Dramatic limestone karsts draped in vegetation and shores blanketed in pristine rainforest, the largest area of virgin forest in Southern Thailand, surround Cheow Lan Lake in the heart of Khao Sok National Park.
Tiny, lush islands once mountain peaks, rise out of tepid, emerald-green waters where water temperatures range between 27°C to 29 °C.
Wildlife in the national park includes Asian elephant, tiger, tapir and bear. A cacophony of jungle sounds fill the air: monkeys and gibbons chatter and howl; hornbills and other exotic birds cry and whistle; and a myriad of insects whine and shrill.
In 1982, Ratchaprapha Dam was built as a source of electricity by blocking off the Klong Saeng River and creating an artificial, 165 square kilometer lake.
Cheow Lan Lake is a popular destination for local and foreign tourists, accommodation provided by rustic, floating raft houses. Activities include trekking to view points, waterfalls and caves; fishing and kayaking; and boat safaris to glimpse wildlife and view the stunning scenery.
We stayed at Prai Wan raft houses, simple bamboo huts floating on the water. We opted for a private tour, that was well worth the money! It included: a knowledgeable and enthusiastic, English-speaking guide; wildlife safaris and cave trip by long-tail boat; hiking through rainforest to a spectacular viewpoint; kayak use and meals.
Here is just a handful from the hundreds of photos I took during our two-night stay. I plan to return to Cheow Lan Lake and to also explore other parts of Khao Sok National Park.
Koh Panyee School must have one of the more unusual locations for a school, in a fishing village built on stilts set in a stunning bay of limestone karsts off the northeast coast of Phuket in southern Thailand.
Following on from my last post Phang Nga Bay: Koh Panyee – A Thai Fishing Village On Stilts; these are some photos I took in Koh Panyee School where our local guide took us during our trip to the village.
I was previously a teacher in Thailand so this especially interested me. I bet those kids don’t even notice the view!
Against a dramatic backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs rising out of Phang Nga Bay off the northeast coast of Phuket in southern Thailand, a web of narrow boardwalks and rickety jetties link Koh Panyee (or Ko Panyi) into a compact fishing village on stilts.
Simple buildings with contrasting colorful roofs and wooden plank walls painted or left the rustic shades of nature, cozily nudge each other, perched above the shallow water on timber stilts sunk in the seabed.
Houses, shops, cafés and eateries cram together along a maze of wobbly walkways. Open-fronted seafood restaurants line the waterside and corrugated iron shacks reflect a mosaic of muted tin tones on the briny surface. Market stalls display sarongs, shell trinkets and other souvenirs as well as fruit, vegetables, dried fish and other wares for daily living.
Koh Panyee School with playground and football pitch sits right on the water’s edge and a mosque with golden domes, still under construction, is sprouting up on the small area of dry land under the limestone cliff.
I’ve read that three nomadic fisherman families left Indonesia in search of a new home around 200 years ago, agreeing to plant a flag on the highest landmark to signal they’d discovered a place to settle. When they found bountiful fishing off a tiny limestone island, they raised a flag on the cliff top.
So, it became known as Koh Panyee meaning Flag Island and inhabitants of this Muslim fishing village today are descendants of these families. Traditionally surviving off the fishing trade, tourism has more recently become a major part of the economy.
On a recent long-tail boat trip around Phang Nga Bay including a quick stop at James Bond Island, we also visited Koh Panyee. This was my second visit after about 15 years.
We arrived early to miss the boatloads of tourists having lunch at the waterside seafood restaurants and explored village life beyond before having an early lunch ourselves there.
Take a look at Jamie’s Phuket blog post about Koh Panyee for another perspective. At the end is a video worth checking out. In Jamie’s words “Finally – a video (actually an ad for a bank) which features Koh Panyee. The story of the kids on Koh Panyee starting their own football team, despite the lack of a pitch to play on! Nice story – great scenery!”
In the Andaman Sea between the island of Phuket and the mainland of southern Thailand, Phang Nga Bay’s sheer limestone cliffs tower majestically out of the sea.
Ko Khao Phing Kan, one of the many islands in the Phang Nga Bay archipelago, was the film location for Scaramanga’s hideout in The Man with the Golden Gun. Now more commonly called James Bond Island it’s become a popular tourist destination on boat trips around the scenic bay.
After my recent weekend trip to another Phang Nga Bay island Ko Yao Noi, I took a private day trip (to avoid the crowds) in a long-tail boat around the bay with my friend Paula and her parents.
Here are some images from that trip.
Children splash and shriek floating on plastic ice box lids and pieces of broken board alongside long-tail boats anchored to the beach by long lines, bobbing lazily in turquoise waters.
Rickety wooden stalls hug the beach, facing stores and seafood restaurants across the dirt road dividing beachfront from village. Long strings of varying hued pearls dangle with displays of shell handicrafts blowing in the salty, fish-scented breeze.
