- PART I -

To See Things from My End

“[To] understand rural poverty better, and to judge better what to do, outsiders, of whatever persuasion, have to see things from the other end.”

Robert Chambers, 1984, p. 46

I am an outsider, a city person. I was born and raised in Bangkok, a city that has grown so significantly since the time I could remember—grown in its physique, its population, its density, its diversity, and its complexity. With this growth, I began to question the drives behind the movements of rural-urban migration that goes beyond our imagined national borders. I also became very curious that if people from rural areas are better understood, supported, and empowered, how they can find their own values. Most importantly, I wonder how this simple act of attention may be able to help level the playing field between the rural and the urban livelihoods.

Tambon Pang Tawai, Amphoe Pang Sila Tong, Kampaeng Phet, is representative of many rural towns in Thailand. While most people work on farms, almost everyone at their working age goes to Bangkok in search for additional income opportunities. This photo essay tries to portray my understanding of the community and its multi-faceted ways of life before and after I have lived in the village and really gotten “to see things from the other end”.


I was the type of outsider that romanticized the rural life,


The life that is surrounded by fields of gold, hills of green, and infinite sky of blue;


Where people and animals live side by side;


Where clusters of houses form villages;

Where nature shapes life, and life shapes agriculture;


Where orchards and plantations and fields and farms


grow and yield the things I see in supermarkets.


But as space and time are governed by changing seasons,


That is sometimes too dry, and sometimes too wet,


People try to survive under whatever weather they get.


So in reverse, agriculture shapes life, and life shapes nature.


And when farms require investment, and debt creeps into life,

Each crop of investment is a risk that is left to fate to decide.

And so some people believe and pray and hope

That there is more to life than this place they have already known.

And so they travel near,

And they travel far


To look for vitality and opportunities in larger towns,


and for the things they need and the things they want

Knowing that their families


and their friends await their return.

Knowing that they can always come home.

[Continue to Part II]


[Read the full research project.]

All images © 2017 Wan Chantavilasvong