Here, I'll offer a few tidbits about my life here, some of my recent activities and the upcoming events that I'm looking forward to photographing.
I'll also try to give a little more information that you won't find in the galleries for the trips and events that I've photographed.
About the first year after I moved here, I sent out email updates to my friends and family every few months. I stopped doing that after I began this website, but now I realize that I haven't been including much info about how things are going here and what I'm up to. I'm somewhat limiting personal information because it is out there for the public to see.
Most of content on this site will relate to my photographic experiences
If I can manage to keep this up to date, I'll let you know what to expect for gallery additions in the near future.
This SmugMug site isn't set up quite as I would like for the purpose of a blog, so bear with me as this my first attempt to use it this way.
My second trip to Southern Thailand, Apr 18 thru May 5.
Did a little more planning this time than for my first trip South. My first trip, I tried to follow the coastline wherever possible which was too time consuming and uneventful.
This time I planned my main stops and allowed more time to just relax. Since my planned route took me right through Kamphaeng Phet, I decided to spend the night there and check out more of the ruins. The main historical park is right in town, but there are quite a few ruins scattered around the outskirts of town. I saw just enough to make me anxious to return again for more.
I added the ruins photos to my gallery for Kamphaeng Phet Ruins.
We're well into the rainy season here now, but this year we're experiencing a terrible drought. There hasn't been enough rain for the farmers to plant their fields and the countryside just isn't lush and green like it should be now.
I added the photos of the coast to my previous gallery for my Road Trip to Krabi.
Already thinking about my next trip which will probably be to the ruins of Buriram and then down along the coast below Pattaya.
Return trip to Sukhothai: Mar. 15, 2013
This was actually my third trip to Sukhothai, and it won't be my last. My first trip was with a group of my photo club members. I wasn't happy with my photos taken during that trip, so I returned better prepared and during cloudy weather which I favor for photographing ruins. I was pleased with the results of my second trip, but I realized that there's still a lot there that I missed.
The ruins of Sukhothai cover a very large area. The most popular area is inside the moat of the old city, or the central zone. Most of the central zone seems to have been considerably restored. The area is just like a park, with lakes and gardens and everything is well manicured. It's quite pretty. but not what I'm really wishing to capture.
The Northern zone was more to my liking. There was much less evidence of restoration and I actually felt like I was among the ruins of an ancient city and not in the middle of a park.
This trip, I concentrated on the Western Zone. This is several kilometers away from the main park.
This area, like the Northern Zone, is really in a state of ruin. The only signs of restoration seem to be only what was necessary to keep some of the structures from collapsing. I hope this area can be maintained "as is" for many more years.
Once again though, the weather wasn't what I had hoped for, so I'll be returning to the same spots probably during the coming rainy season.
I didn't get to see and photograph all the ruins in this area and I might never see them all. The problem is that several of them are pretty high up on the hillsides. I only walked up to one of them, and that was tiring for me. Besides, it was, as usual, really hot which drains my energy quickly. Maybe on future visits, I'll tackle a different hillside ruin each time.
Since there are so many worthwhile ruins in the Sukhothai area, I decided to separate each zone into their own galleries. This might help those with limited time for their visit to decide on their priorities.
Not sure exactly when I'll return to Sukhothai, but I'm already planning a return trip to the Southern Coastline of Thailand during the Month of April.
Road Trip to Krabi: Jan 28 to Feb 8, 2013.
This is the trip I was planning on. The thing is though, as usual for me, I took off without doing a whole lot of research. I find it more difficult to do the kind of research that I'm looking for here in Thailand, in comparison to the trips I took throughout the United States. Fall Color Trips, for example; There are a number of websites devoted to keeping photographers up to date on how the change in color is progressing in different areas.
Here, it's difficult to find the specific information that I'm looking for and to find good photographic examples of what to expect in various locations.
Enough ranting. The focus of this trip was to capture the type of scenery that is unavailable in here in Northern Thailand. I was looking for beach scenes, fishing villages and any other seaside sights that caught my eye.
Route 4 is the main route through the Southern part of the country. It really doesn't follow the shoreline though, so I ended up taking many detours on roads which I hoped would offer some nice coastal scenery. The majority of my detours were a waste of time and gas. After a few days of this, I realized that I'd never get to my destination and back again in the time I allotted for my trip.
Anyway, the majority of my favorite shots were taken around the area of Chumporn, which is on the Gulf of Thailand. I wasn't too fond of the Krabi area. Being there over the weekend made it worse having to deal with a lot more traffic.
