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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.

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Bangkok's back streets. Photo by: Shona Yang

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Returning from my longest trip away from home, it is both comforting and strange to find that nothing much in Sydney has changed. I, on the other hand, feel quite different.

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A different view: Back home in Sydney. Photo: Mikaela Griffith

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My final week at the Bangkok Post has been characterised by the frantic, seemingly endless ebb and flow of a very messy to-do list. I knew this month would fly by, but still I was not prepared to say goodbye so soon.

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Our last day at the Post! Photo: Mikaela Griffith

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Being one of the major economic hubs of South East Asia, Bangkok presents an interesting cultural blend of new and old, and when we’re not working, Mikaela and I are busy exploring the city’s crowded sois, colourful street stalls and vibrant night markets.

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Clocking off at 5pm and exploring the streets of Bangkok. Photo by: Shona Yang.

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I spent my third week at the Bangkok Post preparing a story on the Rhoingya minority group by researching previous media coverage on the crisis and attempting to refurbish the story from a fresh, new angle. My task: create news.

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Our second working week at the Bangkok Post, the halfway mark of our internship, has come to an end but my familiarity, confidence and experience of local life in Bangkok is only just beginning.

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$1 Lunches at the Bangkok Post cafeteria. Photo by: Shona Yang

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I opened up Tuesday’s Lifestyle section of the Bangkok Post, and saw the printed words ‘STORY: MIKAELA GRIFFITH’ at the top of a page. With a yawn, I closed the paper and went to get coffee.

Just kidding. I actually let out a squeak of excitement and did a little dance, a big silly grin all over my face. Super dorky, but seeing my first ever printed article gave me a huge buzz – and I don’t even drink coffee.

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Published! Photograph: Mikaela Griffith

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I scrambled into a taxi, clutching my expansive tourist map as I called out “Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre” to the driver, who nodded confidently and set off. A little while later, as the car moved through the streets of Sathorn, he cheerfully told me that as the Cultural Centre was surrounded by protests, he was taking me “somewhere better” with “lots of good shopping”.

While I do enjoy a good shop, this was definitely not good news: I was headed to the BACC for an interview with exhibiting artist Andrew J West. My first week at the Post, it seemed, would not only be a lesson in navigating busy streets, but also navigating language barriers. Probably should've seen that coming.

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Wild Rush (2013) by Andrew J West, from the exhibition 'Three Worlds' at the BACC. Photograph: Mikaela Griffith

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European couples refuse to let the political crisis disrupt their travel plans, writes Shona Yang.

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My first published piece for the Post. Photo by: Shona Yang

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The Australia Day celebration hosted by the Australian Embassy in Thailand was glamorous and sophisticated, a fitting end to our first working week in Thailand.

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Mikaela and I excited to eat the Ayers Rock shaped cake at the Australia Day function. Photo by: Shona Yang

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In Bangkok city, shirts bearing the colours of the national flag and merchandise plastered with anti-government slogans such as Reform Before Election have become symbolic of the protests that now occupy much of the city.

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Hand written signs surrounding the Silom rally site. Photo by: Shona Yang

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My week in the north has sped by faster than the mad old man who hurtled us through the streets of Chiang Mai on his mad old tuk tuk.

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Adventures in Chiang Mai; Tiger Kingdom, Karen hill tribe village, Mae Taman River, a golden statue of Buddha. Photos by: Mikaela Griffith.

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My grandmother just called to tell me that I'm not to go to Bangkok. She is "very concerned about all that protest business", and would like to use the Australia-Thailand Institute funding for a holiday in Queensland instead. Not happening, Gran.

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Photo by: Mikaela Griffith, card by Kikki K

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My first experience of Thailand was a culmination of three hours in transit at Bangkok’s Survarnabhumi airport. I am en route to Chiang Mai, where Mikaela and I will be journeying through the hill tribes, elephant parks and temples of the north.

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It’s an old cliché but time surely does fly. With just under four days left until departure, D-Day is fast approaching and Bangkok, the city of angels, is just around the corner.

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Our last week at the Bangkok Post has come around unbelievably quick! So far, we organised final interviews and pitched final article ideas to our editors. Along with all the 'finalities', Liv and I have been overwhelmed by encouraging and uplifting words from the friendly Thai bunch that has surrounded us everyday for the past 6 weeks.

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Our time in Bangkok has come to an end and Berna and I have spent our final week frantically finishing our stories. I also spent a whirlwind day trekking around China Town interviewing subjects for my story on redevelopment in the area.

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This past week I got to interview film director James Huth and accompanied Bernadette to her Marion Grasby (of masterchef fame) interview. Time is slipping through our fingers and tomorrow we start our final week at the Bangkok Post...

