Party Times In Pattaya

It has been a while since I found time to update my blog but despite this, I have been active with the camera, although not as much as I would have liked.

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I still have an ongoing issue with my Nikon D750 but there is little I can do until I find a way to get my D610 delivered to me from Scotland.

Most of my attention has been taken up by parties, a subject that often involves great hilarity and meeting new and wonderful people here in Pattaya.

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Take my first image for instance. I was at a birthday party for a good friend “Phetch” when I spotted a gorgeous little girl enjoying a lolly. I introduced myself to her mother and asked permission to take a few photos.

The result is an image of an angelic little girl.

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My next offering is of the birthday girl herself and her boyfriend Stuart as he presents the birthday cake. This lovely couple own the Corner House in Rompho.

Next we have two images that for me, were the best of the night. Wan attended the party and sat beside myself and Nom. She had a couple of drinks and got up to dance. At the time however, she was on the stage and singing along with the band, providing me with a few classic images.

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Wan is one that you never take your eyes off, for you just do not know what she will do next.

The image of the lady singing (the one WITH the microphone) sings with a another chap that I have never managed to discover their name either as a duo or own identities. They are often seen entertaining around Rompho though.

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They are an excellent duo and produce some great cover versions of rock standards and ballads.

Staying at the Corner House Bar, I have included one of Nom, taken with Wan, before either of them had been dancing.

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I was going to say they were taken before any alcohol was consumed but that may be a lie.

Shortly after Phetch’s party, I was invited to another party for my good friend “Dong” er Martin.

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Martin and his delightful partner Oil, own New Country Road Bar (NCR) in Rompho, a short walk from the Corner House. I had assisted with some arrangements for this event, following the highly successful Jerry Lee Carlson gig at the NCR. Click here for photos and blog article.

Martin, like Stuart, has been very supportive of me during troubled times, and I owe this pair my very existence in Thailand. Yes you know who to blame now ūüôā

Dong as he is affectionately known is pictured above.

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The entertainment for this came in the form of a Scottish lassie living in Pattaya by the name of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Stephanie. Steph does a lot of oldies like her name suggests, with a bit of hip shakin’, gyrating and knee grinding thrown in.

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One of the guests was a guy called John, another top man living here in Pattaya. John loves to dance, especially to the likes of Chuck Berry and despite being in his 70s, the man can boogie all night – almost non-stop.

Where he gets his energy from I have no idea but I wish I had half of it. Stamina beyond belief!

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It is incredibly rare for me to feature in my photos, mainly because I am almost always behind the lens.

But due to camera issues, another splendid chap known as Marcus attended, with a view of offering advice but as a result of his presence, I got some time to be on the receiving end of the camera. Marcus is a top photographer in his own right.

This one is of Nom and I, which would usually only be captured on a phone picture.

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Anyone hosting a party in Pattaya should really look into hiring the Jäger girls. These two lovelies work for free, promoting Jägermeister and other drinks such as Jim Beam.

The deal is simple, they will sell customers one measure from your own stock and they will provide a free drink from their collection. The guest gets two drinks for the price of one, the bar gets the sale they may never have had and everyone gets inebriated. Result!

It is difficult to say no to a Jägerbomb when a two ladies are offering a free one, along with a photo too.

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So what happens when customers get free¬†J√§gerbombs and Jack Beam? See for yourself ūüôā

I don’t know the girl standing behind Nom but she was the life and soul of the party. She had everyone in tears of laughter all night long. A top girl and one that would be welcome at any party of mine. Here she has bent a drunken Nom over and well – I will leave the rest to your imagination ūüôā Jenny can be seen sitting on the bar looking weary.

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Another classic featuring the wonderful Julie, who is a regular with husband Steve at both aforementioned bars. Steve and Julie love to dance and are in fact, featured on many video recordings from this night. Friendly people who liven up every party they attend.

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The image above is one of my favourites. I had just met Karin for the first time and found her to be an outgoing person who loves to sing and enjoy herself. I snapped this photo when she was laughing and chatting with her friend Poi. Completely natural and one that I am proud of.

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Next is Martin’s girlfriend oil, who was still reasonably sober at the time but like the majority of Thai ladies, they love to dance. And boy can she dance! Later in the evening she was found on top of the bar with Jenny dancing to many party hits.

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Above, we have Poi and her magician boyfriend. The latter entertained us with some magic tricks when we required a bit of respite from the antics going on inside the bar.

Rompho throw the best parties ever. I have attending parties galore since arriving here and very few disappoint. Often people get very drunk but you never see anyone causing trouble. No requirement for bouncers here.

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I will finish with a photo taken at Phetch’s party at the Corner House, simply because I wasn’t sure what was going on but again, it depicts fun and beautiful people. Well OK – Stuart adds the fun part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Songkran 2017

I arrived in Thailand on April 12th, 2016, just in time for the Songkran celebrations, which commenced on the thirteenth of the month.

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What an experience it was too!

Arriving from Scotland, I was thrown in at the deep end as Thailand celebrated its New Year. And I have to confess, the Thai people know how to enjoy themselves and have fun.

