Category Archives: Trip Report

Architecture in Bangkok

By Caitlin Johnson and Gaeble Jones

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While in Bangkok, Thailand we noticed that it has unique buildings and architecture compared to places within the United States. This photo is from an area near the Pak Khlong Market. This is a market that is off of the river called Chao Phraya. I found the buildings to be interesting because of the way they are stacked on top of one another. Bangkok is a very large city and it seems that they are able to fit so many things into one building, or a set of buildings. It is hard to distinguish in some areas what are peoples’ homes, and what are businesses. In many areas it seems to be both residential and commercial.

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Another architectural interest was Wat Arun.  Wat Arun is very different and unique from other temples within Bangkok and other areas of Thailand. It is different from other wats in Thailand because of the way it was built and the decorations along it. This temple was created in the Ayutthaya period. It was then restored later under the ruling of King Rama II. The structure is unique in the way that it is made from any different colored porcelain tiles and seashells. Around the wat you will also see many statues, and towers that stand very tall. Wat Arun is like nothing I have seen before and it is a beautiful piece of architecture that is unique to Thailand.

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An experience that was very interesting was being able to have multiple opportunities to have a rooftop view of Bangkok. It was amazing to be able to see all of the different buildings from so high up. It gives you more of a perspective on how large the city is and all of the different types of buildings and architecture there is throughout the very large city of Bangkok.

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In this picture you can see a portion of the roof that allows people to walk across while seeing the city below them. This architectural style is usually done in big cities such as Dubai, Bangkok, New York, etc. It is different than anything we would see in Salt Lake because it’s structure is used to showcase the activity and life of the city surrounding it. In Bangkok especially, the nightlife is unlike I have experienced before. I would be curious of the view of everyone living their individual walks of life below me and that isn’t something you can find in smaller cities like Salt Lake.

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This building stood out to me as unique because, while it is still in the process of being built, it is a high rise building and stands above others around it. At the top you can see a staircase style leading up the side of it. Another tall building near it is completely straight and normal looking until you get to the top where the last 1/4 of it is slightly tilted crooked. These buildings are landmarks to figuring out where you are, such as the capitol in Salt Lake, and stand out because they are taller than the ones surrounding them. It’s cool that changing the way these industrial buildings look, even though they serve basic functional purposes like offices, is something that Bangkok values as an ever growing city.

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The sky train was another big difference I noticed in comparing Bangkok city structure to Salt Lake. In Salt Lake we don’t have any sort of public transport that even competes with the scale of the sky train. Our most similar resource would be the Trax transit system which runs only from Draper to downtown. The sky train, however, is built to carry a tight load of passengers all throughout the city and into residential outer city areas. This makes taking the sky train easier than trying to fight traffic when getting to work in the city, so many Thai people who love in Bangkok opt to not have a car. This is also more beneficial to the environment on a small scale impact level by teaching people to rely on carpooling and public transportation.

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Environmental efforts on Koh Samet

By Madelyn Bayles and Genevieve Perry

Koh Samet is an island destination and one of the stops along the way for the Mayterm Thailand experience. In the past, Koh Samet has experienced severe environmental problems. In 2013, some of Koh Samet’s beaches were damaged by an oil spill (Stevens, 2013). 50,000 liters (approximately 13,200 gallons) of oil were spilled (Stevens). Some of the water surrounding the island turned a “rust red color” (Stevens). Around 600 people (among them soldiers, volunteers, and PTT Global Chemical employees) assembled to help clean up the island (Stevens).ko 1

In 2018, Koh Samet began an environmental campaign to decrease the use of plastic on the island by requesting that visitors avoid using plastic bags and that they bring their own containers for food (“Koh Samet,” 2018). Such a campaign is sorely needed, as Koh Samet experiences around 1,500 visitors every day, each of which use about eight plastic bags (making for an average of 12,000 plastic bags per day) (“Koh Samet”). However, there are no disincentives for using plastic, making the efficacy of this campaign questionable (“Koh Samet”). The islands surrounding Koh Samet threaten to fine visitors for leaving trash or harming nature, but there was little enforcement of the fines.ko 2

