My final spring break in high school probably sounded very similar to your final high school spring break. Having not yet selected, but already visited, USC, I spent my 2012 spring vacation visiting schools in the American southeast. I took tours at the University of Miami, Georgia Tech, Embry Riddle, and Florida Tech before succumbing to the region’s wicked humidity.
My final collegiate spring break, which recently concluded this past Sunday, was somewhat different. There were no colleges to visit; I will be pursuing a Master’s Degree at USC next year. Having saved money from my Northrop Grumman internship the previous summer, I had developed enough financial independence to finance my own vacation. But most importantly, this would be my final opportunity to travel with my five closest friends from USC, five gentlemen I had become friends with in my first month at USC.
So, where did The Six (our friend group’s nickname, not to be confused with Toronto) decide to travel for their final spring break? Thailand! To explain the trip in greater depth, I wanted to discuss the four criteria The Six used to select this Southeast Asian paradise: cost, relaxation, culture, and beauty.
Cost: Thailand is a very, very inexpensive travel destination, perfect for college students. The Six actually chose Thailand due to the low airfare. To fly from Los Angeles to Thailand roundtrip only cost $650 – I repeat, $650! Once in Thailand, all goods and services were relatively inexpensive, as the Thai Baht is weak compared to the US Dollar (34 baht to $1). I enjoyed grabbing a lunch of street pork and noodles for less than $3 (normally around 100 baht). In Bangkok, I actually purchased a very nice charcoal gray, customed tailored suit and two ties, plus shipping to the United States, for less than $350. Nice hotels cost only $30 a night, and The Six felt like kings where ever we travelled in Thailand.
Relaxation: Our first stop on the Thailand extravaganza was Patong Beach, in Phuket, a peninsula in the south of Thailand known for its stunning beaches. On our third day in Phuket, The Six decided to do a boat tour of Phuket, the Krabi Islands, and the surrounding Phang Nga Bay. That boat tour was truly the epitome of relaxing. After applying copious layers of sunscreen, I laid in the sun on the speedboat’s upper deck, taking in the rays and the beautiful views of limestone islands. Lunch was perhaps the best part; our motor boat beached upon a small island somewhere in the Krabi, with pristine yellow sand and the clearest water I had ever seen. Our guide had prepared a traditional Thai lunch for us, filled with curry, seasoned shrimp, and the delectable fresh fruits harvested in Phuket. As I waded in the Phang Nga Bay, pineapple in both hands, life could not get much better.
Culture: Stop number two was more of the cultural variety. Chang Mai is a beautiful city situated deep in the heart of Thailand’s northern jungles. I could talk all day about the splendor of the Buddhist temples scattered throughout the city, but this story brings us to the most intricate of them all, Wat Doi Suthep. Located on a mountain about an hour tuk-tuk (open-air taxi) ride outside of Chang Mai, Wat Doi Suthep hard to explain with words. 305 old stone steps take you to the grand archway signaling the entrance to the temple. Upon passing through the archway, I took my shoes came off, and I stood among the gold spires and Buddha statues common of Buddhist temples. What made Wat Doi Suthep special was the experience I had there. While mediating alone in a temple chamber, a group of Chinese tourists entered the chamber, looking to be blessed by the monk also mediating in the chamber. As he started his prayers, the monk, noticing me alone, did not ask me to leave. Instead, the monk motioned to me, asking me to join in prayer. Doing my best to hide an excited smile, I calmly sat down with the Chinese tour group and bowed my head as the monk recited prayers in Thai and sprinkled us in holy water. Given my Jewish upbringing, I had never had a cultural experience quite like this. Upon returning to Los Angeles, I feel truly lucky to have been immersed in this component of Thai culture.
Beauty: As our eight day adventure drew to a close, The Six found themselves in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. Thailand is filled with beauty. From the beaches of Phuket to the temples of Chang Mai, one could argue that Bangkok barely deserves to be in a discussion of Thai beauty. However, I found Bangkok truly special, a sprawling metropolis that was perfect for people watching and street food. I fell in love with Bangkok my first evening in the city. Knowing the reputation of Bangkok’s nightlife, The Six wanted to check out one of the city’s rooftop bars for an amazing time with a beautiful view. We decided on the Moon Bar. I will let the picture below speak for itself, but Bangkok looked gorgeous by night. Here I was, 60 stories above a foreign megacity, and I was entranced by the blinking lights and bustling noises below. I did not even order a drink that night; the view was enough for me.
Thailand is a beautiful, beautiful nation. If you can handle quite a bit of culture shock, I would highly recommend travelling Thailand while young. For me, spring break in Thailand was the perfect finale to collegiate spring breaks, and I hope some of you all have the opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia.
After spring break, only six weeks remain in my undergraduate career. Here is to making the best of my fleeting time at SC. But for now . . . fight on!Meet Alex