I wrote this entry last weekend in Phuket but I was unable to post it then so here it is now. At the moment I’m in Cambodia so finding time and an internet connection hasn’t been too easy. After a week or so in Cambodia I’m heading to Vietnam for another week. I’m returning to Finland at the end of December just in time for the New Year’s.
That’s me at Angkor Wat temple in Agkor, Cambodia.
These last few weeks have gone by unbelievably fast, partly because I’ve pretty much spend the last few weeks in our hotel room doing reports and studying for tests. I think it’s paid off though, because I feel I’ve learned a lot and did pretty well on our final exams this week.
We had our last exam (the hardest one in my opinion – intl. business) on Friday and in the evening we all had dinner at the school and said goodbye to the faculty and to each other. Great food and good company, so it was a really nice evening. I think meeting and studying with people from different backgrounds has been probably the best thing about studying as a exchange student. That, and the sea and the sun. Talking about the sea, I did also manage to find two days to complete AOWD (Advanced Open Water Diving) and see Shark Point and the King Cruiser Wreck.
I think that this experience has improved my understanding of the Asian culture (you really have to experience it first hand to get it) and in addition to all the new friends and souvenirs, I will take with me valuable life experience and a bunch of great memories.
Hints & Tips
Asia Exchange provides a lot of information about living and studying here, so I’ll just try to give hints and tips, hopefully somebody considering coming to here will find it useful.
The basic rule about transportation here is; if it has wheels you can get a ride on it. The best way to get around Phuket is by motorcycle – or rot mootoosaj in Thai. They’re everywhere. I didn’t rent one, but many did and nobody had –serious- accidents. If you don’t feel confident about driving one, you can always take a motorcycle taxi which is pretty cheap and good solution for short trips. Tuk Tuks can be also found easily (not the three wheel kind, but the Phuket kind of Tuk Tuk), they’re pretty expensive if compared to the meter taxis in Bangkok and you always have to agree the price in advance and do some serious bargaining. There are also private taxis which tend to be as expensive as Tuk Tuks. The price depends on the time of day, the weather, the position of the stars – so it’s always good idea to ask around for a decent price and not say yes to the first one. On a good day you can get from Kathu to Patong and Phuket Town for about 150-200 baht, depending on how good of a haggler are you (and how well is your Thai). The way back is always more expensive for some reason. The buss is also pretty easy and cheap if you’re travelling day time to Patong or to Phuket Town from Kathu. The bus fare is 20 bath, about 0,4 Euros. To get on a bus just wave to the driver and he’ll stop and pick you up. Also if you’re walking in Kathu people tend to ask you if you need a ride, especially if you’re wearing the school uniform, which just shows how friendly the Thais are (just remember to use common sense here).
The food here is great and cheap. Thai foods cost about 30 baht in Kathu and western foods about 100. If you eating at Sizzler, Hard Rock Café or some other western restaurant it’ll cost you from 200 to 500 baht (not including the drinks). Still, it’s a lot cheaper than eating in a restaurant in Finland. J Across the street from Baan Maksong is Thum Pizza which is where we ate practically at least once a day. Thum makes great food, has cheap prices, fast service and a good menu to choose from. You should try different restaurants and foods and you’ll get a pretty good idea about the food culture here even if you’re not taking the Thai cooking course.
Some Pad Thai made by Finns
We’re staying at a Balinese styled hotel, Baan Maksong, which is situated very close to the university.. There’s a pool and a restaurant and a spa, the staff is friendly, the rooms are comfortable and cleaned twice a week. The only down side really is the lack of own kitchen (there’s a fridge) and the rooms are for two persons. You can check out the hotel by googling it. Other places near the University include Delight Village which rents houses, a really cool little village with a great pool but you should use caution as some have had stuff stolen there. A cheaper option but still close to the University is the Baanbanyon (or something like that). They rent rooms for longer stays. Some of the exchange students are staying at Patong, Rawai and other places. Especially if you have a motorcycle you don’t really have to live in Kathu. Asia Exchange provided a lot of information about the accommodation possibilities so it’ll be easier to decide where to stay. I would recommend however that you don’t sign contracts for more than a month, since you might change your mind about where you want to live when you get to know the place better.
