In the back country of Chonburi Thailand, villagers come together with their land-working buffalos and compete in a crazy type of drag race to see which is the fastest. The stakes are high; the buffalo are not like horses, the riders, hang atop these 2 ton beasts by the nape of their necks for dear life, as there is no way to control, or stop, the animals once they start to run. The only way they stop is by running the entire course into a large body of water, and the riders hope against all odds that the animals don’ t crash into each other, or buck them off, which happens often.
It’s extremely dangerous but a great source of fun and pride for the locals, who love to bet on the beasts, and hold huge competitions with food and drink rounding out the experience. If you get the chance to see one of these amazing events you definitely should, they are riveting. Filmed by our very own Roberto Serrini (@serrini) while on location for a film … more of his drone films are at http://www.nycdroner.com
Stay tuned for a NEW VID EACH DAY as we travel round the world to find the weirdest-wildest-best-nicest-goodest-sweetest-dopest stuff for you to get inspired by and get your a$$ off the couch.
I fly drones. It’s something I love doing, and as a filmmaker I find that they are fantastic tools for storytelling. My particular temptation is probably using them in ways they were not intended to be used, mainly flying through things like doors, windows, and tree branches. I like the way it makes a shot look like something taken by hand, and then magically start floating above, and drone companies like the way it makes me total my aircraft and have to buy a new one. Basically a win-win situation all around.
Sometimes though I am successful and the results can be beautiful. So I took a moment to compile some of the aerial footage I shot for a film called “Buffalo Rider” which was shot in Chonburi, Thailand, and directed by the fantastic Joel Soisson.
If you want to explore more of my aerial films hop on over to my site nycdroner.com and if you want to hear about the amazing adventure we had shooting in the backcountry of Thailand, then click this link here.
One day earlier this year I got a little phone call from a man by the name of Joel Soisson.
“Hi. This is Joel Soisson.”
Who the hell was Joel Soisson? Well, if you know how to Google (or click a hyperlink you lazy bum) you would quickly find out he is the producer of such films as Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (starring a super young Keanu Reeves and Billy Joe Armstrong), Dracula 2000 (which is like classic Dracula with computers) and my personal favorite, Piranha 3DD (Staring Doc Brown, strippers as lifeguards, and yes, double D was not a typo).
Well long story short the convo went like “hey, you want to come to this remote, back-country part of Thailand no one goes to and do some aerial filming for our new movie, “The Buffalo Rider”?”
Yes Joel, I would.
And I did:
What an amazing thing to not only film, but see. This was the real deal; villagers and townsfolk came from all over. The head of the region sat on a little makeshift stage wearing his best shirt. There were shiny plastic trophies, pleanty of Ya Dong drinking, and lots of people cheering on small boys hanging on for dear life to a charging 2 ton water buffalo.
The track, muddy and wet, was more of a slip and slide then a racetrack. At the end, a shallow lake.
How do you steer a water buffalo? You don’t. How do you slow it down? You don’t. How do you stop it? Youjump off.
The video will show you what I saw. Exciting, dangerous, and fast, this is a rodeo that only the country that invented Red Bull could invent. As for the color treatment, for all you film nerds, I had an itch to learn DaVinci Resolve which is an amazing program, and decided to put their qualifier and keyer to the test. I don’t think there is a better film grading program out there, and it’s free people.
See other little aerial films at my site http://www.robertoserrini.com/filter/drone/Drone-Aerial-Cinematography
This year I had the pleasure of going to Thailand on a film shoot (The Buffalo Rider – watch for it in theaters) and on the tail end of the shoot hit up the wee island of Koh Phi Phi for a little R&R and sun worship.
Of course it took me about 6 minutes before I broke out the drones.
So here is a little vacation film of Outrigger Resort on the island of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. It truly is paradise…
Bangkok. You know what they say, one night here, and the world is your oyster. Clammy, stinky, and wet; and during the festival of Songkran, it’s just like that. (Long way to go for a Murray Head joke, but worth it I think.)
So yeah, let’s get one thing out of the way: there is a lot of sex around. However, if you’ve travelled a lot, frankly, that’s the boring part. People have lots of different reactions to prostitution; some excited, some terrified, some gratified, some horrified. Frankly, for the one commodity on the planet that anyone can sell, just for being alive, I find it a bit, well, meh.
So lets focus on what makes Bangkok Bangkok other then getting someone to suck your c**k.