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Chinese New Year lanterns in Chinatown.

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Over the weekend, Olivia and I took a taxi ride 2 hours north of Bangkok to Pattaya. While Pattaya is a city notorious for less than moral agendas, I assure you we were there to cover a noble cause.

Stephen Beard, owner of the ‘Haven Hotel’ in Pattaya, and committee member of the ‘Baan Jing Jai Orphanage,’ invited us to view the construction site of a new, more accommodating children’s home made possible by the generous funding from a Norwegian company. This company has already promised 5 million baht to provide for the orphanage's relocation, and the donation is likely to be repeated next year.

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Some of the Baan Jing Jai Committee

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The building site of the new orphanage

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Last weeks' highlights included getting published for the first time, interviewing author John Burgess, attending the opening of 'Microfestival - Live at the Scala', going on a days' walking tour through the back alleys of China Town and attending an anti-shark fin rally. To say we have been busy would be a gross understatement...

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Photos taken by me in Bangkok's Chinatown

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Although we don't technically work on weekends, Berna and I spent the majority of our time-off writing and rushing from one side of the city to the other, frantically interviewing subjects on the way. But as the saying goes, there's no rest for the wicked.

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My first week at the Bangkok Post has provided a great learning experience. Although filled with a handful of challenges, there was a silver lining, and a bit of hard work has gone a long way. Let’s start at the beginning...

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First day at the Bangkok Post; felt just like starting year 7 (mainly because I had Pringles in my lunchbox).

Olivia and I stepped through the door on Monday morning, shaking with nervous energy, and we were assigned our positions during our month-long internship. I was placed in the Bangkok Post’s magazine on weekly rotation, Brunch, while Liv was given the Life section.

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My first day at the Bangkok Post

It has been a dream come true working as a 'journalist', doing real interviews and writing real articles. I am thrilled to be working for the LIFE section of the Bangkok Post which is a daily lift out (Monday to Friday) with a focus on Arts, Culture and interesting stories. After meeting my editor Kong I was immediately given several stories to work on and was all too eager to hit the ground running.

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One of the (many) joys about this fellowship experience has been living in a different country. Many of my previous blog posts have neglected to illustrate the menial yet rewarding activities Bernadette Morabito and I have shared together such as cooking. As two 'wogs' with Greek and Italian heritage respectively, quite typically, food is something we have delighted in on this trip.

Thai people have an incredibly beautiful take on food and in a bustling city like Bangkok, there are a constellation of street stalls waiting to be explored. The careful balance of clean flavours and sweet, sour and spicy is a difficult one to replicate, however here is my take on Thai cooking. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious.

You can leave the salmon marinating in the fridge so it's ready to be thrown in the oven after a long day interning.

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From the moment the gleaming silver security gate slid open, revealing a glistening green and gold temple surrounded by a moat full of huge koi fish...I felt strangely at home. The week at the Australian Embassy (as with everything on this trip) has flown by in a flash of meetings, word documents, media events, press releases and iced coffees.

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Aforementioned monster koi!

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After a week at the Australian embassy in Thailand, Liv and I left with a more comprehensive understanding of how each agency works to strengthen ties between our two nations.

The first two days were spent meeting with individuals from each agency for a run down about their roles. Senior Trade Commissioner Greg Wallis and Trade Commissioner Mark Wood greeted us with the formal exchange of business cards. Unfortunately, Liv and I forgot our cards back in our office, and felt as though we’d had our first corporate hiccup in Thailand.

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Our intrepid tour finished yesterday and boy did it fly by. I cannot believe we have been in Thailand for nearly a week and that our internship at the Australian embassy starts on Monday!

The intrepid tour was a fantastic experience largely due to our Thai guide Amy who gave us a wonderful cultural education. On hearing that Berna and I are budding journalists she kindly answered any questions we had and translated the Thai television news for us in the mornings. Having her there to contextualise breaking news such as the Rohinga Refugee story and the Carabao Concert Riot gave us unique insight into contemporary Thai issues that I'm sure will prove invaluable when we start writing our own articles.

Whilst I definitely prefer traveling under my own steam, the tour was great at selecting key tourist attractions that helped broaden our understanding of Thai society. We began the tour by heading to an elephant sanctuary where we watched an elephant paint a picture of a tree. I couldn't believe my eyes as the grey trunk lifted the paintbrush towards the easel and proceeded to create a better portrayal than most humans of the same age (seven years old). Afterwards we clambered upon their backs, gritted our teeth and tried to get used to the jarring and lumbering movement of the elephant as we rode through the jungle and then through a shimmering opal-coloured river...

