For anyone who’s walked the streets of Bangkok you’ll know it to be a heady mix of provocative temptations and rambling village corners that haven’t changed much in centuries. The little taste of authentic Thailand with its torn tarpaulins, sizzling wok’s and toddlers running around way past bedtime is what makes Asia so fascinating. In a city like Bangkok, we flock not just because of the cosmopolitan easiness but for these bourgeoning slices of culture that still live and thrive today. If you’re a photographer, the snapshots are everywhere, but with a few short days in this eccentric city we’ve narrowed down your search. Here’s our pick of best street photography spots in Bangkok.

Monks waiting at a station in Bangkok

Train spotting

If you’re a self-confessed people watcher, Hua Lamphong Railway Station is a great place to start. You’ll see a myriad of people coming and going, people with loved ones saying hello and goodbye. It’s a central station for people catching the daily train to other Thai cities and a collective for the diversity of Thai culture. Monks sitting in both quiet contemplation and happy chatter, kids coming and going, trolleys loaded with fresh local fruits and grandmother’s watching the world go by. It has a huge waiting area and is easily accessible by the MRT or one of the many tuk tuks crossing the city to take you anywhere.

China down town 

Just edging the station is Chinatown, and a familiar and reliable spot for Street Photographers all over the world. Bangkok’s Chinatown won’t disappoint. At the Chinese Temple you’ll easily lose yourself in watching the devoted of Tao, Buddhist and Hindu faiths bow in prayer. 

The back streets brim over with market stores, touristy gimmicks and a frenetic energy that fills every frame. You might see a portrait photoshoot happening or find your own people pictures with street side facials or waxing done in the back lanes. The street side carts spill with sugar cane, melons and nashi pears but the real treat is the locally brewed Thai coffee; its cold, sweet, strong and delicious.  

Catch the light and shade of the curious alley ways or keep meandering and you’ll find wholesale markets, open cafes, fishmongers, dried fruit hanging from umbrella stands and butcher shops. Often you’ll see a huddle of elderly ladies catching up and giggling over steaming jasmine tea. Again, take the MRT or a tuk tuk. It’s the best way to navigate around the back streets and by making friends with the tuk tuk driver, he organised a ride for me the next day to the see floating markets

Floating markets

The first time I floated through a river market, I was caught between a sense of awe and wanting to buy everything believing it would help the local village somehow. In Bangkok, the main floating market is about an hour and half from central Bangkok and for a while, appears like any gentle river run. Reach the centre’s hub, and it’s a chaotic and noisy assemble of wobbly stores selling clothes, handicrafts, toys and even artwork. You’ll get everything there, including snapshots that belong to a different time. 

In the middle of the markets, a traffic jam of boats collided with everyone trying to push through. As a tourist you can hire your own boat and while floating along, select freshly cooked grilled meats, shop for hats or fresh coconut water to quench your thirst. It’s the ultimate in drive through service with an atmosphere that’s utterly absorbing. 

On the muddy river banks village homes stand precariously on stilts hand cut from the backwater jungles. People are doing all the ordinary things that take place everywhere in the world but as you watch life unfold in the shallows, it’s truly captivating. It’s hot from daybreak to well after dark and finding a chilled beer is not a problem on the boat. Keep in mind it’s best to wear a mask as the fumes of the motors can be quite strong.

Quick tips

It’s the gritty backstreets that always show a city’s character. These are the places where you’ll find the unexpected and surprising, the humility of ordinary people and the boisterous colours and sound of trade. It’s where there’s always something to see, where every frame tells a story. Sometimes you’ll to find the best street photography spots in Bangkok by taking a guided photo walk. 

Erawan Temple in the heart of Bangkok attracts huge numbers of locals and tourists, lining up to offer flowers and burn joss sticks to honour Lord Vishnu. Traditional dances are performed outside the temple in the evening which can be seen by walking the nearby skywalk. As the light dips and the evening fires glow, you can capture some beautiful perspectives of the rhythmic spectacle below.

Even though Thai people are very friendly and don’t mind you taking photos, it’s always respectful to ask them first – especially older people and people of faith. A little thank you afterwards goes a long way. If you’re shooting images of children show parents the photo you took, they’re always grateful.

You might also like to read our guide to exploring Southeast Asia or a light-hearted look at the things we didn’t do in Thailand.

