Ayuthaya, or, On Photography

When we last left our story, dear reader, I had traveled to Ayuthaya to see some centuries-old ruins, sightseeing by tuk tuk with some German tourists.

I spent approximately 6 hours in Ayuthaya.

In those six hours I took 404 pictures, give or take (I deleted some on the plane, so I can’t be exactly sure of my actual total for the day.)

This averages to about 67.3 pictures an hour. Which is more than a picture a minute.

So the question is:

If you (and by you I mean I) spend all your (my) time click click clicking, are you (am I) really experiencing a place and/or life?


If that place has no meaning for you anyway, can you really experience it? Or, what can your experience of it actually be?

I don’t really know anything about Thai history, beyond a bit of Lonely Planet summarizing and an excellent tour guide who broke things down for me in a relatable and interesting way. Which I promptly forgot.

Hey, it’s hard enough to absorb and remember all the details of American history, especially in my rapidly aging brain.

I wanted to go to Ayuthaya or Suhkothai because they are famous for their ruins.

I don’t know what the ruins “mean.” I don’t know what they’re ruins of (temples, palaces – but what temples and palaces? And what’s the significance of these temples and palaces?)

I took pictures of the little placards that explain what they are ruins of.  I just didn’t actually getting around to reading the little placards or their picture-selves.

The best I can tell you is there was some sort of war with Burma in – uh, the 1760’s? The Burmese destroyed things and stole the Buddha heads.


What do I know?

The ruins are pretty. Picturesque. Photographable.

So that’s what I did.

400 pictures in 6 hours.

And oh! the philosophical questions:

Does my compulsive photography keep me from connecting with a place? From getting a sense of what’s it’s really all about?

If the place has nothing but the most abstract denotations and next to no connotations (we’re back to semiotics, people, and I LOVE it) for me and my personal/national history, can it have meaning for me?

Should I have tried harder to learn about Thai history so it could have had more meaning for me?

Oh! but

They’re sooooo pretty. Picturesque. Photographable.

I do worry that I spend most of my life behind a viewfinder rather than actually seeing a place.  I take pictures of people/events/moments rather than getting to know the people, absorbing the events/moments with every fiber of my being. I do it with my friends, I do it on vacation.

Always an observer, never truly engaged.

Experiencing life through the filter of a camera isn’t actually living life.

It’s taking pictures of life.

But god! can life be pretty to look at. And…they’re ruins. It’s not like they’re doing anything.

I mean, just to twist the pretzel further, what is there to “experience” or “live” wandering among crumbling, abandoned bricks?

Ultimately all it was was a beautiful day. I’m not the best photographer, but I love the idea of composition and framing. I managed to get some lovely shots.

So at the very least, I won’t ever forget these ruins.

Even if I don’t know what it means to have seen them.

Here are some of the best photos. ‘Tis truly but a fraction. Truly.

Little Buddhas sitting under a Big Buddha

Pretty, right?

So many Buddhas. And you ain't seen nothing yet.

View from the Top

I do love a blue sky backdrop


Gate leading to nowhere...

The first of many headless Buddhas


Headless or not, they are still honored

Uh...where's my body?

oh hey, it's me

This was pretty cool...

Just in case anyone thought I was kidding about the Germans

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense, Thailand | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Ayuthaya, or, On Photography

  1. Barry Strohl

    Your cousin Lynda and I are rabid picture takes on our vacations…so you thoughts strike a chord. When I was 17 I took a 3 week hiking trip thru Switzerland without taking one picture. As I get older the memories are harder to come by (it was an awesome trip). So I say take the pictures..thaks for writting!

  2. Steve aka GuruMasterGFunk

    Simple response: Basically I think you’re the only one who can decide if taking pictures lessens the experience or if learning the history heightens it. Don’t sell yourself short, you can have wonderful experiences in every-day situations if you want, it’s all up to you, we all look for different things to excite us in our lives.

    Philosophical BS response: It seems to me like you think “living life” and “experience” have objective, limiting definitions. I think not only can they be different for everyone, but each experience has only as much value as the observer (no matter how you think about we’re all observers) chooses.
    I don’t believe there’s any objective value that lies within each individual experience or life, that people can fail to obtain. Personally though, I’m hard-pressed to agree with ANY objective value statements (all Kant aside). That’s not to say there isn’t any more potential to gain value in one experience than another, surely there’s more potential for value at a Ruin in Thailand than brushing your teeth in a hotel. I wouldn’t say “You wasted your trip to Thailand” if you hadn’t eaten authentic Thai food once during your trip, what if you HATE THAI FOOD, therefore there’s no value to gain from that experience. If you love Thai food and chose not to eat it, then I’d say there probably was some value and maybe it would’ve been smart to take the opportunity.

    If you enjoyed taking pictures that’s great, if you weren’t bothered by not reading the placards that’s fine. Did you miss out not necessarily. Me, I’m more interested in the majesty of the ruins than names and dates. Anyway all of the above is just my opinion, I’m not one to judge other people’s ideas/philosophies.

    Ok, I may or may not have gone off topic, ranted and/or not made any sense, but hey I’m trying to live up to my name! At least now you know I read and think about your posts =)

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