My Trip to Thailand

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Hello everyone!

So, as you may know, I was just in Thailand for a study abroad trip for the last couple of weeks (May term). I experienced a lot of amazing things, and I would love to share it with you! Also, I have many people asking about my experience, and I thought this would be a great place to put it all.

At first, I was wondering what version of the story I should tell people— the excursions, the cultural experiences, my personal growth.. etc. So why not have a place to write it all down—all of it? I had some free days to explore, but most days were spent at schools/villages and learning from the Thai people.

Here goes. Also, I wrote these notes in my journal, so this is gonna be kinda like my thoughts on paper.

ALL ABOUT THAILAND:

Villages:

The villages were amazing. Let me try to depict! Little wooden homes in greenery. Dirt roads. Thai people— young boys, wise older women. Kids playing games on the street. Women selling crafts/jewelry. Women threading or weaving clothing. Bathrooms like a wooden port-a-potty. No toilet paper. Shower in the same room as the bathroom with a bucket under it, no curtain. Tiny 1-floor cozy wooden homes. Dusty. No AC.

Pretty much, these people live very simply and it was beautiful to see how content they were with not much.

Schools:

Half outside/ inside. Kids from different tribes. Large Hmong population. Many children, some playing in courtyard. Colorful. For the group project I did, I focused on sex education in schools in Thailand. Turns out, they integrate a lot of their sex education in classes like science or history or ones not solely dedicated to health. And, the current top form of contraception for women students are currently using in Thailand is Plan B. Some facts I found interesting as well as unfortunate… :(

Food:

Very flavorful—Thai food definitely is a lot different here in Thailand and way more authentic than in America. Most restaurants are Thai in Thailand. It’s confusing because the restaurants prepare similar dishes to the food cooked at home. There are popular dishes in Thailand and many of them are the same wherever you go to eat (fried rice, pad thai, green papaya salad, rice noodle soup…. etc). Usually, when we ate at the villages or schools, food consisted of white sticky rice with a fried egg for the top and some veggies. I am just saying what me, the vegetarian was served! Sometimes there was soup as well, which was so flavorful. The soup would have half of the ingredients in it that weren’t even edible and just for flavor! In the bigger cities, you could find more American food like pizza or smoothies, but as you went more rural, it was more limited to Thai.

Currency:

About 30 Baht/ 1 US dollar. It’s very cheap. I could get a meal for about $2-3! A Thai massage was $6. Clothes for $3-6. I honestly think that you could spend 3 weeks there on $150. Great place to study abroad for a long period of time due to the prices.

Infrastructure:

  • Temples: Everywhere. Very colorful. They each have their own unique pointy structure and colors, but they all have a big, gold buddha at the back. When you arrive at the temple, if you want to, you can follow as the Thai people do and bow 3 times on your knees, following with touching your hands on the floor to worship the Buddha.

  • Gilded decorations: On streets, lamps, buildings, etc.

  • Restaurants: Everything looks like what a hole-in-the-wall restaurant would look like here. It is hard to know what is good/not good by looks. I usually looked at ratings!

  • King: There were pictures hanging of him all over the city.

Land/ Weather:

Lush, green. Mountains. Very humid. Sunny. When it rains, it pours. Every day was around 100 degrees. And, despite some people wearing those masks for pollution coverage, I felt like the air was pretty fresh.

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People:

Thai people are so kind and respectful. This culture is very based on respect. I fell in love with their kindness and giving nature. One woman gave me the ring off her finger!

Language:

Most Thai people speak a bit of English so that was amazing. I am so thankful for non-verbal communication! Language is so crazy to me—communication is really so beautiful.

Hello is “Sawadii, ka.”

Thank you is “Khop khun ka.”

(ka is a “polite” addition to the words)

Both of these are used by putting your hands together and bowing your head for greeting another. Everyone will greet you like this and thank you like this. If you say something wrong, Thai people will kindly correct you!

