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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A photo walk through Bang Sue

Bang Sue photo walk-3

Bang Sue Railway station, the start of the walk.

Bang Sue photo walk

Bang Sue station….picking our way through the parcels !

Last weekend I went on a photo-walk with the “Bangkok Photographers” Facebook Group round the Bang Sue community ( Google maps) in the north of Bangkok near the well known Chatuchak Market.

Nestled between the railway tracks and a couple of khlongs (canals) it is not exactly the most salubrious part of Bangkok, but there are certainly worse slum areas than Bang Sue. I don’t know what the locals thought of all us photographers, mostly foreigners but some Thais, walking around the back alleys on a hot Bangkok morning but they were friendly and welcoming….and patient with everybody asking for a photo, such as this old lady :

Bang Sue photo walk

I think everybody took her picture !


My favourite shot of the day :

Bang Sue photo walk

After every walk a collection of everybody’s photos are published in an online magazine, this walk’s images are here if anybody wants to have a look. There is usually a walk every month, but not in this July,so if you are a photographer coming to Bangkok, and want to perhaps see an off the beaten track part of the city check out the Facebook page for a schedule.

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noun: folly; plural noun: Follies
  1. 1.
    lack of good sense; foolishness.
    2.
    a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park

     One of Thailand’s more eccentric moneyed class was Lek Viriyaphant, the creator of the Ancient City and the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, and also the Erawan Museum on the outskirts of Bangkok.

    Featuring a three headed elephant standing on top of a pink three storey building in the middle of a large garden, I think it qualifies as a ‘folly” 🙂

    Like the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya, the Erawan Museum is a bit of a hotch-potch of religious influences without actually being a religious building. The main building is supposed to represent the 3 levels of the Hindu universe, the basement entrance takes you into the “underworld” which is strangely full of antiquities, then you climb up into the human world :

    The main hall is full of Buddhist, Hindu and Christian allegories carved on to the walls and pillars, plus a large statue of a Chinese goddess, Guanyin ….I told you it was a hotch-potch ! The ceiling is a large stained glass map of the world.erawan-11

    erawan-6Getting into heaven is not supposed to be easy, so a long climb up several flights of stairs (through the elephants legs) will take you up to the top level which is a more conventional Buddhist  area, with several old and very valuable Buddhas, that represents Heaven.

This part is actually inside the elephant, but unfortunately there are no windows to see out over the gardens.

The gardens naturally feature many more elephants, in various sizes and colours.

 

 

One story I read says that when planning the nearby ring road the government was going to go through this garden, so Lek Viriyaphant dedicated it to his Majesty the king, making it untouchable. However the govt. changed the plans and put the road through his house next door !

How to get there ? The Erawan Museum is on Sukhumwit road, so many buses go past it. The 511 is an air-con bus that goes right across town and out to Samut Prakan so that would probably be best. The BTS Skytrain will be ( should be !) extended out there by end of 2018, currently you would have to get off at Samrong and then get a short taxi ride or bus. Note that some buses detour via the expressway when returning to the city so a return via taxi and BTS might be best.

How much ? It does have the foreigner surcharge, so a normal walk-in ticket is 400baht/adult which is a bit pricey, but booking online will get you a hundred baht discount. If you are an expat with a Thai driver’s license, flash that and get the Thai price of 200 baht.

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