Thailand University Teacher Extraordinaire

The trials and tribulations of a young English teacher

The 30 Day 30 Minute Challenge: Day Two

I like to think that I’m a brave and adventurous person. When I was 18, I left home and moved 300 miles to attend university, when it would have been much easier and cheaper to study in my hometown.  I moved to Thailand when I was 23 and started a career in teaching. But there’s one thing that I dread. It leaves an unpleasant feeling in my stomach, and I curse its inevitability. I can’t stand going for a haircut.

As I detest visiting the hairdresser, I like to put it off as long as possible. What begins as a short hairstyle rapidly expands and grows into an untidy afro-like mess which refuses to be tamed by shower or comb. Eventually the day comes when I can no longer ignore stares from colleagues and flattering comments from students. Yesterday was one such day.

The haircut experience at my choice of salon is a thoroughly miserable one. The moment I walk through the door with a smile on my face and a polite greeting, I’m met with silence and stares from the pouting ladies behind a desk. A reluctant flick of the hand indicates that a bored looking colleague will now wash my hair.

Lying uncomfortably, with my head pulled back into the sink, my first thought is usually questioning whether ice has been added to the water. As my head is repeatedly pulled, grabbed and tugged at, while shampoo is applied and rinsed, I silently curse myself for lacking the courage to visit a rival salon. A wayward spray of water running down my back signals that the hair washing is complete.

Next I am led to one of many chairs facing a mirror and then promptly abandoned. Minutes later, a scowling middle aged lady carrying a pair of scissors in her hand ties a sheet around my neck and then abruptly begins chopping at my locks. Fumbling through my wallet, I request that my hair be styled like my university id card. When no reaction is forthcoming from the stylist, I silently begin to question my sanity.

After five minutes of tense and awkward silence, the first words out of the hairdresser’s mouth are that I have damaged hair with a sprinkling of dandruff. This can be mended with serum if I’m willing to pay. It’s going to cost more than four times the price of a standard haircut. No thank you.

My refusal results in an angry expression followed by a swift transition from the nippy pair of scissors in her hand to what the professionals perhaps refer to as the root rippers. An excruciating three minutes of frantic chopping and pulling begin before the hairdresser abruptly departs without a word.

A smiling young woman in her early twenties then appears with a hairdryer. It’s taken half an hour into this ordeal to see a smile. A quick drying and styling follows before I’m sent back to a frosty reception at the front desk. I quickly hand over the 280 baht my haircut has cost, and I flee the salon, happy to escape with my life.

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Acid Attack on Farang at BTS Station

The most worrying news story for tourists and expats in Thailand this week was of a despicable acid attack at a skytrain station. Here’s what the Bangkok Post had to say:

A foreign woman artist, Elizabeth Briel, reported on Twitter on Friday that she and her husband had acid sprayed at their faces at the Asoke skytrain station last night.

She said the acid was directed at them from the stairway leading to the station near Robinson shopping mall.

Mrs Briel said her husband’s eyes were damaged but would be okay, while she has a burnt scalp.

They were treated at Bumrungrad hospital.

The hospital said this is the third case they have seen lately.

In Mrs Briel’s homepage, she sums up the incident saying she and her husband “were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Her letter to Thailand says she will leave Thailand and travel to China soon because of “China’s contemporary art and its fringe cultures”, not because of last night’s incident.

While the chances of being targeted seem quite small, it’s worrying that such attacks are happening. Be careful out there folks.

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Farang Pay More at Madame Tussauds Bangkok

After a lengthy ad campaign that lasted several months, Madame Tussauds finally opened in downtown Bangkok. Madame Tussauds is something of an institution in England, and despite my never having been to the long standing London attraction, I decided a trip to the Bangkok gallery would make an interesting day out for my girlfriend and I.

A few weeks passed as I waited out the rush, however at work I heard murmuring between colleagues about a dual price system. This is hardly a new concept for Thailand. At every national park that I’ve been to, there has always been a Thai price and a foreigner price. It’s not something that is worth getting upset about. National parks are maintained using the money of Thai taxpayers, and as the majority of non Thais here are tourists, they don’t have to pay tax. Even though I work here and pay tax, I grudgingly pay the farang price with nothing more than a shake of the head.

My problem with paying more at Madame Tussauds stems from it being a private company. A private company that has decided to arbitrarily set prices based on nationality.

Tut tut.

I think putting the Thai price in symbols, which most unsuspecting foreigners can’t read, is a nice touch.


It’s interesting that even though Madame Tussauds has attractions in Amsterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong, New York and Shanghai, dual pricing now exists only in Thailand. Apparently dual prices were charged for a while in Shanghai, but it has since been outlawed. General Manager Paul Williams will be hoping that no-one sees this video where he explicitly states that a dual pricing policy is strange and would not be implemented. Jump to 6 minutes and 50 seconds to hear the incriminating comment.

So Madame Tussauds for four hundred and fifty baht more than Thai citizens. Not for me thanks.


Dealing With Reverse Culture shock

Today is my fifth day of my two week holiday in England, and I’m feeling rather strange. I suspected that my biggest problem would be jetlag as I crossed 7 time zones during my 15 hours of flying; however, this wasn’t to be. One long lie in was all it took for my body to adjust to British time. No, the real problem has been reverse culture shock.

From the moment I stumbled out of the airport and into my parents’ car, I’ve been struck by how strange everything is. People on the roads tend to drive sensibly, which is a frightening experience. I’m far too used to Bangkok’s chaotic roads. I was amazed that not even a single person tailgated our car during the journey home. I’ve also discovered that I’m suddenly able to understand all the conversations going on around me, which has quickly become a dull and tedious distraction. Listening to people moan about forthcoming trips to the dentist or complain about someone being voted off from reality TV show Got to Dance becomes annoying very quickly. Ignorance of similar talk in Bangkok because of fairly basic Thai language skills really has turned out to be bliss.

More troubling is the growing distance between myself and my friends. Conversation feeks awkward, and any mention I make of Thailand or travelling falls flat very quickly, save for a few sympathetic comments from a friend who came over for two weeks a couple of years ago. Strangely, my two best friends, who only really got to know each other in the last two or three years, have moved into a shared apartment together. Much has happened in the three years I’ve been away, and I feel uncomfortable to be on the periphery of a close group of friends.

So how to beat reverse culture shock? Well, this blog had some helpful advice. The first point about no-one caring about my travels feels particularly true in my situation. At the moment, I feel quite relieved that I have just over a week left before returning to Thailand.

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