Behind The Scenes: Thailand

Something I’ve always considered about portrait photography is the “behind the scenes”. Not just the equipment and the surroundings, but the subject. What was the person thinking when the shutter clicked and captured their image forever? What does their face say about what they were thinking? And, of course, because I’m me—how were they feeling? We think we can tell a lot about a person by their pictures, right?

In November, Gus and I eloped and took a month off to travel in Southeast Asia instead of having a wedding. Don’t worry, it wasn’t just you that didn’t get invited to our wedding. No one did. We planned on spending a week and a half in Bali, then on to Thailand and Cambodia, where my older sister met us.

From our romantic honeymoon in Bali where we fell in love again staying up late watching thunderstorms to bike riding through rice fields; to touring temples and swimming on rooftops in Bangkok; and finally, to “Happy Pizza” and exploring the world’s largest religious monument in Cambodia.

It was that day, at Angkor Wat, that I really started to feel my immune system collapsing.

Between the 95 degree heat and three weeks of traveling with a chronic illness—every step was like climbing a mountain. My throat was so sore I couldn’t swallow, my head felt like it weighed a thousand pounds and throbbed in pain, and my body felt like my body was being attacked by a thousand tiny extra-sharp voodoo doll needles.

I could have stayed at our hotel that day—taken a “sick day”—but I didn’t wanted to.

I really, really wanted to see Angkor Wat—and I’m so glad I did. I thought of every hand that went into the 402 acres of religious monument. The people that carried 5 million tons worth of sandstone from a quarry 25 miles away.

It was so, so beautiful.

That day, I was reminded how strong I am. It takes a lot of strength to see beauty in the world when your body feels like it’s falling apart.

For final leg of our trip, we took two planes and one small speed boat to a tiny island in Thailand called Koh Yao Noi. I was so fatigued on the boat that I fell asleep sitting up, completely unaware of the thousands of Thai islands we were passing through. I had been looking forward to that boat ride.

When I “do too much,” I guess my body basically reactivates Mono. Did you ever have it? It’s brutal.

The boat was taking us to our tiny private resort (six bungalows total), on a little beach on the very edge of the island, with one of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen (pictured here).

It was so, so beautiful.

And I was so, so sick.

I spent the next five days in bed. Barely able to move. Body on fire. Body attacked by tiny swords. Barely able to walk. My throat was so swollen that it hurt to swallow—and even to breathe. I’d gasp for air, start coughing, then gag. And then I’d puke.

Tiny island. No doctor.

But it was so damn beautiful.

On the last day on the island, I was able to get up and walk to the edge of the grass. I put on my favorite dress, my favorite Tom Ford sunnies and asked Gus to take my picture. I wanted to remember how beautiful it was. I still felt so, so sick.

Can you see that in this picture?

Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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