Cooked rice ready to be distributed to people at Pek Leng Keng Mangkorn Khiew Shrine in Khlong Toei Market.
I had to run an errand to Khlong Toei earlier today. I expected it to take a couple of minutes - I left our apartment about 8.30AM and thought I would be home by 10. (It says something about Bangkok traffic that an errand that should take a couple of minutes and is only a few miles away would take 90 minutes, but that's another story.) Although I was not going out to photograph, I never leave our apartment without a camera, even when I'm running errands.
Traffic in Khlong Toei was even worse than normal and people were wandering around in the street. We passed a small Chinese shrine, one I've stopped into several times but never photographed because there was never anyone there, and it was packed.
People line up in the street to get into Pek Leng Keng Mangkorn Khiew Shrine.
My errand was across the street from the shrine, so I took care of it and walked back to the shrine to see what was what. As luck would have it, I happened to be passing by the shrine on the one day of the year it's packed.
The seventh month of the lunar year is known as "Ghost Month." It's when the gates of hell open and ghosts can return to wander the earth. It's an important time of merit making and many Chinese shrines hand out food and children's toys to community members. I knew that Ghost Month was coming up, but it doesn't start until August 10, so I wasn't expecting the shrine to busy three days early.
People pray in the shrine after making donations of rice and food. The food was distributed to the poor a couple of hours later.
I photographed for a couple of hours while people waited for the food distribution to start. People started lining up before 8AM for a program that didn't officially start until 1PM. Several groups came down to the shrine and set up small field kitchens and served up everything from noodle soups to curries to satays. People lined up for whatever was being served and then went back to their spot in the big line to wait for the staples to be distributed.
People flavor there noodle soup with chilies and sugar.
Volunteers stack sacks of rice before handing it out.
I didn't go out expecting to photograph this morning. But I grabbed my cameras because you just never know and I ended spending most of the day at the shrine.