Monday, February 13, 2012

Saturday in Chinatown

Our plan for Saturday was to spend the day exploring Chinatown.  Even though we were there for Chinese New Year a couple of weeks ago, we wanted to go back during the day when the small shops and markets were open.

The Sky Train was jam-packed this morning:

It was a long ride on a very crowded train, but a nice young lady offered me her seat.  Either I'm looking kind of old these days, or she has very good manners.  I prefer to think she has good manners!

We got off the subway and walked down one of the main streets.  I'd thought we'd spend our day poking in the little stores and shops, but I was surprised to find that they weren't too interesting.   But the street vendors and narrow alley markets were another story, very interesting and a lot of fun!

There were many tea sellers, all doing a brisk business.  I wish I knew a little more about tea, I'm sure there were some delicious ones.

 These little "pancakes" looked good, but we weren't hungry.  I'm thinking maybe they were coconut??

Several different kinds of buns and desserts:

 We saw these "buns" everywhere--they look like boobs!

 Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, notice the rind is yellow, not red:

 Dried shrimp of every size:

 And of course, pork rinds everywhere!

We found an alley that looked particularly lively, and turned in.  We soon found ourselves in the middle of a crazy, crowded bustling Chinese open air market.  Wall to wall people, with scooters, tuk tuks and even trucks driving through the throngs of people.  It was a mad house!

David shot a short video, which still doesn't quite capture the craziness:

In the midst of all this chaos, there's a Buddhist temple.  This one had strings of blinking lights and two large revolving light fixtures that looked just like disco balls.  Pretty glitzy for a temple!

One of the very few Buddhist nuns we've seen:

By now we were feeling a bit claustrophobic, so we turned into an even smaller alley that looked a little calmer:

Wrong! After a couple of turns we found ourselves in the middle of another crazy scene, the fabric market.  Stall after stall of fabric, sewing notions and buttons.  It was super crowded with pushy shoppers and no room to walk!

Just one of the many shops selling only buttons, hundreds of different kinds:

A shop selling nothing but padded bra forms:

It didn't take long for us to have our fill of the fabric market and the crowds, so we quickly (well, as quickly as we could shuffle and shove through the crowds of very insistent shoppers!) made our way back to the main street--whew!

We walked along for a few blocks, and came to my very favorite area--the funeral market.  I'd read about this section of Chinatown, but really had no idea what it was all about.

There were a few shops selling coffins.  Some, like these white coffins, were highly decorated, and had Christian crosses:

Others were very plain, traditional Chinese style coffins:

What I found absolutely fascinating were the many shops selling paper burial offerings. 

Chinese funeral traditions include the burning of paper money for deceased loved ones to spend in the afterlife.  Other paper "goods" are also sent up to the dearly departed by being burned as offerings.   There were dozens of stores selling these specialty paper items, everything from replicas of high end luxury items to mundane, every day necessities.

There were glossy paper Louis Vuitton shoes and Gucci pocketbooks:

Many different types of paper clothing, this stylish ensemble includes a cell phone, watch and a credit card, just in case your relatives didn't burn quite enough of that paper money for your after-life needs.  Note that it's a VESA, from CityBank!  I wonder who'll pay the bill......

 Very practical grooming items--refill blades and paper batteries included:

Don't forget dentures, denture powder, toothbrush, toothpaste and tongue scraper.  Good oral hygiene is very important!  I sure wish I'd bought this set:

And.... so your loved ones can have fun in the after life, some games and a deck of cards.  I can just imagine the many games of Queens!!

And finally, the ultimate in "insurance".   Just in case your loved one's afterlife is spent in a very HOT location--a paper air-conditioner! 

I loved looking at all of these paper offerings,  and wanted to buy one of each.  For some odd reason, they just made me smile!  David lost interest waaay before I did, and just rolled his eyes at me.  As usual, he was very patient.  

After a full morning of fighting the crowds we were tired, hot and our feet hurt.  It was lunch time, and none of the street food was very appealing to us.  We were right in front of the fancy China Grand Princess Hotel, so we just waltzed in, the kind doorman directed us to the 10th floor, (even pushed the elevator button for us--we must really look tired!), and we plopped ourselves down in that semi-fancy restaurant, just like we belonged there!  Never mind my flip-flops, I quickly tucked my feet under the table.....

