. What else can I say? Don’t become paranoid about it though. The hospitals practice sensible precautions and use up-to-date hygiene procedures.
Mosquitoes: They can spread various diseases but not Aids. Read up about the infectious diseases and again use your common sense. Prevention is always better than cure so cover up during dawn and dusk and use repellents. The main problem with mosquitoes is that the bites itch like mad and you can’t help scratching. Try not to scratch as it is easy to infect the bites with your dirty nails (esp. children). DEET is the most effective chemical that repells the mosquitoes so check the label to see if your repellent contains it. Some research shows that perfumes, including soap and shampoos, attract mosquitoes as do dark colours. Your ankles are the most vulnerable place as they tend to fly low.
Stray dogs: Rabies is quite widespread and is not limited to dogs. Any warm blooded animal can carry it. The best protection is to avoid touching or approaching any animal you are unsure of. Be wary of the problem but don’t become paranoid. Some people are scared of the dogs on the street but they are usually quite timid and will run away from you if you stamp your foot at them. They bark a lot but not much else. Thailand knows it has a problem with stray dogs but being a Buddhist country they are not usually rounded up and destroyed even if they are suffering. If anything suffers now it may have a better life in its next reincarnation. As with many things out here, you may not approve of it but at least you can try to understand why these things are allowed to happen.
Alcohol: You have probably noticed how the waiters and waitresses fill up your glasses without you asking. This can be very pleasant but it can also lead to you losing track of how much you have had to drink. Just put your hand over the top of your glass if you don’t want it topped up again. There are no standard measures for spirits either. Much of the social life here centres around having a few drinks and it is a very easy lifestyle to get into. The most common form of food poisoning in the world is alcohol poisoning and Thailand is no exception. You might fancy trying the local beers, Singha beer is rumoured to be full of chemicals and it can certainly give you a stinking headache in the morning. Beer Chang is brewed by Carlsberg especially for Thailand, it is very strong. Take care not to get into a routine where your whole social life revolves around alcohol.
Drugs: You are all old enough and wise enough to know about drugs. They are a big problem in Thailand and suffice to say Thai jails are not at all pleasant and the penalties are severe. The main problem in Thailand however is not the illegal drug trade but the misuse of medicinal drugs. They are dished out in hospitals as if they are sweets and they are available in chemists without a prescription. Use your common sense. Having said that, if you get a mild infection out here is can easily linger on and on if you don’t get it treated.
Burning the candle….. The majority of Thai people wake up early and go to sleep early. After years of British late nights, it can be very difficult to adjust to going to bed early. You have to be up early for school so don’t over do it with the late nights. A combination of early mornings, heat and late nights do not go well together. (I can’t believe I’m writing this, I sound like my mother! Maybe she was right after all…)
Ants: Basically don’t leave any food lying about. Don’t let the children take sweets up into their bedrooms… ants in your bed are not good. The ants are tiny and can easily get into tins of biscuits so put your food into airtight plastic boxes.
Cockroaches: These are usually in the kitchen and downstairs bathrooms because that’s where the drains are. When you first move in to a house you might have to spray every day but then after a couple of weeks just once a week should keep them away. We found that they come up the drain hole for the washing machine.
Ching-Chocks: These are the little lizards running around your house. Totally harmless and very useful in keeping the mosquito population down. It is considered lucky to have them around. They have a big cousin Gecko (Tuk Gair) which is not so lucky as it has a very nasty bite. These one more colourful and up to a foot in length. It is unlikely that you will have one of these in your house as they don’t like city life…. But just in case you do… don’t try and catch it with your hands. If it bites it won’t let go. The best way is to let it bite hold of a broomstick and then you can carry it outside. There is also a great, big cousin called a Monitor Lizard. They can be 1-2m long. They occasionally wander through the garden but are so shy they will run away as soon as they see you. They are harmless but your maid will not like seeing one, they are considered very unlucky.
