First Week: Sa-wad-dee-kha, it means “hello” in Thai

It didn’t hit me that I was going abroad until I got to Logan International Airport and I got my boarding passes to New York, Seoul, and then Chiang Mai. It was a dream come true and yet it felt like I was still dreaming. I couldn’t believe my dream was finally within my reach. I guess it was just too good to be true. But after going through security, I knew I had to put on my big girl pants. I was amazed that I didn’t even shed a tear (yeah, crybaby alert!). I concluded that it was because the bird was finally ready to fly away from the nest to explore the world on her own. I no longer see the world as the scary place I’ve grown to fear; I’ve heard of good people and was hoping I could experience that.

I didn’t have to go searching too far in Thailand. For all those who don’t know, it’s called the land of smiles and it isn’t called that for nothing. Everyone I’ve come in contact with has just been extremely nice and welcoming. During most encounters, there is language barrier where both parties involved have no idea what the other is saying but it has not stopped friendships from blossoming.

After going through customs in Chiang Mai, we were taken to the resort where we stayed for two nights. I’m not sure my words are enough to describe this place so I’ll just have to say that I haven’t stayed at a place like it before and I loved it more during our two-day stay.

On our first full day in Chiang Mai, we had orientation with our Thailand-based TEAN staff at a small café called Librarista. Here, I learned a few things about the culture of the land. Two things I took away from it were: “to go with the flow” and “to suspend judgments”. I told myself that I’ll have to just be more open-minded in order to enjoy the new adventure that I was about to embark on. After that, we had a mini-tour of the Nimman area on our way to lunch, went to one of the famous temples in the city – Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep in the evening by sŏng-tăews (Thailand’s famous, red open-back trucks with two rows of chairs facing each other), and had dinner at a vegetarian restaurant (Magical Light Café) that helps refugee children who are disadvantaged through their non-profit organization run by the chefs called Magical Light Foundation.

The next day, I started with an awesome breakfast and had to pack for an overnight trip to Chiang Dao (a beautiful city set in the mountainous region of the country). Before we left, we took the sŏng-tăews to Chiang Mai Gate Market where we saw some fruits that looked familiar and also learned about new fruits that are native to Thailand and/or Asia like longans and rambutans. Later that afternoon, we were taken to a massage parlor (my first time, oh and yes I fell asleep during the session). It was a time of relaxation and de-stressing that was much needed after a whole day of traveling and walking. We also learned about volunteer opportunities. After a day under the Northern heat, we were treated to a Northern Thai lunch and our trip to Chiang Dao took place later in the evening. Here, we visited the cave temple – a cryptic cave networks that hosts many figurines honoring Buddhism and other forms of spirits of animism. For the night we stayed at the Chiang Dao Nests, enjoyed the mountainous scenery until sunset, and dinner was Western-styled buffet. We ate to our fills and some more.

I haven’t been here for too long but I get the feeling that I am going to love it here. The country that once seemed almost non-existent has now become the place I have come to admire. I am also looking forward to making new memories here and learning about the culture.

  • Mark Morrow

    How are you able to go on a tour to so many cities at one time?
    That's really interesting to read about your trip to Thailand.Till now my longest duration trip was to Phuket, Bangkok and Pattaya for 15 days.
    I had taken most of the Pattaya tourist information from TripAdvisor and TripHobo, both of them are good for planning trip according to the number of tourist attractions and travelers reviews on them.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely Thai trip experience with us.

    • Đào Dao

      I'm so sorry I just came across your comment 10 months later while trying to relive my study abroad memories. All the trips talked about were included in the program so I had nothing to worry about, and they nothing but organized too. As a result of this, I didn't have to worry about not doing much personal traveling on my own since my budget did not allow for much.
      There were more excursions during our stay there and at the end of the semester both in Thailand and Vietnam since I split my semester between the two countries.
      I wish I had the chance to go to the places you visited; there were friends who did and they sounded like fun. I just can't wait for the chance to go back again.