Monday, April 1, 2013

So you want to study abroad in Thailand?

I know that KEI and Emory use this blog so I figured I would take some time to go over all the things that are good to know/wish I had known before coming to study abroad in Thailand.

1. Don't pack more than four pairs of shoes. I brought at least three pairs of shoes that I have not worn once while here. Take a minute think about where you are going and kiss those cute sequin flats goodbye. If you don't want to walk four miles in them then they should not make the cut. Extra shoes take up a ton of space and precious suitcase weight.

2. You will have a school uniform. I was really unclear about this before I came and was told that they weren't that strict about it for international kids, that it was more of a preference. So I just brought a ton of skirts and blouses that were a similar fashion to the uniform. If you are studying abroad in Thailand there is a 99% chance you will be wearing a uniform 80% of the time. Its alright though because it gets you discounts places and you never have to think about what you are  going to wear. Also you can pack way less clothes!

3. It is okay to wear shorts in public. Yes some Thai people are modest, but a lot of them do wear shorts and it is not a problem. I almost didn't bring any because I was told only tourists wear them, some see it as disrespectful, and they will charge you more money because they think you are a rich American. If you are foreign I promise you will stick out...all the time. You can try to blend in, the Thai people will give you an A for effort and possibly a 20 baht discount but you aren't fooling anybody. It's okay though, I got used to it really fast and most Thai people go out of their way to help you. If you are a girl you should probably bring a knee length/modest skirt, most temples don't let women in wearing shorts/pants/short skirts.

4. Don't load up your class schedule. The semester you choose to study abroad anywhere isn't a great time to get all of your hard classes out of the way. In Thailand I would say this is particularly true. Most people I talk to wish they had taken less difficult courses and/or less credits. Living in a foreign country is a big adjustment. If you are like anybody I talked to you are going to find it really hard to focus. Professors are likely to teach, test, and grade in a way that is very different from your home University. Nobody wants to spend all their weekends studying abroad actually studying. You gotta have time to go out there and explore without coming back to a stress fest.

5. Bring any food you can't live without. There is just something comforting abut coming back to your apartment after an overwhelming day and being greeted by your favorite granola bar. Especially in the beginning before you have fully embraced the Thai food all the time mentality this will be a life saver. You can find some stuff here but chances are it is not the same and since only Foreigners eat it, it will be really expensive. If any of these items are a staple in your diet then bring them with you. You will not find them easily here. Salad dressing (they use sweet mayo everywhere here and it is gross), anything cheesy, granola bars, trail mix, chocolate (especially dark), peanut butter (you can find it but it is not the same, in teeny jars, and expensive), anything you prefer whole grain or whole wheat, protein bars, cereal, and granola. These are pretty much just the things that I missed a lot but as a general rule anything that falls in the snack or breakfast category. Plus you will have room in your suitcase for souvenirs when you come home because you ate all the food you brought with you!

6. Bring any DVD's you can't live without. The internet is pretty slow where ever you go, most/all t.v. here is in Thai, and if you buy movies here they might not be compatible with your computer. Most dvd drives in computers these days only let you change your region five times before it locks it for life. I know it sounds confusing but pretty much don't bother buying them here. If you are a movie buff come prepared.

7. Bring any medicine you might want...ever. The chances of you getting food poisoning while here are pretty close to 100% so just go ahead and make that process a lot more pleasant by brining your favorite meds with you. If by chance you go unscathed I am sure that a friend will appreciate it at some point.

8. Bring enough soap to last the whole trip. It is really hard to find soap that does not have bleaching agents in it because pretty much all Thai people use bleach in most skin products. Most labels are also completely in Thai so it is pretty hard to know whether or not you have found soap that won't turn you into Michael Jackson.

9. If you think you might want to leave Thailand get a multiple entry visa! 

10. If you are a girl bring all of the feminine products you will need for your trip. 

11. Bring a coat and other warm accessories. I know it is a tropical country but this especially applies if you are connecting through the Beijing airport. They do not have any heat in the international wing of their airport and it is all glass. On the plus side they do have a yoga/meditation room if that is your thing. Chiang Mai and other northern provinces can also get pretty chilly sometimes.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thai food and other oddities

I know that I haven't posted many pictures of food so during my last week in Thailand I made a concerted effort to grab pics of all the food that I eat most often. 

Morning Glory with hard boiled egg

Sukiyaki nam=best soup

some kind of vegetable with tofu and brown rice from the schools caf.

They have all kinds of animal shaped bushes in the middle of the streets
but I like the elephants.

It's like Pad Thai without the noodles 

They serve chocolate colons at our school.

Fried fish with lime sauce

pumpkin, tofu, and vegetables

After my last exam we celebrated by going shopping for some last minute souvenirs in Bangkok. Although it does resemble a Hangover 2 moment I don't think that this baby was on the list.
baby unattended in a shopping cart at the mall

This necklace was for sale at the art museum. This local Thai lady made it and I thought it was rather amusing.
It was a Thai version of super Mario on exhibit at the arts center.

yummy Thai candy!

