Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Lady Sunset..

For months now I've had an image in my mind that I wanted to capture. I'd think about trying to set it up at least every week or so yet in amongst the busyness of life I discovered that months had gone by and I was still repeating the same ole mantra to myself'; "next week.. next week.. next week.." It was while drinking my morning coffee a couple of weeks back that I noticed the fields behind my house were beginning to make the shift from impossibly green to a warm golden hue and I knew if I kept up this mantra and didn't act soon then my window of opportunity to shoot in amongst the rice fields would be gone, and that was something I was not prepared to let happen.

I asked amongst some friends if they'd be willing to let me shoot them and sold them on the concept of the shoot and was pretty jived when they agreed. Part of my vision was to have a background in which the setting sun was just kissing the mountain tops and so on a couple of afternoons at around sunset I rode around the outskirts of town location scouting. I thought I had settled upon a place but randomly one afternoon when I was picking up Wildfoot and Little Feather from their school, I decided to take the long way home and as we rode the scenic route through fields upon fields of rice just ripening for the harvest I knew I had stumbled upon a far more beautiful space.

I came back later that afternoon and wandered around the fields looking for interesting nooks and crannies and points of interests that I might want to include. The whole time I was keeping my eye on my watch so I would know where I needed to be at what time to get the most of out the rapidly changing light, but at times it felt almost pointless. I challenge anyone to try and focus or to make plans while walking through those fields at sundown! The whole afternoon felt like I was walking around in a dream. The soft breeze blowing across the top of the rice fields that created ripples which stretched out all the way to the base of the Himalayan Foothills while the sun gently settled down behind the mountains and smothered everything with an impossibly gorgeous golden light. If I'd had a picnic blanket, a bottle of red and my wife I believe I'd be well in my right for thinking that I'd died and gone to heaven.

 I rang around and locked in a day and a time for the shoot. I even managed to convince my friend's eldest son to come out and be my lighting guy/voice controlled light stand and this move ended up being one of the the best 60 baht I've ever spent! But on the morning of the shoot things didn't look anywhere near so promising. The weather was overcast and cold, the wind was kicking up a stink and the sky was continually threatening to rain. Living in a valley means the weather is always unpredictable and so there was always a chance it might come good, but because the weather report said it was likely to rain I opted to postpone the shoot till the following week, a risky move considering the difficulties in getting all my friends there at the same time coupled with the unknown date of the impending rice harvest but ultimately it was the right one.

The days rolled by and thankfully the rice remained unharvested. Everyone turned up for the shoot and it was like God had been saving up the most beautiful weather he had ever conceived of just for that day. The golden sunlight was otherworldly and helped give a real milky quality to parts of the images that I was hoping to capture along with the occasional bit of lens flare. I fired off a bunch of shots in different locations and tried to capture a variety of moods (as well as a number of individual portraits which I'll upload once I've had a chance to edit them) and walked away with a digital copy of the image that I'd been seeing in my mind's eye for months in advance (the first image on this page) and that is a sweet feeling indeed!

The final noteworthy part to this story came the following day when Shoonklicky Spoon went for a ride back to where we shot these images only to find that the fields in their entirety had been cut down in the harvest. Not more than than 12 hours after I captured these images the harvesters arrived and put their sickles to work. If ever there was a time I was grateful to have gotten off my butt and made something happen, this is likely to have taken first place!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Sunday Sun..

Of all the genres of photography, portraiture is my favourite. Don't get me wrong, I love rambling off road to try and find a unique perspective for a landscape, I love capturing candid moments in street and travel photography, and if all my friends here continue to be under the spell of this strange new desire to watch birds, I might even try my hand at wildlife photography, but without a doubt my photographic heartbeat is for capturing people. Is it that I'm by nature a people person? That people seem by far the most complex, diverse and beautiful creatures on our planet? That attempting to capture the essence of a person on film (or more to the point, my interpretation of that person's essence) seems an almost transcendent pursuit? I truly don't know, but what I do know is that right now I'll take any opportunity I can to stick my lens in someones face and capture a frame full of the beauty of the world.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Death Of Resurrection..

I've been quite on the blogging front for awhile now, in fact it's the longest I've gone without posting since I started sharing my incoherent ramblings a couple of years back. But in amongst the transition to a new country and a new culture and a new.. well, pretty much everything, combined with a stronger inner pull towards of a couple of other creative pursuits, carving out the time to sit and think and write has had to take a bit of a backseat. But today as I followed one of those other creative pursuits and stood in my front garden and kicked about in the dark brown soil I couldn't help but think back to my old Garden in Banaras and the stark contrast between these two locations in which I've grown. And then the flood of memories came rolling in! 

