On Day 4 in Thailand, we started our day off with a river tour. This was only a ten minute ride away from the apartment, which shows how quickly the landscape can change here. We hopped into two small river boats and went through the water to various stops. The first stop landed us at a lotus farm. It was easily one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. There was a slight haze over the palm tree line, and we got to go into the farm itself on boats among the workers collecting the plants. We also got to try lotus tea and fresh coconut water. Afterwards, we stopped at a small place sampling rice crackers and a homemade sauce. Both were delicious, as well as a variety of dried and fresh fruits. Another stop was made to taste gac fruit and several products made from it. An orchid farm was visited next, finishing off with a farm. The farm provided us with a variety of fruits to try, as well as an unusual tractor ride among its fields to try fresh tamarind and take in the views. After the tour, we stopped for lunch at a noodle place serving many small bowls per person. This was followed by a lecture and student -led discussion on food safety and how it ties into food waste. It was very interesting to hear what different people took away from the same article and concepts. For dinner, our group went to a local Korean BBQ restaurant recommended by a grad student.
On Day 5 in Thailand, we started our day with an unconventional breakfast. We were granted the opportunity to partake in a Thai cooking class taking place right on the Mahidol University campus. It was led outdoors, with two people sharing a station. A Thai instructor showed us how to cook four dishes off a menu, walking us through each step with a translator. I really enjoyed learning about Thai food more thoroughly, and recognizing flavors we’ve been tasting in dishes since we started our time here. We made spring rolls, penang curry, Tom Yum soup, and floating lotus. I think the spring rolls and the floating lotuses really stood out. I am more likely to attempt making spring rolls at home now that I know how simple they can be. The floating lotus flavor including the coconut and texture of the glutenous rice and vegetable balls were to die for. My main concern about the food here in Thailand is that I won’t be able to get my hands on anything nearly as good in the United States. Making the curry and soup was more difficult, but the flavors of both really appeal to me. I love the sourness that the soup brought, and will try to incorporate that into my meals back home. After eating our food alongside a nice pond on woven mats, we headed to the library to work on these logs as well as our presentations. This was the first day we stayed on campus, but I still felt I gained a great deal of cultural insight.
On Day 6 in Thailand, we departed to Kanchanaburi. It was roughly a two and a half hour drive, but was pleasant to see the mountains and more rural part of the country. We arrived and were immediately greeted by the faculty from Mahidol. They organized a delightful welcome lunch, as well as a general tour of their campus. There was an orientation with an elaborate presentation on the facilities of the university. It was very informative and cool to see how education marketing differs from the United States. We also received gifts in the orientation, something that surprised me I did not know our visit was that important to them Next we did an even more informative tour of their natural geological sites along their trails. . The trolley ride was very enjoyable, and displayed how beautiful their campus truly is. I also learned a lot at their geology museum and food tasting. We also met together for lecture and discussed food waste in terms of both the world and the United States. I had heard- some of the figures before but it was still interesting to discuss. Afterwards, we had an excursion to a railroad bridge overlooking arguable the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen in my life. We also went inside a cave to see a Buddhist shrine before watching a train slowly creep by. Dinner topped off an amazing day, as the food was all delicious. The atmosphere was definitely much different than at Salaya, and I liked it.
On Day 7 in Thailand we started our day with an “American Breakfast” complete with eggs, many meats, and for some reason salad. Regardless, it was enjoyable and filling. This worked against us however, as our next activity was making rice noodles from scratch at the university. I really enjoyed this activity, mainly through the interactions with the faculty and students that came in. The noodles themselves left something to be desired. We should not turn Thai cooking into careers. Lecture was very interesting, as we discussed farm subsidies further and how food waste ties into safety regulations. It’s an angle I hadn’t thought about until taking this course. Afterwards, we ate lunch at the usual restaurant. Again, we were very full from earlier and we definitely did not eat as much as expected or as we usually did. We also were treated to Thai teas and coffee. We headed over to Mallika City after for traditional Thai costumes and displays of architecture and arts. I personally did not want to dress up, because I felt a little uncomfortable at the thought of it. Even if I didn’t participate in that way, the dinner and show were fantastic. It was great to see traditional entertainment and enjoy eating using an older style of dining. I had no idea how much dedication and work went into those performances, because I had never even know they existed before. It gave me a newfound respect to an art form that was completely foreign to me.