Same same but different

My exchange semester in Thailand, Phuket.

Monthly Archives: September 2015

Famous last words

So all good comes to an end in one point, even my stay here in amazing Thailand. I have experienced a lot and learnt things about myself and changed a bit my worldview. Studying in so different environment than home can open your eyes and you start to appreciate things in your own homecountry. Finland’s school system is very functional and education is free for us. Sometimes you forget these things because they come to you granted.

What I learnt is that I don’t always need to say my opinion outloud, because you get easier way in the end and other people get more attention. I’m underlining word always. Of course you need to have own opinions and sometimes say them to take part of discussion, but not always.Β  Also I have learnt to be more calm and having this “sabai sabai”-attitude. First time in many years, I was totally stressfree, because I didn’t have to work at the same time and I could just consentrate to study and enjoy my time here.

What I really like about Thailand is the people, because they’re usually smiling, happy and helpful. Even you never know what’s behind that smile πŸ˜‰ After tsunami, they had to re-build everything again and start fresh, even they had lost everything and some even familymembers. Still they’re smiling!

But the most I’ll miss is food! After 5 months of eating thaifood, I can take another five. I love the spiciness, freshness of the ingredients and variety. Eating in restaurants is actually cheaper than buying from supermarkets.

 

Anyways, back to school topic: I pass all my courses with honor and got good grades actually. Final exam week was very stressful for thais, but I was lucky and had only two exams: marketing and even management. Thai exam which included oral and written, we had week earlier. I’m gonna miss our language teacher. Her jokes and always being happy made me feel good too. Every class I left smiling. In intercultural communication our final exam was a big report about everything what we learned during the semester. The topic was very interesting: what cultural differences India, UK and China could experience in business life. My group included me and four thais so I was a bit struggling with communication, but in the end, we made it and got a good score too,yey!

After my exchange semester it is going to be hard to get back in JAMK and back to “real” studying with exact reporting orders, etc. But I kinda miss it too…AND OF COURSE MY SCHOOL MATES AND STUDEN PARTIES!

All I can say is thank you Thailand and all the people I met during my exchange semester! My adventures will continue in Greece with an internship…

T for a travel!

So I visit this beautiful country..Of course I need to travel a bit round.

Koh Racha

Near by Phuket in the south is a very nice little island called Racha, where snorkkeling is a must. Me and my friend booked a daytrip there and Coral Island. Well the boats were full of chinese (not my first choise for travel buddies) tourists and I can tell you that it is very amusing to see a beach full of red lifejackets floating, because usually chinese cannot swim. The day was full of snorkeling in two different spots and lunch served in beautiful bay with crystal clear water. On the top was enjoying a beer in a sunset with a great mate.

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Koh Yao Yai

One weekend me, my german bestfriend Simone and her boyfriend and his friend went for a little getaway. Nea by the west coast of Phuket are two islands called Kh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai and they have a bit different nature than the east coast with blurry water and tall rock islands rising from the sea. We decided to have a little luxury so we spent two nights in a nice ecological resort. We had two bungalows which had shower outdoors, nice patio to hangout and beds from heaven.The hotel had infinity pool, couple restaurants, gym and overall look was cute like a little village. I really enjoyed my stay there. The purpose was to relax, but we also booked a private boat to take us around and it was totally worth it, because we avoided all the tourist traps and enjoyed the secret places. Was very nice weekend to remember.

Becoming sunset.

Becoming sunset.

Hongkong

My visa is a ED-studen visa with multiply entries to the country which allows me travel as much as I want for a year. But Thai gouverment has made it fun for us and every third month you need to either exit the country ( so called visarun) or go to cityhall an renew it. I chose option number one and end up in Hongkong for couple days.

After being in hot humid environment for months, it was nice to go somewhere cooler and in a city where everything works. Hongkong is huge and skyscapers are impressive art of humans. I went to see main attractions as much I could afford.Well after Thailand, Hongkong felt SUPER expensive and I felt my bankcard crying. Anyways I enjoyed the athmosphere “Asia meeting West” a lot by eating European food and shopping till I was dropping.

But would I go back? Definetly when I have money enough to enjoy all the treats of Hongkong, because now I only got a little piece of it.

Lost in Hongkong.

Lost in Hongkong.

Similan Islands

This place is the cherry on my cake. Similan Islands are only open for tourists from October till end of April and I went there on the very last days. I booked a one night trip with tent accommodation (cheapest of course, I’m a student), but I must say it was an adventure!

