Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ok Phansa at Wat Kohwai

A Thai Army Ranger prays before making merit during the Tak Bat for Ok Phansa at Wat Kohwai in Yarang with a bowl of steaming rice. 

Ok Phansa is a Buddhist holiday that marks the end of Buddhist "Lent" or the three months rains retreat. People make lavish gifts to their temple and special processions with monks or statues of the Buddha riding in lavishly decorated carts and floats. The processions symbolize the Lord Buddha's return to earth after his three month retreat to heaven. It's a very happy holiday. 

For the people of Wat Kohwai, this year's Ok Phansa was particularly happy. The Buddhist village is an island in a sea of Muslim villages. For the last eight years, it's been to dangerous for the villagers to hold the processions or celebrations. 

This year the Thai army dispatched a unit of Rangers to the village. Their mission was to protect the village. But in the Thai way, they also participated in the holiday, livening up an already lively event. Soldiers danced and sang and wore silly hats while protecting villagers and carrying M16s.

Sanuk is a Thai word I like. It means fun, but more than the word fun, it really means the concept fun. That you should have fun and enjoy what you're doing, whether it's sitting in traffic, going to a movie or a soldier on a potentially dangerous mission. The soldiers dancing during Ok Phansa was Sanuk in action. 

I couldn't help but think I wouldn't have seen American soldiers in silly hats and dancing with each other while they were on a mission. I'm not saying the Thai way is better. But it is certainly different. 

There are more photos of Ok Phansa in my archive

Finally, always remember and never forget that most of the photos in my archive are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall, just click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the on screen prompts.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Home for the Unwanted

A man chained to a wall greets the day with a prayer in a home for the mentally ill in rural Pattani province

One of the stories I went to Pattani to work on was about a home for the mentally ill I had heard about in the Mayo district in rural Pattani province. I wasn't sure what I was going to find - if I found it at all - the only thing I had to go on was the name of the district (township) the home is in. No address or street. I didn't even have the name of the home. 

I work with a local journalist when I go to Pattani, I told him what I was looking for and we set off driving up down the back roads of the province - asking strangers if they knew about the place and surely but slowly we zeroed in on the home. 

My first thought when we pulled up was that the place looked nice. A large sloping yard led up to the main house. Rows of brick huts lined both sides of the yard. It looked vaguely like a rustic resort. One that had fallen on hard times to be sure but a resort none the less. 

Then I noticed the chains on the wall. And the people shackled to the chains. I realized this was unlike any health care facility I've ever been to. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Eid al-Adha

A Thai Muslim girl in her finest outfit for Eid al-Adha in Narathiwat, Thailand. 

The main reason I came to Thailand's deep south when I did, at the end of October, was because I wanted to be here to photograph the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha as it's practiced here. I'd been planning this trip to southern Thailand for over a year. 

Also called the "Feast of the Sacrifice," Eid al-Adha is one of the most important holy days in the Muslim calendar. It marks Ibrahim's (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice Ishmael, his first born son. It also marks the end of the holy pilgrimage season of the Hajj. Huge feasts are held in Muslim communities around the world on Eid. It's also a time of travel - people are coming home from the Hajj, people travel to see family or return home from work in Bangkok or other big cities. It's a joyous holiday. 

In Thailand, Muslim families buy a cow and sacrifice it in God's name. So many cows are sacrificed on Eid, that the markets in this part of Thailand run out of cattle. Cows are brought in from Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia and sold for Eid sacrifices. 

In other communities in the Muslim world, the sacrifice might be a goat or sheep. One of the tenets of Eid is that families with greater means provide for families or individuals with lesser means. A portion of every animal sacrificed is set aside for the poor, widows or orphans. 

Before an animal is sacrificed it is blessed and men say a lengthy prayer over it. Its throat is then cut in the Halal fashion. The animal is immediately butchered and meat set aside for donations to the poor or less well off. 

There are more photos of Eid in my archive

Finally, always remember and never forget that most of the photos in my archive are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall, just click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the on screen prompts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

End of the Vegetarian Festival

Girls perform a traditional dance for the last day of the Vegetarian Festival at Wat Ta Won Vararum in Hat Yai. Made with a Canon 5D Mark III, 200mm f2.8 L lens, at ISO3200. 

