Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Lion Dancers perform in a jewelry store in Bangkok's Chinatown district. 

Two down one to go. Thailand celebrates three New Years holidays. January 1 is the official New Years day. Then there's Lunar New Year, also called Tet or Chinese New Year, celebrated by the Chinese Thai community and in communities with large Chinese communities (like Hat Yai in the south) and finally Songkran, Thailand's traditional New Year, celebrated in April. 
Chinese Thais gather at local temples and shrines to pay for a prosperous New Year.

Most tourists think of Lunar New Year as a huge street party with Lion and Dragon dances and lots of food. That is a huge part of the holiday but it's also a deeply religious day. Many people go to temples and shrines to make merit and pay for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. The colorful Lion and Dragon dances, which entertain visitors, also religious in origin. They chase away evil spirits and bring good luck to the patrons who pay the dance troupes to perform in their businesses. 
People crowd into a temple in Chinatown. 

I went to Chinatown early - about noon. I spent the first couple of hours walking from temple to temple photographing the spiritual side of New Year. The temples were packed. So crowded, even early in the day, that it was hard to move through the crowd. 

Later in the afternoon, when the light got a little better, I went out to the streets to photograph the dances and street party. 
A Lion dancer goes through a restaurant on Yaowarat Road, the heart of Bangkok's Chinatown.

I finished up early and headed home to edit because Chinatown in Bangkok becomes so crowded that it's essentially impossible to push through the crowd. 

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. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Funeral for a Protest Leader

Anti-government protestors rally around the body of Suthin Taratin at his bathing ceremony at Wat Sommanat. Suthin was murdered leading an anti-election rally during early voting Sunday

Early voting in the Thai election was supposed to Sunday January 26. Anti-government protestors, led by Suthep Thaugsuban and his supporters vowed at one point to disrupt voting, later Suthep walked that back a little and said they wouldn't disrupt voting but would hold vigils at polling places to remind people of the illegitimacy of the election. 

I went to a couple of polling places, protestors' "vigils" included blockades to keep voters out and locking election workers in a school to prevent them from working at their polling stations. Most of the polling stations in Bangkok and southern provinces (home base for the anti-government protestors) were closed by mid-morning. 
A woman and her daughter at Suthin's bathing ceremony. 

Thousands of Thais have died since the 1970s either fighting for the right to vote or defending the right to vote and people at many polling places took offense at the protestors' efforts to shut down the election. "Respect my vote" has become a rallying cry to many Thais who don't favor either Thaksin or Suthep but do favor democracy. These were people who knew the anti-government protestors would try to hinder their voting but they chose to exercise their rights by going to polls. There were several scuffles and confrontations between anti-government protestors and people trying vote and Reuters made a photo of Suthep supporters trying to choke a man who wanted to vote

By far the worst incident was in Bang Na, where Suthin Taratin was murdered. Suthin, a "core leader" of PEFOT, one of the anti-government factions, was leading an anti-election rally near a polling place when pro-government Red Shirts confronted Suthin's group. Shots were fired, allegedly by the Red Shirts, and Suthin hit in the head. He died before reaching the hospital. 

His funeral started Monday with a bathing ceremony. He will be cremated, probably later this week.

The general election is still scheduled to go ahead Sunday, February 2. Based on the violence last weekend and Suthep's vow to disrupt the general election and the government's very soft approach to the crisis I fully expect the election to either be cancelled before it takes place or results to be nullified because the anti-government protestors stopped people from exercising their right to vote. (UPDATE Jan 29: No delay. We have an election Sunday.)

There are more photos from the bathing rites 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, January 27, 2014

Chinese Opera in the Countryside

The Sing Tong opera troupe performs in Bang Luang, Nakhon Pathom province

I went to a Chinese Opera in Nakhon Pathom province last weekend. It's Chinese New Year, which is the "high season" for Chinese operas, and I desperately wanted to get out of Bangkok, even if for only a couple of hours. When I found out an opera troupe was performing in Bang Luang, about two hours from Bangkok it was time for a road trip.  

