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IN THE PICTURE #41
In ‘In the Picture’ photographers from all over the world share their 10 (in this case even 15) 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 got in touch with Paul through a Facebook page called Thailand in Pictures by a good Italian friend of ours. Paul’s pictures were special partly because they were often taken at locations where not many tourists go. Nevertheless, these are fantastic places to visit next time you are in Thailand (again). Paul thank you for participating in our In the Picture section, we really appreciate it!
Hello, please introduce yourself.
Hello Thailand Magazine readers,
My name is Paul Russell. I have Canadian and British citizenship. I was born and raised in the West Midlands of England, and have lived and worked in various parts of the country. But that was several decades ago. Since then I have lived and worked in Switzerland, Canada, Malaysia and now Thailand. My longest stay was in Malaysia, where I spent twenty-six years.
I guess I was quite young when I started taking photographs, and also when I started travelling. My parents bought me a cheap film camera, but the black and white results weren’t great, and the developing and printing process was quite expensive. As soon as I could afford it, I purchased a Super8 film camera, editor and projector to make travel movies. The editing process was rather crude – physically selecting a specific frame, and then cutting and pasting the pieces of film – but the end results were presentable. That phase ended when I moved on to SLR and DSLR cameras, and now drones. I only needed to watch one drone video to decide “I have to do this”.
Workwise; until recently I have always been employed in some branch of the Information Technology industry, starting with computers that were so large you could open a door and walk inside, and ending with computers that are now so small you can put them in your pocket! Many of those years were spent in the Airline Industry (which is a great place to work if, like me, you enjoy travelling) and many more have been spent working in motorsport – one of my main passions.
Along with other ventures, I owned and operated a motorsport company while in Malaysia. I tried “early” retirement when I was about seventy, but didn’t like that; so now I part-own and operate CMY Media. We offer drone pilot training, plus aerial video and photography services – Covid-permitting.
My current home is Khanom, a small-ish and pleasantly quiet beachside town in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province.
Many people have seen pictures of Koh Panyee – the island with the floating buildings and soccer pitch, but this is its smaller cousin Koh Raet, on the opposite side of the country. It’s very close to the ferry terminals that serve Koh Samui and other islands. Small, friendly, easy to walk around, and you don’t even need to get a boat.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
It’s so tough to pick just one. So I won’t! My favorite town or city is probably Songkhla. It offers culture, great restaurants and bars, beaches and sea views, plus islands, lakes and mountains. A little of everything.
My favorite beach area is right here in and around Khanom. The beaches stretch from Laem Pratthap just to the north of me, right down to the Malaysian border. That’s more than 400 kilometers.
For spectacular scenery, just about anywhere in the northern mountains of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai Provinces. The town of Pai is a good base for exploring. One of my favorite drives is from Chiang Mai, through Pai to Mae Hong Son town. It takes several hours and offers no fewer than 1864 bends, mostly of the hairpin variety. Bliss.
For sea and island views it’s hard to beat the Andaman Sea. There are so many islands. Pick any one.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
Thailand is such a large and diverse country I feel like my explorations have only just begun. I’ve seen a few parts of Isaan in the northeast, but so much is still unvisited. I want to spend more time in the Kanchanaburi area, as I’m sure I’ve missed important parts.
Some of the south, like Satun Province and the lower part of Yala Province, are still on my list.
And, although I’ve spent many unhappy hours sitting in Bangkok‘s traffic jams trying to go from somewhere to somewhere else, or get to or from an airport, I’ve never explored the city.
If you come at the right time of the year the ground is the vivid lime green color of new rice shoots. Here, there is only the brown stubble waiting to be burned. These fields are just outside the village of Pai in the northern province of Mae Hong Son. The bridge that traverses it is made of bamboo. For some reason it’s called the Pai Bamboo Bridge!
Nestled in the valley below the Thale Mok Viewpoint in Nakhon Si Thammarat province is Wat Phu Khao Lek. The white temple always looks resplendent against the green backdrop of the mountains.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
Oops, I think might have covered this in my rambling answer to question one. But wait, there’s more…
Not to be missed is Wat Chantaram, also known as Wat Tha Sung, but better known as The Glass Temple. It’s between the towns of Chai Natand Uthai Thani, north of Bangkok. Not places you might think of visiting. The all-glass interior with golden Buddha is beyond spectacular.
The interior of Krabi and Phang Nga Provinces also have spectacular wats, or temples, like Wat Maha That Wachiramongkol. If you can’t get your tongue around that, it’s also known as Wat Bang Thong. Then there’s Wat Rat Uppatham a.k.a. Wat Bang Riang which has so many religious buildings it’s about 2.5kms from end to end.
Where do you like to eat?
I’d fear a visit from the Mafia (kidding) if I didn’t say my favorite restaurant is my good friend Chef Umberto’s Ciao Bella Restaurant Pizzeria on Koh Yao Noi. I used to live on the island, and am still a frequent visitor, so I know pretty-much everything Umberto cooks. Highly recommended. And when he’s not preparing or cooking food we debate all the new developments in motorsport, solve the climate crisis and agree ways to assure world peace. Well, we think we do.
Closer to home, I always enjoy a visit to Sichon Seafood. Aside from the excellent dishes, there’s non-stop “entertainment” from the adjacent river, as the fishing boats rumble by, load and unload, day and night.
This in-the-middle-of-nowhere temple is Wat Bang Rong. That’s its simple name. There’s a few signs now, but when I first spotted the place about five years ago, all I could see from highway 415 in Krabi province was the top of the tower, and it took me a good thirty minutes to locate the entrance. At that time it was very much under construction, but it was obvious it would turn into something special. I wandered through the construction debris and cement dust, marvelling at the height of the tower and looking at the bare statues. Now, everything is gold and brightly colored, especially the interior which mind-boggling beautiful.
Rather surprisingly; there’s no tourist information available in any language. So you go, take photos, feel amazed, and leave. After some research I can tell you it’s actually a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple in Gaya district of the Indian state of Bihar. It’s the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. So now you are enlightened too!
The incredible interior of Wat Bang Rong in the Khlong Khuean District not far from Krabi.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
It may sound conceited but the coffee I enjoy the most is the one I make at about 6:30 every morning. Not surprisingly, I know just how I like it. I normally load up the machine with Thailand’s Boncafe Espresso.
In general though, you can’t beat the many coffee bars in Songkhla’s old town. Most have lakeside patios, so you can enjoy a cappuccino with a view.
But for one specific place, I often have lunch at Rim Kuean Wang Pla Ngae in Phromkhiri which is a riverside restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. They think I go for the food, which is excellent, but really I go for the after-lunch espresso. It’s called Fresh Espresso and is made from locally grown beans. Sweet & strong.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Well, I may get my visa cancelled if I confess I’m not a great fan of Thai food. If I can find a Massaman Curry or Penang Curry on the menu, that’s what I’ll choose. It’s as close as you can get to a Malaysian Kari Ayam. And in the Southern Provinces its common to find Malaysian-style Roti Canai and Kopi-o on the menu for breakfast.
For sure there are Thai dishes I like. A good Pad Thai is hard to beat. And I’ll often choose Moo Yang, known as crispy pork.
I noticed the top of this Buddha statue poking out of the tops of the trees on a recent trip to Chumphon province. I stopped, reversed, and parked in a field. To see more I had a choice of walking up several hundred steps, or sending up a drone to investigate. Easy choice really. It’s Wat Khao Chedi in Wisai Nuea, right next to highway 41.
Closer to home: About three years ago construction started on a new road from here in Khanom, down to a place called Khao Plai Dam. It involved some serious blasting into the hillside to create something flat enough for a road surface. I thought they were mad. How wrong could I be? It’s become a major tourist attraction. Someone should name it the Khanom Corniche.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
I really enjoyed a short stay at the Dheva Mantra Resort in Kanchanaburi. It’s on the Khwae Yai River – the one with the so-called Bridge Over The River Kwai – and has some eerie views in the early morning mists. If you’re in the town, it would be a good hotel to pick as a base – assuming it’s in your budget. For sure, it wasn’t in mine. A client paid!
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
So often I see busloads of tourists visit what they think is the main attraction, and ignore everything in the surrounding area. They miss so much. The above-mentioned Glass Temple is a good example. There are other temples in the large complex that are almost as spectacular. There’s a river that runs behind which has great views. No one goes there.
Stop in the small villages. Stick your nose into the tiny shops. Make a point of going inside temples – often, even in the middle of nowhere, you’ll find beautiful and ancient murals depicting the life of the Buddha.
Make full use of Google Maps by zooming in until you find yourself asking “What’s that?” and then going there to find out.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
Thai people are so nice and friendly that they always take an interest in what you’re doing. So a common question is “Bpai nai?” or “Where are you going?” Now, if I’m honest, they don’t really care where you’re going, so you don’t have to prepare a detailed answer. “Bpai baan” – “I’m going home,” “Bpai suu kong” – “I’m going to buy something,” or “Gin khao” – “Eat food/rice” will suffice. And it doesn’t even need to be truthful, just friendly. (Note: spelling of Thai words in English is always approximate. Your spelling may vary.)
I’ve been watching the construction of Wat Mahathat Laem Sak for at least five years. It gets more attractive each time I visit. In this drone photo, I figure it’s now 99% complete. Sticking out into the Andaman Sea, there are amazing views from the temple in almost all directions.
Central Mosque of Songkhla. This must be the most beautiful mosque in Thailand. Looking somewhat like the Taj Mahal, it can be found roughly halfway between the cities of Hat Yai and Songkhla.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
Camera: Canon 450D DSLR with a choice of lenses.
Drones: DJI Mavic Air 2. DJI Mavic Mini. Fimi Mi 4K.
And I often use the camera in my iPad, because as the saying goes – the best camera you own, is the one you have with you!
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
I honestly wouldn’t have a clue. Do you follow Thailand Magazine on Instagram?