How time flies ….

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Four years ago yesterday I was just about to step onto this plane at Sydney Airport to make the big move here to Bangkok, with my worldly possessions reduced to the contents of 1 backpack and 2 suitcases. And I’m still here …… although there will probably be another “Change in Latitude” late next year, but only a few hundred  kilometres this time when my girlfriend and I are likely to move upcountry to her home in Ubon Ratchathani.

While I’m still happy to live here in the “Big Mango” she would prefer the slower Issaan lifestyle with her family nearby.

So it will be goodbye to Skytrain and aircon malls, hello to the scooter and the daily village market ….and early morning roosters 😦

On a more sombre note, today is the anniversary of the late King Rama 9’s death last year so it is a rather sad day for most Thais, and probably more so in a couple of weeks when their beloved King is cremated. So if anybody is coming here for a holiday soon expect a very quiet couple of days, although there has apparently been no official decree about bar closures etc.

 

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A Bangkok Photowalk -Klong Bang Luang Market.

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As I mentioned in my last post, I recently went on a photowalk with the “Bangkok Photographers” Facebook group, starting from the Bang Wa BTS station in the bottom left of the Google earth pic above, and finishing at the Klong Bang Luang riverside market in the top right, more or less following the route in red.

(see here for Google Maps)

Although there are a lot of condos and modern infrastructure going up now, it is one of the older parts of town, peppered with wats  and criss-crossed by canals that have not been filled to make way for roads, unlike much of the city on the other side of the river.

It’s not an area that would see a lot of white faces, so I guess the locals would have been a bit surprised to see around 90 photographers, mainly foreigners, strolling around the neighbourhood early on a Sunday morning !

Here’s some of the photos I took that morning …I seem to have concentrated on flowers 🙂 (click to see a larger version)


But it was not all flowers :

For more photos from the morning check out the online magazine here

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Lotus Flower.

Lotus Flower

Lotus Flower, Wat Khampang Bang Chak, Bangkok

 

As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled, so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.”  Gautama Buddha

This weekend just past I went on another photowalk with the ” Bangkok Photographers” Facebook group, along with 94 other people ! Apparently that was a record number of people to turn up, early on a Sunday morning too ….
As I’ve mentioned earlier we are asked to submit our best photos from the walk for an online magazine, but to not publish those elsewhere for a few days. I had more than enough to give you a teaser, 🙂

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Fight night, Rajadamnern Stadium

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My brother and sister, with their respective spouses, were in town recently en-route to Laos, stopping over in the Big Mango for a few days. While here, the guys had a boys night out at Rajadamnern Stadium, watching the Muay Thai fights. While I am not a die hard fan of the sport I often went along to the fights at MBK on Wednesday nights, but they have been discontinued.

muaythai-1It’s a long time since I have been to Rajadamnern Stadium, as it is not the easiest place to get to (unless you are staying near KSR).

From their hotel near Asoke we had to get a long slow taxi ride through peak hour traffic. Our taxi driver turned out to be an ex-boxer himself, and after the usual “where you come from” questions I found out that he happened to come from a village just down the road from my girlfriend’s home. He originally wanted an exorbitant off-the-meter price which I negotiated down to something reasonable, only for the brother in law to later pay and tip him more than he originally asked for  ….. **** tourists !

The guys wanted to sit ringside, so I booked our seats online and got seats right alongside the red corner, at 2000฿ each . The cheapest seats, way back in the third tier, are listed as 1000baht online, somehow I think that is a “special” price for people with white faces ….I’m sure the locals don’t pay anywhere near that. I don’t think that management would want you to stand up there with all the illegal gambling happening around you 🙂

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2000 baht ringside, much cheaper behind the wire mesh on the upper levels.

I don’t think the fights on that Monday night were of the best quality but it was entertaining enough for my brother and brother-in-law. The crowd and the boxers’ supporters do get involved, and make for a good crowd atmosphere.

Although the ringside seats are good for atmosphere they are not the best for photography as the ropes get in the way. At MBK I used to be able to stand right next to the ring and shoot through the ropes, at Rajadamnern you might be better off getting into the second class area so that you could shoot down onto the action.

I only took my little compact camera so I had to stick down close to the ring.

Capture

Rajadamnern (or Ratchadamnoen) Stadium is the oldest muay thai stadium in Bangkok, opened way back in 1945, so not surprisingly it is in the old part of town. Rather than the long taxi ride we had, probably the best way for most tourists to get there would be either MRT subway to Hualamphong or BTS skytrain to National stadium or Phayathai stations and then a relatively short and quick taxi ride. If you are staying in the Khao Sarn Road area it is just about walkable.