First, the hotel. Boom.
The Sukhothai Hotel, besides being fun to say, was a stunner. Big, beautiful, overly graceious. The staff was warm and extremely helpful, The rooms were stunning, modern and with a toilet that wiped your ass for you. Oh, the breakfast buffet was bar none one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure to graze. If you go, stay here; it’s near Lumpini park, perfectly away from the chaos of old downtown, and easy to get to from the airport. A tripple play.
Perhaps the coolest thing this chichi hotel did was give us a “Songkran Survival Kit”…
A beautiful malai (flower ring) and khan (metal bowl) along with chalk to bless objects and people (usually I dont like to consider people objects, unless it’s fun, like slapping chalk on them). The kit is supplied so that you can perform nam om, the water ritual, where you are blessing someone by sprinkling water on them. Of course, this is an ancient ritual, and after years of evolution, along with the advent of RedBull, today it looks a little something like this:
I had heard that the entire city comes out to play in a giant game of waterfight. What I didn’t realize is that no one was exaggerating when they said the entire city.
I had my doubts that it would live up to the hype, but honestly, this was above and beyond what I expected. It is the strangest sensation to roll around a huge metropolis, squirting the shit out of everybody and anyone, and they enjoy it. No one is safe; people in tuk-tuks, the dude selling fruit, even the cops, if you can see one in the sea of people. Amazing.
Of course a day of all out warfare made us quite hungry… luckily there was plenty to eat on the streets.
Delicious ramen with savory broth, grilled and splayed chicken, and lots of fresh veggies and fruit all over the place. In a word… heaven… After a good two hours we were soaked to the bone and well fed, which looks a little something like this:
In my twenty’s my ma gave me a little book by a one Alex Garland. The book was “The Beach”. It has never left my mind. I was about to re-enact a fantasy, and was very excited.
Kho Pi Pi is a perfect jewel of an island in the gulf of Thailand. It is as close to paradise as you’re going to get. In Chon Buri, when telling the locals I was going to “Pi Pi” (trying not to laugh every time like a 10-year-old) they all said the same thing, “oohahhahahaaaa – ohhhhhhh!” and made a wide-eyed face like they were slow motion riding a large Narwhal in a hot fudge sea (that’s what it was like, fuck you). Eventually I found out what this unique expression would come to mean; Pi Pi is Cray Zee.
To get to Pi Pi we would have to take a Fer Ree (I’ll stop now. Promise.). To get there, we had to drive to port, which I only mention because it was the beginning of Songkran, or Thai New Year a.k.a. country-wide water fight.
Songkran, originated with children showing respect to their elders by gently pouring a small amount of jasmine fragrant water into their hands, as a sign of a blessing. Over the centuries the ritual has been, well, “pumped up” a bit. Now the whole country takes place in a water fight. What do you expect from a country that invented Red Bull?
When I say “the whole country” that’s exactly what I mean. People in outer-buroughs line the street, or fill up the back of a pickup truck with a 10 gallon barrels of water and as many Thai’s you can cram in armed with water cannons and take to the streets “blessing” the shit out of anyone they come across. I’ve seen a lot of things, many I wish I could forget. This is something I suggest EVERYONE go experience. It’s nothing less than lovely. While we didn’t stop to play, er, I mean bless anyone, I did not despair… there will be plenty of Songkranin’ in Bangkok in a few days, and for now, I was island bound. Next stop Kho Pi Pi.
The island is like some dystopian future project set on a sandy beach very far from anything that resembles civilization. To get there you must take a 2 hour ferry. The comedy starts on the ferry, which costs about 10 USD to jump on. From there you can pay an additional 5 USD to go to “Elite class” (their words not mine) which is like … the front of the boat. You get windows. Huzzah. From there, there is another option for high rollers wishing to pay an additional 5 USD, for “Premium Class” which was the top-level on the boat. From there you were allowed to yell “I’m on a boat” with your shirt open.
Sitting in “steerage” we met a cool young couple from Australia (go figure). He was a commercial airline pilot, she, a teacher, both living in Hong Kong and doing a bit of travelling, like good Aussies tend to do. They were going to Pi Pi and we discussed the island. I found out the island is split into two basically; one side for transient, bohemian backpackers, the other, the well to do, “I want my food cooked”, Farang people. They were heading to the cool side, “The Beach” side. I was jealous for sure.
