Mai Pen Rai

This was taken at the Veggie Festival in Chinatown, Bangkok. All the foods here are so unique and the way they prepare the meals is also so fun to watch.

If you look close, you still won’t be able to find me! This is a picture of all the international students studying this semester at Mahidol University. On this day we each planted a tree to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the King’s reign, and also to celebrate the 84th birthday of the Queen.

Just a little scenic photo of an island off the eastern seaboard on the Gulf of Thailand, known as Koh Phangan.

 

Sawadee ka from Bangkok, Thailand!

My time here continues to be more and more amazing everyday, and “mai pen rai” is still apart of my daily outlook on life and how to handle any situation here.

Coming here I was told to take notice of everyone’s happiness and smiley faces and WOW everyone was right. Thai people are so happy and welcoming. Everyone looks at me with curious eyes because they know I am not from here, wondering what I am doing here, but they are always smiling. I am nowhere near fluent in the Thai language, but when they see me trying to speak in Thai they love it.

I would like to talk about the little things here I have noticed that make this country so unique and amazing. There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. I mean everywhere. That was one of things I noticed most when I came here. 15-60% of stray dogs in Thailand have rabies, so that was one of the first rules P’A gave us: DO NOT PET THE DOGS. It is such a sad and unique thing to see, because most of them are so cute and look so nice so you would think a little love would brighten their day, but that is not the case.

Another unique and awesome thing I have noticed here in Thailand is the amount of geckos there are, inside and outside. One of the first nights I was here I went into our kitchen area to fill up my water bottle, and when I turned on the light 2 little geckos ran up the wall. Nothing has scared me more than when I saw those little things! At that time I did not know it was normal for geckos to climb walls especially inside, so that took some getting used to. But now it is one of those little things that I will definitely miss seeing when I return home.

You learn very quickly (and I mean within the first few hours) that bug spray will be your best friend here. With the immense amount of humidity, and the fact that we are in a tropical jungle, mosquitoes are everywhere. Dengue and Zika are the two main viruses you can catch from a mosquito bite, so I have been sure to keep bug spray with me wherever I go. Although it is not a problem and probably won’t be for the rest of my time here I do not want to risk it.

But let’s talk about food, one of the best parts!

This is by far one the biggest things I am going to miss when I go home. Food here is amazing, Simpy Siam in Maryville doesn’t even begin to compare! It is also very cheap almost everywhere you go. Across the street from my dorm is a little family owned, in-house restaurant that I could definitely survive off of for the rest of my life. We call her pasta lady. She has everything from pad thai, rice with vegetables or meat, sandwiches with crab, ham, chicken, or tuna, multiple kinds of spaghetti, and salads. A meal here costs 30-40 baht which is right around $1 USD.

Down the street right next to our ISA office is a little restaurant called Little Girl. It has many more Thai food options for around the same price as pasta lady, anywhere from 30-60 baht. Also very amazing place to eat. It is cheaper to eat out every meal than to buy groceries, which sounds unhealthy, but there are so many healthy options and restaurants to pick from. Our school has a great cafeteria as well, called the atrium canteen. Meals here are also 30 baht, and you can choose from so many different Thai cuisines. Smoothies are a huge thing here in Thailand, also very healthy and very cheap. There are some American foods that I miss having in my day-to-day life (CHEESE!!!), but I know one day I’ll be home eating all of the things I miss here, thinking “man I really miss those amazing Thai cuisines, and pasta lady!”

One important and culturally relevant event that happened last week was the passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Until his death he was the longest reigning monarch in the world. He reigned over this amazing country since he was 18, a total of 70 years. The loss of the nation’s father has taken a huge toll on the Thai people. A national broadcast has announced a year of mourning has begun. I have noticed so many changes in the culture and the vibes in general here. Many businesses, restaurants, clubs, etc. have willingly closed down for the time being. For the first few days, music was not allowed to be played, and celebrations of any kind have ceased. One place I noticed this the most was on the BTS sky train. Usually it is a very loud, energetic ride every time I take it, but ever since the passing of the King it is completely silent. There wasn’t any music playing or any adds on the televisions. Another thing I have noticed is the change of wardrobes: everyone is wearing neutral colors, white, black, or gray. It is so unique to be here during this emotional time, and I just try to remain respectful and show my condolences for the Thai people. It is also very eye opening to be here for such a major event, because I saw with my own eyes how much it has impacted Thailand.

This event has made me appreciate Thailand in general so much, and I can only show my respect toward this culture and the people as much as possible. One goal of mine while here was to submerge myself into their culture in any shape or form, and I continue to learn new things everyday and look forward to meeting new Thai students and learning from them. Like I said in the beginning, this experience continues to be more and more amazing, all thanks to the Thai people, my director P’A, my fellow ISA friends, and everything else about this amazing country.

Sawadee ka and kop khun ka!

Olivia Herzberg