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Chinatown, Chinese New Years, and Bangkok Bunnies

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Bunny hunting in Bangkok’s Chinatown…

Before I get started on this post I want to give good warning. I did not succeed in my quest in Chinatown. I did not divide and conquer. But I did see red.

The main reason for going into Chinatown wasn’t to see about Chinese New Years. I was hankering to hunt down bunnies. You see, the year 2010 is the year of the rabbit. Asking around, K.Pi thought Chinatown would be the best bet. Me too. Me too.

And honestly, I expected not just bunnies plastered everywhere, but a town transformed for New Years’ celebrations. I was so wrong. Except for red banners down the street and a few extras, it was practically the same ‘ole same ‘ole: hordes of people pushing their way everywhere, not much room to swing a camera, and loads of red.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Curious, I asked Greg Jorgensen what usually happens during Chinese New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Greg has resided in Chinatown for donkey’s years, so of anyone, he’d know.

Well, living in Chinatown as an expat during the new year is like living in Calgary as a non-hick during the Stampede, in that you want to keep as far away from it as possible. Truth be told, it’s kind of a nightmare and I avoid it at all costs, but I guess some people might find it charming. :P

I can’t remember ever seeing any huge statues of animals or anything like that – maybe there are lanterns or hats or things decorated with the appropriate animal, but nothing ostentatious. What you CAN expect is endless, sweaty, heaving crowds of people everywhere you go. The main road – Yaowarat – is closed for foot traffic, and there are stages set up with singing, dancing and acrobatic shows. Food is also a main attraction, but if you do stop for a bowl of noodles you’ll be sitting elbow-to-elbow amid a sea of diners, often as one of 6 strangers squeezed together at a table meant for four. But kids love it – lots of balloons, noise, and candy for them to check out, and it’s certainly not a boring time of year in that part of town.

So basically it’s the same, only louder and with more people pushing and shoving their way through bigger crowds. Hmmm. I’ll pass.

While there weren’t many New Year’s decorations, I did make way for Chinese dragon dancers coming through the crowd. And like crowds everywhere in Chinatown, their concern was not for anyone else but to get where they wanted to go. It was a bit annoying when you are trying to shoot video, and I imagine the dragon dancers were not impressed either. Ah. Scratch that. They are sure to be used to it.

I did find some bunnies but not what was expected. Bunnies were on sale as dangling things and ornaments but Chinatown was bereft of megga bunny decorations on the streets. Oh. Well.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Ok, I also came across small bunny decorated money envelopes. But that was only after hours of wandering around asking anyone who would listen. And when I’m looking, I’m also finding stuff. Yeah. So I spent way more then I’d intended (my little girls are just going to love this month’s care package!)

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

Unless I’m wrong (and pretty please tell me if I’m wrong about any of this stuff), อั่งเปา /àng-bpao/ is the Thai pronunciation of the original name for the red envelopes you fill with money. And it means red envelope, funny enough. The envelopes are given on special occasions such as Chinese New Year, but the practice of giving money envelopes is no longer just Chinese. When I lived in Borneo even the Malays gave coloured money envelopes during Ramadan, birthdays, and pretty much anything sanuk. And I believe the Malaysians do too. Singaporeans? That’s a given.

And I don’t have a clue what this sack is – do you? – it looks gorgeous and gaudy. I like.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

This being Chinatown, anything or anyone decked in red fits the theme. Can you figure out what product these cuties represent? I never did get any because they were too busy fiddling guitars, conferring with each other, and ignoring the public.

Bangkok's Chinatown for Chinese New Year

If you are interested in all things Chinatown, there are many sites with decent information about Chinese New Year in Thailand. Here’s one:

thaiwaysmagazine.com: The Chinese New Year in Thailand

And if you want to know what’s happening in Thailand before it happens, my buddy Talen puts a heap of work into his ‘Thai Calendar’ (no longer online). Not everything going on in Thailand is promoted Western-style (as in letting people know before the event), so work really is the operative word here.

Happy Chinese New Years all!

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

9 Comments

  1. Smashing photos Catherine. I got lost around that area a couple of weeks ago in the car, and the traffic… – never again :-)

  2. Thanks Paul. I came away with zillions of bunny photos – but they were mostly bunny slippers, bunny stuffed toys, and bunny shiny things for goodness knows what.

    I’ve never seen the traffic when it’s not crazy. But it comes in handy for people watching because the locals utilise the streets. I roll down the window and hang my camera outside for interesting snaps (it beats trying to find a temple to park the car in).

  3. Cat, Beautiful photos as usual and thanks much for the claender love.

    Chinese New Year kicks off here tomorrow in Nakula and then I’m heading to Chiang Mai for the weekend where I will catch the tail end of Chinese New Year there as well as the flower festival.

  4. Hey Talen (thanks :-) I’ve been looking forward to your weekend in Chiang Mai! And please give TONS of hugs to the girls from me, ok? I do wish that I could go, but it’s not to be this time around.

  5. Catherine its been said already but I’ll type the words again, great photos, and wow so much red.

    I’ve never experienced Chinese New Year in Thailand but I think I could probably put up with the crowds for the novelty value of the occasion. Maybe one day I will, because I must explore Bangkok sometime.

    I know you like cats (getting away from bunnies)and so I’ve included a link to my Photo Caption site. It’s a picture of the cutest kitten you’ve ever seen and two lovely little chicks. I hope the link works.

    http://photocaption.org/2011/01/stand-and-deliver

  6. Thanks Martyn :-) I’m not into crowds but I love the vibrancy of Bangkok’s Chinatown. I usually stick to the small sois though, as you can see so much of real life being enacted right there on the streets. The communities throughout Bangkok do the same but Chinatown is different somehow. And, their cats are in better shape (I wonder why that is?)

    What a cute kitten! And great Photoshop skills :-D

  7. Ah yes, red and fire crackers. Thanks for the reminder and a wonderfully original and personal article Catherine. I enjoyed it very much.

  8. I willing to guess you will not tire of hearing another compliment. Great photos. Beautiful. I avoid CM’s Chinatown for the same reasons so it is nice to live vicariously through pictures. Thanks, hugs back at you! You can come visit anytime to you know :P

  9. You are welcome Nils. Just a thought – I imagine that until you get here, you’ll be patiently biding your time, while checking out the sites with photos of Thailand. But soon you’ll be here for good. Nice!

    Lani, nope. Not me. I will never tire :-)

    And good grief, how’d I miss that? I didn’t realise that Chiang mai even had a Chinatown. Ok, now I just HAVE to come for a visit! – Psst, I was coming anyway, but I have three new excuses now.

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