expeditions in bangkok.icu.
Bangkok located about 696 kilometres south of Chiang Mai equates to one very long journey on overnight sleeper trains. not an altogether bad experience the drop down bunks are in reality quite impressive but results in one very fitful nights sleep for most. The trip down my bunk had a window which held my interest as we were carried through the country at a rate of speed light years faster than the sleepy villages we streamed past and within seconds left in our wake. In preparation for the planting season vast sections of the country and mountain side were lit completely ablaze as part of the farming technique of slash and burn. Where the undergrowth is exterminated in flames leaving supple ash to mix with the dirt to create a rich fertilizer to better grow the crops, predominantly rice and other food stuffs, that will soon inhabit the ground. This left quite the impression as we past areas miles and miles wide completely engulfed in flames, most not more than 20 feet from the tracks and seemingly completely unattended. After the areas of vacant fertile earth had vanished the blank expanses of land were hidden entirely in darkness but made room for the stars. Stars like i haven't seen since my late night treks through New Hampshire, the kind that seem to touch every crevice of the sky and stretch down just enough to seemingly kiss the horizon line. I've always found comfort in the last remnants of massive balls of burning luminous plasma where energy from nuclear fusion illuminates itself against the dark backdrop of the great beyond. Sleep then finally found me and no sooner had we reached our destination. A quick trip on public transportation (an amenity i never thought i'd miss) led us to the guesthouse on Sala Daeng where our stay commenced with breakfast and our first journey out. Soon after arriving it was apparent that Bangkok may in fact be the center of the earth as the temperature scorched to about 41 degrees celsius ( 106 f) with humidity that created the sensation of a personal sauna. Regardless, we went on a boat tour to explore the canals that gave the city it's ancient title as "venice of the east" which outlined neighborhoods that exist primarily by boat people. These waterways also led us into Wat Arun, the temple of the dawn, a khmer inspired tower that is made of bits of porcelain and created for King Rama III and further on to the Royal Barges Museum. The first day completed with a documentary outlining the violent history of the 1976 uprisings and a very interesting talk with a particularily Liberal Thai student at Thammasat University, Tony. We continued the political and social context conversations over dinner and drinks in the neighborhood of Patpong, one of Bangkok's most famous red light districts. Exploring the market specializing in pirated DVDS and all things fake designer and alleys lined with go-go bars with nothing discreet about the offerings for ping pong shows, the essence of the big city was undeniable. Thursday began early and once again in blistering heat, the onset of a heat wave in the capital, and took us to explore the area of the Klong Toey slum area and The Duang Prateep Foundation. A very touching experience, the immense poverty of these people and their sheer numbers throughout the city is astounding and attests greatly to Thailands status as a newly industrialized nation. Lunch commenced and we finished the afternoon at the Bangkok Refugee Center. For me this was the most interesting and personally inspirational part of the trip as i'm going to school to ideally work in a center just like this one as a counselor, for child refugees on issue of trauma and resettlement adjustment. Being able to listen to the fundraiser talk about the families and their plight in Bangkok, as Thailand doesn't officially recognize the UNHCR work, was amazing. I'm hoping to also take a few days at after the semester is over and hopefully go back to do an art therapy project at the center, maybe murals on some of the blank walls in the courtyard. As the small gated area is their oasis in a world of oppression and segregation the ability to give back and create something more beautiful I think would be a truly unique experience . Thursday ended early and allowed for some much needed rest and a dinner at the first restaurant i've been to in Thailand with a vegan portion of the menu! On our last scheduled day, Friday, we took a Democracy tour to many of the areas of high importance in Thai political history and walked the streets that the student protesters some 30 years ago made their mark on the history of this country. Led by Dr. Paul Chambers the trip that ended at Thammasat University was vastly informational and gave me a much broader perspective and understanding to the tumultuous history here. The day ended with a trip to view the Emerald Buddha at Wat Prakaew, a truly spectacular sight with gorgeous testaments of early buddhist art and architecture. Then to Wat Po which houses the reclining Buddha, the largest single Buddha image. Dinner as a group at an Indian restaurant commenced one of the better nights i've spent in Thailand and my first experience at a Kathoey , or ladyboy, show. Saturday brought a free day to adventure where my sights led me to the largest market in Thailand, Chatuchak, roughly the size of 12 football fields it well represented it's reputation. The day breezed by and as the sunset I was on the train once again this time aimed northward.