Elephants in Thailand

Florida has Disney World, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Egypt has the pyramids, and Thailand has Elephants.

One thing Thailand is famous for is unique experiences with the wise giants of the forest, the elephant. However, as elephant riding has become such a tourist highlight in Thailand, there are many places where elephants are very poorly treated in order to profit off of this hype. We decided to highlight instead some of the beautiful elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, and all the good they do for these creatures.

Elephant Nature Park

This is a rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand where tourists can visit and see these elephants firsthand in their natural environment. There are a range of ways you may interact with the elephants, from admiring them in their habitat, to feedings, and even weekend stays filled with hiking alongside these majestic animals including camping near the herd.

“Elephant Nature Park is a unique project set in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand. Established in the 1990’s our aim has always been to provide a sanctuary and rescue centre for elephants. The park is located some 60km from the city and has provided a sanctuary for dozens of distressed elephants from all over Thailand.”

Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary

This sanctuary responds to reports of abused elephants all over Thailand, and provides them with a home where they can be cared for and treated with respect by their caretakers.  It is also home to cows and bulls, among other animals. Anyone can adopt an elephant from Boon Lott’s sanctuary in order to help them continue their mission of saving elephants in distress, and giving them a good retirement life at the sanctuary. 

BLES strives to rescue and protect the elephants of Thailand from abuse and ultimate extinction. They provide a safe home focused on individual survival and relearning social skills.

Organizations such as this strive to rescue and protect the elephants of Thailand from abuse and ultimate extinction. We provide a safe home where we focus on individual survival and relearning social skills.

Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand

This wildlife foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of animals who have suffered abuse and suffered at the hands of illegal trade of animals in Thailand. The foundation offers half day and day experiences to interact with the animals that call this wildlife home, giving up close encounters with elephants and other animals such as bears and monkeys. The foundation brings guests to animal feedings, and prides themselves on educating visitors in order to better the lives of the animals they save.

WFFT is a nationwide effort involved in rescuing domesticated/ captive wild animals. Edwin Wiek still heads this project with the help from a team of full time staff, mostly from the local village, and a team of international volunteers who pay for their stay. Without the dedication of volunteers, WFFT would not be able to continue to help these animals.

Seeing an elephant up close is truly a magical experience, especially when you enjoy this amazing creature in their natural habitat. We hope many of our students have this wonderful experience while visiting Thailand!

Safety in Thailand

Thailand is called the Land of Smiles for a reason – the people are about as friendly as they come. As a tourist to Bangkok be aware of these helpful safety precautions.

The power of forethought

Don’t wait until you forget your passport in the taxi or watch in horror as your wallet goes flying off the back of the Tuk Tuk – take photocopies of any and all important documentation and keep a copy on your person and one in your suitcase that you leave in the room. Also, keep all important documentation and any extra credit cards or cash in the safe in your hotel room.

Driving in Bangkok

There are a few things to know about transportation in Bangkok. First, Bangkok has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the world. Therefore, you will want to take extra precautions when deciding how you travel through the city. Traffic jams are also very common, so take that into consideration of travel times! Your best precaution is to look both ways a few times before crossing the street in the hectic pace of the city!

When it comes to renting vehicles like scooters, this is best saved for places like Ayutthaya, unless you are sure you want to brave the busy and crowded streets of Bangkok.

If you are getting a taxi anywhere, to get the most reasonable rate be driven by reputable drivers, and it would probably be a good idea to organize with your concierge when you are in need of transportation. Another tip would be to get the contact information when you have found a trusted taxi driver, so that you can either reach them again when you are leaving your destination, or even establish a time to be picked up again. Make sure to ask the taxi driver to put the meter on and if they say they can give you a better rate, do not take this taxi, as they may attempt to charge you a lot more than you’d think when you get to your destination.

Be wary of mini vans, as they are privately owned and though they may have cheap fairs, the drivers are on tight schedules, generally driving very quickly, and may not stop when you want them to.

Tuk Tuks are very much part of the Thailand experience and it is suggested that every visitor ride in this fashion at least once but do note they will quickly weave in and out of traffic so it may not be for the faint of heart. Barter the rates for your Tum Tum – 50 TBH is the rule of thumb. If you are traveling somewhere that is a considerably short distance and the driver wants to take you somewhere further to charge a higher fee, they may tell you that where you want to go is closed for the day but they can show you something else, or that they know a better attraction to see. Make sure you only go to the destination you chose, or find another Tuk Tuk.