We noticed some of these efforts while on the island. For example, upon boarding the speedboat to Koh Samet, Genevieve noticed this sign. It caught her attention, as she’d never seen environmental protections like this implemented in the United States. When we got to the island, the resort we were staying at offered up cloth bags for its guests to use — free of charge — on the island. You would have to pay for one if you forgot to return it, however. Stores like the 7-Eleven and the local food establishments simply didn’t offer plastic or styrofoam options.ko 3

While this effort likely did curb the pollution, it didn’t stop it. There were bottle caps in the sand, and plastic bags in the waves. On some of the smaller islands that you could take a speedboat to, there were piles of plastic water bottles that tourists had left behind. In Thailand you generally are discouraged from drinking tap water, so banning water bottles would not be as easy to implement as banning plastic bags would. Ideally, tourists would be responsible for their trash, but again, this often isn’t the case.

Many of the efforts to curb pollution seemed to be rather half-hearted to us. In a fast food restaurant near the island, for example, we noticed a small sign that said “Say no to plastic.” However, the restaurant didn’t really seem to make any effort beyond that. The food still came in plastic packaging, and we didn’t see any recycling bins.


Koh Samet says “say no” to plastic bags from Thursday … (2018, October 31). Retrieved June 8,

2019, from

Stevens, A. (2013, August 01). Thailand oil spill: Tourists abandon blackened Koh Samet beach.

Retrieved June 8, 2019, from

Snorkeling in Koh Samet

By Katie Rees and Haley Southwick

Today we were all lucky enough to have the opportunity to snorkel at several different small islands surround Koh Samet. A majority of the may term trip included rural villages and service so it was nice to relax and have fun as a group. The beginning of the day began off a small island where the tour guides helped show us around to different sea creatures. The water was the clearest it’s been in several years and the coral is an array of many colors. Since it was high tide we were few feet about the coral, fish and sea urchins. Next, was a stop off another island with a beautiful hike to a cliff over-looking the ocean. We hopped back on the boat for another snorkeling opportunity at another island. This time the guides fed the fish and they swarmed the boat which made for excellent snorkeling, as displayed in this video. Lastly, we stopped on a small private island for a late lunch. This was an amazing experience and allows us as students to see the other sides of Thailand available as students and tourists. The May term experience helped show the differences of Thai culture and tourist destinations. Fun experiences like this allowed for further bonding with the other students in the group.

Snorkeling video


Kids at the Ban Yang Kaeo School

By Maddy Todd and Mikayla Holt

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During our time at the Ban Yang Kaew School, we spent time with the students playing games focused on their English language skills. The children at this school surprisingly were not shy or timid towards us, considering that we are strange foreigners to them.

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The 5th and 6th grade students went over the English alphabet, numbers, shapes, and multiplication. We also played different American games and sang American songs. Some games we played included “Red Light, Green Light” “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Tag.” We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes” and “Baby Shark.”

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The 1st grade students worked on counting in English from 1-10, the English alphabet, drawing, paper folding activities including paper airplanes & fortune teller folded papers that were educational teaching colors, numbers and letters in English. Students also played various active games outside of the classroom including “Red Light, Green Light,” “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Simon Says.”

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Our main goal was to spend time with the kids and have a fun, positive experience with them as they have not had opportunities to spend time with foreign, native English speakers. This was also the first time Westminster Students have spent time in the village of Ban Yang Kaew and we were provided with the unique opportunity of being the first American college students these children have ever met. This was a great chance to set a precedent for what to expect in future visits from Westminster Students or other foreigners.

We had such a fun time playing with the students of the Ban Yang Kaew School and we feel lucky that we were given this opportunity! The kids had such cute and fun personalities and they weren’t very timid to interact with some strange foreign college students. The experiences and skills gained from this day will stay with both the Westminster students and the Ban Yang Kaew students for a lifetime.

Cement Walkway Project

By Payton Hudson and Cecile Murdock

Video of the project here.

Throughout the entirety of the trip, we donate a certain amount of money to every school we travel to in order to improve the lives and structures of the communities, which allows them to start or continue projects that work towards that improvements.  Where we get that money is from the trip fees and the fundraising we did prior to the trip.  Some of the money from this year was also used to build a cafeteria, kitchen, and cement sidewalk for the Satellite School in Ban Yang Kaeo, a small village thirty minutes outside the city of Omkoi.


