of soaring & dreaming

September 1, 2008

Field Trip to Chiangmai (Part 1)

Filed under: Events,Sustainable Communities Course,travel — carnationzky @ 10:19 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
I just loved the color & design of the bus upholstery!

I just loved the color & design of the bus upholstery!

We were excited to see in the training schedule that we would be traveling up to Chiangmai, one of the major tourist destinations in Thailand. The last time I was there was about a year ago, on my way to Phayao province. During this training we would just spend one day in Chiangmai due to limited time. We flew by Air Asia early in the morning and then took the last flight on the same day back to Bangkok. I was both excited and also worried since we were scheduled to leave AIT at 430 am, and gauging by my waking time during the past few days, I was not sure whether I could wake up that early. Everybody had the same thought. So the night before we left, I set three types of alarm in my mobile phone as it has no snooze function. I am using a simple and cheap one. In addition, I also set my husband’s mobile phone to ring, which has a snooze function. In this way, I had at least four different alarm sounds trying to wake me up. Target time was 330 am. Too early for all of us. I also slept late that night so I barely had 5 hours’ sleep. But wake up I did when the phones started their chorus. I still had time for a cup of coffee and a shower, and off I biked to AITCC to meet with the rest of the group and arrived there before 430.

With my SEA-UEMA colleagues.

With my SEA-UEMA colleagues.

Most of us slept in the van on the way to the airport and even during the flight. Some of us had breakfast on the plane even though we had our own snack box. I had a cup of hot chocolate and tuna crackers.

When we arrived in Chiangmai, we were led to the parking lot where a big tour bus was waiting. It was good so we could all travel in one group. During the past days traveling we had to use four vans and travel separately. And we had to be with our own group! It would have been nice to also travel with the others for more exchanges and varied experiences.

Since we had some time still before our appointment with the Chiangmai city officials, we toured the old city and then stopped at one of the temples. Most of us took photos of the buildings especially the ones with interesting art works. Then it was time to go meet the officials. We were there for the whole morning, listening to presentations. I had to stand many times and walk around just so I would not doze off. I knew the minute I closed my eyes, those camera flashes would go off. Actually nearly everyone was watching who would sleep and we would take photos of them. Just for fun! The sessions in the morning were both interesting and thought provoking. But our group was too big and there was too much information for an effective interaction. So by lunch time we were nearly out of energy, and so sleepy. We were glad there was some coffee and snacks to perk us up. Nice Thai hospitality again!

Keeping eyes and ears open!

Keeping eyes and ears open!

We had our buffet lunch at Centara Grand Hotel which was quite nice as there was a variety of food. We had about 1.5 hours before our afternoon field visits. Then it started to rain. We were hoping that it would stop by the time we arrived at the first field site but it was still raining a little bit. So they distributed raincoats and we all felt like we were from outer space going into the community. After a short walk we felt so hot in our raincoats, as the rain had already stopped.

Seriously considering urban planning & tourism issues?

Seriously considering urban planning & tourism issues?

Housing provided by the city to relocate residents living on the river banks.

Housing provided by the city to relocate residents living on the river banks.

August 31, 2008

A Dream for Bangkok

Filed under: Events,Sustainable Communities Course — carnationzky @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

issues, stakeholder analysis & interactions

Group output re: issues, stakeholder analysis & interactions

During the Sustainable Communities training I attended for two weeks in August, our group was assigned to work on a case study re: Bangkok’s transport system. The other groups had their own case studies, such as the coastal erosion in Bangkunthien, urban planning in Chiangmai, and tourism in Chiangmai. During the last day of the training, all groups had to make a presentation of the group outputs, i.e. our dream relevant to the topic and any innovative solutions we could suggest.

We were told about the details of this major presentation a few days prior to the presentation itself. So all groups, except ours, started their meetings to discuss and prepare. As for our group, we just told each other to start thinking about it and then we would just meet the day before the presentation to discuss and finalize. We had less than a day to prepare the details and presentation materials as we started around 10 am. Then in the afternoon we still had a session which was sort of diverted us from our case study preparations. After the session we had maybe a couple of hours to resume, then we left for Ayutthaya for our farewell dinner. So it was only after we came back that we again resumed our preparations (about past 9pm) and finally dispersed at nearly 1 am of the following day.

