ElephantsWorld: Elephant Sanctuary

 
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A Day at ElephantsWorld: Elephant Sanctuary

Kanchanaburi, Thailand


A mahout on an elephant's back

A mahout on an elephant's back

In Thailand, the Elephant (Thai: chang) is the official national animal and has been celebrated for their strength, durability and longevity for thousands of years. In the Thai Society, elephants are culturally significant and sacred. They are depicted in many art works in royal palaces, temples, and in wall-drawings. From 1855-1916, the official flag was red with a white elephant in the center. During the time of Alexander the Great, elephants were used to fight in war (similarly to horses), and now they are used for manual labor, entertainment, and tourism. Wild Thai elephants can be found in the tropical forests in western and northern Thailand. Because of habitat loss, elephant poaching, slaughtering and abuse, they are currently endangered and facing extinction. Luckily, ethical elephant sanctuaries exist in Thailand and are slowly shifting the idea and practice of elephant tourism, for the better.

ElephantsWorld in Kanchanaburi, Thailand is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 and is a sanctuary for sick, old, disabled, abused and rescued elephants. It is one of the few humane institutions for seeing and interacting with elephants. ElephantsWorld’s website states: “What most people do not know, is that riding on the back of an elephant in a ‘trekking camp’ is a very heavy burden for this huge animal. Their neck and trunk are very strong, but the back of an elephant is built for a maximum load of 100 kg. The seat only, weighs about 50 kg, plus passengers… but this is not the only problem, sometimes the elephants have to work for 10 hours a day or even more. Some camps are also only providing a very basic diet or too little food for the elephants. For some of them, this is literally leading to exhaustion.”

I spent a day at the sanctuary with my classmates, washing and preparing the elephant’s food, as well as feeding and bathing the elephants. The drive to the sanctuary was about two hours from Bangkok. I slept most of the way, so I can’t tell you if it was very scenic or not. But if you are visiting Thailand for the first time, almost anything passing your window-gaze has bound to interest you a bit. Once we drove closer to the sanctuary grounds, we were welcomed with a breathtaking scenic view of wide open land with large, pointed mountain peaks. This view woke me up from my sleepiness really fast. As we pulled into the sanctuary grounds, I became overjoyed. I was not sure what to expect, except to see and possibly pet elephants, and that was enough to keep me entertained.

 

The very first thing our group did was feed the elephants from a raised platform. Only a few metal poles kept us apart from the free-roaming and hungry elephants. We were able to feed them bananas and watermelon that was provided for us. I held out my hand only a couple feet away from the elephant’s head. She lifted her trunk to my hand, grabbed the fruit, and popped it into her mouth. It was a great first thing to see upon arriving; the elephants were not tied-up nor restricted from moving as they pleased. Behind them, were the huge mountain peaks and miles of open land. The elephants must have felt so incredibly happy and free. The second thing on our list for the day was to sort good from bad watermelon, and wash the feed. There, we were also given a brief lesson on what elephants eat: sugarcane, tree bark, grass, watermelon, melon, mangoes, bananas, and more. They eat a lot! Elephants eat on average 150 kg of food (some up to 300 kg), and cost about ฿1,000 (US$28) per day to feed properly. Surprisingly, washing and sorting their feed did not last too long and was pretty fun to do. I think that I was just very appreciative to be at the sanctuary. I really enjoyed dedicating my time and energy for the wonderful animals, and for a good cause.

