Teaching Jobs in Chiang Mai

Over the last 10 years Chiang Mai has become one of the most popular expat cities in Thailand and Southeast Asia. It blends tradition with history, culture, delicious food, friendly locals and spectacular scenery. Compared to most Western cities, the cost of living is amazingly low. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that this city has also become a popular destination for foreign TEFL teachers.

Number of English Teaching Jobs in Chiang Mai

A comment sometimes read on forums is that there are few English teaching jobs in Chiang Mai. This simply isn’t accurate. Chiang Mai is the education hub of Northern Thailand and Thai education emphasizes the development of English-language skills with foreign teachers. ASEAN will open its doors in 2015 and the lingua franca of this region from that time will be English. This has led to a strong need for foreign teachers to meet this demand. There are 6 universities, 8 vocational colleges, around 6 International schools, at least 30 private schools, around 20 government schools, numerous kindergartens and approximately 25 language schools in Chiang Mai which all employ foreign teachers. Some employ as many as 30 foreign TEFL teachers. I would estimate there are many hundreds and perhaps even close to one thousand teaching jobs for foreigners in and around the city. As 2015 approaches this number will probably increase significantly.

List of Schools Hiring English Teachers in Chiang Mai

Contact information in English for the Chiang Mai schools is difficult to find. However, all SEE trainees receive lists of these schools on their last day of training along with a workshop on CV/Resume writing and how to find work. SEE itself employs 30+ teachers in outside teacher management contracts at a wide range of Chiang Mai schools. These jobs are always offered to our trainees first.

How to Find an English Teacher Position in Chiang Mai

Another comment I occasionally read is that it’s difficult to land the teaching jobs in Chiang Mai. This is particularly true for teachers who come directly to this city without any support, guidance, training or knowledge about how schools recruit teachers here. However, a prepared, patient and flexible teacher will find work. Initially, the work may not be ideal, but it will be a stepping stone to more desired future employment. Also, it’s important to note that hiring at many schools takes place before each of the two academic year semesters, i.e., during March and April ready for May and September and October ready for November. However, there is turn over at most schools throughout the year and flexible and patient teachers will still find work quickly outside of these months.

Salaries tend to be lower in Chiang Mai than in some other regions of Thailand. They range from 23 – 33,000 baht per month (as of 2013) in most formal schools. However, unless a foreigner needs to eat lots of Western food and drink large amounts of alcohol most nights, the salaries provide a comfortable lifestyle. A good apartment can cost around 4,000 – 6,000 baht per month. Eating out is very inexpensive as many Thai dishes can cost around 30 – 35 baht at various restaurants around town. A shared taxi (songthaew) ride to most parts of the city is 20 baht. Salaries can always be complemented by part-time hours teaching in language schools and/or private classes with their own students.

I have lived and worked in Chiang Mai for over 13 years. Over that time I have looked for work, been employed and recruited over 100 teachers for my employers. The process of finding work here is very different to the West. Schools rarely advertise their positions, schools value conservative behavior and dress, and schools sometimes recruit through 3rd parties.

Where Jobs are Advertised and How to Find Them

Few jobs in Chiang Mai are advertised on the Internet. Schools that do advertise tend to involve a foreigner with the hiring process. A couple of good examples of these schools are DARA Academy and Varee Chiang Mai. Recruitment usually involves filtering at the email application stage, short-listing, interviewing (face-to-face, Skype or telephone) and demo classes. The demo class will be with young learners aged anywhere between 3 and 18 depending upon the responsibilities of the position.

Most other schools rely on teachers walking in, depositing a CV/Resume and completing an application form. The school may not be actively recruiting at the time of the application. However, most applications are kept on file and pulled out when the school needs someone. Remember that the person tasked with finding teachers also has a full-time teaching or managerial job. Therefore, they don’t have time to waste. Finding teachers is often a spontaneous activity with the time between seeking and employing just a few days at most. Often the first suitable person the school can contact who is still looking for work and available to come to the school within a few hours to interview will be offered the job.

Important Cultural Differences when Seeking Work

The Thai definition of suitable can vary greatly to the Western notion of this word. In Thailand, appearance and behavior are very important factors in deciding whether a school will employ someone. When looking for work, foreigners should dress conservatively. Men should wear plain dark trousers (no chinos or jeans). Shoes should be dark and polished. Shirts should ideally be white and can be short, or long, sleeved but generally long is better. A tie is better than no tie. Women should wear the female professional equivalent. Facial jewelry should be removed but earrings for females are acceptable. Tattoos need to be hidden. Not being appropriately dressed is a deal breaker for most Thais unless the school is desperate for teachers.