Anyway, we were able to organize our presentation in such a way that we enjoyed both the preparation and the actual presentation itself. We had both the serious and fun stuff, as well as a creative way in our presentation. We presented our dream as we had discussed in previous group sessions, and then we also asked the other participants to draw their dream for Bangkok in year 2020. Then we had an interactive game containing vehicles, non-motorized transport and arrows to be played by different stakeholders. We ended our presentation with a rap-song rendition entitled, “Bangkok, City of Smiles”. The words are written below:

Bangkok, city of smiles

You bring happiness to our lives

Waking up in the morning

We can hear the birds singing

We can smell the air so sweet

We can face life, without any grief.

Stepping out into your streets

We feel clean, we feel free

No more sickness, no more worries

Enjoying life with friends and families.

Safety and protection

Energy conservation

Efficient, effective transportation

Sustainable for all generations.

Kids, youth, adults, elderly

Students, tourists, workers, employees

Working together, everybody

Making Bangkok a livable city. © ANS

A better Bangkok … for them…

August 26, 2008

Field trip to Bangkok

Our first field trip during the recently concluded training on Sustainable Communities was to explore Bangkok using the different public transportation modes, especially the modern ones. First we went to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) Transportation Division, then later to the Metropolitan Rapid Transport Administration (MRTA) Office. In both offices we met AIT alumni both from the older (70s and 80s) and recent batches. We were shown what they are doing regarding mass public transport and their plans to better the situation in Bangkok and nearby areas, regarding transport system for the public. It was nice to listen to their dreams and they really are sincere in trying to make things better. It would be good to have a seamless transport system in Bangkok and we do not have to drive our cars but just hop on at the nearest train or bus station near our home. We were shown the plans of BMA for a Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) System and hope this will be successful. Also MRTA’s expansion plans which include going even to AIT/Thammasat. Wow that will be the day, when we do not have to drive, with the train station just next door and we can go all the way down to Bangkok. That will be good also to the environment, and our pockets.

Smile! We were all camera crazy inside the train!

Smile! We were all camera crazy inside the train!

After the meetings, we went to the nearest MRT station, at the Thai Cultural Center. All of us were excited, even me, as I do not use the subway really. The last time I used it was a long time ago. If I have a choice I would use the sky train. But actually I did not have any qualms using the same thing in London, Manila, Netherlands, Singapore, Tokyo and Toronto . Except here because of some safety issues. But maybe it is better now. We used the subway to go to Chatuchak Market/Mochit Station so we could transfer to the BTS/sky train. We were quite a big group and so it was quite a worry maybe for the guides in case some of us got lost! It was quite easy in the subway as there was not much crowd there. So we got to the Chatuchak Station and we went up to connect to the sky train. We noticed immediately that the two stations are not connected as one has to go out to the road to get up to the sky train station. It would have been better if a connection from the inside goes directly up to the sky train. With our big group joining the outside crowd, it was hard keeping up. Some of us were already up in the BTS station while the others were still walking on the road trying to catch up with the first group. Anyway we finally got together and my, what a crowd! We waited for the card tickets and some of us were given the coins to experience the use of the card machines. Nice. Some went to the mini-mart nearby to buy some cold drinks and gum. Another convenience. We were on a field trip so we had to observe these things that will make transport system in Bangkok more efficient and effective. Once everyone had the card, we went up to wait for the train.

)

Some of us had to stand. Some were shy to look at the camera 🙂

There was one waiting already but we did not take it. So we just moved to the side to wait for the next train. Unfortunately those in our group who came up last thought we were already in the train, and so they ran into the train. The train was about to leave and there we were, shouting, “come out! come out!” They had to hurry to come out or else they would not know where to go once they were on the train, and they would probably not know how to contact us. If that happened, probably they would just go shopping! Anyway, one of them said that the way we were screaming “come out! come out!” was so frightening!!

