Things covered in this Cambodia trip report:
- Siem Reap
- Ankor Wat and other temples
- Koh Rong Sanloem island
- Travelling with a Canon R Mirrorless
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m not sure if it was my love of history that fuelled my fascination with archaeological ruins or the other way around. I’ve always loved taking time to walk around ruins no matter what part of history or civilisation they emerged from. In early 2018, when I looked at my bucket list to choose a place to celebrate my fiftieth birthday, top of the list was Angkor Wat. So, the planning began to head to South Asia to spend a month travelling around Cambodia and Vietnam (Link)
It goes without saying that having watched the Killing Fields two decades before, I was filled with excitement and trepidation. It was a privilege to travel through countries that had suffered so much war and suffering. I have found that places that have been through so much historical misery always have so much to offer the traveller, whether your interests are spiritual, historical, economic or political.
Note: It also gave me a chance to put the Canon R mirrorless through its paces on an extended trip.
“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Flying in from London via a stopover in Bangkok, we arrived in the great little city of Siem Reap. It is the second-largest city in the country after Phnom Penh and the gateway to the famous Temples of Angkor. Despite spending fourteen hours on a plane, it was so much fun to get a tiny tuk-tuk for the ten-kilometre ride to our hotel. Racing through the night streets at pace, clutching at our luggage on every corner we took with the side wheels raised in the air, was a magical moment. And what travel experiences are all about.
Siem Reap is a bustling and noisy place with hot evenings, the smell of tuk-tuk fumes and the squawk of endless hooters. Taxis are big business here, as are the traders on street corner food stands and bored merchants in dimly lit market halls. Vibrant nightlife is concentrated in the avenues around Pub Street, which is well worth a visit for food and drink. Flamboyant cocktails and local beers are a must for escaping the hot and humid evenings
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ― Lao Tzu
After a short journey from our hotel, we were dropped off at the iconic Angkor Wat in the late afternoon for a quick scout around – as if that were possible. It was as compelling and eye-opening as I had imagined. Photographs could never do the size and scale of the place justice, and it is only one of many such temples in the whole complex. The following morning as we rubbed the sleep from our eyes, we arrived before sunrise to get into position to get the iconic silhouettes you see all over the place.
There are two main circuits of temples you can book – the Grand tour circuit and the small tour circuit. We opted for the small one because it focused on the main temples, which are located closer together, minimising the time spent in the tuk-tuk covering the larger area. The scale of the map below is not too scale, by the way.
Places we visited in the complex – Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Victory Gate, Bayon, and Angkor Thom (also a favourite of mine)
Koh Rong Sanloem
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.” ― Anita Desai
With a cancelled connection flight, we had to spend an unscheduled night in Sihanoukville before setting off by ferry to the paradise island of Koh Rong Sanloem. We planned two days of island life away from the hustle and bustle of cities, and the two nights were perfect. White sands, aquamarine blue sea, palm trees, hammocks with swimming pools and cocktails bars in close proximity. An ideal getaway to recharge and steel ourselves before the sensory onslaught of Vietnam cities.
The Cambodia People
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin,
A short note about the people of Cambodia we met, and there were many. What wonderful souls despite the long history of violence, blatantly obvious poverty and hardship. They’re always quick to smile and keen to provide whatever help you need. So many were super keen to better their English, so we had fantastic conversations wherever we went. Take some time to talk to them and get to know them a little. As a traveller, you will have an enriched experience of their world— Cambodians are genuinely a welcoming people.
Travelling with the Canon R Mirrorless
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes
Across my thirty-five years of photography, I’ve always believed in following the growth of technology. I loved shooting film as I photographed wildlife and nature in the early days. I relished the changes that digital cameras brought with the flexibility of settings and the immediacy of feedback while out in the field.
A few months before leaving for Asia, I bought the new Canon R mirrorless camera because the shift in technology really interested me. There are several more reasons which I detail here, but one of the main reasons was the leap in the development of the autofocus systems, especially eye tracking. Along with the ability to move the focus point by sliding your thumb around on the back screen while you have your eye to the camera makes capturing pin-sharp photos a lot easier in the busy streets of a bustling city.
As per the image below, I took the Canon R and the Canon M5 as a backup to Cambodia and Vietnam. I only had EF lenses at that time so had to use the Canon adapters, Quality was still superb. I had the EF50mm f1.2, EF 16-35mm f2.8, and the EF 24-105mm f4.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Here is a link to a gallery of my favourite travel photos
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