News and Event

Topics for this issue include:
  1. Updates about Bangkok Railway Station
  2. Steam Locomotives in Thailand
  3. The New Bang Sue Grand Station
  4. Riding the Red Line Trains
  5. Train Excursion to Sai Yok Noi Waterfall
  6. When is Father’s Day not Father’s Day?
  7. Win a Thailand Tourism Calendar 2022
  8. Interesting Tweets
  9. Bangkok Walking Maps – Part 8
This newsletter covers 29th November to 5th December 2021. My apologies again for it being sent out late. I am travelling so much, and have so many activities, that it is sometimes difficult to find the time to write.

Updates about Bangkok Railway Station

The countdown is on for the closing of Bangkok Railway Station, otherwise known as Hua Lamphong. The last trains are expected to leave the station between 22nd and 23rd December. From what I can work out, the last train to leave is the commuter train No. 71 at 10:05 a.m. on Thursday 23rd December. Everything after that will be leaving from Bang Sue Grand Station. I have already bought tickets for the first Chiang Mai sleeper train to leave from the new station on the evening of Thursday 23rd December. I am expecting there will be a lot of confusion and so I plan to go extra early. Of course, I will be posting my experience live on social media. I will give you an update here in a future newsletter.

So, what will happen to the old terminal station? Well, at the moment we still don’t know. But it is starting to look like they will allow 22 commuter trains to continue using Bangkok Railway Station. After all, the elevated Red Line from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong won’t be built for a few years yet. Maybe longer. They apparently have a number of problems with this. One of them being what happens when the elevated tracks pass Dusit Palace. For privacy reasons, the views will have to be blocked. One other thing, the SRT official that I spoke to, said that the special excursion trains, such as the steam locomotives, might also continue to start their journey from this station.

Steam Locomotives in Thailand

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) hasn’t used steam locomotives for regular commercial use since the early 1980’s. However, they have five that I know about that are still in good working order and are used during special occasions. They have two Pacific locomotives, two C56 locomotives and one Mikado locomotive
In normal times, the SRT organise six steam train trips every year. Tickets cost 299 Baht. You can buy at any station or online a month in advance. The trips alternate between Ayutthaya, Nakhon Pathom, and Chachoengsao. I will let you know as soon as I hear about the next one.
  1. 26th March (anniversary of the opening of the first public railway)
  2. 3rd June (Queen Suthida’s birthday)
  3. 28th July (King Rama X’s birthday)
  4. 12th August (Queen Sirikit’s birthday)
  5. 23rd October (King Rama V’s death anniversary)
  6. 5th December (King Rama IX’s birthday anniversary)

Last weekend, I was on the steam train trip to Ayutthaya that used two Pacific locomotives. Number 824 (imported in 1949) and Number 850 (imported in 1951). These were manufactured by the Japan Association of Railway Industry and there were originally 30 of them in Thailand, Numbers 821-850. They were designed with 4-6-2 wheel configuration. In 2012, they were completely restored and modified. They had a new boiler, electric generator, and genset air compressor fitted.

A total of forty-six C56 steam locomotives with running numbers 701-746 were imported into Thailand during the Second World War. The locomotives were fitted with a 2-6-0 wheel configuration. They were built by train manufacturers in Japan. At that time, these steam locomotives were used by the Japanese army to transport labour and equipment for the construction of the Death Railway line from Nong Pla Duk station to Myanmar. After the end of the war, they were given to the SRT by the United Nations. They were then in service between 1946 and 1982. Two of them, Numbers 713 and 715 have been refurbished and take part in the Bridge on the River Kwai Festival. This year, that festival is from 17-26 December 2021.

The New Bang Sue Grand Station

Compared to Bangkok Railway Station, the new Bang Sue Grand Station is massive and has platforms on multiple levels. In all, there are 24 tracks going into this station and it can accommodate 40 trains at the same time. The station covers an area of 1,280 acres and is said to be the biggest station in South-East Asia. For the railway expansion that is now taking place in Thailand, including high-speed trains to Singapore and China, it does makes sense to have somewhere big enough for these new lines.

The top floor (3rd floor) is where the high speed trains will depart from in the future. They just need to finish building the tracks for this across the country! The three-airport rail link will also depart from here in the future. This line will connect Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports. The 2nd floor is for the inter-provincial trains and commuter trains. The ground floor has the ticketing offices. The car park is underground and below that is the MRT subway line.

Plan showing Bang Sue Grand Station. The long distance and Red Line commuter trains go from the 2nd floor. The high speed trains will go from the 3rd floor. There is also an MRT underground station here. Another future line will go to the three airports including U-Tapao. https://t.co/H5es38vKCq

Riding the Red Line Trains

The other weekend, I rode the new Red Line commuter train in Bangkok for the first time. There are two lines that operate out of Bang Sue Grand Station which have just opened. One to Taling Chan and the other to Rangsit. Most of the line is elevated as it leaves the city and so there are some great views. This also helps solve traffic problems at level crossings. Most of the line runs above the regular line down below. From what I understand, the ground level tracks will eventually be removed.

The two lines we have now are actually a small part of a much larger project. The most interesting is the Dark Red Line which will eventually run from Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus to Maha Chai in Samut Sakhon Province. The elevated tracks at the southern end stop just after Bang Sue. But eventually they will go all the way to an elevated station alongside MRT Hua Lamphong station and then across the river to Khlong San and onto Wongwian Yai where it will run along the present railway line all the way down to Samut Sakhon. The other line is the Light Red Line. This will eventually run from Salaya in Nakhon Pathom Province to Hua Mak in Bangkok. Both lines will intercept at Bang Sue Grand Station.

Train Excursion to Sai Yok Noi Waterfall

As you probably know by now, I love doing train trips. Particularly if it is going somewhere interesting. So, when I heard that the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) had restarted their weekend excursion trains, I quickly booked a seat on the first day trip for Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in Kanchanaburi province. These special day trip trains go every weekend and on public holidays. You can book them 30 days in advance at dticket.railway.co.th or at your local train station. The SRT hotline is 1690 and they speak excellent English and are very helpful. Cost is only 120 baht for the 3rd Class carriage with fan and 240 baht for the 2nd Class carriage with air-conditioning. I highly recommend going 3rd Class as you can open the windows and take pictures more easily. In 2nd Class, the windows are tinted and not always clean. 

The special excursion trains are not like any other trains as they will not only stop along the way, but they will also wait for you. On the way we did two stops, and on the way back, we had just one stop. This gives variety and helps break up the journey. At each stop they gave us about 25-30 minutes to get out and explore. The first stop was in Nakhon Pathom. Here you can walk the short distance to see the giant stupa which is the largest in Thailand. There is also time to buy breakfast here at the market. The second stop was at the Bridge on the River Kwai. Here we got down to walk across the bridge and to take some photos.

The most scenic part of the railway in Kanchanaburi is when it goes along the river near Saphan Tham Krause station in Sai Yok district. It is very important to make sure you have a seat on the lefthandside of the train as those have the best views. When you come back, you will be on the righthandside like in the picture above, but you will still get the best view. Many of the people who were in 2nd Class came into our carriage for this stretch of the railway as their windows were a bit dirty. Another good tip for you is that the driver will open his cab at the front so you will get an unobstructed view of the track ahead. That is how I got the picture above on the return trip.

