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Traveling in Thailand in 2021

Quarantine and Finding an Apartment

Our first month back in Thailand had its share of ups and downs. When we returned to Thailand there was little to no local transmission of Covid-19 so although life wasn’t back to normal it was a lot more normal than back home in England.

We were able to apartment hunt freely, go to bars, enjoy rooftop parties and pool parties as well. Finding an apartment in a foreign country isn’t as daunting an experience as you might think. As we had 2 weeks in our quarantine hotel we had a lot of  time to research the different apartment complexes in the area we were staying. We narrowed it down to two that we liked and contacted agents through a local apartment hunting website 

They arranged a date and time for some viewings and took us to the complex we liked most. After looking at a few different rooms we settled on one and we were able to move in the next day.

Due to the massive amount of choice of apartments you have in Bangkok the prices are relatively low. Our apartment only costs around 9500 baht (£250) a month. Water bill costs are extremely low, around 150 baht (£4) and electricity is quite cheap too – around 1200 baht (£30).

Back to School During Covid

After we had our first week back at work we headed out to catch up with our friends who’d made the right decision to stay in Thailand throughout the pandemic. Bars were basically fully open and rooftop parties were able to happen – it was a far cry from being stuck in our homes for the past 7 month in England.

We had a great night at a rooftop party at the Novotel Sukhumvit 20 with our friends before returning to the same hotel the next day for a rooftop pool party on my birthday. This was definitely one of our best days/nights we have had in Thailand so far. It was like being back to normal life – pre Covid.

Traveling to Koh Chang for a Holiday

Our next week at school was a short one as there were two national holidays on the Thursday and Friday, we used the holidays to go to an island we hadn’t visited before – Koh Chang.

It is a six hour bus ride from Bangkok at the low price of 260 baht (£6) and a 30 minute ferry ride to the island but it is 100% worth it. Although the island has suffered quite a bit from the lack of tourism due to Covid it is still a beautiful place to visit. We basically had the entirety of Klong Prao beach to ourselves and this beach is one of the best beaches we have ever been to.

In normal times the island would have had a great nightlife scene too but because of there being no tourism there weren’t many bars/clubs to visit on a night. The island still had so much to do though. If you got tired of the beaches, you could go trekking to one of the many waterfalls. If that wasn’t for you, you could hire a bike and explore the island.

Klong Prao Beach

This is definitely one of the better islands to visit along this coast. It is large enough to be fun to explore but also not overly westernized with shops/supermarkets/chain restaurants everywhere. Unfortunately for us this was our last week of normality as a cluster of Covid cases were found in Samut Sakhon which has shut down a lot of the country while they try to regain control of the virus.

Hopefully with the strict measures in place it doesn’t get too out of control and life can begin returning to some sort of normality again soon. Until then, we are back to teaching online.

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Morning Assembly in Thailand

Morning Assembly and Your Shine

The morning assembly is part of the school’s culture and you get to be a part of it if you are teaching English at a public school in Thailand. It is a morning gathering of all the students, teachers, and other faculty members that occurs daily. It is a tradition you grow accustomed to and get to embrace. It will inform you of anything important that will be coming up but can also add a smile to our face depending on the activities presented. The information they provide can be very useful because it may affect your classes and/or schedule modifications.

Thailand School

The Beginning

Morning assembly starts at 8 a.m. when all the students are already lined up by class and mathoym.  My school consists of over 3,300 kids ranging from 11-18 years old (mathoyms 1-6) so, the students usually arrive around 7:50 a.m. to get in place. After they are all in place, the front student usually takes attendance. This may occur before or after the Thai National Anthem. The Thai National Anthem is a highly-respected tradition as part of the culture and is sung daily.

When they start singing this, no matter where you are, you stop walking and talking and place your hands to your sides until it is finished.  Following this ritual, there will be a Buddhist chant done by either a student or teacher.  During this time, you put your hands in a prayer stance and bow your head after each chant is completed. Follow the kids lead if you are unsure what to do and I know some of you may not be Buddhist, but most Thais are and it is a significant part of their belief system so, out of respect, I would encourage you to entertain it and follow along.

Thailand School

After the Anthem and Chant

After the Buddhist chant is completed, there is usually a teacher or student that will discuss what has been going on or what will occur. This part can include any upcoming activities, changes to the schedules, new faculty, and award ceremonies. The morning activities can be entertaining and really puta smile on your face, along with the kids. As part of this daily routine, the English teachers get to present on random subjects once a week.