It's been almost twelve months since we packed up our lives into eight bags and left our home in Banaras for the mountains of northern Thailand and lately my nostalgia for India has been fierce. All the difficulties and disasters have been glossed over and in my mind all that now remains is an intense longing for the friends and places (and Chai!) that we left behind. For those of you who know me or followed my blogging about the Resurrection Garden you'll know how much of my life I pumped into that soil and of how much joy (and pain) it gave back, and today as those memories filled my mind my heart began to ache. And so tonight with my little ones now tucked up in their beds, I find myself sorting through old photos and writing up one final post on the Resurrection Garden as a way of getting some closure on a very special period in my life which I never felt I'd quite done up till now.

In November 2014 we returned to pack up our home in Banaras after having been back in Australia. When I left 6 months earlier there were winding paths throughout the garden to explore that were hedged in by ripe tomatoes on the vine, 7 different varieties of lettuce, marigolds in bloom, giant garlic, broccoli, kale, rainbow chard, various beets in full swing and rows upon rows of carrots just weeks away from harvest. When I returned there was this.


The paths were gone, the weeds were 2+ foot tall and the entire garden had become an impenetrable thicket of inedible chaos. I tried to get in deep enough to find the back path but considering the prevalence of venomous snakes on the property I soon gave up looking and returned to a safer zone to take it all in. All my hard work, all the hours I had spent transforming it, all the people who had gotten their hands dirty along side me, all of it dissipated amidst a sea of green. I was saddened but not heartbroken, I had returned well prepared for what my garden would look like after 6 months without anyone to tend to it and knowing how quickly the weeds would revel in the glory that was my much worked on soil. Before leaving it I can so clearly remember standing with one foot in the garden and one foot outside of it and reaching down with both hands to grab at the soil. The soil outside the garden was hard, lifeless and impenetrable. The soil in my garden (which was once exactly the same as that outside) was dark, rich, sweet smelling friable soil that was packed full of life. If nothing else, the feeling that accompanied seeing the outcome of so many sweaty hours of hard work that resulted in such incredible transformation will get me through any future gardening projects with the knowledge that if it was possible there, then it is truly possible anywhere.

The day before our flights the groundskeeper began to hack and slash his way throughout the back corner of the property and managed to uncover what remained of the Resurrection Garden. All that could be found in this once lush piece of Eden were the various colours of discarded plastics and shards of rubbish now scattered amidst the ruins. Aimlessly I walked it's shattered paths where now no green thing remained until the pangs of sadness that echoed in my chest grew so heavy that I slumped to the ground in the place where my garden bench - proudly constructed of an ancient and weather worn stone slab, once stood. I sat there quietly for a good while, breathing it all in for one last time, until my silent meditation was a invaded by the well known sight of a plastic bag full of my neighbour's rubbish soaring out their window, over the wall and landing squarely where my broccoli's once grew. I erupted into laughter, the kind of wild maniacal laughter usually reserved only for cartoon super villains, and as the familiar sight emerged of my many neighbours poking their heads out their windows and over rooftops to look at the odd looking foreign guy in his garden, I wiped the tears of laughter from my eyes, yelled out a final 'thankyou for your gift,' and returned to my home.

As I sort though the many photos I snapped during my time in Banaras, one of the best visuals that can sum up my journey with the Resurrection Garden has got to be the following 3 panoramics. I can so vividly recall standing in the spot these photos were taken from and timidly asking Shooksplitty Boom if she'd be willing to let me turn this area into my garden instead of her initial plan of a row of fruit trees. After she so selflessly agreed to let me rob her of her land I took this first photo so that I'd be able to remember it rightly when I looked back on it in the future.

August 2012

Over the coming months the amount and variety of foreign objects I pulled from the soil was staggering! The hours were long, the work was hard and the temperature was at times unrelentingly oppressive but slowly yet surely our progress began to show itself. To every traveler, friend, pilgrim and stranger who did so much as lift a finger to help within this space, I offer my most sincere and heartfelt thanks for the genuine joy your work added towards!

