Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fun at the Fair

A Ferris Wheel at the Wat Saket temple fair. The chedi is in the background.

The Wat Saket fair is probably the most popular temple fair in Bangkok. It runs for nine days around the November full moon and brings tens of thousands of people down to the narrow streets and old neighborhood around the temple. 
A ball game on a midway at the fair. There are arcade games all around the temple. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

To the Mountain Top

Thai Buddhists participate in a procession to the top of Wat Saket, the "Golden Mount" in Bangkok.

Wat Saket is one of the best known Buddhist temples in Bangkok. It's also called the Golden Mount because the temple's large golden chedi tops the man made mountain that is the base of the temple. The man made mountain is an old cemetery used to inter the victims of a cholera epidemic that swept through Bangkok early in the 19th century. 
The golden chedi at the top of Wat Saket gives the temple its nickname, the Golden Mount.

Wat Saket hosts the best temple fair in Bangkok. The streets around the temple are clogged with food vendors, midway rides, arcade games and good old fashioned freak shows. The procession to the top of the Golden Mount is the start of the Wat Saket temple fair. 
People write their prayers on the red cloth that the pious carry to the top of the Golden Mount.

The procession is good opportunity to see the pious side of Thai Buddhism while the fair is an opportunity to see the raucous side of Buddhism. 
Monks lead the procession to the top of the temple. This used to be the highest point in Bangkok but the building boom of the 1960s permanently altered the cityscape. 

A man in the crowd prays during the procession to the top. 

People pray during the service at the top of the temple. 

When the service ended people scrambled to get some of the fruit and flowers left at the chedi.

There are more photos of the procession in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lucky vs. Good

(And Making Mistakes in Editing)

Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the final rally of her campaign hosted in a Yangon suburb. This is my favorite photo of Aung San Suu Kyi from the rally. 

A lot of my photos from the Myanmar election were used in publications in Europe and the US. Most of them were used on web news sites but one was used by Newsweek in a double truck in their print edition. What's interesting, to me, is that this picture shouldn't exist at all. To me it's a good example of the lucky vs good argument (and this falls into the lucky category, not good).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Eviction Update 4

A woman in her home while family members pack around her. 

I went back to Wat Kanalaya as soon I returned to Bangkok from Myanmar. I wanted to see what was happening with the evictions and what was left of the community. 
Demolition workers disassemble a home. A month ago a family lived here. 

There are a still a few families living in the area but the community is gone. There was once three small convenience stores that sold soft drinks, snacks and toiletries. They are gone. There was once a row of four food vendors who sold papaya salad, curries and stir fries. They are gone. There was a small park that displayed the children's art work. The park is still there but it's being used to store recyclables from the destroyed homes. There was a small volunteer fire house. It is gone. 
When I was last in the community, in the middle of October, this was a block of six or seven homes. 

Now it looks like a massive storm of some kind tore through the community. Perhaps a tornado or typhoon (neither of which occur in Bangkok), destroying homes and scattering lives. 
A street vendor selling cotton candy and children's toys walks past a demolished house. With the families gone, there is no one left to buy the vendor's products. 

The families left behind are still packing and leaving but the community, the things that make it more than just a collection of homes, are gone. The day is approaching when there will be no one left to photograph. This day was inevitable. From the time I started photographing at Wat Kanalaya I knew it was coming, it's why I started this project. That doesn't make it any less sad.
People pack up their home. 

A gallery of photos from my visit to Wat Kanalaya this week. 
Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Myanmar's Festival of Lights

A woman lights small oil lamps during Thadingyut at Botahtaung Pagoda in Yangon. 

(Note: Thadingyut was Oct 28. I am posting this now because I was in Myanmar for the holiday and had internet access issues.) 

One of the most popular and beautiful Buddhist holy days in Myanmar is Thadingyut, the Festival of Lights. Myanmar's Buddhists (about 85% of the country is Buddhist) make pilgrimages to pagodas and temples to pray and make merit. 

It is celebrated on the full moon night of the Myanmar month of Thadingyut to mark the end of Vassa, or "rains' retreat," what's called "Buddhist Lent" in the west. Houses and government buildings are lit up with lantern, candles, or electric bulbs. Young people show their respect for elders by formally presenting them with gifts of food or longyi. This festival observes the event when the Buddha came down to the earth after the end of Lent.
People pray amidst a sea of candles and oil lamps at Botahtaung. 

It's also a time when many of Myanmar's Buddhists visit temples in the countryside. I went to a couple of temples outside of Yangon and had to cut the day short because roads were so jammed they were practically impassible. The driver I was working with kept taking progressively more "rustic" shortcuts that were stretches of road so potholed I had to walk ahead of him to guide him around the potholes and gullies. 

We still made better time than the busses on the highways though. The highways were completely gridlocked. (And "highway" in Myanmar doesn't mean the same thing that it does in Thailand or the US. Highways in Myanmar would be two lane country roads in Thailand. They're paved, in parts, but barely wide enough for two oncoming busses to safely pass each other.) 
A woman prays in Botahtaung. 

I had intended to visit Kyaik Khauk Pagoda, an ancient pagoda on an island in the river about 90 minutes from Yangon. It took us almost three hours to get to the pagoda and when we got there it was a mob scene. People were clamoring to get onto small boats that shuttled back and forth from the mainland to the island. 
People trying to get on a boat to go to Kyaik Khauk Pagoda. 

I photographed the mob scene at the river for about 15 minutes while I considered my options. It took twice as long as I expected it would to get out to the pagoda, the pagoda itself was a swamped with devotees and I was afraid it would take twice as long to get back to Yangon. So I made an executive decision to skip going out to the actual island pagoda and instead returned directly to Yangon. 
People waiting for boats to take them to the island pagoda. 

It turned out to be the right decision. The roads going back to Yangon were every bit as jammed as the roads leaving Yangon and it took us nearly three hours to go back. 
A Buddhist monk meditates at a temple in Thanlynn, a town in the Myanmar beyond Yangon. I stopped there for a few minutes on the way back to Yangon. 

I wanted to be in Yangon in time for the twilight lighting of the oil lamps and candles, and twilight comes early in Myanmar, it's dark in Yangon by 5.30PM. We got back to Yangon about 4.45PM, just in time to get to Botahtaung Pagoda for their celebrations of Thadingyut. 
The Festival of Lights at Botahtaung Pagoda.

There are more photos of Thadingyut in my archive or available from ZUMA Press
Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.