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The chaos of Bangkok reared its head all too quickly upon arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Running on a combination of excitement and adrenalin we jumped straight into a cab, which crawled its way through the traffic to Bangkok’s glittering butter-yellow train station that looked more like a temple than a train terminal.

To our dismay, the train tickets had sold-out, as it was national ‘Children’s day’- an oversight that saw us desperately searching for alternate arrangements. It was either that or camp out in the station, sharing the floor with similarly weary travelers and a menagerie of stray cats and dogs.

We managed to book last minute bus tickets and were instructed to wait for our ‘driver’ who finally showed up forty-five minutes late, beckoned us to follow him and led us into the busy street. Dodging our way through the speeding traffic we arrived at our ‘bus’, which turned out to be a tuk-tuk. Before we knew it our suitcases had been roped precariously onto the vehicle. Exchanging nervous looks we clambered on board, unable to communicate with the driver and unaware of where we were headed...

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“Don’t venture out of the main city.”

“Don’t drink the water…unless you boil it first…or it’s bottled.”

“Don’t eat off the streets.”

“Don’t get a taxi unless it’s in an assigned bay.”

These are just some of the strict words I’ve received from my ethnic mother, my ethnic family, and my ethnic and non-ethnic friends, about my imminent adventure to Thailand. It’s really as expected from my Italian mother, who’s prided herself on making me a bubbled wrapped child (secured in cling wrap, and finally encased in a sealer bag) but the cynicism from others made me feel compelled to carefully pencil in each detail of my trip for it to run safely and smoothly.

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This morning it gave me great pleasure to circle 'Jan 11' in thick, black texta. After months of counting down and a daily ritual of striking the days off my calendar, it was time to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

After spending a couple of days visiting my parents in Singapore, I'm sitting in Changi Airport getting ready to catch my flight to meet my fellow, fellow (ha) Berna in Bangkok. We plan to take the night train up to Chiang Mai and spend the week experiencing all the 'Rose of the North' has to offer.

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Compulsory cheesy departure shot, taken by my cousin @hollywithers89

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Somehow my time at the Post, and here in Bangkok, has come to an end. I’ve filed my last story on the continued uncertainty and fear in flood-affected regions in Thailand (to be published this coming Sunday), checked in for my flight home and nearly begun thinking about packing my undersized bag.

Having worked/travelled at such a pace for the past five weeks, visiting so many new places and meeting so many new people, I’m afraid once I return to slow-motion time in Sydney, this whole experience will be stored away into a disconnected, distant past.

So to assure myself stuff has actually happened and I have picked up more than just a pair of elephant pants and an appreciation for Sydney’s sewerage system, I’m going to indulge in a few musings. No hyperlinks, no overly drawn-out tales, just a shortlist of my top three semi-meaningful lessons from being an intern, in Bangkok, at the Bangkok Post.

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My Bangkok home

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It’s Friday the 24th of February. For some people that means absolutely nothing, but for me it signals the end of an era. A very short, nonetheless exciting ‘era’. Today’s my last day at GURU in the looming building of the Bangkok Post.

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The Bangkok Post, Ra Ranong Road, Klong Toey.

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Although this is my final week of catching a pink taxi to work, and on the way back, riding a motorbike to the MRT (subway) and walking ‘home’, I plan to make the most of it.

While my articles for Friday were being sub-edited other assignments beckoned, as mentioned before, I submitted seven movie reviews for this Friday’s paper, as well as a food spotlight on Bar@494 and a Wine Me, Dine Me feature on the French restaurant Surface. The photography feature was pushed back another week for something else that came up (timeliness is a key news value after all). It would have been nice to see it in print before I leave; I’m hoping my editor will mail it to me once it’s published the following week.

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“I have a story for you, but you probably won’t be able to do it.”

Paul my editor has a real knack for one-line introductions to my next assignment. Previous ones such as “Just how fit are you?,” “How musical are you?” and “Have you ever shot a gun?” all made me immediately fearful of what was to follow, but this latest preface probably tops it.

Anyway, turns out the story was doable, and I did it.

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Done. My story (on the right) in today's news section of Sunday

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It’s the end of another week here at the Post and with deadlines looming (Friday is deadline day) I am trying to write up some short movie reviews, edit/re-write a ‘Wine Me, Dine Me’ article, i.e. a restaurant review and finish a general feature article on photography in Bangkok.

But that’s not what this post is about, nope. My name is officially in print, this time with by-lines! Before I quickly recap the week that’s been, here are the articles which came out today:

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This is a short restaurant review of Wine Connection.

