Leaving Bangkok

 And we are back in Norway. A few weeks ago we soared through the clouds above Thailand and said goodbye to food on a stick, inexpensive food, delicious Thai food, markets, oh and did I mention food?? While I do miss the food, culture, and people it is nice to be back in a country that really cares about their natural surroundings. Honestly, it has been quite a reverse culture shock to see the way people take care of the environment. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Thailand.

Open sewage canals, trash, smog, traffic and pollution where all things I knew where in existence going into Thailand, Bangkok especially. However, after really living in these conditions they lost their novelty and I realized the grand scope of the problem. We walked the streets of Bangkok a considerable distance, and by the end of our month there we had to seek refuge in malls with air quality filters. Both of my parents ended up with bad coughs from the pollution in the city.

We only lived in Bangkok for a month, others live there their whole lives. The pollution is a result of a growing urban industrial nation, car emission, and rural forest fires and burning. Recent studies have shown that elevated levels of pollutants in the air have directly caused an increase of respiratory disease and related hospital visits.

Causes of Bangkok pollution, heavy traffic

Traffic along a turnabout in Bangkok

 

One day, we were led by google maps to a “river ferry”.  In reality this was a sewage canal being used for transportation purposes. Honestly, I will never forget the sight of this canal. The water.. if that word can even be used in this situation, was completely black. Bubbling at the surface. The smell that came out of this canal was the most rancid sewage smell you can imagine. Even after that sensory experience were still determined to make it from point A to point B. Then, the “river ferry” pulls up. The thin boat is completely packed with Thai’s. The boat is covered in plastic to protect travelers from the splash of the sewage (how considerate). Keep in mind this is not the “river cruise” decorated boat you see in tourism brochures. No tourist were in sight, except us of course. The paint had peeled of the boat long ago, and hanging from the sides were a decent amount of used car tires to protect the boat from the impact against the cement loading platform. No life jackets were in sight. Within 25 seconds, a bare foot attended threw a rope over to the loading platform and ten or so people jumped a foot over the canal waters arriving at their destination, meanwhile another ten jumped in.

Homes along a polluted canal in Bangkok

Homes along a canal

Another boat passed by while we considered how to navigate this situation. After it rushed by, bouncing over waves of sewage, I was convinced we were going to die. Thankfully, I convinced my family of this and we left the area, seeking safer modes of transportation.

While I’m writing this in a light tone, it is a very serious problem. I’ve heard that Bangkok calls itself the “Venice of the East”,  but hearing this makes me cringe. 9.6 million people live in Bangkok, and only 40 percent of homes are connected to the city sewage system. 2.5 tons of liquid waste are produced every day, and out of that large number only 60 percent is able to be treated. Added on top of the liquid waste is the trash, vegetable waste, and other assorted substances thrown into the rivers.

For all of Thailand, the statistic is even scarier. 21 percent of 68 million people have access to the sewage system. 14 million cubic meters a day of waste is produced, and only 3 million are treated.

Children swim naked in these canals, people take baths in them, and they are even used for tourism as “river cruises” . Some how no one seems to realize that this is an actual and growing problem, it is often brushed aside as a unique trait of the third world.

Bangkok Pollution, A ferry crossing the Chaco-Phraya River

A ferry crossing the Chaco-Phraya River, the largest river in Thailand and a dumping ground for agricultural and industrial waste.

 

I don’t want to leave Bangkok on a bad note, however travel bloggers never seem to write about the reality because no one really wants to read that. Everyone wants to paint a pretty picture of a place, my self included (see my earlier article “Wandering Through Bangkok” ). Sometimes we also need to talk about what’s not so pleasant.

I love Thailand and living there immensely. We had a ton of wonderful experiences and adventures, and met a ton of amazing people. Thailand is a beautiful country, but the way the environment has been neglected to the point that very little can be done to solve this problem really made me think about what some countries are doing differently than others, and what needs to be done to solve this growing global issue. 