Our final destination was Nam Tok station which is the end of the line on the Death Railway. Originally it went all the way to Burma. I don’t have time to write about this railway here, but it is well documented on the Internet. If you do go to Kanchanaburi on your own trip, I highly recommend that you go and visit the museum at Hellfire Pass. You do actually have time to go and see it on this trip as it is only 25 minutes away from Nam Tok station. You can rent a songtaew at the station to take you there or flag a bus down on the main road which will be cheaper. If you hire a songtaew, make sure he waits for you. Anyway, if the train arrives on time, you have three hours to visit the waterfall and eat lunch or go and do your own thing.

When we left the waterfall, we had a long five-hour journey back home. The first part was good because of the views along the river. And then, when we reached Kanchanaburi town, we were allowed to go down for 30 minutes which also helped break up the journey. I quickly walked to the nearby war cemetery to pay respects to the fallen soldiers. Nearly everyone else just went shopping for food in the nearby market. But I still had time to buy something to eat for the final leg back to Bangkok. It was a good day, but also a very long one.

Here are some direct links to where you can buy the tickets for 3rd Class and for 2nd Class. There is another train excursion to a beach just south of Hua Hin which I will probably go on next month. If you want to see more pictures of my trip, please visit my live photo blog on richardbarrow.com. My next train trip is the sleeper train to Chiang Mai and I will talk more about that train in a few weeks. I am also planning on doing a twenty-hour boat trip down south which I am really looking forward to. More information about that soon.

Why is it when the Fine Arts Department organises free days for national museums and historical parks it is free for everyone regardless of nationality. But when the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation do it, they say “Thais only”? Really, Father’s Day is a special day for everyone regardless of race. However, if you have married a Thai woman and even have Thai children, you are often treated as a second-class citizen. On Father’s Day, their wife and children can go to the national park for free, but they must pay the usual inflated price. That really isn’t fair in my book.

COMPETITION
The competition prize this week for subscribers to my newsletter is the Amazing Thailand 2022 calendar. Ten lucky subscribers will win this desktop calendar. 
To have a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is send an email to [email protected]com with the subject line ‘Win an Amazing Thailand 2022 Calendar’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win a copy of ‘Amazing Thailand 2022 Calendar. I live in Thailand.” As I am paying to send these out myself, your address needs to be inside Thailand. Or it can be the address of a friend or a hotel if you are not here yet. The deadline is Saturday 18th December 2021. Good luck!

Interesting Tweets

Boat ride to/from Koh Kret every weekend in December

Option 1 Sathorn Pier – Koh Kret
⇨ Departing from Sathorn Pier 10.00hrs
⇦ Returning from Koh Kret 16.00hrs
🎟 Round-trip Ticket 180 Baht *
🎟 One-way Ticket 100 Baht

* Get a special price when booking in advance https://t.co/3kNBP7q0F3

Did you know, at MRT Sanam Chai there’s an interesting “underground museum” that has information about archaeological excavations in the area around where the station is location. Entry is free #Bangkok #Thailandhttps://t.co/dIt3B62IKW
This evening I was at the book launch at Chakrabongse Villas of ‘The King and the Consul’ by Simon Landy. The book is described as a British tragedy in old Siam. I love historical books and I’m looking forward to reading this one. It should be out in all good book shops soon. https://t.co/6zFTQOAHNi
Phimai Festival 2021 will be taking place this year from 22-26 December at Phimai Historical Park in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. There will be a light and sound show for 5 nights and also a food festival.

📍MAP: https://t.co/9OV0N2R9e8 #Thailand #ThaiFestivalhttps://t.co/e1T1WkNS0t

The River Kwai Bridge Week Festival in Kanchanaburi has been postponed by a couple of weeks. It is now 17-26 December 2021. There will be a free light and sound show and a local fair #Thailand #ThaiTravelNews#ThaiFestival https://t.co/5ffwtZrF7t

Bangkok Walking Maps – Part 8

This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week. Before I forget, in a future newsletter, I will be giving away FIVE print editions of all 15 Bangkok walking maps. These books are really difficult to find now.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
  7. Bang Rak and Silom
  8. Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong
SEE YOU NEXT TIME!
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!
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Written by Kathleen Pokrud, Vice Chairperson of Baat Woh Cantonese Opera Association of Thailand

The Baat Woh Cantonese Opera Association of Thailand was inaugurated on 2nd November 2021.  This auspicious day is the birthday of the Chinese God of cultural arts,  “Huaguang”. The opening ceremony was held at Baat Woh Clubhouse in Muang Thong Thani, Bangkok. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was presided by Mr. Lee Sheung-yuen, Director of Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Bangkok.

Ms. Winnie Poon, who generously contributed to the enrichment of Chinese Cantonese opera culture, has been appointed as the first founding Chairperson of the association in Thailand.  Key founding members include Ms. Chow Siu Kwan, Grace Kwok, Annie Hung, Kathleen Pokrud and Civic Leung. Other key committees include members of the Hong Kong Ladies’ Group Thailand and long time Hong Kong residents in Bangkok.

Cantonese Opera was designated in the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009. As one of the major styles of Chinese operas, Cantonese Opera is a highly respected and much-loved arts form that blends Chinese legend, music and drama into a vibrant performance style that’s rich with symbolic meaning.  It is very popular with audiences in southern China and many parts of Southeast Asia.

Mr. David Lau, Honorary Advisor, led the worshipping ceremony of Chinese God “Huaguang”. Many distinguished guests attended the event from various prominent Chinese associations. They included Ms. Sarintr Tsai, Honorary Chairman and members of the Thai Cantonese Opera Club, Dr. Jaruthien, Vice President of Kwong Siew Association of Thailand, Ms. Alice Wong, Honorary Chairman of the Thai-Chinese Women’s Association, Mr. Jose Lai, Vice President of Thai Hong Kong Trade Association and Mr. Roger Wu, HK social media influencer. The celebrities and VIPs of Cantonese opera from various countries and other Baat Woh associations abroad sent in video congratulatory clips. Hong Kong senior performing artist, Mr. S. H. Yeung Gary assisted in coordinating many congratulatory videos from the Cantonese opera community in Hong Kong.

With the opening speech, Ms. Winnie Poon explained, “​Thailand, due to the different language environment, has brought great challenges to the development of Cantonese opera. The song needs to be translated first, and then the local children are taught to pronounce and utter words “word by word”. The time spent is three to four times that of ordinary learning.  Cantonese opera requires an accompanying musical band. I was fortunate enough to use a group of Teo Chew music masters. I needed to slowly organize the music books for them, which cost a lot of manpower and material resources.  Coupled with the raging Covid pandemic, only online learning can be arranged. Fortunately, with the members’ perseverance and hard work, participation in the online Cantonese opera and gongs and drum courses were strong.”

In his speech, Mr Lee Sheung-yuen, Director of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Bangkok, expressed his great pleasure to be invited to attend the opening ceremony. He highly praised everyone’s efforts, especially the persistence and dedication of the Hong Kong Cantonese opera enthusiast, Chairperson Winnie Poon. Director Lee congratulated on the establishment of Baat Woh Association in Thailand. He looked forward to seeing the wonderful performance of Thai performers in the world-class performance venue of Xiqu Center in Hong Kong in the near future.