At my school, this happens to be Tuesday and is known as Tuesday Talk. During Tuesday Talk, we perform a skit and encourage students to participate by either asking for volunteers to help us or by repeating some of the English words in the skit and demonstrating their meaning. We have also danced and sung which was funny to see but the students loved it by laughing and then following our lead. Thai students love to sing and dance so if you can incorporate this into your lessons, then you should. I understand that not everyone enjoys speaking in front of a larger crowd but, this is all a part of the wonderful package that Thailand offers and honestly after you do it a few times, you get accustomed to it just like teaching.

Some great examples of fun morning assembly talks include talking about the Olympics and asking the students about their favorite sports, singing You are my Sunshine and having them sing it with the motions too, teaching manners by saying please, thank you, sorry, excuse me, or I forgive you, and holiday festivities by singing Jingle Bells or showing the love that is shown on Valentine’s Day by demonstrating card giving or the love of a friendship. 

These morning English talks were successful in the way of getting the students to talk during the assembly and in the way of them remembering it and using it later on when they see you. Generally, the morning assembly and Tuesday Talk is a tradition that engages the students and teachers to come and start the day together and to let us all know of any important events that partake. It is moving to see the anthem sung and interesting to see the surprises that arise with each morning that I attend the assembly.

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Hear from Our Teacher in China – Kirsty van Schalkwyk

Before Coming to China

Why did you want to teach in China?
To earn good cash and save money. Also, to explore the culture. Big things happen in China, this place plays a huge role in the economy. It’s great to be a part of the culture.  Also, my partner and I got TEFL certified and we would like to practice what we have learnt from the classroom.

How was your experience finding a job through On the Mark Education?
Fantastic. On the Mark Education is just fantastic. They were very thorough and honest. They helped us follow up on the visa process and communicate with the school. It took a few months for visa because of our nationality but it all came through.  I would recommend their service every time.  

How long did your visa process take? How was the communication with the school during the visa process??
From my end (my country), rather long, South Africa is like that. But from this side (China), it was very easy. The company sorts out everything for you. You don’t have to lift a finger. And when something is required of you, they write explicitly each detail; of the requirement.

What website did you use to book your ticket to China?
The company bought the ticket for my partner and I. We flew with Emirates. It truly was a lovely flight.

Teaching Life in China

What was your first impression of China upon arrival?
Cold, VERY cold. We arrived in the heart of winter in Beijing first. We stayed there for 2 weeks and moved to Nanjing. Apparently this was the coldest winter experienced in Nanjing too.

What was the biggest culture shock about China and/or in your current city?
People spitting all the time in public. Children wear pants without underwear and the pants have slits in. Exposing their front parts, as well as back-parts. This is used for potty training. Also, people do not stand in queues, cutting in front of people is tolerated.  

What’s your favorite memory to date of life in China??
Receiving my second paycheck. The first paycheck essentially goes to your landlord, because in China you have to pay 3 months rent up front. The second one was when I could start paying off debt. I’m in China for 6 months now. I’ve been to: Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, and in 2 weeks I go to Hong Kong. The opportunities are endless.

My students in Nanjing

What do you like most about working for your school?
The promotion! I’ve been promoted already at my centre, I’m now the mentor.

What three things do you wish you would have known or brought with you before you arrived?
– Bring more vitamins or at home medication, for cold, flu, chest infections etc,
– Bring warm clothes. We didn’t know China could get this cold.
– You will be started at everywhere, video recorded too.

Did you have the opportunity to save any money? What percentage of your salary were you able to save?
I would say 40% of my salary could easily be saved or go toward savings, depends on how you want to live. I like to travel, shop, invest in good laptops, cameras, etc.


Graduation Day in Thailand

Graduating high school or secondary school in any country is a big deal for the students and the faculty that helped them get there. It is an accomplishment that they can all be proud of and help towards their future goals by educating oneself.  It’s celebration that illustrates their achievements and the teachers let them go wild for doing it.  Graduation in Thailand is seen in the same way but differs in who graduates.

