Photo a Day: 2 for 1 Sunset

Sunset Photos Are a Dime a Dozen

And yet, I find it difficult to resist a pretty sunset. Tonight I was walking down the soi I reside on when in Pattaya — I have an Irish friend coming to visit, and he wanted me to meet him in Sewage-on-Sea (damn, another fun, boozy weekend in Thailand; I hate that) — when I spied palm trees on Beach Road silhouetted against the gloaming: a mixture of warm reds and yellows and chilly blues.

Unfortunately the perfect framing required me to stand in the middle of a busy intersectioni intersection and that shot turned out blurry (there was only a moment in which to get it done; either I or my Nokia N8 choked in the clutch).  Hence the more standard sunset photo. Clichés be damned.

The sun sets on Sewage-on-Sea, aka Pattaya, Thailand.

While I was sitting there on the edge of the beach, where the pavement meets sand, I put my phone down behind me, facing the street corner, and snapped off a bracketed shot. After tinkering in Photoshop, below is a high contrast monochromatic high dynamic range (HDR) that resulted, along with some gradient-map tinting.

It’s appealing enough in an arty farty way, I suppose. Not a portfolio shot, but good enough for a supplemental Photo a Day shot. I rather like the ghostly passersby and vehicles.

Soi 13/1 and Beach Road in monochromatic HDR

Stinky Photo a Day: Durian Edition

They Call it the Big Mango …

…. I guess because Ho Chi Minh City, nee Sai Gon, is already affectionately known among expats as the Big Durian. Actually I’m guessing the Big Mango moniker for Bangkok came first. Anyway, the beauty of living in this part of the world is that fresh fruit is available everywhere, and at a fraction of the cost of what one pays in the Western world.

Here for example, is a durian vendor underneath an overpass on the west end of Sukhumvit in downtown Bangkok.

A street vendor selling durian in downtown Bangkok: Jeff Chappell's Photo a Day.

What’s durian, you ask? I’ll let Teh Internets enlighten you. All I can say is, I can eat som tam just like the locals eat it. I can eat fried up bugs Isaan style, no problem. I’ve eaten weird food from here to Tokyo, things that would delight Andrew Zimmern (who has just about one of the best jobs in the world). But you can keep your stinky ole durian. In a word: yuck.

I’m No. 1. It Says So Right There

At Least in Cafe Bicycle …

… for a few minutes, until I get my sandwich, cappuccino and soda water. Ah well. I’ll always have this one brief but sweet moment when I was no. 1. No one else. Just me.

Bangkok's Cafe Bicycle declared me, Jeff Chappell, no. 1 today.

Of course maybe they just decided I was no. 1 because I dropped a whopping 270 baht on lunch. Actually in the central business district of downtown Bangkok, that’s not that bad, especially considering I got a large sandwich, a kick-ass cappuccino (made with local Thai beans) and a soda water.

I actually like this place a lot; it’s right next to my language school in Phloen Chit so I eat there a couple times a week usually.

Photo a Day with Est: Phoning it In

Becoming a Member of the Est Generation

Est: Thai PepsiIn Thailand fashion is important, perhaps more so than in may cultures. Branding  — I hate that word, but one has to pick and choose one’s fights — is everywhere. Notably, like many countries in this part of the world, it’s not uncommon to find brands that mimic their larger Western counterparts, if not outright lifting logos and images and whatnot — so called intellectual property.

Here in Thailand recently you see advertisements for Est, a brand of soft drinks — “pop” to those of us that hail from the Midwestern U.S. — all over the place. Curiosity finally got the best of me while grocery shopping the other night, and I picked up a couple cans of Est. It’s lemon-lime flavor tastes pretty much like most soft drinks of this flavor (i.e., like Sprite). Of course, in terms of marketing/branding, it brandishes — heh — yellow and green colors and a design reminiscent of Sprite.

Then, there is the cola version of Est, which is clearly taking direct aim at Pepsi; the logo and colors of Est cola, perhaps even more than the lemon-lime version and Sprite, remind one of Pepsi, as opposed to Coke. It also, not surprisingly, tastes similar to Pepsi (i.e. malted battery acid).

I tried them out of a mild curiosity, as I say; not a big soda prop drinker these days, and when I do, it’s usually Coke (which also tastes like malted battery acid, only slightly tastier).

