The Guardians of the Tombs
This past October while in Bangkok we stumbled across a special spot. We’d just gotten back from Koh Samet and the weather in Bangkok was pretty unstable. One minute it was thunder and lightning then the next it was cloudy and misty. This particular afternoon it had just finished raining. We decided to venture out and explore regardless the possibility of more rain. We went out walking the neighborhood around Silom road and Decho Junction. We came across a Chinese cemetery. We couldn’t look inside as the whole front was closed off with corrugated metal that had been painted over with a drab forest green color. We had seen this cemetery sign so often walking in the area, but in all these years never bothered to look inside or even past those green walls.
The day was gray and wet. There was a fine mist falling on us as we walked down Si Lom Road. We decided to walk down Soi Sueksa Witthaya towards Sathon Rd. About halfway down the soi on our left we came upon a cemetery. We had never actually seen the inside of a cemetery in Thailand and I found myself really taken by this place. It was flooded from the recent rains and there was garbage floating among the tombs. But there was also this somber beauty to the place. Maybe it was the gloomy weather or the many homeless dogs who were perched on top of the tombs as if protecting them. I was actually teary eyed standing there thinking that this was the most peaceful and beautiful place. A couple of the tombs looked to have sunken a bit from time, rain and soft soil. They were darkened from all the dampness. More than a few were broken and photos of the deceased on tombs were now a bit faded and cracked. Even the large white chedi beside the fence had seen better days. But still this place was mesmerizing. It was far too flooded for us to venture inside and we really weren’t sure we’d be welcome to just invite ourselves in, So we stood outside and just enjoyed looking in through the wrought iron fence.
Once you actually look around you notice that the cemetery is filled with life. Soi dogs are everywhere here. On top of tombs and laying in alcoves of the monuments. Anyplace that is dry or offers shelter from the rain is home to one of these dogs. Puppies that look to be a couple of months old play atop stone carved tombs. So much life in this place of death. Soi dogs are dogs who just kind of belong to the street. You see them walking around the streets and alleys of the city. It seems as though every 7-11 store has at least one soi dog laying in front of its door. Maybe they like the AC hitting them whenever a customer enters or leaves the store. Often injured or lame and more times than not with puppies in tow, these dogs look like life has dealt them a bad deal.
The next day we returned to the same area to see if the cemetery was dry and to take a better look inside. Unfortunately the cemetery was still quite wet and muddy. A few feet further down the road at the entrance to the cemetery we saw an older man surrounded by soi dogs. Curtis noticed that the old man was calling the dogs and filling bowls with food. He struck up a conversation with the old man and learned that he “the old man” prepared food and brought it to the dogs every day. That he had been doing so for the last 35 years. The man patiently waited till the bowls were empty, then scooped them up and packed them up into a bag as the last puppy scampered back to its mother. All the dogs were walking back to their home in the flooded cemetery, where the tombs were their safety. Curtis asked if there were anyway he could help…The old gentleman replied, ” Yes, you should come and enjoy feeding the dogs yourself”. That was the perfect response. Every one of us can do more than just admire actions…we can act ourselves, which is more beneficial for all. I look forward to returning to that cemetery again soon. Hopefully this time it will be dry and we can go inside and explore the cemetery. And while we are there we can also enjoy feeding some dogs. Till then this old cemetery will just be a place that haunts my memories whenever its cloudy and gray out.