Afterwards, we went to the river to watch the elephants play and wash in the company of their mahout. A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, and keeper. According to Elephant’s Jungle Sanctuary, “Mahouts must learn to control their elephant to ensure the safety of themselves, the elephant, and other humans and elephants around them. Mahouts traditionally employ a few different tools, besides training their elephant to obey over 40 verbal commands, to control their elephant. Mahouts’ use of the bullhook is as ancient as their relationship with the elephant. This traditional tool serves to touch pressure points in order to direct the elephant. While it can be used excessively and inappropriately (at some low-quality elephant camps, for example), it is not typically used with the intention to cause harm.” At ElephantsWorld, some mahouts have been paired with their elephant for more than a decade, able to form close bonds with each other. Some of the elephants have even formed close friendships with other elephants during their time at the sanctuary. At the sanctuary, there were also a few baby elephants with their mothers. We were informed that elephants are very sensitive animals. They tend to be affected greatly and stressed out by loud noises, a lot of energy, and lots of commotion. Imagine their work as loggers, or in zoos, circuses, and tourist parks; they can become physically and mentally ill and struggle with behavioral dysfunction - especially if they are underfed, abused, and neglected due to their costly maintenance - which is common. Elephants are emotional and remarkably intellectual, and show their tenderness and love through their actions. At the river, the baby and mahout crossed the river, leaving the mother and her mahout on the other side. Next thing that I hear is a high-pitched call from the mother to the baby. Suddenly, the baby calls back, lower in pitch, and charges back into the water straight to his mother. Once he reached the side of the river that his mother was on, another elephant friend came over, and the mom and friend sandwiched the baby between them, all three of them moving in unison, wagging their little elephant tails happy as ever. When we went to watch the elephants around the mud pool, they would play with the mud, splash it on themselves, play with each other, and scratch themselves on trees. It was humorous to watch their behavior, and I found it, similar to humans, that they want to relax and have fun too!

The best part of the day was when we got to go into the river with brushes and bowls and bathe the elephants. I was not worried about the mud, or the cold water, or even the fact that one of the elephants took a dump in the water! I was just so excited to bathe them. We were able to get close to the elephants, to touch their rough, hairy skin. The elephants were so behaved and stayed in the same place, for the most part. They were probably thinking in their big elephant heads, “when can I wash human?” At one point, one of the elephants saw how much fun we were having while splashing each other with water, that she lifted her trunk and shower-sprayed water into the air at us.

Bathing the elephants was one of the last events of the day - and the most enjoyable one for me. I was drenched with river water, a bit cold, but as happy as ever. My trip to ElephantsWorld was such a memorable one. I helped out a great organization, got to play with elephants, and made memories that will last me a lifetime. Not many people can say that they bathed and played with free-roaming elephants. Any reasonable person will enjoy it more than riding on an elephant’s back, partaking in animal cruelty and funding the abuse. I will recommend this ethical non-profit organization, ElepantsWorld, to anyone and everyone.

“Today, many tourists flock to the Kingdom in hopes of seeing and riding these animals; unknown to them, they are fueling a cruel practice. In order to be ridden, elephants, including those that logged the jungles, must first go through a process known as Phajaan (“the crush”), in which they are tortured until broken into submission” (The Culture Trip).

Here are the names of some other ethical animal sanctuaries/tourism in Thailand:

Elephant Nature Park, Wildlife Friends Foundation, The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary, Elephant Hills, Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Phang Nga Elephant Park, and many more

News Update: Elephants may also be facing a new threat of extinction: humans consuming elephant meat. Throughout Thailand, Elephants are often poached for entertainment and tourism, and for the ivory in their tusks. According to New York Daily News on January 26, 2018, it was reported that wild elephants have been slaughtered in a national park in western Thailand for their trunks and sex organs. “Consuming elephant meat is not common in Thailand, but some Asian cultures believe consuming animals' reproductive organs can boost sexual prowess.”

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The first thing our group did was feed the elephants from a raised platform. Only a few metal poles kept us apart from the free-roaming and hungry elephants. It was a great first thing to see upon arriving; the elephants were not tied-up nor restricted from moving as they pleased. Behind them, were the huge mountain peaks and miles of open land. The elephants must have felt so incredibly happy. The second thing on our list for the day was to sort and wash the elephant’s watermelon feed. There, we were also given a brief lesson on what elephants eat. This did not last too long, and washing and sorting watermelon was surprisingly fun to do. I think that I was just very appreciative to be at the sanctuary and enjoyed dedicating my time and energy for animals and for a good cause.

