Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time to Go

For now…

A tourist walks through flood waters at the Tha Tien ferry pier near Wat Po and Grand Palace in Bangkok Monday. One of the last pictures I made on this trip

Monday was my last day of photography in Bangkok. I went down to Wat Arun to make some pictures of the temple. I've photographed Wat Arun a couple of times during earlier visits but I haven't been down there too much this year - it's one of the first stops most tourists make when they get to Bangkok and while it's a wonderful temple, I've used my time exploring new parts of the city and Thailand.

Wat Arun is directly across the Chao Phraya River from the Grand Palace and Wat Po and is a part of the tourists' vortex in that part of the city, so I never saw the need to spend too much time there. Monday I went down there because the temple's stupa is being closed for renovation. It will be closed for three years and Monday was the last day tourists could climb around on the world famous temple. Workers were putting up scaffolding even as the tourists were navigating the very steep and slippery stairs of the temple.

I had an early lunch appointment with a friend so when it started to rain, I took the that as my cue to head back uptown. The pier on the Bangkok side of the river was under more about a foot of water and every time a boat churned up a wake, a wave came rolling in over the tourists and Thais on the pier. 
Tourists haggle with vendors about the price of baggies. The tourists were using the baggies as rain boots.

I made a few photos of the flooding, because flooding is always an issue in Thailand, jumped in a tuk-tuk (comfort tip, tuk-tuks and flooded streets are a bad combination) and headed to lunch.

I will be back in the US for six to eight weeks to take care of some family business and expect to be back in Asia by the middle of November. I won't be photographing too much while I'm in the states - I have a lot to do, but I will be covering news stories that come up in the Phoenix area so stay tuned. 

Riding a Chao Phraya Express River Boat, a boy on his way to school watches Bangkok go by, made with my iPhone. 

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, September 22, 2013

Get Your iPhones Here!

A woman looks at the new iPhone 5c at MBK in Bangkok

The new iPhones (5s and 5c if you're counting) were released Friday, September 20 in the US and a few countries beyond American borders. Thailand was not one of those countries so there were no iPhone lines here. 

That doesn't mean there were no iPhones here though. It was just a more subdued, less official launch. In what could be called a tribute to globalization, entrepreneurs in MBK, a sprawling mall/market/ entertainment complex in Bangkok, got their hands on iPhone 5s and 5c models in decent quantity and were selling them on Saturday morning, just hours after they went on sale in the US. 

I don't know specifically how many phones were available but I do know that a number of shops (more than 10) were selling them and they had a good supply of 5s and 5c models (except for the 5s in gold, which seems hard to find everywhere)

I don't know how they do it or what the supply chain is. How do you get your hands on hundreds of phones, ship them to Thailand and get them into shops less than a day after they've gone on sale in the US? All of this for a product which virtually every unit is sold before it even leaves the factory. 

I went to MBK Saturday morning to photograph people buying and looking at iPhones. MBK is always mobbed, every day is Black Friday in this mall. The shops that had the iPhones were busy but not swamped. In most cases you could walk up and buy a phone and be set up with it in minutes. All of the phones in MBK were unlocked. The Thai cell carriers won't get the phones until later this year. The  vendors at MBK will even transfer your apps and music for you. 

The fly in the ointment is that you really have to want an iPhone to buy one early at MBK. The top of the line 64 gigabyte iPhone 5s was selling for more than 38,000 Baht, more than $1,200 US. That's a lot for a phone, that in the US, costs $850. 

There are more photos of iPhones in MBK 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, September 16, 2013

Happy Rebirthday to Ganesha

Men celebrate the Ganesha festival on a boat on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. They were part of a crowd of hundreds of Hindus immersing deities of Ganesha in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya. 

It’s almost unimaginable to me that my first year in Bangkok is ending. I got here on Sept 19, 2012. I fly back to the US on September 25. I am wrapping stuff up here now and cutting back a little on my photography.

One of the first things I covered on my arrival last year was the Ganesha Festival in Nakhon Nayok, it seems fitting that I close out my year with this year’s Ganesha Festival in Bangkok. I chose Bangkok instead of Nakhon Nayok because the Nakhon Nayok festival was the same day as the mass merit making in Bangkok.

I had a great time at last year’s Ganesha celebrations but this year’s was even better. I stayed at the ceremony the entire day - from the opening prayer to the final immersion of Ganesha in the Mae Nam Chao Phraya.

Ganesha is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is known as the remover of obstacles and is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu world. He's also worshipped in other religions originating on the Indian sub-continent including Jainism and Buddhism. Ganesha's iconography - the elephant head - makes him easy to identify even for people who aren't familiar with Hindu deities. 

The Ganesh festival celebrates Lord Ganesha's rebirth. It's a very happy holiday. Joyous really. The celebration of his day ends with lots of singing and dancing and immersing statues of Ganesha (called deities) into a body of water. It’s a huge holiday in Hindu India, especially Mumbai (Bombay) where the faithful immerse deities in the Indian Ocean. In Thailand, Hindus immerse Ganesha in local rivers, in Bangkok, the Chao Phraya. 

I had a wonderful time celebrating Ganesha’s day with members of Bangkok’s Hindu community. There are lots of photos of my coverage of Ganesha’s day 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, September 13, 2013

Now That’s Good Curry

People eat on the sidewalk while a tuk-tuk (three wheeled taxi) passes their curry stand. 

