I visited Thailand and Cambodia in September 2013. It was a memorable trip. I was there on invitation from Tourism Authority of Thailand. It was my first Thailand Cambodia trip. It was also my first experience of visa on arrival which went without a hitch at Bangkok!
Tourism Authority of Thailand was quite gracious as they got us into Bangkok a day early. That day could have been utilized to recover from the travel fatigue. But every extra day in a new country is meant for exploring and that is what I did.
Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand
My first stop in Bangkok was the iconic Wat Arun. It took me two ferries to reach there. The Tha Thien pier is the closest to the temple. The temple is directly across this pier. It is a great structure and you can climb up its steep stairs to get a magnificent view of the Bangkok city. A large percentage of population in Thailand is Buddhist but I thought their architecture is different from our Indian Buddhist architecture. As it was novel for me, I liked it all the more!
Wat Pho, Bangkok, Thailand
My second stop on the very first day was Wat Pho. The temple is known for its giant statue of the reclining Buddha. However there is much more to the place. The temple complex is huge and really beautiful. So do explore the complex once you have seen the reclining Buddha. I can’t tell you how tired I was even after this short excursion. In the evening we had a cocktail event hosted at our hotel Dusit Thani. Thai vegetarian food is quite good and my wine and dinner were excellent.
Taling Chan Floating Market, Bangkok
I slept like a log after the dinner. The next day after an unhurried breakfast at the lavish buffet of Dusit Thai, I was ready to explore more of Bangkok. We once again took a ferry, this time to go to Taling Chan Floating Market in Bangkok. It is a local weekend market and it is a riot of colors. The ferry took us through the Chao Phraya river, first through wide open channles and then via narrow ones. It was an incredible experience. Our guides from the Absolutely Fantastic Holidays made sure that we had a good time at the market and tasted all the sweets and savories from the market. In the evening we were supposed to visit the famous Chatuchak (also known as JJ) Market but it rained heavily later in the day. We had to be content by visiting a mall instead.
Four Seasons, Bangkok
Our dinner that evening was at Four Seasons, Bangkok. Now Four Seasons is one hotel that was held in such an awe with my colleagues from the hospitality industry back when I used to teach at a place that had hospitality programs. They were correct, Four Seasons was grand, the champagne excellent and the food exotic. For some of us it was vegetarian too! It was a lovely place and a beautiful evening.
Creation World Wide, A Mango Wood Factory, Thailand
I heralded the next day with another heavy breakfast which included a big plate of exotic tropical fruits. After that I was ready to travel again. We were going to Nakhon Nayok. On the way we stopped at Creation World Wide, a mango wood factory. They gave us a goody bag which had a very beautiful book mark made of mango wood. That is the only book mark that my daughter has not taken away and destroyed. She threatens me though that she can break it. I don’t know what she has against my bookmarks!
Royal Hill Golf Resort and Spa, Nakhon Nayok, Thailand
After this stop we continued towards Nakhon Nayok. We stayed at the Royal Hill Golf Resort and Spa. The picture above is of the hotel premises! The region has Khun Dan Prakarnchon Dam and in the vicinity quite a few adventure activities. The dam area is quite scenic, there is a 3 km long viewing platform.
Bhumirak Dhamachart Project, Nakhon Nayok
We also visited the Bhumirak Dhamachart Project which depicted the importance of water for the local ecology. But they had a very interesting display about the effects of addiction to internet!
Rafting at Nakhon Nayok
We went for adventure activities in the evening. I did the flying fox and rafting. I could have done rappelling and ATV ride as well but somehow I gave them a miss. I thoroughly enjoyed rafting in the area. It was gentler than rafting in the Ganges. After an action filled day I was looking forward to the dinner which was at the the hotel itself.
Chao Phraya Abhaibhubate Building, Prachin Buri, Thailand
This beautiful building is attached to the hospital by the same name in the Prachin Buri area. This was our first stop on the following day day when we left Nakhon Nayok. We were eventually going to reach the Thailand Cambodia border at Aranyaprathet. The hospital has a wing for traditional treatments. They offered us a traditional Thai massage which was out of this world. It was a dry massage as they didn’t use any oil and yet it was so refreshing! I felt like a new person after it. They offer the massage to the tourists as well.
I also got to know that by back was not really happy with my traveling schedule and sleeping hours. It is still not happy with me. The hospital also had a shop where you could buy herbal products. I picked up a few as gifts as well as some for my own use.