The objective of Baat Woh Cantonese Opera Association of Thailand is to pass on the culture of Cantonese Opera. This provides the opportunity of Thai friends to learn about Chinese culture. When the world overcomes the pandemic situation, Baat Woh Thailand plans to hold an official grand opening charity concert next year, and hope to receive full support and participation from everyone!

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Steve Liddiard has been named overall winner of the Historic Photographer of the Year Awards 2021, for his photo of the Whiteford Point Lighthouse in the Gower Peninsula, Wales.

“I regularly take my dog for a walk at sunrise in Bristol,” said Mr Binding.

“The bridge acts as a gateway to the city, and mist adds a magic quality to an already stunning scene.”

The Where History Happened category went to Iain McCallum for his drone picture of the shipwrecks of the Wastdale H and Arkendale H, which tragically collided in the River Severn in October 1960 (below).

“I regularly take my dog for a walk at sunrise in Bristol,” said Mr Binding.

“The bridge acts as a gateway to the city, and mist adds a magic quality to an already stunning scene.”

The Where History Happened category went to Iain McCallum for his drone picture of the shipwrecks of the Wastdale H and Arkendale H, which tragically collided in the River Severn in October 1960 (below).

Here is a selection of shortlisted images from this year’s competition.

The Shambles, York, England, by David Oxtaby
The Shambles, York, England, by David Oxtaby
The Shambles, York, England, by David Oxtaby
Remains of the Kingdom of Commagene, Mount Nemrut, Turkey, by Mehmet Masum Suer
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany, by Michael Welch
Battersea Power Station, London, by Pete Edmunds
Corfe Castle, England, by Sam Binding
Bamburgh Castle, England, by Scott Antcliffe
Brewery Shaft, Nenthead Mines, England, by Tom McNally
The Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima, Japan, by Wayne Budge
1973 US Navy C-117D, in Iceland, by Yevhen Samuchenko
Hadrian’s Wall, England, by Kayleigh Blair
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Topics for this issue include:
  1. Updates about Thailand Pass
  2. Bangkok Railway Station
  3. Photo Opportunity in Bangkok
  4. Views from The Quarter Hualamphong
  5. Download a Free Bangkok Guidebook
  6. Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Canal
  7. Electric Canal Boat Ride
  8. The Yellow Line Monorail
  9. The future of LHONG 1919
  10. Corrections Museum
  11. Interesting Tweets
  12. Bangkok Walking Maps – 7

Updates about Thailand Pass

You’ve probably heard by now that the expected easing of entry rules didn’t materialise. They were going to change RT-PCR testing with the quicker and cheaper ATK test. But then the new variant happened. I personally think that the media and some governments are overreacting to this news. A Bangkok Post headline referred to it as a “deadly virus”. There’s no proof that this is actually true. Obviously, time will tell but we shouldn’t undo all the hard work that has been done in trying to reboot the economy. There are already many safety measures in place, and we really need to start moving forward.
Of course, that might be famous last words and so I better stop now. Like I said on social media last week, there is only one certainty about international travel at the moment and that is uncertainty. For expats and Thais to come back to Thailand is one thing. But for someone to come here on holiday with their family, they really need to do their homework and make sure that everything they book is fully refundable. No-one can predict the future. And no-one can predict how the government will react to the new variant. As we have seen before, they can and will change entry rules at short notice.
For the latest information on entry rules, please visit the TAT Newsroom. If you are ready to come here, then visit the Thailand Pass website to apply. Good luck!

Bangkok Railway Station

The future of the 105-year-old Bangkok Railway Station, otherwise known as Hua Lamphong, remains unknown. The Italian Neo-Renaissance-style building took six years to build and was officially opened on 25th June 1916. The canal running along the bottom of the above picture was called Khlong Hua Lamphong. Which is one reason why local people today call the main station Hua Lamphong. In fact, between 1893 and 1960, there was another station next to this canal called Hua Lamphong Station which was the terminal station for the Paknam Railway that went to Samut Prakan province. After this railway line was disbanded, the canal and the railway were covered over and became part of the much wider present day Rama IV Road.
The original plan for Bangkok Railway Station was to have a gradual closure. They were going to move the long-distance trains to the new terminal station at Bang Sue Grand Station but keep the local commuter trains where they are now. This is because many people are still using these trains to enter central Bangkok from the northern outskirts. But then a decision was made to close the station completely this month with the last trains expected to leave on 23rd December. They said they will put on shuttle buses for these commuters. Obviously, a lot of people are upset about this.
One of the main reasons cited for moving the terminal station to the northern outskirts of the city was because traffic had to be stopped hundreds of times a day at level crossings. According to a story in the Bangkok Post, there are 27 crossings in the capital. Seven crossings in particular cause congestion including Pradiphat, Ranong, Sri Ayutthaya and Phetchaburi roads. This problem was seen as early as 1927 when they built Kasat Suek Bridge, just north of the terminal, so that vehicles on Rama I Road could cross over the railway without being delayed. The picture above is the view looking south from this bridge.
Once all trains have stopped running in and out of Bangkok Railway Station, the land belonging to the State Railway of Thailand will be put up for commercial development. So far, no-one can say for sure if the historical buildings can remain without being demolished to make way for a shopping mall. But one thing is for sure, they cannot rush into anything as they need to get permission to rezone this area for commercial use, which could take two to three years. Which is why they should allow the local commuter trains to remain at this station. At least until the Red Line elevated tracks are built between Bang Sue Grand Station and Hua Lamphong. Yes, I know, they should have done that first.
An old aerial photo showing Bangkok Railway Station and Phadung Krung Kasem canal. Barges brought goods up from the Chao Phraya River and loaded them onto trains. Hua Lamphong Station and the canal alongside it are now the present day Rama IV Road #รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Bangkok https://t.co/Dk1awcQfxu
Two photos of Bangkok Railway Station. When the station was first built, Rama IV Road was narrow and shared its space with a railway line and a canal. Hua Lamphong terminal station for Paknam Railway was demolished and the canal filled in when they widened the road #Bangkok https://t.co/gTH5SgwBHx

Photo Opportunity in Bangkok

Tickets for the Father’s Day steam train trip went on sale last week and sold out within 24 hours. Even if you were unable to buy a ticket, you can still go to the station to take pictures or wait for it along the route. The steam locomotive will leave Bangkok Railway Station on Sunday at 8:10am. It will then make stops at Samsen, Bang Sue, Bang Khen, Lak Si, and Don Mueang stations. This will take nearly an hour. You can take photos at any place along the track. I will be at Bangkok Railway Station by 7:30 am. I hope to see you there!