Stuff to do
Spending free time in Phuket is not hard. Going to the beach is always a good option and if it happens to rain, going to the movies or doing some shopping are good ways to spend time. You can also go go-carting, bungee jump, ride elephants, do kayaking or rafting, see the Big Buddha, bowl or play mini golf or - my favorite - scuba dive. The only thing that limits the possibilities is time.
We’ve also tried to travel as much as possible when we’ve had some free time from school. The best time for travelling though is in the beginning or at the end of the exchange program. Don’t book return flights home immediately after the final exams (unless you really need to), you might want to relax for couple of weeks in Krabi for example. It might also be very hard or impossible to change flight dates for later (especially near Christmas). Travelling from Phuket is really easy since the island has its own airport with cheap flights to Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong etc. Air Asia is probably the cheapest airline around. You can also go by bus to various places, but remember to dress warmly because of the air-conditioning the busses are usually freezing cold.
I was in Singapore couple of weeks ago and I definitely recommend visiting the city just because it’s so different from KL and Bangkok. It’s wealthier and the style of city is more western and that definitely shows. We stayed at a really cozy feeling guesthouse called the Sleepy Sam’s pretty close to all the sites in the city. We spend one day entirely in the Singapore zoo (I really liked the Night Safari thing there), did some shopping (although the prices were a little bit higher than in Thailand), had Singapore Slings by the river and just walked around the city. There were Christmas lights and displays everywhere which felt pretty bizarre since Christmas = Snow, Dark & Cold in my mind. Almost made me miss home. KL and Bangkok are definitely worth visiting as well and many of the students also went – or are planning to go - to Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam and/or Laos.
Singapore (by the river)
View from the Observation Wheel in Singapore
Prince of Songkla University
The University is very nice with modern, air conditioned class rooms. It was the first university in southern Thailand and there are approximately 3000 students in the PSU campus. The teachers we had were very professional. I found the teaching method very different to Finland where we have lectures with up to a hundred students and very few assignments and no quizzes at all (and no attendance requirement). At PSU teaching is more personal with a lot of group work and quizzes in addition to the mid-terms and final exams. It might sound hard but it really isn’t and the professors were pretty easy on us exchange students.
We could choose total of four courses for the semester, but many chose less so that they had more free time. I found the International Business and Human Resource management the most interesting. On the business course we did three case studies (about child labor, the pharmaceutical industry and a marketing assignment) and several small quizzes in addition to the final exam. It was a pretty demanding course but I think I also learned the most on that course. The HRM course also included a big group assignment; we created a company and applied the stuff we learned to it. What was really nice about HRM was that we had the chance to visit the hotel our teacher was working at. I also found the Thai language course very beneficial and the teacher was really nice. The International Economics course didn’t go much beyond the principles of economics so in retrospect I probably should have chosen the Strategic Management course from which I heard some really nice comments. Other options this semester included International Finance, Thai cooking since there weren’t enough participants for the marketing and tourism courses. All in all, there’s something for everyone in the course selection offered by the school.
I hope you’ve found this useful and if you would like to know more about anything, write a comment and I’ll try my best to help you.
12/14/2009 5:38:22 PM freemover
A great finish for the best blog in internet! I really enjoyed following your life in Phuket via this blog. Thank you so much! Hopefully I will be able to experience the same someday.
12/30/2009 5:07:06 AM Anu
3/4/2010 10:57:17 AM evision
5/27/2010 4:32:56 AM Mba Chinonso
Hi Anu, how is life in thailand? Could u pls tell me more about your school,faculties,courses etc
11/25/2010 8:10:43 PM angela
hello, glad, I have 17 years of age currently living in PERU (South America) and study at the National University of San Agustin de Arequipa (education and arts), I would like to know how I can get a scholarship to japan, korea, or Thailand, I would greatly appreciate if you helped me, THANK YOU .
