“Im speechless… I’m utterly speechless first by the turn out… 150 + people!! Second by what you guys have raised: 328,000 Baht!!! But that’s not all, the evening afterwards in the Cha’s bar, having such a diverse group of people, most having met first time and yet we celebrated, partied, laughed, hugged, and danced as if we had known each other for 20 years!!! This positive energy and pure connection between humans makes life so freaking exciting that I thank god to be on Earth, thank you everyone!!! Now, let’s take it easy for a day and then full steam ahead again!!!” Michael
This was Sunday, November 06. On Monday, November 07, I scrambled and felt as if I just had a few sparring rounds with Mike Tyson!! Sundays are always the climax of intense weeks and their zenith are those Sunday-wipe-parties that are not from this planet… I felt fuzzy till the point when I saw what was going on on the internet in the wake of the wipe, when your Facebook is exploding and you don’t know where to click first, which photos and videos to look, which comments and status to read and respond to and how to describe your feelings in a compact status update. With all these responses, messages, likes, comments, emails, sms and calls coming in from all directions from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, email, phone and smoke signals. Nat’s trailer views skyrocketed and our trailers kept going strong, it was the fuel that added to the fire.
We had to use this momentum and even outdo the success of Wipe 1 -3 but for that Monday it was about indulging the positive energy that was sweeping across many Facebook profiles. Throughout the week more updates fluttered in. From comments I learned that we were at Channel 11 and the next piece of news came from Thai PBS News Channel with video clips being shared by our volunteers. Die schriftliche Zusammenfassung auf Thai:
We were quite amazed to see that we made it into the Thai news but even this amazement was soon to be outstripped by the phonecalls I got from Central World Plaza Bangkok’s largest shopping and lifestyle mall vowing to fully support the campaign and playing our video trailers on their massive Panasonic screen which is one of the largest in Asia and sending out their media team to capture the event and put a live-stream on their screen. Baskin&Robbins called and asked to join the campaign with their own wipe in front of their Platinum Mall branch, staff from Mini- cooper Thailand supported us by donating equipment, interview requests trickled in and my favorite article on Wipe the Tide got a full page cover in the Bangkok Post Thailand’s leading English newspaper.
"I went outside to grab the actually paper edition of the Bangkok Post Newspaper and just read article and what a great summary of Wipe the Tide it is!! I’m overwhelmed. And the BURNER IS: Central World Plaza is going to promote our campaign by playing our videos on their massive TV screen, with all the infos on the next wipe action!!! Guys, what is happening here????"
With all this media exposure and our proclaimed aim of raising one million Baht the pressure of defining the relief projects grew and we tried as good as we can to gather as much information on projects. FB Status, November 07,2011
“The first three waves of our donations safe and secure on a Bangkok Bank Account and it’s not going to move until we find or create a great project to support. The money will not go into one single project and the fundraising won’t stop here. Our first aim is get the million but parallel we’re researching ways on how to use this money wisely and effectively especially in the long run!! Please submit your suggestions!!”
We were invited to Gareth Finch for a follow up interview on Wipe the Tide and there we wanted to bring the message across that we’re scoping out the possiblities for our funds.
FB Status Update November 10, 2011:
"If you’re reading the Bangkok Post newspaper tomorrow, turn to the Life section there will be an article on Wipe the Tide!! :o) Oh and here’s another interview on Wipe the Tide with Gareth Finch and his randomdream podcast, five guys on one sofa, it was packed but the interview is funny :o) check it out”
The scope of the Wipe the Tide project grew tremendously almost beyond control it seemed and we kept pushing and pushing with our sights set on raising one million Baht!! FB Status Update November 12, 2011.
“Hey friends, just to confirm, tomorrow we are out there on Bangkok’s streets to hit the 1 million Baht donation mark!! Need your help, please come out strong and support us, make calls, send mails, spam and bring your friends and grab everyone around you!! We need to conquer Bangkok tomorrow, that’s how we spend a Sunday these days ;o) Got questions? call me: 085-8339218”
We kept going, unswerving, focused and full of energy. I had no choice, there was and is no rest. Accountability and realibility are the law of the day, my uni and work started to take a toll but the impact we created and all these amazing people I have met along the way made up for it.
On November 13, we were set to go for the fourth strike. This was to be the biggest we’ve landed so far. The diversity of people willing to lend a hand and to contribute in times where Thailand needed help was simply mind-blowing. From highschool kids, to managers to tourists, every age, every religion and nationality appeared to have sent their most awesome ambassadors. Why most awesome? Because not only the diversity of this crowd made them special but their energy and readiness to kick ass which gave them also reason to be impatient with us at times since managing so many people was quite a challenge.
This time we had a great amount of people and with that comes a great amount of people that want to talk to you, ask you questions, need this and need that while you actually want to talk to the volunteers, getting to know them, welcome them and make them feel at ease and welcome. But there was no way for me to do this and this is something I regret - not being able to thank people personally for coming and supporting our campaign. Instead my mind was all over the place, trying to think of a million little things at once, call backs, my belongings, matching names and faces, things I had been asked for, questions, concerns and again questions and in between we squeezed in the interviews.
It was an epic day when all volunteers got together in front of Bangkok’s major shopping mall on a bright, sunny day, with our breakdancers getting people fired up and ready to roll out. After little more than an hour the groups swarmed off to occupy major intersections in Central Bangkok once again.
This time we cut out Nana intersection (people are way ‘too friendly’ there) Victory Monument, and the area in front of Platinum Mall (too dangerous). Instead we added Ratchathevi and Silom and added more people to upper and lower Ratchadamri Road. I stayed behind with a small team of volunteers to assign late comers to various teams and to make sure that groups can be resupplied with additional squeegees, signs and donation boxes. People spontaniously joined to create more signs and donation boxes which I would send out on my bike.
My adrenalin was pumped at all times, knowing that we’re having so many awesome people at all these intersections out there doing fundraising for flood victims. I will never forget the moment I came out from the underground carpark Ratchadamri exit on my Gary Fisher bike, to deliver supplies to the groups.
As I plunged into this insanely congested 8-lane road in front of Central World our Wipe the Tide Chemical Brothers trailer suddenly started booming all over the Central World Square. Cutting light and fast through the traffic chaos of Bangkok while our video was playing in the background on Central World’s huge screen injected so much energy in me, it was indescribable, crazy, it was yet another climax of life in Bangkok and an example of what was possible in this awesome city.
I had 90 min. left to cycle a loop passing by various groups at Hendri Dunant, MBK, Ratchathevi, Witthayu and Ratchaprasong intersections. I only wish I had more bikers with me, if I imagine going out with a large group of cyclists to deliver water and other supplies to the volunteers that would make a great impact.
Unfortunately at 4.30pm we have to stop the operation since the bank closes earlier, just when traffic is getting denser everybody has to call it a day and be back by 5pm. The groups flocked back, settling down at the front square of Central World turning it into a public show of grassroot charity unprecendet at this scale.
Each group powered by the experience started counting their catch and each announcement seemed to outdo the previous. The energy and vibe created would have any beerpark pale in comparison. It was mind blowing and I wondered what my friend Michael Stroemer would have said if he had seen this, from 9 people at one stop light to an army of do gooders.
The bank was sort of used to our onslaughts by now but this time they had to surrender and we were able to announce only the final count in terms of bank notes with the counting of coins following the next day.
As with every wipe, volunteers were bind together by a full day of all-out fundraising with all the surprises, exhaustion and fun that comes along. If the energy-level was moderate in the morning it was exploding in the evening. As already mentioned the positive psychological impact that these events bring along are significant, the feeling of empowerment and achievement as a team working for a great cause is something that not only connects people but shows that simple ideas carried out by the average person can have profound impact for all sides.
over 40 minutes passed till we had a rough idea of how much money had been raised. Livethelife’s trailer announced that we wanted to go for the million and the question in the people’s face was whether we had achieve it with this wipe. And the answer was: YES!!! The awesomeness and charme of the volunteers brought people to donate 613,000 Baht in total in around 3 hours time!!
