Tag Archives: cambodia

Older Photos from Throughout Asia

As I was digging through my Flickr archives today, I noticed that I don’t post very many photos at all here! My Flickr account, small by some standards, just passed 6,000 photos recently. This is a miniscule amount of what I shoot, as I think I have 25,000+ photos in raw/.NEF format on an external hard drive.

Anyway, it’s good now and then to take a look at older shots, especially with my lack of digging out the camera these days. Here is a mix of places and subjects:

Above: Bangkok, Thailand: monks disembark from the Chao Praya Express boat.

Above: Bangkok, where I got stuck in the middle of after-school rush hour. Somewhere near the Chao Praya river.

Above: Ryukyu drum performance in Okinawa, Japan.

Above: Traditional “hanbok” style Korean dresses in Seoul.

Above: Taipei’s Ximending district, sometime around Chinese New Year 2013.

Above: Somewhere in Naha, Okinawa.

Above: Khmer folk dancers in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Above: Bas relief, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

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Ten Shots from 2011

I decided to put together ten shots from 2011, mostly based on popularity of posts, but also including shots that I really grew with as a photographer and just plain old like.

Let me know what you think. I’ve linked each image to the Flickr page and each description to the original post.

This guy was taking part in the annual Dragon Boat Festival (龍船節), a major Chinese holiday celebrated as a bank holiday in Taiwan. Cities all over the island hold races between dragon boats – large, colorful regatta boats powered by rowing teams. This particular race was in Hsinchu. 

These dancing San Tai Zi (三太子) gods were in Taichung during the annual Mazu Festival. The festival involves a large pilgrimage which takes days to complete and the size of which can only be explained as “massive.” See this for the original post.

Hsinchu’s East Gate is seen here at the “roundabout” in the city’s center. This photo was taken with my iPhone and the app Instagram. More shots can be seen here. 

Not long after the Mazu Festival was Spring Scream, a multi-day music festival held annually in Kenting, located on the southern tip of the island. This was a Japanese punk band called Samurai Attack, or SA.

In the days and weeks following the Fukushima incident, the international controversy surrounding nuclear power reached Taiwan. I took a look at a protest taking part in Taipei.

This was taken during my trip to Thailand last summer. Wat Arun is the tallest temple in the city of Bangkok and one of the most amazing places I’ve visited.

Another “touristy” shot from Southeast Asia, but one which I had in mind as soon as I got on the plane to Asia. Angkor Wat is a spot that everyone needs to see and its location in Cambodia is changing the face of the local town, Siem Reap.

This bear was at the Taipei Zoo, an extremely affordable and large zoo located in the country’s capital.

Also in the capital is the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, home to one of many ceremonies showing the changing of the guard. Precision and solemnity highlight this ceremony.

And the last is a shot of a sushi joint called Sushi Express from a newer camera, the Nikon P7000. I wrote about my initial reactions and posted some shots around the time of Dragon Boat Festival weekend. It’s a nice camera, but the lack of a mechanical shutter kind of irritates me.

For anyone who follows my blog: thanks! To be honest, I mostly blog because it forces me to take pictures. The fact that I have a bit of an “audience” helps me get out the door with my camera in hand. Doing this has helped me develop my photography and force me to make the photos “good enough” for public consumption. In the future, I hope to add a little more as I delve into film photography and continue to explore “Ilha Formosa.”

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Monks at Angkor Wat, Part 2

About a month ago when I returned from Cambodia, I posted two of my favorite shots from the trip, portraits of two monks taken at Angkor Wat. Since I was in a rush to get everything uploaded from the trip, I neglected to post these shots, also taken from the same day. The monks were gracious enough to allow me to photograph as they wandered around and took pictures themselves.

  

  

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Weekend Post: Cambodia Slideshow

I’m doing something I don’t normally do and posting on the weekend to show off a slideshow I made of my time in Cambodia, with special emphasis made on ancient Khmer culture and the ruins of Angkor Archaeological Park.

