18 Sep 2014

500px Global Photo Walk 2014: Bangkok edition

For the second straight year, the photography site 500px organized their "Annual Global Photo Walk" in numerous cities around the world on the same day: Saturday, September 6th. After last year's humble but enjoyable photowalk (which you can check out here), this year things became a bit bigger: our itinerary was longer and, in the end, we gathered a group of roughly 30 walkers, tripling last year's number. Since we are in the middle of the monsoon season in Thailand, we set the meeting time at 14:00, because the downpours usually start late in the afternoon. We all met at Bang Wa BTS Station and, from there, we hop on a local mini bus to reach the beginning of our walk, 10 minutes away: Khlong Baan Luang.

Khlong Baan Luang, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Restaurant with views, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Running water, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
This is a small, traditional neighborhood that stretches out on both sides of the canal, consisting mostly of humble, wooden houses and bridges connecting both banks. Strolling along these narrow alleyways is an exercise of relax and quietness, for you will walk literally through the houses of the people who inhabit these quarters, and you will see how they perform their daily chores, unperturbed by passing people mere centimeters from their open doors. But the real landmark of the neighborhood awaits just a hundred meters ahead: Baan Silapin, the Artist's House.

The puppet I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The puppet II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The puppet III, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Baan Silapin is a beautiful example of traditional Thai architecture, all built with wood forming a 2-storeyd L shape. The house, about 200 years old, underwent a respectful renovation some years back and now is the center of the community, because it hosts an ancient pagoda in its backyard (which dates from the Ayutthaya period), as well as being a traditional Puppet theater and art gallery all at once. The ground floor accommodates the stage, which sits in the garden, next to the centuries-old pagoda, and every afternoon the Puppets are brought to life by masked artists. In the second floor you will find the gallery, where they show the paintings made by local artists.

Initiation, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Cozy seat, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The audience, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The house remains open for everybody to visit and there is no ticket required, but they can carry on with their activities thanks to the generous donations made by all visitors, so a contribution is very welcomed. People of all ages, both local and foreigners, gather in the small space provided to enjoy the show; being in such an old, historical environment spectating an almost lost tradition in the hands of new generations is a nice experience; but traditions must be updated in order to survive through the ages, and this one is no exception, for a new act has been added to the Puppet theater: a tribal dance performed by a group of young kids dressed as Africans.

The calm before the storm I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The calm before the storm II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Ready, steady..., GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Walking further down the canal you will soon reach the second landmark of the neighborhood: Wat Kamphaeng. The old capital of Siam used to be on this side of the river, called Thonburi, so it's no surprise to find, scattered around this vast area, plenty of ancient ruins and temples from that era. Wat Kamphaeng is one of them, and it is preserved in quite a good condition. It's well worth it walking around its grounds, hearing all the little bells tickling, hanging from the high eaves.

Wat Kamphaeng I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Wat Kamphaeng II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Old and new I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Old and new II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Since modern development of Bangkok mainly happened on the other side of the river, Thonburi has remained mostly undeveloped and only recently this has started to change: signs of things to come are already sprouting everywhere, from high-rise condos to the extension of the BTS line coming from downtown Bangkok. Even though the neighborhood still maintains its local, traditional flavor, and you will see plenty of small barber shops and community-focused businesses, you will also spot new concrete structures rising quickly above all roofs, pointing to a changing future that will sooner rather than later be present.

Street market, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Communion of purpose, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
Colors vs. greys, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The dump, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm
The future coming I, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
The future coming II, GH3 + Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm
Before long, it started raining, as we all feared, so the group dismantled and the Global Photo Walk came to an end. Last year we also had a few raindrops, but in that occasion it was just at the beginning. Maybe rain is our particular signature, so may many more showers come in the future, and see you all again next year, if not before! 

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