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It was partly because of these festivities and one or two other lifestyle changes, that influenced my decision, not to take my return flight back to my homeland. It was time for me to try something new and I believed that I had discovered just the place to begin a new and exciting life.

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When I arrived I was in the company of a fellow Scot and his Thai lady, Kenny and May. Five weeks later, I was on my lonesome. But I managed fine, met knew friends, and of course met a fantastic woman. We hit if off immediately.

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Now one year on, It is Songkran again and I was desperate for the celebrations to get underway so that I could venture out with my camera. The first day was a huge disappointment however. There was a lack of bars participating in the event compared to last year, so the hunt for a suitable vantage point to shelter from the water games was not forthcoming.

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I sat in a bar overlooking the road but alas, I failed to achieve a clear view of the activities.

Today though, I went alone, found a line of bars on the beach that were all actively immersing people with water as they passed by. I chose somewhere as close as I dared to be, for the safety of my photography equipment. It is allegedly waterproof but I don’t like to chance my luck.

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I had my first beer in over a month in bar number one, took some photos and repeated my activity in two other bars close by. Thai people love to have their photo taken and will often approach me to enquire where they may see the photos later. My Facebook friends list grows constantly because of this.

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Once I had enough images, I walked through the small alleys, taking the hits from the mixture of welcoming warm water and the incredibly freezing cold wetness from the bars that added copious amounts of ice to their supplies.

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The look on people’s faces when they are suddenly saturated in ice cold water is truly worth seeing. It is however, a different experience when it happens to you. Remember it is 32 degrees in Pattaya when someone pours icy fluid down the back of your sweaty shirt. It certainly comes as a surprise!

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Songkran is the celebration of Thialand’s New Year and is a “must see” tourist attraction. It offers not only the water sports as I call it but there are parades with people being transported around on the back of lorries dressed as anything from sailors to Thai traditional dress.

Music blares from every bar participating and massive containers are alongside the venues to hold the water, which is dispensed over walkers either by small buckets or water guns.

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It is believed that the water washes away bad luck amongst other things. So when a Thai person pours water over your head, they are basically wishing you a Happy New Year and a prosperous future.

When a tourist does it, well its because they are being childish and joining in the fun. And it is highly entertaining for those who like to participate.

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Many expats, flee the country at Songkran because they hate the time of year. I prefer to endorse it and engage in it as much as possible. I will offer myself for target practice to any child with a water gun or bucket, then enjoy their huge grins as they see me grimace when I discover the water is Baltic.

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This, for me is Thailand. Songkran, the rural provinces with the rice fields, water buffalo and ladies adorned in traditional Thai dress, is what the country is all about.

So if you ever come to the “land of smiles” do it during Songkran. You may never go home again!

Looking Back On The Things I Did

I have been feeling a bit nostalgic today so I thought I would write something around the pictures I have taken over the years.

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I began my life in photography way back in the days of film with a Praktica camera but alas I have no images from those days. They were tough on the old wallet, as mistakes cost you dearly with processing costs.

I progressed to digital photography with a Sony Mavica around 1998. The camera was shockingly bad, using the old 3.5″ floppy discs to store images on. From there I moved to a Kodak that was a huge improvement as far as image quality¬†was concerned.

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By now I was beginning to enjoy my photography, so I purchased a Panasonic Lumix G1 with a 200mm zoom lens. It used the Micro Four Thirds system, was light and easy to use.

I was asked to do some pictures at football matches shortly after buying the Lumix. The camera was ideal for the task, until the light was poor or it was raining, which was frequent in Scotland. So a new camera was acquired in the form of a Nikon D90, which was soon replaced by the excellent D7000. I used the latter for two years before progressing to a full frame Nikon D600, D610 and finally, at the time of writing a D750. I still own a D610 but it is in Scotland awaiting shipment to Thailand.

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The first image on this post was taken with my Nikon D90 with an 18-200mm zoom lens. I was thrilled with it at the time, despite still learning how to use the camera.

I had worked on various websites as a photographer before being asked to work for the Scottish Womens Football Association. The next image was taken at Aberdeen when the Scottish ladies played host to Cameroon, on a wet and cold, wintry day. There was as much excitement in the large crowd as there was on the field of play.

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Over a period of six years, I covered hundreds, if not thousands of matches for men, women and children’s games¬†before I finally had the opportunity to go into a studio with models.

My inaugural shoot was in Glasgow with brother and sister Tunde and Eno and despite having no knowledge of studio lighting and no assistance from the studio owner, I managed to obtain a number of decent photos. The couple can be seen in photo three.

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I was hooked. I had found an area of photography that I simply had to explore more. I loved working in a studio environment and the truth be told, it is probably the only reason I would consider returning home. I miss taking models into one of the many studios I used but in Thailand, I have yet to discover a setup that compares with what I am accustomed to.

Actually I have yet to find a studio for hire!

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I continued working at football matches but every free moment I had, I would find myself arranging studio shoots with a variety of models, covering diverse themes from Marilyn Monroe to rock chicks or glamour shoots to horror. I would point my camera at anything that I found interesting or different.