That was a feat that could only be outdone if were to go for the million in one day and this idea was born after wipe 4 with one major question in our minds - when and how to stop Wipe the Tide.
Wipe the Tide was taking up major proportions of the time I had available in a day, basically the fundraising almost completely absorbed me especially in the run up to Wipe 4. However another dimension that goes hand in hand with fundraising became a prominent question in all the buzz and jumble surrounding Wipe the Tide and that was: “What are you guys going to do with all the money??”
This whole new dimension of allocating the money has been lingering beneath the surface since day one and it was gradually making its pressure felt as to deliver the audience some real impact. Countless eyes were looking at us, everybody was at awe about the effectiveness of our fundraising campaign and we wondered whether our focus should be on fundraising first or deliver the doubters and skeptics some action with the money?
For sure we didn’t have a detailed plan mapped out yet but my status updates show that I encouraged the community to contribute in providing intelligence and ideas on important short and longterm projects with a focus on the latter.
FB Update November 05, 2011
“Tomorrow after the campaign, we’ll get together and plan out what initiatives need support short and long term. Then we’ll start to research information, visit places, organizations, etc. and report back to you and also invite you to bring in any information you may have that could help us. We are NOT planning to simply hand cash to a random NGO and say do what you want. We are going to use it in a collaborative and transparent manner.”
Time hadn’t allowed us to upload any content that would give clarification and transperancy to our community apart from a few Facebook updates. This entire spectrum of investing in development work is still in the making as I write but I hope that these blogs will deliver the insights in the whole evolution of the Wipe the Tide project and its affiliated projects.
We’ve realized the scope and complexity of the whole flood event and research, networking, collaborating and creating projects from scratch became a whole new division within Wipe the Tide which had not yet fully developed in the run up to Wipe 4. Before the third wipe our aim was to gather ideas through our social media channels. In between Wipe 3 and Wipe 4 we wanted to do something that was within our capacity hence some fast but yet effective action hence immediate flood response in which we deliver essential goods for survival to affected areas where no help was reaching.
We needed to find those guys who venture out into flooded areas to help and the first tip off we got was Channel 3. You want to go out to the frontline with super star Khun Sorayud delivering supplies directly to affected people and get on TV? Channel 3 is the way to go and here we go.. a moment later Josh, Noor, Dani and I trooped into the Channel 3 building and learned that Mr. Sorayud takes donations only at nine in the morning and in return you’re rewarded with a wai/handshake and a picture with him that may get you on telly for 0.005 seconds.
FB Status update, November 09, 2011:
"Quick update on our Channel 3 visit.We haven’t donated anything to Channel 3 yet since we can only hand them cash or food and post for a picture to be on TV but that’s not our intention. Our intention is to go to the areas to distribute the goods that we buy from the money we all have raised in order to report back to you in our video or photo blogs or even make it possible for you to join us. Thus tomorrow we are joining the Duang Prateep foundation on a trip to flooded slum areas in the east of Bangkok to get first hand insights into the projects ahead. Stay tuned for our video report. Good night :o)"
After this awakening we needed an alternative and we needed it quick but if only brains were that quick. For the first time I sensed a sort of burn out among my three companeros. We plodded through the lobby hall like a bunch of grandmas who got lost in the park on their way to their Tai Chi session before the stroke of enlightenment hit our foggy brains. DPF!! The Duang Prateep Foundation. They were our friends, how we dared not to think of them immediately? They have a vast network and resources and they could possibly help us to get rid of a hundred thousand Baht.
At the DPF’s headquarter where we were fortunate enough to discuss a potential cooperation with the DPF with Khru Prateep herself. If that wasn’t awesome what then? DPF was running relief missions with a focus on the slums of Bangkok and there was certainly something to learn for us.
The next day I was on a supply truck heading for Sai Mai where survival packs donated by a Japanese company were delivered to a flooded community.
Being in those communities gives you the final kick of realization of the immense scope of the flood. We’d been living in our bubble in Downtown Bangkok protected by the government who had communities at the outskirts flood in order to protect the city. What that meant for the people could only be realized if one was to visit these places for real.
The water level in the area we visited was about one meter comparatively moderate compared to other flooded communities where the water level could reach up to 3 meters and more.
However, one meter still trapped most people in their houses since there was the potential of looting so nobody would leave their possessions behind. It would take hours to walk through this putrid water to reach the next dry place. The only dry place within this area was a bridge on which we unloaded the supplies which consisted of over 400 survival packs for families containing the most essential things such as rice, milk, medicine, etc., and EM balls (Effective Micro-organisms)
The goods were then loaded on makeshift boats and locals and people from the Foundation would bring those into the neighborhood and go from house to house to deliver these things to the families.
We talked to the DPF and were determined to help them with immediate flood relief while planning longterm projects with them afterwards. We discussed that after Wipe 4 we would put together a supply mission with the DPF and deliver it out to the communities since as already described, simply handing cash to an organization and walk away is not in our interest.
For us it’s about involvement, collaboration and documentation to cover the flood relief efforts from the beginning (fundraising) to the end (implementation of funds) and share what we learn with you guys and to deliver the opportunity to part of the entire process. We want to connect you to this story and take part from your computer by sharing the content, raising funds for us, by sharing your ideas with us on how to connect and support our operation.
These days we’re breaking down walls, the playing field turns level and everybody can get involved thanks to the power of the internet. We’re not a registered organization but with you we can become a strong network that connects the resources out there to the needs on the ground.
"Guys, I’m just blown away!! Despite the mass exodus out of Bangkok we gathered almost fifty people occupying three major intersections between Asoke and MBK and despite being aware that the city would be empty we wiped over 130,000 Baht (!) out of the remaining cars in 2.5 Hours!!! It was a grand day with even grander people, from the beginning to the end the energy carried on and with 10 minutes left, rushing on motorbike taxis to bring the money to the bank on time, we ended up having a great get together and an awesome exchange of ideas over cool drinks and a new yardstick is placed at 1 million Baht!! So the next wipe is coming… soon at your intersection!! And we’ll need you! ;o)"
The Monday after Wipe 2 I started out without a hangover (unlike all the following wipes) but there was just enough time to place an update or two on Facebook other than that we had to go back into action. The whole project gained a new dynamic since an awesome coregroup emerged from Wipe 2. Many new cool people determined to drive the campaign forward. My FB Update October 31.
“We’re going to move on and we won’t rest until we hit the 1 million Baht and only then we’ll take little, tiny rest from fund raising and focus on doing something great with the money and everyone is invited to be part of it!! Thanks to all our brothers and sisters from Kenia, Iran, Turkey, Germany, China, France, etc. for supporting Thailand!!”
We set the date for Wipe 3 for the following Sunday, November 6, it was unclear whether the flood would reach the inner city districts especially the commercial heart. The masses of water were getting closer to the inner city and the first of our friends became trapped in their houses and with more and more people being trapped the streets were still unusually empty. Being trapped in the floods in certain parts brought a terrifying aftertaste given the pictures of roaming crocodiles and giantic snakes.
The old strategy remained, sharing through social media but this time Wipe 2 also delivered us even better ammunition to pump out a trailer that would rock people of their chairs. Daniel and I discussed the theme for the trailer and my suggestion for a soundtrack fell on the chemical brothers which was always up my sleeve waiting for the right video to be used for. We worked in tandem, Daniel put the video footage together and while he was out on a TV shooting I did the refinements.
It was already Friday, the days before I drove forth and back between work in Bangkok and Samut Songkhram to visit my mom who had come from Germany to visit. During the preparation of Wipe 3 we brainstormed more ideas to raise funds and one project Christin and I came up with was “Walky Hawky” whereby foreigners dressed like a traditional hawkers, carrying a pole on their shoulders with two baskets on either ends would give out small items such as flowers to those who donate. This kind of bamboo pole which is called “Haab Khai Khong” is hard to find these days thus we seized the opportunity of being with my family in Samut Songkhram to build the “Haab Khai Khong” ourselves, driving around buying baskets and wire and sawing bamboo sticks, this was country-life at its best.
