Helmut & Friends At Hemmingways

I have visited Hemmingways a few times for food but I have never ventured into the bar/restaurant on a Thursday. This is when they have their live music nights, which features a band known as Helmut and Friends.

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Manager Mark, had previously invited me to come along on a Thursday evening but time had always been an issue for me. However, when assisting with a promotional project for a good friend, who just happened to want to see the group, it was a sealed deal.

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But there was something else to factor into the equation.

Pranom’s mother was visiting from Roi Et and I wanted to take her to a pleasant eating establishment, where I knew the food would be of an exceptional standard and the surroundings would match the quality of the cuisine.

So with these two details taken into consideration, it had to be Hemmingways.

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As always we were greeted by one of their friendly staff as we entered the bar. A smile and a warm welcome are not unusual in Thailand but the employees here are top drawer.

The band had set up but were 30 minutes away from commencing their show. So we took the opportunity to order our food and a drink.

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I have to confess that the staff at Hemmingways are exceptional, as mentioned above.

They look after you from the minute you walk in the door. They all speak very good English, which is a huge bonus, even though I was with two Thai ladies.

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The food as always was tasty and well presented with large portions. The ladies enjoyed a Thai offering from the extensive menu and I went for a burger that was put together following  my instructions.

I was armed with my camera, for I had agreed with the bar that I would take a few images for the venue and the band.

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Having never heard Helmut and Friends play previously, I was keen to perceive what they had to offer. I had listened to mixed reviews but 90% of the people I spoke to, rated them very highly.

They would not disappoint.

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I had a twenty minute chat with Helmut before they commenced playing and discovered that they often performed as a five-piece outfit, fronted by Filipino singer Jovy Del Rosario, who by all accounts is a fantastic vocalist.

Alas, on Thursday, there were playing as a four-piece band and one wondered if it was going to be a second rate show. But they were far from that!

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They began with a number of slow songs, mainly, I would imagine, because people were still enjoying Hemmingways’ cuisine. Songs such as “My Girl” provided light entertainment, whilst the diners enjoyed their food.

The band sprung to life during their second set of the evening with an absolutely brilliant version of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, done in their own impeccable style. The vocals on the song from Jayson Camilo were astonishing.

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They continued with well known hits such as “Africa” and “Down Under” and even had the audacity to cover Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summer Time”, which again was flawless.

During many of their songs, the band can be observed sharing jokes and generally having a great time, which often had the audience laughing along with them.

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Helmut is a huge Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits fan and let us see just how good a guitarist he is with a variety of amazing solos.

Anyone who can replicate, Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing” has to be a genius on a guitar and the song suited his vocals to a T, to quote an old idiom.

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This was jaw dropping stuff from Helmut and appreciated by those in the bar.

Then to show us their true versatility, they sang an uptempo version of Dean Martin’s “Volare” and and worked a treat. Vocals being from Jayson once more.

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In their third set they did many rock ‘n’ roll songs from the likes of Chuck Berry before displaying their versatility with Stevie Wonder classics and “Get Down On It” from the disco era. The bass playing on the Kool and the Gang hit from Jeckson Echavez was exceptional.

Drummer Marvin Javier, provided the beat and held the band together as they played hit after hit, from almost every genre of music you can imagine. The keyboard skills from Jayson and lead guitar solos from Helmut, truly are world class.

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Add into the equation, the amount of fun the band have as they play for you, and you really do have a fantastic ensemble for parties, night clubs or any other event you care to name.

Hemmingways have secured Helmut and Friends every Thursday from 20:00 and I would highly recommend, popping along to see them play. The venue is a high class establishment, spacious, air conditioned, free Wi-Fi and offers a huge selection of draught beers, wines and spirits.

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And in between the group’s sets, you can enjoy watching sport on one of their many televisions, strategically placed around the venue. They even have a beer garden, should you care to sit outside.

I would like to give a mention to the staff who work at Hemmingways. Rarely will you meet a nicer group of people, who treat their customers with the utmost respect.

From the minute you enter the premises, to the moment you leave, the crew at Hemmingways ensure you want for nothing.

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If you haven’t been there – it is well worth making the effort, whether it is for live music, excellent food or to view a sporting event on TV, Hemmingways is deserved of a visit.

Helmut and Friends were: Helmut Schachtner on vocals and guitar from Germany, Jayson Camilo, keyboard and vocals, Marvin Javier on Drums, Jeckson Echavez on bass,  all from the Philippines.

Missing was Jovy Del Roasario, whom I will make a point of going to see very soon. When someone tells you that “she will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up”, you have to take notice.

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By the way, the Hemmingways staff are a fun loving bunch too, happy to get involved with the photography.

Thanks to the band and to the management and staff. See you all soon I hope.

 

 

 

 

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Songkran 2017 – The End

I wrote earlier that Songkran 2017 had so far been a huge disappointment compared to last year. But the Thai people were just saving the best for last.

Today, I travelled to Rompho Market, a large complex of bars, street food, massage shops, barbers, restaurants and other small businesses.