Rats: You may see them running around the roads and they could come near your house particularly during the rainy season. We had one in our last house and one in this present house. Both came in through the door which we continually leave open if we are working outside. Moral…keep your mosquito door shut. We chased ours out with a broom but there are traps available if you want a more permanent solution.
Snakes: It is wise to be wary of snakes as many of them are poisonous but don’t become paranoid about them. About 100 people die of snakebites in Thailand each year, these are mostly farmers who tread on them in the rice fields or people who are trying to catch a rare one. Keep it in perspective. Snakes are generally timid and will run away rather than have a confrontation. They will attack if they are being threatened e.g. you stand on one. They are also creatures of habit so tend to follow the same routes at the same time each day. It could be that one has been washed along the drains in the rainy season and turns up in an odd place. Don’t walk about the garden at night, if you must then take a light with you. Every now and then one will fall in the swimming pool so just check before you leap in. Snakes usually prefer cool, damp places and avoid direct sunlight so your garden lawn should not be a problem. Don’t sit down without looking and don’t put your hands and feet where you can’t see… common sense.
Your bank account will be with Kasikorn Bank (previously Thai Farmers Bank). It is a savings account so interest is added twice a year. You will have an account book and an ATM card. If you put your account book in to be updated, the last few transactions will be printed in but most of your deposits and withdrawals will be added together. I was quite surprised when I saw the sums printed in my book, I thought my account had been used by someone else as the amounts looked so huge! Your branch of Thai Farmers is at the junction of Sukhumvit Road and the Bangna-Trad Highway. It is open between 8:30am and 3pm. The banks in Thailand have recently updated their ATM’s so you should now be able to use your ATM card in any machine. There may be a small charge if you use another bank’s facilities. You can also withdraw money from your British bank and building society accounts. Very occasionally someone has a problem with a machine. Steve and I lost some money once and the school business staff were really helpful and told me which forms to fill in. We had jotted down all the details of the transaction and although it took a couple of weeks, the bank did refund our money. Look after your card well, it takes a while to get a replacement card.
Transferring money abroad is really easy. You need to get a form from the Personnel staff, you have to fill in a new form each time you want to transfer. You will need the following information: the name of your bank, the sort code, the address, the account number and the name of the person who holds the account, you will also need your Kasikorn’s account number.
If you want to buy a car, the school will help you arrange a loan. Talk to personnel for more information. If you want a loan for a computer, the school may help out at their discretion so approach your Principal. The loan repayments will be deducted from your salary each month.
You can buy stamps and post your mail at the school shop.
If you take your bills to the personnel department with the necessary cash, they will send a messenger to the bank for you. You can also pay your bills at 7Eleven and Central Department Store, Finance section 3rd Floor (you can only pay at these places within the first 7 days). You can pay your bills using online banking. Your bills will arrive monthly and it is worth keeping a record of them as you do not get any reminders or demands… the service just gets cut off and you have to pay for the reconnection. It is important to pay bills as soon as you get them as services are withdrawn very quickly if bills are not paid.
Electricity: These bills are green and the logo is a building with lightening coming out of the roof. As a rough guide, our bill is about 2,500 Baht a month but we don’t use air-con very much. If you use air-con in one bedroom every night your bill will be approx. 3,500 Baht, two bedrooms 4,500 Baht etc. Air-con really is your biggest addition. Fans are much cheaper and help you get acclimatized quicker. We got our electricity cut off once as we had missed paying a bill, we got no warning and although it one costs 40 Baht for the reconnection it was rather inconvenient.
Water: These are green and the logo looks like a jug. Our bills usually vary between 180-250 Baht. It is worth keeping a record as one month it shot up to 3,000 Baht, we found out that we had a leaking pipe which accounted for the rise. Sometimes the leaks are underground so your bills are the only warning you get.
Electricity bills and water bills are delivered to the house by hand and you or your maid can pay the man straight away. If no one is at home they will just leave the bill and you pay it via school.
