Chiang Mai / 29th - 31st October 2016
Day 3 (in chronological order)
Conclusion: Reflections on trip to Chiang Mai
Chang Phueak Mosque (Chiang Mai, Thailand)
The Chang Phueak mosque is located north of the old city walls, at the south end of Changhuak Road. It appeared to me that the Muslims living around the mosque are of a mix of Thai and South Asian parentage. At the time of my visit, the main mosque was under redevelopment. But I managed to pray the Zuhr congregational prayers with the locals in their surau.
I reached The Peaberry Hotel early at about 1130am, and I was told politely to come back in a couple of hours because my room wasn’t ready. Wondering how I should spend the next two hours without a hotel room, I asked the manager of the hotel about where I could get some halal food and whether there are any mosques nearby that I could visit.
As a response to two simple questions, Mr. Kishore gave me an exhaustive overview of Chiang Mai and also specifically which parts of Chiang Mai that would interest me as a Muslim. I was very thankful for the individualized attention given by him. It’s quite rare for any hotels (especially big hotel chains) to give such extensive individualized attention to their guests. But as a guest of a small boutique hotel like Mr Kishore’s, it is a priceless luxury he could provide me as his guest.
I had read about Muslim enclaves in Chiang Mai before this trip and I knew that the earliest Muslim settlers in Chiang Mai were Bengali Muslims. They settled in Chiang Mai as early as 1830. And I also knew that their An-Nur mosque is located north of the old city walls, very near to where I was. But the problem was that I couldn’t find An-Nur mosque on Google maps.
I couldn’t find An Nur Mosque or Chang Phueak Mosque on Google Maps but there was a ‘Kunnan Mosque.’
Mr Kishore confirmed that there is indeed a mosque at the “Kunnun Mosque” location on Google Maps. He said it is within walking distance from his hotel. And so I decided to walk and it wasn’t difficult to find the mosque.
If you see this sign, you can turn left into the road. The mosque is just about 20 meters away.
When I reached there, I was disappointed to see that the mosque was under reconstruction. Apparently, the government of Dubai is sponsoring the rebuilding efforts.
It is not Kunnun Mosque or An-Nur Mosque. According to the banner, the mosque is Masjid Chang Phueak.
Even though it was empty and construction debris were aplenty, I still went in the mosque to take some photos of it. As I enter, I could see from afar an old lady, standing arms akimbo looking directly at me. I wasn’t sure if she was mad at me for intruding the mosque without seeking any permission or she was just angry at me because I don’t belong to her estate. But I didn’t care. I just continued taking pictures.
It was empty.
Not sure if I was even allowed to push the gate open.
I could only read “Dilarang merokok” which translates to “Smoking is prohibited”
Empty. But it was a Saturday.
It was quite telling that the top part of this building had been dismantled.
There are still notices pinned on the board.
Construction mess, otherwise it was a clean place.
Still in the early stages of construction.
I did a Google Street View search of this place and I found out that the mosque looked markedly different before the day I was there. Go on and explore the area on Google Street View below.
After taking some photos, I decided to leave the mosque because there was nothing to do there. I knew I couldn’t pray in the mosque because it was under construction. I couldn’t talk to anyone because nobody was there.
So I decided to walk down one of the roads (see below) before I take my leave because this is the only road among the others that appeared inviting.
This is the road I walked into. Lots of green and islamic symbols everywhere.
As I walked in, I found one old man in a jubah walking towards me. The guy appeared to be a mix of Thai and Indian heritage.
Our first eye contact didn’t get us to speak to each other. It was probably awkward for the both of us to initiate any conversation because I was THE stranger at his estate. And he probably thought I had no reason to be there and that I would be leaving soon anyway.
Honestly, just think about this. A single word ‘assamulaikum’ could have broken the ice between us but both of us didn’t utter that greeting to each other when we first walked past each other.
What was wrong with me? Ugh!
We walked past each other. I went further in, and he walked out towards the mosque.
There was nothing much to see and I decided to walk out and I saw him again.
As I reached at the end of the road after deciding to leave, he was there too.
This time, I smiled at him and asked him dandily, “Mosque closed?”
He said, “Yes mos kelowse……you wan pray?”
I said “Yes.”
And then he showed me where I could pray.
We walked back inside the road and further down a few houses, he pointed at a place where I could pray in. It was a small surau.
As I walked along the road earlier, I must have missed this surau out.
This is the main prayer hall.
Chairs for people who needs to pray while sitting.
Prayer times for Chiang Mai. I was there at 12:30PM, 28 minutes after Zuhr.
As I entered the Surau, I knew Zuhr had passed and the congregational prayers must have been completed too. So I made my prayers quickly and made a decision to leave soon after that.
As I began to leave, a lot of people started entering the mosque. It was 12:50PM, 48 minutes after Zuhr. And they appeared to be getting ready for congregational prayers. I couldn’t find an explanation why they pray Zuhr one hour after the official time. They must have their reasons.
I couldn’t ask for the reason because there were significant language barriers. I did ask a few of them, including the imam, and all they could respond were a nod and a smile.
I immediately knew they were praying Zuhr together when I heard the familiar sound of the azan.
Around 12:50, people are starting to fill up the surau.
The imam and some kids taking their ablution.
This was how they prayed while sitting.
Muezzin made the Iqamah and we got ready to pray. The guy in white was probably their Ustaz.
After the congregational prayers. The dua’ was very familiar.
A small community of Muslims congregating for Zuhr prayers.
After the prayers, I decided to make my way back to my hotel. But as I put on my shoes, out of nowhere, a lady shouted out something from her house which was next to the mosque. Quite eloquently, she said, “Where are you from?”
I replied, “Singapore.”
She said, “Ah Singapore!”
His son, who looks Bangladeshi, who is standing near me, wanted to confirm what I said. He asked his mother instead of me, “Singapore?”
His mother said (probably) in Bengali, “Yes.”
I asked, “You guys look very mixed. Are you Bengali and Thai?”
She smiled lightly and laughed slightly at my question. Eventually, she replied “Yaaaaaahh. We are Thai, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chinese.”
She continued, “You? Malay?”
I didn’t realise I looked Malay to her but I said, “No, not Malay. But I am almost like you.”
She seemed to have no idea what I meant by that. Probably she didn’t understand me. There was an awkward silence that ensued, but we were still smiling at each other though.
But after realizing there is nothing much we could converse with each other about, I gave her my salam, and I went off, grateful to God I visited this place.