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A Cambodian Affair

Added on by Ridzki Noviansyah.

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.




Added on by Ridzki.

Once me and Dinda were having a discussion with Erik, a good friend and a mentor of ours, actually it was an interview session that we did for an online media. At some point during the discussion we talked about one of his photograph of  a bucket full of  drowned moths that died after circling around the lamp situated above the bucket. The photograph was to commemorate the death of the Indonesian activist Munir. Erik continued by saying that he had read somewhere that the one that attracts men to come to cities was not the opportunities that you could get in the place, but at the very primal level it was lights, city lights that attract humans. In a very similar way that light attracts months and how the city was a bucket full of decaying bodies.

Erik had his relationship between lights, the city, humans and moths and after a while, I had my experience as well.

While flying for a working trip to Bali, I was taking the last flight, it was guaranteed to arrive well before midnight in Denpasar. I had finished my meal (chicken or was it fish?) and getting ready to dozed off, but before I decided to see what they offer in the entertainment section. "Ah Stoker was available", so there I was watching the movie forgetting the need to sleep.

The movie was abruptly ended by the staffs because we need to land, as usual "prepare for landing" in Indonesia would mean a good 30-45 minutes of circling the air without your seat being reclined and your entertainment stopped. A time where suddenly you realized that you're all alone aboard this plane surrounded with strange faces and your only salvation is of course to turn to the most familiar face, yourself. So then you started to speak to yourself and flood your head with thoughts.

When humans created the airplanes, they were thinking of making themselves free from the tyranny of gravity. Over time, it began to look like a good idea to use it as a mass transportation method as well, but mankind is also a species who easily forgot and easily distracted, nobody wants to be confined for two, three or eight hours by just sitting, so in order to make us bear the cage they give us entertainment, they give us lights so our eyes can be transfixed on that brightly lit small screens. And there we are, a species who never once learned, we created planes to free us from the tyrant only to be bound and watched a flickering light. Like moths.

Fortunately there were the times where the lights and the screens were off and our minds come back to its rightful owner. The time where our thoughts and imaginations crawls back into our head feeding us with memories and stories, freeing us from the vessel we called body. That time happens when you had no flickering lights to distract you or when you spend 30-45 minutes waiting for your plane to land.

And that's the time that you should realized that how our life was just a series of flickering lights.

Glimpse of Lao

Added on by Ridzki.

One thing which is a fact is that Lao is a hidden gem, it remains as subtle as it can be although being surrounded by countries which tourism already flourishes like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Vientiane the capital of Lao PDR, will take you back where holiday is defined by taking the time to finish the book on the local coffee shop or working on the project you would like to finish. The people are friendly, the Lao food although hard to find are surprisingly good and the best thing you can cover the whole city for only 3 hours or so plenty of time to enjoy the laid back atmosphere.

Still the aura of business is everywhere, much like any country in South East Asia. Expect pollution and traffic jams to be on the main street, but it's nowhere comparable as  Jakarta.

While Vientiane is the developing capital in which modernism slowly creeping in, Luang Prabang in the other hand is a small charming rustic city. So small that you can cover it in one hour.

Daily life would include to see the monks walking up and down the streets, getting alms from the citizen or tourists, cycle around the city, sipping coffee in a bakery and finally enjoying the colours exploded calmly in the night market.

It's a city where the time is lost, it's where you ask for peace and calmness, rare attributes for one of the tourist destination in South East Asia.

More pictures can be seen here and here

Visions Reloaded: Jogjakarta

Added on by Ridzki.

On the beginning it was an idea, born from reading several articles, watching a few clips and enjoying a lot of photographs. The idea is to ditch zoom lenses in favor for a prime or in my case a manual focus prime.

Then it come to fruition when Vesak Day (Birth of The Buddha) comes closer, so on the 13th to 18 May 2011 I decided to roam the Jogjakarta again, carrying two primes (Soligor 28mm f2.5 and EF 50 mm f1.8) along with my trusty zoom (my girlfriend advice me to carry that as well). Turns out I can't quite ditch the zoom altogether but it does give me a fresh perspective on documenting travel pictures.

So here's what I found out;

  • I love my manual lenses because of its simplicity and tones created. I did not need to over thinking things and all the image produced it is as if I'm right standing in front of it. On the other hand I hate it because I can't focus properly in dim light or when I am using small apertures.
  • I can't ditch my zoom, while advocates of the wide/normal prime says that prime allow you to move and be "creative" and zooms are necessarily evil, etc. I just can quit it yet. This is because zoom allow me to be more creative in its own way; I can use the telephoto end in my landscape, I can capture details which often I can't when I am using prime and I can use technique not available for me when I am using the prime.
  • While traveling I don't need so many lenses in my arsenal, I just need my trusty zoom and one prime which often can be the 28 or 35 mm. While doing several assignment on the other hand I will probably need another lenses.
  • I tried movie making  and I found out that it is hard and good software comes with a price, but I'll be trying to create a multimedia album for my travel in the future.
  • I need to learn to ride a motorbike to simplify movement.

So here is the images from the trip:


I actually go to Jogjakarta again last weekend, happily using only my prime and here's the results:



It really worked out, I suppose but will I ditch the zooms altogether? we'll see about that.