Home is where the heart is or at least so they say.
My heart lives in many places, my body is now here – in Cambodia. It was travel that brought me here 10 years ago and on and off I have called Cambodia my home for about 5 of those years. This is where my bed is and I presume my heart is here too, although sometimes I doubt my sanity for having stayed so long. Upon reflection, however, I know deep down that I like it here, just take away the loud music and the crazy drivers…..
The sacred temples of Angkor are literally on my doorstep, I live in a single layer of clothing most of the year and a good friend base makes it a very easy place to settle.
This is not to say that I don’t miss home – my other home, the real one, the place of my origin. Country with deep green forests, rivers and lakes, four seasons, tasty beers and dumplings – Czech it out if you have not already been! This precise topic is the theme of my current local exhibition and I plan to return again this autumn to reconnect with family and friends (and their horses), indulge in beer and cheese and photograph red and yellow leaves, misty mountains and mossy forests.
Then there is my other home – the one down under, where the Goulburn River quietly flows in the shadows of fragrant eucalyptus trees before it joins the mightier Murray. My heart is there, body waiting to return.
Aotearoa also known as the Land of the Long White cloud (in common speak New Zealand) is my other home and I have a tattoo to prove it. The connection was immediate, the landscape breathtaking, the people quirky but open and giving, the sand flies intense, the beaches endless, and the mountains…. don’t let me start on the mountains. Something moves inside me and I yearn to go back. To be on the road again, to swim in crystal clear rivers (and fight the sand flies), to have a campfire on the beach, to sleep under the stars, to hike in snow and marvel at the open vistas… They also have the most amazing wine!
The UK should also get at least a mention despite having featured on the “home” list for good 4 years or so. The memories are hazy and grey, face pressed on a bus window, vacant look and daydreaming of sunny places while travelling to work.
So the question this week was: “how on earth to summarise the place of my current residence in one photo?” I could go the conventional way and snap away the mighty Angkor Wat itself (although I don’t live there, it’s full of bats…), I could hang around town and get some street shots, I could wait patiently by the road and get some good photos of the crazy traffic and the way goods get transported – from family of five on one bike to live pigs travelling strapped on the back of motos, live chickens and ducks hanging off handlebars by the dozen, overloaded tuk tuks and trucks….. or I could visit the floating communities of the Tonle Sap lake and capture their contemporary lifestyle on water….. But instead I felt it should be something with a temple flavour; the above do spell Cambodia but not necessarily Siem Reap at first glance.
So temples then. It’s almost a “yawn” reaction – but only if taken as prescribed – with masses of tourists swarming the sites and making them most unholy, noisy and hectic. If one wanders off the beaten track a little the reward is astonishing. Some temples hardly see any visitors at all as they are not on the “must see” bucket lists of many. Some do get the occasional visitor quietly contemplating the meaning of life and such – and this is fine. Those structures should be admired - with respect and awe which they deserve.
During 2012 I photographed the West Gate of the ancient walled city of Angkor Thom – the head on which is believed to be the one of Jayavarman VII – the “busy king” as a guide-friend once described him to me (he really built a whole lot of temples!). This photograph was since published in the National Geographic Traveller and other publications and thus I decided to replicate the image for the Week 4 challenge. It spells Angkor but it’s not an iconic image that will be recognized instantly for what it is however it does carry the label “Cambodia” quite clearly.
Replicating an image is an interesting exercise in itself. I found the spot but my camera set up was different and Mother Nature decided to give the King a fringe of branches partly hiding his face. The light and time of year were also different. Oh, so be it…. Trying to get a very similar shot resulted in me nearly falling off the 8 meter high wall but hey, I like to live dangerously!
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.