New Photo Club to launch in Siem Reap.

Saturday 18 December 2010


New Photo Club to launch in Siem Reap.

Local photographers will soon benefit from the formation of a new camera and photo society, located in Siem Reap.Angkor Photo Club logo

The brainchild of Siem Reap-based British Photographer Dave Perkes, Angkor Photo Club has been formed to provide local and international photo enthusiasts an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas and technique.

Angkor Photo Club members will enjoy a club that is free from joining fees and in addition to regular club meetings and social activities; they will also have free access to website, forum and online photo galleries in which to showcase their work.

Mr Perkes said today: “Photography is all around us with millions of people who carry cameras and take photos in this special place of Angkor.  We want to encourage photography to be an enjoyable positive experience and non elitist.”

He added “We will give support to those who want to learn more and give impartial advice on equipment where needed.”

There are no restrictions on membership. The Angkor Photo Club is open for amateurs who want to know more and professionals who have a commitment to helping others enjoy this creative activity. Local Khmer photographers are positively encouraged to join.

Mr Perkes went on to say: “We aim to meet here in Siem Reap on regular schedule each month. The meetings will be informal and a social occasion. The members decide the content and theme of each meeting in advance there will be opportunities for slideshows and guest presenters. Support and encouragement to Khmer photographers is a core activity and the interaction between Khmer and Foreign amateur photographers is an important part of this”.

The inaugural meeting for the club is scheduled for Tuesday 18 January 2011 at a location to be advised, in Siem Reap. Further details of the meeting and club membership is available on their website


PR Contact: Warren Garber


A Tragedy Beyond Comprehension

Thursday 25 November 2010

The past few days have been so dreadful for all of us here in Cambodia. There was a feeling of numbness on Tuesday morning as many of us awoke to the terrible news of over 300 people perished at the end of the annual ‘Bon Om Thook’ (Water Festival), in our capital city of Phnom Penh.

As I write this during a national day of mourning here, the death toll has risen to over 450 and is likely to rise further.

What has made this tragedy so much more difficult to accept, is the knowledge that so many people from the villages and provinces, look forward to this event as the highlight of their year. They save a little money each month, so that they can travel to the cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and take in the sights and sounds of this wonderful festival. For many, it’s their only visit of the year.

For some, it was their first – and only visit to Phnom Penh. I read an article of a 53 years-old mother who lost both daughters – aged 15 and 23 along with her son-in-law. It was their first time in the capital. I’m sure there are many more heart-rending similarities. As a parent with children of similar ages, I can and yet at the same time, can’t imagine what that lady is going through.

I did intend to write an article and post photo’s of the festival here in Siem Reap, but today doesn’t feel the right time.

So, I’ll finish by expressing on behalf of Peace of Angkor Tours and our staff and friends, our sincere condolences to families affected, wherever they are in Cambodia.



Latest news about The Bamboo Train

Tuesday 2 November 2010

I’d been hearing rumours that Cambodia’s famed and unique Bamboo Railway at Battambang had ceased operating at the end of September. This was to make way for the new and upgraded railway line being laid between Phnom Penh and the Thai border near Poipet in N W Cambodia.

Well, Battambang is a favourite place of mine and I hadn’t been there in almost a year – so decided on a weekend away with some friends – purely in the interests of research, of course!

Cambodia’s railway network is a broken shambles. Years of war, neglect and indifference have resulted in no passenger trains operating at all. The last weekly service between Phnom Penh and Battambang finished almost two years ago.

Of course Cambodia’s immensely resourceful people are undeterred. Over the years they have developed their own transport system on the disused railway. Frequently termed the ‘Bamboo Railway’ or Bamboo Train’, they have created a simple, but effective and speedy way to transport locals, goods and now an increasing number of tourists.

So, take two axles, weld on some small flanged wheels – fashion a raft made from bamboo, ‘acquire’ a small petrol engine from UN supplied generators and water-pumps, attach a simple drive belt – and you’re good to go!

And ‘go’ they certainly do! They’ll whizz along at around 40kph (25mph), and certainly clatter along the warped, twisted and often broken tracks.

The wonderful part of the journey is when meeting another train (nori or norry) coming in the opposite direction. The nori with the least people or goods is dismantled, the other goes past and then the dismantled one is re-assembled on the tracks. This whole procedure takes less than two minutes!
It’s an absolutely exhilarating ride of around 14km round-trip.  It’ll cost tourists around US10 for ride – that’s per nori, not per person – and it has to be up there with the other Great Railway Journeys of The World.
Oh, and I did check with some locals about the state of affairs regarding when it’ll stop running. They tell me ‘one year more’. Given that a Cambodian ‘please wait five minute more’ can be any length of time – it’s difficult to say exactly how long ‘one year’ is.

