Two weeks into our trip and we were ready to keep going, up the Malay Peninsula to Thailand. This stop was extra special because we went to visit two dear friends and former colleagues from China. They both had a change of heart about the work conditions of our college in Nanjing (and China in general) and decided to move to happy and sunny Songkhla, Thailand. I don’t blame them. Songkhla is laid-back and beautiful!
Ian & I took a group minivan with some other vagabonds for a bumpy journey over the Malaysian border. Although the trip was much shorter (3 hour drive compared to a 6 hour train ride) the driver made some random pit stops and drove like a nicotine-crazed maniac. Thankfully, we made it to our destination in one piece, eager to stretch on solid ground. We reunited with our freshly bronzed friends at last!
Songkhla, also known as “great city on two seas”, is a quaint fishing town and an important harbor located on the Gulf of Thailand. The water is crystal blue, the breeze cool, and the sun scorching hot. Erika & Stephen’s university overlooks the sea, a stones throw away from the sandy beach. I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a little jealous of the view. They took us around their town by foot and tuk tuk(auto rickshaw), pointing out the local market, tasty food vendors (fresh coconut ice cream!), and tourist attractions. The weather creeped up to a blazing 97 degrees F, which is normal at this time of year, so you better believe we were chugging bottles of water. One of my favorite spots was “Monkey Hill”.
Luckily, we were in Songkhla for St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate with a true Irishman (Stephen). Although the town is small, there is an Irish bar that overflowed with expats that evening. It was like a breath of fresh air to sip a cold one and clink glasses with like-minded people, to hear their travel/ life stories, and to experience the feeling of being around those who live in a location that they love. We didn’t get enough of that in China, sadly. “What if when we return to the US we find ourselves bored or uninspired?” we sometimes wonder. Life’s full of questions, right? It’s good to know that not all ESL jobs end up being disappointing in the end. I’ll put that thought in my pocket.
The people really made our trip. E&S introduced us to some of their friendly and humorous colleagues, Thai English teachers, who then invited us out to dinner. We dined on yellow & green curries, steamed fish, papaya salad, and other local delicacies. One kind teacher even offered to drive us to the train station the next day, an hour away.
During our visit we ate delicious food, had good laughs, walked around the town, relaxed on the beach, and escaped the heat in air-conditioned spaces (including the kind of sad Songkhla Aquarium). We hope to reconnect again in the future, maybe more westward next time!
Our RATINGS: (out of 10)
- Transportation 8 (tuk tuks and motorbikes. tend to rip-off expats)
- Weather 7 (clear blue skies. super hot sun, near the equator)
- English Proficiency 6 (some Thai people spoke it, but most don’t know much)
- Cleanliness 6 (unfortunately, littering is common in this part of the globe)
- City Pulse 7 (beach town. sometimes sleepy, sometimes alive with music)