It feels like the days just fly by here. Not to mention, we haven’t really had much down time to speak of (not that we have been letting ourselves have any, we’re in Thailand after all). Today our Thai lessons were interesting, we continued to learn more about fruits and how to order food, most of which I have already forgotten (Thai is hard..). Anyways, afterwards we went to a Buddhist temple in the mountains in Chiang Mai, it was a 30 minute car drive from ISDSI to the temple on an extremely winding road up the mountain (Dramamine definitely came in handy) but it was so worth it.
The temple’s name is Wat Prah Doi Suthep and it sits at the top of a 306 step staircase on a mountain. At night you can see it glowing in the distance from the city.
Here is a bit about it’s history:
It was originally a monastery created for the purpose of housing a Buddha relic. Buddha relics are considered to be parts of Buddha’s body that are believed to replicate/split. In order for a temple to be official it must contain a Buddha relic (there is only so much Buddha to go around so the theory is that the Buddha relics split and replicate). The relic was brought to Lanna kingdom by a monk and it split at the base of the mountain. One of the relics is currently enshrined at Wat Suan Dok and the other was put on a sacred white elephant. The elephant was then sent off wandering and wherever it stopped is where they decided to enshrine the other part of the relic; thus, the building of the Doi Suthep temple in the mountains.
The temple was absolutely beautiful, almost everything is gilded in gold and super intricately decorated. They also had a wonderful observation deck area where you can overlook the entire city of Chiang Mai. One slight downside to the temple is that it is super touristy. There are tourists from all over and it can be overwhelming at times. Once we all tried to take a group picture in front of the temple (picture on the left) and all the sudden a whole flock of Chinese ladies came in and posed for the picture with us (not featured here are the numerous pictures the ladies wanted to take with us individually as well). Overall, Doi Suthep was an incredible experience.
Unfortunately, yesterday was the last of our planned adventures with ISDSI. The day was simple, filled with Thai language and culture courses. Today was the last day of our working with ISDSI; I am definitely going to miss Ajaan Thongchai and his ridiculous fruit dance.
It’s so fascinating that as every day passes I feel more and more appreciative and aware of the extreme differences between America and here. Which brings up the lovely topic of culture shock. Not everyone experiences it the same, I am feeling less affected by it now given that I have studied abroad in the past when I was much more immersed in the culture and language. Being here with 13 other American students allows for a buffer which has lessened the effects of my anticipated culture shock. The thing that I am (and I think this goes for everyone as well) missing the most right now is the food (Thai food is super great, but I’m really craving some good ol’ American cuisine right about now) and my family, especially given that the fourth of July is right around the corner.
A few things I have done to ease the shock are: do not be alone too often, keep participating even if all you want to do is go to sleep and binge watch your favorite Netflix series, grab something familiar to you in the grocery store (even if the only thing you can find is off-brand Cheetos), message your family, and continue to write about your experience so that you ensure none of these incredible moments go forgotten and to prevent yourself from saying to no to an excursion in the future.
But anyways, back to Thailand! Yesterday I discovered the magic of a Thai massage. They are life changing, I promise. A full body, hour long Thai massage will only cost you 200 Baht (that is around 6 American dollars). I went back today, that is like the price of one average strawberry banana smoothie at Colectivo..so why not? Safe to say, I made the right decision.
Afterwards I grabbed a passionfruit-mango yogurt smoothie (best smoothie combo yet), some Pad Thai and a banana egg chocolate roti from a street stand.
We then went back to the hotel to get ready to go exploring Chiang Mai for the last time. Also, side note: street food has been found to one-up restaurant food on almost every occasion, I’m really hoping that there will be food stands (thaalat) around Mae Fah Luang campus.
So we most definitely enjoyed our last night in Chiang Mai. We went to Zoe in Yellow again and socialized more with the people there. Given that it is a backpacker restaurant/bar we got to meet a whole bunch of people from all over the world. The craziest part about last night though was that I had a friend from Milwaukee staying in Chiang Mai as well so we got to meet and catch up. The next morning was an early one though, the bus left at 8:30 from the hotel and was three hours long. To break up the drive we stopped at Saeng Kao Pohtiyan temple in which is a modern looking temple in the mountains. There weren’t as many tourists here as there were at the last one, but this one definitely had a more modern feel to it.
