Well, in yesterday’s post I was about to start talking about where I spent the evening. But it was already past midnight by the time I had selected the photos, converted to JPEGs and wrote about the day. Today has been just such an eventful day so far (and the sun is not even down yet!) so I need to write about it. In the meantime, the story from yesterday will continue onto the later part of the week, so I can tell you more about it then.
I’ve completely re-wrote this and the next post (which was supposed to be the full story on the ‘Day 4’ but I had no way of posting the article with images. This time, I’m deleting most of the words, which can stay in my diary but too much for you to really bother yourself with. So here you go, ‘pretty picture version’.
So, today… it was one of those in-between days on your trip in which you really didn’t have anything planned. My trip is like that every day? Hmm, you got a point there. But really, I do have some very loose plans. After finally turning out the light around 1am, there was a slim chance I could actually get up at 5:30am, to get my system started so I could go out at 6. In the end, after rolling around in my bed a few times, I was out on my way to the market at 7am. Breakfast was at that porridge shop I saw the day before while having coffee next door. Good stuff!
I followed the general sense of direction (sun behind me means I’m heading west), and was on a heavy highway, and was expecting to find one of the ‘not to be missed’ temples. As it turns out, I’d already missed it! I was on a wrong road.
Before I knew it, I was at the foot of the hills, and found relaxation at the water fall (HuayKeaw Waterfall).
Near the water fall, there were only a couple other people (apart from a small group doing yoga on the big rock by the river). One of them, rather nicely dressed girl, did not mind a chat. She was also going to the temple, she said, and we walked together towards the taxi stop. The taxi would run on a reasonable rate once enough people were on board, or the charter pricing was pretty high as it was set. She preferred to wait, I was not sure how long the wait was going to be so decided to walk. Sure, it cannot be such a walk, and I may bump into her again up at the temple, and talk more about important things, like where she might be having a dinner tonight.
As it turned out, it was not a short walk. I put wiped the sweat, had sips from the big water bottle in my bag, and kept an even pace up the hill. Some places I could walk in the shade, but most I was exposed. Some tuktuk passed me. Many motorcycles passed me. I wished I was one of them. I wish I had stopped and chatted to the girl waiting for the head count to build up on that taxi. I wish I had not saved the money for the chartered taxi. We could have become friendly by now. But instead, I was walking alone on the road side where there is not even a foot path because I am the only crazy person to bother to walk there. A road sign came up. 11km to the temple. Wonderful. I think I walked to the next sign – 9km to the temple. I was giving up. I was prepared to either roll back down the hill, or stand on the side of the road with a thump up. Then a taxi stopped. The passenger door opened and this guy jumped out – he’s waving for me to come and jump in. I walked up to him, thanked him for the offer. How much is my share for the fare? The driver spoke better English and told me “It’s free the guy is saying. He’s already paid for the day’s fare.”
And this is what that life saver looks like.
Kris is a freelance professional photographer from Bangkok. He’s out in Chiang Mai on an assignment, but had a couple of days off. He joined me in the back deck of taxi to chat. He is a very polite guy and obviously very generous (he tried to stop for another stranger in another ocassion while I was with him). He was going to the temple and check out another location in the hills before returning to the town in the evening. He would not mind my joining him. Wow!
Soon the car came to a stop. There was a lookout facility on the roadside. It was a toilet break, the driver said. I was walking around with a cold coffee in my hand, and found a casual-looking cyclist. Another insane mind who would use manpower to go up the hill? I spoke to the only person who was in cycling shoes. A senior western man. Bourillon Denis, or Francis Moreau (he said a French man would have many names and known by combination of this and that…) used to be a professional cyclist, and had competed in major tours including 15 starts in Tour de France! At the age of 62, after having moved to a quiet country side out of Chiang Mai years ago, he still cycles 5 days a week. He has 2 routes to choose from – 2 rounds (up and down, twice) of this Doi Sothep which was the ‘easier climb’ and total of about 200km, or there was another hill near his place which is more steep but he does one round of up and down about 53km. In his opinion local cycles were ‘soft’ (slow and ride shorter distance than him) and there were some good cyclists among other expats – there was a community of pretty keen cyclists around here.
Check out more photos of me on that day, photographed by Kris, on Facebook!
