Another photo project from my time in Thailand (following Ghost Tower). Bangkok used to be known as the ‘Venice of the East’ with canals – or khlongs – providing the main routes through the city. In the Nineteenth Century, wealthy citizens built houses fronting on to the canals, a few of which like Jim Thompson’s House are still there. Times have changed and many of the canals have since been filled in. A few remain and narrow khlong boats provide a faster alternative to congested streets. The only problem is that the khlongs now weave their way through slum districts with poor sanitation, and the waterways double as rubbish dumps and sewers. The smell was unpleasant, to put it mildly. I used to sometimes take the canal boat on my way home from work but I always had to have a scarf handy in case a boat came the other way and I got splashed with a faceful of fetid water.
Nonetheless, the khlongboats provided a fascinating journey. Along the way, I would get a view of canalside life. Makeshift houses were piled up almost to the edge of the water. People hung their washing out to dry from windows, along with birdcages and even the occasional fish tank, lashed securely to a railing. Old men who had got used to the smell sat out on stools on the small path alongside the canal, chatting. Teenagers and youths played takraw (kick volleyball) in occasional open spaces, where a derelict building had been knocked down, while others took bets on the outcome or spray painted walls with graffiti. I was fascinated by the takraw games in particular, and started bringing my camera with me. On my way home, I would stop off and spend half an hour before sunset taking photos of the game. During breaks, I would persuade the players to pose for photos in front of the graffiti. Here are some of my favourite photos from these visits: