My Thai Experience: Study Abroad at Thammasat University

Buddhas at Wat Pho. Picture: Elliot Baker

Thailand is a proud nation, full of friendly people, insanely delicious food, and a rich, unique culture that is completely different to my own. Here are a few insights of my exchange life here, and some of the main differences between Thailand and my home country, Australia. 

Jumping off the plane at Suvarnabhumi airport, I was equally scared and excited at the same time. It was the first time I was on my own, albeit alone in a completely different country to my own. For the past few months, I had been learning as much as I could about Thai culture – reading books, watching travel shows, and researching online – but nothing could prepare me for the journey that lay ahead.

Nothing could prepare me for the journey that lay ahead

Prior to beginning my semester of exchange in the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication (BJM) at Thammasat University (Rangsit campus), I gave myself a week to settle in. One thing that really surprised me about that first week was that I was treated like a local. Walking around the city, no one would stare at you or anything. If you purchased something, the Thai people would smile and appreciate your attempt to ‘wai’ (the Thai greeting) and say “khob khun krap” (thank you). It was completely different to my time in India, where people would stare at you or approach you and start a conversation with the intention of getting you to buy something.

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Posing outside The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Photo: Far Kanyarak

After exploring the city on my own for a week, orientation began at the Tha Prachan campus. I met my fellow exchange students; however, I found out only a couple of them would be studying at Rangsit. When I went on a campus tour to Rangsit, I was shocked with how large it is. Thammasat Rangsit is 1,251,435 square metres, over six times bigger than my campus, QUT Kelvin Grove (201,800 square metres).

What I loved about studying at Rangsit was that each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time. If I was studying at Tha Prachan, I would get used to living in Bangkok and the excitement would eventually subside. But by only getting to see Bangkok on the weekends, the thrill of driving through the city and walking around the different areas is still there, even now in my last few weeks in Thailand.

Each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time

University life in Thailand is completely different to university in Australia. Thai universities feel more like a school: you have lots of homework; you are asked to participate in class discussions; and you have the same classes with the same people. Most classes have between 40-60 students, but in one of my classes, Advanced News Reporting, there were only 10 students. This was great because I could really get to know everyone, and could develop a good relationship with my teacher. You also take between 6-7 subjects, so you get to know the other students very quickly because you see them so regularly.

My class for JM310 Editorial and Article Writing. Photo: Unknown

One thing I found fascinating about the Rangsit campus was how difficult it was to purchase alcohol. There are no bars at Thammasat, and many of the surrounding stores, such as 7-Eleven, didn’t sell alcohol either. I found out that according to the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, alcohol cannot be sold or drunk at educational institutions. At QUT there are bars on campus which are very popular among university students. Most days, students finish their class and head to the bar with their friends. There are also many events held at the bars for societies and clubs. In fact, I was previously a member of the QUT Brewing Society. We were allowed to brew our own beer on campus and give it out to students, for free!

Here are the Thai laws about the selling and drinking of alcohol in educational institutions:

Section 31. No person shall drink any alcoholic beverage at or within the following places or areas: 

(4) an education institution under the law on national education, except the area designated as the living area of an individual or club or in the case of a conventional banquet or education institution providing the course relevant to the mixing of alcoholic beverages which having been permitted under the law on national education;

Section 27. The selling of any alcoholic beverage at or within the following places or areas is prohibited:

(5) an education institution under the law on national education;

Walking around campus, you would see animals that you wouldn’t see back home. At Thammasat, it was common to see monitor lizards, street dogs, and squirrels. Some monitor lizards were huge, and when they were in the river, they looked like small crocodiles gliding through the water. At QUT, we have many ibis birds, which are a native Australian species. Colloquially known by students as ‘bin chickens’, you would usually spot them eating out of garbage bins on campus. An ibis has a long beak, which helps them pierce through garbage bags and pick from scraps.

An ibis at QUT Gardens Point. Photo: Trent Candy

While I’ve been here, I noticed a lot of Thais smoke, including many of my classmates. According to the The World Bank, 38.8% of the Thai population smokes, compared to 16.5% of the Australian population. Walking around Bangkok, I often saw people smoking illegally out the front of shops like 7-Eleven. When I was a large produce market in Rangsit called Talad Thai, I spotted a worker smoking a cigarette while he was sorting out fresh produce. As he was crouched over snake beans, the cigarette ashes would have fallen straight into the produce, which is horrible.

