ATI Scholars in Chiang Mai: "Our Thailand Adventure"

Khap Khun Kap! The first Tai words that I learned before going to Thailand which means Thank You.... I still remember how excited I was when my professor at TCA told us about attending an International Symposium in January of 2012. I know this issue is already a history but still, I want to impart some of our remarkable encounters in the Kingdom Thailand, formerly known as Siam.
First Stop… Bangkok, Thailand. 
We departed Manila on January 22, 2012 and landed Bangkok at exactly 10:50 pm, a one and a half hour flight via Cebu Pacific Air. My first ever experience travelling on Air Bus, together with my classmates, Alvin, Wilma, George, Eduardo, Nida (all ATI scholars), and with our TCA professors.
We were picked up by Waldo, a science teacher in Thailand, and formerly a TCA student. We slept at an Inn called “Bed by Boat” (until now, I still wonder why it was named like that when  there was no lake nor boat near the Inn). 
We explored the The Platinum Fashion Mall,  Thailand’s largest wholesale fashion mall the next morning.  It is only a block away from the Siam Square, housing 2,500 fashion shops, from clothes, bags, souvenirs, accessories and gifts, for men and women.   Food, fruits and beverages in and out of the mall.  A perfect place for fashionista’s, perfect for big spenders. 
 At around 7pm, we left for Chiang Mai via Siam First Tour, a double-decker bus line, with state of the art bus line gears, fully air-conditioned, has its own comfort room, touch screen TVs with headphones at the back of each fully reclining seats.  Sadly, most movies are Thai without subtitles! The bus hostess (who hardly speaks English but comprehends) will immediately hand out small pillows and blankets so you could sleep tight as you travel.  The good part?  Free chow on our way to Chaing Mai.
Next Stop…Chiang Mai
We arrived Chiang Mai at 5am. None of us knows how to speak Tai language and the locals were of no help on how to get to the venue of the Symposium. Thank heavens, a student of Chiang Mai University who speaks English assisted us to get  a taxi.  
We registered for the symposium for 2,100 Baht at Pang Suan Keaw Lotus Hotel. That is equivalent to PhP3,675. After the registration, we took off at the Hotel to look for a cheaper hotel until we bump into Dr. Aganon and company, professors of Central Luzon State University, who happen to be our (Me, Alvin & Nida) professors on our bachelor’s degree.  He suggested cheaper rooms at Chaing Mai Residence, a block away from the venue.
The Regional Symposium on “High Value Vegetables in Southeast Asia: Production, Supply and Demand”, sponsored by the AVRDC World Vegetable Center was held last January 24 to 26, 2012, was attended by 100 to 150 participants  from universities, international organization, government and non government institutions from the different countries Southeast Asia. Seventy five papers and 50 posters will be presented.  Dr. Agsaoay of TCA-Crop Protection Department was chosen to present his poster on Critical Pest Level of Insect Pest attacking Okra.
We instantly felt at home when we learned that  Mr. Steve Kebasen, Head of the Organizing Committee and high ranking official of AVRDC  were “kababayans.” We also had the chance to meet Dr. Robert J. Holmer, Regional Director of East and Southeast Asia AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, He speaks tagalog and bisaya fluently.
A welcome party was held the first night.  There are lots of food.  Not just Thai food, but dishes from all corners of the world. During the feast, we learned more of Thai culture through their dances.
Can’t Stop…Amazing Experiences
In the afternoon of the second day, we met a painter. Handicapped, no hands and legs, yet a magnificent painter. 
Exotic foods? We tried deep fried bamboo worms., but not the  deep fried large sized crickets and cockroach-looking insects that  the locals seemed to enjoy.
We went to the Royal Flora “Ratchaphruek”(whatever that means…). Garden of Imagination as they call it.  Displayed were thousands of flowers and horticultural crops around the world, amazing, gleaming, spectacular!  The orchid competition highlights the event.  This lasted for 92 days flaunting both native and hybrid species. The Royal Flora is a majestic Project of Agriculture enthusiasts of Thailand presented to His Majesty King of Thailand, opens only every 3 years.  
Since I couldn’t sleep well  on our third day, I decided to take a walk. And there it was, a small temple full of monks meditating and humming right in the middle of the City. I felt terrible because I didn’t bring my camera with me. I really felt stupid as I stand and look at them from outside. The amazing part is, after a few moments all monks turned their heads looking at me as if I made a strong aura to spoil their reflection. Maybe they felt my yearning to be enlightened with their culture.   I waited for them to conclude their contemplation.  A monk came to me and asked me to come in. The Monk speaks English fluently. I declined politely. I asked if I could visit the temple the next morning with my friends instead.  The following morning , they welcomed us and toured us in the temple. There were Golden Buddha”  everywhere. They allowed us to have pictures with them. 
On our 5th day was our “huling hirit” day in Thailand, we didn’t waste time and went back to the market by boat.  We were amazed by the clean river that you could see the fishes  as enormous as my legs..
At the market, the wide stretch of gold jewelry stores seemed endless.  Since we cannot afford to buy even a simple ring. We just took pleasure on looking on those gleaming jewelries.  Silver jewelries are more expensive because of its craftsmanship. 
The only bits and pieces we can afford are the luscious and sugary fruits sold along the streets. Their peeled guava was so attractive and syrupy and to our delight we thought it’s for real. Alas! We were saddened when we learned that it was sugar coated and colored neon green. Their tamarind was as sweet as sugar and that’s authentic. Freshly squeezed “Dalandan” juice was so refreshing as well. We had our great laughs as the vendors offer free taste on every fruits we see.
Please don’t stop…
It is now time to go home, The scenery was breathtaking as we entered The Subharnavumi Airport to check in for our departure. It was so colossal and modern that it doesn’t look like an airport but  a mall.  We went home in high spirit and wonderful memories of Thailand.   Given a chance I would like to go back there as a tourist hoping to come across with Mario Maurer… hahaha! 
This is our amusing escapade in Thailand. I hope you enjoyed reading….(Jaypee ""Agent Oso" Abad)