The Ban Yang Kaeo and surrounding villages are one hundred percent Karen communities. At the Satellite school, the majority of teachers do not speak Karen. Therefore, the students must learn Thai in addition to English. These immigrants are under cultural scrutiny by the Thai people to conform to their religion and way of life, but the Karen don’t necessarily want that and remain resilient.


There are not a lot of resources available at the Satellite School village.  For example, the families who live in the village’s monthly income is about $60 USD or 2,000 baht. The school gets money from the school district, but otherwise does not have much funding.  They have 20 baht (67 cents) per day for each student to eat lunch and do not have a lot of left over money to save for big projects, such as building a new cafeteria.

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When Peter and Noi visited this school last year, the weather turned south and it started pouring rain.  They found that the dirt path leading from the classrooms to the cafeteria had previously turned into a mudslide causing the children’s shoes to get covered in clay as they walked along the path.  That’s when the idea for a cement walkway from the classrooms to the cafeteria came into fruition.

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Starting in the early morning, Westminster students, combined with a couple Karen construction workers, mixed concrete from sand, cement, water, and rocks by hand and poured the mixture onto the dirt path inlaid with rebar to provide extra support.  This will ensure a safer and easier path for the students to walk on. This project helped build a better relationship between the Satellite school and Westminster college and is one step closer to creating a more sustainable community for the villagers of Ban Yang Kaeo.

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Health Assessments at the Ban Yang Kaew School

By Missy Crittenden and Abby Paine

The health assessment activity was our first interaction with the children attending Ban Yang Kaew School in Omkoi.  Most of the students participating had no previous experience with this kind of exercise but, this did not affect their ability to successfully perform the assessments.  There were ten parts to the assessment: eyes, ears, nose, teeth, throat, hair, bones, skin, height/weight, and injuries.

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The process was smooth and did not take much time.  All of the kids were very cooperative and many of the older students helped the younger students.  For example, at the ear station, an older girl helped explain to the other children that they had to let the American student know they could hear when they snapped their fingers next to their left and right ears.  We, as American students, had a lot of fun interacting with the kids in this manner and it was easy because no clinical or medical experience is needed because we were looking for basic symptoms.
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The two most common issues we found were cavities in the teeth and lice in the hair.  Minor scrapes, cuts, and bug bites were also common but not concerning.  We estimate that almost all of the students had major cavities, especially the younger ones who still had their baby teeth.  Additionally, almost half of the students had head lice.  Changing these trends are not as easy in Thailand as they would be in the United States.

Head lice is easily managed through shampoo treatments however, it spreads very quickly and the parents in this village would likely have to make a large effort to prevent future cases.  This would be done through consistent cleaning of linens, clothing, and buying new hair brushes/combs, and by isolating children with head lice temporarily until they are fully treated.  The hygiene of the students would also need to improve, which is not a priority for most people living in rural areas.

Managing cavities is also difficult in these situations.  The drinking water does not contain fluoride like it does in the U.S., which contributes a lot to dental health.  Brushing their teeth is also not a priority in the village.  Since the village is so rural and a decent distance from the town of Omkoi, it can be hard to obtain things like proper toothpastes, flosses, and toothbrushes.

However, at the end of the assessment, any students with irregular symptoms could access medical assistance from a few individuals with clinical and medical experience.  For example, any students with lice were given shampoo treatments two days after the assessments.  Even though this will not eliminate the problem it will relieve some discomfort temporarily.  The medical professional, Bright, also administered bandages and antibacterial ointment to those who needed it.  Overall, these assessments showed us that fancy medical equipment and extensive medical experience is not always necessary for preventing and identifying health issues in school children.

Check out these videos of our work.

Health assessments 1

Health assessments 2

Schools in Kalasin

By Preston Kill and Kenyon Kaegi- Rittiman

In this podcast, Preston and Kenyon discuss the schools we visited during the time in Kalasin. They explore issues of service and the educational situations. These rural Thai public schools are very different from the Pattana School we saw in Buriram.


Fishing and Rice Planting in Kalasin

By  Dacota Shell and Meghan Villalobos

While in Kalasin, Thailand, we went to a village where we participated in traditional rice planting and fishing. Before doing the actual planting of the rice we were given traditional farming outfits and upon arrival we were given special socks to protect our feet in the rice paddy and hats to protect us from the sun. We then went to the rice paddy and saw that it had already been prepared and rice bundles were available for us to plant. Once we were in the rice paddy, local Thai farmers taught us how and where to plant the rice. We were taught that you grasp the rice stalks (usually about 2 or 3 stalks) between your index finger and your thumb, then stick those fingers and the rice into the softened mud about a foot apart.

