Exploring northern Thailand has been a once in a lifetime experience and never in my life I had felt such a strong connection with nature . Here I am uploading some of the pictures that I was able to take during our one-day Chiang Dao adventure. All of our excursions had been planned until a certain extend but Chiang Dao’s planning consisted of setting up a time to meet at the UNISERV's lobby. Even though there was no plan, no expectations, no pressure, we had one of the best nature-day excursions so far. I choose this section of our trip because the spectrum of activities were vast. In the same day we were able to explore a cave, hike extreme nature trails, visit a temple in a top of a mountain, but above all, have a quality time with these awesome and intelligent students that now I have the privilege to call friends.
With only ten days remaining in Thailand, I can't help but look back on each and every experience I have had here. Five weeks ago I was packing up my stuff, saying a tearful goodbye to my cats (and my family), and heading off to the airport with no expectations for the adventure ahead. I didn't know much about the people I would be traveling with, and I had no idea what my project would even be! Sitting in the airport surrounded by my fellow SMRTies, I knew I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was in the same boat and each person was just as excited about the trip as I was. To my surprise the 18 hour plane ride went fairly smoothly, but I don't think anyone was resting as comfortably as Theary who passed out before the plane even took off. Arriving in Bangkok, we quickly jumped into exploring the city making stops at the Grand Palace and the Weekend Market. Despite the overwhelmingly amount of people, motorbikes, food carts, and stray dogs, it wasn't hard to jump right in and start learning about their culture. Thai people are definitely some of the most welcoming people I have met in another country, and I can honestly say that I have always felt safe and comfortable here. Chiang Mai is definitely where I have made myself at home. I've learned to never get into a songtaew if they try to charge you more than twenty baht, never underestimate the power of walking away, and always be open to new experiences, whether it be food or unexpected adventures. I have lived my dream of spending a day with elephants (treated very humanely), made new Thai friends who I hope will visit California very soon, and have hiked through a rainforest with countless numbers of waterfalls. I thought six weeks would feel like forever, but when I look back I feel like I just got here. There's still so much to see and do, so these next ten days will be pretty busy... -Kyley Olson
When I first discovered that we were staying in a hostel, I was concerned. I had this image in my head of a very minimalistic place: bunk-beds, a shared dorm-like bathroom and no service. I was prepared for anything. I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the website for Uniserv after orientation.
At our “ice-breaker” dinner, I was asked how it was to live here at the Uniserv. I said it had all of the necessities we needed and I really meant it: a roof over my head, a twin-sized bed to sleep on at night, and a bathroom fully equipped with a sink, toilet and a shower. It even comes with internet access and a weekly room-service. The room is cleaned and restocked with bottles of water, little packets of shampoo and soap, and toilet paper every Thursday.
Each room is designed for double-occupancy with 2 twin-size beds. They provide a night stand, some shelf space, a desk with a mirror, an adequate number of wall plugs, a small refrigerator and a box TV with very basic connection. Each person is given their own wifi code and a room key is shared between the roommates. To avoid one person being locked out, they ask for the room key to the dropped off at the front desk upon departure.
Living at Uniserv made me realize the funniest things. You never know what you will miss until you have so little of it! I’m talking about toilet paper. Oh the toilet paper. In Thailand, most bathrooms don’t have toilet paper readily available for you. It’s quite common to bring individual packs of toilet paper with you for the trips to the bathroom. Here at the Uniserv, we are allotted one roll a week and it does not last! We have to go out and buy rolls ourselves to compensate.
One of the things I am really thankful for is the distance between food and Uniserv! The Uniserv hostel has their own in-house restaurant called the “Lemontree”. It’s on the first floor of the hostel and I’m always just a flight of stairs away from it. It has been my go-to place for breakfast and the occasional late-night dinner. Though the staff doesn’t speak much English, they really try to get your order and provide you with everything you need. My regular dish at the Lemontree is “khao pad kai” or chicken fried rice. It’s quickly made and it comes with a slice of lime for flavor and a couple of slices of cucumber and tomato for freshness. There is also a place called “Milk” right outside of Uniserv. This place has fresh milk delivered every morning and I’ve caught myself craving for a cup of soft serve or a milkshake more than I really should. This place is definitely going to be missed when I get back to the states. The caramel milkshake is definitely something to try. It’s quite addicting.
Over all, Uniserv has been a great place to stay. The location is prime. It’s close enough to Chiang Mai University to take a walk in the morning. It’s also located between two very popular streets, Sutep and Nimman. These two streets have stores upon stores to explore. Everything you would need from pharmaceuticals to food to a nice massage, you are sure to find it within walking distance. These are also great streets to hitch a ride of a song taew to your next adventure. Song taews are constantly patrolling the streets for wandering tourists.
