Tuesday February 26, Bangkok
Teak Boat Trip!
John found a day trip on Trip Advisor called “Small Teak Boat Canal Adventure” that looked cool, so he headed to work (I know, not fair) and I headed off to the ASOK BTS station to take the clean and efficient (and air conditioned) sky train to Krung Thonburi on the south side of the city on the west side of the Chao Phraya River. My tour guides Ann and Khing met me and the other folks on the tour, a mom and her married daughter and the daughter’s husband. The husband worked in the US embassy in Bangkok. This family made for great company on the trip, and gave me a glimpse at expat life in Bangkok.
We took taxis to the pick-up pier where we boarded the teak boat for a full-day trip on the canals and an exploration of the traditional method of transportation for Thai people.
Here’s one of the 12 or so dogs I saw at the morning market and around the wats. Most were unresponsive to my clucking and “here boys” – even accounting for the language barrier. I kept thinking, what is so different about these collarless, mangey dogs? And then I realized: their tails did not wag.
Our first stop was the Wat Sai morning market, and our guide Ann bought samples of things for us for our trip – passion fruit (beautiful on the outside and in), peanuts, lychee nuts, crispy deep fried shrimp (I ate a head and the shell during an awkward moment when I asked what to do with it) and more.
Here’s the morning market.
More on Wats and Dogs. We saw this amazing temple in the forest – with monks who had a beautiful golden retriever. This dog was groomed and had a collar – which is way more than you can say for the other 12 or so dogs I saw that day.
It made me feel sad for the other dogs – but our guides told me that the monks feed the animals around the wats (temples). There were armies of cats in the fish aisle of the market near the temple too. The Buddhists don’t believe in killing, so they probably don’t believe in animal neutering either.
Old and New Bangkok. Here’s a guy working on building a road over the old canals. I was so excited when I saw this picture. Not only did it catch his reflection in the water, but it stands as such a perfect metaphor for changing Asia. As these canals get filled in over time, they are no longer dredged; they are allowed to fill and then turned into roads. It was just ten years ago that the fresh water pipes and a sewer system were installed in the canals. Time is moving quickly for the old way of life.
Flood levels. This guy managed the little water/snack shop where we stopped along the river. You see where he is standing? In the next picture, you see the snack counter where he is working – on the same level. This man told us the water came up to the top of that counter when the floods came a couple years ago. Many of these houses were destroyed in the flood.
We were taken to what was called a typical Thai house – but this one was really a house for people selling trinkets and some paintings. We took our shoes off to go in. The house was very open, and it was hard to say where the living took place; the rooms weren’t divided like western houses. The American Embassy lady told me that traditionally, the families share one living space, with very little privacy.
Our guide, Kring, told us she grew up in a traditional Thai house with 14 people sharing the rooms. She said, “The young people today all want too much – they want their own rooms, their own TVs.” But then she went on to tell us, when we discussed healthcare in Thailand (free but long lines for services) that she had spent the equivalent of thousands and thousands in fertility treatments at a regular pay-for-services healthcare facility.
Oh dear – After a day of collarless dogs and metal-roofed rickety river dwellings perched on stilts, it seems way over the top to admit that we are staying here. If we were good Buddhists, we’d give it all up.