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I had observed from my condo window, that an assortment of small stalls were set up along the roadside, which are not normally there. Curiosity got the better of me so I had a sneak peak at what was going on.

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Street vendors were selling food, water guns, waterproof pockets and a variety of other items, which may prove useful for the water events and those in attendance.

But what was more surprising was the vast amount of people who had gathered by the side of the road, with one goal in mind – to immerse people in water.

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Now I am a good two miles from the centre of Pattaya and have never witnessed the likes of this previously. As I headed towards Rompho in my taxi, there were literally thousands of people. lining the streets and showering passersby with water.

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The traffic congestion was horrendous but far from boring. I could have spend all day watching the antics of the locals as they went about the business of soaking people or indeed being soaked in return.

A guy had a fire hose and was showering people as the they passed by in open backed pick-ups. Pick-up and trailers were full of people and containers of water. Again, there was only one place that water was going.

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People were dancing in the middle of a four lane road, which had cars using the wrong side just to make some distance, including my impatient taxi driver.

It was party time in Pattaya at last. A time for me to attempt to capture the action.

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However my camera was very much tucked away in my bag and remained there till I got to Rompho. Then I went in search of the hilarity.

It is fair to say that the majority of the people who take part in the shenanigans are either girls or kids. The men of Rompho preferring to remain in one of the fifty bars, although that did not always guarantee safety, as you can see in the second image from the top.

My good friend Jeff was treated to bucket of icy water as he enjoyed a beer.

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People walk around with buckets of what is either flour or talcum powder mixed with water, to form a paste, which they then use to cover a persons face with the substance.

I am not sure what the significance is but most people welcome the temporary facial.

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I had two fears. One was someone pouring a large bucket of water over me and drenching the camera and the other was being hit in the eye with the high powered jet from one of the water guns.

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The camera is allegedly waterproof and has had a number of wet days over the years.

The eyes however; well let’s just say one of these guns could blind someone.

I was hit in the eye on day one and I can tell you, it hurt like blazes. I did not hold back when telling the guy he was an idiot for aiming at my face. He did apologise profusely I have to add.

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Songkran from a photography point of view is a fantastic time. I only wish I had a back up camera so I could risk getting right in amongst the action but having only one with me, I opted for safer ground.

Today was the final day of the celebrations. The people of Thailand will no doubt party throughout the night but tomorrow, it will be back to work for most.

The image above of my mate Jimmy getting wet, came about because I instructed the girls and kids to target him.

This was actually the last in a series of six images. The best ones were taken seconds before but alas they were also blurry and no good.

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So it’s a sad farewell to Songkran 2017 but I sincerely hope I am around for the 2018 celebrations.

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Thomas And The Power

Anyone who knows me, will be well aware that I have a great love of music, especially live music. When it is done well that is.

Since arriving in Thailand, good music has been lacking in my life. There has been exceptions of course such as the fantastic “Jerry Lee Carlson” from Sweden but generally speaking, there isn’t much on offer here.

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Yes there are some excellent Thai bands but they are usually let down by the vocals and again, I will emphasise, there are exceptions to this rule.

Rules of course are meant to be broken.

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I have heard a couple of groups who impressed. One from Jakarta at the Hard Rock Cafe in Pattaya and another at The Corner House in Jomtien, this time from the Philippines.

But overall I haven’t been overwhelmed by the what has been on offer in Pattaya.

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Yes there are fantastic singers in the city but many rely on backing tracks and for me, this does not constitute live music. The karaoke styled singers are fine for background music or light entertainment but they cannot be taken seriously unless they play “live” with a band and without backing tracks.

Some are actually very good, for again, there are always exceptions to the rule but generally speaking, it has to be live for me.

I will take a moment to say that I know of at least two singers, who could play on any stage. They have the talent for sure but lack ambition or drive to take that vital step. I won’t put names to them, for that would be wrong of me – but I really wish they would take a chance and develop the talents they obviously have.

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I would kill to see certain entertainers here in Pattaya.

Some of the rockabilly or country bands I saw in Scotland or even a few of the many rock bands I took photos of across the UK in the year leading up to my departure from Scotland. I can always dream I suppose.

Busman’s holiday perhaps for singers/groups maybe?

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Anyway, I diversify.

A friend I met at a gig, contacted me and asked me to attend one his shows – I agreed but with trepidation.

Sure I knew he was an excellent drummer for I witnessed his ability when he performed with Jerry Lee Carlson but I knew nothing of the others he was performing with under the banner of “Brian Thomas and the Power”.

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As always I arrived early at the venue, which I knew well. In fact it was one of the first, if not “the” first bar I drank in when I arrived in Pattaya in April 2016.

Back then, every bar was new to me and I was keen to explore but I returned to the Lion Pub frequently in my first three months in Thailand, mainly for food.

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The Lion Pub is a large spacious venue, filled with high tables and stools, numerous TVs,  a couple of pool tables and a stage.

It is an excellent bar that also serves wonderful food and prides itself on its coverage of all sporting events.