While purchasing said beverages, though, I couldn’t help but notice that while there was plenty of Coke products on the shelves, there was no Pepsi or related brands to be had. Didn’t think too much about it, but just now, while googling to find out more about Est as a brand, I came across this interesting business news vis-a-vis Pepsi in Thailand and the advent of the Est brand.

Anyway, here’s the Est cans in question, residing on my kitchen counter (which is actually on my balcony — you have to love this part of the world).

Est: Thai Pepsi; Thai Sprite. I'll stick with Sang Som and soda ...

Not sure why they chose these particular Thai letters; only one of them corresponds directly to the sounds represented by the English letters e, s, and t. Maybe I’m interpreting the stylized typeface incorrectly though; I’ll have to consult my Thai friends sometime on this one.

Bangkok ‘Hood in HDR

HDR Makes Everything Ever So Much More So

I can’t believe I just quoted Homer Price. Anyway, previously Jeff Chappell’s Photo a Day, we got to see a glimpse of the Bangkok neighborhood. Here’s a slightly different view, taken at sunset from the same vantage point as that previous image, but taken in glorious, technicolor high dynamic range (HDR).

Jeff Chappell's Bangkok 'hood a la HDR: Photo a Day

Used my Canon G12 to take these images, incidentally, and did the HDR merging in Photoshop.

Photo a Day: Soi Dog No. 1

A Photo a Day Paen to Thailand’s Soi Dogs

A soi dog outside a Starbucks on Beach Road in Pattaya, Thailand

If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia in general and Thailand in particular, you’ll notice a lot of stray dogs and cats, particularly pooches. In discussing this with indigenous friends, it seems this is in part due to Buddhist philosophy and very old animist beliefs, part ignorance and part plain apathy. Bear in mind I’m not criticizing, just noting the reality and what I’ve found; if you disagree by all means please chime in.

Unlike some guide books I’ve read, and complaints I’ve seen and heard tourists make, for me personally this has never proved an issue. In my three years of living here — here being Thailand and Viet Nam, with the odd trip to Cambodia or Laos — I’ve only ever had one issue with a stray dog — or soi dog, if you will (soi being a Thai word for side street). And this was because some local ne’er do wells had been provoking a group of dogs, and they were kind of worked up, and one started to come after me as I happened to walk past.

I’m not sure whether it was my father’s country-boy teaching or what, but from somewhere in the depths of my prior learning and experience, I remembered to keep my wits and not run away, but rather took a step towards the dog, threw up my hands and hollered — loudly. The poor dear immediately backed away with her tail between her legs.

Nevertheless, out of all the inoculations I’ve had for traveling abroad, for one brief moment I wished I had gotten the rabies one. But I wasn’t angry at the dog, but rather at the drunken butt wipes teasing them.

Also bear in mind, I walk past soi dogs, most of whom belong to no one and have no one taking care of them except in the most marginal of capacities — if they are lucky, they reside near a temple — virtually every day. If you leave your abode, and you live in a community of any size here, odds are you walk past a stray mutt. Go to a 7-11/Family Mart (or a Circle K in Viet Nam) and you almost certainly will encounter a soi dog or two.

So I’ve probably walked by stray dogs more than 1,000 times over the past three years; probably at least 1,500 times. And out of all those dogs, there only been a problem with one. Others’ experiences may differ, and I know a frequent visitor here who has been bitten by a soi dog — but this is mine. Actually some of them are quite sweet; all of them will seemingly leave you alone if you leave them alone.

I actually walk past the aforementioned pooch who came after me quite frequently; as I say, if some local hoodlums hadn’t been messing with her and her pack mates, it wouldn’t have happened.

Interesting Subjects

For some time I’ve had this idea of starting a Tumblr or even a specific site devoted to photographs of Thailand’s soi dogs; there are some interesting mutts out there, living by there wits alone in the naked city. Maybe I can help drive some traffic and attention to the non-profits out there devoted to helping them, too.

Maybe the sweety pictured above will be my first one. She is usually out front a Starbucks most mornings. There’s another male dog hanging around, too, but I didn’t see him today. I was waiting for a songthaew this morning and spied her under the chair, snoozing, and busted out my phone.