FB Update, November 02, 2011
"Soon be back to Bangkok and getting ready for the next wipe and another cool campaign in the pipeline. Got things prepared in Samut Songkhram and test run will be tomorrow!! Will keep you posted ;o)"
Traveling back to Bangkok with my old-skool bamboo pole I secured the looks of many passerby. The second I reached home, I turned on my computer and went back to Wipe the Tide. I started late since didn’t want to promote the next wipe without our trailer and with only one and half days left and my high dose of excitement I eventually set out to spam the world. FB Status, November 04, 2011
"Okkkk guys, this is the trailer of our campaign!! Please share it! We need as many people as possible!! We’ll meet this Sunday 12.30pm outside Central World Plaza under the big Panasonic Screen!! Bring you dog, your grandma and everybody and make sure everyone carries bucket, squeegee and donation box and wears a white T-shirt!! Hope you like the video!! Now my friends… spreeaaaddddddd!!!!!! :oP"
The pressure was on and I was glued in front of the computer for two nights, sending out messages, recruiting and planning while the daytime had me almost doze off in the classroom during my private one on one classes. I continued to invite people on a one on one message basis, paying no attention to Facebook events, since I found them quite unreliable. The days following Wipe 2, people were trompeting our cause on their digital walls to mobilize and reinforce us. Our brand-new core team jumped in and were freaking out behind their computers when they saw how it all spread like hell-fire and how the wipes got supported by various groups from My Socialmotion, Lub D Hostels to Pink Sky Production and others. Eventually people asked to set up FB events for us and we gave it a try not knowing where this would lead to but with our nothing-to-loose attitude we nodded to every proposal, bring’m on was the order of the day!!!
The outside media attention started classically in the world of web 2.0 with a podcast interview and so I sat down on Gareth Finch’s awesomely funny randomdreams podcast for the first interview of my life at in which he tried to get me off track by drawing hairy balls and a little willie on a piece paper.
While I was sitting on Gareth sofa the digital wildfire was raging and our video spread to the FB page of the Thai-American Association and on other blogs and websites, promising heavy promotion of the video. The number of likes on our FB page surged and newspapers, magazins and TV shows were knocking on the digital door. We met with volunteers of the Baan Arsa Jai Dee organization at Asoke intersection who asked to host their own wipe parallel to ours on that Sunday, which we agreed to.
Since we already joined forces with Baan Asar Jai Dee at Asoke we promptly tested out operation “Walky Hawky”. Wearing a traditional hat, a pole and handing out flowers proofed to be highly effective way to raise money too but probably because we became the amusement for those in the boredom of their cars. To avoid undermining the income of streetkids we did not sell those flower garlands but other types of flowers that couldn’t be used for car decoration. If this was to be a permanent fundraiser we’d buy all the garlands of the kids and give them a day off. However, this fundraiser has a quite a few challenges and balancing a pole with the baskets in between the cars is certainly one of them.
If I wasn’t out meeting people, working or ‘studying’ I kept typing personal invitation emails like a secretary on steroids while my core team kept my phone busy with exciting updates. After a little more than 24 hours our trailer reached over 2,500 views and stopped counting the encouraging comments. My impact of my excitement on my sleep was worth 20 cans of Thai Redbull.
FB Status, November 05, 2011
“I’ve got a feeling .. it’s going to be craaazy!!! Sunday’s going to be crazy!!! I can’t sleep … some crazy stuff is going on… but I love it!!!”
and the morning sun was rising, promising a beautiful Sunday whilst Daniel’s excitement had him occupy my toiled half the morning and the rest of us was absolutely clueless as to what would eventually happen.
With more and more people trickling in it dawned on us that the space under the Panasonic screen was getting too crammed. By 11.30a.m we had gathered over 130 wipers at the event and we moved in front of Isetan Department Store.
Apart from NGO’s we had other groups joining us, Lub D Hostel sent over a lovely platoon consisting of their staff and tourists and even Outback Steakhouse had a group coming though without any spare-rips to share.
Lacking the experience of organizing large-scale operations we made up for it by keeping a Thai mentality of what ever happens happens. This time we had to deal with large groups of volunteers without any equipment and to group the crowd effectively. Pee Jeep from the Bangkok Post and his photographer as well as Michelle and Nat from Live the Life TV were there to not only see and report on Wipe the Tide but to actually join in, thanks again for your helping hands :)
Whilst teams were getting ready to roll out we layed out the map of Central Bangkok and planned the allocation of teams. Boom had the police at each intersection informed as to what’s going to happen so that they wouldn’t arrest us for taking us as red-shirts disguising ourselves in white. This time we expanded our field of operation from 4 intersections to 9 and added Soi Nana, Witthayu Road, Chidlom, Victory Monument and Pratunam.
From all locations so far I let you guess which area was the most discouraging? Not because of low traffic density but because the people in that area!! Is it:
a) Ratchathevi b) Nana c) Ploenchit ?
One clue: Even the traffic police officers warned us that people there aren’t the nicest. Anyways the police helped us raising more donations by extending the redlight phase on this particular traffic light.
After roughly 3 hours out in the traffic the white t-shirt platoons made their way back to Central World Plaza where we were given a large room to count the money from where the team leaders would head straight to the Bank. It was amazing seeing so many young people walking with all these donation boxes through the glittering corridors of Central World after a long day out in the tropical heat of Bangkok’s massive intersections. The bank struggled with the onslaught of donation boxes and only the team leaders were to enter this small Bangkok Bank branch.
It took the bank about an hour to count the incredible bulk of twenty-,fifty and hundred Baht notes, not to mention all the coins. Many of the volunteers despite being very hungry and tired stayed on to hear the final count by the bank and eventually I had the honor that on Wipe 3 this great crowd of highly spirited volunteers managed to raise a whopping 328,000 Baht in roughly 3 hours!!!
Celebrating this feat, I saw Michelle and Nat from live the Life TV who created a beautiful trailer out of this. Pee Jeep and his camera man Porsche from Bangkok Post too did not only come for a quick shot or interview in the morning but stayed on and wiped with us all day till the final count. Everybody had an awesome time, people shared pictures and comments and Jeep from Bangkok Post described it in his Facebook updates as one of the best reporting experience he has ever had.
I feel that there’s nothing greater than impacting people’s lives like that. Creating events or experiences that people will remember, that people will share and that impact them in a positive way is something we strive for even beyond the flood. Mr and Ms. Amazing aka Michelle and Nat produced this freakingly awesome trailer for Wipe the Tide.
Despite of being hungry and having spent the whole day out in the sun and smog of downtown Bangkok, everyone was pumped and excited and eager to not only wait for the final count of the bank but to return for another wipe.
It was a day where countless awesome pictures were taken, new friendships were forged and the success of our community was celebrated in our series of crazy night-outs - this was our foundation for Wipe 4 towards the million.
30th October, 2011 The experience of the fund raising had a grip on me. We agreed that it was not enough to create a sequel of the wipe but to establish a permanent flood response group around it. If bangkokvanguards was a social business working in the service for this country and its people than Wipe the Tide should become an integral part that could be activated every time a disaster would hit Thailand, thus from the beginning it was not set up as a spontanious, effective fundraising event but something that has yet to fully emerge.
The initially idea for this flood response group was by creating a network of international students from all the major universities in Bangkok, which could be mobilized for the wipes. The problem here was that many students had fled the city down south to escape the flood chaos and Michael Stroemer had to continue his studies in Germany. With Stroemer and other students gone a new plan was needed. It was out of the question to let the fundraising idea slip out of our hands, and thus we initiated to mobilize more volunteers through our social media channels. Watching our group in action from afar during the first wipe and noticing the characteristics of a flashmob style military operation a military-like yet funny codeword “Wipe the Tide" was born.
