Touring Thailand

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Klong Toei

Inside Klong Toei

Beggar Slum

The name conjure’s up images of a sordid and slum-filled part of Bangkok with ramshackle tin-shacks and sanitation not much different from a 3rd world hell-hole in Africa.
My journey into the ‘Klong’ started from Subway station 1.

Just before I left the subway carriage a brutish and chunky looking farang made stupid and condescending comments about the pronunciation of the station itself when the announcement that we’d arrived.  Klong Toei being said in a distinct and emphasised manner.  Sighing at the lowly standards that the new-wave of farang seem to be setting I exited, glad that the swarthy and greasy looking fellow was not leaving the carriage also.

Although I was not naive enough to believe that there would be a sprawling shanty town at the door way, as I ascended from the bowels of Bangkok on the elevator I did wonder if there’d be an element of that at least.

PicKlong Toey MRT

On the street outside I saw it was as I’d reckoned, working class buildings of three to four stories lined a main road running north-east to south-west.  In the background were the ever-present skyscrapers, a notable one being the imposing Lumphini Tower.

Lumphini Tower

A part of me was still curious about the slum-factor this district was supposedly known for and I turned left, following the road to where an expressway roared overhead.
It was not only an expressway but a vast intersection of road, far too big to cross unless you sprinted at full pelt as constant traffic from all four directions was relentless once it was their turn.
A railway track passed across it from left-to-right and I briefly considered walking down it for a bit to see what was down there.  But I  quick look showed it was urban wilderness in both directions.

(I later learned that the actual slum was just under a mile to the east and I was on the fringes of the 'slum zone' at where the MRT is).

Dismissing that direction I turned around and headed back in the direction of the MRT, a young farang with the look of the Norse about him just exited and I could tell he was out to explore like I was. 
Stopping in front of him I let him know that on foot it was almost impossible to get across the road and that there was nothing to be seen.  I’d intuitively guessed right on his intention as he thanked me for the info and made his way back inside the MRT.

Klong Toey MRT Station

Emboldened that it was not just myself that set’s out on roving adventures I continued past the MRT and into the Klong Toei district further.
A shambling and wretched-looking beggar appeared ahead of me, the signs were there, pants that were almost worn away at the seat and the hollow, wasted look about him.  While they seem harmless enough a beggar has little to lose with the state of his life and circumstances. 

Klong Toey Beggar

I discretely fired off a few shots and footage of him once he was a safe distance away.
Notice the tattoo’s that adorn him, they say that these are for luck and grant powers.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if he's either had them done after his more ‘down-at-heel’ turning point in life, or just abused the chances the beggar had to end up in such a state?

Klong Toey Traffic

The road traffic here is steady and brisk enough but in rush-hour I cannot say the standard, expect it to be near a standstill.
I cross over here completely to the other side.  On this side of the road  near to the MRT there is a more ‘working class’ aspect I notice.  The soi’s are slightly narrower and the people somewhat poorer from the look of it.
The buildings here though are bright yellow, something I’d not seen before in Bangkok.  Looking to the end of the Soi I notice that the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly building is dead ahead!
Before I can get to it there’s some doings afoot in front of me.

Ice Machine Klong Toey

An ice machine with a small work-crew grafting like trojans.  They dump in the great block of ice, it slices the thing into ice of a fine ‘slush’ composition, which is packed into bags.  The Thai’s work it like a machine and themselves like a well-oiled mechanism.  They’ve been doing this all day so far I reckon, but still they carry on.  The heat might be pounding but the Thais have work to do!
I’m only about four yards away filming and they soon notice me.
Amid certain other races and nations this might earn me scorn or derision for recording their toil, but not the Thais.  They are not in the slightest bothered or upset that I’m among them recording the doings.  The give off mostly happy and warm smiles to the wandering stranger.  Perhaps it’s because they’ve never endured the double-edged wonders and trials or imperialism that I get such a friendly welcome as the adventuring white man?  Who can tell...

Thailand Tobacco Monopoly

Further down I go and get to the gates of the Monopoly building.  It’s yellow too, and is probably where the trend started for this area.  Some vendors are selling food and seem happy and cheery enough.  The constant traffic blasting in and out of the gates makes filming and picturing a bit hairy but after a few close-calls all is well.
I eat some nice and tasty pineapple from here but after a bit more walking back up the soi decline the restaurants.   The meat looked a bit too dodgy from what I’m used to in other Thai restaurants.  Good for a Thai stomach, 50/50 for a farang one. This place I reckon, is truly one of the salt of the earth Districts of Bangkok.

Thai Tobacco Entrance

There’s plenty of old cars here, rough and ready, but still in action and serviceable from what I can tell. 
This one here has seen heavy use yet still has a good bit of life left.

Old Thai Car

As I explore further down the main road I notice a green fence to my left, it’s got spaces in it that reveals a small slum in Klong Toei.  It’s not like the sprawling and crowded slums that occasionally get shown on the Thai TV/  This one is on a verdant green wasteland.
As I walk further along the grassy slum a large opening for cars and bikes becomes noticeable.  A guard post is inside it and for a moment I hesitate.  At first I think it’s being manned but the two Thais inside it are slum dwellers, half-drunk and lethargic.
I go inside to begin my observing work.

Klong Toey Slum

I looks as though, at one time, the area was under some development, possibly just prior to the 1997 crash.

In the background are some cheap and cheerful white apartments, perhaps one day they’ll be the slum people living there as well?

Klong Toey Slum Area

One thing that impresses me about the Thai people is there ability to innovate their surroundings.  They take this and that to make use of in their dwellings. 

Thai Slum Bangkok

Here’s is one such example that has ,made use of the felled trees

Tree House Slum

Something showing that a Thai can be comfortable in a barn, shack, house or a palace.

Thai Shack With Car

This shack showing humble status yet with the status symbol of a car outside.

Thai Mercedes

In this picture we see a greater status symbol.  A mercedes Benz while in the background is the lowliest of dwellings looking on.
Perhaps it represents how a  Thai may be comfortable in rustic surroundings and the slums while presenting the mirage of wealth to the ‘outside’ world when they go about their business.
Just before I leave I notice a dark and gloomy Thai siphoning fuel from a battered car.  I get some footage but I’ve overstepped the mark a touch.  He gives me a mean look and I offer to help, or at least, as best I can offer while filming him simultaneously.
That’s the thing about doing this, you want to get in amid the goings on, but you don’t want be intrusive, especially when you aren’t welcome.  I’ve planned and gone out into this as a daylight expedition and I’m glad.  At nightfall the reception at this place might be more hostile than a few moody looks...

I encounter a strange swarthy farang afterwards asking for directions.    He’s got a docile-looking farang girl with him.
After I tell him he walks in the direction I tell him the MRT is.   I notice him casting strange looks at me, as if to say ‘who are you to photograph Thailand and it’s poorer denizens and places?’
That ‘we-must-not-intrude’ mentality always makes me laugh, it’s as if there’s a silent lie of having to act like we don’t see the ugly side of things and must be silent because of it.  Not this man I can assure you.

I snap off a shot of him, he can go into the ‘farang collection’ I’m putting together (with identity’s screened of course!)

I didn't have time or the location but there's a charity foundation that hangs out to the eastwards called 'The Mercy Centre' which takes care of kids who've had the misfortune of being afflicted with deadly diseases and disibility's.

Continues Here: Klong Toey Market

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Chang Mai Province Phitsanulok Bangkok Koh Tao Koh Pang Yan Koh Samui