Exploring Around the Bangkok Skytrain

It’s my late journal from my trip to Bangkok in June 2017. Phew, two years already and I began to miss this city. It was my third time visiting the capital city of Thailand. I realized that I always love to come back again and again to Bangkok. It’s far from home, but there’s a sense of familiarity for me.

The high-rise buildings, heavy traffic congestion, intense heat, things that are not much different with Jakarta. Maybe those are also the reasons why Bangkok feels like home to me. Aside from those things, Bangkok has its strong character that I love with its magnificent temples and palaces, authentic canals, and busy markets.

In June 2017, last year, I had a workshop in Ploenchit, Bangkok. It’s a few days work trip basically and I had other things to do in Jakarta after that which made me didn’t arrange for extensions (why do I feel like I always use this excuse in my writing?). It’s a bummer that I couldn’t go to visit some sites with more authenticity such as local temples. Though I had visited some temples such as Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Saket, back then in my previous trips to Bangkok in 2013 and 2015, it felt incomplete to visit Bangkok without going to the temples during my last trip there.

Anyway, as I always love to explore town during traveling, I still can enjoy Bangkok without having to go to its touristy places. Since I only had free time in the evening to night or very early morning at that time, so I went around the neighborhood a little bit. I had a long walk during the night, I took the Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) and went to Sukhumvit Road (good place to explore night life in town – but also made me cautious to safety, especially carrying around a camera).

I also took the BTS and went to Siam in the morning, last day before my flight in the afternoon, and captured some scenes in the streets of Bangkok. Even that made me simply happy.

I always have a great time to do urban street photography in Bangkok. Maybe that’s also one of the reasons why I love this city. Whether you walk along the street or take BTS ride, you can easily capture simple daily urban scenes that might be interesting to some of us.

The main streets are clean and give you the mixture of modern and local elements. The Thai letters especially become the element that gives you this sense of place, telling that you are in Bangkok. Whether it’s placed in giant billboard, store banners, bus shelter, signage, or many other spots, they look pretty to me.

I’m not sure whether camera is allowed or not in BTS station or not, but I love to photograph there while waiting for the train to come. Even in Jakarta, the Commuter Line train station is also one of my favorite spots for street photography.

Talking about BTS (not the Korean boyband, but the sky train), I think a lot of the Bangkok citizens, including the tourists, are relying to this public transport. It is an elevated rapid transit system operated by the Bangkok Mass Transit System. In my opinion, Bangkok is quite advanced in providing its public transport service to the public. The BTS itself has been operating since December 1999. They have prepared in advance to reduce the traffic congestion in the city. At some point, traffic jam still happens anyway. But it’s always better for the public to have options in commuting or getting around from one place to another in the city.

Besides the BTS, Bangkok also has the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) railway lines and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Comparing to Jakarta, even though we’re quite behind in having the infrastructure, but it’s better late than never. As the MRT Jakarta is going to be officially operating soon, I’m expecting a new positive change to public transportation system in this capital city of Indonesia.

I guess I always have a heart for train station and its architecture. It has become my habit to try or use public transport, especially the rail system, whenever I visit different countries (if they have one). There are a lot of chances where we can get moments of people interacting or busy with themselves while they’re waiting. Always keep in mind to not trespassing people’s privacy while taking pictures, though.

I think 8 am to 9 am is a perfect time to do street photography in Bangkok if you have some time in the morning, especially if you’re a shadow hunter. Since there are a lot of high-rise buildings in Bangkok, also by the existence of sky train concretes lane across up there, there are a lot of chances of getting high contrast of shadows in places like this.

Morning like this is also a busy hour where you can see many people are walking down the streets. A lot of students are going for school while the adults are going for work. You just only have to wait for the right moment to hit your camera shutter.

Bangkok is always special to me. My first trip going to Bangkok in 2013 back then was a result of my savings from my first job working as a research assistant in a university. I used that as a reward for myself. Since then, it feels like I left some part of my heart to this city. I’m happy I had the chance to go back again after my first trip, but even that did not make me saying I’ve had enough. So, yeah, I’d love to come back again for sure.

Spending a Morning at Chinatown of Semarang

One of the well-known street photography site in many places of the world is the Chinatown. The same goes to Semarang City in Indonesia. Locally known as Pecinan, people usually visit this long alley in the evening, especially from Friday to Sunday because these three days are the time for street food sellers lining up to serve the culinary hunter in the city. You should try!

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This time, I went there in the morning where I found several interesting activities with old ambiance and vintage character that I managed to capture. While I always visit Pecinan Semarang during weekend night, I never know that this site has a lot of interesting scenes in the morning. You can find people riding their bikes and people going short distance using pedicabs. Since it’s also located near traditional market, you can also definitely do street photography in the market itself. My personal favorite is scene of a man unloading some stuffs in the alley for market supplies. It gives a warm natural light because I took the picture around 7 or 8 am.

