What to Bring – Paperwork

There are some critical pieces of paperwork that you need to bring to Thailand:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license or other official ID
  • Westminster College Student/Employee ID
  • Credit card (preferably Visa or Mastercard)
  • Bank/ATM card
  • Written prescriptions for ALL prescriptions you are on
  • Eye prescription if you wear corrective lenses
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Record Card
  • Copy of hotel reservation letter for first night
  • Copy of flight itinerary
  • Copy of Thailand Pass
  • Copy of health insurance letter
  • Copy of Thailand e-visa confirmation (if applicable)

Keep these with you in transit, so make sure they are in your carry-on luggage. Also, please make a copy of all of these, and have them in another part of your luggage. Westminster College will also have a copy of the paperwork that you submitted, and I will have .pdf copies of your paperwork that I will place on a secure server, so that we can have access to it. However, it is a good idea to have a copy of this paperwork with someone at home, just in case.

By the way, you don’t have to bring every piece of ID or card from your wallet/purse. Your Smith’s Fresh Values Card and Salt Lake City Public Library Cards are not going to be used in Thailand. Leave those at home.

What to Bring – Baggage

Count on packing pretty light.  Bring one medium bag to check in, and a carry-on that can double as an everyday bag to carry with you for the trip  A backpack or courier-type bag is appropriate for the carry-on.

Most international airlines allow two checked bags. However, for this trip, you are allowed ONLY ONE. It must fit this criteria:

  • 3 dimensions of each bag may not exceed 62 in. (158 cm)
  • Weight of each bag may not exceed 50 lb (23 Kg)

This year, there is an additional complication in that our domestic and international flights are on two separate tickets. That means that we will have to pay the domestic flight to check bags. The cost of checking one bag is included in the trip fee; therefore, please plan on bringing only ONE checked bag and a carry on.

DO NOT OVERPACK.  One medium bag should be sufficient, along with a carry-on large enough to carry at least a days worth of clothing and gear.  If you need something, you can always get it cheap in Bangkok. We will be traveling by van from Bangkok to Buriram Province to Chiang Mai and back to Bangkok, and there isn’t a lot of cargo room.  If you have two large suitcases, your van mates will not be happy. Continue reading What to Bring – Baggage

What to Bring – Electronics

We live in a world surrounded by high tech electronics. Rarely do we leave home without a smart phone. We also have digital cameras, video players, laptops, tablets, smart watches, Bluetooth speakers, fitness trackers, heart rate monitors, etc. But when you’re traveling like we will be, electronics are both good and bad: they can either enhance your experience, or cause more trouble than they’re worth. Think about these pros and cons:

Pros: they can record your experience in audio, photos, or video, allow you to communicate with the world, entertain you on a flight or a van ride, or allow you to access information that you may need.

Cons: they are expensive, heavy, delicate, require power, and are a target for theft. They can also isolate you from the travel experience; I’ve seen too many people so obsessed with electronically recording everything around them, or so busy on their texting/email/Facebook/Instagram applications that they miss the true experience.

So before bringing every electronic toy you own, think about if the pros outweigh the cons. Also, try to bring devices that will do multiple things (such as a smartphone). Here are my suggestions for electronics: Continue reading What to Bring – Electronics

Treatments for Motion Sickness

We will be experiencing just about every mode of transportation during this trip. We will be flying, driving in minivans (a lot, through city traffic as well as curvy, mountainous roads), riding in speedboats, riding in the backs of pickups over rough mountain roads, riding in tuk-tuks, riding bikes, riding tractors, etc.

Unfortunately, traveling causes misery for many people in the form of motion sickness. Motion sickness results from when the motion that your inner ear senses differs from the motion that you visualize. Many people experience motion sickness to one degree or another, some more severe than others. Some only get sick on ships during the roughest seas, while others can experience it during short drivers or even while skiing on an overcast day. Motion sickness progresses from a feeling of uneasiness to sweating and dizziness, and progresses to nausea and vomiting. Symptoms are exacerbated by lack of ventilation, inability to see outside the vehicle (and visualize the movement), being inside an enclosed space, or having anxiety or fear of traveling.

Estimates of the prevalence of motion sickness varies, from 3% to 60%, depending on the study. Many researchers believe almost everyone suffers from motion sickness, given strong enough motion stimuli. Women and children are generally more at risk for motion sickness. Continue reading Treatments for Motion Sickness

Staying Healthy in Thailand – MORE Things to Think About

Staying healthy while on the trip is a very high priority for students, faculty, family, friends …… really everyone. Being ill on a trip like this really is not very fun. So far, we have had few illnesses on this trip. And there are several things we can do to stay as healthy as we can, although sometimes, stuff happens.

Before you leave…..

There are a few things you can do before even getting on the plane to help keep you healthy. The most important thing you can do is make sure you have all your vaccinations, especially your COVID-19 vaccine. This was covered in another post in detail. Make sure you have the standard vaccinations (DTP, MMR, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, etc.), as well as typhoid. As recent measles outbreaks have shown, even standard vaccinations like MMR are important when traveling abroad.

Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – MORE Things to Think About

Staying Healthy in Thailand – Vaccinations

UPDATE: Make sure you are fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine (2 doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or 1 does of the J&J) and have proof of vaccination with you. You can have the CDC card that was given to you when you were vaccinated, or have an electronic version such as Docket (on the iOS App Store or the Android App Store). As of right now, the Docket App only works for those in Minnesota, New Jersey, and Utah, so if you received your vaccine in another state, you may have to find another way to show digital proof of vaccination.

We are also STRONGLY recommending that everyone who is eligible for a booster get a booster before traveling at all. Overwhelming evidence shows that having the full COVID-19 vaccine series plus a booster is highly protective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Note that Thailand is requiring proof of vaccination to enter the country. There is an alternate quarantine for those not vaccinated, but we cannot accommodate anyone on alternate quarantine on this trip. Therefore, if you are not fully vaccinated, you will not be allowed on the trip.

If you have had COVID-19, please obtain medical proof that you had COVID-19 from a medical facility. And make sure you have had the vaccine even if you’ve tested positive; Thailand requires full vaccination regardless of whether you’ve had COVID-19 or not.

As for other vaccines, one of the nice things about traveling to Thailand is that you don’t need too many special vaccinations other than the ones that you SHOULD have already (MMR, Td, Hep A, Hep B, Varicella if you haven’t had chicken pox, and possibly meningococcus, especially if you live in  dorms).  Pay particular attention to make sure your tetanus-diptheria is up to date, as well as the Hep A and B series.  If you need the Hep A and Hep B, get started NOW as Hep B is a 4-6 month regimen.  Here is the CDC’s recommendations:

Beyond the standard vaccinations, the only ones that the CDC recommends are typhoid and malaria, if you are going to areas that have high prevalences.  Typhoid is a good idea; on one of my first trips to Thailand while at the U of Utah, one of the faculty contracted typhoid just before leaving Thailand, and it made for an unpleasant flight home, to say the least.

Continue reading Staying Healthy in Thailand – Vaccinations

May Term Thailand FAQs

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Family and friends of May Term Thailand participants have asked us many questions about this trip. Questions such as what we’re going to do, how we’re going to stay safe and healthy, and why we’re going to Thailand are some of what is asked of me. These are very important questions for friends and family, knowing that we’re going so far away to a country that is so different. So to answer some of these questions, I have compiled a little FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) post here. If you have any further questions, please feel free to comment on this post, and I can answer those questions as well.

What is the purpose of this course? Why do we do this?

The main purpose of this course is to introduce students to the concept of global citizenship. Students have exhibited great passion for doing meaningful service in the developing world. Dr. Ingle and I created this course to channel those passions into a structured, faculty-supervised service-learning opportunity that incorporates both a service component along with cultural immersion. We believe this course is a great introduction to students interested in international service, but do not have the experience or skills. This structure allows students to ease into international service in a less intimidating atmosphere.

Continue reading May Term Thailand FAQs

Details on Registration for May Term Thailand XII, May, 2022

May Term Thailand XII (take 2) will be from May 8, 2022 to June 5, 2022. These dates are still tentative, and may chance by +/- 1 day.

Registration will begin the morning of Tuesday, October 26th, at 7:30 am. The registration process will be slightly different this year. The link for registration will come online at 7:30 Tuesday morning (not before), and the link will be at the bottom of the May Term Thailand trip description on this page:

https://www.westminstercollege.edu/about/resources/global-learning/may-term-study-experiences/upcoming-may-term-study-experiences

It will be an online registration, first come, first served. The $300 deposit MUST be entered using a credit card WHEN you register. The deposit is what will save your spot on the trip, so make sure you are prepared to enter the credit card number when you register. The remainder of the trip fee will be due on February 1, 2022. Last year, the trip filled very quickly, so if you want to go, please make sure you register as soon as you can!

The trip fee this year will be $4,500, and this includes roundtrip airfare from Salt Lake City to Bangkok, Thailand, all in-country travel, all lodging, all meals while in Thailand (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and all admissions and trip fees. It does not include spending money for souvenirs or snacks, cost of immunizations, passport fees, visa fees (if you are staying afterwards), food at airports during the flight to and from Salt Lake City, or fees for optional activities.

Here are a few more details on registration for May Term Thailand XII for May 2022:

  • IMPORTANT! If you have a registration hold for any reason (student accounts, library, etc.), you may not be able to register for any May Term trips! Please check your Self-Service account and make sure you don’t have a registration hold. If you do, please clear it and confirm that it’s clear prior to October 26th so you can register!
  • If the trip is full by the time you register,  you will automatically be placed on a wait list. I know it’s disappointing that you aren’t on the list, but there are always cancellations, so please put your name on the wait list.
  • To register successfully and reserve a spot on the trip, you MUST place a $300 deposit at the time of registration. This must be done online when you register for the trip. All major credit and debit cards are accepted. This deposit is nonrefundable (unless the trip is officially cancelled by the College due to lack of enrollment or other unforeseeable reasons). Please be ready with your credit card or debit card when you register on the 26th.
  • The registration deadline for all May Term trips is January 31, 2022.
  • Please note the dates for REQUIRED pretrip orientation sessions.

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.

arch 2

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.

arch 3

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.

arch 4

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.

arch 5

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.

arch 6

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.

arch 7

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.

References

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

2019, from https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/environment/1567846/koh-samet-says-say-no-to-plastic-bags-from-thursday

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

Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/31/world/asia/thailand-beach-oil-spill/index.html

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