Thai norms of behavior are rarely understood by foreigners. Many foreigners come to Thailand believing that Thai minds are conditioned by the same factors as their own, and therefore process the world in a similar way. This is not accurate and leads to many misunderstandings between foreigners and Thais. I strongly advise that all new foreign teachers receive some cultural awareness training or at the very least read a few books about the differences between our different cultural worlds. These misunderstandings often lead to frustration and foreigners leaving their jobs prematurely. There are too many differences to summarize in a short blog, but I will briefly describe some of the important ones.

Thailand is a hierarchical society and great importance is placed on respect for this hierarchy. Potential employers are puu yai (bigger person) and employees are puu noi (smaller person). Therefore the puu noi wai first and speak last. Allow Thai puu yai to speak without interruption. Don’t be too assertive and never be confrontational, aggressive or display emotion.

Importance of Networking for Teaching Jobs

Schools sometimes rely on other sources to find new teachers. It’s quite normal for a Thai employer to ask foreign teachers already working at their school whether they have friends looking for work. This is a strong recommendation, and so long as an on-site interview confirms the person looks presentable and behaves appropriately, they will more than likely be offered employment. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to network. Teachers new to Chiang Mai will have an instant network of friends (the other trainees and their trainers) if they complete TEFL training in Chiang Mai. Other sources that schools use are established and reputable TEFL courses and agencies.

The CV/Resume for Teaching Jobs in Thailand

Schools will expect to see a CV/Resume summarizing their qualifications and experience. It’s expected that a CV/Resume includes a good photo of the applicant. This helps the school to remember people who previously visited and suggests to the school whether their appearance is suitable. The photo should show head and shoulders. The pose should be natural and engaging. Thai employers don’t value stern looking people. The teacher should be dressed for work, so a plain shirt and tie for males and the equivalent for females. Hair should be neat and tidy with facial hair removed. Bad guys on Thai soap operas often wear stick-on beards and moustaches to enhance their menace. Culturally, facial hair can be intimidating to Thais. I’ve been told that when my two daughters grow up and start attracting interest from boys, I should grow a moustache to scare the boys away.

Telephone use for Teaching Job Contact in Thailand

It’s also very important to list a mobile phone number. Thais rarely use email to communicate and are more likely to phone. Therefore, a phone should always be charged and switched on during the job search period. Answer quickly as employers are busy and may impatiently hang up after 6 or 8 rings. Voicemail is also more rarely used, and so answering the phone when it rings is even more important in Thailand than in the West. Speaking to a potential Thai employer should involve consideration for their cultural values.

The CV/Resume should not in any way indicate that the foreigner’s stay is transient. Hence, don’t use a guest house address, don’t write I’ve been travelling for… and do have a phone number. Also, a cover note/email should include an indication that the applicant is interested in that particular school. Include the name of the school and relate any specific details about the school to the applicant if possible. Schools receive a lot of spam and experienced employers recognize the difference between applications from people who are serious about working at their school and people who are just spamming every school they can find. Spammers are often treated as time wasters and ignored.

Patience and Persistance in the Job Search

During the job search teachers must remain positive. It is easy to start to feel despondent if after a few weeks there’s been little response to visits, emails and phone calls. However, persistence and patience will always pay off. When I arrived over 13 years ago there were few employers of foreign teachers and I had visited nearly all of them by the end of my first day of looking for work. I waited and waited. My thoughts started to turn to my options if I needed to leave. However, after a few weeks of waiting I returned to my guest house one afternoon and a message was waiting for me from a school. It was a job offer. I accepted it and had a great first year in Chiang Mai. Then, a connection I made while working at that school led to my next job. And so it went on.


John Quinn, Director and Senior Trainer, SEE TEFL



Loy Krathong – Yee Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong (ลอยกระทง), sometimes spelled Loy Kratong, is a colorful festival held every year on the full moon of the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar. In 2012, the full moon falls on November 28th, but in some places the celebration will be from the 27 to 29th.

This Thai Festival is held all over the country, but there are particularly beautiful celebrations held in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, where the celebrations take place over several days. Celebrations are now held throughout Thailand including Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya, as well as parts of Myanmar (Shan State) and Laos.

