Bits of Bangkok: Pak Khlong Talat

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bangkok / Contax Tvs / Kodak UltraMax 400 / photowalk

Bits of Bangkok, shot with a Contax Tvs compact camera:

Photogenic baskets in the sun

A truckful of baskets

A cat appears from behind a basket

Walking through the wet market at Wang Burapa Phirom

Blue hues, with a sprinkle of yellow

I took these photos while wandering through Wang Burapha, one of my favorite neighborhoods in Bangkok. The area is home to a handful of markets, including Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s largest wholesale flower and vegetable market. The traders supply produce to family restaurants like Thai Heng Lee. My Thai friend Yok likes to point out white tourists and say falang! – as if she hadn’t lived in predominantly white communities in the States for 18 years.

I like the neighborhood because there always seems to be bustle and activity, even during off-peak hours on weekday afternoons; but there are also pockets of stillness: quiet alleys to duck into, shophouses that snooze during the day.

Gentrification has hit this area slower than others, it seems. For the most part, shophouses in Wang Burapha appear to be rented – not owned – by their occupants. These remain largely family-run businesses and homes, unlike the yuppie shophouse bars and restaurants of Singapore and Malaysia, where shophouse conservation is undertaken by national ministries.

But authenticity, local tradition, and nostalgia seem to be driving tourism; so the question of preservation becomes tricky.

On her teaching breaks, Yok likes to wander along the verandah of the Yodpiman River Walk. The walkway runs adjacent to the Chao Phraya River and is the mall’s main feature. To the developers, it’s a Thai Heritage mall built in a Neoclassical Colonial style. To me, the complex resembles a theme park, with cart-shaped kiosks selling overpriced goods no one seems to buy, and chain outlets like Boots and Starbucks (hardly surprising though, given the high rent).

On the other hand, I can see the mall’s potential appeal: it’s clean, well maintained, well lit, and probably provides a breeze at night – a comfort in a city where temperatures can climb to 38 degrees Celsius (100 F). The developers bought over the Yodpiman Market in 2010 and re-zoned it, which explains its neat signage and orderly appearance. Yodpiman Market leads to Pak Khlong Talat, if you take the right path; this, too, has been cleaned up – preserved, if you will – but ah, I’ll perhaps continue my notes on preservation in a future post.

In any case, with the upcoming expansion of the MRT network, rents in the area are bound to rise. What will happen to the shophouses? Where will the ghosts and termites live?

Directions to Pak Khlong Talat
Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin (Silom line) and look for an express boat with an orange flag. It’s about a 15-minute ride from Taksin pier to Yodpiman pier; look out for a pale yellow building with white gates. That’s your stop.

Contax Tvs + fresh Kodak Ultramax 400

Processed + Scanned by Triple D Minilab

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Snow and Coffee

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Black and White / Contax 159mm / creative fuel / Kodak Tri-X 400 / travel

Faraway house. Kodak Tri-X 400, shot on Contax 159mm.

Window, snow, shadows. Kodak Tri-X 400 shot on Contax 159mm.

Icy Juniper branch – Contax 159mm, Tri-X 400

Morning coffee. Kodak Tri-X 400 on Contax 159mm

“Oh, climate change is causing the end of the world.” Oh my God. Anyone who talks like that does not understand the grandeur and the power of nature. To imagine that we can make a change in it is so absolutely absurd.
Camille Paglia, rockin’ the boat.

To spring snow and blizzards I say, let’s have another round of coffee. A good cup of hot black coffee magnifies the splendor of the snow, no?

If you’re flaring your nostrils, hang on: start with this opinion piece from 2007. Then read/watch Camille Paglia’s recent interview with Tyler Cowen for the quotation in context.

Recently ingested

One of the pleasures of reconnecting with old friends, I find, is the opportunity to gather creative fuel. In Cambridge, MA, conversations with my hosts M. and N. reignited my eagerness to tackle a project I’ve put on pause for too long. In their company, I also watched two exceptional movies. Incidentally, both films were shot in black and white. I wonder what Camille Paglia would think of them.

Embrace of the Serpent

2015, dir. Ciro Guerra
Immersive, consuming, and imbued with a quality that is difficult for me to articulate. In short, it is set and was filmed in the Amazon. I know of no other film that offers this perspective, with this much sensitivity, insight, and soul.

Just as various pieces and people have been pointing me towards the works of William Blake, I think it’s high time I read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Watch Embrace of the Serpent (pre-order via Amazon Video) or pre-order the DVD
Official site
+ Read after watching: this article in milk

* A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

2014, dir. Ana Lily Amirpour

– Is it American? I asked.
– Sort of, said M.
– Not really, countered N.

We saw it one night in the living room, projected against a pale yellow wall. It was sensual, tense, moody. I understood why M. had wanted me to watch it free of context or expectations.

Ana Lily Amirpour apparently isn’t a fan of Jim Jarmusch (she wears David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky t-shirts) but I find it easy to make the association. The silence, coolness, and tension in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night made me recall Stranger than Paradise – which in fact was the last movie I’d seen projected against the same pale yellow wall, a few years ago.

I may write a future post on movies of this ilk.

Stream or download A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (via Amazon Video)
+ Official site
+ Ana Lily Amirpour’s Top 10 movies (via Criterion)

Photos above: Contax 159mm + Zeiss Planar T* 50mm 1.7 + Tri-X
Processed + scanned by The Darkroom in San Clemente, CA

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Slowing Down

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Canon Elan 7E / Film / Fujicolor Industrial 400 / Fujicolor Superia Premium 400 / outdoors / travel
Boots of a pruner at Kenroku-en in Kanazawa

Kenroku-en (兼六園), Kanazawa. Fuji Industrial “Gyoumu” 400

"Swimming Pool" by Leandro Erlich at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanzawa

Leandro Erlich’s “Swimming Pool” – 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanzawa. Fuji Industrial “Gyoumu” 400

Public toilet in Kyoto

Street toilet, Kyoto. Fuji Superia Premium 400

Abandoned van in the forest, Yamanobe-no-Michi, Japan

Abandoned van, Yamanobe-no-Michi. Fuji Superia Premium 400

Canon Elan 7E + Fuji Industrial 400 / Superia Premium 400
Processed + scanned by Triple D Minilab, Singapore

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Little Red Dot

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AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 / Canon 300X / Canon Elan 7E / CineStill 800T / Film / Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400 / singapore
Patchwork road, Singapore

Cinestill 800 + Elan 7E

Singapore, 23-32 degrees

Agfa Vista Plus 200 + Contax 159mm

Shot through a bus window: Sloped HDBs, Singapore

Superia 400 + Canon 300X/Rebel T2

What is it about this place that saps the spirit?

Is it the heat and humidity? The fast pace of life, the efficiency, the commodification of creative content?

The pleonastic ‘free gift,’ the sense of entitlement, the offense often taken?

The less-than-subtle flavoring indicative of a lack of natural resources?

The lack of solitude, anonymity, and space?

There’s balm/fuel, of course: Access to an enormous collection of books at the public libary. The occasional stirring film, concert, performance, or exhibit. Plus, that very efficiency will get you out of the country smoothly.

Work may consume me when I’m here, but I’m fortunate to have the flexibility to take a portion of my duties on the road (though ironically I’m currently working on automating certain processes).

The road calls. It isn’t adventure and spontaneity I seek, but a shift in environment, conversations with like-minded people or long-time friends, and above all, the space for reflection.

Processed + scanned by Triple D MiniLab