Evidence of the man smoking over the fresh produce at Talad Thai. Photo: Elliot Baker

According to the website Tobacco Control Laws, smoking is prohibited in all markets in Thailand. This is backed up by article 42 of the Tobacco Products Control Act 2017, which states:

No person shall smoke within a smoke-free zone, except within a smoking area.

FOI request exercise

As part of a subject I undertook called Editorial and Article Writing, I was required to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the Australian government. I found this a really smart way to retrieve information if you can’t find it anywhere else.

I sent numerous requests; one to the University of Queensland; one to the Brisbane City Council; and one to QUT. I was successful with the last two, and I successfully received the information I was after.

For the Brisbane City Council request, I asked them to tell me the number of fines issued to Lime scooter users from the period 16 November, 2018 – 15 January, 2019. Then I asked them to tell me the total amount of fines from the period 15 January, 2019 – 15 February, 2019. They replied with:

“In relation to your query regarding the total number of fines given to Lime scooter users, Council has issued zero fines to users of Scooters in the Brisbane City Council area.”

This was fascinating as they publicly promised to hand more fines out in early 2019; however, it seems they haven’t.

For the QUT request, I asked to see the sizes of the campuses, which I strangely couldn’t find online. This request was quickly replied to, and they shared me a file which contained the information I was after.

Here are some links to my FOI request, and the responses I received:

Tickets, Spain

Known as one of the hardest restaurants in the world to get a reservation at, I challenged myself with the task of booking a table for four during our trip to Barcelona. After many fruitless attempts, I finally secured a booking near the end of the trip. This would be our last Michelin-starred dinner in Barcelona. Will all the effort be worth it?


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Disfrutar, Spain

After I missed out on going to one of the world’s greatest restaurants, El Bulli, which closed its doors in 2011, I kept a close eye on the chefs to see where they would go. While many ex El-Bulli chefs are now scattered across the globe, three of the main chefs stuck together and opened two restaurants, one in Northern Catalonia in a seaside town called Cadaqués and one in Barcelona. During my visit to Barcelona, there was no way I would miss visiting this restaurant!


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Restaurant Sant Pau, Spain


Following only days after our meal at ‘The World’s Best Restaurant’, Sant Pau had to meet a very high benchmark in order to impress us. Interestingly, the restaurant doesn’t feature in the S.Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list, yet they have maintained three Michelin stars since 2006. On top of this, the owner and head chef Carme Ruscellada has the most Michelin stars for a woman in the world! I pondered if the list had made a huge mistake.

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El Celler de Can Roca, Spain


It’s not often I can brag; “Hey, I’m going to the best restaurant in the world!” When a restaurant has such an accolade and three Michelin stars, there is one factor which may severely affect one’s experience – expectations. And being the best restaurant in the world, mine for El Celler de Can Roca were the highest they have ever been and probably ever will be.

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Barcelona: A Trip of a Lifetime


First thing first, my apologies for not posting a review for a few months, however, in my defence, I have a very good reason. I have been working tirelessly to make the most from my last few terms of high school, which meant giving food blogging a bit of a rest. Now I have finished school (Woo-hoo!) my mind is focused on one thing, Barcelona (AKA Barna).

Continue reading “Barcelona: A Trip of a Lifetime”

Noosa International Food & Wine Festival 2013

So there I was, talking with David Thompson of Nahm fame, whilst standing next to the Pepe from Pepe Saya cultured butter and saying “Hi” to Miss Foodie, who was wandering by. Usually its times like that I can only dream of, but at the Noosa International Food & Wine Festival, it’s a place where dreams come true.


However, I’ll return to the very start of what began a fantastic long weekend of something I love… FOOD!!