It hard to believe (and accept) that I have only four weeks left in this paradise island. It has gone by way too fast! Here’s something I’ve been up to lately. :)
One of the biggest festivals in Phuket is the Vegetarian Festival of the Chinese community here. It lasts for about a week and they believe that during this time abstinence from meat and alcohol etc. will bring them good health. They also do body piercing (not their bellybuttons –Google it and you get the idea) and other very painful stuff because apparently they cannot feel pain as mediums of gods – yeah, right.
We were at Phuket Town the last day of the festival when they send of their gods with fireworks (which figures since it is a Chinese celebration). There was a kind of parade where men were carrying small altars and people were throwing firecrackers at them (yes, AT them). I think I saw more fireworks during that one night that I have in my life altogether. I was really glad I thought of to bring my earplugs because the noise was just incredible. At the point when we decided to go home, the streets were covered with red paper from the firecrackers and a there was a heavy smoke everywhere that made it hard to breathe. I added some photos but you really have to be there to understand just how crazy it all seemed.
The celebration was centered around the Town's clock tower
We spend last weekend relaxing on Railay Beach Krabi. We arrived there Friday morning (about a three hour ride from Phuket by a minibus and about 15 minutes on a long tail boat) and headed right to the beach, which was one of the best ones I’ve seen yet. On Saturday we went kayaking nearby and afterwards we took a long tail boat to Boda Island where we spend few hours snorkeling and laying on the beach. There were some really nice corals there and a lot of fish, including clown fishes (littl
e Nemos, my favorites). Sunday evening we came home after yet another day at the beach. I managed to burn my back entirely (first time in Thailand, I think that’s an achievement of some kind), I guess 3 days of sun and an oil back massage on the beach was just too much. :D
Lots of moneys at Krabi willing and able to steal your food. :)
Raylay Beach at sunset
Boda island and speedboats
Raylay viewpoint resort - only one scorpion in the bathroom. ;)
On Monday there was yet another festival, this time the Loy Krathong. It is a Buddhist festival that is celebrated every year around Thailand on the full moon of the twelfth month - obviously not according to the western calendar. On a side note I might add that we’re living the year 2552 here in Thailand. :) Anyway, during this festival people make or buy Krathongs (small rafts on banana leaves with flowers and candles) and send them off. Apparently his symbolizes getting rid of negative things and bringing a fresh start. They also send lanterns to the sky (very beautiful) and of course even this festival comes with fireworks.
This week I’ve been again really busy with school stuff. I had a presentation on Tuesday, a Thai language test on Thursday and a case study on the pharmaceutical industry for Business on Friday. All this has taken a lot of time since I’ve decided that I am here also to study not just to sunbathe. You can get through the courses with a lot less effort if you don’t care about grades (or learning useful things). And you can always opt to take less than the 4 courses maximum, for example Thai Cooking and Thai Language is a pretty light package for someone who’s not interested in the other subjects.
On Saturday we went on a whole day trip which included white water rafting, elephant ride and ATV ride. It was a bit too touristy for my taste but I did enjoy rafting and seeing the elephants. I don’t recommend seeing elephant or monkey shows however because we found them to be more oppressive than fun
Yesterday we spend the day watching beach volleyball tournament finals and in the evening we did some shopping in the night mart near Phuket Town. You can buy practically anything there and the prices are ok.
Next weekend we’re heading to Singapore for some Singapore Slings. Flights cost us about 80 Euros from Air Asia, not too bad in my opinion. I’ll tell you how that went next week. :)
Last time I wrote I was in Malaysia, exactly two weeks ago. In two weeks I’ve done 5 or so test/quizzes/midterms and 3 group assignments, given two presentations and I am now certified PADI Open Water Diver. So you could say I’ve been kinda busy. :)
Start with Malaysia. I really didn’t expect to have as much fun there as we ended up having. We met our local friends for dinner and few drinks on Monday and they really showed us a great time. They even arranged us to go back to hotel with a car and a driver. That’s a first. And we got back to Phuket on Tuesday, even though we missed our flight – you should always check your ticket confirmation for flight details! ;) I wasn’t really even a big problem, we just had to buy new tickets which set us back around 40€ each. Ouch.
