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IN THE PICTURE #04
In ‘In the Picture’ photographers from all over the world share their 10 most favorite pictures of Thailand. See Thailand through the lens and read the story behind those pictures.
Six years ago when I lived on Koh Tao, I heard of a small island, way down south called Koh Lipe. The stories were the stuff you read in adventure novels: a tiny, pristine island where you could forget the world was turning. Back then it was a difficult place to travel to, so I never had the opportunity. Now, in 2020, there are speed boats connecting Koh Lipe to all the surrounding cities. As you can imagine, this little slice of paradise was way more crowded than I hoped to find it. This photo was taken during a rare moment of serenity, away from the crowds.
Plastic washed up on a deserted beach, Koh Kradan – This photo is a sad reminder that there really isn’t such a thing as “pristine” in today’s world. I left Koh Lipe, looking to escape the crowds, only to realize that with crowds come some responsible people who try to clean up the litter we create. When you find deserted beaches, they are covered in plastic litter, brought in by the ocean. It is estimated that 11% of the plastic we throw away every year ends up in the oceans.
Hello, please introduce yourself
Hi, my name is Lexi, and I am originally from Boulder, Colorado. I have spent the past six years living overseas, beginning in Thailand, and am now back in the USA. During my first trip to Japan in 2008, I received a camera as a gift to capture my memories. I have been photographing my adventures ever since then. What has allowed me to travel all these years? I am a scuba diving instructor!
A longtail boat, somewhere in the Andaman Sea – I left Koh Lipe on a search for the islands that were still relatively undiscovered. The boat I was on made several stops on its way to Koh Mook. I can’t remember which island this was, I think somewhere in the Tarutao National Park, but I loved all the textures of the greens and blues in this moment.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
I’m still a sucker for Koh Tao. Koh Tao was the place that made me fall in love with Thailand back in 2013. It is a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand where everyone goes to either learn how to scuba dive, or to stay and teach diving. It’s basically Utopia for anyone who loves the water.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
On my most recent Thailand trip, I set out to explore some of the country’s lesser-traveled islands. Koh Chang and Koh Mak (outside of Trat) were two places on that list that I ran out of time for.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
There is never enough time in Thailand to see everything you want to, but my advice is to find at least one island that no one has heard of and check it out. The popular tourist spots can be so over crowded these days, and some people let the crowds define their opinion of Thailand. There are so many beautiful places that are still, for the most part, undiscovered though.
Low Tide, Koh Mook – Some people don’t like the way intertidal zones look, but they remind me of the respect the ocean deserves. While tourists take the clear, blue water for granted as something to play in, local fisherman have to pay more mind to it, timing being able to move their boats with when the tide comes in.
I found the laid back vibe of an island forgotten on Koh Mook. Charlie Beach used to belong to a nice resort, but the resort was demolished due to a conflict over land permissions from the national park. The few travelers on the island still used the beach to watch the sun set though. Locals set up makeshift stalls to sell drinks and coconuts. It all felt very spontaneous and carefree.
Where do you like to eat?
Any street stall that makes papaya salad. It’s so good fresh, and they will customize it however you want. The peppers are something to pay particular attention to. Anyone who has been to Thailand, knows that Thai people aren’t playing around when it comes to spice. Ask for one pepper in your salad if you are a novice; two if you can handle your spice.
I thought I was nearing local status when I graduated up to two peppers. I was so wrong. I asked for two peppers one day, and the lady put an entire handful of peppers in the mortar and ground them up. Luckily that was for the local guy in front of me, but they don’t wash the mortar between batches, so all that fiery residue was leftover for my salad. Needless to say, my mouth was burning for an hour after that.
Name a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by
Coconut Monkey is a great Westers cafe near the Mae Haad Pier on Koh Tao that has a lot of vegan options.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
It may be an obvious choice, but I love Pad Thai. Noodles fried up in tamarinde sauce with egg, peanuts, veggies, and tofu; what’s not to love? You get a little bit of sweet, a little bit of spicy, the comfort food quality of carbs, the protein to boost your energy… I went through a huge pad thai phase when I first moved to Thailand and ate it at least once a day. Everyone makes it a little bit differently, so it’s an entirely new meal every time. My favorite pad thai was from the restaurant Mol’s Beach Bar at Hin Wong Bay on Koh Tao.