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Usually running a half-marathon would be the achievement of my Sunday morning. But having my first story published in the Bangkok Post consumed most of my pride today.

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Printing by-line x 3. Articles forthcoming.

Over here at the Bangkok Post’s GURU, issues are put together a week in advance. So when I first arrived everything was being proofed for the coming issue and deadlines for the next paper (3 Feb) were bearing down quickly. Today I can happily say a little something I wrote has been published – the short film reviews for new releases.

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My first story is now “on the page.” Don’t get too excited – it is not actually in the paper just yet. It is sitting on the computer system floating around level two of the Bangkok Post building, waiting for the sub-editors to step in: fact checking every detail, deleting every unnecessary comma and adjective (they would have a field day on this blog), and the most exciting part - writing a heading!

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Flavourful.

It’s not just the food here that has had my taste buds dancing, delighting and sometimes shouting ‘fire!’… This experience has so far been a menu of variety. From navigating through the city via taxi, tuk tuk, motorcycle, Skytrain and subway, to finding my way through the news room, I’ve tasted a number of flavours of life here in Bangkok – foreign, enjoyable, surprising, exciting and very occasionally unpleasant (lost taxi drivers and whiffs of sewer odour).

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Déjà vu - starting work again.

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So, have you ever shot a gun?

Not quite as extreme question as “have you ever had a gun to your head?” but still enough to jolt you from your first-day-at-work-post-lunch daze.

Well, do you want to shoot a gun then?

And so I have my first project at the Bangkok Post.

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Our first day at the Bangkok Post has gone quickly.

We left home at 9:30 am as budding interns eager to embrace the intensity of a foreign news desk.

Turns out our expectations were a little misguided.


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I was going to post yesterday before bed but thought it would be much more fun to report on location. Live.

So here we are. Gemma and I. In our own office in the Public Diplomacy Unit of the Australian embassy in Bangkok – the fourth biggest Australian embassy in the world.

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Gemma and I - ready to leave (one hour early) for our first day at work.

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Dipping my toes into the waters along Phuket’s beaches and exploring the trees and seas of Thailand’s popular tourist region is a reality right within my grasp. In the one week before my internship begins in Bangkok, I’ll be exploring the Northern Andaman Coast of Thailand in Patong, Phuket. Today I fly out to the Kingdom of Thailand!

Bags are packed, day trips booked, itineraries have been drawn up and this adventure of a lifetime is about to start. How can I express my feelings at this point?

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I've never blogged, never been to Bangkok, never had a business card, and never written for a newspaper. So bear with me.

A month ago, my knowledge of Thailand extended to Facebook albums of Full Moon parties, the scenes in The King and I, and the menu at Thai-La-Ong. So when I received the exciting news about interning at the Bangkok Post, I decided it was probably a smart idea to start broadening my knowledge of the city, the country and the region.

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“Gemma Khaicy is a Media and Communications student at The University of Sydney. She has worked at The Bangkok Post …”

I am looking forward to adding that last bit to my writer’s bio next year. What does it means to travel to Bangkok, Thailand and actually intern in one of the major daily English newspapers? Well I am going to find out in an experience of a lifetime.

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Photograph of Bangkok lights, 2011 by Mikiane on Flickr.

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Sent out to cover a new spa therapy alternative for the Post's 'Spa Trek' column, you realise that the proposed treatment is really a load of codswallop? Find out here.

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Where the magic happens...

A strange thing happened to me at the Post this week. I was assigned, among other things, to preview an upcoming Bangkok music festival: the Bangkok Guitar Fiesta. That would be the same Bangkok Guitar Fiesta I worked on press releases for at the Australian Embassy. Can you say 'Conflict of interest'?

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Twiddling thumbs, unusual gifts, transport tussles and Tourist Authority tours. After a week at the Bangkok Post, it has come time to reflect.

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After a week at the Australian Embassy, Satorn Rd, Bangkok, I have to reflect on a level of hospitality that I have yet to experience anywhere else in the world. Once initial introductions were completed and I was installed in my own office (!) amidst the Public Diplomacy team, the real work - and, inescapably, even more introductions - began.

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Apologies for lack of image, apparently my files are 'too large to upload'. Will resolve shortly.

And so, after a short trip to Melbourne (testing out the faulty lung that has kept me away from Thailand until now - and passing), a lengthy delay at Melbourne International (which turned out to be not so lengthy - thus the running to the gate with half a burger and fries jiggling madly in the hands), an expectedly no-frills flight courtesy of JetStar and an aging cab driver with whom I didn't heckle over the doubly inflated 'highway' charges, I'm here in Bangkok.

