Wednesday, February 25, 2015

So long for now

As of February 25, 2015, this blog will be inactive. For over six years it has chronicled my life in Thailand, but I realize now, with declining views, it has fulfilled its purpose. If, for any reason I feel the need to publish a particular story, I will re-open it. Until then, I have shifted my focus to photographic essays and single images. Interested viewers may see these at the following places:




Thanks to all of you who have journeyed with me throughout Thailand and Asia, and back to the U.S. several times. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pattaya, Thailand's (in)famous party capital

Thailand is often referred to as Asia's sex capital, and the city of Pattaya southeast of Bangkok is its undisputed center with a rambunctious night life of clubs, bars, tattoo parlors and massage spas. Pattaya got its start as a bawdy destination during the Vietnam war when U.S. military personnel went there on leave and found refuge in the arms of willing Thai ladies.

Due to that reputation, Pattaya is trying to re-design its image and also be a family destination (without giving up its gold mine of sex), offering alternatives to the steamy side, such as family hotels, malls, floating market, zoological parks and eco tours to nearby mountains and waterfalls. As a result, the two populations come together in an interesting mix of the tame and the lascivious.

The accompanying photos were taken from a visit to Pattaya's "Walking Street", a half kilometer pedestrians-only carnival of bars, night clubs, dozens of discos with live entertainment, "girlie" clubs, seafood restaurants, Thai kick boxing matches and pubs with live rock bands. In addition, street performers enliven the atmosphere as streams of visitors, both Thai and foreign, move through the congested street. 

All photos © John Stiles. It is illegal to use any of the images without permission.

Tourists look over souvenirs as a merchant checks her wares.

Muay Thai (kickboxing) matches are ongoing and draw quite a crowd.

Street artists, such as this "human statue" delight passersby.

If one has the urge, or has too much to drink, tattoo shops offer their services along the walking street.
Flower vendor (always roses) in front of a restaurant with the unofficial motto of Pattaya prominently displayed.

A woman smokes a "sheesha" pipe at a bar
Many discos, like this one with performers and music from Thailand's northeast (Isan) open early in the evening and close in the early morning hours (4 am).

This 12 year old contortionist performs with a little balancing help from her father.
Sea food restaurants are in abundance along the walking street with tables on decks over the gulf.

Tourists gather round a vendor with cute mechanical dancing animals.

Many live bands perform at various establishments all night long.
A young boy meets a rather strange looking character on the street.

It's hard to imagine an ice cream vendor as being entertaining, but the Turkish ones are. You have to see it: it can't be described.
An iconic Pattaya scene outside a night club as the club's dancers take a break and provide enticement for passing tourists.

Many disabled persons can be found with baskets or cups eyes silently pleading for a few coins from passersby.

Some bars are open air with a few table top dancers

Patrons and workers are shuttled to and from Walking Street to hotels and nearby shops on other streets by motorcycle taxi.

Pattaya's Walking Street is not for everyone: it is loud and high energy, but it is always full of revelers and the curious. Guided tours include it as part of their itinerary. Whatever one's inclination, Walking Street is worth at least one visit. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Maine winter wonderland

A dusting of snow creates a magical scene in the village.
As autumn loosens its grip on Maine in mid-December, the landscape changes from brown to black and white, and back again. Soon the bitter cold will come and with it a permanent white blanket. After several days of cold rain, today brought a lovely dusting of snow to the coastline and village.

A one hour excursion took me not far at all: everywhere I turned, the scenery was being transformed into a lovely snow-laden wonderland. Not long after these photos were taken, the temperature rose and completely melted the crystalline coating. Captured by my camera are the images on this page. There will surely be more to come.

All photos by the author. All rights reserved © 2014. It is illegal to use any of the images without permission.

The snow accentuates the textures and form of the woods.
A still pond reflects the surrounding woods.

A beautiful serpentine tree is made even more striking by snow.

Why this tree is not straight like all the others is a mystery.

Shallow root systems on this granite peninsula create interesting patterns, especially when enhanced by the powdery snow.

Truly a winter wonderland. This scene is in the back yard.

Even the ground cover is more beautiful with snow.

Boughs sag under the weight of the fresh snow.

Walking the short loop around the cottage, each snapshot (above and following) of the snowy woods was more beautiful than the last. I could have stayed out all day.

The lane can be seen through the trees in the back yard. So fortunate to be in this enchanting, quiet refuge.

An old lane gate near the cottage.

A dozen large rhododendron bushes surround and nearly hide the cottage. Even in winter they are beautiful!
When the daylight hours are short, and the stove roars to dispel the cold that seeps into the cottage, the beauty of a snowfall in the woods can brighten spirits. 

There will be many more snowfalls this season. More photos will be added as I capture the images on a walk among the tall pines.