But I would advise visiting it sooner rather than later. Once it’s gone – it’s gone!

Safe travels!


Ps. here’s a link to the world famous magazine ‘Railway Gazette International’ which has more on developments.

I’ll admit I read the mag – go on, click the link, you know you want to…

Me - ready to ride

The snake that tried to eat my camera

Wednesday 20 October 2010

The snake that tried to eat my camera!

The snake that tried to eat my camera!

This we have been running a tour for photojournalist Karl Grobl of Jim Cline Photo tours. Its always a pleasure to meet  Karl,  he is a humanitarian photographer we have be  working with on tours for 5 seasons now . We took his group out on the Tonle  sap lake to Kompong Khleang.  It was good opportunity to try out a new lens, which I bought a few days before, to replace my Nikon 17-55 F2.8 which a managed to break  in Bangkok.

I thought Nikon pro lenses were pretty well indestructible; but due to a total carelessness on my behalf I smashed it against a post in Bangkok  while walking on a narrow path. If I  had the lens shade it on it  would have broken, but would have taken the impact. Anyway I now have a Sigma 17-70 F2.8  which was less than half the price of a replacement Nikon and under the $600 to repair my 5 year old heavily used 17-55 .

We approached a fishing boat and could see  the boatman had just caught a 2 metre long  python. He held it up for us for photos.  I have no fear of snakes but will not mess with any venomous species. Pythons have no venom, but kill their victims by giving them a nasty hug!  I climbed aboard the boat and took a few close up shots. It suddenly lashed out at my camera striking the lens. Maybe it saw it reflection in the glass?

Anyway I have discovered my new Sigma lens has an ANTI SNAKE FILTER!!

Snippets and news at POA

Saturday 4 September 2010

Dave and Colleen Allen

For a few days we had another Colleen at Peace of Angkor Colleen Allan the Namesake of Colleen Allan-Burns who is looking forward to her return in October .

Colleen from Australia had a great time here. She really liked the countryside tour. Like most of our guests she wished she had more time here. We do hope she can return with her husband in the not too distant future.

Colleen Allen and Mong

Colleen Allen and Mong

She is pictured with me and Mong our night  security man

(For those who do not know, the first Colleen Allen-Burns started up Peace of Angkor Villa with me in 2003. Coll  has been actively helping us  us in UK  with finance since leaving at the end of 2009.  Coll is really looking forward to having a party with the Peace Of Angkor Crew when she returns.

I will be off to Bangkok and Laos on Sunday researching more tour ideas for other places in SE Asia . (its not a holiday honestly!). We have had one tour to Laos already and are planning more.  Some will be starting from Bangkok taking in Cambodia and Laos in a circular route. As many of our guests have been to Bangkok;  I will be looking  at unusual places in the City that will be of interest to photographers.

Den monkying around

Den monkeying around at Cambodia Culture Village

Den (Doun Raden)  is going to be celebrating 5 years working for us at the end of September so party time when I return.

Moat Khla ovenight and Sky Burials

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Alison giving

Alison giving a mosquito net to a needy family

Middle of May 2010 I had a request for a family to go to several Tonle Sap villages including Kompong Phluk, Kompong Khleang and a homestay overnight in  Moat Khla.  Requests to visit this isolated lake community of Moat Khla are rare and overnight stays by tourists; unheard of.

Moat Khla is a floating village in Kompong Thom Province, two hours by boat from Kompong Khleang; where we base our Lake tours.  We ran this lake adventure on the 17th and 18th August. I had been here only a handful of times before.

Kompong Khleang

Kompong Khleang a wide view in flood season

The stilt village of Kompong Khleang is itself an unusual destination. Peace of Angkor has been operating tours there since the end of 2004. Over 20,000 people live here in a fishing community which until 2008 was virtually untouched by tourism.

In five years I have seen big changes due to the improving infrastructure, road links, power supply and cell phone network. In the last two years a modest number of tour boats have been organized as a co-operative by the villagers themselves.  From an eco tourism development point of view; the concept of the local people managing their resource is something to be applauded.  Money generated by this goes into the local community and not big corporations. The relatively small numbers of visitors that do come here have not yet caused the negative aspects of begging and scams which have plagued the Chong Khneas boat port.

