Sunday, 24 March 2019

Money Town

Wat Arun
This is the 3rd walk in Kenneth Barrett's book 22 Walks in Bangkok and the longest so far.  I decided to help myself with the amount of time required for the walk by getting a taxi all the way to the start at Wat Arun.  This isn't the starting point suggested by Mr Barrett but it is a more practical place to start  than Wichaiprasit Fort which is his first point of interest.  Indeed I wasn't even sure I could view this place up closely as I felt a little nervous about using the road suggested to get there.

Wat Arun Detail
Wat Arun (or Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan to give it its full name) did seem like a more appropriate starting point and as one of the most famous sights in Bangkok I did think it warranted a good amount of my time.  As temples go it is unusual in that you get to climb up part of it and that enhances the view out of the Chao Praya River, which it stands adjacent to.  The night time view of the temple lit up with the river in the foreground is one of the iconic views of Thailand.  I have seen few pictures of it up really close though and this is a shame for the decoration and detail is exquisite.  I was captivated by all the figures and imagery that adorn the walls, whether it be the central prang (which is the tallest in Thailand incidentally) or the supporting ones.  I spent a fascinating half an hour inspecting all the figures that are carved into the sides and then went down to the river to see how the majority of people see the temple when they visit.  Most people come by river and it is easy to see why - it's a far more pleasing way to arrive than through the back door as I did.
Siamese Selfie

The river was as crazy as ever - so many vessels roaring up and down that the surface of the water is continually choppy.  In the water were large fish being fed by the locals and egrets and herons using the floating weed as vantage points from which to look for any opportunities.  The boats bringing tourists stayed as briefly as needed to disgorge their passengers before racing off to the next pier.  On shore were people from all corners of the world coming to visit this most famous of Bangkok sights.  The small grouping that caught my eye the most were some Thai ladies dressed in their Siamese finery taking selfies of each other.  Beside them were a couple of cats lazing in the shadows seemingly oblivious to all the hullabaloo going on around them.

Tonson Mosque
Having given the temple a good once over I decided to push on.  The guidebook suggests that it is possible to view Wang Derm Palace, Wichaiprasit Fort and Wat Molilokayaram.  The reality is that the Palace is off limits within the navy headquarters, while the fort is only visible from the river (or indeed from Wat Kanlayanamit on the Old Harbour walk) and Wat Molilokayaram is almost  invisible and not nearly as interesting as temples later in the walk.  Apparently it is a lot more important than its surreptitious presence suggests, being an important study centre for Buddhist monks. I passed by all of them quickly and passed underneath the main road to find Tonson Mosque on the other side.  This is the oldest mosque in Bangkok although the present structure is not the original - it was rebuilt in 1827 and again in 1954.  It presents quite a contrast to the Buddhist temples, being rather plainer in style but unmistakably Arab looking.

Wall Art
I walked along the narrow soi running alongside the mosque and was rather taken by the artwork that had been applied to the wall alongside.  Of particular note was a military man (or merely a postman?  difficult to tell) in a kayak seeming to be delivering a letter and alongside a scene showing basket weaving and children playing.  I'm not sure of the significance of these pieces of artwork but they aren't unusual in Bangkok or even other places in Thailand that I have visited.  At the end of the soi was a rather good looking Wat, this one called Wat Hong Rattanaram.  It was set in some very colourful looking grounds and the blossom and flowers were particularly eye-catching.  However, I soon realised on closer inspection that none of them were real!  I guess it helps with maintenance...

Plastic Orchid
I pushed on down the soi and followed a moped making heavy weather of the journey principally because of the load on the back, which I can only describe as large bags of pork scratchings (of course they may have been no such thing!).  I also watched the postman carrying large piles of letters and parcels to the dozens of addresses crammed into quite a small area.  Doing so from his small moped seemed like a world away from the huge trolleys and vans employed in the UK to perform the same task.  At the corner was another mosque although this one was a little plainer than Tonson Mosque.  The Arabic writing along the side of the building did catch my eye though - it almost looks like a work of art in itself.

