Saturday, May 1, 2010

Phnom Penh

Arriving in the city at the bus station, I hopped aboard one of my favorite vehicles, the three-wheeled Phnom Penh cyclo. My goal was find an inexpensive guest house. I'd had such great luck at one particular place. It's on a side street behind a monastery and only a short walk from the main road along the river. What was, two years earlier, a hidden gem of a guest house, was now a bustling tourist hotel. I negotiated a reasonable rate and walked up the four flights to my room.

I didn't intend to spend more than a couple of days in the city. I'm rather fond of Phnom Penh, but only because I remember how run-down it was on my first visit in 2002. I'm a big fan of old and decrepit (which is a good thing as I'm personally destined to be both). Fortunately, the railroads have remained untouched for decades (which is also unfortunate because it's almost impossible to take a train trip anywhere).

Life on the other side of the river hasn't changed much. There are more houses, but the ramshackle buildings held up by bamboo poles still cling to the riverbank.

Driving along another side street, I saw a makeshift pavilion. Recorded music was being blasted out through public address speakers. It was not until I got close that I realized I'd stumbled upon a traditional wedding ceremony. Well, maybe it's not quite traditional because I have no idea what sort of traditions might have been supplanted by western ideology, but the jewelery and silks were most certainly Khmer.

I really wanted to hang around and see if I could get a formal pose of the bride and groom. However, they did have a young photographer shooting the wedding and another doing video and I didn't want to impose. Ideally, I would have assisted the fellow in getting good poses (I used to shoot weddings), but I was unable to explain to him my idea as his English was so poor.

One type of individual I can always count on for a good pose is the stone statue. There is a studio right on the street near the national museum. It's a great spot for pictures just after sun rise.

There is a large park near the Royal Palace. At sunset, many people gather here at the riverbank to buy food from the street vendors or buy offerings for the shrine there. It's also the time when the local semi-professional photographers try to get locals to buy a posed photo. I turned the table on these two gentlemen, insisting that I photograph them. They were most pleased to comply with my request.

Monks are always a popular subject. I chatted with these fellows for several minutes. They appreciated the opportunity to practice their English.

The next day, it was time to bid farewell to Cambodia. I had one more tour through the streets on my cyclo before boarding a bus to Vietnam.

See a few more photos here.

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