If it is on, just ask at the bar and it will appear on one of the many TVs.

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However, I had never attended a music night at the Lion Pub, so not only was the band unknown to me but I didn’t know what to expect from the sound and lighting on the night either.

The latter of course being important to me as I was armed with my Nikon D750.

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The warm up for the band seemed to be prolonged and at times I considered vocalist Brian to be either a perfectionist or somewhat pedantic as he strived for a polished sound before commencing the show,

I guess a bit of both but as I was soon to discover, it was worth the wait.

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The band play a mixture of rock and soul music but they do lean heavily towards soul, even when performing rock classics. Not that they do any songs in their repertoire an injustice. Far from it, in fact.

They have an original feel about their sound that gives a uniqueness to the songs they deliver.

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Brian is an excellent vocalist. Being from New York, there is no requirement for him to put on a fake “American” accent. It comes natural.

He reminded me at times of another American singer, Huey Lewis. I am not sure if he will enjoy that comparison or not. Time will tell 🙂

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Brian is an accomplished guitar player covering both rhythm and lead variations, again with a soul music style about his play.

The bass guitarist Scott, provided the beat along with Håkan on drums and to be honest, when you added in the saxophone played by Noi, the sound was phenomenal, even before any vocals were applied.

It was evident that I was in the company of a proficient set of musicians.

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The band played a variety of well known tunes that had the audience’s feet tapping from the start.

But more was to follow when seventy-three year old John, arrived and gave the evening another dimension and the dance floor a purpose.

John loves to dance, especially to rock ‘n’ roll, which the band duly provided.

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Once John was on the floor, the ladies soon joined him much to the enjoyment of those in attendance.

Back to the band. They covered many famous and well known songs, from Motown and other soul and rock sources. INXS, The Blues Brothers, Chuck Berry, Johnny Otis, Johnny Kid and the Pirates, the Temptations, Rufus Thomas to name but a few of the artists covered by Brian and the the guys.

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The spectators were invited to join in during audience participation slots. Yes the old “na na na na na” permits everyone to take part, irrespective of what language you speak.

Overall, I was impressed by Brian and the Power and would happily venture out to see them again. I would recommend them to anyone who loves live music.

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I am always seeking good music shows, so if you know of any – get in touch. Pattaya only for obvious reasons, unless someone fancies taking me on a musical adventure 🙂

St. Patrick’s Day, Thai Style

Last Saturday, I took to Beach Road in Pattaya, to take in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It was a scorcher of a day and at first I believed my information regarding the time the parade would commence was wrong.

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I popped into one of the many bars along Beach Road, trying to determine if the parade was past, had I missed it, was I early or was I even at the wrong location.

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After forty-five minutes, I gave up and decided to take my camera elsewhere.

I was only left the vicinity by ten minutes when I was informed it had started. I walked with great haste back to the beach in time to catch the procession.

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First to approach me were the bands and there were a few. There wasn’t a great deal of music being played as those involved paid homage to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in 2016, having served just over seventy years and the nation’s monarch.

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They were followed by a number of disabled people, some in wheelchairs, others more able bodied but clearly physically or mentally impaired. This for me was one of the highlights. You have to give praise to the organisers, schools and institutions, who made this little piece of magic happen for those lovely people.

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Those who took part were clearly thrilled at their involvement and it was clear to see, they were having fun. One fellow passed me, waving as it to say “take my photo” as he clung to the the back of a vehicle that was slowly pulling him along.

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As always at any parade held in Thailand, you will find beautiful ladies involved. On Saturday, we were treated to the gorgeous Hooters and dance studio girls along with the ladies who passed by in traditional Thai dress.

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My favourite form of photography is working with people. Whether it is in a studio, a football match, a concert, a party or like this one, a parade. I am in my element with people to aim my lens at. I love nothing more that interacting with anyone who wishes to get in front of my camera.

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Thai people seem to adore having their photo taken and will happily stand and pose, even if it means holding up the parade – and they did just that, much to my pleasure.

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Of course we were treated to men, women and children dressed up in their green garbs, especially for the day, and with bright sunshine, the colours were enhanced as they wandered up the road.

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Lorries and cars decorated in a variety of diverse adornments were seen by the large crowds that had gathered. Cameras clicked away as the procession slowly worked its way towards Walking Street.

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There was of course the comical outfits too, which was matched by those who had spent hours or possibly days preparing for the event.

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It wasn’t quite as fabulous as the Buddha festivals I have attended but it was still something to behold and generated a lot of interest in the city.

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There are numerous Irish bars to be found in Pattaya, some of which I have frequented and had a grand time. I think every bar or bar owner had contributed in one way or another.

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I think overall, the children stole the show. The youngsters were obviously delighted to be taking part, and their huge smiles filled onlookers with delight.

So here’s hoping I live long enough and remain in the Kingdom of Thailand to see another St. Patrick’s Day or maybe even ten 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Corner House Bar

On Christmas Day I was invited to attend Christmas lunch at the Corner House Bar in Rompho in the city of Pattaya. I didn’t intend to venture far for Yuletide but I decide to take my friend up on his offer. I also took up the option of taking my camera with me.