Wat Ratchasittharam
I crossed yet another very busy road by means of a footbridge.  One thing that always catches my eye as I negotiate these bridges is the tangle of wires that are attached to the support columns - it is usually pretty easy to reach out and touch them if you want to.  I assume they are sufficiently insulated but one can never take anything fro granted in Thailand.  I walked along the road for a few blocks and dived down a side road to the left to reach Wat Ratchasittharam passing through a huge decorated archway as I did so.  I've never quite understood the significance of these archways, of which there are many in Bangkok.  I've always assumed they are to mark the entering of a neighbourhood associated with a particular Buddhist temple - perhaps someone might enlighten me?  In this case it felt almost like I entered a rural area as it was so quiet compared to the busy main road I had been walking along.  The temple was deserted but it did warrant further investigation for its beautiful artwork depicting scenes of The Buddha's Life and the Royal Barge Procession in particular.

Fruit Stall
I retraced my steps back to the main road and soon came upon a young lady keen to practice her English on me.  We passed the time of day, which most consisted of her complaining how hot it was.  Strangely I wasn't suffering that much but I empathised with her and she seemed happy with our discourse.  A little further on and I came upon the shuttered entrance to an MRT station.  This won't be open until later in the year when the extension of the Blue Line opens west of Hua Lumphong Station.  When the MRT does come it will open this part of Bangkok up to a whole new set of travellers that can get to Wat Arun more easily than using the river services.  It will be interesting to see what effect the new services have on traffic too.

Temple Visitors
By now people were gearing up for lunch.  Alongside the main road the barbecues were fired up and the skewered meat was being cooked ready for the passing trade.  Bags of fruit were arranged and market stalls were prepared.  I always wonder how much of the food they actually sell for there appears to be copious quantities of all of it.  The main road was abuzz with traffic and little seemed to be stopping at this stage.  I was curious about the song thaew services - they seemed to be operated by the smallest and largest ones I had ever seen - at one extreme were crammed converted tuk tuks while at the other were almost like lorries.  I took a look at the two temples along this part of the road - the first was a very golden affair and not deemed worthy of a mention by the guide book while the second called Wat Chinoros was very white.  It was while here that I started having a little trouble with the suggested route as it didn't seem to make a lot of sense.  I had to double back from here to cross to Wat Khrua Ran - the two temples seemed to be the wrong way around.  On the road between them I cam upon one of the murals similar to one I had seen earlier although in this case it was in glorious technicolour rather than being in black and white.

Former Royal Residence
I crossed yet another main road via a footbridge and past a restaurant absolutely packed to the gunnels - not sure what its secret was compared to the many other places nearby.  Maybe its proximity to the naval quarters was a clue?  Wat Khrua Won did not detain me as it looked off limits to casual visitors and I wandered north along Arun Amarin Road, still surprisingly close to Wat Arun considering how much I had walked by this point.  I crossed over a khlong (canal) and the road immediately widened out.  Not far past this point I reached the southern extent of the next section of Skytrain to be constructed; I assume another section of the Blue Line which will continue on to Tao Poon and complete the loop that it will eventually become.  This section of the line will no doubt be very useful for those serving in the Thai Royal Navy for to my right were the various buildings associated with this part of the Thai armed forces. 

Feeding Frenzy
I walked completely beyond the naval headquarters before diving down a side road to my right that led to Wat Rakhong, the eighth of the walk so far.  This was perhaps my favourite of the day and I spent a little time here listening to the bells that were being played and the ceremonial acts that were being performed in different parts of the temple including the presentation of offerings and lighting candles.  It was a far busier temple than any I had yet been to and was clearly one in general day to day use rather than just being a tourist attraction.  I was able to walk around to the other side were there was an old fashioned teak house that was once the king's former residence.  It seemed a little small by modern standards for such a purpose and now serves as a library.  The house is on stilts for it once stood in a pond but this has now been filled in and in its place is a shaded seating area that I was glad to make use of.

Welcome Party
After a few minutes I took the opportunity to wander over to the river on the other side of the temple.  This was once again clearly the best way to arrive at the temple for the view backwards was most appealing.  The pier is guarded by a couple of naval statues that look like they are part cartoon and part standing to proper attention.  They are clearly oblivious to all the vendors that have set up shop here to see to the needs of tourists getting off the Chao Phraya boats.  They even include fish food and feeding the fish is a popular activity here too, fuelling a feeding frenzy in the water.  This area is geared around the jetty for not only is the temple a draw but also the Patravadi Theatre, which acts simultaneously as a live venue and a school for performing arts.  Next door is a lovely looking house that was the home of Khunying Supatra Singholka, a woman who did an awful lot to promote women's rights in 20th Century Thailand.  She was also the owner of a shipping line for the boats along the Chao Phraya river so would probably enjoy the fact that her home is now an upmarket restaurant.

