OUR BANGKOK JOURNAL – PART 01/03
Recently our team traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to attend the annual Regional Youth Convention (RYC2018) and also for the launching of our new Digital Dakwah product — TheGOODTIDINGS.
Last year during RYC2017, we launched our first Digital Dakwah product — DoGood, in Manila, The Philippines.
Our second product, TheGOODTIDINGS is a project that focuses on reverts (new Muslims) and those who are interested in learning more about Islam through the social media, and our TheGOODTIDINGS portal.
Our journey began from preparing every detail of the launch, then followed by making sure the launching ceremony is scheduled, to assisting the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Malaysia Office, with their student representatives in Bangkok.
We promoted the video contest for TheGOODTIDINGS before the launch with the intention of getting as many participations as we used to during last year’s Regional Youth Convention (RYC2017) in Manila. Unfortunately, we received very little participation from the crowd. Thankfully, our big boss agreed to extend the competition duration so that we would have more time to find amazing talents that can create the best video content. The organizers were giving away cash prizes of RM500, RM300 and RM100 — but the participation we received were not encouraging.
Our team of three departed from Malaysia on November 1st, 2018. The other two of our members couldn’t make it; our Research Executive who had a medical appointment he could not miss, and our Editor who had PhD commitments she needed to attend to.
As we reached Bangkok, the hosts from WAMY Thailand were already waiting for us, ready to take us to the hotel. I’ve made prior arrangements in Malaysia whereby I establish contact with Bangkok Tamil Muslim Association through Facebook for an NGO collaborative initiative and they gave me their Secretary’s number for me to contact upon arriving in Bangkok. After settling in at the hotel, I texted him and we made an appointment to meet on that same day, November 1st, 2018.
And so, we booked the Grab car service and headed to Bangkok Mosque in Bang Rak, Bangkok — this is where the Tamil Muslim Association is located. The idea was for me to carry out an interview with the Tamil Muslim Association in Bangkok and this story will be shared in my next post.
On our 2nd day in Bangkok, we walked around the hotel we stayed in, which was a Muslim hotel called Regent Ramkamhaeng 22, Bangkok. Everything is Muslim-friendly in this hotel and even the TV channels include a channel broadcasting Masjidil Haram, Makkah and other channels broadcasting Islamic contents.
We didn’t face any difficulty in adjusting to the time difference as Malaysia is only an hour early from Thailand. However, we did wonder how Thailand, our neighbouring, next-door country could be an hour behind us but The Philippines, which was farther from us than Thailand, share the same time. Obviously, there is a logical explanation for this but we couldn’t help but wonder on the miraculous planning of Allah over His dominion.
There were approximately 3 malls that were within walking distance of the hotel. This is my third time visiting Thailand but a first for Bangkok. One of the things I noticed about the Thais were their driving skills. They drove recklessly, stopping whenever and wherever they wanted to, even in the middle of the road but miraculously, I didn’t witness any accidents. Another thing is their haphazard electric cables that were strewn openly. The cables were just above our heads (you could easily reach it) and were very much tangled. I was uncertain if there have been records of electrocution cases involving pedestrians or people in Thailand due to their seemingly dangerous electric cables.
I also noticed the locals were absolutely fine with Muslims wearing the hijab, it wasn’t a strange sight for them. I was aware that Bangkok is a Buddhist-majority country and the Muslims amount to only about 4% to 5% of the total Thailand’s population but despite that, I saw numerous facilities for the Muslims in Thailand.
You can easily find a masjid (mosque) and there are musollas (prayer rooms) in every mall and in the airport, and they do provide musollas in their rest area too.
We Malaysians look pretty similar to the people of Thailand, thus the Thai people can’t tell we’re not local until we tell them so. I experienced the same thing in The Philippines as well when they mistook us as locals in the Philippines too.
Our event took place on Saturday and Sunday and even then, we were still able to find time to visit the local Halal/Muslim Festival on Saturday night, right after our Saturday program ended. On Saturday morning was the launch of our new product – The GOODTIDINGS. WAMY Thailand invited Mr Panadda Diskul, Assistant Minister to His Excellency the Prime Minister of Thailand as the guest of honour and surprisingly, he was willing to visit our humble booth to find out more about our project. He also made the time to sit and listen to our big boss’ Keynote Address about our projects — what an amazing personality!
In the evening, we conducted street dawah in several selected locations. I’ll be sharing this story in another post.
The Muslim Festival sells halal food and Muslims’ attires. Our team including the three Malaysian students have been looking for keychains, fridge magnets or T-shirts that say “Bangkok” to bring home as souvenirs but we just can’t seem to find any. Even our hosts were uncertain as to where one could find these items (we later found out these items were sold in the airport).
Most of the Thai people can’t speak English. Some do speak English, but they were very difficult to find. At the Muslim Festival, quite a number of the vendors originated from Pattani or Yala – a state in the south of Thailand; quite close to Malaysia. They do speak basic Bahasa Melayu (with a Kelantanese dialect). They were indeed helpful to us Malaysian (and Indonesian) when shopping at the Muslim Festival. For the others, I think learning sign-language is a must in Thailand. Or one could just use Google translate. We did this in Hatyai, Thailand whereby we simply typed what we wanted to know on Google translate and showed the translated version of it to the local. It worked wonders!
As our currency exchange rate was not as high as it used to be, things were not that cheap in Thailand but they were still affordable. The two male students representing WAMY Malaysia managed to find T-shirts that said ‘Bangkok’ at an affordable price — the material quality of the T-shirt was excellent, it was no ordinary cheap t-shirt.
We rode a public transportation called ‘Bas Bodi”, which was similar to the Philippines’ Jeepney-like public transport, to the Muslim Festival earlier but later as one of our team members got injured (she sprained her foot) we decided to return back to our hotel using the service of Grab instead.
After the end of the third day in Bangkok, we set ourselves for our final day in Bangkok.
We kick-started our final day by “interrupting” the event with a special session from our team. We provided four special gifts for four of the best Facebook caption on the topic of ‘Islam Has Changed My Life’, and a guy from Laos won 2 of the prizes! Way to go.
We then did our final packing of the bunting that we left until the very last minute (we wanted to pack it just before the program ended); and we were informed to leave the hotel by 4:30 pm. The hosts provided us with the transportation to take us to Don Mueng International Airport.
While waiting for our flight, we strolled around the airport and did some final shopping before we headed home. This was when we found the souvenir keychains, fridge magnets and t-shirts we were looking for; just as a memento to mark the occasion that we’ve been to Bangkok. We checked in our luggage and later saw on the electronic flight announcement board that our 9:00 pm flight has been delayed to 9:40 pm.
We entered the immigration anyway just to be ready at the departure area and we noticed that there were more shops here (however the items were sold at an even more expensive price). Soon after that we heard the announcement about our flight being delayed to 10:40 pm (which meant the total time of delay now amounted to 1 hour and 40 minutes). Wow! We were stranded with no money left and we had to wait for 1 hour and 40 minutes later for our in-flight dinner (or should I say supper?)
When the flight arrived, we queued to be boarded in and get on to our assigned seats. We then heard the flight attendant making the announcement regarding the safety instructions and we instantly knew this was no ordinary safety instruction. The instruction made was clearly humorous and funny! He introduced himself as David Beckham and he definitely knew how to entertain us and cheer us up after the stress of the flight delay that most passengers went through.
We landed in Malaysia at around 1:55 am alhamdulillah. We surely miss Bangkok and flight AirAsia AK889. Despite the delay, we were left with good memories.
Missing this journey