Thai Heat

Though our Cohort is coming from Florida, be aware that the weather in Thailand can be similar if not worse than a Florida summer – and wandering around the city can take its toll. Keep water with you at all times and wear sunscreen. Try not to stay out in the sun for extended periods of time.

Cohort 15 Thailand Excitement

As some of our Cohort 15 members get ever nearer to their trip to Thailand, we asked them what they are most excited about and what gems they have found to visit in their spare time.

Kate Kroll from Cohort 15 said that she is most excited about experiencing the new and diverse culture of Thailand. She is also eagerly awaiting the “once in a lifetime” visits to a number of state-of-the-art businesses in Bangkok.

Kate, Sophia Huger Baldwin and Nicole Amero have added Krabi Beaches and Chiang Mai to their itinerary, and are keenly awaiting their Elephant hike!

Krabi Beach is a beautiful area of Thailand, located on the southern west coast. The crowning glory of Krabi Beach is Railay Beach, which is only accessibly by sea as it is cut off from the mainland by jagged limestone cliffs. Therefore, Railay Beach doesn’t even have any roads, and despite being a main attraction, it is always quiet enough to enjoy the sound of the clear waves hitting the white sandy beach. Railay is also a prominent rock-climbing spot. Phra Nang is another Krabi Beach island that is known for being a perfect shallow swimming and snorkeling spot. Ao Nang is a tourist center island with a small town feel, taking only 30 minutes to walk from one end of the town to the other.

Chiang Mai is a city located in the mountain areas of Northern Thailand. It was a cultural and religious center, and ruins of walls and moats can still be seen in the old city. It is also home to hundreds of stunning temples such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, which has a legendary white elephant shrine, and Wat Phra Singh which is a 14th Century Buddhist temple that not only houses gold and copper Buddhas, but also murals and ancient manuscripts. Chiang Mai is also well known for Chiangmai Jungle Trekking,

an excursion trip that can range from a couple of hours to two days. This organization is owned by Toto, who was born in a small village in Chiang Dao Forest and offers experiences such as riding an elephant, bamboo rafting, exploring caves and the rainforest or even taking small groups to his Hill Tribe to experience real forest life.

Our students will have ample time to explore the sights and sounds during their time abroad. We can’t wait to hear about all of their amazing experiences and things that surprised them the most!

Visit the Royals: The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is a historical site in the heart of Bangkok, and will undoubtedly be one of the cultural highlights of Cohort 15’s trip in Thailand.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is still an integral site today, as it is used for hosting royal ceremonies and welcoming the king’s guests, state guests, and other foreign dignitaries. Remains of royals are also kept here before cremation.

The Grand Palace is divided into the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the royal residence, which is made up of the Outer, Middle and Inner Courts. State offices are currently located in the outer courts. The middle court is home to royal ceremonies such as the Royal Coronation and the Royal Ceremony of Coronation Day, and it also houses the Phra Maha Monthien buildings, the Chakri Maha Prasat buildings, the Phra Maha Prasat buildings and the Siwalai Gardens quarter.

Wat Phra Kaew, which is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.

The Emerald Buddha is a highly revered image of Buddha that has been carved out of a single block of jade, and dates back to the 15th Century.

One thing to note when visiting the Grand Palace is the strict dress code. Elbows, shoulders and knees should be covered in all places of worship and important ceremonial grounds in Thailand. It might be a good idea to bring a shawl or large scarf on your travels that you could then throw over your arms and shoulders to enter the Grand Palace. If you forget the proper respectful attire, the nearby street vendors are happy to assist you with “elephant pants”. This is always a cohort favorite souvenir to collect at some point in their Bangkok visit. Also, shoes are to be removed when entering the Emerald Temple, so you might feel more comfortable bringing some socks with you to wear once you get inside.  Enjoy this inspiring place full of history and we look forward to you sharing some of your personal experiences in an upcoming blog in the coming days.

A City of Play and Possibilities – KidZania

On the fourth day in Thailand, our Cohort 15 members will enjoy a unique experience at KidZania, an interactive city for children where they can role-play over 100 different careers.

Go back to your childhood, between the ages of 4 and 14, and picture yourself in a world where you have access to almost any job you can imagine and act like you worked there in real-time. Truly the best interactive museum you can think of, right? Well thankfully, out of the 19 countries that currently have KidZania, Thailand happens to be one of them. KidZania means ‘Land of Cool Kids’.  Enjoy being a kid again and experiencing this opportunity!

