Khlong Toei - one of Bangkok's largest slums.


As we walk past I can't help but hold my breath. I want to cover my nose and run. But don't want to be rude. We are walking past the rubbish dump, an area between houses, centimetres from the footpath. Rubbish covers the ground and drums emit the smells that are making me want to run. There is also a fire smouldering, I presume to burn off the rubbish.


We turn the corner and now my nostrils are filled with the sweet and husky tones of incense. And then we pass an area where locals are cooking - homely fragrance filters the air. People look up and smile, saying 'thank you' or 'hello'. They look so happy to see us.


We are being shown through Khlong Toei, one of Bangkok's largest slums. Prateep, who's the founder of Duang Prateep Foundation, has set up a kindergarten along with a program for elderly and disabled here. It is among much other support the Foundation offers for slum dwellers. Prateep herself was a slum dweller in the 60s but now, after setting up Duang Prateep Foundation 38 years ago, has over 20 projects through Thailand helping the disadvantaged.


Khlong Toei slum is built on a swamp, so we need to watch where we walk. Under some houses, we can see fish swimming around. In other areas, we need to be careful our foot doesn't get soaked in sloshy waste water (I don't even want to know what it was).


I peer in windows as we walk past - it's hard not to, the houses border the path which is just wide enough for a scooter to zoom down. People are sleeping. Others are making food or sewing. The homes are very small and simple. I see a flat screen TV in a few houses. We comment that the house must be the CEO or Manager of the slum. But how would we know?


Prateep and her helpers show us homes they have rebuilt. All painted green. The inhabitants are very proud of their new residence. Which appears to be just one room sometimes, about 4 metres square.


And I say I have a humble home (of 3 bedrooms and backyard)? Hmm, makes me think. This slum is right in the middle of Bangkok, with fancy five-star hotels nearby. I'm very grateful to be on the other side, to be invited in to see how the less fortunate live. Respect and gratitude.

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