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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 41

    Friday, July 31, 2015
    Bangkok, Thailand

    A great big bag of awesome on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A great big bag of awesome on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    A shredded flyer on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A shredded flyer on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Today, I set out on a mission to Wat Traimit down by Chinatown, starting off on the river boat from Phra Arthit. On the way, a Thai man sitting in front of me kept trying to shoot a selfie with me in the background. The first time, I just ducked out of the way. When he shifted his camera over to the other side of his head, I just blocked it with my hat. It was pretty amazing how he didn’t even try to be subtle about it. Disembarking at Ratchawong Pier, I encountered a neighborhood full of very photogenic food stalls, shop fronts, distressed walls, and the like. There were also some really amazing tiny machine shops with all kinds of stacks and piles of mechanical parts overflowing and spilling out onto the street.

    A trash-strewn scene on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A trash-strewn scene on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    A distressed wall on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A distressed wall on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    About a half hour into my walk, I finally spotted the tall spire of Wat Traimit and headed over there. It sits right on a hectic multi-street intersection, across the street from a Chinese Buddhist temple called the Kwannon Shrine of the Thien Fah Foundation. Stepping inside the large compound of Wat Traimit, I was surprised to see so many foreign tourists there–maybe 20% of the crowd–as it’s one of the less prominent temples in town. But, its location right on the edge of the tourist magnet of Chinatown probably helps.

    A picturesque scene on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A picturesque scene on Thanon Song Wat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    The main temple of the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    The main temple of the Golden Buddha at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    In the first temple I entered, which was rather small, there was an afternoon prayer service in progress in front of a golden Buddha image, complete with the chanting of orange-robed monks. It was awkward watching the behavior of various clueless tourists as they committed one faux pas right after another. For example, one young man with a ponytail stood in front of everyone. Even though he was off to the side by the wall, it’s still a big no-no. You’re not supposed to stand in front of people in a Buddhist temple if they are sitting and praying. An old man finally caught the young hippie’s attention and motioned for him to sit down. A few minutes later, a young lady walked in wearing short shorts, but the same old man sent her packing back out the door right away.

    An afternoon Buddhist prayer service at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    An afternoon Buddhist prayer service at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    A small Buddha image and some big candles at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    A small Buddha image and some big candles at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    After snapping a couple of photos of the monks, I headed outside over to the larger temple. Once I made it up the long flights of stairs, I was surprised to see another huge golden Buddha image. But, as it turned out, this was the actual official Golden Buddha, which is the world’s largest made out of pure gold. It has an interesting backstory. Originally cast after the 13th or 14th century in India. it was moved to Sukothai, then Ayutthaya–both in Thailand. At some point before 1767, when the Burmese leveled Ayutthaya in a war, it was plastered over to prevent theft. 200 years later, when the Buddha image was being moved yet again, it fell and cracked open, revealing the magnificent golden Buddha hiding inside.

    Roofs aglow in the setting sun at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Roofs aglow in the setting sun at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Wax and wane at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Wax and wane at Wat Traimit in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Not long after I entered the door and sat down in back, another old man started shuttering all of the windows, and the attendants outside gave everyone the boot. Sure enough, it was 5:00 pm. It’s kind of funny the way most Buddhist temple compounds stay open for hours after the actual temple itself closes, which means you can walk around and look at stuff from the outside until pretty late at night.

    The Kwannon Shrine of the Thien Fah Foundation in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    The Kwannon Shrine of the Thien Fah Foundation in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Massive signs on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Massive signs on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Heading back outside, I managed to click off a few nice shots of the temple exteriors as the setting sun glowed brightly on the rooftops. After stopping by the aforementioned Kwannon Shrine for a few minutes to snap a few more photos and videos, I headed up Thanon Yaowrat, which is the main artery of Chinatown. Day or night, this place is a chaotically colorful assault on the senses. Dominated by tall, vertical signs bearing the always enchanting Chinese characters announcing various businesses, the street is teeming with people on the hunt for whatever it is they need at stores, shops, restaurants and food stalls.

    I had a sweet time on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    I had a sweet time on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Massive crowds on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Massive crowds on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Unfortunately, almost everything on offer included meat, so my options as a vegetarian were pretty slim. I finally found a stall that was whipping up some kind of food-looking concoction with eggs, but the staff completely ignored me. So, I ended up at another stall nearby, shoveling a generic omelette and rice down my gullet. As dusk arrived and the huge, vertical neon signs flickered to life, I shot a few more photos and waited for a bus 25 back to Bangplanphu. I was pretty sure I had seen the 25 up there before, so I was going to take a chance that it went there. Instead, a few minutes later, I jumped on a 53, because it said Banglamphu right on the side. After many twists and turns through Rattanakosin, I hopped off 30 minutes later at Phra Arthit and walked east a half mile to May Kaidee’s for a righteous dinner, which was the perfect ending to another fun day of walking.

    Massive storefronts on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Massive storefronts on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Massive neon signs on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.
    Massive neon signs on Thanon Yaowarat in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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