By Graham K. Rogers
Once in a while I leave the computer at home, grab a camera or two and head out of the door. Some of my trips are quite short and may only take me into the Other Bangkok that I can find only a few blocks away on the Thonburi side of Bangkok. At other times, I like to go further.
From the front window of my apartment, I have a view of BTS, the new Bangkok commuter system, at Thalad Phlu. A couple of hundred metres away in the opposite direction, is another station with the name, Thaladphlu (note the different spelling). This is a station on the old Wongwienyai to Mahachai line, originally built to bring fresh fish into Bangkok. Now it only carries passengers: there are 17 trains each way every day.
Early this weekend, I decided to take a trip down to Mahachai and across the river to Banlaem. Instead of visiting the second line, that runs from there down to Maeklong - the famous market on the tracks - I planned to make use of a pedalo. I also decided that instead of the two DSLR cameras, I would take one, with its lenses, and the film camera I have: I had several rolls of 120 film in the refrigerator.
I left my condo at 10.10 am in plenty of time for the short walk to the station. It was already quite warm and I crossed the road to find some shadow. I was early enough to see the in-bound train unload at 10.28 am and knew that it was only a short time before the turn-round at the Wongwienyai terminus - a single-track station and then the return.
Currently Thais travel on trains for free, although they still need a ticket: I guess Thai Railways presents a monthly bill to the government. I needed to buy one: 10 baht. I handed over my cash and a couple of minutes later, the ticket man called me round to the door.
He was having problems starting the computer so could not print a ticket. The others were pre-printed. As he was also station-master, porter and flag-waver, there was a short delay as he had to see to the in-bound train.
Being a Sunday, there were few seats available when the train heading for Mahachai arrived. I skipped a few that were dirty, and one that was covered with plastic bags. It turned out that the mother and son on the opposite two seats were keeping these free for themselves, as the boy moved over a little later, then they were forced to move the bags as all seats were full. I had a bench seat, with my back to the open window so took no pictures of the scenery on the way down, but managed a couple in the train.
At Mahachai I took a few in the yard where the trains are maintained and found some old wheels with the remains of what looked like a gearbox.
After a while in the station I went towards the street. Mahachai also has the name Little Burma with the number of Myanmar nationals who work in the fishing industry and related services. Occasionally, I would hear some words of a language I did not recognise. Most were Thai and Sunday is a busy day.
For many of the shots in the street area, I used the 85mm lens I have. It allows me to be quite close to subjects, without them realising I am taking a photograph of them: it looks as if I am looking at something in the distance, although some are clearly aware they are being photographed.
After the street, I headed towards the ferry to take me across to Banlaem. Although I usually visit the station there, I intended this time to use the services of one of the pedalo men. I often photograph these hard working guys when I visit. I thought it was about time, I rewarded at least one of them.
First, however, I stopped for lunch at the noodle restaurant by the ferry. The food here is simple and good. Unlike many restaurants where the meat is minced, the bowls here have large chunks of meat in the rich gravy.
Usually, before I go across, I walk along the side of the river, but this time, there was construction there: it looks as if the front area is being widened. Taking the ferry, I was pleased to see a number of egrets in the water and on the clumps of floating weeds. I managed to take several photographs of these.
See also: Photography in Mahachai (2): Pedalo as a Platform
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.