Adventures in Thailand: Taking Tours Solo Pt. 2 (Ayutthaya)

My second adventure as a solo-traveler-gone-rogue was a bike tour through Ayutthaya, the old capitol of Thailand when it used to be the Kingdom of Siam. It’s a gorgeous ancient city, and my older cousin (the awesome one who lives in the Philippines,) insisted I check it out. Ancient history and adventure? Don’t have to tell me twice.

He recommended that I go there and rent a bike and explore the city. However, after looking into taking the train, looking at maps, and just psyching myself out, I decided going by myself maybe wasn’t the best idea. So, I signed up for a guided bike tour. It wasn’t as smooth-sailing as the Damnoen Saduak tour, because apparently no one wanted to go on a bike-tour during some of the hottest months of the year, so my tour was almost cancelled. But, at the last minute, a group decided they wanted to go, so I was added.

This time I was adopted by three lovely people from Brazil, who were in Bangkok on a business trip, and had a free day. So, I met them, and instantly became a part of their group photos and they bought me a beer. It was awesome.

 

The bike tour was almost all-day, from bright and early until the sun went down. We took a van to the heart of the City, and started our ride from there. We visited

 

My favs from this part of our day was the Doraemon hanging out with the icons, and the school group that was on a field trip to the complex. I was also completely FLOORED when I saw the Buddha head in the bayan roots– it was something that I only ever saw pictures of, and I actually got to see it in real life. It was surreal and amazing.

One of the things I noticed when exploring the ancient wats was how most of the Buddha heads were… non-existent. They were just gone. When I asked, our tour guide explained that when Ayutthaya was ransacked by the Burmese, they would remove the heads of the Buddhas to see if they were gold inside, and therefore valuable. In other instances, people looted the temples and sold the heads to westerners. Yeah, it’s pretty fucked.

We had a brief lunch of fruit, chips, and protein bars (soda was also available– but that was a HARD pass, considering I was sweating buckets,) and carried on into the rural countryside. It was very pretty and picturesque, and we came across a couple of fun things– like a group of kids on bicycles who wanted their picture with us, but then got too shy so just settled for staring and giggling at us, and a village partying-hard and celebrating a man who was to become a monk.The celebrators offered us beer and wanted to dance with us– I opted for the dancing but not the beer, because again, it was like 110 degrees Fahrenheit outside and I was riding a bike and that just sounded like a bad combo.

 

It was totally gorgeous and an amazing time. I was really lucky to be put with such a friendly group of people who wanted to include me, and at the end of our bike ride we enjoyed Thai food and the beer my new friends generously provided me with.

We were done with the bike rides, but we had another stop before heading home: the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace. It used to be a popular summer-residence for the kings of Thailand, but in recent years it is mostly a tourist site with a very strict dress code. Visiting temples usually requires modest dress and covering your shoulders, but here, men had to wear pants and women had to have their shoulders and legs covered.

I got an amazing photo of my get-up with one of my new friends:

By the way, we had to rent those adorable clothes– not buy. There was a stand outside of the palace for this specific purpose!

We wandered around the palace grounds, and of course I took a lot of pictures. We learned a little bit about the place, like how former King Bhumibol Adulyadej loved the summer palace and tried to spend as much time there as he could, and how the Chinese gifted an entire pavilion to the royal family.

 

After visiting the palace and eating some ice cream, we headed back to Bangkok and I slept for 16 hours. Bike riding during monsoon season is no joke.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

Adventures in Thailand: In the Jungle

What do you think of when you hear the word, “jungle”?

I think of a couple of different things. I think about The Jungle Book, with tigers and bears and Mowgli. I think about Tarzan and apes and wildcats. I think about density, heat, unknowns, and stars beyond the canopy.

After visiting Ao Luek Tai in Krabi, I think about huts, cats, mountains, mosquito netting, and adventure.

We stayed at this amazing AirBnB in Krabi, and I cannot recommend this place enough. Our host picked us up from the docks and drove us the 45 minutes to the place, which is a compound of huts. You sleep on the top level, and the bottom level just kinda has a changing room. Toilets are in a separate hut, and showers and sinks in another. And it’s in the jungle, which was super cool in its own way.

Minus the GIANT blue and pink centipede. Nope nope nope.

They had cats and kittens legit everywhere, and I love kitties, so that was awesome. One of the kittens went after the centipede, but then freaked out when it realized how big it was, and then ran away. Smart kitten.

The main spectacular thing was the view I woke up to the mornings I was there:

One afternoon, we went kayaking through a mangrove forest, and it was AWESOME. I wanted to take so many pictures, my cousin got on my case about not helping with the rowing, and we got stuck in the roots a couple of times because of it… Sorry Ashley, I love you!

The nature was stunning, and I could have spent more time in the area, making pictures and enjoying the peace and quiet. We also explored a cave, which is apparently famous in the area for some prehistoric cave drawings. It was super neat-o.

We also spent some time at a construction site– sounds not-fun, but stay with me. Our host has a friend who is building a new Buddhist temple, and they let us explore. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I mean, it’s not very everyday you visit an under-construction-holy-site. We oftentimes don’t even think of holy places as things that had to be built, even though they obviously had to have been, and there is this tension when walking around the space. I loved every second of it, but my favorite was the Buddhas wrapped up in cloth, waiting to be prayed to.

