NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 4 – SUKHOTHAI

We had decided to fly from Bangkok to Sukhothai, that was half a good idea as the plane was mid afternoon and staying at the airport we missed nearly a full day of holidays.

Despite its name being quite well known, Sukhothai is actually a very small city. The center is mostly made of hotels and restaurants for tourists visiting the main attraction; the Historical Park.

The Sukhothai historical park is a vast compound of ruined temples just outside the city centre. This is a very large area, better be visited by bicycle as some temples are quite remote. You can easily spend a half day in there. We went for the walking option, but we missed a couple of nice spots.

This man is picking what seems to be algae from the moat surrounding the main temple.

You can find there dozens of temples, shrines and shedis (pagodas), in various states of conservation. You can take hundreds of pictures of Buddha statues in various positions and state of decay.

There are also some nice pieces of water, used for the Kratong festival, which unfortunately would happen a few weeks after our visit.

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 4 – SUKHOTHAI

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

The first place we wanted to visit was Ayutthaya an ancient capital, which also happen to be   a very busy industrial city, 90 KM north of Bangkok. We decided to sleep close the the airport (at the Novotel, so actually in the airport), and hire a driver and a guide for the day.

Ayutthaya has many interest, but mostly the Royal Palace and many temples. I have not posted any pictures of the Royal Palace, but actually it is not uninteresting. The vast compound is still supposed to be used today by the Royal Family. Constructions are of varying styles, and if your guide is knowledgeable and chatty as ours this makes for a nice visit.

Now more interesting are the temples; as in many big Thai city there are dozens of them; but due to time constraints we only visited 4; each very different.

After the visit of the Royal Palace, we headed to Wat Phanan Choeng. This is a big temple, famous for its (very) large, statue of sitting Buddha. This is a very busy temple specially on week ends; I am not sure if it is permanent but the day we visited the temple devotees were offering new orange robes for the Buddha. A extraordinary occasion to experience the devotion of Thai people.

Next we headed for lunch but nothing worth mentioning.

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 2 – WAT PHANAN CHOENG – AYUTTHAYA

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Lao Sai Tao Yuan; is said to be the oldest troupe in Singapore performing Teochew  opera or Wayang.

These shows are generally performed for the 7th month or during Chinese thanks giving during the mid autumn festival.

They are particularly friendly and you can go backstage to take pictures while they dress-up and do the make up.

All shots with Nikon D700 and Nikkor 85mm F1.8.

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Moai Galore – Easter island – May 2015

Rano Raraku – Moai quarry

We had the chance to pay a second visit to the quarry where the Moais were carved on a sunny afternoon. The statues were there waiting for us.

The guy above was called “The tattooed Moai” by our guide. He wears a carving of what looks like the westerner boats that came to the island in the 17th century. Was it carved by locals or by un-respectful traveler, that’s another mystery.

Apart from its iconic statues Rano Raraku also offers a fantastic scenery with a view on the ocean and further left the platform with the 11 Moais.

Also the site is beautiful view from a distance.

Camera:Nikon D700
Lens:Nikkor 50mmf1.8 / Nikkor 17-35F2.8 / Nikkor 80-200F2.8D

Most of thee shots make use of circular polarizer, I hope the effect is not too heavy.

Moai Galore – Easter island – May 2015

Calcutta – The potters colony

The first stop of our fourth trip to India was Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is called now.

At first I was very excited to go to India at the period of Diwali the festival of lights, but it turned out that is is more a private event celebrated at home than something you can experience in the street. True, the cities were all lighted-up and people were busy shopping for lights and decorations for their homes. Actually, that week was just after the Durga puja which is a popular celebration in West Bengal, but also the week of Kali Puja which is another big celebration in the area. And particularly in Calcutta.

If we were first struck on the night of our arrival by the number of people sleeping in the street, we were also very surprised to see number of bamboo structures being erected across the city. This, were we told, was for the construction of temporary temples for the upcoming Kali puja.