Ban Dong Village, Thailand
Our lunch was at the traditional village of Ban Dong. Other than the lavish meal, we enjoyed visiting the local houses which preserve their old customs. We also saw dances from the village. Some of us even tried our hands at stilt walking. After spending a few hours we were on our way to the border market of Aranyaprathet. The next day we would cross into Cambodia.
Aranyaprathet Border Market, Thailand
Aranyaprathet Border Market is also quite colorful. I had a good time strolling through it. It is good if you are looking for buying fashion clothes as well. I am told it is incredibly cheap if you are a bulk buyer. I did pick up two pretty skirts one for my daughter and another for my niece. Both of them liked it a lot! We stayed at Tournesol Boutique Hotel which was comfortable and nice for a border hotel. The next day we were crossing into Cambodia. It was almost the last leg of my Thailand Cambodia trip!
The road trip from Poipet (the Cambodian side of the border) to Siem Reap was scenic. I had just one night in Cambodia and how I wish to go back, both to Thailand and Cambodia. At Siem Reap I was staying at the beautiful Sokha Resort, Angkor. I visited 3 main temples in the Angkor group of temples, Bayon, Ta Prohm and of course the beautiful Angkor Wat. Each one of them is unique in its own way. Bayon had giant smiling faces looking at you from every corner of the temple.
Ta Prohm, Cambodia
Ta Prohm is said to have been abandoned at some point in history. And it was during this phase that trees start taking hold of the temple, nature was trying to reclaim the space that once belong to it. Today the giant trees around the temple are the prime attraction. They feature in the famous Angelina Jolie movie Lara Croft- The Tomb Raider. Indian government is also contributing to the restoration of Ta Prohm. It is a stunning place.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The last monument that I visited on this trip was Angkor Wat. It is a concept, it is not just a place. I was completely awed by it. If you can catch the sunrise at Angkow Wat, do go, it is not to be missed. I visited the place later during the day as well. One short trip does no justice to it.
And that brings me to the very end of a memorable and beautiful Thailand Cambodia trip. I can’t thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand enough for inviting me on this trip!
I am truly petrified of street photography. It feels like a daunting task to point my camera at a stranger’s face and click. I know, I know in India not too many people mind, but I just completely freeze most of the time. And yet I was fascinated by it too. I would keep reading tips after tips thinking something would unlock the secret for me. I am still uncomfortable with street photography but I have given it a try from time to time and here are the things that worked for me. So consider this as street photography tips for the petrified.
Miniature Apsaras, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Shooting Things: Since I was petrified of shooting people I started with shooting things. Most of the times, the street vendors are fine even when you walk up close, exchange a glance towards their stuff and raise an eyebrow. They generally wave a hand to go ahead. I know this is not real street photography but I had to start somewhere. That is where I started and remained for a very long time.
I do remember one incident when I was framing a shot of vegetarian street food in Kuala Lumpur. I had clicked the shot but I was still looking through the viewfinder. I sensed someone walking into my frame and that startled me! He was the owner of the stall. I had ordered something with the young boy who was there. And while I was waiting for my mushrooms to arrive and clicking this man rudely walked into my frame. I did not understand the language but I guess the young boy told him I had already ordered. The burly man was now sort of apologetic. And that was the end of the incident. I guess sometimes it helps to buy something from a stall and then soot. But I can’t do this every time, more so when I don’t eat non-vegetarian food. A lot many owners are just fine if you are shooting their stuff. Sometimes the vendors even insist that I click there picture as well!
Too Difficult to Open: Clicked Using a 75-300 Lens
Using a Zoom Lens: I know every self street respecting street photographer would advise you against it. But remember we are not dealing with self respecting street photographer but a terrified street photographer. I actually gathered courage only after I used a 75-300 to shoot people walking by at Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal. I was sitting on a bench under shade as it was too hot. I saw boats coming and going as well as people walking by the lake. I decided to use the zoom. No one took any notice as I was a little away from the scene. It helped that I stationary as well. I liked what I clicked and this was the first time (June 2013) I thought I have to try it more.
Wanted to Click the Man Under Umbrella Really
Framing Wider: So when I found myself in the colorful border market at Aranyaprathet (Thai-Cambodia border, September 2013) I wanted to do street photography. I was using a 50 mm (Canon) prime lens which would not let me zoom anything. I wanted to click the man under the umbrella but my nerves failed me as usual. I then decided to frame the scene wider. What to do, you have to think of ways to click things when you are scared of offending people.
