Experiencing a City of Contrasts


The change in time zones got me confused and I was up out of bed way too early.  While waiting for Sarah and Kendrick to appear, I took in the cityscape from my bedroom window. It was difficult to fathom the contrasting sights that I saw. There were freshly painted large apartment buildings and hotels towering over unpainted and forlorn looking buildings that families called home. Even the two sides of a duplex were different as night and day – one side painted and tidy and boasting new windows, the other very much in need of some TLC. Our day was to be much the same.

After a late breakfast in the hotel dining room, I got my money exchanged and then we went to see the school where Sarah and Kendrick taught. It’s a school for the young children of international dignitaries or wealthy business men, but it’s also an “alternative” school. The classrooms are unstructured – no desks in tidy rows or teachers standing at a black board lecturing.  Instead, the children are encouraged to participate and learn by doing, with the teachers’ guidance. An annual group building project teaches research, logistics, math skills, and craft skills.

Boat House

One project, an outdoor boat house.

Children working together

Children working together

Dragon

Another project – a colourful dragon dominates the school lobby

The children all seem to be happy to learn.  I couldn’t help but think that I might have done better in a school like this! I’m sure many others can relate.

When we left the school, we made our way through the streets that were crowded with street vendors, and into the neighbourhood where Sarah and Kendrick had lived until a few days before. This was an area of small wooden structures, some houses, some shops. We met up with good Thai friends of Sarah and Kendrick, Fatima and Daeng. They lived with their five-year-old daughter in one room in the back of a noodle shop. There older son lived many hours away with Fatima’s parents where he could attend the schooling that could not be afforded in Bangkok. Fortunately Sarah and Kendrick had become quite fluent in Thai during their years there. None of their former neighbours spoke English so I was at a loss to participate in the conversations. Daeng’s only source of income was driving a song thaew, which is the most common type of public transportation in Thailand. Named for the two benches found in the rear passenger area, the song thaew is a pickup truck converted for carrying passengers and some cargo. These vehicles are regulated and licensed by the government.

song thaew

Sarah and Fatima wait in the song thaew for Bea

The four of us drove in it to pick up Bea, Fatima & Daeng’s daughter, from public school and then had lunch at “The Mall”, the first North American style structure I’d seen so far. I ordered “ice milk” expecting plain, cold milk.  What I got was more like a pink milkshake with indiscernible flavours, possibly strawberry and mint.

Ice milk

Traditional Thai lunch, including “ice milk”

The traffic in the city was crazy. There were way too many cars, very few traffic lights or stop signs. The many motorcycles, sometimes carrying whole families, drove two or three abreast, darted between and around cars and even drove on the sidewalks to get through traffic. Some drivers wore helmets; some didn’t. Courtesy was not practised; it was every driver for himself.

At six o’clock we were once more picked up by Mrs. T’s car and driver, this time to be taken to a very fancy, modern hotel on the Chao Phraya River, for an elegant and delicious dinner. We were also adorned with gifts; a beautiful diamond necklace for Sarah as a thank you gift for the teacher, and a gorgeous piece of pink silk fabric for me!

One thought on “Experiencing a City of Contrasts

  1. Wow, what a culture shock that would be, but is to be expected when land is utilized to the fullest. Was that dragon made by the children or was it just an exhibiition in the classroom? The songthaews are really interesting — we are so privileged to have such modern vehicles in North America. Makes one appreciate what we have.

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