I promised to send that photo to Francis, who gave me his postal address (‘No internet at the new house. Send me the photo by mail, and we take it from there.’) and went back to the back of taxi with Chris.
We went to a Hmong Village, which unfortunately was a heavily commercialised, touristy affair, as the Lonely Planet described this one as. Or was it one of the forums I read? Drizzling came down gentelly. We had a lunch, and went to Doi Suthep Temple, with its stage that made it look like a garden in the sky.
Carlos and his friend – they were riding behind our taxi for a few min while we were descending. I stepped down to the lower deck in the back of taxi to photograph him action. When we were in the same carpark later on, I left them with my contact detail. That’s how he got to leave a comment as below. Thanks mate!
Time to head back to town. Mr Rew told me that Kris’s plan is to pick up a friend at bus terminal and head up towards hill where they’ll stay the night. Kris showed me some images on the phone to give me the idea. It looks like a beautiful place with a lot of photo opportunities. Another friend is also a photographer, a girl, who is his colleague. Travel with photographers who know what they are talking about – I agree to join them. So the plan was set. Kris and I would head back to my hotel, where both of us get to have a nice shower before sleeping in a tent or bungalow of some kind tonight, while I can re-pack my bag for a sleep over and hill top temperature. Mr Rew took the time to pick up his family from day care / work, we met Kris’s friend ‘Nikqn’ (yep, like the camera brand – they both used 2x Nikon each!) who is an attractive girl as Kris described, we stopped for a big dinner and headed out into the darkening road.
At an intersection near the new shopping centore (my favourite brand Uniqlo was due to open the next day!) we stopped at a red light. I was sitting in the back deck just above the rear bumper again, and met the eyes of this handsome young man on the bike. I gestured to him that I was gonna photograph him, he smiled back and looked cool. It turned out to be one of my favourite shots of this trip.
At 5am, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk in the dark looking for a pre-dawn shots. I knew we were supposed to go somewhere in the morning, but I had no idea what time and where. I believe they said we’d walke at 7am. I had a plenty of time. But I had no phone or SMS or any way to be reached by. I also did not know the driver’s number. Oh well, if I missed them, it would work out somehow… in the middle of nowhere where there seems no train or buses coming through. Yeah, should be fine. Let’s focus on the changing light and walk faster to get around that bush to see if there is a shot up there…
When I finally got back to their bungalow, it was locked and shoes were gone. And they were nowhere in sight. Great! I messed it up! I walked back to where the group of people were gathering, and found the gate had opened up and people were inside that garden. I walked in, finding the pretty location, and eventually spotted the tall Nikqn up ahread. Phew…
This guy, Chai, just showed up to my side while I was sitting there, just like that with a blue umbrella. I thought it was way too cool to miss, so I asked to photograph him. Got his contact so I could pass on the photo, too! Those couple of days I started photographing strangers everywhere, with a clear intension that I would send those photos of my perspective, my impression of them, by email or whatever way possible. I found a way to use my skills to make people smile. And I don’t tie that to the money I make. They are not for sale, and they are not hiring me to photograph them either. It was just an act of giving, which I always felt I wanted to do more of, purely because photograph is such a one-way act of ‘taking’ a lot of times, especially in street photography and travel, two major areas that I love playing in.
Local kids were dressed up in traditional clothing, I guess to add to the charm of the place for the visiting photographers. They do look artificial I must say, just in case you are looking for anything ‘authentic’. But I loved the way kids play among themselves, and enjoyed showing some of the photos to them on the back of my camera.
This are might have been involved in the opium industry in the old days when the northern Thailand, Laos and southern China was called ‘Golden Triangle’. But the long effort by governments converted the industry into other value-add crops such as flowers, leaf vegetables and of course, tourism.
Kris and Nikqn both use a huge professional Nikon digital camera. But they have a back up camera each – Nikqn uses that classic film camera that many photographers loved so much over the years. I should do something with that Nikon F that I took from my father but has been sitting collecting dust on my shelf…
After stopping at the Tiger Kingdom for a lunch and watched lots of tigers play like big cats (well, they ARE, but they do really look like cats playing!), we were driven back to the town. Kris and Nikqn had a job of covering an event for the next few days. I was going back to the Wat Bupparam to see more of their festival preparation.