Before arriving in Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) I knew very little about the city. I heard it was big but I had no idea how big. Korat (also known as the “gateway” to Isan) is home to over 500,000 people and is the third largest city in Thailand. The city is booming and has been growing drastically over the years.
What really caught me by surprise was the distinct economic inequality among Thais in Korat. The rich are extremely rich and the poor are incredibly poor. You see Thais with run down motorbikes driving alongside Thais with BMWs and luxury SUVs. The Korat Mall was another surprise. It is just as if not more luxurious than any mall in the States. Not only does it have designer stores (which I can’t afford even with a foreign teacher’s salary) but it has a 4D movie theatre, ice rink, and water park -quite the contrast to the dilapidated homes and businesses just outside.
After orientation in Bangkok, we took a 4 hour bus ride to Korat. Finding a place to live was a nightmare. The accommodation our teaching agency set up fell through 2 hours before our arrival. As a result, we booked a hotel for a couple of nights while the Thai teachers from our school drove us around to explore places to live. Without them, we never would have found an accomodation.
We opted for Ploy Place, a long-term “hotel style” accommodation (common in Thailand) just outside the city center. Ploy Place is by no means cozy (imagine white tile floors and white walls) but it is very clean and much newer than other housing in the city. It is also near two of Korat’s universities so we are surrounded by college students and bars (a nuisance on the weekdays when the music is blasting but a good time on the weekends). Speaking of music, that’s another thing I’ve noticed about Thailand – everything they do is exceptionally loud. The movie theatre is loud, the bar music is loud, and the singing is loud – my ears are constantly ringing!
What surprised me even more about Korat is that no one walks – using your two feet to go somewhere is a foreign concept. No one does it! Instead, Thais motorbike, tuk tuk, or songtaew around the city (songtaews cost 8 Baht / 22 cents). This has made us farangs (foreigners) quite the spectacle because we walk everywhere: to the night market, to the Rajamangala University of Technology track, to the restaurants and even to and from school (1.5 miles). It’s quite humorous; every time we tell a Thai we are walking their reaction is always the same: an appalled “NO! You’re going to walk?!”
To make us even more peculiar, Ella and I have been befriending the guard dogs (oops) and strays on the way to and from school. We’ve already named 7 of them (embarrassing I know but for those who know me you know I can’t resist).
There’s: Limpus (he has an awkward limp and hated us at first but we quickly won him over), Spot, Lola, Blackey, Nugget (puppy), Tiny (5 day old sick puppy who passed away last week), Wolverine (he’s terrified of farangs – particularly me), and my favorite Lil’ Lady.
So, not only are we farangs (there are very few in Korat), but we are farangs who walk everywhere and befriend the dogs. Say hello to your newest Korat freak show!