On our last morning, we visited a jungle pool… a natural, fresh-water pool in the jungle. No other way to describe it besides tell it like it is. There was a natural rock slide, and the water was refreshing and cool. It was a minor thing, but it was a lot of fun regardless. It kinda felt like I was in The Jungle Book, kinda felt like some terrifying snake would come slithering out of someplace and eat me, but y’know. Fun regardless.

If you’re going to southern Thailand and hitting up Ko Phi Phi and Phuket and the area, I recommend making time to go hang-out in the jungle. Just be sure to avoid the centipedes.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

Specks from an Antique Camera

I’ve had my Voigtlander V6 for almost a year now, and I’ve just gotten my fourth roll of film from it developed. I’ve been pleased with every roll I’ve shot on this pretty old thing. When I went to pick up my photos from the lab, I was told “You might want to look at these, they have black specks–”

“Oh, I know!”

“Oh. Okay…”

That’s why I love this camera so much. It’s an antique, and it gives that look to my photos. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

But enough of that. I took it out for Memorial Day weekend, which was filled with all sorts of adventures.

Near Mitchell’s house in the middle of nowhere, there is the decrepit house. It gives him the heebie jeebies, but I think it’s awesome. The others are from my adventures at the country fair, Wayne State University, and my grandfather’s Memorial Day picnic.

That dollhouse photograph is easily one of my most favorite photographs ever. It’s at my grandpa’s house, and when I was little I played with it every time I was over there. For hours. The tiny dolls that went with it went through drama that would make today’s soap operas pale in comparison. I guess you could say I’ve always been creative? Or deranged.

So, there’s that. Do you have an old camera that you love to shoot with?

Happy Shooting!

Old Camera, Old Graves

When I was in New Orleans, I brought along my Voigtlander Brillant. I thought it would be a great camera to bring, since the images that usually come out of it have a weird over-cast antiquated look, and New Orleans is, well, old. I thought it would work out well. Turns out I was right.

I took it to New Orleans Cemetery #3 (because that’s where I took most of my photos, to be honest,) and took some shots. Oh, I also took a shot in the French Quarter.

Isn’t that old effect cool?

Also, that last image– I’m not saying it’s a ghost but, I mean. there wasn’t a light or anything in the scene when I snapped the photo, and the content interested me because it’s a broken up grave site, so I mean… I’m not saying it’s a ghost or anything, but I’m not saying it isn’t. Let’s have fun and accept it’s really weird.

Happy Shooting!

New Orleans in 35mm

I went on a wonderful trip to New Orleans, Louisiana over my spring break for the national Society for Photographic Education conference. And, of course, I brought a few cameras with me, one of those being the camera I take with me everywhere, the Fuji Natura Classica.

So, here are some pictures from that wonderful 35mm film camera.

I started taking pictures in Nashville, and continued into Alabama, Mississippi, and of course, Louisiana. Getting down to New Orleans was quite the trip (because it literally was, y’know, a trip,) and I made sure to pull out my camera or my iPhone (do it for the snapchats!) whenever it was fitting.

I think some of the best places to take pictures are antique shops. We stopped at a few in Alabama (our butts were hurting from the driving, so we needed to walk it off and go on a treasure hunt in the process,) and man, you can find the coolest and weirdest stuff. I found a flashgun for my Polaroid Automatic 100 at one, so I’m looking forward to trying that out.

Actually, the southern United States are interesting in general. You should go if you’ve never been, and the rest stops are wayy nicer than they are in the north. They have security and everything, if you can imagine that.

Because rest stop areas are obviously the most important thing on any journey.

At least they are when you live in Michigan, and most of the rest areas look like a place where Freddy is hiding in the forest… Can’t really rest at those rest stops without sleeping with one eye open.

Well, that’s all for this installment of my trip to NOLA. Keep an eye out for some medium format prints, digital photos, and snapchats!

Happy Shooting!

February’s Photos

February was a crazy month for me. I started hearing back from graduate programs and traveled for interviews, and I spent a total of 50 hours on a bus. I was sick for a week, and just generally really, really tired. I may be looking at grad school, but I’m still in undergrad making work. It’s a little rough.

BUT ART IS SUFFERING. YOLO.

But my adventures in February were awesome. I went to Columbus, Ohio and Boston, Massachusetts.

I didn’t get to take many pictures in Boston, mostly because I was super sick, and when I got to my hostel I went straight to bed, as an attempt to feel better for my interview. And I did end up feeling better, so shout out to my friends Mucinex, Halls, and Kleenex. I don’t know where I would be today without their trusted companionship.

My adventures continue right now, actually. I’m on my way to New Orleans, so keep an eye out for photos!

Happy Shooting!

January’s Photos, Year Two

Last January, I decided enough was enough and started to carry a camera with me wherever I went. It seems like that would be common sense, considering my passion for photography, but too many times I had missed a picture perfect opportunity because I didn’t have a camera with me. So, for the past year, I’ve been carrying my Fuji Natura Classica around, mostly searching for instances of beautiful light.

I’m going for round two, since I rather enjoyed this minor project. Some photographer somewhere said that photography teaches you how to see without a camera. Let’s go with that. So yeah. That’s what’s going on.

I’m not going to say anything about my life this past month and let my photos relay a story about how my life is more awesome than it actually is. Just piece them together. I’m really really cool– I mean, I have a lava lamp, that must mean I’m rad.

Happy Shooting!