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Then one day, I was invited to a music event. A concert featuring numerous bands. Nervously I arrived at the venue, not knowing if I could capture the night’s entertainment or if it would be a complete disaster. Thankfully it proved to be another stepping stone for me, for the night was a success.

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Again, I was addicted to this new form of camera work. I did gig after gig, touring the UK, working at prestigious venues such as the O2 concert halls around England and Scotland. I also photographed an all girl punk band in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, famous for hosting “Strictly Come Dancing” these days.

Despite the travelling time, spending many nights in hotels, I was in my element.

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Not only was I getting “Access All Areas” passes to gigs but I was getting up close and personal with the bands. I was “on stage” with the groups, capturing the drummers at close range.

I met the odd famous person and many new friends, a number of which I am still in touch with today.

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Not only did I have the opportunity to work with some wonderful acts, I also took them into studios or on location, so I guess I must have been doing something right.

There were also downsides to working with music acts. Many thought that cameras grew on trees or Nikon just presented you with £20,000 worth of equipment for free. To say they were reluctant to put their hands in their pockets would be an understatement. Some people still believe that photographers should work for free.

Alas this is not the case. If you have a burst pipe, you expect to pay the plumber – right? The acts get paid, and so should the photographer.

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There were a lot of people who understand that your equipment costs money and has to be kept up to date and were happy to pay for my services.

So where I am now? Well I am currently living in Thailand and loving life but not working with the camera at least once or twice per week, irritates me.

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I have of course been out and taken many images in my time here but my objective is to return to some form of full time employment within the world of photography. It may not be here in Thailand but it needs to happen, for I have a yearning deep inside me to take photos.

Maybe I will find the cash to invest in a Nikon D800 and D5000, my dream cameras.

One day!

 

 

 

 

Everyone Loves A Party

Since arriving in Pattaya, Thailand in April 2016, I have enjoyed many wonderful parties, typically in the area known as Rompho. My latest venture into the nightlife of Pattaya was no exception.

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Rompho is a complex of bars and other small businesses all set in one location. It is said that there are fifty bars within the complex but if I am honest, I have frequented around a dozen or so.

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I have my favourites that I used to visit often but since moving to a new condo, three kilometres away from Rompho, I am not seen just as often as I would like to be.

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But every so often, I do return, mainly to see friends or maybe I am passing by whilst out on one of my 10 kilometre walks in the sun and I pop in. I always get my haircut at one of the barbers in Rompho, just so I can say “hello” to people I know.

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Recently I was invited to a double birthday party, although it may have been my camera that was asked for more than me ūüôā

Never one to turn down a good party (within reason), I packed my bag with my Nikon D750, my SB700 flash unit and a couple of lenses and set out to do what I enjoy most. Getting drunk! No – seriously – taking photos.

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When I arrived I was delighted to see that the band were one that had appeared at the venue before, the location being, the Corner House Bar in Rompho. Despite having photographed the band previously, I still don’t know if they have a name. They certainly didn’t the first time I saw them. But when you are adept with your instruments and fronted by a talented vocalist, it doesn’t matter what you call the band!

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It was the lead guitarist who attracted my attention. The man was made for the camera. He has one of those lived in faces that every photographer hopes to stumbleupon. AND he is willing to pose as he plays, acting up for the big shot. My opening image features this man, and once again, I apologise for not knowing his name. Next time I will ask.

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The party, as always at the Corner House, was a huge success and my role was to capture as many of the guests on camera as possible.

The celebrations were for Stuart, the gaffer and his friend Chris from Luton, who were both honouring each other’s birthdays. Why we celebrate being a year older is beyond me. I would rather rejoice if they discovered a way to become a year younger!!!

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My second image is one of my favourites, for there is nothing more rewarding than photographing good looking people. I captured this lovely couple as they entered the bar.

Next up is a man with a face that you cannot forget. His beard is distinguished and the extraordinary ponytail, if that is what it’s called, is an eyecatcher.

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The bar staff in most bars in Pattaya are worth concentrating on. This image of the dark haired beauty, is the Corner House’s cashier – Bee.

Then we have the girl in the green dress, who was sat opposite me and my girlfriend, Nom. But I bet she regrets sitting at the photographer’s table, for when I got bored, my attention switched to her. She was a star it has to be said, posing like a true model but unfortunately I missed most of her ingenuity whilst striking a pose and she wasn’t one for repeat performances. However, the photos of her that were taken when she forgot about my presence, provided some fun shots.

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Then we have birthday boy Chris and one of his friends from England. Two very nice guys. Chris, went to the trouble of buying every lady in the bar a flower from one of the many flower sellers, who come round Rompho. The girl with the roses must have thought it was Christmas.

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A Scottish friend and rock ‘n’ roll singer appears next. Stephanie was there for various reasons but one was the hope of getting the opportunity to belt out a few songs. She gave us three renditions of Chuck Berry classics to mark the passing of the rock ‘n’ roll legend. Steph is well known around Pattaya, often seen singing in a variety of bars. This time however, she performed with a very good band, and was awesome. Not that she is bad without the band of course. Best get that in before I get thumped!