It may be hard to believe but the 2013 Festival was even better than the 2012 one. Sit back, grab a cup of tea and find out what I got up to this year.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

Day 1

Friday 17th May

Mum, Dad, The Princess (my little sis) and I left Brisbane hoping we could take in the scenery before I headed off to my first event. Instead we arrived in Noosa a lot later than planned. I leapt from our car in full chefs uniform and ran (running being something I would do a lot of over the next few days) to the Top Tastes of Queensland Lunch where I had organised to help Alastair McLeod, who now operates AlFreshCo. The chefs involved in the lunch were: Javier Codina from Moda (middle), Pablo Tordesillas from Ortiga (far right), Alejandro Cancino from Urbane (second from right), Matt Golinski (second from left), of course Al (far left) and Ryan Squires from Esquire who was away at the time.


First I said hi to the chefs and began picking micro watercress for garnish on Al’s dish. While doing this, I met his partner who works for Channel 7 and she asked if they could have a little interview with me. Despite being very nervous, I’ m hoping I spoke well and didn’t majorly embarrass myself. I’ll put up the video when it gets produced.

Although I arrived after the second course I managed to take some photos of leftover dishes from the first two courses.

Course 1 was from Javier Codina of the Spanish restaurant Moda. He served a ceviche of Hervey Bay scallops, Lirah chardonnay vinegar, rose water and ‘Catalan Escalibada.’


I didn’t try it but I thought it was cleanly presented.

Course 2 was from Matt Golinski who served Zucchini, Goats cheese and olives.


Again this dish looks very refined but unfortunately I missed out on a taste.

Course 3 was Al’s dish which was Seared tuna, tapioca, parsley, yuzu.


It was a very interesting dish as the parsley jus was mixed with dry ice and poured by the chefs at the table. I love the dark green colour that comes out in the dish and wished I had had a bite! Nevertheless, we received great feedback from the eaters.

Alejandro Cancino from Urbane made course 4, which was Organic Chicken wings, egg yolk, eggplant puree and globe artichokes.


I had previously worked with Alejandro and was chuffed he remembered me. He even let me take quite an important role in the service line, spooning the crumbs on the plate. I was between the two masters of Spanish cooking, Pablo and Javier, while the chef of the best restaurant in QLD, Ryan, helped from the other side of the table. Another one of those moments… The team went really well and the finished dish was a masterpiece. I finally had a try of the dish and it was very delish. The creaminess of the hollandaise was delectable with the crispy deboned wings and the soft and very flavoursome artichoke puree. The crumbs, adding an almost cornflakey crunch to the whole dish. Suberb!

In the lead up to the 5th course I was giving Ryan a hand getting all the plates and components of his dish together.

Course 5 was led by Pablo and for his “Cordello a la vanilla” dish, which means slow cooked lamb breast in vanilla with almond milk and spiced chick pea puree, I was the runner.


The diners that I talked to all agreed that Pablo’s dish was the standout. I luckily had a try and I found that the meat was falling apart and so sticky. Outstanding!

Ryan was in charge of dessert and he served his well known curds and whey ice cream dish with campari sherbet and orange. I had previously tried this dessert in my review of Esquire but this was served in a more mind blowing way. In order to keep the ice cream cold, he packaged it in special Esquire printed envelopes and buried it in an esky full of dry ice… genius! The envelopes were to be opened and poured onto the plate already containing the sherbet and orange jelly. A fun way of getting the diners involved. As you can see in my action shot perfectly modeled by Deniz (ex Bretts Wharf head chef and now head chef of the Pig & Whistle).


Here is a funny picture of the dry ice all emptied out in the gutter. It was funny until we found that he had placed it on a water pipe leading to a tap. We felt sorry for the person about to turn on the tap and find freezing water coming out. Whoops!


All in all, I had a fantastic day working with 6 of the best chefs in Qld, no, I am going to say Australia, and was able to chat about food and talk about when I can do work experience at their restaurants. Special thanks to Al for giving me the okay to come down and give a hand.

After the tiring day of work I was happy to sit down and enjoy dinner at Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House on its opening night! This review can be viewed HERE.

This day was amazing but the next two were just as good, if not better!

Day 2

The day started early, arriving to the festival at around 9. I had organised to help my friend Lizzie Loel (Courier mail reviewer) cook in the Food Critics Cooking Competition. So far I had heard that we would be cooking some kind of crab fritter dish. I also knew that the theme was diner-style dude food. After looking around I finally found our stand. There was already someone there and after a good five or so minutes chatting I found out that it was a fellow food blogger called Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef. Afterwards another volunteer showed up and then Lizzie came.
We tracked down all our components including the chef (forgot his name) who helped us for the day.