If you scope out Koh Mook on Google Maps (which I I like to do before going), you will see an impressive stretch of beach that extends off the east side of the island. That is Sivalai Beach, and it is just as beautiful in person as you would hope it would be from looking at the satellite image. During low tide, there is much more beach available, but I prefer the photogenic quality of the clear, blue water during high tide.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
Bar La Hut on Ko Chang (Ranong) was a place I stumbled upon by happy chance. I arrived on the island with no prior booking, just instructions from my last bungalow owner that I should find his friend, Rung. Rung’s bungalows were beautiful, two-story works of art constructed entirely out of driftwood. Unlike other simple bungalows you find on the beach, these were decorated to the nines, entirely out of shells and dream catchers and other treasures found on the beach.
Imagine Robinson Crusoe meets boho chic. To go along with everything being naturally made, the entire place ran on solar power and had its own water filtration system. You won’t be able to book this place in advance. The only way to stay here is to show up.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
Slow down. There’s simply too much to cover in Thailand for the amount of time allowed, and modern transportation has made it possible to zip around from one place to the next in mere hours. I met a lot of people during my travels who were spending one night here, two nights there, and then onto the next Instagram hotspot. Of course there is no right way to travel, how you go about it is very personal, but don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
Mai aow lord ka (krub instead of ka for men) means “no straw please.” Mai aow toong ka (krub) means “no bag, please.” When you see the plastic pollution that washes up on shores from the ocean, you will realize these items aren’t worth using for a few minutes, when they will go on to exist for hundreds of years after you “dispose” of them.
This is the quintessential Thailand shot: the longtail boat sailing into the daunting rock cliffs of an exotic island (Koh Phi Phi in this case). No Thailand album is complete without this shot.
Is there something or a place you would like to take pictures of?
Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) in Chiang Rai is a picturesque location that I have yet to visit.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
Simple Life Bungalow, Koh Pu – In my search for some of Thailand’s lesser-known islands, I stumbled across mentions of Koh Jum. The few people who had actually heard of this island, recommended that I check out the north side, known as Koh Pu, instead. Koh Pu was much quieter, they said.
Koh Pu was everything I hoped to find. I stayed in a simple bungalow constructed out of drift wood. Simple Life Bungalow didn’t have any wifi, and the island only had electricity for 6 hours a day. Some people might have more luxury in mind when they travel to exotic locations like Thailand, but that’s the beauty of Thailand, there is something for everyone.
Oink, Koh Tao – I’ve spent a cumulative total of 11 months in Thailand now, enough time to know that there are dogs and cats everywhere, many of them well-cared-for pets, some of them strays that you wish you could give some TLC. This pig in Mae Haad, Koh Tao was a first for me though. Meet Mongkol. He belongs to Bed & Ink Hostel.
UPDATE: We learned that Bed & Ink unfortunately had to close its doors due to the corona crisis. Luckily Mongkol received the pig with open arms at Blue Heaven Resort where he is oinking all day long…
UPDATE 21-11-2020: Today we got the sad news Mongkol died, he had been ill for some time. Luckily Mongkol had an amazing life on Koh Tao!
Where can people find your work / photos?
My writing can be found on my blog: Adventures of an Aquaholic and my photos can be found on Instagram.
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
Lauren Mae – Because she has been stuck in Thailand since the borders closed down and has been there for six or seven months now.
When I travel, I find enjoyment in seeing how everyday life is different in other places. What are some of the things that we take for granted in our day-to-day life that other places experience differently? This local gas station on Koh Pu was a good example of that.
An elephant tapestry adorns my two-story bungalow at Bar La Hut on Koh Chang. These beach bungalows were aesthetically my favorite place I stayed at in Thailand. There were only a few of them, and each one was completely unique. The bigger ones had bedrooms with balconies upstairs, and the bathroom down below. They were simple as far as amenities, but beautiful. Where most budget beach bungalows are pretty spartan, these were homey in a way that would make even Robinson Crusoe envious.