Yesterday you saw a crew of trustees from Pathumthani Prison while they were doing some drain cleaning work on the streets of Bangkok. Here today, as promised, are the video clips and follow-up photos of what the guys were actually doing.
No arguments from here - this isn't the most scenic post I've ever done, by far; but as most boys of assorted ages will do I'll stop and watch construction sites, carpentry work, cement pouring and, yes, even drain cleanings. If nothing else, it makes me thankful I've never had to do such labor-intensive work myself.
Depending on where you are in Bangkok, Pathumthani (or Pathum Thani) is about 46Km/28Mi away. No real reason to include that, I suppose, unless you know someone being held there or are intending to commit a crime that might land you there yourself and you want to let folks know where you'll be spending your extended holidays. Bad joke, there; having seen a bit of the insides of a Thai prison it's probably not something anyone should be joking about.
If you're heading North to visit the lovely Summer palace at Bang Pa-in (built by King Prasat Thong in the early 1600s, restored by King Rama IV in the mid-1800s) you drive through the general area, though. Just a thought, but a bit off-topic, sorry.
|The one with the Halloween mask in the center seemed to be the Alpha Dog, directing the others. His mask alternated between usage as sun and splatter protection. You'll see below that it wasn't always effective.|
The work entailed the crew threading a thin rope attached to a much heavier one from one drain opening to the next at some point, pulling a cylindrical bucket through the line from one point to the next and then lifting the bucket of muck up through the opening and dumping it into one of dozens of large light blue bins to be hauled away.
|The thin rope went through first, followed by the heavier one, which then held the bucket.|
This meant opening each grate or cover and then replacing it afterwards. Some of them were quite firmly set in place, either by crud settled into the perimeters or by shifting of the surroundings, etc. That involved a more united effort of a different sort to pry them up. At one point they had six of them working on the ones below to break them free.
|Lifting sidewalk grates with picks and crowbars is heavy duty|
|Pulling the bucket through the drain|
Once the rope was ready to be pulled through a call went out to the lead man on what looked like a one-sided tug-of-war, and he began his call to heave ho to the guys to begin pulling:
When the bucket full of gunk reached the next opening, it was hooked and lifted up so a length of pipe could be put in place to hold it near street level, and guys would then lift it out and dump the contents into the blue bin.
For those who don't have the bandwith/time/patience to see the clips I'm including still photographs today, also.
|Lifting the full bucket to sidewalk level...|
|... and emptying it for removal and disposal|
Most of the time it all seemed to go smoothly. The crew wasn't being hounded to move faster or work harder; it was obvious it was hot, heavy, risky work already. I did see things stop for a couple of minutes while one of the guys who was knocked in the brow got a bandage put over his eye, and another time when the Masked Man had a large dollop of skunk water splash up and get into his eye. I had a packet of hong nam tissues (just in case) and let him pull a couple from the pack. He thanked me and wiped his face, while a co-worker looked up and giggled at his friend's misfortune.
|Another usage of the phrase "here's mud in your eye"|
As a bystander it was an entertaining 20 minutes or so. As a worker on this roped version of a chain gang it must have been a long, difficult day... but at least they were out and off of the prison grounds for the day. I hope their rate of recidivism is low, because the ones I had (admittedly very little) contact with seemed to be friendly enough guys. Perhaps theirs were more "white collar" crimes, I don't know. I wish them luck.