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I have included one of that man again, the lead guitarist but this time with an artistic approach. I set the camera to F2.8 and got close up, zoomed in, so that I achieved a depth of field that blurred the closest point of his guitar. The focal point being his plectrum.

Now the gentleman who looks like he is crooning his way through a Frank Sinatra song or belting out a power ballad, is actually singing “Happy Birthday” to Stuart and Chris. In another life, he could be a soul singer, at least for photographic purposes. I love this image.

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The presentation of the birthday cake to Stuart from his lovely partner and soon to be wife, Petch. I have much to thank Stuart for but that is something I won’t go into here, suffice to say that I am honoured to be associated with him.

The two beautiful girls are again anonymous, for either I cannot recall their names or I forgot to ask. Well I was drinking copious amounts of Vodka at the time. But they take a lovely photo and that is all that matters to me.

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Another good man, playing pool. Steve, who asked for an action shot of himself, which may not be the best term to use in the city of sin, as described in certain newspapers.

What’s going on over there then? The boys from Luton seem interested in something but I have no idea what caught their attention. I am also at a loss as to what is going on behind them ūüôā

I will leave you with another image of a man that I could photograph all day or night in this instance. Again the aperture on the camera is set to blur anything close or in the background as I focused in his face.

Many thanks to Stuart for the invitation to his party. May there be many more.

The whole collection can be found by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

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 ūüôā

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pattaya Beach Football

I was invited to attend and photograph the 12th Pattaya Beach Football Cup at Jomtien Beach in Pattaya, Thailand. If I am perfectly honest, it turned out to be something totally different from what I was expecting.

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I wrongly assumed that it would be a bunch of holiday makers, who were unfit, hungover, overweight and didn’t know one end of a football pitch from the other.

How wrong could I be?

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The real scenario was that many of the players were professional footballers and were here to win this cup. The mentality was serious.

The stamina and fitness was genuinely of a very high standard.

The skill levels on show were superlative. Many of the players were flown in especially for this tournament.

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Twelve nations were represented including the host nation Thailand along with Cameroon, Norway, Scotland, England, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Finland, Ireland and my assigned country Holland.

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There was also a ladies competition, which pleased me, for as many of you will know, I used to work closely with women’s football in Scotland for over three years, so when I was made aware of the female game, I didn’t need much persuasion to give them some publicity.

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The opening ceremony was held, presented by the officials, sponsors and local dignitaries.

The teams entered the arena carrying their national flags. Many of the players at this point had not arrived but the ceremony took place regardless and was a success.

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Following the speeches and photographs, the competition got underway.

The tournament was split into two groups of six ,with the top two in each group progressing to the semi-finals.

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The first match I observed was between England and Germany, which culminated in great disappointment for me. I expected the German team to be exceptionally good but alas, the English played them off the park or in this case the sand.

It goes without saying that I am a lover of German football.

England dominated before running out easy winners in the end. Maybe next year the German team will offer a greater challenge.

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Still I was there to take photos and make videos, so I got on with the task.

Holland began with a win over Ireland. A respectable and close game of football but the Dutch were simply too strong for the Irish, who incidentally had a Scotsman from Peterhead in the squad.

I had a good old chinwag with the lad before the match.

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Day two and beyond saw the team in orange face other opposition in the form of France, Finland, and Russia. The Russians were, like Holland, well supported. The atmosphere was electric as Russia took a two goal lead. At this point I had the Russians down as clear favourites to win this match.

Not for the first time over the course of the tournament, I was to be proven wrong.

The Dutch came back to win the match scoring four times in the process. Relief all round!

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They then faced the team that had won the tournament for the previous six years – Norway.

Like all but one of their previous matches, Holland came back from a 2-0 deficit to win and earned their place in the semi-final against Thailand.

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Once again my adopted nation were slow out of the traps before overcoming the host nation.

I actually enjoyed watching Thailand play. They were well prepared, displayed exceptional adeptness with a ball and had a very athletic goalkeeper, whose agility was remarkable.

In the final they met the current champions Norway once more, who had disposed of Cameroon in a rather heated affair.

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So it was Holland v Norway in a repeat of last year’s finale, which of course the Norwegians won.

Could Holland defeat them twice in one week? Hundreds of people turned up hours in advance to discover who the victors would be.

Once more the Dutch fell behind early on and I wondered if this was a step too far. I mean how many times can one side come back from going behind to claim victory?

The Norwegians looked strong and once they took the lead, they settled, playing some good football. Their hearts were firmly set on winning that seventh title in a row.

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However team orange were not going to lie down and accept defeat without the usual fightback. And fightback they certainly did.

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Chances were missed at both ends before Holland finally equalised. Once they found the net, they began to dominate and control the game, eventually winning by a scoreline of four goals to one. A just result in my opinion. They had controlled the match with the majority of the play and took their chances in front of goal.

Norway desperately tried to come back. Even in the last minute and three goals behind, they drove forward in search of a goal. However it was not to be. Not this year.

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Over the piece Holland deserved their medals and cup for they fought hard, had a never say die attitude and were completely professional from the outset.