Yee Peng

In Chiang Mai the celebration is known as Yee Peng (the full moon of the second month), as the twelfth month in the Thai Lunar Calendar corresponds to the second month in the traditional calendar of the old northern Lanna kingdom. The festival features beautifully illuminated lanterns, which are either carried, displayed in houses and temples, and even launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering – traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money – are floated down the rivers.

Loy Krathong in Chiang Mai

Loy Krathong generally takes place over one or two days. In Chiang Mai, this turns into a three day festival, though there are events scattered over five or six days. The night of the full moon is known as Loy Krathong Yai. The night before is known as Loy Krathong Lek. In practice there is little to choose between them. The focus of celebrations in Chiang Mai is around the Saphan Nawarat Bridge that connects Tha Pae Road on the western side of the river with Charoen Muang Road on the other side. If you like crowds and a party atmosphere this is the place to come.

Vendors on the eastern side of the bridge sell khom loy, fireworks and also beer and whiskey. Obviously, alcohol, gunpowder and kerosene make for a dangerous combination, so be careful. On the western side of the river bamboo landings will have been constructed where people can launch their krathongs into the water. Take note that on previous occasions drunken youths have thrown fireworks at the crowd and each other. The police make an effort to regulate the younger element, but they cannot be everywhere.

A more sedate and spiritual venue can be found at the temple of Wat Chai Mongkol, which is about two kilometers south of the bridge along Charoen Phratet Road. The temple has its own concrete landing on the river, where devotees can launch their krathongs. Throughout the evening hundreds of Khom Loy are launched into the air from the temple grounds. Khom Loy can be bought from vendors inside the temple.

The Loy Krathong Parade features giant illuminated krathongs, on top of which are perched candidates for the upcoming beauty contest. It usually leaves Tha Pae Gate for the Night Market early on the evening of the first day of the festival.

Mae Jo Mass Lantern Launch

The most spectacular of the massed balloon launches takes place at the back of Mae Jo University, about 13 kilometers outside town. Note that the Mae Jo/Sansai lantern release is not included in the schedule. This is not a part of Chiang Mai events, but is something a bit different than most people realize. The Mae Jo/Sansai lantern release is put on by the DMC, which is a Buddhist sect who specialize in large-scale events that are particularly photogenic. For more information about the DMC see the article on them in Foreign Policy. This event is for Thai believers and hi-so people (who can afford it), tourists and photographers, but is not an actual government-sanctioned event, or an indigenous event, per se. This event, again, is separate and is being held on Nov 30th in 2012. See the DMC website for more information.

Chiang Mai Events for Yee Peng / Loy Krathong

Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chiang Mai office is proud to invite everyone conserve the Yee Peng Festivity of Chiang Mai Province. It will be held throughout the Chiang Mai City from November 25-29, 2012 and it is held as well to commemorate the Miracle Year of Thailand for the three auspicious royal celebrations:

  1. His Majesty the King’s 84th Birthday,
  2. Her Majesty the Queen’s 80th Birthday, and
  3. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 60th Birthday.

Ongoing Activities

  • Nov. 25-29, 2012 – Light up the whole city by Lanna Lantern, Yee Peng Lantern and colorful lanterns around the old city moat, gate and 3 Kings Monument.
  • Nov. 27-29, 2012 – Arch Decorating Contest at temples and in the community in the Chiang Mai Municipal area
  • Nov. 27-29, 2012 – Krathong Making Contest & Showcase along the Old City Moat

Nighttime Activities

  • Nov. 26, 2012 – Lantern Parade from Thapae Gate to Pantip Plaza from 19.00-22.00
  • Nov. 27, 2012 – Small Krathong parade and contest (float along the ping river) from Thapae Gate to Chiang Mai Municipality Office (at the bank of Mae Ping River) from 19.00-23.00
  • Nov. 27, 2012 – Yee Peng Kids Contest at Thapae Gate from 19.00-24.00
  • Nov. 27-28, 2012 – Miss & Mr. Yee Peng Contest at Thapae Gate from 18.00-24.00
  • Nov. 27-29, 2012 – Music and cultural performances show at beside the Nawarat Bridge from 18.00-24.00
  • Nov. 28, 2012 Grand Krathong Procession and Contest from Thapae Gate to Chiang Mai Municipality Office (at the bank of Mae Ping River) from 18.00-24.00
  • Nov. 28-29, 2012 Fireworks show Float in the Mae Ping River from 20.00-24.00
  • Nov. 28-29, 2012 – Release Krathong Sai Lanna to the Ping River at in front of Chiang Mai Municipality Office (at the bank of Mae Ping River) from 19.00-21.00