Once all was set up and everyone knew what we were doing, it was time to start service. I was working the deep fryer cooking the fritters while the others were plating and taking orders. We worked really well as a team and were busy for the whole day. Here is the dish that we were serving:

MYG_13NGFAWF2a Crab fritters with tomato salsa and avocado mouse

After we finished, the team went down to the main stage where the winner was going to be announced. To win, you must receive the loudest cheer from the crowd that was measured by the announcer’s device. I hadn’t liked our chances of winning as we were up against critics such as Matt Preston (we all know Matt), John Lethlean & Necia Wilden (The Australian), Simon Thompson (ex Sydney Morning Herald), Elizabeth Meryment (The Sunday Telegraph) and other big names who could just win on popularity.

However, when it came to our cheer, we couldn’t believe the noise. It was incredible! We won comfortably and it was great seeing Lizzie lift up the trophy. Afterwards, I went up the back of the stadium to congratulate Lizzie and she introduced me to Matt Preston.

What a day! Tomorrow will be even harder and just as rewarding!

Day 3 Coming Soon….

Atherton Tablelands Tasting Adventure

Not many would move away from the beautiful beaches, crystal waters and stunning surroundings of the Sunshine Coast, but my Nan did and I am really glad she did! She decided to move back up North to Atherton (one hour drive west of Cairns) where she had spent a few years living there after I turned two.
Atherton Coffee Collage

It was my forth trip to Atherton. I had been there to visit her a couple of times. My third time was for a cricket carnival I was playing in two years ago.

This time I was going with Mum and the Princess (my Sister). On touchdown in Cairns my Aunty Louise (the healthy eater) met us. She took us on the ascent to Atherton through lovely green leafy bush and a long and winding road. Half an hour out from Atherton, the healthy eater dropped by Coffee Works at Mareeba where she encouraged Mum to buy her favourite blend Black Mountain. We returned there later in the trip for a tour, which I will provide more detail about.

We arrived at Nan’s and spent a day just to catch up with her in the house.

The healthy eater brought a bottle of chilli salt that we became addicted to. It’s made out of the Bhut Jolokia (formerly the hottest chili in the world – number 1 is the Trinidad Scorpian) and Pink Himalayan Rock Salt. In Queensland you can only buy it online from Western Australia at Mum just ordered a few –due to our recent addiction.

A few days later we decided that we would go back for the tour of Coffee Works (CW). On our first visit Mum had also bought me a packet of their white chocolate, which was smooth and divine. The Princess had chosen chocolate mint, by the time we returned to CW it was all but gone. Mum had also picked up one of their brochures as well, which entitled us to a decent discount on the admission price for the tour.

Back to the chocolate, it’s made in house and you can see them making it behind the counter. On this occasion they were making chocolate in the shape of fish. We made the most of eating chocolate that day, there were so many different flavours, dark, white, milk, macadamias, mint, chilli, cappuccino, espresso, latte, coconut and even lime and black pepper and lemon myrtle which I wasn’t a fan of.
They also supply 21 different types of coffee where they roast all beans in house. This started my addiction for vanilla coffee. Also, they have the world’s largest collection of coffee and tea memorabilia with over 2000 items, some dating back to the 1700’s.

We started by tasting all the coffees, teas and chocolates. Below is a couple of coffee blends. I loved the vanilla coffee with white chocolate. Divine!

Coffee Works

On the walls was information about coffee in the Far North and the conditions, blends, stages of preparation and much more.

Then once we were full, we entered the museum where there were remotes that we put to our ears to listen to information regarding a specific item.

Coffee Museum

Five theatres were scattered around the museum that focused on a specific country (USA, Turkey, Italy, Asia and Australia). There were also little corridors reminiscent of being in a strange place like Alice in Wonderland. Some of areas scared the Princess like the dark Einstein and Queen themed room.


While there, the Princess and I completed a scavenger like Quiz and located different items on a map – not an easy as it sounds, given the incredible collection of coffee related memorabilla. As a prize she was given some chocolates to take home.

