Archive for June, 2008
Wherever possible I like to avoid government offices. In Thailand the main culprits are the British embassy in Bangkok and the Thai immigration office in Jomtien. The former is bureaucratic, slow and expensive, the latter is bureaucratic, slow and slightly less expensive; except when you do something wrong.
Tomorrow I am off to Bangkok and thought I would take the opportunity of renewing my passport. The UK passports are now biometric, which is bureaucrat speak for expensive. A painful 10,000 fee, a requirement for photographs with such exacting specifications that they will no doubt also cost more than is normal, plus the usual multi-page form to complete; and the standard take-a-number and queue for hours for the privilege of being treated like dirt by an embassy official. Not something I am looking forward to.
But when I took out my passport out of the desk this morning, I realised I was also committed to a trip to Jomtien immigration. As a condition of being granted a yearly visa to stay in this wonderful country, I am required to present myself to the immigration office every 90 days and tell them (again and again) that I am still here and I still live in the same place. It’s a nonsense, but it keeps people employed, and it takes about ten minutes and zero baht to go through the process. Unless you forget to turn up on time.
Glancing at my passport I saw that I was meant to have gone to immigration in May to re-confirm my existence. Oops. That means a 2,000 baht fine and a slap on the wrist. So I put on a respectable shirt and a respectable smile and whizz down to the immigration office where I submit myself to the man at the reception counter and explain my late reporting dilemma. A two thousand baht fine he tells me in a stern-ish voice and immediately starts to fill in the 90 day reporting form for me (which you normally have to do yourself). He doesn’t understand the name of my condo so leaves it out, in fact he doesn’t write down much more than the postcode and the fact that we are somewhere in Thailand. During this process it dawns on me that this is not going to be processed through the usual route and indeed he asks for the 2,000 baht which disappears below the table, and he disappears to the desk of the man who does the 90 day reporting to acquire the necessary stamp, no doubt for a share of the spoils.
He is back a couple of minutes later with a big smile, a friendly slap on the shoulder and a look in his eyes which says “please do this again.”
Being an man of impeccable morals, I felt myself obliged to go straight to the head of immigration and explain that my fine had gone into the pocket of a poorly paid government servant who spends his days being abused by foreigners, rather than into the funds of a government being systematically looted by the corrupt elite; and that consequently I had been served in five minutes rather than waiting an hour. Nothing would happen to the officer involved and I would be treated like scum if I ever walked into Jomtien immigration again.
I thought to myself “what would Nelson Mandela do?”, but that came up with the wrong answer, so I thought to myself “what would a spineless goon who wants an easy life do?” and that gave me a much more reasonable answer; so I gave the officer a friendly wink and went for a coffee.
Back from the evening condo shoot where my battery tells me I have now shot 2,605 photos in 48 hours, surely time for a beer and a browse.
I quite like this one:
Singha beer, slightly scruffy bodywork and an enthusiastic approach; can only be Thailand! To be fair, the scruffiness was the result of an attack by a Porsche which came off worst in the encounter:
You can see a bit of bodywork exiting to the left of the photo.
Next, a very low shutter speed shot which captured the front of the car reasonably in focus, but the back-end was bouncing up in the air at the time. Gives it an interesting speedy look, or at least that is how I think after a beer:
My battery counter tells me I have taken 2,195 photographs since I inserted it in the camera on Friday evening. Apart from a shoot of a condo interior on Friday evening, most of the photos have been taken at Bira over the past two days, which means most of the shots will be badly panned or poorly composed, or both; and will end up being deleted. But that is still 2,195 photos that have to be individually reviewed and processed where necessary; and I have another shoot this evening and another tomorrow. Shutter fatigue is setting in.
After a hot day at Bira all I want to do now is kick back and relax for a couple of hours before heading out for this evening’s shoot. But I suppose I could spare some time to process a few shots. What did you say you wanted? Temples? Cars going round tracks? Shrubbery? Oh, you want more pit girls…..
Spent the day at Bira circuit for the Super Car Thailand championship.
I am aware that sticking photos of flowers on this blog is not particularly representative of Pattaya. So to redress the balance I have decided to spare you from photos of cars going round in circles, and offer pit girls instead. Approve? Thought so.
If you have had the strength to wade through the morass of entries on this site you may recall the shocking scandal of the stolen photograph; blown out of all proportion by me for the purpose of entertainment. For those of you who need a reminder, look here and here.