The music in this slideshow comes from a recording made by Tara Alan and Tyler Kellen. They recorded a group of landmine victims playing traditional Cambodian music for their blog about bicycling around the world, Going Slowly. While they seem to be back according to their posts, you can get a lot of insight about world travel through their ginormous website. They were nice enough to allow me to use their recording. Remember, you can buy CDs of this music from the musicians themselves, who frequent areas around the temples.

I recommend seeing this video at full screen and if possible, at 1080p quality, the highest available.

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Cambodia: Daily Life

Unfortunately, I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked to get shots of daily life as street photography during my time in Cambodia. I did get some shots through which I tried to give an idea of the dusty streets, crazy traffic, and general culture shock that anyone experiences after leaving the airport at Phnom Penh.

Above: Phnom Penh foodcart. Taken out of a tuk-tuk.

The above two shots are a side street in Siem Reap.

Vendors on the road to Siem Reap.

Farmer on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. Taken out of a moving tuk-tuk, so notice the blurriness on bottom.

Above: garment workers leaving for lunch break near Siem Reap.

…and who can’t forget a Cambodian gas station?! This is usually set up for scooters and tuk-tuks. A regular gas tank was sitting next to it – as in other parts of Asia, people in Cambodia sometimes live out of their places of business. In this case, there was a fully-functioning house behind this gas station.

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Apsara Dancers, Siem Reap

Apsara, the traditional Cambodian ballet which dates back thousands of years, is a dance form which is a bit of a mainstay of southeast Asian culture. Many people associate the dance form with Thailand, but Cambodia and Thailand probably share this form as a result of their Hindu-influenced strains of Buddhism.

We saw this performance in a pretty luxurious hotel (which we didn’t stay at) which offered a dance and a dinner for about $25 – a fortune for a meal in Cambodia. Also included was a form of Cambodian folk dance.

While we were seated near the front and I soon noticed photos were OK, I had trouble with the stage lights being unpredictable, not wanting to use flash (though others did), and the movement of the dancers being much quicker than I had realized.

  

  

Left: I included this image from Angkor Wat to show you how similar these dancers are. They could be apsaras or devatas, and I’m am not 100% certain.

Above: a representation of the killing of a demon. I believe this relates to the Hindu story of the Ramayana, detailing the stealing away of an Indian princess named Sita and the rescue of her by Rama, an avatar of Vishnu.

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Cambodia’s Dark Past, Part 2: Cambodia Landmine Museum

This is the second of two posts relating to the darker side of Cambodia’s history. Yesterday, I discussed Security Prison 21, a high school converted into a concentration camp and prison which operated from 1975-1979 until its liberation by the Vietnamese Army. It is now a museum in Phnom Penh.

Following the scourge of genocide and civil war in Cambodia was something left behind that maims and kills people to this day: unexploded ordinance and minefields that litter the eastern and western borders.

In the east, bombs dropped by American B-52s during the bombing campaigns against the Viet Cong guerrillas who sought refuge on the borders still exist in the countryside. Recent statistics reveal that 2,756,941 tons of bombs – more than the whole two million of World War II – were dropped on Cambodia between 1965 and 1973, even though it was not officially declared that America was involved in any way with Cambodia until 1970.

In the west where the Khmer Rogue held villages until 1998 and where Thailand heavily guarded and feared for its eastern border, minefields were created as the Vietnamese and Soviet-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea fought against the Khmer Rogue.

This war of attrition sucked many innocent lives into the ongoing conflict. One was Aki Ra, who was later given his Japanese name by journalists and lived a hellish life after his parents were killed and he was taken into the Khmer Rogue as a child soldier. As a soldier, he learned to set landmines and fight, and was eventually forced to switch sides after being captured by the Vietnamese. After his time fighting, he decided to start demining – and until 2007 when the Cambodian government stopped him for liability reasons, he removed mines himself with only a stick and a knife.

