Tag Archives: photos

Single Shot: Jhubei Egret

This egret was spotted in the farmland just east of the Jhubei High Speed Rail station. After going under the bridge for the station, you suddenly go from an urban/suburban landscape to countryside, and being in a river valley, it’s quite a beautiful ride.

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Bangkok Flower Market

On the banks of the Chao Phraya is the Bangkok Flower Market, a maze of smaller vendors, wholesalers, and artisans. This makes for a lively time for photography and is quite fascinating to see. I noticed early on that shutter-priority with a higher ISO than normal would be important as I tried my hardest to stop the action.

  

  

  

  

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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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Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm is perhaps most famous for a movie I’ve never seen. It was featured in the original Tomb Raider film and is best known not for its history, but for the fact that centuries of neglect led to trees growing throughout the temple as the jungle retook the land.

  

  

The above face is either a king or a buddha, revealed only after a tree grew in around the rest of the statue. There is a more famous version of this in an ancient city in Thailand.

  

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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 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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Saturday Afternoon at Xingtian Temple (行天宮)

Last Saturday, I visited Xingtian Temple, or 行天宮 with Yuling while wandering through Zhongshan District at Xingtian Temple Station. While we were visiting, many people were in line to receive blessings and cleansings from the temple spirits aided by ceremony officiants.

   

   

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