Some of the scenes I was hoping to find just didn't happen, but this will give me reason for a return trip. I think I already gained insight into a better planned trip.
Bottom line; It was a good trip and I'm happy with the photographs I came back with. I especially liked some of the old abandoned boats I came across.
Been wanting to take another road trip, but wasn't eager to be on the road with all the tourists up here for the New Year holidays.
Things finally slowed down a bit so I decided to head north for a few days. My main interest was in the Tea Plantations of Mae Salong, but since my route took me through Chiang Rai, I took in some of the sights there too.
Other than planning my route to Mae Salong, I was just taking things as they came.
Didn't spend too long in Mae Salong, but plan to return at a different time of the year. I did come across some unexpected ruins during my travels which I'll add to my Ancient Ruins galleries. See those and my Road Trips for photos and details.
I'm already planning my next road trip, if nothing interferes with it. I want to head down along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand and then over to the Andaman Sea going South about as far as Krabi. That's about as far as I feel safe in traveling since the far South experiences too much random violence.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to this coming weekend to photograph the Bosang Umbrella Festival. It's taking place on Jan. 18, 19 and 20. I hope to have some good photos from that to share.
Road trip to Bangkok and back - Dec 11 thru 18, 2012
This trip was a lot longer and a bit more adventurous than what I've done so far. I'd been thinking of doing this, but didn't have it planned out. So, when my friend Joe emailed me that he was coming in to Bangkok I just decided to drive down to meet him.
With very little planning, I headed out with plans to avoid the main highways and see as much of the countryside as practical on the way. This was a learning experience.
I chose rt 106 to leave Chiang Mai heading south for the first leg of my trip. I wouldn't choose it again. The upper half of the route was congested with a lot of shops and heavy traffic. The lower half was better and more scenic, but the few spots I wished to photograph, there was no shoulder to safely pull over on.
The 106 ended at rt 1. Rt 1 is the main North/South highway for those who want to get to Bangkok and back quickly. Avoiding rt 1, I crossed over to rt 1048 which I took to Sawankhalok. This was a very pretty and relaxing drive, but it got dark before I reached Sawankhalok and found a hotel. I actually had plans to backtrack for a bit the next morning, but it was raining steadily. So I opted to get on the 101 and head south through Sukhothai to Kamphaeng Phet.
The 101 was a better road, but nothing too impressive to see until I reached Kamphaeng Phet. I didn't know it was a mail historical site until I saw the Historical Park and the ruins, so I spent a little while exploring and photographing..
Again, to avoid rt 1, I decided to take rt 1084 south to Nakhon Sawan. That was a mistake. It was a narrow and curvy road and there were a lot of very slow moving trucks that were difficult to pass. When I finally reached Nakhon Sawan, I gave in and traveled the rest of the way on rt 1, stopping for the night in Singburi.
The only other stop I decided to make was Ayutthaya to see the ruins. Ayutthaya is a fairly large city and not the easiest to navigate. There are ruins scattered over a large area, but I headed for the main Historical Park. I spent just a couple hours there. The most interesting scene there was the Buddah Head imbedded in the tree trunk at Wat Mahathat.
Continuing down rt 1, the drive went quickly until I reached the city of Bangkok. Traffic was a nightmare and my GPS seemed to make things worse. The problem was that several freeways were built since my GPS software was updated and the GPS kept trying to take me on streets that I couldn't turn on.
When I finally reached my hotel, I spent three enjoyable days before hitting the road again.
This time I decided to try rt 340 north through Supanburi and up to Chainat where I got on rt 1 again. Took rt 1 up to Tak where I decided to head west on rt 12 to Mae Sot.
Leaving Mae Sot, I headed north on rt 105 to Mae Sariang. This was probably the most interesting stretch of highway that I've taken yet. It runs very close to the border of Burma. I'd say this is well away from the popular tourist routes.
The road conditions varied from very good to so bad in some spots that I wondered if the road might just end and turn into a dirt trail.
I believe that I was seeing an area of Thailand that was unspoiled by tourism. There were Hill Tribe people in typical native dress. Water buffalo were a common site, both along the road and grazing in the fields.
I didn't understand all that I was seeing, but I spotted thousands of primitive huts packed tightly together along a several kilometer section of road. When I pulled over to photograph them, a man in military fatigues quickly approached me and told me "No photos. Go." I didn't argue and went on my way. But quite a way up the road, I decided to pull over again and managed to get a few quick pictures and left before I got in trouble.
