The Phuket Photo Walk 2010
Last Saturday (24th July 2010) was the date for the 3rd annual Worldwide Photo Walk, an event which aims to get photographers out snapping pictures of their home towns, all on the same day. According to the website, this year there were over 1,000 walks and a total of over 33,000 registered walkers. I took part in the 2009 walk in Phuket, and signed up for 2010. Last year I had been worried that everyone on the walk would be a super pro with 5,000 dollar cameras, but was happy to see all kinds of people and all kinds of cameras. Part of the idea is to get people to see their town in a different way. You can walk the same street a thousand times, but if you go down the same street with a camera and open your eyes, in the company of other people with cameras, you might just see things in a new light!
In 2009 there were at least 40 people on the Phuket walk, so I was surprised to see less this year. Only about 15 or 20 people met at the Royal Phuket City Hotel. Yeh, the weather may have been to blame. Morning had been wet, did not look promising, but I was determined to be there with my daughter who was 9 years old that day and was equipped with her birthday present, a new Sony Cybershot - her first camera. As it turned out the weather held off. Not sunny, but no rain. Of course the real reason for meeting at that hotel was this:
Sexy girls holding tools.. don't tell the wife. My daughter thought I was silly to take a photo of the sign. We met the other walkers inside Cafe 154, a rather nice coffee shop which is part of the hotel. Good coffee and a huge selection of cakes. I got my daughter a doughnut while our walk leader Kim started to explain about the walk. I think the idea is to walk around in a group, but everyone left before the doughnut was finished, so me and my girl headed off alone.
The Royal Phuket City Hotel is on Phang Nga road, opposite the bus terminal, just a couple of blocks or about half a mile east of the old town which was to be the focus of the photo walk. The exact boundaries of the old town are hard to define, there are older buildings all over town, but in particular Thalang Road and Soi Romanee, which have recently had all overhead cables removed, are of most interest to photographers. The cable removal scheme is due to step up a gear starting next month with other roads around the old town being made cable free. The area just east of the old town has rather more modern buildings and "attractions" ...
We soon reached Thalang Road which is great for photography, day or night. There are small interesting shops, cafes and houses, and with the old "Sino Portuguese" (actually more like Sino-British, as this style originated in Singapore) style architecture and with many of the businesses being run by old Phuket families, the area retains an old feel. One guy showed us around his hardware store, in the center of which was his house, old style around a courtyard with old teak furniture. He said the business had been started by his grandfather. There are many well kept houses around Thalang Road. The area is looked after by the Phuket Old Town Foundation which is headed by a big local family who also own the Butterfly Garden. Other members include the head of the Chinese Thai Hua school and the Mayor of Phuket who we met a bit later on...
(above) This is an old printers shop on Thalang Road. I'd like to go back and take some more photos. The printing presses look old. No computers or laser printers here - this place is all about printing by hand, old style. Thalang road has many interesting shops and businesses.
Soi Romanee is the most photographed street in town. It's a narrow street that heads north off Thalang Road to the Mongkhon Nimit temple. It is said that the street used to be full of whorehouses in the old days. Now there are several small cafes, at least one small guesthouse and other private houses. Most of the buildings have been painted up, all the overhead wires are gone, and a lot of that is thanks to Mr Puchong who is a lawyer and owns the Glastnost Cafe. Very nice man. My daughter and I stopped to say hello and found Alasdair (another photo walker) there also. Mr Puchong very kindly made us some excellent Vietnamese coffee.
There will be monthly live Jazz sessions again at Glastnost in the high season starting in November - we went one time earlier this year and we'll go again! As we left the cafe (after all, can't sit around drinking coffee all day! There are photos to be taken!) we met the Mayor of Phuket City, Khun Somjai Suwansupana who stopped to talk to Mr Puchong. My daughter snapped a photo:
Now, I could walk around all day, but my poor girl was getting tired. We stopped for some food at a little restaurant called Wilai next door to the Oldest Herb Shop in Phuket. Took some photos first of course. This shop is great. The smells are wonderful. Many Chinese believe in the powers of herbal medicine. I reckon if you walk in there and take a deep breath it might cure a few ills! The owner kind of posed for a photo...
Now, the restaurant next door (Wilai), where we ate our fried rice, has a secret. The restaurant is on Thalang Road, but if you ask nicely, they will let you walk out the back door, through the stores and you enter the Shrine of the Serene Light, the main entrance to which is up a narrow alley (now being widened) on Phang Nga Road just west of the On On Hotel. It's a lovely little shrine, one of many Chinese Shrines in town, but this one is well hidden!
Well, it was time to head back to the cafe for the post walk gathering.. only half a mile to walk but some little feet were getting tired, so for the first time since Lord knows when, I hailed a tuk tuk. Braced myself for some crazy price to be given for the very short ride, but he only asked 60 Baht and was so friendly and smiley that I gave him 100. If only tuk tuks could be like this at the beaches...
Oh, you can find more photos of the walk here:
• Phuket Photo Walk 2010 - 35 photos on Flickr
Back at Cafe 154 for a cold draft Heineken and some chat. Maybe there will be another local walk for photographers next month, Kim suggests Koh Sirey fishing port, early morning. If you want to know more, please do ask! This Phuket walk was very nice for me to walk around with my daughter. I am sure there will be another official walk next year in July, but anytime is good for a walk around Phuket Town.
Related blog pages...
• Phuket Photo Walk 2009
• Photo Walk 2011
• Phuket Old Town Street Festival
• Glastnost Cafe on Soi Romanee
• Thai Hua School Museum