On Day 8 in Thailand, we started off the day with a lighter breakfast. I was thankful for this, because I knew we would be our most of the day. Right afterwards, we went to Hellfire Pass. I cannot express how interesting this was to me. It blew me away that things like this happen all over the world that hold such significance, but will never be learned about in the mainstream. I am thankful to have learned about it in such a intimate and privileged setting of actually being at the site. We also visited a local waterfall, but it paled in comparison to some of the other landscapes we had seen. Lunch was very good and overlooked the mountains. The next stop was to a melon farm, which was very informative regarding organic farming processes in that region of Thailand. It was also very cool that he had only been doing that for 3 years. River Kwai food processing plant was after that, where we saw vegetable packaging and were able to sample some product. It was interested to compare the production floor and scale of operations to Thai Union. We capped off our final night in Kanchanaburi with a visit to a cemetery dedicated to those at Hellfire pass and then a night market. On the first day at the university, some faculty had brought up a charity race they were doing and invited us to participate. We thought there was no way we would end up doing it, but after a few days we agreed. We slept early for our race the next day, which I can confidently say was not believed by any of us to actually be happening until we were handed jerseys before dinner.
Day 9 started off the day with an 8 am departure time to Phetchabun. We drove for roughly 3 hours before stopping at a restaurant. It had a much different feel than Bangkok and Salaya, and I’m glad we are getting to see so many sides of Thailand. Leading to our destination, the last half hour was a climb into the mountains. The roads leading up the hills were very narrow and the van barely fit through most of the time. We pulled into Uncle Tom’s Cabin around 4:15 pm. I could not believe that this is where we were staying. It is comprised of a large main house, some field and farm facilities, and the cabins themselves. The cabins are down a sloping hill with cement blocks acting as pavers leading to them. This feels like a vacation spot more than a study abroad stop. It is a little buggy, but tolerable so far. We will have dinner and most meals here I believe, so I hope the food is good. We had dinner right at the main house, and it was pretty good. It wasn’t enough food, so afterwards we decided to take a walk to find a market. There were many dogs we disturbed and locals seemed not too happy about it. I am glad I was able to see a glimpse of how different the lives are of the people that live here compared to my own. We went to bed early for the next morning.
Day 10 consisted of running that race at 5 am and being introduced to the president of Mahidol University. Shortly after, we left and drove back to the Salaya campus. The rest of the day was spent as a free day, so we decided to go into Bangkok and explore a bit. It was very interesting to see different parts of the city that we hadn’t before.
On Day 11 we woke up at 6:30 am for 7 am breakfast. We had a small buffet consisting of fried rice, eggs, sausages, salad, toast, soup, and juice. Shortly after, we departed for a local farm. The ride was about an hour and a half to a truck, which we then all piled into for the remaining hour up the mountain. The ride was interesting, as the road zig-zagged quite suddenly while climbing upwards. We saw the development taking place roadside most likely in preparation for tourism. We arrived at a farmer cooperative processing facility, where we learned about how their organic produce is harvested and distributed. It was surprising to hear that 60% of the lettuce by weight is not sold, but the remaining 40% is sold for the same price. After this, we hopped back in the truck for an hour ride up to the farm itself. The fields were completely on a slant, which made me respect the farmers that harvest there that much more. Something that stood out to me was the barrier trees to prevent spreading from the neighboring conventional farms. We drove back down to the van and then headed to Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, which was the Buddhist temple I had seen in many pictures. This might have been my favorite stop so far and I wish I could have stayed for hours just observing. We then headed back and cleaned up for lecture held in the main area of the cabins. It was a short discussion on the activities we had done and an analyzation of the practices we saw. We had dinner at a local restaurant, then retired back to our cabins. Me, Alex, Ryan, and Calvin played Chinese poker and stargazed for the rest of the night.