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Portraits of Thailand

A look back at my photos from a decade ago

Story by Dustin Johnston November 10th, 2015
I taught English in the south of Thailand and my kids were always happy and enthusiastic.
I also lived in Isan (NE Thailand) and some friends took me out to the fields to show me how they harvest rice.
I was unaware at the time but the ethics of visiting Hill Tribes in the northwest is questionable. Definitely research this before you go.
I have heard these hill tribe villages compared to human zoos, where they are essentially forced to maintain the lifestyle for tourists.
Still, others say the people have embraced that their ancient customs are a tourist draw and welcome the attention and money.
The schwa became an inside joke to all of the expats in my TEFL program and was the emblem of all of our frustrations in a subpar program.
Locals were still rebuilding Ko Phi Phi months after the tsunami, but they still needed time to let loose and play some futbol.
The most popular game amongst girls at my school was a sort of reverse limbo where they tried to jump over a large rubberband.
I only taught English 3 hours a day so I spent the rest of my time at school learning Thai with this kindergarten class.
I lived with Werachai on his fruit farm. On this day he wanted to prove that he could catch dinner without a fishing pole. He was right.
I loved my students. Here's a classic Thai pose, framing their smile with their hand like that. Kinda dorky, but so cute.
This was another ethically questionable situation I found myself in, watching cockfighting in southern Thailand.
Cockfighting is even more violent and horrific than I expected.
Mon and Gap were two of my first Thai friends and they took me all over their home town of Ayuthaya.
Walking along the beach in Ko Tao, I came across this man who hid in the shade under the dock to fillet his fresh catch.
This was part of the Songkran celebration in Pai. All day long people took turns trying to box one another off the top of this bar.
This photo was taken on the Thai-Burmese border. My boat had stopped for gas and these boys were playing in the dirty gas station water.
Just outside of Kaeng Krachan National Park, my friend Wechian showed me the graves of his elders.
I later taught high school English and the katooeys in my school took every opportunity to get dressed up in wigs and makeup.
This was an odd "science" display at a Children's Day celebration. I don't know the context this was presented in but I found it odd.
My students loved taking photos so I have hundreds of them. This is one of them that I thought turned out especially well.
My friends and I found a secret swimming hole and often spent our days off swimming and relaxing there.
These are great smiles but what I love about this photo is that it shows that all the kids helped cook their lunch every day at school.
After lunch kids would often cool themselves down with water and this white powder that would keep them cool in the hot temperatures.
A student shows off the scorpion he caught on his way to school.
Footnote: Photos by Dustin Johnston // Twitter, Instagram: @DJPhotoVideo //