Archive for April, 2008

fortune teller

Fortune teller along Sisowath Quay. There’s a small stretch along the waterfront where fortune tellers huddle around candles and dim fluorescent lamps, reading cards and palms for a small fee. Very low light, iso 3200. Managed to salvage what looked like a terrible shot into something a little more interesting. Still too much noise though.


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nagaworld hotel fire

Spotted this while taking a tuk-tuk to the bus depot on the morning of April 12. The smoking building is the Nagaworld Hotel & Casino, one of Cambodia’s largest hotels. About 100 tourists were evacuated but no one was hurt. According to the Phnom Penh Post there have been seven major fires in the city this month, including a slum fire that destroyed 450 homes and left thousands homeless just two days before the Nagaworld fire.

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independence monument

Independence Monument at night. Thanks traffic cop for not moving for 3 seconds.

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grilled unimaginable

I’ll try #39.

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I’ve only recently been tinkering with photoshop to see what happens when I convert photos into grayscale. I think I like the results. Getting the contrast and lighting effects to work was a bit of a challenge, but I’m getting the hang of it. Cambodia is definitely not a monochromatic place, but some of these portraits turned out well. My top 10:


man with cap

A laborer at Orussey Market. I was clowning around with this guy and managed to capture a good smile.


nice hair

Taken in rural village outside Kampong Cham. Easily the best hair in Cambodia.


pensive kid

Kid hanging out at Orussey Market. He was much friendlier than his expression would suggest…



Fruit vendor at Ochheuteal Beach in Sihanoukville. I usually struggle mightily with backlit portraits, but this one was the sole exception from a batch of failures.


pensive girl

Can collector at Ochheuteal Beach. Experimented with lighting effects to focus attention on her face and darken the rest of the image.



A porter at Orussey Market. Same technique with this one.



A senior monk presiding over a blessing ceremony in Kampong Chhnang. The stuff in the foreground is a little distracting, but it was the only angle I could get without disturbing the ceremony.



A woman in a rural village outside Kampong Cham. The only one of the lot taken with the PowerShot. The swivel screen is essential as it lets me shoot from the hip without distracting the subject.



A boy with his bicycle in rural Cambodia, just outside Kampong Cham. There’s something about this one that I really like, I just can’t pinpoint it.


garbage workers

Two young garbage scavengers at the Stung Meanchey municipal dump. I got really lucky with this shot. I didn’t have time to change lenses, and the telephoto almost couldn’t handle the distance. Would’ve liked to get the whole eye from the kid on the right.

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Just a typical afternoon in Phnom Penh…

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The ride

The trip didn’t start as planned. Jessica, Elena and I booked bus tickets from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville through a travel agent and arrived at the bus just before the scheduled departure at 7:30. Comfortable seats, A/C, not too crowded. Things were looking good. According to my ticket I had seat #1, next to some grouchy old German. Upon producing my ticket, he huffily informed me that he had purchased two tickets, presumably so he wouldn’t suffer the ignominy of having to sit next to someone. Seat assignments don’t mean much in Cambodia anyway, so I shrugged and grabbed a free spot a couple rows back. Reps of the bus company came on board a few minutes later and asked for our tickets, claiming there was a problem. They told us to get off the bus and started to take our bags out of the hold, saying the bus needed to leave. Bad. Fortunately, a call to the travel agent fixed the problem, but now a couple Cambodians had taken our seats. The bus company had oversold the seats and was now trying to kick people off at random. At this point the German guy’s refusal to give up his free seat caused all sorts of problems. A couple Italian & Spanish travelers politely asked him for his seat and even offered to pay full fare ($3) for it, but he had no soul. Efforts to guilt trip him only hardened his resolve. After much debate and shuffling about, the bus departed with Jessica & Elena sitting on the front steps, right in front of that old German. I offered my seat on a rotational basis, but they warmed to the step seats and its view of Cambodia’s entertaining roads.

that german guy

He was the worst. Fortunately, the rest of the trip wasn’t too much of a hassle. Traffic leaving the capital was horrendous, with everyone trying to get home to their families in the provinces. The bus would also stop at random intervals and pick up Cambodians. Some had tickets, others didn’t.

The place

Motodops and tuk-tuk drivers swarmed us at the bus depot in Sihanoukville. We loaded out bags into a tuk-tuk and headed towards lodging near Victory Beach.

bungalow village

Bungalow Village was a hidden gem. I was initially put off by its location near one of the less popular beaches, but it turned out to be a fantastic place to spend a long weekend.


$6/night for a simple bungalow with mosquito net, bathroom and fan. Set amongst jackfruit trees, boulders and wandering chickens, it was an amazingly peaceful place.


Olivier, a French expat from the Loire Valley, owns the place with his Cambodian wife and son. He also runs the restaurant and bar, which has delicious Khmer/Asian/French food.

The beaches

ochheuteal beach

Sihanoukville is a seriously popular place during Khmer New Year. Ochheuteal Beach is by far the busiest spot in town, with Cambodians mostly hanging out on the southern and central portions and Westerners chilling on lounge chairs on the northern half, also known as Serendipity Beach.


It’s also the filthiest beach I’ve ever seen. Parts were like a garbage dump. Plastic bags of all colors and sizes, bottles, styrofoam, flip-flops, t-shirts, rotten fruit, dead fish, dead birds, turds. Most of this washed up at high tide, and no one seemed to care.

khmer swim

Swimming Khmer style, fully clothed

sand castle

Sand Angkor Wat


One of the most beloved Khmer traditions during New Year is attacking motorists with improvised water balloons and baby powder.


Kids line the sides of roads and pelt people as they pass by. Pickups also drive around, loaded with Cambodians armed to the teeth with plastic bags and water bottles. Naturally, all this watery warfare can cause many accidents, but as with not wearing helmets or seatbelts safety doesn’t seem to be a concern. One ambush almost cost me my camera. But it’s all in good fun. You’ll have a hard time enjoying yourself during New Year if you take it too seriously.

The monks

three monks

We met these monks while exploring Wat Krom on Sunday night. They were extremely friendly and eager to practice English. After a while they invited us to have fruit and water with them. The most talkative of them called himself Dan Deadline; I think the other guy was Vibol. Due to pronunciation troubles they decided to call me “Irregular”.

Randonal Beach Party


Sunday night we decided to check out something called the Randonal Beach Party. The ticket said “it’s fun & dancing with your favorite celebrities!” It was a strange experience. I thought it was going to be your basic beach party, but it turned out to be a classic Cambodian banquet. Most attendees were rich, probably military/political/government types from Phnom Penh. The food was good, and the only drink served was Randonal, a weird sweet grape wine. Sort of like port with a couple packets of Sweet n’ Low.

camera crew

Camera crews were in our face all night. I guess we were just that interesting.

This guy was a legend on the dance floor. There was also some pretty hilarious karaoke and live music from anonymous Cambodian pop stars.

Koh Russey


The next day we hopped on a boat to check out Koh Russey aka Bamboo Island.

the boat

It took about an hour to get there. We were hoping to stay in the island’s bungalows, but the timing didn’t work out. We did get to do a little snorkeling, spending an hour or so swimming amongst interesting coral and sea urchins.

sunset over sihanoukville

It was a welcome break from Phnom Penh.

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