Skytrain Construction
I found the walk really confusing in this area as seemed to switch back and forth between Arun Amarin Road and Itsaphrap Road.  The suggested route appeared to require me to double back to Ban Matoom and Bang Chan Lo so I could see these areas of ancient commerec.  However the construction work for the skytrain appeared to preclude this and after trying to find it for a while I gave up feeling rather frustrated.  The same applied to Ban Khao Mao further on although this was more about me not having much confidence that I would see much.  I instead headed for Wat Sutthawat, a small temple set in a courtyard away from the main road and surrounded by flats.  It wasn't really open for inspection and so I continued on my way heading past a market that was starting to prepare for the evening's activities.  It was here that I saw the sort of wildlife that I didn't much fancy bumping into - a rather large rat that was wandering along the side of one of the stalls as bold as brass.

I proceeded through the market watching the stallholders getting all the deliveries of fruits and vegetables ready for the evening before finally managing to cross the railway that was the obstacle to me getting to Wat Suwannaram.  Above the level crossing is the new skytrain station for the area, contrasting beautifully with the bumpy and almost disused looking track of the branch line that leads to Thonburi station, something of a backwater on the Thai rail system these days.  I crossed the line and doubled back on the other side to find Wat Suwannaram further on.  This old temple is located besides a rather busy khlong where long tailed boats sped up and down.  They wisely kept their distance from the rather fierce looking snake sculptures lined up alongside the dock for the temple.  They also seemed to protect a number of very sleepy looking Thai men on the dock - I took it that they were long tailed boat drivers in between shifts.  I tiptoed past them and headed on my way.

Don't Come Close!
The next section of walk was for me perhaps the most enjoyable of the whole day for although it seemed incoherent on the map in real life it was anything but.  I found my way to Wat Thong market which was deserted and headed through it to walk through the Ban Bu district.  This is an area of dense housing with only footpaths through it (although it didn't preclude the use of motorbikes as I soon found out).  It was a shady path courtesy of awnings across sheltering me from the sun which I was most glad of.  Ultimately the path ended up at the locomotive depot at Thonburi and just across from my position was engine number 850.  In keeping with its British counterpart, the very handsome Lord Nelson (also engine number 850) this one has equally good looks but there the similarity ends as this one is in black livery.  I was really pleased to be so close to the railway depot, it was like being at a heritage railway.  There was a fair amount of activity belying the backwater feel of this railway station.

Ban Bu
Thonburi station was once a major terminus on the Thai railway system but most services were diverted to Hua Lumphong decades ago and the original station has now been subsumed within an enormous hospital complex.  It is only when you get to the river side of the building that you realise that the hospital has effectively been built around the old station, which is mostly still in existence.  An old Japanese railway engine which has been tarted up with a lick of new paint is now the centrepiece of what remains of what was once an extensive station yard.  The clock tower is the only clue to untutored eyes that this was a railway station.  The park created from what was once th entrance to the station is most agreeable and for me the centrepiece was definitely the frangipani tree in full bloom.

Thonburi Depot
I took the boat from here back into central Bangkok and then on to home.  I had mixed feelings about this walk.  It is true that  there are some fantastic sights along the way but for me there was too much crammed in and the route too convoluted to make it as enjoyable as it could have been.  Doing the walk in the four hours suggested is unrealistic and in the heat much of the route finding was frustrating and ultimately in vain on occasion as construction and/ or progress means that the place isn't how it was described in the book.  I might explore this area again though, simplifying the route and leaving out some of the more minor points along the way.  My instinct is that this part of the city will look very different once the MRT Blue line opens it up as surely gentrification and further modernisation will follow.  This will undoubtedly be a mixed blessing for there is a good deal of charm that I saw on this walk that will be lost forever.

Former Thonburi Station

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Old Harbour

Maeklong Route Market
Back to Bangkok for my latest walk and this is the second one from Kenneth Barrett's book 22 Walks in Bangkok.  This walk focuses on the riverside area just to the north-east of walk 1 and I once again started from Wong Wian Yai BTS station.  I reprised the route almost as far as the main Wong Wian Yai station on the Maeklong  Line and turned left to walk along the former line as far as Khlong San market.  Although the route of the old railway line can still be visibly traced all the way to Khlong San any trace of the railway cannot be found.  Now instead of the clattering of freight trains bringing wares to the old wharf on the Prao Praya River there is only road traffic.  Ironically this section of line was closed to alleviate traffic congestion but any gains made initially have been more than lost.  It'll be interesting to see if this section is ever reinstated for in theory it could be.