Afterwards, we went to the river to watch the elephants “play” in the company of their mahout. A mahout is an elephant rider, trainer, and keeper. At ElephantsWorld, some mahouts have been paired with their elephant for more than a decade. Some of the elephants have even formed close friendships with each other during their time at the sanctuary, and there were also a few baby elephants with their mothers. We were informed that elephants are very sensitive animals. They are emotional, and show their tenderness and love through their actions. When watching the elephants around the mud pool, they would play with the mud, splash it on themselves, play with each other, scratch themselves on trees. It was humorous to watch their behavior, and I found that, similar to humans, that they want to relax and have fun too.

The best part of the day was when we got to go into the river with brushes and bowls and bathe the elephants. I was not worried about the mud, or the cold water, or even the fact that one of the elephants took a dump in the water! I was just so excited to bathe them. We were able to get close to the elephants, to touch their rough, hairy skin. The elephants were so behaved and stayed in the same place, for the most part. They were probably thinking in their big elephant heads, “when can I wash human?” Ha! At one point, one of the elephants saw how much fun we were having while splashing each other with water, that she lifted her trunk and sprayed water into the air for us.

Bathing the elephants was one of the last events of the day - and the most enjoyable one for me. I was drenched with river water, a bit cold, but as happy as ever. My trip to ElephantsWorld was such a memorable one. I helped out a great organization, got to play with elephants, and made memories that will last me a lifetime. Not many people can say that they bathed and played with free-roaming elephants. Any reasonable person will enjoy it more than riding on an elephant’s back, partaking in animal cruelty. I will recommend this non-profit organization to anyone and everyone.

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Viewing the Grand Palace Through Phones & Cameras


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Viewing the Grand Palace Through Phones & Cameras

Bangkok, Thailand


When I was at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, I saw an overwhelming amount of people walking around looking through their cameras and phones. I asked myself, how many people are actually looking and how many people are seeing? To look means to direct your eyes in a particular direction, while in order to see, you must notice or become aware of someone or something by using your eyes. I became intently intrigued with photographing and videoing the people who were photographing and videoing the Palace.

 

The Grand Palace was built in 1782 and was home to the Thai king, the Royal court, and the administrative seat to the government for 150 years. It is Bangkok’s most famous landmark. The Grand Palace is made up of numerous buildings, walls, and pavilions surrounded by gardens and lawns. The palace is roughly rectangular and a whopping 2,351,000 square feet. It is massive! And I definitely got lost at one point because it all looked the same at every turn. The palace is dazzling, full of bright colors, intricate details, and gorgeous eclectic architecture. It is a must see if you are visiting Bangkok.

Not too long before I realized how many people were on their phones, I was doing a photography assignment. The assignment was to create fifteen different images from the same spot and I can only turn 45 degrees around. These limitations essentially forced me to see in a new way. I was shooting with a 24-70mm lens which allowed me to photograph wide angle, and some zoom - so I was able to have nuance in my photographs. With this ability, I was able to capture the detailed lines in a face of a passer-by up close. I was able to capture many tourists in one frame, to show their relationship to each other and with the Grand Palace that surrounded them. At one point, I got down on the marble-tiled floor, my entire body laying stomach-down, and I photographed the shoes of shuffling passer-bys. For some photographs, I slowed down my shutter to show the movement of my subjects. Some of the shots of the shoes were up-close to see the brand, detail, and dirt. Some shots were far away to show many shoes moving in all different directions. When I was down on the ground, I did not realize that I was drawing a lot of attention to myself, and I didn’t really care. In my head, I was sprawled out on a dirty ground for my art - for the shot. I looked up, and found that there was a crowd surrounding me, photographing me with their cell phones. They found my stunt absolutely entertaining, maybe even odd, or a bit funny. This was a moment that made me chuckle: the voyeur, herself, was being watched.

