Lakeside Kids

While on my usual pilgrimage to Boeung Kak district in Phnom Penh, I ran into these awesome kids who were very keen to have their photos taken.









The ‘ringleader’ was an older boy named Dara, who essentially took the above shots of his friends (which is to say that I held the camera and he looked through the viewfinder, aimed the camera as he wanted, he counted to three in Khmer, “mouy, pii, bey!”, and I hit the shutter release). Hence, the credits for these shots are his.

Dara’s English was excellent too, especially for a boy under ten years old. Even though I worked the camera for him, he composed the shots and knew when he wanted the capture. I was impressed with what came out.

Relaxing By the Mekong (again)

As I said when I went on my first walk around Kampong Cham yesterday, “Another day, another new favourite Cambodian town.”

Kampong Cham is Cambodia’s third-largest town and lies beside the Mekong River.

The town still manages to maintain a certain rural charm.

Many of the French Colonial buildings seem to have been kept with some integrity, lacking the more modern adornments (eg. huge billboards) that seem to be bolted on in other towns. Although some of the buildings could do with some attention.

Chilling (literally) in the Cambodia Highlands

SEN MONOROM, CAMBODIA – 800 meters above sea level, in Mondulkiri province, it’s noticeably less warm and humid than the more inhabited and visited lowlands of Cambodia. The air is fresh, and refreshingly crisp.

However, a dose of the flu and some very unpredictable weather has meant that I’ve not been able to get into the jungle or take as many photos as I would’ve liked. But I’ve been enjoying the relaxed vibe of Sen Monorom, the provincial capitol. And it’s nice to not be perspiring all the time.

Lakeside Remnants

After having not been there for about 18 months, I decided to check out what’s left of the Boeung Kak district of Phnom Penh, the area formerly known as Lakeside.

Demolished StoreTeachers Greet Students At Makeshift SchoolAbandoned StoreLakeside ShackStreet 93Camry at LakesideLakeside FamilyVattanac TowerFormer Lake

In August of 2010 I wrote a piece about the development of Boeung Kak by Shukaku, Inc. While construction has not yet commenced, most of the businesses around the now filled-in lake have either closed down or moved, but there are a few holdouts against the decline of the neighbourhood. Grand View and Number 10 are two of the old guesthouses still operating (though the view is far from grand now), and the only actual bar still there is Lost And Found.

I spoke with a tuktuk driver who’d lived in the area for most of his life, and he was of the opinion that once the proposed highrise buildings went up, bulldozers would be run through the rest of that end of Street 93 to make way for an access road to the development.

But, as many people like to say, “This is Cambodia.” Anything could happen at any time, or nothing might happen for years.

Photos from a Frontier Town

A small town 17 kilometers from the Thai border and 80 kilometers from Battambang, Pailin is often called the Wild West of Cambodia. During my three-night stay, I didn’t see another Westerner. I was even forced to try out my very limited Khmer when it came to ordering food and drinks and finding out how much things cost. Pailin would be the perfect antidote to anyone burned out from Cambodia’s “tourist trail”.

It’s true that there’s not a lot here for travellers, but for me that’s part of its appeal. There are no Western-style bars, no nightlife to speak of. It’s a true Cambodian town which has not felt the touch of tourism. In fact, every transport option that I was given while there offered me a lift out of town, either to Battambang or to the Thai border. For a Westerner to stay in Pailin is evidently still something of a novelty.

The town has a chequered past, from being a wealthy area famous for its abundance of gems and timber in the 1800s to being one of the last strongholds of the Khmer Rouge as recently as 1998.

The area is populated with descendents of Burmese immigrants who came to the area in the late 1800s in search of fortune. One of the remaining influences from Burma is the golden stupa at Wat Phnom Yat on the edge of town.