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If you walk a bit farther, there are  some Chinese temples in the area. You can definitely  explore the Chinatown while adoring the architectural and the culture aspect. All in all, exploring this area can give you this traveling-back-time kind of feeling. While it’s a must to visit this area during evening for your Saturday night time, you should also try to check this place other times in the morning and see how this place has different things to offer.

Playing with Lights and Shadows Around Juanda, Jakarta

If you’re looking for an alternative street photography site in Jakarta, try to stroll around Juanda area. One of the landmark of this area is the famous ‘Pasar Baru’. Usually, people go here for textile and fabric shopping.  There are two options for you. Come a little bit in the afternoon and you may get a crowded scenes that might looks interesting as you can capture the hustle of people spending their time scanning a lot of items available there. This time, I picked the other option. I went there early in the morning and had the empty and calm side of Pasar Baru, Juanda.

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I found out that Pasar Baru in the morning has several spots where you can play along with lights and shadows. Walking down the corridor of the market around 7 or 8 am, you may see how morning light intruding into the gaps of the buildings and creates a beautiful contrast. You may also search through some spots outside of the main corridor. Look at some small alleys in this area, wait until a vehicle or someone coming out or coming in, and you may get some great moments there.

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Try to take some walk outside of Pasar Baru. Maybe you want to try to take the route to the Juanda Train Station which is not really far from there. You can meet some street vendors along the way, a Starbucks Coffee with an old-school style architecture, the European style Antara News building, etc. So, a lot of things that you can get by strolling around Juanda. Want to try?


Discovering Colombo, the Heart of Sri Lanka

Despite its small size just 37.31 km² Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, offers a varying selection of experience to discover excitements of Asia. My impression on Colombo the first time I discovered the city is totally different from my expectation. Not expecting much of moving around the downtown, but it turned out to become a worthy exploration in its own right. And once again, the diverse culture of Asia always fascinates me in its own way.

Scenes of Dhaka, Captured from a Moving Car

I never imagine in my life that I would travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh. But I did travel there, December 2015. I was part of the training team given the responsibility to build my organization’s partner capacity. When I was assigned for this task, I had a mixed feeling. I did not really have a clear idea of what Bangladesh looks like at that time and I convinced myself that it’s not part of top destinations for taking some leisure either (need to remind myself that the work should be the top priority, but I couldn’t help myself thinking about the destination). However, I was excited anyway because I never visited the country before. First experience will always be something to anticipate!

So, skip to the travel day. My first impression when I set my foot in Dhaka was this feeling of traveling back to the past. I don’t know whether this is valid or not, but there’s this nuance of Indonesia back in 90s for me. I’m aware that Bangladesh is part of LDCs (Least Developed Countries), but I’ve read some article that they’re working hard to crossing over from that category to be eligible with the criteria of developing country.

Tangled overhead cables near the apartment where I stayed during the work trip

I had around four days during my work trip in Dhaka. Most of the time, we stayed in the office building for workshop activities from morning to evening. To be honest, I didn’t prepare myself to explore the city since the beginning. I knew the schedule would be quite packed and it’s not a solo traveling kind of thing so I did not want to mess my team’s schedule.

Surprisingly, our host-country organization actually told us when we arrived there that December 16 is a national holiday in Bangladesh. It’s celebration of Bijoy Dibosh, Victory Day of Bangladesh. Hence, our host offered us whether or not we want to visit the downtown for sightseeing. OF COURSE, LET’S GO!

I wasn’t so sure about the area, but my remaining memory told me that we visited this public space nearby the Bangladesh National Parliament House (locally known as Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban). A lot of people were hanging around in this area, wearing clothes in red and green that represents Bangladesh national flag. Not spending so much time there, we continued visiting Aarong to buy some local souvenirs (just like normal tourist). Aarong itself is a social enterprise from BRAC, a well-known NGO based in Dhaka that empower local people in the country. Kudos for BRAC!

So, where are the street scenes?

Well. During our way to the downtown, the traffic was really bad. My colleagues and I assumed it was because of the holiday, but the driver said it’s just like everyday. It’s “normal” traffic. Oh well. Coming from Jakarta, I shouldn’t complain regarding the situation.

Traffic jam is not a good news, but on the other side of coin, I could use the extra time to take some pictures from the car!

This is one of my favorite image I took from inside the car. Feels like I was outside the street.

One of the most eye-catching scene is the three-wheeled rickshaws. It’s very popular in Dhaka and became the country’s trademark. Millions of people use these rickshaws to commute. Even Dhaka has a nickname as the rickshaw capital of the world. So, taking a picture of rickshaw in Dhaka is a must!

Other than that, taking random snapshots of Dhaka from a (slowly) moving car is very fun. The street scenes are unique, colorful, sometimes chaotic, but it just gives beautiful dynamics. Again, the look of the environment, especially the buildings, will give you this vintage and old-fashioned atmosphere which can take you travel back the time. At least that was what Dhaka did to me.

Looking at the pictures that I took with all the limitations, I wish I had more time to explore the streets of Dhaka in a more proper way at that time (not sure about the safety level though). Nevertheless, it was still fun and became a memorable experience for me!