The competition’s top scorer, a chap called Ali, hit the net 20 times for Holland. An impressive achievement.

The final match was chaotic for photographers. The presentation was a frenzied affair as Camera men and women fought for space with people standing with mobile phones or small cameras.

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As a result, the images I obtained of the Dutch team receiving their trophies and medals were poor and I feel I let the guys down, through no fault of my own.

In the ladies competition, I was asked to do some photos for Planet Football, a local football academy in Pattaya.

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Now this side had the smallest squad of all the teams who had entered but their five or six girls put everything into their play and went on to win the trophy with relative ease.

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The ladies provided some wonderful entertainment, as these games were played in a more light hearted spirit but they engaged the crowd, who were engrossed in their matches as much as they were with the men’s.

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Now you cannot have a successful football competition without players but you also require supporters.

The organisers built three stands to accommodate the fans but this was not sufficient, such was the demand to watch this tournament.

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People were climbing scaffolding, which supported the floodlights. They stood behind the advertising boards, sat in the sand behind the goals or were squashed into a corner with minimalistic views.

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This did not deter them however as they create a deafening blare of chants and songs. Once again it was orange clad Dutch who stole the show but other nations got behind their team, even if it was in lesser numbers. Half a dozen Finnish ladies throats must have been sore from encouraging their side.

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The Russians were out in force to watch their countrymen too and of course the Thai’s, typically the ladies, could be heard screaming at any opportunity that their boys had to¬†score.

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Once again many thanks to Colin, the Dutch Manager for inviting me along and a congratulations to the organisers, who ensured the competition ran like clockwork.

My only criticism, if you could call it that – would be to increase the size of the venue to seat more people. Is that really a condemnation though? Of course not.

 

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This is a very popular event but I know people were leaving due to lack of seating. Success breeds success and my personal feeling is that another hundred seats would not go amiss. The event has the capability of becoming even more prosperous, so what not endorse and encourage this!

I would also have a dedicated press area, especially at the presentation. Fighting for space with a proud granny or wife is not fun lol.

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Following the presentation of the cups (and their were many), the Dutch team and countless¬†supporters walked the short distance to The Tulip House, which was one of the team’s sponsors. The bar provided entertainment for the ensuing party that was quite simply – amazing.

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With 90% of the people present being from Holland, it was a colourful, joyous event, with singing and dancing throughout the evening. These people know how to party and party they did!

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Sadly, having been on my feet for five hours, whilst carrying a heavy bag full of camera equipment, I was ready for my bed and I departed the scene of the celebrations earlier than I would have preferred. From a photographer’s point of view, the festivities would have provided some excellent shots. Having said that, I did get a few while I was there.

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I would like to end with what turned out to be a very important image for me. It was taken on the spur of the moment when I noticed a very thirsty young female player, drinking from a bottle of water but the majority of the water was not reaching her mouth. It appeared that she did not care either due to intense heat and thirst she was suffering from.

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I used the image to promote my Facebook Page and at the time of writing, it has been viewed by almost 17,000 people, liked by nearly 3000 people and attracted 1000 plus page likes in less than six days.

I have no idea who the girl is but I must offer my sincerest gratitude for making a wonderful image for me.

You can see the image above. I love it and I hope you do too.

I have just found out that the top scorer Ali, mentioned above, has been interviewed by a Dutch newspaper and they have asked permission to use some images. Many thanks to both the newspaper and Ali.

Also to all the people I met who encouraged and thanked me for the photos – I offer my sincerest gratitude.

Hua Hin, Thailand

I have, at the time of writing, lived in Pattaya, Thailand for ten months and I have enjoyed every minute my time here. The land of smiles has, for the most part, defeated my clinical depression to the point that I rarely have to rely on medication. Considering the many years I suffered from this debilitating illness, this is by no means something I claim lightly.

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Thailand is a beautiful country. I have hardly touched the surface of what it has to offer in terms of tourist attractions.

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I have visited Bangkok, Roi Et, Chantaburi and of course Pattaya I have travelled around on foot, bike and bus, to learn what the city of Pattaya has to offer. There is an abundance of must see and do tourist attractions in Chonburi Province. It is not just Walking Street I can assure you.

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I was afforded the opportunity to visit the town of Hua Hin on the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand when the new passenger ferry services came into operation early January 2017.

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The ferry is of a catamaran design and glides over the waves at an average speed of 27 knots or 30mph. Security is high at both sides with airport style scanners and searches before you are permitted into the waiting areas.

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The staff are polite and helpful at the ports of Pattaya and Hua Hin. They even salute their passengers as they depart the ship.

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The ticket allocation was a bit of a disaster on the outward bound trip but the staff handled the situation well and we were actually given premium seats as an alternative to the ones paid for.

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The journey takes around two hours and is effortless. We booked business class for that little bit of additional comfort. The extra cost is minimal and worth paying for a tranquil area, with padded seating and free coffee during the trip.

