Thinking back on Cambodia

Of all the places we’ve been and will go on this trip, Cambodia is the only country that I’ve traveled to previously. In fact I visited twice, both times for work, first in January 2003, and then again in May. Those dates are interesting because that’s not long after I started my blog. So there’s a record to look back on.

It’s funny to see my growth even in the 4 months between those two trips. I took 120 photos during the first trip, with my 2 megapixel Kodak, though hilariously most of them I took out the window of the plane—only 54 were taken on the ground in Phnom Penh. The shear absurdity of the journey itself (3 layovers!) partially accounts for the number of windowseat shots: Raleigh > Detroit > Tokyo > Bangkok (overnight in hotel) > Phnom Penh.

I was a shy photographer (I still am), and I was also likely overwhelmed by my first exposure to Southeast Asia. It’s hard to know what to capture when everything is different. At the time I didn’t see my blog as an outlet for photography. In the early days, embedding photos in posts was a hassle—blogging was all about text!

However, two months before that first trip I set up a web-based photo gallery (which I’ve long since converted to blog posts) so I could more easily share photos with friends and family. Realize this was before Flickr and most photo sharing sites existed. The photos I chose to share from that initial trip represent a pretty random smattering of things I saw and was able to quickly capture without drawing too much attention to myself: parked scooters, gas in glass soda bottles, shacks by the side of the river. It was a world I was wholly unfamiliar with. And of course my primary purpose there wasn’t to traipse around and explore. So I snapped what I could in the short time I had between work ending and dinner.

These were the blog posts from my first trip to Cambodia:

My second trip, only 4 months later, paints a very different picture. For one, I was there over Memorial Day—a rare three day weekend which I was encouraged to use to visit Angkor. I blogged more during the trip. And I took a lot more photos. Nearly 800. Of course much of that was due to the Angkor visit—over 500 photos. But still, not counting that excursion, I was taking a lot more photos, and not just out the plane window. It was as if I finally realized what a rare opportunity I had, and what an interesting place Cambodia was, and I wanted to capture as much as I could to share with friends, family, and the internet at large.

These were the blog posts from my second trip to Cambodia:

*originally photo galleries

So it was with some nervous excitement that I boarded the fast boat in Châu Đốc, Vietnam on February 9th, and prepared to make my way for the third time to Phnom Penh. It’s not often that one crosses an international border traveling by river. It required two stops, first at the Vietnam border station, where they exit-stamped our passports, and then at the Cambodia border station, where we got our full page visas, and they stamped us in.

Sunrise over the Mekong River in Châu Đốc, on the fast boat to Phnom Penh
Another sunrise over the Mekong
View of the Mekong from the fast boat to Phnom Penh
View of the Mekong from the fast boat
Dramatic confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers at Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Dramatic confluence of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers

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