Local phone: This arrives in the post and is red in colour. The logo has two feathers on it. Your standing charge may be 50 Baht or 100 Baht depending on how old your line is, this is the first amount on your bill. The second amount is your local calls which are 3 Baht each no matter how long the call is. You may have a third number, if you do it is itemized on a second page. This includes calls in Thailand but outside of Bangkok and a charge for any mobile phone calls you have received. You may have an amount written down with the letters B/F in front of it. This means ‘brought forward’ you either paid your last bill late or not at all so check up on it before you get cut off.
International Phone: This arrives in the post and is blue. It is also printed in English as well as Thai so is pretty easy to follow. The second page itemizes every call so if you are sharing with someone there’s no room for arguments! You will get two bills a month, 1st-15th and 16th-30th/31st. If you don’t make an international call in that period, you will not receive a bill. However, this bill is the most common one for not turning up so it is worth keeping a record of your calls so you can chase a bill up if you didn’t receive one that you were expecting (does that make sense?).
Most houses have a direct international line but if yours doesn’t, you will have to go through the operator (100). Their English is good but speak clearly. They will ask if you want to ‘pay here or collect’, ‘collect’ is reverse charges and that is likely to make you very unpopular at home! If you buy a new phone out here and it doesn’t seem to work properly check the original phone to see if the setting should be tone or pulse.
Gas: This is all bottled so you won’t be getting a bill. If your gas runs out your maid could order it for you or school will phone the shop and get it delivered. Your house will probably have a cylinder there. You just exchange it when it runs out. You need to know the brand name, what size your cylinder is and whether it has a screw-on top or a clip-on top. eg. Shell 13kg, PTT 15kg are clip on top. The gas shop is marked on the map.
Security: Some of the Moobaans (Housing areas) have a security charge to be paid at the beginning of every month. This is to cover street lighting, guards etc. Some of them include rubbish collection. It varies for road to road. Our last house was 300 Baht a month and 20 Baht extra for rubbish collection. Here it costs 450Baht a month but our guards have smarter uniforms and it includes our rubbish collection!
Drinking Water: We have large bottles of drinking water delivered to our house. They hold 20 litres. You pay an initial deposit of 300 Baht for each bottle and then 50 (Mr. Water) or 60 (Siam and Sprinkle) Baht for each exchange after that. Just walk down the road and look in your local shops until you see big, white bottles with blue lids. We occasionally get a bad bottle but very rarely. It is much cheaper than buying small bottles and more convenient as you don’t have to carry them home. The price of drinking water varies in shops depending on whether you want a named brand or not. The cheapest bottles are about 7Baht each and perfectly OK to drink. Buy a water cooler especially if you have children and encourage them to have a drink every time they walk past it.
Home Insurance: This is a fairly new concept out here but it is available. There have been some robberies of teachers’ homes so it is probably worth doing something. Khun Tim is able to give you details on this.
TV: In your apartments there is TrueVisions (formerly UBC) which is cable. TrueVisions is the only Cable TV in Thailand; for promotions, discounts subscription packages, please use this link www.truevisionstv.com/index.aspx There are various packages so it is probably best to talk to other teachers and make up your own mind. TrueVisions broadcasts in Thai and English simultaneously on some channels so a stereo or bilingual TV allows you to receive the English signal. This is essential if your children want to watch Cartoon Network in English. If you want some advice on selecting a TV, just ask.
In Bangkok there are Taxi-Meters. Now all taxis are metered the first 2km is 35 Baht and then the meter starts going up. You are expected to pay any tolls on the expressway, these are usually 45 Baht but there are some others with different prices. There are over 30,000 Meter-Taxis in Bangkok so if they start asking silly prices just close the door and stop another one. If it’s late at night or raining you may have no option but to agree to a set price. Taxi-Meters are very reasonably priced so a tip is a nice gesture especially if they didn’t moan about the distance to Soi Lasalle.