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To look forward to: The lights, the scale, the traffic of Bangkok.

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In Bangkok Richard, Charintip and I called on Khun Tulsathit the Editor at the Bangkok Nation. Like Pichai, he also regretted that Richard was leaving the program and hoped it would continue, expressing great satisfaction with our Myer interns. He mentioned that he could always use one or more interns and was looking forward to further collaboration.

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Richard, Khun Tulsathit and Robin

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We visited the Bangkok Post and met with Pichai Chuensuksawadi.

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We met with the Ambassador James Wise and his staff at the Embassy.

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It seems like I blinked and it was gone! I'm safely home after a most amazing 6 weeks in Thailand. I had a great final few days at the paper and then flew south to Phuket, where I spent a few nights at a yoga retreat. It was very relaxing yet strenuous (4 hours of yoga day!), but a great place to also finish up my last two articles, which I have now sent off.

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"Things are about to start happening," a veteran reporter at the Post told me on Wednesday, staring into his gin and tonic. "They'll take to the streets".

The Supreme Court will deliver the verdict Feb 26 on charges against deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin, who is charged with abusing his authority when he was prime minister to benefit his business empire. Although government and military officials keep reiterating that they do not expect violence, almost everyone is Bangkok is preparing for some action. It is rumoured that Thaksin's loyal political party - the UDD, a.k.a the Red Shirts - is likely to take to the streets in violent protests and demonstrations should the court find Thaksin guilty. Some are even predicting ANOTHER military coup.

The office and news services here are flushed with speculation, commentary and constant updates on the situation, but I guess only time will tell. For now, though, I'm keeping out of busy public places - last weekend two bombs were found planted, but were disabled before any damage was done. I'm scheduled to fly home on the 26th, decision day, so let's just hope there's not a repeat of the airport closure!

Here'a link to an article form the ABC - http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/02/18/2823516.htm

Fingers crossed I'll leave a peaceful Bangkok.

Last day in the office today, before heading to review the Shangri-La tonight.
Happy Friday!
Sam

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Please find link to my feature article from today's paper that is the whole front page - very exciting!

I'm halfway through my last week at the Bangkok Post, and am suddenly feeling quite sad. It's an awkward period of time, 6 weeks, because you finally start to feel settled and get your feet and then boom, off you go!

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Vertigo in a Bangkok Shopping centre
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Free aerobics in Lumphini Park
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Crazy Chinatown
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I can’t believe it’s nearing the end of my third week in Bangkok…suddenly 6 weeks seems such a short period of time to take in, explore and experience a place. I will have to savor the time I have left.

After an admittedly rough start at the Bangkok Post, where my strength and pride were tested by the fact that no-one knew I was coming, nor had any work for an intern(!), I plucked up the courage to assert myself, introduce myself personally to editors, and in my most polite manner demand some stories. Feeling much more settled this week, I can report that I now have quite a few stories on the go, had my first article published yesterday, and even enjoyed an overnight trip to a luxurious heritage resort on assignment for the travel section of the paper. Lucky me!

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After a very organised and structured week at the Australian Embassy, I have to admit that the start of my first week at the Bangkok Post has been quite the opposite!

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Shot of my studio apartment
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Sailing on the Chao Prayer river at sunset
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Wat Arun, which means Temple of the Dawn, at sunset from the rooftop bar of Amorosa
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Wat Arun silhouetted by the setting sun.

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Sunday night 9pm - touch down in Bangkok. 10pm - arriving at my hotel, realisation slowly set in that the Ibis Nana hotel lay in the notorious Nana Enternainment Complex district, Bangkok's infamous home to its most frequented and popular Go-Go bars of the red light district! Needless to say, the lobby was swarming with old German men with Thai beauties on their arms. But who am I to judge? If the Thai's can accept it, so can I! Location aside, it felt so good to be back. The smells of street food cooking intermingled with the humid night air and the occasional whiff of sewerage is strangely comforting and familiar. Life moves at a million miles an hour, and I knew instantly that this trip would be nothing but fast paced and adventure packed.

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I’ve been to Bangkok twice before. As a fresh faced eighteen-year-old, Bangkok was the overwhelming, energetic, consuming first stop on my gap year out of school. The second time, I ended a summer trip to the Thai beaches and Cambodia with a self-indulgent shopping trip.

But I’ve always only passed through the city once titled the ‘Venice of the East’, and in my preparations and research for this, my next adventure, it’s only just starting to dawn on me how much I might have missed. Which makes the five weeks awaiting me in Bangkok, writing for Thailand’s national English newspaper The Bangkok Post, such an exciting prospect.

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About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.
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