Through role-playing, children are able to learn about concepts such as community, money, and even the diversity of culture. “KidZo” is the currency in KidZania, which can be used for a number of things such as buying food at the grocery store, paying for a visit to the dentist, and even paying taxes. This experience is set up as its own community representing

all aspects of careers such as firefighters, hairdressers, postal workers, chefs, broadcasters, astronauts and health care providers. Additionally, this community is separated geographically to appreciate some careers that are influenced by their culture.

The first KidZania was created in Santa Fe, Mexico City, and has the largest population of children in the world. Over time KidZania has grown to 19 countries, in 24 cities and 10 more countries are opening a total of 12 new locations in the next calendar year or so. The idea stemmed from entrepreneurs who are children at heart, and shared their imagination with the world, giving children a place to create, play, share, learn, and be instilled with a more global perspective of a world full of possibilities.

A Stroll Through History – Ayutthaya

Once the capital of Thailand before the new age that brought to life the city of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is an unmissable city located just an hour outside of Bangkok

Ayutthaya is a city of ruin today, thanks to pillaging by the Burmese, but 300 years ago it was the largest city in the world – and arguably one of the most beautiful. It is a city full of ruins of temples and palaces, where tourists can explore a more ancient Thailand.

Ayutthaya Historical Park is one of the most visited attractions in the city, home to ruins of ancient temples and palaces. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. This historical park boasts 425 unearthed archaeological sites, most of which you can walk through or even climb to the top of to enjoy a spectacular sunset, depending on flooding. Some ruins are in a preserved enough condition that you can feel as though you are strolling through some of the most important buildings in ancient Thailand, such as the Royal Chapel.

Khlong Sra Bua Floating Market is a more modern addition to Ayutthaya, but is a replica of the ancient Khlong Sra Bua village, which was once an important trade tour. There are some great trinkets to be found here, and the entertainment is the highlight with performances giving life to Thai folk tales that you may not hear or see anywhere else in your trip.

Wat Mahathat was the spiritual center of ancient Ayutthaya, the royal ceremonial group for religious and non-religious ceremonies.

Some relics found here are now housed in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum, but this site is also home to the Ione Buddha’s head entrapped by the roots of an overgrown banyan tree. Please be courteous  when taking photographs or admiring this popular icon, as gestures deemed disrespectful, such as standing over the Buddha’s head, will not be tolerated.

Wat Yai Chaimongkol is one of the best-preserved ancient royal monasteries in the city, giving you a taste of an ancient Thailand. It is home of the famous large reclining Buddha and a 62-metre inverted bell-shaped chedi that commemorates King Naresuan’s victory over the Burmese. It was originally constructed as a forest temple school.

One note we suggest in exploring this beautiful ancient city is to either rent a bicycle to tour as many ruins as possible on your short time here, or if you have your driver’s license with you – and are brave enough to drive the streets of Thailand – you can rent a moped to travel in style. Alternatively, you can travel by Tuk-Tuk as you go from site to site.

The Highlight of Every Trip – The Food

Everyone always asks about the sights and the world famous landmarks that you should visit when you go abroad, and definitely enthusiastic about seeing all of the pictures, but sometimes the best experience is sitting down and enjoying some authentic foods of the region!

Before you break out the chopsticks and go to the most expensive restaurant you can find in Bangkok, here are a few things to know about where to eat, what to eat, and even how to eat in Thailand!

First things first…

Put down the chopsticks, because in Thailand most dishes are enjoyed with a fork and a spoon. Meals are generally cut into bite sizes, so knives are rarely necessary. Instead, the fork is held in the left hand, and the spoon in the right, with the fork being used to push food onto the spoon, and the spoon being used to actually eat the food. It is considered bad manners to eat with your left hand or to use your fork to eat.

Ice, ice, baby…

Ice should be safe to have in your drink in any restaurant in the city, so this shouldn’t be something you should worry about, but be wary when traveling outside of the city that you don’t get ice made from water that potentially could be polluted.

Order up!

Contrary to most Western styles of dining, food is brought from the kitchen as soon as it is ready in Thailand, and most dishes are actually shared between everyone at the table – much like Tapas in Spain. This way, you can sample many Thai items in one sitting, and never have to worry about someone ordering a meal that looks better than yours! No disappointment for you.

Street vendors are very common in Thailand, and Bangkok is no exception and considered common place for locals to stop for lunch. It may even be some of the best food you try in Bangkok, not to mention the most representative of an authentic Thai meal.