There were many different people that visited the Grand Palace the day that I did. People from all different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. The one thing that everyone shared was their admiration and interest in the Grand Palace. People outrightly showed their interest by taking photos of, and posing for photos, in front of the temples and buildings, taking selfies, face-timing their loved ones to show, and video-taping. The entire place was filled with tourists, and most of the people in the Palace grounds had some sort of camera, or technology with a camera function, in-hand.

I think that people often take photographs and also use photography-based phone apps like Snapchat and Instagram because it gives them a sense of a purpose - myself included. In our buzzing and fast-paced world today, moments are fleeting. Documenting these moments are trendy, normal, rewarding, and expected. Why not capture the good moments so that they can live on forever? This is the power behind photographs.

A year or so ago, when I was using the app, Snapchat, I posted photos and videos of things that I was doing onto my Snapchat Story; such as a concert, or a trip, or a fun night out with friends. Snapchat offered the feature called Memories, where one could save their stories and view them in an organized way later on down the road. This was especially appealing to me because I really enjoyed “reliving” an old time that made me happy. I had many comments from my peers that my Story was entertaining and enjoyable to watch. I felt that sometimes I posted intriguing things that I was doing in my life onto my story for the fact that I knew how many people viewed it. In my head, I questioned, “Who am I posting for - myself or them? What would change in my life if I did not post photos and videos of what I was doing?”

The reason that I deleted the app was because I found myself overwhelmed with the number of social media platforms that I could post onto. I decided to use solely Instagram and Facebook. I also want to challenge myself to “live in the moment” more often; to really see the world instead of just recording it. I think that moments can be fleeting if a special attention is lacking. How much do I miss in the moment if my attention is dedicated to taking a photograph and sharing it?

If I go to the Grand Palace again, I want to challenge myself in observing without recording it in photographs or video. I want to see how my perception of the Palace changes from the last. Would my time there be more enjoyable? Would I think back to the Palace and remember it more vividly than I would if I looked at the photographs? Photographs do not embody all the senses that you are able to experience when you live in the moment. What does the Grand Palace smell like, sound like, what does the air and sun feel like? Those senses do not come to life in a photograph - but one can get fairly close with the right amount of effort and talent.

"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera." -Dorothea Lange

On the other hand, the camera’s presence can alter and even enhance the way you think, see, and experience the world. When I think back to my personal experience at the Grand Palace, I can’t tell you too much about what I saw of the actual, physical palace grounds in any great detail. Part of me wishes that I would have directed my undivided attention to that, since it is so historic and famous to Thailand. However, instead of being intrigued in studying the architecture, I was more intrigued in studying the visitors. I really focused my eye in on the relationship of the visitors with their cameras/technology. Without my camera, I don’t think I would have found this very captivating. I probably would have briefly observed the copious amounts of people and technology that surrounded me, and moved on with my life. But, since I am kind of a vueyer and interested in odd things, documenting the visitors and technology created a purpose for me: it kept me behind my camera, it kept me looking through my viewfinder. I was honed in on my subjects, and making conscious decisions whether or not I wanted to get closer or farther away from the subjects. Essentially, my camera allowed me to experience the people at the Palace in a way that I couldn’t have, without it.

Cameras and phones have an integral role in our society today. I think that the camera is a grand tool for communicating and sharing with others. Community is desired by many; people just want to share their experiences and to be included in return. However, when looking through the camera’s viewfinder/screen, one’s perception can be changed and distorted from actual reality. It is important to share moments with the people, but it is also important to experience life as it happens - as raw as you can experience it, to feel all of your senses being stimulated by the moments that entice you.