Views from The Quarter Hualamphong

As this is most likely the last month for Bangkok Railway Station, I decided to do a kind of “farewell tour” of the station, the local community and some of the destinations you can go to by train. So last weekend, I stayed in two hotels near the station. My favourite by far was The Quarter Hualamphong where I took the above view from. This picture was taken from the lobby on the 12th floor, but I was lucky to have this view from my room as well. Prices start from only 600 baht for this hotel. That didn’t include breakfast but there are plenty of places locally to eat. The other reason that I liked this hotel is the off-road parking. Even though I checked out early in the morning to take a train trip, I was allowed to leave my car there all day until I came back in the evening.
This view of Wat Traimit at sunset was also taken from The Quarter Hualamphong hotel. The photo of the station was taken looking east from the lobby. This one is looking west and was taken from the swimming pool on the 12th floor. The building with the golden spire houses the Golden Buddha which weighs an incredible 5.5 tonnes. The story goes that no-one knew for years that it was made from gold as it was covered with a layer of stucco and coloured glass. In 1955, while it was being moved, some of the plaster cracked revealing the gold underneath. The rest is history. The Golden Buddha has just re-opened to the public. In the same building there is an interesting museum about the history of Chinatown.
If you are planning on exploring Bangkok any time soon, then you may be interested in downloading this free PDF of the Bangkok Smiles 2021 Guidebook produced by the Bangkok Tourism division. There are 52 pages in total and file size is 104 MB. Click here to download. Please note, this will be a ‘limited time’ download link so make sure you download now if you think you may be interested.

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem

Last weekend, I explored Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal on foot. This outer moat for the Grand Palace was dug in the 1850’s. The original outer moat, where the Khlong Ong Ang walking street is, was built in 1783 shortly after the founding of Rattanakosin as the new capital by King Rama I. This first line of defence was 3.4 kilometres long. However, by the reign of King Rama IV, the city had outgrown itself and so there was a need for a new outer moat. This new moat, which was named Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, is 20 metres wide, 3 metres deep and 5.5 kilometres long. They didn’t build a wall for this one, but they did build seven forts. None of which have survived. All the land on the right-hand bank of this photo belongs to the State Railway of Thailand. Once the railway station has been closed, this same view will probably be unrecognisable in 5-10 years as there will most likely be skyscrapers built on the other bank.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) are improving the landscape on each side of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem for 1,250 meters where it runs alongside Bangkok Railway Station. They will widened the path to include a jogging track and also plant 151 more trees. This is an artist impression of what this section of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal will look like. The BMA anticipates that this new green area will be finished by March 2022. You can see more pictures of what it will look like on my richardbarrow.com website. I’ve also posted a live photo blog of exploring this canal on foot.

Electric Canal Boat Ride

I love doing boat trips and so last weekend I took the free electric boat service on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal. I started my ride at Hua Lamphong Pier which is conveniently near the MRT station of the same name and Bangkok Railway Station. There are a total of 11 piers along Phadung Krung Kasem Canal all the way up to Thewarat Market Pier. From here it is then a few minutes’ walk to Thewes Pier which is an express boat stop on the Chao Phraya River. From the railway station pier to here took about 30 minutes.
There are seven electric boats. If fully charged, they can run for 4-5 hours at a top speed of 10-15km/hour. There are solar panels on the roof, but this only contributes to about 10% of all power needed. So, after about four hours they need to be plugged in for about three hours.
On weekdays, boats on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal leave every 15 minutes between 6am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes. At the weekend, the boats leave every 15 minutes between 8am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes.

The Yellow Line Monorail

This is the new monorail train on the Yellow Line. They are presently doing test runs between Si Iam and Si Nut stations both of which are on Srinakarin Road on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok. The MRT Yellow Line runs from Lat Phrao to Samrong which is a total of 30.4 kilometres. There are 23 stations. If everything goes to plan, it should open to the public in July 2022. I’ve been invited to a pre-opening test run next year which I am really excited about. I will share with you more information about this line and the other one, which runs past the government complex on Chaengwattana Road, in a future newsletter.

The Future of LHONG 1919

LHONG 1919 on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok was originally a steamship terminal in 1850. It included shops, offices and a shrine. Around 1900 it was converted into rental home-offices. In 1919, it was sold to the Wanglee family. They then restored it to its former glory. As well as the shrine, they opened boutique shops and galleries. It’s also a nice place for doing selfies and getting pictures for Instagram. But I am afraid I now need to use past tense. AWC, which is a lifestyle real estate group, has signed a lease contract to use this land and property for 64 years to build a luxury wellness resort. I’ve already contacted them to find out what will happen to the warehouses. I will give you an update in the next newsletter. As far as visiting the site, I’m afraid that it is now too late as it is closed to the public.
Rommaninat Park used to be the Bangkok Remand Prison which was built back in 1889. The watchtowers still remain as do some of the administration buildings and one cell block. This is also the site of the Bangkok Corrections Museum which I have visited several times over the years. I haven’t been for a long time as they closed it for renovations. I do check back on it every now and then, but sadly, when I went last week, I saw that they haven’t even started renovating yet. So, it will be several more years yet.

Interesting Tweets

🌳 Benjakitti Forest Park in Klong Toey district will open to the public in February 2022. There will be four ponds, 7,155 trees, 5.8km of natural footpaths, a 2.8 km stretch designed for joggers and a 3.4 km track for cyclists https://t.co/94sdM8I6Jb #Bangkok #Thailand
British comedian John Cleese and his stand-up show “Why There is No Hope” will be coming to #Thailand on 11th January 2022. Tickets go on sale from 26th November. More info: https://t.co/syghT8ODEj #JohnCleese #JohnCleeseTH2022 #JohnCleeseWhyThereIsNoHope https://t.co/Zf6wfd96pW
Tickets for the train excursion to Pasak Cholasid Dam are now on sale. 3rd class is ฿330 and 2nd Class with air is ฿560. Call 1690 for more information.
🗓 26-28 November
🗓 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 December
🗓 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30 January
#รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Thailand https://t.co/rmsFdxC1FC
🚂 The State Railway of Thailand run a number of train excursions at the weekends. Only one is operating at the moment. Here are two that I did in 2020:

[1] Excursion Train to Sai Yok Waterfall in Kanchanaburi https://t.co/GeuEMdSSmI #รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Thailand https://t.co/wXJ3iyy6hE

Bangkok Walking Maps – 7

This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bang Rak and Silom which is one of my favourite areas along the Chao Phraya River. A good starting point is BTS Saphan Taksin station. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
  7. Bang Rak and Silom
I am really sorry that this newsletter came out so late. Now that I am travelling every weekend, and have school during the week, I have so little free time. These newsletters usually take a couple of days to research and write. I will work out a better schedule as I really want to continue, but the next one will be a little late too. I am on train trips all this weekend and then hopefully on a boat trip on Monday. Then I am in Phuket next week on a media trip to get firsthand knowledge of what it is like there. The following week I am up in Chiang Mai, and then the week after I am hopefully doing a week-long boat and road trip down south.
Anyway, the next newsletter will have a competition to win some beautiful 2022 calendars. I picked them up at TAT HQ yesterday. They gave me ten calendars which I will give away. Before I forget, the winners of the last competition were Jissel Jorge and Stephen Harris. Congratulations to them both. I will be going to the post office soon to send off your prizes.
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!
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Topics for this issue include:
  1. The King Changes Emerald Buddha Costume
  2. Bangkok Snow Removal Christmas Cards
  3. Update about Khlong Chong Nonsi Park
  4. The Royal Plaza Fenced Off
  5. Win a Bangkok Guidebook
  6. Christmas Tree at CentralWorld
  7. View of Wat Arun from Inn a Day restaurant
  8. Updates about King Rama IX Park
  9. Seagulls at Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  10. Interesting Tweets
  11. Bangkok Walking Maps – 6

