Written by Evan Rumpza, Foster undergraduate
Let’s recap how we got here. 4:30AM, wake up. Deposit 1,000 Baht into my pocket. Leave passport and any other form of ID, lest we get caught. 4:45AM, get tuk tuk. Argue in broken English about the drop off location. 5:00AM, avoid the guard walking around the barbed wire fence. Duck under said fence. 5:15AM, wake the sleeping homeless man. Bribe him 200 Baht to open pad locked gate. 5:30AM, climb.
49 stories later I sat atop Sathorn Unique, better known as Bangkok’s infamous Ghost Tower. The sun was just rising, but we had already been up for hours. Heartbeat still racing from the unassisted assent, we sat victorious. The little band of rebels I called friends and I had raced the sunrise and won.
What lay before us was an unobstructed three-hundred-and-sixty degree view of downtown Bangkok. To our left was the Lebua sky bar (where they shot the Hangover part II). We had been there just a few nights before. The view was similar, except here there were no fifteen dollar cocktails waiting for us at the top. Rather, we were currently being treated to a natural drunk. Thanks in no small part to every shade of orange and red reflecting through the fog and dust as the sun crested the skyline. Welcome to Thailand.
In all honesty, I was planning on writing this reflection about my experience in Australia. However, after two weeks in the Land of Smiles, I am convinced it should be on everyone’s “to travel” list. And isn’t learning all these things exactly what study abroad is about?
Anyway, I decided a while ago that Thailand was where I wanted to spend my single week of freedom from classes. I wanted to so badly that I decided to carve an additional week out from my studies. So now I faced the second plane ticket in a row with a destination that was truly foreign to me.
I flew from Sydney to Kuala Lampur, Malasyia then on to Phuket, Thailand. One night there and it was off to the Gulf of Thailand and a week on island time. A few buses and a ferry later we arrived in Koh Phangan. If you have heard of it before, it’s probably thanks to the Full Moon Party, and before you even ask, of course we went. The first night was spent in preparation for the next day. April 3rd was the full moon, and on Koh Phangan that meant only one thing, we would not be sleeping. Without going into too much detail I will just say the island lived up to its reputation.
Next up was Koh Tao. One of the top worldwide sites for SCUBA diving, how perfect for this newly certified diver. (I got my certification the weekend before in Sydney.) We spent the days snorkeling and SCUBA diving on the water and racing ATVs and scooters through the streets at night. We climbed to the top of Nang Yuan Island and jumped from a few boats. The nightlife consisted of beach bars and one incredible night at a four star resort playing in a pool with a view to die for.
Then, just like that, it was off to Bangkok. First stop, the sky bar at Lebua. Fantastic drinks with an even more fantastic view. (I think Amy and I made UW Student Life with a picture from Lebua.) A pants only policy almost excluded one from our group, however as it turns out the locals are aware of this. After a strange talk with a woman in a bush and a 150 baht exchange, he was right back with the rest of us – a fresh pair of rented trousers around his waist. The next day consisted of a few temples, some meditation with Buddhist monks, BB gun target practice, and consumption of the worlds largest grilled cricket. Little did I know, that would not be the last strange thing I would eat. Later, Khao San Road, the mere mention of its name sends a shiver down the spine of any experienced South Asia backpacker – or so I’ve heard. After yet another perilous tuk tuk ride, we found ourselves in the middle of a street party like nothing I’ve ever seen, definitely a place to hit while in Bangkok. It is also the location where I ate a scorpion – whole. Moving on, the next day consisted of world class (knockoff) shopping and catching a flick at the local cinema, nothing too eventful. We had an early morning coming up.
So there we were, the next morning, on top of the world. But what goes up must come down. We said goodbye to our little band of rebels and I boarded a train to Chiang Mai. The next two days were a whirlwind of tigers, elephants, and Songkran or Thai New Year. Also known as the worlds craziest water fight. People literally blocked traffic and dumped bucket loads of ice water onto passing motorists, tourists, bicyclists, really anything that moved. It was insanity. We also snuck away just long enough to visit an elephant sanctuary. Which was a huge highlight of the trip. I’m a fan of picnics; I’m a bigger fan of picnics with one-ton elephants.
To be honest, this reflection has absolutely nothing to do with Sydney, but rather the Study Abroad experience in general. This adventure would not have been possible without it. If you have been, you know what I mean. If you are going, seize every moment. Spend your money and effort making memories, because you rarely regret the things you did do, only the things you didn’t.
**Picture is of the Sathorn Unique at sunrise.