Dorothea Lange’s words are wise, a wonderful message, and one that I personally identify with. I have been photographing professionally for six years now, and whenever I am out in the world without my camera, I stop and see; I find myself taking the time to appreciate the beauty in what I am viewing and wish to be photographing - even the small things: like the sunlight that hits the water in just the right way, fingerprints on a car window, or the smoke rising from a chimney. I think that as a photographer, it is my responsibility to capture the world around me and share its allure and truth with others. Many people don’t have the luxury or the opportunity or the time to travel the world, or to see places like the Grand Palace. If it is something I deem worthwhile, it is most definitely worth capturing and sharing.


Commentary On: In the Village

 
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Commentary On My Photographic Series: In the Village

Koh Samui, Thailand


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The first day I arrived on the island of Koh Samui, Thailand, I was extremely curious to explore the little beach town of Lamai; to find good restaurants, to do some shopping, to find interesting areas to photograph. The first thing I did after unpacking was grabbed a meal at a local spot with a couple of classmates. Shortly after, we did some shopping in the little stores along the main road, and then got a Thai massage. The day felt completed and I was so satisfied with my first day in Thailand. Later that night, I did some research about the customs and language of Thailand, I did not do too much research on this prior to arriving. Upon further research that I read from articles and blog posts, I found myself utterly stricken with shame: on my first day in Thailand, I unintentionally, went against many of the Thai customs. For example, I waved a lot- they do a Wai (which is a slight bow for greetings), I blew my nose near the eating table (which is rude mostly anywhere, but especially in Thailand!), I pointed a lot (which is considered very rude), I didn’t learn any of the language (I spoke English), and I wore revealing clothing (shorts and a tank) - Thailand is pretty conservative. After doing an absurd amount of internet research, feeling the culture shock that hit me fast, and feeling ignorant and badly for my behavior, I tried really hard to form to the Thai customs and to be 110% open to learning about their culture from there-on-out. I took that moment as a lesson, and really dedicated myself to being a considerate and respectful foreigner/tourist.

After a few long days on Koh Samui, I felt myself fitting in more and feeling more comfortable. I was exploring the town everyday, trying new foods, practicing Thai customs, I was speaking the basics of the Thai language to locals and workers, and I was learning something new about the culture every single day. I desired to explore deeper into the culture than what lay merely at the surface - and I wanted to capture images that would show what I had experienced. I decided to research and find a way to photograph inside a local village.

I had met a kind woman named Ann through one of my teachers. Ann is a travel agent in the town of Lamai, and she is bilingual in both Thai and English. My teacher recommended that I stop by her office and talk to her about places to explore for building my photographic portfolio, or for creating a small photo series. Ann had a few ideas in mind, giving me some town names and where I could see different things. Ann and I ended up traveling to a Muslim fishing village on a weekday and I spent about three hours photographing there.

Off the main route, we made a left turn onto a long dirt road. On either side of the road was open grass with a few cows and some palm trees. A little ways up ahead I saw the homes and buildings that made up the village. The day was hot and humid, and I was dressed conservatively in an all black: a long skirt to cover my knees, a black tank, and I covered my shoulders with a lace black shawl. After stepping out of the cool SUV, I was blindsided with heat and the intimidation of being the only white person in the entire town; I stood out like a sore thumb. As I walked through the village, scouting for subjects, I had a twinge of jitters and anxiety. It was nerve-wracking for me to come into a small town with such an intimidating and invasive object - such as the camera - and to also be so-clearly a foreigner. I was cognizant of this fact before even entering the village. I was adamant about respectfully interacting with, and capturing the local people in a way that did not make them feel exploited by me.

When a documentary photographer decides to tell the story of their subject through photographs, they have a responsibility and duty to be truthful and fair in what they portray and share with the rest of the world. Even more so, it is important what kind of information and/or message they attach to each image. It is also crucial that the photographer knows their own morals and ethics before creating photographs that involve other sensitive human beings. For me, I most always ask permission to photograph from the subjects. I believe that it is basic human decency to let someone know before you capture their picture. I would not appreciate some random person coming up to me and snapping my photo without, first asking, and introducing themselves. Otherwise, it  can be creepy, intrusive, and exploitative.

