Images shot with F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8
One great thing about living in Chiang Mai is how easy it is to walk around in the compact old town, exploring and finding places that aren’t on the tourist maps.
One Chiang Mai temple I visited (Wat Pha Khao, not far at all from Tha Phae Gate) is one example of this.
The temple cannot compete with the main ones in town, being less than half the size and having less than half the exposure on tourist routes.
I only really went there because I’d been eating at Cafe 29, a place opposite Wat Pha Khao that I often went to when I first arrived Chiang Mai.
I went there less after living in Chiang Mai for a while, but it is a good spot for some dinner in the old town.
Mainly for the array of little fat kids in the yard with begging bowls and grinning faces.
Statues of them, I mean.
Being surrounded by these was a little strange if I let them spend too much time in my peripheral vision, although this wasn’t a bad thing – I felt uplifted, as temples always make me feel.
Inside the temple, I saw something that, of all the temples I’d ever been to, was new to me.
The main Buddha and the five smaller statues in front of him were underlit, with the light changing colour every five seconds or so.
It sounds tacky, but what it actually does is bring their faces to life. As the shadows and colours change, the expressions on the faces seem to alter slightly.
I couldn’t stop looking at it.
A trick of the light of course, and not something that can be replicated in a still photograph, but I was mesmerised.
Chiang Mai’s main temples
The two Chiang Mai temples that everyone goes to – the main, famous ones in the old town – are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang.
I was surprised to find out the former has a sister temple in Runcorn, England, in an old pub.
I’ve never been.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to Runcorn, never mind the temple/pub.
So you can be sure that while the photographs in this set are from various different temples, they are all from Chiang Mai and definitely not from Runcorn.
Chiang Mai temple photography rules
I do love taking photos around temples, but one thing I don’t like doing with my temple photography is taking shots inside them.
I see plenty of people who do, and that’s up to them. I’m not judging; it’s a personal choice.
I happily take pictures in churches without thinking.
I guess my personal refusal to take photographs in temples stems from being told not to in a temple at Erdene Zuu Monastery, Mongolia, after I had already taken a few.
I remember immediately deleting them, even though nobody asked me to, and I’ve never regretted losing those shots.
Some things are more important.
Now, if I really want a picture of the interior of a temple, I will see if I can get it from standing outside and shooting in. If that’s not possible, I forget it.
My personal thing about not shooting inside temples is worth more to me than the shot.
The rules for temple photography in Chiang Mai seemed to be that it was allowed.
It’s just my personal rule that prevents me from doing it.
Broken Buddha statues
A little later in the day, I came across something at another temple that made me stop and take a closer look.
Although the temple itself wasn’t particularly interesting either inside or out, there was a collection of broken and headless Buddha statues under the bodhi tree.
It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen broken Buddhas under a tree, but it was the most photogenic collection I’ve come across.
I think there’s something atmospheric about seeing the broken Buddhas there; something quite sad, and even though they were small, it brought to mind the fall of something great.
Be it the ruins of an empire, or merely the denouncing of a religion by one person, the destroyed Buddhas in their final resting place were a sorry sight.
In reality, they would most likely have been broken accidentally, with the bodhi tree being the most respectful place for them to remain afterwards.
To throw them away with the rest of the rubbish would be highly disrespectful, and people might not want to keep an imperfect Buddha that has been broken and repaired.
A big part of Buddhism is the cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. At the same temple, I noticed a symbol of this and was lucky enough to be able to capture it.
No other creature really encapsulates the cycle of development and rebirth like a butterfly, and I like to think that maybe it wasn’t merely coincidence this one was sitting where it was that day.
Chiang Mai old town photography
Chiang Mai’s temples are a major attraction for many of the thousands of tourists who pass through the city, but just wandering the streets of the old town provides plenty of opportunity for more photographs.
I’m not sure how popular Nirvana or Kurt Cobain are or ever were in Thailand, but someone thought enough of the late singer to immortalise him on a wall.
Better than yet another Che Guevara though, I suppose.
The classic Mercedes was an unexpected find too, but unfortunately looked like it hadn’t been driven for a while, and the dog just seemed completely uninterested in his surroundings or the fact that he was sleeping on a road junction.
I took a few shots of him, experimenting with shutter speeds and waiting for different vehicles to come past, even trying with an empty street there.
In the end though, and to wrap up this blog post, what’s more Thai than a tuk-tuk?
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