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It was interesting to learn how to plant rice, but we did notice that we were going at a slower pace than the actual Thai locals. When we were finished planting, we saw that the Thai people were filling spaces that we had missed and we really enjoyed how at ease they were about us missing certain areas and fixing our mistakes.

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After the rice planting we were urged to keep on the protective socks and we were moved to the fishing area. The nets and fishing supplies that were needed for fishing were already in the fishing area due to the local Thai folks. They then explained the two different fishing methods we were going to be experiencing. The first was a traditional weighted net that you drop into the water, and once it settled on the ground you stepped on the net to find the fish. If you felt a fish with your feet you would dive underwater to catch the fish.

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The second method was a large net hooked to flexible wooden poles and it was put into the water. The net was left in the water for a few minutes, then briskly pulled it up to see if there were any fish in the net. Once a fish was caught you would grab it towards the head and slide your hand down so the fins wouldn’t poke you. After you would put the fish in the collecting bins.

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It was really interesting to fish with the villagers all watching us. You could tell when you weren’t doing something correctly because the villagers would try and communicate with everyone and they would laugh – all in good nature. But it was very fun to experience how the local Thai people fish and to see how much fun the Thai villagers were having with us participating in those type of activities.



Thai time

By Kate Abbott and Alyson Pinkelman

This is the first of the 2019 trip reports.

On Wednesday May 15th Westminster college visited Khok Ploung in the Buriram area. During this outing we saw a variety of different activities including traditional medicinal practices, a project through C-Bird, and silk weaving. In this episode of Thai Time, Kate and Alyson will discuss the water technology implemented in the Khok Ploung village.

Thai time. 

Fun at the Ban Toong Ting School

5/30 and 31/2018 – Ban Toong Ting School

On our third day at the school we got to teach an English lesson to the children. The little guys learned the colors of the rainbow, numbers 1-15, played games (Duck Duck Goose, Red Light Green Light, and Rock Paper Scissors), and sang English songs (Down by the Banks and Head Shoulders Knees and Toes). We split up into different grades and each classroom had 4-6 Westminster students teaching the lesson. Now, May, and Am, our Thai guides, floated from class to class to help translate our wordier instructions to the kiddos. Even with their help, there was some confusion and frustration, but nothing that charades and affirmative gestures couldn’t fix. Playing with the kids was a good ice breaker, as they seemed to be very weary of us up to that point. That afternoon, we walked the kids home from the school to the nearby village. It was a 1.5 mile walk, with bumpy, unpaved roads, lots of hills, and flip-flop-stealing mud. The kids do this trek every day, regardless of weather. Walking with the kids and seeing their homes offered us insight into their daily lives. These children live in conditions that a lot of Westerners looking in may consider insufficient as they are not consistent with our Western standards and expectations of housing. Still, the laughter of kids coming home from school could be heard and whole families were out on their porches together.

The last day at the school was spent having a field day with different outside games. The games we played ranged from modified basketball to more unique local games involving produce. There were relay races, an eating competition, a water balloon toss, and team sports. This was a great way to spend our last full day with the kids and teachers. Later that night, the students and teachers had put together a farewell dinner that included two dances and a short video that the school had made to show the changes Westminster students had made to the campus in the last five years we have been visiting. It was a very powerful video, moving some to tears. Four of the older girls that board at the school during the week did a traditional Lanna dance in beautiful garb. The younger kids dressed in traditional Karen outfits and preformed a less traditional, but still very fun, dance. After the performances the students went to bed and then it was karaoke time for the Westminster students and Bong Toong Ting teachers. The first few songs were American classics, but after a few the Thai teachers were coaxed on stage where they sang a well-known Thai song that our van drivers demonstrated the dance for.

Leaving on Friday morning was not easy, as many Westminster students had become very close with the children. There were some tears and a lot of heavy hearts. It was a difficult time for the Westminster teachers too, as they have been coming here for the last five years but it is time to move on to a new village. They do plan to stop for a shorter visit next year to visit with the school they have made such an impact on next year.