One of things I enjoy the most is the huge park located directly across the street from Uniserv. This recreational park serves as a great place to relax and just take a stroll. During the evening, the park is teeming with people exercising. You can find them jogging, running, playing badminton, lifting weights and even scaling the balancing poles scattered around the park.
Uniserv has been my “home away from home” from the last month or so and I couldn’t be more thankful. Though it will only be my “home” for another week and a half, I will always remember how Uniserv treated us: always with care and consideration.
Living in another country - located in a completely different geographic region - can be both rewarding and daunting in so many ways. Your mind and body become so acclimated and comfortable to new ways of life, culinary choices, and methods of communication that come hand in hand with international travel. One new experience that I don't think any of us will get over, however, is the weather in Thailand. The temperature in Chiang Mai is about 30-32 degrees Celsius - a nice, normal 90° day in sunny California. So what makes the weather so different? The almost constant 90% humidity. I think the entire SMRT group has come to the consensus that we have sweat more on this trip than we have in our entire lives. At first it was uncomfortable. We would all be constantly fanning ourselves with our hands, hoping that by some magic a bit of hand waving would create a sudden arctic dry spell. When it didn't, we opted for excessive showering and wardrobe-changing instead. As time has passed though, our bodies and minds have grown much more acclimated to the previously "ridiculous" weather patterns. I have officially accepted sweat as a permanent member of my existence, and even have come to find charm in the constant gleam that makes me look like a plastic mannequin shimmering in the sunlight. I no longer worry about wiping away sweat, taking excessive showers or changing my clothes at the slightest discomfort. I feel stronger and more tolerant to slight discomforts, which I believe will benefit me greatly in life. In fact, I believe that every SMRT has accepted themselves for the beautiful, rustic human being that they are, and I know we will take this back with a smile when we return to the states. -Miranda
I’ve come into contact with this place two times now and both times, the place was different. The first time was on an adventure to find a particular mall for Theary where he could do some break-dancing. We ended up stumbling upon it on accident and it was gorgeous at night. Umbrella hung on wires between the buildings and littered the sky. There were all different colors and reminded me of a theme-park decoration. The whole place was illuminated with lights and it was buzzing with people. It was filled with sounds of people chatting, live music, the water falling in the fountain and the commercials from the huge LED screen. As we explored the place, we found Greek statues at every turn and we even found some familiar faces like Superman (in a phone booth) and Spiderman. The shops sold items ranging from hip and trendy clothes to bubble teas. We reluctantly left this place to continue our search for Theary’s mall, but promised to return.
The second time, I returned with my labmates during our lunch break. It was very unexpected and we had to take a song taew off campus to arrive there. During the day, the umbrella looked faded by the sun and the place was void of people. Most of the shops were closed and the only places that were open tended to our stomachs. The little café we had lunch in specialized in noodles and I let my labmate order for me so I could try something new. As usual, everything was delicious. After the lunch, we explored the place, taking pictures with the statues, making funny faces and having a grand ole time. I found rows and rows of international flags that draped some of the pathways and that each "street" As we headed out, we were able to catch a traveling ice cream man! I ate some coconut ice cream on the song taew as we headed back to lab.
One of the best things about Thailand are the experiences you have when you least expect it. I let myself be open to every opportunity that presents itself and I haven’t been disappointed yet. Every day is a new adventure and I couldn’t be more thankful.