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I have been in The Corner House a few times previously and always found it a friendly place to have a drink or an inexpensive meal, so I knew roughly what to expect.

Upon arrival, I sat outside, for in Thailand Christmas is a warm event. The sun was splitting the skies as the temperature peaked at around 33 degrees, unlike the cold wintry Crimbos I am accustomed to in my homeland of Scotland. a pleasant change indeed.

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The bar is situated at the corner of the Rompho Market Complex in Jomtien and is one of the first you will observe as you approach the area from Jomtien Beach. It has ample seating inside and out or you can sit on a bar stool within the bar and enjoy the sun as you watch the world go by. It has two open sides, which contributes to its spaciousness, with ambient lighting giving it a homely feel.

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You will be welcomed by friendly and courteous staff, who will serve you swiftly but will never hassle you in anyway. Press the bell for service and the girls will appear, take your order, delivering it to your table posthaste and always with a smile.

There are TVs suspended from the ceiling or walls as the bar offers live football and other sporting events for the customer to peruse whilst enjoying a cold beer.

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The Corner House serves excellent food from a small but varied menu, which is very affordable. The food is delicious and portions are on the large side.

If you fancy a game of pool, there is an excellent pool table in the bar and I am told the pool team is rather good.

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So back to Christmas lunch. Turkey is something I am not a huge fan off, unless it is for Christmas lunch or dinner. My food was well presented and looked mouthwatering. As I sampled my first piece of white meat, I was in heaven. The turkey breast was moist and cooked to perfection. The brown meat matched the breast for taste and quality, mixed with succulent potatoes and trimmings.

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I had of course been working the camera before and had watched with interest how the staff dealt with the high demand, seeing as the bar was sold out for Xmas lunches. They worked their socks of attending to their customers. The kitchen staff, the waitresses and bar girls all toiled in the heat of the moment to ensure that every customer was a happy one.

The bar had a DJ playing a mixture of Christmas tunes and assorted songs covering most genres. However the music was never overpowering, with the volume set so that people could enjoy each others company.

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What truly amazed me, was the diversity of the people in attendance. The majority were from the UK or Australia but it wasn’t single men. The bar had attracted families from the age of seven through to people in the sixties or seventies.

The was an extended table, which had twelve people seated at it, all English, all ages and with one intention; to enjoy themselves.

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The Corner House has a fantastic laid back and friendly atmosphere within good surroundings.

So if you are ever in Rompho and you fancy a quiet drink or a luscious meal or even to take in a football match on TV, then give The Corner House Bar a visit. You will not be disappointed.

Walking Street may be the place for wild nights out but The Corner House offers an alternative that is often desireable. This is a venue where everyone is welcome.

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Street Photography

I have always had a love of street photography especially that of a candid nature, that is to say, when the subjects are unaware of your presence. I believe that if you are discreet, the end result is always more pleasing and natural.

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I had messed around for a few years with the subject but confidence betrayed me more often than not. That was until I met the legend that was David Hannah. Davie as we will call him, introduced me to new aspects of photography and with his help, my self-assurance grew, not to mention my skill level, which was greatly enhanced thanks to Mr. Hannah.

The man acquainted me with night shoots, light trails, sunsets and landscapes, whilst in return, I gave him his first taste of studio work.

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But it was my love of working with people that always won me over. It does not matter if it was an event such as a concert, a sporting occasion, a model shoot or simply walking the streets observing and patiently waiting for the right moment or incident to occur.

For instance in image one above, I spotted the lady in a world of her own in a coffee shop as I passed by in the darkness. I took the photo and disappeared into the night, leaving her totally unaware of my presence – and that for me is the secret of street work.

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It was Davie who taught me about Bokeh/Depth of Field or gave me greater clarification on the subject at least. We would walk the streets of Glasgow and I would observe his positioning, request details of his camera settings and ask every question under the sun as I picked his brain.

Street musicians are often a great source of images and will usually have no problem with you taking a photo or two in return for a few pennies in their hat or box. Buskers are there to make money at the end of the day and are wonderful subjects. Incidentally, the gent above does some brilliant covers of T. Rex, Slade and Mungo Jerry to name a few.

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The homeless make another smashing subject and although I won’t show images of those less fortunate than myself here, I always asked permission before taking the photos and gave them a couple of pounds for some nourishment.

Often I would go out with the view of covering an event such as half marathon or in the instance above, an annual bicycle race in Glasgow. when there is no star attraction, I would focus on the crowds or anything else of interest. This would occur frequently on the football terraces in matches I attended.

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In many instances, the photo you are looking for magically appears in front of you, like the one with selective colouring or the girls reflections. As soon as I saw them, I had the image imprinted in my mind and how I would edit it once I returned home.

Or the one with the girl holding the sign. N0thing unusual there but add to it, her reading a book, and her angry or bored expression and you have a better image. She was totally engrossed in her novel, and once again, discretion is key.