My initial hopes and intention with visiting the village was to learn about the lives on a more intimate level. I know that the people in the village lead a life that is vastly different (but in some ways similar) to the one that I live. I wanted to know more about the communities that exist on Koh Samui, but through my camera’s viewfinder. It is exciting and comfortable for me when I am able to experience life behind my camera. I feel as though I have a purpose or reason to be in the town if I have my camera with me, and I am able leave there with proof of what I have experienced. I tried to capture many aspects of what I saw in the town, but in a way that was depicting real life and exactly what I saw. I never intended to focus on photographing only the clutter that laid outside of the homes, without also photographing the beauty that the townspeople possess. Did I photograph the clutter outside of the home? Of course. I did not want to leave out that part of the town, even if I would deemed it unattractive or unusual. I was aware of being mindful and shedding any biases I had before photographing. The point of my going there, was out of my personal curiosity, to explicitly depict the livelihood of the town, and what that entails.

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When I saw something that caught my eye as we walked down the town’s dirt streets, I would point it out to Ann and we would stop. From there I photographed what interested me: a building, a detail outside a home, such as a birdcage or clothes hanging on a drying rack. The first subjects that I photographed were an older woman on a motorbike, and a younger Muslim man in Shalwar Kameez (full religious dress). With the help from Ann as the translator, I asked both of them to take their portrait. I think that it was really beneficial that I could speak a small amount of Thai and knew how to Wai (greet). It showed that I was trying to learn the culture, and that I respected it enough to practice the language, even as a foreigner. I could tell that the locals especially appreciated this, and would reciprocate back to me, respectfully.

Ann’s demeanor toward the photograph-taking process was really calm, casual, and nonchalant - while inside, I was filled with adrenaline and excitement. Turned out that all of the people I asked to photograph that day displayed similar demeanors, and were willing and open to being photographed by me. Having Ann by my side, knowing the culture full-well, and having her translate was incredibly helpful. She was able to explain the conversations that she had with the townspeople. Ann would also describe what things meant: for example, there was a miniature temple (that resembled a doll house) that was posted underneath a tree near a house. She said that the temple houses the spirit of the relatives who have passed. Knowing little details like this helped shape my overall experience, and I was able to gain more knowledge about the culture, customs, and town. This kind of information also helped me understand my own images, helped the photographic series feel more personal and intimate, and come together as a whole, conceptually.

This short trip to the village was very rewarding, and only a surface-level view into one of the many different culturally-rich areas on Koh Samui, Thailand. In the brief time that I was there, I gained insight and permission into the homes and lives of many kind-hearted people. Capturing their faces and livelihood was only a small part of my entire three-hour experience there. The images will help me remember that time, and to share it with people, but the genuine memory lives in me. I am very grateful that I had this opportunity, and I only wish that I could have spent more time there. I would like to go back and photograph in this town again once I return to Koh Samui one day. This is just one of my first photo series and worldly experiences of many.

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Full Moon Party

Full Moon Party

Koh Phangan, Thailand

(shot on iPhone 6)

