Saturday, January 5, 2013

Peeling Back Another Layer of the Onion

A pigeon races a longtailed boat up Khlong (canal) Phra Khanong at Wat Mahabut.

This city is so much more than shopping malls and markets. I went up to Wat Mahabut, a very old temple in eastern Bangkok, to visit the Mae Nak Shrine. The fortune tellers in the temple do a booming business with people who want guidance on their lucky numbers before they buy lottery tickets from the shops surrounding the temple. 

The temple was built in the late 1700's, during the Ayutthaya empire, before Bangkok was Bangkok. The shrine is popular with Thais and certainly a few well traveled foreigners find their way to it, but the shrine and temple are well off the beaten tourist path. 

The temple sits on the bank of Khlong Phra Khanong, one of Bangkok's few surviving original canals. The canal is too small for the big boats that ply Khlong Saen Saeb, instead it's serviced by the smaller longtailed boats (like in the picture above). While the longtailed boats speed up and down the canal, neighborhood residents paddle up and down the canal in their small flat bottomed canoes. A steady stream of people come out of the temple to the canal to release fish and snails to make merit. 

Sitting on a bench on the canal bank watching life go by it's easy to imagine that this is what Bangkok must have been like 60 or more years ago before the canals were turned into roads and skyscrapers replaced stupas as landmarks. 

There are more photos from the canal, Wat Mahabut and the lottery shops around the temple in my archive or available from ZUMA Press
Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.