We have only spent 8 days in Bangkok and I can’t wait to leave. Two nights ago, I broke down in tears. The heat, the crushing poverty, and the sight of children begging on the streets just became too much for me. I’ve never seen such a wide divide between the rich and the poor. On a walk the other day, I saw a family sitting in a pile of garbage under an overpass. They had a tiny newborn infant with them. Nearby was a huge modern shopping mall filled with designer shoe stores and every other luxury good you could dream up.
There are beggars everywhere, especially on Sukhumvit Street. The women sit on filthy blankets, holding sleeping babies who seem to breathe shallowly in the heat. A little girl, who couldn’t have been more than five years old, sat alone with her begging cup next to a sidewalk stand selling sex toys and lingerie. I worried about her and all the rest of them but I don’t know what to do. If I give them money, it will only encourage the people who put her out there to continue to do so. I hate feeling so helpless.
The filth and pollution are unbelievable. The water in the canals is a thick, black sludge. Piles of rotting garbage are stacked under every empty space. Plastic shopping bags are everywhere. You can’t buy a takeaway coffee without the cashier trying to put it in a plastic bag.
Everyday I see beautiful things and then horrible things. Yesterday, I sat in a park near the Grand Palace and watched the people passing by on the street. I had been to see the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is an amazing place. Across from the park I saw a woman wearing nothing but underwear below the waist digging through a rubbish bin while muttering to herself. A few minutes later, I saw a monk chastising a man whose 3 legged dog was sitting in the street.
Buddha is on the move and so are we. Tomorrow we leave for Koh Chang.