The making of the crepes that the Thai candy was wrapped in.

sushi at the market, in the 98 degree weather...

It's like a cabbage shrimp cake, not too bad in ball form.

Thai Taro ball in coconut milk dessert.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Phra Pathom

Last weekend View took us to the largest chedi in Thailand. Legend has it that long ago there was a king who visited some kind of fortune teller. It was predicted that his next son would kill him. The king was distraught and when his son was born he abandoned him and floated down the river. One day there was a battle, the queen recognized her long lost son by a scar on his face. Before she could stop him he had slain the King aka his father. Later on he found out the truth and built the largest Chedi in Thailand in honor of his dad. He said that he wanted it to be as high as the birds fly. The chedi is surrounded by many caves that are filled with statues and used for worshipping purposes. 
The view of the chedi from above.
We took a train across the province to visit the chedi. Although it was a rather long wait at the station it was a nice ride. View also told us a lot about Thai food, plants, and other things we were curious about while we ate. Apparently the clear noodles are made of green beans. Who would've thought?!?! While we were eating lunch one of the guys working at the food stall came up to View and asked her how old he was. After that he asked if I was married. After that I couldn't understand their Thai anymore, but I think he might've been the first Thai guy to almost creep me out.
raisin and corn waffles on the street.
I tried a corn one and it wasn't bad.

Cashana and I outside Phra Pathom

The entrance to the caves at the temple

Even inside a cave you had to remove your shoes

While in the caves this man who worked there called Sean and I over. He took a bunch of bamboo sticks, dipped them in some kind of water, and tapped them on our heads. Apparently he was blessing us but View said on monks do that and he wasn't wearing a monks robes so who knows what happened.
Entrance to another cave

This watermelon is cheap and awesome
 but it sure is awkward to eat those big slices armed with nothing but that little stick.

This little boy held onto those loops the whole train ride.

A monk who reached enlightenment

Typical lunch at the MUIC cafeteria. 
Anyways I am officially in the home stretch of this trip. After my tropical medicine final I will be headed back to America. Although flying back easter Sunday is kind of a bummer my Aunt is going to pick me up from JFK and taking me to easter dinner during my layover before I go back to North Carolina, so that should be really nice. I haven't started packing yet, but I am armed with space bags, a vacuum, a scale, and lots of determination to leave a minimal amount of stuff behind. I hope that everybody's week is off to a nice start!

The view walking back from the hospital.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The fated bus

There is something magical about barely making it to the bus. After my exam Cashana, Quin, and I went to JJ market to do some last minute souvenir shopping. Well within 30 minutes I had managed to lose them. Mind you this is 100% the largest market in the world (go ahead and google it I dare you). After ten minutes of searching I came to terms with the fact that I was on my own for this one, and I must say it was pretty cool. When it was time to leave I took the sky train to the part of Bangkok where I knew I could get a bus back to Salaya. Finding the right station I get the bus pros to be slightly more problematic. So I was walking around this giant traffic circle asking Thai people which station it was. I realize I'm heading in the right direction and then while crossing the street on the bridge I spot it. The miraculous 515 in all it's glory. Only it has already started pulling away. So I race across the bridge, down the stairs, across the street, adrenaline rushing, heart pounding. Yes I can see it! Oh no it is still driving away. I'm doomed. When you are in a city where bus schedules don't exist not missing the bus when it comes is a very big deal. Which is exactly what happened HOORAH! I ran out into the road next to the bus half expecting it to keep going, there's no way it could've seen my last desperate attempt at making it off the streets of Bangkok before dark. But somehow it did. Mister 515 screeched to a stop, the doors squeaked open, and I quickly jumped on before the cosmic fate had a chance to change its mind. Just this weekend I had waited over an hour on two occasions for a bus. There is nothing like catching the bus right at the last minute. AWESOME!

This is the inside of the traffic circle I was running around.

A lot of other cool stuff happened today though. While on the sky train I met this really cool guy from Holand. He told me I didn't have an American accent. I have actually gotten that a lot here and I almost feel like I'm disappointing people, but I don't really know what they expect. Or what to say to that. I really am from America I promise. He asked me what North Carolina was famous for. I tried to tell him about the Wright brothers but he seemed unimpressed and asked what else. I couldn't think of anything and he found that mighty amusing.

The street outside JJ market.

Men playing checkers with bottle caps.

This shop owner had a mohawk!

