The Chinese New Year In Bangkok!

Up periscope

From my side a winding creature fixed to the staff in my hand rose to peer over the masses. Glancing left then scanning to the right its small drum heart pattered as the weighted strings spun out and pelted its surface. The sound of rain droplets bouncing off a tin pot radiated from the dragon’s sway. It bobbed through a 360-degree turn then shook its head and zipped down to my side once more.

 

****We will go back to Cambodia after this short break celebrating the Chinese New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Please enjoy.****Chinese NY BKK 5

One glance at the dragon’s tiny face and I knew I’d need a ride from one of its larger, flying cousins to get out of that crowd fast. It was almost nine at night and I needed to get back to Victory Monument by ten for a van ride home.

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My agitated wrist flicked the dragon into an energetic spin, its body spiraling skyward. The drum pattered joyfully. My lips gridlocked in an exasperated set began to twitch. Like a baby with a rattle I fell into amusement with the simple thing. Holding my scepter of hope aloft I marched—well shuffled—forward. We’d get to the end of Yaowarat Road. Eventually.

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Then. I heard it—the clash and beat of a large beast. My scepter and I looked at each other in surprise and pushed forward. We wove. We ducked. We leapt. We sprinted through tiny gaps.

With each advancement I’d strain to see over the crowd for the source of the clangs. My steps quickened. From the crowd a hint of what I’d been seeking all night shone like the Holy Grail.

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Almost there just a bit more.

I was adjacent to the prize.

Suddenly I could go no further. The street had been divided by a moat of street vendors, their wares set out in a precarious path. I frantically walked further on and saw my chance— a narrow lane between two patches of products.  I tight-rope-walked between two blankets, slipped by a seller and hopped over his shirts. Gleefully touching down I darted into the heart of a small hive of people.

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And there they were: two dragons nipping at demons and gulping down donations. Cymbals clashed and a drum boomed as the pair meandered down the street chasing off the ghosts of the old year.

Needless to say…

I. Was. Delighted.

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The parade I had waited for until eight p.m. had turned out to only feature Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. I remember how my heart had fluttered as cheers rose signaling the coming of the parade. I imagined dragons zigzagging across the street as cymbals clashed and other Chinese deities welcomed the visitors and the year of the Wooden Horse.

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Then a trolley car rolled by with the princess at its centre. Exclamations from the sidelines followed the car in a wave as it passed. More cars followed. Then the line ended and the crowd dispersed, taking with it my hopes of seeing dragons.

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I saw the princess twice that day.

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I’m not entirely sure what happened there. But. In the end I was lucky enough to find some wandering dragons anyway. The easy photo opportunity may have been lacking but it was neat to see whimsical creatures interacting with the population of Chinatown, Bangkok.

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To finish off the night I allowed myself to be pulled into Wat Traimit. From the top one could see strings of lanterns meeting over the celebrations. Twin dragons accompanied the golden Buddha presiding over the highest room in the temple. Their spines clasping at the money pushed upon them.

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Far below I saw two blocks of fire. Curiousity tugged me along down the stairs of the temple. Up close the blocks broke into small individual flames set upon giant candles. They fluttered in the wind, more vulnerable up close.

People in prayer had bowed their heads in reverence before the line of Buddha images. A cloud of incense hung over the images despite the breeze playing with the candle flames.

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I bought some incense, a lotus flower and a candle to offer to the Buddha images. A passing woman paused as she saw me. She must have sensed my hesitation.

“Do you know what to do?”

I shook my head sheepishly.

Letting loose a sigh but smiling openly she turned to me and pointed to the candles.

“You light your candle and your…”

“Incense?”

“Yes incense, you light your candle and your incense over there then offer them to the image representing the day of the week you were born. Do you know which day you were born?”

“Um, no.”

“Ah, see westerners don’t know which day they are born on but we have to know,” she said nodding her head before continuing.

“You can offer the incense to the meditating Buddha for relaxation then. Have you been working a lot lately and want to relax more? After you offer the candle and incense you place the lotus in the water.”

Seeing me nod she stepped toward the candles. I followed her and awkwardly shouldered my small dragon before setting my incense sticks over the flames. Teasingly the flames danced around the sticks. I followed them around till the sticks caught the fire.

With incense smoking in my hands I stepped up to the sand plot set before the images. Spotting the meditating Buddha I nervously jabbed the bundle into the sand and lit my candle before setting it into a small hole on the available grid. Stepping forward I set my lotus into the jar and moved out of the way. I walked for the gate, excited that I’d managed the small ceremony successfully.

Then I glanced over my shoulder and realized that I’d forgotten to say what I hoped for in the New Year or even a prayer. Seems the serenity of praying is something I still don’t quite understand.

Mentally smacking my head but grinning non-the-less I threw a quick wish over the same shoulder and dashed off to meet my van at Victory Monument.

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Hua Lamphong MRT subway station to Si Lom MRT station then transfer to Sala Daeng BTS station. Travel from that station to Victory Monument station via the BTS and walla, a number of vans lead out to the further reaches of Bangkok and area.

Whole ride one-way costs 31 Baht for BTS + 18 Baht for MRT = 49 Baht.

There is the possibility of taking a bus for cheaper but this way is the fastest I find.

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