Olives hanging from an Olive tree

If Mudgee was a novel, its early pages would tell the story of a pretty bushland valley, accidentally discovered. Curious Bathurst pioneers heard from the local Aboriginals of a “fine country” which lay to the north. They were intrigued enough to send out a settler’s party and 500 cows. Flip back the pages even further and the Aboriginal people of the region already knew there was something special about their aptly named “nest in the hills”. Deriving also from the Wiradjuri term “mou-gee” meaning “contented”, nothing was lost in translation here. While this charming Aussie town is already firmly planted on the tourist map, there’s a lot of reasons to rediscover Mudgee and countryside contentment. 

grapes hanging from the vines

Peace, love and an olive branch

Almost hidden in the green rural fabric of Mullamuddy, there’s an olive grove just 10 minutes from the approach to Mudgee. Home to an elderly Greek couple who have lovingly planted 2,000 olive trees and 5,000 pomegranates, you know right away this is the real deal. 

As Maria opened jars of fresh olives and dolloped pomegranate syrup on spoons for us to try, she talked of her families’ escape from their homeland in Cyprus in the Turkish War of 1974. What a road they have traversed, leaving everything behind in search of peace and opportunity in the most foreign of lands. I suspect in their olive grove they have found a little piece of the home they left behind. Aril Estate is open to the public 7 days, offering fresh seasonal produce and is renowned for its rich olive oils.

Under the harvest moon

Wineries and Cellar doors and have been opening in rural spots everywhere. Across the Blue Mountains in the Central Tablelands, the vineyards of Mudgee make for tasty competition to the famed Hunter Valley. While some were panning for gold, others were bottling it and by the close of the 19thcentury, Mudgee was home to 55 wineries. What’s interesting about winemaking in the region today, and a perfect way to rediscover Mudgee, is the shift to biodynamic, lunar and organic harvesting. It’s a bold move from the traditions of viticultural heritage of winemaking but then, so is their Merlot and Shiraz. Known for predominantly red varietals, family winemaking has characterised the mid-western wine region since the 1850’s .

Spend an easy afternoon wine-tasting while sampling rustic platters of locally grown produce overlooking the bush chapel at Lowes or follow the country road up the gentle slopes of Moothi. Or simply rediscover Mudgee at your own pace. The winding country roads will carry you across a patchwork of farmlands, past picture book amber haystacks and through abundant vineyards.

Gin-Gin

Any good old country town worth its salt will have a pub on every corner. The really inviting ones will have a Gin Bar too. Tucked away in the downstairs corner of the Oriental Hotel, the setting is quaint and the gin exceptional. Without doubt it was high competition between the elderflower and olive leaf extract for best gin of the evening. Further ahead in Mudgee is the Baker Williams Distillery, a micro distillery with macro flavour that savours a passion for handcrafted spirits capturing the zesty regional tastes. And yes, there’s also a pub on every Mudgee corner.

Gulgong gold

You could almost hear that singular guitar twang hang in the air; see the scuffed boots shuffling the red dust in the town of Wyatt Earp. That’s how western, Gulgong in Mid-Western NSW feels. The authors of Gulgong’s history are a mix of local Aboriginal people, early settlers and the rush of Chinese immigrants who came in search of gold. A quick thumb through the tales of Australia’s recent history and you’ll see what’s left behind is a township with over 130 heritage listed buildings and a gold rush legacy which yielded over 32 tons of gold in the 1870s. Today, the heritage skylines arch into a street trimmed with bakeries, coffee shops and eclectic bric-a-brac stores where local honey is sold alongside violins and vinyl records.

Rediscover more of Mudgee here including accommodation options. You might like to also read about the wineries in the Hunter Valley here.

sunrise at Lake Macquarie

Always ask a local. Ours this week happens to be a lady quite in the know. Having lived on the gentle slopes of Lake Macquarie for some 47 years, she knows a thing or two about why the lake district is such a perfect spot to unwind for a day, a week or a lifetime. Her bayside B&B Overnight Reflections is perched right on the water where you can hear the soft waves lap against the jetty. There’s a little stretch of lawn decked with colourful chairs just waiting for you to open a good book and a bottle of blanc.

As the mid-morning trade wind blow in, the whisper of thin clouds pulls westwards across the sky and the lake chops and changes. I love places that remind me they were there long before we were. I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to explore this vicinage of the Central Coast and now that we have, here are the 5 things to know before you go:

1. The largest lake in the southern hemisphere

Firstly, Lake Macquarie is vast. Being 3 times the size of Sydney Harbour it takes a good hour to drive around, longer if you stop at some of the little townships tempting you along the way. Knowing this helps you navigate your holiday and pinpoint where to stay. With some expected Covid restrictions, you’ll need to plan ahead for boat and water sport hire. But on a whim, you’ll always find a grassy patch on the lake’s edge. Towards the ocean, the jagged headland of Redhead Beach, rocky outcrops and cavernous stones of Caves Beach edge the bay where surfers sit on the clear wild waves. 

