Samui Wining & Dining
Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College is heading for a bright future.

Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College is heading for a bright future.Education can be a life-saver - literally. But all too often those who would most benefit are denied a chance to turn their lives around – high fees are to be paid. And for many, even a small fee is impossible. On Samui, a solution has been found that presents a way round all of this. Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College was built entirely by charitable donations, and offers all courses, as well as board and lodging, completely free. The college is situated on a fertile plain near Namuang, and is the size of a small village. You won’t see it from the road, but its presence is already making itself felt. It opened in 2017, with no fanfare at all, and has been making strides into the future ever since. The college was created by Khun Suthep Thaugsaban, a well-known politician and a visionary with a clear focus on practical education, accentuating languages, training and work placements.


The students, who come from all over Thailand, receive a high-grade vocational training which will enable them to enter the hospitality industry, fully-trained in an area of their choice, and in addition they’ll also able to speak a foreign language. Language studies are incredibly important, as anyone in the hospitality business will tell you. At the college, English and Chinese factor highly in the curriculum. The aim is for students to be fully conversational in both of these languages when it comes to work-related matters.


Students have a choice of six majors at the college: Culinary Arts & Nutrition, Chinese and English Language, Tourism, Hotel Management, Information Technology and Accounting. No matter what course is chosen, training is very much practical. Assessments and mid-term tests exist to provide students and staff with feedback, but 90% of classes are practical.


Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College consists of spacious classrooms, dormitories and communal areas, and includes live-training kitchens, a bakery, chicken factory and a rice farm. If you go there, you’ll see that everything is well-organized, carefully thought out, and has the look and feel of a prestigious college. Nothing has been skimped on.Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College is heading for a bright future. The students all look happy, and there’s no patronizing feel of charity being bestowed.


Some of Thailand’s biggest companies have donated to the college, and there have been some surprises too, along the way. For example, the Israeli embassy in Bangkok set up a complete fruit and vegetable hydroponics unit at the college, all for free.


The college is run by experts who are at the top of their industries. Assistant Professor Narong Buddhichiwin, Ph.D., is overall responsible for ensuring that the college is headed in the right direction. Other in house experts include veteran hotelier John Ens, who’s in charge of work place development and training as well as guest speakers, and Chef Don Lawson who’s responsible for all culinary arts and nutrition. He’s helped by Chef Somroj Mepiern,Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College is heading for a bright future. and together the two chefs teach a whole range of cuisines, not just European and Thai, but also Chinese, Japanese, vegetarian and vegan. With top professionals such as these, students are assured of learning their craft to the highest degree, and bringing total satisfaction to the guests they’ll be looking after over the years to come.


over mere good intentions. To that end students have started production of chocolate, pistachio and cherry brownies. More than just yummy, everything to do with these brownies has been planned by the students themselves. It’s not just a question of a moreish recipe - the students have also costed out the idea beforehand, then done the packaging and organized the marketing, distribution and accounting. Students will also soon be making marmalades, spicy dips and curry pastes which are destined to go to resorts and then be passed on to the guests there.


It’s not all about work here at the college. What surprises some visitors is the sight of five monks who live and work at the college and are always present. They provide help and guidance to the students; the ethos here is practical Buddhism – the college believes very much that its students should be happy and fulfilled in their lives,Bhavana Bodhigun Vocational College is heading for a bright future. with Buddhist ideas and precepts, as taught by Bhavana Bodhigun, underpinning their education. The intensive three-year courses started with the first intake of 150 students, with similar numbers enrolling each year. As time goes by, the college is becoming ever better known, not just on the island but nationwide.


Plans for the future include the acquisition of more land in order to set up a farm producing vegetables, herbs and poultry. A hotel is also planned – this will provide still more hands-on opportunities to students. Meanwhile, the college is actively seeking further contacts with hotels and tourism-orientated businesses, and also invites chefs to come and do demonstrations that may further inspire the students.


With hundreds of adolescents being given the chance of a lifetime, and hotels in Thailand provided with dedicated and skilled workers, this is a great step forward for individuals as well as the country as a whole.


Dimitri Waring


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