Taxis from the airport have been known to overcharge and used to have a reputation for being a total rip-off, they certainly don’t want to come all the way over to Soi Lasalle. You should go to the taxi desk, book a taxi and agree on the price, it has to pay the tolls. The taxi driver may still argue that he wants more. If there are a few of you traveling together, you could book limousine taxi which can be more pricey but there’s no hassle. The latest price I heard was 750 Baht. Other options are to go up to the arrivals and try to get a taxi that has just dropped someone off or walk down to the main road and flag one down. Some of the staff hire school buses which is convenient although expensive if you are on your own. Recently the airport taxis have been monitored more closely so things are getting better.
Generally taxis are very safe, I feel more comfortable in the back seat if I’m on my own late at night and I always make a point of looking at the taxi registration number which should be clearly marked on the inside of the taxi. You should now wear a seatbelt if you are in the front of any vehicle, this law came in a few years ago. I would also recommend it as some of the taxis do tend to travel rather fast. I have felt a little uneasy about a couple of drivers as they seemed rather twitchy and spaced out… I just told them to stop, paid the fare and got in another one. Many taxi drivers lease their cars so have them back by a certain time which is one reason why they might refuse to stop for you. This tends to be around 4.30-5.00pm on Soi Lasalle. If a taxi driver quotes a really silly price to you that is another way of him saying ‘no’, he’s just too polite to say it! Don’t try showing a map to a taxi-driver, the majority of them do not know how to read them. If you are going somewhere out of the ordinary, ask a Thai person to write it down in Thai for the driver.
Odds and Ends
It has been known for parts of Bangkok to have power failures, it can sometimes be quite large areas or maybe just one Soi. It is more common during the rainy season when we have quite a few storms. It is handy to have torches and/or candles ready in your house. If your electricity goes off, your electric water pump will also be out so you may not get any water upstairs. It may be useful to keep some water upstairs in your bathroom just in case. Power failures may last for a few minutes or a few hours. They are another good reason for trying to become acclimatized to the heat rather than always relying on the air-con.
If you have children I’m sure you know how quickly they pick up your opinions and feelings. This is particularly noticeable here… if you don’t like something or show that you are scared of anything your children will pick it up very quickly. In school I have come across children who have very negative attitudes towards Thailand and I know that they are mirroring their parents. If you want to enjoy your stay in Thailand you will obviously want your children to be settled. If you can settle quickly and remain positive, your children will really benefit.
Hospitals: Most people at school use Thai Nakarin or Sikarin hospitals as they are the nearest and the school has an arrangement with them. If you show your medical insurance card and photo ID you will not have to pay at the two hospitals mentioned. However, if you don’t have your card and ID with you or you are in a different part of the country you will need to pay and claim it back later. To claim it back you need to collect a form from personnel. Some staff prefer Bumrungrad, BHN or Samitivej. For general ailments all the doctors seem fine but there are women at school who will recommend specific doctors if you have ‘women’s concerns’ and there are doctors who are particularly good with children so ask the families at school. There are dental facilities at Sikarin and Thai Nakarin, they are fine but their English isn’t that brilliant. The Dental Hospital in Sukhumvit 49 has a very good reputation and the dentists have excellent English but it is more expensive.
Newspapers: Get a newspaper delivered to your home each day, the English papers are the Bangkok Post or The Nation. You will learn more about the country you are living in and you will know what’s happening socially in Bangkok. Buy a copy of Metro or the Big Chilli for alternative information on what to do and where to go. Copies of all of these are available in the school library. Details of church services, societies and other groups are advertised in all the newspapers.
Mobile Phones: There are two major companies AIS and DTAC. Like other parts of the world you can have a “pay as you go” arrangement or a monthly bill. Most people go for the pay as you go method as you can walk into the shop and walk out again with a phone which is up and running. However, if you want to call abroad, it is worth checking that the package you buy has this facility. Ask about the roaming service. If you want the monthly bill option you need to take your passport and work permit along to the shop as well as photocopies of both. There are hundreds of places to buy phones. However, the IT section in Central which is on the Fourth Floor is a good place to start looking.
