Nowhere has quite touched my soul like Cambodia. Four weeks of travels in ‘The Kingdom of Wonder'(The Cambodian tourist board slogan) has left me wanting more. The friends I made, the sheer fun of the place and the opportunities for photography yet fulfilled will ensure I return. Here is part one of a photographic diary of my adventure captured on the Fuji X-T1 and X-Pro1 cameras.
Camera kit: Fuji X-T1 with 10-24 and 55-200mm zooms plus 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, 56mm and 60mm primes. I used the primes for my portraits (mainly featured in the next blog posts) and the zooms for landscapes.
Cambodia is rapidly changing. The Cambodia cities of today are barely comparable to the Cambodia of just three years ago. There is an emergent middle class that is pulling the economy up, attracting tourist money and getting things done. In just the last two years there has been an influx of western grade restaurants and coffee shops. I’m not talking about trashy fast food outlets but high quality chains. Cambodia is proud to be a country without a McDonalds. There are Browns coffee shops and Blue Pumpkin cafés on many streets in Phnom Penh together with boulangeries where local young entrepreneurs sit with friends sipping Doppio Macchiatos. They are smartly dressed surfing the fast, free, wifi using their Apple laptops and Samsung devices or tapping into the the extensive LTE and 4G networks. Bradband accesability seems way ahead and far cheaper than in the UK. I bought a sim for my iPhone at the airport for 5 USD and It gave me 2.75Gb of data to use in a month plus free calls and texts within Cambodia. Super value and super fast.
A journey by Tuk Tuk through the streets of Phnom Penh took us past car showrooms including a Rolls Royce dealership, swanky new boutique hotels and infrastructure development on a substantial scale. Just a few years ago, according to the people I spoke to, the streets of Phnom Penh were a wash with begging children and homeless families living in squalor. Now, it appears the children have largely become Tuk Tuk drivers and the streets are swept. Phnom Penh is the first Asian city I have been too that I could see myself living in. I rate it above Singapore and Hong Kong for charm and friendliness. Everyone in Cambodia it seems wears a smile and having coming from such a recent terrible past this is quite a pleasant surprise to most first time visitors.
The Fuji X system – A perfect travel kit. A month in Asia with it’s rich colour, seductive landscapes, and hot and humid climate has taught me that the Fuji X kit is up to the job. I did have a few problems though, notably I stripped some of the coating from my 56mm prime lens by unknowingly using a lens cloth contaminated with Deet. That’s the stuff for repelling mosquitos but it melts flip flops (according to Julie, my wife) and eats lens coatings too as I found out. Also, our 55-200 lens got a bit of a soaking in a monsoon so I sent it off for re-greasing and checking over as a precaution before it goes to a private game reserve in Africa with Julie for three months. But other than that the kit performed well. I was worried about the constant 36 -39 degrees temperatures and the 95% humidity but the climate was not a problem.
Think Tank Retrospective 7 Camera Bag – Perfect for the Fuji X. Julie and I both had our Think Tank camera bags with us in Cambodia, We have the Retrospective 7 and the Retrospective 30 respectively. Despite the difference in number from 7 to 30 the bags don’t vary that much in size. The slightly smaller 7 is ideal for an X-T1 with 4 primes, a Speedlight, trigger, spare batteries, iPad, wallet and keys. The Retrospective 30 can accommodate 2 X bodies, 3 zoom lenses, 2 Speedlights, triggers, batteries, an iPad or small laptop, wallet and keys.
The ‘With love and Lovegrove‘ tour of Cambodia was ten days of magic. It combined an amazing travel photography experience with four dedicated portrait photography tutorials based in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kep. I’ll be posting the portraits I shot in Cambodia over the next week after a dedicated post on the temples of Angkor.
We really did have a fabulous tour experience. The boutique hotels and fine dining far surpassed my expectations and the people of Cambodia are a joy to be with. If you would like to join me on an extended 12 day tour and experience Cambodia in 2015 email Blaise to be put on the information list and we will keep you up to date with the details of what will be my last tour of this fabulous country. Also in the planning stages for 2015 are tours of Cuba and Burma. Email Blaise about those too.
Please share your experiences and lasting memories of Cambodia. :)