February 2014

Sandwiched between my first and last days there emerged a golden period in which one could find a thriving, productive and organic vegetable patch known as the Resurrection Garden! A true rarity in its time and place. With the first fruits of my harvest I would offer them to the families who overlooked the garden (indeed the very same ones who would 'deposit' their rubbish in amongst my tomatoes) and thereafter used them at home as well as to feed the many travelers who would come for lunch at our River Ashram. Friday afternoons became a community gardening event in which travelers from around the globe would gather to work in, around and on the garden, make music, drink chai and simply help create the beauty which was our space. I can remember planting seeds with my daughter and watching the delight in her face as she'd pull her radishes out of the ground not much more than a month later. I remember many mornings sitting with my tiny newborn son on my garden bench, the early morning mist still hanging thick in the air, the Chai mug still warm in my hand, the stinging pain of sleep deprivation still heavy on my eye lids. I remember the yelps of the Bundar (monkeys) as they dropped my half chewed vegetables and fled the scene of their crime once I had truly learned how to wield a slingshot. I even remember the plastic bag full of human poo I found crushing my tomato seedlings. And I remember standing in my garden for the last time and like everything else in Banaras had to say 'good bye.'


November 2014

What blows my mind most about these images is the almost identical sight of barren, littered and dead landscapes in the shots taken when I began in August 2012 and when I left in November 2014. It's almost as though Banaras has erased any evidence that I was ever there. But this doesn't bother me in the slightest, for I'll still know. I'll still know the frustration, pain, sweat, heat stroke, germination, growth, transformation, harvests, joy, peace giving, soul nourishing times I spent in that space. And really, isn't that what's most important? Even if it forever returns to nothing, I'll still know, and now you'll know too.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Pai Ink..


Around 10 years ago WildFlower began on her journey towards getting inked for the first time. And whilst at many times throughout my life I've seen works of art on people's skin that I've been deeply impressed by, I carry around with me a deep abiding fear of ink on skin; I'm not kidding, if you pull out a pen in front of me and start writing on the back of your hand I'm gonna scream at you. So needless to say the idea of having ink permanently lodged beneath my skin is not my idea of a good time. I fought WildFlower on this issue for many years hoping to stave off her getting one (I mean honestly, you wouldn't doodle on the Mona Lisa now would you?) but as with any good marriage, in the end, the wife always wins.

In 2010, after three and a half years of unsuccessfully attempting to make a baby and a doctor finally saying that it was unlikely to ever happen for us, WildFlower decided to get the tatt she'd been putting off for all those years. WildFlower sat with our good friend Lady Punks and they drew up a beautiful design and then after being on a waiting list for over a year she got in with an amazing Sydney artist who rejigged the design to make it work as a tatt. Then she took the step I'd been dreading for all those years, she booked in the appointment. 

The weeks passed until we were just days away from Tatt Day. I tried pretty much anything I could think of to convince her out of it but as this had been on her heart for close to a decade I knew deep down that all attempts were pretty futile. I was bracing myself for a lifetime of having my teeth set on edge at the sight of the horrors of ink on skin, but then, just three days out, we caught a glimpse of God's sense of humor.

Around 2pm on a sunny Sydney afternoon a very excited nurse called to tell me some news; WildFlower was pregnant with our first child. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. And unless you know the pains of infertility it's hard to imagine just how full of joy that day was for us! And in that state of bliss it hardly mattered to either of us that the human body is much more likely to reject tatoo ink when you're pregnant or breastfeeding and so tatt day needed to be postponed.. indefinitely.

Fast forward two very life changing years later and we're returning to Australia with our daughter from living in India so we could be a part of my sisters wedding. It's only a short trip of 3 or so weeks but WildFlower decides she wants to pick up where she left off and get the tattoo done so is running around making the necessary arrangements. The date is set, the plans are made and any attempts to dissuade the inevitable are met with white hot force. So there we are, the week of Tatt day, sitting in a doctor's office getting WildFlower's newly broken toe attended to when the doctor turned to us with another piece of life changing news; baby number 2 was already 7 weeks along the way. Tatt day was once again postponed.. Woo!

Jump forward to 2014 and we're again back in Australia visiting family and friends and no prizes for guessing that WildFlower is back on the trail of getting herself inked. But this time we are sharing a very real fear that history might repeat itself! Both times we'd gotten to within a week of the tatt day and had to call it off due to a new found pregnancy and as we'd not had more than 3 hours of unbroken sleep in the 12 months since our son was born we were definitely not in the head space to add baby number 3 into the mix.

