Year 9 pupils (and teachers) on the annual exchange trip to Harrow International School Bangkok, write home during their two-week stay in the Thai capital
Tuesday 5th March
Mr Stephen Mepham
The boys have now settled into Harrow Bangkok with enthusiasm. We have been made very welcome and the boys have taken to their environment amazingly well.
We transferred from the island to the mainland yesterday and settled into the hotel which is of a very high standard. Over the weekend we took several boat rides (at some speed and all with life jackets) and due to slightly choppy seas snorkelled of the beach on two islands.
All the boys are well and eating enthusiastically.
Tonight we have supper at the Baiyoke Tower with panoramic views over Bangkok.
Wednesday 6th March
Tristan Doyle and Joel Cuttica
In the morning we set off across Bangkok, as usual. However, before we headed out, we indulged in a nice breakfast of pancakes! When we arrived at Harrow Bangkok, me and my friends went to our form rooms with the Harrow boys. My form room is located in the Chemistry building. First period, we all had creative subjects. I had art, but the other John Lyon boys went to Design and Technology, Textiles, Drama and Music. Our second lesson was English and we read from Animal Farm by George Orwell. After break we went to Maths and did some simultaneous equations. Our final lesson of the morning was Biology.
After lunch we made our way to the lake and in pairs, took a kayak onto the Harrow School lake. For one hour we kayaked around the lake. Tristan and I were ahead of everyone, and we managed to stay dry the longest! Everyone else had fallen into the water, especially when we were told to stand up! The teacher and Ms Robinson were in the speed boat, and even they couldn’t tip us into the water! Everyone had a great time, despite the massive water lizards around the edge of the lake. At the end of the session, we raced back to land.
Once we had dried off, we went to the boys’ boarding house (Bradbys), so that we could get a feel for life as a boarder. We spent the early part of the evening playing pool, table tennis and table football. Ms Robinson was in the kitchen helping to make pancakes with the boarders and Mr Mepham was watching the games. Before heading to supper, one of the boarders did a presentation about himself. He was from South Korea and explained why he had decided to come and study at Harrow Bangkok. We then went to supper, where we got to know the boys even better. All the boys at the school are very nice and kind-hearted, especially a boy called Marc, who is known for his kindness. The food was really nice and fresh and everyone had a great time… including Mr Mepham!
Mr Stephen Mepham
The boys spent yesterday getting to know the school routine, their buddies and the layout of this beautiful school. They attended a wide range of lessons including Thai culture and language, Computing, Maths, the sciences, Design and Technology and creative arts. The food in the school is excellent and wide-ranging, so all the boys are eating their fill! The school day starts at 8.00am with morning break from 10.10 – 10.25am. Lunch is an hour from 12.35pm and school finishes at 2.40pm.
After returning to the hotel we headed off through the Bangkok traffic to the Baiyoke Tower to eat supper in its sky top restaurant with views over central Bangkok. Supper was an ‘all you can eat’ buffet, with food ranging from sushi to the ubiquitous chips. A particular favourite was the chocolate fountain. We marked Shrove Tuesday with some boys eating pancakes. After supper we headed two floors up to the open air viewing deck (not for the fainthearted!) to take in the night skyline. The traffic snaking its way on the various major roads put on an impressive light show along with the many skyscrapers here.
We have school tomorrow where the boys will see something of the boarding houses here.
Thursday 7th March
We all woke up, got ready, put on our Harrow School House polo shirts, ate and departed our hotel at 7.00am. Once we reached school, we all split up and proceeded to our assigned rooms for our house meetings. After assemblies, we made our way to our respective lessons, mine being History. In that lesson, we explored the complexities of various governing methods such as communism and dictatorships.
Once History, ended, I made my way to the sports hall for trampolining. This was a very new activity but looking back on it, I had a lot of fun. Once our PE session ended, myself and a few others headed to the main building for an RS lesson. In that lesson I learnt about the origins of Buddhism and all the different interpretations of the choices made by Buddha.
Once RS ended, every exchange student and a few Harrow students made their way to the boarding house for our Thai lesson. In our Thai lesson we are learning about Thailand and its culture therefore, this lesson, we were being taught how to make Pad Thai. This versatile dish, consisting of a varied range of ingredients, is referred to as Thailand’s National Food. We were then given a demonstration on what to do by one of the school chefs. Once that ended, we were put into groups of four and we were all stationed at a table with all the ingredients required as well as someone to guide us through all the different steps involved with the creation of the dish. Once everyone finished, we plated everything and sat down to eat our self-made meals.
After everyone finished their Pad Thai we cleaned up and it was announced that Kahil Jariwala had cooked the best dish. Then we were released out of the boarding house for lunchtime. At lunchtime there is a vast amount of activities someone could decide to partake in. For example, I was playing football with all my new friends, whereas some of my friends were having a cold milkshake on the other side of the school. Lunchtime gives us the chance to explore the different opportunities Harrow School provides.
