Thursday, September 8, 2011

Outside The Front Gate

First things first.  Both of the kids made the first round of cuts for the school travel basketball teams.  Final cuts are this afternoon.  Caitlynne was also asked to play in the community basketball league.  One of the teams lost a player due to a broken finger - the coach saw Caitlynne practicing with Kevin and now she is on a team and has two games this weekend. 

Today, I managed to accomplish another "first" for me.  In Bangkok, all of our utilities are paid for by the U.S. Government and we only pay for cable and  telephone.  When I received those two bills in the mail for the first time, it took me a while to figure out exactly what services we were being billed for. Just for kicks, here is a photo of one of the bills we received so you can see what I was trying to decipher.  If you "click" directly on the photo, that should enlarge it a bit for more detail.
This morning, I was in a panic having realized that I read the due date wrong.  On the bills, the due date was written as being 11/9/54.  In Thailand, as it was in Australia, the day is written first and then month is written.  So, while I thought the bills were due on November 9th, they were actually due on September 11th (which made more sense!).  Since this was my first time paying these bills, I did not want to leave everything to the last minute in case there was a problem and I needed to call someone or go to another location to pay.  I have been told that service is disconnected immediately if payment is not received on time.  Yikes!  So, my plan for today was to get those bills paid! 

As an aside, for those inquiring minds out there... the "54" (in the date above) is the current year according to the Buddhist calendar, the official calendar in Thailand.  The Buddhist calendar is 543 years ahead of our Gregorian calendar so they are in year 2554 and we are in 2011.  I guarantee you will learn something new from each of my blog entries! 

We have found that Thailand is essentially a "cash" economy and everything, including household bills, is paid in cash.  Since you just can't stick your Baht in an envelope and mail to the telephone company, many of the local shops accept payment.  Most of my friends just give their maids the money and have them pay the bills.  However, I was very curious to see how this process worked so off I went. The closest such store to me was the 7-11 right outside our front gate.  The bill paying was uneventful and I did get receipts for my payments so that was all good. 

The best part of my day was when I realized I had my camera in my purse and could take photos of the streets right outside the front gate of Nichada for the blog.  It is interesting because, out the front gate, it is basically a slum (as evidenced in these photos).  Out the Seechaitong (or side) gate, it is more of a middle class (by Thai standards only) neighborhood.  I will have to take some photos of that area next so you can see the difference.  Again, click on the photos to enlarge for more detail.  Anyway, on to the photos...

The photo below is taken looking down the street.  The 7-11 where I paid the bills is up on the right.
The photos below are of the food stalls that are set up on the sidewalks and along the sides of the street.  These types of stalls are ALL over Bangkok.  You never have to look far for food and there are so many choices available.  Some stalls might just sell one "specialty" item (like satay or fresh cut fruit) and other stalls will have many dishes available.  The food and drinks sold are primarily for take away and rarely is seating available.   The vendor usually lives in the rear area of the property with his/her family.  Often there is laundry hung around, animals laying on the ground and children doing homework or playing.  Obviously, not much consideration is given to health measures and sanitary conditions.

Notice the "Subway" sign in the upper left hand corner of the photo below.  We haven't eaten there yet but have been told it is just like back home.

The "structure" in the photo below is worth its own caption as it is a coffee shop.  It is hard to believe that, less than 1/2 mile away, in Nichada, there is a lovely Starbuck's, just like you would find in the U.S.
The photo below is of a stall in the market area.  Every day, the market vendors begin to set up their wares after lunch and stay open until very late in the night.  Fruits, vegetables, meats and prepared foods are sold as well as a few household items.  When we drive by at night, it reminds me of a church bazaar. There are strings of lights hung about, music playing and smoke rises from the different grills and stoves.  It looks very festive.  There are similar markets all over Bangkok as most Thais do not cook at home so they go to the market for dinner and to socialize.  The markets are always very busy.
 A vendor setting up produce for the afternoon market.  To the left you can see a "tuk tuk".
The photos below were taken on a residential street.  Take note of the public telephone booth on the left side of the street.  Believe it or not, they do still exist.  In fact, because I am still without a cell phone, I have used public telephones several times. 
 More food stalls on the left and up the street on the right. 
The home in the photo below is probably one of the nicer homes in the area (outside of Nichada). 
There are always lots of chickens roaming around.  I did not see a soi dog while I was out today, which was very unusual.
Back in the bubble that is Nichada...  I took the golf cart for a drive around the lake to take some photos of the flora.  I have no idea what the official names of these flowers are.  Some of the flowers here are familiar to me from Miami and others are some that I have never seen.  Everything is incredibly green and the flowers are so brilliantly colored.

The photo below is a view of the lake from the southern shore. The building shown is one of the two high rise apartment buildings in Nichada.

The flowers below are very similar to birds of paradise...

The photo below is taken on the street near school.  The gardeners trim these bushes in such a way that the upper portion grows almost like a canopy over the walkway.  Those orange construction cones are used throughout Nichada to distinguish the pedestrian walkway from the street.  It is an odd sight, in our bubble of meticulously landscaped shrubs, beautiful homes and fancy cars, to see orange cones lining the sides of all of the streets.  So tacky! Christopher told me that he thinks Nichada has the most orange cones in the world!
Well, my fingers are sore from typing all of this out so I am going to sign off!