Happy Year of the Ox
There is a large population of Chinese-Thai people so, since it was Chinese New Year, we decided it would be a good time to visit Chinatown. Chinatown is centered around Charoen Krung and Yaowarat roads. It isn't as visually overloading as many Chinatowns but it has its share of huge signs and lights as well as ornate pagoda arches and buildings with flowers and dragon designs.
Though most businesses were closed, the streets were still busy. Yaowarat was closed to most traffic and crowds of people strolled clad in new bright red clothing. All along the street were food stands and vendors selling holiday décor. Our favorite was a paper dragon on a stick with a little plastic drum at the top. You could move the dragon with a string and spin the stick to beat the drum.
Chinese New Year decorations
The several shrines were filled with people praying and burning incense. Judging from the amount of people filling the shrines everywhere, one would think Thais are praying all the time. At the Thianfa foundation, near the center of the New Years festivities, many stood praying at the shrine of the Guan Yin Goddess-- a 400 year old statue carved of sandlewood and believed to perform curative miracles. Women sold cages full of little birds for people to release. It seemed sad to capture them in the first place-- or maybe they were raised in captivity so it was cruel to release them.
Prayers and offerings at the shrine
The New Years festival area had a stage where a group was putting on a martial arts show but most of what was going on was selling, eating food, or lottery related. We were going to try to visit Wat Tramit-- the home of a 5 ton solid gold Buddha image, the largest solid gold Buddha in the world, but it was so crowded we changed our minds.
New red clothing for everyone