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.
Recently, I re-discovered my 2010 Mongolia trip photos while searching my archives for images to submit to stock agencies. I’m now motivated to publish a few more blog posts about this intriguing country.
The traditional portable home for nomadic herders roaming the vast grassy steppes of Mongolia is the yurt, or ger as it’s called in Mongolian which literally means home.
Ger pepper the landscape throughout Mongolia and today between 30-40% of the country’s population (Source: Wikipedia) live in a ger, not only on the steppe but many in city suburbs.
Due to the nomadic nature of its occupants, a ger is designed to be dismantled easily and moved, so construction only takes about 2 hours.
A collapsible wooden lattice wall with a door frame supports long, roof poles and a circular crown leaving an opening for the central chimney. The entire framework is covered with layers of wool felt for warmth then ropes secure waterproof canvas over the top.
These photos show the stages of ger construction: the bare skeleton of wall lattice and roof poles, the entire framework covered in layers of felt, and the completed ger with the outer cover of waterproof canvas.
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 is the last post in my Todos Santos series. The graves in this remote highland village in Guatemala were vibrantly painted and adorned with flowers and gaudy wreaths for All Saints’ Day or El Día de Todos Los Santos on November 1.
“The merry dance, beer in hand, in the grave choked hillside cemetery alongside marimba playing musicians.”
While visiting Todos Santos in the remote highlands of Guatemala during the festivities of El Día de Todos Los Santos or All Saints’ Day on November 1, I found these locals celebrating in the village cemetery.
Men clad in the unique village uniform danced unsteadily, beer in hand, among the tightly packed, painted graves to the typical Guatemalan soundtrack of marimba.
‘The festival continues as families pay their respects to departed loved ones, praying and decorating tombs with gaudy garlands.”
As in other areas of Guatemala, the remote village of Todos Santos just over 8000 feet above sea level in the northern Guatemalan highlands celebrates El Día de Todos Los Santos or All Saints’ Day on November 1.
Countrywide cemeteries are the heart of festivities. However, in Todos Santos locals also hold a unique horse race with Mayan roots; “…inebriated, traditionally clad locals race horses…. All-male jockeys, hardy residents of Todos Santos, spend a sleepless night beforehand ritualistically drinking themselves into an alcohol-induced stupor….”.
Below are a few shots of cemetery scenes taken on my arrival in Todos Santos on October 31 a couple of years ago.
While this post focuses on the cemetery, you can also check out Todos Santos: A Drunken Guatemalan Horse Race from where I took the extracts above.
Historic George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the island of Penang in Malaysia, is a photographer’s dream: crumbling facades and peeling paint; exquisite temples and mosques; painted Chinese shophouses and jetty homes; elaborate doors, colorful shutters and ornate wall tiles.
This post takes a closer look at some of George Town’s facades focusing on the decorative variety of doors and windows.
Traditional houses crammed together on a series of jetties linked by wooden walkways perch on stilts over the sea. These are George Town’s Clan Jetties.
Built in the 19th century, communities of fishermen, traders and dock workers still live with their families on these austere clan jetties along the shores of historic George Town in Penang, Malaysia.
A few hours exploring by foot along George Town’s clan jetties was one of the highlights of my short trip to Penang. I love waterside living and these simple homes appealed to me. Each clan jetty is unique in character, some more rustic and unkempt than others.
Here’s a series of some of my images captured that afternoon. Check out my earlier post Penang Snapshots: Historic George Town Scenes.
A gaudy Chinese temple dominates the entrance to the workmanlike Chew Jetty. Bathed in bright sunlight blue boats moored along the boardwalk, rock lazily on the tide.
Chinese lanterns, bamboo birdcages and handmade fish traps hang outside humble homes, cozy stores and simple eateries. Laundry hangs drying under eaves, bicycles lean against walls and motorbikes stand among the clutter of everyday living. Fragrant incense glows at the seaward tip of the jetty in a Chinese shrine with a sea view.
The most basic jetty I walked along had no name at the entrance. I ended up staying a while, prisoner of a sudden storm.
Luckily I found a broken plastic chair to sit on under an open-sided shelter full of fishing nets, my view misted by stinging rain; a ramshackle jetty village perched on stilts over a low tide stream clogged with tangles of broken logs, like skeletal remains emerging from the dark, stinking mud.
As the rain subsided, I continued to the neater, homier Lee Jetty. A small Chinese shrine protects the entrance leading to an avenue of crimson Chinese lanterns, green wheelie bins, street lights and gaudily painted door and window frames with matching metal fences outside.
A muddle of antennas, cables and satellite dishes hang overhead. Offerings lay at simple Chinese shrines guarding each house. Bundles of incense glow in sacred pots placed on the boardwalk end, facing seaward towards the city skyline and a yellow jetty temple across the water.
More exploring at George Town’s Clan Jetties awaits me next time I visit Penang!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a cultural mosaic of food, arts and architecture, language and religion, I immediately fell in love with historic George Town on the island of Penang in Malaysia on my second visit after many years.
These photos taken on my meanderings by foot one full day and a few hours early the next morning just touch the surface. I’ll be posting more and I’ll definitely be returning for a longer visit!
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!