the real Bangkok

27 December 2007 § Leave a comment

The tourist attractions of Bangkok–the elaborate temples, the beautiful palaces, the colorful markets–are not what define the city. One has to search for them amid dirty sidestreets and gargantuan highway bridges, past the plastic lawn chairs of the street restaurants and a mangled beggar or two. The city is not the ancient sights, but the people and how they live.

Two nights ago, three of my teammates and i had the privilege of experiencing the reality of Bangkok. We went to visit the friends of a couple of the girls who are a part of the ministry we have been serving, and to see if there was a place we could return to with the rest of the team.

Much of the evening consisted of walking through the streets of the slums. One girl lived down a narrow walkway, inside a house with a bright blue door. Her living room consisted of a platform of wooden planks to sit on, furnished with an oscillating fan.

As we walked, the girls kept meeting people they knew, and they would feel free to join our expedition. Soon we had a party of over ten, not including the five “falangs” (Thai word for foreigner). They didn’t speak much English, and we didn’t speak much Thai, but we managed to exchange names and ages somewhat accurately. They seemed to be a little wary of us, but they were always friendly, as is Thai culture.

At one point, we came across a group of about twenty children, mostly boys. After some mingling, and some attempts at English (“Falang! How are you?”), they decided to take us through a short cut. As we made our way through junky yards, and in between closely-spaced houses, across board-bridges over puddles, and past multitudes of flea-bitten dogs, we felt completely immersed in Thailand. We couldn’t understand a word that was being trumpeted about us, and as we walked we caught glimpses of home life: moms cooking, children watching small TV sets, men sitting and smoking.

That was a night that i am not likely to forget.

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