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Bangkok Bound

In my previous post I mentioned, more or less, that this was my favorite time of year in Laos because of the weather. I also like it because it’s the end of the third term at the school, so that means there’s some time off, about five weeks. So, foot-loose and fancy-free, I’m bound for Bangkok with Nai for a week.

We’re crossing the border into Nong Khai, Thailand, and then taking an early morning bus to Udon Thani to catch a noon flight to Bangkok. The ride to Udon takes about an hour, so we’ll probably leave Nong Khai around 9 a.m. The flight to Bangkok takes an hour, so we’ll get into “The Big Mango” around 1:00 and be at the hotel about 2:30 or 3:00. It usually takes about an hour (everything takes an hour, eh?) to get into the city by taxi and the ride costs around $10, if I remember correctly. Not a bad deal.

As usual, we’re staying in the Silom area of the city, close to good street food, entertainment venues and the skytrain and subway. Speaking of entertainment, I’ve just gotta go see the latest Star Wars movie. I’ve heard a lot of good things about, so it’s a must-see.

Here are a few photos from previous trips to Bangkok.

Bangkok Skyline

Here’s the view outside our hotel window up on the ninth floor (out of 10). If you stay at the Silom City Hotel, be sure to get a room that’s 8th floor or higher for a great view.

Bangkok at night

Bangkok at Night. This photo was taken in 2013 and the one above in 2016. You can see that a few new buildings, including the odd one on the left, were constructed in the three years between photos.

Food vendor

Food vendor near the hotel. There are a lot of these little outfits about a block from where we stay.

Winter in Laos

Ahh, it’s the best time of the year in Laos, and in most of South East Asia, I suppose. The winter months give us almost perfect weather–highs mostly in the mid- to low-eighties and lows in the fifties to high-forties. Those low temperatures can seem quite chilly if you’re used to much higher temperatures. If you spend winter in more northerly climes, like Montana, they might feel balmy by comparison.

Overcast, rainy weather is usually not a problem (it hasn’t rained since October) and the haze-free skies are a delight. That will end in February when the farmers start burning the stubble from their fields, here and in many areas of S.E. Asia.

If you ever get the urge to visit Laos, now is the time to come if you want to enjoy the country under optimal weather conditions. Here are a couple of photos from recent mornings, my favorite time of day.

morning light in Laos

If we have a decently-colored sunrise, the trees and the neighbors’ houses take on a beautiful color. This view is looking out my living room window towards the west.

morning fog near Vientiane, Laos

This shot is looking out the kitchen window towards the north. We don’t get a lot of heavy fog since we’re not near the river, but it’s not unusual to get some. It burns off quite quickly.

Finger Exercise 1

From the Photoshop Artistry course, this is a finger exercise, which is supposed to be a warm-up activity to get the creative juices flowing. These short exercises shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes, and the outcome isn’t all that important. They’re kind of like doing stretching exercises before a jogging session. However, I’m still learning, and this took quite a while to do, longer than it might take other folks.

This is a photo I took near Azrou, Morocco way back when. I used a sketch technique that I learned in the course and added some texture layers, also from the course. (Not so) short and sweet.

Viewpoint near Azrou, Morocco.

Used a sketch technique in Photoshop to create this version of a nice viewpoint near the Moroccan town of Azrou.

Photo Art-A work in progress

Here’s my latest photo art project, which I’m still working on. I’m not nearly satisfied with it, so I’ll continue to tweak it until I feel OK about it. I’m thinking of entitling it “Dancing at the Demon’s Crypt” or some such thing. The boy at the front is Nai’s niece’s son, Leo. I’ll keep working on it and get the final version posted here soon, I hope.

dancing at the demon's crypt

Leo having some fun.

Vientiane Boat Racing Festival

Today is the annual Boat Racing Festival in Vientiane. Too bad I won’t be attending. While virtually every other institution, (schools, government offices, banks, embassies, as well as restaurants and other businesses) is shut down, our school, Vientiane College, has decided, as usual, to remain open.

I really enjoy going to boat races in Laos, but I’m not going today because I have to work later. Although my lesson plans for this evening’s classes have been made, I’m not going down to the race area to enjoy a few hours of the races. It’s sunny and warm today, so I’d just end up getting sweaty and smelly, and, then, I’d have to motorbike back to the house, take a shower and get back to school. Not worth it. I really like spending the whole day at a race, not having to worry about being somewhere else later.

The school always gives some flimsy excuse for not being shut down. There was a post on the notice board advising teachers to tell students that the school is not being culturally insensitive or unaware, but the reason for remaining open is that authorities don’t give the school enough advance notice as to when the race will be held. That’s pure hogwash! We received the 2018 school calendar a few weeks ago and it shows that the boat race next year is on October 25th, which, fortuitously, coincides with the beginning of the mid-term break next October. That’s more than a year away. Not enough advance notice? Bull crap. If any of my students who show up tonight ask why we’re open, I’ll just tell them to ask the school administration. I’m sure as hell not going to give them the school’s excuse of “not enough advance notice.”

Now, having said that, the school is still, usually, a great place to work. It just gets under my skin (and is depressing) that we’re one of the very few institutions that are open today, and that the school, since I’ve been here, has never closed for this particular holiday. Ah, well, next year, I guess.

Photo Art – Gateway to the Underworld

Here’s my latest creation, “Gateway to the Underworld.” I took the photo of the entryway itself at the nearby Cultural Park, an exhibit of traditional Lao houses. One of the houses was built on a rocky mound and it had a couple of lower floor doorways to an area that could serve as a basement or storage cellar. As soon as I saw these entries, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Here’s the original photo.

Entryway

Lower entrance to the basement or cellar.

So, I then desaturated the original, added some images I found on Pixabay, applied some textured layers that came with the Photoshop Artistry course, and experimented with adding light and color gradients in Photoshop. Voila! Gateway to the Underworld.

Gateway to the Underworld

Enter, if you dare.

Photo Art – ‘Til Death Do Us Part?

My latest, somewhat gruesome, creation — ‘Til Death Do Us Part? The photo I based this on was taken in Nong Khai, Thailand, at the Sala Keoku (approximately pronounced sala kaw que) sculpture park, a fascinating place to visit just outside of Nong Khai.

Below is the original photo, followed by the new creation.

skeletons

In Sala Keoku sculpture park near Nong Khai, Thailand.

'Til Death Do Us Part?

The new creation. Added some grunge layers, colors and text.

Ok, back to work. Not only working on some more photo artistry (though it’s more like play), but also back to work at school, after a five-week break. Breaks are nice, but they’re unpaid, so gotta make some more money. More later.

Photo Art – Steppin’ Out

My latest offering is of a photo I took in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic about ten years ago of a few of my baseball academy students with some of their friends. I threw in a few textures and some other things, played around with the lighting and blend modes, and, voila.

Steppin' Out

These guys and their friends are going for a cruise around the area in a car that one of them rented for the afternoon.

The school has been on break for about a month now, but we start up again next week. My time is going to be limited, so I’d better try to put out a few more pieces of art before then, so, as always, more later.

Photo Art – Buddha Pranksters

Here’s my latest offering of photo art, a composite of some photos I’ve taken in a few of the nearby Buddhist temples. Now, let me say right at the start that this creation is not meant to be sacrilegious. As a matter of fact, the monk statue on the right, along with a half a dozen others like it, has been standing for at least a couple of years in a temple near where I used to live . Whether it was “dressed” by the monks in the temple or by local people, I don’t know. However, it shows the whimsy sometimes inherent in the culture. The monk statue on the left was given sunglasses by yours truly.

I found the big laughing Buddha in an out-of-the-way temple that was half in ruins and overgrown by vegetation in some areas. Parts of it are attended to, and there are also some repairs being made to the main building, though it didn’t look like anyone had worked on it for a while.

The Buddha is not in the main building, but is in a smaller outbuilding, and when you first come upon it, it’s kind of a surprise. After a few seconds, it’s hard not to laugh or at least smile at the expression on it’s face.

I’m not quite satisfied with the art yet, so I’ll probably tweak it some more and post the results here. Enjoy.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple.

[EDIT] Version 2: Made a few changes to the monk on the right so that it doesn’t have such a “pasted in” appearance.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple, v2.

[EDIT] Version 3: I put the right hand monk behind the Buddha to give the composition a bit more of a 3D feel and I gave it a bit lighter look.

Buddha pranksters having fun in the temple.

Having fun in the temple, v3.

Photo Art – Homeland

This one is part of the Weekly Challenge series from my Photoshop Art course. This is the Week 2 Challenge. I won’t go into all the constraints of the challenge. The focus is to create something using minimum resources and using specific techniques. In this one, I had to use a couple of specific textures, only two of my photos, an edge effect, and a few other items.

The photos I used are a shot of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and a photo of a young Native American from a visit to a pow-wow near Flathead Lake in Montana. I think I took both of these in 2008.

This one I’m titling “Homeland.” Hope you like it.

P.S. Once I get enough of these photos completed, I’ll set up a Gallery page for them.

Photo Art Homeland

Another Photo Art composition: Homeland