We proceeded through the weeks "with much caution" and finally the day came when WildFlower left the house with clear shoulders and returned home with a sweeping design across her upper arms and back. And even more to my surprise, I kinda liked it.

I've heard too many times to count that getting tatts becomes like an addiction, and knowing my dear wifey I knew it wouldn't be long before the conversations around the dinner table turned to the next design. And sure enough, no more than a few weeks passed before I found her secretly sketching away in her books and comparing designs on Pinterest. Which now brings us to the present. 

Around a month back WildFlower sat down in Go Kui Tattoo Studios here in Pai and went under the needle. The design is gorgeous and wraps around her forearm and the text is lifted from a passage of our Scriptures that speaks of the abiding joy in God's inexhaustible worth; something which has become so very important to us in the past couple of years. WildFlower walked out excited and keen to show off her latest work of art to me and thaaaaankfully I found myself pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, but it didn't take long for something strange to happen.. her body began to reject the ink.

To begin with we were simply concerned with getting the affected areas retouched. We spoke to the artist was more than happy to oblige and as you can see from the image below the completed tatt is incredible! But then the pieces began to fall into place. The dots began to connect. The neon signs began blinking along the side of the highway. Our history with Tattoo cancellations.. her body rejecting the ink.. God's sense of humor.. It all finally made sense.


But were we wrong. Sorry Nikki & Joni, no new nephew or niece this time round. And whilst adding another member to our tribe is not out of the question, right now we're trying to focus on refilling our sleep bank which has been officially declared bankrupt and so embarking upon another bout of sleepless nights, well, a cold chill runs along my spin just thinking about it.  

So for now I get to just sit here and write this post, share a few photos, and enjoy a few quite moments whilst my kids colour in pictures with their friends in the next room. All the while I'm knowing that at any given moment those sinister colouring-in pens are going to slide right off the edge of the page and hurtle towards their their skin at breakneck speeds, leaving behind them a inky wreckage trail of blues and reds and greens across Caucasian skin. Ergh! Now I need a bath.


Monday, 8 June 2015

Out Of The Flying Pan..

It was an afternoon like any other. The kids were playing, the wifey was reading, I was in the kitchen baking cookies (ok.. so whilst that was actually true, it was likely the first time this scenario has ever played out in my house!) when we all heard the metallic thump and raced to the window. Out the front of our place on the entrance to our driveway sat the car in the below image in a rather precarious position.

The driver had been cruising down the road when he came head to head which a bunch of workers who were upgrading the road and found he wasn't able to pass. Because the road is so narrow and on each side there is a significant drop into either the fields or the storm water canals, he reversed back along a hundred or so meters to our driveway with plans of swinging back into it to turn around. Unfortunately for him, he cut it waaaay too sharp and ended up resting in a nasty spot with one tire hanging off the edge in no-man’s land.

I ran out of the house and jumped our hedge to check that he was ok (and thankfully he was) and quickly found I was at a loss for how to help. By myself there would be no way I could give him the push he’d need to get back onto the road and without knowing Thai well enough, I relied on my pretty superb charades skills (refined after many years living in cultures where I didn't fully speak the language) to tell him to sit tight while I went in search of help. And as it turned out, he was in luck! 

Our Landlady was doing some renovations and it just so happened that there was a truckload full of Thai construction workers on the property willing and eager to follow the hairy white guy acting out what a car looks like when it falls on it's side.

The six of us took our places behind the car and I loaded my shoulder in against the boot in preparation to push. In my minds eye I could see us heaving mightily enough for the tires to find some traction and as the driver turned his steering wheel and eased on the accelerator he would gently cruise back into the center of the road. From there we would guide him safely back into the middle of our driveway and then off he'd go. It all seemed too easy.

"Saam, Song, Nung, Pai!" ("3 - 2 - 1 - Go!")

I shoved my body forward putting all my weight into it and with our combined strength could feel the car lifting and slowly moving forward. It felt stable, steady, under control, but alas, the feeling was all too fleeting. In an instant the sound of the engine jumped from a low rumble to a thunderous roar as the driver slammed the accelerator against the floor and within seconds the tires grabbed hold of solid ground and off he went, screaming across the road and careering straight off the other side.

He hadn't turned his wheel so as to go back along the road. He hadn't planned enough space to adequately stop. In a moment of madness he just planted his foot on the gas hoped for the best.. and the best alluded him.