I was pretty tired of reading of all the stuff that was going on during these chaotic flooded days in Thailand and I started to wonder what was wrong with Thailand’s Karma after the city was set ablazed a year before, now it was be to be drowned in the masses of flood water approaching from the north. The media was likewise flooded in articles and commentaries about incompetence, finger pointing, corruption and political games. Only small islands of witty and sadly comical conclusions such this one by my favorite Bangkok Post columnist Voranai wrapped up the seriousness with at least some humor which was to be immediately shared via my Facebook update on Oct. 16, 2011
"Annual flooding is even more a part of life than skin-whitening cream, but less so than corruption"
Artists became highly productive in sharing their sentiments of the situation and newspapers became the perfect outlet.
Throughout the whole time news remained unclear and contradictory leading from simple frowns to people being evacuated for now reasons. However satelite images spoke more than a million words and people got nervous, the flood was to come, but where? When? To what extend? Nobody knew but people knew that it was to be the biggest flood ever in the history of Thailand. It was a new type of Tsunami, the slowmotion version and it was there to stay for months. It threatened to turn Bangkok into an island, black putrid masses had already started to devour the outskirts of the megacity and threatened to cut it off from its neighbors.
The mass exodus started, leaving us with the question to stay or leave? Leaving and coming back after a week would mean you’re back at square one since it was said the flood was to stay for months. Newspaper articles from Germany to Thailand like these ones ”we do not what we are doing”, 'why we loose' “Kampf um Bangkok" (Fight/struggle for Bangkok) did everything but to reassure us that the situation was under control. With Doomsday as the proclaimed destiny for Bangkok were we to lean back and watch it happen or buzz off to a tropical beach and watch from afar?? Reliable information was as hard to find as mineral water at Seven Eleven and we decided that the answer whether to leave was NO! The first step for us was to get our own picture of the situation.
”Intellectuals fill the sandbags, while buffaloes make the plans.”
We wanted to set a different example, we wanted to make a difference in our own way, a small one of course, helping a few, somehow, somewhere, we didn’t know much except for the fact that we can help filling sandbags, donate to the relief centers or go out to the front lines and build sandbag walls. Phonecalls were made, information gathered, the usual suspects offered relief work opportunities: City Hall, Don Muang Airport, Red Cross, Thammasat Rangsit, Dusit Thani Hotel, BAAC, and others. We saw countless people giving and volunteers working their butts off but we wanted to help by doing something different thus we shifted our focus to fundraising. Donation boxes were all over the place and already lots of young peopel were on the streets asking for donations but for us sidelining the streets and preaching wasn’t enough anymore, we needed to be more creative and proactive in our approach. We didn’t have the means for a charity concert and we neither had the popular profile of a celebrity so we need something else. We discussed the possibility to take on jobs of Thai people working in public. If those jobs are done by foreigners like us it may draw more attention which could affect our fundraising in a good way. Then one morning, the phone rang and sometimes there are these phonecalls that alter the course of your life.
My life was already in a sort of high-speed level with teaching, university but first and foremost with bangkokvanguards which is Daniel’s, Christin’s and my passion. With bangkokvanguards, we were intensively working on supporting projects through community based walking tours which involved a friend’s social business and projects in Chinatown that aim to show visitors a different side of Bangkok whilst helping to preserve old traditional communities but all this was literally washed aside by events that would follow.
The phone buzzed, my friend Michael Stroemer was calling and the first words coming out from the phone were: Dude, how about going into the traffic and wiping windshields of cars to raise money? I’ve got 2-3 friends but is it actually legal? How about permissions?” The moment my brain connected -wiping windshields + fundraising- I immediately knew that was the idea and said: “Give a monkey about permissions, did the flood ask for permission?”
It felt as if I hung up and pressed the dial button at the same time, ringing up my team, Daniel, Josh and Aimi who were immediately sold.
A day later, 10.30 a.m. Asoke intersection, one of Bangkok’s main traffic arteries cutting through the Sukhumvit corridor north-south. Its 6-lane width (one way) and 180 seconds red-light phase, made this intersection perfect for our first wipe. Our first wipe platoon: Claudia, Hendrik and Marco (coming with stroemer bringing shirts, buckets and squeegees), my crew Aimi, Vincent, Joshua and Daniel (donation boxes and cameras to film)
At first we were unsure on how to start the action so we simply nosedived into Bangkok’s notorious traffic and started dispersing into teams of wipers, donation boxes and people with cameras and we were stunned by how quickly people pulled down their windows to donate. The whole operation which was a bit shakey for the first few seconds turned into a flow of positive energy, smiles, thumb ups and “wais” (Thai greeting and thank you gestures).
The positive feedback, the genuine smiles, the encouragement, the good spirit that was delivered across and in between all these cars and their owners would often make us run from one car to the next to catch up with our donation boxes.
After an hour or so, we didn’t dare to think of how much money we raised. People of all colors, cultures and religions were in tune in their response to good action. It was the family, the kids, the grandma, the taxi-,tuktuk and truck driver, the plumber, office clerk, young and old, the students and the seniors we posed, chatted and laughed with. They shook hands, took pictures with their phones and i-pads or even tweeted us right away. It was in this festive microcosm between car-doors on a hot, sunny day in front of a stop-light in downtown Bangkok where cross-cultural obstacles and linguistic barriers were blasted away in support for a common cause.
The only group that appeared in not mood to celebrate this human connection were those who remained quiet behind the tinted windows of their BMW’s and Benz limousines with a few exceptions of course but it reaffirmed my suspicion that way too many of the rich remain outsiders to the real world. I wonder why that is?
Standing by the streetside, briefly reflecting and watching my team storming into the traffic jam reminded me of a flashmob style military operation thus the codename “Wipe the Tide” came into being and it ignited something that from that day onwards it would roll on and carry everyone along. The final count of that day was 27,748 Baht with 9 people in less than 2 hours.
Even for me, grown up between Germany and Thailand it was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. For those new to Thailand it is the best welcome to Thai culture, a one and only experience, an insight to the awesomeness of Thai people.
Watch the video and song to get the feeling for Schwenk the world
To tell our Thai brothers and sister about the schwenktheworld foodie movement we’ve translated this video with our friend and supporter Nitchi and having a Saarland regional news report subtitled in Thai is one of the miracle of today’s globalization. Watch it, doesn’t it look odd?
The original Schwenkok song
Since, we’re the new official schwenk ambassardors for Thailand, we’re bringing together laidback German BBQ culture and Thai locals, an exchange of ideas, togetherness and good food in unusual locations. Here a few pictures on our scouting for the location on the first Schwenk in Thailand
Kathy and I have explored the Thonburi site to find suitable locations for the schwenk party. Unfortunately we were pressed for time and could only explore the secluded and peaceful area between Wat Rakhangthong to the Chee Chin Khor temple. It got really interesting from the Memorial bridge southwards and we weaved through narrow alleyways of forgotten communities. We talked to locals and told them about the schwenk but we’re afraid that the Thonburi side close by the river is not suitable due to the current flood crisis and lack of open and public space.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”—Steve Jobs, (1955-2011)
At times you come across an inconspicious piece of paper, a black and white piece of paper that we’d rather quickly use to scribble some notes on and yet sometimes it contains some information that if investigated a little deeper leads to an interesting and important story. That’s how we found out about a small museum in Charoen Krung soi 23 and the community connected to it and their story that we would like to tell.
Located in an ancient Chinese rowhouse and due for some serious renovation, it informs visitors about the history, the struggle and the cause of the Charoen Chai community. The threat of redevelopment, eviction and demolition of the entire neighborhood for profit-oriented purposes is looming over this otherwise busy and yet picturesque neighborhood. As Bangkokians we ask ourselves whether the removal of the old regardless its cultural value is the way Bangkok should reinvent itself!? Shedding ones past, rejecting its pioneering communities and their heritage that sets a city apart from another is bad news for any city that seeks to maintain its unique identity and this is happening to cities all around the world. Globalization is eroding the traditional but does it always have to be that radical way?
We met Pee Art, one of the community leaders who works on the preservation project and we agree that we do not oppose development, especially if it increases convenience and life quality but it should integrate and secure the future of indigenous communities and don’t sweep them off the map. Meeting people like Pee Art always inspires us. Their cause is somewhat hidden beneath a light-hearted surface of smiles and humor but that should not distract one from their struggle and their courage.