Chinese opera has been a part of Chinese-Thai life for centuries. There are millions of Chinese-Thais and the opera provides a link to the old country. Chinese opera in Thailand is usually sung in the Teochew language. Not many Thais, not even Chinese-Thais, still speak Teochew. Some of the performers don't even speak it - they learn their parts phonetically. 
A performer gets into character backstage.

Chinese opera's popularity in Thailand is waning. The makeup, dramatic lighting, flowing costumes and intricate sets make for a wonderful visual spectacle but the language (Teochew, not understood by many Thais), the length (four hours is not unheard of) and the "leisurely" pacing (when I told a Thai friend I was going to Chinese opera he said something like "ugh. I don't like Chinese opera - too slow.") work against it. More and more people are watching their Chinese operas on bootlegged DVDs and VCD (Video CD) or forsaking the opera altogether in favor of movies and the internet. Chinese opera is losing popularity, even as other musical art forms, like mor lam, are gaining popularity. 

At the show in Bang Luang the audience came and went depending on their interest in the show. Sometimes there were five or six people in the crowd. Other times nobody was watching. All during the show though, people came to the temple (the opera was performing on the grounds of a Chinese temple) to pray, make merit and leave offerings for the temple. 
Driving back to Bangkok we passed a second opera. I stopped to photograph for a couple of minutes as they played in a market parking lot.

For just a few hours it was a chance for me to forget about the increasing political madness gripping Bangkok. This was my third Chinese opera. I enjoyed the third one as much as I enjoyed the first. For a photographer it's hard to find a subject with more variety, color and rich backstory as Chinese opera.  I don't understand a word of what's sung on stage, but the spectacle more than makes up for my lack of understanding.

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, January 25, 2014

On the 12th Day of Shutdown

Anti-government protestors wave Thai flags at the Pathum Wan stage, near MBK, on the 12 day of Shutdown Bangkok

Friday was the 12th Day of Shutdown Bangkok, the assignment that never ends. I'm not photographing every day of the Shutdown at this point. Bangkok is adjusting to the shutdown and the novelty is wearing off. Unless there's a specific event (like the grenade attacks last week) I go out every couple of days to photograph the protest stages and see how the city is changing.
A protestor photographs Suthep Thaugsuban with his smart phone

Crowds at the protest stages are getting smaller every day. Suthep still fires them up with his evening speeches but during the day there's hardly anyone at the stages. Of course an intersection blocked by 100 people is just as closed as intersection blocked by 10,000, but it seems to show some flagging interest in Shutdown Bangkok. That's not to say it shows increasing support for the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It doesn't, she's still widely despised by the protestors. More than anything I think it reflects weariness with the protest. This is a city built on commerce and Shutdown is disrupting commerce. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Respect the Vote

Hundreds of Thais gathered in Banjasiri Park, a few hundred meters from the Asok protest site, to rally for peace amidst Thailand's political chasm and call on all sides to respect Thai democracy

There was another candlelight vigil Sunday night, in Benjasiri Park. Several hundred people gathered to light candles, call for peace in Thailand and resist urges to weaken Thai democracy. Sunday night's vigil came on the heels of two grenade attacks on protest sites, one Friday and a second one Sunday afternoon. 

Violence on the periphery of the protest sites is nothing new. There have been shootings and assaults on guard positions almost from day one. But the violence is becoming more extreme (grenades rather than gunshots and fistfights) and is targeting midday crowds rather than late night guard positions. That change in tactics made Sunday's call for nonviolence all the more pressing. 
A Thai police officer collects evidence at the scene of a grenade attack Sunday

Several people came up to me Sunday night and told me that the peace movement transcends politics. They told me they support neither fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra nor protest leader former Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban (who faces murder charges), they do support, they said, Thais' right to vote and choose their own government. Which indirectly means they oppose the Suthep led protests because Suthep wants to replace Thailand's elected government with a council of unelected people who would govern while Thai politics are reformed. 
A woman sits amidst candles in Benjasiri Park

For his part, Suthep keeps ramping up the protests. Today he's leading marches to try to shutdown parts of the Thai financial system (banks that deal with the government) and he's encouraged his followers to shut down southern Thailand, which is the home base of the Thai Democrats and where the governing Pheu Thai party has little influence. 

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (sister of Thaksin) insists that the election will take place on February 2. Suthep vows to block or disrupt the elections. 

There are more photos of the vigil (and Shutdown Bangkok) 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, January 18, 2014

Violence Breaks Out at Shutdown Bangkok

Protestors break into an abandoned building looking for the assailant who threw a grenade at a protest march

Friday was not a good day at the anti-government protests in Bangkok. At the Chaeng Wattana protest site, about 15 miles from central Bangkok, a melee broke out between government supporters and anti-government protestors. It went on until the Thai Army intervened and separated the sides. 

Later in the day someone threw a grenade at Suthep Thaugsuban's march through central Bangkok. The device exploded near a soundtruck and injured dozens of people. One person died from his injuries overnight in the hospital. 

 Members of anti-government crowd taunt Thai police who tried to investigate a grenade attack on one of Suthep's marches. 

I got to the scene of the grenade attack about an hour after it happened. There was still a large crowd of Suthep's supporters, many armed with clubs and metal bars, searching the surrounding area and police trying to investigate the attack. 

When Thai police investigated the grenade attack, members of the anti-government crowd hurled insults at police officers, who are widely thought to support the government, and a few protestors struck out at police or tried to kick the police vehicles. 

Later soldiers from the Thai army showed up and the anti-government crowd widely applauded them. The army, which led a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, has stayed "neutral" in the current protests and is supported by the protestors. 

A mob of Suthep's supporters went door to door among the abandoned buildings where the attack was thought to have originated searching for the assailant. 
Club wielding members of a mob went door to door looking for the attacker

It was the ugliest mob scene I've witnessed in Thailand. I have no doubt violence would have broken out if they had found the attacker (or someone they thought was the attacker). 

Later they broke into an abandoned business (the area where the attack took place is being demolished for urban redevelopment) and found a weapons cache, which consisted of mostly broken down rifles. Included in the cache was a red tee shirt, all the proof the anti-government crowd needed that this was a Red Shirt attack. 
Anti-government security guards block the entrance to the abandoned business where a weapons cache was found. 

Soldiers secure the inside of the building while anti-government protestors wait to get into the building and search for evidence. 

I honestly don't know where we go from here. Suthep is absolutely unbowed. He will continue his protests until he has won or his movement has been crushed. The government response thus far has been very "velvet glove," which, while it hasn't ended the protests, has forestalled violence (compared to 2010 when almost 100 people were killed). It doesn't seem likely that the government will crush the protest. Mix into the equation the army, which is the only institution that has the wherewithal to put down the protest but so far has shown reluctance to get involved (and may ultimately side with protestors) and we're set up for a long season of tit for tat protests and attacks. 

Life in Bangkok is never boring. 

There are more photos of Shutdown Bangkok Day 5 (and all of my photos from Shutdown Bangkok) 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 Prayer for Peace in Thailand

A woman at Thammasat University holds up a candle and sign during a candlelight vigil in Bangkok Sunday

I'm a little behind on blogging because I've been out photographing the anti-government protests, or events related to the protests. Sunday evening there was a very nice event at Thammasat University that I intended to write about but didn't have a chance to until today. About 500 people from all walks of life came to the university, once a hotbed of Thai radicalism, for a candlelight vigil and a call for peace and respect for democracy in Thailand. 
People sing the John Lennon song "Imagine" at Thammasat University. 

