I am no stranger to traveling, having visited countries on three continents, and even experiencing a study abroad opportunity in Italy during college. Every country is different, every location unique, every culture beautiful in its own way. My first trip to Bangkok, Thailand was no different. From the time we first saw the coast from our plane window, I knew this was going to be a trip like no other. Over the course of our three days in Bangkok, we experienced a city of modern and ancient, and got a first-hand look at how BASIS International Schools will fit into such a unique location.
Each day I attempted to chronicle the highlights of our journey, as I experienced Bangkok for the first time, and gained a new perspective on how BASIS International School Bangkok will become a vibrant piece of the community.
After 20 hours of ocean view from the plane window, it was exciting to see the coastline of Vietnam on the horizon as we approached Thailand. As we began to descend over the countryside, lush greens stretched for miles, broken only by the still pools and waterways scattered throughout. This beautiful sight continued until we touched down at the Bangkok airport.
Leaving the airport, I was able to take stock of the surroundings. First, traffic was fast and heavy, with seemingly no rules to go by. Billboards were as wide as half a football field, advertising a familiar variety of products, such as the latest smartphones. But, most fascinating to me, was the contrast between modernization and buildings that had stood for hundreds of years. Skyscrapers reach to the sky while temples and shrines occupy the space in between. It was fascinating to see the ancient and modern finding their blend in a fast growing city.
From the Bangkok airport, it was about an hour drive to reach our future school site. As the car turned into the area, suddenly a BASIS International School Bangkok advertisement came into view, and then the future site of the school. It was exciting to see that this is actually happening!
Meeting the Team and the Park Village Facility
Our travel concluded when we came to the front doors of the residential section of Park Village–the apartment accommodations we will provide for our expatriate teachers. The apartments were impressive: clean, functional, and located only one block from our school. We took a few minutes to settle in, then went to visit the current school office, located in a different area of the Park Village facility.
It was great to meet everyone who has been working so hard to make this school a reality. The office staff team are not only some of the kindest and most supportive people you’ll ever meet, they also demonstrated how committed they are to building an exceptional school community with a spirit of joy in their work every day. It’s exciting to envision how this spirit joy and hard work will permeate through a whole school as we open to young students and faculty excited to learn and grow. But the best part for me personally was meeting a new hire that I had interviewed, as well as potential candidates who lived in the area and came in for interviews. It is always great to put a name to a face and meet in person after speaking on the phone.
The Park Village facility is large and multifaceted, housing apartments, restaurants, a coffee shop, spa, gym, and hospital. We slid into a booth in one of the restaurants and I enjoyed a delicious plate of Chicken Pad Thai while trying to keep my eyes open and participate in the conversation. The 25 hour journey to Bangkok was definitely worth it, but it was also exciting to finally get some rest.
One of the beautiful things about jet lag is waking up excessively early and seeing the street come to life. Before the sun had fully risen, street vendors started setting up for the day, cutting up fresh fruit and grilling meat, letting new smells of spice float through the air. With hours to spare before the workday began, I decided to head to the O2 gym in Park Village. It was great to get a preview of the gym where our staff and teachers will be able to sign up for a membership, and its nice selection of treadmills, free weights, and a spin studio did not disappoint.
Starting the workday, our first order of business was to tour the local area of Central Rama II where BASIS International School Bangkok is located. We started by taking a tour of Park Village. Park Village is an amazing facility, not only because it is the apartment accommodations offered to our teachers, but also because it contains many of the things you would normally have to leave home to get to: ATM, 7-Eleven, nail salon, spa, restaurants, and coffee shop–along with a rooftop pool and breakfast cafe. With the opportunity to view several apartment types, I was excited to see that all units were comfortable and very clean, with many western amenities such as a washer and dryer, large refrigerator, and air conditioning.
Construction on BASIS International School Bangkok
Next, we headed to the school site for a tour. We were very excited to see the construction progress, but first things first, safety! The construction team take safety on site very seriously, so prior to doing anything we put on steel boots, reflector vests, hard hats, and badges. Now that we were set up for success, we started our journey through the maze of steel and concrete.
The facility is going to be amazing and no attention to detail is being spared. We walked through the main school building that will house classrooms for grades 1-5, which is designed as a general hallway with classrooms on either side, three stories tall. We climbed a secure scaffolding to the top of the structure for a complete view of the campus. From there you can see the administrative and arts buildings, sports facilities, and Kindergarten wing. We were also able to see the finishing materials that will be used for carpet, windows, and tile–each has been designed and selected for a specific purpose. It is a very impressive project.
Bangkok Night Life and Transportation Options
After our campus tour, we availed ourselves of the Bangkok equivalent of Uber, Grab, and rode into town for dinner. The wonderful thing about Bangkok is there is something for everyone. The culinary options are endless and you can eat from a street vendor, or a fancy restaurant and enjoy delicious food at both.
We finished the evening by trying a very local mode of transportation: a Tuk Tuk. Tuk Tuks are common in the center of Bangkok, have three wheels, and move in and out of traffic with tight corners that make you hold on for dear life. Another popular option–which I did not have the courage to try–are the motorcycle taxis. You sit on the back of a motorcycle and they weave you between cars, trucks, people, and anything else in the way. They are very popular due to traffic, but for those of us without the courage for them, there is also public transportation.
On our last full day in Bangkok, we spent most of our time in the center of Bangkok and got a feel for things to do outside of the Central Rama II neighborhood. For someone who likes to explore, Bangkok, and Thailand in general, has no limit of things to do. The Grand Palace and the history of its creation are worth a visit. Remember to wear clothing that covers your legs, though, or you’ll be rocking a pair of elephant pants purchased from a street vendor to wear for the tour.
Boat rides through the canals offer new views at each turn. The Bangkok Flower Market is open 24 hours a day and is always bursting with bright colors and gorgeous handmade creations, ready for a big event or a simple table in the home. No matter where you go, the people are always friendly, warm, and smiling. With the massive the growth the city has experienced, foreigners are a welcomed and common sight.
An obvious takeaway for any visitor to Bangkok is its variety. There is something for everyone and new things to find at every corner. Whether you enjoy food, culture, shopping, or the heat, Bangkok has it all. The local people are warm and inviting, and didn’t look twice at me when I had my camera out as an obvious tourist. I felt comfortable walking the streets and had an almost immediate feeling of belonging.
BASIS International School Bangkok is going to be a wonderful place for our students and staff and I could not be more proud to be working with our team of locals and expats to get things up and running. I look forward to continuing our journey as we bring the excellent BASIS Curriculum to the rich culture and environment of Thailand!
– Tai Lemire is an International Recruiter with BASIS International Schools
Learn more about the vision of BASIS International School Bangkok in this letter from Head of School, Elizabeth Thies.