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IN THE PICTURE #78: MAJA
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.
We love Maja’s photos because they exude a certain kind of freedom! Normally we rarely ask photographers who post many photos of themselves, but in this case we knew this free-spirited lady would send us photos of beautiful Thailand. See below the result – Thanks Maja – Nice to have you along!
Hello Maja, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Maja, and I live in the biggest southern town in Thailand, Hat Yai. Hat Yai, and Thailand in general, has been my home for over 5 years now. Originally, I come from a small European country Bosnia-Herzegovina. I love to think that I am the only Bosnian in Thailand.
I am a paralegal by vocation, but I decided to come to Thailand and look for some other opportunities. I fell in love with the country, started working as a teacher, and gladly stayed.
I love photography, but something that really gets me going is looking for that perfect angle, composition, and light. I spend weekends on my scooter chasing sunsets, secluded villages, curvy roads, and in general, breathing in every little detail that makes this place special.
I have been traveling across Thailand on multiple occasions, but the photos I wanted to share with you are specifically from Songkhla Province, in southern Thailand. This place is far from the touristy attractions that Thailand usually offers and all of these pictures are taken during the lockdown period in 2021. I would love to share my perspective on Songkhla and to provide you with a little peek into less-seen Thailand.
Many thanks to Ilonka & Riel for reaching out and fingers crossed you guys enjoy seeing things through my lens.
The very best from Songkhla, Thailand
– Maja –
Songkhla, Januari 2021
This has to be the first one because it shows my passionate craving for roads, these natural tree tunnels which you can find everywhere you go in Songkhla, and freedom. That’s all you need, a small scooter, a little bit of gas, and a bottle of water. I have been spending hours riding it around and discovering new little corners of southern Thailand.
Songkhla, July 2021
What would Thailand be without its people? And smiles? I was on my usual Sunday ride, and while stopping at this location to take pictures of rice fields and water buffalos, I have spotted this man playing with his bird. Thais believe that they will enjoy a long life in their next life if they release birds or fish due to their belief in karma. What normally happens is that after the bird flies away, taking your bad luck with it I guess, it takes a little tour around the area of its brief liberation before returning once again to its small cage. This man is having his good day because his bird has returned (or it’s bad karma?). His smile says thousands of words.
What is your favorite destination in Thailand?
There are plenty of places in Thailand I truly love and always go back to, but if I have to name one it would be Krabi province. I say province because that allows me to include inland beauty and the most spectacular islands and beaches. Krabi is a small, on occasion neglected Thai province, far less expensive than Phuket, with plenty of little surprises. From the most beautiful sunsets at the beach, rock climbing, camping, glamping, emerald pools, dense jungles, impressive limestone hills on the horizon to cute night markets, funky coffee shops, pubs, and accommodation. Krabi has it all.
Which place / destination in Thailand is still on your wish list to visit?
Although I have been living here for the past five years there are still places I would like to visit. Most of those are up north. First on the list would be the first Thai capital, an old Sukhothai town with well-preserved Buddha statues and old school Buddhist temples and pagodas. There is also a gorgeous place far up north, close to the Laos border where you can experience staying in the hotel, overlooking the river and elephants in their natural habitat, surrounded by jungle. Perfect Indiana Jones vibes.
Ton Pliw waterfall, Songkhla, May 2021
What would it the jungle be without a proper waterfall? This one is one of three close to Hat Yai town. I was pretty surprised that only local families knew about this place. When I say local, I mean nearby village local. Those people have probably never seen a foreigner and they run to take pictures with me while I was trying to admire this water miracle. Ton Pliw is well hidden in the jungle and not easily approachable. Hiking boots are recommended.
สระมรกต ตำบลบางกล่ำ อำเภอบางกล่ำ จังหวัดสงขลา, Songkhla, October 2021
This is a true hidden gem and a completely accidental discovery. If you are looking for a lake on your google map you won’t find it. I have seen it among my students’ pictures and asked for location. Got lost, and almost gave up when I run onto it. And I haven’t been disappointed. This is my go-to place now. Crystal clear turquoise water, plenty of shade from nearby trees, and a couple of benches to rest make it completely private and peaceful. I would recommend going in the morning if you want to make the most out of the perfect lighting.
Which place / destination do you recommend our readers to visit and why?
I am always highly recommending visiting southern Thai provinces: Songkhla, Phatthalung, Trang, Satun, Yala. These places are for people who are looking for Thailand from the postcards. Rainforests, jungles, amazing scenery where you can rent boats and explore mangrove forests, limestone labyrinths, and caves, stay in luxurious campsites, admire proper tropical national parks, and finish your day at the beach, sipping cocktails with peaceful sunsets. These are, also, places off the beaten path, which tourists pass through on their way to Malaysia. Everything would cost you less, and you will truly experience traditional, local vibes.
Where do you like to eat?
My favorite restaurant has to be the lovely Sunset Café situated on the small fisherman island Koh Yo, in Songkhla. I miss good western food because southern Thai provinces are not as open to other cuisines as other parts of Thailand. Sunset Cafe offers various pasta dishes, pizzas, with complementary Thai fish meals. With local beers you can fully relax while watching fishermen collecting their fishing nets, embarking, and coming back with their daily catches in Songkhla lake.
