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IN THE PICTURE #29
In ‘In the Picture’ photographers from all over the world share their 10 most beautiful pictures of Thailand. See Thailand through the photographer’s lens, read background stories about the pictures and learn more about the beautiful Thailand!
We are very delighted to be able to show some super nice portrait photos in the feature again! Most of the photos were shot in Khlong Toey, a slum area in Bangkok. WOW what pictures! Thanks Tim!
Hello, please introduce yourself.
I’m Tim, originally from Coventry in the UK but living in SE Asia since 2003. After a decade in Vietnam I moved to Thailand in 2012 and have no intention of moving anywhere else! I work in the travel industry and since last year I’ve been working for an Australian travel tech startup called eRoam. I live in Punnawithi, Bangkok with my Vietnamese wife Linny and our three dogs.
I started doing photography in 2009 when I got my first DSLR, but didn’t really get serious/obsessive until around 2015. I do mainly street, documentary and travel photography and love shooting the interesting people and stuff I find on the average Bangkok street. There is always something to shoot here wherever you are in the city, and I try to avoid the usual cliched monks/street traders/temples shots where possible.
In the last few years my work has been published in several online and print magazines and I also run occasional photography workshops here in Bangkok.
And now i’m also featured in Thailand Magazine, nice!
Chock dee krub,
Khun Lem, Khlongtoey, Bangkok
I do a lot of shooting in the Khlongtoey ‘slum’ district (you can see my Khlongtoey project at facesofkhlongtoey.com) and Khun Lem is without doubt my favourite subject. Every inch of him – or at least every inch I’ve seen – is tattooed, even his palms and his lips, and he looks like the kind of guy you’d cross the street to avoid. But he’s really friendly and loves being photographed. That’s one of the great things about shooting in Thailand – even superficially scary people like Lem love having their picture taken.
Chinese New Year 2021, Poh Teck Tung Pagoda, Bangkok
Shooting the Chinese New Year celebrations is an annual ritual for me, and it’s also become a barometer of how much I’ve improved as a photographer over the previous year. Poh Teck Tung is a great place to shoot the festivities as it’s always packed, full of people praying and waving incense sticks, and grumbling about photographers like me getting in their way – I use a 24mm lens which means I have to dive right into the thick of the action. I love the symmetry of the five worshippers in this one, and the ubiquitous face masks add a definite “2021” feel to it.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
I love motorbiking in the mountains around Chiang Rai. The scenery is so beautiful and the hilltribe villages are very welcoming and photogenic. I went to Sukhothai in 2019 and that really impressed me too – great mix of ancient temples, national parks and possibly the friendliest people in Thailand. I recently visited Koh Lipe which has been added to my favorites list. But our favourite place for a break is Khao Takiab just south of Hua Hin – just a nice little spot with a quiet beach and some great seafood restaurants. I think we’ve been there around 15-20 times since we moved to Thailand.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
We’re planning on heading north for our next trip, to check out some quieter mountain destinations such as Mae Hong Son (Pai for example), Phrae and Nan.
Old man in his shack, Khlongtoey, Bangkok
I love doing environmental portraits and this is one of my favorites. It shows a side of Bangkok that most residents & visitors, whether Thai or local, never see or try to ignore. I could’ve just taken a shot of the man’s face but I think showing him in the mess and chaos of his home tells the story more effectively. This man has disappeared in the last few months; I hope he’s OK and living somewhere nicer.
Free haircut, Hua Lamphong Station, Bangkok
Hua Lamphong is a mecca for street photographers in Bangkok as it is an endless stream of fascinating humanity, along with glorious old architecture and trains, and some stunning lighting effects. Four days a week hairdressing students set up on one of the platforms and give free haircuts for those in need, and it’s one of my favorite things to photograph. The station will be sorely missed when it closes down later this year, though Bang Sue will of course bring new and different photography opportunities.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
Sukhothai doesn’t get enough love in my opinion, probably because it’s not the easiest place to get to. But the Historical Park is stunning, as is the countryside around it – great quiet roads for renting a bike and getting out into the hills.
Where do you like to eat?
Probably any one of the seafood shacks in the fishing village in Khao Takiab, near Hua Hin. The produce comes straight off the boats and travels about two metres to the kitchens so it’s always incredibly fresh, and really cheap too. At weekends the street is full of Bangkokians who’ve driven there specially to stock up on seafood. I also love Aroon Rai in Chiang Mai, a defiantly old school curry joint that does the best gaeng hung lay (pork & ginger curry) you’ll ever taste. Anthony Bourdain was a big fan and there’s no better recommendation than that.
Honourable mention to a couple of street stalls on Sukhumvit 101 where I live, which do the best hoy tod (mussel omelette) and guay teow moo (pork noodle soup) in the city.
Muslim girls studying English, Khlongtoey mosque, Bangkok
The mosque in Khlongtoey is one of those places I can rarely walk past without being invited in – the imam speaks excellent English and when he’s around he enjoys a chat and a cup of tea. Last weekend I was walking past and spotted some classes going on, so I wandered in and asked if I could photograph them, and as usual the answer was yes. I got some great shots and this pic of these shy girls and their teacher is my favorite.