Who Graduates and Who Pays

In 2009, the Thai government added an extension to their constitution that they will pay for kids to attend school up until matthayom 3 (M3) at the age of 15.  After they hit the age of 15, the financial responsibility falls on the parents of that student and it is then determined by them if the child can continue to M4, M5, and M6 or if they go to work with their family.  From what I was told, the fiscal amount that the family pays comes out to be 4,000 Baht a semester but, is more if they are in AP or IEP classes.  These classes cost more due to the resources that are used. The AP and IEP cost more due to the teacher’s time, better class facilities, and more advanced classes.

After passing the standard national test of ONET, the two graduating matthayoms (M) consist of M3 and M6. M3 consists of students that are 15 years old while, M6 is 18 years old.  I had the privilege of teaching M3 students in Thailand and constantly asked them if they were going to continue the education after M3. I was very pleased to find out that most of them were going to continue which, made me extremely proud and relieved that they still had the chance to learn more and possibly go on to attend a university later after they graduate M6.

Graduation Day in Thailand

Graduation Day

My Thai student graduationGraduation starts off with a morning assembly where there are speeches and performances by students while, the students being honored are decorated by either themselves or by other students with necklaces, cards, keychains, sashes, and flowers. After the morning performances, the graduating students follow the student band and take a walk around school grounds while, their fellow classmates from the other matthayoms give them presents in recognition of them moving on. This walk is quite memorable and leaves a lasting impression on all those that partake in it. I have never seen anything like this and it was truly an honor to be a part of it. The teachers can either walk with the students or stand on the sidelines and give presents to their likeable students. The walk leads the graduating members to their two separate class halls where a celebration and lunch is provided. Prior to the lunch being served, there is a blessing done by a monk with all teachers seated in a circle surrounding him and a rope is draped from teacher to teacher. After this blessing is completed, the students then line up in front of the teachers and we tie a piece of the rope around the student’s wrist while, stating what we hope for their future. Some of the blessings I offered, included long happy and healthy life full of education and peace from within. This is a part of their culture that leaves your heart thumping full of the love surrounding these kids.

Graduation Celebration

Subsequently, when the blessing is completed, all students are seated around the individual where they are then fed symbolic dishes of delicacies such as pig nostrils, soup, papaya salad, and seafood. While this occurs, a live band takes the stage and students can then dance. I took part in dancing with my students to celebrate their accomplishment and the year we had together. These activities continue until midday and are remembered with school photos and smiles being shown. I encourage all those that teach in Thailand to take part in this accomplishment that occurs at the end of February. It will leave you speechless and touched in numerous ways. I am beyond proud of all of my students.

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The 3 Most Important “Teaching in China” Life-hacks You Need to Know

Teaching English in China at school is becoming easier and you are getting into the flow of things, especially regarding lesson planning and creatively making materials for class. As always, somewhere, somehow in some of your classes, you will face a problem or two concerning some of your students.

Teaching Skills in China


Whether it’s behaviour-wise or translation services being needed, you need your Chinese assistant in class to help you out.

From what I’ve experienced, most of them feel like pure translators and the go-to person for when parents have questions or comments. Sometimes their lives can be incredibly stressful, and as they do not always have the advantages foreign teachers have. One day off a week from work can be a very normal thing in certain places. Imagine having only Saturday to rest and being back at work on Sunday! How crazy is that? Would you feel happy and content knowing other people around you are experiencing more benefits even if they are not from your home country? I know I would not be too impressed.

He or she will be the one listening to you moan about Jason who needs to complete his homework before coming to class and “Remember to tell his parents they need to help him review, please!”. Usually, when you develop a good working relationship with your Chinese assistant, problems are sorted out much quicker and they are more eager to engage and assist you with the lesson and the students’ learning. They are more than just simple translators. They are a security blanket for young learners and for parents who do not speak any English. They need to be able to manage kids, parents and teachers all day, making sure everyone is happy. Engaging with them and being friendly and helpful will only help you in return!


At my institute, we have an open lesson for parents to come and observe what their children have learned thus far every couple of months. I always ask parents to observe closely and leave me constructive criticism so that I can work on improving my skills and know what they are looking for when it comes to their child’s language development and learning.

The parents are probably paying quite a sum of money to have their child attend extra English lessons. Apart from letting them watch a few open lessons here and there every couple of months, it is a good idea to involve them a bit more and make them feel like they are being listened to and that their opinion is important too.  If you involve them and ask for constructive criticism from their side, I can almost guarantee that you will receive good advice and positive feedback, especially if you are still new in the teaching world.


