Photo Hunt #082: Withered

Sorry about being absent in Photo Hunt for a few weeks. I was on holiday mode way before the Khmer New Year. Now that I’m back (again), I’m going to make up (again) for my absence.

The theme for this week is “withered”. So, here goes…

My husband and I love driving around on weekends. We often end up between Kandal and Kampong Chhnang areas, which is on the northwest  of Phnom Penh and about a couple of hours drive from the city. And why do we do that? If you happen to drive through Cambodia’s countryside, you will know why.

One of the reasons is the charming countryside. Ricefields! We love being surrounded by rice-fields as far as our eyes can see. At this time of the year, when summer is in full swing and the harvest season is over, the once verdant fields have turned into golden brown. And what a sight to behold!

Below is a picture of an already-harvested field. After harvesting, the rice straws are left there. Traditionally, farmers burn the rice straws or leave it there to decompose. More often, you can also see cows grazing and occassional white birds (egrets?) dotting the ricefields.

The huge stupas of Phnom Oudong, on the background, and Wat Chey Oudom on the middle-ground.

There is so much to see in the countryside if only you’re game enough to go off the beaten track and sweat a little.

Not very far from Phnom Oudong (closer to PP), we bravely explored Phnom Prasith during the weekend of the Chinese New Year. Phnom Prasith’s secret (well, not anymore) is a pre-Angkorian wat (temple) – or what’s left of it – tucked away on top of a hill.

The three pictures above remind me of the temples in Angkor Wat. Overgrown by trees and bushes, the temple evoked the same mystery as that of Angkor Wat. Imagine how many temples like this are found not far from Phnom Penh?

Inside the temple is a make-shift altar built in between two huge boulders. According to the temple-keeper, below the altar is a tunnel spanning 16kms., connecting this wat to Phnom Oudong. It must have served as a secret passageway to a rendezvous or trysts during the old times. We saw where it is – it is big. And dark. No one dared to check it out.

It was very quiet, sunny, but not too hot, when we got out after a tour inside the wat. Feeling a little bit like Indiana Jones, we explored the area further. There’s this old stupa that caught my attention. It was old and left untended for years if I am not mistaken. I immediately took photos.

With the gnarly trees and withered surroundings, I sensed something was in the air and stopped in my tracks. Something mystical was blowing through this part of the woods and it sent shivers down to my spine. I had goosebumps and I felt the hair on the back of my neck stood on its end. I hastened my steps to catch up with my husband. I was half-walking, half-running towards him thinking about the area being  guarded by spirits when I got distracted by this black thing a few feet away from me, protruding from the withered leaves carpeting the  ground.

It’s a broken piece of something… maybe a part of the old stupa. Who knows how long it has been laying around there. If you’d look closer, you can actually see some details on it. They’re lotus petals, I’m sure of that.

It’s been two months since our visit there but up to now I can still remember that eerie encounter in the woods. I wonder what it was. Some adventure, eh?

photohunter7iq

NB: All pictures first appeared on my photo blog, Inside Cambodia.

Of spaces, illusions and colours

I think it was in the last days of November or early December when I noticed that the long stretch of pristine white wall of the French Embassy along Monivong Boulevard (just before the roundabout leading to the Japanese bridge) was no more.

The embassy’s outer wall has been filled with a colourful series of photographs, much to my delight.  They were pleasing to the eyes! Then it suddenly hit me. It’s the time of the year again… it’s the Photo Phnom Penh Festival! So I hurriedly snapped photos of the wall even if I was in a moving vehicle. Only these two came out decently:

This photo was originally uploaded to my photo-blog.

I had to do some edits on the photos because otherwise they don’t do justice to the mural. When I first took photos of the wall, there was no information yet about who the artist is.

This photo was originally uploaded to my photo-blog.

I later learned that the Photo Phnom Penh Festival opened last week, on Dec 8. When I passed by the Embassy again just this week, the information on the artist, Georges Rousse, was already there.

Here’s a brief bio about this talented monsieur:

Born in 1947, Georges Rousse discovered photography at age 9, when he received a Kodak Brownie flash camera that he still uses. Also a painter, a sculptor and an architect, he is especially fond of abandoned places, whose space he makes his own. The author of numerous personal and collective works, Rousse has unceasingly traveled the world: New York, London, Vienna, Montreal, Arles, Milan, Islanbul, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Tokyo, Bhaktapur (Nepal), Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Phnom Penh, Brussels, Jerusalem, Bangkok, Geneva, etc.

His artworks on display demonstrate plays of space, of visual illusions, of colours that redesign the world, of a viewpoint assertion. A jubilant reflection on how we are trapped by image and by perspective and a proposal for an ongoing re-reading of architecture, of abandonment or obsolescence, to which theme he gives new life. On this occasion, he’s back in Phnom Penh especially to complete a new image, “Phnom Penh 2012.”Source

I have yet to go see the other photo exhibits. {Note to self: bring Miss Iggy. She loves photo exhibits, too.}The works of other participating local and foreign artists are exhibited in other locations like the MetaHouse, Institut Français du Cambodge, Sisowath Quay, just to name a few. Click here for the complete list of venues. The exhibit runs until the end of December.

Last year, I was also able to take a photo of the Embassy wall filled with the works of Denis Darzacq as part of PPPF 2011. I really admire talented people such as him and Georges Russo as well as the the initiative behind the yearly PPPF.