I think it’s safe to say that wanderlust is in my genes. As a graduation gift, my great aunt gave me something I’ll treasure forever: a stack of original photographs she took when she visited Bangkok in the early ‘70s. I recognized all of the iconic landmarks from the travel books I was reading. There were photos of Wat Pho, the Chao Phraya River, and the Grand Palace. I love these photographs because they reflect so much character. Faded and aged, each holds a precious memory. I can still read the date printed on the side of each photo: 1972. Coincidentally, my great aunt and I were both in our early 20’s when we visited Thailand.
My excitement grew with each story she shared about her own trip to Bangkok, almost 45 years ago. The photos came to life as she recounted little details about each one. She told me about how dark the water was as she floated down the river on the way to the Grand Palace, how heavy and humid the air was, how friendly and joyful the locals were. I imagined her rowing down the Chao Phraya in a rickety canoe, befriending locals who had never met a foreigner before. What an adventure it must have been, before cell phones and language translation apps, relying only on gestures to break through the language barrier. I couldn’t wait to explore the Land of Smiles and see how my modern experience compared to hers.
Inspired by these beautiful photos and the stories they carried, I decided to recreate them as a surprise for my aunt. In some ways, my travel experiences were very different from hers. Instead of rowing down the river a rickety canoe, I rode in a motorized boat with other tourists. Instead of using gestures to communicate, I found that most Thai locals spoke a little English. We laughed together as I tried to speak Thai, and used Google translate on our phones to communicate. The Grand Palace and Wat Pho were much more crowded than they were when my aunt visited. But some things remained the same--the timeless beauty of the architecture, the warm smiles of the locals, the thrill of exploring a new place.
My friend and I had a ball exploring the beautiful Grand Palace and temples through my aunt’s photos. One of my favorite things about recreating them was the way it helped me connect with locals. I didn’t quite anticipate how eager people would be to help me and my friend find the places in the pictures. Palace guards, tour guides and even other tourists were excited to help us, and wanted to hear more about what we were doing. It felt like a scavenger hunt to find the exact spots those photos were snapped over 40 years ago.
Not only did this little photography adventure help me connect with locals and other tourists, but it also helped me connect with my aunt on a deeper level. I loved visiting the same places she visited, and picturing what it must have felt like to be there four decades ago. My aunt is a strong, adventurous, spirited woman and is such an inspiration in my life. She started traveling before it was common for women to travel solo, and I love hearing her talk about her experiences visiting big cities and remote villages in every corner of the world. She embodies boldness and grace, and has inspired me to chase my own dreams. It was an amazing experience to follow in her footsteps in such a tangible way.
To read about all of my adventures in Thailand, click here.
Thanks for stopping by. A little about me — I have a latte each morning and drink about 7 cups of tea a day (not exaggerating.) I live in Atlanta where I'm going to law school. I like long distance running and I love my city and I love exploring our beautiful earth. I believe in following our passions & being free.
I started this blog to document and share my favorite moments while traveling. This is a place where I process my ideas, share the aches and joys of my heart, speak truth, and shine light on the beauty I see in the world.
I've realized that what I probably love most about traveling is the same thing I love about writing — the way it connects me to myself and other people. I hope as you read my words, you feel connected to our shared humanity.
Thank you for reading. :)
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