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Chinese New Year in Bangkok
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  1. #1
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    Chinese New Year in Bangkok

    Hello!

    I am travelling to BKK on Feb 2 and will leave on Feb 10.

    Can someone tell me:

    1) the exact date of the Chinese New Year 2003
    2) if the shops are closed in BKK
    3) if yes, from which date to which date,
    4) if the Chatuchak market will be open on Feb 2 and Feb 9

    Thank you in advance
    Support our friends at PAKNAM and save money, buy your books and click on: http://www.buythaibooks.com

  2. #2
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    1) the exact date of the Chinese New Year 2003

    1st February

    2) if the shops are closed in BKK

    Only ones around Chinatown or ones owned by Chinese. Big department stores will all be open.

    3) if the Chatuchak market will be open on Feb 2 and Feb 9

    Shouldn't be affected

    Have fun while in Bangkok.

  3. #3
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    Chinatown

    Chinatown has always been synonymous with commerce. At almost any hour, someone is selling something somewhere in Chinatown. Even before the first Bangkok department stores opened on Yaowaraj in the 1930s, the Chinatown markets sold goods found nowhere else in the city. The locals believe that they owe this good fortune, wealth and prosperity to the mythical Golden Dragon, the guardian spirit that has watched over the community for centuries.

    However, to experience Chinatown in all its bustling commercial glory, the Chinese New Year from February 1, 2003, is perhaps not the best time for this as it is the sole annual holiday celebrated by Bangkok's huge--and industrious--Thai-Chinese population.

    The Chinese have been part of Thai history since the 18th century. Invited by King Taksin to augment the local Siamese workforce, they arrived from southern China and settled opposite the then capital at Thonburi. In 1782 when Rama I, first king of the new Chakri dynasty, moved the capital to Bangkok and began building the Grand Palace, the traders were relocated to a small alley called Sampeng Lane, the nexus of today's Chinatown. (Today, the narrow pedestrian lane teems with wholesale stores selling paper, fabric and unclassifiable bric-a-brac, as well as haphazardly roving snack merchants and careering motorbikes overloaded with wide bolts of fabric.)

    To first-time visitors, Chinatown can seem like a daunting maze of traffic- and -people-choked lanes and alleys. Yet to fully appreciate the panoply of sights, sounds and smells that give Chinatown its unique character, it's essential to wander off the beaten track where such hidden delights as 100 year-old shrines, tiny neighbourhoods and countless other treasures await. (A major thoroughfare is rarely more than a block away so getting lost isn't really a problem.)

    It's easy to spend an entire morning--or afternoon--to visiting temples (Buddhist, Taoist, Chinese, Sikh and Chinese shrines). Others might choose to focus on Chinatown's many markets (food, clothing, electrical goods, hardware, audio) or wander along streets devoted to a single product. The area teems with restaurants (from fancy indoor eateries to open-air stalls) and unusual juxtapositions: a modern fast-food restaurant next to a vendor roasting chestnuts in a streetside wok; Chinese herbs adjacent to Buddhist temple supplies.





    This ad-hoc method of seeing the sights isn't nearly as intimidating as it sounds. Almost every square block of Chinatown boasts temples shrines, markets, restaurants, and unusual juxtapositions. Thoroughly covering one area can be as much fun as rushing here and there to take in the "important" sights. Oh, and don't forget to look up. With so much attention-grabbing activity at street level, visitors can easily overlook the ornate neo-colonial columns, delicately carved shutters and second-floor balconies (often half-hidden behind electrical transformers, and telephone cables.)

    Any list of quintessential Chinatown sights will include a visit to a gold shop on Yaowaraj. With their deco-style arches and rolled steel ornamentation, these red and gold palaces resemble old-fashioned cinemas. (Though cinemas don't hire armed guards to protect the merchandise!) The most opulent shops display their wares in massive curving counters overhung with awnings decorated with dragons.

    Among the must-see temples on most tourist itineraries is Wat Traimit (near Odeon Circle and Hualamphong train station) which houses the world's biggest solid-gold Buddha statue. Another favorite with locals as well as foreigners is Wat Leng Noi Yee, Chinatown's biggest temple, which lies behind a grandiose entranceway on Charoen Krung.

    Two unusual religious edifices in the area are Wat Chakrawat, a peaceful temple whose two ponds are home to several large and languid crocodiles and the European-style Wat Kalawar (Holy Rosary Church). Built in 1787, the church is located near the southern end of Chinatown, on riverside land given to the Portuguese by King Rama I.

    China segues into India at Sri Gurunsingh Sabha Sikh temple, a spacious four-storey structure near Pahurat market. The nearby environs feel more Mumbai than Bangkok, especially on ATM alley (named after an adjacent department store). This funky pedestrian passageway is crowded with rows of open-air shops selling incense, Indian CDs and DVDs, Ganesh statues, saris, bangles and authentic chai tea.

    ATM alley leads to the mazy Pahurat cloth market, an indoor version of Sampeng. Once across Pahurat road, you're back in Thailand at the multi-block Old Siam shopping mall, which offers many Chinatown items in comfortable, airconditioned surroundings. On the ground floor, women in traditional garb practice the rapidly disappearing art of Thai snack preparation, recreating popular standards like 'khanom krob' (coconut milk batter poured into tiny cast iron molds and steamed).

    Other clearly delimited Chinatown markets include the network of streets around Nakhon Kasem (still called Thieves Market even though stolen goods are no longer on offer); Khlong Ong Ang market (for second-hand stereos, cameras and other audio items); and Talat Fai Chai--the so-called Flashlight Market--which runs 24-hours from Saturday afternoon until Sunday in the area around Worachak. (Its name derives from the nighttime buyers who bring torches to separate junk from treasures.)




    Until western food emporia opened elsewhere in Bangkok, Chinatown's food markets supplied Bangkok with delicacies found nowhere else. Back then Soi Issaranhuphap was once the place for imported fruit. Famous Chinatown wet markets (so-called because the concrete floors are constantly washed down) include Talat Kao (a 200+-year "old" food market) and Talat Mai, (a "new" market which is only around 100 years old)

    Whichever aspects of Chinatown you decide to explore, the most important accoutrements are light clothing, comfortable shoes, plenty of fluids, and above all, a spirit of adventure. A good map is also helpful (Nancy Chandler's Map of Bangkok highlights scores of sightseeing and shopping tips in an easy-to-read graphical format). Don't forget, however, that Chinatown's vibrancy is an essentially intangible quality that transcends the confines of cartography.


    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    JENNIFER GAMPELL
    Bangkok-based freelance writer Jennifer Gampell began a literary career in Thailand in 1993 after failing abysmally at selling Balinese jewellery in Paris and teaching English to recalcitrant Japanese schoolchildren in Bangkok. Why Thailand? That's where she crashed a motorcycle and spent an epiphanous month in the orthopaedic ward of a small Chiang Rai hospital in early 1991. The enthusiastic response to her travel diaries about this and other wacky adventures catalysed her creative energies. After honing her new-found literary skills on local Thai publications, Jennifer started writing internationally. Her quirky features, profiles, snippets and first-person expositions cover a broad range of cultural and social topics. Theyve appeared in international publications such as the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Asian Wall Street Journal, TIME (Asia), Marie Claire, Globe & Mail, U.S. News & World Report, Far Eastern Economic Review and International Herald Tribune. She also writes for in-flight magazines (Scanorama and Sawasdee) and highlights new trends in Thailand and the region for Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler.

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