If you’re wondering what elephants, bamboo rafts, tailor-made clothing and spicy food have to do with Harvard Business School, look no further than this past summer’s Section D (and friends) Thailand Trek! That’s right – 32 of us experienced more than `one night in Bangkok’ as we made our way through Thailand’s industrial capital city, the more rural northern region of Chiang Mai, and the famous balmy beaches down south in Phuket. This was not your usual `meet and schmooze’ company trek. This was pure, unadulterated fun with a group of people who had become close enough in the first year to happily travel together to an exotic country. Alright – so we had one little visit to the Stock Exchange of Thailand, but only because I happen to have family connections and we are at the school of working connections, right? Other than that, our trip to Thailand was all about the sightseeing, the elephants, the authentic Thai food and, of course, the bargain shopping!
Our adventure began in Bangkok. Following a tour of the Grand Palace, which is a `must-see’ for all newcomers, people arrived at my family’s home for a more personal introduction to Thailand. My relatives seemed highly amused by the fact that I was bringing 31 `phalang’ to Thailand with me. That night, Lori Schock learned the art of Thai dance from my second cousins that came to perform that night (see picture – good potential sell when Lori becomes President of the United States). During our following days in Bangkok, Emily Kranz began to hone her now-expert bargaining skills at the Floating Market. Greg Vigil painted the perfect picture of an adventurer on safari as we traveled to the ruins at Ayutthaya (the old capital of Siam) and returned by riverboat along the Chao Phraya River. Marcus Lo captured classic section moments on camera (a requirement for any Harvard event, as we well know). And Gerard Hollins discovered the best of Bangkok’s nightlife.
Next, we were off to the mountainous countryside of Chiang Mai, where elephants, traditional temples and rice fields abound. It was here that Beverly Ross and Bob Trinh took over the Thai culture show as they demonstrated the intricate arm and hand movements of Thai dance from the stage. Look for them at the next Thai cultural show. Thailand Trek truly became a trek as we rode elephants through the `jungle’ and then coasted along the canals in bamboo rafts. Good fortune had us arrive right when the elephants were bathing in the river! Marjorie Brenner was ready for this – already she was armed with the two necessities of Thailand Trek: a camera and mosquito repellant. Back at the hotel, Brian Tockman made sure our level of activity stayed high in Chiang Mai by somehow convincing us to play tennis despite the heat and humidity. We didn’t need it – people seemed to get in plenty of walking exercise while shopping. Between the night bazaar and the fact that everybody exited the jade factory with shopping bags in tow, I think the Thai economy might see an upswing from the purchases our group made alone!
After several action-packed days, we were finally able to wind down on the beaches of Phuket. It was there that Tjada D’oyen encountered the true relaxing power of the 2-hour Thai massage. We literally did not see her move for those 2 hours, and then a few hours after that. Patia McGrath got in the most of the sightseeing, probably because she had fianc‚e David Tew there to take pictures of her. Rachel Carriere started the newest HBS fashion trend – tailor-made clothing from Thailand! Look for her to model the latest Thai-American style at the next HBS formal. And we still had our adventurers. Brett Kenefick went scuba diving with wife Becky and encountered real sharks (apparently less dangerous than the HBS breed). Anne Hoecker and Kimberly Lei went kayaking through the islands, and Bob Trinh jumped off a two-story boat into the ocean as we all went swimming.
Thailand Trek was definitely a memorable experience for all of us. A special feeling arose from traveling together through an exotic country. I had a great time – and it had more to do with the fact that I could finally find clothes that fit me. There is something to being able to show people your home country. If you’d like to hear more about Thailand, simply look for the second years walking around in tailor-made clothing and greet them with `sawadi’. Just don’t be surprised if we start speaking in Thai and bargaining with you. We’re back in class now, but in spirit, we haven’t left Thailand.