It’s almost a month to my nine days in Thailand with 19 wildly funny, adventurous, and caring new friends, plus the ever impressive Thai-speaking, Muay Thai fighting, Dr Joel Moore. 

Amazing how those six days in Bangkok and three in Buriram feel like a mother’s handprint on my palm; so comforting, so uplifting, and I’m left in longing. Had there been less or more on the agenda, the impression may not have been made. This was my first time in Thailand but not my first as a stranger in foreign land. I have always come away from trips feeling as though I left behind an incomplete treasure hunt. In Thailand on the other hand, I felt like I truly lived. 

Thai food in Kuala Lumpur has always been a favourite. Needless to say, you’ll be overwhelmed by the burst of flavour in every darn dish there, topped with the clean taste of fresh coriander, bean sprouts, and basil. And even with an orchestral tummy at the taste of spice, I armoured myself with several digestion aids to have me plenty a tom yam soup. To sum it up, we tasted authenticity; we tasted ‘Amazing Thailand’. As amazing were the people we encountered. All those things you heard about Thai hospitality, the reality of it is twice as pertinent. Throughout the times we shamelessly overused sign language to order food, we were either returned with genuine smiles or giggles. I feel I must emphasise that I saw the Thai people’s humility and pride, enthusiasm, calm, their warmth, and respect throughout the trip which touched me greatly.  

For the study part of the trip, we were introduced to very knowledgeable speakers of their field. It was a brilliant opportunity to learn about Thailand through lived experiences which created a lot more depth to the subject and helped me see just how admirable the Thais are at keeping peace despite class differences and colour of skin throughout the coups and political struggles in this century alone.  

Our visit to Buriram, the poorest state in Thailand, was probably the most humbling experience for me. I felt neither pity nor sadness for the people we visited in  Buriram for I was overwhelmed by their ambition. They were not wallowing, they were working, and they always had on a smile as they showed us around. It was a sobering feeling to not be greeted by awkwardness (a feeling I fearfully anticipated) as they were lovely hosts to a set of young, inquisitive guests. Among the  favourites were sites such as the Bamboo School, the herb farm, and silk factory where some of us got to munch on silkworms. Even that tasted good. This assured me that Thailand could do no wrong in the gastronomy department.  

Often referred to as ‘land of the free’ – we also learned how Thailand was accepting of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community although one area that was lacking was job opportunities. Many commonly work at perfume counters or at beauty outlets. However, their place behind these counters is not always out of choice. Job positions as lawyers and teachers are not available to them as they are seen as poor representations of society and so, the LGBT community are fighting for basic human rights.  

We also learnt that sex workers are not free from discrimination. Empower+, an organisation with a neutral standpoint on sex work, welcomed us for a talk by a sassy older woman. She put into perspective, sex work as a career. I thoroughly enjoyed her openness and quirkiness, and that Thais can sometimes be shy, but never afraid of a good discussion. The organisation’s method of teaching English was also interesting with the use of flashcards that go: A is for Apple, B is for Banana, C is for Condom...  

This trip was a successful study experience for me. In the end we not only found Thailand, but ourselves too. It is one thing to feel a sense of belonging in your home country, and it’s another to develop a sense of yourself in unfamiliar surroundings. The discovery becomes pure, when seeing yourself outside surroundings of the familiar. And the exploration becomes meaningful – seeing for yourself, the outside that is unfamiliar.  

For the full diary of our trip and the many interesting things discussed in the sessions, please visit: www.insearchofkrungthep.blogspot.com 

Here, you can check out the fun we had through the lens: www.facebook.com/InSearchOfKrungThep