The next day one of the highlights of our tour was the “potters colony” or Kumartuli. I did not do much research before and was afraid to be inflicted one of the pseudo artisanal attractions you see from time to time. It turned out that the potters colony is the place where these craftsmen are building statues of deities (or idols as our guide reffer to them) for the various celebrations of the hindu year. That week all the colony was busy making statues of Kali for the upcoming festival.


The highly decorated statues present Kali, with a necklace of severed demons heads that she defeated but also stepping on her husband Shiva, she generally has her tongue sticking out. The explanation we were given can also be found on wikipedia:

Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and bit her tongue in shame.

It is difficult to imagine that so many statues will found someone to buy them; but they actually do. Strolling through the colony you can see statues of various shapes, colors and sizes; but all describing the same scene. You will see idols at various stages of their completion, from gross straw shapes, to fully finished ones. Most of the statues will have their head covered if they are not finished. Artists are painting the fine details of eyes or decorations, some even using spray paint for shades.

All pictures with Nikon D700 + Nikkor 17-35F2.8D, I use a polarizing filter mostly all the on this lens.

Calcutta – The potters colony

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore

Fire walking is a South Indian festival honoring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.

This is the first time I can go to this ceremony. Total respect for the amount of faith, the sense of community and probably the amount of pain going on there.

The devotees arrive from Little India, a couple of km away in groups, some chanting, some with music, some singing and dancing.

They then arrive a few hundred meters from the Sri Maramiam temple and wait in a staging area.  All of this is very well organized; groups are allowed to pass from one area to the next by the organizers in order to organized the crowed. Some devotees told me they were expecting 5000 people.

I have seem this man many times in Thaipusam in the past years, seeing these people years after years in the viewfinder is one of the attractions I find in photographing these events.

I asked one of the Hindu man in the public how do the devotees group themselves; he told me they are friends and make a kind of team that make each of them stronger and helps them going through the ritual. Like a sport team he told me, doing this on your own would be much more difficult.

I did not really thought I could enter the temple, but as I was close to the entrance, one of the organizer asked me if I wanted get inside. I removed my shoes and they even gave me a plastic bag to carry them and I was moved inside the temple. Actually there is a special track for visitors and a different one for devotees.

The track goes along the fire pit, and although we are asked not to stay there too long I could witness two men doing the ritual.

This one above, was walking very casually (so to speak).

This one was more in running mode, you will notice the flower petals he through in the air before starting.

Walking out of the main temple area, people are waiting and resting and going through other stations, I must admit I am ignorant of what the whole pilgrimage consist of after the fire walking itself.

Outside people are resting.

The ground of the temple is covered in yellow power, probably not saffron more likely curcuma, clearly these feet have been walking through fire.

I saw a few times some ethnic Chinese Hindu in Singapore, here is one who was looking to be quite in pain,

I hope you enjoyed this post.

For my Hindu friends if you find a picture of yourself and you are not happy with that, let me know and I will remove it from this album, if you like them, let me know I’ll be enchanted. I am never sure if my schedule allowed but I would really enjoy meeting one of the groups and following you over an extended period of time to produce a photo-book of some sort.

Needless to say that these picture for my own interest in photography and the pleasure of sharing. They are a not for commercial use.

On a side note: I am a donkey sometime; when I pass at the temple on the afternoon I see this older gentleman of a photographer that I meet every year at Thaipusam. Not only did I not take his portrait but I did not ask for his contact. He carries a Nikon F5, if somebody knows him let me know.

Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikkor 85mm F1.8D, only the first one is done with the 17-35F2.8AFS

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore

39 Syed Alwi Road – Singapore

Shop houses 39 to 45 on Syed Alwi Road in jalan Besar Area in Singapore are undergoing a massive renovation.

waex99-2014-1-7
Camera::Hasselblad 500CM
Lens:Planar 80mmF2.8
Film::Kodak Portra 400ISO
 

The smallest hairdresser in town and the old bike repair shop are now gone and a boutique hotel will rise in the renovated building. A part of my Singaporean playground is going away it seems.