At the end of lunch, everyone made their way to their final lesson, mine being Maths. In this lesson we all learnt about quadratic equations and, us exchange students, we introduced to the Thai way of working out quadratic equations. This lesson seemed to go by in a flash, considering how we has a decent amount of work to get through.
After the final bell went off, and everyone began leaving school, all the exchange students and I promptly made our way to the buses as we had to get to Future Parks for shopping and ice skating.
Upon arrival to the mall, we divided ourselves into groups of four and walked around for an hour. In this time we browsed the shelves of many department stores and also ate. We then regrouped and headed to the ice skating rink. As we got there and got our skates on, everyone got onto the ice.
In the skating rink we had an unbalanced mix of very skilled skaters as well as people who were struggling to stand. Based on the fact that I fell around fifteen times I’ll let you guess what type of skater I was. The hour spent on the ice was a great deal of fun for everyone who participated. This occasion also gave us the opportunity to strengthen the friendships among us as, we all helped each other. As our time finished we got all of our belongings and headed straight back to the hotel where we changed, got out uniforms ready for the morning and prepared to sleep. We all fell fast asleep at 9.30pm for an early start the next day.
Friday 8th March
During the time we’ve been attending at Harrow Bangkok, it has been a wonderful experience. As a group, John Lyon boys and Royal Masonic School girls were warmly welcomed to the school by both staff and students. The first time we entered, we were all in awe of how large the school grounds were, ranging from football pitches to academic buildings. Both John Lyon and RMS students were accompanied by a buddy each. They were confident and friendly which made it easier to settle in. Three school days have passed and we are now nearly as equally independent!
Harrow Bangkok was founded 20 years ago and because of this feels very modern. Inside the different faculties are filled with bright colours both in the corridors and classrooms. Additionally, a few of the classrooms have feature wallpapers of massive pictures. A geography classroom has a back wall of a herd of elephants.
The main canteen is filled with international foods, foods from Asia, Europe and all across the world. Like John Lyon, the Harrow Bangkok canteen has a friendly buzz.
The main difference between John Lyon and Harrow Bangkok is that there is a larger age group from small infants to Sixth Formers. Additionally, another major factor is that it is co-ed.
This school has also helped me in number of ways and not just in education. In a week’s time after coming back from Thailand, I will be sitting my Grade 8 piano exam. When we left for Thailand, I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to practice for my last exam. However, Harrow has helped me as they offered practice rooms for me to play almost every day.
We woke up tired, but ready for the day. We all came down quickly to get in the queue for the delicious pancakes. By 7.00am the coaches had come to take us to school. To start the day my class had DT. It was such a fun lesson where we started projects where we have to either make a dress or a t-shirt for ‘Dress a Child’. After that enjoyable lesson we had games. Dhiren, Arturo and I chose to do trampolining mainly because it was indoors, it was really fun. Later on we had Art and English. After school we went to the boarding house to play activities. We were split into two groups. I was in the senior boarding house, where we spent two hours playing pool, table tennis, table football, but towards the end we were all going to the fields to play a game of football which started off as 14-a-side with boys and girls from RMS playing. However because of the heat it ended up as 5-a-side match. We were all then called for dinner where we sat on the grass and ate our BBQ cooked food, but what was best was the chat we had with Mr Mepham. As we got back to the hotel we had to tidy our rooms as they were “messy”. The teachers kept our phones until they were done. After this we went to bed.
Saturday 9th March
Yesterday we went cycling in an ancient city and on boat to eat dinner. We left at 7.15am and arrived at the ancient city at 9.00am where we cycled until 12.00pm. We ended up in a few groups by the end, but started off as one big group. We saw temples, houses and massive statues and lakes. There was a massive boat which we all went on to catch a breath and there was a huge temple in the middle of the city. There were many shops on the way around the city and many of us stopped off at them to by a drink or an ice cream. We had to meet up at a restaurant in the floating market part of the city at midday for lunch and that proved very hard as many of us got there a bit late as it wasn’t easy to find. Three people went around with Ms Robinson in cart to see the city. It was very hot cycling around in the city, so we did stop of quite a few times. Most of us had rice or noodles for lunch with a drink.
After lunch we went to a market in the city and people brought things such as hats, sunglasses and souvenirs. After that we went back to the hotel which took about one hour and when we arrived, because of how hot we were we went into the swimming pool. Even though it was cold we didn’t mind and still went in, even Mr Mepham went in. We ended up having a water splashing war, us against Mr Mepham and I am sure we won as Mr Mepham had to get out of the pool.