King Changes Emerald Buddha Costume

His Majesty the King changes the costume of the Emerald Buddha
As expected, His Majesty the King, briefly flew back to Thailand on Saturday to take part in an important ceremony at the Grand Palace; the changing of the costume of the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. This can only be done by the King or a senior member of the royal family such as the Crown Prince. This is done three times a year on the 1st waning day of the lunar months four, eight and twelve. On Saturday, the costume was changed from Rainy Season to Cool Season. The Emerald Buddha chapel was closed all day, and the Grand Palace was closed at noon.
By consulting an astrological calendar, it is easy to work out the days for the costume changes for next year:
  • Changing Cool to Summer: 18th March 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนสี่)
  • Changing Summer to Rainy: 14th July 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนแปด)
  • Changing Rainy to Cool: 9th November 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนสิบสอง)
The change to the cool season is always done the day after the full moon for the Loy Krathong Festival. So, I can tell you now that Loy Krathong next year is on Tuesday 8th November 2022.
Costumes of the Buddha: Summer, Rainy and Cool Seasons
The three sets of costumes for the Emerald Buddha:
  • Hot/summer season (left) – a stepped, pointed headpiece; a breast pendant; a sash; a number of armlets, bracelets and other items of royal attire. All items are made of enamelled gold and embedded with precious and semi-precious stones.
  • Rainy season (middle) – a pointed headpiece of enamelled gold studded with sapphires; a gold-embossed monk’s robe draped over one shoulder.
  • Cool/winter season (right) – a gold headpiece studded with diamonds; a jewel-fringed gold-mesh shawl draped over the rainy season attire.
Source: Wikipedia

Bangkok Snow Removal

If you are looking for some unique Christmas cards or just general greeting cards to send to family and friends back home, then check out the catalogue at Bangkok Snow Removal. As the name suggests, they have cards showing well-known scenes around the capital but with one big difference. Snow! One of my favourite cards, shows motorcycle taxi drivers huddled around a fire trying to keep warm. Which I’ve actually seen here in Thailand, though without the snow. Other scenes show snow falling on the Temple of Dawn, on the Skytrain, outside a 7-11 store, and this one of the iconic Tuk Tuk with skis instead of wheels. Their shop has greeting cards, wall calendars and postcards. Last year, I bought the 15-month desktop calendar.

Update about Khlong Chong Nonsi Park

Khlong Chong Nonsi Park in November 2021
This is the latest photo of Khlong Chong Nonsi Park taken this week. The entire length of the park will be 4.5 kilometres once finished and it will go from the intersection near BTS Chong Nonsi station to the Chao Phraya River. Don’t be alarmed by the absence of trees along the road. They said they will be brought back soon, and a lot more, as they will be planting 5,000 trees and plants along this road. As you can see, they have already brought in some new trees for the middle section that goes over the canal. They are also building a sewer that will run underneath this canal to make sure the wastewater is separated. You can see an artist’s impression of what it will look like on my richardbarrow.com blog.
GPS Coordinates: 13.720719, 100.530843

The Royal Plaza Fenced Off

The Royal Plaza in Bangkok
The Royal Plaza in Bangkok is an important public space that has seen large royal ceremonies and pro and anti-government demonstrations. It stands at the northern end of Ratachadamoen Avenue which links the Grand Palace with Dusit Palace. The plaza is rectangular shaped, nearly 300 metres long and 100 metres wide. The centrepiece is the equestrian statue of King Rama V which was erected in 1908. At the northern end is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall built in Italian Renaissance and neoclassical style. King Rama V laid the foundation stone for the throne hall in 1908 and it was completed in 1915. I last visited here in 2017 for the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition. Sadly, the throne hall, and the nearby Vimanmek Teak Mansion, have been indefinitely closed to the public. It is not known whether we will ever be able to visit these places again.
The new entrance gate to the Royal Plaza
I haven’t been back to the Royal Plaza for several years and so I was surprised during a recent visit to see that the entrance now has a large gate and fence. At first, I thought that this would mean cars wouldn’t be able to pass through here anymore to reach Ratchawithi Road on the other side. But then I noticed an open gateway on either side and some vehicles were entering this area. So, I decided to go too. I stopped briefly at the equestrian statue to take some photos. While I was there, a couple pulled up in their car. They had garlands to pay respect to the statue of King Rama V.
I then went to the northern end of the plaza to take a photo of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. That was when I was approached by whom I presume were plainclothes policemen. They basically told me I couldn’t take a photo. They pointed out a soldier on guard duty and said I couldn’t take a picture of the soldier. I asked if it was alright as I had taken pictures of the equestrian statue and they said yes. I then continued along Uthong Nai Alley to the northern end. I passed on my right the former grounds of Dusit Zoo and on my left the former grounds of the Parliament building. I didn’t stop to take photos as there were more plainclothes policemen. Obviously, this is no longer a tourist destination.
Google Streetview in September 2021
If you check out Google Streetview for September 2020, you will see what the entrance to the Royal Plaza looked like prior to the building of the gated fence. If I had to speculate about the reason, and this is something you won’t see mentioned in the mainstream media, it was built to control access to the Royal Plaza. There is a law forbidding protesters to go within 150 metres of a royal palace. This new gate is 200 metres from the entrance to Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in the northwestern corner of the Royal Plaza. This is the official residence of King Rama X. Over the last few years there have been demonstrations calling for the monarchy to be reformed and the abolishing of the lese majeste law. In the past, protesters have come very close to this area and the Grand Palace.

Win a Bangkok Guidebook

The Must See Sites in Bangkok

COMPETITION

Most weeks I will try to have a competition for my subscribers to win some prizes. A few weeks back, I joined with AirDeveloppa to give away three air-purifiers. If you are a company based in Thailand and have a product that you are willing to donate as prizes, then please let me know.
This week I have two copies of a guidebook called ‘The Must See Sites in Bangkok’ which was published by the Bangkok Tourism Division. I’ve been using this book myself recently while exploring Bangkok. So, I picked up two extra copies for my subscribers.
To have a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is send an email to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Win a Bangkok Guidebook’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win a copy of ‘The Must See Sites in Bangkok’. I live in Thailand.” As I am paying to send these out myself, your address needs to be inside Thailand. Or it can be the address of a friend or a hotel if you are not here yet. The deadline is Saturday 27th November 2021. Thanks, and good luck!

Christmas Tree at CentralWorld

Christmas Tree at CentralWorld in Bangkok
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bangkok with the decorations already going up around town. CentralWorld always has the biggest tree and this year is no exception. This year it is 40-metres high which, according to their press release, makes it the tallest Christmas tree in Southeast Asia. They had their lighting up ceremony on 18th November. Strictly speaking, these are not Christmas decorations but rather seasonal decorations as they are for both Christmas and the new year. Thais like adopting festivals from around the world which is why Halloween and Valentine’s Day are so popular here.