I came to southern Thailand to work on stories in the "restive" deep south and see Hat Yai, a town I've read about but never visited. It's an interesting town, settled by Chinese traders centuries ago. Even today, the Chinese influence is unmistakable. Signs are in Chinese and Thai and the temples are heavily influenced by Chinese style rather than Thai. It should be no surprise that the Vegetarian Festival is an important event here. 

I got to town on the last day of the Festival. My routine in a new town is to walk out of the hotel, pick a direction and walk. I usually bring a map, and I occasionally consult it, but normally I just wander and trust my fate to whatever will be. Which is exactly what I did tonight. I left the hotel looking for something to do. 

I saw the temple's roof line from the road and wandered down to it to see what's what, hoping to see ceremonies marking the end of the Vegetarian Festival but not really expecting to. 

I lucked out. Not only were they getting ready for the service for the end of the Festival, one of the people in the temple went to high school and college in California and had lived in Fairfax, VA., and spoke idiomatic English. She invited me to photograph the service and cleared it with the abbot. 

I had asked to photograph Vegetarian Festival services in Bangkok but was turned down because it would disrupt the nature of the service. 

That's understandable. There are so many foreigners in Bangkok with cameras that if the abbot had let one (me) in, he would have ended up with a whole pack of photographers disrupting the service. 

But in Hat Yai, which is a little off the normal European/American tourist track, I was a novelty and they were honored to have me there. I was given a very hospitable welcome to photograph whatever I wanted to. The service itself was beautiful and ended with a spectacular candle light procession around the temple. 

The monks led the procession and temple goers, dressed in white, followed silently holding candles aloft. It was magical. The serendipitous nature of life in Thailand is one of the things that attracts me to life here. Why did I choose to leave my hotel and walk in that direction instead of another? Why then and not an hour earlier? Of all the temples in Hat Yai, how is it that I met a woman who went to high school and college in the US and spoke flawless English and invite me to photograph in the temple? I don't know the answers to any of those questions. But I'm not going to question good luck when it's thrust at me. 

Finally, always remember and never forget that most of the photos in my archive are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall, just click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the on screen prompts.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Alms Ceremony for the South

A woman gives a bottle of juice to a monk during a mass alms giving ceremony in Banjasiri Park Saturday

There was a mass alms giving in the park near my apartment Saturday morning. More than 2,600 Buddhist monks were in the park to receive alms from Thai Buddhists. The purpose was to support Buddhist Wats (temples) in Thailand's three southern Muslim majority provinces.

In Buddhist tradition, monks go out every morning and solicit alms from the community. Usually it's food, but alms can include money and drinks (fruit juice only). The sight of monks, in their bright orange robes, silently walking through the southeast Asian countryside or city streets is a common one.

Thailand's three southernmost provinces: Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala are on the dividing line between Muslim Asia and Buddhist Asia. To the south; Malaysia and Indonesia are overwhelmingly Muslim. Thailand, to the north, is overwhelmingly Buddhist. And Thailand's southern provinces are caught in two worlds.

The provinces have a long history of independence - Pattani was once the center of a Muslim sultanate - and up through the colonial period identified more closely with Malaya than Thailand, the people in the south speak Yawi, a dialect of Bahasa (spoken in Malaysia and Indonesia), rather than Thai and use an Arabic script rather than Thai script. The British signed away the provinces - ceded them to Siam, now Thailand, in the very early 20th century.

Thailand has governed the provinces since. A number of Thais have moved to the provinces, Buddhist monks and temples followed. There have been tensions in the provinces for decades. In the early 2000's, violence flared again. Muslim extremists have targeted Monks, teachers and schools as representatives of the Thai state. Thai security services have shown excessive zeal and committed human rights abuses in pursuing guerillas. (In one infamous incident, Thai forces arrested hundreds at a political demonstration, bound them and threw them into semi tractor trailers to haul them away to a jail. More than 80 died of suffocation during their hours long journey in tropical heat.)

As a result, it's dangerous for the monks to go out on their morning rounds. The ones who do go out do so under armed guard. School children go to school under armed guard. Today's alms giving was to support temples in the south.

There are more photos of the mass alms ceremony in my archive.