The onslaught of the modern capitalist forces into the last of Bangkok’s indigenous areas is a fatal intrusion for local residence and a devastating intrusion for the city’s identity and our personal identity with Bangkok as well. People, like Pee Art’s father are specialized in the art of producing Chinese paraphenelia for temples, weddings and other ceremonies and often these family have been working in their niches since the reign of king Rama V. In this regard it is already a unique part of Bangkok that can’t be found elsewhere.
Ever since Daniel and I have been regular visitors here, having our cameras ready like John Wayne his revolver, ready to capture what makes this community so great but it’s hard. It’s a difficult undertaking because one has to experience it himself and it’s often not done by a stroll through the alleyways alone. It’s those moments that come when you don’t expect them but when you’re generally receptive for the beauty. It happened when I sat on a stool waiting for Pee Num in front of the Historic hut for roughly 20 minutes, watching and observing my surrounding in the early hours of the day. The steam of the kitchens, and the canopies covering the alleyway through which the sun rays of the early day shone, immersing the laneway with its lanterns and golden paraphernalia into the warm light of the morning suns, nuns and monks passing by and the tones of Chinese instrumentals filled the air. Of course I did not have a camera with me at that very moment which I regret till today. I felt transported back in time, to the Bangkok of 1910 maybe and the big question that arose from here is for how much longer will this precious kind of Bangkok community exist if we don’t strive to preserve them. As they said to us ”If this community falls, so will many others follow”.
In order to get a better understanding of the situation and to carry the message of Charoen Chai beyond the realm of Soi 23 we met Pee Art, Pee Lek and Pee Num for a video interview and we’re currently in the process of editing and translating it, however it takes some time since we have full-time jobs to handle but we’re on it and will post it soon.
In the meantime we ask those who care to preserve Bangkok’s identity and heritage and the old parts of this wonderful city to join this Facebook page to build a community that stands behind people like the Charoen Chai preservation group to support a sustainable development that is embedded in the local fabric as to preserve its culture and the livelihood of its inhabitants. Stay tuned
When Bangkok was established as Siam’s capital on the Rattanakosin site, the early foreign communities of Bangkok were distributed south of it along the river. The Chinese, the Indian and the European communities are the ancient and most significant foreign communities in Siam and they are all assertively Chinese, Indian and Western but they also have two things in common - they are also distinctively Bangkok and they are connected through one road, namely Charoen Krung Road. It is argued whether Charoen Krung (Prosper the city) or Rama IV Road is Bangkok’s first road. Whether it is or not doesn’t play a role as much as it is Bangkok’s lifeline at which Bangkok’s history and early development can be read. Built in 1862 by king King Rama IV it supposedly served Westerners to pursue their healthy lifestyle of riding horses and their carriages and to connect the European community to the royal compound further north. Charoenkrung runs parallel to the river for 8.5km, from the ancient outer city walls of the elite space of royal-religious Rattanakosin to Dao Khanong in the south.
Like many other cities in the world, the birthday place is given by the river and commerce and immigration expanded the city in successive waves and Bangkok’s history and the development of its urban, social and cultural fabric can be read along Charoen Krung Road. In the early stages, trade was controlled by the royal elite but with the expansion of trade, the need for labor rose and the communities along Charoen Krung grew fast and the entry ports into Siam shifted in their significance from the royal controlled Rattanakosin domains (Tha Chang pier) downstream to the Chinese ports along Sampheng where the diaspora of Chinese immigrants started to become the dominant force in the trading business.
Influx of Chinese immigrants to fuel the need for labor turned Bangkok into an almost predominantly Chinese city and the Chinese became the city’s first bourgeois, the urban middle class that triggered the explosion of the first real estate development of traditional Chinese shop houses where family-run businesses would operate downstairs in the open-front shops, whilst the owners would live upstairs on the second floor. This early 20th century phase of Bangkok’s urbanization has its remnants scattered around Chinatown, whilst also European style row-houses with the same functions can be seen along Charoen Krung Road and further north in various areas in and around Rattanakosin. These distinctive masks of Bangkok are unfortunately threatened by demolition to make way for new developments and many of these old houses are in dire need for renovation.
Beside the Chinese row-houses another outstanding feature of the Chinese community as well as for the Indian community is the intricate and uncontrollable maze of narrow and often claustrophobic alleyways and passages that connect the riverside docks and the commercial arteries. This incredible maze grew organically without the slightest notion of urban planning and harbors a myriad of interesting facets of the Chinese evolution in Siam.
Smaller in scale but not less intense is the community of the Indians around the Pahurat Road (built in 1898) which consists of the fragments of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim immigrants who focus on the textiles trade. The choice of silk, cotton, wool and cashmere is overwhelming and the entire district appears to be one huge labyrinth of market lanes that are also interlinked with Chinatown’s Sampeng. Chinatown and Little India meet on the unrecognizable bridge that spans across the second defensive moat of old town Bangkok (Saphan Lek) thus it seems as if the Indians were placed as a buffer between the elite royal compound of Rattanakosin and the commercially powerful Chinese. These Asian communities are congested and vibrant whilst the old European quarters maintained a rough semblance of order, a small world, partly UNESCO protected, in which one does not only find one of Asia’s densest concentration of fivestar hotels (The Shangri-La, the legendary Oriental, Sheraton, Hilton Millennium and Peninsula -the latter two on the other side of the river), a major trading center for antiques and the global center for jewelry trade but also fine examples of European architecture, though lots of it is in a state of decay. From here Bangkok expanded eastwards 50 years ago and heralded the start of the next phase of urbanization and globalization that can be read in the skyline of Suriwong, Silom and Sathorn.
When we think of modernization and globalization we see the impressive skyline of Bangkok, the skyscrapers of Silom and Sathorn and we tend to overlook the Charoenkrung corridor that served as the gateway for the European, Chinese, and Indian communities that made the pioneers of urban Bangkok. It’s the hybridization of their commerce, culture and people through uncontrolled development, immigration and rapid commercial expansion that gave Charoen Krung the status of being the nucleus of a Western civilized Bangkok. It stands for the replacement of the Thai Khlong (canal) and the imposition of roads and international commerce that heralded the end of the aquatic world of early Bangkok and its villages, orchards and paddy fields.
Within the realms of Charoen Krung the majority of today’s Bangkok’s ancestry arrived who then turned first urban middle class and cooperate Thailand was born and its wake the first department stores and high-rise buildings were built. It’s the road that connected the royal Thai elite to the world in a modern urban sense and from here the city first grew eastwards, devouring the original peaceful canals and orchards of Silom and Sathorn and then in the eighties grew skywards creating one of the world’s top ten skylines. regardless the visual dominance of Bangkok 2.0, it is the Bangkok DOS version and its exciting urban muddle between Charoen Krung and the Chao Phraya River that is so exciting and fascinating to explore and for that one needs to roughly follow or stay somewhat close to one road - Charoen Krung Road. Charoen Krung is the
With our next project we want to assure that globalization goes through your stomach and thus we have linked up with the German culinary and cultural facilitators of “Schwenktheworld” who are on a campaign to spread their laidback, local Saarland style of BBQ-ing.
Having already spread their ”schwenk-fever” to Israel, Japan, Seychelles, Canada, Cameron, etc. it is unacceptable that the Schwenk-fever, (Germany’s ambassador for food culture and togetherness) has bypassed Thailand so far, thus we’re out an about to organize the parts necessary to build the Schwenkgrill, scout locations, develop a logo, translate videos, etc. for Thailand’s first schwenk-event which we call Schwenkok and we invite you to be part of it and to post your ideas, send us what you think would be awesome locations in and around Bangkok for a mellow German meats Thailand BBQ Schwenkparty, visit our FB page, post your ideas and let the Schwenkfever take control.
