Cambodia: Part Five

Before I begin…

Why did the chicken cross the road? I guess we'll never know. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/160 s, f/8, ISO 200.
Why did the chicken cross the road? I guess we’ll never know. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/160 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Despite the best efforts of a rampant rooster, I am still on this earth. The rooster, however, is not; though it may be said he brought it upon himself trying to cross the road in front of a van. Nobody was injured, and I have just been informed that the van has already been repaired.

Construction forges ahead on the new Mekong River bridge, near Neak Loueng. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/1250 s, f/8, ISO 200.
Construction forges ahead on the new Mekong River bridge, near Neak Loueng. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/1250 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Well before we came to said rooster, I got the opportunity to grab a quick shot of construction work on the new road bridge over the Mekong. It’s a large undertaking indeed, and will reduce journey times between Phnom Penh and Prey Veng. The bridge appears to bypass Neak Loueng, though they should still get plenty of business from tour buses passing through to and from Vietnam.

Kampong Thom

The main street of Kampong Thom just after sundown. Olympus PEN Mini E- PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/10 s, f/2.8, ISO 1600.
The main street of Kampong Thom just after sundown. Olympus PEN Mini E- PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/10 s, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

On the way to Preah Vihear, we had cause to stop overnight in Kampong Thom. It’s a nice town, though fraught with traffic, as it lands on a major intersection between several national routes from around Cambodia. The road getting there was treacherous, with poorly demarcated roadworks and copious amounts of potholing and washouts from the flooding that afflicted the country two months ago.

Kampong Thom market by night. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/10 s, f/2.8, ISO 1600.
Kampong Thom market by night. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/10 s, f/2.8, ISO 1600.
Kampong Thom at first light. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/8, ISO 200.
Kampong Thom at first light. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/25 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Preah Vihear

The view down the hill from the first temple. The end of the causeway is taken to be the border between Thailand and Cambodia. The hill range in the distance is in Thailand, though belonged to Cambodia during the days of the ancient Khmer Empire. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17mm f/2.8. 1/400 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The view down the hill from the first temple. The end of the causeway is taken to be the border between Thailand and Cambodia. The hill range in the distance is in Thailand, though belonged to Cambodia during the days of the ancient Khmer Empire. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17mm f/2.8. 1/400 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Preah Vihear is one of Cambodia’s plethora of ancient temples, though generally not as well known as Angkor Wat in the international community. However, this all changed over the course of the past six years or so, thanks to its geographic location.

The end of the small settlement before the path to the temples. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/160 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The end of the small settlement before the path to the temples. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/160 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The first temple up the hill, and the flags of Cambodia and the UN. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/500 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The first temple up the hill, and the flags of Cambodia and the UN. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/500 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Preah Vihear lies on the Cambodian-Thai border, and was the location of a heated border dispute over the ownership of the temple complex and surrounding land. While the ICJ has ruled unambiguously that the temples are Cambodian, they have not defined the exact location of the border. As a result, border tensions are continuing, which may be seen in the large military presence on each side. Fortunately, no shots have been exchanged in recent times, and the complex remains open to tourists.

Scaffolding supporting a frontage on the first temple. Olympus PEN Mini E- PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/125 s, f/8, ISO 200.
Scaffolding supporting a frontage on the first temple. Olympus PEN Mini E- PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/125 s, f/8, ISO 200.
Praying at the second temple. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17mm f/ 2.8. 1/100 s, f/2.8, ISO 400.
Praying at the second temple. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17mm f/ 2.8. 1/100 s, f/2.8, ISO 400.

There are five temples in total, with each successive one higher up the hill, before the final one, which sits on the peak. An ancient staircase asceneds one side of the hill to the complex. It’s rather a steep staircase, so wouldn’t really be a recommendation for anything beyond viewing. Due to its location, climbing the stairs also risks encountering military patrols, which doesn’t seem like the best thing to do while on holiday.

A passageway through the fifth temple. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/60 s, f/5.6, ISO 1600.
A passageway through the fifth temple. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/60 s, f/5.6, ISO 1600.
The back of the fifth temple at Preah Vihear. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/500 s, f/8, ISO 200.
The back of the fifth temple at Preah Vihear. Olympus PEN Mini E-PM1 with Olympus 17 mm f/2.8. 1/500 s, f/8, ISO 200.

Thanks to a more temperate climate, sublime vistas, and the sheer beauty of the temples themselves, I’d highly recommend taking the time to view Preah Vihear.

Detailed carvings in the sandstone at Preah Vihear. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 60 mm Macro. 1/1000 s, f/2.8, ISO 200.
Detailed carvings in the sandstone at Preah Vihear. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Olympus 60 mm Macro. 1/1000 s, f/2.8, ISO 200.

Siem Reap

Roadside vendors in Siem Reap. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/13 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.
Roadside vendors in Siem Reap. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/13 s, f/1.4, ISO 200.

After seven hours in the back of a van, we lumbered into Siem Reap by night. The bright lights were made more spectacular by the handiwork of the rooster.

Siem Reap river. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/1.3 s, f/1.4, ISO 800.
Siem Reap river by night. Olympus OM-D E-M5 with Panasonic-Leica 25 mm f/1.4. 1/1.3 s, f/1.4, ISO 800.

Since Siem Reap is a larger tourist hub than Phnom Penh, the whole town is bedecked with yuletide frippery, including a myriad of christmas trees (made from fairy lights) and carollers (by way of a very good PA system). However, the town itself isn’t the attraction, it’s merely the gateway to Angkor Wat; a gateway I eagerly anticipate passing through.

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