2 May 2013

A detour that led into a discovery: Kacha

I was walking back home after lunch at the small shopping complex they have recently opened in my neighborhood, the camera in my hand, ready to shoot any interesting scene that I could catch on the familiar streets. There was nobody around, even the traffic felt distant and lazy at this time of day, so I walked, unperturbed, taking some pics in the lonely, bright lanes.

Rolling still, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

Siesta, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

It feels strange, in a city as humongous as this, to walk completely in silence in the middle of the day, with only some birds (and dogs) giving a bit of life to a scenery that otherwise remains totally sedated and still. It is somehow a curious feeling, walking at a slow pace, taking time to observe every small detail without hurry, not needing to be in sync with the moving people or traffic, as it usually happens in street photography. All I could do today was just walk leisurely, looking around with observant eyes, trying to find nice, static subjects to shoot.

Light and shadows, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

Ornaments, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

But, as calm and peaceful as this walk was, it was very sunny, my stomach was too full, and I started feeling a bit dozy, so I backtracked to the main road and the return to a normal, busy street suddenly felt like a steep hill ahead. At the moment when I started wondering if I should just take a bus to go home and resume the photowalk later, I saw the small stairs descending from the bridge I was crossing, leading into a narrow, winding and tempting shaded path along a small canal I never knew it was there. And so my small detour started. Welcome to Kacha.

The vessel, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

I'm used to Khlong San Saep, the busy, wide canal that crosses Bangkok carrying around countless things, alive and dead, so Kacha seemed at first little more than a small and dark stream of filthy waters. However, there is never such a thing as "narrow" in Bangkok, for you will always find a house, a shop, even a garden in the tiniest of spaces. So, seeing that the tight alleyway went straight into what looked like a very packed, interesting community of little houses perched along the canal, I knew that that meant photographic opportunities, so I ventured myself inside.

Umbrellas, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

I could not see many faces, for this is the time of day when most Thais stay indoors, well protected from the fierce rays of tropical afternoon sun, but I could feel the presence of hundreds of people living in those tiny and precarious huts, on both sides of the canal. I just walked along, curious to see all things around me, surprised at how a place like that could be just meters away from the big stadium and luxurious hotels that spread along the main road.

Clothes, helmets & antenna, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

There were also totally ruined little huts, no doubt, where not so long ago, families used to live and go ahead with their lives the same way the rest of the neighbor houses still do today. At first glance, they don't look that dissimilar to the huts that are still inhabited (most of them), but a closer look soon reveals subtle and mayor differences, the main one for me being the absence of clothes hanging outside. That is an instant sign of abandonement.

Decay, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

But, once again, the complexity of this city struck me right in the face: just next to these shacks, wall to wall, as close as it can be, there were some bigger houses as well, which, in comparison, looked like mansions from yester years. There was no clear barrier or separation between them, just a not very thick hedge that let me peak inside through its big, numerous gaps. A fine example of adaptation and cohabitation: the house looking in another direction, giving its back to the community that surrounds it, but with a cart at the back door, ready for evening business at the neighborhood.

The mansion, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

Another cart that overnights just around the corner, but outside the protection of the big house, has aged much worse. 

Stray cart, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

The lane that advances through Kacha is very narrow and it only exists in one side of the canal, so there are frequent footbridges to cross from one side to the other, some of them being simply a few unstable planks that ask for extreme caution. Not that the fall is big, but the water underneath is definitely not salubrious in any conceivable way.

Private footbridge, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

These corridors are definitely not suited for vehicles, due to its narrowness and the insecurity of many of its stretches, yet I could see some motorcycles parked here and there along my walk. However, as I continued walking, afternoon gave way to early evening, schools closed and kids started to appear from every door, their screams breaking the calm, and the once quiet neighborhood became, suddenly, more lively and dynamic. 

The race, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

Pure joy, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

All the signs that I had been watching from the beginning of my detour finally came to life, as more people awoke and started populating the tight alleyway in search of some evening breeze. I walked past them, and all I found were smiles and kindness, people enjoying their lives in their own way, content with the way they live, and making the best out of it. If only we could all learn how to be happy with the things that we have at our disposal, instead of always longing for the ones we don't have!

Rehearsal, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

Eating time!, GH3 + Lumix G Vario 35-100mm

What a wonderful little discovery I made by chance today. So, my little piece of advice from this experience: embrace detours! They can be extremely surprising!

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