For a great many residents of Bangkok, housing developments consist of clusters of subsistence housing, often lining one of the numerous klongs, or canals, that criss-cross the city. Home construction varies, from solid concrete and wood two story, to those made of any available material, and kept up through the years by repairing with such items as discarded political posters, corrugated tin sheets, odd planks, and baling wire. The structures are simple, usually one room with mats on the floor for sleeping, cook stoves next to the house, and rainwater conserved in large clay urns for showering during the dry season. Scavenged wood planks allow access to doorways across mud or water.
One of the best ways to see the "other" Thailand, always just within reach of any tourist destination, is to walk along a klong settlement and talk to the folks who live there. That is the subject of this photo essay.
|Klong settlement, Ramkhamhaeng Road, Minburi|
|These gentlemen insisted that I have two shots of whiskey and a soda chaser...at 9 AM. I obliged, of course.|
Many times one sees groups of men sitting in the shade, chatting, smoking, playing cards, drinking, just about anything other than working. Some are retired, some unemployed, others piece together jobs when they can. Nearly always they are congenial and happy to shoot the breeze with a farang (foreigner). It goes particularly well if one can speak at least a bit of Thai. It shows respect for their country, culture, and language.
|Where do these little kids learn about "the pose?" Delightful youngsters.|
It doesn't seem to matter where I am, kids materialize out of the nowhere, either to stare at the farang who they rarely see in their neighborhood, or to pose for photos. In this case, it was both!
|This was as far as I got on one side of the klong. Notice the planks leading over the water to the back door.|
This particular klong was at capacity, unlike most others in our area, and spilled a bit over its banks and across the walkways into an adjacent rice paddy. The residents are undeterred, simply walking or biking across.
|Raising roosters for cock fighting. The adult fighting males are kept sequestered in one of the baskets.|
Chickens roam freely in most Thai neighborhoods, and this one is no exception. Once the roosters reach maturity however, they are trained to fight, and spend the rest of their lives (the losers usually end up as dinner) alone in a split bamboo cage.
|Time for hair brushing.|
Some scenes are simply variations on universal domestic themes: watching TV, preparing food, washing clothes, bathing, sipping tea and chatting with friends, helping the kids get dressed in the morning.
|The simple life and smiles seem to go together in Thailand.|
Each home allows a peek into the private lives of the people who live on the klong. Wide open doorways and windows provide access that at first seems impolite, too intimate, to a westerner. I had to take many trips into such neighborhoods until I learned that if I was to be welcome--and to feel comfortable--I had to smile, show respect and greet each person I came across, and really mean it. More often than not, people are happy to chat, as in most parts of the world, about the weather (in this case, impending floods), their children, the beautiful spirit house that they lovingly attend. I find that it is a two-way street: they also want to know about me, and especially what I think of Thailand and khon Thai (Thai people).
|These ladies were not too concerned about the coming flood. "We're safe up here." It was less than a meter above klong level.|
|Aungs, ceramic water urns full of monsoon rain water for use during the upcoming dry season.|