Daytime Activities

  • Nov. 28, 2012 – Lantern and Giant Lantern Contest at Chiang Mai Municipality Office (at the bank of Mae Ping River) from 09.00-12.00
  • Nov. 28, 2012 – Krathong Making Contest at Chiang Mai Municipality Office (at the bank of Mae Ping River) from 09.00-17.00

Religious Activity

  • Nov. 27-29, 2012 – Chanting and giving alms at Wat Lok Mo Lee from 09.00-22.00
  • Nov. 27-29, 2012 – Respective Ritual ceremony to Phra Sirimangkalajarn at Chiang Mai Bhuddist Place from 09.00-22.00
  • Nov. 28, 2012 – Traditional Respective Ritual Ceremony to Phra Phum, white pagoda and the God of water at Chiang Mai Municipality Office and Sri Khong Pier from 08.09-10.30
  • Nov. 28, 2012 – Grand Chanting Ceremony at Wat Muang Sart Luang from 06.00-20.00


King Naresuan – National Hero of Thailand

I had time between courses a few weeks ago so decided to take the family for a short break away from the city and TEFL training. Although I love Chiang Mai, it’s always nice to climb mountain roads and drive through clouds with windows open and cold breezes filling the car. Something that surprised me many years ago was reading that the mountains north and west of the city are actually part of the eastern extremity of the Himalayan mountain range.

Touring Northern Thailand

Then again, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me because there is a marked similarity between some of the Himalayan hill stations I visited in India many years ago and places such as Mae Salong, Mae Hong Son and Doi Angkarn: cool temperatures, slow climbing trucks, mist, conifers, tea, rhododendrons and people wearing cheap knit wear. So, early Wednesday morning we set off. We had booked 2 nights at the Doi Angkhan Nature Resort

It’s a roughly 170km journey of mainly beautiful tropical countryside driving from Chiang Mai along highways 107, 1178 and 1340 via Chang Dao and the King Naresuan stupa on 1178. The junction of the 1178 and 1340 is actually on the Burmese border, and I guess this is why check points are manned by soldiers, rather than police, along this stretch of road.

There are coffee shops all along these roads supplying fresh coffee grown in these mountains as part of the current King’s successful opium crop substitution program. The coffee’s delicious and cheap. I’m told, as I’ve never visited one, that the coffee tastes better than Starbucks. There’s certainly a better view from most of these roadside coffee places and not a paper cup in sight.

The People of Northern Thailand

The ethnic mix of people in this corner of Thailand is also very interesting. There are many hill tribe villages including Padung, who are known for their elongated necks stretched by brass coils. There are also Muslim Jin Haw (galloping Chinese) villages. These are the guys who used to control trade in this part of the world with their mule transports and knowledge of mountain passes.

There are also villages of Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese nationalist soldiers forced to flee from the Communists to Thailand in 1949. Up until just a few years ago, it was the KMT and Khun Sa, the Shan warlord, who were responsible for much of the opium industry in the Golden Triangle. Incidentally, at the end of the small lane next to the SEE TEFL school in Chiang Mai is a very large and impressive house. The gates and walls are high and deny access to prying eyes. It’s ‘rumored’ the little old Chinese lady that lives there is the wife of one of Khun Sa’s deceased lieutenants.

The Road to Chang Dao

On the road to Chang Dao are several elephant camps. There is mixed opinion about elephant camps, as many of the elephants need to be ‘broken’ when young before they can be trained to perform; and this often involves beating them. I feel elephants are absolutely amazing creatures. When you get close and look in to their eyes, they lock on you and you can see intelligence. Their bulk suggests a lack of agility, but that’s misleading as these animals dance through mud, mountain slopes and thick jungle like sure-footed Special Forces soldiers. You don’t need to enter the camps to meet them either, as they can be seen munching on foliage just a few meters from the road’s edge.

My wife’s family owns a successful car services company in Chiang Mai named Amnuay Motor Air. Because of this, we have a top of the range car TV erupting out of the dashboard and hanging from the ceiling of our family car. Because of this, I have to listen to and watch continuous replays of my children’s favorite cartoons whenever I’m driving. One of these cartoons is about the war elephant of King Naresuan, Khang Kluay Because of this, I was introduced to the story of this King and his heroic deeds. And because of this, I decided to stop at the King Naresuan stupa on our drive through the mountains.

