Chhlong Jaunt

Finally was able to properly use the Sony Alpha 7Rii for a personal travel photography project in Chhlong Cambodia. An amazing high image quality 42mp full frame camera, the small size is perfect for use in travel and documentary photography, but also high end enough for commercial and studio work. Soon HDR processing will be history as new sensors' dynamic range will become greater. I felt liberated with this small and robust camera after being used to carting a hefty Canon DSLR around. Less obtrusive for both portrait and general travel photography. But the Sony menu system will take some getting used to, none intuitive and disorganized. Minimal weather sealing could also be an issue, the camera is now covered in Cambodian countryside dust and may need a professional clean.

In 2003 I took my first ever motorbike road trip adventure from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom in Mundullkiri province over 10 days or so, with a 35mm analogue film SLR and a few rolls of Kodak Portra. On arrival in Snool I was covered in thick orange dust, few roads were sealed at the time. On the return journey we stumbled upon Chhlong village on the river road from Kratie to Kompong Cham. A small town on the banks of the Mekong in Kratie province, dilapidated French colonial buildings, a bustling market and the simple quiet life along the river and surrounds was a real draw that had a lasting impression. We ended up staying for 2 nights in the town's only guest house.

Returning in 2017 with a Bangkok photographer friend was an attempt to get away from the expats and tourists of Phnom Penh, and even Kampot, my go to place when in need of a break. To feel once again the only foreigners around in a sedate land. Kratie city is just 4 hours from Phnom penh by share taxi and Chhlong 1.5 hours from Kratie on a motobike. For our 2 day jaunt we rented Honda Wave's in Kratie city early morning. We skipped Kratie town altogether, the town's folk were miserable in 2003 and not much seemed to have changed 14 years later, something I haven't really experienced in other Cambodian towns. Once out of Kratie town, things changed rapidly into the old dreamscape I remember and still try to hold onto after 14 years in Cambodia.

Conclusion. The real Cambodia still exists out there in all directions, it's further from Phnom Penh than it used to be. Take it while you can.

More images from Chhlong can be seen in the Chhlong gallery here.