The River

Submitted on Jul 16, 2009, 10:36 p.m.
Guinea pig in the Chao Phraya River

A few weeks ago I was out taking pictures around the Rama VIII bridge in Bangkok. I was on the Pin Klao side, having walked from the Rama VIII bridge to the Phra Pin Klao pier. It was early Sunday morning, and I decided to sit by the river for a while and watch what was happening.

There was plenty of activity - folks making merit by releasing fish bought from the local markets into the river (a kind of last-minute Buddhist reprieve). A few people actually bathing in the river and getting ready for the day.

And then this young women arrived carrying something bundled up in a towel – held like a doll, or small child closely against her chest. I couldn’t see what she was carrying but I could see she was headed for the water. I asked her if she would mind if I took a few pictures. It was then I saw that she was holding a guinea pig wrapped in a white towel.

I’ve tried to tell this story a couple of times now. Every time I do at least one of us ends up laughing – or trying to keep a straight face while I describe how I watched a young women bathe her guinea pig in the Chao Phraya River

At the time I was confused, moved, and downright worried about how it was going to end up. The wake from passing boats was generating large enough waves to wash the guinea pig out into the river, and I was worried that if that happened she might follow in a rescue attempt.

In the end the guinea pig was fine, and after its bath, waited obediently on a towel while its master proceeded to wash her hands and feet in the river.

I’ve seen some strange things in this part of the world – but I think it would be wrong to completely dismiss this as just act of strangeness  without at least trying to understand why she did it - about what it meant for this women, with such care and attention - to take her pet and bathe in the Chao Phraya River early on a Sunday morning in June.