Sunrise on Lake Macquarie

2. City of villages

While your choice of holiday spots might land you in a locale unfamiliar to you, as your criss cross the more familiar towns, you’ll pass dozens of little villages. It’s helpful to know before you go which is which and who’s who of the lake’s little black book. As you drive north into the city of Lake Macquarie Toronto offers plenty of café’s, restaurants and shopping. Along the esplanade of Warners Bay the line of stores and cafés provide a picture perfect view of the water. It’s here the Sculpture trail, cycling and walking tracks attract tourists, evening joggers and playful pups.

3. Nature walks calling

Offering stunning views of Lake Macquarie and nearby Hunter, Mount Sugarloaf gives nature lovers the choice of several trails leading from the car park to the picnic areas and amazing lookouts from the incline along the summit. Starting at Teralba, Yuelarbah Track leads you to the shores of Lake Macquarie, heading along Speers Point and continues past the Warners Bay foreshore. The trail finishes at the Glenrock State Conservation Area where you can soak up views of the lagoon and surrounding native bushland. 

Green Point Foreshore Reserve is one of Lake Macquarie’s most scenic natural attractions. From Shores Way in Belmont you can follow the walking track taking in the Lake as well as the rainforest. There’s also the Belmont Lagoon Walk tucked between the ocean and the Lake and home to a large variety of birds and marine life. 

Discover more nature walking tracks here: https://lakemacholidayparks.com.au/lake-macquarie/attractions-and-events/explore-these-scenic-walking-trails

Readhead Beach, Central Coast

4. Chasing sunsets

You don’t have to be a keen photographer to go in search of the setting sun. For many, it’s the quintessential way to soak up the ambiance of a holiday. Listed in Australia’s 101 Best Beaches, Catherine Hill Bay has clearly earned its place. The coastal stretch and village forming Lake Macquarie’s southern peninsula is also a heritage-listed mining village.

The wharf at Belmont with its picturesque jetty, the 100 year old wooden (and now much loved) shark tower at Redhead Beach, or the sun dipping into the horizon at Warners Bay esplanade make wonderful backdrops. An evening walk on Mount Sugarloaf during the golden hour is magnificent!

5. Food, glorious food!

When you find a beachside café overlooking a roaring sea, it kind of feels like an unexpected prize. Fortunately, two of the best views of the coast also boast tempting bites at Red Head Beach Surf Lifesaving Club and Caves Coastal Bar & Bungalows. For a more café feel, try Canon at Warners Bay, Casanova Italian at Toronto’s, Crusoes on the Lake at Belmont or nearby Sesame’s for an Asian fusion twist. If you’re looking for a taste of the familiar, Kotara’s roof level of Westfields is beautifully decked out with open restaurants (Thai, Greek, Steakhouse) under fairy-lit treetops. 

Our pick? Takeaway or a picnic on the grassy knoll at Rathmines or Caves Beach. It reminds me when I asked our B&B host what was it that makes the lake so special for her. “There’s never a crowd” she replied. It’s also what makes it a truly peaceful getaway for many Sydney-siders too. Really, I can’t think of a more compelling reason to go. See, the locals always know best.

Sunset at Redhead Beach

Like to read more about our favourite Hunter Valley getaways?

As the saying goes, a rolling stone gathers no Moss Vale deep in the Southern Highlands is just that, a town going places. Edged in by thick green pines, the cooler climate even in springtime is like a pretty English summer. Evergreens, hedges and conifers lining the hillside and pops of tulips and daisies fill the wild winter landscape, front yards and streetside parks. It’s as pretty as a picture but look beyond and you’ll find a town and region still on the move.

On the village greens

There’s no shortage of towns and villages to wander around once you pass through Mittagong, about 90 minutes inland south of Sydney and they’re each made unique by the abundance of local produce, artisan cafes and handmade goodies. Some like Bowral, are full to the brim of restaurant choices, designer tourist stores and mainstream brands and others home to a corner General Store and one Pub. Moss Vale on the other hand, being a little deeper into the Highlands feels more like you’ve landed in an upmarket country town rather than gone in search of one.