Photo a Day: Back to Thai School Edition

Photo a Day Stuck in a Thai School Daze

If you’re North American or European — dunno about the southern hemisphere peeps — you may read this and think, “Wait … what? It’s not back to school time. In fact it’s almost summer vacation/summer holidays time? What gives?”

Well in those aforementioned parts of the world, you would be correct. But here in Thailand, as in other nearby Southeast Asian countries, it’s nearly back to school time, as summer break is winding down. Yes, it may not be technically summer just yet in the northern hemisphere, but the two hottest months in this part of the world are April and May. It’s officially hot season, and as such, public school kids are on what they call their summer break in the month of April.

Schools are closed, and it many families take holiday trips this time of year; it also happens to correspond with the Thai New Year, or Songkran.

So I walked into Tesco Lotus this evening to pick up a few things, and was greeted by row upon row of the standard public school Thai uniform: off-white short-sleeve shirt and blue dress shorts for boys or skirts for girls. Thai school kids generally wear a version of this or something similar all the way through high school; even most colleges require their students to dress in a similar fashion, although I believe the boys have to don ties as well (poor dudes).

School generally starts again the first full week in May (they get another month-long break in October, and there are a number of holidays throughout the year for which schools close.

How do know all this? I taught in a Thai public school for a semester, my first teaching job after getting my CELTA certification. It was … challenging, to say the least. Fortunately this past year in Viet Nam redeemed ESL teaching for me.

Anyway, this image struck me, so I busted out the Nokia N8 and snapped a picture; it’s a natural for the official (and SEO friendly) Jeff Chappell Photo a Day posting.  It’s nice to have a decent image sensor/camera on my phone for once. Of course I prettyfied it in Photoshop.

For whatever reason,  I think this image looses something in the small size. Not all images do, but I think this one does, so I made the original image size bigger than usual; clicken to embiggen, as always.

Jeff Chappell's Photo a Day: Back to Thai School edition

P.S. I was technically a little late with this, but I was just looking up the links and got sidetracked reading old blog posts. Besides, with the magic of WordPress, I can make it look like it was posted prior to the Photo a Day deadline of midnight, local time, heh.

Coconuts in the Sun: a Photo a Day

Let Me Go on, Like a Coconut in the Sun

coconuts in the sun: Jeff Chappell's Photo a Day

I spied these coconuts on a neighbor’s porch the other day, and thought to myself, there’s a photograph. I’m not sure if they are drying or just inadvertently left lying around, or what; she wasn’t around to ask and I doubt if my Thai or her English is up to the task, in any event.

I was leaving my pad today, in the early afternoon hazy sunlight and busted out the Nokia N8 to snap this photograph. You see a lot of this sort of thing in my neighborhood in Bang Plat, a community within Bangkok right on the river — it’s a slice of rural Thai community smack in the heart of the urban megalopolis. No doubt it will be featured much in the future in a Photo a Day.

As for this image, other than a little cropping and minor tweaking in Photoshop, as always, here are the coconuts. And that’s our Photo a Day photo today.

Oh, apologies to the Violent Femmes.

Give it enough light, and the N8’s image sensor whups that ass. Here’s a detail from the original photograph, with no size compression. As always, click the images to embiggen.

coconuts in the sun: Jeff Chappell's Photo a Day

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade a la Pattaya

A traditional celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and Irish culture …

Balloon Girl Closeup: Saint Patrick's Day in Pattaya, Thailand.

… in Pattaya, Thailand

It’s the traditions that keep us together. Take for example, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a day when the Irish and people of Irish descent around the world pause for reflection on their heritage and what it means to be Irish, the children of history, famine, diaspora and poets.

Or not.

For most of us, even those of us who still have relations back on the Emerald Isle, it’s an excuse to party. And the Thais love and excuse to party — any excuse to indulge in sanuk will do, and that’s why we love them. So here’s a taste of St. Patrick’s Day Thai style, in (in)famous Pattaya, Thailand.

More Ethnic Drummers

Bored with the Parade

Traditional Brazilrish 2

O'Gara's Ladies 4

If you wish to see more, there are plenty — some 62 photos actually — over on my Flickr account, in my St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Pattaya, Thailand, 2013 photoset. Drunken falang, ladyboys, cute girls, public urination, Brazilian dancers in finery, needy children and a green elephant, among other things.

I have to say I’m pretty happy with my new DSLR and lenses. It’s nice to have respectable photo gear again; it’s been too long.