One thing I realized while living in Thailand was how important it is to take full advantage of your time there. It is hard to believe the semester went by so quickly– there were so many countries in Asia I would have loved to travel to, but there’s too much to see in such a short period of time. We were lucky enough to spend time in Krabi (Thailand), Cambodia, and Myanmar (Burma) on shorter trips, plus our two-week spring break traveling Vietnam. Here are some of the highlights from our travels.
The Thai island of Krabi was so breathtaking I dedicated an entire blog post to our TEAN weekend trip, so check it out if you’re interested.
We spent one of our long weekends traveling to Siem Reap and visiting the ancient kingdom of Angkor Wat. We were lucky enough to watch the sunrise and spend the rest of the day riding around in a Tuk-Tuk to explore the different sites. We even got to make a stop at the famous tree temple where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed.
We traveled to Yangon, the capital, and Bagan, an ancient Burmese city. Burma was by far the most incredible country I will ever have the luxury of visiting. Since it has just recently opened its doors to the world of tourism, everything is genuine and the people will view you as celebrities and warmly welcome you. We were stopped and asked to take photos numerous times on our trip and the locals loved trying to communicating with us. We had a blast riding our bikes through the paths that lead to over 4,000 different pagodas that Bagan is home to. It was such a magical and ethereal place that we didn’t mind getting lost for a few hours.
Our time in Vietnam was great. The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is a little intimidating and you really do have to be careful when you’re crossing the street–it’s a like a real-life game of Frogger. The people there were nothing less than welcoming and we were excited to experience the beauty of Northern Vietnam when we traveled to Hanoi, Sapa, and iconic Ha Long Bay.
There are many places that we didn’t have time to visit, and as a result many students decided to extend their time in Southeast Asia to travel more after finals. If there is one thing I regret about my study abroad, it was booking a plane ticket home. I would strongly advise you to not book your airfare home until you’ve already spent a couple months in Thailand.
Although traveling throughout Asia is an incredible experience, it’s also important to soak up all of your time in your new home of Chiang Mai. Don’t forget to take advantage of the Sunday Night Walking Street, the kindness of the locals, the 7/11 toasties and everything in between. I’d suggest not making travel plans for every single weekend, and instead taking some time to explore locally.
It’s also fun to stick around for the weekend trips that the Thai roommates organize for TEAN students. They plan a trip for one weekend every month and I highly recommend attending. These trips are an awesome way to not only get to know your roommates better, but the other people in your program as well. We hiked the highest peak in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, visited Bua Thong Waterfall (Sticky Falls) and spent a day at a dam, swimming, kayaking and playing on water trampolines.
Four and a half months of living in Southeast Asia is far too short, so make the most of it. Do your research on different trips before you arrive in Thailand to help figure out where you want to visit during breaks and long weekends and then get out there and make it happen!
Sophie Fish is a TEAN Alum and student at Emmanuel College in Boston. She studied abroad with TEAN in Chiang Mai, Thailand.