We had a delicious lunch; the best spicy pork salad yet, a noodle dish for me, and lots of cold iced tea. The service was very attentive, and even though our lunch cost at least 3 times as much as street food, it was worth every baht just to sit down!

During lunch we talked about what to do for the rest of the afternoon, and agreed that we'd like to visit the flower market.  On our way out of the lobby the same kind doorman saw us consulting our map, and rushed over to advise us.  He gave us good directions, which we promptly forgot! 

 A few blocks away a nice man helped David with the map, while I waited in the shade:

We are pros at getting turned around and lost, and not being able to read most of the street signs doesn't help.  After a few interesting (wrong) turns, we finally found the flower market, and much more!

The wholesale vegetable and fruit market is in the same area, right on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.   There are several big warehouses, each with specific areas for each type of produce.   We enjoyed wandering through many of them, admiring the beautiful produce.  It was a very busy place!

Every type of squash, pumpkin and gourd you could think of,  many we've never seen before:

Rows and rows of root veggies--look at the size of this ginger:

 The prettiest asparagus I've ever seen:

Basket after big basket of peppers:

A truck full of pineapple, ready to unload:

Lettuce and greens of all kinds, in baskets, on ice:

Found in the greens and herb section-we have no idea what it is:

We stopped to look at the different kind of roots, and this nice lady did her best to explain what they were.  I'm sure she doesn't often see tourists wandering around looking so interested in her greens and roots! She very sweetly gave us a stalk of lemon grass and a piece of galangal root, which I recognized from our cooking class in Chiang Mai.  I carried that lemon grass around with me the rest of the day--it smelled wonderful!

We found the flower market area, and looked around a bit--it was much like the one in Chiang Mai, and was so bustling and busy that it was hard to walk around without being in someone's way.  

A shop selling only marigolds:

A pick up truck, piled high with bunches of long stemmed roses:

And those same kind of roses, less than $2.00 for a bunch of at least 2 dozen!

OK--we have finally had our fill of markets for one day!  It's late afternoon, and we are tired and hot all over again. 

 We decide the fastest way back to our hotel is by river ferry, as we are very near a pier.  We walk the couple of blocks to pier #6 to wait for the next ferry.  We wait in the hot sun for at least 45 minutes, finally a ferry docks, unloads a few people, and lets exactly ONE passenger on!  We wait another 15 minutes or so, thinking surely the next ferry would come along any minute.   We give up,  go back to the street and hail a taxi to take us to the nearest Sky Train station--maybe two miles or so.  Our taxi driver is very nice, and we think he understands....but he crosses the river,  going the opposite direction from the station.  We eventually make ourselves understood, he crosses the river yet again and we inch our way through the traffic to the Sky Train station.  I am now very sure that my Thai is worse than rusty!

A quick Sky Train ride to our home station, and we trudge back to our hotel, and stop off at the Terrace Bar for not one, but two mojitos!  We are just plain exhausted, and soon go up to our room for a much needed rest.  

We opt for a late dinner in our neighborhood, and cruise a few streets looking for some good street food. We find a busy cart, complete with their own sidewalk "cafe", Thai style:

We order a pork stir fry and a squid dish, they are both delicious and very spicy.  We're learning to like our food spicy!

After our yummy and cheap dinner, we walk back to our hotel and fall into bed.  It's been a very BIG day, and after 3 1/2 weeks of hot and muggy adventures, we just might be "winding down"!

Tomorrow in Bangkok?  We don't have anything planned--we might even relax!


  1. To market to market... to look at the flowers and you saw soooo much more....very interesting day. After a good nights sleep I bet you are up and at it can rest when you are back in that what you said over coffee?

  2. All those flowers and vegetables at the market. Such huge baskets of everything. I wonder how long it takes to sell it all. Does everything sell in a day or two? No matter what it is...there is a huge amount of it. I guess alot of the flowers are taken to the temples. And the paper money and things to buy to burn so your loved ones can spend it in the afterlife. So interesting. Lots of crowds though in Bangkok. The sky train was packed and so were the streets. Very interesting blog Di...and you look tan too!

  3. Love the paper burial offerings - especially the shoes. Also the market full of buttons. Were you in overload or what? I can't believe that you aren't bring home a whole basket full...... you know I would have! :)