My first week of classes at Chiang Mai University has officially been completed!!! To refresh, I am studying Thai Language and Buddhist Philosophy while I am here. I have classes every weekday from 9:30-12 and then from 1 to 4 or 3:30 depending on the day. So far, it has been a bit of a challenge but great!
On Wednesday we were picked up from our hotel around 9:30/10 to head to the University for our orientation and campus tour. The campus is huge, but the language institute (the part of campus we are studying in) is super interesting and the staff is amazing! After needing a tramcar to give us the campus I decided that 1. I couldn’t imagine going to a school full-time this big and 2. I won’t be venturing on campus much further than the building next door where the cafeteria is because I will definitely get lost and can’t afford to miss class here.
After our tour, we were treated to a welcome lunch at a buffet near by. It was quite interesting going to a buffet instead of a traditional restaurant; however, the food was still pretty good! The only problem was that there were very few options that didn’t have meat in them. I have to say, before I came here I thought being a vegetarian was going to be more convenient for me, but it has only been the opposite this far.
Once we finished eating, we were driven back to campus to wear the uniform store was. After the lady sized me and I tried on the uniform that best fit, I was a little shocked to see I was wearing a 2XL. It’s a little bit crazy to think what would be about a medium in the United States was a 2XL here. As well, I was a little shocked to realize I had to spend 800 baht on only 2 uniforms; however, there was no way around that.
We then walked back to the language institute where we had our first lesson in Thai. The first thing we learned in Thai was how there are 5 different tones a word can have. So, the same word can potentially have 5 very different meanings if said with different inflection. At first I found this a bit difficult, but caught on sort of quickly. The hardest part about today was that you may learn a whole list of words and feel pretty good about yourself because you can pronounce them right; but if you don’t say them with the right tone it means nothing at all.
Once class was over we went back to our hotel where we had about an hour to put something a little bit nicer on for another complimentary meal. We were brought to this restaurant where they also did a traditional Thai music and dance show. The food was served family style and refilled on the table as soon as something was finished. Because I was the only vegetarian, I was lucky enough to have about a whole 7 dishes to myself to nibble on throughout the night.
During the very last performance by the dancers, the invited anyone from the audience who wanted to join on stage to take part in a very simple dance where you basically walk in a circle and move your hands into different positions. A couple of girls from our group, including me, got on stage to partake in the dance which ended up being super fun.
On the way back, our red truck van dropped us off near the temple Wat Chedi Laung, where there was a festival occurring. The only problem was during the ride over it begun raining and by the time the car arrived it was full on down pouring. Two other girls and I still decided to get out and go because we weren’t ready to be done exploring for the night. After getting out of the car, we quickly got onto the sidewalk where there was a tiny covering to figure out our action plan.
The ground had a decent covering of water, and on top of that there were large puddles everywhere so my suede material shoes were going to get ruined. Me being me, chose to take my shoes off and put them in my purse which I wrapped in a plastic bag so the wouldn’t get messed up. So yes, for the rest of the night I walked around Chiang Mai barefoot and it caused me no problems.
We decided our game plan was to run across the street to where there was a small restaurant and wait there until the rain cleared which was bound to be soon. In the time it took to cross the street I was completely soaked. Fortunately though during this time of the year in Thailand, even when you are soaking wet after the rain, even during the nighttime, you don’t get cold. As well, after about 30 minutes in the restaurant, the rain cleared.
It was also nice that we stayed because our two friends who are in the internship program were also able to meet up with us for part of the festival. We walked about two storefronts down to where the temple was.
The rain came almost as a blessing in disguise because all the lights and candles were reflecting into the newly formed puddles on the ground, which was super beautiful. The temples are beautiful at day time; however, there was something even more intriguing about being there while it was dark.
As well, because it was a festival, around the perimeter of the grounds there were various food vendors and a stage where traditional Thai dancing was happening. After we had our fix, we went separate ways and went back to our hotel for a good night of sleep before our first full day of classes. Even though I was completely soaked, I wouldn’t have had it any other way… the day was excellent and I had so much joy in my heart.
Thai language class this morning did nothing but frustrate me. Yes, it was very interesting to learn and I enjoyed doing it, but I could feel my brain aching at 12 when class was over. I had to seriously focus the whole time otherwise I would miss something important. The problem with that is I already struggle to focus all my attention into one thing for even a short period of time, so having to sit there for 2.5 hours using 120% of my focus was challenging. I can easily admit that this is by far the hardest class I have taken yet.
