The biggest highlight of living in Thailand was the cultural immersion that was provided through my program. Aside from interesting academic classes from Thai Culture Studies, Thai Language, and even Politics, our program allowed us to learn outside the classroom through various embedded excursions. From village stays to weekend trips to the ruins of Sukothai and Ayutthaya, feel like I saw a lot more than an average tourist. It was staying in Thailand that allows one to meet more people, and really learn what it’s like to be a local. Aside from having Thailand as my classroom, some of the memories I am most fond of are my trips to the islands of Thailand - Krabi, Koh Phi Phi, Raillay Beach, and a 3 day trip to Cambodia. Overall, I can say that an experience in Southeast Asia is unique and enlightening. My goal was to be enlightened when I went abroad, and I can assure that with its unique culture, traditions, and norms-you do.
As a university student in the city of Chiang Mai, my days typically began with a morning breakfast at the PIH (Paradornparp International House) catered as buffet style where I would typically drench my plate with fresh cut pineapple and watermelon slice. Then, I would either take the Sky Blue Train to class or walk along the beautiful campus of Payap University. Usually tried to get there a few minutes earlier to not miss the next Culture Class, Thai Class, or Politics class. As one can imagine, Thai Class was probably one of the funnest to partake in as it would give us the skills and tools needed to really engage with the people and the local life.
While my morning was enriched with productive learning, my afternoons were typically spent studying in the upstairs lounge of PIH or in the corners of Tapae Gate where one could usually splurge themselves with an occasional Banana Roti caramelized or sugar filled, or with fresh cut mango and sticky rice dish. However, to fill the rare Western craves, that do exist believe it or not in Southeast Asia, Starbucks near Tapae would just about do the trick. Some iced coffee or caramel machiatto accompanied with some enriching reads on the area. It was understanding more about the culture, the people, that would give me the confidence to step outside the text and want to engage. Gave me questions, something to talk about aside from “What do Thais like to do?.” One’s interest in these topics would spark some great and at times rather dangerous conversations. But my favorite afternoons, were probably Mondays where Payap University provided me a space to teach and share Zumba Fitness. Yepp-that was definitely my favorite afternoons!
On evenings, on weekends in particular, the Sunday Market is where you could find me as well as most students at PIH. Selling from hand crafted earrings to furnished Buddha statuettes, Chiang Mai Sunday Market was the place to be. Khanoms for a mere 20 baht (less than a dollar), snacking through the walk was a common. An occasional drink or cocktail on the side rested bars with some live music from “passing through” artists, my evenings in Chiang Mai were certainly lively ones. However, some of the evenings I remember most were those spent with the Education Abroad Network group and Tour Guide - Kai Plertsukon bringing us the most local of local restaurants we could get. Wine, exquisite cuisine, and a water view that was to die for.
Western restaurants are cool, and so are the Western coffee shops, but there is nothing like the local places where one really gets to interact with its people. The exchange is quite something, and pretty rewarding I must say! Chiang Mai is a beautiful place, feel so fortunate for it being a time of my life, so hope others get to experience all of its parts.