31st July 2016. This marks the end of probably the most adventurous month that I have experienced to date. I wasn’t in Thailand for too long, in fact, it has only been two weeks. It still doesn’t seem like it though, because it felt like I was there for an entire semester. Within the short two weeks that I was there, I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, none of which related to being homesick though. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that it felt like I just belonged there (well, apart from the language barrier).
I arrived on the Saturday night. More precisely, on the 2nd July. That was the first night that I, along with a few others, experienced the feeling of being ‘stranded’. Reason being that our accommodation site was a 30 minute taxi ride from the city, and there were no train stations nearby. So pretty much, most of the taxi drivers wouldn’t drive us back unless we paid twice the amount of the usual price. Sounds a lot doesn’t it? But it only adds up to a total amount of $8-10 and that’s considered DOUBLE the price of the original!
Most of the fun started on the Sunday though. We went on a little journey to the Floating Markets, and as its name says, consisted of many boats on the side of the dock where people would cook their food on. As soon as we entered the vicinity, we were greeted by the sight of many stalls and lots of people, but the smell of the food immediately attracted our attention and so we tried a great range of Thai food.
Monday was the official orientation where we were welcomed by really friendly Tutors and Thai students. At first, I wasn’t sure how everything would turn out because people were in their own groups due to the cultural barrier, however, it wasn’t long until everyone began mingling with each other and the vibe was just great!
From the next day onwards, the real work began. The surprising thing is that, also most of us were studying either Environmental Science, Biomedical Sciences, and Marine Biology, we were given a syllabus which consisted only of physics! At first I was pretty shocked, as I thought this would have been based of environmental science subjects, however, the physics subjects ended up being quite practical, enabling us to understand concepts more easily.
In between some days, we would have the Thai cultural classes. The first one consisted of a Muay Thai class. I remember that day being extremely humid! And to top it off, it was pouring once our class ended! The lesson was actually pretty fun, some people seemed to have a talent in this field as we watch each other spar against the instructors towards the end of the class, even though it was their first time doing this form of art! I met a really nice Thai girl that day. Apparently, people said that we kind of looked like each other, and throughout the trip, there were even some who even said we looked like sisters. Guess I was already starting to fit right in!
We also had two Thai language classes. The first one consisted of a few greeting phrases. It was a bit concerning when they didn’t teach us about the Hongnam. I thought that was one of the first things that people learn when in a foreign country. In that same lesson, we also had a competition and separated into three teams. We had to create a basket of Thai sticky rice pudding. The main part of this activity was the wrapping of the rice using banana leaves. Unfortunately, we did not win. The second day of the language class, we learnt to count numbers! I think I nailed that one, but only because I had a Thai friend who taught me how to count numbers on the bus just the day before because we had nothing better to do. We were also given the opportunity to make Thai dessert !
The field trips that we went on were more than amazing, and I really could not have asked for more. It was everything and beyond my expectations! It consisted of visiting the Grand Palace to eating local food around the area, visiting a winery as well as canning factory for fish. It was unfortunate that we were unable to take pictures on site because it was pretty fascinating seeing everything being done in front of you. But if there’s one thing to know about the canning factory, cats get a bigger portion than humans.
During our study period, two days consisted of going to an urban part of the country, approximately 3 hours away from the university. On those days, we studied at the All Green Learning Centre (AGLC), a place where they conduct research on using natural and biodegradable products as an alternative to using exhaustible material and non-biodegradable products. On that day, we were provided statistics and the estimation of how many ‘worlds’ it would take to sustain a country. We also learnt a little about construction engineering. This was because both the Engineering students and Science students were together for these two days. The instructor told us that all the accommodation buildings were made in a slightly different way, for experimental purposes. This including using Magnesium oxide as a material in one of the buildings and comparing it to using Calcium carbonate in the other building. Can you guess which building had a lower temperature? Buildings were also faced in different directions for some, also to compare temperature purposes. One of the other things which I had learnt which would probably be very beneficial in their climate is the lining of aluminium foil on the roofs of the buildings as a form of reflective insulation. According to the instructor, this would decrease the temperature of the building by a significant amount during hot days (which is pretty much almost everyday).
On our journey back to the university, we stopped by the Elephants Research and Conservation site, a place where they conduct research on elephant population as well as ways to stop elephants from becoming a victim to poaching. They also hold education centres for youth in hopes for them to take on the role of helping endangered elephants and repopulation.
I probably missed out on quite a few chunks of information, but that was mainly what happened during the two weeks.
As for the time we had outside of lectures which was about 4pm+, I would generally spend my days going to various night markets with the help of a few locals. In fact, one of them was kind enough to take us to a nearby shopping centre! How lucky were we! That day was one of my highlights because I had the best pad thai. Literally. The best. That day I met a few other people, and I must say, was the start of many more adventures throughout the two weeks because they took us out on quite a few nights.
From going to the Floating markets for food, to the Chatuchak markets for shopping it was definitely a great market experience, especially with all the haggling. I loved going to Asiatique, definitely worth going to ! The tuktuks were really fun as a means to get from suburb to suburb. It’s like fast and furious for some of those crazy drivers. Imagine being on the back of a mini truck with tied plastic ropes for you to support yourself on and going faster than a car on a highway ! That’s how we managed to get to a sky bar from one of the markets !
Without the help of BUiLD and UTS and their partnership with KMUTT, I would not have had the amazing experience like I did this month. I have learnt much not only academically but also gained lifelong personal experiences, which will stick to me for as long as I can remember. Having met the many people who were once strangers to me, and knowing for a fact that I have made some lifelong friends, I am forever grateful of this opportunity. Throughout this entire journey, I was able to discover things that I did and did not know about myself, and for that, I thank you, and to everyone else who has created such a memorable experience for me.