The story of Charoen Chai is so characteristic for this age of urbanization where it seems that everything is subjected to rampant profit orientated development. A subway station is planned to be built a stone throw away from the community and as a result land-prices are going to soar. It is exemplary for the seemingly unstoppable modernization of traditional and historical city districts throughout Asia where money eliminates local opinions and needs and any interest in sustainability and there’s always only a handful of people taking a stand
This is the story of a community in Bangkok who were among the founders of Bangkok, the pioneers of Krungthep (the Thai name of Bangkok), their traditional Chinese shop-houses built in synchronization with the construction of Bangkok’s first road are now to be bulldozed because land-value exceeds the community’s cultural, historical and social value. For some they look old and worn, for others they radiate the feel of old Bangkok, for them the architecture, art and ways of life of these communities can’t be measured in money. The profit driven investor however has no eyes for this value, the crafts and traditions that derive from the times of formers kings are to be replaced by the internationalism of a new Starbucks, in which the young people work for less than 40 Baht an hour, instead of supporting their parents running the trade of their ancestors. Their arts, crafts and identity may be still “worthy enough” to be framed as black and white pictures in the cafe’s interior but other than that they will be gone forever and there’s often only a handful of people taking a stand against this development but their voices hardly ever noticed.
Without these historically and culturally diverse realms, Bangkok would not be Bangkok, it would be deprived of its soul and as a true Bangkokian you got to raise the question whether you want to live in a soulless city!? Would you be proud of a city where visitors, (apart from Bangkok’s cultural icons), can’t find anything but the uniformity and predictability of cooperate Bangkok? We DON’T want to see is this part of Bangkok turning into another Ekkamai, hip Thonglor or that it looks like Lad Prao or Sukhumvit or that it becomes yet another air-conditioned shopping Mall that turns Bangkok into the carbon copy of another city.
None of us however opposes the construction of the subway with all its benefits but given that the construction of mass-transit will come hand in hand with all the attributes of modern capitalist Bangkok which will level old, valuable neighborhoods and force their residents to relocate. We believe that such an infrastructure development should be carried out in cooperation with the locals and be embedded into the local fabric, whilst globalized capitalist dimensions and their manifestations should be hindered to intrude and erode those urban layers crucial for Bangkok’s cultural identity.
With the Charoen Krung legacy project we aim to support the people from the Charoen Chai preservation project Pee Lek, Pee Art, Pee Num and others in their struggle to prevent the demolition of the their century old community. We’re trying to achieve that through different approaches, one is the media approach to raise awareness, e.g. this blog that you’re reading, with further links that could potentially result in a form of collaboration and an exchange of ideas and access to networks and resources for the benefit of the community. Secondly, a fund raising campaign, through walks that will be embedded into our community based urbanexploration walks in the future.
Our first walk was a success, taking exchange students on a Bangkok walk to give them an idea of the historic identity and feel of the old pioneering quarters of Bangkok in contrast to the modern urban domains in which we live. It is a tiny step but our mission is to learn more and share our passion for the cultural and historical uniqueness of this part of Bangkok that can’t be found elsewhere in Thailand and we don’t only want to instill this appreciation to foreign visitors but to the Bangkokians themselves, to realize the value and beauty of Bangkok’s old quarters. We want Bangkokians to be proud, not only of their city’s modern hallmarks that have been erected in the wake of Bangkok’s skyrocketing aspiration to become a world metropolis but also of their urban roots, its foundation and its people that not only set Bangkok apart from other cities but give this world metropolis its distinct Thai character and its distinct place in the world.
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If visitors to Thailand want to see ruins, they visit the ancient temples of Ayutthaya, the splendid and formidable structures of their time. However due to the lack of temple ruins in Bangkok, we have come to explore a different type of ruin, modern day symbols of wealth and power that were not destroyed by an invading army but by the dynamics of our complex economical system.
Ayutthaya was raised to the ground but Bangkok is still standing though with the financial crisis of 1997 the entire Thai economy at that time collapsed, leaving behind countless bankrupt companies and over 300 unfinished major real-estate projects, all scattered and abandoned in various stages of construction, eye-sores many say, over-grown remnants that are sometimes merely basement levels and sometimes real giants soaring up to 50 floors. They would linger on for years, decaying before our eyes, forsaken symbols of the nineties economic boom and bust, protruding from the urban landscape of a tropical mega city whilst the city itself moves on in its relentless growth. They’re the knocked out teeth in the smile of Bangkok as the locals say. It’s urban life and death next to each other, these parallels that are so typical for Bangkok, giving this city yet another layer to explore. For us they are more than
simply decaying concrete mammoths, they’re part of Bangkok’s history, part of the urban DNA, frozen symbols of the city’s development from an insignificant trading post to an international metropolis. They are the playgrounds for urban explorers but their number is shrinking, most of the abandoned skyscrapers have now been resumed and have become or are becoming the glittering skyscrapers they were supposed to be but others are still towering like giant, intimidating hollows in which
time has stopped. Once you enter those buildings you probably won’t find a licensed tourguide roaming around with a group of yellow-capped tourists thus this sort of venture is neither promoted in a guide book nor on the “to-visit-list” of Bangkok tourists. At this point we need to say that it is against the law(!) and dangerous. So, you neither want your family to bail you out of jail nor pay the hospital fees for you. The most prominent of these ghost towers is the Sathorn Unique, a 47-storey abandoned residential tower, haunting the skyline on the southern tip of Sathorn Road just a stone-throw away from BTS Saphan Taksin (stone-throw away gets en eery meaning here) Making it into the world’s top-ten of the largest abandoned man-made structures, it has its own feel and atmosphere some say it’s creepy others find it fascinating, however… if you’re from Bangkok, don’t ever take your Blackberry addicted girlfriend into this place, one careless and wrong step and you may disappear in a hole though the journey downwards would be long enough to type a final message into your BB.
This said we strongly advice you to NOT ENTER this building and if you do so it is at YOUR OWN RISK. This building is private property.
There’s been a lot of stories and myths around this former sister project of the now famed Bangkok State Tower (also called Lebuna State Tower). That building was as well abandoned for a number of years hard to believe if you have ever sipped your Martini at their Sirocco bar. Whilst the Bangkok State Tower was revived its sister Sathorn Unique perished and has been in a state of decay eversince. According to engineers a structure may be exposed for some ten years to tropical climate conditions after that, you better build it again from scratch instead of repairing it.
So, the question that many of the architecture fans of Bangkok haunts is whether Sathorn Unique will ever be revived given its 80% completition. For most Bangkokians however this building has become a daily sight and only those living in its shadow are concerned. With nearly 50 storeys this building is the dominant structure and people wonder whether the whole thing will collapse one day. Having to deal with steel and rubble falling from a almost 200m above and smashing through a roof of a car on one occasion.
or dropping into the surrounding bushes gives indeed a reason to look sceptical towards the ceiling before going to bed. What is a worry for some is a relief for others, especially homeless who’ve seeked refuge there and were able to choose to inhabit one of the 659 residential units or set up camp on the roof top with its half finished dome. Today lots of weired and religious symbols bear witness of its former inhabitants who have now been banned by blocking access to the upper residential units from level 9 onwards and a grilled chicken munching guard has been placed permanently at the base of the tower making only the pack of fierce looking dogs the only residents of the tower.
Over the past years Sathorn Unique has not only attracted the homeless and apparantly “religious sects” but also the creative folks among Bangkokians with art projects involving Sathorn Unique, also architecture fans keep their eye on the development of the tower and photographers use this uncommon micro-cosmos as a backdrop for nudity shots, which indeed makes some bizzare pictures.
So, what do people think of it? What do you think of decaying buildings in the middle of residential zones? Usually, foreigners look at the building with a question mark on the forehead. “Maybe for us they’re great eyesores, because Americans can’t deal with things that are unresolved,” says Paul Katz, a principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox architects in New York, who has spent time in Bangkok. “But Asian cultures understand the world isn’t perfect…everything isn’t always finished.” Mr. Katz describes the buildings as “poetic,” adding they’re “not completely boring to look at, especially when things start growing out of them.” and we totally agree with Mr. Katz, especially if you got trees and bushes growing in almost 200meter height and mosses and grass turn balconies into a second Wimbledon ground.