Moat Khla is a very different place; being a floating village which has no road links. Its waterborne existence is totally dependent on fishing and the flow of the Tonle Sap Lake system. The 1500 population are relatively poor and forgotten.

grey haired woman

Grey haired woman at Moat Khla

Allison Allen, her partner John and family kindly donated blankets, mosquito nets; books pens and toys for over 30 needy families. Mt Hok arranged for some of the poorest villagers to come to his home and distribute these items.

Tom and Natasha giving

Tom and Natasha giving to poor villagers at Kompong Khleang

His home is transformed into a clinic when the Tonle Sap Lake Clinic boat (TLC) visits. Poor families in remote areas are unable to get to doctors; so the TLC boat which is run by the Norwegian charity IMPACT travels around the Tonle Sap to give free treatment to lake villagers.

On a previous visit by me in 2008 the TLC Boat staffed by two Norwegian Doctors Mette and Stein were here. They had been called out on the way to a family with a dying teenage boy. Tragically they were unable to save him. Sadly his illness could have been treated had it been diagnosed earlier.  There is no cremation site here; so the old practice of Sky Burials, where the bodies are placed in trees and letting nature take its course is carried out.

This time we were staying at the home of Mr Hok the Commune officer; so we were hopeful to  be able to get the chance to see one of the few places in Cambodia where sky burials area still carried out

Mr Hoks home is a large but simple floating house open on 3 sides with a sleeping room for the family at one end and a kitchen area at the other.

Mr Hok told us that n tourists have come to Moat Khla this year(and probably none since our last visit at the end of 2008).

I asked about Sky Burials. He told me they are still carried out. Families place the corpse in the trees in a wrap made from a rattan mat. Wealthier families have a wooden coffin covered in plastic sheet. These are left for at least 1 year and the remains are cremated, some of the poorer families wait up to three years before they can afford a decent cremation

The government wants to stop the procedure. This can only be achieved if a cremation platform is built.

Mr Hok accompanied us in the boat to the sky burials place.  The area was less than a kilometre from the main village. We could only get a short way into the mangroves as our boat was too big. We could clearly see a new coffin wrapped in plastic and a small rattan wrap of containing the remains of a child. There had been several more here until a few weeks ago, but these remains had been removed for cremation.

Sky coffin

A coffin of one of the wealthier families waiting for cremation when the water levels drop.

We returned to Mr Hoks home and then returned to Siem Reap via Kompong Khleang.

It was a rewarding two days and the generosity and kindness shown by Alison and her family was very touching.  Thanks very much. You are very special people; myself and the villagers remember your kindness for a long time!

12th August 15, 2010 the start of a very busy week after a quiet few weeks. I took 3 of our guides on  a day of photography around Angkor. There is something of an irony here that I a westerner should be driving and taking 3 guides round the temples for a change!

Sorm Thet and Dave at Angkor

A photo training session at Angkor

There was a purpose for this; to brush up on their photographic knowledge of course. Ta needs no introduction to photography as he is often using my digital cameras.  However photography is a complex subject and even experts have something to learn   The opportunity of handling pro cameras is not something the other guys get very often.  Sorn has a small compact camera so leapt at the chance to use my D300. Thet cannot afford a digital camera; well he does have a young family to support nowadays. He started off with my Fuji S5 Pro which would be a daunting task for  many beginners. He was soon taking some very nice images as below.

Angkor Thom South Gate by thet

Thet took this beautifully composed shot of the South Gate of Angkor Thom framed by trees

Compared to a point and shoot an SLR looks complex; however the guys soon understood the main controls and I was taking them onto the territory of exposure compensation, white balance ISO and depth of field etc.

One of the main objectives was to gain a better understanding of composition which can sometimes be overlooked in favour of the technicalities. The weather was disappointing, cloudy in the morning turning to drizzle in the afternoon? We did get the odd patch of sunlight; enough to demonstrate the use of a polarizer a get some light on those enigmatic Bayon faces.

Vishnu by Sorn

A great shot by Sorn: well composed and lit with perfect positioning of the figure, parasol and the sweep of the 8 arms.

Bayion face from lower level

Ta found us this unusual view from the lower level of Bayon.

Bayon reflected

A shot by Sorn of The Bayon and geese on the pool that forms in the wet season

The areas we covered were Angkor Thom and Bayon and Angkor Wat. It was very rewarding to so some nice shots from all three of them!

Bayon shrine

Thet took this nicely exposed and balanced shot of one of the shrines at the Bayon.

It seemed very strange to me with no camera round the neck; but It was probably a good ideas to  have a few shots of my ugly mug for a change. The end result was very positive.  I have included some of Ta  Sorn and Thets best shots from the session here.

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