Saturday, February 28, 2015

Into the Countryside

A woman harvests rice by hand in Ponhea Leu community, Kandal province north of Phnom Penh.

I used a couple of days to get into the countryside during my quick trip to Cambodia. I happened upon farmers harvesting tomatoes and rice. 
Harvesting tomatoes northwest of Phnom Penh. 

I've photographed a lot of agricultural work in Thailand and it's not that different from agricultural work in the U.S. It's very mechanized, at least in central Thailand. Most of the heavy work is done by machine. But in Cambodia, recovering from devastation wrought by American bombs, the Khmer Rouge and a Vietnamese invasion (that ultimately liberated Cambodia from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge), agriculture is still a manual enterprise. Heavy equipment is finding its way into Cambodia's agricultural industries, but workers stooped over under a grueling sun picking tomatoes or cutting rice is still the norm. 
Women in a rice paddy. 

Rice paddies north of Phnom Penh. 

I can't imagine a more difficult job than cutting rice by hand in the heat of the Cambodian day. This is the beginning of the Southeast Asian summer and daytime highs soar up to around 35°C (95F) and it's very humid - this is not a "dry heat." It's brutal. 

Cambodia and Thailand share a religion and many cultural traits. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh was modeled after the Grand Palace in Bangkok and Thai classical dance has its roots in the Aspara dancers of the Angkor Empire. Cambodia was essentially a vassal state of the Bangkok Kings until the French colonized Cambodia. The people of both countries are intensely devout Theravada Buddhists. 
Novices - boys who spend their school break living in a Buddhist monastery - on their morning alms rounds. Such scenes are common in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. 
A woman presents Buddhist monks with food during a merit making ceremony at a home in Kandal province. 

Largely as a result of the American bombing of Cambodia in the 1960s and 70s and resulting Khmer Rouge take over of Cambodia, Thailand is decades ahead of Cambodia economically. 

Horse and ox drawn carts are still common in rural Cambodia. Tuk-tuks, the ubiquitous three wheeled taxis seen everywhere in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, are used as "buses" in rural Cambodia. Instead of holding four or five passengers, the Cambodian tuk-tuk buses are four or five meters long with bench seats and sold up to 30 people. They putt-putt along the side of the road kicking up a cloud of two stroke exhaust and dust in their wake. 
A horse drawn cart in Kandal. 
A tuk-tuk bus coming into a town north of Phnom Penh.

There are more photos of rural Cambodia 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. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

The White Building

A man climbs a stair case in the White Building in Phnom Penh. 

The White Building in Phnom Penh was the first modern apartment building in Phnom Penh designed by a Cambodian architect. It opened to great fanfare in the mid 1960s, but like all of Cambodia, fell into disrepair during the dark years of the Khmer Rouge. After Vietnamese forces liberated Phnom Penh from the KR, people flooded back into Phnom Penh and the White Building. 
Women relax on a landing in the White Building. 

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people live in the White Building now. It hasn't been renovated or rebuilt and is in disrepair. But it's the only home many of its residents have known. Some have lived in the building since their return to Phnom Penh in 1979 and 1980. 
A view of the White Building from the roof of a neighboring building. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Happy New Year!

Lion dancers on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok's Chinatown.

Thailand has the privilege of celebrating New Year's Day three times in four months. There's the Gregorian New Year of January 1, which is Thailand's official new year and celebrated in the usual ways: fireworks, music, alcohol and parties. 
People watch lion dancers on Yaowarat Road. 

Second up is Lunar New Year, also called Tet or Chinese New Year. About 14% of Thais are ethnically Chinese and Chinese culture has influenced Thai culture. Lunar New Year is a huge party in communities with a significant Chinese population. Bangkok has a huge Chinese population and celebrates the New Year with a lot of zest. This year is the Year of the Goat, the eighth cycle in the Chinese zodiac. 
A woman prays at a shrine on Yaowarat Road. 

Yaowarat Road is the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown. Food stalls line the road, dragon and lion dance troupes go up and down Yaowarat visiting businesses whose owners pay them to perform for the gods and ensure a prosperous new year. 
A woman reacts to a dragon dance troupe parading past a restaurant in Chinatown. 

