My foot tapped nervously as I stood in the security line. My family stood in the background sending encouraging smiles and taking many unwanted pictures. An electrified uneasiness spread through me from head to toe with increasing intensity. Questions raced through my mind. Had I made the right decision? What awaited me at the end of my journey? How different would I be when I came back?
I had no idea what to expect when I decided to come to Thailand to study abroad. I heard many things from the study abroad office and others. They went on and on about the delicious food, the beautiful nature and beaches, the friendly people and the pesky monkeys. Others warned of the dangers of sex trafficking, foreign diseases, unpredictable waters and wild animals.
Even with all of this, I questioned, “What is Thailand all about? What are the people like? The places? The food?”
I am still figuring much of Thailand out and will learn much more as time goes on, but from what I have seen so far, it is truly an incredible place.
Study abroad students live with home campus students at Sala, the Webster residence hall. When you wake up in the morning, you are greeted by the sound of exotic birds. You can look out and see bright, green foliage and dozens of palm trees lying between you and the ocean resting not far off in the horizon. If you step outside, you will feel the crisp, clean ocean air tickle your cheeks and give you reprieve from the growing heat. The breeze brings the smell of flowers that follows you wherever you go.
To venture into Hua Hin, you can take a Webster Shuttle, Tuk Tuk, or my personal favorite a song-thaew.
The intoxicating smell of fresh curry and Thai spices lets you know you have arrived in the main market. Here, stores and stalls surround you filled with anything imaginable. There are little stands on the street with fresh papaya, guava, watermelon, apples, lychee and dragon fruit for a dollar or less. Different kinds of delicious street food such as curry dishes, skewers and multiple other Thai dishes are sold all along the street as well.
There are smiling Thais all over as you walk down the busy streets. They put their palms together as if in prayer and give a slight bow in a way as you pass. As they give their traditional greeting, they say the Thai version of hello, “Sa Wat Dee” “Kha” or “Khrap,” depending on if they are female or male in almost a song-like quality. They point you to their colorful wares or mouthwatering food with a smile and an invitation to come and see all they have to offer.
The Night Markets pop up once 6 o’clock rolls around. These markets have many fun foods to try and tents filled with a variety of handmade accessories or brand-name knock offs at cheap prices. Even with the inexpensive prices, you can barter for a better deal for further interaction with the store/stall owner.
After you have had your fill and probably spent too much money, you can take a night walk at one of the many beautiful beaches.
With all of its beauty and uniqueness, Thailand has stolen my heart within the first week of being here. The 35-hour journey was well-worth it.
Thailand’s nickname “The Land of Smiles” so far rings true- not only for the locals but, also for the students here as they discover all Thailand’s hidden treasures and beauty.