A rainbow of freshly caught fish lie lifelessly on metal counters alongside plastic trays packed with shellfish on ice. Over-sized, water-filled tubs placed on the ground in front of stalls crawl with live crabs and crayfish.
Locals and tourists browse and buy seafood then cross the road to one of the open-fronted restaurants where, for a small fee, the kitchen serves it up in the dish of choice.
Also, read the eye-opening article Tourism imperils way of life for Thai sea gypsies to learn about the plight of the Chao Lay.
This lone lotus flower is so stunning it deserves a post all to itself! It was growing in an earthenware pot of water outside my local restaurant near where I was staying in Karon on the Thai island of Phuket.
Markets all over the world lure me with their vibrant color and local life, each country with its unique specialties and variations. Exotic fruits, nameless vegetables and unknown produce nudging the familiar are a pictorial feast for the eyes begging to be photographed. A mix of flower fragrance and cooking aromas mingle with fish and other less appealing odors in the air.
I remember markets blasting every sense. Sadly, for me, severe concussion from a horse riding accident years ago left me with little sense of smell except the odd whiff snatched occasionally. Like a constant cold blocking the nose, but without the breathing problems! It saves me from the stench but deprives me of the fragrant in life.
Thai markets, known as talad, don’t disappoint although I know I’m not getting the full experience of sensory overload. A few months ago while staying in Krabi town on the coast of southern Thailand, I visited the morning market with a friend. There was so much to see we ended up spending a few hours wandering around buying fruit and taking photos. Here are just some of my images from that day at the market.
Thai silk worms, caterpillars rather than worms, munch on mounds of mulberry leaves before using their spittle to form cocoons. Weavers soak these cocoons in boiling water to extract the silk thread from the cocooned caterpillar then hand reel the raw silk on wooden spindles.
After dyeing, they weave blends of colorful threads on traditional hand-looms making exquisite Thai silk cloth.
This post is the last in my series about artisans of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I took these images in a Thai silk making and weaving workshop documenting some of the stages from silk worm cocoons to finished product.
For background on the origins and process of Thai silk making check out Wikipedia’s Thai Silk article. Also, the rest of my Chiang Mai artisan series: The Art of Making Traditional Thai Parasols, The Art of Wood Carving and The Art of Thai Lacquerware.
Continuing on from my series of artisan posts from the highland city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, this series of photos shows skilled artisans and their craft during various stages of the Thai lacquerware process.
Elephants, pots, boxes, trays, vases and plates, all different shapes and sizes, are just some of the lacquered handicrafts created. Engraved patterns gilded with gold leaf, broken eggshell inlays or delicate hand painted designs adorn them.
Check out the article Northern Thai Lacquerware for more information on the materials, methods and history of this exquisite art form. Also, my other Chiang Mai artisan posts The Art of Making Traditional Thai Parasols and The Art of Wood Carving.
In the highland city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, I recently photographed various artisans at work.
Here’s a series of my images taken in a furniture workshop. Skillful wood carvers chisel intricate relief scenes from blocks of teak to create screens, sculptures and elaborate chairs while other artisans inlay delicate mother-of pearl designs decorating rosewood tabletops and cabinets.
Check out my previous post Chiang Mai Artisans: The Art of Making Traditional Thai Parasols.
During my recent trip to Chiang Mai in the northern highlands of Thailand, I visited handicraft workshops to watch artisans making traditional Thai parasols, silk, wood carvings and lacquered pots, boxes and ornaments.
This series of photos shows the parasol workshop and its artisans.
Changing the topic from my Phuket beach series, here are some photos of traditional Thai umbrellas or parasols. I stumbled on an outdoor exhibition of these colorful handicrafts during a golden hour walkabout around the streets of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.
At low tide long-tail boats, fishing boats and speedboats used for island sightseeing trips, lie stranded on expanses of sand, tethered to the shore by long ropes attached to stakes while locals forage for shellfish in pools among exposed rocks.
Along the southern shore, fishermen mend nets and repair or build boats. At the northern end beyond the pier in a sea gypsy fishing village, stalls sell pearls, shells and a medley of freshly caught seafood. Here you can buy mackerel, snapper, lobster, crab, prawns, mussels, squid… then take to one of the nearby restaurants to prepare your dish of choice.
Restaurants, many just rustic eateries seating customers Thai style on woven mats, spread along most of Rawai beach offering an array of mouth-watering seafood dishes. Popular with locals and visitors to Phuket they fill up quickly with families on public holidays and weekends.
Stunning sunsets seduce at beaches all along the western coast of Phuket. While selecting photos for my Phuket Snapshots: Kata Beach post and realizing most of my Kata photos were sunsets I dedicated a post to them.
A tree-lined shore fringes a pretty, sweeping curve of white sand nudging lazy, turquoise water in high season and crashing surf during monsoon. Kata beach is another of Phuket’s popular beaches lying to the south of Karon.
