Wanderlust Photo of the Year: the winners return
The winners of 2016’s Wanderlust Photo of the Year competition were sent on the photography commission of a lifetime to the temples, islands and wild parks of Thailand. Here are the thrilling results…
The winners of the 2016 Wanderlust Photo of the Year competition are back from their Thailand commission with some incredible shots – we catch up with them to see how they got on…
From shimmering white-sand shores to the compelling history of its ancient temple complexes, Thailand has long been seen as one of travel’s golden locations. But it’s not just its gilded reputation that draws visitors. Whether gazing on the lush emerald palms that shade its beaches, the neon streaks that are splashed across the skyscrapers of Bangkok or the limpid-blue waters that ripple around the leafy coast, Thailand is a gift to travelling photographers.
This is a country that provides a wealth of colourful experiences. For visiting lens lovers, its landscapes are just one facet of its appeal. Away from the endless scenic horizons, plenty of opportunities for spectacular shots await amid the crumbling temples, the inquisitive hill tribes of the north and the many bustling markets.
This is why Thailand was the ideal destination to send three of the winners of our 2016 Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year competition. Our trio went in search of wild vistas, busy urban life and an exotic melting pot of cultures far beyond the beach honeypots that most visitors enjoy, and what they found exceeded all expectations.
With such a rich array of landscapes, it’s no surprise that Thailand is teeming with wildlife – much more than it’s given credit for. Elephants slink through the misty mountains of Chiang Mai, myriad birdlife twitters in the jungles of Khao Sok National Park and macaques chatter on the tropical isle of Koh Phangan. While wildlife tourism in Thailand makes some travellers wary, particularly when it comes to unsavoury elephant-riding tours, our winners were really impressed with how the country is promoting more ethical ventures.
“My most memorable moments were in the elephant sanctuaries of Kanchanaburi,” says Julia Wainwright, winner of the Wildlife category. “Learning about the actions being taken to reduce their exploitation, visiting two very different rescue centres and even playing a small part in looking after some elephants was a mind-changing experience.”
But wildlife in Thailand isn’t always found in the wildest places. “A great photographic moment came in Lopburi, where we were taking pictures of the macaques that had made the town their home. I chatted to one local who, despite the fact they raided their homes at every opportunity, seemed to treat them like they were his extended family.”
Warm & friendly locals
Thailand is a place much heralded for its impressive scenery and ancient history, but it’s the locals that really bring this country to life. “I was really impressed by the warm hospitality of the Thai people,” explains Travel Icon winner Sanghamitra Sarkar.
For Sanghamitra, Thailand was a country that offered a diverse and enchanting mix of human interaction. Nowhere was this better felt than during the lantern festival of Yi Peng, where a blend of people (and not just those from Thailand) came together to release thousands of glowing dots into the sky. It was an experience she counted as one of her most indelible; lanterns became the theme for her adventure, having also witnessed a group of monks releasing them from Wat Phan Tao temple in Chiang Mai.
For Christopher Roche, winner of the People category, Thailand offered a whole new challenge. Ordinarily, Christopher would be drawn to a destination’s human culture, but instead he found an altogether different muse in the coast: “My favourite spot was the island of Koh Yao Noi because even though it was small, it was really easy to get off the beaten track.”
It wasn’t just the rural side of Thailand that caught the eye (and lens) of our winners. “I loved the city of Chiang Mai because of its large number of beautiful temples dotted throughout,” adds Christopher. Certainly, anyone looking to see another side of this ancient country would agree.
As our three competition winners discovered, Thailand is full of epic experiences. “There is something to see around every corner,” says Julia, “whether it was the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or the quiet solitude of the national parks and villages in between.”
For the bulk of adventurous travellers, the chance to explore beyond packed beaches and unravel a country filled with wild delights, compelling culture and, above all, friendly locals is what draws them to Thailand. And, to the delight of all three of our competition winners, that’s exactly what they found.