[Madeleine]-I had the great chance to be expatriated in Bangkok, Thailand, twice in 20 years.
Family expatriation in the Thai capital
After living the first 6 years of my life in the region of Lyon, France, my family moved to Bangkok because my father had been transferred for work. We lived there from 1999 to 2002. New friends, New (French) school, new house (even two; we moved after the birth of my little brother in 2000), new city, new country, new continent… We discovered a new language, a new culture, a new climate, a new way of life…
Trips in Southeast Asia
We traveled a lot in Thailand but also in the neighbouring countries: Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia (Bali).
My worst memory was when my father announced that we were moving again. In 2002, in the middle of the school year, we were moving to a new city. And, we were not going back to France but, we were having a new start in Taiwan.
University Exchange in Bangkok
As part of my studies in Tourism Management in Sup de Co La Rochelle, I moved for 3 months to Bangkok to take courses at a partner university in 2012.
The partner university was the International College for Sustainability Studies at Srinakharinwirot University located in central Bangkok, on Sukhumvit Soi 23. It is one of the oldest educational institutions in Thailand. With more than 60 years, this school was appointed by the King in 1974. Its name means “the growth and elegance of the city”. This university has 13 faculties and 5 colleges that teach different fields. The International College for Sustainability Studies was established in 2005 and is the only one to offer diplomas entirely in English. With my friend (who did the same exchange), we selected 4 courses (the minimum to validate our semester) on two days of the week, Tuesday and Wednesday, so we were able to enjoy our free time and travel a little bit in the country with our small means.
In Thailand the school uniform is compulsory until the end of the studies. So, we were wearing uniforms too. In fact, we had to go and buy them in a uniform shop because we couldn’t find our sizes in the regular shopping centers. We were categorized as “Fat size Madame, European size”. Or how to ruin your self-esteem…
Life in Bangkok
We rented an apartment (with swimming pool and gym in the building) in the same neighborhood as when I was little. It is sort of the expatriate district, not far from the French school and the French Council. It was located on Soi Sri Bamphen between Sathorn and the Lumphini Park. Most of the apartments did not have a fully equipped kitchen and since we were only staying for three months, we didn’t want to invest in these things. So we ate outside most of the time.
Our street being quite popular, we found many tourist restaurants and others. Pizzeria, American Grill, Indian, traditional restaurant, street vendors and food trucks, etc. Street food is not always very good (for us westerners) but it’s cheap and you get used to is very fast! I’m sure I ate some dog instead of chicken by ordering skewers.
The university was not at all in the same neighborhood as our accommodation. We had to take a 5-minute motorcycle taxi to the subway. Then, the subway for 3 stops and finally another taxi-motorbike, to go to the end of the street, where the entrance closest to the university was (it was way too hot and humid to walk even for 500 meters).
It was very difficult to become friends with the students in our class. They all lived with their parents or family and many lived far away or even outside of Bangkok. We never saw each other outside of class. The other barrier was that it felt like they were much younger than us and they thought we looked older than the professors. Since I lived in Bangkok when I was a child, I still knew a few people from that time.
Friends of my parents, but also former classmates who were still living in Bangkok and decided to stay for their studies. It was extremely fun and nice to see this beautiful little world 12 years later. I also celebrated my 20th birthday with friends whom I had not seen since the age of 8. We also met other expats* and went out a lot in Bangkok, to the point where we often pushed back our travels to stay in town and party.
*It’s mostly thanks to a bar, Cheap Charlies on Sukhumvit Soi 11, that we have met so many people. It is a wooden street bar where drinks are very cheap and is frequented by the farangs (white expats). -Edit: It seems to me that this establishment has closed since 🙁 – Re:edit: It has not closed, but moved to another place in Bangkok.
Another place we often went out to was the Dusit Thani Hotel on Silom which offered every Friday night a “Ladies Night” with a free open bar from 7pm to 9pm. For men, it was open bar but for 500 bath (€13) which remains reasonable. And then, we went to RCA (Royal City Avenue), a big avenue with nightclubs. It is frequented exclusively by the Golden Thai Youth and farangs.