Below is one that I took over and over again, whilst standing in the shadows of Jessops on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow. I could picture what I was trying to capture but the lady in the image, didn’t play ball, in that the way she blew the smoke from her cigarette would affect the final production. Finally after numerous attempts, we nailed it. I say we but she knew nothing of it. Patience is a virtue though.

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The next one I adore, simply because it could have been taken anywhere. In fact, Glasgow is probably the last city I would consider for this ones origin but it does go someway into displaying the cities diversity these days.

I have no idea if this is mother and child or grandmother but I like the capture nevertheless.

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Sometimes when walking the streets with a camera, you draw attention to yourself and my next image reflects one of those occasions.

It is posed, because the lady in this offering was a model I had had the pleasure of working with previously and she recognised me as she and her family passed by. She took the time to speak to me and happily posed.

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She even permitted me to take a few pictures of her children, who are just as photogenic as Ashley is and a studio shoot was arranged with them. I may do a post based on that shoot at a later time, for they are excellent models in their own right.

We often see street musicians but this was my first encounter with a magician on Glasgow’s streets.

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A few card tricks to grab people’s attention before moving on to the more inventive saucery. What annoys me about these sort of acts is the way people will stand and enjoy the show then walk away like they had not observed their talent at all. And for what? To save a few coppers by not rewarding the entertainer. Come on, stop being a tight ass and give them a few pennies from your pockets.

I am going to leave you with an image of a man that is responsible for all that I love about photography. I mentioned Davie as I commenced this post and it is only fitting that I conclude with one of him.

Unfortunately he is no longer with us but he will always be with me in spirit. Rarely do I pick up my camera without reminiscing about the good times we enjoyed when out and around various cities, beaches or mountains with our trusty camera. RIP big man. Miss you.

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Scotland My Home

I thought I would introduce Scotland to my many friends in Thailand, after browsing some photos I took in 2015, whilst touring my home country.

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Scotland is a land of great beauty with wondrous mountains, silky lochs and splendid rivers. It is a land steeped in history, with castles galore, many of which are still well maintained.

My first image is of Glenfinnan Viaduct, which opened for business in 1901. It is part of the Fort William to Mallaig route. The image you see may be familiar to some of you, for the bridge and train have been used in TV and films in recent years and features in four Harry Potter movies.

It has 21 spans or arches carrying a single track over Glenfinnan, an area which is renowned for its beautiful scenery and history. If you ever plan to visit this location, bear in mind there is a small hike up to the viewpoint from the car park. It is steep and over rough ground at times, often proving to be an arduous trek.

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My next offering is the romantic Eilean Donan Castle, which can be found on the A87 a few miles south of the Skye Bridge. The castle is built on a small island and accessed via a bridge from the mainland.

The castle dates from 1214 in one form or another and has a fair bit of history, which I will not bore you with, for it is covered in many websites around the internet. It is probably the most photographed castle in Scotland.

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Next we head further south to what is often regarded as the gateway to the highlands – Glencoe. This is an area of astounding beauty, with mountains on either side of the road, most of which I have scaled in my hillwalking days. Glencoe is a place that I adore.

On the left there is the gorgeous Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, which translates to the Big and the Little Shepherds. These two are the mountains you see when you enter the glen from the south. Each mountain contains easy going ridge walks, once the steep sides have been scaled, with the former being the superior both for walking and views, in my humble opinion.

However none of these are the highest peak in the range; that honour belongs to the magnificent Bidean nam Bian, which reaches the dizzy heights of 3770 feet above sea level. Here you will also find the famous Three Sisters, which are the three spurs of the mountain. Across the road and dominating the skyline is the Aonach Eagach Ridge, one of the most splendid ridge walks in Scotland.

At the top of the Glen is the village of Glencoe, and the scene of the infamous massacre of 1692, when the clan MacDonald were slaughtered by guests, they had welcomed into their homes. Those who escaped and fled into the mountains on that cold fateful morning, died from hypothermia as they were exposed to the elements.

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Back to the castles of historic Scotland, this time in the south of the country near the town of Dumfries. Here we find the moated Caerlaverock Castle, which is of a triangular shape and quite unusual as castles go. The original castle was constructed in 13th century. This is actually the second building as the first one was situated a few hundred metres away, was abandoned in favour of the current one.

It is set in a picturesque locale and well worth a visit, especially if you venture out on a nice sunny day.

Sweetheart Abbey is located in the town of New Abbey a few miles south of Dumfries in the south of Scotland.

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The Abbey of Dulce Cor to give it its correct title was built in 1275 and once again is a stunning structure. I will refrain from going into the history once more and let those who are interested, use the brilliant Google to learn more.

The Ailsa Craig. A rock that was part of my upbringing for I would observe this small rocky island almost every day of my life, being from the west coast of Scotland.

Paddy’s Milestone as many people call it, sits in the Firth of Clyde approximately ten miles from the small seaside town of Girvan.

