Sawadeeka, Thailand

First Published in Parallax.

Returning home to Australia, the land of pristine beaches, crisp air and safe drinking water, Bangkok seem worlds away.

It has been exactly one week since I have touched down in Sydney and after a smooth overnight flight, it is uncanny to think that in eight hours you can arrive somewhere so different to where you left off.

Leaving the dusty, chaotic and exhilarating city of Bangkok was not easy as it meant saying farewell to the independent and autonomous lifestyle I had adjusted to.

The five week fellowship at the Bangkok Post and Australian Embassy in Thailand was a life altering journey that refined my passion for advocacy and journalism, and equipped me with valuable lessons, both practical and experiential.

The internship in Thailand was a prime opportunity to apply three years worth of media theory and experience first hand, the dynamics of a newsroom.

Working full time in Thailand’s leading English daily paper, I quickly learnt to adapt in a new work environment, muster up the confidence to actively request feedback and develop the initiative to pitch story ideas to news editors and journalists.

Although it was challenging to work with pervasive language barriers in the newsroom and during interviews, the experience was rewarding and I left Thailand with three articles published on page 2-3 of the national news section and another story featured in the Sunday paper.

The stories I produced for the Post included colour/feature stories, interviews and some hard news topics. I most enjoyed working an article about the Rohingya, one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world, as reported by the UN. Prior to this internship, I had no knowledge of this ethnic minority group and after a week of thorough research, I was surprised to see that Thailand was also struggling to deal with their own ‘boat people’. The process of researching and drafting this article was rewarding, to say the least, sparking a new niche interest and passion for human rights reporting.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, provided by the Australia- Thailand Institute as it has given me a greater insight into the shared values and different cultural practices between Australia and Thailand’s media landscape.

Thailand is a popular destination for Australians, with approximately 600,000 Aussies visiting the South East Asian country last year. After five weeks of full time work in the media sector, I can safely say that I have had a true taste of Thailand’s corporate and cultural life.

The ongoing protests and ‘Shutdown Bangkok’ campaign made for an interesting cultural experience, both as a tourist and as a journalist. It was thrilling and convicting to witness a nation coming to terms with its issues pertaining to democracy, economic inequality and statewide corruption.

I am already missing the delicious Pad See Yew, Papaya Salad and Mango Sticky Rice but there is a reason why hello and goodbye share the same expression in Thai. As cliché and whimsical as it may sound, saying goodbye to Bangkok is only possible when you promise to be back again.

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