Saturday, June 16, 2012

Night Market

First full day in Thailand, and I’m already loving it. :) Everyone on the program seems really awesome and it’s interesting to hear about everyone’s background and why they chose Thailand. Today I walked around the main street outside our hostel (Suthep) and got my first look at the Chiang Mai University campus where I’ll be studying. It seems like a beautiful campus and all around Suthep are street vendors with handicrafts and strange and exotic food. I tried a couple chicken skewers (gao) and a Thai iced tea (cha yen) and can already tell that I’m going to be in heaven here.

A first glimpse at the CMU campus
After a busy day getting to know most of the other students in the program and trying to orient myself to the new city (which is much, much larger than I was expecting), we finished the day off with a trip to the Sunday night market, an outdoor bazaar with several street packed with locals, tourists, and every type of vendor you can imagine – from fresh fruits and vegetables, to bamboo weavings, to original carvings and paintings, to Nikes and Ray-Bans. There were also villagers from various hilltribes playing instruments I had never imagined, caricature artists, and live performers. It seemed like a huge festival or holiday, but Chiang Mai has markets like this every night.

I practiced my new Thai with some of the street vendors and got some awesome deals on a couple of shirts and souvenirs. As soon as the vendors see you trying to speak Thai, they smile and lower the price. :)

I knew things would be cheap in Thailand, but I had no idea just how far a dollar could go here. I could easily spend under $5 a day here. To put some prices in perspective, here are some common expenses:

  • Typical Thai breakfast (Thai omelette, rice, and iced tea or coffee): $1.50
  • Fresh mango, sticky rice, and coconut milk: $1
  • Noodle soup with egg and pork: $0.75
  • Smoothie with fresh, exotic fruits: $0.60
  • Local beer, 1L: $3
  • Scooter day rental: $5
  • Taxi across town: $0.65-$1
  • An hour-long massage: $4
  • T-shirt at the market: $3
  • Laundry, wash, dry, and iron service: $4

I love Thailand. :)

First Thoughts

I left home at 8 AM on Friday and arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand at almost midnight on Saturday, flying through LAX and Icheon, Korea. Surprisingly, the flights over really weren’t bad, and I’m pretty sure I had five airplane meals, including pasta and red wine and a Korean noodle soup with green tea. The first indication I had of Thailand was a pair of Buddhist monks who sat right in front of me on the stretch from Korea to Chiang Mai. Very cool.

Once I arrived at the Chiang Mai airport, I got a taxi to the student hostel for 120 baht ($4). Turns out you can take a taxi pretty much anywhere in the city for 20-30 baht, but hey, this was still an incredible deal compared to the $40 you’d be paying in Seattle. I ended up having to switch hostels at the last minute, but won’t get into that other than to say I met some great guys in the process.

The accommodations at the Sa-nguan Malee Mansion were much nicer than anything I had expected. I was dreading a bare-boned Spartan dormitory like some of the hostels I’ve stayed in in Europe, but the rooms here are twice as big as the dorms at Seattle U, and they have private bathrooms, good air conditioning, tv and wifi, and a large balcony with a good view of the city. The beds and pillows were rock hard (apparently the Thai preference), but fortunately, the staff had soft pillows that we could trade in for.

After a much-needed good night’s sleep, I woke up around nine with no jet lag, ready to take on the city.

My first surprise was the weather. I was expecting it to be horribly hot and humid, and while it is horribly hot and humid, it’s not as horrible as I had expected. It’s not as hot as Utah, where I was the week before flying out, and it’s not anywhere near as rainy as Seattle, where I go to school, despite it being the rainy season here. So far, it's been very cloudy, giving the impression that I don’t need to wear sunscreen (we’ll see if that’s true or not soon).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sawatdee Khrap!

Sawatdee khrap everyone! I'm heading off to Thailand for two and a half months to travel and study abroad with USAC, and I wanted to make this blog to document my adventures for myself and anyone else interested in reading. :) I'll be studying in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand before taking a couple weeks to travel to Bangkok, Phuket, the islands, and other parts of Thailand. And I'll be posting comments and photos every step of the way!

I thought it would be fitting to call my blog “Farang Frenzy,” as farang is used often in Thai slang to refer to westerners visiting Thailand. This is my first trip to Asia, so I’m excited to experience life in the East, and I plan to document some of the most striking differences between farang and Thai culture as well as some observations surrounding some of my interests – economics, Buddhist philosophy, language, and literature (I’m a Marketing and Economics double major and English Literature minor with a love of anthropology and travel, so expect to see a wide range of observations :) ).