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Despite viewing the Craig on a multitude of occasions, I never ventured out to the island until a couple of years ago, when I was touring the country almost every day. I joined one of the trips from Girvan and was given a circular tour and an hour on shore to look around.

The island is formed from granite, which was was quarried for many years to produce curling stones, mainly because of the quality of the blue hone granite. The evidence is clear when you land, that there was a lot of activity back in its day but of course it is now uninhabited.

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The western side of the island, which many people never see, is now a bird sanctuary and is home to thousands of gannets and puffins. This can only be seen from the sea as there is no suitable landing point and the cliffs make it impossible to descent from the summit.

There is a small castle on the eastern side, which was constructed in the late 1500s. It was also used a jail for over 100 years, although I have no idea who would be kept in such a prestigious and remote prison.

The lighthouse was completed in 1836 but has was automated in 1990. What shocked me was the presence of railway lines, which makes sense when you think about how they would have transported the granite to the small dock. This was horse drawn. Now my guide on the day also informed me of small inlets where the islanders kept pigs, which if memory serves me correctly, were for feeding the workers of the quarry. There were goats and rabbits, which were introduced to feed the workforce too.

Ailsa Craig is a must visit for anyone but make sure you get the boat that lands and circumnavigates the island to get the most of your day. It is also worth noting that the craft that you sail in, is a small converted fishing boat. I would tend to avoid choppy conditions at sea.

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I will conclude this post with a few images of what I would determine as “A trip of a lifetime” – St. Kilda.

“Where” many will ask and to be honest, until a few days before I made the trip I had never heard of it either. St. Kilda is an uninhabited island 80 miles off the coast of Skye and 40 miles from the nearest land, which is North Uist on the western coast of Scotland.

I had little time to prepare for this spur of the moment trip, so my journey in what was an upmarket speedboat for four hours turned into a nightmare due to sea sickness and verging on hypothermia as I was ill prepared. However the skipper and his guide were on hand to ensure that I was kept safe and well and that I enjoyed the remainder of the trip.

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The island once hosted a small population of up to 180 people but was evacuated in 1930, mainly because the younger men were leaving the island for better lives elsewhere and thus the remainder of the older generation and women, could not provide for themselves. They relied on the youths to scale the sea stacs to collect eggs and birds for food. Until tourism became popular the islanders had been left to their own devices for centuries but once the boats began landing, the young men departed with them. This was the start of the downfall of the island.

Disease killed many in the 1920s and failed crops took its toll and with only 36 inhabitants left, they were evacuated before they died of starvation.

Above you can see one of my photos of one of the sea stacs taken from the boat. The men would climb these rocks in their barefeet to gather eggs and birds. A tough old life.

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The island is now in the hands of the National Trust, who have restored many of the cottages and turned them into what they would have looked like back in the mid to late 1800s.

It has become a world heritage site, which protects the island and its wildlife to ensure it will be there for many years to come. They have an indigenous breed of sheep and mouse, found nowhere else in the world.

There is a military presence there too, with personal that rotate all year round but no one is in permanent residence.

My final image is of 4 inch Mark III QF gun, which was installed during WWI but never saw action.

St. Kilda is a magnificent place and if you follow the rules, they will even let you camp there but they are very strict, so be prepared. The journey even on a calm day is horrendous. It is fine from Uig on Skye until you pass between the Isle of Harris and North Uist, where the seas become very rough. The boat bounces along the water, which is not great if you suffer from sea sickness, which a few of us did, in a big way. However, I enjoyed my time on the island and the trip back was good with no one being sick.

Mini Siam

My third tourist attraction of the weekend and probably the one I would put in third place for enjoyment was Mini Siam. I should clarify this by stating that although Mini Siam sits in a beautiful setting, has much to offer tourists if you’re seeking a quiet stroll around a tranquil environment, then this is exactly what you are looking for.

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However for me, I was there for one thing only – pictures.

Yes there is much to see and photograph but it is very difficult to capture the displays because of tourists. A bit of a dilemma then, seeing as the park is designed with visitors in mind.

Another problem for the camera man is the amount of lights and fences placed around the ornamental buildings, for they simply become obstructions, getting in the way of the viewing angles.

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So from my point of view, it was sadly a waste of time but I did enjoy the stroll around the attraction nevertheless.

If I was on holiday and involved in a bit of sightseeing then I would say this is a place that most would enjoy – providing you are not after something exciting. This goes for many of the big hitters in Thailand. The Temples etc are places of interest and of a peaceful nature.

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It is a wonderful place to peruse and walk slowly amongst the various miniature buildings of Europe and Siam.

It is situated on Sukhumvit Road a few miles north of where I am based. My cost for the day was 80 Baht each way on a taxi bike and 300 Baht for the entry fee. I enjoyed a cold beer for 45 Baht, which is less than even the cheapest bars will charge you.

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The heat was incredible but there is a variety of cafes selling ice cream, cold drinks and my favourite, ice cold beer, which is most welcome following 90 minutes of torture in the sun.

