Happy Diwali everyone! May the days ahead be filled with high quality light to all of you!
I just got back from a month of travelling in South East Asia, and it is good to be back home in time for the festivities.
The first ten days of of my trip was spent on the photography tour to Myanmar, after which I was in Cambodia, exploring the country for two weeks. Those two weeks in Cambodia were full of surprises, a lot of luck in terms of photography and a few choices made that led me to pots of gold.
These choices were part accidental and part through meticulous planning. Making much deliberations before departure, I had decided to engage the services of a local photographer for two days in Cambodia. It was going to cost me equivalent of ten days of four-star accommodation in the country.
But reflecting on those two days, the places I saw and people I met contributed to such high quality experiences that I would call that price a heavy discount. Of course, very satisfying images followed from those visits and experiences. Reflecting further on the way my traveling has evolved from a decade-long wanderings, I also realized that I wouldn’t have engaged this photographer ten years ago. I once travelled in search of deeply personal experiences, almost always searching for the finest natural beauty in complete solitude and never wanting anyone to interfere in this. Over the years, I understood how people contribute to the journeys, how interactions enrich the experiences and people with expertise can add a great value. And all this, without really compromising the deeply personal nature of the experiences.
How these change occurred are perhaps worth a much longer story, so let’s put that aside now. Here’s is one of the images made on the first of those two days, at a monastery. In the few hours we spent at this place, we also had many conversations with this monk, with our photographer friend playing interpreter’s role. This monk had recently come back from a long pilgrimage across India, trying to understand and interpret many traditions in Cambodia that originated from the cultural influence from India that Cambodia has had for nearly a millennium. Only a few minutes into our conversation, I realized that this monk understood and interpreted many traditions and practices in India better than me, perhaps better than most of us.
The luck part came later. Outside the main tourist areas, in smaller and remote provinces of Cambodia, I ended up meeting some very fine tuk-tuk drivers who were able to take me to places that offered gem of experiences. In the process, I learnt a great deal about many crafts and traditional occupations in the Cambodian countryside.
It’s at the end of my trip that I realized how rich and offbeat were my experience. Speaking to a British expat over a meeting at Phnom Penh at the end of my trip, we were discussing about all things beautiful in Cambodia and he spoke about things he knew from two years of his living in the country. He also went about suggesting me about the best experiences of the country. When I told him about where I was and what I saw in my two weeks, he suddenly became thoughtful, retracted a bit and deeply appreciated everything I talked about. It took me by surprise.
Image details: A monk throwing water on a lady as part of a blessing ceremony. The lady was at the monastery to rid herself of bad dreams that were troubling her.