Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Other City of Angels - A Photo Essay

Here's a photo essay that I wrote for - An online magazine that was recently nominated for a 2008 Webby Award.

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Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand and a longtime popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, is one of the largest and most heavily populated cities in the world. The Thai translation of “Bangkok” is “City of Angels” and while it has become more Westernised, commercial and modern in recent decades, it is a fiercely traditional city rich in cultural gems. The Chao Praya River is Bangkok's main geographical feature that leads into the Bay of Bangkok and because of the large number of canals and passages in the city, Bangkok is often called the "Venice of the East".

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Bangkok is a major economic and financial center of Southeast Asia and it has one of the fastest rates in the world for construction of high rise buildings. Nestled among the newer architectural additions, including office buildings, hotels and shopping malls, are the old market places of Chinatown and the ancient, golden Buddhist temples that seem to sparkle in the sun. It not unusual to see Buddhist monks riding in a tuk-tuk or on the Skytrain, or talking on a cell phone and reading the newspaper. Everywhere you turn in this city, there is yet another incredible sight waiting to be discovered.

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As you explore the city, you are embraced by its sounds and smells. In the temples monks chant and give blessings, and the consistent murmur of the prayers of the people who go to worship fill the space with a peaceful calm. A less pleasant but prevalent sound is the noise created by the all-day traffic jams on Bangkok’s streets. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to be stuck in an endless traffic jam, and it is not unusal to resort to walking in the heat of the city or riding a boat down the river to reach your destination. Food is an integral part of Thai culture -- you don’t have to walk very far to find various meats, chickens, noodles, fruits, Pad Thai, and even fried insects being sold in the countless food carts on every street corner. The smell of the delicious Thai food remains with you even after you enjoy your meal, and there are restaurants to suit every budget.

Bangkok is is a place that must be experienced with all one’s senses. It is not enough to see it in photographs through my eyes.

A Place of Worship

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The Rush Hour

Under the Bridge

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Boy Wai