I did see a large Chinese restaurant but alas it was closed, probably opening for business later in the day.

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Mini Siam opened its doors for business in 1986 with the first creation being The Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

It features many Thai landmarks such as Wat Phra Kaeo, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) and The Victory Monument and many more.

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For Europe there is the Arc De Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge to name a few.

Although these others come under the tag of Europe on their website, ideally they should be listed as The rest of the world. These include The Statue of Liberty and the Opera House in Sydney.

There are of course many more but I won’t bore you with too many details.

As I suggested when I commenced this post, I was rather disappointed in my chosen venue but not for reasons that should put you off visiting. It is value for money and worth a look.

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Pattaya Bay Boat Trip

This was another idea I had a few weeks back but procrastinated till yesterday, mainly due to the price I was quoted. However being on my lonesome and bored, I decided it was going to be completed, so of I set from my recently acquired new condo in South Pattaya.

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I used the Baht Bus for most of the day simply because it is an inexpensive way to get around. 10 Baht from Sukhumvit Road to Second Road in the centre of Pattaya, is a good example of value for money.

A bit of information for those who are interested. Sukhumvit Road traverses its way from Bangkok to the Cambodian border near Trat and is known as Route 3. It is almost 249 miles in length and was constructed in 1936. It is classed as one of the major roads in Thailand. Named after Phra Bisal Sukhumvit, formerly one of the chiefs at the Department of Highways, it is a coastal route and as such offers some spectacular views or at least provides access to smaller roads with such sights.

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So back to my day at sea or hour as it turned out to be. I hired a speedboat to take me around Pattaya Bay for photographic purposes. Getting on the boat was something I hadn’t given much consideration to. It was a case of off with the trainers and socks and wade out to the boat, thankfully without any disasters with the equipment.

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The driver was very considerate, slowing down or stopping when he was aware I was snapping away with my Nikon D750. However the seas, although far from rough, were not calm and proved to be a major headache for much of the time.

I upped the shutter speed and changed the settings on the camera to cope with the movement of the boat and got to work.

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As a test shot I spotted a couple taking selfies as we left the shore. They were standing in front of one of my favourite restaurants, The Pattaya Beer Garden. If you are ever in Pattaya, give the Beer Garden a try. I would suggest you visit in the darkness to taken in the magnificent views afforded from the restaurant.

We were only a few hundred metres out when the world of photography opened up to me. High speed boats, archaic floating restaurants and parasailing all became subjects for me to capture.

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Now this was 08:30 in the morning and the area was already teeming with tourists desperate to get involved in the water activities. The landing areas out at sea, where you are attached to the parachute were inundated with people.

I have included a few images of people parasailing and I must confess, I wouldn’t mind a shot of this myself. It looks so much fun.

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We then turned to face the city and its skyline. From a distance, Pattaya appears to be very modern and contemporary in its design, which in many instances, it is.

But get down to street level and it has another side to it. The old ways of life still exist and thrive. People cook food using traditional methods to sell at any opportunity they can find. Wheelbarrow food stalls are pushed around, selling fruit or cold drinks. The luckier trades people have motorbikes with constructed sidecars, designed to meet their requirements.

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Shops are small and plentiful but generally lack vision, with many businesses simply mimicking that of a neighbour. Why they do this I have no concept of but it surely cannot be advantageous for commerce.

Imagine a small narrow street with 50 shops or outlets. 0ne in five is a laundry, a massage parlour or a bar. Then add three 7/11s, a couple of restaurants and you have a typical Pattaya street scenario.

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To add to the scene, there will be at least four motorbike taxi stations on either side of the road. A rank here is no more than a street corner or a piece of waste land. No marking to say this is a taxi rank, well not for bikes at least.

So the images taken from sea, do not illustrate what is actually at street level. They depict a beautiful modern city with a wondrous skyline and as I mentioned, there are copious amounts of modernistic architecture on offer here but for me, the real Pattaya, has to be seen using that ancient method of travel – walking.

The image above, for me at least, captures the city perfectly. A mixture of the old and the new. Traditional and modern working in tandem with each other.

I will end with one of the famous Pattaya City sign. There are photos of this scenario everywhere you look. It is iconic but is best seen at night after dark.

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In fact, if I am honest, I have taken superior images of the sign too. But it fits with the drivel I am presenting you with today.

The skyscraper under construction is what should have been a new development at Bali Hai Pier but either planning permission, finances or both proved to be too much of a hurdle and work has ceased on the marina and hotel. Hopefully a new developer can be sourced to see the work through to fruition.

Once again, feel free to follow me on WordPress and LIKE my Facebook and Flickr pages.

Next up will be my trip to Mini Siam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sanctuary Of Truth

I have lived in Thailand for six months as I write this and had often thought about visiting this very popular tourist attraction, which is situated in the Naklua area or Pattaya, a few miles north of me.

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In fact I set out one day to attend but got lost and distracted, which resulting in me spending that day browsing markets in North Pattaya. My knowledge of the city has grown somewhat since that day.