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Upon arrival in Hua Hin, it was evident that the traffic was nowhere near as chaotic as the city of Pattaya, where everyone appears to be in a hurry and lacking patience. My new home city is well known for its accidents and deaths on its roads. Hua Hin was far more relaxed. People travel with less haste and display superior commonsense. The roads were in better condition too, and even had pavements on most of them. Hard to believe but it is true!

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There were plenty of tourists but the majority are older married couples. There are no Go-Go Bars to be found in Hua Hin and although it does have a fair sized area of sexy bars, it is not in your face the way it is in Pattaya.

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There is also a large ladyboy contingent within these bars and I found it difficult to tell who was and who was not a ladyboy. There are many gay men, the camp type too. However, none of this should put you off visiting these bars.

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There is fun and hilarity and non stop entertainment to be had, for these people know how to enjoy themselves and never force themselves on to anyone. They simply enjoy their work and put a lot of effort into assuring the customer is happy. We had a fantastic time singing and dancing along with the bar staff.

 

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I found the prices higher than in Pattaya, which was surprising. From a can of coke being six baht dearer to the average meal being 25% higher.

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There is no bin to hold your drinks bill in, so you have no idea how much you are spending till you ask for the bill. I prefer the Pattaya method, where I can check the contents of the bin and see how much I have to pay at any time.

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The town has much to offer its visitors. The Hua Hin Safari is a must. It has Elephant Rides/Shows, Cobras and Crocodile Events and much more.

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The highlight for me however, were the tigers. Not any old tigers here. No drugs are used, for there is no requirement. No these are babies. You can handle a four week old cub and have your photo taken with it. You can bottle feed an eight month old tiger, which is a massive creature and not much smaller than the parents. Lie down beside them and rub their belly, let their rough tongues run over your leg or arm.

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This is an amazing experience and one that you should do. It is not cheap, costing around £25 but it is probably a once in a lifetime experience and if the truth be told, I would have paid £50 to get close to these animals. You can spend as much or as little time with the tigers as you wish. There is no one rushing you or asking you to move on.

The temples around the town are awesome and again, you have to visit Wat Huay Mongkol Temple for instance or the seven kings statues at Rajabhakti Park.

Another truly inspiring and exceptional place is Monkey Mountain. As the title suggests this is a mountain featuring an abundance of monkeys, that you really can get up close and personal with.

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You can purchase food and stand amongst them as they climb all over you to access the edibles. You will do well to retain ownership of the bucket of fruit for more than 45 seconds, for they will climb up your body, sit on your head and basically turn the bucket upside down and empty its contents on the ground. Great videos and photos to be obtained here.

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There is a Floating Market, which I found disappointing in comparison to the equivalent in Pattaya, for there were no boats in the water, shepherding customers around. They were present but there was no one to take you out on the water. Maybe it was their day off, who knows. The market itself is very good but that one aspect let it down.

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We spent three days in the town and had an absolute ball. The people are friendly, there is plenty to do and restaurants galore. Some of the eating places are excellent and they are always chokablok with diners.

Taxis are slightly different in Hua Hin. They have the traditional Tuk Tuk, which is not available in Pattaya. They have the standard Taxi Meter cars but not so many. They also have what I can only describe as a small, unstable looking van, with the back removed and replaced by open railings.

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They have baht bus style taxis but these only have eight seats as opposed to the twelve of Pattaya and of course there are taxi bikes and private cars too. Oh and the cycle rickshaw is also to be found in Hua Hin.

Fishing plays a large part of the local life in Hua Hin. From small boats to individuals collecting crabs in the sea. There is plenty of evidence at the markets too where a multitude and vast variety of fish can be purchased.

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My biggest regret from this trip was losing two memory cards with over 500 images that unless I revisit the town, cannot be replaced.

For this reason I have had to use photos from the places we visited to populate this post and for that I apologise.

I did have a walk along one of the many quiet beaches, where I snapped fishermen at work, children frollicking in the sea and enjoyed the tranquility on a very hot and humid day.

Hua Hin is a town I will return to, hopefully before I depart Thailand. A one day trip is all I need to obtain the images I have lost. The ferry and hotel will be under 3000 baht. My personal taxi cost me around 2000 baht on my last outing and food possibly 1500 baht. So adding it all up, £150 will cover another trip to this fabulous town.

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Oh and £25 to hold those baby tigers!

Please note that the images without my logo on them were not taken by me and utilised from Hua Hin sources. Thanks to those who captured the scenes.

 

 

Khao Kheow Zoo Pattaya

I visited this tourist attraction with my girlfriend and her lovely sister and boyfriend, with the latter acting as driver for the day.

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I had seen it advertised many times but always thought it was just another zoo, with animals in cages or hiding away from those who had paid top dollar to view them.

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However, this zoo offers an alternative to the mainstream attractions of a similar nature, for the animals are not in cages and in the majority of cases, you can get up close and personal.

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The creatures are separated from the tourists by trenches, small fences and in some instances glass but overall you have a clear and unrestricted view of all the animals. In the case of the monkeys and birds, there is no separation at all.

My first encounter was with the ostriches, which were kept apart by a small fence. We were close enough to touch them or as many did, feed them. They are obviously accustomed to being close to humans, for they were comfortable with our presence.

