Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year in Bangkok

You're expecting fireworks? So was I. I even asked in the travel agent's where was the best place to see them. Go to the bridge, she said - and marked the relevant bridge on my map.

So we - Anthea (from New Zealand, also travelling alone) and I headed for the bridge, diverted only briefly towards a park where thousands were watching what we were told was a Buddhist ceremony and, at that point, sounding like a modern Opera. We left them to their devotions. It was New Year - we wanted fireworks.

But now the tide of the crowd worked against us. We stopped to ask - go back to the park, the young man said. The only way to see fireworks from the bridge is to climb the gantry. Which, even after a couple of New Year beers, seemed like a bad idea. Besides, the park is a huge open space - we'd see fireworks from there.

By the time we returned the opera was over, replaced by chanting - the hypnotic Buddhist chanting that can only be achieved by magical breathing. Thousands of the faithful were sitting on the grass, hands held before them in devotion, as the ebb and flow of singing wafted round them. We edged between them and found a place to sit. The stage - even the big screens - were too far away to see much. But nobody minded - we all sat, in delicious contemplation - while the chanting went on, and on, and on. The grumble of traffic, the smell of diesel and street food - it all fell away.

And in the sky - Chinese lanterns rose into the night sky from all corners of the city. They have a Buddhist significance that is lost on me - but they dotted the darkness with a thousand pinpricks of light at they sailed off towards the stars.

A giant clock on the screen ticked round towards midnight. And still the monks chanted, and the devoted sat in silence with their prayers. The seconds passed, 58, 59, 00 - and it was 2013 and there may have been a brief collective sigh. The chanting continued and still we sat, in glorious tranquility, the flashes of fireworks in the distance making no impact on the silent crowd nor chanting monks.

Slowly people began to shuffle, to stand, and to drift away. We headed back into the streets of the city, met with thumping music from cafes, people lighting fireworks in the street, drunken revellers kissing whoever happened to be near. I am sure they enjoyed their evening. But my silent New Year - I don't suppose I'll ever know another like it.

Sawasdee pii mai ka. Happy New Year.


  1. That sounds wonderful, Jo! Happy New Year - I hope 2013 brings you lots more adventures. x

  2. Loved your entry here Jo.
    Looking forward to hearing more from you.
    Happy 2013

  3. What a magical and different way to start your new year Jo....happy travelling!Looking forward to hearing all your adventures....

  4. Not what you were expecting, but what a lovely and special way to begin the year. Peaceful contemplation. Beautiful. Looking forward to the rest of the adventure!

  5. Thanks for sharing this interesting take on New Year, Jo. Happy new year and enjoy the rest of the trip.

  6. Very different! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  7. Wow! What an amazing way to welcome in a new year. Sounds far more satisfying than the drunken noise in the town. Take care.

  8. Thank you - I hope 2013 is kind to you all.

  9. Wonderful....what lovely experience. May 2013 continue to be as magical.

  10. That sounds totallly wonderful! Hope it provides the inspiration for a wonderful and special 2013!

  11. Hi Jo! Thank you for visiting my blog while you are away! I do hope you are just revelling in your travels again, and I'm really looking forward to reading about more of your experiences. Stay safe and well and have a wonderful time. How long will you be away?

    1. Till the end of January, Val. (Just sent you an email - this reached my emial address before blogger posted it - so thought they'd eaten it!)

  12. The lanterns sound lovely and very magical. Hope this year is good to you and your knees.