To get to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan from Koh Samui, Thailand, you had to drive to the dock where speed boats would take you to the other island. I sat in the front of the speed boat with men from India who were visiting Samui for their bachelor party. They were very kind and had a great and lively energy about them. I really enjoyed the speed boat ride, feeling the breeze on my face and looking over the ocean lit up by the moonlight. Upon arriving, I heard crowds of people talking and laughing, motorbikes, and music. There was a buzz in the air from all of the partiers. I walked through the town with a couple of my classmates. On either side of me were food and drink vendors. Buckets with juice and alcohol bottles were for sale, and a popular hit among the crowd. Once we arrived to the beach where the Full Moon Party was taking place, you could smell the soggy sand. It was hot, humid, and crowded. I went to the party sober, so compared to a lot of people around me, I was in a completely different headspace. As soon as I saw the amount of trash from the party that spanned the shoreline, I was dry of any party excitement I had inside of me. My outlook on the event shifted to a more negative one, getting annoyed by drunk partygoers. To see anyone indulge can be a disturbing thing to watch - and being sober did not help. The idea of the party on Koh Phangan also seemed questionable to me; the event brings in money for the local people of the island, but it also goes against many beliefs in Thai culture: half-dressed clothing, littering and disrespecting the land, being publicly intoxicated, blasting loud music and being loud in general. I could not tell if the people working the event were genuinely enjoying themselves or if it was playing it cool aka known as creng jai (cool heart) in Thai culture. Regardless, it was an experience for me like no other, and I did quite a lot of people-watching.


Sunday Night Market

 

Sights, Sounds, Smells, & Tastes at Lamai's Sunday Night Market

Koh Samui, Thailand

December 31, 2017


The little busy beach town of Lamai is full of smiles, a wide range of cuisine, tourists, locals, shops, and street doggos. On Sunday nights, the Sunday Night Street Market is a hotspot for both tourists and locals of every age. At the night market you can find artisan crafts, homemade goods, friendly people, music, and fresh foods. It is quite a taste of what Lamai has to offer in a concentrated area. It is a perfect night for the interested shopper, the curious or daring food-y, artists, and patron of the arts. 

Families and shop owners set up their carts just before sunset. It is normal to see people comfortably lounging around their carts.

Families and shop owners set up their carts just before sunset. It is normal to see people comfortably lounging around their carts.

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At the start of the market, it is quiet with a slight ocean breeze that carries the scent of burning incense through the air. Families and vendors are setting up just before the sun sets. The sound of birds, metal clanking, paper and plastic rustling can be heard. The market's walk ways are formed as the space between the little stands on either side. Everywhere you walk, there are street vendors. Some of the stands have clothing, jewelry, soap and beauty products, toys, accessories, and Thailand memorabilia. Stands are beautifully organized, goods are stacked, and they are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. There is quite a lot to look at every step and turn, as the imagery is loud and stimulating. Bright and vibrant colors from the products can be seen throughout the entire market, and pattern made by layers and repetition of goods is commonly seen. Products are lit by naked bulbs that hang over the stands, acting as a spotlight to catch the buyer's eye. 

Hand-carved and painted flower soaps

Hand-carved and painted flower soaps

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Mango sticky rice - a must try

Mango sticky rice - a must try

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As shoppers continue deeper into the street market - and the sun goes down beyond the horizon - one can start to hear more voices, the sounds of shifting and walking, and live music playing at the intersection of the two streets. Here, it is more loud and busy, there are typically more people, and the food vendor carts begin. One can tell by the overpowering smells of grilled spiced meats and seafood floating with the breeze. The food offered in this area ranges from Italian to American to traditional Thai food and dessert. The sound of sizzling food on grills and in pans, chatting voices in all different languages, and laughter can be heard. 

 

The moon shines bright over the Sunday Night Market 

The moon shines bright over the Sunday Night Market 

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Homemade Lo-Mein noodles

Homemade Lo-Mein noodles

While I was sitting down to eat a waffle from a street vendor, a local family around the corner were sitting down to feast. One of the men waved a friend and me over, then approached us, inviting us to join them for dinner. This was such a kind gesture and I was surprised at how warm and inviting they were to people (us) they do not know. 

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A Thai vendor's smile shines bright 

A Thai vendor's smile shines bright 

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Lamai's Sunday Night Market was a very enjoyable and memorable experience. There was so much of the culture alive and present at the market. Locals and tourists both roamed the streets, interacting and sharing smiles. I still think about the smells, foods, drinks, and goods - even back in the USA. Oh, how I wish that I had a night market similar to the one found on the little beach town of Lamai in Koh Samui, Thailand.  