When the next train came, we got on. It was good to get seats and a relief as inside was so cool. Even cold. We got off at the Victory Monument, where we really felt lost in the crowd. We had to keep our eyes on our leader, Amorn, a PhD student. But after some time we lost him. But I knew we were going to look at the Victory Monument and the transportation dynamics there, so I just kept on. The others followed. After that we saw him again so we knew we were on the right track. We continued also to take photos. It was fun for me to be in Bangkok and not in the car for once. I get to see and experience some other different things. Anyway, time was up and our vans were waiting under.

Traffic was ok at this time but could get worse during rush hour and heavy rains.

Traffic was ok at this time but could get worse during rush hour and heavy rains.

Our next stop was the canal for the boat transport in Pratunam near the Central World. It was a short drive and surprisingly there was no traffic in Petchburi Road. We got off our vans and walked up to the bridge and observed the boats with passengers. At first we thought we would ride the boats but we just observed it. Even looked around as there were many other things to see, such as the sidewalk vendors and the pedestrians. It seems the water in the canal is cleaner than before and there was not much smell. Anyway, it is surely a cheaper and faster means of transport but people can get wet from the water spray.

We did not try the buses, taxis, motorcycles and tuktuks, but I bet that everyone had a chance somehow to experience them during other times, esp. when they went out to go shopping!

Didn't get on the boat this time.

Didn't get on the boat this time.

After the trip we went up to cross the flyover to go to Central World to have our dinner. However, for me and two friends from Kenya (Edith and Lillian), we crossed back again to go to Big C, where food and other stuff are cheaper. We had about 1.5 hours before we got back to AIT. We had dinner at the Food Center and they were quite impressed with the taste of the food and the price, which was quite cheap. They ordered Thai fried rice which cost 30 baht per plate. For me I ordered Pad Thai. Then we bought drinks and our dinner was less than 100 Baht per person. One of them said that food was cheap, and wondered why the previous night they paid more than 1,000 Baht for their dinner. Probably they had it in a posh hotel? We then moved around the hypermart and grocery section to buy some stuff.

View from the flyover between Big C & Central World

Then off to the meeting place in front of Arnoma Hotel. It was a long wait for the vans to arrive due to traffic (as usual). It was indeed a long day and we arrived back at AIT at around 9 pm.

View from the flyover between Big C & Central World

August 22, 2008

Training ended

The past two weeks had been very hectic. I was so busy with my participation in the Sustainable Communities Course that I had no time at all to write in this blog. I was planning to make a training diary but I did not have the time. And time just flew so fast! And today we had our closing ceremonies. Prior to that we had our presentation of our group case study. Our group used a variety of styles in presenting our message – our dream for Bangkok’s transportation and energy situation. We had a brief reporting, then some interactive activities with the other participants who role played as the stakeholders. We had them draw their own dream for Bangkok’s transport system, how they see it in year 2020; then there was a game similar to snakes and ladders, but this time it could be called, vehicles and arrows! We had the whole group engaged in doing these activities and it was really fun! Then our finale was a song and rap presentation of a poem yours truly wrote. Will post that here later. We sang the chorus to the tune of Happy Birthday so that it is easy to remember the music. Then the verses we rapped or chanted them. We had bongos and Indian drums with us. I have to look for photos of today’s activity and post them here. The media unit was there to video the proceedings!

We had an evaluation session later after lunch and then the certificate ceremony! Two weeks have passed and new friendships and networks have been formed. We hope we can continue to exchange and discuss issues affecting our places and communities and learn from each other! Au revoir!

August 12, 2008

Training on Sustainable Communities

I enjoyed Singapore's public transport system.

I enjoyed Singapore's public transport system.

