Last Year in Thailand

December 5, 2015

An SLR680 Polaroid Adventure

Around this time last year I was sitting in an airport in Chiang Mai, scarfing a ridiculously spicy cup of MAMA instant noodles and getting ready to board a plane to Cambodia. It wasn’t my first time in Southeast Asia, but it’s been hard to write about nonetheless.

My first visit was straight out of college at the end of 2008, where Chris and I spent two months wandering Northern Thailand and a bit of Laos. That was my second time out of my home country, and the moment when it really hit me just how badly I wanted travel to be a fixture in my life. Something to save for; something to chase after. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for us… There’s nothing more valuable than getting out of our beloved bubbles from time to time.

Under those terms, coming back to a place I’d already been to seemed a bit silly when there’s a literal world out there that I still need to explore. But I’d be a liar if I said that I didn’t eat Thai food twice a week as a way of keeping a firm grip on my memories, or that I didn’t spend the last 5 years not-so-secretly aching to go back. Fate has a funny way of giving you what you ask for, and when friends of ours were placed in Chiang Mai for a teaching program there was no question that we’d be visiting them.

We indulged in old favorites like AUM Vegetarian in Chiang Mai, or seeing movies at MBK in Bangkok, but for the most part we tried to avoid getting stuck in the tracks of the past. With two more friends from home in tow, there were an awful lot of new experiences for a place I had previously spent two months in: Loi Krathong, Chai Lai Orchid, Pai, Koh Mak and eventually a jaunt to Cambodia. We saw and did amazing things, for sure, but so many of my most treasured memories make for terrible stories because they’re all full of mundane details like walking down Huaykaew Road, chatting over honey lime slushies at Pun Pun, or popping into the market to stock back up on Chang soda water. Of course, it’s the five people I did those mundane things with that made this return to Thailand that much more satisfying.

All of the photos in this post were shot on my trusty Polaroid SLR680, armed to the teeth with Impossible Project film. I think I shot around 15 packs over the entire 6 week adventure, in addition to a lot of medium format and 35mm film. It’s funny, as I get deeper into my career as a wedding photographer I find myself always reaching to preserve my own memories on film. Suddenly, a moment in time becomes a treasured momento to be revisited every morning when I wake up and make a cup of coffee, rather than sitting on my computer begging for attention.

A year later and I still have a handful of the following images strung about in my apartment.

Chris relaxing in a hammock on Koh Mak in the Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Palm trees in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

A bodega cat on Koh Mak in the Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Swimming in the Gulf of Thailand on Koh Mak | SLR680 Polaroid

Pineapple and Rubber tree farms on Koh Mak, Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

A rubber farm on Koh Mak, Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

A shipwreck on the sands of Koh Mak in the Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Two sunsets on Koh Mak in the Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Stray cat on Koh Mak, Gulf of Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Eating food at the Farmer's Land Crack in Pai, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Chris feeding an elephant bananas in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Bananas for sale in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Sunset over Pai Canyon in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

The bridge leading to Chai Lai Orchid, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Elephants at Chai Lai Orchid | SLR680 Polaroid

Chris visiting elephants at Chai Lai Orchid | SLR680 Polaroid

Masi-Da, the resident cat at Chai Lai Orchid | SLR680 Polaroid

Stray animals in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Stray dogs in rural Chiang Mai, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Statues inside a temple in rural Chiang Mai | SLR680 Polaroid

Three brooms at a temple in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Brooms and an open door at a wat in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Shrines from Wats in Chiang Mai | SLR680 Polaroid

Polaroids from Doi Suthep | SLR680 Polaroid

Ganesh statue at the Chiang Mai White House | SLR680 Polaroid

Round frame polaroids from Chiang Mai, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Graffiti of the Thai Junta General | SLR680 Polaroid

Pile of garbage at the Loi Krathong festival | SLR680 Polaroid

Buddha statues inside Doi Suthep | SLR680 Polaroid

Offerings in front of a Ganesh statue in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Sending off a wish lantern for Loi Krathong | SLR680 Polaroid

Loi Krathong Celebrations | SLR680 Polaroid

Loi Krathong Celebrations | SLR680 Polaroid

Miles eating meat on a stick in Chiang Mai | SLR680 Polaroid

Tourist family on a motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Tuk tuks in Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

Motorbike traffic in Chiang Mai, Thailand | SLR680 Polaroid

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Hi! I’m thinking of taking my SLR670m to south east asia next year – how did you store the film while you travelled? And what about the photos once you took them?


Hi Leigh! I definitely could’ve taken more caution with my film. Since I was on such a long, rugged trip I realized a lot of circumstances would be out of my hands so I rolled with the punches and just did my best to keep my bags from sitting in direct sun, or unnecessarily hot temperatures. Most guesthouses, even on the cheap end, have some kind of air conditioning so once I checked in somewhere I’d usually leave my film in the room. Other than that, I just stored all the developed photos in empty film boxes in my backpack and scanned them all as soon as I got home.

That said, this trip was nearly 2 years ago and TIP has come a long way with their film’s chemistry in that time. A lot of the film posted here is old stock, so you might have better luck than I did!

One last thing: I did mail some high ISO 35mm film home from a post office in Chiang Mai and it wasn’t terribly expensive — might be a good option if you’re worried about film degradation!

[…] Greece until the Universe let this adventure fall into my lap. I’d just gotten home from six weeks in SE Asia when Stefanie’s annual international meet-up with her brother fell through. The next thing I […]

Kim. I think you should make a book of ALL THE CATS. Not just these cats. Have you already done this?! You might have!!!

I did once about five years ago, but that was when my cat files were just beginning to blossom. I think you might be right — a sequel is in order!