Cambodia: Part One

Introduction

Via an overnight stop in the Changi Airport at Singapore, I have made it to Cambodia. While I should have internet access tomorrow, I felt obliged to keep as close to my normal posting date as possible. That, and after a blackout caused a loss of internet access for over an hour, I’m making the most of it while it’s fast and stable, in the highly likely event of another blackout.

This post will focus solely on my trip here, and my first day. Since things are getting to be more and more exciting for me as time wafts along, there is a possibility that (provided the internet works tomorrow night), I may post some more photos tomorrow. However, whether or not that happens will be decided solely by where I go and what I photograph (will it differ markedly from today?) and how engrossed in shopping I become (I like to get it out of the way early, so that I can actually enjoy my holiday).

In transit (in Singapore)

Christmas decorations in Terminal 2 of Changi Airport, Singapore. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/2, ISO 200.
Christmas decorations in Terminal 2 of Changi Airport, Singapore. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/2, ISO 200.

The trip from Christchurch to Singapore was the best I could remember: I didn’t notice the takeoff, I didn’t notice the landing, and I made a sound start on Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. As is customary, Changi Airport was bedecked with all manner of Christmas paraphernalia; I’ve posted a photo showing just one sliver of the magic they create every December. There’s not much else to type, other than after a refreshing night’s sleep, I boarded a plane bound for Cambodia.

First day in Cambodia

 A metaphor representing change and constant: an advertising campaign targeting an affluent middle class on a tidy street with well mannered traffic, set against a backdrop that hasn't changed much since my first trip some nine years ago. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/80 s, f/8, ISO 200.
A metaphor representing change and constant: an advertising campaign targeting an affluent middle class on a tidy street with well mannered traffic, set against a backdrop that hasn’t changed much since my first trip some nine years ago. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/80 s, f/8, ISO 200.

My first day in Cambodia has largely revolved around two themes: change, and constants.

 The big change: this is the first time I can recall seeing piecemeal litter distribution: what there is, is rapidly cleaned up. This is a side street near the Sorya Market in Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The big change: this is the first time I can recall seeing piecemeal litter distribution: what there is, is rapidly cleaned up. This is a side street near the Sorya Market in Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/20 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Change in Cambodia is something I will discuss more fully in my round-up at the end of the trip. I can, however, summarise today’s encounters thus: things are cleaner, seemingly more affluent, and I seem to be the last person in the world to have purchased a smartphone (I’m still struggling to fathom how it works).

The view from my hotel room, which has changed little over the past nine years, save for the odd slathering of paint or addition of ramshackle rooftop accommodation. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/640 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The view from my hotel room, which has changed little over the past nine years, save for the odd slathering of paint or addition of ramshackle rooftop accommodation. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/640 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Constants are more tangible: the buildings, save for new Government developments, are largely unchanged; as ever, the people are friendly and well turned out; the food still leaves nothing to be desired; and against all odds, the ancient apartment blocks of Phnom Penh are still standing, and still overflowing with life.

A back alleyway off Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/80 s, f/4, ISO 800.
An alleyway off Monivong Boulevard, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/80 s, f/4, ISO 800.

The one major constant, though, is the feel of the place. There’s a unique sensory assault every time you walk down the street: temperature, humidity, (oftentimes foul) odour, shapes, colours and textures; all drawing you in, vying for further exploration (except the smell, obviously).

Flowers at the Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/4, ISO 200.
Flowers at the Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/4, ISO 200.

One place I’ve always loved to explore is the Central Market. It’s such a menagerie of people, colours, smells and textures, that you never grow weary of fossicking through its various paths and stalls. This is reflected in my mix of photos in Phnom Penh every trip, where the Central Market predominates. Since my last visit four years ago, an extensive restoration has been undertaken, returning it to its former glory. While I was only able to spare an hour there (I’m still acclimatising), it was thoroughly engrossing, and I eagerly anticipate my return there tomorrow.

A fishmonger at work in the Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/15 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.
A fishmonger at work in the Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/15 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.

At the end of the day…

Requisite acclimatisation and short internet failure aside, today has been excellent. The sensory overload, the eternally smiling people, and the charm they fuse to create, has been brilliant to experience once more. I look forward fondly to what the rest of the trip will bring, and suspect that it will only improve as time slithers by until my return to New Zealand (and science, which I’ve managed to largely put out of my mind for the first time all year).

A smorgasbord of dried seafood for purchase. Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/160 s, f/2, ISO 200.
A smorgasbord of dried seafood for purchase, Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/160 s, f/2, ISO 200.
The fruit stalls, Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/100 s, f/1.4, ISO 800.
The fruit stalls, Central Market, Phnom Penh. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/100 s, f/1.4, ISO 800.
A stallkeeper passes time waiting for his next customer. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/50 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.
A stallkeeper passes time waiting for his next customer. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/50 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.
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