|Monochrome transit, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Color transit, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Evening arrival, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Tight-troopers, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Fishing, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Playful girl, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Monk's selfie, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
There is no doubt: Saphan Mon, or the Mon Bridge, which is the longest wooden bridge in Thailand, is the main attraction of this small town, nestled in the mountains between Thailand and Myanmar. Last time I was there, the central part of the bridge had collapsed, but it has been rebuilt since then and now it was possible, once more, to cross from one side (the Thai village) to the other (the Mon/Burmese town) above the waters of the dwindled lake. Not only the bridge acts as a magnet for Thai tourists, it is also a place where locals gather, socialize, and is also the most important link for all everyday matters between both sides of the lake. The bridge is never quiet or empty, there is always a stream of people traversing or staying on it, either contemplating the views from its majestic height, selling crafts, taking pictures or playing music.
|Waiting for sunrise I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Waiting for sunrise II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Thanaka kids, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Thanaka lady, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Ochre loneliness, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
Yes, the views from Saphan Mon are well worth a visit to Sangkhlaburi by themselves, and the peace that one feels while sitting atop, letting the morning or evening breeze blow gently, is a great experience. I spent hours just sitting on the benches or slowly strolling from one border to the other of the 400 meters bridge, taking in the atmosphere, the views, the vibe of the people who use it regularly for their everyday routines. I was completely on my own, I had none to direct me in any particular direction and, in the end, this was probably the best choice, letting my feet carry me wherever they wanted to go, free from any responsibility or compromise. There were no hurries nor obligations, just an endless ease of mind.
|Sunrise over Saphan Mon, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|The jumper, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|The first boat, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|The giant's footprint, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
Life in Sangkhlaburi revolves around the bridge (for the other areas see the next post here), and you are never too far from it as to not see it in the (not so long) distance. A handicraft market stretches at the end of it, vendors station themselves across it, boat drivers await for tourists at both ends; but there is also life under it, and the lower levels of water due to the dry season were no obstacle for the inhabitants to keep on going out and walking along the muddy banks looking for fish or mollusks. The waters that quietly stream under the bridge are a constant source of resources for them, but kids, despite helping their families in all their chorus from an early age, always find time and space for recreation and amusement.
|Stranded wheel, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Walk for survival, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|The acrobat in the mud, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Recess I, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Recess II, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
One key difference I encountered from my previous visit, other than the rebuilding of the bridge, was the aground floating houses on the shores of the lake, waiting for the water level to raise once more when the rainy season arrived. The thick bamboo platforms that once kept the huts safely bobbing on the water, now rested immobile in the swampy land, and only a few of them remained dancing quietly in the places where the waters were deepest.
|Dry season, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Water and mud, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|The deepest spot of the lake, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Temporary retirement, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
There was one thing in particular, however, that strongly caught my attention since the first time I saw it in one of my multiple strolls along the bridge, something that was not there in my previous visit due to the higher level of the water: in the grassy bank of the lake, and delimitated with bamboo poles, they had drawn a football field, complete with 2 goals on both extremes, consisting of 2 vertical bamboo poles. There was something deeply touching in that temporary, isolated playing field that refused to leave my thoughts so, in the end, after a few strolls, I decided to walk down the gentle slope and set foot on the field myself. Much to my surprise, a couple of boys (brothers as I later learned) soon appeared from one of the nearby huts with two balls, and started practicing, enticing me into their game along the way. There are no photographs that can show the beautiful empathy that arouse between us that evening, despite the limited Thai language skills I posses, but those will be definitely my fondest memories from the whole trip, memories I will treasure for a long time.
|Emerged footfall field, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|The goal keeper, GH3 + Panasonic Leica 42.5mm|
|Football training I, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Football training II, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Football training III, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|
|Football training IV, GM1 + Panasonic Leica 15mm|