The heat of Bangkok seminars (catch-up)

The heat was excruciating, something that I had to quickly adapt to in order to be able to work efficiently and enjoy the moments.

However the nature of the initial few days involved a schedule of seminars, study tour of Nitasrattanakosin and site visits to a completed Baan Mankong project, NHA housing schemes and  a Private Housing scheme, most of which were in air-conditioned rooms.

The scheduled seminars were a great introduction to the reality of poor communities and the options available to them in Bangkok, and the impact of CODI and Baan Mankong Programme. The portrayal of the reality of the socio-political and economic reality was a breath of fresh air after the rather rigid set of articles read in London which only told a 2-dimensional view, which as a cynic only portrayed the positives of the organisation and programme. We are going to have to rethink how to obtain information from the community visits during our site days.

After reading a couple of articles authored by Somsook, it was great to meet the lady herself. A few of us observed the similarities in manner and appearance between Caren and Somsook. It was great to see two strong minded thought provoking women within the development field together. Inspirational.

OK I can’t go on without mentioning the CODI building…the first thing I noticed after stepping out of the coach and entering the institute via the understated yet dramatic stepped gateway, was the amazing courtyard space and the modern architecture encompassing it. Everywhere I looked there was an interesting angle or view that I wanted to record. Many of us must have felt the same way as I remember hearing some ‘oohs’ and people stopping to take photographs at certain hotspots. Honestly speaking, I wasn’t expecting CODI’s building to be so modern and campus-like, which I think is suggestive of their power and presence within the development field in Thailand. I don’t think that the readings in London did the organisation any justice in representing the level of their influence until we entered the building and tried to absorb the amount of information shared within the CODI and NHA seminar rooms (we also went to the National Housing Authority’s headquarters).

These first few days have been full of knowledge sharing which was impeccably organised. I feel as if there is still so much to learn from the communities as I imagine that situation for each site will be different. I wonder how these socio-economic perspectives impacts communities, how do they fare in each context? The two housing projects we visited (one CODI and the other a private development) were interesting introductions to completed schemes. It would have been interesting to actually speak to people to obtain their perspectives. What happens after a completed housing scheme? What issues surface or is it really plain sailing? I guess this is something to investigate during the site days.

I’d like to end with a comment on the visit to the Rattanakosin Exhibition hall. It was a beautiful exhibition tour which I heartily recommend. It was so fascinating and I don’t think I have ever experienced such a journey through a building and its exhibits in such a manner. As someone in the group mentioned it was like going through Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory! I didn’t realise that our initial entry into a room with 3D glasses to watch a film was in fact being elevated up to another level! My attention was solely on the projected film being played that I didn’t notice the ceiling contracting! It was a really great way to navigate through Bangkok’s culture and development through time.

[14th May 2011]

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