How is this possibly a teaching life-hack? You will soon realize that the Chinese folks are extremely active when it comes to academic development. All those Chinese memes on the internet about parents being angry at a child for not achieving 100% on test scores – it’s a real thing.
If you understand your students and their busy schedules, you will learn how to cultivate your lessons in a specific way for them to learn while having a bit of fun at the same time. Making English-learning fun is probably the greatest tool an ESL teacher should have in his or her toolbox. FUN – all kids need it, especially Chinese kids.

So there you go. In my three months here, I’ve learned these three important concepts very quickly. Implementing them has made my classes more enjoyable not only for the students, but for myself as well. I know I have a lot more to learn about teaching during my contract here, but I cannot wait to jump right into it and delve a little deeper!

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Hangzhou – A Chinese Paradise on Earth

Living and teaching in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, I’m a 1-hour speed train away from Hangzhou and 2-hour speed train from the great, bustling Shanghai. Saying that I’m in a prime location at a great second-tier city would be a shameful understatement. I have been quite entranced with Ningbo as a city and during my first 3 months, it’s been an amazing adventure seeing what this city has to offer. I would not be exaggerating if I told you that I discover something new and wonderful about this city and Chinese culture as a whole every week. However, sometimes a little break from the bustling city life is just the thing to do. In that case, Hangzhou proved to give me the breath of fresh air I was after.

West Lake, Hangzhou


As mentioned previously, Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province, home to about 21 million people in Hangzhou and its surrounds, this place is nothing short of everything you’d expect of a capital city.  After snuffling around for places to stay on the popular Chinese website C-trip, I asked one of our Chinese Assistants to assist me with booking the room for a friend and I on an even cheaper Chinese-only travel and booking site. We payed 120RMB for two nights through Alipay and thought we had landed a sweet deal!

Booking the train tickets was a much easier process as I mentioned before. Once again, a Chinese Assistant helped us book the two tickets, and on the night of our departure, we fetched the tickets at the ticket office and off we were! Our train departed right on time, to the second, and one hour later we were breathing in the air of a different city.


After a laborious wait in the line for a taxi, we hopped in and off we were to our hostel. Our taxi driver obviously took note of our youthful radiance and so he kicked our trip off with some “sick” tunes and showing us the best party places to go on our way to the hostel.

40RMB taxi-ride later, we booked into the hostel and finally, we plonked our bags down in the cupboards, itching to start exploring. Please take note that we arrived at 23:30. Barely 20 minutes later, my companion and I took to the street and walked to the well-known franchise restaurant and bar, Eudoras, just 10 minutes down the road. We enjoyed a very late dinner and some wonderful live music from the resident band. The band members, also expats, came and introduced themselves and before we knew it, we had made new friends.  Shortly before closing time, we all headed off to G+ club. I’m not even going to say anything about this place, except that you have to go experience the madness of it yourself! Chinese clubs are CRAZY! Around 4:30am we stumbled into the room and dozed off happily until 9 o’clock.

The morning promised fine weather and we headed off to a Belgian bakery 7 minutes down the road and had a wonderful breakfast (still very Chinese-style) and that’s when we realized we were in a prime location. We could practically smell the water and fresh air from the famous West Lake scenic area. We took 20 steps across the road and then we were instantly immersed the moment we entered one of the garden parks surrounding the lake.

I was instantly at ease and felt like I was being whisked away into a magical world. We walked around the whole lake for 5 hours that day, which included an hour boat ride on a big golden Dragon Boat, fruit ice creams, greeting touring school groups in English and just being in a daze on one of the benches surrounding the water source. We saw sunset roll around and monks take their evening walks and decided that it was a day well spent. We ended up taking a quick walk home and worked in a very short nap before heading off to Eudoras again to meet our new friends. It was good night!

Hangzhou city


Morning came and we packed our things and checked out. We stopped at our “Belgian” bakery one last time for breakfast and met a lovely Swiss family touring China and spoke about what we did in Hangzhou and how relaxing it was to be there. It was a sad moment for me to say goodbye to such a beautiful place, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last time. Two hours later and I was back home, greeting my fur ball cat, Amber, and happily went back to work later that afternoon. If you ever consider teaching in China, Hangzhou is a must-see!

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