Whilst I’ve accumulated a daft amount of photos taken at sea or surrounded by greenery, the real colour of Thailand during my trip would have to be orange. Little orange glows took me from the monastery at the Big Buddha in Koh Samui to the Queen’s Cabaret in Koh Tao and the cookery class of Chef Tummy in Koh Pha Ngan.
That’s why I thought it would be more appropriate to base my photo essay not on the blues and greens that surrounded me, but on the orange that somehow flowed from a monk’s robes drying on a washing line to a ladyboy’s costume being worn proudly on stage.
This shot captures a lot of the charm of Thailand for me; it shows how Buddhism is integrated into the everyday lives of many Thai people. Away from the ornate temples and the gaudy shrines on street corners, the robes have their own stand-out appeal.
Before I arrived here, I’ll readily admit that I pretty much expected monks to always look devoted and passionate about their vocation; I didn’t expect them to be sitting smoking and looking bored. However, as was later explained to my group, smoking is one of the only vices permitted when you live as a monk, and they must adhere to a series of 227 rules.
It took me a little while to realise that people had placed offerings in these shrines and not just rubbish. Once I realised that, I kept noticing the bright colours of the gifts they chose.
Coming to Wat Khunaram was one of the highlights of my trip – so much so, that I did it twice! This is the mummified body of a devout monk, Loung Pordaeng, who was lucky enough to have died in a prayer position. The sunglasses, which protect his sunken eyes, are changed frequently.
Staring into the eyes of a tiger wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be; in fact, I was very chilled out, though the same can’t be said for the tiger, who kicked off after this photo was taken. Unlike with many other safari experiences, the animals here weren’t drugged, so they were able to express themselves (and their moods) freely.
The Queen’s Cabaret was a much more positive experience than I’d anticipated, with the ladyboys seeming (at least outwardly) to be pretty comfortable with their job. Before I watched the show, I worried it would feel too exploitative, but the performers are treated well by their manager, Big Mama, who makes all their costumes herself.
And so to food. Despite my general ineptitude at cooking, I was determined to try and improve my skills on holiday, and managed to rustle up this delicious curry under the supervision of Chef Tummy, who runs cookery classes in Koh Pha Ngan. So he did most of the work for us (I love a good pre-prepared ingredient), but I did put it all together without setting fire to anything. That’s a resounding success in my book.
The colour orange clearly punctuated some of my best memories of Thailand, across all three islands that I visited. It might not be as postcard-friendly as the blue seascapes I photographed, but it helps to capture the people and places I was drawn to whilst on dry land.
Disclaimer: I visited Thailand as a blog competition winner with Contiki.com, on their Thai Island Hopper East tour. As ever, all views are my own.