Next up on Thailand's celebrations of the New Year is Songkran, also called the "Water Festival" and the traditional Thai New Year. It's in mid April, the heart of Thailand's scorching summer, and features community wide water fights. 

There are more photos of Bangkok's Lunar New Year observances 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. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday in Santa Cruz

Buddhist monks board a cross river ferry to take them to the Thonburi side of Bangkok. 

I went to Sunday mass at Santa Cruz, a Catholic church on the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi. It's one of the first Catholic churches in Thailand. It was established in 1770 by Portuguese friars who ministered to Portuguese soldiers and mercenaries allied with King Taksin who was battling the Burmese. The Portuguese married Thai women and a small Catholic community sprung up on the river. 
Santa Cruz church, across the river from the Flower Market.

The church is directly across the river from Pak Khlong Talat, better known as the Flower Market. It's one of the stops on Bangkok's "tourist trail." Within walking distance of Wat Po and the Grand Palace, with a pier for the Chao Phraya Express Boats thousands of tourists a day tramp through the market. 

Santa Cruz is only a few hundred meters away but it might as well be in another country. Few tourists find their way to the neighborhood. As a result it's a lot more laid back. Even though there's a large Catholic presence in Santa Cruz it feels more Thai than the heavily touristed parts of Bangkok. 
A woman sits on the floor near the doors of the church during Sunday mass. 

I've been working on a sort of mini project in Santa Cruz for the last few months. I've been over there often enough that residents recognize me and wave or chat. It's a really pleasant part of the city. I've been trying to get into the church since I started going over there but it's only open for mass and I've never been there at the right time. 

Sunday I went to Santa Cruz specifically to go to mass. 
Mass in Santa Cruz church. 

The church was packed. It was so full a few people sat on the portico in front of the church. It's a beautiful building. 
Some of the churches I've been in Bangkok are built in a pseudo Thai style. Not Santa Cruz. It's Portuguese roots are still visible (the current sanctuary was built in 1916). 

Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but Thai Buddhism is tolerant of other people and faiths, so Catholics in Thailand are allowed to practice their faith freely. There are only about 300,000 Catholics in Thailand, but the church has a presence that goes beyond its small numbers. There are several Catholic hospitals and universities in Thailand and the Church is involved in numerous charity and community building organizations.
A woman and her daughter sit under the portico in front of the church during mass. 

Bangkok is an amazing city. The neighborhoods, like the one around Santa Cruz, still have a small village feel to them even though it's in the middle of a city of 12 million people. 
A woman prays at shrine to the Virgin Mary in the church. 

There are more photos from Sunday in Santa Cruz 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. 

A Small Sign of Dissent

People opposed to the May 2014, coup scuffle with supporters of the military government in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center Saturday. 

Thailand has been under martial law since the coup that deposed the elected civilian government on May 22, 2014. People who speak out against the coup or Thailand's nascent reform process are called in by security officials for "attitude adjustment." They're usually held in detention for a few hours (or days), questioned and then released after signing a pledge to not get involved in politics. 

The military says these steps are necessary to heal Thai society, which has been ripped apart by the various protest movements (which protest movement depends largely on who is in office at the moment). Opponents say "Martial Law" and "Attitude Adjustment" stifle free speech. 
Police detain a university student for using a bullhorn without a permit. His attitude was adjusted and he was released. 

There was a protest Saturday at BACC, across the street from MBK, a mega mall in the heart of the city. About 50 people showed up with mock ballot boxes and roses (it was Valentine's Day after all) to protest the lack of democracy in Thailand. One democracy advocate told me the protest was to mark the one year anniversary of the aborted election of February 2, 2014. The election was cancelled after anti-democracy gunmen attacked several polling places, forcing their closure.  
A police officer watches protestors. 

Saturday's protest was small, maybe 50 people, certainly less than 100. But it's significant because it was the first public protest of any size since June. The military is still very firmly in control, but this protest, coming after two very small IEDs were detonated at a Bangkok mall and university students unfurling anti-coup banners at a soccer game means that martial law will continue. 
Roses on the sidewalk after the protest. 

There are more photos from the protest 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.