Finally, always remember and never forget that most of the photos in my archive are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall, just click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the on screen prompts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hurts So Good

A woman who sells guavas in the Bangkok Flower Market gives her coworker a neck massage while they were sorting guavas

I took another run at the flower market this week. I was happy with what I got the first time, but I got there a little late. Even though it was before dawn, some vendors were tearing down as I walked in and I wanted to see the market in full bloom as it were.

So I got up even earlier (the bars on Sukhumvit Road were still open when I left my apartment for the market) and headed out. I got to the market about 4:00AM and the place was in full swing. The street in front of the market was packed with tuk-tuks (the ubiquitous three wheeled taxis seen throughout Thailand) and pickup trucks. Taxis and buses picked their way through the crowd and weaved around food carts, which were doing a brisk business.

I photographed in the market for several hours, made some more photos I liked, and then walked back to the pier and caught a Chao Phraya Express boat back to Central Pier and from there a Skytrain back to my apartment. I got home about 11AM - nearly 8 hours after I left. The bars on Sukhumvit were just reopening.

The new photos, along with the older ones, are in my archive. I added some of the new photos to the slideshow below.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables

Chinese dancers on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok's Chinatown celebrate the start of the Vegetarian Festival, Thailand's nine day celebration of veggie excess.

I went down to Chinatown yesterday to photograph the first day of the Vegetarian Festival, Thailand's version of the Taoist Nine Emperor Gods Festival. 

During the nine days of the festival, adherents wear white, to show that they are abstaining from meat, poultry, seafood and dairy. Restaurants and food stalls participating fly yellow flags with the Thai word "je" written in red, to show that their food is vegan. 

The Vegetarian Festival is celebrated in most of Thailand's Chinese communities. It's marked with special vigor in Phuket, which has a very large Chinese population. Bangkok's Chinatown doesn't see that kind of celebration, it's more of a street food fair featuring, naturally, all meatless and mostly vegan foods. 

Yaowarat Road, the main street in Bangkok's Chinatown, is the epicenter of the Vegetarian Festival. The festival started with a parade of Chinese-Thai clubs celebrating the festival with dragon and lion dances. People made offerings and donations to the clubs as they passed. 

And then it was onto the main event, the food. Stalls lined Yaowarat Rd and people walked from stall to noshing on typical Thai meals like chicken and basil (with tofu filling in for the chicken) or pork satay (with tofu filling in for the pork) or fried fish cakes (with tofu filling in for the fish) or sticky rice and mango (thankfully tofu free). I had sticky rice and mango and some som tam, two of my favorite Thai dishes. Sticky rice and mango is high in carbs and calories - it's not really very healthy. But som tam is just julienned papaya and carrots with lime juice. (Normally there's fish sauce in som tam, but it was left out in honor of the vegetarian nature of the Vegetarian Festival.)  

There are more photos of the Vegetarian Festival in my archive (and like most of the photos in the archive they are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall.) 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

History in the Temples

A person lights incense at Wat Rai Khring in Nakhon Pathom province Friday

Friday was one of those days that didn't exactly go according to plan. The day started out pretty well when I photographed some workers in a rice field. Nice light and all that. 

I didn't spend much time with the rice workers because I was headed to Wat Bang Phra to photograph the monks tattooing people at the temple. It's something I've photographed before, but I wanted to refresh my selection of tattoo photos. 

We got to the temple and the Abbot said I couldn't photograph. I was pretty surprised because this is normally a very easy place to work, so easy I'd gotten complacent and not made any advance arrangements. And that was the problem. 

I showed the Abbot my press credentials and letter of introduction and he said that was exactly what was needed. And that I should fax those materials to the temple and they would let me know when I could come down and photograph. 

He said so many photographers had come to photograph the tattooing in recent years that they were ruining what is, after all, supposed to be a religious experience. 

I felt a pang of guilt at that last part. Even though I'm pretty discreet when I work - I don't use flash and I use long lenses, there's no hiding my presence or the fact that I'm a farangMy photographing is almost certain to be disruptive.  

In circumstances like this I try to respectful. It's his temple (or more accurately the community's, but he's in charge) and I hadn't made advance arrangements. So I thanked him and left.

