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Picture This...

...a small cycle ride through Southern Thailand

35 °C

Exploring the lanes around Ban Bang Burd

Exploring the lanes around Ban Bang Burd


The world at work, Samsen District, Bangkok

The world at work, Samsen District, Bangkok

Typing into Google “map of Bangkok to Phuket” brought back a somewhat flippant repsonse from the well known search engine: 825km in 10 hours and 21 minutes! Really? Actually it was more like 600k, and 10 days but then again it’s only me who’s quibbling.

Cycling from Bangkok to Phuket, was rather an indulgent afterthought on my list of 2013 travel destinations. But a long-ish spell of horrible cold wet and snowy weather in the North of England, combined with one bug after another, convinced me to book some time with the sunshine, and what is rapidly becoming, my Painted Roads extended family. Arriving in Bangkok on the 27 January, to be greeted warmly by friends and a cold bottle of Singha I could scarcely believe it. Three weeks previously it wasn’t even a figment of my imagination.

David Walker (Painted Roads) knows how to keep his customers happy!

David Walker (Painted Roads) knows how to keep his customers happy!

Having been in Thailand only 12 months ago, this promised to be what I would actually call a ‘holiday’ , something with an emphasis on the R&R rather than my usual adventurous line up of ‘epics’. Having said that, I was admittedly most excited about what I generally refer to as “the bits in between”.
The Thailand most tourists are familiar with probably looks something like this...

Destination Thailand: A longtail boat in the Malacca Strait

Destination Thailand: A longtail boat in the Malacca Strait

...and while we did indulge ourselves at the end of the tour, I was more keen on discovering what I would find on the way there, behind the scenes, as it were.

What you don't find in the brochure - cows come for me outside the military base in Pretchuap Khiri Khan

What you don't find in the brochure - cows come for me outside the military base in Pretchuap Khiri Khan

It would also probably be an underestimate to say I was quite excited to take my new OMD-EM5 for a proper road test, complete with two new lenses – the Olympus 17mm f1.8 and 45mm f1.8. Having been cooped up at home by the properly dreich blizzard, sleet and drizzle for the better part three weeks, with only one dog photo to show for my efforts, I couldn’t make it to the Airport check-in fast enough. In Thailand those without OMD’s were a borderline minority group, as both our tour leader David, and JP both had their’s with them. This inevitably lead to a number of very satisfying ‘total geek-out’ sessions, washed down with a Singha or two. Naturally.

OMD photo-geekery in Bangkok

OMD photo-geekery in Bangkok

Thailand is noticeably the most developed nation in South East Asia, so the opportunities for street photography of the style I’ve been used to in Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal and India were less obvious. But interesting landscapes, sunrises and sunsets were fortunately plentiful, despite some initial weather challenges.

I have one abiding memory from the trip, of getting caught in a thunderstorm (possibly power shower?), with two hours of cycling left to do on our first day. After avoiding making a decision for about 20 minutes, we eventually departed from our huddle in a nearby shelter to hammer through the pelting rain. I wore no more than shorts and a t-shirt, having abandoned the idea that waterproofs could keep out such a sustained attack. But instead found something very liberating about cycling into the storm, no hands, soaked to the skin, and yet warm enough to confidently invite as much rain as the heavens could possibly throw at me. I did so with a large smile on my face - there was certainly not a hope in hell of achieving this in the UK with out initiating the onset of hypothermia, which just served to remind me I was on holiday. In Thailand! As a fitting end to the afternoon therefore, I thought it best to jump fully clothed straight into the surf at Ban Krut, much to the amusement of the locals (#mad Englishwoman). Well why on earth not?
The following dawn, I was suitably rewarded for my efforts. The photography gods were smiling and the sun had got its hat on.

Threatening weather on the East Coast

Threatening weather on the East Coast


The morning after on the coast road at Ban Krut

The morning after on the coast road at Ban Krut

Dawn surf at Ban Krut

Dawn surf at Ban Krut

I must confess, after initially reviewing my photographs on the back of the camera, (admitedly in the blazing sunshine) I wasn’t overwhelmed by my efforts. But now, having gone through all of the files, I have been struck by just how many photographs actually turned out better than I had thought. Some even make quite striking images once “developed”, though they look dull in RAW format. This is the first time I have really photographed entirely in RAW, and I can say unequivocally that I will not be returning to JPEGs in-camera. I’ve also been utterly astonished at the quality of the 45mm Olympus lens. Images from this amazing construction seem to have a luminous quality that I can’t really put into words.. .other than to say that it takes me back to photos taken by my Dad with his old Leica. The 17mm seems to have done the job for now, but I don’t yet feel I’ve given it enough of a test, or sufficiently mastered the controls of the OMD to understand whether I’ve seen the best it can do. All I can say, is “it’s not the 45”, which goes some way to explain why it hasn’t spent sufficient time yet on the frontend of the OMD.

Karst Limestone scenery captured with the Olympus 45mm at f2.5

Karst Limestone scenery captured with the Olympus 45mm at f2.5


Undulations, captured with the Olympus 45mm at f1.8

Undulations, captured with the Olympus 45mm at f1.8



Some cat action on Koh Yao Noi, captured with the Olympus 45mm at f1.8

Some cat action on Koh Yao Noi, captured with the Olympus 45mm at f1.8

Our cycling route took us from Prachuap Khiri Khan on the East Coast (Gulf of Thailand) down to Pak Nam Tako (just beyond Chumphon). From here we then began to turn inland towards our destination on the West Coast: Ao Luek and Koh Yao Noi in the Malacca Strait. This took us through fishing villages, past wind-swept surfing beaches, through coconut groves, along Highway 4 – the main arterial route North-South through Thailand, and finally through beautiful Karst Limestone scenery to the Ratchaprapha Dam, Ao Luek and the picture perfect East Coast.

Cycling through Ao Luek

Cycling through Ao Luek

A short long-tail boat trip delivered us to the quiet island of Koh Yao Noi, perfectly set up for the chillout backpacking crowd. By the time we reached the island, we were ready to fit right in. Hammock. Check. Singha. Check. Sunset. Check. Bob Marley on speed dial...hmmm. Ok so we swapped the reggae for Blondie, but everything else was definitely in order. We were almost in a fit state to cope with Phuket, and the perks of being a tourist!
I would like to extend a huge thank you to David for lending me various bits and pieces of lenses filters and tripods, for photographic inspriation, and to both him and his team, Ar and Gor for such a fabulous trip. (Again).

David Walker in evening photography-mode

David Walker in evening photography-mode


Squid Boats on the East Coast

Squid Boats on the East Coast


Sunset in Koh Yao Noi

Sunset in Koh Yao Noi

Sunset in Phuket

Sunset in Phuket

Posted by jparsons 16:55 Tagged thailand photography cycling

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Comments

All the thanks go to you Jen for joining us and for writing a blog post that has had me chuckling, you have revived some great memories of a fun trip. Interestingly about 10 mins ago reproduced a post from my old blog on the Painted Roads blog about the virtues of the OMD for travel photography. As for the 45mm lens, I think your description and comparison with the special Leica quality is spot on, Can someone do the same with a 20mm lens please?
Cheers Jen, see you soon I hope.

by David

Glad to have made you laugh. Completely sold on the OMD now! And yes, the day they make a 20mm version of the 45mm I'll be queueing up.
Next stop China methinks.

by jparsons

Your photographs are stunning! Also, good luck in China if you decide to go. I am there now and it is an amazing place!

by Kaceyroo

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