It was all done within the blink of an eye and I immediately felt like I'd fallen out of synch with reality. Seeing a car leap off the edge and smash down into the concrete storm water drain isn't something you see everyday, and in my mind that was surely not what was suppose to happen, but after a second or two of realising the driver hadn't opened his door I was struck back into reality with the fear that he could have really hurt himself. 

I bolted across the road and jumped on the ledge. Grabbing a hold of the handle I threw open the door where the driver sat pressed up against the dash board, one foot in the air, looking sheepish and shocked but not injured, when he looked deep into my eyes and in a sheepish thick Thai accent spoke words that I will treasure forever more;  

"Out of the flying pan.. and into the flyer."

The seriousness of the moment seemed to dissipate in the face of this wonderful summary of events and I had to bite down on my tongue so as to not laugh. Thai's don't pronounce the letter 'r' but instead replace it with an 'l' and thus left me with the gem of a statement. I grabbed a hold of his arm and pulled him from the vehicle much to his embarrassment.

Within the hour reinforcements arrived to lift his car from it's resting place and with only a couple of moments of craziness they managed to haul it off. Wild Flower was worried about the driver and how he was coping. She voiced her concerns with our landlady with some expectation of offering a hand or doing something kind to help him out but for the second time that day we received a response which will forever live on in our families vernacular. She turned and in a very serious tone said "Oh, don't worry about him, cause he is Lich, leally, leally Lich." 


Thursday, 14 May 2015

Play For Nepal..

Back in 2012 we lived in Nepal for a few months while we waiting for our visas to be renewed for India. We had these grand ideas for how we would spend all of our time there but as often the way, life had other plans. My Little Feather was badly ill and so we spent more than a month in Kathmandu (more than twice as long as we had planned) in order to stay near by to some decent medical care and whilst that was a super trying and difficult time, the real upshot was the extra time we got to spend working with a local NGO. They were working with women and children who'd been rescued out off Sex Trafficking through providing homes, job training and schooling and as Wild Flower's degree was in International Aid & Development she was able to lend a hand in some amazing ways. The relationships we built with the women and children (heart crushingly many as young as 4) and particularly the Nepali family running the NGO were really beautiful and continue along in our family and I still proudly display their Gurkha blade they gifted to us when we left in the lounge room of my home.


For us here in Pai, most of the people in our community have either traveled to or spent a period of time living in Nepal and as so many of us have friends and family there it's been hitting quite close to home with all the horrible news and footage coming out of Nepal of their recent earthquakes.

It was in that climate of shock and sadness that we all decided we wanted to do something to support and brothers and sisters in Nepal and raise some cash and prayers. The Caveman had been previously tinkering away with an idea of hosting a variety night at our community space and getting performers in from all over Pai and when the news of the earthquakes reached our ears and the idea of turning it into a fundraiser was broached, well, the two seemed destined to be.

As with what feels like most of my life these past few years, the straight forward and simple path to running the night seemed to allude us all. We'd been thinking about it for a while and it finally felt like the right time to install the sound system in the Salah (the main gazebo/building) and so spend most of the afternoon getting it and the lights wired for the evening. It was midway through this process that a giant storm cell hit Chiang Mai and off went the lights, wifi and most importantly - fans! The storm had knocked out the power to the whole of Pai but unlike Banaras where power cuts could literally last days, here the longest we'd experienced was only 2 hours and so with more than double that before the beginning of the night we had very little concern.

But alas, as the time to begin came and went and we were still without power we raided our Candle stock piles and lit the place with every candle we could get our hands on. And.It.Was.Beautiful! For half the night I walked around wondering whether I even wanted the power to come back on as the ambiance was so sweet but with it also came the somber reminder of those in Nepal who are still without power and the substantially harder problems they face because of it.

But roughly half way through the night the lights did indeed come back on all throughout Pai and from every direction could be heard the unified shouts of "Woo Hoo!!" During the interval we set up the mics and did a quick sound check before Shoonksworth took to the stage to performed a gorgeous piece with her Tampura and prayed for Nepal.

Then Wild Flower, Dizzy, myself and the true star of the show - Little Feather - joined Shoonksworth on stage for a Bhajan. For me this was undoubtedly the highlight of not just the night, but the year!! I got to play with some precious friends, my wife (for probably only the 2nd time ever! So proud!!) and for the first time with my daughter (so so sooooooooo proud!!). I found myself just looking back and forward between them the entire song and the sight of Little Feather strumming along on her Ukulele and singing at the top of her lungs filled up my heart beyond capacity! I'm one lucky man!!