At this point we threw down 20 New York dollars and went to the top deck. They had free cookies and water. ALL YOU COULD EAT. I took 4 on a little paper napkin and went back down to our new friends, back in steerage.
“Here you go. I figured you might be hungry. Sorry, I can’t stay; they’re starting the caviar course up in Premium Class in 5 minutes. Ciao.” and went back upstairs. Rolling deep ya’ll.
Arriving at the main town in Pi Pi is a little like Catalina Island, or any other touristy port of call. It’s colorful, crowded, and can’t help but look like a movie set. Capitalizing on the fact that you have nowhere to go, they immediately charge you 5 bucks for stepping on the island, apparently to keep it “clean”. I always think things are legitimate when you are forced to put money into a water cooler jug. At least it had an “island concervashon” sign taped to it. Legit.
From there we hopped a long tail boat to our resort. Long tail boats are what happens when Mad Max and the Brazilian Yanomami tribe go in together and start making boats together. It’s like a diesel truck engine slapped on the back of a dopey canoe. You steer by rotating the two ton engine. It’s nothing short then epic.
On the long tail we met another nice couple, this time from Germany. Herby, Karolina, Miranda and I bounced down the lovely gulf water lovingly gazing at the paradise around us. They were excited to get to our resort, as we were. It was a long sea journey, and with all this aquamarine sea around all we wanted to do is float in it. The ride to the resort was another good hour it seemed, which made me wonder where the hell this place we were going was.
A sleepy family feeling the long seaward journey.
Super nice German Couple Herby and Karolina!
Finally, the boat started to move to the coast. However…. it would seem like we were out of sea….
The tides here, it would seem, are biblical. Biblical, like, Moses could have led his people from Egypt to the reception hall here. I’ve never seen anything like it. Until I saw a tractor driving in the water to come pick us up. Then I said I never saw anything like it.
Um… not exactly the private golf cart at the Indigo but definitely cool.
Thanks Karolina for this perfect shot;)
From the boat I took a grainy pick of a woman rolling her luggage across the great expanse of tidal sandy shore. fully dressed, and in my head she was wearing heels, I laughed seeing the in vivo Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone. “The Joan Wilder?!”. In the flesh folks.
Well, Ferry to Long Tail boat to tractor, we made it in. They gave us a frothy sweet drink and sat us down, and brought all the paperwork to us. Miranda was lovely enough to falsely mention to the hotel that it was our Honeymoon, a common trick of shrewd New Yorker’s who don’t get enough vacation time, so they make the time they get fucking count. What I don’t think she expected was that there would be a band, a special room, and them to write out in flowers on the bed “Happy Honeymoon”. We drew tattooed wedding bands on our hands and hoped for the best.
The Outrigger resort was lovely. A little too lovely to be honest. I had dreams of “The Beach”. I mean, I had bought bespoke handmade backpacks that came with built-in hammocks, and Goddamn’t I was gonna use them. This place already had hammocks up, and the nice ones, with pillows. There were air-conditioned huts, a minibar full of Toblerone, Coke, and a fine Rose, and better cable television then I got in the states. I guess what really put me over was that there was a luau. We were in Maui not Pi Pi.
Regardless, it’s hard to be upset with paradise. Impossible actually. I mean hammocks with pillows? C’mon. We got really nice messages, considered playing tennis, and enjoyed the perfect beach and pool, getting ready for our next stop, the dragon’s belly itself, Bangkok.
Met the girl at the airport. I love moments like these. They are so very rare. Travelling for me has always been a solitary activity. Perhaps being an only child with flight benefits from a very early age made me love to go forth with reckless and lonely abandon. I love travelling alone; it’s really the best way to discover a new place. It forces you in many cases to get into the sort of good trouble that you wouldn’t normally within the comforts of a familiar partner. I suggest it to any wayward college age kid to buy a ticket and just go. It’s kinda the same advice I give people who want to get into film; pick up a camera and shoot. Hemingway once said “The secret to life is living. It’s just that simple.” Alright, I’m not sure if Hemingway ever said that, but it is certainly possible. It sounds like him and there are no adjectives, so, yeah.
While travelling alone is a magic way to discover yourself, it is also not surprisingly the only real way to get to know a person which is why I was very excited see my girl on the literal other side of the world. Here we were two new animals, unclassified from the concrete jungle that normally defines us. It’s like the Hunger Games IRL. (I called Katness if anyone is wondering.)
Let the games begin!
