What our travel pics don’t show about Thailand


“So how was Thailand?”
I haven’t figured out how to answer this question in a mix-and-mingle setting yet (i.e. dinner party…versus say, a phone call with a girlfriend, where I would just assume they’re expecting a longer conversation). “Great, loved it!” doesn’t seem to satisfy (although it’s true), and yet I fear watching their eyes glaze over if I launch into a synopsis of our itinerary or start listing favorite sights.

I know what most dinner guests are not looking for when asking this question….a troubled reflection on the trash in Thailand. Yeah, trash. This is something that, understandably, the guidebooks don’t cover.  I expected street and gutter waste in Bangkok, but I didn’t expect how much of it would clutter the edges of the waterways and train tracks, even in rural areas. Or foresee a huge pile of trash in the middle of the park at the Ayuttaya ruins, a UNESCO world heritage site. It was just kind of everywhere – styrofoam, clothing, cans, paper plastic, more plastic – thinly lining the edges of public and private spaces.

My immediate reaction for the first couple of days was something along the lines of ick. But then I kind of checked myself – our sensitivity to municipal waste has less to do with how much of it Americans produce, and more to do with how quickly and painlessly we cart it out of sightI don’t have to think of how much trash I produce (*double the average Thai person) because someone comes along every Tuesday and makes it disappear. I don’t have to think about where it goes, or how it gets there, or how long it will sit there. I probably should think of those things, but it’s very very easy not to. Since returning from our trip I’ve tried considering these things more often.


This topic is kind of a downer..anyone else need a picture of a baby Thai bunny? See, I thought so.

What have you tried in an effort to cut down on your house’s waste?

Around here there always seems to be a nice solid wood piece of furniture someone’s put on the curb, just waiting for a little paint stripper and new hardware. As long as I don’t start rescuing all of the community’s trash like I’m on Hoarders, I think I can feel good about the occasional curb rescue. It certainly reduces what I’m buying new at the store. Here’s my latest:

The hardest thing for me personally is clothing. I don’t know about you, but I frequently feel an urge to update my wardrobe. Shoes, shirts, pants…stores, internet….magazines, pinterest…there’s no shortage of suggestions or opportunities. The tragedy in Bangladesh this past year pushed more people to talk about the costs of fast fashion, but if I were being honest I’d have to admit that it’s still hard for me to resist something new.

Last week I went to box up my summer dresses and, when opening the box of winter clothes, found several shirts that I literally forgot I owned. So I decided to, with the dresses, also box up a random assortment of all-season office wear. My plan is that after a few months of not seeing these items, I’ll be able to swap them back into the rotation, where they’ll again seem new and interesting. Yeah… so basically I’m doing to myself what mom magazines say to do with toys and your toddlers. We’ll see how it works.

*Thais produce .66 kg/capita/day of trash (p. 7) while Americans, after recycling, produce 1.3 kg/capita/day.



  1. tami · October 29, 2013

    and when i do move in, I want one of those cute little bunnies, ok?

    • foxflat · October 29, 2013

      done! I’ve wanted a bunny for a while

  2. tami · October 21, 2013

    I missed this post. I like your trash discussion. The US also consumes a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources (energy, etc), which or course correlates with the trash production. Anyhow I like that you thought about this and in a correct anthropological way :).
    Did I see that dresser when I was there? I did, right? Looks really good regardless. Can’t wait to visit my room again…or just to move in permanently.

  3. Jack · October 3, 2013

    Very well said Katie.

  4. lsaspacey · October 2, 2013

    Great idea with your clothes. Happens to me each time I decide to pack up stuff for goodwill…which always takes forever to then get out of the house. Whereas, before it does go, I always open it back up again and find things to refurbish or just plain wear again. Excellent job with that dresser, looks gorgeous and also, excellent cute bunny!

  5. Michele T. · October 1, 2013

    Great post – food for thought. Love your curbside rescue piece!

  6. Sally · September 30, 2013

    Excellent discussion, Katie, of a difficult issue for many developing countries. Here in Yamhill County, the trash, while collected, is a lot more visible. Riverbend Landfill has taken over a huge area of prime farmland, and is far too close to the river. You can imagine the complaints of the locals who have to bear the smell, unsightliness, and pollution of the trash from Portland, the primary source of the trash at the landfill!

    Very cute bunny!

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