Busy with Making a Dish, Aranyaprathet, Thai-Cambodia Border
Clicking Busy People: While walking through the Rong Kluea Market at the Thai-Cambodian border I realized that the vendors were so busy doing their business they hardly had any time for nosy photographer. Now that is a good thing for petrified novices like me. She never knew I clicked her picture.
Mom is Asleep, Rong Kluea Market, Thailand
Chancing upon Things: This mom and baby were resting in their shop when I chanced upon it. I think the mom knew I was clicking a picture but she didn’t stir beyond giving me a passing glance from beneath her hands. I was happy I mustered the courage to point my camera at them.
Taking Pictures from a Corner, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
Positioning Myself in a Corner: But what has worked best for me is positioning myself in a corner of a busy street. That way I could watch the world go by and occasionally get a picture too. I must have clicked at least 30 pictures standing at this particular corner of Rong Kluea Border Market. Not one person stopped and asked me what did I think I was doing! A very happy scenario for me.
You can see more pictures from this market in another of my posts.
I know a purist reading this post would cringe. But what to do, I am just a petrified street photographer who is equally fascinated by it. I am trying hard to find my way around it.
Aranyaprathet is one of the Thailand-Cambodian Borders. The next day we were headed to Cambodia by road after crossing the border. When I got down at Aranyaprathet’s Ban Khlong Luek Border Market (also known as Rong Kluea) I had just woken up from a nap in the van. For the while I looked at the place with bleary eyes. Initially it looked a bit empty and forlorn. But first looks, particularly on bleary eyes can be really deceptive.
The market is actually very colorful and has some eye popping displays, like pink eggs! I mean pink eggs for heaven’s sake! The entire street where they sell vegetables and meat is a riot of colors.
Pink Eggs, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
How can you feel sleepy after seeing pink eggs being sold in the market from a corner shop? I was wide awake and clicking after I saw them. What are they, why are they pink? Here are some folks discussing the phenomenon of the pink eggs in Thailand and here is someone cooking them too! From inside they are black, I had them for breakfast after coming back from Cambodia at Dusit Thai, my hotel in Bangkok.
A Girl with Her Mother around Their Shop at Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
The place also sells clothes. I bought two pretty skirts for my daughter and niece. I strolled around the market for a couple of hours. It is a great place to do street photography as well. The shopkeepers have their kids around, who play near their shops. I loved the three tails the mother made for this little kid’s hair. Now if only Chhavi would let me do that. She likes her hair running wild and loose and any attempts at pins and hairband succeed only for about 10 minutes!
Lotus Stem for Sale, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
Talking of colors, there were these delicately colored lotus stem for sale. The market has a large non-vegetarian section, no not really a section but intermingling of both veg and non-veg products. So, if you are a vegetarian (like me) and uncomfortable with display of raw meat, you have been warned. The first time I went to this section, I ran away after a few minutes. However I came back again and clicked whatever I wanted and ignored what I could not stand.
That Beautiful Smile, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
I am quite afraid of clicking people for the fear of offending them. However, so much was happening at this market that no one paid any attention to me or my camera. That was good for me, I could click a few pictures without really being nervous. When I saw her beaming smile on my camera display later, I realized why people get so addicted to street photography!
To Quench Your Thirst, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
The weather was quite humid (like most of Southeast Asia) and these colorful bottles were quite inviting. I am not a big fan of soft drinks so I did give them a miss. I was content by bring home just the picture.
Out Shopping, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
At this market I realized one thing about street photography. If you stand in a corner with your camera and let the world go by, they hardly take any notice of you! I was not very far away from the people I was photographing, but as they were moving and I was stationary in a corner they hardly paid any attention to me. Gives me hope for trying out more street photography. And for the record I was using a 50mm prime lens.
Chilling Out, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
These young girls were aware that I was clicking their picture. They said something in their language which sounded like- here comes another stupid tourist! But they did giggle and tolerated me and my camera!
Shrimps for Sale, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
The best I could do with non-veg was this lot of shrimp (I hope they are shrimps) and unlike the eggs I have no clue why these are blue. They just looked pretty to me. I still run away at the sight of red meat and I think it will take me a long time overcome that aversion, if I can ever do that!
I Have My Own Purse Too, Rong Kluea Border Market, Thailand
As the sun started casting long shadows it was time to head to the hotel. I came in bleary eyed but I left quite wide eyed with memory of bright colors, colorful outfits and beaming faces. I will always remember Rong Kluea Border Market as the first place where I got comfortable with street photography.