Fights are on at 6.30pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sundays. Other nights they are at the new Lumphini stadium, way out in the north of the city.

Tickets can be booked online at http://rajadamnern.com/ but unless you want to get absolutely ringside it’s usually not really necessary to book ahead for most nights. Even if you are not a fan of the martial arts the whole experience of a fight night at Rajadamnern might make it worth the trip ?

 

 

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Land of a million elephants !

Laos2017-7The girlfriend and I have recently come back from a couple of weeks in Laos, taking advantage of some cheap air fares from Bangkok, and some good hotel deals. Of course, there is always a reason behind those good deals …in this case Air Asia wanted to fill planes and the hotels wanted to fill rooms during the rainy season ! So the weather was not the greatest for sightseeing, but we have both been to Laos before so at least it was a getaway from Bangkok.

We started off in Luang Prabang, staying at the Villa Somphong. Luang Prabang used to be one of the extreme outposts of the French Empire, attracting many people who wanted to get away from Paris for one reason or another. There are still a lot of old villas left from that time, often renovated into boutique hotels. We had a nice room with a balcony looking out over the river, and close to the town centre.

Luang Prabang is well known for the number of wats (temples) there, and the number of monks. The morning tak bat (alms giving) has turned into a bit of a tourist cliche, one of the must-dos for the backpacker set. Living in Thailand as I do, it’s not exactly a novelty to me but I must confess I went along early one morning to take a few photos.

By 6am vendors have their spots staked out, with places for their customers to sit, baskets of cookies and sticky rice for sale. Every vendor had the same items for sale, so I hope that the locals who give alms do give them something healthy to eat instead of the cookie bars sold to tourists. Apparently the sticky rice sold by the vendors is low quality, I do know that much of it got thrown away ! The monks also give some of their excess food to local kids waiting around the corner. I would suggest that if you do want to give alms that perhaps you go down to the market and buy some fruit or anything else healthy.

Some more photos from Luang Prabang, click to see a larger version.

After a few days there it was time to move on to Vang Vieng. I had avoided this place before because of it’s reputation on the backpacker circuit, not my scene, but now that most of the more notorious stuff has been closed down I thought we could spend a few days there, hoping to do one of the ultralight or balloon flights over some spectacular scenery. VV_pano-1It was not to be, with low cloud and drizzle for the next few days. We stayed at the “Elephant Crossing Hotel”, I really cannot recommend this place ….switches and light fittings loose and falling out, the bathroom drain must be partly blocked, and the wifi is iffy ….off and on regularly. Guess it serves me right for believing the pics on Agoda !

At least it also had a nice balcony to watch the river flow by …..

With the dreary weather Vang Vieng was a bit of a letdown, maybe I’ll go back at a different time of the year and try again.

Then on to Vientianne, again. I’ve been there several times before on visa runs and holidays but not for a couple of years. In that short time the city has changed quite a bit, it’s almost up to the 21st century now ! We got very lucky with our hotel here (the Sengtawan Riverside), we had just got up to our room, the GF was smiling at the big size of it, when reception rang …”we have to change your room, sorry’ …..so we go up to our new room and find a huge suite. It was twice the size of our condo ! Apparently they needed all the rooms on the other floor for a tour group the next day so upgraded us. I certainly was not complaining.

20170708_142750 And naturally it had a private balcony looking out over the Mekong.

In the evening there were many open air restaurants on the riverbank outside, so we did not have to go far to eat. The hotel also had it’s own restaurant on the top floor but we only managed breakfast there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some more photos of Vientianne :

For anybody visiting Vientianne in the near future, Pha That Luang  is under renovation at the moment and much of it is cordoned off, and the Buddhas moved out. So it is not really worth the 10,000 kip to get in, even though they are still charging full price with nothing to see. Not that I actually paid it anyhow ……after queueing up behind a bunch of chinese tourists  for ages we just went around them and the guards said nothing 🙂

The surrounding temples are free and still open so it is worth a trip out there. But haggle with your tuk-tuk driver ! By this time I was a bit tired of having to do all the organising so I made the GF get the tuk-tuk out to Patuxai, for which she (too) quickly settled on 60,000 kip. I got us from Patuxai to Pha That Luang, wait for nearly an hour, and then all the way back to the hotel for only 80,000 ! She also paid over the odds for a t-shirt in Luang Prabang 😦

And then it was back to Bangkok, and a horrendous one hour queue at Don Mueang airport Immigration ! I really do wish our Chinese friends would learn to fill in the arrivals card before they get up to the desk instead of holding everybody up.

As Air Asia say …..Now everybody can fly ……but sometimes I think that some people should stay at home.

 

 

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“Tak Bat” (alms giving, Luang Prabang, Laos)

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