The rest of the week I was pretty tied up with school stuff. On Friday we saw the Simon Cabaret show on Patong, it was very glittery and confusing – but fun none the less. Saturday I spend to Kata Beach making sure my friend would be at least a little jealous of my tan when I get back home and in the evening we returned to Patong for a beer or two. And on Sunday I had to spend a beautiful sunny day indoors doing school related things.
If you come to study in Thailand, be prepared to do a lot of group work. The only subjects that don’t have group assignments are Thai Language and Thai Cooking. It is a great way to learn things but takes a lot of time and effort. This week I’ve studied child labor in the football industry for Intl. Business class, ASEAN – China free trade agreement for Intl. Economics and I’ve done job descriptions for our fictional travel agency (Human Resources Management). And to top that off – three tests. Well, four if you count the PADI OWD test that I passed today. :D
Diving is awesome, you should definitely at least try it once. We did two dives on Saturday and two more today. It really is like jumping into and aquarium with brightly colored fish and coral and things to see everywhere. And when you don’t have to focus on breathing or not floating to the surface, you can really enjoy what you see. I even saw a little yellow sea horse today at 18 meters below. Pretty cool, huh? :)
Promise I’ll write more next week! Maybe something about transportation or food or everyday things like that. I only have four days of school and Friday off, so we’re probably going somewhere for the weekend as well.
PS. I have no idea where have all my pictures disappeared from the blog. I’ll try to find out and add some more as well.
Good morning Malaysia!
Although there is an 80% attendance requirement at PSU it is possible to do some travelling as well. Most of the students had Friday off so pretty much everybody thought this would be the weekend to go Bali or Krabi or somewhere outside Phuket. We opted for Kuala Lumpur. We arrived here on Friday morning and we're leaving on Tuesday - Monday and Tuesday we had only one class so we decided to make the weekend a bit longer. Sure it would be easier to travel before or after the exchange period because each course takes a lot of work. Next week we have two quizzes and a presentation, so we'll have to really study once we get back.
But all this doesn't really matter because I think this city is great! I find it much more manageable than Bangkok, fewer tourists - less people trying to sell you things. No Tuk Tuk drivers trying to take you see things you don’t want to see – only meter taxis (I really like meter taxisJ). It’s also easier to walk to sights and you are left to walk in peace. Oh, and there’s even lights for pedestrians so you can cross roads without risking you life too much! :D But don’t get me wrong, I really do like Bangkok as well - this is just a little different from Thailand and a nice change.
The Petronas Towers
a Hindu temple
So far we've spend too much money shopping (prices are a bit higher than in Bangkok but that’s really not a good excuse), we've been 421 meters above ground (Menara towers, GREAT view of the city), we've taken a LOT of photos of the Petronas Twin Towers and last night we were shown a really good time by our new local friends acting as our hosts. Hopefully they will show us more of the city before we leave, as they said they would. I’ll tell you how the rest of trip went and add some photos when I get back to Phuket!
A shopping center by the Towers
10/22/2009 8:50:03 PM
Could you show us som pics maybee? :)
Wow, it’s been a week since the last time I wrote. Time goes past so fast here, it's unbelievable. I’ve been in Thailand for a month now and I still find something to wonder about every day. Like why does it take 5 people to serve you in a restaurant (one takes your order, the other one brings drinks, the third one refills those drinks, the fourth one serves the food and the fifth will bring you your check), is it really good service or just highly inefficient? It’s probably at least more fun to have more people working together or something like that. Right now I feel I know nothing about Asian culture and business, but I know it’s a lot more than I knew when I got here. Also, right now I should be studying for tomorrows test on International Economics so it's the perfect time to tell you about last week.
First of all, I had full 5 days of school last week with two quizzes (Economics and Thai language) and a few small assignments. Nothing too bad, the quizzes were really quite easy. Our Economics course is proving to be the most demanding by far. So far our aachaan (teacher) has given us two group assignments (there will also be a third one) that include 10min & 20min presentations and a written report. Our first exam is tomorrow and after that we have two more. I'm majoring in Environmental Economics at my home uni in Helsinki, so the principles taught so far haven't been anything too difficult. I'm just really looking forward to getting to the good stuff, learning something new and interesting.
Besides school, I improved my tan on the beach (even though it's been raining a lot lately, there has been some sunshine as well), I visited a waterfall nearby (which was very cute), I had a Thai massage (you have to try this, it's the best!), I went to see a movie (very cool - mostly because of the air conditioning in the theater) and on Sunday I tried scuba diving on Koh Raya and reeeally enjoyed it!
A company called Raya Divers gave us a good deal on a Discover Diving course which included a trip to Raya Island and a chance to try diving. After a bumpy 30 minute ride on speed boat and practicing some essential skills in the shallow water (like breathing through the regulator and clearing the mask of water) we actually went diving. We got to about 8 or so meters and saw some corals and cool fish that you usually see in an aquarium. After about hour and a half in the water we had lunch on the island after which it was possible to snorkel, lay on the beach or continue diving exercises that would be a part of the PADI openwater course. I opted to continue the course even though after the first dive I wasn't sure if I was liking it or dreading it. It felt so strange being underwater; I constantly had to remind myself to breathe, be calm and just stop thinking about it and watch the fish. But I definitely want to do it again and I'm sure after some experience I'll feel more natural being under the surface, might even love it. :)
Next weekend we have a long week-end (Friday is free and Monday is skippable) so we might be heading to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. There’s a lot to see in Thailand as well, so I feel like I have to use every opportunity to travel. I’ll tell you more about my plans, once I’ve made some. ;)
10/8/2009 9:44:00 AM
sounds amazing, i love your blog! xoxo
This week has been a nice mix of fun and school. Last weekend the guys from AE organized a trip to Phi Phi Islands to break the ice, make new friends and to have fun. We ended up having a LOT of fun. After two days of dancing on the beach, relaxing in the sun, feeling seasick on a long tail boat and watching post card-like views, Monday came along way too fast.
Maya bay at low tide
Fire show in Bora Bora (ex-Hippies)
From the sea
Monday morning started with International Economics. We fortunately only had a small test on economics so that our teacher could see how much we already knew about the subject (after which I headed back home to get some more sleep – Phi Phi weekends can be hard on you). Most of us didn’t have any background on economics so the course started on Thursday with the principles of economics. In the afternoon I had Human Resources Management class in which we got right to business and selected groups in which we would stay the whole duration of the course (in case nobody gets fired). Our group is really an international travel agency a cool name, a vision and a mission. Our job throughout the course will be to solve cases and do assignments as a company.
I also had Thai language and Business this week. In Thai language we’re advancing fast, learning how to order food and ask questions for example. We’ve also learned some really useful things about the culture and habits here. I definitely recommend this course because it makes life here a lot easier if you know few words in Thai. In our business class we’ve learned also a lot about Thailand and how do live and do business here. Our teacher has so many great real life stories to explain each point she is teaching. Hopefully we will later also get to visit some of the places and villages she does work in, helping people in need of help.
I find all the courses I selected very interesting although demanding; lots of group assignments, home work, tests and in addition there is 80% attendance requirement and in-class quizzes and cases. Very different from my home university where teaching is mostly only lectures and the responsibility of learning is left to the students. The teachers all seem very qualified and professional and speak good English (although in some cases the accent will require some getting used to). All in all, there will be a lot more to do than spend time by the pool, but on the other hand I expect I will learn tons about some really interesting topics.
I have school from Monday to Friday but mostly just one class (3 hrs) per day, so we’ve had time to do some shopping in Phuket Town and Patong Beach among other things. I’m definitely improving in haggling – although I’m still really bad at it. It seems so crazy to bargain over 50 cents (and end up stubbornly walking home a few kilometers because the taxi driver wouldn’t drive us under 4 euros)! Low prices make it also possible to do some really cool things here, like buy 1st class movie tickets or get a Thai massage every week.