We spent a mere few hours in Bangkok, cruising the airport terminal amazed that they had a Boots of all things for us to pursue (no sausage rolls, damn you Bangkok). We then hopped a short flight to Phuket, gateway to Thai Island Paradise. Hopping a snazzy cab in Phuket we made our way to the Indigo Pearl, which to me sounded more like a Battlestar Galactica spaceship then a hotel, and, I came to find out, t’was. I can’t really say enough about the Indigo Pearl. It’s the kinda place that can only exist in a generally lawless and beautiful country like Thailand. The resort rivals most small towns in it’s mere size. The lobby wasn’t so much a lobby as it was a port for people. Open and vast, dark wood and pretty blue jewels and everything with a steampunk edge. Built on an old Tin Mine (c’mon, that’s awesome) every corner of this luxury resort linked back to its roots with an industrial flair. Tin I-Beams holding up thatched roof, comically large industrial valves for faucets, and even wrench and screwdriver silverware in the restaurant. This place was a designers wet dream, and a welcomed sight to a guy who has been in the bush for ten days.
Taking a private golf cart to our room (is there anything other than a private golf cart I have to ask?) my jaw was open most of the way; a giant stretch of pools, restaurants and bars as far as the eye could see. Grounds so immaculate and imposing you thought a gay Druid wedding planner was given free reign to do his worst. It was, from an architectural standpoint, inspiring.
I mean, c’mon.
one of many restaurants
Yep – they give you massages at breakfast.
canopy of happy.
pools? More like oceans.
Then the room completed the dopeness.
Wood, and concrete, and tin. Glass and rock and fauna. Huge Ghengis Kong-esque bathroom doors that any father would feel epic behind for a morning ritual. It was wild. And then… the balcony. Can you call it a balcony when there is a huge two person onyx tub on it? No, I didn’t think you could. We’ll, when I asked Miranda if she wouldn’t mind booking the hotels for our leg of the trip I had no doubt that this creative director/producer would come through. I just didn’t know she was gonna make me question if she should have become a private concierge for the rich and famous.
fruits of our labor
balcony with a bathtub? Whats next? Bedroom with a bidet?
This was an exquisite treat, and we could have easily spent a week there in happy solitude. We decided to slide out to the beach and see what southern Thailand had to offer. Bathtub waters, orgasmic sunsets, stiff cheap drinks, and basically paradise on earth was the answer.
On a compressed schedule and a whirlwind 5 days straight droning, my part in “The Buffalo Rider” has wrapped. Besides the lovely Thai countryside of Chon Buri, I had the pleasure to do some amazing shooting at a remote Buddhist temple, A vast pineapple field, and even a local school, where I flew through a classroom of kids, out a window, and tracked behind two escaping students through a taro field. Life really is like a video game sometimes; you have to make each level a little more difficult or it gets a bit… boring;)
my bathmat. liberated from Thailand.
Through the deck, into the classroom, out the window, and a chase down the field.
a killer crew.
All my love to Joel and the amazing crew – they continue shooting for the rest of the month, and I look forward to some real cinema magic when the film gets completed. As for me, it’s time to get down to Bangkok, for a different kinda adventure, with my girl Miranda Kendrick from the jolly ol’ UK, coming out to be my “assistant” on the shoot … more like a “partner in crime” then an “assistant” me thinks.
If you are from New York, and you go to China, you will quickly find out that the delicious, hang over cure food you have been lovingly adoring all your life is anything but Chinese food. It can come as a stark revelation as you pine for your ol’ friend Kung Pow, but here in Thailand you get, for the most part, what you know and love as Thai food.
You think we have a food truck culture in NYC?
Lunch. Rice would be my new best friend for a while.
It may be that the ingredients are basic, and usually the same, but the Thai food here is just like home if not just a hellova lot better. The lemongrass is fresh, the basil full of kick, and the rice itself has flavor, not just boiled tap water taste. No matter where I was or who was cooking the food was to die for.
That’s not to say that I didn’t crave some variety. One day, rained out, we were pretty much prisoners of our little living complex. So like any good American I decided to throw money at the problem, and proceeded to buy every snack the little bodega had downstairs. Bored, in my little room, I decided to do a little video snack review. The following is the genius that was yielded. It’s easily my best work to date:
Don’t get me wrong, I loved these snacks. The stranger the better. One of the highlights for me traveling is snack culture. Snacks are a special type of food; they are a common agreement between the people of that country that have been standardized and widely distributed. While you might argue about a common dish, or a sports team, snacks, for the most part, are something that everyone can agree on across a geographic and sociological region. You can learn a lot from a people’s snack, like for instance that “Mexican” is a flavor and not just a people. It’s also extremely tasty.
