Interning at the British International School Phuket

Gemma Ashworth

PE Intern

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Gemma

Why were you there?

I was on a year’s placement at British International School Phuket. I would have been there for 10 months working full-time. I was working at the school as a PE intern, alongside working as Head of Administration and Marketing at Cruzeiro Soccer Schools academy. If you would like a busy, happening lifestyle, alongside beautiful beaches and partying, it’s is a great place to be. If you would like an authentic Thai experience, with lots of temples, culture and local people, Northern Thailand is far more suited. However, in Phuket, the West side of the Island, from Surin down to Kata beach, is where there are the most tourists.

It is such an incredible place to live with tonnes of opportunities for work, play, and party. It is really important to understand the culture of where you live prior to moving there. Ensure you are aware of National Holidays, the importance of the King and try and make an effort with their language as they do appreciate it. Remember you are in their country, so you must respect them as they wish to be respected. Oh, and don’t touch their feet or their head, and if you tell them the King is bad, you’ll go to jail. Culture is so important to them so you must respect it and them.

I was fortunate to find my job through my University; the University of Bath. They have an ongoing partnership with BISP and so advertised the role through our placement page. I had three Skype interviews prior to getting the job wanting to know about why the role and the the place was something you were interested in. Although I was lucky enough to find this through my university, colleagues had found their opportunity through various websites. Anything to do with Internship, Placement, PGAT (post-graduate assistant teachers) can be found on Google or LinkedIn.

Where did you live?

I lived on the school’s campus in a boarding house with 12 other people. For us, we got 3 meals a day, laundry and electricity included. However, as part of working at International Schools, within contracts they can give you a certain amount of money on top of your usual salary to spend on accommodation. For example, colleagues that are permanent staff receive an allowance of 35,000 baht per month, or pay tax on the provided school accommodation, working out at around 2000 baht per month. If you share, this money is greater and is on top of the usual salary, saving you a lot of money.

I would recommend as a student, finding a place to share with others of similar interests. Many people I became friends with outside of work live with friends they have found online, or have moved in with people that, for example, do Muay Thai together, or work together. If you can use your organization or company to help you find accommodation, that would be your best option. Furthermore, traffic is bad in Phuket, so living near your place of work, or near to what interests you most is a huge bonus.

Have a look at the area in Thailand you will be living as each place varies extensively, whether it is prices or lifestyle. In Phuket, the island life of relaxation, tourism, and party lifestyle is incredibly different to places such as Chaing Mai or Kanchanabuuri. Furthermore, Phuket is not a large city like Bangkok, and therefore the characteristics are hugely different. Bangkok is definitely a CITY, it is busy and built up around a business district; very different to Phuket.

Where did you go out?

Patong: Big night out, tourists, bars, big clubs. You can find a bar to go to by just walking around; there are endless amounts of opportunity.

Phuket Town: Bar crawl, casual drinks, no clubs. Full Moon Parties: Patong Beach, Kata Beach, Paradise Beach, Ko Phangan. Bring cash, hide cash in case you get stuck, bring a portable charger to make sure your phone doesn’t die on a night out.

For Full Moon parties, you can’t go wrong going to Ko Phangan as it is the hub of partying for the full moon. If you can’t make it over there, head to the West of the island for the 2nd best night out. Also, note that in 7/11 you cannot buy alcohol before 10am, or between 1-5pm.

Monsoon bar is a firm favourite throughout my group of friends. If you like live music with a party vibe, it is the place to go. Similarly, New York bar has a similar vibe, as live music is incredibly popular across Phuket. Club wise, many support the biggest club; Illuzion, which is a huge dual-story club, with big DJ names that play. It is a good night there, however, we prefer White Room, which is next to Aussie Bar (also, a good place to go). It is a big smaller, but I think the music is better and the drinks are far more affordable.

To get home, I would recommend going home in a group, and definitely do not leave anyone on their own. If you do end up with 1 or 2 of you, you could get a motorbike taxi from the end of Bangla which should not be more than 300 baht (£7). In Phuket town, I would recommend Reggae bar. It has excellent live music, Reggae obviously, as well as food and relatively cheap drinks. Library is also a must, with it’s fancy drinks, lights and remixed music, it is a ‘club vibe’ without the mosh of people and base dropping every 5 seconds. Timber Hut, although out the way, is an excellent vibe, a good place to be between 9-10pm. They have relatively cheap drinks, but is very much a local place to go. If you want that experience, I would recommend it.

