Leo Laksi’s Bangkok And Back

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Posts Tagged ‘Phnom Penh

Roaming Cambodia – Eating tarantulas in Skoun.

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Tarantula before cooking.

Tarantula before cooking.

Skoun (or Skun), Cambodia is at the crossroads between Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Kratie (Irawaddy dolphins).  As a result, it’s a busy transportation hub for Cambodia.  It is known as “Spiderville” by some as the town is known for its delicious selection of deep fried tarantulas, as well as crickets and grasshoppers.  Before you roll you eyes at the thought, let me tell you that the spiders don’t taste half bad.  Although they don’t taste “just like chicken”, they do resemble softshell crab in texture although the taste is a bit stronger.  You can buy a bag of these spiders and munch them as you would any snacks.  There is a bit of bitterness before you swallow the spider but otherwise not bad.  Really.  If the thought of spiders turn you off, try the crickets or grasshoppers, both of which are tasty with no aftertaste. Bon appetit!

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens and Nikon D300s and 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens.

Selling crickets.

Selling crickets.

Selling sticky rice snack.

Selling sticky rice snack.

More crickets.

More crickets.

Deep fried tarantulas.

Deep fried tarantulas.

Written by leolaksi

February 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Setting the stage – traveling from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Don Khong, Laos

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Prapheng Waterfall on the Mekong River

Prapheng Waterfall on the Mekong River.

The waterfalls and rapids across the countless streams of the Mekong River in Southern Laos are located in one of the richest and most bio-diverse areas in Asia.  And it is always under threat due to the hydroelectric potential of the Mekong.  Several dams have been built in China and in Laos and Cambodia, studies have been completed to determine the feasibility of dams in the Southern reaches of the river.

I believe its only a matter of decades before the Don Khong, Laos to Kratie, Cambodia stretch is dammed and therefore life as we know it on the river will be gone.

Typical river scene

Typical river scene.

I had been thinking about making this trip for several years but had only recently decided to make this trip happen.  This area, which is referred to as Siphandon (translated in Lao as 4,000 islands),  can be visited from one of two routes with the northern route from Ubon Rachathani, Thailand through Pakse, Laos being the easiest to make.  You can fly into “Ubon” from Bangkok and then arrange for car, van or bus to journey the rest of the way to Siphandon.  From Ubon, the journey is approximately 300 kilometers.  The highways from the Thai border are quite good in contrast to the roads along the southern route from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Siphandon.

Sunrise on Don Khong

Sunrise on Don Khong.

As I find Cambodia one of the most enchanting places on Earth for photographs, I decided to take the 700 kilometer southern route.  Through the towns of Kratie, with its endangered Iriwaddy dolphins, to the northern wetlands capital, Stung Trung.  Along the way, there are so many opportunities for photographs that one is never lacking subjects.

Iriwaddy Dolphins, an endangered species, near Kratie

Shy Iriwaddy Dolphins, an endangered species, near Kratie.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting photographs of the entire journey, from beginning to end. And back again.

Fisherman with net in foreground. Prapheng waterfall in back.

Fisherman with net in foreground. Prapheng Waterfall in back.

Fisherman's ladder bridge in foreground. Sophamit Waterfall in background.

Fisherman's ladder bridge in foreground. Sophamit Waterfall in background.

Part 1. Planning a trip up the Mekong River – From Phnom Penh to Pakse

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Map of Cambodia

Map of Cambodia

Several years ago I began thinking about a trip up (or down) the Mekong River from its source on the Tibetan Plateau 4350 kilometers away from its delta near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.  It’s a river diverse with flora and fauna, sadly under attack by countries along its length for its hydroelectric potential.  Of course “hydroelectric potential” translates into damming the river.

Before the Mekong “disappears” under one dam project after another, I decided that I must see the river.  The upper reaches of the river have been subjugated by dams in China.  The lower reaches are still dam free although for how long is subject to discussion.

I am kicking off this discovery in early February with a leg known for its magnificent waterfalls in southern Laos and the Irawaddy dolphins, a endangered species that still lives in small numbers in this area of the Mekong River. I will be traveling by car from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Pakse, Laos.  Along the way I intend to tweet my journey and post to this blog.  The objective of the trip is to photograph the waterfalls, the river, and life along the river.

This trip will head north east via highway 7 to Kratie, famous for its small pod of  Irawaddy dolphins, then thru the town of Stung Treng before crossing the border into Laos.  Between the border and Don Khong are the mighty waterfalls that brought the French ambition to travel by ship to interior China to a dead end.