Nakhon Pathom is less than 50 miles from Bangkok, but because of traffic and narrow roads it's a solid two hour drive down there. I didn't want to just turn around and head back to Bangkok, so we (a Thai friend who was driving and I) took off looking for another temple rumored to do tattoos. We found the temple and it was a bust. The temple was practically deserted and the Abbot told us his temple didn't do tattoos. He said we should go to Wat Bang Phra, but they weren't allowing photographers in anymore. 

Plan B time. Since we were in Nakhon Pathom to see a temple, and Nakhon Pathom is where Buddhism came to Thailand, we dropped the tattooing part of the program and went looking at historic temples. 

I made these photos at Phra Pathom Chedi, a beautiful temple first built in the 6th Century (renovated since then) and Wat Rai Khring, a fascinating temple built in 1791. 

Take note of those dates. 

Phra Pathom Chedi, one of the largest Chedis in the world, was built in the 6th Century. Europeans were just entering the Dark Ages then. Phra Pathom Chedi, a massive temple, is still in constant daily use 15 centuries after it was built. Wat Rai Khring was built in 1791. Phoenix was a broad spot in the Salt River Valley back then with no European habitation to speak of. Tucson was still a part of Spain's empire in the Americas. 

Walking around Bangkok, especially the part of town I live in (65 years ago this part of town was the far suburbs and there were still rice paddies and fruit orchards around, now it's practically downtown), it's easy to forget that the Thais measure their history in tens of centuries. 

You don't have to get very far out of Bangkok to realize just how much history there is in Thailand. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Long and Short Of It

I went to Nakhon Pathom, about 40 miles (and two hours) from Bangkok yesterday. On the drive out I saw some workers in a rice field so I stopped to photograph them for a few minutes. 

Workers in rice fields are a dime a dozen in Thailand. 

Thailand is the world's leading rice exporter and one of the world's leading producers. Thailand has, arguably, the finest rice in the world. So people working in rice fields is not an unusual sight. 

I stopped for a couple of reasons; I really liked the quality of light. It was fairly early in the day and a little cloudy, so the light was diffuse and directional at the same time. Kind of a nice giant soft box feel to it. 

Also, rice in Thailand is in the news a lot lately because of the government plans to pay a higher price to farmers and then store the rice until prices go up in what they're calling a rice pledging "scheme." Economists, legal experts and academicians are debating the merits of the so called "scheme" but it makes photos of people in rice fields particularly newsworthy right now. 

I photographed the workers with long and short lenses. I didn't need the telephoto because I couldn't get closer, access wasn't a problem. I used the telephoto to compress the perspective and accent the colors. I really liked the way the woman's red scarf played against the green of the rice field. 

Here's the same scene photographed with a 50mm lens. 

The woman in red pops, but she's one person of several. I'm not sure which photo I prefer. The top one made ZUMA's Pictures of the Day blog for October 12. I initially liked the bottom one for the feeling it evoked. But now I go back to the top one, for the feeling it evokes. 

There are more photos of the rice workers, photographed with long and short lenses, in my archive

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Life Aquatic

Passengers get on a boat on Khlong Saen Saeb in Bangkok Wednesday. 

Bangkok and boats go together like gin and tonic or peanut butter and chocolate. You can't have one without the other. 

Bangkok sits on the Chao Phraya River delta, in fact it's sinking into the delta a little more every year. This city of 12 million floods with depressing regularity. A heavy rain leads to localized flooding. A high tide leads to localized flooding. A heavy rain AND a high tide leads to a lot of localized flooding. (Seriously, the devastating floods of 2011 were exacerbated by very high tides at the same time as heavy rains.

Historically, Bangkok was an aquatic city. The city's infrastructure was built around the Khlongs (Thai word for canal) that crisscrossed the region. People and goods were moved by boats poled through the canals. Even the early brothels that brought the city of a measure of infamy were boats on Khlong Saen Saeb. 

Now most of the canals have been paved over and turned into roads, which flood in the rain and (inadvertently) revert to their natural state as canals, albeit unusable ones. 

Some of the early khlongs still exist in isolated patches. About 100 meters of Khlong Toey, which was once a navigable waterway running east out of Bangkok, still exists in patches as a fetid, polluted backwater.

But boats still provide a valuable and popular form of mass transit. The Chao Phraya River is used by the Chao Phraya Express Boats to move tens of thousands of people everyday from northern and southern suburbs into Bangkok.