It is these things that you find only in Bangkok and if you’re on top of the building feeling like Will Smith in “I’m Legend” overlooking this awesome city, you wish they’d neither resume construction nor tear it down because it would bereave Bangkok of one of its fascinating features, a feature that makes Bangkok what it is, a place that surprises us, intrigues us and never fails to truly bore us regardless whether you’re the average tourist or a die-hard urban explorer.
We will post more on the status of abandoned buildings in Bkk soon.
Many of us are surrounded by so much history and so many stories, some of them never become told, and parts of our history fades into oblivion. As half Thais we’ve made it our mission to explore and better understand our Thai roots and there’s no better age in doing so then in this day and age. With all the communication and media tools available, we’re able to capture the stories of people and places, learn about our Thairoots and share it with you in the process.
One of our first projects is about Bangkok’s oldest remaining Chinese residence. For us it’s one of those places that make Bangkok what it is, an intriguing and beautiful Asian city, rich and diverse in culture, history and identity, despite facing immense challenges of modernization. The surroundings of the house alone are worth a visit with their huge, spiritual Banyan trees
We’ve asked the communities on Facebook what kind of business they think to find in such an old, traditional residence
a) diving pool
c) snooker hall
most people guessed snooker hall but actually it’s a diving school and we’ve made a video for those in disbelieve but this is just the beginning.
The next step is the actual interview with the owner of the diving school and his mother who are the owner of this marvelous residence. They are the descendants of wealthy Chinese traders that ran a trading business between Siam and China during the Ayutthaya period. Both of them are of course highly knowledgable, the mother is the local communit leader and they have a lot of things to share.
Thus we would like to invite you to send us questions so that we can translate them into Thai and ask the Pochinda family directly in our upcoming video interview. This family faces a particular challenge in maintaining this house and with the interview we would like to spread the message out but you will here it from Khun Poosak himself what it is. Feel free to submit your questions, regarding the history of Bangkok, the life of Chinese immigrants, the Chinatown of Bangkok, traditional Chinese homes, customs, traditions, etc. we will be happy to include those questions in our interview.
With all the attributes of a megacity Bangkok can easily appear to predominantly be a city of the future and in search for the origins of Bangkok the first way usually leads to the city’s icons namely Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Vinmanmek Masion, etc. and then it’s back to the shopping malls or the hotel pool.
But what about those who are not content with a city tour comprising the main attractions? Those in search for traces other than temples that reflect the Bangkok of the early days?
One such place is the Pochinda residence. It’s not a palace or temple, it’s one of the oldest and last remaining residential buildings built by Chinese traders in the early days of Bangkok around 19th century. In the past Bangkok was a predominantly Chinese city and those interested in the historical roots of Bangkok will find that outside Rattanakosin Island (home to the Grand Palace, etc.) the Chinese community even predates the founding of Bangkok. It is thus the oldest community and not only a buzzing commercial center as it seems at first sight but rich in the history of Bangkok’s growth from a peasant community to a trading town.
The Pochinda residence is one fine example on how wealthy Chinese traders lived roughly 150 years ago but it’s unfortunately a very rare piece of Bangkok’s history. We were fortunate to getting to know the descendants of these Chinese traders, namely Khun Poosak and his mother, who is not only the local community leader but also the owner of the Pochinda Residence. Having the opportunity to talk to them helps us to better understand Bangkok’s history, its cultural heritage and identity and thus we decided to prepare an interview with them and would like to invite our bangkokvanguards community to submit their questions if there’s something they would like to know about this old Chinese home, Bangkok’s Chinatown and the Chinese community in Thailand.
With the interview we would like to share knowledge and insights and at best even help to preserve places like Pochinda Residence. Preserving history and ones roots is more important then ever given the rapid development that replaces integral parts of Bangkok’s and our identity for profitable highrise buildings.
Strengthen the good by supporting social enterprises
In business classes we are taught that humans who are engaged in businesses are one-dimensional beings whose sole mission so to maximize profit. In our daily environs in downtown Bkk we face adverts and the glitz and glam of money and meet the apostels of capitalism that are highly regarded in today’s society without due consideration for the side-effects. It is as if everything revolves around the dollar sign, and less about humans, the planet and our connections to it. Looking at these realities many will probably nod in agreement yet we all know that we’re not one-dimensional beings and that our sources of happiness are not solely confined to money. Sure, money makes the world go round and we’ll need to pay our rent but with this blog entry I want to give an example of a new breed of entrepreneur that combines money-making aspects with positive impact which benefits society and causes positive changes in people’s lives. Striving for good, positively impacting the planet and improving other people’s lives will see our own happiness soar correspondingly and that should be the yard-stick to which success is measured and not what you can afford in materialistic measures.
We see that realization emerging around the world, be it the pionerring social businesses such as Mohammad Yunus’s Grameen bank or the social investment firm Ashoka. They’re the big fish but I want to give an example of a small fish, a social entrepreneur that is easier to identify with, that of Aimi Duong, a young lady from Vietnam and who has just graduated from Chulalongkorn University. Being the founder of Oimei a small social entreprise that aims at selling pillow cases produced by artisans in economically disadvantaged communities in Thailand, which brings income and maintains the heritage in traditional art and weaving. Part of the revenue will also go into peace making projects, for more info check out their website. Aimi is currently campaigning to collect funds to get her business started. It is awesome to see that there’re people taking on a different career path, one that aims not for solely money-making and personal prestige through high-income positions in prestigious company but rather to be an agent of positive impact that is much needed in today’s world. If you happen to be thinking of doing something similar and you’re concerned about funding your business, follow and learn about crowd funding. You can simply put your ideas, your business concept together in a nice video such as Aimi’s and garner support from family,friends and peers and that of people supporting social entrepreneurship.
Aimi belongs to these young firebrands that constitute the growth of a new form of capitalism - social capitalism, that we see growing and that is crucial in solving a wide range of problems locally and globally, for it is greed based capitalism that needs to be reinvented if we are to pass our world on to the next generations in a better state than we have received it. It has more crucial than ever and we hope that we can encourage you the reader to keep your eyes and ears open for this kind of business and mindset, to learn more about it and to aim to strengthen the good in your community and country by supporting not only charity but social entrepreneurship or even implenting it in your own professional realm. To learn more about Aimi’s mission follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
We will keep our eyes open for more social entrepreneurs and inspiring stories and individuals on our Facebook and twitter platforms and we will initiate a charity walk to support Aimi to get closer to the required funding for her changemaking business. If you’re in Bangkok and you want to explore Bangkok away from the tourist paths, follow us on the upcoming “Walk for peace” by supporting “Pillow for peace”. More on that in a bit.
A quick entry on our tour to IE tower. 14 years ago Thailand economy crashed and with it over 300 highrise-building projects remained in urban paralysis, aspiring monuments frozen in various states of construction in which time has stopped. After so many years most towers are being resumed or are now some of most prominent buildings in Bangkok but those who’re in the state of 1997 are our destination.
Our today’s target is the massive 40-floor IE Tower on Asoke Din-Daeng one of those towers that look complete from the outside but are ghosttowers from the inside. This is probably the largest abandoned structure in this part of town whilst at the same time so much development is going on due to the new Airport Railway Central station and MRT line.
IE Tower was supposed to become an office tower and rumor has it that it’s going to be renovated but these rumours have been spreading for a long time now and no changes have been made so far.
The interior of the tower was mostly done, and unlike Sathorn Unique it did not seemed to be that threatening. IE Tower is in a much more advanced construction state than Sathorn Unique bearing no naked concrete, pipes and cables were often already encased and there’s not much rubble blocking your way, water dripping or wind blowing through the corridors. The uncanny silence and thick dust made this visit a especially ghostly one. The staircases leading up to the higher floors are pitchblack so light is essential.
Above level 10 we came across a huge “terrace” so big you could turn it almost into a scoccer pitch. The view on the Ploenchit, Ratchaprasong, Asoke and Sukhumvit skyline is stunning but given the prime location and so much construction in that area, why hasn’t there anybody taken over this building yet?
ok another little update. Through our Bangkok Three Sixty Walking tour we’ve raised some money which we will use for the Baan Pakret charity ride. How did we spend it? That’s why I posted this blog. We have to thank Sunny, Mynt, Katja, Anna, Josh, Nong, Dennis, Roland, Natti and Judy for joining and making the charity day possible.