Despite everyone claiming Thailand is cheap, Patong is an exception. Most beers are around 200 baht (£5), and 250 baht (6) for shots with mixers. However, you can buy a dirty bottle of vodka for around 399 baht (£9), which I would recommend having a lot of before going out, so you spend less money when you are out. In 7/11, a bottle of Chang is 59 baht (£1.50), so you could get a few prior to going out and enjoy them on the beach, still part of the Patong vibe. Patong is also not your usual night out. Make sure you do not argue with bouncers, bartenders or most importantly with Tuk Tuk drivers. To get from Patong to Ko Kaew, it should cost 600 baht (£14) for a group of you which is about 30 minutes. However, many Tuk Tuk drivers will try to rip you off, and will never go lower than 300 baht, even for a 10-minute journey. In Phuket town, I’d advise you to look out for bars with live music, as that is where the evening will be best. If you want more of a local night, with bar-hopping, Phuket town is best. I have not yet been to a ‘good’ club in Phuket town as locals don’t really dance as tourists do. Also, especially in areas with Thai’s, they don’t agree with PDA, so keep the kissing behind closed doors.

How did you get around?

As I lived here for a year, there was a mixture of transportation I used to get around. My friends and I shared a car, although it was a large chunk of our salary. As we rented it off friends of the school, we paid 10,000 baht (£238) a month, costing around 1000 baht (£24) for a full tank each time. My friends rented motorbikes, that vary from 1500 to 2000 baht a month (£47), although for a full tank of fuel is a mere 100 baht (£2.50). Grab is the best way to get a reliable taxi around, linking it to your location, with a SatNav for the driver. Tuk Tuk’s can also be used.

I’d recommend that if you have the salary for it to share a car, as especially during wet season (May-November), rain can be a hazard when driving a bike. Also, unless you have experience driving a bike, I would not rent one. The roads are incredibly chaotic and in the year I was here, I knew of 8 people that crashed, all of which were experienced drivers.

If you are going to rent a bike, make sure it comes with a helmet! Make sure you have a driver’s license too, although it doesn’t have to be international. The police have checkpoints and will check to see if you have a license to drive the car. Also, if you are renting off a company, double-check with them what they want you to say regarding if you ‘own’ the car or ‘rent’ the car or ‘borrow’ the car, as confusion can create problems with insurance.

Any essentials?

  1. Waterproof Phone Case for the beach to capture some beautiful moments I could share and use for my placement video. I even took mine Whale Shark Diving, Snorkelling and Canyoneering and it was such a good investment.

  2. Thermal Water Bottle – Go to Lazada and order a 750ml or 1L bottle to keep water cool. It is so hot here and the lack of running water means you have to supply yourself so this is vital.

  3. Mobile Phone Signal – In case of emergencies, ordering taxis and locating destinations, it is incredibly useful to have signal to find the best ways to make use of your time and navigate there effectively.

  4. OceanPack Waterproof Bag – I use it at the beach, for swimming and every day as they are incredibly handy, useful and will keep your items safe.

What were some stand out excursions?

There are obviously many tourist excursions whilst in Phuket. Due to the tourist-base here in Phuket, many of these are expensive and catered to rinse Western tourists. Make sure in markets you haggle for prices as you should never buy for what they offer. Do not buy animals here. Do not ride animals here. Do not rent a bike unless you are fully confident and definitely don’t ride without a helmet or intoxicated. Make sure you are aware of National Holidays as alcohol is occasionally not served, or you may have to stay at home for that day. Drugs are very illegal, and in the workplace, you can be randomly drug tested so don’t even think about it.

I would recommend going to see Big Buddha, near Kata beach as the view is excellent, especially at sunset. Phuket town is a lovely place to grab a coffee, or to experience the “Walking Street” with some excellent restaurants. you can get a longboat for a day, costing around 700 baht (£17) each, in around a group of 6, where you can visit the islands, such as James Bond Island. Phi Phi, Koh Lipe, Koh Yao Yi and Koh Yao Noi, as they are probably even more beautiful than Phuket itself, and you can go stay there for weekend trips. The Weekend Market near Central Festival (a huge mall) is really cool, offering anything you could ever think of. If you would like a weekend of luxury, head down to Cape Panwa, where you spend £12 on all you can eat buffet, whilst using their luxury infinity pool, eating their amazing food and enjoying the beach with a view. I would recommend Banana Beach near the airport as it is less touristy than those further South.

If you are going to go on excursions, it is best to book in advance. If you are working alongside local people, ask them for the best deals and for any contact details. I would also try book excursions directly through the company rather than through a site to save the commission. Book boat tickets online, and check the times, as it is much cheaper compared to at the port. I would also advise to only rent a bike if you plan on doing short journeys, and this is also only if you are confident on a motorbike. Nothing has gone wrong with me, but I am aware of stories of people running into trouble with those who run Patong and the nightlife within it. It is incredibly important to accept the word of a Thai, and not to argue on prices of travel or make them feel disrespected as it can land you in a lot of trouble. Be kind to the locals, as they all seem to know each other!

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