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To get up close like this is amazing and something I would highly advise, if you love animals.

Obviously there are beasts that you simply cannot access without the risk of losing your life, such as the lions, tigers or the hippos. But these creatures are roaming freely around their enclosure with plenty of space, living in a natural environment unlike the small cages you may be used to view animals in.

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The larger animals are still very much visible and easy to photograph, especially if you are patient.

Bears, rhinos and giraffes wander around within easy access to the photographer.

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You can feed the elephants and in one area, have you photo taken with them. One girl was seen with the trunk of an elephant wrapped around her, much to the amusement of the onlookers.

The aviary is awesome. A huge area specifically for birds, which again are free to fly or walk around. There is enough plantlife to give them protection or tranquility should they desire but generally speaking they again seem happy to enter the vicinity of their visitors and take food, which is for sale at every attraction within the zoo.

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The monkeys stole the show for me. They wander freely around the enormous park and will come up and take bananas from your hand. They will happily sit and devour their foodstuff, posing for photos till your hearts content.

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I would have paid the entrance fee just to photography the monkeys. They are a joy to observe and their behaviour is often cheeky and funny.

One stole a bag of bananas from Nom but we did manage to retrieve them but its bravery has to be admired, for she does not readily part with anything edible.

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Thailand is a hot and often humid country and as such, walking around this huge park is tiresome. There are numerous refreshment stops where you can purchase food, cold drinks, teas and coffees or if you dare, buy an ice lolly and try and eat it before it melts.

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You can also hire vehicles to drive around. These are similar to golf carts. There is a tourist train vehicle, which resembles a larger version of the golf cart and seats around 20 people.

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Or you can drive your own vehicle, which gives you complete control over your visit.

Like many attractions there is always a downside. Everything cannot be perfect but in this instance it could be, with a little bit of investments.

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The toilets for instance. They are badly in need of modernisation. Most western visitors are not used to squatting and rinsing with a bowl of water. Bring those facilities up to date and you have a fantastic tourist attraction.

I heard people complaining that Thais get in cheaper than tourists like myself. Why not? This is common in Thailand. They look after their own first. There is nothing wrong with this.

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On the day my three Thai friends paid 350 baht to get in, including the car. On the other hand I was charged 300 baht just for me. I have no problem with this. I mean £6 for a wonderful day out is hardly over charging.

My gripe is that I could not pay along with the Thais. I had to get out the car and walk to a separate ticket office to pay. There is no requirement for this. Let me pay at the same point of call as my Thai friends.

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I was treated with the utmost respect by the Zoo’s staff so again a plus point.

Another bonus is the fact that the Zoo is dedicated to the preservation and well being of the animals they have on display. Wherever possible, they roam free but where they have to be segregated for our safety, the animals have an abundance of space, foliage, water etc to enjoy. Many of them can be seen frolicking, getting up to playful antics with their partners.

And those monkeys. Well go along just for them and you won’t be disappointed.

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My one regret is not having two cameras. I could have made so much use of it armed with my 600mm lens but there is always another day.

Well done to everyone at Khao Kheow Zoo for bringing these wonderful creatures into our domain for our enjoyment, yet providing them with a safe environment that resembles their natural habitat.

Football Days

My first venture into photography of any note was football in my homeland of Scotland. I was on the committee of Glenafton Athletic, my home town Junior/Non-League side, when I struck up an idea to use Twitter to collect all scores from around the country’s Junior matches and display them on a website. With the help of Martin Young, The Juniors.info website was born.

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To give the website some credibility and content, it required photos, match reports, interviews and much more. This was where my love of photography truly began.

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I did the lot. It was difficult to find assistance with match reports for instance but over a period of three years, the site grew in stature and attracted fans from every team from the Scottish Junior Football Association.

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I travelled the country covering matches in all weather conditions and it has to be said, I met some wonderful people, who gave up their free time to run their favourite club via their respective committees. People would sell raffle tickets, programmes or collect rubbish from the terraces. No job was too big or too small for these hardworking people.

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My highlights from the men’s game has to be working at three Scottish Junior Cup Finals, covering Dalry Thistle’s giant killing missions and St. Rochs’ visit to the mighty Auchinleck Talbot in the Scottish Cup, a game that I had covered by video by a good footballing friend Martin McKenna. His video of St. Rochs’ manager Davie Greig at half-time is legendary.

I was even featured on a couple of local radio stations in Paisley and Edinburgh.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my time working on the site and promoting the Junior game but despite all my efforts, I failed to get the backing of the governing body. Yes they loved what I was doing for the game but refused to commit to actually permitting me to use the official brand in anyway.

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So when an offer from the Scottish Womens Football Association was put to me, I duly accepted, despite not being convinced I could build a following but as the SWFA were paying expense and backing my efforts, it was worth a try.

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Another issue that concerned me at the time, was I did not believe the standard of the women’s game was high enough to justify my time and effort but I am delighted to say I was wrong.

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I handed the running of The Juniors over to Martin Young, who has done a fine job by all accounts in maintaining support and adding to its success. I commenced work on a new site called SWFITBA.