The trip started with a smaller speed boat packed with tourists and we went to very popular snorkkeling spot, which was way too busy for my taste. After we went to an island for a lunch and where the accommodation were and I wasn’t feeling very good about the money I spent and what I was getting in that point, because it was full of crazy tourists (especially chinese <3) and too much fuzzing and buzzing. I had booked a trip to paradise and was this what I was getting?! But then it changed totally, because 95% of the travelers left after the lunch, I got my tent ( no even words to describe) and afternoon we spent on bigger boat with much smaller group. We had an amazing snorkkeling quide who took us to spots where we can actually see something and told about fish and coral there. I swam with seaturtles and saw a reef shark and other awesome creatures of the sea. The evening ended with AMAZING sunset and delicious dinner on the boat. When I got back to the island, where I was supposed to sleep, I was so tired and fell asleep happy 9pm. In the morning I woke up 8am feeling very relaxed and ready for a new excitin day. Breakfast was served on the big boat and afterwards we went to snorkkeling. In the afternoon other boat came to pick me up and took us to main spots of Similan Islands (round rocks) and on the way back to the mainland, storm hit us and I was a bit afraid , but we got back to the shore safetly thanks to the very skilled boat driver. Overall the trip was worth of every baht I spent and two days of full power snorkkeling took all the energy of this girl and I must say that I slept like a little baby next night. Highly recommed Similans to everyone, but stay one or two nights. One day trip is not worth it, because all the magic happens on the big boat! πŸ˜‰

BEAUTIFUL

BEAUTIFUL

Lock and load…

It’s time for Songkran aka waterfestival!

Songkran is celebration of buddhist new year and it always takes a place in April for three days 13th till 15th. Then everybody take buckets, waterguns, hoses or what ever and pour water on everyone. Then whole Thailand is sinking. That tradition symbolizes washing all the sins and bad luck away.

Many people rent trucks or pick ups and pour/shoot water from there. It’s crazy and you cannot stay dry longer than 2 seconds, I assure you.

Minnie and Daisy werent a big help around here :(

Minnie and Daisy werent a big help around here πŸ™

Locals know how to celebrate

Locals know how to celebrate

Buddy Program and Homestay in Phananga

In PSU they offer us a great opportunity to get deeper in thai culture with Buddy program. All the international students who want, can have a thai student as their buddy for whole semester. They help you to understand more about their own culture and habits and of course if we have any difficulties in our normal life (like me with my phone bills :D) or with the school. As exchange, we tell about our home countries and the differences between Thailand and home. I must say that thais were amazed how good eveything are in Finland and how beautiful it is with four different seasons because they have only two: monsoon and dry.

My buddy took me different restaurants which I would have not found myself and introduced to different foods which I would have never tried without her. She also explained me a lot about relationships and normal life in Thailand. For example, Thailand is known for sextourism and prostitution is very openly available, but overall sex is a bit tabou and they don’t talk about it openly. Like in Finland we have a lesson about puberity, safe sex, etc. There they have a lot to improve, because now HIV is a issue in Thailand.

Having a thai bbq dinner with thais and Simone.

Having a thai bbq dinner with thais and Simone.

Also some of the international students had a possibility go for a overnight trip to the countryside to stay with a local family. That was a great weekend! First we traveled couple hours with a minibus to the “jungle”. Then we arrived to a small yard where was two buildings and about 7 smiling thais welcoming us to their home. I must say that it was nothing like a luxury hotel: old house with brickwalls ( no bamboo, thank god), kitchen was outdoors with a little roof and two toilets with real toiletseats. Flushing worked with a bucket of water and there was electricity too so not too bad at all. Boys got one bedroom and girls another and we slept next to eachother on the floor with little geccos.

The ladies of the house showed us how to make coconut milk from the draft and men of the house took us to a boattrip. We went by the boat to a beautiful bay and collected clams from the sand. After couple hours of clam hunting, swimming and sunbathing, we went to see the local market street. When it was getting dark, we went to back to the house and started prearing dinner. For the dinner we had chicken skewers, steamed clams, shrimps and other thai goodies which just blew my mind. It was one of the tastiest bbq dinners what I have ever had! YAMMY!

Clam hunting

Clam hunting

In the morning we woke up early to see the sunrise from the hill and gosh it was beautiful: fresh morning air, a bit chilly (yep, in shorts and top) and the sun coming behind the mountains.

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Then we went to busy morning market place, where all the local people were already bustling. We bought ingredients for breakfast and drove back to enjoy a full meal. Of course, everybody were very tired so little nap time before hitting the road again. We visited a park where monkeys were ruling the place and hiked in a national park to see waterfalls and enjoy a little swimming break. Then it was time to thank the hosts and go back home with new experiences. It was one of the best weekends I had in amazing Thailand. Khop-khun-kha!

Prince of Songkla University- the place to be

So I came here to study…or at least that’s what I’m telling everyone…

From Monday till Wednesday I put my uniform on and open my mind for the new things I can learn. I also need to put on thailish- mode on so I can TRY to understand what the teachers are saying in the front of the classroom. They like to use microphone, which Im not used to, neither I’m not allow to question what they’re teaching. Their powerpoints are full of text (which some of our JAMK teachers wouldn’t allow) and most of the classes go through playing candy crash, because they don’t activate the students. Nobody cannot listen 3 hours straight. Well okey, there’s 15 min break in between but…Teaching methods are very different from what I’m used to back in Finland. Especially, here the attendance is 80%, which means you can miss the class only 2 times…Very not used to…

But Im lucky, because most of the week I’m off and able to discover the island. Here’s my timetable:

On Monday mornings I have Marketing for the tourism industry, which I find very interesting, but the teacher is not good. She knows what she’s talking about, but cannot make it in practical neither speak good english.

