Did you know that an estimated 20% of the population of Bangkok live in slums! As we have mentioned before, many poorly paid farmers from the rural areas in the northern and central provinces of Thailand move to Bangkok in search of better employment. With the shortage of affordable community public housing, many of these migrants have very little choice but to illegally occupy the land, and they sadly become known as slum dwellers.
“On our Siam Sawan tour, we pass through this small but interesting community on our way down to the Chao Phraya River. We joined Matthew and his customers at the local nursery to meet the teachers and kids. Before we left the Clubhouse we heard that the kids had spent all morning practising to sing a song for us! Luckily today we had some gifts ready for the children, we often try to help to support this local nursery in any small way that we can.”
Ar – tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours
This small community is known as the Wat Chong Lom temple community, like most small communities in Bangkok, it is almost self-sufficient with all the basic amenities that are necessary for the daily life of the residents.
This community is mistakenly called a slum due to its location and poor appearance. Slums in Thailand are not legally recognized, built unofficially the houses are not registered and the community is not even serviced with the basic utilities. However, this particular community is established, all the homes have electricity and mains water supply and some have even installed satellite TVs. The fact that there are mailboxes is a clear indication that the homes here are in fact legally registered.
The residents here pay rent to a Landlord; the cost is dependent on the plot size and they are responsible for building their own houses. As they are mainly low-income earners they build their homes from recycled and easy to find materials that are cheap. Most of the buildings are constructed from timber; they are clad in cheap asbestos cement sheeting or recycled wood with simple corrugated tin roofs. Homes that belong to higher income households are constructed in more permanent materials such as concrete frames and rendered brickwork. As the buildings are densely packed together along the maze of narrow walkways the threat of fire is always a major concern.
Walking through this community is a very humbling experience where the display of the routine daily life of the residents is almost like watching a live TV soap opera. Meandering along the walkways that lead away from the outside world you pass the open doors of the houses where the sounds and smells of cooking fill the air. You can see neighbours chatting in the narrow pathways and it is clear that they are content and happy. As a stranger, you will invariably be politely greeted and this creates a satisfying feeling of safety.
Arriving at the small nursery the sounds of the playful kids is both endearing and intriguing. The nursery, which is almost 20 years old, was established by cooperation between the local residents and the government district office. Pre-school education in Thailand is not compulsory but the government’s policy is to provide better education opportunities for economically disadvantaged children. It is an important part of this community and it provides a focus for the 35 kids that attend here, aged between 1.5 to 4 years of age, and provides basic pre-school education and early childhood care. Furthermore, it also provides the children’s parents the necessary time to go to work.
If you would like to visit this community and meet the adorable kids in the nursery, and experience the very real local life, then please join us on our amazing Siam Sawan Bangkok bicycle tour.