People held up signs that said "respect my vote," and sang John Lennon's "Imagine." The vigil was about a kilometer from the main protest stage and there were some anti-government protestors gathered on the sidewalk in front of the University. 

They didn't approach vigil goers and interfere in any way but their presence was unsettling to some. A couple of people approached me and asked if I thought it was safe to be there and whether or not I thought the protestors would attack people at the vigil. 

I was surprised by the question - as high as emotions are running right now, to attack people going to a peace vigil would be out of character for the protestors. That's not to say they wouldn't attack government supporters - there have been several clashes between Red Shirts (who support the government) and protestors in provinces outside of Bangkok but the candlelight vigil was a non-partisan event. Most of the people were there hoping to forestall violence that some Thais fear could spiral into a civil war rather than support either the government or the protestors. 

As people were holding their candles in the evening sky, word was breaking via Twitter and social media that Shutdown Bangkok was starting early. Protestors had left Democracy Monument and moved to Pathum Wan intersection (near MBK) and closed roads in the area. This news had a disquieting effect on some people, who wondered aloud if it would be safe to go home past the roadblocks. 

There are more photos from the candlelight vigil 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, January 17, 2014

My Photo in the Wall Street Journal

The front page of the Wall Street Journal from Tuesday, Jan 14, with my photo as "main art." 

The protestors' plan to shutdown Bangkok started late Sunday, a few hours earlier than planned, and kicked into high gear Monday morning. Like most of the journalists in Bangkok, I went out early (6AM) with a very loose plan to visit the protest sites. Calling it a "plan" though is really gilding the lilies. The plan was to be out on the street and see what happens. 

We knew protestors would shut down central Bangkok by blocking important intersections but we didn't know if there would be violence (I didn't think there would be but I carried a helmet and gas mask just in case) or how city residents would respond. 

I packed pretty light for Monday. I knew I would be moving around a lot and probably walking a lot and that in addition to camera gear I needed to pack my helmet and gas mask. I carried two bodies and two lenses (my 16-35mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom), a 2X teleconverter, one flash and a bunch of memory cards. 

I met a couple of other photographers at Asok BTS station, we sort of refined our plan a little and then started photographing. I made the picture above in the first hour of being on the street. After working in Asok for a little bit, we took the BTS to Victory Monument, then to the main stage at Pathum Wan then back to Asok then home. 

We didn't need to worry about our safety. There was no violence and people treated the whole thing like a giant street fair. 
Former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva walks through the crowd at the Lumpini protest site.

All together, I filled three 8 gigabyte Compact Flash cards. I got home about 1PM and quickly edited the morning stuff and sent the photos to ZUMA which distributed them to newspapers and magazines. Then I went back out for the evening and went to the stage in Lumpini Park, where I ran into former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, now a leader of the anti-government protests. He got a hero's welcome when he walked through the crowd. After a couple of hours in Lumpini it was back to my apartment to file a second set of photos to ZUMA. 

It's nice seeing my picture on the front page of one of the leading newspapers in the US. Honestly, I was very surprised to see it - there were tens of photographers out photographing Monday and hundreds of pictures moved on the "wires" (AP, Getty, Reuters, AFP, etc). It's not my favorite photo from the day, but it is one of my photos that best sums up what the day was like. 
I made this picture during my second outing in the afternoon. I like this one more than the one the WSJ used, but the top one probably sums up the story better. 

There are many more photos from Shutdown Bangkok 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. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Bangkok is Shutdown

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban is mobbed by supporters during a walk up Sukhumvit Road to the Ekkamai neighborhood Wednesday

Anti-government protest leaders promised to shutdown Bangkok and they did. Groups of protestors fanned out across central Bangkok Sunday night and "seized" key intersections. They put up roadblocks and built stages. Mini-cities popped up in minutes. They say they seized the intersections but the government of Yingluck Shinawatra made no effort to stop or hinder them so the seizures were pretty easily accomplished. 