King Naresuan   National Hero of Thailand

King Naresuan, a Thai National Hero

This stupa was built, it’s said, as an act of merit making by his siblings to this great Thai King who died in Wiang Haeng close to here in 1605 while campaigning against the Burmese. I knew little about this King until recently. There have been a few Thai movies about his life story which I watched but cynically dismissed the action and heroics as exaggerated. However, I have been researching, and it seems the movies are a fair reflection of history. This Thai King was truly amazing. It’s a story all Thais know and a story foreigners who live here should know as well. Therefore, I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of this blog to his story.

King Naresuan   National Hero of Thailand

King Naresuan is one of the most revered monarchs of Thai history. His victories over the Burmese during the years around the end of the 16th Century prevented Burma from consolidating their earlier military victories and hence extending further their empire to encompass large swathes of Siam. He also allied in the north Siam with the Shan, or Thai Yai, and the Lanna Kingdom of Chiang Mai, which led them to achieve independence albeit fleetingly from the Burmese empire centered on Pegu. In all senses of the word, he truly is a national hero to Thais.

King Naresuan in Burma

King Naresuan grew up as a Siamese prince in the Royal Burmese court at Pegu. He was a hostage held by the Burmese King, Bayinnaung of the Toungoo Dynasty, in order to prevent the prince’s father, King Maha Thammarachathirat , from launching a rebellion against Burmese political influence of Ayudhya. While a captive, the prince, along with other royal hostages from the Burmese empire, was trained in the art of war by Portuguese mercenaries and the Burmese. A fellow student and childhood friend was the grandson of King Bayinnaung, Prince Minchit Sra. The prince’s paths would fatally cross later at the battle of Nong Sarai (near Suphan Buri).

King Naresuan   National Hero of Thailand

The Battle of Nong Sarai

The battle of Nong Sarai in 1592 was a pivotal battle of the Siam-Burmese wars of this period. Although vastly outnumbered, the Thais fought ferociously against their enemy. However, in opposition to the vastly superior numbers of the Burmese army, they started to retreat and were close to collapse. At that moment, in an almost unbelievable example of valor and leadership, King Naresuan riding on his royal war elephant Khang Kluay sought out Prince Minchit Sra while fighting ferociously through ranks of enemy soldiers.

When their elephants met, combat became face-to-face with both leaders standing on the heads of their elephants lurching at each other with sword and lance. It’s said the fight was so ferocious that soldiers of both armies stopped fighting in order to stare in awe at the spectacle. A final slice of sword cut completely through the Burmese leader’s body from shoulder to hip, and Siam had won the day. Without a leader, the Burmese stopped fighting and retreated to Pegu. King Naresuan became a Thai hero, and the date of the battle (January 18th) was adopted as a national holiday which is celebrated each year as Royal Thai Armed Forces Day.

King Naresuan   National Hero of Thailand

King Naresuan and Fighting Roosters

Always associated with King Naresuan is fighting male chickens (I’ve avoided saying fighting cocks as it just didn’t look or sound appropriate). At memorials to him around the country, there will be small concrete male chickens surrounding the spirit house. The reason for this is that while a captive of the Burmese, his fighting chicken beat the Burmese champion. Instead of accepting a material reward for winning, he requested freedom for Siam. Whether this story is true, or not, it certainly adds more patriotic fervor to his story.

It wasn’t until 1767 that the Burmese were militarily strong enough to launch a new campaign against Siam. This time there was nobody with the tactical genius and personal courage of King Naresuan to lead the Siamese and Ayudhya was sacked – but that’s another story. It’s also a story that led indirectly to the start of the current Chakri dynasty of Thai Kings.

Foreign Teachers and the Coming ASEAN EC

In November 2010, the then Education Minister, Mr. Chinnaworn Boonyakiat, delivered a lecture to members of the Thai senate in relation to Thailand’s Educational Preparation for ASEAN Community in 2015. He admitted that in the past, Thailand had no clear plan relating to the development of the country’s education system. In addition, Thai students had […]

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Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk, Chiang Mai

I spent a beautiful and enjoyable day recently at the Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk horticultural exposition in Chiang Mai. It’s a mix of pavilions, gardens, events and activities all nestled into a small valley off the irrigation road around 15km south of the city. Arrival at Royal Flora Arriving at these sorts of places I am […]

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Popular Temples in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a city of temples, and these temples are at the historical and cultural heart of the city. In fact, one houses the City Pillar which gave the city its cosmological chart and hence the blueprint for its construction in 1296 by King Mengrai . There are hundreds, but for this blog, I […]

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