These past few weekends have been so incredible it is hard to believe that we are leaving in less than a week, if my mind is already reminiscing about Bangkok I cannot imagine the extent of the situation when I have to return to normal life in Madison.
So, before even reaching Bangkok, we had a class excursion to a NGO in Chiang Rai called the SOLD Project. The sold project is an organization that works to free young children in the Northern Thai villages from sex trafficking. The project was started by an American girl with a desire to help those directly impacted by the sex trade. She made a documentary of her experiences with a girl named Cat and her idea spread. Now the program has a large volunteer base and is able to reach a much wider scope of people. The program helps to break the cycle of young teenagers that drop out of school, move to Bangkok, and prostitute themselves to make money for their families. This is seen to be the only alternative, for many young children growing up in poverty in the village. The temptation comes from seeing other people they knew return from working the sex trade in Bangkok with enough money to provide nice things for their families. In order to stray from this temptation, the SOLD project works as a NGO that takes a grassroots approach on the problem. This bottom-up model of intervention ensures that the locals have a say in what is implemented and the program is more likely to be effective in improving the overall well-being of the affected population/community. One way in which the sold project is by donating money to cover up to 50% of the children’s schooling. The entire cost is not covered so as to avoid creating a dependency ono the organization. Another way in which the SOLD project promotes sustainability is by having the villagers raise silk worms and providing them with the materials to weave the silk.
Additionally, the villagers grow their own dye to dye the silk different colors. The silk worms provide more than just silk, however. Fiber can be extracted from their cocoons and the dung is great fertilizer for the crops grown by the villagers. The fertilizer/cocoons/dyed silk are all sold in the markets and promote a sustainable income for the villagers. In addition to teaching us about how things run, the directors of the sold project taught us how the villagers plant their rice and had us plant a rice paddy. Unfortunately we don’t think we did a very good job because later when we passed the villagers were fixing our work ):
Here is a link to their project if anyone is interested in learning more about their cause: https://www.thesoldproject.com/anti-human-child-trafficking-organizations/. To support the efforts of the organization UW Madison donated to their cause and our group of students made stencils and put together the supplies for the kids to make t-shirts.
Following the visit to the SOLD project organization, we headed to the airport to embark on another adventure: Bangkok. Arriving in Bangkok, it was immediately evident that we were no longer in the calm collected environment of Chiang Rai. The traffic is wild, motor bikes and sky-rises are everywhere. A friend and I arrived at the airport around 10:30 and made our way to the hostel which was about a 20-minute cab drive from the city center. The hostel was one of the nicer ones I have experienced and it was in a very active part of town. The following morning in Bangkok we received a personal tour of Jat-tu-Jak market or JJ market downtown Bangkok.
It is considered to be the largest market in Asia and I believe it 100%. There are so many stores selling everything you could imagine from pigmy marmosets to teapots and fried squid balls to elaborate light fixtures. Fortunately, I was able to get all of my souvenir shopping there, unfortunately my wallet was a lot lighter upon returning to the hostel.
Our second night in Bangkok we visited the famous Khao San road, which is definitely a tourist trap but still worth seeing, and meandered around the area by our hostel eating street-food and shopping. The following day was a classic touristy day, we visited Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and a few other temples in the surrounding area and I rode on a water taxi for the first time. Wat Pho was by far my favorite temple out of the ones I have seen in Thailand.
Following temple tours a group of us went to go visit a few others who were staying in a fancy hotel in China Town. The hotel had a rooftop pool and a beautiful panoramic view of the city, we got to watch the sun set over Bangkok, topping off an incredible trip.
We all flew out of Bangkok the following Monday in order to get to class by 1:00 pm for a guest speaker. All but two of us made it back on time, which is pretty good considering the crazy morning traffic in Bangkok.
For the remainder of the week we tried to catch up on the lack of sleep received and homework completed in Bangkok and the weekend was spent in Chiang Rai, the only excursion being a trip out to Mae Sai market and the Saturday night walking street. Currently we are coming up on our last week of class which means exams and project deadlines are approaching. Now that we are reaching the end it is hard to really process the fact that in less than one week we will all be back in Wisconsin living our own separate lives again. A large part of the lack of processing capability probably stems from the large amount of stress that has gone into preparing for the excessive amounts of homework due, which I should probably be getting back to anyways…