Sunday, September 30, 2012

Things Don't Always Go According to Plan

A worker hangs screen printed "Union Jacks" to dry in a shop in the Raminthra section of Bangkok. 

Saturday's trip to Nakorn Nayok for the Ganesh festival was so successful, I decided if my luck would hold and went off in search of second Ganesh festival at a temple in Bangkok. This time I dragged Gavin Gough, another Bangkok based photographer, along for the ride. 

We set off in a taxi with only a vague description of where the temple was and a photo of the temple. Our plan was to get the taxi into the neighborhood and then show the photo to people until we got to the temple. That may not be the way things are done in the US, but it's pretty common way of getting around here. Or at least it's not an unheard of way of getting around. 

Our taxi got us into the neighborhood. Bangkok is a huge, sprawling city and today's temple was almost halfway to where the festival was yesterday. 

Our cab driver lacked our spirit of adventure - or maybe he thought we were nuts or maybe he knew our quest was quixotic, so we paid him off (less than $10 to get across town) at a very nice little market (which I will have to explore at some length when I have time) and started showing the photo of the temple to people in the market. Gavin speaks a tiny bit of Thai but I speak none and this is not a part of Bangkok flush with English speaking Thais so most of our communications were done by pointing and gesturing. 

Eventually we found a motor scooter taxi driver who recognized the tempe from the photo and pointed off in a vague direction and started waving, but he expressed no interest in taking us. We thought either a) it's so close it's not worth his while (which would have been good news) or b) (and in my mind more likely) it's so far he didn't want to get involved in our quest (bad news). 

We went in the direction we think he had been waving, walking through the market when we spied a shop selling religious materials (candles, Buddhas, amulets, offerings for monks etc.) and thought surely they'll know where the temple is. The young woman working the front was as puzzled as we were, but the older man in the back seemed to recognize the temple and pointed off in the same general direction that the moto driver had. We set off feeling that we were headed in the right direction. 

Gavin stopped another moto driver and showed him the photo and he indicated he knew where the temple was and pointed off in the same direction the previous driver and shop owner had. Gavin pressed him and asked (by gesturing) if he would take us. He sort of shrugged (I think it was sort of a "why not?" thing but it could just have been "You crazy foreigners. I'm a taxi driver, taking people where they want to go is what I do." Which we would never have understood if he had said aloud.) He rounded up one of his compatriots, because there is no way two of us would fit on a Thai motor scooter taxi, and we set off. 

The temple was in the general direction everyone had been pointing but it was certainly not walking distance. It was down a main road, turn off the main road and go down a smaller road through a housing complex, continue down an even smaller road over a bridge across a canal (called "khlongs" here) and we were at the temple. I think it was a three or four miles. It took about 10 minutes on the scooters and cost about $1.30 (each).

The temple was deserted. Not just that we were early, but rather whatever was going to happen had happened a week ago. It was beautiful and would be a great place to photograph during an event but the only people there were construction and maintenance workers. Eventually Gavin found an English speaking Indian who told us that indeed the Ganesh festival had been last week. 

I'm sure it was fantastic. 

We walked around some and then headed back to the main road to catch a taxi back to central Bangkok. On the walk back to the main road we passed a small workshop where a couple of people were screening clothing. That's where I made the photo at the top of the page. 

On the surface this sounds like it might have been a bust. But I think it was actually a pretty successful outing. We saw a part of Bangkok neither had been to before. We found a couple of places that would be good places to come back to photograph (the market and the temple) and we had fun. What's not to like? I bookmarked both the market and the temple in my iOS6 maps application so I can get back there the next time I hear about something happening. All in all, a successful day. 

Inside the Shiva Temple we visited this morning.