 

Sources:

Chaco Phraya River Basin, Thailand a case study by: The Working Group of the Office of Natural Water Resources Committee (ONWRC) of Thailand.(http://webworld.unesco.org/water/wwap/case_studies/chao_phraya/chao_phraya.pdf)

Vichit-Vadakan, Nuntavarn, and Nitaya Vajanapoom. “EHP – Health Impact from Air Pollution in Thailand: Current and Future Challenges.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

 

The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

Have you ever seen an exotic looking fruit and wondered: “what the heck is this creature?” “Is this even good?” “Should I buy it?”.  I have and I even wrote an article to answer all these questions for you!

After living in thailand for almost three months I have tried an assortment of interesting foods. As a fruit lover, fruit has been my favorite. If you get the chance to try some exotic fruits you definetly should, you might just fall in love! (Click here to read the article on www.wanderingeducators.com)

The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

If you have ever been to Thailand, you have probably seen, heard, or eaten a variety of wacky things. Hopefully fruit was one of them. If you haven’t tried any Thai fruits, you are simply missing out. Thailand has some of the best tropical fruits in the world…seriously, this is not debatable. They are cheap, delicioious, and fun to eat.

 The only place you can find these fruits is at a local market (here’s my guide to navigating a Thai market).What fruit should you pick? Ah, I’ve got you covered. Before you head out into the marketplace, read on.

Rambutan 

This one is easy to spot for its hairy pink shell. When you peel off the shell, there is a white sweet fruit inside. The taste is similar to a grape.

Rambutan. From The Best 9 Exotic Fruits to Try at a Thai Market

Click here to read more about rad exotic fruits! https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/best-9-exotic-fruits-to-try-thai-market.html

Thanks for reading and happy travels! xx  -Iz

 

 

A Guide to Navigating A Thai Open Air Market

We are back in Thailand for a final week before flying out via Bangkok to Oslo on the 18th this month. Its been a pretty awesome almost five months on this side of the world, and while I’m sad to say goodbye to this beautiful country I’m even more excited for new adventures in Norway and Europe.

One of the things I’m going to miss the most about Thailand are the colorful markets I’ve grown very accustomed too. Our first month of being in Thailand we rarely purchased much from them,  because we didn’t know how or what to buy. If you have found yourself in a similar situation have no fear – I wrote an article for www.wanderingeducators.com about this! Click here… or after the excerpt below to read the full article.

A Guide to Navigating A Thai Open Air Market

In Asia, grocery stores are hard to find and always overpriced. For this reason, locals rarely frequent them and instead run to open air markets.

Open air markets are vibrant, fabulous places full of aromatic food, colorful clothing, fruits and vegetables, and anything else you can think of. The goods are cheap, and these markets can be found in every city across Thailand. 

While they are exciting, they can also be a bit intimidating to the first timer. But don’t worry – I’ve got some tips that will make your trip to the market a piece of cake. 

A vegetable vendor in northern Thailand sells an assortment of colorful greens, at an open air market

1.    Ask the place you are staying where the best local market is. Since nearly every hotel, homestay, or hostel is staffed by locals, there will definitely be someone who can point you in the right direction. We asked our airbnb host, and she took us along with her on her usual Saturday shopping trip.

 

Want to read the rest of the article?? https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/traveling/guide-to-navigating-thai-open-air-market.html

Thanks for reading and happy travels xx  -Iz

Why you Should Teach English to see the World

 I wrote another article for Wanderingeducators.com about teaching English. Here is the beginning 🙂 (read full article here )

Why you Should Teach English to see the World

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Ever since I was little, I knew that I wanted a job that would help people… I just didn’t know what. Up until six months ago, I was a regular high school student. I was on track for going to college, and then working a 9-5 desk job that would probably not help anyone. But then my family started full time traveling, and I discovered a world full of opportunities that were new to me.

 

(read the rest here: https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/why-you-should-teach-english-see-world.html )

The Traveler, the Tourist and Finding Purpose

The Traveler, The Tourist and Finding Purpose

I believe that there is a fine line between the “tourist” and the “traveler” , but despite their differences, all travelers must start out as tourists.

The tourist has a plan, they wish to see attractions, go to the beach, stay in hotels, take photos for social media, and are perfectly content with returning home after a week or two. While traveling, the tourist still seek the comforts they are used to. Mind you, this lifestyle isn’t better or worse than nomadic travel or working a 9-5. It’s just different. I seek solely to compare, not criticize.

