Saturday, January 17, 2009


Well, I wish I could speak to some of the exciting things taking place in Bangkok you've read about here, but sadly I've been ill for the greater part of our time in the city! I can, however, say that I've seen a Thai hospital, which is an experience in and of itself. Actually, I'm guessing the hospital I was at wasn't exactly representative of all Thai hospitals (their slogan was "BNH Hospital - Experts in International Care" - so I think it was more or less a hospital designed for foreigners like me), but I was quite impressed nonetheless. For one, I've never gotten into *any* emergency room quite that fast (and I didn't look too bad at all by the time I got there)! The moment Dr. Iyer and I walked in a nurse approached me and demanded what was wrong with me -- next thing I knew, I was laying on a bed in a pristine care center. Shortly thereafter, they had me hooked up to an IV, and about 45 min later we were led to the pharmacy where I was given three separate medications in a dainty little gold and white shopping bag that looked as if I had just purchased jewelry at Bloomingdale's. All this, and the total price? About $100. Sure, $100 is a lot, but compared to US emergency room visits -- amazing! In fact, the actual doctor's visit was only $12, while the rest of the price was mostly comprised of the medications ($50 or so), IV fluid, medical supplies, etc. ...In case you're wondering, I probably just had a case of food poisoning, though the fever I had on Friday led Dr. Iyer and I to get it checked out here in Thailand before hitting rural Cambodia.

In any case, though, I felt a great deal better yesterday, so (as I'm sure you'll read elsewhere here!) quite a few of us hit up the Reclining Buddha yesterday morning. That sight was amazing if only for its sheer size -- it was *enormous*!! We also attempted to go to the Grand Palace, but all of us decided it was somewhat overpriced, so that was out. Next Stephanie, Faith and I hit up the Weekend Market, which is apparently the largest outdoor market in the world - and I wouldn't doubt it, as we were exhausted after a few hours of roaming and probably only covering a tiny fraction of the Market. By the way, as Stephanie pointed out, the "pets" area was seriously depressing -- thousands of animals, including hundreds of purebred puppies (pugs, chow chows, cocker spaniels, pomeranians...), crammed into these tiny, tiny cages and constantly surrounded by people. One of the more disturbing things we saw was this squirrel dressed up in a funny outfit, hat and everything, on top of a cage looking petrified. There was a sign right above him that said "no photo, no video," so I'm not sure if any of us got a shot of him, but I hope so. I really wondered who was breeding these animals, and perhaps more importantly, who was buying them... eek.

In any case, though, we finally sat down to eat, and for the first time in a couple days I managed to eat a decent amount - though I stuck to comfort food this time (lame American!), consisting of spaghetti and tomato basil sauce. Unfortunately, though, that left me feeling a bit off-kilter (I think all the action coupled with more food than I'd eaten in two days was a bit much), and once I got back to the hotel I wasn't exactly feeling up for much of anything. I ended up falling asleep at 7 -- lame! -- and missed out on the Red Light District excursion! That bothers me a lot, as (as I'm sure you've read here) that certainly sounded like an eye-opening experience. Oh well, at least a few others got photos/videos - can't wait to see them!

Anyway, I'll have to write more later, when hopefully I'll have been doing something more exciting than holing up in the hotel room!!

Bangkok Day 2

Alright, so just a quick reflection here...a few of us managed to visit Bangkok's weekend market, which in itself is quite an experience and here are a few of the things we observed:
- Do not donate money to the street children, no matter how hard it is to walk by...sometimes the whole thing is a bit overwhelming (this one in particular was a burn victim and scarred for life) and all you want to do is give the poor child something, but while watching from a far we saw an adult quickly swoop in and exchange anything he collected for an apple to pacify the child for a few more hours while he roasts in the sun. Sadly, these donations are what kept him there and promotes the whole begging culture.
-Do not buy any animals from the market. This was perhaps the most depressing section in the weekend market, because there were hundreds of puppies, kittens, bunnies, squirrels, etc. all stuffed in small cages without access to water most of the time and being man-handeled by dozens of people- some of which I am sure will use the pets for dog-fighting, food or breeding.
-Also, never pay full price. Some of my friends felt guilty haggling for an already cheap item, which is understandable, but they will never sell you anything without making a profit and actually enjoy the sport of haggeling.
-On a side note, some other markets were located in the red light district...most of these women who prostitute themselves are teenagers, some extremely young virgins, who have no other source of income other than sleeping with foreign businessmen, tourists, or locals for money. Societal stigmas often blame and dehumanize these women, thinking they have a choice, but clearly in this situation they do not. Sometimes their own parents are actually the ones who put them up to the job. The whole experience makes you sick to your stomach watching some greased-up, mid-life crisis, 40-something year old taking these girls away for who knows what. There were also the advertisements for "ping-pong, animal or banana" shows, which I will not elaborate on but hopefully you get the drift. It was disgusting. The industry thrives in Bangkok, and sadly, when you help reduce the supply of prostitutes the demand simply moves elsewhere. Anyways, I will post more later on once we reach Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Ashley, Steph and I went to Thailand early and we all went to a small island in the southern part of Thailand. We went to Raliey Beach and stayed in the jungle and went rock climbing, snokeling, swimming, hiking and kayaking all over the island. It was amazing. We went snokeling at night and swam with the photoplankton.

On the 15th, we made our way back to Bangkok and met up with everyone in our group. A few things about that small trip have really stuck out in my mind. First of all, even though many of the Thai's don't speak English, the little English they know is about peace, no war and the hope of a bright future with Obama.

After our short trip to the islands, we made our way back to Bangkok. Our first day in Bangkok was spent with the Asia Foundation and CPRC. Learning about the boarder conflict between Cambodia and Thailand was very interesting because I didn't know it was such a big issue between the two countries. I related the Thai/Cambodia boarder conflict to the Germany/France conflict decades ago. It is really difficult to understand why they can't work closer to try and come to some kind of agreement but I also understand that giving up land for Thailand is admitting they were wrong.

The child protection agency was really wonderful. Joe explained everything in such great detail and really helped us understand trafficking of children, women and men. I had not known that men were trafficked as much as women in Thailand and that Thailand changed its trafficking law to include men in the law. I really appreciated the information that I was given and it has really helped me understand the culture and conflicts in Thailand and Asia much better! Later on I'll post more about the Weekend Market and the leaning Buddha!