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?
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.