Fresh character, old charm

Moss Vale has a little quirky side too with a traditional 1950’s style US diner sitting alongside highbrow homeware stores and artisan cafes. The retro inspired Wine Mosaic Lounge incidentally is straight out of the pop art era, lovingly renovated from the original Bank of NSW built in 1958. With original artwork, it has private dining in what was once the vault. Within minutes walk to Main Street The Old Nunnery has been watching the passings of village life since it’s days as a Catholic Dominican Nunnery in the early 1900’s and is now a contemporary and welcoming B&B.

There’s no question that Moss Vale is home to lavish homesteads and the retired wealthy, but unlike other upmarket small townships, it’s not trying hard to be what’s it’s not. And so you get a warm vibe from the locals who are chatty and interesting, with stories from their animated history and lively rural past.

Southern comfort

The greater surrounds of Moss Vale take you past green dairy pastures east towards Berrima or south west along the meandering road winding into picturesque Kangaroo Valley. The wooden suspension bridge overhanging Upper Kangaroo Valley River or the single lane stone turret bridge as you enter the Valley tell the story of settlers past. You’ll find sandy spots by the side of the gurgling river and feel a million miles away from the ordinary.

Even as a small township Moss Vale punches way above its weight when it comes to eating choices. Thai Som Boon is better than your local favourite Thai dining experience, there’s an authentic Tapas Bar and the renown one hat restaurant Birch, set in the quaint old Post Office. With a spontaneous mid week getaway in mind, you’ll enjoy the spoils of fine wine and food in the surrounds of mythical forests and the gentle countryside.

You might also enjoy Backyard Backpacking to discover more local getaways close to Sydney.

Cultural mis-appropriation

I think I might have just stumbled across the most crazy buzz phrase in my news feed. And by crazy, I mean #hastheworldgonemad? Is nothing sacred from the ambush of political correctness anymore? Before the fun police stole our personalities (and by fun police, I mean a teeny tiny minority of radicals who are determined never to smile again), there once was a time when we went to fancy dress parties.

If the theme was to dress up as something starting with H (and it’s just an example people), someone would slip into a Hawaiian hula getup; you’d find someone dressed as a hippie, maybe even a 2 piece horses’ outfit. Despite being bent over all night, stuffed into a velour pinto costume, even the wearers of said costume never seemed to mind or feel offended. But that grass skirt and plastic Hawaiian Lei you were wearing, well, the new founded cultural appropriation trustees must have been tripping over themselves. 

There it is, another slogan sitting delicately on the very fine line between diversity & inclusion and bad taste. I don’t feel offended when I see other people wearing shorts and flip-flops. You could argue this is absolutely the cultural norm for anyone spending summer in Australia. But hey, knock yourselves out. I don’t feel violated that this icon of cultural heritage is now widely acclaimed as a mandatory must-have.

This week, the ever so talented Adele, dressed up with a with a Brazilian twist to attend a Brazilian Festival held in London. She had her hair in a bunch of cute top knots (bantu style) and heaven forbid, a bikini top with a Brazilian flag. I know, stop the press. It’s bordering on shameful. Quite ok to see a flag printed on t-shirts, cups, sports gear and caps, but on a bikini? It’s horrifying how debased Brazilians must feel that a multi award winning Grammy songstress would want to show support for a community clearly loved and respected by her. This would have been considered nothing more than a respectful cultural nod in years gone by.

The sombre brigade would have been beside themselves if they’d seen me when I lived in India. Swirling around shopping malls in fuchsia and emerald lenghas, wearing a crimson saree to a wedding. When westerners parade around in elegant Indian attire, it must drive the locals mad. We anyway look like members of the East India Company and should probably try to downplay our pomp and bad reputation. I didn’t do this. Instead, mustering up all the Bollywood bling I could find, I loved fashioning myself in the fabulous extravaganza of Indian clothes. No one ever gave me the death stare. Instead, they embraced it in the same way I embraced India. 

Until recently, I thought this natural curiosity and celebration of each other’s culture was just what humans did. Explore, learn, understand, adapt, celebrate. If we were all really on the inclusive bandwagon, our global kumbaya would be in full swing. Instead, cultural appropriation is yet another page in the ever growing rule book of glum. (And by glum, I mean how to live in the 2020’s.) I’m confused as to where we draw the line. Though I’m not the least bit offended that Adele’s yellow feathered cape looks just like the one I’m planning on wearing to my next zoom catch-up.

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