(Click here to read Part 1.)
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.
Ho Jeon Pak collects small fish and shrimp in front of his stilt house (left) in Tai O.
After a few hours in the muddy water, he walks back to his home.
Ho cleans his shoes and scissors in front of his house in Tai O.
His equipment has weathered many a day of wading through the mud.
In recent years, the amount of fish in the Tai O waters has gradually declined, according to the village’s former police officer Tsong.
After finishing his work, Ho relaxes on a porch close to his home in Tai O on a Sunday afternoon.
Ho and his wife have decorated the walls of their home with family pictures. Ho is the tenth of 12 siblings, who, according to one of his sisters, all have more than 10 children.
Ho and his wife, however, have ‘only’ seven kids. None of them wants to take over as a fisherman, but some of them take part in the dragon boat race held in Tai O in early June.
The training for the race is one of the rare moments when Ho and his family get to hold a big family dinner together in Tai O village.
Even though the population is growing older and professional fishermen are scarce, Tai O has still kept its charm as a fishing village, attracting visitors from Hong Kong and abroad.
Text and photos by Solaire Hauser
HONG KONG – Wading through the dark brown muddy ground, Ho Jeon Pak is looking for shrimp. The villager, who is currently in his seventies, collects the small sea creatures, as well as tiny fish, simply for fun and to eat them.
“There is nothing else to do here,” says his wife.
She and Ho have been living in the Tai O fishing village on Lantau Island in Hong Kong for many years. Before his retirement about 16 years ago, Ho used to work as a fisherman, just like many other men in the small village. But now, there is hardly anything left to catch.
“I quit fishing when I was about 40,” he says. “No fish for us anymore.”
Taxi drivers in Hong Kong are increasingly feeling the effects of the inflation on their profession and demanding a rise in their fares.
Red urban taxis and green New Territories cabs are waiting for passengers at a taxi stand in the Sha Tin district.
The fare varies between the different types of taxis; green taxis charge HK$ 16.50 for the first two kilometers, red ones HK$ 20.
A cab driver is waiting in line at a taxi stand in the Wan Chai district on January 30, 2013.
Full-time taxi drivers work up to ten hours a day, starting around 7 a.m.
Ma Kai Chung has been a taxi driver in Hong Kong for about three to four years.
He uses his break to clean the car, which the drivers are usually required to do themselves.
Ma says that he makes about HK$ 600-800 on an average day.
He reckons that the money he makes right now is enough to earn him a living.
New Territories taxi drivers said they might join the fare increase request if it gets approved, according to an SCMP report.
Chow Chi Leung, who insisted on not being photographed, says that he currently spends most money for oil and the fee for renting his cab.
When a car needs to be fixed, that is paid for by the taxi company, Chow says.
Vincent Lau, who has been driving his taxi for ten years, says that the planned raise will not make that much of a difference, because the inflation is too strong.
However, he adds that “two dollars are better than nothing.”
At the moment, the drivers are still waiting for a decision to be made about the fare increase.
Until it is made, urban taxis will continue to serve most of Hong Kong at their current fare rate, which varies according to their passengers’s destination.
Text and photos by Solaire Hauser
HONG KONG – Easily distinguishable from normal cars in most cities, taxis come in different colors. In Hong Kong their signature colors are red, blue and green, depending on which area they are serving.
Drivers of the red cars, which are also known as urban taxis, have recently been on the news due to a discussion about an increase of the taxi fare.
At the moment, most drivers earn around HK$ 300-400 on an average day. Poon Shu Keung, who has been a cab driver for 20 years, thinks that the current price is acceptable. “Not too much, not too little,” he says.
On the contrary, cab driver Chow Chi Leung says that almost half of that money needs to be spent on oil and the renting fee for the car.
What urban taxi drivers are demanding now, in order to solve this problem, is a HK$ 2-increase in the taxi fare, according to a report in The South China Morning Post. They are also asking for an additional 10 cents for every 200 meters.
There have been a number of fare increases in recent years to deal with this situation. Whether this one will be approved or turned down remains to be seen.