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Discovering Bangkok – Where the dead rest and the living live

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When we think of a cemetery most of us would conjure up images of a quiet and solemn place, a resting place for the deceased. This is probably true for most cemeteries that we have personally experienced around the world, but then this is Bangkok so you can always expect something different! Discovering Bangkok on a Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tour is a unique experience where we show you the hidden city with an unforgettable insight into the different cultures.

“Today we have made a short detour off our Siam Boran route to meet up with Matthew at one of the highlights on the Siam Chiva tour. Matthew will take as around an old Chinese cemetery that’s about 15 minutes ride from our Clubhouse, he will reveal some interesting facts about the cemetery and Chinese beliefs.”
Ar – tour guide at Follow Me Bangkok Bicycle Tours

The Tae Chio Chinese Cemetery was opened in 1900 as a burial site for Chinese immigrants. Being superstitious and believing in after life spirits, many locals used to believe that the cemetery was haunted. Frequent ghost stories kept many people away and around 30 years ago this cemetery had fallen into a sad state of decay and neglect.

However in 1996, as part of the government’s healthy city campaign, the cemetery was renovated and developed into a public park that has helped to preserve the graveyard as we see today. Surrounded by the encroaching city skyscrapers this charming cemetery is now a serene and peaceful green oasis in the urban jungle, a place where life and death peacefully coexist.

Sat under the large pagoda the golden statue of the Chinese monk symbolises the Poh Teck Tung Foundation, this was established to take care of the destitute deceased who had no next of kin. It is still believed that corpses without a next of kin would turn to ghosts, but if respect is paid to these ghosts they would remain harmless, consequently most visitors will pay their respect to the Chinese monk.

Although burials are no longer allowed at this cemetery, the tradition of burial is still followed by most Chinese, as they believe that this brings peace to the deceased and that their souls will protect the descendants.

The layout of the cemetery and the location of the graves is based on Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese art of creating harmonious surroundings by positioning objects, particularly graves, to enhance the balance of yin and yang. Traditional Chinese cemeteries are positioned on hillsides as it is believed that the higher a grave is located the better. This is why all the graves here look like earth mounds; sometimes they are planted with trees that symbolize the continuation of the deceased.

Between the endless lines and rows of identical grey graves, energy and life is sympathetically interwoven. These days, many locals regularly visit the cemetery either to take a peaceful walk or to sit and relax under the cool shade of the huge old trees. Regardless of the time of day you will see kids playing, old men chatting together whilst playing games, young and old people jogging along the paths or exercising in the fitness centres, but one of the most striking and unusual things is to hear karaoke music blaring out at full volume.

This cemetery has truly been transformed and it is a fascinating place to explore and experience, so why not join us on our Siam Chiva tour and see it for yourself.

If you have any questions, or suggestions for topics that we can cover during our Discovering Bangkok journey, please let us know.

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