Gold Route
At the end of the road opposite the former station at Khlong San a new railway line is starting to take shape perpendicular from the old route.  This is one of the rapid transit routes that are being built across the city although this one which will eventually become the Gold Line wasn't in the original masterplan.  Instead it has come about because of the building of the massive IconSiam shopping centre, the latest gleaming mall in Bangkok.  The line will eventually link the shopping centre with the Silom BTS Line with a link as far as the old Thonburi Station.  Construction is in early stages and as a result has caused quite a mess along the road and redirected pedestrians across the footbridge just outside the shopping centre.

Khlong San Market
Upon entering Khlong San market the old station buildings can clearly be seen among the market stalls and is now occupied by all manner of food stalls.  I couldn't help wondering whether that would be the case if one of the diesel railcars that serve the next station down the line would bring these folk more business?  The market itself has a very narrow and long footprint courtesy of the fact that it only occupies what was once the station.  This marked the official start of this particular walk and my onward route would run parallel to the river.  I soon came upon the signal flagpole which was the next landmark en route.  It was incredibly tall - probably at least 12 storeys in height.  It was originally used at one of the forts that lined the river to signal which boats were incoming and those that were outgoing.  Long since disused the pole was moved to this location a long time ago as a kind of memorial to the system.  The remnants of one of the forts can be found just behind and has been somewhat restored although it languishes among a housing estate and probably largely forgotten by most people.

Signal Pole
Sadly the path through to the next part of the walk suggested by the book was closed off due to a construction project.  The riverbank is off limits in this part of Bangkok too so I had no choice but to return to the main road and walk northwest for a block and then returning towards the riverbank alongside the hospital that stood in my way.  As I passed the walls of the complex there were all manner of vendors selling food and other stuff that a hospital visitor would need.  Some even had protective stuff over their merchandise to protect it from the heat of the sun.

Laundry Day
My next port of call was an unusual Chinese temple tucked away in the back streets and on the way to it I passed by my first Buddhist Temple of the day at Wat Thong Noppakhun.  I didn't explore too much as there was an event going on but I did have a good look at a rather unusual feature in the yard; a concrete boat surrounding a huge bodhi tree, acting as the mast.  The boat is modelled on an old Chinese style and acts as a Chinese shrine, possibly visited by Chinese visitors to the temple around the corner which is complete with pretty tall pagoda.  Considering how tucked away Chee Chin Khor temple it is amazing how many visitors it does get.  It felt slightly uncomfortable being here as I was watched closely by a security guard but he didn't seem to be too bothered by my presence - maybe he was just surprised to see a Western tourist?  I got the opportunity to look at the Chao Praya River for the first time here and lingered for a while as I watched the long-tailed boats race by and the egrets float on the weed that seems quite happy to live on the surface without being attached underneath.  From a distance it looks like the egrets are walking on water, which always amuses me.  The temple was most interesting as it differed significantly from Thai Buddhist temples - the colours were bolder and the decorative designs very different although perhaps from the same roots?

Chinese Boat at Temple
I had to retrace my steps back to the main road and walk along another couple of blocks to the next road towards the river.  This was significantly further as the main road travelled away from the bend in the river.  Along the way I passed a university building and tuk tuk drivers and vendors were stationed outside waiting for business that may or may not ensue from the students and staff.  I hope it was worth the wait for the tuk tuk drivers in particular as several were asleep rather than trying to win business elsewhere.  This arm of the walk was to find the Wang Lee Mansion and the Mae Tuptim Shrine.  The latter was easily found just shy of yet another landing jetty for the passing ferry service.  It was a modest affair but clearly well loved judging by all the offerings.  I didn't investigate the Mansion though - I wasn't sure that it was for general entry judging by the burly guards outside.  I decided to move on amused by the reaction of the lady buying strawberries from the cart outside.

Chee Chin Khor
I didn't have to retrace my steps this time as I could loop around through the next temple called Wat Thong Thammachat.  This is a more minor temple but like so many others it seems to be in a world of its own with almost an aura of tranquility about it.  Somehow even with the place deserted it still retained this magic, with the only sounds to be heard the birdsong in the trees.  I followed a monk back to the main road - his footsteps were helpful to me for it was a bit of a maze through the streets and I didn't have any guesswork.  Under the trees between the temple and the housing estate seemed to be a gathering point for more food stalls, lunchtime traffic and soi dogs and cats that all enjoyed the shade afforded by the trees.