Thailand snacks are wonderful. They have many “SunChip” variety crisps, and love to flavor things with shrimp which blows my mind. They also have orange mint Oreos which seems like a mouth sin, and some of the spiciest damn chips you can eat. All of which, including the orange mint mindfuck Oreos, go great with Leo beer.
And when I thought I had tasted the finest that Thailand could possibly offer, that my friends is when I was introduced to Mukata:
Mukata is originally Mongolian. Mongolian soldiers would cook in their bronze shields ever evening on the desert plains. They would basically pool together everyone’s food, whatever was available, and share a meal. It’s shaped sort of like a giant lemon juicer; a ringed ridge holds broth while in the middle you place your meats on a vented mountain of metal. underneath you put coals to heat your meal. The idea here is that you start with a broth; chicken, vegetable, buffalo stock, even just lemongrass water. Then as you cook your meats Korean BBQ style and all the drippings runs off into the broth. As you eat and as the dinner gets longer, the broth becomes even more delicious. It’s nothing less then epic.
Like they did thousands of years ago our little tribe of crew members pooled together our bits of food and drink, and in lue of a desert tundra we sat in the parking lot laughing and eating and drinking. Everyone brought what they have; tonight we had a bit of shark, buffalo, and mantis shrimp. A strange combination that makes a surprisingly delicious broth. It’s nothing, just community, and that’s enough to fill belly and soul.
Finally, what is a meal without a local digestif; ya dong.
Yep, it tastes like it sounds, pretty much like gangsta dick, or at least what I imagine gangsta dick taste likes. It’s basically your common grain alcohol (rice moonshine) that has been “flavored” with “aromatic herbs” (should read “turned a color by putting weeds in it”). It’s not Fernet Branca but I will say it does pack a punch and offer you a pretty lovely head.
Ya dong is sold wherever parking lots are found, usually by dudes you wouldn’t trust watching your dog while you popped into the OTB. Don’t be fooled by the Hong Thong label; this is street whiskey, they just use whatever bottle they can get their hands on, this one being Hong Thong. The cost is so laughably low that it’s not really worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is what they call their varieties of ya dong. Like “Jameson’s” is a Whiskey, our type of ya dong is called “Krang Puying” or in English, “Moaning Mistress”. Other names of popular ya dong include:
• horse busts stable
• manly man
• murmuring lady
• old man rapes elephant (personal favorite; it has a nice nutty aftertaste.)
• male elephant power
• rama goes to war (also a great ska band from the 90’s?)
Travel for me, besides meeting people, is all about their food and drink. Really the food and drink make up the people and vice versa. This is why I always like to travel ala carte, and never like to split the bill.
P.S. Cultural Curiosity: In Finland when done with your meal you put your fork and knife at 5 PM on the plate. In the US you put them at 7:20 PM. In Thailand you put them at Noon. Funny how every country has a different time to denote being finished eating.
Well, I should say Thailand loves Kratom, which is their version:
At least I found out why the crew moved so fast. We would start the day this way, chewing on this bitter little leaf like you would sip your morning latte. It’s nothing too crazy; I mean, no one was having a craving for strippers or heavy techno dance music, but it definitely gets you focused and on track. All in all a better and more natural substitute to Adderall. Funny thing is that it is illegal, and has been so for round 70 years because it’s sale was interfering with the Thai governments tax revenue from opium.
But why stop there. Thailand, as you may or may not know, is home to everyone’s favorite liquid cocaine, RED BULL. Ray, our resident German, was only happy to explain to me the interesting story behind Red Bull’s success. The story goes that it was created in 1975 by a chap named Chaleo Yoovidhaya (rolls right off the tongue) and originally called Krating Daeng, which sounds like something that happens in you shorts after a long hike through a swamp. One day an Austrian dude named Dietrich Mateschitz (seriously whats with the names here), who I can see wearing a piano neck tie and really loving MTV Party To Go Volume 2 mix of Missing by Everything But The Girl (you love it, you know you do) basically bought the recipe off Chaleo and gave douchebags around the world a liquid mascot.
Of course, being Thailand, Red Bull is super different then its western counterpart, and yes, you put it in beer.