Got up at 6am in a vain effort to get to a temple for opening time (for people-less photos), with only two hours sleep. I’ve had better mornings! First one of my little combo padlocks on my bag won’t open. After messing with that for half an hour, half asleep and hung over, I gave up. Then wandered around like a zombie with all my bags looking for a cheaper guest house. You can find everything from a western-style hotel to the converted upstairs of someone’s house with padlocks on the doors. I soon got tired of hauling my gear one-armed to find an ideal place and settled for a really basic hotel closer to Khaosan Road.
By the time I walked to Wat Pho (the temple) it was 9am and the crowds had descended. The streets were rammed with tour buses and massive groups of tourists and school kids in uniform. Mark said in the past few years the tourism from China has exploded and now the Golden Palace and other big sights are swamped. It’s mental, I was still walking past parked coaches half an hour down the road. I stopped at a park and tried to use my big zoom lens to photograph someone flying a kite… only to find it wouldn’t focus properly or take a photo. It’s my largest lens and worth 300 quid so I was annoyed it had died on day 2! Thankfully now it’s alright. Mark explained the temperature change from an air-con room to the humidity outside can cause fogging inside lenses, so I tried it again last night and sure enough it’s fine now! Phew! You’re supposed to keep them in zip bags or wrapped in clothing. Lesson learned!
With my temple chances ruined I wandered down towards China Town. I soon reached the river docks there. It’s a beehive of activity with guys running around with massive baskets on trolleys full of smashed ice, fruit and vegetables. There’s people sat around sorting through massive heaps of chillies and chopping other vegetables and fruit to sell. I found a big warehouse market where they sell flowers for the shrines and temples, very colourful.
I felt like a complete outsider behind the scenes, I was the only westerner around and it was exciting to explore – though I felt completely out of place and a bit apprehensive about taking out my camera. Although the scenes were fascinating to me I struggled with photos because most of the points of interest are manned stalls or people at work.
Photographing strangers when travelling is something I’ve never really had to do before and I felt really uncomfortable with it. A lot of them are working on things to sell and to me it seemed quite rude to want to take a photo of them hard at work for my own benefit. The westerner guilt complex also kicks in, I feel bad that these people are slaving away and me with my riches is peering through the lens at them. In these tight alleyways you are inches away from the people too which makes it worse. I’ve read tips before about how to tackle photographing strangers in travel, and in the UK I’ve tried it a bit, but here I found it much more of a problem. It’s something going to have to force myself to try, and get over that barrier. Mark says most Thai people will be quite happy to get their photo taken which is good to know.
Through my exploring I found myself at a pier, so I caught the river ferry. The signs and timetable at the pier were colour coded and there were a few English words so I could figure it out. And as I’m quickly learning, if you’re not sure about something just watch what the locals are doing and follow their lead! I love boat travel so the ferry was great. It was rammed full of a mixture of Thais and tourists, from rich Chinese slinging expensive cameras to scraggy western students.
I spent the rest of the afternoon trudging up and down the shopping streets of Khao San Road and Rambutti Street. They’re lined with stalls and shops selling cheap clothes and travelling gear, aimed at beach party lovers and young backpackers. I bought clothes I needed (my haggling needs work!). Hot, bothered and in pain at this point I chilled out during the afternoon rain at a massage shop. Lying on a soft recliner on the street, I got a Thai foot massage and watched the world go by as my troubles faded away for the moment.
I met Mark and his friend Danny in the evening for drinks. We stuck to Khaosan Road bars which was pumping because it was Saturday night. Great vibe. Mark warned me about stray dogs when you’re walking home, they go around in packs and sometimes attack people. It’s fine, I’ll just shoulder barge them to death. Got back around 3am and passed out whilst trying to drunkenly organise the days’ photos!