Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Posts tagged ‘kompong cham’

Summer in Cambodia, autumn in Hanoi


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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Back in Kompong Cham


When I first visited Kompong Cham, in January 2012, the weather was hot and dry, and the ramshackle bamboo bridge connected the town with Koh Paen island in the middle of the Mekong.  This time around, the weather was hot and wet, and the bridge had been washed away by the rising river water, to be rebuilt again once the rain has abated later in the year.  Some things hadn’t changed though.  Like Kratie, my previous stop, the town still has a low-key charm, thanks mainly to its warm and generous people.  One of the women featured in this post (the last but one picture, a Cham muslim woman photographed in the covered fish market) I also have a picture of from my first visit.

The wet weather meant that I didn’t get out and about as much as I would have liked, so these pictures are all from the market and the town centre.

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Bamboo bridge, Kompong Cham

The bamboo bridge in Kompong Cham only exists for half the year.  In the wet season it’s destroyed by the rising waters of the Mekong, and then built again from scratch once the rains have stopped in December.  This happens every year.  I’m going to have to go back to Kompong Cham one December, just so that I can see it being built.  The bridge stretches from the town, on the west bank of the Mekong, to the island of Koh Paen in the middle of the river.  It’s completely dwarfed by, and rendered almost ludicrous by, the massive new road bridge that arcs over the river’s entire width.

The strangest thing about the bamboo bridge is that you can hear it from a distance.  The bamboo poles rattle and creak as pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, cars and – alarmingly – great big SUVs travel over it.  I chose to cycle over, which was fine so long as I didn’t look left or right, or stop to consider what the hell I was doing.  The sound of the bridge is even louder once you are actually on it of course, and you can also feel it moving underneath your wheels, especially when being overtaken by a great big SUV.  These vehicles are almost as wide as the bridge itself and, as in all countries of the world, are driven by those blissfully unaware of the existence of other people, so you have to be careful as they pass not to topple over into the water, or impale yourself on bamboo.

Cycling over the bamboo bridge is the sort of experience that I might have avoided in the past, due to my esssential wussiness, but I’m very glad I did it.  My only regret is that I made the return journey too soon, and was in the wrong place for sunset.  That picture will have to wait for my next visit, but here are some others to be going on with, starting with some morning silhouettes.

Mekong days, Cambodia

After a week in the Mekong Delta in the south of Vietnam, I crossed the border into Cambodia for a slightly different taste of Mekong life, in the riverside towns of Kompong Cham and Kratie, north east of Phnom Penh. One day, I want to travel the length of the Mekong, from southern China all the way down to the delta, with unlimited time and unlimited memory cards. One day. In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with occasional short trips like this one, in January this year.

Looking at these pictures again today has made me recall some of the other sensations and impressions of the trip that I couldn’t capture on camera: being sunburnt enough to feel a tingle but not so much to hurt; the smell of tobacco plants producing puzzling nostalgic cigarette cravings; long, uncomfortable, oddly enjoyable bus journeys with Khmer pop drowning out the music from my iPod; the pleasant ache in limbs unaccustomed to cycling; happily cancelling out the benefits of said cycling with giant bottles of Angkor beer; confirming my belief that three days in one place is far better than two; unwittingly providing the entertainment by losing my footing in a fishmarket.

Afternoon in Kompong Cham (potw #15)

Making a rare foray into the realms of physical exercise, I cycled across Kompong Cham’s bamboo bridge (more of which later) onto Koh Paen, a small island in the Mekong river.  Countless small children called “hello!” as I rattled inelegantly past stilt houses and rice fields in the late afternoon sun.  Many of the rice fields in this part of Cambodia are overlooked by small, open pagodas, as in the picture above.