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This one was hard work initially, in that getting clubs on board was not an easy task. I began with a few selected clubs such as Hamilton, Troon, Glasgow City and Hearts and built it from there. Then I made a decision to support the lower leagues and give them coverage with match reports and photos and that’s when the site took off.

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Every club within the association suddenly wanted me to attend their games. SWFITBA was a huge success but unfortunately had people in power who thought they were bigger than the game and offered little in support for what I was doing. Sadly they were committed only to a select few clubs and not interested in the emerging clubs from around Scotland.

To this day this brings great sadness to me, for it was the lower league bread and butter clubs who suffered when SWFITBA ceased production.

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Eventually I decided enough was enough. However I am proud of what I achieved for the women’s game and despite uproar from the lower leagues when I departed the scene, it was impossible for me to continue without the 100% backing of the governing body.

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I am humbled that I was permitted to work at European Champion’s League matches and Scotland internationals, these were the icing on the cake. But I cannot emphasise enough that my love was covering the teams outwith the top three or four.

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But the best memories came from being invited to attend the home side’s hospitality events following a match. Again, almost all the lower league teams invited me along, where I could meet and interview players, enjoy some free food and beverages and have a good old chinwag with new found friends.

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Following a break from football and venturing into studio work with a variety of models and styles, I was asked to help out at Kilmarnock Ladies.

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“What do you want me to do?” was the first question I asked.

“Oh simply help us promote our Facebook, Twitter and Web Pages, so that we can attract new players” I was told.

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I liked the Chairman and his ideas for the future and he listened to what I had to say, so I signed up to what was meant to be a few weeks of promotional work.

But….. I was hooked again. I began travelling to their games, doing match reports, photography, interviews, player profiles and more or less anything that was requested from me.

I created  and maintained the Website and Twitter account so that the world knew about Kilmarnock Ladies FC.

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I even coached the goalkeepers for a couple of months until they found a trainer and then I joined the committee. In fact at the time or writing, the seniors goalkeeper Morgan Hunter was put in place on my advice. She turned out to be a real find for the team.

I was in my element. I travelled to games all over Scotland not just with the senior team but with all age groups. I would often be seen at three game every weekend, travelling hundreds of miles over the period. Then I would sit editing photos being hassled by girls asking “when will the photos be ready?”

Good days!

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I managed to get university students to film one of our matches but lack of funding prevented it from continuing. I attracted other photographers and reporters but again with no expenses available, many weren’t interested.

I however was not in it for the money. It was a passion. I love football, I enjoy writing and of course my true passion is photography, so I was in heaven.

It would have been brilliant had I been employed on a paid basis but that was never going to happen within the women’s game in Scotland. In Europe, where finances are superior, that could always be a possibility but Scotland does not have the support of the press and media, nor does it attract the fans in the same way the continent does.

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Sadly all things come to an end. My main problem at the time was depression, something I have suffered all my life but came to the fore in my second season with the club. My life was turned upside down for over two years, meaning I could not commit to the club or anything else for that matter.

I took redundancy from my work for the same reason and struggled to find motivation for anything, irrespective of its importance. Life had little meaning.

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Sure I still did photography when my mood was good. I even covered an odd football match here or there but it had to be my decision whether I attended or not.

So Kilmarnock and I parted company but the door was left open for me to return but I never did.

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Now of course I live in Pattaya in Thailand but how long that will be for, I cannot say. I am desperately trying to find work in Asia, so that I can remain in the area but it is not easy to achieve.

If I return to the UK, it will be for one reason only. To work and save up some cash, so that I can travel further.

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Football gave me five or six terrific years. Some of the people I met, were awesome, especially around the smaller clubs. Whether it was male or female orientated  it did not matter. The organisers from the lower league sides had more time to speak to me, for all they wanted was promotion and support for what they were trying to achieve too.

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The larger clubs were not so accommodating for they had the support of the national press or made use of their own media personnel. But every role in life has its restrictions and its benefits. You take the good and you do your best to work around the bad.

Over the piece I had a fantastic time with brilliant memories. I do miss the football and all that it entailed but I guess those days are long gone.

It did provide me with one photograph that I will never forget. It was taken at one of my first matches at a ladies game. The sun was shining, not a breath of wind was to be had. Perfect conditions for playing the beautiful game.

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Half way through the second half of the match; a Kilmarnock player who was unknown to me at the time, suddenly went down screaming in pain, clutching the back of her lower leg. Cramp!

Not being allowed on the field of play to help her, I did the next best thing. I snapped away to capture the moment. Kirsty Munro was livid when she noticed me but I continued nevertheless. If looks could kill I would have been struck by a bolt of lightning.

A year or so later, I was attending a Kilmarnock v Aberdeen game and I had the photo printed in poster size and with the help of one of the Killie backroom staff, I had it placed in the home dressing room wall before the players arrived. A bit of fun to give what was a struggling outfit at the time, a lift in morale.

Miss Munro took the poster home so I guess she liked it eventually.

The image is above. A face etched with pain, dirty knees and painted nails. Brilliant!

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