Seven of the busiest intersections in Bangkok are shutdown to traffic. Protestors are camped out in the street and huge stages provide entertainment and a venue for speech making against the government. 

At this point, it all resembles a street fair. Vendors and food stalls have popped up and people are strolling down the middle of city streets that are normally packed with cars. 

Suthep, the firebrand protest leader, visits the stages to make speeches and lead marches through the neighborhoods. The marches inevitably turn into a money making procession as anti-government activists line up to press thousands of Baht into Suthep's hands. 

The protests also, at least for me, highlight Bangkok's diversity. At the main stage in the Pathum Wan intersection (near MBK shopping center) there were three religious services at the start of the day Wednesday. Buddhist monks participated in a merit making ceremony, then Muslim imams led a prayer and that was followed by a Catholic priest and nuns leading a Christian prayer. The Christian service ended with the singing of "Amazing Grace." 
A Thai Muslim woman prays Wednesday morning in front of the Pathum Wan stage

The protest leaders have vowed to continue until the "caretaker" Prime Minister resigns. She's said repeatedly she's not going to step down and has urged the protestors, if they don't like her, to vote her out of office in the coming election. Despite the huge number of protestors on the street, they represent a minority of Thailand's voting population and simply don't have the numbers to vote the PM out.  

The election is February 2. A little over two weeks away. It doesn't feel like an election is only two weeks off. There's very little campaigning going on in Bangkok, unless you consider the protests a form of electioneering. In that case campaigning is non-stop. The protestors are boycotting the election though and have vowed to disrupt it, so I'm not sure that counts. 

There have been isolated incidents of violence around the edges of the protest areas but so far it's been more peaceful than a lot of people (including me) expected. The Red Shirts, who support the government and led the violent 2010 protests, have been very restrained. They've held small rallies in the provinces north of Bangkok but they've stayed away from the capital because they don't want provoke violence with the anti-government protestors. 

There are more photos of Shutdown Bangkok 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, January 12, 2014

Some More on Luck

General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, Commander of the Royal Thai Army gives a child a toy helmet during Children's Day at an army base in Bangkok

I've written before on the role of luck or serendipity in photojournalism. I sometimes feel like I have a great "luck" when I go out to work. 

Yesterday was Children's Day in Thailand. The Thai government traditionally hosts a Children's Day event at Government House and the army hosts Children's Day events at military bases throughout Thailand. This year is a little weird because the of the protests and the country's political uncertainty.

I've been photographing protests and demos practically since I got back and I had resolved to not photograph politics Saturday. Instead I planned to make some feature photos. I got to the event I wanted to cover about 7:45 in the morning only to discover that it wasn't happening until 12noon, which left me with four hours to kill. 

On a whim I decided to go the Children's Day fair at an army base in Bangkok. The local papers have been full of stories about troop movements, including armor and artillery, through Bangkok this week and army spokesmen repeatedly reassuring Bangkokians that it didn't mean a coup was imminent it was just units getting into position for Children's Day. I thought the situation had potential even if it was dangerously close to breaking my "no politics, no protests" pledge for the day. 

I got to the base and I was photographing kids playing on tanks and talking to soldiers. I was kneeling to make a picture and I felt someone pushing me out of the way. I stood up to move and as I was getting up an arm (I couldn't see from where or whose) reached out to steady me and a man said, "It's okay, you can photograph." I turned to see who was helping me and was staring into the face of General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army.  Prayuth is the highest ranking military person in Thailand. For folks in the US, this would be like running into the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

The General and I chatted for about 30 seconds. Really, he chatted and I tried to make pictures of him (the usual small talk, where are you from, do you like Thailand etc?) while Thai media crowded around us. 

All eyes are on Gen. Prayuth right now. Rumors of a coup and questions of will there be or won't there be a coup are everywhere. He is one of the most powerful men in Thailand, it's a close call between the General and Suthep, the protest leader; pictures of General Prayuth are very newsworthy.