After living in Thailand for a couple weeks now, I'm beginning to consider it as my home. I feel very comfortable here with such nice, welcoming people, convenient walking distance to any store, restaurant, or nature area, and a hostel room that Crystal and I have decorated to make our own. Yet there are still some great things we've been experiencing that you just can't get in Southern California... at the night market last week I ate a cricket for the first time. I haven't eaten any meat in over a year, let alone a jointed, exoskeleton-protected insect that is generally considered to be inedible! As much as the logical part of my brain was trying to tell me it tasted disgusting, it wasn't that bad. Just goes to show that you can fry almost anything and make it taste measurably good. Carolina and I also got to experience the "fish tank" massage, a tank filled with tiny fish in which immediately as you lower your feet in the water they begin gnawing on any part of your skin they find accessible. It was the weirdest ticklish sensation - I don't think we stopped laughing the entire time! After a few minutes of continuous gnawing it began to feel strangely relaxing. We saw a few relatively obese fish in the tank, leading us to muse at how many tourists' feet they get to feast on per day. I'd say with confidence that those fish are some of the most well-fed animals in the world. Crystal and I got the great pleasure of finding a large cockroach in our room this week - it was actually one of the most hilarious moments I've had so far. After screaming senselessly for a few seconds we put our thinking caps on, grabbed a glass cup and captured the cockroach (seriously about the size of a golf ball) against the dresser. We were then able to safely escort it out into the yard, letting it live out its merry life and giving it a comforting pep talk about how it wasn't personal - it's just an innate human response to think that cockroaches are aesthetically....non-preferred. -Miranda
Every time I turn a corner, whether it be on campus or on the streets of Chiang Mai, I find a new dog or cat friend. Unlike the more familiar sights of starving dogs, matted and flea ridden in Mexico, Thailand's stray animal population seems to be well taken care of. When I first arrived here, I was shocked and saddened by the number of animals that call the streets their homes here. It wasn't until I had my first interaction with one in the bustling streets of Bangkok, that my opinion soon changed. I saw a black and white mutt making his way through the crowds of tourists and street vendors and I decided to buy him a snack. I stopped at a vendor selling different parts of a chicken (chicken butt, chicken liver, etc.) and handed over my ten baht for a skewer of meat. I chased down the dog and offered him the meat, but to my surprise he turned his nose away and walked off without the least bit of interest! I stood there dumbfounded with a slab of meat I had no interest in (try finding a trashcan anywhere in Bangkok) and suddenly a new outlook on the stray animal situation in Thailand. I then realized that i had yet to see a skinny dog here, so someone must be feeding them. We later learned that most people offer food and water to the animals and that their culture and religion believes that every animal has a right to live. In America, countless numbers of strays are euthanized every day. Our method of dealing with the stray animal population is to hide it away from sight and kill them, whereas in Thailand, they are able to live out their lives with the help of caring strangers. As a pre-vet student, i have been inspired to hopefully one day return and educate the population about spaying and neutering animals to reduce the amount of strays on the streets. I know that the people here genuinely care about the animals, and hopefully with some education and programs to spay and release those living on the streets, the issues can be minimized. My heart no longer breaks when I see a stray, but I take the opportunity to say hello to a new friend before they decide to continue on their journey down the streets of Thailand. -Kyley Olson
Today Today we visited the Orchid Jade Shop in Doi Suthep. When we first arrived we were led to a video room where the manager of the shop gave a lecture on the history of jade. I have always thought that Jade is a beautiful precious stone but I never knew how precious it really is. There are six different colors of Jade and they each represent something different. Green-Prosperity, Red- long life, Lavender- good health, white-good luck, yellow- intelligence, and black means success. After the video the manager took us to the work area where there were several people working on Jade carvings. The manager introduced us to the oldest worker, who happened to be the individual who carved the emerald Buddha that we visited at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It was mind blowing to meet such a talented man. In front of his work area they had images of him working on the Buddha. The images in the picture above were taken as he worked on the emerald Buddha. ~Jasmin
I was so excited to come to Thailand. It was something that I had been anticipating for months, ever since I found out in November. However, to be completely honest I didn't know how well we (CSUF students) would mix, since we didn't all know each other.
Any fears or worries I may have had vanished the second we started talking in the airport. We were all sitting in a circle in the airport talking like we've known each other for years, laughing like we were already great friends. And that was just in the airport. Once we actually reached Thailand it was clear that we had great chemistry, not just as a group, but even one on one. One perfect example of this was when we were at the Grand Palace.
We all started off together and then slowly started splitting up into groups and walking around. We were admiring the beautiful architecture, the statues that guarded the palace, the paintings alongside the walls, and everything else the Palace had to offer. Eventually we started to get tired and one by one we all met in the same place in the Grand Palace. Keep in mind that none of us called each other on where to meet, none of us planned a location to meet beforehand; we all just magnetically found each other.
We have only been in Thailand for a week, and in a lot of cases, we only have known each other for a week, but I can confidently speak for everyone when I say that we plan on staying friends for a long, long time.
Thailand, I love you, your people, your cities, your everything, and I love that you allowed us all to make lasting friendships.
Yesterday I participate in the annual fire and earthquake drill at CMU. The presentation and instructions were in Thai but I was able to decipher some of the things that they were saying based on the animations being played on a projector. I really liked the way they presented the instructions. The presentation was disciplined yet humorous . The presentation had animations on what not to do during an emergency, for example it showed an animation of a man on fire who was running around setting everything else on fire. After the presentation the drill proceeded with instructions on how to extinguish a gas fire. Since the gas for the Bunsen burners here is provided by an exposed tank, the firemen took a gas tank, opened the gas and lighted the gas coming out of the tank. They showed how to properly use a fire extinguisher as well as water and your fingers to extinguish the fire. It was a good learning experience. I think the best part was when the building was evacuated, since the dogs that live in each floor ran out as well. ~Jasmin