For a while the traveler is still a tourist. We are afraid to give up our old life.  Everything is

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A local Thai Market

new and strange. But then there is this one moment when the tourist becomes the traveler. It’s a magical eureka moment when you realize that this is your life and you are not going home. I’m not sure how else to describe it… You just feel welcome anywhere, traveling doesn’t seem foreign anymore. Artifacts become less meaningful but people and experiences become a 100 times more so. I go with the flow, living for spontaneous adventures even if they are not “Instagram worthy”. Sometimes a great adventure is turning a corner and finding a new food stall not seen before.  I can not stay in one place for too long.   I don’t have a comfort zone, I talk to locals, stray from the path, and learn. The life of a traveler is simple, but rewarding.

Don’t get me wrong, this lifestyle isn’t perfect. Travelers yearn to travel for something, which the tourists have, a reason to go. Finding ourselves? Inspiring others? We are searching endlessly for a reason that what we are doing has a purpose. We long to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. Finding what this is is that eureka moment.

When it comes to the birth lottery I do think I lucked out on being a native English speaker. In our increasingly global world it gives me endless opportunities, for which I am thankful. It also gives me the opportunity to teach others what I know, which is a way of giving back to say thank you. For many kids, knowing English is the difference between living below the poverty line and far above it. And that is what I have been doing for the past few weeks. It feels empowering to be able to share knowledge, or at least inspire kids to want to learn. Teaching is that thing that gives purpose to my travels. It is what I feel has switched my mindset from tourist to traveler after being on the road for six months now.

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ABC’S !!

We have been living in a small province in northern Thailand called Uttaradit. Many of the kids here have never even seen foreigners before. Our experience in the small community was amazing. Teaching gave us a place in the community which made our experience so much more memorable. Everyone was extremely welcoming. We discovered places far off the tourist track. Strangers said hello. The security guard at the supermarket became our friend. People invited us to their houses and gave us food. Countless people stopped on the side of the road to ask if we were lost and needed help. Locals took our photos everywhere from the grocery store to waking down the street. The kindness of complete strangers was unbelievable – and after a little while they no longer seemed like strangers but like friends.

I may have only taught the kids a little English, but in return they taught me kindness, confidence, determination and respect for everyone. In the future, I do hope to make teaching English a part of my life. We leave in a few days for some new adventures but our experiences in Uttaradit will not be forgotten.

Get out there, find your eureka moment, and as always happy travels. 🙂 xx  -Iz

 

Wandering Through Bangkok

Recently I wrote another article for Wanderingeducators.com about Bangkok, Thailand. It encompasses the sites, smells, and tastes that make the city one of a kind. Here is the beginning of the article.  (Read the full article here)

Wandering Through Bangkok, Thailand

To my left, tuk-tuks and moped drivers zoom by faster than I can say sawatdee ka (hello). To my right, the street is lined with hundreds of stalls of delicious smelling Thai food and handcrafted goods. Towering above my head are metal giants – skyscrapers. There is only one place I could be: Bangkok.

Nestled above the Bay of Thailand is Bangkok, the modern and vibrant, yet still traditional, capital city of Thailand. The city is a unique place where western influences and traditional Thai culture intertwine to create the tastes, sounds, smells, and sights that can only be found here.

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Read the rest here on wanderingeducators.com 

Thailand: Visiting a Buddist temple

Thailand Adventures – Bangkok

 Today we visited a beautiful Buddhist temple near the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. Since it was out of the tourist zone, the temple was very quiet. Upon entry we were happily greeted by smiling faces and iced tea drinks. The kindness and smiling is something I love about the culture in Thailand. Most people who we pass on the street look up and smile at us, which is very different from the custom in America to mind your own business. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”.

Right as I entered the temple, a kind old woman motioned for me to come over. She invited me to walk inside and to explore the temple at will – which I took advantage of. Unique decorations, huge golden Buddhas, and monks where a common sight. I listened to a monk, dressed in flowery orange fabric, lead a chant along with many other people, surrounded by colorful flowers and decorations.

Taking part of the temple experience felt very spiritual, and very different from the western church experience.

The woman who I mentioned earlier was very eager to talk to my family as she knew a little English. She asked us where we were from and told us she was 83 years old. After, she wished us happiness forever. Her blessing was so kind and genuine, my favorite memory from Bangkok.