Back then in 2011 or 2010, I made a promise to myself, I won't be visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia before I got accepted into the Angkor Photo Workshop, a promise that I held until recently. I still haven't got accepted however I do get the opportunity to present some Indonesian photobooks during the festival, which report can be read here.
But enough about photography, I wanted to talk about how idea of travel have shifted for me and probably for others too. I felt that there is no longer travel for travel sake, to get lost in a culture or a city and to soak yourself in it, a travel for me would only consisted for work, for others might be an medium of self expression on a social media.
Prior to the travel, I remembered hearing stories of Cambodia from my friend, they often refer to the majestic history of the temple and how the king's name was similar to the name of the king in Indonesian history. Another point is how the country uses USD and Cambodian Riel as their main currencies and if you're stuck with lots of Riel at the end of your travel, then good luck, it had no values outside of the country.
I was also expecting dirt roads, temples, a few bars here and there, prostitutes and of course the French, in short I was expecting a bit more Luang Prabang vibe. When I arrived I could swear I thought I was on a trip to Bali.
Gone are the dusty dirt road (there's dusty asphalt road though) and multiply the rest and add in the Australians, the Americans, the Chinese, the Japanese and the Spanish and there you have it, Siem Reap, that one place to go if you want to see the sunrise on that Lara Croft temple.
There's a bit of a relief on my part I suppose, knowing that I didn't missed the experience of travelling much. It has been made similar with all of this globalisation, the tour groups and the backpackers has been made sure that they would have the exact same experiences, the exact same sunrise and the same souvenir, it's just one must pay more Dollar or Riel than the others.
So stuck with this pseudo Bali experience, I can only try to explore, although the term of exploration is a bit misleading as there's nothing new under the sun. But it always interesting about what I could find in a travel guide especially regarding a place with less information on it. I don't bring my lonely planet and their website is a pain to navigate, plus I am not sure whether it is being updated all the times, so I browsed travelfish, and there I found out about Kyung Yu, a Cambodian fun fair.
"To get lost in a culture or a city and to soak yourself in it", I wrote that in the beginning but gradually after staying in Siem Reap for a few days, I realised that the one which prevent me from travelling and exploring the unknown was the myself. Work, money and comfort are all excuses that I use to justify the lack of travel that I did, I almost didn't go to Kyung Yu because it was after the rain and I didn't exactly know the place. It was only when a friend reminded me so I decide to cycle to search for the place, where the only guide I have is vaguely written as
"If you’re heading from Siem Reap to the funfair, take the road to Angkor Wat, and at Kantha Bopha Hospital take a right down 60 Metre Road where there is a photoshop on the corner. Continue straight until you see the bright lights!"
I didn't see any bright lights, I didn't see any photoshop, all I see are wide open roads, with Cambodians eating on the side and pretty girls wearing nice clothes riding motorcycles. So I decided that the best thing is to do is of course to follow the pretty girls, at least they're dressing up to go somewhere.
And then lo and behold, there it is; the bright lights, the playground and the rides.
I took my time there, observing and photographing, trying to make sense of the place, trying to get lost and getting soaked. In which I successfully did and I am glad that I did it. I realised that I only need a bit of a kick, a reminder even, to get to travel. Truly comfort is one of the biggest human vice, it makes us lazy and detaches us with the reality, deceiving us, making us think that after what we've done we deserve it.
I photograph the place as a reminder, where somewhere away from the epicenter of comfort, there's always something to be discovered, if you want to, if you're willing enough to get lost and to get soaked and most importantly if you're willing to let go of that comfort.
Here's to great 2015, may we all be blessed, be able to travel, get lost and able to learn something new.