The lunar new year celebaration in the Big Mango was way too big to
On Thursday night (January 22), I went with some friends to
Bangkok's Chinatown to see the start of the formal lunar new year
have a nice dinner at my favorite restaurant in that part of the city.
We took a taxi from my apartment in the Southern-most tip of Bangkok to
its Chinatown, near the center. I was amazed at how light the early
evening traffic was. In places where cars inched along or waited 5 to
15 minutes for
a traffic light, traffic flew along. The picture started to change as
approached Chinatown, as taxis, busses, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, and
private cars slowly mingled and then crawled the last few kilometers.
When it became clear that the remaining few blocks might literally take
an hour, we abandoned out taxi in favor of our feet, and speedily made
our way toward Chinatown's main street.
When we got to Yarawat street, the crowd was shoulder-to-shoulder and
barely moving in short shuffling steps. We started working our way
toward my favorite restaurant only about two blocks from where we
entered the street, but the crowd was dense and the going was painfully
About halfway to the restaurant, the police pushed everybody back to
form a corridor down the street, lined with tightly packed people, and
wide enough for a car to pass through. Her Majesty the Queen was due to
The police said that no pictures were to be taken, so I switched off
the flash on my camera, making the few pictures I snapped fuzzy (See
the attached picture of the crowd.) The police also told everyone in
the front to sit
down (out of respect for Her Majesty? For Security?).The people in the
shouted back "Mai Dai Lao" ("Not can already") at each request. We were
tightly packed nobody could sit or squat down - it seemed that the
of the crowd from those at the back pressing for a better look would
many to topple at any moment.
We stood packed and sweating for a long time. it was a cool night for
Bangkok, but if one fills a street with 10,00 people and it will be
of Cecil B. De Mille productions, with their casts of thousands of
bowing down as a royal procession passed, came to mind, as we all
crammed against each other, trying hard to not be fall over, thereby
a domino-like event.
A red police pickup truck came down the corridor and stopped. A couple
of policemen walked an obviously inebriated young man in handcuffs to
truck and unceremoniously lifted him into the back and laid him down. A
moment later, the man was on his feet, trying to kick and swing at the
Two of the cops jumped in the back to the truck and wrestled him to the
while the crowd cried out for the police to beat him more as the truck
carefully through the people-lined corridor (How rude of this guy to
drunk when the Queen was expected on this very street! I would not call
an enlightened attitude about alcohol abuse.)
Again the police told people to back up and sit down. "Mai Dai Lao"
responded the crowd, and we swayed a little bit as some people in the
in vain to comply. We stood for a long, long time, watching for
interesting to happen. A police car followed by a white limousine
up in front of me. There were only three to four people in front of me
that time but I could only make out the cars and tell that some person
persons had gotten out and walked by. I was told later that one of the
to walk by was one of the Royal Princesses, but I never saw her.
The police let the crowd close up and corridor disappeared among the
swarm. A ring of police kept the crowd from getting within a meter of
the limousine and we again shuffled along toward the restaurant. I
snapped the attached picture of the roasted pig at one of the food
booths on the street. I had plenty of time to take the picture as it
took nearly a minute to move past it.
Eventually, I got to the point that I had to reverse direction and
backtrack, going with the crowd as a toasted crumb would ride a river
of molasses down a stack of waffles, (sorry about the analogy, but
that's pretty much what it felt like) and at that point, realized that
it was just not worth the
effort of fighting the crowd. We worked our way to a side street
the gradually thinning crowd, and caught a tuk-tuk to another part of
I didn't see the artistic performances, the fireworks, and didn't have
time to stop at any of the street vendors' stalls, but it was a
new year adventure all the same. I think I'll it out next year in front
of the television. Besides, with the discovery of Chicken SARS here in
Thailand, its probably better to avoid crowds for now. There is nothing
like being there,
and once was enough to hold me a while.