 

Wild Style
Wild Style

Camera::Leica IIIC
Lens:Jupiter 8 35mmF2.8
Film::Kodak Tri-x400
 

The old repair shop
The old repair shop

Camera::Nikon F
Lens::50mmF1.4AIS
Film::Kodak Tri-x400
 

The old repair shop
The old repair shop

Camera::Leica M4
Lens:Summilux 50mmF1.4
Film::Kodak Tri-x400
 

The trishaw
The trishaw

Camera::Nikon D700
Lens:Nikkor 85mmF1.8D

Image

Hoi An – The fishermen

Basket boats
Basket boats

During the Vietnam trip we stayed 3 days on the coast between Hoi An and Danang. We drove all the way from Hué, through the “cloud pass”, through Danand, and passed the Marble mountains to the hotel; all in all a 3 hours drive. On this part of the coast fishermen are using round basket boat; I saw a few or our drive but they were a bit far off or we did not have the possibility to stop to investigate and take some pictures. So I was a bit frustrated when getting to our resort; I’m not too much of the sea-side photographer and anyway the weather was not so good.

Walking along the beach, what was my surprise after getting out of the resort to see a group of these basket boast ashore; I had to ran back to the hotel get a camera and snap a few shots. The next morning I was back and so the next evening; in both occasions when I spotted the guys rowing back to the beach. They have me pay for my taking picture by asking me to help carry their boat out the water, which I found a very fair trade.

Shots on this page are made either with the 50mmF1.8D or with the Angenieux 70-210F3.5AI

Hoi An – The fishermen

Wayang (Chinese street opera) – Hong San See Temple – Singapore

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

The artists from this Chinese Street Opera (Wayang) troup preparing for the show at Hong San See Temple Mohamed Sultan road Singapore

You can read more on the Wayang .

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

Wayang (Chinese street opera) - Hong San See Temple  - Singapore

All shots done with :

Camera:Nikon D700
Lens:Nikkor 85mmF1.8D

Image

Almost as good as new – Singapore Kite Festival

A couple of weeks back, we had a lovely weather for the week-end and by complete chance this was the Singapore Kite Festival. NTUC, which is a kind of local “Union”, organized this day out on the Marina Bay, right in front of my office, and their own nice office building.

So a lot of people, kids running around, kites, sun, colors, but also acrobats, jugglers, and much more. A perfect opportunity for a photo walk, and by the number of cameras around I was not the only one to have the idea.

In my current line of thinking that nobody cares if I miss or succeed in an individual shot, let’s try to make things a bit more fun and bring along a manual lens. Namely the very nice, 70-210F3.5 Angenieux zoom lens. This is a very nice piece of kit, made in France and still goes our second hand for a bi of money. I bough it second hand in Belgium back in 93 or 94 for the equivalent of then 500 EURO. It has a constant aperture of 3.5 which is fast enough with the auto-iso option of the D700. Using a manual lens with the D700 is very easy as you can either rely on our eyes or use the internal rangefinder. Using a digital body, if you miss a shot no bid deal, you can try again at no costs.

Just a couple of negative remarks:
– the Angenieux focuses the opposite was to the Nikon lens

– the infinite focusing does not seem to work well

– it looks to me that with manual lenses the D700 has a tendency to underexpose the shots…

  

Above: The waterdrops stilt walkers

Above: I like very much the colors and the “dark side”, pity the woman on the right is not totally in the frame.

 

Above: the wind garden, close, wide open
  

above: one of the pro kite flyers 

 

above: all ages gathering at Marina Bay this day

Above: one of the artists, a mime

 

Above: there was even a band playing

 

Above: A very funny juggler, unfortunately I have no outstanding shot of him.
 

The lens is now mounted on the Nikon F… (to be followed)

Almost as good as new – Singapore Kite Festival