View of Wat Arun from Inn a Day restaurant

View of the Temple of Dawn
Last weekend, after a day of exploring Bangkok, I had dinner at Inn a Day restaurant on the Chao Phraya River. What made this experience special is the view of Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. The best time to visit is at sunset. The restaurant is on the ground floor, but they have a viewing area on upper floors. You can also stay here as they have rooms.
Wat Arun lit up at night
The lights on Wat Arun are turned on shortly after sunset. The night we went, they turned it on at 6:15 p.m. But I have seen it lit up earlier which will make a better picture while the sky is still a dark blue. Inn a Day is not necessarily the best place to have a view here. There are restaurants on either side which are actually higher. Here are a few examples:
I noticed that they have also been building a new pier here which looks finished. I saw that some photographers had set up tripods here to take photos of the sunset. I am not sure what kind of view they had down there, but as it is free access, it might be worth checking out.

Updates about King Rama IX Park

Back in Issue #3, I wrote about Nang Loeng racecourse that is being turned into a new public park for Bangkok. It is expected to be opened in 2024. Last week, the Royal Household Bureau released a series of artist’s impressions of what the park will look like once it is finally finished. And it is looking really great. The centrepiece will be a giant statue of King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the park is dedicated to his memory. According to local media, the present king and queen will visit the building site on 5th December to lay the foundation stone for the statue.
The 44.64-hectare park will have more than 4,500 trees from all around Thailand. In fact, each province will be represented with their tree symbol. There will also be a large lake which will be shaped like the Thai number nine, for King Rama IX. There will also be bicycle and running lanes, and exercise areas. The park will also serve as a water retention area, or monkey cheeks, to help with the flood problems in the capital. If you want to see some more images, then watch the short video below.

Seagulls at Bang Pu Recreation Centre

Sunset on Sukta Pier in Bang Pu, Samut Prakan
For those people living in Bangkok who want to enjoy some sea breeze, can I suggest visiting Bang Pu Recreation Centre in Samut Prakan? There is a 500 metre-long concrete pier here with a restaurant at the far end. During the cooler months, from November to March, you will see many migrant birds who come here from Northern Europe and Russia. In particular, there are thousands of seagulls. The most popular time to visit is at the end of the day before sunset. If you are coming to visit the open-air museum at Ancient Siam, you could stop here afterwards as it is only ten minutes away.
You can come here most of the way by skytrain. Just take the Sukhumwit Line southwards to BTS Kheha station which is the present terminal station. From here, it is only ten minutes to Sukta Pier. Along the way you will pass the entrance to Ancient Siam on your left, Wat Askoram on your right (there is a seaside walk that starts here), and a number of side roads on the right that lead to restaurants along the sea. I’ve added a few map links below. There is talk of extending the skytrain even further and it will pass all these attractions.

Interesting Tweets

🌳 One of the most unusual park parks in #Bangkok is the Chao Phraya Sky Park. It is 280 meters long and 8.5 meters wide. It goes down the middle of Phra Polk Klao Bridge and links the Phra Nakhon and Thonburi sides of the river.

📍MAP: https://t.co/QlHfpDV7Bo https://t.co/hRgHMUBOFC

🌳 One of the most unusual park parks in #Bangkok is the Chao Phraya Sky Park. It is 280 meters long and 8.5 meters wide. It goes down the middle of Phra Polk Klao Bridge and links the Phra Nakhon and Thonburi sides of the river.

📍MAP: https://t.co/QlHfpDV7Bo https://t.co/hRgHMUBOFC

A couple of years ago, there was an art project at Pak Khlong Flower Market that had street art showing real life workers. Unfortunately most have disappeared but there are a few good ones left, worth hunting down.

📍MAP: https://t.co/ufdyZkiuv5 #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/tgF02DgvZo

Bangkok Walking Maps – 6

This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Samsen Thewet which is an area along the Chao Phraya River that includes Vietnamese and Khmer communities and religious sites. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
See You Next Time!
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next week. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks.
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From women learning to be midwives in Afghanistan to eagle hunters in Mongolia, from the Rockies of Wyoming to refugee camps in Calais; Claire Thomas has photographed the world.

The photojournalist from rural Carmarthenshire has spent years capturing parts of the planet which are fascinating, picturesque and extremely troubled.

Her work has been shortlisted for a number of major awards, and featured in the New York Times, Sunday Times and National Geographic.

She explains the background to some of her most striking shots.

Claire Thomas in Iraq, where she was based from 2016 to 2019
Wyoming, USA

Claire, a horse lover since the age of four, spent several summers working on a ranch in Wyoming, USA.

She said she hated the long days and hard physical work at first, but fell in love with the place, and returned year after year to care for more than 90 horses.

It was here she developed her photography passion, with horses and the Teton Range segment of the Rocky Mountains ideal subjects.

Bekwai, Ghana

After graduating, Claire continued to travel, and her time in Ghana helped her realise that her photos could make a difference.

Her pictures were used in a successful charity campaign to help women hiding their HIV and Aids conditions.

It helped buy them mattresses, as previously they had to sleep on a cold, hard floor.

Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

The photo which convinced Claire to make a full-time living as a photographer was her striking shot of a camel in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza near Cairo.

It was published by the National Geographic and Claire said it was “the moment for me to go for it”.

Hebron, Palestine

Claire said she felt “most scared” in the Palestinian city of Hebron on the West Bank.

She said on one occasion a group of young students were “painting signs of peace and hope”.

“Soldiers started to run towards them. They saw me taking pictures of the scene, and threw a stun grenade at me. Things like this happened every day.”

Calais, France

In the “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, northern France, she captured the tensions as the authorities demanded its closure.

Qayyarah, Iraq

Claire’s encounters with a number of families in refugee camps in both France and Greece inspired her to spend three years in Iraq to find out why people had left their home countries.

Mosul, Iraq
Mosul, Iraq
Qayyarah, Iraq

She witnessed the destructive nature of conflict in Iraq.

She spent time in Qayyarah, south of Mosul in northern Iraq, and photographed firefighters tackling massive flames after Islamic State group militants set oil wells on fire.

Claire said: “I began covering the fighting against ISIS, but then I felt I wasn’t telling the whole story.

“It’s kind of easy to romanticise conflict when you focus on the military efforts, so I tried to find a way to get a more intimate, human perspective of the effect of the conflict on the people.

“And that’s when I had the opportunity to accompany a team of medics who were working just behind the front line. I felt like my pictures had more meaning to tell the human story of conflict, which is shocking.”

Suleyman and his mother in Khazir camp, Iraq

But she later learned that he had lived.

Two years after that first photo, having covered the story for The Sunday Times, the newspaper sent her to meet Suleyman and his mother, who were living in a refugee camp.

Claire Thomas in Afghanistan, July 2019
Afghanistan

Claire spent time in Afghanistan in 2019, before the country was retaken by the Taliban earlier this year.

When she was there, women were able to forge new lives for themselves by going on midwifery courses, for example.

But Claire said she dreaded to think of their situation now.

She said: “I have been receiving messages from some of them on a daily basis asking for help to escape, to flee the country.

“It was a very interesting, hopeful time and it felt quite safe. Now, of course, I think it’s regressed, it’s frightening.”

