Patong is an absolutely crazy town in Phuket, Thailand where we had to transfer through from Bangkok to get a boat to Phi Phi island, our final destination. Patong is on the beach and people seem to swim and relax during the day, but the main point appears to be the nightlife. I am not sure what I came here expecting but nothing prepared me for the all out sensory onslaught that awaits after dark. In all my life I don’t think I have ever seen so many people concentrated in such a small area drinking and partying. There was a main strip with all of these open air bars and clubs down the side streets (known as "Sois"). This main drag was packed with droves of people wandering aimlessly absorbing the sights and sounds and basking in their vice of choice. Incredibly, on multiple occasions I saw entire families with their young children wandering through these areas. I say incredibly because many of these bars and clubs existence seemed to be predicated solely upon prostitution as each of them ostensibly consisted of a bartender and a pack of four or five girls just hanging around (although one couldn’t really be sure of the gender a lot of the time). Eventually some middle aged guy would stroll up and after a few drinks he and a girl would leave.
Visually, the Sois were a photographer’s dream, this was one place I really regretted not having a truly pro rig to take the whole thing in. I lugged around my Nikon D80 the whole time snapping endless shots while trying not gape in awe of the insanity all around me. Unfortunately the D80 only goes ISO1600 so it was sometimes difficult to get sharp shots in the lower lighting conditions, but most of the time there was enough ambient light to get away with ISO1000-1200 and avoid the higher noise associated with the 1600 setting. Many times I had to underexpose and then use dynamic lighting to pull the information out of the low end. I used to have VR (vibration reduction) on my 8800, I missed having that around as many of the shots came up really soft.
After dark debauchery aside, the daytime was a decidedly mellow affair, lot’s of strolling around in sandals and swimming. I forgot my circular polarizing filter so a lot of the daylight shots came up pretty washed out, after the second day I sort of gave up on daytime shooting and proceeded to eat constantly. I can’t stress enough how good the food was; virtually everywhere we ate was a new high in culinary achievement. Even the little run down shack restaurants with outdoor kitchens were great (many times they were even better than the more established eateries). If you ever find yourself in Patong the first place I would recommend to eat is a spot right around the middle of the beachfront strip called "Chez Bernard". Get the whole fried fish with Thai chili and the squid fried noodles; you can’t lose. Unless, of course, you’re allergic to fish, squid, or Thai Chili sauce, in which case you could lose, in a big way…Because at least one of those things seem to make their way into pretty much every dish.
The Thai people in general were really mellow and friendly but I know I didn’t get any true sense of Thai culture. We rented motorcycles to ride up the coast one day and found a small town with an outdoor market. There were only Thai people there and it was way out in the country so I think that’s as close as we got to seeing a day in the life of Thai culture but we were still very far from immersion on any level. We spent the last few days on Koh Phi Phi Don island and diving the Nok islands, got some decent pictures there. Phi Phi is a another world altogether, but I’ll save that for another post…this one is already excruciatingly long I am sure. Hope everyone is well, I’ll see a lot of you soon in Stockholm.
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Leaving Bangkok today for Kuala Lumpur then on to Amsterdam. Bangkok was an exciting place to be with all manner of visual stimuli ready and waiting to be soaked in. The food was great and the shopping was unique to say the least. Apparently the Silom district in Bangkok is the knock-off capitol of the world; from fake Rolex’s to fake Versace sunglasses pretty much any type of designer product imaginable can be had. The street vendors are pretty intense, jumping out shouting their sales pitch every time you pass by. The streets are lined with these little carts and booths selling all sorts of random items. The air is pretty bad; the whole city is enveloped in a thick veil of smog and it shows on the grimy walls and sidewalks. The juxtaposition of ultra modern western forms, decaying, dilapidated structures and traditionally ornate Thai shrines and monuments made for a very unique backdrop. We didn’t have as much time to explore the city as I would have liked, but the few days we did get to spend there were packed full of interesting things to see and do.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment, lot’s of pics from a place called Patong. Feel free to comment on this post
I’m currently on an island off the coast of Thailand called Koh Phi Phi so won’t be posting a ton as internet access is limited. It’s really beautiful here, the pic above was from the plane flying into Phuket, the closest town to Phi Phi with an airport. Leaving for Amsterdam on Wednesday, will be nice to feel some cold again, the heat here is nothing short of oppressive.
After all the shots of objects from Japan I thought I would do a post on the people themselves. Although the aesthetic elements of Japan were overwhelmingly pleasing, the people and the culture are what had the most profound impact on my stay there. Let me preface this by saying that any of these observations are obviously subjective as they are based on my limited exposure to one city during a 6 day period. I tried to see as many parts of Tokyo as I could and we usually traveled with local friends to insure we didn’t just see the tourist perspective.
I was amazed by how polite and hard working the people there seemed to be. The city itself borders on some sort of quasi-utopian vision of how good things could be in some alternate universe. It had it’s dark side as any city does, but by in large it’s just an incredibly clean and efficient place. Everyone we came into contact with was friendly and would go out of their way to help with anything you need. The service industry was something otherworldly, I have never experienced such courteous and attentive service anywhere else. The craziest part was they WILL NOT accept tips. We spent the first 2 days trying to tip cab drivers and waiters to no avail. Each time we left a tip on the table after a meal we were literally chased down outside the restaurant and informed that we had left money. No amount of explaining would convince them to keep the money. There is a significant language barrier but the courteous nature of the people we encountered usually overcame that obstacle through sheer diligence. There were workers everywhere doing all manner of tasks at any given time. Three people would be employed just to wave cars out of a parking garage and there were police and security guards posted everywhere in the city. They must be approaching 100% employment from the looks of things. I counted about 5 homeless people the entire time I was there.
Again these observations are all extremely subjective, my stay was limited to a short time frame and a small geographic area. But the same could be said for any of my stays in various American cities and none of them managed to appear so close to perfection as Tokyo. I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting Tokyo, you’ll find a great dose of culture and excitement. Make sure to save up though, that place is expensive. $12 beers anyone? I guess you get what you pay for though.
I am still rounding up and processing all the shots from the Tsuiki Fish Market, I’ll be posting those soon along with a lot of good ones from Bangkok, a visually stunning experience to be certain.
This incredible still is from Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo (1982). I’m in Bangkok right now waiting to go to Phuket to catch a boat to Koh Phi Phi Don. Saw this pic and decided I sort of feel like this guy at the moment. Bangkok is a surreal place to say the least. I’ve got a bunch of pics queued for a post, should be up soon.
Waiting to leave Tokyo for Bangkok right now. It’s been a great time here in Japan, went by too fast. Went to the Tsukiji fish Market early this morning (3am) and got a lot of pics. Will be posting them as soon as I have a chance. The above image is from the side of a truck in Azubu-Juban, it’s a sticker saying something about fighting crime I believe. While I am sure Thailand has a lot of visual beauty in store, I will definitely miss the non-stop display of design superiority that is Tokyo.
Was walking around Tokyo last night listening to music and took note of the songs I gravitated towards. In spite of the less-than-inspiring cover art, I really enjoyed listening to this album and particularly enjoyed this standout track. A very nice soundtrack to the futuristic utopia that is Tokyo.
The Field – From Here We Go Sublime – "Everyday"
Some more wonderfully designed signage from Tokyo. Most of these were taken in the Harojuku area, a few are from Shibuya. The type and design of the subway system is incredible, so well thought out. More to come….