Our school was generous enough to send Ana and I to the NESA (Near East South Asia) Spring Educators Conference in Bangkok for professional development. It would be our first time in the heart of Asia. The week spent in Bangkok proved to be not enough time as we only scratched the surface of what the city had to offer. We made the best effort of the seven days. To say it was a radical departure from Alexandria would be an understatement as the culture, food, and activities were a far cary from our life in Egypt. It made us realize the type of excitement and energy we had been longing for. Not to dismiss that there isn't a buzz in Egypt-just different. The culture shock for one of our teacher in particular who had never been outside of the middle east, Bangkok was downright disturbing. Below is a sample of images of places we explored. Enjoy.
We opted to stay in the frantic area of China Town and not at the upscale conference hotel hoping to get a real taste of the city. There were night and morning markets and thanks to jet lag I walked around 5 am and the streets were already bustling with shoppers buying plastic junk in bulk for their shops and export, along with produce and freshly slaughtered animals. Most of the stalls close in the evening and give way to makeshift crowded low-cost food vendors that line the busy streets, sidewalks, and alleys. Add the weekend night sellers hocking their personal goods to round out the equation.
Our second morning was spent at the Damnoen Saduka floating market in Ratchaburi about 2 hours west of the city. The canal was constructed by King Rama IV back in the mid-1800's and is approx. 30 km in length. The experience was lively, colorful and a popular destination for tourists. Vendors sell food, produce, spices, goods, and souvenirs on boats and along the banks. Our skipper channeled us up the canal to get the full experience. The central area, the so-called downtown area is one big clusterf**k of boats dueling to get through the narrow pathway. The act of politeness and patients were exhibited by all.
Much of the food offered by the vendors was a mystery to us foreigners, only those brave enough indulged, especially those on their second can of beer by 10 am.
One of the less congested areas.
Patpong neighborhood in Bangkok-known for the night market, restaurants, bars, and sex shows. We were often approached with a menu of what kind of girl we wanted-yes even with Ana and Barbara in tow-maybe they thought we were kinky. You can get your knock off Polo shirts, DVDs, and soccer jerseys. It looked like Bangkok 101 for westerners fresh off the plane.
I bet you don't find this selection of Pringles at your neighborhood Kroger, Vons, Safeway, Albertsons, Winn Dixie, King Soopers, Piggly Wiggly...
The Red Shirts. I learned through a friend in Laos that there are two main political factions in Thailand-the Red Shirts and the Yellow Shirts. If you have been following the news, we were almost caught in the middle of it all. The Red Shirts called the anti-government faction made up mainly of farmers and laborers have caused a disruption in Thailand's tourism industry. The day we departed the Government issued a state of emergency as protesters stormed government buildings and camped out at tourist spots (mainly shopping malls). There is fear that the protest might escalate into violence. Upon departing, the airport was lined with armed military troops and checkpoints. We'll be keeping a tab on the situation.
A vendor at the infamous weekend market. We had been to the Medinas in Morocco, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, The Khan in Cairo and that training didn't prepare us for the shopping experience we would have at the weekend market. Our favorite part of the market were the boutique clothing vendors who constructed some unusual and interesting wears. I would like to note that the boy above is wearing a shirt by the English skinhead band Last Resort...how is that for an example of globalism.
A scene from a cultural event at the NESA gala. Not only were we provided with killer lunch buffet daily, but also a gala filled with culture and an after party disco. Frank our principal said the dancing was worth sticking around for and the dance deprived middle east teachers let it all out (note-in several countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia doing the "locomotion" or any other form of dancing will get you escorted out of the kingdom faster than you can say "bacon"). The older teachers outlasted the younger ones, that was for sure.