Soi Phipat Shortcut

“Soi” is a commonly used word in Thailand. It roughly translates as “alley” and Bangkok is filled with these small lanes that feed off larger arterial roads like so many strands of narrow rice noodles in a bowl of guaytiaw. It is on these sois that some of the most interesting sights lie, away from the main thoroughfares and amidst the everyday lives of locals.

One Friday afternoon not too long ago, I had to go from Soi Convent, a pretty large street that connects Silom and Sathorn roads, to the Narathiwat intersection. Traffic was gridlocked on the main streets so I decided to walk. Instead of walking along the main road and inhaling the fumes of idling vehicles, I took a shortcut along Soi Phipat 2.


This narrow soi connects from Convent to Narathiwat and passes all sorts of houses, shops, condos, and hotels. It is an older neighborhood, one that predates most of the buildings in this otherwise modern corner of the city. In the late afternoon, numerous vendors were setting up their carts. Smoke from freshly-started grills rose in thick clouds through which the sunlight sliced. The smell of charring chicken and pork made my stomach growl as I tried to hurry past so as to not arrive at my destination smelling too much of smoke.

Midway down the soi, I saw a large sign warning in Thai and English to beware of pick-pockets and bag-snatchers. I’ve been warned before that this soi, despite being in a very populated area adjacent to the main business district, is known for its risk of theft. Once, a year or so ago, I was walking down the street one afternoon and a Thai man was just standing by the side of the road in the shade. As I passed, he called out to me in English to be careful and watch out for pick-pockets. He then drew back his jacket so I could see the handle of a gun sticking out of the waistband of his pants. Very strange.

All the more strange because Bangkok isn’t a city in which I ever have any fear of crime. Sure, it happens here, but I don’t worry about it the same way I might when I’m in the US.

Anyhow, this afternoon I passed through Soi Phipat 2 with no incidents and arrived a few minutes later at my destination, a little sweaty and a little smoky but none the worse for wear.


Should Your Kids Be Free Range?

It is interesting when something you encounter in the news dovetails nicely with a thought you’ve already been thinking.  Such was the case yesterday when I heard an interview on NPR with Lenore Skenazy, who wrote an interesting article called “The Myth of Online Predators“.  Here’s an excerpt:

Is letting your kids go online the same as dropping them off at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop in fishnet stockings at 3 a.m.?

A lot of parents think it is. Or maybe worse. My husband and I took our time letting our oldest boy, who is 13, start his social networking, though that was because we were worried it was like dropping him off at the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop to do his homework—we figured it would never get done. But the towering fear that the second a kid goes online he or she becomes cyberjailbait turns out to be way off base. According to new research, the danger online is teeny-tiny unless your kids are running into chat rooms, typing, “Anyone here like ‘em young?” and posting photos of themselves licking lollipops. Naked.

Free Range Kids Recently, the lengthening days have got me thinking a lot about my childhood and how my childhood seems very different than those of children today.  I used to play outdoors all the time.  I remember riding my bicycle up, down and around the block.  My first elementary school was three blocks from home and I was walking there on my own in first grade.  In third grade I transferred to a school six or seven blocks away and was walking there on my own, too, and allowed to ride my bike within maybe a mile radius of home.

I remember my parents telling me about potential predators and what to do and what not to do.  But they never sheltered me, kept me locked up inside, or refused to let me leave their sight.  The result?  It may be hard to scientifically prove, but I can trace my self-confidence, creativity, curiosity, independence and adventurous spirit to that shove out the screen door, that admonition to turn off the TV and go play outside.

“But things are different today,” you might say.  “Crime is so much worse than thirty years ago.”

Statistically, though, that isn’t true, especially with crime against children.  For more detail see this article in the Journal of Social Issues, but here are some interesting facts.  Note that the statistics are current through 2006, when the article was published.  More recent statistics confirm the trend.

  • From 1990 to 2006, substantiated cases of child sexual abuse went down 53%.
  • Physical abuse substantiations declined 48% between 1992 and 2006.
  • From 1993 to 2005, sexual assaults on teenagers decreased by 52%. The subgroup of assaults by known persons decreased even more dramatically

Across the board, crime in the US is at the lowest level it has been since 1970.  Source

All this gets to Skenazy’s larger point, which is that it is crazy to limit our lives – or our kids’ lives – based on fear of a wildly remote danger.  It seems to be part of a growing culture of fear, something that isn’t a very beneficial development for the United States.

Somehow, a whole lot of parents are just convinced that nothing outside the home is safe. At the same time, they’re also convinced that their children are helpless to fend for themselves. While most of these parents walked to school as kids, or hiked the woods — or even took public transportation — they can’t imagine their own offspring doing the same thing.

They have lost confidence in everything: Their neighborhood. Their kids. And their own ability to teach their children how to get by in the world. As a result, they batten down the hatches.  Source

The reading is interesting and thought-provoking.  Skenazy has a blog and has just released a book titled “Free Range Kids: Giving Our Kids the Freedom We Had without Going Nuts with Worry“, so there is plenty of reading to do.

What were your experiences growing up?  How are you treating your children and why?  If you don’t have children, how are your nieces/nephews/friends’ children being treated?  Smothered by overprotection or allowed to run amok with no supervision?