Ugly

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By guest blogger Alan McArthur

A punk tattooist named Ugly.

OK.

It’s Thailand – where your nickname comes before your real name.

And you do get some odd ones.

Nasty, his friend. Yep, actually a really nice guy, like Ugly.

The subject’s the Otherworld.

Where the Others live.

And who is an OTHER.

Another oddball, among many that I meet on my travels.

Based on the laws of attraction, I must be an oddball too.

Ugly became my friend and muse, at a time early on when I was photo documenting all the Others in Chiang Mai, from the lady boys to the Thai boxers and the bar girls to the monks.

The city was, and still is, a mecca for Others.

And to be different in Thailand, which is in the most part, a traditional country, speaking quietly is the name of the game.

Only the monks in their orange robes can stand out.

Ugly was a gang leader before I knew him, in the golden period of ‘revolt’.

I’ve always found the punk community fascinating. Tropical punks sweating in their Doc Martins, preserving a culture that has disappeared for the most part in the west.

Presumably they saw some pictures of the punks back in London, liked what they saw, and, in true Asian style, copied them from head to toe – from Mohicans down to the Doc Martins.

What makes Ugly an OTHER?

Being a punk?

That doesn’t stop him going to the temple, and kneeling to a monk’s blessing.

What he told me once, revealed the reason he felt unaccepted.

Though his story is a successful one, owing to busy tattoo salons in Chiang Mai, he told me that even with all the money he had, even the prostitutes wouldn’t sleep with him.

That’s a measure of how conservative life really is in Thailand.

Fortunately Western women love him.

The mother of his son is Australian.

The friendly punk, as I see him, wants for little these days.

The world is changing faster and faster in Chiang Mai, the ghetto of foreigners is growing, the gangs and graffiti remain untouched.

There’s a great life to be had for the likes of guys like Ugly.

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For more from this guest blogger, click here: Alan McArthur

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