Friday had us out in Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year!
Celebrations had actually begun the day before in our neighborhood – about 4:30am to be exact. A noise that had the pitter-patter of raindrops started, and stopped, then started again. Opening the glass door allowed for quick clarification: firecrackers! The loud boom echoed off the buildings and yet, few of the soi dogs answered back. The firecrackers continued through to the next day, I’m told, but I slept through the rest.
With the arrival of New Year’s Day, we headed to Chinatown with vague information about the event schedule. The goals for me were dragon dancing and the Princess being in town. I was pretty excited about both so we hurried down, passing protestors in our neighborhood, as we left.
We arrived in Chinatown to a sea of red Chinese-style shirts. Many vendors had these shirts and dresses for sale and I was tempted! I resisted though, knowing the likelihood of me ever wearing a polyester-blend t-shirt again in this humid climate was next-to-none. Dragon toys were also everywhere and this I could not resist. Shining brightly in the sun, I immediately bought one for about $2…and James immediately clarified he would not be holding it for me. That turned out to be unfortunate for I soon regretted buying it.We wandered down the street beneath huge banners announcing the new year and came to another huge display of red lanterns, hung across the street. Beneath the lanterns were various booths showcasing traditional Chinese culture, including character writing, Chinese Theatre masks (opera), and Chinese medicine. We peeked at each but my goal was to find the dragon dancing.
Our ears lead us there, the loud drums and cymbals calling out to us. The flashes of red and faux fur confirmed our goal. The dancers and drummers were all children, which was interesting to see. I was most amused by the two girls that were or maybe were not part of the act, but stood within the circle of dancers, sipping on a juice box. They were dressed the part and yet mostly shooed the other dancers away when they came near. They added a curious note to the event.With enough banging, we started moving through the food vendors to see what tempted us and I was drawn in by a sweet called “Dragon’s Beard”. It was labor intensive, involving hard sugar being pulled, doubled-over, then pulled again, until the strands became finer and finer. Each time it was dipped in powdered sugar so a cloud of it hung around the booth too. The threads were then handed to the woman next to him to be wrapped around peanuts. We waited through two rounds of the pulling until we bought a box of our own. My excitement for the sweet treat was soon diminished as it lacked both sweetness and flavor but at least it was fun to watch!
We wandered through the rest of the vendors and up the street attempting to see more festivities and coming up short. Up and down the street we wandered, and nothing. We finally settled on the street behind a teenage girl, for the Princess should be due. The girl attempted to talk to us and we understood a bit through pantomime, then her brother appeared who spoke better English. They explained we were not allowed to photograph the Princess. We waited longer and the cleared road was soon filled with cars racing down it, a motorcade hustling the Princess out of there. It was rather disappointing and a bit nerve-wracking for they were driving quite fast in tight quarters. And, in the end, not the expected Princess but rather the Crown Prince’s daughter (perhaps).Bummed with our missed brush with royalty, we sampled a bit of food and wandered again through the streets, me very much regretting the dragon toy as I attempted to not stab people in the eye with it. Down a side-street we happened upon my savior though! There was a beautiful little girl, whose mother had allowed James to take a photo of. I offered the dragon toy to her and she graciously accepted it! Hooray! She was happy and I was once again hands-free!
With that, we decided to call it a day, heading back to the Subway. However, blocking our path was a huge crowd outside a building, with heavy security. Here was the H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn! And so we hung out waiting for a glimpse, with lots of security ensuring NO pictures! This time, we were able to see the beloved Princess as she boarded a slow moving tram. We heard the crowd calling out to her and her waving in return. Mission accomplished!