Beautiful Sunday: exploring narrow lanes behind New Road.
From the fourth level of the parking area in Robinson mall, I could see the top of a small mosque not far away. I told myself to explore the narrow lanes tugged away behind New Road one day. It took me months to finally have the time to walk around without having to worry about other schedules. My life has been conditioned by time limit as I tried to catch up with unfinished tasks and chores. So, I went for a leisurely walk in sunny afternoon to find out more about the old community behind New Road.
I was quite surprised to see rows of old shophouses built during the reign of King Rama V whose intention was to provide cheap and hygienic living conditions to Chinese immigrants who settled down along the river. These buildings would be around 120 years old, so some began to show the markings of time. I had no idea whether these houses had been individually sold to some residents. In the past, most people were too poor to own a house so they could only rent houses.
But the King’s properties had been taken by the military government after the coup to overthrow the monarchy and implant western democratic governance. There are still lots of unanswered questions about the whereabouts of valuable items such as jewelries, gold, antiques, old palaces and land deeds which had been confiscated. I could noticed that some descendents of the coup makers and their families had suddenly become very wealthy. There are many shades of democratic system of government; addiction to power and corruptions have become prevalent conditions in our society nowadays. Politicians and civil servants could easily be bought by enormous bribes.
I guessed some new management of these properties must have sold some houses to residents at the right prices. Renters wouldn’t be able to make any modifications or major repair to these houses. The land and houses in this area have become very expensive so those who bought them long time ago could make lots of money. It’s a shame that most people didn’t have the appreciation of conserving old architecture and antique objects in their houses. People were taught that old stuff became out of fashion so it’s better to thrown them away and buy new items. My mother threw away old wooden furniture which would have fetch high prices nowadays. The cult of materialism invaded the country soon after the establishment of democratic government dominated by the military.
I wondered why every time I saw these old shophouses built by the beloved King, I always got worked up against those coup instigators and their clans. It could be that I had done my research and knew that these people have been groomed and coached while studying abroad. They were traitors, most of them got college sponsorships by the King who wanted to have well educated civil servants for the country. However, they all had their karmic consequences: most of them had to flee overseas and die on foreign lands, as they started to betray each other. Their ambitions and greed led to making more frequent coups against their own comrades. So, the military government was always afraid of their junior officers staging a coup against them.
I was glad to see these old houses occupied by ordinary people who couldn’t afford to buy new houses. Most old residents have been there for three generations so these people knew each other as if they lived in a small village. The friendly atmosphere around the area reminded me of my old Chinese relatives’ houses near the main railway station. Those houses were also built by King Rama V. That’s probably why my Chinese uncles and aunts just loved the monarchy. They couldn’t have made it rich without the initial startup assistance. The sounds of children running and shouting while playing in front of their houses came back to me. The Chinese housewives were always talking in loud voices to their nearby neighbours. Life seemed to be full of activities and noices in the old days. Now I became very nostalgic of all those loud confusing atmosphere. Life was very vibrant and full of movements then.
I wondered where all the children had gone and the noises which should be there seemed to have been stolen by noice-hungry ghosts. Our society has changed so much. People would have only one or two children; it’s usual to have six or seven kids in a family in those days. We used to play in front of our houses with neighbours’ kids. I used to have a gang of almost thirty kids marching to challenge the gang’s leaders in other area. One of their kids injured one of ours! So, we had to show some strength. Modern kids wouldn’t know how to socialise or negotiate with strange kids in different neighbourhoods. They would be negotiating on computer games!
Some wealthy residents have turned old shophouses into restaurants, tea room, coffee shops and guest houses. But the long lockdown had hampered their hopeful dreams of making profits. With the return of tourism, things would start to look up once more. I thought I would be able to find more coffee shops or some artistic shops hidden away around the area. I could only find a tea room selling Japanese tea and sweets. While I was taking some photos, the owner came out to chat with me. She told me about her shop and that it had good reviews by some famous food net idol. I found out that the famous reviewer happened to be my old acquaintance’s half-brother. But I didn’t stop for Japanese tea as that would take at least an hour from my day! Time has become very precious to me these days.
I was so glad to see that local people looked after stray cats and most cats looked healthy. Some cats were too friendly as they could probably sense that I was on their side. The other nice thing around these old houses was the pot plants. These improvised gardens reflected that most people would like to be close to nature. Though they couldn’t afford a house with garden, they tried to bring mini gardens to the front of their houses. The nourishing vibes from these plants helped keeping them grounded and less stressful from being surrounded by concrete jungle of the big city.
I finally found the old mosque locating among the old Chinese community. So, some Muslim immigrants also settled along the river. One of my old friend had her great grandfather sailing all the way from Pakistan. These local people lived in harmony with each other. The local fast food stall didn’t have any pork on the menu for the respect of her neighbours. So, I found some Indian customers ordering take away food in the evening. The small Buddhist temple was just five minutes’ walk away from the mosque. The old King’s policy of looking after all sects or religions had made this country a unique case of sympathetic and respectful community. In the old days, the King would donate land to community of settlers for building churches and place of worship. Luckily, this tradition had enabled peaceful atmosphere among different communities.
The rows of old shophouses continue to disintegrate through time. The fabrics of our society have been under lots of stress and tests. People here are full of hope and energy to making their daily livings. So, I just hope that the old style military government would have the wits not to create unnecessary burden and problems for ordinary hard working people. Big people with big power tend to make big problems and troubles. So, I continue to pray for protection from the harms of these incorrigible politicians’ actions. May karmic law visit these ‘uncleaned’ politicians in the near future!
Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.
Stay strong and cheerful.
Great post @kaminchan. I enjoyed very much the walk through history with your words and pictures, and also I appreciate your openness and opinions to learn from the ground what your country is like, socially and politically.
Thanks so much for your appreciation. So glad you enjoyed the story and photos. I have to be more careful not to talk so straight in front of the authority! 🙀😂
Is that a problem in Thailand? Can you have problems for just bloging something like this?
No problems here yet. But there’s a division between different camps of people. Politics is a very sensitive issue here, people avoid discussing it in the open.
oh, yes, I see what you mean.
Feels like I'm walking with you too. So interesting to see everything. Especially the streets and the old houses. Of course! The cats . 🏼✨
Thank you very much for your kind words. Glad you could conf along for a walk with me. Yup! So nice to see happy cats!
Beautiful and interesting photos!
Thanks a lot!