by Kate Sisk, Greenheart Travel Scholarship Winner in Thailand
Living in Chiang Mai
As soon as I got off the overnight bus from Bangkok, my host family rushed to greet me! Ever since then, they have been making me feel as comfortable and happy as possible. Even after only knowing them only a week, they have seamlessly included me in their family life and treat me like their second daughter! I have also learned that there are three things that are very important in Thai peoples’ lives: Family, Food, and Education
My family includes my host parents, their daughter Yiwha, and her grandmother. Yiwha in Thai means “my heart.” Her mom named her this and it is clear that Yiwha really is her heart! They have been very open on a daily basis on how glad they are to have me and how much they like me. My host mom voices her concerns about my travel, just like my own mom, and Yiwha explains it is only because she loves me so much. Maybe it is the translation of the word love from Thai to English that is not exactly clear, or maybe they are just more open and caring people. I think it may be a mix of both. My host mom has also been giving me gifts frequently, almost daily. Dresses, tops, shoes, jewelry, snacks, bags, and more. It is true what they say about the friendliness of Thai people!
Here is a photo of my host family accommodations: Kitchen, garden, guesthouse, and my bedroom.
My host parents with a beautiful view of Chiang Mai at sunset in the background.
Food is also very important in Thailand, of course. The major differences I’ve come across are breakfast dishes, the storage of food, and the way meals are eaten.
Before I left, my mom asked me what a typical breakfast was in Thailand. I had to answer honestly, that I did not know. I had never heard of a “Thai breakfast,” and it’s because they don’t have many special breakfast foods- they eat what we would usually have for lunch or dinner: rice, meat, fish, vegetables, and soup. Occasionally, they have do have congee – which is a delicious rice porridge usually eaten for breakfast.
Something one has to accept when living in Thailand is bugs and lizards. While the lizards are kind of cute, I have also had to accept swarms of ants getting into food if not put away after a few minutes. They also do not store much food in the refrigerator. If there are leftovers, they put the open bowl in the cabinet for later. It definitely may take your stomach some time to adjust if you decide to jump right in and eat everything Thai’s normally do!
What I have enjoyed most about the food here is the way we eat. It is always together as a family; there are many different dishes that are all shared (tapas style); food is eaten slowly and enjoyed; there is always conversation, and it is always delicious! My host family has also taken me out to local Thai restaurants almost every day for either breakfast or dinner. Most of the restaurants are places I would not be able to experience because they are located in the suburbs or the menus are only in Thai. They are very authentic and aroi – which means delicious in Thai!
My host grandmother also has a large garden behind the house that she is very proud of! She grows many things and even sells bananas on our street sometimes!
Mango and sticky rice – a common Thai dessert
Education is one of the most valued things to my family, and most Thai people. Yiwha studies seven days a week. We leave at 7:00am and get home around 6:00pm. Her parents are government officials in education and work at least six days a week. Yiwha said these long hours of studying are very typical of Thai students, which was a surprise to me!
Yiwha posing with me at her school.
Yiwha is very good at speaking English. She has been studying it since she was ten. I have been helping her practice conversation. I found this site to be useful for us in talking and getting to know each other: