Feb 6, 9:20am
I got up at 6:30 for breakfast this morning. I was feeling well-rested because I passed out at about 8:00 last night. I guess yesterday finally caught up with me. The bed here is horrendously uncomfortable. I can feel every spring poking through and stabbing me in the back and sides. I guess I could request a new room, but I doubt it will be any better, and I should probably get used to sleeping in rough beds if I’m going to head up to the hill tribe villages in a week or two. Sleeping at 8:00 meant that I was wide awake by 1:00 in the morning, but I forced myself to stay in bed until 6:30 anyway.
Every hotel in Thailand has a free breakfast buffet for guests. The one here at the Ayothaya Hotel (yes, they spell it differently) was nearly identical in content to the one at the Trinity Silom. There’s the standard ham, sausages, cereal and fried eggs with toast and jam for the unadventurous. There’s a selection of fresh fruit, usually sliced pineapple and watermelon, and an omelette bar where someone will whip up something customized for you. There’s Asian food too. Usually, it’s fried rice with egg, and assorted stir fried vegetables. I’ve been enjoying the rice porrige, which usually contains some kind of meatball and chives. You can garnish it with tiny pickled hot pepper slices, and spicy sweet pickled cabbage. It’s a great way to start the day.
After breakfast I went out to photograph the morning commute and market. It was an assault on the senses, as thousands of Thais crowded the streets on their way to work and school. Thousands more meandered through the market, which is squeezed into alleys and laneways between buildings throughout three or four blocks in the middle of town. Hundreds of stalls sold fresh fish, meat, vegetables and household goods. Food stalls served up quick snacks to Thais hustling about doing their shopping and commuting. The air was clogged as much with the noise of revving engines and chattering voices as it was with the aromatic charcoal smoke from food stalls and blue exhaust from vehicles. Three-wheeled tuk tuks beeped as they drove by, trying to entice fares to hop in for a ride.
Taking photos in this environment is challenging for me. It’s literally and figuratively thousands of miles from my very comfortable studio lights. I’m learning so much though: what time of day gives the best light, what angle to place myself between the sun and the subject to get the best result, how to use the different autofocus modes to capture moving subjects (it doesn’t always work), and other technical aspects.
The market presented its own set of challenges. Thais smartly keep themselves and their wares out of the sun. The alleyways are covered in umbrellas and awnings, which makes life much more comfortable, but also darker and much more difficult to photograph.
I tried to keep myself as inconspicuous as possible too, to capture the scene as candidly as possible. I left my daypack at the hotel, and just carried the camera in my hand at my side. The small wide angle lens worked well in this strategy. I was able to photograph things mostly unnoticed. But after exchanging the small, black wide angle lens for the huge, white L-series telephoto lens, I attracted a lot more stares. Everyone’s eyes seemed to gravitate towards this rather obnoxious looking device. Fortunately, I was able to take photos from quite far away with this lens, so only the people close to me noticed it.
I’m enjoying photographing daily life in Thailand. I’ll be taking a trip to see some of the temples this afternoon, but the thought of photographing them isn’t terribly interesting to me. They’ve all been photographed to death. I really like the idea of photographing a single, irreplaceable and unrepeatable moment in the life of a country.