Author: K. Meng Tay
Most of us, at some point, will have a chance to travel overseas, either simply for leisure or for photography-oriented trips. If it’s the latter, you are often faced with a myriad of choices and questions. Your natural instinct tells you to take pictures of those that you’ve seen in hundreds of travel magazines before: Eiffel Tower in Paris, Great Wall in China, Coliseum in Rome, etc. Sure, you want to show your family and friends that you were there but what would make a more interesting photography trip is to shoot scenes that will link your moment in time in that foreign country with those pictures.
First order of business is decide how much sightseeing you want to do and how much of that you want to capture in pictures. In a bustling and fast-pace city like Bangkok, you better be ready to shoot or you will miss your shot.
The second decision to make is what type of pictures do you want to focus on. Not many opportunities for landscape photography here unless you go to the outskirts of the city. Portraits are good. With people from all over the world visiting Bangkok, you are bound to see some very interesting faces. The Thais, in their many walks of life, is a kaleidoscope of colors. Buddhist monks in their saffron robes, street vendors cooking steaming food, shoppers at the open-air market, and schoolchildren in their school uniforms.
My favorite is taking pictures of food and fruits. The tropical fruits in Thailand are tasty and colorful durians, mangosteens, pomegranates, mangos, jackfruits, etc. Similarly, anything goes in terms of variety and taste of food. There is almost no regulation here so anything that sells is on the market. Fried scorpions and grasshoppers are available if you dare to try it.
Shooting temples is another popular option. In this very devout Buddhist society temples are everywhere. They range from super-big temples to store-front altars. Statues of Buddhas come in many shapes and sizes and different posses. Some may require a wide-angle lens to capture the entire image. Smoke from burning incense sticks give an interesting effect to the pictures.
The first picture below shows just a plain busy street with neon signs. But, look closer and you will see three languages on the neon signs: Thai, English and Chinese. This was taken in Chinatown, where a sizable Chinese population here drives commerce in the country. This popular area is where many locals and tourists come for the best seafood in Bangkok, as evidenced by the many roadside food vendors lining the street.
If you want to try pomegranate juice, you may have a hard time finding a bottle of POM here. Better yet, street vendors will oblige you by squeezing a fresh glass of juice from an exotic looking pomegranate below. An opportunity to practice your macro photography.
If you come into contact with this fruit, you will never forget its smell. It is so pungent that many hotels, planes, trains, buildings, will not allow you to bring a durian inside. However, the locals love them and in some countries, they nickname it “the king of fruits.”
What makes the following picture memorable? This woman is selling hats on a boat. Her pose and variety of hats that she sells reminds me of where I shot this picture – the Floating Market.
No visit to Bangkok is complete without pictures of the many temples and statues of Buddhas. One must respect the local religious custom when shooting around and inside temples. Never climb on top of a Buddha to pose for pictures.
K. Meng Tay is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.