Last year around this time, I went on my first field trip with the Thai school I work for. It rained the whole time, and I was new to the laissez-faire style of field trip supervision practiced at my school. I was used to field trips at my school in California with emergency contact info in my backpack, parent chaperones, obsessive counting, lots of rules, and a general sense of panic all day.
While in general Thailand either does not have safety laws at all, or they’re not enforced, I’ve been noticing that still, at least at school, no one gets hurt or kidnapped. Last year at camp, I was worried that with 65 5th- and 6th-graders lighting their own fires on which to deep fry veggies and egg in a boiling pan of oil, someone was bound to get burnt. No one did. So, while Thai safety standards are terribly low — and thousands of people are injured or killed every year (here’s a big example) — some of my American worries over safety have proven to be closer to paranoia.
I will always hate riding in the backseats of taxis sans seat belts, but I have begun to be a little more laid back when it comes to children having fun and trusting them to stay with the group. Last week on our field trip to the Grand Palace and two temples, no one got lost and no one got hurt. We counted the kids before moving on from an exhibit or destination; we told kids to watch out for each other. But we didn’t have obsessive rules, we didn’t discipline anyone, and we actually had a good time ourselves. It’s nice to let go a little bit.
I’m cool with letting go a bit, but we did have one incident that I would have prevented if I were in charge. Our illustrious tour guide cut 300 students loose on Wat Arun, with its crazy steep sides, precipitous pathways, and downright dangerous stairwells. Again, no one got hurt, but perhaps some ground rules (e.g. No running, No pushing, No jumping off of a 400-year-old structure, etc.) would have been a good idea. A little paranoia, in my opinion, is justified.
Overall, I had a better time this time around. The dry weather meant it was quite hot, but it also meant that I didn’t have to go barefoot on wet temple floors (I have a wet-feet-on-cold-hard-surfaces phobia). Bangkok’s most famous attractions are really quite amazing to behold. The Grand Palace has a mix of traditional Thai and more European-influenced architecture. There’s a weapons room to display tridents and machetes, stationary guards whom the kids enjoyed playfully tormenting, on-going preservation projects, and the well-known Emerald Buddha (who is actually made out of jade, but is one of Thailand’s prized possessions):
Wat Po has the famous Reclining Buddha, as well as big spires for each of the first four kings of Thailand:
And Wat Arun is a beautiful temple right on the river that was built in honor of both the Buddha and Hindu gods:
I’m looking forward to more field trips this year; I know we have plans to visit the National Science Museum and the Marine History Museum. Stay tuned!