It is a beautiful day in Pattaya Thailand. I wake up early, shave and brush my teeth; I’m all ready to go. So if you have never been to Pattaya let me tell you it is a city located about an hour away from Bangkok with a shorefront on the Gulf of Thailand. For the most part it is like any other city in Thailand except that the area along the shore is a popular tourist area with an abundance of beer bars and sexy girls. The town sleeps for only a few hours each day and soon it is back in full swing. Not just the beer bars and sexy girls; the beach area is very active starting about 8:00am as masses of tour buses make their way into the Beach Road area. Most of the tourists are headed to boats that will take them on day trips out to the islands. Then as the day progresses the para sailing comes to life and soon the whole waterfront looks like some sort of modern carnival. There is food everywhere… what would you like? There is fresh cut fruit, grilled fish, rotisserie chicken and of course all the Thai standards like Pad Thai, Chicken Satay, Tom Yum soup and more. There is music playing almost everywhere and the street girls come in all shapes and sizes.
Most if this “carnival” as I call it does not interest me. I do not para sail, the sexy girls look nice but I’m married. And even when I was single “street girls were never my forte. The food of course I love. But there is one other aspect of the carnival that I really love and that is that the whole thing is “interesting” from a “street photography” stand point. I think most people would agree, everywhere you look there is something worthy of capturing. Of course you still have the issues of lighting and composition to overcome, but give me my camera and turn me loose and I going to be in a street photographer’s heaven. So here I am all ready for the day… but I have to go and do what my wife wants to do. You are most likely guessing about now that my wife is not a photographer. Well you’re right, she’s not.
As photographers traveling with family and or non-photography friends we all encounter this very situation. It truly is frustrating to say the least. However you have to be fair and survey the whole reality of what we like versus what someone else likes. My wife had truly worked so hard to put this whole 24 day trip together and we are at day 22 and she wants to go see something that means a lot to her. She wanted to go to Nong Nok Gardens a very popular outdoor “garden museum” attraction (for lack of a better word). I really could not argue and nor should I after all maybe this will prove to be a place that will yield some great photography. But I would still rather stand out in the streets capturing the “carnival” on Beach Road. “Let it go” just “let it go” from my mind and move on. So I did.
On the taxi ride to the gardens my mind kept drifting back to Beach Road and when I would catch a moment of clarity I would think “what could this dastardly garden place offer up to me.” I’m no mind reader and I have no magical powers, but surely I can predict that this garden… whatever it is this place is going to be boring. “But there are elephants,” my wife knows I love elephants and she thinks that will entice me to think this place is going to be fun. I do love elephants, but I love them so much I swore I would never ride an elephant. I want to photograph elephants out in the wild or at least on a nature preserve… or anywhere somebody is not paying to ride the poor creatures. If it was realistic scene of someone riding the elephant as part of their job or work task I have no problem with it. I fully understand the elephants have been used for work in Thailand and it is part of Thai culture and heritage, but the tourist thing is not me.
So here I am arriving and telling myself “you’re a great photographer, make the best of it and find something interesting about this place.” Well that is easier said than done. Think about it; this place has been photographed from every possible angle thousands of times over and over and over. I will admit it is a very nice place to visit; there are elevated walk ways that give you a very different perspective and view as you meander along. The theme here seems to be “you move from theme to theme” and that is interesting. We started out and there where all these Orangutan statues that look life-like and each one is a different pose. Then there were tigers and flamingos and so on. They all looked kind of corny, but realistic at the same time. We walked on the elevated walkway for quite some time and we soon found a snack bar of sorts. There was no one there just a female clerk who looked bored to death. This was also a lookout point and I could see way out into this vast open area that truly fit the description of a “garden,” but on a grand scale. It looked very much like something one would see in photos of a castle. You know the images, we’ve all seen them… the beautiful castle with the lush green hedges that form a maze of sorts. At least that’s how it looked, but no castle of course.
So now I was kind of interested and I had to at least go check this area out. Not to mention I really could use the exercise. Actually I could always use the exercise and if there was one truly good thing about this whole day; it would be that I would get a decent amount of exercise. So heading down the steps to get off the elevated walkway I find a herd of zebras. No not real ones, just fake cement ones. Statues like all the other animals here. That is when it hit me… why not photograph them as if they were “real” zebras. I mean take the time to actually capture great images of these crazy frozen in place zebras. So I did. I found some good angles and started shooting. A few people passing by looked at me like I was crazy and I was. So I guess that was how I saved my sanity through it all and actually this really is what a decent photographer would do. You’re in a boring place and you do not want to disrespect who your with, in this case my wife. So make the best of it and laugh it off. So I did.
Eventually we made our way across the vast open space and back again, I got my exercise and we had some good food, later a decent cup of coffee and we saw the cultural show. The show I will talk about another time.
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