Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Khlong Toey street opera

I went on a night-time wander in Khlong Toey district. Though the main city roads aren't known as pleasant walking spots, the edge of Rama III that runs alongside the Khlong Toey slums is certainly interesting, a strip of thick pavement, flyover-roofed, where the community unwinds in the evening - I passed groups of friends chatting outside shops (watching me as I watched them), a caged-off court where two middle-aged men in vests played table tennis, and a mobile whiskey-shop.

I came to the corner of Rama IV, where there's a Chinese temple, and there on a stage painted with neon rabbits and peaches an opera was being performed. As I approached I got a glimpse into the backstage area through a doorway spilling yellow light, where headdresses hung from the ceiling and boys were painting their faces white and red. I stayed to watch a bit, alongside a small audience of old ladies. This was at one end of the temple's packed courtyard - the rest was filled with round tables, where men sat listening to the results of a raffle being announced. The opera (lingering courtly scenes, more pacy wilderness scenes with shouts and fighting, drums, thin melodic strings) and the raffle (with gongs, and cellophane-wrapped baskets of oranges or packaged foods) clashed with each other in the air.

Friends have told me how they've also stumbled upon Chinese street opera this time of year, in backstreets in areas with a Chinese population. I'm glad I found this, though sad that most of the people at the temple seemed to be ignoring it. Still, as I watched, more people wandered in through the gate, whether from the market or the slums or other passers-through I don't know. Not sure how long it's going on till, but it might still be there, worth a look if you happen to be in the area.

See also
Khlong Toei: A Night Stroll

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