I LOST MY TRAVELER’S VIRGINITY IN THAILAND. It wasn’t the first place I’d ever been to outside of the United States — I had lived in Europe previously — but it was the first country where I really felt like I was traveling.

You know the feeling, when you get off the plane and something strikes you; it might be the smell of a new spice cooking in a street vendor’s cart, or the sight of signs written in a language far beyond your comprehension. Whatever the trigger, you know without doubt that you’re somewhere new.

For weeks, I took in all that Thailand had to offer, ranging from Chiang Mai in the north, with its temples and animal sanctuaries, to the Andaman coast in the south and the islands that rise dramatically just offshore. The country is rich in every sense possible — I’ve tried to capture that here, and I hope you enjoy my images from my first trip to Thailand as much as I did shooting them.


This post is proudly produced in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and STA Travel, working together to tell stories of the peoples, places, and cultures that make Thailand special.


1

Wat Dokeung

Wat Dokeung in Chiang Mai was my first introduction to a temple in Thailand: golden Buddhas, intricate sculptures, beautiful rugs, and artwork on every surface possible. There wasn’t a single place for one’s eye to rest, but it didn’t matter—I was in love with the architecture and every aspect of the place.

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Wat Dokeung

A few more angles of Wat Dokeung.

3

Pigeon vendor

As we left the temple I ran into this woman. I couldn’t help but check out the product she was selling...pigeon in a bamboo cage, anyone? I had to pass, but as far as I could tell she was pretty happy to be selling them.

4

Chiang Mai night market

Chiang Mai has a night market where you can get just about anything you want, but the food is where it’s at. We meandered in and out of food stalls for hours, stopping only briefly enough to try the next local delicacy.

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Chiang Mai night market

6

Tuk-tuk nights

Anyone who has traveled in Southeast Asia has a tuk-tuk story or two. Weaving in and out of traffic, going the wrong way down a one-way, jamming six people into a space barely big enough to fit one—anything is possible in the back of a tuk-tuk.

7

Asian elephant

Though quite smaller than its African cousin, the Asian elephant is an extremely beautiful creature. And the area around Chiang Mai is one of the best places to see them.

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Public transportation

After we had a chance to check out the elephants, we ran across this farmer and got a ride back into town on his cart.

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Palong

The Palong tribe, who live close to the border of Burma, are well known for their colorful traditional dress.

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Karen

The women of the Karen Long Neck tribe wear brass rings around their necks. Although it looks like their necks are being lengthened, the weight of the rings is actually compressing their collarbones down, giving the appearance of longer necks.

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Monks in prayer

The soft hum of mantras being recited by Buddhist monks is a very special sound.

12

Doi Suthep

Sunrise at Doi Suthep is something not to be missed. If you find yourself in Chiang Mai, make sure to make your way up to this beautiful temple in the wee hours of the morning. Sit patiently, and as the sun rises you’ll watch all of the golden statues come to life.

13

Wat Sri Suphan

Attention to detail is everywhere in Thailand. I took a tour around Wat Sri Suphan, also known as the Silver Temple. As I came around the back, I saw a worker etching details into an exterior wall. As I took a step closer, the true detail of his work was revealed to me—the number of hours that must have gone into this project was unreal.

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Monks' robes

Robes are hung out to dry, creating one of the world's most colorful scenes of dirty laundry.

15

Wat Kutao

I wasn’t ever able to figure out why, but Wat Kutao in Chiang Mai had a stuffed crocodile in the center of the main hall. Buddhas and stuffed crocs make for compelling compositions.

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Young monks

Young monks make their way across the grounds of Wat Kutao, Chiang Mai. No matter how many times you see them, the sheer beauty of the saffron robes of monks can take your breath away. A combination of the color and fluidity of the fabric creates this sense of peacefulness that's hard to ignore.

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The beautiful sculptures of Wat Chet Yot, Chiang Mai

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Wat Chet Yot

While at Wat Chet Yot, we met this young monk, who was quite inquisitive. I watched him approach my friend and me, and I thought we were going to have an issue with language barriers. But before long he was asking me about the United States and seemed to know more about pop culture than I did.

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The Grand Palace complex, Bangkok

20

Grand Palace

While touring the Grand Palace, I stepped out of a hallway and, as I looked to the left, saw these two monks making their way down a corridor of columns topped with gold.

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Grand Palace

"Ornate" is an understatement—the Grand Palace does not disappoint when it comes to flash.

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Grand Palace

A few more angles of the grandeur of the Grand Palace.

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Grand Palace painter

As I made my way around the Grand Palace, I came across this man restoring one of several beautiful paintings. He was up on a scaffolding about 10 feet in the air and had incredible concentration. I watched him work for something like 30 minutes. He'd sometimes be painting these small soldiers the size of my thumb, but I never saw him look up—pure attention to detail.

24

Phuket sunset

While eating pad thai from a street vendor, my friends and I sat on a curb watching the sunset in Phuket. It had been raining the whole day, but the clouds had started to part about an hour before. Not long after, the sun dipped below them and proceeded to light up the sky like a painting—to this day one of the most insane sunsets I’ve ever seen.

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Phuket

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Vegetarian Festival, Phuket

The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket is not for the faint of heart. I stood behind a small metal blockade, in awe for the entire evening. For hours, participant after participant would stand up, work themselves into an almost hypnotic state, and then sprint across burning coals. As they ran by, they would kick up balls of fire with each footfall, and almost simultaneously I would feel a burst of pain in my own feet.

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On the way to Phi Phi Leh

As we made our way out to Phi Phi Leh to watch the sunset, our boat driver abruptly cut the engine and ran to the side of the boat. We weren’t sure what was happening, but then he made the gesture of a fish swimming with his hand and whipped out a hand line wrapped around a water bottle. Rudimentary gear by Western standards, but it got the job done and I was amazed at the ingenuity of the apparatus.

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Phi Phi Leh

Phi Phi Leh floats in the Andaman Sea. We approached it late in the evening just as the sun hit the side of the limestone cliffs.

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Poi dancers

Poi dancers can be found throughout Southeast Asia. Often, they live up to their reputations, being young Western backpackers rocking dreadlocks and bracelets up to their elbows. But when you’re sipping on a cocktail around midnight, pretty buzzed with house music blasting…you don’t really care who the hell is twirling those balls of fire, because it’s pretty damn cool.

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Phi Phi Don

The longtail boats of Phi Phi Don await, more than likely to wisk tourists off to its sister island Phi Phi Leh. It’s not always necessary to be planning your next escape, though, because as you can see, the turquoise water of Don was just fine by me.

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Vitamin D

My buddy Reedo met me in Thailand after spending close to a year living in London. He’s an Aussie and was in desperate need of some Vitamin D. After a few weeks in the north of the country, we were stoked to be soaking up the sun while on our way out to Phi Phi Leh.

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Longtail boats

The longtail boats often have elaborate decorations, including ribbons hanging from the bow of the boat.

33

The Beach, Maya Bay

Made famous by the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay is your quintessential tropical paradise. A hidden cove tucked into an island in the middle of the ocean—what a place. I spent my last few days hanging around here, and luckily enough my friend Sarah from Denmark accompanied me for this final stint of a trip of a lifetime.


This post is proudly produced in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and STA Travel, working together to tell stories of the peoples, places, and cultures that make Thailand special.


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