Betting Behind Buddha’s Back
In the devout Buddhist city of Chiang Mai, gambling, alcohol and greed are strictly frowned upon, and a booze-soaked racetrack is the most popular place in town.
Photos by James Monroe Adams IV
The first thing I notice is that no one around is wearing a Jatukam Ramathep amulet—the popular necklace that is made out of items taken from Buddhist temples and which grants good luck to the wearer, warding off evil spirits. In this location, one needs as much luck as one can muster. The odds are often not in your favor. The military constantly monitors the situation. Dozens of grim-faced MPs patrol the grounds in slim olive-green uniforms, side arms nestled in black leather holsters. This is their land, literally. And one can assume that the events of the day are somewhat influenced by the Army General who governs the facility.
I finally spot one man wearing an amulet; the religious relic is attached to a string of prayer beads that sways on his chest with every step. I approach him and start a conversation. His name is Jam. He looks to be in his early thirties. Seemingly self-inflicted scars protrude ladder-like on his forearms.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial