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IN THE PICTURE #57: JEFF STOLTZFUS
In this feature called ‘In the Picture‘ we ask great photographers from all over the world to share their 10 most favorite Thailand photos with our readers. See Thailand through the lens of the photographer, read the background stories and learn more about the land of smiles.
In this edition of In the Picture, we present twelve photos by Jeff! Often we look for good photographers on Instagram but in this case we found the beautiful images of Jeff on Flickr. We didn’t hesitate for a second and asked him if he would like to participate in our project where we show Thailand through the lens of a good photographer. Nice that you also participate Jeff, we enjoyed your pure pictures! Thanks!
Hello Jeff! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello Dear Thailand Magazine Readers,
My name is Jeff Stoltzfus. I was born and raised in the “Pennsylvania Dutch Country”. I first came to Thailand in 1973 and was immediately mesmerized by its sights, sounds, smells and people. I later met a wonderful Thai lady and we married in 1977.
After raising a family and our careers in the USA we retired and moved back to Thailand in February 2020. We lived in Chiang Mai for one year and have since moved to Prachuap Khiri Khan.
I always took “snapshots” when traveling around the world, but they were just that. Snapshots. My youngest son (who is a fantastic photographer) inspired me to make my images something a viewer would really enjoy looking at. We often went out together to improve our photography skills and to simply have fun.
A lot has changed in Thailand in these almost fifty years. Some of the most important things have not and that is the exotic beauty of the country and the gracious friendliness of its people. It was so hard to pick “just” ten to twelve photos, but I appreciate being offered to do so and hope that you enjoy.
Best wishes to you!
Bangkok – Wat Benchamabophit
Bangkok is loaded with many famous Buddhist temples. One of them is Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the “Marble Temple”. Constructed at the turn of the 20th Century the marble pillars and walls combined with its stepped out roofs, ornate gables and elegant finials are simply and fabulously beautiful !!!
Seated Buddha at Wat Mahathat / Sukhothai Historical Park
Sukhothai was the first Thai Kingdom and flourished between the 13th and 15th Centuries. It’s ruins and the grounds are well kept and spectacular! Located in the North/Central Plains, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I love history and spent a full three days wondering the grounds. Bicycle rentals are easily available, cheap and recommended because of the large area of the park.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
My favorite destination in Thailand is Chiang Mai. It is known as the “Rose of the North” and is a vibrant city surrounded by the tall, beautiful mountains of the northwest with its various hill tribe peoples. Also, it is the best area of the country for wildlife and bird photography which is one of my top pursuits.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
Most definitely Phuket / Krabi and the nearby islands in the Andaman Sea. It’s hard to believe, but in all of the years that we have been coming to Thailand we never made it there. On our last vacation in 2018 we went to Koh Phayam which is an island also in the Andaman Sea near Ranong and is a few hours north of Phuket. The beauty and tranquility of this alluring tropical island cannot be understated and just made me hungry for more. Phuket is about a six hour drive from where we live now and hopefully when things have settled down because of the worldwide pandemic we will be able to strike it from the wish list!
Happy old chap in Old City Sukhothai near the Historical Park
As a general rule I usually ask people permission to take a photograph. It is not always possible of course and sometimes they say no, but it’s always with a smile. This happy gentleman was taking some recyclables to cash in and was happy to oblige.
Khao Sam Roi Yot Nationaal Park / Prachuap Khiri Khan
I left home with my Thai friend and neighbor early one morning and drove to this beautiful national park. We hiked 30 minutes to the top of Khao Daeng Viewpoint to catch the morning light and mist over the mountains of Sam Roi Yot which means “mountain with 300 peaks”.
Ao Prachuap (Prachuap Bay)
I currently live in the city of Prachuap Khiri Khan. It is known locally as “the city with three bays”. It’s only a ten minute drive to the beaches and I love to get up early to take sunrise pictures. The fishing boats make great subjects as well.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
Another tough question that I cannot limit to one place. Many travelers arrive in Bangkok when they come to Thailand. You cannot miss a stay in this city. Yes it is notorious for traffic jams, throngs of people and noise, but it is a must see. The temples are famous, large and simply beautiful. Rent a long tail boat and tour some of the canals. Go to a Muay Thai boxing match, Thai theater or a classical dance show. There are many museums including the National Museum, Erawan Museum, Jim Thompson House or Muang Boran (Ancient City). Visit Chatuchak Market, the worlds largest open air market for some beautiful souvenirs and Thai crafts. If you like shopping there are many world class shopping malls throughout the city. Simply ride the BTS elevated mass transit railway from one end to the other (which is also the best way to avoid traffic jams!). Not my thing but Bangkok is also notorious for its bar scene. I could never live in a large city like Bangkok because I prefer peace and quiet, but I never pass up a chance to visit there.
