Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bangkok Chinatown Prowl Take 2

During the three day King's Birthday weekend, we stayed in Chinatown close to the maze of tiny alleys and back streets that are jammed with stalls and customers at all hours; as the night shops close, the morning markets begin setting up well before dawn. In the evening, customers flow from one curb-side restaurant to the next, filling intersections with a buzz of gastronomic activity, mouth-watering dishes delivered steaming  to your table. Of all the places in Bangkok I know, this is my favorite place to hang out at any time of day or night. Here are scenes from a 20 hour period, shown chronologically from our check in and first wander down a street near the hotel, to the fresh market the next morning.

Interior of Shanghai Mansion Hotel, Yaowarat Road

A typical shop jammed with merchandise

Ceramic jars filled with tea from China

Sausage shop with good luck garland

Monks' clothing drying at a small Chinese buddhist temple off Yaowarat Road

Etched skull at Chinese temple

You want it, they have it...somewhere in there.

Examining amulet quality, New Road.

New Road shop full of Chinese decorations

Curb-side hair removal service, New Road. Does it hurt? One replied, "Not much." Another, "A lot!"

Outside monk's dormitory on a temple's grounds

Monks waiting for a taxi outside a temple. Yaowarat Road

An outdoor Chinese buddhist shrine
These workers piled the carts from a store behind me, moved it across the street, and unloaded into another shop.

Pushcarts have the advantage of moving from one location to another if sales sag!

Popular evening street-side noodle stand, Yaowarat Road

After a soothing foot massage, we ate at a curb-side table and watched the passing scene

Amazing...a walk/bike/drive-in reel to reel movie shown in the street near Yaowarat Road!

The early morning markets bustle with activity

A surprising scene: A Himalayan visitor strolls the market

Friday, November 25, 2011

Random Scenes

While sorting through recent random shots taken as I go to work, take walks, or run errands, I came across a cross section of scenes that give a glimpse into the life we now have in Thailand for most of each year. Although they at first seemed so different and exotic, now that they are part of our everyday life, they seem normal. Despite their familiarity, I still view them as exotic and wonderfully unique; I would never take them for granted. These scenes help illustrate Thai life, but their counterparts exist in every land around the globe, showing peeks into various cultures. Here are some scenes from our neighborhood, and a few from just beyond.

The jack fruit man, Ramkhamhaeng Road

A quiet scene near Saen Saep klong (canal)

Traditional ox cart for carrying timber, near Jomtien beach

Night guard, Summakorn Village, Soi 36

Spirit House detail, Ramkhamhaeng Road

A job I do not want. Summakorn Village, Saphan Sung

A popular food stall at the weekend open air market, Summakorn Village

Many Thais keep birds. This one is just off Ramkhamhaeng Road.

Water buffalo wallow at the entrance to our school.

Negotiating the recent flood on Ban Ma klong near Ramkhamhaeng Road

Begging on Sukhumvit Road, downtown Bangkok

Lost in translation: restaurant near Jomtien.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bangkok Chinatown Prowl

One of the most fascinating areas of Bangkok is Chinatown. Unlike in many of the world's great cities, Chinatown is not simply a section of the city in which Chinese culture and immigrants tend to congregate: Thai history is closely linked to China and Chinese culture, thus Chinese Thais make up a significant proportion of the population. Chinatown thus is an exciting, colorful, energy-laden blend of Thai and Chinese (with a sprinkling of Indian) food, fabrics, hardware, electrical parts, and anything imaginable in the tiny dark alleyways, including items you never knew you needed. If one cannot find something anywhere else in Bangkok, the directions are simple: Go to Yaowarat Road and ask someone. Chances are, you will be directed to it posthaste.

My long time friend Jeff Harper and I went on a flood intermission, roaming another area of this amazing city on one of our occasional photo shoots. Accompanying us was first time Thailand visitor Peter Stiehle. A word of caution for anyone wishing to wander the non-commercial back alleys of Chinatown. Don't. If you must stray off the main shopping road, go with someone who knows the area, speaks Thai, and recognizes the potential dangers of poking your nose in places you shouldn't or don't know you shouldn't, especially after dark. Ask us about one of the reasons why sometime, preferably over a beer at Saxophone Pub.

Newly constructed flood walls protecting store fronts create another place to sit and chat with friends.

I'm glad I didn't want a key chain or necklace. I'd still be there deciding.
A typical Chinatown scene: Finding a spot to have some lunch and check messages during a shopping break.

Inside a Chinese Buddhist temple grounds, a crematorium and entrance gate frame a distant building's zig zagging stairs.

Chinese dog statuettes guard an old offering site outside the temple.

Still life study on a wall adjacent to the temple

Entryway to the temple

Decorated temple rooftop and captive birds lend an air of authentic charm.

Lanterns can be found in every corner of a Chinese temple

Commerce doesn't end after dark. Loading merchandise for motorbike delivery.

A lonely wall down a small back street

Lately, boats are a hot commodity in Bangkok
I don't know, this scene just seemed to scream "CHINATOWN"

This food stall is just outside one of Thailand's six gazillion 7-11 ("se-WEN") convenience stores

A small shop closing up for the night
Beautiful old architecture is found throughout Chinatown. At night they are enhanced by the glow of street lights.
This little shop was jammed with goods, typical of "Mom and Pop" establishments found in abundance.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Helping Kids Learn

Two weeks ago, Kat, I and friends Miho and Police met a wonderful young lady (nicknamed Bang ["Powder"]) who is studying to be a teacher. She and her extended family live in a poor community near a major klong (canal) in Bangkok not far from our home. As of this writing, every one of their homes has taken on flood water. Despite this, every weekend, twenty children gather on a raised dirt platform with no roof, sit at rickety tables and study Thai language, math, history and English. They cross the water on planks to get to the "school."

We joined them yesterday and had a wonderful time, although the excitement of foreigners showing up pretty much killed the math problem-solving momentum, and created an ongoing distraction during the English lesson. We have offered to help with their English learning each week. Miho also teaches them a bit of Japanese. If you would like to volunteer an hour a week teaching English, just let me know and we will make a rotating schedule.

Bang and one of the future students!
A fund raiser has been started to build a small, simple enclosed building that will house a library for the children (They have no books). Books in English and Thai may be donated, along with notebooks, calculators and pencils. We are also seeking cash donations to build the library. For those in Thailand, donations may be made to us at school, or by other means, such as bank fund transfer. If from North America or other regions, you may send donations to me. If you would like to donate funds, contact me at or by Facebook message and I will send you the address.