In the afternoon I have my favourite class: Convention and event management. Topic is very interesting and the teacher has been studying in Europe so her english is very good and methods of teaching are great! She likes to make group discussions and she let us disagree with her,but only if we make a point πŸ˜‰ I also like to see the viewpoint of thais too, but they are very shy to tell their opinion because they’re so afraid to be wrong.

On Tuesdays I have only morning lessons: Intercultural communication. Topic could be very interesting and you could get a lot out of it for the future, but it is ruined by a new teacher who has not even qualified as a teacher. I feel so sorry for the thais.

Wednesday is my favorite day, because in the morning I have Fundamental thai and I love learning new languages and second of all the weekend starts! Thai language is quite hard to learn, because there are 5 different tones and not very easy to hear the difference. But our teacher is a star and has made the learning easy and fun for us.

Here you can learn numbers 1-10 πŸ˜‰

 

The campus area is very lively, because many students live there and they have hobbies till late in the evening. Sometimes me and my friend are going to walk around the campus and see what the local students are doing. The buildings are old, but the area is big, green and functional.

Thai students are working hard for their degree First of all, all the lessons are in english and I can assure you they are not even close our level so most of the time they’re googling or translating all the tasks, etc. which takes more time. Second of all, they have classes from Monday till Saturday from morning till afternoon plus all the hobbies and tasks what they need to do on their freetime. They also need to pass the test in one time or they need to do the whole class again. At least we can do it 3 times in JAMK πŸ˜› And they have exams twice a semester: midterms in the middle and finals. Crazy, i must say… Feeling very lucky that I study in Finland. But in the other hand, two exams splits the study area in half so you dont need to study whole book for the final exam.

Methods and equipments are quite old school, but that’s what I expected. All the reports and tasks have to give back as papers (not like we return in Optima). The most bad thing is that the students dont get feedback so actually, they cannot improve their skills. That’s the worst thing.

Also, group work with thais is sometimes SUPER hard and these are the reasons: 1. Language barrier 2. It takes a long time to understand the givenΒ  assingment. 3. Brainstorming is totally new for them. 4. The idea what we should complete is from another planet. 5. They do everything in a last minute.Β Β Β  But somehow it all works out or you do everything by yourself that it looks decent enough to return.

 

But anyways, I secretly enjoy the easiness of the classes, uniforms so we’re all equal, no matter of your backround and overall campuslife with coffeebreaks in cafeterias πŸ™‚ I like it here…..for one semester.

Campus main building with german Nicky :)

Campus main building with german Nicky πŸ™‚

 

Kathu hoods

So THE place Im staying is island called Phuket, if anybody didn’t got that already.

Facts about Phuket:

-the biggest island of Thailand

-main income comes from tourism (very popular sextoursim place among the westerns)

-busride to Bangkok(the capital of Thailand) takes about 13 hours, but it goes fast in a nice spaceful nightbus and the ride cost only about 20€.. If you are in a hurry, a flight takes only couple of hours and arent that expensive either.

Well, my home is in the middle of the island, a place called Kathu. Here’s not too much tourist. Mainly locals and students and that makes the place cozy. Near by is a big shopping centre Central Festival, where I have spent WAY too much money and there are many nice cheap restaurants. One we call a fishplace where you can have the tastiest steamed lemon fish with spicy somtam (papya salad), The Cafe is popular lunch place among international students and Number 8 serves the best green curry I have ever tasted.

Also there is a lake near by where lots of people go for a run in the afternoon when it’s not too hot (yeah, still about +30 degrees :D). The spirit of the lake is great. If you go there for a run, everyone is smiling and cheering for you. Especially when you feel exhausted and youre only half way and then you see another person who says to you “come one, you can do it!”. Its just great and gives you the extra boost what you needed. I love this place!

But here you have to have a scooter to go around. There are no walking streets (or at least proper ones) and shopping is impossible, because the grocery stores are 5min scooter ride away. Having a scooter is a MUST, but I like to have one. It gives freedom and you can visit beaches and it is SO cheap. I pay 50€/ a month and full tank of gasoline cost about 3€. Patong beach is 10min ride away and Phuket town about the same.

I have my own studio apartment here. Its located next to university and its also a new building so I have a gym and pool here too! Awesomness. Rental prices are a bit higher in Kathu, because of the exchange students, but compare to Finland is cheaper. Thoug, electricity and internet are weirdly quite expensive to compare normal expenses here.

 

Jogging at the lake. +33 degrees and I'm still alive!

Jogging at the lake. +33 degrees and I’m still alive!