Once back at the veranda – reserved only for those who were on the tour, Mum and I ordered the beef burger to share and the Princess and the healthy eater ordered chicken skewers with salad. They came out in no time and both meats were juicy and succulent. I didn’t really agree with the Smith’s crisps that were served on the side of the burger though.


What I loved about the tour was that it was UNLIMITED tasting for the whole day! We didn’t hit the coffee or the chocolate too hard when we first got there. Coffee for reasons well known! So instead we spent some time leisurely sitting, relaxing and enjoying the calm surrounds. For kids instead of the coffee, they do provide you with an iced chocolate. I actually got this plus for the first time Mum let me try coffee.

All in all it was well worth the $48 dollars (with discount, excluding lunch) for the four of us. We left with (if you can believe it) almost full bellies and a couple of coffee blends (including vanilla coffee!). Below is a collage of a couple of the CW photos.

Atherton Coffee Collage

The healthy eater then took us back to Atherton and to Shaylee Strawberries where you could see tents scattered around the fields (which we found out that there were strawberry pickers in them) and a team in a production line packaging the fresh and perfect strawberries. I couldn’t resist eating a small cupful of house-made strawberry ice-cream which was so creamy and delectable.


We also took home a 1 kilogram punnet of strawberries to eat at home I would have to say it was the most perfect strawberry we have ever eaten.


The next day was Dairy Tasting Day! We first ventured to Gallo Dairyland where there were lots of animals, cheese and chocolates.


Off to the side of the main building is a viewing building where you can look down and see a worker making cheese.


While there we watched a DVD in one of the rows of seats set aside for viewing. The movie showed the full process of making the cheese from cow to the finished product. The movie sucked us into ordering a tasting platter with heritage, tilsit, gruyere, camembert, gallozolla and crispy haloumi cheeses. Never in my life have I enjoyed eating cheese this much, because I knew how much work was involved in the process of making cheese.


Unfortunately we couldn’t stay to see the milking of the cows but we saw them come in from the pastures to the station. There were other animals like Goats, Chickens, Birds, Pigs and Sheep. All of which the Princess loved, she considers herself a bit of a farm girl at heart.


We then ventured much further a field where we found virtually in the middle of nowhere Mungalli Creek Dairy in Millaa Millaa. Their entire dairy is biodynamic which means that they work with nature and not against it.


As you enter, a large wall of awards stood at the back of the dairy. While Mum was deciding on what flavour yoghurt she should buy, I made a very difficult choice. I was deciding between two cheesecakes (my favourite cake). I opted for the Sicilian Cheesecake made with the dairies own ricotta cheese, dark chocolate and glace orange. The chocolate and orange flavour worked perfectly with the crunchy cinnamon base. And the vanilla ice cream on the side… awesome! We left with Mum’s blueberry and white chocolate yoghurt and (if you can believe it) enough room for lunch!


The healthy eater recommended going to Nick’s Swiss Italian Restaurant at Yungaba on the way home. So we decided that we would go for a light meal since we had already eaten so much! As you enter, you can see Swiss equipment in every direction. Cowbells, accordions, dolls and multicoloured hats (just to named a few) lay scattered around the room.

There was a bit of confusion, as we came in through the entrance of Nick’s but were seated in the pizzeria next door. There wasn’t a problem when we asked for Nick’s menu as well as the pizzeria one.

Mum and Nan decided to share a prawn pizza while the Princess some how convinced Mum to buy her a whole Frankfurt sausage meal. The healthy eater ordered chicken caesar with dressing on the side in case it was too oily (which it was). I ordered the ravioli “Napoli” which had a ricotta and spinach filling with Napolitana sauce and Parmesan cheese.


The prawn pizza was more like a plain pizza, as some pieces had no prawns on it at all.

The pasta was quite robust with a thick covering of sauce and ravioli cooked to my liking, which is just a bit past al dente.

As for the Princess’ meal… lets just say there was some waste.

As for me that was the end of my tasting adventure in Atherton, as I was then confined to the table to do my assignments and homework. However, on the way back to Cairns we ate at the award winning restaurant Nu Nu in Palm Cove. You will be able to read about that great lunch soon.