Saturday, February 1, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year from Bangkok!

With nothing to do inside my hotel room during the Chinese New Year I raced towards Yaowarat road or famously called as Bangkok's Chinatown.

Coming from Pratunam area I trekked along Ratchaprarop road then crossed Petchburi to reach Ratchadamri. At the end of Ratchadamri I turned right at Rama 4 road until I reached Hua Lampong train station. From here, Yaowarat road is just a block away after crossing the creek beside it. It looks pretty easy, isn't it? Well, it took me around 3 hours of fast paced walk excluding 30 minutes rest at Silom to reach Yaowarat.

on-going program

devotees flock to the temple at Yaowarat road

I arrived at Chinatown at past 3 pm; the sun was still hovering near its zenith hence the revelers were not yet in full force. Nevertheless a show was going on at the makeshift stage built at the entrance of Yaowarat road.

The banderitas, lanterns and tarpaulins covered road and alleys were closed to vehicular traffic while both sides of Yaowarat were occupied by hawkers peddling foods, fruits, souvenir items, lucky charms, clothes to name a few. One can indulge on numerous variety of food stalls ranging from Shawarma, Chinese pastries, local delicacies, barbecues and many more. It was a perfect place for any foodie. What bothered me was the Chinatown Scala Shark Fins Restaurant. They have on display different types of shark fins; it seems that is their specialty. I have been informed that there is now a world wide trend to boycott shark fins due to the gruesomeness of harvesting the fins while leaving the shark to die and drown at the bottom of the sea. Nonetheless, I was amazed too since I never saw any fast food outlets such as McDonalds and KFC along this road.

After a couple of hours and when the sun started to hide the crowd thickened. Cops and bomb-sniffing dogs made it sure that the celebration would be peaceful. Moreover, I didn't see any sign of anti-government protest in this area. Even protest paraphernalia was surprisingly missing at the celebration.

As expected in every Chinatown in all parts of the globe during Chinese New Year you would find dragon and lion dance. At Yaowarat, several lion dance groups performed at different points along the stretch of the road. Each group has different lion costume and set of drummers. These lions would visit some shops and collect money through their mouth; spectators can also give money when the lion is dancing along the road. The tourists had lots of photo-ops with the lions.

Likewise, I saw people lining up to have their pictures taken with some Chinese dressed characters while others were in queue to know their fortunes.

I even saw a group of ladies asking donation for the victims of Yolanda in the Philippines. However, it seemed they weren't pure Filipino the way they speak. Nevertheless kudos to them and more power!

Furthermore, hotels along this road have put up tables and chairs outside for the tourists and their guests.

Not to be outdone, those singing and blind beggars I used to see at Pratunam area were also in full force during the celebration. It was obvious that people felt more charitable during this time. I can compare them with the sudden appearance of beggars in the Middle East during Ramadan season where the well to do Muslims are obliged to share their wealth while fasting.

It was unfortunate that the dragon dance and other major activities would be held at night time. I left the place at past 5 pm since I was dead tired and I couldn't find any public toilet in the area. I went back to my hotel by subway and train since I had no more strength to walk back to Pratunam area.

The celebration for the year of the horse was indeed memorable since it was my first time to celebrate Chinese New Year in Chinatown outside the Philippines.

However, I still prefer the Chinese New Year celebration in my country where a dragon dance can be enjoyed even during day time. In fact a week before the Chinese New Year, Manila's Chinatown is already buzzing with activities. Moreover, I missed the "Tikoys" or the sticky rice cakes readily available in every corner in Manila during this festive season. It seems Bangkok's Chinese community is not familiar with the famous trade mark of Chinese New Year in Philippines.

They have the "TAE TEA" instead. Just kidding.

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