I had my second to last final today. Yes for clarification it was on a Sunday. Quin and I went up to the school early to print off some final papers for the class and grab lunch. To our disappointment everything we went to on campus was closed. No food, no computer lab, no air conditioning, nothing. Now I don't mind taking a final on a Sunday but if I have to show up then some other people should too. Other positive points of the day include that I almost found the shirt I want, got a chocolate covered/almond rolled frozen banana, and had a cashier giver me pooh stickers when I bought a sandwich at 7/11. I hope the universe is treating everybody else kindly today :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Don Wai floating market

     This weekend View took us to a floating market about ten minutes down the road from our apartment. It is apparently one of the most well known floating markets in Thailand and the favorite among Thai people. It was a nice morning on the water so when we got there View bought us ticket for an hour and a half river boat ride. The captain gave us each a small loaf of bread to feed the gigantic fish jumping out of the water below us. The market is located behind a temple which means fishing in the area is prohibited, so the fish flourish like nowhere I have ever seen before. I took a bunch of pictures of them but they didn't really come out well, and without a normal sized fish to compare them to they just look kind of average. In the shallow parts of the river many farmers grew different plants that Thai people eat as vegetables (some are called morning glory and taste really yummy). I saw a few men in the water up to their shoulders harvesting these plants and throwing them up onto the small boat beside them. I thought it was pretty cool. Below you will see a completely unrelated picture of some green tea ice cream that I tried a few days ago. It was pretty good. I was expecting it to be gross so it made the blog.

Green tea ice cream :)

selling produce from the boats

part of the KEI group on the river boat :)

A boat similar to the one that we took a river cruise on.
     Don Wai did not have many foreigners at all. In fact I think we might have been about it. At one point some of us had sat down for lunch and a Thai lady on a boat shouted over to our table that a foreign boy was down a few aisles and wanted to know if he was supposed to be with us. Indeed he was, I thought it was kind of funny that we stuck out so much a stranger felt comfortable doing that.
typical menu at a restaurant

live eels at the market, they believe that releasing them is good luck.
View said they just get eaten by the fish immediately and she doesn't see the luck in that.
     Ewwww I thought the eel thing was super gross. I know you can't really tell how big that they are in the picture but I would say each one was about as big as my arm. The fact that the fish in the river eat them kind of puts into perspective my comments about the giant fish earlier. Two days before this my tropical medicine class took a field trip to a snake farm where they make all of the anti-venom for people who get snake bites in Thailand. It was pretty cool but I felt bad for the snakes. Isolated and alone in their cages, no chance for real love, poor little myanmar pit vipers. I have also found that it is hard for me to take somebody who is supposed to be a professional seriously when they can't really speak English. I know it is horrible and probably something that I should add to my personal "needs improvement" category but it is hard for me to truly respect somebody who is supposed to be an expert in their field when they can not speak intelligible English. So the guy I have been indirectly referring to for my last few sentences was our instructor at the snake farm. It was his job to tell us about all of these poisonous/venomous animals in Thailand. He got really excited every time an animal came up that you could eat a part (which according to him was most animals). Sorry for being a close minded American here but getting the recipe for how to fry an oil beetle (which produces its own oil to be fried in) started to gross me out. Anyways, the floating market was awesome, the snake farm was gross, and I now have just under two weeks left in Thailand. Yayy Thai!
Rainbow tomatos 

traditional Thai house on the river

WOOT sweetened condensed milk

this is for Joanna

Sunday, March 10, 2013


     On Sunday morning View picked us up in two large vans and we drove up to the town of Ayuthaya. It used to be the capital of Thailand back when it was still called Siam. Apparently it was quite the cosmopolitan city in its day and is now famous for is ruins. To be honest I was a little nervous about whether or not I would enjoy the trip (I have seen a lot of temples the past two months). It was actually really cool though and we got to see this fancy museum about it. Hey if there is a interesting museum I am always on board.
Sitting Buddhas at the ancient temples
      Lunch was amazing! It was this big fancy Thai buffet, they had yummy soup, sushi, fruit, the works. This fruit in the pictures below was quite a hit!
A really yummy fruit that I tried at lunch.
I think that it is called a langkan
      Our local guide was really interesting and even took all of us to his coffee shop. It was super hot out so the icy cool drinks were a welcome refreshment. Loaded with a fresh cup of ice I was ready to tackle the remaining three temples left on our tour of the town. I know that I haven't really said much in this blog entry, I just can't think of anything that you guys would be interested in hearing about. Don't get me wrong it was a cool place but without the spectacle in front of you the history seems semi-ordinary. Oh okay so two of the princes fought on elephant back to decide who would be the next king. I thought that was pretty cool. Turns out they both died and their younger brother was named king. I think it is pretty cool that they fought on elephants...well not so cool for the elephants I guess. You know during the Civil War the king of Thailand offered Lincoln a male and female elephant to start an elephant herd in America. I guess he thought they could use them to help crush the south during the war. Lincoln turned him down saying that he didn't think the climate would be suitable for them, but man could you imagine the look on the Confederates faces if a herd of elephants had come running toward them. It would've given a whole new meaning to the battle of Bull Run.
Ruins in Ayuthaya

The oldest Buddha in Southeast Asia at over 1,500 years old.

People riding elephants downtown.
      All in all it was a great day! We even got to watch Friends on the ride there and back. My friend Quinn downloaded Silver Linings Playbook last night so I think that we are gonna snuggle down and watch that in a bit. Yayy I am so excited, it should be a great way to end a nice weekend before this busy week kicks in.
I thought this was pretty cool, the tree grew around the head all on its own.