A continuous stream of ferries take people from the Bangkok side of the river the Thonburi side of the river (historically, Bangkok started on the Thonburi side and spread eastward to the Bangkok side and beyond).

There's still a network of khlongs on the Thonburi side that people use everyday to get around.

On the Bangkok side, Khlong Saen Saeb is about the only khlong still carrying regularly scheduled passenger boats. Fast boats zip down the khlong, hauling about 80,000 people a day into Bangkok from the eastern suburbs.

I am going to do a project on Bangkok's aquatic life and its boats. This is the first installment. The slideshow is the beginning of what I hope will be a full package on the boats of Bangkok and navigating this amazing city by boat.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Business is Blossoming

A monk walks down the street after collecting alms in the Bangkok flower market.  

Bangkok's flower market is an astonishing place. City block after city block of small shops and market stalls selling fresh cut flowers, flowered garlands and flora related items. 

If flowers aren't your thing, don't despair. There's also a booming fresh fruit and produce market next to the flower market. In front of the market, there are food stalls, selling everything from fresh cut fruit to fried chicken to satay (originally a Malay dish of grilled chicken served with peanut sauce, made Thai with the grilling of pork) to curries and coffee stands. 

I passed on the food. I haven't adjusted to eating grilled chicken or curry at 5:30 AM, but there's no such thing as too much coffee at that hour. 

I went down to the market this morning and wandered around for about four hours. It's a riot of color and smells. The floral and food smells block out Bangkok's other smells, specifically diesel exhaust.

The market is open 24 hours a day, which is a little unusual since most markets are morning affairs. But the best time to see the flower market is early. Very early. 

I've been told it's best to get to the Flower Market at 0 Dark 30

I thought getting there at 5:30 AM would be early enough but some of the vendors were already shutting down for the day. It wasn't, lesson learned. The next time I go to the market, I plan to get there about 4:00 AM.

One of the things I love about photographing on the street at that hour is the quality of light. There isn't much light to work with, but what light there is, is really nice. Very warm and soft. It's the perfect time to haul out the super fast lenses, like the 24mm f1.4 and 50mm f1.2 and use them at their widest f-stops. The out of focus bokeh from these lenses is beautiful. 

Conversely, one of the problems photographing in the market at that hour is that the interior is lit with some of the most awful fluorescent lights known to man (not to be sexist - I mean that in a gender neutral way). 

They change color balance as they cycle so two photos taken in sequence* will have a completely different color balance. It's pointless to try to color balance your pictures while you're shooting (what I normally prefer to do) and doesn't do much good to shoot a white card because the next frame will have a different color balance. I found I had to tweak each frame individually to get an approximation of the correct color balance. 

* NOTE: It gets even worse if you use a high shutter speed, say much above 1/250th of a second, sometimes as low as 1/125th of second. Then the color balance will shift during the exposure and result in bands of different colors in the photo. It's nearly impossible to correct for this and a real problem if you're trying to use a 50mm f1.2 at f1.2 - I ended up shooting at ISO 100 to keep the shutter speed below 1/250th of a second. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fan Dancing for Fitness

Women do Tai Chi exercises in Lumphini Park in Bangkok Saturday morning. 

Lumphini Park is a tree filled, shady oasis in the midst of Bangkok's concrete jungle. The park was built in the 1920's, when Thailand was Siam. Then Bangkok basically stopped at Hua Lamphong train station, the beautiful art deco main train station on the edge of Chinatown. Now Bangkok extends almost all of the way to Pattaya to the east and for miles north and west. The city has grown up around Lumphini. The 142 acre park is named after Lumbini, the Buddha's birthplace in what is now Nepal.

In the morning thousands of people flock to the park for their morning fitness rituals. There are energetic jazzercisers near the main gate (with workouts repeated in the evening), joggers on the trails, Tai Chi practitioners in the center of the park and yoga enthusiasts on the lake shore. In the afternoons families rent paddle boats on the man made lake in the center of the park and young lovebirds flock here for privacy in the evenings.

Bangkok's first public library is in Lumphini Park, there's an outdoor bandstand with concerts (winter only) and street food stalls line the edges of the park. No matter what time of day it is, the park is an escape from the tumult of the city. As befitting an oasis, it's easy to get to Lumphini Park. Both the MRT (subway) and BTS (Skytrain) have stations next to the park.