First days at Lamai in Koh Samui, Thailand

Walking through the town of Lamai to get a feel for the area 

In Thailand, it is polite to remove your shoes before entering homes and some shops

In Thailand, it is polite to remove your shoes before entering homes and some shops

Child playing behind an alley

Child playing behind an alley

On the street, we found a man "playing" with his pet scorpion. This was particularly weird for me because not too long before arriving in Thailand, I had a dream where I was laying on the ground in an all white room, with all white furniture, and there was a black scorpion roaming around leisurely. From my comfortable place on the floor, I calmly watched the scorpion without fear, very curious of its behavior. I forgot about that dream until I had an overwhelming recollection of the dream way later in the day. This jolt of awareness prompted me to research if the scorpion was an animal totem, if it symbolized anything, and what dreaming about one meant. Here's what I found: 

A scorpion symbol may cross your path in a dream or in reality... The scorpion promises a transformation, but it is up to you to determine whether the change is a chaotic or calm one.

A single sting leaves the scorpion’s attacker or prey paralyzed, allowing it to either escape or feast. With the help of the scorpion animal totem, we are empowered to protect and defend ourselves. 
For our purposes, it is best to accept the scorpion as a symbol of protection, rather than as a dark and foreboding omen.

Buddhist spirit house shrine outside Thai home which houses the spiritual guardian

Buddhist spirit house shrine outside Thai home which houses the spiritual guardian

Men work on cables that hang over shops, hotels, and homes. 

Men work on cables that hang over shops, hotels, and homes. 

Playing Tourist In LA

  • Walk the Venice Boardwalk
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Visit Inner-City Arts in downtown LA
  • Get tacos at Grand Central Market & ride the Angels Flight Railway
  • Visit Griffith Observatory for sunset
  • Drive down Hollywood Blvd.
     

Different day:

  • PCH cruise to sunset lookout
My morning walk down the Venice Beach Boardwalk. I stopped at the skate park to watch the skaters and got this cool shot

My morning walk down the Venice Beach Boardwalk. I stopped at the skate park to watch the skaters and got this cool shot

My first time at In-N-Out Burger, of course a photo was necessesary 

My first time at In-N-Out Burger, of course a photo was necessesary 

A couple I met watching the sunset after their picnic

A couple I met watching the sunset after their picnic

Sunset from near the Griffith Observatory

Sunset from near the Griffith Observatory

*A special thanks to Ari Kirsch and Pilar Hoye for being the ultimate tour guides and putting up with me all day ;) 

 
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The Bay Area

  • Shoot a wedding in Berkley
  • After-wedding brunch in Oakland
  • Point Reyes Beach
  • Lunch in Wood Acre
  • Richmond for dinner / Visit the Temple of Dalai Lama
  • San Francisco / Haight 
Redwoods

Redwoods

Met a couple that were digging up this poisonous mushroom to use for their scientific studies

Met a couple that were digging up this poisonous mushroom to use for their scientific studies

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Portrait of me taken by: Ari Kirsch at Point Reyes Nation Shoreline

Portrait of me taken by: Ari Kirsch at Point Reyes Nation Shoreline

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Wood Acre, CA

Wood Acre, CA

Richmond, CA

Richmond, CA

Off To California

My trip to San Francisco was incredibly long and exhausting: Chicago to Denver, Denver to San Fran. I was up at 9am (Chicago time) on Thursday and did not go to bed until 12am Friday (Cali time). I slept maybe an hour and a half on the plane to Denver. I was awake for about thirty-seven hours and still managed to photograph an eight-hour wedding the day that I arrived in SF. It was incredible that I somehow survived!

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Flying over Denver, Colorado

Flying over Denver, Colorado

 
 
Plane reads:  The Power Of Now    by Eckhart Tolle

Plane reads: The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Top Artist I've been listening to while traveling: CunninLynguists