Dress:

Very traditional in villages— women would wear a colorful top/ skirt with a little robe around it that has silver bells or jewelry. Men wear colorful printed jackets, usually gilded. And pants with beautiful prints. In the cities, I saw a lot of shorts and tees for men and women. They also have these button-up cloth shirts that men wear with matching pants, and it looks a lot like scrubs. And then on Monday’s, everyone wears yellow for the king. You’ll walk past stores in Thailand with all yellow clothing for this.

Night Life:

  • Markets: Tons of food. Smoothies, juice, ice cream, Thai food, drinks. Clothes, jewelry, coffee/tea, mugs, knock off Ray-bans and other expensive brands like Coach or Michael Kors, etc. I became a great negotiator. ;)

  • Clubs: Usually American music and crazy lights! Fun drinks. The one we went to wasn’t insanely big but it was definitely a crazy party.

  • Bars: Usually smaller/ more local. Pool table, some chairs by the bar area. Pretty mellow.

Safety:

Felt pretty safe! The only thing is that I’d definitely feel more safe going out late in like Europe or something. Thailand has a high accident rate with vehicles. A crazy thing I saw was a whole family on a motorcycle on this trip with groceries as well! Probably plays into safety…

Government:

I didn’t learn tons about this, but they recently had a new King take the old one’s place. The Thai people spoke great things about the past king. In Thailand, you aren’t allowed to speak negatively of the king, but the last king was genuinely good.

Environment:

The Mekong River is huge here. Thailand and especially Laos (which we visited), depend on the Mekong for transportation and food supply. But, since China is starting to build dams which is changing the water levels, creating erosion that affects biodiversity. This is affecting Thailand greatly.

SOME COOL THINGS I DID:

Elephant Excursion Day:

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These creates were so king and loving. We got to feed them watermelon. Then, we got to swim in the mud with them and then shower them in the river. They literally can sit down and it is so freaking cute. Then, from here we went to Doi Inthanon park which is beautiful— there is the “queen” and “king” temple. You know which one I like best…obviously queen! We also hiked this day and saw these beautiful mountains and it felt like I was on top of the world. So breathtaking.

The Golden Triangle:

We got to stand in Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar at the same time. That was awesome! Beautiful view.

The White Temple:

I literally saw this amazing creation everywhere online when I looked up Thailand and I promised myself I would go. Fortunately it was included in the trip’s excursions! Literally it was the craziest structure I had ever seen. And, the bathrooms? Pure gold. Literally. Gold.

PERSONAL GROWTH/ LEARNINGS

Goodness, I learned so many things on this trip. First, kindness and love are free. I was given this every day by the people of Thailand for not having anything to give them in return except my respect, love, and kindness as well. It makes you realize that no matter what someone is going through or what you are dealing with, you have this tool inside of you.

Next, I learned that I can cope with anxiety and transition. The first week here was definitely a culture shock and it was difficult being so far away from home in such a drastically different location. But, I did what I knew I could do: run, yoga, write, breathe, meditate. I grounded myself. And, I took it one day at a time. Once you realize that life is so short and all we have is this moment, shit changes for you. And this is such a common idea, but I finally believed it and practiced it for real. And it changed my life. I don’t have to do the next week or couple of days. Just this moment. It will add up. And it did— by the end of the trip I realized that anxiety couldn’t rule me anymore. And I am down to 5 mg on my anxiety meds and I think I am finally ready to get off them. :)

You can’t expand your worldview unless you expand your worldview. Go learn. Grow. I seriously crave being pushed to the next space of who I am. I want to make discomfort my new comfort.

Finally, the seat of the self is not disturbance. What does this mean? Your thoughts give your emotions power. When you focus on the anxiety or discomfort inside of or outside of you, that becomes the place you “sit.” The place of your perspective. When you look out of this space, everything looks terrible. But, if you can realize that negative things aren’t “you” but an experience, and that the seat of the self is always just deep inside of you, regardless of these negative feelings, your perspective shifts. You look at things from a better space. When negative things come up, let them go. And look at things from the space of the real self.

And that is all! Hope this gives you all a piece of what I learned and if you have any other questions, text me! :) I know some of you will. :)

Love,

Mads