Some offer the joy of education, some offer certificates, others give diplomas, and all of them offer learning. Thailand has a different take on a school holiday where you visit the kingdom and vacation in school, not from school.
The classes and the learning are fun, and the settings can be spectacular. Spend five days learning to sail including overnighting on a yacht earning an internationally recognized competent crew classification. Or spend a few days under water earning a scuba license from PADI.
Learning to cook Thai cuisine can be fun and a great skill to take home. Thai massage skills will put you in high demand when you go home, too. Or for something totally different, be the first one in your town to learn how to be a mahout, an elephant trainer. Or learn to rock climb on the spectacular beachside cliffs in Krabi.
For a longer commitment, several Thai universities, including the kingdom’s oldest - Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, offer semester courses or semester exchange programs, and even degree programs taught in English. But for a short stay, you can learn for a day, a week or a month.
Thai food is appreciated the world over, and the secrets of Thai cuisine are a very usable skill to take home. Many of Bangkok’s top hotels offer cooking classes, including the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok where classes run from 8 a.m. to noon every day in a teak house.
Classes at most schools can be a half-day lesson on carving Thai fruit to daylong courses learning specific Thai dishes. Students learn how to prepare the cuisine, and some include visiting a local market to buy ingredients with a chef, but most of the preparation is done by school staff so students can focus on the cooking.
Students often work in teams with the chef’s supervision including a lot of one-on-one instruction. The classes focus on traditional Thai dishes that family and friends back home will be most impressed with. Classes are also relaxed and fun.
Massaging Your Holiday
Here is a practical skill to take home, and you can turn it into a job, company, or just to enjoy and share with family and friends and promote general wellbeing.
Centuries-old Wat Pho next to the Grand Palace and the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok offers General Thai Massage, a total of 30 hours of study, and Advanced Thai Massage, a total of 60 hours and several other types. Schedules can be 6, 5 or 3 hours a day and they start every day.
The school is in a large hall that is lined with mattresses on both sides. Wat Pho focuses on nuad phaen boran, meaning “ancient-style massage”. There are other places to learn massage too, and many hotels can recommend classes in most cities.
For scuba diving, PADI Open Water diver courses are the world’s most popular that can earn you a license to dive anywhere in the world. You can join the more than half-a-million people who have a PADI license. The best part is the islands and areas where you can take the 4-day Open Water courses. More advanced courses are also available once you have your open water license.
This is schooling where the classroom is hard to beat. Five-day competent crew sailing courses are partly taught on yachts including at least one overnight stay while sailing on the water. When you finish, you have a certiﬁcate you can use it to work as a crew member on a sailing yacht as big as 24 metres. There are a few limits to jobs you can get after completing a competent crew course, like how far out to sea you can work, but after the course there are more advanced classes available if you find you like your sea legs better than learning on land.
Krabi in Thailand’s South is known for its beautiful beaches and spectacular setting next to the Andaman Sea. It is also known the world over by rock climbers for its climbs above those clear waters, ranging in difficulty from easy to very challenging. Climbs are available for the first-time novice climber, to challenging routes seasoned climbers travel the world to try. Several schools are available to learn the ropes, so to speak. Maybe the best part is after the climbing, returning to a beach resort or guest house and some great local food.
For something different when you return home, you can study elephant training. There are several mahout (rider, trainer, or keeper of elephants) schools around Chiang Mai where the student learns an appreciation for elephants. Half-day to three-day courses designed for tourists are available where students learn to care for and bath elephants and give basic commands. Other more intense courses can range up to 30 days and include learning how to ride elephants.
For something a little more substantial Thailand’s leading universities offer international programs with classes taught in English. You can study for an exchange semester, for a four-year undergraduate degree, or masters and even PhDs.
Knowing Your Stones
Thailand is a world centre for trading coloured stones from all corners of the world. The weekend gem market in Chanthaburi in the country’s east and Mae Sot in the northwest are well-known to gem traders. Bangkok also has schools offering three-month and longer courses awarding internationally recognized diplomas in gemstone grading and pricing.