To make matters worse, all I was looking forward to after class was eating. The problem was after we were showed the big cafeteria and expected to eat there, we slowly found out that the menus were only in Thai. There was no place where I could understand anything the restaurant was serving so I didn’t even know what to try to ask for. Even after we were told what each place sort of had, none of the food workers spoke English so I was left telling the lady who showed us around to just order me whatever as long as it was vegetarian. The problem with this is that because I didn’t know what had been ordered for me, I didn’t know which meal was mine once it was ready until the lady pointed to the food and then pointed to me. I ended up eating white rice with sautéed mixed vegetables, which was pretty good.
The best part of lunch and my day so far was when I was able to finally try Thai Tea because it is so tasty. It comes out this orange color it is kind of milky, but also has a flavor I don’t really know how to describe. I ended up walking with this back to where the classroom where my first Buddhist Philosophy class was.
I was pretty excited for this because I had always wanted to take a class of this subject matter. It was an even bigger sigh of relief to find out my professor was American so he spoke perfect English. He is super knowledgeable about the subject because he just so happened to be a Buddhist monk for ten years. I was excited when I found out he wanted to take us around to various temples so we could have more hands on learning. I was even more excited when he told us our first little field trip was tomorrow. I absolutely love this because I will probably end up learning much more than I would in the classroom.
Once classes were over we went back to our hotel, changed out of our hot uniforms and then went to actually explore the area by the Thae Pae Gate and hopefully find dinner. Eventually we found ourselves near the German Beer Garden we ate at the first day, but instead at a little restaurant called the wall, which served some super tasty Thai food. Because by this point I was so hungry, after I devoured my meal I found myself still not completely full yet.
On the way back once we passed through the market at the Chiang Mai Gate, I stopped at the famous Pa’s smoothie shop and got a custom smoothie for 20 baht. I wasn’t sure what fruits to mix so I simply asked for something with banana. The cute old lady ended up throwing together banana, pineapple, and plum with some ice and a little bit of water to help the blender run. Once again I was baffled by the fact that for less that a dollar I had a delicious smoothie that was only made of fruit.
I was able to enjoy this for the rest of the walk until we got into the hotel. I spent the rest of the night editing my pictures (which I will finally be able to add to the posts) and writing and then went to bed.
This morning (Friday) I had a larger breakfast so I would stay full longer throughout the day, just in case lunch was going to be a struggle again. I also took two bananas from the buffet in as an emergency snack.
Fortunately though, Thai class was a little bit easier and hopefully as I catch on more it will keep becoming easier. During our break halfway through class, I treated myself to a Cappuccino to get a chance of scenery and perk me up a bit.
For lunch today, we stayed in the Language institute area where there are only about 4 stands to get something and just about all of them have some English. I found myself ordering Pad Thai again and the workers thought it was weird I didn’t want any meat cooked into it. By now you can probably guess what I am about to say next, but just in case you can’t, it was delicious! It is exciting to know that when I get home I will be able to make this for myself because I am definitely going to miss it.
I was excited to finish lunch because that meant it was time for Buddhist Philosophy and we would be taking a trip to a temple. The temple we visited today was about halfway up the mountain and called Wat Palad located right in the jungle. You wouldn’t really know about this one unless you were Thai or had a Thai guide because it is not visible from the street.
Before getting there, our teacher stopped for us at a lookout point on Doi Suthep because it was a super clear day outside and you could see the whole city. The view was absolutely incredible
When we got to the temple area we had to drive down a tiny little dirt road to actually get there. I am so happy I decided to take this class because this was the most beautiful temple I saw so far! It is nudged right into the jungle on the mountain so not only is the architecture incredible, but the scenery is as well. The whole environment was so peaceful, yet so breathtaking.
After our professor gave us a tour he gave us a quick lesson and I actually feel as though I learned so much more than I would have if we sat in our closet of a classroom. After seeing our excitement, I think our professor was even more willing to take us around to show us even more of these lesser know, yet beautiful temples we wouldn’t see otherwise.
Once we finished up for the day, we were lucky enough to be given a ride back to our hotel area where we were able to finally catch some time in the sun trying to get a bit more of a tan. It is just about 6pm now and I am happy to say I have had the most wonderful first week here in Thailand!!! The country is beautiful in all aspects from the food, the people, the language, the ideals, and the culture. I cannot wait to see what the next three weeks have in store for me!
I may be changing the structure of my blog posts so it’s less of a diary entry but we shall see what actually happens. As well, I will be trying to make at least one video from my GoPro footage a week and then probably another from my weekend excursions. As well, I hope to get on a better schedule with editing my pictures so that you can actually see what I am talking about in these posts.
For most of the people reading this, Good morning and have a wonderful Friday!!! For anyone else, have a great night!!