Girl applying makeup, Khlongtoey market, Bangkok
Khlongtoey is the biggest wet market in central Bangkok and is always busy whichever time you go there. This pic was taken around 09:00 – the girl is just coming to the end of her night shift and is putting her makeup on while her daughter sleeps next to her. Just one of many fascinating stories to be photographed in this amazing place.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
I’m a big craft beer lover, which is normally expensive in Thailand, but my local place – Cafe 101 on Sukhumvit 101 – sells draught beer from Udom Suk Brewery for 140THB a pint, so I’m a bit of a regular there. Food’s good too. For coffee, it doesn’t get any better than Phu Chai Coffee in Khlongtoey market. The owner is serious about his beans and sells local Thai coffee as well as imports from Africa and South America, at very cheap prices. Very friendly place and by far the best coffee in Bangkok.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Two words: khao soy. I’d had it in Bangkok a few times and liked it, but it wasn’t until I went to Chiang Rai in 2016 that I discovered just how good it could be. It’s a perfect mix of tastes (spicy, sweet, sour) and textures (soft, liquid, crispy) and goes down well at all times of the day. I’ve been known to get through 3-4 bowls a day when up north.
Urak Lawoi sea gypsy villager, Koh Lipe
I was in Koh Lipe some months ago and wanted to photograph the Urak Lawoi, so I hooked up with a local guide who took me around the various villagers and introduced me. The people are quite shy and without a guide I probably wouldn’t have got the access I did. It was an interesting counterpoint to the beaches, resorts, restaurants and bars of the island – seeing how its original inhabitants have been displaced from the beaches and how they now live.
Floating village, Samrong, Samut Prakan
Samrong is only a few BTS Sky Train stops from my house but may as well be on a different planet it’s so different to Bangkok. It only got a BTS station a couple of years ago and so has developed at a much slower pace than the rest of the city. People still travel around by rickshaw, and are still surprised to meet foreigners. It has a HUGE market as well as lots of temples, and is a paradise for street photographers. This floating village next to a giant monk statue is one of the most photogenic locations in the Bangkok area in my opinion.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
Probably the last place we stayed, Lipe Beach Resort on Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe. Just ticked all our boxes. A bungalow right on the beach, friendly staff, a la carte breakfast (no lukewarm buffet), no aircon or TV, and best of all, several really friendly dogs. When you arrive at a resort and you’re greeted by a dog rather than a human, you know you’ve made the right choice.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
Try and do some genuinely local experiences wherever in Thailand you travel. Yes, the resorts and the walking streets, night markets and beach bars are fun but there’s a lot more to Thailand, so try and get out to some local markets, hilltribe villages, local neighbourhoods etc. It’s now easy to book local experiences online (eg AirBNB Experiences) so you don’t need to venture out alone. Some of the best experiences you’ll have are sitting in a market chatting to the locals or visiting a hilltribe village. The further you get away from the tourist hotspots, the friendlier the people.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
For me, it’s undoubtedly “Tai lup dai mai khap?” which means “Can I take your picture?” I don’t always ask but if I’m getting up close to someone to do a portrait then it’s the polite thing to do. The great thing about photographing in Thailand is that people LOVE being photographed, whether it’s kids on the street, market workers, old ladies or slum-dwelling gangsters, so the answer is almost always “dai khap” (yes you can).
“Pai nai?” (“Where are you going?”) is the standard Thai greeting and always gets a friendly response; and if I see someone eating, I always ask “Aroi mai?” (“Is it good?”) which always gets a smile.
Retired Muay Thai fighter, Khlongtoey Markt, Bangkok
This is my favorite photo of all time. This old guy started chatting to me one morning and told me he was an ex-kickboxer, so I asked if I could take his picture, and straight away he adopted a boxing pose. Some people think he’s really trying to hit me, but he was actually very friendly and is just posing. I love the expression on his face, the money in his hand, the pills in his pocket. A great character.
Khao Takiab Beach, Hua Hin
As mentioned above, we’ve probably been to this beach 15-20 times since we moved to Thailand. In pre-COVID times it was usually busy with European visitors; on our last visit (September 2020) it was pretty much deserted, which is how I got this shot of an empty beach with just a couple of dogwalkers on it. I went for a hazy high key edit to give it a dreamlike, melancholy feel and tell the story of how the pandemic has affected Thailand’s tourism industry.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
These days I use a Sony A7ii, usually with my Samyang 24mm lens on for street work, though I sometimes switch to my Sony 50mm for night work or portraits, or the 28-70mm kit lens for landscapes or general use when I’m not sure what the day will have in store. I also have a Godox V860ii flash, and a Manfrotto tripod. I always say there are two things you shouldn’t go cheap on – sushi, and tripods. Cheap sushi and cheap tripods will only bring you misery.
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
My good friend Nick McGrath does some really interesting street and documentary work. Check his work at http://www.nmcphoto.com.
Young man, Khlongtoey, Bangkok
A perfect example of why photographing in Thailand is ‘different’. If you saw a guy like this on the street in London or New York, you might be wary of approaching him for a photograph. Here in Thailand, it’s not a problem and he happily stood there looking mean and moody for me while I fired off a few shots (he was actually quite cheerful). The tattoos & jewelry look is de rigueur for young Khlongtoey males and is also very photogenic, especially when they’re standing up against a nicely textured wall in a perfect patch of light like this guy.
Lunchtime, Krung Kasem Road, Bangkok
I was having a fruitless morning’s shooting around Hua Lamphong Station when I wandered past a small alleyway and saw this guy sitting in a perfect shaft of light eating his lunch. He was happy to be photographed so I took a dozen or so shots of him, of which this is my favorite. I love everything about this pic – his bald head, his expression, the light, and that pink cup on the table which really makes the picture for me.