There are more photos of Lumphini Park in my archive.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fortune for Rent

A monk shops for Buddhist paraphernalia in the amulet market in Bangkok. 

Bangkok is like an onion. A loud, congested onion. 

You think you've seen it all then you turn a corner and you're in another world. The amulet market north of the Grand Palace around Wat Maharat is an example of that. Vendors line the streets around the Wat (Thai for temple) selling amulets and Buddhist paraphernalia. 

You can find an amulet for almost any need. Soldiers and policeman (and maybe those on the other side of the law) shop for amulets to protect them from bullets and the forces of evil. (I was here in 2010, when the Thai army was shooting protesters and people on the street offered me amulets to protect me from the Army's bullets.

The lovelorn look for an amulet to help mend their broken hearts, those struggling in business shop for one to ensure their financial well being. 

It's said that you can't buy an amulet's success, you merely rent it. 

Package tourists usually don't get a chance to see the market. Their chartered bus drops them in front of the palace. They see the palace, run into Au Bon Pain (yes, that Au  Bon Pain) for a smoothie or other cold drink, then it's back on the bus and onto the next stop on the tourists' trail. 

If western tourists visit the amulet market at all, it's usually just to walk up and down the main streets that surround Wat Maharat. 

But there's a whole new world that awaits folks who venture off the main street and into the alleys between Th Mahathat (Th is the abbreviation for Thanon, the Thai word for street) and the Chao Phraya River. Small stores and workshops sell Buddhist religious materials of all sorts from amulets to texts to statues and iconography. 

It's a dark, congested space but it's one of the most interesting places I've found in a very interesting city. If you're coming to Bangkok, you owe it to yourself to visit the amulet market. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Back in Business

Nok Airlines employees celebrate the reopening of Don Mueang Airport Monday. 

This is not my first time in Bangkok. Nor my second or third. I first came to this amazing city back in 1966. My father was auditor for USOM (the forerunner to US AID) and Bangkok was our first post. 

The airport we flew in and out of then, and the airport that greeted millions of tourists, business people, and served as the hub of Thailand's air transport network for 94 years was Don Mueang. (Confusingly, also spelled Don Muang, DonMuang or DonMueang - sometimes all on the same sign.) 

Don Mueang has to be one of the oldest continuously operating airfields in the world. It opened in 1914 as a Royal Thai Air Force Base. It grew through the years as Thailand's economy and role in the world grew. Bangkok grew up around the airport, leaving no room for growth or improvement. So Airports of Thailand (AOT) built Suvarnabhumi (Swampy to locals), a new, state of the art airport in a swamp east of Bangkok. 

It's a huge sprawling place. Built to accommodate 45 million passengers a year, it's already over capacity and is expected to serve more than 52 million this year. So in the spirit of "Everything old is new again" Thai authorities and looked around and saw an underused Don Mueang airport calling to it. 

A few coats of paints, some new computers and Bangkok has a new airport. Today was its official grand reopening. Actually today was more like the 3rd grand reopening. It was closed in 2006 after Swampy opened and reopened in 2007 as a low cost carrier airport. Closed again in 2011 because of flooding that swept through central Thailand and inundated DMK, Don Mueang's IATA code. For a while the old airport served as a refugee center, until the refugees too were forced out by flood waters. After extensive repairs, it reopened early in 2012. Today marked its newest reopening as an international airport. 

Air Asia, the largest low cost carrier in Asia (and a nice airline to fly coincidently) had a huge presence at Swampy. Over the weekend they moved all of their operations from Swampy to DMK. 

Air Asia spokesmodels paraded through the terminal in outfits representing the countries Air Asia serves. Air Asia reminds me a lot of Southwest in the US. They have a certain cheekiness. 

I've flown in and out DMK a couple of times recently (though not yet on this trip). I always liked it. In 2010, when I used it, things were pretty spartan. 

Not many places to eat and not much to do but check in was easy and security was a breeze. Returning, bags were waiting for you when you got to the arrivals area. All in all a very nice experience. 

The new DMK is very modern. Lots of shopping (this is Thailand after all - shopping is an integral part of the Thai experience), lots of food. I fly out later this month - Air Asia to Hat Yai for a series of stories I want to work on in southern Thailand. It'll be interesting to see how the new Don Mueang stacks up to the old one.