I think this must have been a refugee camp. Along this section of road, there were about two dozen police checkpoints. Had to stop for about six of them.
Leaving Mae Sariang the next morning, I headed east on rt 108 towards Chiang Mai. Just a few kilometers from town, I encountered the prettiest scene of the whole trip. There was absolutely no place to safely pull over to photograph it.
Bottom line: Every road that I've been on, away from the Cities, was pretty countryside. The areas I passed in Central Thailand were mostly flat and the rice fields were still green.
Unless you're near a main tourist attraction, most of the roads aren't designed to let cars pull over. Many of the shoulders are very steep.
Though the entire country is beautiful, Northern Thailand is by far the best.
I'll have many more road trips to report on. Next will probably be Chiang Rai and the Goldenn Triangle.
Mae Hong Son Loop – Nov 5 thru 8, 2012
I just returned from a four day trip by car to see for myself what everyone is talking about. Most people recommend taking the loop in a counter-clockwise direction, beginning in Chiang Mai, then up the 107 to rt. 1095, heading West to Pai, then on to Mae Hong Son, then South on rt. 108 to Mae Sariang, continuing on rt. 108 West all the way back to Chiang Mai.
I decided to do the loop in the opposite direction. It just felt right that way. Bear in mind that my main objective was to get some good photographs, and to familiarize myself with more of the country while I’m at it.
So here’s my report, at least from my point of view;
The drive South on rt. 108 left much to be desired. There was a lot of road construction going on, poor roads and nothing to make me reach for my camera. It wasn’t until I was about 30 km from Mae Sariang until the scenery started getting better.
The area around Mae Sariang, which was where I spent the night, was nice. Especially South of town on rt. 105.
Heading North on rt. 108 again was uninspiring. If there was any nice scenery, it was hidden by all the trees and brush along the roadsides.
Not too far up the road, I came to rt. 1266 and decided to try that while I was there. About the first 20 km was beautiful, with many worthwhile photo ops. One of my favorite was a group of water buffalo soaking in a mud-hole. After going another 10 km and not seeing much, I turned around and backtracked.
Back on rt. 108 heading North, it was once again a very disappointing road. Long sections of it were in very bad shape with pot-holes everywhere.
A bit over half way up to Mae Hong Son, I came to rt. 1263, which I also decided to explore. I didn’t go very far until I saw a sign pointing to a Wild Sunflower Preserve. Since the Sunflowers are a big attraction in this area, I had to check it out. It was about 19 km to the park over the usual steep and curvy mountain roads. It was nice, but I have to say that a mountain-side full of Sunflowers is impressive, but it didn’t do much for me. I prefer the groups of Sunflowers found along the roadsides to add a nice foreground to other scenes.
I didn’t get much further on rt. 1263 as it was getting late and I wanted to spend the night in Mae Hong Son.
I didn’t find much interesting around Mae Hong Son. This is where rt. 1095 begins.
The 1095 is extremely curvy throughout it’s whole length. There were just a few places to pull over where there were some nice views. Not the views I would go out of my way for though. It wasn’t until just before I got into Pai that there were some rice-fields that were quite nice.
Pai was a pretty area, but other than those rice-fields, it didn’t do anything for me.
The last leg of my trip from Pai back to Chiang Mai was just tiring, with just a couple more ho-hum scenic views.
The drive on rt. 1095 is not something I ever want to do again. There’s about 180 km of steep and very curvy roads with no passing lanes. Most of the traffic on this road is just trying to get to their destination as quickly as they can. They’ll gamble with their lives that they can get around a car before someone else comes speeding around a curve toward them.
Bottom Line: It’s probably a great getaway trip for motorcyclists looking for an adventure through scenic areas. Or, if you think you’ve seen everything that’s worthwhile in the Chiang Mai area, then this would be a good choice for a drive.
If you want to make the trip, then this is probably the best time of the year to go. The Sunflowers are in bloom and many of the rice-fields are at their peak of beauty. However, some of the fields have already been harvested and it appears that others have recently been replanted. So, even if you miss a scene that you’ve either heard about, or seen photos of, there will be different opportunities to take advantage of no matter when you go.
You can view the photos from my trip in my "Mae Hong Son" Gallery which you can find in the “Road Trips” category. Besides my favorites, I’ve included many other photos representing the areas that I found worthwhile. The very first stop I made had already been harvested, but I included a photo since it could possibly be one of the prettiest locations if you can catch it at the right time.
Loy Krathong 2012
This is my favorite festival of the year. This year it begins on Saturday, Nov 24 with the YeePeng Sansai Festival in the nearby town of Mae Jo.