Away from conflict, Claire is able to pursue projects that often reflect her love of horses.

In the Altai mountains of Mongolia, she has marched with tribes people and learned about Kazakh eagle hunters.

Her photography has helped put on record such ancient traditions threatened by urban growth and climate change – all a long way from her home village of Idole, a few miles outside Carmarthen.

But she said: “I think we always hope that our work makes a difference. And I think collectively it does.

“If there were no photographers, if there were no storytellers, the stories wouldn’t be heard.”

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On the 19th of November 2021, the German ambassador to Thailand Mr. Georg Schmidt visited the CDSC Forest in Mae Rim where 1,500 trees were planted by the students of the Christian German School Chiang Mai (CDSC) in 2020 and 2021.

The ambassador was welcomed by Mr David Nescholta, the chairman of the CDSC school board, and Mr Markus Brandtner, the principal of CDSC, at the CDSC Forest in Ban Mae Mae, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai. The CDSC Forest started as a school project to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary in 2019. Since then, 1,500 trees were planted to offset the school community’s carbon footprint with the support from the project partners, the Forest Restoration Research Unit (FORRU, Chiang Mai University) and the Watershed Management Chiang Mai Division. The little seeds that were collected by the students from Doi Suthep 2 years ago have now grown to 2 to 8m tall trees.

After enjoying the green scenery and clean air at the CDSC Forest, the ambassador visited the Pong Khrai Watershed Management Unit where the CDSC students were learning about how to protect the environment and planting 600 seeds that will be planted in the CDSC Forest in June 2022. Mr Schmidt said “It’s great to see how goals of the COP26 summit in Glasgow are implemented on a local level, as our children are planting trees for the future even though it’s a very difficult time for everyone due to the current situation. Planting trees is not only a great education for the students but it’s also a very practical and effective solution to save the environment.” The planted seeds were taken with the students back to the school ground and they will take care of the seeds in the tree nursery until they are ready to be planted in the forest.

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A migrant caravan in Mexico, parkour in Gaza, refugees on the border between Belarus and Poland, and smog in Lahore: the most striking images from around the world this week

Grodno, BelarusMigrant children at the Kuznitsa checkpoint at the border between Belarus and Poland. A Polish government official said migrants camped on the Belarusian side of Poland’s eastern border were being taken away by bus in a sign the tense standoff could be easing
Photograph: Maxim Guchek/AP
Gaza CityPalestinian youth practice parkour in Al-Shati refugee camp. For many young people living in Gaza, the years of living under a blockade effectively cutting them off from the outside world has taken a heavy toll with mental health issues rising among young people. Many of them turn to sport and other recreational activities to relieve the pressures of everyday life, from boxing to horse riding
Photograph: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images
Gaza CityPalestinian youths perform a show with fire in front of people in the Al-Shejaiya neighbourhood
Photograph: Fatima Shbair/Getty Images
thens, GreeceDemonstrators take part in a march towards the US embassy, during a rally marking the 48th anniversary of the 1973 Athens Polytechnic uprising against the military junta
Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Gran Canaria, SpainEmergency personnel assist migrants disembarking from a maritime rescue vessel in the port of Arguineguín, after their rescue off the coast of Gran Canaria
Photograph: Lluís Gené/AFP/Getty Images
Inke, Democratic Republic of Congo
A family of Central African refugees waits to leave for a transit centre before a repatriation flight to Bangui. This week 453 among Inke’s 18,444 refugees were flown back to Bangui by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of them fled the Central African Republic during the 2013 coup and subsequent civil war. Today, nearly 685,000 Central Africans are still living in exile and cannot return home because of the ongoing conflict
Photograph: Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images
Palomares, MexicoMigrants walk through Palomares as they head in a caravan towards the US
Photograph: Claudio Cruz/AFP/Getty Images
Jesus Carranza, Mexico
Migrants help fellow migrants on to the bed of a trailer in Jesus Carranza. A group of mainly Central American migrants are attempting to reach the US-Mexico border
Photograph: Félix Márquez/AP
Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA supporter of Kyle Rittenhouse argues with a Black Lives Matter supporter in front of the Kenosha County courthouse while the jury deliberates over the Rittenhouse trial. Rittenhouse is accused of shooting three demonstrators, killing two of them, during a night of unrest that erupted in Kenosha after a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back while he was being arrested in August 2020
Photograph: Nathan Howard/Getty Images
Sofia, BulgariaElectoral staff carry ballot boxes as they visit people in self-quarantine to collect their votes for the first round of the presidential election and the parliamentary elections in Sofia. Bulgarians voted for the third time this year, but there was little hope the latest general election will bring a stable government to fight the country’s deadliest coronavirus wave
Photograph: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images
Kabul, AfghanistanA young girl looks at loaves of bread for sale at a bakery in Kabul
Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP
Liverpool, EnglandForensic officers work outside Liverpool Women’s hospital, following a car blast. Police declared the explosion a terrorist incident
Photograph: Ed Sykes/Reuters
Lima, PeruHealth workers carry coolers for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine during a door-to-door vaccination campaign in Villa Maria del Triunfo on the outskirts of Lima
Photograph: Guadalupe Pardo/AP
Port-au-Prince, HaitiStudents attend class at the Le Grand Createur school in the gang-controlled Cité Soleil neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince
Photograph: Matias Delacroix/AP
Alaminos, PhilippinesElementary students sit inside dividers as a preventive measure against Covid-19, as they attend the first day of physical classes at Longos elementary school. After almost two years, the Philippines resumed limited face-to-face classes in 100 schools across the country this week
Photograph: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images
Lahore, PakistanPeople commute along a street in heavy smog conditions in Lahore
Photograph: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Zinal, SwitzerlandMountain guide Daniel Ruppen visits an ice cave formed at the end section of the Zinal glacier. Over the last 60 years the overall glacier volume in Switzerland has shrunk by almost 50%, losing between 2% and 3% volume a year over the last four years, according to the glacier monitoring in Switzerland project
Photograph: Valentin Flauraud/EPA
Melbourne, AustraliaA model showcases Jaton designs during the Fashion x Art at the Ian Potter centre in Melbourne
Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
La Palma, SpainLava expelled by Cumbre Vieja volcano reaches the sea
Photograph: Miguel Calero/EPA
Nice, FrancePeople walk and ride horses in front of the Mediterranean Sea
Photograph: Valéry Hache/AFP/Getty Images
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Rohan Chaurasia

by Expat Life

Art inspired by the mundane and the spiritual: Rohan Chaurasia

A creative artist inspired by the spiritual aspect of the everyday objects that surround us in our daily life, Rohan’s body of artwork is an eclectic blend of various mediums. Exploring themes of mundanity and animism, he attempts to investigate how familiar objects can possess unapparent meanings. Taking an organic approach and building up ideas as he goes, he remains open to any new revelations that may emerge along the way.

Rohan has always been interested in drawing and making images. He initially chose to study graphic design at university as he liked how it can exist at varying scales, across different forms of media. Growing up in Bangkok, he recalls being curious about “designed” surfaces, observing how images would shape urban environments. He’d also notice how the new would live alongside the old, thinking about the spiritual qualities in ancient structures could also apply to ones in the present day.