If you like history or historical places I would recommend the ancient Thai cities of the Ayutthaya or Sukhothai Kingdoms. Ayutthaya is closer to Bangkok if your stay in Thailand is limited.
If you like the mountains and wildlife than Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai Provinces are the best and also gives you an opportunity to see the hill tribe peoples of the north. It is easy to use Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai as a hub and taking some time to visit the city of Chiang Mai is also a must.
If the beach is your favorite I would recommend Koh Phayam near Ranong. Harder to get to than Phuket or Krabi, but off the beaten path and much less touristy and more peaceful than say Hua Hin or Pattaya. I have not been to Phuket, but it is a famous destination that I’m sure most people have seen or heard about.
Where do you like to eat?
My favorite food is street food and it can be found everywhere you go in the country, although Bangkok has started banning it in many areas. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner it is readily available. Here in Prachuap I particularly like the Isan food stall. They serve grilled chicken with sticky rice and papaya salad.
Loy Krathong / Chiang Mai
Loy Krathong is a very popular Buddhist holiday. The date changes every year just like Easter, but is usually in November. Many festivities are held throughout the country at this time.
Wat Phra Singh / Chiang Mai
Wat Phra Singh is a gorgeous Lanna temple inside the Chiang Mai Old City walls. Chiang Mai (which means “New City”) was founded in the 13th Century and is loaded with many beautiful temples.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
That’s easy and although this sounds like a sales pitch I would say “Nice Coffee” in Chom Thong. Chom Thong is one hour south of Chiang Mai and the shop is located just off the main road that goes to Doi Inthanon National Park. It’s also listed on Google Maps if you have the App. The proprietor is my nephew. He learned his craft from a master coffee maker in Ranong for three years before moving to Chom Thong. He buys all of his coffee beans from Karen hill tribe villagers that are grown in the mountains nearby. He roasts and grinds his own beans and has a fantastic coffee menu.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Thai dishes are amazing because many of them combine sweet, sour, salt and spice. I always order any dish light on peppers. Thai chilies are very hot and can be very overpowering. My favorite is larb gai (chicken salad). It is made with minced chicken, onions, cilantro, mint, lemon juice and salt or fish sauce and chili pepper. It is served with or without rice and with fresh lettuce, cucumbers, and string beans.
Lady in the field / Chiang Mai Province
I was out taking bird pictures one day when I came across this lady in the rice paddies. I just could not pass up the opportunity to capture her wearing this large brimmed hat.
A Karen hill tribe bedroom / Chiang Mai Province
The bed mats are pushed away and mosquito nets hung up to start a new day. What is very evident to me in the last 50 years is the great improvements in the Thai economy and general welfare of its people. Poverty still exists, but it’s not the Third World country from when I first came in 1973. This village even has internet service!
Karen lady coming to work / Chiang Mai Province
Yet another opportunity for a portrait while taking wildlife pictures to capture this Karen hill tribe lady as she arrives in the fields with her hoe.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
We have stayed at many resorts and hotels around the country over the years and to tell the truth I can’t remember any of their names! Prices range from very cheap to extremely expensive. With hotels we usually try to find something in the middle price range for 700 – 1500 baht and are usually clean with good service and accommodations.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
Do your homework before you come. Of course plans are made to be broken, but try to figure out a good itinerary and don’t try to squeeze too much into it. Take your time to find the best accommodations that suit your needs as well. Insect repellant is readily available and a must. Sunscreen can be harder to find so make sure you bring it along.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
How about the word “sanook” which is Thai for “fun”. Thai people like sanook! A good phrase is “mai pen rai” (R pronounced like L). That could mean “it is nothing” or “never mind”. It can also be used to say “you’re welcome”. Another expression often used is “sabaidee” which would mean that you are well or comfortable when asked how you are doing.
Wat Khao Chong Krachok / Prachuap Khiri Khan
There are many beautiful hilltop temples in Thailand including this one. The tropical skies here are amazing too and make a great backdrop!
Dusky Leaf Monkey with an infant
The wildlife in Thailand is amazing and I equally divide my time between capturing the beauty of the people / places and capturing its diverse wildlife. Unfortunately, many wildlife species are threatened or endangered here including these Dusky langurs.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
For taking pictures of people, places and things I have the Fujifilm X-T2 with four different prime and zoom lenses. For wildlife (and sometimes people) I use the Nikon D500 with a Nikkor 200-500mm lens.
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
See my images on Flickr.
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
How about two? Grant Cameron and Frederic Gloor. Both are based in Thailand, have extensively traveled here and take phenomenal pictures.