Category Archives: Asia

Walking In The Steps of Kings

We visited Ayutthaya which happened to be the first capital of Thailand. This city was rich in history and steeped in tradition. We had an amazing time walking in the steps of kings.

For years I had seen images of Ankaur Wat in Cambodia not realizing that the architecture was actually started in Thailand. The kings of Thailand had created a unique style that was a blend of many cultures that create some stunning structures. Walking among the ruins, you feel the true nature and beauty of the Buddha.

Shared by Ryan Gorman

Greetings from The Land of Smiles!

S̄wạs̄dī (Hello) and greetings from Thailand-The Land of Smiles! After our tour of Anythiam, we boarded the Wonderful Pearl for a lunchtime cruise down the Chao Phraya River for breathtaking views of the Bangkok area (Ko Kret, Nonthaburi, and Bangkok). We loved being able to rest our feet and enjoy our first authentic Thai meal while taking in the views. Among the delicious cuisine offered, my personal favorites were the spicy chicken with cashews and shrimp stir-fry-Thai style!

Once lunch was finished, we took to the top deck and then to the bow of the yacht to fully immerse ourselves in the city. Our view included Buddhist temples galore, houses of all shapes and sizes, barges, businesses, and unique architecture of buildings (hotels, businesses, condos, etc.) unlike any other international city I have been to. The city skyline, The Grand Palace, and various forms of Buddha were my favorite sights from our cruise. It’s still hard for me to believe after weeks and months of planning, we are halfway across the world! I cannot wait to see what the rest of the week brings!

Shared by Nicole O’Reilly

 

Day Trips Outside Bangkok – Experience Thailand

Being in the beautiful city of Bangkok is an experience that is rich in culture, business and tradition. However, some of the best experiences of Thailand may be in places just outside the city, such as our cohort’s day trip to Ayutthaya. Here are 3 more day trips that should not be missed!

Rose Garden, Nakhon Pathom Province

The Rose Garden is well known for its theatrical performance of traditional Thai folk dancing, Thai boxing, and sword fighting which includes an elephant show. There are also two markets with vendors selling handmade items and authentic local food, which is a great way to sample traditional Thai dishes.  One is a floating market that is nestled under a number of grand oak trees. This beautiful garden area is frequented by wedding parties, so you may have the opportunity to get a glimpse of a traditional Thai wedding. If nothing else, the Rose Garden is exceptionally beautiful and provides plenty of photo opportunities while you explore the grounds.

 

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi

Damnoen Saduak is a world-famous floating market that independently offers a very unique day of shopping. This market is an exotic experience in Thailand where you ride in a long-tail boat as you shop for souvenirs and an array of traditional Thai foods and produce items. For a fuller experience of Damnoen Saduak, you can join a tour from Bangkok that will take you to the market with an English speaking guide telling stories and explaining some of the Thai culture, or some tours stop at an Orchid Farm which produces coconut. There are a number of ways that you will learn how coconuts are farmed and what their uses are. You may even get a free sample!

 

Ancient City, Samut Prakan

The ancient city was founded by Lek ViriyaphantLek Viriyaphant, who also conceived the Erawan Museum and the Sanctuary of Truth, located in Pattaya. The ancient city is made up of 320 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, filled with art that displays Thai customs and culture.

It is a wonderful opportunity to see Thailand’s heritage in stunning grounds that mimic the precise shape of Thailand. The grounds hold a number of replicas of historically significant structures, located in the geographically accurate position within the shape of Thailand. These replicas include temples, halls, bell towers and palaces, among others. Some of these reconstructions are of sites that no longer exist and therefore may be the best way for you to experience these monuments. The ancient city is also home to the Garden of the Gods, which holds a breathtaking three-dimensional representation of the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva cast in bronze.

Bangkok will continue to impress visitors with the plenitude of cultural activities and historical sites to explore!