In his craft, Rohan often combines digital tools with analog processes like drawing, airbrushing, and collage. He is intrigued by how airbrushing produces an aesthetic that feels enigmatic, almost like a whisper. This technique has a nostalgic element to it, as it reminds him of the “blow pens” he used to use as a child.

In his research, beyond looking into academic sources, Rohan is interested in drawing inspiration from the lived experience. With an emphasis on spontaneity, several of the artist’s references stem from things he photographs in passing.

One of Rohan’s earlier forays into the juxtaposition of the spiritual and the mundane culminated in a series of sculptures titled Dvarapalas. The title takes its name from dvarapala, (‘door guard’ in Sanskrit) referring to door/gate guardians that take on the sculptural form of a warrior giants or animals. Diverse forms of these can be seen protecting sacred spaces in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain cultures. Rohan’s sculptures applied the ancient idea of a spiritual protector, to a contemporary context, by creating door guardians for places frequented by the average person on their way about daily life. A cat sleeping on the threshold of the local convenience store became the self-appointed protector of the space, as did the animated mascot of the local ATM machine. The sculptures were constructed with paper pulp and foam, with their surface treated with airbrushing and collage.

His latest project, titled Waiting Room, explores ideas of transience and animism, depicting everyday plastic chairs/stools in surreal imagined spaces. To quote “I’m particularly inspired by moments of quietude in Bangkok, that coexist within the frenetic pace of the city. I also think about spiritual forces that aren’t necessarily bound to sites of worship (like spirit houses, or temples), but can be found everywhere”. The ongoing series of paintings fuse photography, digital painting, collage, and airbrushing.

Looking ahead, Rohan plans to push his work further, through continued research, practice, and experimentation. He notes he lately has “become more comfortable with the idea of slowing down, and being open to projects taking new, unexpected directions.”

Rohan Chaurasia is an emerging artist and designer, currently based in Bangkok.

An alumnus of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, USA, where he received a BFA (Hons) in Graphic Design, Rohan has worked as a designer for Pentagram, New York, the world’s largest independent design agency, and is currently working for Farmgroup, a design studio in Bangkok.

His work spans visual identity, web design, art direction, and illustration. His clients include Esprit, NewView Capital, Shay Galla, Jono Cheong, Sophie Wang, Dime, Michelle Smith, the American Institute of Architects, Purra, Rajdamri Gems and the School of Visual Arts.

His work has been featured in high profile locations – from New York’s Javits Center, where some 20,000 visitors passed through a welcome area that he designed; to New York Fashion Week, where his logo for Shay Galla was modelled on the runway; to New York gallery Chinatown Soup, where he exhibited a video artwork.

His work for Mike Ruiz-Serra’s brand Pulp has earned press from The New York Times, Sight Unseen and Milk. Rohan has also been the subject of features in The Design Kids and Vo1SS. Projects bearing his designs have also been featured in AIGA Eye on Design, Masala Thai, and It’s Nice That.

You can find a selection of Rohan’s work on his website rohanchau.com

IG: @_rchau     [email protected]        081-161-2295

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The Bangkok Art Biennale Foundation recently announced the first twenty artists and seven venues for the third edition of the Bangkok Art Biennale (BAB). Organised in collaboration with Thai Beverage Public Company Limited (ThaiBev) and public and private sectors, BAB 2022 Chaos: Calm will take place from 22 October 2022 to 23 February 2023 at various locations across Bangkok as well as BAB Virtual Space, which will showcase several innovative artworks specifically created for the digital realm.

 

Under the theme, this edition invites artists to contemplate the tumultuous conditions of the world around us as communities recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the urgency to address the climate crisis and socio-political uncertainty around the globe.

 

Selected by BAB 2022’s curatorial team, participating artists and collectives range from the emerging to the established, with representation from across Thailand, Asia, Europe, Oceania and America: Marina Abramović (Serbia / USA), Jake and Dinos Chapman aka “the Chapman Brothers” (UK), Jarasporn Chumsri (Thailand), Tiffany Chung (Vietnam / USA), Jitish Kallat (India), Kimsooja (Republic of Korea / USA), Rachel Kneebone (UK), Robert Mapplethorpe (USA), Nawin Nuthong (Thailand), Be Takerng Pattanopas (Thailand), Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (Thailand / Indonesia / USA), Alwin Reamillo (The Phillippines), Arin Rungjang (Thailand), Pinaree Sanpitak (Thailand), Chiharu Shiota (Japan), Wantanee Siripattananuntakul (Thailand), Myrtille Tibayrenc (France), Uninspired by Current Events (Thailand), Xu Zhen (China), and Kennedy Yanko (USA).

 

Art is a path of hope in this chaotic world. We hope to find happiness and power through art at the Bangkok Art Biennale,” comments BAB 2022 artist Marina Abramović, who returns to BAB for the third time.

 

Seeking a sense of calm in the midst of turmoil is a journey that offers knowledge and opportunity. Experiences of stillness and tranquility can still be found in this post pandemic world of seeming upheaval. The Bangkok Art Biennale invites artists to explore the dichotomy of Chaos: Calm and express the nuanced tension between these two concepts that are seemingly at odds, yet continue to coexist in our daily lives,” says Prof. Dr. Apinan Poshyananda, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Bangkok Art Biennale.

Since its inaugural edition, the Bangkok Art Biennale has continued to push boundaries and make art accessible to the public at sites across the capital city. At BAB 2022, visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibition throughout the urban area at venues including: Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), Queen Sirikit National Convention Center (QSNCC), as well as experience contemporary art in traditional heritage sites including Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan (Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Pho), Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (Temple of Dawn or Wat Arun), Wat Prayurawongsawat Worawihan (Temple of Iron Fences or Wat Prayoon), and Museum Siam: Discovery Museum, a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Thai people.

 

The 2022 edition will also launch the BAB Virtual Space as a new venue edition, which will showcase a number of innovative artworks specifically created for the digital realm. In the post pandemic world, technology has been a critically important tool to support accessibility in contemporary art and the creative industries, while also offering artists new mediums to create and share their work. Moreover, BAB 2022 will continue presenting its rich digital programme of talks, symposiums, live performances and virtual walkthroughs to allow the international community to engage with the Biennale online.

 

BAB has also launched its Open Call for Artists programme on November 1, 2021. They received an overwhelming response from young and professional artists from around the world, who submitted portfolios to be considered for exhibition in the Biennale. The panel will review and interview applicants, and announce the results in January 2022.

About BAB 

 

Founded in 2017, BAB is an art festival set in the capital of Thailand. Spanning various venues over a period of four months, BAB transforms the bustling city of Bangkok into a lively hub that celebrates art, creativity, and culture. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in contemporary art from a diverse range of contemporary artists, both local and international, throughout the city in art and cultural spaces, as well as in Bangkok’s iconic landmarks, temples and public spaces.

 

In 2020, the Biennale expanded to virtual platforms to allow people from all over the world to view the exhibition online. In addition, BAB is accompanied by a rich programme of public events, including educational conferences, talks, hands-on workshops, guided visits, publications, and online programmes to ensure a memorable and educational experience for all.

 

https://www.bkkartbiennale.com | @bkkartbiennale 

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