Thailand

posted in GH

Thailand

Update: My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all the people who thought of me and prayed for me, and especially to my financial supporters: Sylvia/Matt, Veda/Jake, Kim ‘rents, Debbie, Jimmy, Jinyoung, Christine/Richard, Chung ‘rents, Jane, Anne/James, Ali, Leslie/Austin, Susie, Jane/John, Ambra/Andre, and Esther/Mike. You made this trip possible for me, and for that I’m eternally grateful. :.)

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Where do I start? So much happened during my trip to Thailand that I’m still in the midst of processing everything. It feels as though I’ve waken up from a bad dream of seeing real people live in such a way that nobody should. It’s one thing to hear about it, but it’s something else to actually see it firsthand and it just breaks you.

I’ve been having trouble expressing my thoughts and feelings into words and while editing these images, it felt like something was pressing against my lungs, making it hard for me to breathe.

Right when we got to Thailand, our team hit the ground running, er sprinting more like it. Our schedules were filled back-to-back-to-back with visiting businesses, factories, churches, bars, night strips, night markets, a small village and an orphanage all over five different cities in Thailand.

I photographed nine consecutive days and nights. There was some supernatural help right there because I’m usually wiped out after one wedding. Personally, it was a challenge to balance listening, learning, brainstorming, giving input, being in the moment, while also documenting all of it.

Our trip dealt with a lot of heaviness, but was sprinkled with moments of joy and hope. It helped to be surrounded by a group of amazing, passionate, and fun people.

The lowest part of my trip was after walking the streets of Pattaya, Rachel, Rhonna and I were walking down the hallway to our hotel rooms, and a man in his late 60s or older was walking down the same hall into a room with a Thai girl in her teens. Excuse my language, but I just wanted to kick him in the balls! The highlight of my trip was a spontaneous elephant riding adventure in a jungle!

We were asked to bring only a carry-on for our trip so I was forced to streamline my equipment. Coming from a girl who always shoots with two camera bodies and 4-5 different lens, this was not an easy feat. All images were shot with a Canon 5D Mark II and a 16-35mm f/2.8L lens. It was really hard to narrow down but below is just a small sample.

(below) A portrait of the world’s longest reigning current monarch, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thailand’s currency, baht.

Thailand & Trip

(below) It’s inevitable for a bunch of Seattleites to make Starbucks the first stop in the morning. It was so needed though because the estimated total travel time from departure from SeaTac to arrival at the Bangkok guesthouse was 27 hours.

Thailand & Trip

(below) I can’t confirm this, but I think there are more motorcycles than cars in Thailand. You’ll often see more than one person on one than not. Someone spotted a whole family piled onto one!

Thailand & Trip

(below) We had to use outhouses at Phimai Christian Centre which reminded me of my younger days when I lived in Korea.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Phimai Historical Park in Nakhon Ratchasima. The ruins were from the 11th century AD.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Home group in a remote village of 30 homes.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) One of the ladies working at a silk factory. They work very long days in the heat with no air conditioning, doing physical labor. Wage is 170 baht per day, equivalent to $4-$5 US… so, about the cost of a Starbucks drink.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Driving from Khorat back to Bangkok, normally a 4 hour drive, but even longer because of the “red shirt” protests, even involving blood.

Thailand & Trip

(below) Boat ride on the river in Bangkok that one of the James Bond movies was filmed on.

Thailand & Trip

(below) Since Thailand is made up of approximately 95% Buddhists, you see monks in random places.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Obama siting in Thailand.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) A beautiful city on the outside, but on the inside, Pattaya is predominantly dependent on sex tourism, which causes the human trafficking. Our translators told us that pretty much anything and everything goes and no one does anything about it.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Young Thai girl waiting while her 70-something year old “boyfriend” gets a feet fish spa. The fish eat the dead skin cells. Ew to all of the above.

Thailand & Trip

(below) A man’s best friend who is sedated in order to make some money.

Thailand & Trip

(below) Walking around, people constantly get in your face with these explicit menus.

Thailand & Trip

(below) Live pole dancing from the window.

Thailand & Trip

(below) Do they look like they want to be there? Imagine if one of them were YOUR daughter or sister or friend. To a lot of people in Thailand, they are.

Thailand & Trip

(below) She’s not really a she. Holding hands down the street with the guy to “her” left.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Girls this age should be sleeping by this time, not working on the streets. :(

Thailand & Trip

(below) A shirt that says it all.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) A few of the guys and I went to visit the local orphanage. I’ve always wanted to adopt and seeing these precious children’s faces confirmed my heart even more.

Thailand & Trip

(below) When it was time for us to leave, this girl wouldn’t stop crying when Craig put her down. We all wanted to take them home with us.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Even before the trip, I secretly wanted to ride elephants because I knew it was a big touristy thing to do there, but I didn’t want to detract from our mission so I didn’t mention anything. It wasn’t in our original itinerary, but God totally hooked it up! Our translator Ying thought it would be good for our team to do something to lift our spirits so we got to ride the cute little guys in Chiang Mai!