My girlfriend is currently in Roi Et visiting her family but I decided to opt out this time and remain in Pattaya. We have never spent a day apart in the four months of knowing each other, so I was looking forward to the break and some freedom. I dare say, she was feeling the same but for me it was a mistake. I was lost without her and had to occupy my mind. So “The Sanctuary of Truth” sprung to mind and the photos are the result of a two part day of photography.

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So what is The Sanctuary of Truth? Well the first thing that is noticeable is the building is completely made of wood and despite it’s ancient appearance, it is the genius of modern craftsmen and designers.

The toil to construct this work of art began in 1981 and is not due to be completed until 2050. Upon arrival, I was presented with a hard hat to place on my head, which I believed was because they were doing maintenance work to protect the old sculptures or for underfoot or overhead improvements, when in actual fact, it is because they are still creating this masterpiece.

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Do not let its lack of history deter you from visiting though. This is a true jewel and a must see.

The Sanctuary is not easy to get to if you do not have transport, although his is not an issue. I began from central Pattaya and jumped on one of the many Baht Buses, who took me there for 150 Baht. This was not a route bus but a private hire version. The fare equates to under £3 for a 7 km journey.

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There are many other options such as Taxi Cars, Taxi Motorbikes or organised tours although the latter may cost you around 500 to 1500 Baht, depending on what they offer. I prefer to meander around tourist attractions at my own pace, hence I usually find my own way to and from locations of interest.

Anyway – continuing with what is it? The Sculptures, and there are many to view, are based on traditional Buddhist and Hindu motifs. At its tallest point it is 101 metres high and as stated earlier, it features contemporary but traditional religious art themes.

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It is based on Kymer architecture, which derives from the 8th to the 15th century, typically from the imperial setting at Angkor. The carvings and creations represent the four nations of Cambodia, China, India and Thailand.

Now you may have guessed I am plagiarising this information from other sources so I must credit the official website and Wikipedia for the information.

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So other than peruse the beautiful creative carvings what else is there on offer?

Well when you arrive, you have to pay 500 Baht at the time of writing to enter. From the ticket office there is a short walk, which will take you passed areas where they rest the horses and elephants, which are used for transporting tourist, should you wish to be conveyed in this way. There are also horse drawn carriages to be hired.

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Again I prefered to use my feet and take my time, moving off the beaten track to obtain the views I was seeking.

There are rope bridges and geese to see on the route towards the temple and a mini zoo. I also noticed a shooting gallery but this was not in use when I was present. You traverse down a rock based path to where you will be issued with a hard safety helmet that you must wear in and around the building.

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There are a number of wonderful viewpoints as you close in on the main attraction, including a photography point near the waterway. This is where the hired photographers take their images of couples or families enjoying a boat ride. Some looked very romantic, so if you are in love and on honeymoon or celebrating an anniversary, this location and setting should offer a delightful image to capture your experience.

Tour guides will escort you around and they speak Russian and English but I would assume there is a number of languages on offer. Once more, I declined so I could create my own route.

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Add to this a dancing show, with the dancers in traditional outfits. This is in conjunction with a mock fighting exhibition, a tongue in cheek approach to dueling, where they will involve at least one member of the the public.

I mention the boat trips but you can also purchase food to feed the fish when you are out on the water.

There are a number of refreshment and eating areas, which is a necessity due to the intense heat and humidity inside the temple. Prices for drinks etc are acceptable, considering they have a captive audience, unlike many tourist attractions in Europe who triple prices for a beer or ice cream.

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At 10:30 I did partake in a large cold bottle of Leo with a glass and ice, as I endeavoured to cool down, after the iced coffee failed to hit the spot. The beer did the job! Once again, the staff are polite and speak very good English.

There was one thing that annoyed me however and it is not the fault of the temple or staff. Before the dancing began, they had a minutes silence to show respect for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. They requested that everyone stand up and pay homage to the monarch, as 90% of those in attendance observed the invitation.

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There can be no excuse here for they asked in at least three languages and even if you did not understand, it was obvious when 80 odd people are standing with their heads bowed, that something is happening.

But there were six or so imbeciles, who ignored the request and continued talking and taking photos. I will not mention the country of origin of these ignoramuses but most people who visit Thailand will know exactly who I am referring too.

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But that aside, I had a fantastic day, and one that will be remembered for a long time. If you enjoy a quiet ramble with gorgeous scenery, sights to behold then this is the place for you. It does not offer the adventures of a theme park, so do not expect anything of an energetic or boisterous nature or you will be disappointed. This is a peaceful place, offering stunning views and tranquility.

I haven’t spent any time explaining the photos used as I believe they are self explanatory and indicative of what is on offer at The Sanctuary of Truth.

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Earlier in the day, I invested an hour of my time out in a speedboat at Pattaya Bay to obtain images of the city and the watersports seen daily from the shore. They will appear in a later post.

Many thanks for taking the time to read my dross. Please feel free to follow me on WordPress. There are also links to my Facebook and Flickr pages to be found on the main page.