After a rather lengthly and boring ceremony with a monk giving a long sermon, the candle-lit procession will begin. There will be very little light at this time other than the light given off by the candles that the participants in the procession will be carrying. The procession is led by the monks and followed by various VIP's and then other groups. All of them will have their own candle.
This is the most challenging event to photograph as it is quite dark and the participants are walking at a bit slower than normal pace. The use of flash isn't desirable since it would ruin the lighting effect of the candles. You really need to use a very high ISO and not too slow a shutter speed. You'll probably also need to compromise your depth-of-field by using a large aperture.
It's also difficult to position yourself as the event is very crowded and the few key locations with a decent view are hard to come by. You need to get what shots you can while other photographers aren't jumping in front of you.
Each year I hope to do better than the previous year. I'm especially anxious for this year's event.
Shortly after the procession has ended, everyone will be instructed to prepare their Khom Loys (Hot Air Lanterns). They'll then be instructed to light the lanterns, but not to release them until the signal is given. When it appears that the lanterns are ready, the signal is given to release them. In just a few seconds, a thousand lanterns fill the night sky
After the main release of lanterns, people continue to release more lanterns at their own pace for about the next hour. This is actually much easier to get good photographs of as the light from the lanterns is much brighter than the candles in the procession.
I haven't seen any official schedule of events posted yet, but you can expect the entire week following the Mae Jo event to be filled with other events around town. There will be two parades, more Khom Loy launches around town, fireworks and more fireworks and lots of partying.
My favorite subject during this time is the launching of Krathongs into the river. Once again, this all happens at night-time.
Just prior to the festival, bamboo docks are erected at numerous locations along the river. These are to make it easy for the public to set their Krathongs into the water.
This is another tricky event to photograph. The problem is, at most of the locations where they're putting the Krathongs into the water, there's no way to get a view from the front so you can see their faces while they're setting the Krathongs in. My favorite location from two years ago wasn't available last year. So, in my search for another workable location, I did find a popular Wat where many of the locals were going. It's Wat Chai Mong Kol and is located just a little south of the Narawat Bridge.
So anyway, on another note; I've been planning a trip for the Mae Hong Son Loop. It's said to be one of the most beautiful drives in Thailand.
Starting in Chiang Mai, I'll head south on route 108, then continue past Doi Inthanon National Park and west to Mae Sariang, then north to Mae Hong Son, staying on the 108 all that time. From there, I'll head north-east to Pai on route 1095 and continue east back to Chiang Mai. I expect it to be about a four day trip.
It should be especially pretty right now as the rice fields are beginning to turn a golden color which means it's ready to be harvested.
My plans kept getting sidetracked, but I'm determined to go, and very soon. Hope to have lots of photos to share from that trip.
Moving to Chiang Mai in 2010 to live here as a retiree was one of the best decisions I ever made. This is a great place to live with an abundance of practically anything you could want; A great selection of restaurants, shopping malls, world-class medical and dental care, and a very reasonable cost of living.
Being one of Thailand's popular tourist destinations, English is widely spoken, so communication is rarely a problem. The Thai people are known for their friendliness. After all, it's called "The Land of Smiles".
What interested me, as much as anything else, was the photographic opportunities; The beautiful countryside, the culture, the ancient structures, including many well preserved ruins and the unique cultural festivals and religious ceremonies which usually take place at night.
Chiang Mai is situated in a fertile valley surrounded by mountain ranges with the foothills of it’s most significant mountain (Doi Suthep) at the very edge of town.
Some of the attractions in the local area, besides the beautiful scenery, are; the many Wats (Temples), the Old City which refers to the area inside the Moat, the famous Night Bazaar, the Sunday Walking Street, the Buffalo Market, numerous Elephant Camps and Hill Tribe Villages, the scenic Ping River along which many Long-Tailed Boats are continually working their way up and down, a very nice Zoo and the Night Safari. Let’s not forget the Umbrella Factories, the Woodworking and the Silver-smith and many other fine craft producers. Then there’s all the Samlors (the three wheeled bikes with a passenger seat used to taxi people around town) which are still a common site here.
Besides all these attractions, most of the traditional Thai celebrations such as Loy Krathong and Songkran are celebrated in a bigger way and for a longer period than most other areas of Thailand. Even our annual Flower Festival is a photographers dream.
The one thing that might work against a street photographer is that it’s sometimes hard to take candid type photographs of people here since when they see you pointing a camera their way, they’ll usually look at you and smile.