In Part 2 of this series, which I will post in the coming days, I will discuss the equipment I am bringing on this trip.

Written by leolaksi

January 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh, Camboda

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Interrogation room at S21 Security Prison.

Interrogation room at S21 Security Prison.

One of the most emotional sights to visit while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Musuem.  This venue was formerly a high school that was converted by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 to Security Prison “S21” to house the mainly  middle-class and educated segment of society for interrogation and torture.  The Khmer Rouge believed that educated city-dwellers were exploiters of society and of the working, mainly agrarian, classes.  There was a forced exodus from the cities and larger towns to the countryside.

Those rounded up for interrogation and torture included whole families.  One of the difficult sights at the museum is the photographs of those rounded up and imprisoned.  Not only do you see the frightened faces of men and women, you also see the faces of children.  Beside the photographs, you can view the cells where the victims were imprisoned, torture instruments and human bones including skulls.  Although grotesque in some ways,  the museum is invaluable in making sure we don’t forget what happened thirty years ago.  In depicting gruesome inhumanity, it reminds visitors that we should not be complacent in the face of such crimes against humanity.

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

Interrogation room at S21 Security Prison.

Interrogation room at S21 Security Prison.

 

Photos of inmates.

Photos of inmates, tortured and murdered.

Reflection of whom.

Reflection of whom.

Photo exhibition.

Photo exhibition.

 

Makeshift prison cell in classroom.

Makeshift prison cell in classroom.

 

Written by leolaksi

November 29, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Taking my D700 to the country – A day in Cambodia

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Old woman after a day's work.

Old woman after a day's work.

As photographers, tourists are sometimes bound to tourist attractions.  It’s just the nature of traveling.  We all do it.  We want to capture images that are easily identified with the destination.  In Cambodia, people usually capture Angkor Wat, the killing fields and perhaps the Tonle Sap, (the largest natural lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s wonders for its reverse flow depending on the season).

In my trips to Cambodia, I find the tourist attractions taking a backseat to shooting the people in their natural environment.  On this particular trip I spent several hours in rice patties and farms capturing people going about their everyday tasks.  From tending the crops to planting rice, the photography came alive for me.  It was also a chance to interact with people, people that you will find are very friendly, accommodating, and dignified.  This kind of interaction may transform your trip from a routine to a magical journey.

Photos taken with a Nikon D700 and Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

A shy and friendly smile.

A shy and friendly smile.

Hard at work in the hot sun.

Hard at work in the hot sun.

Covered at work.

Covered at work.

Getting water from the lake.

Getting water from the lake.

Older man with water cans.

Older man with water cans.

Written by leolaksi

November 21, 2009 at 7:17 pm

Chilling out in Phnom Penh – watching the world go by

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Along the way

Along the way

Like lots of cities in Southeast Asia, Phnom Penh has many modes of transportation.  It doesn’t have light rail or subways like some cities, but it does have its own means of efficient travel.  And there’s no telling what you will see when you’re traveling the roads of Cambodia.

One of my favorite activities is to ride around town in a tuk tuk and just check out the scene.  From street level you gain a view of a town that is different from the taxi or a bus.  Street level means you’re taking it all in.  The view, the heat, the smells.  Good and bad.

On the move

On the move

Lap of luxury

Lap of luxury

Walk on by

Walk on by

Youthful spirit

Youthful spirit

Lost in thought

Lost in thought

Written by leolaksi

December 12, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Phnom Penh traffic – trucks, cars, motorcycles, tuks-tuks… and elephants

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Here it comes!

Here it comes!

I was walking down Sisowath along the Tonle Sap when I spotted this elephant walking down the road.  It seemed like a normal sight as no one was particularly taken aback by the beautiful animal.  Traffic was heavily congested behind it but this did not appear to bother the elephant.  As the elephant approached me, I backed up.  No one else bothered. And just as soon as I saw the creature it disappeared into the congestion.

Sisowath Quay

Sisowath Quay

This area of Phnom Penh is rich with subjects to photograph.  It is vibrant with life to the extent that one could fill up a memory card in the blink of the eye.  Lasting memories for sure.

I would recommend taking the two kilometer walk from the outdoor market near the Quay Hotel to the Sunway Hotel  to take in life along the Tonle Sap.

Closer

Closer

Out of the way

Out of the way

I see you

I see you

Leading the parade

Leading the parade

Into the distance

Into the distance

Lasting memory

Lasting memory

Written by leolaksi

December 6, 2008 at 7:04 am