Eventually, he created a museum when tourists learned of a “crazy Cambodian guy” who had a house full of deactivated landmines. Today, this museum is officially supported and he has been trained by the UN to clear landmines with an all-Khmer team. The museum also serves as housing for several children who have been affected by landmines and by poverty and disease.

You can learn more about Aki Ra through his CNN Heroes profile here.

You can also learn about the Cambodia Landmine Museum at its website. You can donate money directly or purchase “cleanUp soap,” a landmine-shaped soap which proceeds go toward demining in Cambodia.

  

Above left: 500-lb. bombs line up the entrance to the museum. Top and above right: all of the deactivated munitions at this museum were removed and disarmed by Aki Ra himself. No new mines go into the museum anymore.

  

Above: notice the mortar shells – another issue in Cambodia is “UXO” or unexploded ordinance.

  

Above: these red signs do exist in Cambodia – this “fake minefield” is set up to see if people are able to identify even the most rudimentary and easiest to see mines. Consider the fact that de-mining teams have to cut through the jungle with a machete.

Above: this is “cleanUp” soap for sale – available in the store. Profits from the soap – which is sold online – support de-mining in Cambodia.

In addition to the landmine museum, visitors will often see groups of musicians playing at temples. This music gives a really interesting atmosphere to the temples and small donations are solicited. The groups that play these are said to be landmine survivors – you can see this with the amputated limbs and prosthetic limbs sitting around. It is important to keep in mind that not all amputees in Cambodia are landmine survivors in a country where diseases “wiped out” in the West like malaria and polio have wreaked havoc on the population. Regardless, I thought it was worth buying a $10 CD of their recordings after I asked to take their picture.

  

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Cambodia’s Dark Past, Part 1: S-21 Prison, Phnom Penh

This is the first of two posts relating to the darker side of Cambodia’s history. Tomorrow, I will be making a post about the landmine epidemic and an organization that plays a big part in educating people and cleaning up Cambodia one mine at a time.

In August, 1975, after the Khmer Rouge pushed into Phnom Penh victoriously, a high school in the heart of the city was converted into a concentration camp and security prison. Chao Ponhea Yat High School became known as Security Prison 21, or S-21, and housed an estimated 17,000 – 20,000 inmates during its existence.During the Cambodian Genocide, intellectuals, monks, teachers, soldiers and members of the Lon Nol regime, doctors, and engineers were systematically killed with Pol Pot’s Khmer Rogue regime attempting to create an agrarian utopia. The purges would not stop there, and an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million people lost their lives. This all took place in a country with a population of about 7.3 million in 1975 and an area a little larger than the US state of Oklahoma.S-21 served as a security prison tasked with interrogating “enemies of the revolution” – basically any and everyone with some form of speciality even if their politics were neutral. Like the Nazis before them, the Khmer Rogue provided very detailed records of the prisoners, including photographs which are still on display at the museum today. In addition to these photographs, torture devices are still in existence, as are hooks bolted into the ground to hold people down. When the prison was liberated in 1979 by the Vietnamese Army, only eleven survivors were found and the guards had already left.

While visiting Cambodia, it is important to remember the scars that these wars – which only really ended in 1998 – have inflicted upon the country. This was something that is very apparent – visiting the country gives you an awkward sense as this developing country has seen so many struggles. Years of war has taken its toll on the people and the economy – even today, the average income based on GDP PPP per-capita is $2,100 per year in US dollars. Keep in mind that for many of the poor of Cambodia, this is a huge number, as these statistics don’t take income inequality into mind when they are calculated.

Good news exists though, in the burgeoning tourist industry centered around Angkor Wat. One man my wife Yuling and I got to know was our tuk-tuk driver, Thean.  Tourism supports him at about $20 – $30 per day plus extra tips and expenses. He worked very hard and being tri-lingual (he is working on his fourth language, Russian), I would hope that he has a very bright future ahead. His dream is to become a tour guide, but cannot fulfill this yet as the fact that he grew up in a town controlled by the Khmer Rogue until 1997 in Western Cambodia halted his pursuit at a high school diploma. I’m about his age and will complain less when I have some barrier to my next life step.

