Let's just say I needed this trip.
The day after Christmas 2009, I hooked up with a group of 14 other photographers and set off for a 15-day journey of international photographic discovery. Destination: Northern Thailand and Laos. Our group was under the leadership and tutelage of the talented Ron Zak, a travel photography veteran who brilliantly manages to bring out the best in his students, subtly encouraging us to see the world in a new or different light.
Or maybe it was just me. I certainly was in a place where I was craving - requiring - inspiration, retrospection, creativity. And I found it. Not only in the amazing locales that we visited, but in the very group of souls with whom I shared the journey. To be surrounded by artistic, talented, interesting, smart, supportive, encouraging, new people was every bit as worthwhile as the travel. I was the new kid on the block - the rest of the group has been traveling and shooting together for years all over the world - and I thank everyone for making me feel so welcome. I dare say I've made many new friends. 15 to be exact.
That being said, the travel was what brought us all together.
Thailand was first on the docket. We weren't headed for the sun-drenched beaches of Southern Thailand, or the debauchery-filled streets of Bankok; rather, the mountainous, jungle-filled north, more attune to agriculture than tourism (a scene that's changing rapidly, but still, outside of the cities rice paddies and teak forests rule the landscape). The elevation brought us temperate weather, even cool nights; fog clung to the hills every morning, not so unlike home here in the Bay Area.
From Thailand, it was on to the even more remote and undiscovered Laos for the bulk of the trip. Our initial introduction to the country was via a three day longboat ride down hundreds of miles of the majestic Mekong River, where hours would go by without so much as a sign of human habitation. The country's communist moniker, the People's Democratic Republic (PDR) of Lao, is also affectionately refered to as "Please Don't Rush" Lao... and that pretty much says it all. As a land that's only been open to tourism since 1990 as a result of economic necessity, it is by far the least traveled nation in Southeast Asia. But that is changing swiftly. I urge you to get there sooner rather than later; I understand the sleepy country I witnessed is a bustling metropolis compared to only a few short years ago.
The time went by too quickly - but thankfully, I came home with many megabytes of digital memories; pixels that will remind me of the phenomenal adventure in my travel-less months ahead.
I plan to make a book with some of the images featured in this blog (stay tuned), as well as make prints available for sale. So if you see anything you like, just let me know. Gotta fund my next adventure somehow! :) The group will also be having an exhibit sometime this Spring in Benicia. Again, stay tuned!