Lumpini Park, April 2015. Unlike the majority of travellers I’ve met over the years, I adore Bangkok and have never understood all the hate. Yes it’s a big bad city, but peel back the surface layers and you’ll find a fascinating place just waiting to be discovered. The food is incredible, the temples are stunning and plentiful, while the markets are right up there with anything I’ve seen across the globe. A favourite spot of mine is the surprisingly peaceful Lumpini Park. Come here on a weekday morning and you’ll virtually have the place to yourself, save for the giant black crows and mooching monitor lizards. Working my way between the palm trees around the lake, I came across a couple of joggers, a German photographer and this elegant Tai Chi class. At first glance, it’s hard to believe a place like this exists in Bangkok and indeed many come here and miss it altogether.
Snake Farm, Thai Red Cross Society, April 2015. Lumpini Park isn’t the only attraction that seems to pass people by. A visit to the excellent Jim Thompson House is well worthwhile, as is this well-hidden snake farm located in the Red Cross compound near Silom Road. A hospital, breeding centre and museum rolled into one, its main draw is the unmissable Snake Handling Show, which takes place every afternoon. Presenting a number of vicious breeds, the Siamese King Cobras were particularly malevolent and the Thai handlers proved highly skilled in controlling them and preventing attacks. A particularly scary moment came when one snake suddenly lashed out, falling just inches short of a trainer’s arm. This photo somewhat clumsily captures the moment but I’ve always liked it, particularly the juxtaposition of the snake’s fury and the dude’s apathy. He’s seen it all before. At the end of the show brave punters can get better acquainted with a python, namely by having it wrapped around their necks and shoulders!
The Ghost Tower, April 2015. “Have you been up the ghost tower?” this Aussie guy asked me one day. We were at Three of a Kind in Silom, one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. There’d been a lot of buzz about this so-called Ghost Tower, a 47th floor skyscraper abandoned mid-build and now serving as a grisly tourist attraction. Pay a nominal fee to the entrepreneurial locals at the ground floor and you can work your way up to the summit, floor by deserted floor. Broken toilets, weed-infested balconies, macabre graffiti and increasingly fantastic views, this shot was taken on the 27th floor.
The Grand Palace, April 2015. If I’m honest The Grand Palace was a mostly nightmarish experience. It’s a pity this beautiful place has been turned into such an embarrassing circus. The word crowded doesn’t even begin to cover it, so much so that only a ride on the Beijing subway at rush hour can rival it for unpleasantness. Still, if you can bite your tongue and push the emergency button marked patience the rewards make it worthwhile. A photographer’s wet dream, the complex boasts some of the most stunning architecture in Asia, with dazzling colors, superb craftsmanship and intricate detail throughout. Ignore the selfie sticks, the idiotic tour groups and the pushers and shovers to snatch a sense of how this was once the spiritual heart of the Thai kingdom.
Khao San Road, June 2015. Only marginally more tolerable than The Grand Palace is the grimy strip of debauchery known as Khao San Road. If your idea of an authentic Bangkok experience is paying too much for beer, getting endless hassle from tat-peddling touts and being surrounded by the kind of people you’d cross a road to avoid back home, then by all means set up camp here. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely worth a look, if only for the amusement factor and to say you’ve seen it. This photo was taken late-afternoon while the area was relatively peaceful, before the chaos of nightfall. Despite my feelings about Khao San, the shot still makes my top five as I’ve always felt it has a calm before the storm vibe to it. I’m funny like that.