Three meals you have to try in Bangkok…

  1. Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)
  2. Gaeng Daeng (Red Curry)
  3. Pad Krapow Moo Saap (Fried Basil and Pork)

Some of the Best Rated Places to eat…

  1. Bangrak Cafe
  2. La Table De Tee
  3. Thip Samai
  4. Kalpapruek
  5. Rot Dee Det
  6. Somtum Der
  7. Sawang Noodle

Your Home in Thailand – Westin Grande Sukhumvit

Our Executive MBA program students will be in the lap of luxury in the Westin Grande Sukhumvit, a 5-star hotel with an uptown view and a leisurely feel.

The Westin Grande Sukhumvit is located in the heart of downtown Bangkok, located near the skytrain and underground, making transport very accessible.

It is also conveniently close to some of the most sought after shopping and nightlife experiences, as well as business giants.

The hotel boasts amenities such as their WestinWORKOUT Fitness Studio which offers cardio and strength training machines, a rooftop pool with a stunning view of Bangkok, and their spa services, which are offered both in the Vareena Spa, and from the comfort of your own hotel room. Their Seasonal Tastes restaurant offers international flavors, their Kisso Japanese Restaurant provides you the best tastes of Japan, and Zest Bar & Terrace and the Pool Bar will help keep you refreshed.

The Westin recommends some of these popular sites, all within 10 kilometers of the hotel for a unique experience:

  • Siam Society House and Garden
  • Erawan Shrine – Four Face Buddha
  • Thai National Museum
  • Korean Town & Korean Cultural Centre Thailand
  • K-Village, Open-Air Lifestyle Mall
  • Robinson’s Department Store Sukhumvit
  • Chao Phaya River and Bangkok’s Canals
  • Sukhumvit Soi Cowboy
  • Siam Ocean World

The testimonials for the hotel are endless, but here are a few selections from some of the thousands of happy guests that couldn’t get enough of the West Grande Sukhumvit.

“From check in to check out and all the different points in between our 9 nights’ stay in March 2018, the service was impeccable and personalized. What really made this hotel stand out was how the staff called me by name, recognized my kids and when one (my daughter) slept in and didn’t come down for breakfast. This hotel made my first SPG experience one to remember. We loved the proximity to shopping malls (especially Terminal 21 next door) and the BTS Skytrain (Asok station). My kids wanted to stay in Bangkok forever, and i believe this was in large part due to your hotel’s wonderfully personalized service.” – Pat, from Singapore.

The hotel has excellent facilities and food but the difference maker for me was your staff. From greeters and bellman through housekeepers and front desk and bar servers to especially the staff of the Club Lounge AND Poolside. I got to know them but cannot name names but please thank them. They are outstanding.” – Shadryn, from Canada.

“My experience from check in to checking out was absolutely perfect. All the staff were amazing, they catered for my every need. The club lounge is lovely with food and freeflow drinks for 3 hours every day. I was upgraded to a lovely suite and then even spent three nights in the Presidential Suite which was magnificent. The hotel is also in the best location in Bangkok right next to the skytrain and within walking distance to most places. Westin 10/10 thank you !!” – Andy, from the UK.

International Travel Tips

With less than two weeks to go until Cohort 15 jets off to Thailand, we’ve put together some tips for our Executive MBA international travelers – especially those going abroad for the first time!

Travel alerts…

Especially with as many flights as it can take to get to Thailand, it is a good idea to see whether the airline(s) you are traveling with have an app that can give you updates on any flight changes, or a service that will text your flight information.

Data roaming…

It is a good idea to call your provider and see whether they have an international data plan or a travel package deal that you could use while you are away. Be careful of  data roaming by checking your phone settings as these fees can be exorbitant. Airplane mode can be a useful setting to use.

The Wonders of Wifi…

An alternative to getting an international data plan would be using free WiFi. (Your hotel, most airport, and business locations have this access). Look up, save, or screen shot as much information as you can while you have WiFi, such as directions on Google Maps, so that your phone has all the information you need when you finally make your way around Bangkok.

Currency…

When using ATMs in Bangkok, be sure to continue without the conversion rate, as your bank will probably have far better rates than that of the ATM. It is also useful to go to a currency exchange while still in the States and take as much cash as you think you need.

In the last day or two of your trip, try to make the most of the cash you have left and spend the coins and small bills that will be of no use to you in the US.

Go local, not imported…

Get a real feel for Bangkok by eating and drinking what the locals love, rather than paying extra for imports that are food and drink you can get from home. When in Rome..!

The dreaded jet lag…

One trick to getting over jet lag is to set your watch to the time in Bangkok as soon as you get to the airport in Orlando. Do your best to sleep when it is night time in Bangkok, and eat when it is lunch and dinner time in Bangkok also. Staying hydrated and stretching your legs during your travels is also important.

Back up your documents…

Take photo copies and scans of your passport, driver’s license, health insurance card, and anything you bring with you that you might (but hopefully do not) lose or have stolen. Keep these copies in your suitcase.

Great additions to your day bag…

Little things to add into the bag that you may bring with you for the day are:

  • An umbrella (with the heat and humidity, Bangkok weather is going to remind you of Florida!)
  • Bottled water (this should be easy to buy, but it is hot and you don’t want to be outside of the city and only have water available that may not be very cleanly)
  • Bug spray
  • Hand sanitizer and tissues
  • A scarf or shawl (you could dampen a scarf and wear it if you become too hot, cover your shoulders and arms to prevent sunburn, or use it to cover up when entering temples out of respect)
  • Waterproof pouches (great for being able to have your phone or other devices out while you’re in the rain)
  • Lip balm
  • Activated charcoal or any medication (e.g., Poepto Bismol) that may help with stomach upset due to the food (whether you are simply not used to the ingredients, or you’ve over indulged).

Customs of Thailand

The countdown continues with only 14 more days until our Executive MBA program students emark on an unforgettable trip the the ever-evolving city of Bangkok.

Thailand is a country that is overflowing with culture and traditions; the country’s strong religious influence is reflected in art, mannerisms, and even superstitions. Here are a few need-to-know facts about Thailand that will make you skip the tourist vibe and fit in like a local as you prowl the business world of Bangkok.

Step One… Say ‘Hey’ the Thai Wai!

Wai is a common greeting in Thailand that shows respect. Bangkok is a city filled with tourists, therefore you would not be seen to be disrespectful by not greeting others in this way, but feel free to return the gesture if others share such respect with you.

To properly make this gesture, place your palms together as in prayer holding them at chest height while bowing forward slightly. The higher you hold your hands, the higher the respect; for example, hands could be shoulder or neck height when showing respect for superiors. Alternatively, you can simply bow your head slightly in response to someone doing so to you.

Step Two… Speak the Lingo!

Hello is S̄wạs̄dī – sa-wat-dee

Thank you is K̄hx k̄hxbkhuṇ – khob-khun-krub (for men) and         knob-khun-ka (for women)

Yes is Chı̀ – Chai-krup (for men) and chai-ka (for women)

No is Mị̀ Chı̀ – mai-chai-krub (for men) and mai-chai-ka (for women)

Bye is Bāy or Jer Gan – bay or jer gan krub (for men) and jer gan ka (for women)

Step Three… Watch your tone!

In Thailand, loud or raised voices as well as aggressive or abrasive gestures are considered rude. Go ahead and relax with a laid back attitude, which is customary in Bangkok while speaking softly.

Step Four… Embrace the Barefoot!

It is a common custom and sign of respect to take off your shoes at the door to someone’s house in Thailand. Shoes are also often taken off as a sign of respect in Temples, so if you see others doing so, feel free to follow suit.

Step Five… Respect the King!

The royals are very well thought of, with many artworks around the city expressing thanks and even adoration for the King of Thailand. Be careful not to offend the Thai people by voicing opinions on having royalty or by asking questions about the King.

Step Six… Meet the Monks!

For women, please be careful around the monks. Do not touch them or their robes, which would be considered highly disrespectful. Also, if you wish to give them a gift, either hand the gift to a man to give to the monk (it is disrespectful for a woman to hand something directly to a monk) or place it on the ground in front of them. However, it is acceptable to have a conversation with them.

Step Seven – Praise to Buddha!

Show respect for Buddha as the image is sacred. Any artwork or statues of Buddha shouldn’t be touched or sat on, and do your best to not take selfies standing in front of one, either.

Step Eight… Watch those Feet!

In Thailand, the feet are the most unclean part of the body, as they keep you grounded. Therefore, it is rude to have your feet up on any furniture, or to have them facing directly towards someone when you are talking to them. Attempt to turn your feet away from individuals you are speaking to, and don’t touch your feet off of anyone.

Step Nine… Keep that Head High!

In the same token, the head is the most sacred part of the body in Thailand and therefore should not be touched by another person – accidentally or otherwise. If it does happen, be sure to apologize.

Step Ten… Personal Space!

Personal space is a politeness in Thailand, so shaking hands and a pat on the back may be less professional and considered rude in Bangkok! Try practicing the Wai gesture instead!

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