of soaring & dreaming

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.

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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

July 22, 2008

Panic attack? Or was it?

I was walking the other day in Bangkok (Silom-Surawong area) under the mighty heat of the sun, when suddenly I felt something like a “panic attack”. I was not afraid or anything like that, it was just some kind of feeling which I could not control. You see, I have been walking for quite a distance looking for an address and, because I have not been in the area for a loooong time, I sort of underestimated the distance from the Chong Nonsi BTS station to the Mahesak-Surawong road.

There are times when reality strikes me that I have been living somewhere out there in the middle of nowhere, farther than the ‘burbs, even. So during those once in a blue moon occasions when I do get to step into the city, literally on my own two feet hmmmm…I try not to be obvious about it but I get affected by all the heat, noise, pollution, busyness of people etc. That’s because I am so used to living in the same area as where I work. And also because every time I go to Bangkok I drag my dear hubby with me so I have a free ride. But this time I was on my own, using public transpo and my own two feet. But I digress.

So about the “panic attack”. It was already past lunch time and I did not have lunch yet. But I have my lunch with me. I just did not have the chance to eat it yet. So probably because of the heat and tiredness from all that walking, and the noise around me, I just felt panicky. I just remembered thinking it was so hot and what if my blood pressure increased. And suddenly I just felt hot and tingling. I prayed silently to God for protection and to heal me from what I was feeling. I turned and walked back and went inside the first building I saw nearby, just to keep calm and cool down. While walking I was thinking that what if I collapsed there on the road or lost my bearings, and the police and media would come and it would be in the news and … whoa!

So when I went into the building, I asked the guard if he knew the address I was looking for, just to show I have a reason to go in. Actually I just wanted to rest inside. So I asked permission if I could stop a while to rest and eat my food (red bean pandan bread). Good I have this and a bottle of water with me. I think that I was just exhausted and was not used to walking in not so clean air. Anyway, I called the person I intended to meet for a clearer direction. I should have called earlier before walking that far.

I don't mind the heat if I were on a beach like this (Taringting, Antique province)

I don't mind the heat if I were on a beach like this (Taringting, Antique province)

After recovering from that strange feeling earlier, I went out to catch a taxi and finally I got to the place. It was not that far actually from where I stopped earlier. But because I had to take a taxi and the place is on a one way street, we had to make one whole round to get there.

I was thankful that the people I met were kind and goodhearted, and nobody took advantage of me. Thank God that He is always with me wherever I go, protecting and keeping me safe.

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