We arrived very late Saturday night, all landing at Bangkok airport within a half hour of each other. You could immediately feel the increase in temperature and humidity right as you stepped off the plane onto the tarmac. Excitement filled my body on the ride from the airport to our accommodations in Salaya, roughly just under an hour away. The outline of the city’s skyscrapers could be made out against the dark sky. We settled in for the night, ready to rest up after the long journey there. The next day we walked to the university and had our introduction lecture, which was just an overview of the program and some introductions. The remainder of the day was spent resting and getting used to the surrounding area. The next morning, we went into Bangkok for some cultural activities. The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Golden Mountain were all included as stops. I could not believe how absolutely stunning the Grand Palace was in person. Gold glittered on nearly every building, and the colored mosaics provided a beautiful contrast to that. Wat Pho was also very special to visit, because it is home to the world’s largest reclining Buddha. We stopped for lunch right after, which was out first sit down meal in Thailand as a group. It was delicious, most likely because it was ordered by a member of the University faculty that was with us. Afterwards, we viewed the city in a complete 180 degrees on Golden Mountain. We also stopped at the Or-Tor-Gor market. After such a long day, we all stayed close to our apartments for dinner, opting for small snacks and drinks at a local night market area rather than a heartier meal. It was a very enjoyable first true day exploring Thailand.
On Day 3 in Thailand, we had the opportunity to visit the Thai Union Food Group. This was a very informative visit, as they had prepared a lengthy presentation on the overall operations of the company. In addition to this, their head of sustainability for Asia operations gave a short presentation on their efforts within the company in compliance to UN standards. As considerate and appreciated this presentation was, they did use a bit of green labeling and marketing to paint themselves in a good light. They are of course taking steps to be more sustainable, but everything large companies say about these efforts should be taken with a grain of salt. All things considering, I learned a great deal. I was very impressed to find out that they are the makers of “Chicken of the Sea” and a supplier for Red Lobster. It also seemed like they were a dominant force in most of Europe. Another added benefit of the trip was a tour of their production floor in Thailand. It was very loud, hectic, and strict. The workers seemed to be pushed hard for their own financial benefit, and the sheer amount of fish being worked on was hard to put into words. I never thought I would get to witness something like that. Afterwards, we got lunch overlooking a rice paddy, We had lecture right after eating, where we discussed up-cycling of food and value added food products. This tied into food waste reduction efforts, and fit nicely after the Thai Union Tour because they had discussed their own efforts to target these concepts as well.
These first few days were so interesting and educational for us as a group. It felt like a great start to a very unique program.