I am currently attending the International Continuing Education Course on Sustainable Communities: Bridging the Gap between Research and Action. The course is conducted at the Asian Institute of Technology Conference Center in Pathumthani, Thailand. It started on 11 August and will run until 22 August. The organizers of this training are AIT (Urban Environmental Management Program), Helsinki University of Technology, UN-HABITAT and UNEP. Major funding is provided by the Government of Finland. The Opening Ceremony was held yesterday, 11 Aug, and was attended by Mr. Lars Backstrom (Ambassador of Finland to Thailand), Mr. Toshi Noda (Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UN-HABITAT), Ms. Dechen Tsering (Deputy Regional Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP) and AIT dignitaries such as Prof. V. Wuwongse (VP for External Relations) and Prof. S. Kumar (Dean, School of Environment, Resources and Development). Dr. Edsel E. Sajor, the Local Organizer, emceed the Ceremony.

There are 28 participants from Asia and Africa, coming from diverse backgrounds and experiences, but with a common goal in mind, to know more about how to make communities sustainable. Some of the issues and points mentioned by the speakers during the Opening Ceremony are highlighted below:

Prof. V. Wuwongse spoke on behalf of AIT, welcomed all the participants, guests and organizers, and informed the audience of AIT’s commitment to sustainable development. He also acknowledged the financial support from the Government of Finland.

Prof. S. Kumar spoke on behalf of SERD, saying that the topic is timely and necessary. He mentioned that it is a great challenge to bring research results into action. He also shared what AIT is doing to contribute to the global economy and development, and confirmed AIT’s commitment to contribute to sustainable communities through education, research, training, outreach, etc.

Ambassador Lars Backstrom said that he was glad to know that the topic on sustainability is being followed or pursued, which has a huge interest for the future of the planet. He said that his government is happy to finance this course to be able to reach a wider range of people so that they will know more about sustainable communities. He emphasized the need for closer cooperation between academe/research and practitioners. He cited Bangkok as a complex city and it would be good for the trainees to know more about it through the exposure from this training. He commented that Bangkok can do with a public transport system, and it has moved forward with providing such system but it has least space for streets compared to other cities in the world. He further added that there is a huge amount of cars but there is no space to accommodate them. Major issues faced by cities include pollution in Chiangmai and vulnerability in Bangkok, i.e. it is only 1.5 m above sea level so it will be affected by global warning. However, there are some who say that there is no proof of it. In Phnom Penh, the poor are being driven out of the city and their land is being taken away from them. Finland is helping them to have claim on their land, with about 6 million titles to be given out.

Mr. Toshi Noda thanked the organizers and the support and assistance given. He also welcomed the participants. He went on to talk about UN Habitat activities, on housing issues and their aim to promote socially and environmentally sustainable cities. He mentioned that cities are growing at rapid rates with both good and bad issues to tackle, and that by year 2050, 6 billion people will be living in cities. Urban areas generate wealth and opportunities but at the same time also crimes and other social problems, thus sustainable urban development is one of the greatest challenges. This is directly related to the MDGs to improve lives of city dwellers (esp. targets 7, 10). We can’t reach this goal without collaboration and cooperation with local communities who need to participate and take action by themselves.

Ms. Dechen Tsering noticed that participants come from different backgrounds and we need this diversity to network beyond our own. She asked a question: what do sustainable communities mean to us? Asia’s cities will increase but it is also home to a large % of poor. There are issues of climate change, housing settlement problems, green house emissions, impacts of increase in global temperature and food security, among others. There are many challenges, with cities as the major source of emissions. There are many issues affecting sustainable communities, including refugee situation and other conflicts, vulnerabilities of climate change and dramatic transformations. She said that political leadership and will to change are important factors. She mentioned that UN is implementing sustainable clean and green initiatives. It is important to have partnerships with other UN agencies, civil society organizations and other groups to expand networks. She also noticed that there are good practices but they are not upscaled or replicated in a manner that other cities can follow; we need to know what are the gaps and barriers to avoid and how technologies can be shared.

The speeches given by the guests were very useful and good starting points to get us started thinking re: how this training can be useful towards processing some of the issues affecting our own communities, work and studies. I will be writing in this blog about this training and my experiences whenever I find time.

More links:

http://global.tkk.fi/Continuingeducation.html

http://www.unhabitat.org/

So many urban related issues facing most cities ...
So many urban related issues facing most cities …

Blog at WordPress.com.