University of Wisconsin–Madison

Sick Introduction to Thailand… Literally

The day after I arrived in Bangkok, Thammasat University held an orientation for all of the exchange students to cover the “do’s and don’ts” while in Thailand. While there, we also got a friendly little warning stating that soon enough, all of our stomachs would turn on us because our bodies weren’t accustomed to the different bacteria within Thai food and water. The room fell into laughter, and I was one of the many who joined in… I really should not have joined in. Sure enough, I was one of the first to fall ill on my third day in Thailand due to all of the little organisms that my body had apparently never come in contact with. Who knows what made me sick, but I am choosing to believe that I can now enjoy and eat as much spicy Thai food as I want without worrying about getting sick!

Speaking of food, Thailand has proven to be heaven for food junkies around the world… me being one of them. The streets are lined with carts selling crisp, juicy fruit, fresh squeezed fruit juice, and 100’s of choices among traditional Thai food—all of which are incredible. In fact, street food is the chosen destination among the majority of Thais for their daily food intake. Did I mention that it is extremely possible to eat a feast every day for less than 5 USD? Here are some sneak peaks of what I’ve discovered thus far:

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Dumpling Soup
Dumpling Soup
Have 0 idea what this was…but so delicious…and only for 10 baht!! (30 US cents)
Have 0 idea what this was…but so delicious…and only for 10 baht!! (30 US cents)
Fresh Mango Juice
Fresh Mango Juice
Thai Tea
Thai Tea
Hot Pot
Hot Pot

Apart from the food, which clearly gets me excited, Bangkok seems to have multiple personalities to me and is unlike any city that I’ve traveled to before. It seems as if at one moment you think you are able to successfully define the city based upon your surroundings. However, walk a couple feet further, and you enter into a completely different city than you thought you were in before. Many areas in Bangkok are extremely congested and scattered with immense amounts of garbage, which creates a permanent stench. In such areas, you can also almost always find homeless dogs, cats, and people. Meanwhile just around the corner, Porsche’s and BMW’s fly down the street lining luxury malls and apartment complexes, of which are filled with the Thai elite.

Bangkok isn’t the only ‘multiple personality’ of Thailand though. In fact so far, I have found that Thailand as a country seems to be this way as well. As I mentioned, Bangkok is such a congested city with very little green space and room for any further growth. However, if you drive less than 2 hours out of the city, you find yourself in rural Thailand with nothing but trees in site. A few hours further and you arrive at a beautiful beach with crystal clear water, touched only by few apart from the occasional tourists who stumble in.

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I still have so much to learn about Thailand and its beautiful land. Although it has only been a little over a week, I am 100% certain that living here will challenge me in ways that I have never experienced before. I am so grateful to have this opportunity and plan to delve into all adventures possible. I still can’t fully grasp the fact that I am living in Thailand!

The next couple of days, I look forward to getting even more lost within the winding streets of Bangkok and seeing what treasures I come upon. Until then, street food here I come.

Gabrielle