The only other notable moment was about half way through our song when the storm hit Pai and the gale force winds began blowing the rain sideways into our Salah and onto us and the sound system. Sometimes you just can't win hey! But with the sweet sound of my daughter's little voice in my ear I was in too happy a place to have minded.

At the close of the night after witnessing amazing juggling acts, guitarists, story tellers, jaw-harpists, tampurists, fire dancers and even a poet who offered an ode to his balls - yes you read that right - we counted up people's donations and ended up raising 11,469 baht to go to Abari who build natural housing structures to provide relief to communities and victims of disasters. Which when you think about it, from only 52 or so 'budget' travelers, +11k is a pretty fantastic figure!

So a huge thanks to everyone who came to be a part of the 'Play For Nepal' night at Shekina Garden! Whether you donated, performed, or just came to lend your support we want extend a heart felt thank you!!

And if you're reading this and haven't already, maybe now is a good time to consider opening up your hearts and even more so your wallets to support the relief effort in Nepal! Cause in the right hands even just a small amount can go a very long way to changing someone's life! 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Should We Be Concerned About This?

The Nighttime View Behind My House

That was the question the Russian tourists asked me as I stood on the dirt road beside my house; "Should we be concerned about this?" And to be honest it was hard to know how to answer. The Australian in me sees a mountain covered in flames and wants nothing more than to grab the family and the photo albums and get the hell out of there (bush fires in Australia are a big deal!) but the man slowly acclimatising to the Thai way of life understands that this is normal, that's right, a mountain less than a few minutes from the town center is covered in flames and it's normal. In fact, it's deliberate.

Every year between February and March the landscape around here disappears beneath a thick layer of smoke the permeates e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. Plenty of people will tell you that it's farmers burning their fields before the new planting season but to date I'm yet to see a single field that's been scorched. Instead what we saw each and every night on the hills and mountains that surround us was what is here referred to as "Fire Dragons;" those lines of fire that slither their way up and down the sides of the mountains, and all of which on uncultivated land.

Fire Dragons

If you asked around to find out what's going on with the burning you'll discover that it's that familiar scenario in which everyone in town has a differing story which they believe to be THE true one. I've heard that it's back burning to guard against bush fires, that it's part of an ancient agricultural ritual, that it's to encourage new growth in the forest, and plenty more which each have the possibility of being true. But the one told to me by a local guy that seems to ring true is that it's all a part of the Hill Tribes hunting technique.

Each year around this time they release the Fire Dragons to blaze along the mountains and force all the animals of the forest to run for 'safety,' and with the fire at their backs the animals run straight into the path of the hunters who are laying in wait. I am partially convinced of this because of what I saw on the night that I was photographing the fire dragons from a distance but decided I wanted, no, I needed to get closer to get "the shot." 

I hoisted my camera gear on top of my motorbike,
kissed Wild Flower goodbye, took a few deep breathes to work up the courage to head up a mountain that was covered with fire, then charged off into the darkness. After a good 10minutes of riding back and forth on small trails trying to get as close to the flames as possible I ended up dismounting my bike and continuing on foot. After only a hundred or so meters I came to realise that whilst the flames were broad and hot they were actually quite slow moving, almost dawdling along to take in the sights. None seemed to be climbing up the trees or setting the canopy alight but instead were slowly eating their way along the extensive underbrush and leaf litter and so I felt reasonably safe walking to withing 30 or so meters of the flames before walking back a ways to get some wider panoramic shots. It was in the process of shooting the 4-shot panoramic below that I noticed a handful of Thai guys wandering around near the flames with torches and what was possibly (though I can't be 100% certain) rifles. Seeing this made me think that if these guys are out illegally hunting in the forest, and I, a hairy foreigner with his camera tripod that in the darkness looks suspiciously like a long legged creature of the forest, perhaps hanging around was not in the best interest of my health and safety. And so with that in mind I stealthily and swiftly made my withdrawal.

.. "The Shot" ..

Whilst the sunsets, scenery and ability to breath deeply had all but disappeared during the last months, Pai magically still managed to maintain it's beauty and charm despite being shrouded in an opaque veil of smoke. A good friend described the nights here as "Apocalyptically Beautiful" and whilst I'd happily trade it for a crisp, clear, star filled nights sky, at the end of the day I have no problem admitting that there are definitely worse places than my veranda to settle down with a cool drink in hand and watch the ever encroaching end of the world.