Saturday, February 8, 2014

In the Ghetto...

Yesterday afternoon, I had a couple hours to kill between classes, and since I had some 'back up' in the form of a friend visiting from another part of BKK, I suggested we go on a walk/video safari through the nearby Khlong Toei neighborhood.

Khlong Toei is home to some of the poorest slums in Bangkok. One of the first things I learned was the Thai word for slum: sa-lum, as we inquired with the locals as to where it might be interesting to go and walk.  

Now, I'll say from the start that I wasn't too bold in my camerawork.  See, even though I wasn't THAT afraid to be walking around there in the daytime, I still didn't want to be overly demonstrative as a foreigner with a portable device in my hands that's worth about half what these folks make in a year.  Besides, these were people just living their lives. Being all touristy by asking them to smile for the camera just didn't sit all that well.  Most of what I recorded was shot covertly, holding the camera down at my waist and just hoping I caught something interesting.  

We started out walking along the railroad tracks with ramshackle corrugated metal lean-to's crowding the railway.  It was hot.  The kind of weather where you just want to lie in a hammock and do nothing.  

Weren't sure if these tracks had traffic or not, as there were all kinds of instances of people with their various tasks spread all over the line.  Then, a train came by.  There was a man on the train.  Literally, a man on the train.  

Kentucky Fried Chicken is everywhere here in Bangkok, but it is relatively expensive compared to the local fare.  In Khlong Toei, forget the KFC.  They've got KFD
I've heard their fried chicken feet are 'OK'. 

They don't have broken down cars or trucks in the yards of Bangkok's slums.  In fact, it kinda looks like this truck is being used as one wall of a building.  It's certainly not going anywhere.  

Eventually, we made our way into the alleys.  Years ago, the poor who came to Bangkok to work at the new seaport put up their shacks as
squatters and they've been there ever since. It was actually kind of quiet as there are no cars and buses on the roads.  The roads are only about five feet wide.  

Apart from one guy who looked a little hopped up on goofballs, we didn't get any dirty looks or even all that much attention as we wandered through.  The people were okay with us being there.  In fact, one little girl pointed at us and said: "Mommy, look!" as the two foreigners passed. Mommy looks up and says in Thai "we're lucky today." 

Some of the people of Khlong Toei:

And here's the short video...


  1. In spite of how close they live, and how poor they are, they look pretty clean. Things are shabby and worn, but theredoesn't seem to be as much crap on the streets as there is in the neighborhood you live in. Is it because they have nothing to waste or mindlessly throw on the streets?

    I hear chicken feet make really good soup broth.

  2. Seeing things like that makes you feel humble and grateful for what you have...


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