There are some obvious highlights to see when you’re in Cambodia, like Angkor Wat and The Killing Fields. But it’s when you get off the beaten path, that you see Cambodia like it is for it’s residents. Of course, you need to see those important monuments and parks. That’s a large part of how this country survives. But leave yourself enough time to truly explore the less traveled areas.
This photo was taken in a small village called Kompong Phluk. It’s one of several stilted villages outside the city of Siem Reap. Any of the stilted villages would give you the same type of experience, and Kompong Phluk is one of the more commonly visited ones. Keep in mind that visiting during the rainy season and the dry season are completely different experiences.
During this trip, it was the dry season, so much of the village was quite dry with very little water around. I arrived at the village, located about 5 km from the shore on Tonle Sap lake, after about 30 – 45 minutes in a small (and loud) boat. The water level was quite low, and once I reached the village, the rest of the journey was by foot.
The houses are built on stilts, and are quite high up from where the dry land is. Houses are elevated from the ground by about 5 to 10 meters, as the waters in Tonle Sap lake can vary that much from season to season. It was interesting to see small children trying to climb up the handmade bamboo ladders to their homes.
The obvious advantage of raising your house on stilts would be that your home remains dry when the water level is high. But there are some less obvious advantages too. For instance, when the dry (and hot) season arrives, there is a nice cool spot to rest under the house. The water is gone, and there is a nice breeze that runs through the stilts.
The young boy in the photo was slowly swinging in his hammock as I walked by. He seemed to be enjoying his comfortable and relaxing time in the sheltered space beneath his home. I called out to him, and he looked around to see who I was. I don’t think he was completely aware that I was hoping to photograph him, and after this photo, he shied away, and hid his face.
As I walked in front, I tried my best to communicate (hand gestures, smiles), and got him to allow me to photograph him again. After these photos, I showed him the images on my camera screen, and he was quite happy to see himself.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t compose the photo like I did (the main photo above), as the boy’s head is in the direct centre of the image. Bullseye compositions are not generally too interesting to view. But in this case it worked out well, because of the hammock. The way the hammock is in a v-shape, and drawing the eyes to the boy, from either edge of the photo – it just works.
It’s photos like this that remind us from the western world, that life can be much simpler. It doesn’t take much to make this boy happy. Life is good, with the simple pleasures of a hammock and a nice breeze, to keep him cool and dry in Cambodia.