After the temple there was a small truck selling coconut ice cream, I was told it is a must-get. It definitely was. It was only 15 Baht (around 50 cents) for a cone and it was some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted. You could also buy it in between two bread slices, the Thai rendition of an ice cream sandwich (I grabbed this pic from neverendingvoyage.com because I forgot to capture it for myself. But this is super accurate! Keep an eye out for these guys if you make it to Thailand).
Unfortunately, the ice cream was the best luck we had with food all day. Following our trip to the temple was another hours’ worth of driving and by then we were famished. We stopped at a restaurant that was about 10 minutes from the university and the wait was one of the longest I have yet to experience. In Thailand food is brought out as it is prepared so no one gets their food at the same time. Usually the meals aren’t too far apart from one another but this just happened to be an extremely understaffed restaurant, we ended up waiting around an hour and a half for everyone to get their food.
A pleasant surprise for the day was that we aren’t staying in the dorms after all! The lady at the front desk informed us that our living arrangements are in a hotel! The hotel rooms are surprisingly nice. We ended having two people to a room but they are really spacious rooms so it is not a problem. Each room has its own bathroom, flat-screen, couch, dresser, kitchenette, table and chairs and mini balcony. Also, breakfast is provided for free.
Okay, fair warning on the breakfast though: people and Thailand don’t really have special food that they eat for breakfast. Often noodle and rice dishes are served, I’m pretty sure they just put bread out for the tourists. One thing that set me off a little though was that the eggs were hardly boiled whatsoever. At first I had the impression that they were soft boiled eggs but when you peel them apart they just gush white liquid. So, that was interesting.
We came to the group consensus that buying yogurt and cereal from the 7/11 was a better idea considering that some of us didn’t react to keenly to the raw-ish egg. Also, the indoor gym doesn’t have a lot to offer. All of the equipment is pretty stiff and the treadmills are in short supply, not to mention the facility is not air conditioned so I was sweating buckets after 10 minutes on an elliptical. The best work-out route is to run outside on campus with a buddy in the night time because it is a bit cooler.
Outside of the gym I have not been disappointed with anything else on this campus. The class rooms are very spacious and nicely air-conditioned and the lab space is really great. Some of the Thai coordinators that helped set up this program showed us around campus today and prepared a welcome meeting for us. They provided us with campus maps, and some little Mae Fah Luang trinkets as a gift along with a bunch of snacks; one of those snacks being these adorable baby pineapples that are in season right now.
(pc: tripadvisor.com) They are extra sweet and they are cut this way. You can eat the core and everything!)
The university has shuttles that take students from inside the university to right outside of it and from there you can pick up taxis and shuttles and really go anywhere. Some of our group went to the night market and tried fried crickets (that has just been added to my “Things to accomplish in Thailand” list).
First day of class was today! Also, my first experience wearing a school uniform ever. It was an interesting experience. Right now, there are only freshman students on campus who are taking intensive English classes. We are the only upperclassman, therefore the library and the labs aren’t crowded whatsoever. We also happen to be the only foreigners, I got so many strange looks on the shuttle to class today.
Although there only freshmen are on campus right now there are still a fair amount of students. I was told yesterday that this year they have 4,000 incoming Freshman (or “freshers” as the Thai would say, does the title make sense now?) which is a record for them. The students have been very helpful and curious towards us. They always ask us where we are from, a few girls even helped us snag a green truck (Mae Fah Luang’s version of a rot daang) to the mall today!
A hard thing for me right now is getting back into the school-vibe. Today was syllabus day for us and the condensed class schedule is definitely becoming a reality; we already have a 40 page annotated reading due tomorrow, summer mode is officially switching off. But hey, the classes are super interesting and I am super excited about some of the stuff we get to study first hand here.
Oh yeah, Happy Fourth of July from Thailand everyone! No, we did not celebrate it. But, we did get some good news! Thailand’s national public holiday is July 18th and everyone in Thailand has 3 days off of work! Which means, we won’t have to have class! We are currently working on planning a long weekend excursion somewhere, planning is still in the works.
Congratulations for making it to the end of my post, you deserve a big chocolate chip cookie.