Once we were changed for the boat we travelled to a shopping centre and were in there for about an hour before getting onto the boat. Many of us just got and ice cream or a milkshake. Once we had sat down we ordered our food and then the boat started to go. There was a person playing an instrument which sounded really nice. We had a three course meal: for starters we had onion rings and spring rolls; for the main we had rice with vegetables, fish soup and fried prawns, the soup was a bit spicy though; and for dessert we had a selection of fruits and Thai sweets – the fruit was nice, but the sweets looked like jelly and had a weird feel in the mouth. The boat ride took around two hours and for the last 25 minutes we had Thai dancers dancing for us. Once we got back to the hotel we had to sleep as it was a long day and we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow.
“Can I say that Krishan’s recollection of the splashing ‘contest’ is not mine!” Mr Mepham
Sunday 10th March
Yesterday, we went to the Suan Sampran Rose Garden, which luckily was not just flowers but we were taught about Thai activities like dyeing patterns on to cloths, scraping out the nut in a coconut (which I personally thought I was good at), watching how silk is taken from silkworms, and tasting grilled banana pudding which was delicious. After a morning of learning and watching about Thai activities we went to a bowling alley in the evening where we had a lot of fun and finished the day off with an ice cream. Today like all other days was fantastic due to how well organised it was and how our teachers never got tired of looking after us and making this trip memorable.
Monday 11th March
On Monday we had a rather relaxed day when compared to our weekend, waking up at our usual times and having our usual breakfast we headed off to school.
After Maths, English and RSP we marched to the lake in our PE kits to attend another kayaking lesson. We took a crash course around the lake and upon arriving to our destination we were introduced to a new game. Sponge! The game was to take aim at your opponents and hurl a sponge at them, then the person who threw the sponge will row away whilst the victim attempts to throw the sponge to someone else.
That was the game but it had devolved into kayak tipping war with only a few boats standing. We returned to dry land and kicked the ants out of our shoes and changed back into our school uniform to get ready for the upper school assembly.
In the assembly we were told about Harrow Bangkok’s charitable exploits and Suriyothai House (my adopted house here) reigned victorious for almost all the competitions, as they should. We then left as the students took off their blazers and boaters and listened to a school band Zyclone sing to us as we left.
We headed to the bus and returned to the hotel where we either slept or swam till 6.00pm where we had our exceptional dinner and headed to bed quite early to enjoy another day in Bangkok.
Tuesday 12th March
The day started off as most of the other school days on this trip. We got up, had our breakfast and went off to school in the coaches. The school day went normally with a Thai lesson on famous places in Thailand on how to negotiate prices as we would need this for tomorrow’s trip to the MBK shopping mall. After we got back to the hotel from school, we were given a short while to relax and then we went on the sky train, which is basically a train system above the roads (very few were underground). We were then taken to a boat which would take us to the dock. There we planned to take rather unique vehicles named tuk-tuks which are like very small taxis, but there weren’t enough of them, so we all took normal taxis instead. They brought us over to the River Tree restaurant beside the river. The food there was quite good. After the meal, we took the coaches back to the hotel. In short, today was mainly about exploring and experiencing the different methods of transport used in Thailand.
Wednesday 13th March
This morning was more relaxed as we woke up later at around 8.00am as we had no school and so we had to leave for the Grand Palace at 9.00am which was an hour away but was all worth it when we saw a variety of beautiful structures and paintings. There were lots of temples and monuments and we saw a lot of building work as they are getting the palace ready for the coronation of the new king. Everything was gold and covered in tiny pieces of glass and a lot of the buildings had bells on them that made a noise in the wind. There were lots of soldiers on duty, parading around. We saw what was their version of changing of the guard. It was extremely hot as we all had to wear long trousers and t-shirts that covered our shoulders, but afterwards we all refreshed in an cafe with ice cold drinks which cooled us off.
From the Grand Palace we took a 40 minute drive to the MBK mall. When we reached the mall we headed to the meeting points and were explained where we should meet at the end. We were put in groups of four and were allowed to roam around the mall for four hours. In my group there was me, Inesh, Arturo and Karan. Firstly my group went and ate Burger King. After the meal we started shopping. We found and arcade and played a few games. We played a few games and found loads of nice clothing which we wanted to buy. We also bought multiple items such as souvenirs and clothing. We then returned to the hotel where we went swimming before our meal in the hotel restaurant.
Thursday 14th March
We got up at 6.30am to start our second last day at Harrow International School. We ate breakfast at around 7.00am, which was mostly pancakes and waffles! Then we left at around 7.15am to get to the school on the coach in the busy traffic. When we arrived we split into our normal different tutor groups based on house. Mine was the yellow house, we were signed in by our form tutor then we left to go to our lessons of the day. The highlight was dressing up in traditional Thai costumes from the different parts of Thailand. I wore clothes from the north which was a blue top and purple trousers which were made from a piece of cloth wrapped around my waist. Some boys got to wear golden belts and necklaces from other regions. Then at around 2.40pm it was time to leave, so we waited at the very busy car park to wait for our bus. At the hotel we went swimming and relaxed. Then we picked our food options for supper, and ate lovely eastern Asian food. Then we went to bed. All in all it was a great day.