The final hurrah!

Our last day in Bangkok, and our last day in Asia.  Tomorrow we begin the long trek back home.  Usually at this point in the trip, we have mixed feelings.  We are a little homesick, but also well settled in and could stay longer.  But home beckons so off we go.

Today we visited two companies, Sanmina and IBM.  At Sanmina we learned about the EMS, electronic manufacturing services, business.  Thanks to Matt for being a gracious host, as always.  In the afternoon we learned about cognitive computing with IBM and Watson.  Watson is an artificial intelligence system that will answer questions posed in natural language.  Watson defeated two former Jeopardy champions at their own game. Thanks to Lek for hosting us today.


Matt from Sanmina explains the nature of the EMS industry.


Morgan and Natalie show of the latest fashion in electrostatic protection.


Lek from IBM discusses cognitive computing (artificial intelligence) to the group.


We had enough funding for one more group dinner, so where else would we have it but at Queen of Curry?  Jarek takes a dare to eat some incredibly spicy food.  He’ll be sorry in the morning.


James and Troy try on their custom made suits.  The tailor shops in Bangkok are incredibly aggressive, but they do good work.  They even make these guys look good.

That’s it!  We could write a lot more, like about the great ear cleaning pilgrimage of May 26, or the hygiene technology scandal of May 24, but it’s probably best to keep a little mystery in the trip.  Thanks to everyone who makes these trips possible, and to a great group of students.  Hopefully we’ll pick it up again next year.



Porcelain and Pachyderms!

Most of the group headed for the outskirts of Bangkok today to hang around with elephants.  A few of us stayed behind so we walked out to River City to check out some stunning Thai porcelain, and then we basically just walked around Bangkok.  It’s the best way to see the real city, but man it’s hot.

If you have a few baht in your pocket, it is impossible to go hungry in this city.  There is literally food everywhere, from the upscale embassy district to dark back alleys.  The green spiky fruit is durian, but oddly Thai durians do not have the same pungent smell like the ones in Singapore and Malaysia do.  I still don’t recommend them.

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Stars and Stripes and Soup!

We visited the US Embassy, Commercial Division this morning and we heard from an Embassy official and someone from the American Chamber of Commerce.  Lots of really good information on how the Commercial Division and the AMCHAM is working with US (and some Thai) companies doing business in Thailand. We also got some really good information on the complexities of Thai culture and how culture clash can impact how US businesses operate in Thailand.  Thanks to Anna Rogers for arranging our visit and the speakers.

In the afternoon, we became Thai cooks!  We visited the Silom Thai Cooking School and made our own lunch.


Rachel from the US Embassy explains her role in working on trade deals between the US and Thailand.

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Wat did you say?

A good traveler is always flexible.  It’s good to have a plan, but equally good to just go with the flow when the plan falls apart, as it often does.  We had a visit to Sanmina scheduled for today, but there was a problem at their end and we had to reschedule, so we found ourselves free for the day.  Some went to get fitted for suits.  A bunch of us hopped a ferry to Wat Pho, one of the most famous temple complexes in Buddhism, and birthplace of Thai Massage (which one student last year described as paying someone to beat you up for an hour).

On the ferry.  For a modest fee, you can basically ride the ferry all day, hopping on and off the various piers to see different things.

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The Market! or Meat on a Stick!

Bangkok is one of the hottest cities on earth.  The Chatuchak Market is one of the hottest places in Bangkok.  Thousands of people, blazing sun, and lots of concrete and pavement. Over 9000 stalls.   It’s a bit like shopping in a volcano.  But, it is one of the places featured in the book “1000 places to see before you die”, so we went.


An Asian cowboy, playing the spoons.


Above:  This is Paella Guy.  I assume he has a name, but I’ve never heard it.  He’s been cooking up big pans of paella since before I started coming to Bangkok.  He’s quite a showman.  He did a little magic for us. He’s no David Copperfield, but not bad.


New Tradition!  Pork on a Stick at the Chatuchak Market!  We’re calling it “The Ormbsee Challenge”.  Ask him why.

That’s pretty much it.  After the market the gang has been lounging by the pool.  Tonight, because there really is no such thing as too many dumplings, we’re going back to Din Tai Fung.

See you tomorrow!

Sawadee Bangkok!

A free morning, a quick plane ride, and here we are in the capital of Thailand!  It’s still hot. So very hot.  But the people are super friendly, the hotel is marvelous, and we are looking forward to our stay.


Mac, John, Troy, Russel and I went temple hunting this morning, walking out towards Little India.  It’s amazing to see the entire flavor the the city change just by crossing the street, from a predominately Chinese culture to a predominately Indian one.


Ronald teaches us the Wai, the traditional Thai greeting.


What’s going on with the people in the costumes?  We don’t know, and that’s what’s so cool about it.  We were just walking around, ducked into an alley, and there was a makeshift stage set up with some kind of performance going on.  Today is Wesak (Vesak), the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, and we assume this was part of the celebration.

Not much else to report.  Tomorrow we visit the famous Chatuchak market.  Check back and see what else is new.

Big hills and big bugs.

Today we visited one of our perennially favorite spots, the Tropical Fruit Farm!  The TFF is not a commercial orchard, but rather a tourist driven conservation project for exotic fruits from all over the world.

On our tour of the fruit farm.  Our guide is an enthusiastic promoter of the health benefits of the various fruits.  His claims are a bit over the top.

Continue reading “Big hills and big bugs.”