My son, who is good at these things, pointed out that the journalist who wrote the article had a presence on Facebook, the slightly deranged social networking site of which I am a member for reasons I have long forgotten; but I suspect it was Billy’s fault (Billy has an excellent blog, but you will just have to take my word for it because it is members only, due to the fact that he spends much of his time slagging off his current and my ex-employer).
So I wrote to the lady concerned expressing my general disgruntlement and was amazed to receive a reply; which was along the lines that she had no input over which photos were used and where they came from, which is fair comment. I then had a message from the editor, Mr. Chuman Das:
My apologies for all this, but the picture was of excellent quality. And it certainly added to our story. Will definitely inform you next time, but last time around we were not aware they were your pix.
Obviously, as soon as I got to the “excellent quality” bit, all the antagonism evaporated and I lapsed into a state of toporific self-satisfaction which lasted a full five minutes. So, thank you Mr. Das, and the India Times website is now officially removed from the Pattaya Days boycott list, which will no doubt see their web hits increase substantially again. In fact I highly recommend a visit to their website photo gallery which today features the very photogenic Ms. Deepika Padukone. Sadly I took none of the photographs, but if Mr. Das could arrange for a photoshoot then I would gladly provide all the shots for free.
If you go to Nong Nuch Tropical Garden as a tourist, you will be ushered into a show with elephants and dancers and it is all rather tacky; and expensive. But if you turn up and wave your Thai driving licence to prove you live here, and explain you don’t want to see the dancing elephants; then 100 baht will gain you entry to some very attractive gardens.
I must admit that gardens are not really my thing. The only flower I can name is a dandelion, and tending a garden is too much like hard work. But I enjoy wandering around Nong Nuch with a camera, and spent a couple of hours there this morning.
I fully support people being rich, provided they spend their money on the things I would spend my money on if I was loaded. So, hats off to the owner of Nong Nuch Tropical Garden whose office car park contains the car that has fuelled my automotive dreams for more years than I care to count, a Ford GT40.
You would not want to take a car as valuable as the GT40 out on the roads every day, so as back-up transport the owner has a Lotus Exige.
With a Subaru Impreza for those difficult days when you need to take granny to the shops, the boss of Nong Nuch is covered for all eventualities. But maybe red is not his lucky colour, so just in case he has a couple more Exiges in alternative colour schemes.
And if three Exiges and a GT40 are just too limiting, in another car park there were two Lotus Esprits, and Elan, a Mustang GT500 and assorted other machinery. He doesn’t seem to have a Honda Civic in his collection though, maybe I could arrange a swap.
Normally I shoot watersports by sticking a big telephoto on front of a big camera and stand on the beach and wait for something to come my way. Like this:
A telephoto is also useful to turn sideways and get candid beach shots…
But the other day I didn’t have the big camera or a big lens, so I waded out into the sea with the DP1 and caught Craig bearing down on me.
Made for a different angle than using a telephoto, although I don’t think I could get away with taking a similar shot of a Russian beach babe.
I have a very good camera. It is also a very heavy camera and when I load myself up with camera body and lenses, you don’t get much change from 7 kilos. I have hankered after something smaller that I can carry around all the time, something light and inconspicuous which takes good quality images. After a couple of false starts I settled on a Sigma DP1 which is a bitch to operate but is capable of taking some really good shots. Just needs a better photographer than me to get the best out of it.
When I first got the DP1 I could fit it in my pocket. Then I bought an optical viewfinder to fit on the top and had to buy a bag to carry it around. Then I swapped the shoulder strap for a wrist strap. Then I got a lens hood, then I got a small tripod. Then all the bits wouldn’t fit into the small bag and I had to go and buy a bigger bag to hold it all.
Yesterday I added to the gadget collection by acquiring a close-up lens that screws on the front of the lens hood. I bought the lens through Ebay from a gentleman who inadvertently declared the item as a gift valued at $10, which means the customs didn’t bother with it. Shame.
This afternoon we went down to the windsurfing club and after an hour or so of floating around the Gulf of Thailand in not a lot of wind, I gave up and had a play with the DP1 and the close-up lens.
Fun to use and although it could not be described as a macro, it does let you get closer than normal, and it does produce some spectacular bokeh (the blurry background); that green mess in the last photo is just grass. It’s how grass would look if you smoked some. Allegedly.
I turned to my cultural adviser and she explained that everyone has lucky and unlucky colours, based upon the day of the week they are born. Perhaps the owner of the car in front has black as an unlucky colour, but really likes having a black car. Putting a sticker on the car stating that the car is white may help to minimise the bad luck because, as we all know, the spirits in charge of luck levels are colour blind but can read English.
My unlucky colour is green, so I really must do something about the colour of my teeth.