In addition to tourism, more businesses are bringing factories into the country, though any visitor to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap will be skeptical about this happening quickly as the infrastructure in Cambodia is still “developing” at best. When you have a country with dirt roads for “national highways,” it is difficult to build industry. However, cheap labor is always an attractive option as globalization spreads the marketplace around the world, so it will be interesting to see how things continue.

You can read more about S-21 and the Cambodian Genocide throughout the Internet. One useful article is the Wikipedia entry for S-21, which includes more photographs and personal accounts. Another useful link is this article about Cambodian artist Vann Nath, one of the eleven survivors. His eerie work is hanging throughout the museum, and graphically portrays what happened in each of the rooms.

One of the eerie effects of this prison is the fact that its architecture immediately reminds you of schools in Asia. Nearly all schools here have classrooms which go to the outside – effective before air conditioning was always available. The parts of S-21 that still look like Chao Ponhea Yat High School are immediately noticeable to teachers especially.

  

Above left: a memorial at the front of the entrance sits to the few people who are buried at the complex. Their 14 bodies were found when the prison was liberated. Most of the killing was done in the rural areas of Cambodia. On the right is another memorial in a rear courtyard.

  

Above right: a sign which reminds visitors not to smile. There was a certain religious element about this place – it seemed more sacred than even the Buddhist sites I visited.

This Khmer-French-language chalkboard kind of creeped me out. I’m not sure if it was left all these years or placed here for the sake of the museum – either way, it’s very effective at getting the point across.

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Angkor Wat Sunrise

Today’s image is a standard scene taken by thousands of photographers before me. I woke poor Yuling up at about 4:00am to meet Thean, our tuk-tuk driver for the two days of exploring temples. We then hopped in the back of the tuk-tuk at about 4:40 and rushed in after buying our park passes.

I was startled and amazed at a few things after seeing this scene in person for the first time. The first is that the water in front of Angkor Wat is NOT the famous moat around the complex as I had thought before. It is a manmade pond on the northwest corner of the complex that looks east for the sunrise. It DOES work wonderful for reflections and the fact that there are some breakfast stands to the left doesn’t hurt, either.

The second thing that startled me is the huge mass of photographers and tourists who group up around this small lake for that one picture. In the future, when I see documentaries of Angkor Wat talking about this as a “remote jungle temple complex,” I will laugh. The site itself is in the hands of the tourists now, for better or for worse.

While I’m glad I woke up for the shot, part of me is startled by how little reward there is in getting an image like this – I think this is why I like the concept and practice of street photography, which is infinitely more interesting. With that said, I’m not complaining about my chance to get “the Angkor Wat shot” I was looking for.

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Monks at Angkor Wat

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be processing and posting shots from my recent trip through Cambodia and Thailand, which took us from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Bangkok and Ko Samet. It was an exhausting yet rewarding trip, though we definitely saved time for the beaches of Thailand at Ko Samet near the end.

I’m still trying to contemplate how different the two countries are. Both are based in the same lines of cultural, religious, and historical ancestry but are bitter enemies. I will consider some of these differences in future posts, but should start off with something both countries have very much in common: Theravada Buddhism.

These monks were wandering around Angkor Wat on  our third day in Cambodia. The older monk was showing about eight or nine young monks, boys around the ages of 8-10, around the temple complex. In Thailand and Cambodia, monks are not always dedicating their entire life to service in the monastery, so I’m guessing these boys may have recently entered service and will remain living the lives of monks for a few months at most.

While an obvious language barrier existed, it was interesting to see them explore the temple almost as tourists themselves. They were nice enough to stop for some photos as another tourist took a photo of the group with the eldest monk’s cameraphone.

   

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