I arrived in Thailand at 12am on 4th July knowing only a couple of Australian students on the trip and British lady I had met on the plane. I struggled to communicate with the taxi driver because I knew no Thai and he had very little English. I finally got to KMUTT and had a good night’s sleep before the welcoming ceremony the next day.
We were welcomed with open arms and warm smiles by all of the Thai students and teachers. They endeavoured to speak to us in English, which made our stay in Thailand very easy. After the welcoming ceremony we started our lectures on energy usage and climate change, and undertook many cultural classes. We also explored Bangkok with the extensive help of out Thai buddies.
We had a total of five informative lectures covering electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, nuclear energy generation and energy conservation. Each class was engaging in the sense that we learnt as a group. We had many lengthy group discussions and undertook many group research tasks and debates. I found this to be a great way to learn a broad range of information about renewable energy in such a short period of time.
The cultural activities:
One of my favourite cultural activities was the first one on the trip. We were led to a large gym that somehow happened to be hotter and more humid than the weather outside. We were met by two trainers, one of which was a current MMA champ who was preparing for a fight in 2 months. He showed us all how to kick in Muay Thai, punch, elbow and grapple. He also had a great sense of humour. He would spar with us 1 on 1 and jump back theatrically when we kicked him, or throw himself to the ground when we were grappling. He also taught me how to spar and was kicking me repeatedly (with pads and correct technique it still hurt). I asked him to perform a round house kick on me, and his heal collided with my face. It hurt, but now I can say I was kicked in the face by a current Thai MMA champion. He even showed us all of his belts, and tried to explain some of his horrific injuries in broken English. It was also interesting that he didn’t need any English skill to explain Muay Thai, he just moved around and explained everything with his body.
We also got to learn about Thai culture, language and food through two interactive classes with a very passionate woman. She made us all fall in love with the Thai way of life and taught us some easy phrases. By the end of the classes she had us all do a roll play in Thai (or attempt it at least). On one side of the class we were selling traditional Thai desserts, and on the other we were buying them. She brought in a friend who was told to only respond in Thai, and would also be the judge for the activity. Upon summing up our efforts she said something along the lines of “you could all use numbers well, but one person stood out. This person spoke many phrases, unfortunately none of them made sense together. He spoke good Thai gibberish.” I was that person. She gave me a traditional Thai garment (like a sarong tied around my waist) as a prize for speaking Thai gibberish.
This was without doubt my favourite part of the trip and it was definitely made more memorable with the help of our Thai Buddies. They always showed us great places to eat, shop and of course good “drinking locations” as my friend Get would say in his heavy Thai accent. We had many unforgettable experiences in Bangkok that would take many pages to explain, so I will list some of my favourites instead.
- Assisting locals in a market back alley with crushing chillies, eggplant and fish in a mortar and pestle to be eaten with rice in a big group with the smiling locals.
- Cooking an amazing broth at a market stall under the strict instruction of the owner of the stall. We then ate together with the locals, shared a few changes (the Thai beer) and took many pictures together.
- Exploring the flower markets and Saphan Phut markets along the water at night.
- Exploring the more open and scenic Asia Tique markets.
- Being guided through the incredible royal palace and taking in the amazing architecture and colourful detail as well as many historic pieces.
- Spending two amazing and informative days at the All Green Learning Centre (AGLC) who showed us how easy it can be to live sustainably.
- Playing “Boc Dang!” for hours with all of our Thai friends.
- Meeting the elephants at the elephant conservation centre.
- Taking in a 360 degree view of the Bangkok skyline at night at the various sky bars.
- Using the boats along the canals and the river for around 15 Baht (under $1)
- Sharing the busses with locals for 15 Baht (under $1)
- Using the perfectly run train system in Bangkok (us Aussies could learn a few things).
- Learning to cook (and eat) Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai, Som Tum, Massamun Curry, and sweet coconut sticky rice with mango.
- Losing my phone in a taxi and having another the taxi driver go through dash cam footage, call many people, and drive halfway across Bangkok to find an incredible lady who handed the phone straight back to me and refused to take my money. She only asked that I send her the photos we took together.
- Continually straying down tiny alleys, markets, river edges, roads packed with stalls and energy, and always feeling safe and excepted.
This experience has been many things, none short of incredible. I have made many lifelong friendships with an amazing bunch of people and I hope that one day I can show them around my home town in Australia and show them the love, warmth and compassion that they continually showed us.
Christopher Vosnakis, 11403146