Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘cambodia’

Downriver

downriver collage

My photobook, Downriver, is still available through blurb.co.uk.

In the summer of 2013, I spent four months following the Mekong river through south-east Asia. From the Xishuangbanna region in China’s Yunnan province, I travelled into northern Laos, crossed the river for a brief visit to Thailand, then continued down through the southern tail of Laos and into eastern Cambodia, before finishing my journey in the Mekong delta region in southern Vietnam. The book is a collection of my photographs and thoughts from the trip.

The 136 page book is available as an 8×10 in softcover book or as a PDF download. Click here to order or to see a limited preview.

downriver

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New photobook: Downriver

downriver

Five countries, four months, one river.

In the summer of 2013, I spent four months following the Mekong river through south-east Asia. From the Xishuangbanna region in China’s Yunnan province, I travelled into northern Laos (making my apologies to Burma), crossed the river for a brief visit to Thailand, then continued down through the southern tail of Laos and into eastern Cambodia, before finishing my journey in the Mekong delta region in southern Vietnam. This book is a collection of my photographs and thoughts from the trip.

The 136 page book is available as an 8×10 in softcover book or as a PDF download. Click here to order or to see a limited preview.

Summer in Cambodia, autumn in Hanoi

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This is a slightly random collection of pictures from Cambodia, taken in July this year, as I followed the Mekong river through Kratie and Kompong Cham and on to Phnom Penh.  Much of my time in the first two of these towns was spent sheltering from torrential rain – entirely my own fault for choosing to travel through south-east Asia during the wet season – but I was still able to spend a decent amount of time wandering through markets, visiting temples and cycling through the countryside.

Although I’ve been posting pictures from Laos and Cambodia recently, I’m actually settling back in to life in Hanoi at the moment.  Once again, this blog is lagging a little behind real life.  I’ve found myself a job and a place to live, and I’m very happy to be here, but I still feel a little wistful when I look back through the pictures from my summer travels.  Mostly though, I’ve been enjoying the Hanoi autumn, catching up with old friends and reacquainting myself with the city that was my home for most of 2008-10.  I’m looking forward to the future and savouring the simple pleasures of having my own space again.  After months of living in hotels – not just while I was travelling, but also for my first few weeks here in Hanoi – it’s oddly satisfying just making my own breakfast and having my own front door key.  I’ve not taken a huge number of pictures since I’ve been here, but I’m slowly building up a small collection of pictures of Hanoi, which I’ll start posting here once I’ve got the last of the photographs from the Mekong trip out of my system.

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24 hours in Stung Treng

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Stung Treng was my first stop in Cambodia, after six weeks of travelling down the length of Laos.  I only stayed in the town for one night, as I was keen to carry on down the river to Kratie, but I had time for a quick late afternoon wander around the market.

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Mekong views

130524-277-editedJinghong, Yunnan province, China

Looking through the pictures I’ve posted from my Mekong trip, I noticed something missing: there are hardly any pictures of the river itself.  There are a few reasons for this, I think.  I naturally incline towards pictures of people – they’re the pictures that I’m best at, and that I most enjoy taking, but I do sometimes feel the need to broaden my repertoire a little.  I don’t have many regrets about this trip, but one of the few I do have is not getting more good landscape and river shots.  I remember being on a long bus journey in Laos, between Savannakhet and Pakse, speeding past rice paddies in the rain.  As the rain stopped and the late afternoon sun emerged, the fields were lit up in the most beautiful, soft, warm light.  You’ll have to take my word for it, because I didn’t get a picture.  As I said, I was on a bus at the time, and that bus wasn’t stopping for anyone.  I spent a few days in Pakse after that bus journey, but never saw that beautiful light again, so that rice paddy image only exists in my memory.  This is just one example of a great picture that I didn’t take, along with the countless early morning street scenes that I was too lazy to get up in time for.   So I’m a little disappointed with the landscape pictures that I actually did take – they’re just not as good as the ones in my head, or perhaps it’s just that they don’t grab me as immediately as my best people shots.   Whatever the reason, I neglected to post many Mekong landscapes (riverscapes?) while I was travelling, so I’ve collected a few together to post now.  These pictures were all taken between May and August this year.

130611-005-editedPak Beng, Laos

130613-089-editedLuang Prabang, Laos

130615-078-editedLuang Prabang, Laos

130619-045-editedFerry across the Mekong (1), Luang Prabang, Laos

130627-086-editedView of Laos at dusk from Nakhon Phanom, Thailand

130718-371-editedStorm clouds gathering, Kratie, Cambodia

130807-255-editedChau Doc, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-056-editedVinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-062-editedVinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

130821-173-editedFerry across the Mekong (2), Vinh Long, Mekong delta, Vietnam

Island life

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A few portrait pictures from Koh Dach island. A short tuk-tuk drive and a ferry ride from central Phnom Penh, in the middle of the Mekong, it’s a little rural oasis within sight of the city. It reminded me a little of the island in the Red River in Hanoi – I had the same feeling of sudden welcome escape. I would have liked to have spent a good while wandering through the villages on the island, but my visit was cut short by the inevitable afternoon thunder storm.

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The Phnom Penh Experience

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Phnom Penh was the biggest, busiest, liveliest place I’d been in for a while.  For most of this Mekong trip, I’ve been staying in small-ish market towns, with occasional detours into more rural areas.  The only cities I’d been in since leaving Saigon in May were Kunming and Vientiane, neither of which have anything like Phnom Penh’s energy or attitude.  Suddenly, the streets were full of traffic, the air full of noise and fumes, and the pavements lined with eager tuk-tuk drivers. After the agreeable drowsiness of Kratie and Kompong Cham, it was a mild shock to the system.  None of which is to say that I didn’t enjoy myself in Phnom Penh. It’s a place that I always enjoy visiting, and I can imagine myself living there one day.

I’m always impressed and a little awed by the city and its people; when you consider that thirty-odd years ago the place was deserted, its population forced into the countryside by the Khmer Rouge, it’s a wonder that the city functions at all, let alone that it’s a place of so much colour and life.  Now the Khmer Rouge years are part of the tourism industry.  Visitors can go to Tuol Sleng, the harrowing genocide museum, and then, slightly grotesquely, to a shooting range to fire AK-47s, all in the same afternoon.

I sometimes think that it’s a shame that Pol Pot and his henchmen play such a big part in many people’s Phnom Penh experience.  I’m not saying that Cambodia’s recent history should be ignored or forgotten, but present-day Phnom Penh has a lot going for it, and we should celebrate that as well as paying respect to its past.  So in that spirit, the pictures in this post are all about the street life of Phnom Penh today, rather than Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields.  For those wanting to know more about the history, there are some links at the bottom of the page.

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From elsewhere on the web:

 

Phnom Penh street portraits

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Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple.  There’s so much happening on the streets in Phnom Penh, especially compared to the much quieter towns that I’d been visiting previously, that it can be hard to take it all in.  After a few days in the city, I stopped trying to take the definitive Phnom Penh photograph, and instead concentrated on looking for interesting faces in nice light.  So I spent my last afternoon there wandering the streets and alleys around O Russei market, taking some simple portrait pictures with my (to give it its full name) sadly neglected 85mm lens.

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