Thailand, 2011

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My Third Time In Thailand

In January 2011, I returned once again to Thailand. As before I flew into Bangkok and booked a room in Chinatown, my favourite neighbourhood in the city.

My main objective on this trip was to visit Laos. Back in 2008 I had spent a hurried few days in southern Laos. I had cut through that part of the country on my way from Vietnam back to Thailand. Unfortunately I had little time to spend in Laos because my return date back home from Bangkok was fast approaching .

Before journeying on to Laos I took a day trip from Bangkok to Lopburi, Thailand. Lopburi is famous for being a town where monkeys and people coexist peacefully together. Most of the time anyway.

The monkeys of Lopburi belong to a species known as Crab-Eating Macaques. They have free reign over the city. Not only is their presence just tolerated, they are regularly fed by the local people . In fact, since 1989 there has been an annual Monkey Festival held in November in honour of the simian residents of Lopburi. A huge, elaborate feast is laid out for them. In addition to tons of fresh fruit, cakes and ice cream, sticky rice and other treats are set out for the macaques to help themselves to. As the macaques throw themselves on the piles of succulent treats, mayhem ensues. They gorge themselves with abandon. They often also resort to food fights with each other. Imagine the mess they must create. I wish I had been in Lopburi to witness the Monkey Festival.

Monkeys have an honourary place in Thai culture because they are associated with the brave deeds attributed to the monkey-headed Hindu god Hanuman. Because of this, they are thought to bring good luck. This helps to explain why macaques get the red carpet treatment in Lopburi.

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Thailand, 2009

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Thailand Enticed Me Back For Another Visit

My first visit to Thailand was during the winter of 2008. The second visit was in September, 2009. I had believed that it wouldn’t be much hotter in late summer than it was in the Thai winter because it had been so scorching then. That assumption was incorrect. Every photo of me from that second Thai outing shows me drenched in sweat. Very becoming. Temperatures often exceeded 40 degrees Celsius.

Bangkok was especially torrid and muggy. The humidity was ghastly. I had never appreciated air condition so much before.

September also falls within the rainy season in Thailand. When it did rain – which it did often – it was came pounding down in torrents. You don’t experience rainfall like that outside of the tropics. Before long though the rain would stop and it would get sunny again. Then I’d start sweating again.

One of the drawbacks of being an avid photographer is being cursed with a stubborn insistence on lugging around a lot of camera gear where ever you go. No little compact shooter or smart phone will do. When I find myself traveling in a very hot place I sometimes can’t help but feel like a pack animal after carrying my camera kit around in the blistering heat for a while. But there have been occasions when I did leave my gear behind and ended up missing opportunities for getting some good photos. One night in Saigon I was sitting at an outdoor table at a restaurant and some young Vietnamese boys put on a fire-eating show on the street to wheedle some tips from the patrons. They were quite fearless and put on quite a spectacle They could spew flames out of their mouths and stick burning wands down their throats without harming themselves at all. Despite their young age they were clearly comfortable with what they were doing. It was quite electrifying to see. What fantastic images I could have captured with my camera if I had it with me.

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Thailand, 2008

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Thailand: More Sinister Than I Had Imagined

 

Thailand is well known as a top global tourist destination. With fabulous beaches. plenty of sunshine, friendly people, wonderful food, and low prices how could it not be?

I had put off going to Thailand because of its popularity. I had become a travel snob, thinking it best to seek out only less traveled countries with more appeal to adventurous travelers. I like to imagine myself as someone willing to trade convenience for something more spirited.

Before flying into Bangkok I had believed that I would spend the lion’s share of my 10 week South East Asia vacation in neighbouring countries. Surely Thailand would be too commercial and tame to make me want to stay long. My preconceptions turned out to be only partially correct.

While Thailand is famous as a “Fun in the Sun” beach and sex-tourist honey pot, it offers more than hedonistic pleasures. There’s some first-rate historic sites to reward the sightseer as well.

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