At the main road I crossed to the other side and followed the  rather unloved looking Khlong San, a canal that runs alongside the busy street.  Bangkok used to have a whole network of these khlongs that connected neighbourhoods in what must have originally been a bit of a swamp alongside the river.  Sadly so many of these canals are unloved now, including this one.  They are filled with filthy water and rubbish, a sad remnant of what they mus have once  been like.  Hopefully one day the city authorities will give them some attention and either restore them or fill the worst ones in.  I guess with the other building programmes going on across the city any such notion will be well down the list of projects to be completed.

Tuk Tuks
At the other end of the road shortly before meeting a junction of Khlong San with another khlong connecting to the Chao Praya River I came upon the grand Wat Pichaya Yatikaram and its neighbour across the road Wat Anongkharam.  These two temples have very different styles each of which are quite impressive in their own way.  It was the gleaming white Wat Pichaya that I spent most time at though.  The gleaming white stupas looked particularly ice-white against the powder blue sky and somehow all of the other colours such as the lilies growing in the small ponds and the decorations of the buildings looked especially radiant too.  It was the main prang in the centre though that caught my attention - one of the biggest I have yet seen and fitting for a second rate temple.  Time was pressing now so I bypassed the temple across the road, principally because of the presence of a school in session and headed into a neighbourhood notable for its royal connections.

The Price of Strawberries
This was the area that the late Princess Srinagarinda (known as the Princess Mother) grew up in and it s fitting that just before the river is a small park dedicated to her memory.  This green oasis is a very serene  place to stop and catch one's breath, which is exactly what I did.  I enjoyed the singing birds and the butterflies and was surprised to learn that the park has only been here since 1993.  Within the park are a couple of interesting friezes depicted in sandstone showing some of the good deeds that the Princess did during her lifetime.  At the entrance to the park is a beautifully presented statue of her enjoying the peaceful surroundings.  She had a long and fulfilling life, starting out as the daughter of a goldsmith and ending up as the Royal mother of Kings Rama VIII and Rama IX.

I Brought You Something
Just around the corner from the park overlooking the river is a rather astonishing Chinese temple, the Gong Wu Shrine.  This very colourful temple begged to be explored further and it is fortunate that you can climb up inside to the second floor and see some wide ranging views across the Chao Praya River.  The temple was all decked out for Chinese New Year but even without the red lanterns this is a colourful (almost garishly colourful) place full of character.  Upon leaving I wandered around to a rather different religious centre, a mosque around the corner.  Sadly though I could not visit this place - its turret was the only proper look I got of the place.

Wat Thong Thammachat
I wandered down through the housing of this particular area and it was a hive of activity with laundry, cooking, fixing machinery, sewing and even growing vegetables all overlooked by the massive prang of Wat Pichaya.  The neighbourhoods in Bangkok are mostly devoid of traffic apart from bicycles and motorbikes that you have to be really wary of.  The reason for this is that most roads that go through housing estates are no through roads and are of no use therefore unless you live there.  This may partially explain the traffic choked main roads - there are virtually no rat runs to escape to.

Wat Anongkharam
I found myself by a very busy highway that crossed over the river.  I had a little look in the park underneath which was dotted with lots of topiary pruned trees and a small group of students that I assumed had escaped school during their lunch hour for a quick game of basketball.  Other than them and a couple of park workers sweeping up the place was deserted and only the roar of the traffic crossing the bridge could be heard.  There were two bridges here; the modern Phra Pokkloa Bridge and the rather more characterful Memorial Bridge.  The latter was built in 1932 and was designed and built by the same company responsible for the creation of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  The former was interesting only in as much as it had a central span that had been built across the river but not connected to anything on either side.

Wat Pichaya Yatikaram
I was headed for another temple now - it is amazing how many there are in this part of Bangkok.  This one seemed like a slightly less impressive facsimile of Wat Pichaya but with a couple of distinctive differences.  The place was gearing up for a festival, perhaps to do with Chinese New Year?  I couldn't be sure because all the signage was in Thai and clearly only aimed at locals and not tourists.  However my attention turned to to a feature that I had seen on the last outing; an artificial 'mountain' on the edge of the site.  Outside was an army of men and women who were clipping the trees outside.  Inside was a 'moat' around the foot of the 'mountain' that I soon realised was absolutely chockful of turtles.  I wondered whether these creatures had been brought here as offerings and left to fend for themselves.  There certainly seemed more of them than would naturally be found in such a place.  When I got to the far side I could see that they were being fed by tourists - no doubt why so many could survive here.

