Spring break: a one-week recess from the rigors of exams in which students journey off to a warm, lawless destination--most likely somewhere in Mexico--with the intentions of committing utter debauchery.
1) To return home with badges of honor in the forms of second-degree burns, minimal brains cells, photographic blackmail, and a piercing or tattoo.
2) To return home.
This year, while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, my friends and I decided to venture beyond the stereotypical college spring break and embark upon an adventure that was little more...sophisticated, or meaningful, perhaps.Thus, after much research and deliberation we finally made our decision, with one particular source as the deciding factor of our chosen destination:
The population in Thailand is 63 million people. It is twice the size of Wyoming. Its chief exports are textiles, footwear, and rice. Each year approximately 13,000 people are killed in car accidents in Thailand.
-Alan (Zach Galifianakis, The Hangover Part II)
Sold: Eight economy class tickets to Thailand. No turning back.
I can easily declare this spring break to Bangkok, Khao Sok, and Koh Phangan as the trip of a lifetime, innumerably enhancing my overall study abroad experience.
And while I highly suggest embarking upon a similar adventure, I ask you to please consider the following "Do's" and "Don'ts" of traveling to Thailand, otherwise known as the "Land of Smiles," in order to make the most of your experience.
Well, that, and to make it back alive.
Do: Get a Thai massage.
You can find a row of massage beds along just about every street in Bangkok. Get one. For as little as 100 Thai baht (10 USD) per hour, you can experience an authentic Thai massage (calm down boys, no happy endings here). Granted you have no idea whom the masseuse touched prior to your visit, nor when the last time said masseuse washed her hands, but, hey, it's all a part of the experience, right?
Do Not: Take a nap in a Thai massage bed.
They say "Not all those who wander are lost," (J.R.R. Tolkien). Well, define wander.
At about 3:30 a.m., my friend and I were strolling along a bustling Bangkok street just after attending a nightclub (creatively titled "The Club") when I recognized an Irish gentleman from our tour group. Sandwiched between rowdy nightclubs was a booth of questionable massage beds and, here was Mark, passed out for the count.
After much effort--screaming in his ear, pinching his cheeks, slapping him in the face with a pillow--we were finally able to wake Mark up.
On a serious note, do not wander the streets alone at night in a foreign country, or anywhere, for that matter (thought I'd be responsible for a moment).
Do: Interact with exotic animals.
I highly recommend elephant trekking, the jungles of Koh Phangan, or playing with monkeys and tiger cubs at Tiger Temple.
Disclaimer: if you are interested in interacting with monkeys, you might want to spit out your gum beforehand. Let's just say "Beebop" and I didn't get along so well.
Beebop 1. Me 0.
Do: Try authentic Thai food.
I recommend taking up a Thai cooking class. At May Kaidee's cooking school, I learned how to prepare delicacies like Tom Yum Soup, Pad Thai, Massaman Curry, and Mango Sticky Rice.
Do Not: Try all authentic Thai food.
If a four-foot-eleven Thai woman with about five teeth and hair standing straight up like Cindy Lou Who approaches you with a tray of "barbequed" scorpions and crickets, choose wisely.
Do: Experience the night life.
The Moon party at the tropical island of Koh Phangan is considered one of the top ten parties in the world to date. I was fortunate enough to experience a Half Moon party, which was an outrageous techno rave in the middle of a jungle, packed with thousands of sweaty, neon-painted partygoers from all over the world.
Enlighten me. What could possibly be better than that?
If your trip to Thailand does not fall on a Moon party, I still recommend attending a beach party of the sort. At Drop In Bar, the longest running bar on Haad Rin Nok beach, you have the opportunity to see captivating fire shows and are highly encouraged to partake in fire jump roping.
Which brings me to my next piece of advice.
Do Not: Jump-rope fire if you are naturally clumsy or heavily intoxicated.
I steered clear from that rope of doom, but some of my more daring friends decided to take the plunge. Consequently, just about every one of them has a lovely souvenir in the form of an unsightly burn mark.
One man tried his turn at the rope, and let's just say it did not end on a good note. Clearly inebriated, this intelligent young fellow tripped on some residual kerosene, causing him to lose balance and the rope to wrap around his neck. His shirt caught aflame as he stood up to retrieve what he anticipated to be some congratulatory high-fives from his peers, as he was completely unaware of his current role as "Man on Fire."
After a good ten seconds of drunken bystanders (and by that I mean my entire tour group) gasping and pointing at him in sheer horror, he finally registered the predicament at hand. He stood dumbstruck staring down at his shirt for an extended period of time until he finally remembered the classic "stop, drop, and roll" motto from safety school.
Needless to say, he received a sufficient amount of free drinks after that stunt.
I could provide at least fifteen more reasons why one should travel to Thailand, such as the stunning beaches, floating bungalows, and unique temples, to name a few, but enough reading about my experiences and start booking your own trip, people.
But really, do it.