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Ithidej Sarunsiri, who works as a tour guide in Bangkok, finds a place in the shade at the Wat Arun Temple to hide from the hot Thai sun on January 3, 2013.
After a financial crisis hit Thailand in 1997, he decided to become a tour guide.
A strong believer in Buddhism, he pays respect in each temple he visits on his tours through Bangkok.
Sarunsiri was born on a Friday which, in Thai Buddhism, is represented by a standing Buddha statue with hands crossed over the chest (second statue from the right).
Sarunsiri lived as a monk in the Wat Pho or Reclining Buddha Temple in the Thai capital for about two months, as it is common for many Thai men.
Standing in the Wat Pho, Sarunsiri remembers his time as a monk, during which he sometimes had to carry a rather heavy cauldron in front of his belly, which he says made him “understand pregnant women.”
Sarunsiri believes that Emerald Buddha helped him to get his license to be a tour guide, so he pays respect to Buddha in every temple he visits.
A variety of statues of Emerald Buddha, who Sarunsiri thinks helped him get his license, can be seen throughout the year in the Grand Palace.
Sarunsiri changed his name from “Chongchit” – meaning “very peaceful, very calm” –to “Ithidej”, meaning “very powerful”.
Sarunsiri poses in front of statues in the Grand Palace during a tour.
A bracelet in King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birth color yellow commemorates the monarch’s birthday on December 5, 2012.
Sarunsiri thinks that Bhumibol (pictured in the middle) is a good king, because he teaches people how to do things themselves instead of simply giving them what they ask for.
Sarunsiri wishes for luck by donating money in the Wat Pho Temple.
After his father’s business suffered from the aftermath of the ’97 financial crisis, Sarunsiri was first hesitant about becoming a tour guide.
Now he entertains the tourists who book him as a private guide by explaining the long Thai history and pointing out details in old paintings, like a scene depicting a fight between an ‘evil’ monkey and his opponent.
“Long story,” he often says when asked about more complicated historical events, and he takes great pleasure in telling those lengthy tales.
Text and photos by Solaire Hauser
BANGKOK – Being a tour guide means telling a lot of stories. Sometimes, however, it is the storytellers themselves who share details about their lives.
Ithidej Sarunsiri has been a tour guide in Bangkok since 1998, and it wasn’t exactly the career he had always imagined for himself.
“Life is easy for Thai people,” he says, because the weather stays sunny almost throughout the year. However, in terms of his professional career, life did not always seem so bright.
After working in his father’s business for a few years, he eventually had to look for a new job when the Thai-based company suffered a hard blow during the financial crisis of the year 1997.
Even though becoming a tour guide did not seem like the best option to him back then, there were not many other choices available. So he started his training and began to pray to Buddha to help him get his license.
Now Sarunsiri walks tourists around the most famous sights Bangkok has to offer and explains their history to them. “I keep details like a library,” he says with a laugh as he turns to a giant golden Buddha statue to explain the story behind its creation.