High Speed Internet: This is now possible in Thailand. For more information you can use this link www.truecorp.co.th/eng/products/online.jsp You can subscribe to this service at the True Shop on the 5th Floor of Central City Bangna, IT Zone. You need to take a telephone bill, and your passport. They often have special deals; for example the latest one gives you the modem free as long as you are a subscriber of TrueVisions and take a bill along. For more information email Mark Willis firstname.lastname@example.org Mark has linked up and is happy to answer any questions you may have.
Well, that’s it. That’s all I can think of right know. If you want to know anything else…. ask.
For those of you who enjoy sports the staff have a football team, and a netball team and a huge number of golf fans who make the most of the considerable number of golf courses in Thailand. You are of course allowed to use the school facilities if you like swimming etc.
Random Bits & Bobs from Jen Bramwell (Class of 2008)
Ladies- if you’re over UK size 6, bring your shoes! Big shoes are very difficult to get here, there are a few places you can get them but they’re usually very expensive and limited in range
Clarks/Hush Puppies stand in Central- expensive!
Marks and Spencers in central- expensive!
Dorothy Perkins/Next/TopShop in Central World- can be expensive
Batta- can be cheap- have to ask if they have your size, they often don’t.
If you’re over a size 10/12, bring lots of light summer clothes. Big sizes are fairly hard to come by although there are some shops you can go to;
Warehouse- an export shop in some of the malls (seacon and MBK have them)- they sell American Eagle/Gap etc for next to nothing. Can be a bit hit and miss with what you find in there.
Next/M&S/Dorothy Perkins/TopShop are all in Central World. They’re more expensive than back home as you pay for the import too. Other Euro stores such as Mango can be found there too.
Some concessions in Central Shopping Mall are American fashions- like De Fry etc so you can find some larger sizes.
You can also get clothes made or copied though and there are plenty of material shops around to get material to take to a seamstress (closest material shop is in Central Bangna, but lots to be found in China town!)
Remember, some tailors are better than others!
From Lasalle, Carrefour is closest (50B in a taxi), foodland has more expat food but is a bit further (70B in a taxi). If you’re on your way back from town it’s worth stopping off at Tesco On Nut (next to BTS station). Villa market in town has more expat food (soi 11 or 33).
There’s also Big C next to Central Bangna, or Tops in the basement of Central. Tops is a bit posh, sells some Waitrose food.
There is a market outside Lasalle suite on a Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evening. You can find lots of fruit and veggies there (although I don’t know what most of the veggies are!). Cheap and fresh.
If you’re desperate for something there’s a 7/11 on most roads, or a family mart. These are usually open 24 hours. There are also some Tesco Express shops (out of Lasalle 33 turn right). Tesco Express sells tonic water (for the gin/vodka drinkers!)
Spirits are fairly cheap, wine is quite expensive.
Bread is generally a bit sweet; you can get French bread from some shops although it goes stale quickly.
Central Bangna is closest to Soi Lasalle (60B in a taxi). There’s a cinema, department store, supermarket, starbucks etc. Also an Asia Books where you can buy English books – and show your Patana ID as you get 10% off! Sizzler restaurant is also good if you want burgers/steaks etc as they have a brill all you can eat salad bar!
Seacon Square is an older mall, contains a big Tesco and loads of shops. Look out for the export shops (mens)/warehouse (womens) for Western size clothes.
MBK in town (on the BTS, national stadium) is like lots of market stalls spread over 6 floors. There are bargains to be had and this is the place to go if you want DVDs, CDs, games etc. I bought my Wii and my camera from here. Also has a great food loft on the 5th floor with loads of choice 9italian, thai, indian, greek food etc).
Index Living Mall is as close as we get to Ikea here. Some things are expensive, some are cheap. Worth a look for home furnishings though. There’s one in MBK, but another separate one near Central Bangna.
Central World Plaza has a cinema, lots of restaurants, and some expat shops.
There are loads more malls too!
Markets take a lot of patience!
China town is worth a visit. It’s generally in sections; you’ll walk through loads of shoe shops, and then get to the jewellery section, then the stationery section, material section etc… It’s a tiny street and there are carts going past frequently- watch your feet. Take care of your bags here.
Chatuchak is a whole new experience. I’d recommend getting the Nancy Chandler map (school post office has some). You can buy most things there but be prepared to barter. Watch your bags- there are pickpockets and bag slashers working here. Go early on a weekend as it gets VERY hot there!
Suan Lum night bazaar. Meant to be shutting down for the past few years and still hasn’t. Great place to get Thai gifts for people, but also some cool clothes, DVDs, CDs, fake stuff, beanbags etc etc. There’s also a big food court there with live bands. On every night.
Koh samet is the closes island to Bangkok, groups of teachers go there every so often to relax on the beach. Most weekends you can just turn up and get a room. Expect to pay about 2000B for a double room in TubTim or Silver sand.
For cheap flights to places further away check out AirAsia, they’re also started flying to Stanstead and may have some bargains if you fancy going home for the hols.
Koh Tao- go on the train or bus to Chumphorn then get the boat across. Great place to do your Open Water if you want to learn to dive.
Ancient City is worth a trip, not too far either. Miniture versions of lots of the big sites (not miniture village style though, they’re still pretty big!)
Wat Po and the Grand Palace- beautiful wat.
Wat Arun - another wat, across the river.
Ayutthaya - the old capital. Get the train there from central station for about 30B. Takes a couple of hours to get there but worth is for a look around some beautiful wats.
Kanchanaburi- more of a weekend away. See the River Kwai and the history from WW2. Also go to the Tiger Temple and play with real tigers!
Cinema- really cheap! The big malls all have them and most of the movies are in English with Thai subtitles. They do like their a/c in there so take a jumper! Stand up for the national anthem.
Mobile phones- cheap ones in every mall. Get an AIS 1-2call or DTAC Happy. You can then get credit from every 7/11, Family Mart etc.
Phone calls home. You can get international phone cards from the family mart, but it’s well worth getting a skype account if you have a computer. Calls are really cheap over skype and headsets only cost a couple hundred baht.
UK tv- BBC and channel 4 etc are blocked although you can listen to BBC radio stations live and download podcasts from them. Otherwise, get limewire or similar and download tv shows from Uknova- you never need to miss Xfactor again!
Craving pies? Check out Buntersfoodsbkk.com. Spend over 1000B and get free delivery.
Want pizza? The pizza company will deliver to you, phone 1112 or Pizza Hut 1150 or go to their website. Scoozi’s has just opened on Srinakarin Road.
Also, check out foodbyphone (they have a website), loads of restaurants around BKK you can order food from to get delivered.
For Sunday roasts, try the British/Irish pubs in town- the Dubliner, Molly Malone, the Bull’s Head, the Black swan are all good.
If you’re a fan of cheese don’t despair, go to the supermarket at the bottom of Paragon as they have a big deli counter.
Sky train. This is worth using, to cut the time spent in traffic jams if nothing else! You can pick it up from On Nut (closest to Bangna). Taxi to On Nut costs around 70B (ask the taxi for BTS on nut). Get a rechargeable card for the skytrain. To get to Chatuchak get off at Mo Chit. For MBK change at Siam then go to national stadium. Check out the Nancy Chandler map.
Ladies, you can get your contraceptive pill over the counter from Boots etc. Most of the usual UK brands can be found here and cost about 60B for the month.
Dentists here are really good (and so much cheaper than back home!). Try the hospital first. Be warned, they just get on with it, no having to come back in a month for a filling, and getting an appointment is easy (ask Khun Pattama, Head Nurse to book the first!).
Maids- lots of people have a maid once a week to clean and do the ironing. They generally cost about 500B a week if you live in Bangna. See Jackie email@example.com who often has a list of ladies who have worked for other teachers and want to find work.
Hope you found some of it useful.