Photo. Talat Noi Studio.
Principal Street in Sampeng.
wat, having taken by launch three and a quarter hours against a tide, probably. The place is a small island, fenced about against the right side of the river by a bank of reeds and guarded so men say, by a very fierce breed of crocodiles. On the island, on blocks of laterite stone, are three buildings, the sala, or resting place, on the north, the prachedi in the middle, and the wat on the south. The base of the prachedi holds terra-cotta elephants less than three feet high, stabled in pointed nichesa all three buildings are brick with tiled floors, and the bricks are plastered. The north and south gables of the wat show on a blue mosaic ground six elephants, behind which are two seven-tiered umbrellas and beyond are four flying figures. The roof of the wat is tiled in pointed scale tiles in orange, green and blue. The whole place is deadly silent. A distant bugle sounds from the naval station far across the river, the waves lap-lap on the landing steps, a gull cries now and again. None live here, and the interior of the wat is neglected and dirty, for all its marble floor. It holds one standing and two sitting Buddhas, and the walls are curiously frescoed with landscapes of a rocky and mountainous country many a league from Paknam. The best way back to Bangkok, being by rail from Paknam village, the launch takes us across from
the wat to the other bank, and it is from a little distance on the stream that the picture best composes, one of the most charming pictures in Siam.
At the bottom of Pah-U-Rat road, where the old city wall ends, you cross the Taphan Han (a bridge which is an enclosed arcade of small shops) and fall forthwith out of Siam into China for this is the old Chinese quarter, and inside its pale in the past the Chinese have been concentrated, though to-day they live also outside Sampeng. Being Chinese it is a predominantly commercial quarter, a place where people sell things all day, and all night, perhaps, busy, with the purposeful business of an ant-hill or a beehive, crammed with goods and people, huddled, with narrow lanes, no wheel traffic, nodding housewalls, and much dirt, breeding, for it swarms with children ; but, for the reassurance of the traveller, very well policed indeed, and quite safe to visit. Dotted about in it are a few houses with enclosed gardens belonging still to Siamese and inhabited by them. It is intersected by the filthiest amongst klongs bridged by bridges of shops, but many other klongs have been filled and are now lanes through Sampeng. It is a most inconvenient place in which to walk, for constantly one is met by sweating Chinese carrying heavy loads of cloth, or whatnot else, slung from the shoulders on carrying sticks. The wise and kindly traveller steps aside for them and threads his way amongst dogs, cats, children and fellow passengers through thronging Sampeng as best he may, his leisurely progress giving him time to note his surroundings, and, perhaps, pick up some of the things exposed for sale or concealed for enquiry. Gilt Buddhas he could purchase by the gross in all sizes from life to tiny. Tobacco also he can find for wholesale trading, fragrant to sniff and attractive to see. Lacquer from Chiengmai is offered and carefully turned dark-red wooden bowls and boxes well worth attention. Vessels of brass abound. Paper is put to all varieties of ornamental and toy use,