Wat Pichaya Yatikaram
My next port of call was a different religious centre - the nearby Santa Cruz church.  This is the site of the first Christian church in Thailand and was a reward to the Portuguese for helping King Thaksin with defeating the Burmese at Ayutthaya.  The current church isn't the original but a later incarnation that was restored still further with an Italianate style in 1916.  Seeing traditional Christian decorations such as crucifixes and Virgin Marys seemed a little out of kilter in this most Buddhist of countries.  Nevertheless it is clearly on the tourist trail as my encounter with a large group of Western cyclists from a tour group testified.

The Princess Mother
The next part of the walk was by far my favourite as I used the walkway leading along the riverbank from Santa Cruz church to Wat Kalayanamit Woramahawihan.  On the way I saw the rather dilapidated Windsor House, a fine old teak place once owned by a British businessman and subject to something of a campaign to have it restored and opened as a museum.  The next place on the way was open though and after a large tour group left as I got there I was pleased to have it all to myself as serenity was restored at the Kuan Yin Shrine.  I could easily see how such places inspired meditation as I was mesmerised by the slow burning of the candles lighting up the place.  I stayed for a few minutes until the next people came along and decided to move so they didn't ruin the moment with chatter.  From here it was only a stone's throw to the temple - another on a massive scale.  This wasn't to be the last of the day but it was the last on this kind of scale and was every bit as impressive as the last two.  I wonder whether they had been built to compete with one another for despite how long it seemed to be to walk between them it wasn't actually that far relatively speaking.

Gong Wu Shrine
I lingered here for a short while before moving on and taking a small alleyway between the temple and the next khlong.  I passed by a rather large pumping station and could see the walls of Wichaprasit Fort, a place that I would see more on the next walk in the book.  This was the last I would see of the river today as I headed down the alley away from it.  I got a few funny looks as I wandered down to the main road at the corner of the temple and had to negotiate my way underneath the overbridge where there was another group of youngsters playing.  I have realised that there is a whole subculture of activity under these bridges - rare open space and perhaps most importantly protection from the burning sun.

Memorial Bridge
On the other side I entered a wholly different world as the alley that I had been following continued south alongside the khlong.  Now though it was a Muslim neighbourhood and the character felt very different.  There were different items on sale and the dress code was much more like the Arab world.  What was common to this area though was the possibility of being run down by a moped at almost any moment along the narrow lane!  I walked down as far as the Kudi Khao Mosque, a most unusual building in that it had a similar style to the Buddhist temples but with a different colour scheme!  Once seen I contemplated trying to navigate to the next place by going through the various alleyways that led through the neighbourhood but the possibility of getting lost was far too great and so I retraced my steps back to the main road and walked that way on to the last point of interest instead.
On the way I was rather intrigued by the tree gangs working on the street trees.  They seemed to be working quite quickly and using some methods that would be very frowned on in the UK.  There was even a guy up in the tree sawing off the branch he was sitting on!  Other folks were using clippers mounted on long bamboo poles and the amount of foliage they were taking off was enormous.  Huge bags were loaded onto trucks minded by a lady with the hugest hat on imaginable.  There was no chance of her seeing any sun with that kind of protective clothing on!

Santa Cruz Church
My last port of call was a part of town where bamboo flutes are still made.  It is a celebrated community apparently but unfortunately by the time I got there I saw only closed shops tucked down the lane where all the activity is supposed to happen.  I'm not sure if this is because I was there on a weekday when no business takes place or whether I was too early/ late in the day.  If you decide to do this walk you might therefore call it a day at the earlier mosque or do some more homework on opening times.  This point is a long way from all the others and it was therefore very disappointing not to see any action since the extra distance doesn't really add to the enjoyment of the day.  Fortunately it did enable me to find a way back to Wong Wian Yai station and therefore complete the loop of the walk.  In all it took significantly longer than the suggested 3 hours and even then I skimped on some of the visits.  To do it justice I reckon you should give it at least 5 hours so that you can properly visit all the points of interest along the way.  I found it slightly less satisfying than the previous walk by the author and this was principally because it was quite hard to follow the directions and the walk didn't flow as well with lots of out and back needed from the riverbank.  Nevertheless it was a part of the city I'm not sure I would have thought about coming to and so for that I am grateful to the author for suggesting it.