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) Just like there were lots and lots of motorcycles, there were lots and lots of dogs just roaming around. Usually, they were either laying helplessly on the ground or walking around like they’re beat from the heat, but this one was the first one I saw there that was semi-perky. Maybe because it was a young’n.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

(below) My last Thai meal at the airport was mango and sticky rice. I took a picture of it because they shaped it so cute.

Thailand & Trip

Thailand & Trip

My team is still meeting regularly and preparing future steps and trips and there will be many opportunities to help. If interested, feel free to contact me.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’d rather carry on and not deal with something so hard since it doesn’t directly affect me. But the fact is, human trafficking is everywhere. The issue is huge and overwhelming, but it will only get worse if we sit in our comfortable homes and pretend that it’s not there.

Click here to see a slideshow of even more images.

19 comments

  1. Thank you for posting this. It left me in tears. A lot of Americans I have absolutely no idea how much trafficking is going on around the world, including the US. Absolutely breaks my heart. I’m glad you went in a little prepared as to what you were going to see, but really no heart can handle something as dark and heavy as what happens out there.

    Thank you for letting God use you! This can be fought.

  2. As beautiful as the images are, my heart feels heavy seeing the brutal reality on the other side of the world. Thank you for posting these, Grace! Hope God continues to use you mightily.

  3. great post. never been to thailand….but this really woke me up to the things happening outside my comfort zone. hopefully, one day I will have the opportunity to do something positive.

  4. Glad you made it back safely Grace. Thank you so much for sharing the images. I was going to ask you before you left if you planned to document your trip, but I too didn’t mention anything because I didn’t want to detract you from your true mission! I actually have a strong desire to take on a photojournalist role on a missions trip in the future, because sometimes pictures make your words and testimony so much stronger, as they do here!

  5. Thanks for sharing your photos and trip, Grace. Just out of curiousity, I know the trip was through Overlake, but are they partnered with another organization that’s already in the area like IJM (International Justice Mission)?

  6. Grace, I thank God that you were able to go and be a part of this trip, as well as a part of what God is doing to fight injustice. As I was viewing the pictures, there was this shot of pain in my gut for all those girls and children. I hope to be able to help fight human trafficking and support those who already are. Thanks for sharing….

  7. Grace.. WOW!!!!! I always, in ALL WAYS, admire your keen eye in capturing beauty through the camera lens.. my heart is touched by viewing your photographs, speechless.. you truly have captured the beauty in the moment that is presented in front of you at the moment.. from the beautiful land of Thailand, their lifestyle, to the disturbing human trafficking (as well as the inhumane treatments of animal-in particular the dog..)… but I see beauty in that as well. The light inside all these girls is still shining brightly, not only because they choose to continue to shine themselves despite all that tries to bring them down.. also because YOU and YOUR TEAM’S compassion, big hearts, on a mission to help this sickness. THANK YOU!!! Thank you for your HEART.. for sharing this experience with us. I was JUST mentioning you to a dear friend of mine, because I knew you went on this mission recently.. and here now you are sharing your experience! Thank you thank you… you are a blessing.. <3 sending Love and Light to you! <3

  8. Wow Grace. The pictures you took captures so many images. They are great. Like everyone said, thanks for sharing your experience. Continue to fight the good fight!!

  9. Great photos and captions, Grace! Right after you guys photographed our wedding in June 2006, we moved to Bangkok for three years. These photos brought back some great memories, but it was also fascinating to see your point of view. After living there I have to admit, I got desensitized to some of the realities of daily life in Thailand. Your work puts things in perspective!

    Last year I had the privilege to work for FREELAND Foundation, a Bangkok-based NGO working to stop human and wildlife trafficking in Asia. If you ever have future projects in Asia with regards to either of these illicit trades, let me know if you’d like to meet them! (www.freeland.org) They do amazing work!

  10. Thank you all for leaving such words of encouragement. It’s so good to know that there’s still people who care. :)

    Austin – You would be awesome! Hope an opportunity for you comes soon for you to use your giftings.
    Garrett – My team is not currently partnered with IJM, but we have made contacts with organizations like YWAM and others. We’re looking into further partnerships.
    Joy – It’s been so long! I remember that you guys went to live in Bangkok. Thanks for letting me know about FREELAND Foundation. I’ll run it by our team and see if it’s something that we want to do.

  11. Thanks for sharing this Grace. Thank you for caring so much, for capturing it so well, and for having the courage to go there. This strikes a really personal cord with me and I’d love to help in some way next time you go – add me to your mailing list! I’m a longtime fan of your photos and now a big fan of your heart too.

  12. Wow…images speak louder than words. Thank you for sharing your experience and becoming a voice for those suffering under injustice.

  13. grace: we’ve been to thailand many times with family but of course this is the side that we never get to see. it breaks my heart. thanks for sharing in not only the heartache but also the beauty of thailand & it’s people.

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