6 Apps You Need to Have While in Bangkok

Your phone may seem either useless or an expensive trap while abroad, but here are 6 apps that could prove to be invaluable while in Thailand!

#1 GrabTaxi

GrabTaxi operates very much like Uber in Thailand, ultimately taking over the popular taxi service app.

It is a great way to ensure you have a reliable and affordable mode of transportation and all you need is Wi-Fi, so you can book your taxi from the hotel, most restaurants or tourist destinations you visit in the city. It is also an easy way to pay for your taxi as you do not need to negotiate the fair or have extra cash on hand to settle after the ride.

#2 XE Currency

$1 is 32.84 THB

The conversion rate can be a little tricky to remember when quickly trying to pay for a meal or other items such as a souvenir at a tourist shop or a handmade item at a night market.

By using a currency exchange app, even without Wi-Fi, you can determine the cost easily. Just remember when you do have Wi-Fi to update in the app, as currency can change frequently throughout the course of the trip; however it is likely it will be minimally.

#3 Banking app

Downloading your bank app(s) onto your phone before traveling to Thailand is a great way to keep track of what you are spending, keep track of conversion rate expenditures when using your debit or credit card and check that there are no payments that you do not recall making.
Check your balance and transactions periodically throughout the trip or even set up notifications so that each time you do connect with Wi-Fi, your app will notify you of all recent transactions that you can then verify.

#4 Google translate

Google translate has a particularly useful feature of allowing you to take pictures of signs and then translates them. You do need Wi-Fi for this feature, but it will help when you are around your hotel or at any destination with Wi-Fi, which could be anywhere from a tourist attraction to a business to most restaurants you will visit.

#5 Learn Thai

A great one to download before your trip and even begin using on your travels to the airport is Learn Thai, an app that teaches you useful phrases like

“how much is this?” and “I don’t understand”. If you are exploring areas that are less populated by tourists, this app could be particularly useful as some individuals may struggle more with speaking English. It could also be an opportunity to learn and practice your Thai when ordering food, or speaking with a friendly local.

#6 Field Trip

This app also requires Wi-Fi, but you can use it from the hotel and begin your exploration there and check this app whenever you do find Wi-Fi elsewhere in the city. The Field Trip app searches for sightseeing opportunities in your immediate area and even gives some information about the attraction. It could be a great way to uncover hidden gems in Thailand right in your neighborhood!

The Story of the Tuk Tuk

One of the highlights and best-known attractions of Thailand are the three-wheeled Tuk Tuk taxis. But the question is, when did this transportation become a must for all tourists?

Tuk Tuks were actually originally developed by Japan. They are a modern-day version of the rickshaw, which is a carriage with two to three wheels that were once pulled by one to two people. In Thai, a rickshaw is called samlor which literally means three wheels. The name of Tuk Tuks, however, is thought to come from the noise that the original engines would make as they sped through the streets of Bangkok and other cities in Thailand and Japan.

Although Tuk Tuks are one of the highlights in Bangkok for tourists, it does not mean they are the only form of transportation. In fact, it is a popular form of transportation among locals also. In fact, Tuk Tuks are often shared between locals who are going on routine travels, such as to various market areas.

Tuk Tuks also vary depending on the region in which they are found. They may look more like cars in Bangkok as they have been modernized alongside the city,

but in other areas of Thailand they look like upgraded three-wheeled motorbikes, sometimes with benches that can accommodate a greater amount of passengers. There also is some consensus in color choice depending on the region of Thailand that the Tuk Tuk operates in.

Tuk Tuks, unfortunately, do contribute quite a bit to air pollution, but there are talks in Thailand of slowly transitioning to electric Tuk Tuks. Indeed, there are many opportunities to rent electric scooters in Bangkok and other cities around Thailand.

As this form of transportation has evolved from a manually-pulled cart to one of the main forms of automatic transportation in Thailand, anything is possible!

We are confident many if not all of our Executive MBA students will enjoy a Tuk Tuk ride during their stay in Bangkok.

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.