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Tea Leaves

Thai superstitions keep modernity in its place

Economic insecurity has widened interest in the supernatural among the young

People collect holy water from a huge bucket outside a temple in Nakhon Pathom province, central Thailand. (Getty Images)

Bangkok's modern, cosmopolitan buzz is occasionally shaken by decidedly old-fashioned incidents. A few months ago a multilane boulevard in an eastern district was brought to a standstill by streams of vehicles slowing to make a sharp turn into a side street. The narrow road led to a tree that reportedly possessed supernatural powers.

Eventually, the police stepped in to restore order. Crowds were permitted to ask divine favors from the tree only over four hours in the morning and four at night. When I visited, I found myself behind 20 people who had just arrived, mostly young women and men.

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