January 3, 2013
I’ve been in Bangkok for a few days over the New Year. I was coming to get a new visa but that turns out not to be strictly necessary these days. I had a second reason to be here so I came anyway. My normally Yangon-based monk friend Ashin is here for a month or so and I’ve been to visit him.
Ashin is staying in Bang Boon about 15K from downtown Bangkok in a makeshift monastery in the heart of an ex-pat Myanmar community of about 6000, mainly younger people, all living in the same few streets. Myanmar is spoken everywhere and by everyone, even many of the Thais living round about, Myanmar foodstuffs and Myanmar branded products are on sale in the shops. Myanmar TV is here and there is of course a lively tea shop.
Some of those I met and shared a New Year Lunch with at the ‘monastery’ came over, legally, as teenagers and are now in their late twenties. Others are still teenagers, more recently arrived. They work, mostly, in a shoe factory and a fish factory. They make about $300 a month for a 66 hour, 6 day week. Most hope to return to Myanmar sometime soon, particularly now as it opens up politically, socially and most importantly for them economically.
Over New Year they had five days off and were using that time to make donations to the monks, to head to the beach at Pattaya (where they would swim fully dressed, Bamar-style), and to get married. In front of the ‘monastery’ a wedding was being set up for the next day. A marquee was put up on a patch of dusty land, loads of balloons and flowers were added for decoration. The sound system was being tested; it worked, it was loud. There were plenty of cups and glasses to wash up, which was a team effort of course.
(Inevitably) that afternoon I ended up amateurishly (I have to say that don’t I TEFL friends?), if humorously (I like to think), teaching English for a couple of hours (again).
It’s a great way to learn more Burmese. And it was great fun.
I’ve already been back to Bangkok’s Mini Myanmar.