I was too close to the General to make the pictures I wanted so I thanked him for his help and backed out of the bubble so I could photograph him walking across the base, signing autographs and giving toy helmets to the children. 
Gen. Prayuth walks across the base towards waiting Thai reporters

I started the day with plans to photograph one thing and ended up photographing something that was never on my radar. While I chalk it up to luck, there's also preparation and staying on top of the story. I didn't know the General was going to be at Children's Day but I recognized him as soon as I saw him and took advantage of the opportunity. 

There are more photos from Children'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. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Quick Trip To Singapore

People at afternoon prayers at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore's Little India.

I'm in Singapore for a very quick trip.

I like Singapore, it's a cosmopolitan city with an energy. It's weird though, when I'm here I don't feel like I'm in Asia so much as in a hybrid place created at the nexus of Asia and Europe. The people, languages and religions are Asian but Singapore is missing the chaotic nature that marks most large Asian cities. I suspect that it's the way the founders of city-state intended it to be. It's a nice place to visit, but a little too ordered for my tastes. I prefer living in the chaos of Bangkok.

Little India is my favorite neighborhood in Singapore. I can wander the streets of this part of town for hours. On this visit I spent most of time at Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. It's a dark, atmospheric place and despite Kali's fierce reputation, very welcoming. The food from the hawker stalls in Tekka Market, a couple of blocks from the temple, is nearly as good as the street food in Bangkok. (Singapore moved their street food into "hawker" centers years ago, a part of the orderliness of this city.)

The slideshow below is a few of the photos I made at the temple on this trip. There are more photos from Singapore in my archive.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple in Singapore - Images by Jack Kurtz
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, January 6, 2014

Strolling for Cash

Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government protests, stuffs wads of cash into a plastic bag during a march turned fundraiser Sunday

Bringing down a government is expensive. Someone has to pay for the stages, the generators, the food, the entertainment; the whole infrastructure that goes into the endeavor. 

Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the anti-government protestors, went on a walkabout Sunday with thousands of his followers. It was originally announced as a warmup to the Shutdown Bangkok protests planned for later this month. But it was also very much a fundraiser for the protestors. 

Political donations in the US are, usually, carefully tracked and candidates seldom accept cash from supporters during campaign rallies (not to say that candidates don't accept cash - ABSCAM and countless political scandals have shown that American candidates willingly accept cash) but here it's different. 

Suthep reaches for a 1000Baht (about $30US) note offered by a supporter Sunday.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Meritorious New Year

A Buddhist novice collects alms from anti-government protestors during a special New Year's merit making ceremony at Democracy Monument

Making merit is an important concept in Buddhism. I'm paraphrasing here, but it basically is the belief that the accumulation of good deeds, acts and thoughts can carry a person through several incarnations. So building up merit in this life can help ease you through your next life or subsequent lives. 

It's why you see people on the streets in the mornings waiting to give food and drinks to the monks who live in nearby temples (this is a common site not only in Thailand but also in Theravada Buddhist countries around Thailand). 

Making merit is so ingrained in Thai culture that you see it almost everywhere you turn. In big ways at temples and shrines or in small ways when people leave small offerings in front of their shops and homes. Even in a city like Bangkok, which is as frenzied and chaotic as New York or any other megalopolis (this is a city of 14 million people including the suburbs), the spiritual is all around you. 

About 100 Buddhist monks came down to the protestors' base at Democracy Monument on New Year's Day for a special merit making ceremony. They filed silently through the crowd while thousands of people pressed in around them, presenting the monks with food, drinks and money. 

I didn't know the merit making ceremony was going to take place, but I thought it might. I was at City Hall for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's annual New Year's Day ceremony and City Hall is just a few blocks from Democracy Monument. When the BMA ceremony ended I walked down to the protest site to see what was what. They were just getting ready for their ceremony, which turned out to be nicer than the BMA ceremony where I started the day. 

A woman prays after presenting alms to a monk. 




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.