A road runs between much of the leafy shoreline and the manicured grounds of the Club Med resort behind. Except for a cluster of hotels and restaurants sprawling along the sand at the southern end, most of the beach remains undeveloped. The northern end is quieter with a tiny inlet often crammed with long tail boats depending on tide and time of day.
Karon, a three km wide, open expanse of squeaky, white sands is the second most developed beach in Phuket and an ample playground for beach bums. Here are some of my snapshots.
Check out the excellent Jamie’s Phuket Blog for in-depth information about Phuket!
Thais have a sweet tooth and a heavy hand with sugar in much of their cuisine but especially, as in any culture, in desserts and candies.
Following on from my post Thai Street Food: Tasting a Kingdom Stall By Stall here are a few popular Thai desserts.
Sadly, I don’t yet have a photo of my personal favorite, mango with sticky rice slathered in coconut milk and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It’s always gone before my camera comes out!
In Thailand, locals eat cheap, taste bud tickling street food every day, sweet, spicy, salty and sour; stir-fried, deep-fried and grilled. Flavors for every mood and palate, aroma drenched smoke drifting off sizzling woks and glowing grills.
Hawkers sell from makeshift stalls, carts and baskets, in streets, markets and temple fairs. Some already prepared dishes, others cooked to order, all seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices.
Here’s some of my favorite Thai street food photos to make your mouth water!
Aquatic mayhem infects the kingdom during the Thai New Year Water Festival or Songkran when Thailand plunges into a frenetic nationwide water fight on the grandest scale. Not just child’s play, crowds hit the streets armed with hosepipes, water guns and cannons, pails and tubs to spray, splash and douse.
Pickup trucks stocked with barrels of icy water cruise along overflowing with drenched merrymakers showering anyone they pass, in turn receiving a deluge. Barefoot water warriors stand at the roadside targeting all who pass by, hurling bucketfuls of chilly water over motorcyclists, pedestrians and truck troopers.
Older Songkran traditions still thrive, a time to visit family, pay respect to elders, pray at Buddhist temples and leave offerings for monks. People cleanse Buddha images in homes and temples using fragrant water containing flower petals. The “blessed” water is then collected and gently poured over the hands and shoulders of elders to pay respect and bring good fortune. Throwing water in the streets originated from this custom as relief from the heat.
Shared with neighboring Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Songkran runs from 13 to 15 April each year in the hottest month at the end of the dry season. It has been a national holiday since 1940 when Thailand’s official start to the calendar year changed from the Thai New Year to 1 January to coincide with the Western business world. The Buddhist calendar however, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian calendar, is still in use. The year 2013 is 2556 in Thailand!
Different parts of Thailand play with water for a varying number of days at Songkran. When I lived in Nakhon Sawan in central Thailand, it dragged on for about ten days but here in Phuket the law now allows it only on the 13th as they try to cut down on accidents. This was the first Thai New Year I dared get my camera out (from the relative safety of a doorway) and take some photos. Afterwards, I joined in the mayhem, splashing and soaking to my heart’s delight!
Finally, the last of my Chinese New Year in Nakon Sawan, Thailand series!
Following on from the night parade of February 12 was the day parade the entire next day in sweltering heat and humidity.
Friend and fellow blogger Nicole of Thirdeyemom who I had the pleasure of taking on a whirlwind photographic tour of Antigua in Guatemala, my home town for five years, inspired me to publish a post on flowers of Thailand.
To brighten those last cold, bleak wintry days this is for you Nicole and for anyone else not lucky enough to rove where I do!
A random collection of luscious orchid, lotus, hibiscus and marigold blooms I’ve photographed from Phuket to Chiang Mai. Thai flowers that color everyday life here.
Earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya”
Every Chinese New Year in Nakhon Sawan city a giant, glowing dragon tears gracefully through the streets parting the crowds, twisting and writhing its way up a towering, swaying bamboo pole before finally sinking into the murky waters of the Chao Phraya River.
Extravagant parades of florid floats and martial art displays, angels and goddesses, dancers and musicians fill the streets while Chinese lions perform ritual dances on the ground or leap dramatically from one vertical rod to another.
Here are some of my photos from the evening parade of February 12 that ran from 6 p.m. to midnight.
A belated Happy Chinese New Year!
Youths clad in garish Chinese lion masks and costumes prance nimbly, leaping in the air, twisting and rolling over on the ground in the ritualistic Chinese lion dance of Chinese New Year.
Bowing, they enter stores and homes bestowing good luck and receiving red envelopes of cash in their mouths from proprietors. The clash and beat of symbols and drums, the eardrum shattering crackle and acrid smoke of firecrackers deafen and choke in the stifling heat.
I followed different groups of Chinese lion dancers around the streets of Nakhon Sawan in central Thailand, photographing their colorful and energetic displays.