Padang Besar Subdistrict, Augustus 2021
I guess I was testing my scooter when I took it for a five-hour drive this day. But it was worth it. This is a Chinese temple called Wat Tham Khao Rup Chang, a Buddhist temple and a cave with Kuan Yin Statue and many deities in it. Looking like some alien secret location it is a mixture of Indian, Chinese, and Thai styles in its various compositional elements. A gorgeous and powerful temple will leave you speechless.
Hat Yai, September 2021
When it comes to Thai temples I just can’t skip mentioning my favorite one, Wat Hat Yai Nai. The temple is especially large and has a Thai architectural style. Devoted to the world’s third-largest reclining Buddha, 35 meters long. The whole complex looks spectacular and I was specifically lucky to take this shot during the sunset. I love how peaceful and quiet this place is when we take into consideration it’s located in the town center.
Tip us a nice coffee shop or bar where our readers can drop by.
I have a list of beautiful, scenic cafes with quite decent coffee quality. Some of them that are situated in Hat Yai are Rustic Cafe, TW Cafe, The Section Cafe, HUM… There are places that resemble airplanes where you can still get your perfect morning caffeine cup as Healthylicious Cafe, or a little bus converted to a coffee shop. Thai people down south enjoy themed coffee spots and you can find an abundance of them in the area.
What is your favorite Thai dish?
Thai food is on a different level when you are directed to locals. My number one Thai dish is definitely Larb Moo. This dish is made with minced raw pork or beef, raw blood, kidney, fat, and bile, and mixed with spices, crispy fried onions, fresh herbs, and other ingredients. Larb and its other variations are served with an assortment of fresh vegetables and herbs and eaten with glutinous rice. There’s something in that Larb spice that I can’t put into words. It’s a must-try if you haven’t already.
Songkhla, December 2020
We can’t wrap up the story about Songkhla if we don’t mention this beauty. Central Songkhla Mosque proudly represents the coexistence and unity of Songkhla people. Thailand is a Buddhist country, but what many people forget is that Muslim Thais live down south for centuries now. This imposing building sits halfway along the main highway connecting Hat Yai and Songkhla city and makes my go-to sunset spot daily. It gathers around all photographers in the area, people who come to do a little jog or romantic couples to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Thai Mahal as the locals call it.
Songkhla, August 2021
During 2021. lockdown my friends and I couldn’t leave the province we live in. Songkhla is an amazing place, but it can’t compare with other provinces when it comes to the beaches. We were lucky to find the only open in the area at the time, with decent beach access. I took this picture on the last day of our stay, and it is nothing but the local boat full of fishing gear, ready to set sail. At least when that storm settles down.
What is your favorite accommodation in Thailand?
The best hotel I stayed at is Sripakpra Boutique Resort in Phatthalung. My room overlooked the Thale Noi, a lake well famous for water buffalos, birdwatching, and gorgeous waterlilies (during February). If you want to experience wild, less-seen, tropical Thai in-land, this must be your place. In general, this province has to offer incredible little nature gems, secret locations, caves, lakes, and local, but truly self-sustainable Thai street markets where you can buy handicrafts and products from the south.
Do you have a (travel) tip that might come in handy in Thailand?
I am always joking when I am trying to explain to friends what they need if they are coming to Thailand. Patience and thick nerves. That’s all you might need. Thai people seem too relaxed, not punctual, and very bad drivers. Come with a smile and never take anything too personal. Thailand is an amazing country only if you are willing to understand that you can get a lot with a smile. Travel light, and open your mind to whatever this impressionable country has to offer.
Is there a Thai phrase or word our readers need to learn?
If there is anything you should know in the Thai language it’s all the words for nice, beautiful, cute, lovely… The words Thai people love to hear the most. To avoid the common word for beautiful I would just say น่ารัก (Ǹā rạk) which means “cute”. The situation, person, or the scene in general.
Koh Yo, Songkhla, January 2020
After a long day at the beach, I have decided to ride uphill and check out the northern side of this fishermen’s island. Koh Yo is a small island situated on Songkhla Lake. The vast majority of locals are pulling fishing nets along the coast, and during the sunset, those views can not even be put into words. Little local gem is a huge museum on the hilltop, dedicated to local folklore from which entrance this picture was taken.
Hat Yai, November 2021
This one is quite personal. From now on, whenever people ask me what is the weather like in Thailand I will send this one. Tropical. As simple as that. I love how I managed to capture the massive storm coming in, and at the same time calm clear skies on the other side of this tropical spectrum, as it can be seen in the window reflection. This moody, powerful, and beautiful sky is something I am lucky to enjoy every single day. And I am grateful for it.
What type / brand of camera do you use?
I use a Xiaomi Note 10 phone with an installed Google Camera for clearer night shots.
Where can our readers find your work / photos?
If you would like to know more about Thailand south, local places in Songkhla, or you need any other advice regarding Thailand, you can contact me on Instagram. My profile is: majaradujko17, or Facebook: Maja Radujko.
Last question, who should we also ask our ‘In the Picture’ feature?
I would highly recommend my good friend and amazing young photographer, Jovana. She is based in Thailand, and her perspective on Thai street life might be inspirational to everyone who likes Thailand. Her Instagram account is: yophotoo.