For this weekend we were at a music festival on Karon beach both Friday and Saturday. We we’re –again- dancing on the beach and sleeping in the next day. I have to say that getting a Tuk Tuk from Karon to Kathu (about 20 mins) is a terrifying, wonderful experience. There are some really steep hills and sharp turns on the way and the driver seemed to believe that he had some really good karma and nothing would happen no matter what speed he was driving. On that note, I’ve also decided that I will not rent a scooter, I just don’t have enough faith in my driving skills (those hills between Patong and Kathu have 70% chance of accident happening to you when it rains).
That’s all for this week, although it feels like I should have seen and done more, there’s only 10 more weeks to go and soo much to see!
Hello and welcome to my blog!
I’m a student from University of Helsinki and I am currently studying as an exchange student at Prince of Songkla University in Phuket. I am writing this blog to tell my experiences living and studying in Thailand and to give hints and info. I’m doing this in English (although it’s not my first language, so mistakes are possible if not likely) simply because more people can benefit from it.
I got here thought a program called Asia Exchange. Sometime last spring I came across an email from them, advertising possibilities to spend an academic period in different destinations around Asia. It didn’t take long to decide that few months on a paradise island would be a good thing. And after I started talking about it, it didn’t take long for my two friends to decide that they should definitely come, too.
The application procedure was very simple and easy, we just filled in an application and send some documents and after a week or so we got confirmation from Asia Exchange. After that I needed some documents from my school for scholarships and such and in August I got a letter for the Thai Embassy so that I could apply for a visa.
From a temple in Bangkok
I’ve been here now for one week and so far it’s been a real adventure to me. Everything is different and at the beginning there is some much to learn. We arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday and the first thing that really surprised me was the heat (and some really friendly, helpful and downright pushy limousine drivers). We stepped out of the air conditioned airport and it was +30 degrees outside. At that point I really wished I would have chosen something lighter to wear than jeans. We spent a total of 2 days in Bangkok, visited some temples and did some shopping (and haggling over prices).
View from the hotel in Bangkok
We arrived in Phuket on Thursday and after some serious wondering around in a taxi we decided to stay at Baan Maksong. Originally we were going to stay at Delight Village and rent a house for us three. But as it turned out to be bit more harder to find that we thought we decided to stay at Baan Maksong for at least a couple of nights. After seeing some houses at Delight village we decided stay at Baan Maksong (although the houses at Delight village were really delightful, too) partly because of the really persuasive sales work happening at the check-in counter.
School started on Monday with orientation day. Representatives both from the University and Asia Exchange gave us tons of information about the courses and the dos and don’ts while living in Thailand. I've chosen four courses for this semester; International Economics, International Business, Human Resources Management and Thai language.
So far I’ve had Thai language and Business. The language is absolutely impossible! The tones and words are just so strange it doesn’t make any sense. But the teacher is really nice and doesn’t laugh to hard on our pronunciation, so I’m sure I’ll be able to say something more than “Sawatdii kha” by the end of this course. Maybe even “Thank you”. Our Business teacher is an American now living in Thailand. We had her class this morning and I really enjoyed it. She had a lot of interesting stories to tell about the company she used to work for and she is a really good speaker. It’s also nice to have a “farang” (foreigner in Thai), who has lived for some time in Thailand as our teacher because she of course has a different perspective on this country and can also give us some really useful hints and tips about everyday things.
That’s all I’ve got for now.. See you later!
9/25/2009 3:31:40 PM
Sounds great! Do you have any pictures?
9/30/2009 9:03:56 AM
Yeah, I do. I just haven't been able to upload any. I will add some as soon as possible. Thanks for reading! -Anu
11/12/2009 8:57:04 PM Stu
Oooh... Kaikki kuulostaa ja näyttää u-p-e-a-l-t-a! Olen kateudesta vihreä, täällä sato toissa aamuna räntää vaakana. Ehkä minäkin joskus vielä pääsen :D