Bangkok has an amazing variety of street eats. I’ve read that about 500,000 people are employed the city’s street food industry, which for a city of 14 million (this is a big city) seems like a lot, but who am I to argue? 

I eat almost exclusively street food here. I don’t have a kitchen (just a microwave) so I eat “out” almost every day. I’m not going to restaurants though. I usually have noodles or stir fries at street stalls, perched on a stool on a sidewalk, usually in my neighborhood. 

I have found a new, favorite, place. Sadly, it’s not walking distance from my apartment so I won’t be going as often as I would like. 

A small curry stand in Chinatown, at the corner of Charoen Krung and Mangkon, next to Wat Mangkorn Kammalawat, has the best curry I’ve ever had. Anywhere. 

They have everything from mild massaman curries to fire in your mouth, blister your guts jungle curries. And it’s all delicious. I found it by mistake. I was walking down the street after photographing in a Chinese temple and was drawn by the tableau of people sitting on stools wolfing down their food. This place doesn’t even have tables. 

I made a few photos then moved in for detail photos of the curries and chilies. A server offered me a sample and I was hooked. I ordered what I thought was the spiciest curry, threw in a few more chilies and wolfed down the best curry I’ve ever had. I am not a foodie per se. I don’t know what makes a curry good or bad and I don’t understand the chemistry of cooking. I do know what I like and I really like this curry. 

The family that operates the curry stand makes it in their home, which is up the street, and then haul it down the street in a little cart. They’re so busy at the stand that the curries don’t even have a chance to cool off, as soon as a batch arrives it’s gone. People line up and wait for the curries. The closest comparison I can come up with is Seinfeld’s imaginary Soup Nazi. There is a little bit of that vibe going. (Get in line, pick a curry and take a seat without much small talk, your curry is delivered moments later by an elderly gentleman.)

A single curry, with rice and iced tea is 31B. About .95¢ (US) at today’s exchange rate. Not bad for the best curry in Bangkok, a town that has lots of great curries. In a sit down, air conditioned restaurant in Bangkok this curry would be at least 150B (about $5) even at that price we would rave about what a bargain it is. To put it into an American perspective, this curry is cheaper than a Snickers bar at a 7/11 in the US. And oh so much better. 


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. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twelve Years Ago

Recovery workers are lowered into the still smoking ruins of the World Trade Center at Ground Zero. For an idea of how big the crater was, consider that the men in the bucket are about 6 feet tell

A lot has been written about the terrorists attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. All more eloquent than anything I can say.

I went to New York on the first day commercial flights resumed. These are the photos I made in Manhattan in the days following. 


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, September 8, 2013

10,000 Monks and Lots of Merit Makers

A small portion of the 10,000 monks that attended a mass merit making ceremony at Ratchaprasong Intersection in front of Central World Sunday morning

I went to a mass merit making ceremony in central Bangkok this morning. There about 10,000 monks and at least three times that number of Thais to make merit. I didn’t stop to count each person, but the area was so densely packed it was almost impossible to move for more than a kilometer along Ratchadamri Road, the main road to the east of Central World. 
Monks walk through the crowd during the merit making ceremony. This picture shows about half the crowd

The ceremony was to benefit the victims of disasters in Thailand - landslides, floods, fires and the like - and to assist the monks in the 323 Buddhist temples in the deep south of Thailand. Monks in the deep south can’t go out on alms rounds with the same freedom of movement that monks enjoy in the rest of Thailand because of tit for tat violence in the Muslim insurgency in the three “restive” provinces.

The ceremony was also on opportunity to promote Buddhist culture and an homage to the “Three Gems,” the bedrock of Thai Buddhism: Buddha (the Enlightened One), Dharma (the teachings of Buddha) and Sangha (community of monks). 
A picture made with a slow shutter speed to blur the monks as they walk through the crowd

This was not my first mass merit making ceremony. There are three or four a year in Bangkok. But this was by far the biggest and will probably be the biggest one of 2013. Spirituality here is different from spirituality in the US. Thailand is a Buddhist country, but other religions are freely allowed to practice their religion. Although Christian holidays are not officially celebrated (except for Christmas, but that is mostly the commercial celebration of Christmas) but there is no discrimination against Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims or most any other faith here. 

There are more photos from the merit making ceremony 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. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Drying Time

A Cambodian woman who works on a Bangkok construction site hangs out her laundry for drying after her work day in central Bangkok. Her dorm is the corrugated metal hut in the background. 

I haven’t written a blog entry in more than a week. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy, but I haven’t had a body of work to blog about because I’m juggling a couple of different projects.

One project I’ve sort of finished is something on construction workers in Bangkok. This city is in the midst of huge building boom. Although I’m not really sure if it qualifies as a building boom when the construction seems to be constant. Construction cranes dot the skyline of Bangkok.

I wasn’t so much interested in the actual construction work as I was the construction workers. I’ve seen dormitory type units on a number of sois in Bangkok but never knew who they were for. In fact, I thought they were squatter tenements because most of them look run down and impermanent.

It took me a while to figure out they’re actually company provided housing for construction workers. I’ve tried to go into a couple to photograph the workers and but security guards always stopped me at the gates.