For those who would like to spend a sponatinous weekend making kids happy a good place to buy things for kids that are affordable is of course Yaowarat or Chinatown (that name may be more familiar to you) especially the sois between Yaowarat Road and Sampeng.
Since the foundation we’re heading to is a very large one, we need to buy things that are small and come in large quantities but still put a smile on the kids faces.
We’ve raised a few thousand Baht and part of it will be donated in cash as the donors wished but for the rest we’ve bought super hero figures, and blinking smileys that they can wear as a ring.
Candy is also a good ideas, nothing which has to be peeled or cracked open like nuts but biscuits, cookies and other things.
For small stuffed animals they come in packs a’ 12 pieces between 180-300 Baht which is reasonable.
Other things as mentioned can be action figures which are reasonable if you buy them in dozens or soft inflatable beach balls. With girls of course you should aim for things they can wear, hair pins, bracelets, etc. As mentioned Chinatown is full of colorful things and if you have any other suggestions how to make these kids happy without having to raise necessarily tens of thousands of Baht (which can be difficult sometimes) please feel free add your suggestions, recommendations, etc. in the comment section. We’re always happy to get new ideas since this won’t be the last charity ride.
Oh man keep it short! Where to start? Time is ticking? Uni assignments waiting! Sport’s waiting, ok let’s start.. the original plan:
Every year our Luk Krueng Bro Michael and his entourage storms like the cavalary of fun to the Baan Rachavadi Foundation with their pick-up truck loaded with candy and toys to spend a great day with the kids and people there. We’ve joined him during the past two years and it was always a great experience.
This year’s plan: As a cyclist it is obvious that this year’s going to be different. This year riding to Pak Kret is the order of the day but unfortunately we’re not going to see Michael there since he’s going on Saturday. So, that’s the bad news the good news is the kids will have a little surprise on two days in a row.
We’ve already assembled a small group of brave riders that will go on the roughly 75km roundtrip that I’ve explored during the past three days to spend a nice day there and to show the kids that people care.
If everything goes well we will make it an annual ride to join forces with Michael and to support Baan Rachavadi children foundation, for now we’ve got to organize transportation to bring the goodies to Pak Kret and a backup car would also be awesome but well it’s our first ride.
Unfortunately I had only a single week to do the preps for the Bangkok - Pak Kret route since I was busy with Bangkok 360 and all the other daily dramas but Tom and I have made it out thrice to do the routing and we have hammered about 240km and once again realized how interesting, fun and challenging it is to explore Bangkok’s vast suburbs with their countless canals, mega villages,massive highways,countless temples and pockets of serenity and beauty.
We’ve been chased by dogs, shared the road with elephants and looked at puzzled faces of locals as we gently rode passed their living rooms on stilted pathways.
We’ve run into countless dead-ends but need to go after every question mark that I’ve jotted down on the map. We’ve been to almost impassible areas and searched every single corner of secluded temples to find back doors that would lead to short cuts to our next destination. We’ve been through pompous neighborhoods, swamps, Buddhist and Muslim communities, through tiny, little trails and dog infested back alleys that you wouldn’t find on your GPS.
We’ve cycled along dusty super highways and looked for bridges to cross scenic canals that cut through Bangkok’s western landscape. We’ve made incredible detours and learned a great deal now I think we’re ready for Sunday though the part to set across the Koh Kret the island in the middle of the Chao Phraya river from which we have to set across once more to get to Pak Kret has not yet been explored so we will all be explorers on Sunday.
Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to take pictures since I needed to be back on time to meet my work schedule and thus it was often a high-speed exploration and sightseeing trip and great physical exercise but this will be spared for thos joining on Sunday for at least the first half of the tour, I think the second half could be a challenge for those who hardly ever cycle but we’re one team, and we’ll make it back to the heart of Bangkok together no matter what time ;o)
More details will follow after the ride.
If you want to join, check out the event page on Facebook:
Imagine you’re in Bangkok, one of the world’s largest cities and you want to explore it in one day. That’s sounds like Japanese style sightseeing, something like seeing Russia in a weekend but we are developing a program that is aiming at doing exactly this, not sending you Russia but taking you through Bangkok city in one day or at least a major part of Bangkok’s inner core. Well, this is program is for good reason. We call it “Bangkok Three-sixty Urban Orientation and Exploration”. Actually it is being developed to give first-time-visitors to Bangkok a full-blown Bangkok introduction tour. The focus here are people who are coming to Bangkok to reside, work or study. The tour is basically a huge 360 loop around the inner city using all method of transportation to get familiar with the transportation system and to give you an overview of Bangkok’s important districts and hotspots. Whatever your lifestyle, this introduction day shows you where the things are that are relevant for you.
So a few days back I was out there in the field again and invited students from Ramkamhaeng University to join, also in order to raise money for our upcoming charity event in Pak Kret. I actually thought of newbies to Bangkok like a new batch of international students who’ve just arrived from Germany or another country but instead most of the people in the group were already Bangkok experienced so the focus gradually shifted more into the exploration aspect of the program, hence going in depth into areas of Bangkok and uncovering the hidden jewels of the city, that of course requires more time and thus doing both, taking people through large sections of the inner city via public transportation and exploring large areas on foot within a single day was just too overwhelming, well in fact I was aware of it but wanted to see how my friends felt about it and at the end of the day they felt everything but their feet.
One huge disappointment on the first day was that one of our favorite locations has been blocked, the Ghost Tower by the river, near BTS Saphan Taksin. The 47 storey tall witness of the great economic crisis from 1997. For all Bangkok explorers out there, now the management has placed a “security” guard (a woman sitting by a desk munching Som Tam) on the ground level who will send you right back to the street without speaking a word of English. Even going up to level 9 is no longer possible but can still try to bribe her though she doesnt have the keys for the residential areas.
Then we followed the path of the wolf-pack, exactly the Sirocco or also called Lebuna State Tower or Bangkok State Tower. Well, don’t bother going up during lunch time, unless the restaurant/bar is open there’s nothing to see. The only thing you’ll see is a few meters of window pane and a bit of Bangkok, no walking around allowed. So wait until the sun has set.
The second day we skipped the orientation part and did what everyone was eager to do and that is exploration and so the orientation program has turned into the exploration program and I have to admit it’s difficult to consolidate the two things.
Our second venture was super mellow but intense at the same time, we sat in one of Bangkok’s oldest tradtional Chinese houses and talked to Khun Poosak the descendant of a wealthy Chinese family that built their house before even the Grand Palace was built. Sitting with him on the patio, overlooking this great property and talking about life in Bangkok, the community he lives in and the history of this place is simply a great experience for us.
It’s this contact with the locals that grows the passion for exploring this country and sharing insights and knowledge with visitors. Besides we had our fortune told, got spiritual blessings for our hopes and dreams, chilled out in one of the coziest guesthouses you can find in Bangkok, we met Sikhs, received Indian sweets from them and enjoyed the shady trees in the only Islamic graveyard in the old quarters of Bangkok amongst other things.
All in all, both days were awesome and it was a great pleasure taking Katja, Anna, Sunny, Mynt, Nong, Josh, Denis, Nati, Judy and Roland through one of the world’s most exciting city. In the future we will offer two Bangkok Three-sixty programs, one “Light” version and the “Max” version, Light for orientation and covering numerous districts and the Max covering less districts but in depth behind the facades.
We also want to thank for the donation for the Baan Pakret Charity event in the first week of August and we will keep you in the loop on that. I’m planning a charity bike ride there all the way up through Taling Chan to Bang Kruai through Nonthaburi to Pakret and back. I have to see whether I can manage it timewise to set up the route and lead people to Bangkok’s largest orphanage to spend a great day with the kids but in any case you can contact us if you want to make donations.
For more pictures on Bangkok-Three-Sixty click: Flickr Set