The Kingdom of Thailand is known as the land of smiles. It is filled with robust modern cities, small hilltop villages, idyllic beaches, opulent royal palaces and ornate temples. You will encounter saffron robed monks and an abundance of friendly people. Thailand is a combination of beauty in both the people and the landscape. This photo tour takes you from Bangkok to the northern hills to the southern beaches with opportunities to photograph street life in the bustling city, hill tribes in the ethnic regions, elephants as they trek through the jungle foraging for food, and sandy beaches on pristine islands. Be prepared for scents, sounds and tastes that are unlike any you have experienced before. This photographic workshop was designed by photographers for photographers. You will have an experienced guide who will be able to show you how to make the most of your photography, how to scout the best locations and be there for the best light, so that you can bring out your individual style.
Itinerary: arrive in Bangkok, Thailand
Day 1 – This is a travel day. From the US it will take you at least one day to get to Thailand due to crossing the international date line. After that long journey you will get a taxi to our hotel where you can relax until we meet first thing the next morning.
Day 2 – In the morning we meet in the hotel lobby to begin our day with breakfast where we will discuss photography styles and what you hope to achieve on this tour. We then begin our adventure at the Grand Palace, the official residence of the Kings of Siam from 1782 until 1925. From there we will take a short walk to Wat Pho, the largest temple complex in Thailand and home of the famous reclining Buddha. Afterwards we will take another short walk and a ferry across the Chao Phraya river to Wat Arun.
The photo tour continues on to the largest fresh cut flower market in Thailand, Pak Klong,. Here you will get to photograph not only the flowers but the vendors and life at this 24 hour a day market. Afterwards, we go out for our Welcome Dinner. (B) (D)
Day 3 – After breakfast we will make our way to Maeklong Railway market, a street market that sits along side of an active railroad track. Eight times a day the vendors have to pack up their goods to allow the trains to pass. It is an amazing site to photograph. From there, we head to the Amphawa floating market where you will be able to photograph the people and boats along the canal, an authentic Thai lifestyle. We will eat lunch at the market before taking a long boat ride through the canals where you will get to take photos of the market and the vendors from a different angle. Back in Bangkok, we will explore the labyrinth of shops, stalls, food and people in one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. (B)
Day 4 – In the morning, we will ride north to the ancient capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. At one point, this was the largest city in the world. It is located on an island surrounded by three rivers. We will spend the day here photographing the ruins, which includes the iconic Buddha head nestled inside the roots of a banyan tree. There are over 400 temples within this 715 acre park. Our sunset photos will take place at Wat Chaiwatthanaram (B)(D)
Day 5 – Today we travel to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai is Thailands second largest city and is nestled in the verdant green hills of the north. In the afternoon we will visit the famous Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple on the mountains outside the city. A climb up 309 steps will bring us into this temple built in the 1300’s, where a golden chedi will glow in the background while the saffron cloaked monks study and worship in silence.
In the evening we head out to the Sunday Walking Street for street photography in a very large, crowded, bustling market.(B) (L)
Day 6 – If the tour takes place in October/November then we will be in Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng Festival (Floating Lanterns): This is the largest festival in Chiang Mai where thousands of people release floating lanterns into the sky. It also coincides with the national Loy Kratrong festival where devote Buddhists gather around lakes, rivers and canals to honor both their ancestors and the goddess of water by releasing lotus shaped rafts decorated with candles. There are areas of the city where you can pay a premium to watch the lantern’s release but we will head to a small Buddhist monastery in the old town to photograph as the young monks proceed through their devotionals and light up their garden in a magical scene. Afterwards we head out into the streets and to the river to capture the festive people as they celebrate. Be prepared for massive crowds.
If you want tickets to one of the private events, such as the one at Mae Jo University, let us know. There is an additional fee from about $175-$400 for this event but it is the largest release of the lanterns in the city. If you’ve seen photos of thousands of lanterns filling the sky, then it was probably taken from here.
Prior to the festival activities, we will visit a Thai food market. If you have never been to an Asian food market, then it will be quite an experience. (B)
It the tour takes place in February, then instead of the festival we start off the day on a short ride outside of Chiang Mai to the wood carving village of Baan Tawai. There you will be able to witness and photograph as local craftsmen create fantastical sculptures out of wood.
After lunch at a local restaurant we will head to a Muay Thai gym. Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport. The martial art was developed in the 1700’s as a way to use the entire body in close combat. Students from around the world come to Thailand to study this martial art. After we are done photographing at the gym, we head back to the hotel. We will review your work then you will have the evening on your own to explore. There is an optional trip to a professional Muay Thai fight at the local stadium. Ringside seats can be provided for an additional $50. (B) (L)
Day 7 – On this day we travel out of Chiang Mai to an elephant sanctuary. This facility is just one of many that promote the ethical treatment of this magnificent animal, most of which have been rescued from labor camps. You will spend the day feeding, bathing, trekking and photographing the elephants as they forage through the jungle countryside. Bring a change of clothes or even a bathing suit as you are certain to get wet while bathing the elephant! The trekking will involves some rough terrain but those with just moderate physical skills should have no issues with the journey. Back in Chiang Mai, we will be there in time for the parade that marks the end to the Yi Peng festival. We will venture towards the Thaphae Gate, the ancient entrance to the city, there we will again photograph the festive people as they continue to mark the celebration. (B)(L)
Day 8 – Thailand has many indigenous people, and today the tour ventures north to visit the hill tribes. We will take a trip up to Chiang Dao and from there into the hills to photograph the Akha, Lisu, and Karen ethnic minorities. There will also be opportunity to meet and photograph the “long neck” Kayan people. These people are actually from Myanmar but fled the persecution and settled in refugee camps in Thailand. Since they are refugees, they are not allowed to work and visits from groups like ours is the only way they can earn money. We will eat lunch in one of the villages before continuing with the tour. In the evening, you will be on your own to rest, visit the night bazaar, or explore a local bar or restaurant. (B)(L)
Day 9 – At 6am we leave the hotel to participate in a morning offering ritual at one of the local monasteries. The Buddhist monks collect alms, rice and fruit then return to their monastery for the morning meal. Our guide will explain how we can participate respectfully while photographing the serene nature of the devotions.
After breakfast, the workshop continues as we check out of the hotel to catch our flight to Krabi. The Province of Krabi is known as a top travel destination in Thailand famous for more than 130 islands and gorgeous beaches, mangrove forests, reefs and waterfalls. We will be staying in Railay beach, which is accessible only by boat. The rest of the day is yours to relax and explore the beach, photograph the longboats in the sunset. There is also a short 15 minute walk that can take you to Phra Nang beach for a sunset photo from the mouth of a cave. (B)
Day 10 – We will spend the morning sea kayaking, exploring the mangrove forests and caves in the An Thalane bay. There we might be able to photograph gibbons, otters, king fishers, herons and plenty of other fauna. After we return to Krabi, we take a break. You can relax at the hotel or explore on your own. (B)
Day 11 – Today the tour will explore other islands around Krabi. On our private speed boat we will visit islands like Chicken Island, Tup, Poda, Phi Phi, Ko Yawa San. Since it is a private boat, we can stay as long as we like on any of the islands. If you have an underwater camera or a housing, there will also be the chance to do some snorkeling and take photos in the clear waters. Back at Krabi, we will have a wonderful good bye dinner where we can exchange contact information and talk about the adventure. (B) (L) (D)
Day 12 – Get up early to walk along the mostly deserted beach. Take photos. Breakfast will be followed by a review of some of your best shots over the past week and a half. There are plenty of inexpensive flights back to Bangkok for the first leg of your trip back home. (B)