Posts Tagged: Travel

Cambodia through my eyes – Kellie Blinco

A journey I never knew I was going to take

Cambodia 2013 – Matt and Katie Photo Tour

aKelliebyKatie{me} Image by Matt and Katie Photographers

A few months ago, in a split second of seeing Matt and Katie Photographer’s Cambodia Photo tour on Facebook, I was booked in and ready to go, along with Sam. What I didn’t realise at the time was, that it was not only going to be an adventure on the travel and photo front – but an actual emotional and personal journey.  I could never have known just how attached to Siem Reap and the people there I would become.

Before I go on and on and on you have to watch this video first to get know the amazing people we met on this journey.

Well, Doug isn’t the only one that go’s to Cambodia and just cries – I can tell you there were many tears on my end too.  Usually on Tuk Tuk rides with these guys where we would talk and get to know them and more of their amazing stories.  Matt and Katie, clearly both have big big hearts and after meeting Doug, Izzy, So and Bun – and hearing their stories, I suddenly realised there really are amazing, selfless people in this world that follow their hearts and dreams.  So and what he has given for Stepping Stones School is more than amazing – I can’t even think of a word to describe So – I look at what he has given  and what a humble man he is and he makes me want to do more, so much more, in my own life.  Doug and Izzy have moved to Cambodia with their gorgeous daughter from Australia and they are doing it.  It was very inspiring to chat with them and hear all about how they ended up living in Cambodia and building this amazing school.  I didn’t get to meet Rachel, but I know, she is amazing too.

In between all the photography, there were bonds made, minds opened and inspired hearts.  Meeting all of them and seeing what people can do has changed the person I am.  I feel like I took so much away from this visit to Cambodia, I have to help do whatever I can to give back for my experiences and lessons learned.  I have signed up to Harvest to donate every month to support my new friends and I hope, so much, that you feel compelled after meeting them in the video, to help them change the world. Help Out Here

As well as our tour guides, Sam and I shared an amazing journey with the other photographers that joined the tour.  Adrienne, Karen, Jess, Anita, Sheryn, Wendy, Steve, Hannah, Rodney and Amanda.  I can’t wait to follow all of them and see where their roads lead them in the future! There were big tears leaving everyone, but I hope I cross paths with all of you again one day soon x

I could actually go on forever and ever just about the people we connected with. I think you understand though – they are fairly awesome people doing extraordinary things.

Every single second was a close your eyes and breathe it in moment.  I learnt a while ago that sometimes when you’re too focused on the trying to capture the moment part – you miss out on the actual moment itself.  So day one, Sam and I headed off on Doug’s awesome walking tour of Siem Reap, ready to just soak it all in, without cameras.  Everywhere I looked on the streets there was a story unfolding.  Something interesting happening.  The buildings in the street are photogenic on their own and then add a face to it, the smells, the sounds and your senses are buzzing!  Pub street lined with yellow umbrella’s, Tuk Tuks and scooters covered the streets.  People selling their wares, street vendors cooking up all sorts of things right there on the roadside.  I was in love with Cambodia from the moment we arrived. We enjoyed an awesome roof top dinner with our new friends on the first night and then prepared for an early morning start.

What we did

Sunrise at Angkor Wat | 5am, getting cheesy snaps at the ticket office for our temple passes. (Sam’s was the best photo… ever)  Who doesn’t look cute at 5am :0 Angkor Wat is visited my 2 million people every year, and walking up the dusty road to find our spot to photograph the sunrising over the temple, it was quite surreal.  There were people everywhere, walking in near silence in the dark. After we got our pics, we sat, and we tried to take it all in.  We went through the temple, asking to photograph the people we saw “Som Tot Moi?” I was so entranced by everything that was going on, I was walking around in a bit of a daze for the most part!  I continued to daze the entire trip.

Pagoda Visit | We then visited a Pagoda at Angkor, where the monks were more than happy to pose for us.  It was such a special visit, seeing inside, that they possess nothing more than the clothes they wear.  We received a special blessing that morning “and good luck for you”. The red bands were placed around our wrists as a sign of our blessing.

Temples | We visited a number of temples on the tour – each had their own amazing stories and were unique. There is something about a temple that can leave your jaw dropped straight to the ground.  Trying to imagine them being built and how they managed that.  To give you an idea, Angkor Wat was built in the 12th century.  When you come from a country as young as Australia, it kind of blows your mind.

Chreave Village | I met a twelve year old boy in a field, carrying a bag of fish.  I looked at him, his dusty face, his worn clothes and then I thought about my 12 year old son.  What different worlds they live in.  I felt confronted in that field.  My children have life so easy, and they can’t comprehend it.  I don’t think even I fully comprehended it until I saw it for myself.  It was in this moment I made a decision I will take my kids over to see this, in hope to change their lives.  We met some amazing people in the village (and heaps of cute animals too!)  I left the village feeling grateful. Grateful for how easy my life is in comparison but most grateful that these people allowed me into their lives for a brief moment, so I can now fully understand how blessed we really are.  It was said on the trip – it’s just dumb luck you end up being born where you are.  It’s true.  Any of us could have been born into a village in Cambodia and have to struggle and fight on a daily basis just to get by.

Psaa Leu Market | The market.  Oh, the market. We are so protected in our country, from seeing where our food comes from.  Squeezing through the meat “section” was a journey that effected my ability to even eat meat while I was in Cambodia.  Seeing chicken’s gasping for their breathe before they became lunch, seeing raw meats out on the table, sitting in the sun, covered in flies was an experience, although one that was shocking to the eyes and nose, an experience I am glad I had.  Inside the market, there is literally anything and everything!

Silk Farm | We went on a little tour through the silk farm where we learned all about the process of making silk.

Crocodile Farm | So imagine 1000 crocodiles below you, your are walking on cement blocks held up by brick pillars with reinforcement wire as the “safety” fence.  Not much between you and those big crocs should you get woozy and tumble in.  Katie kept asking us all not to die.  Thankfully, we all survived.  It was one of the wildest things I have ever seen.  The family that own the farm, live right there, on top of the crocs.  Their young son was running up and down the paths – that’s his life, nothing new to him!  It must have been odd to him looking at all these scared adults sneaking around his house trying not to fall in with the crocodiles!  Im so pleased I made it passed Day Three.

Khmer Cooking Class | We had a nice easy morning wearing the cutest chef hats cooking up a storm.  So got really well fed for lunch that day!

West Baray Pagoda | We had a bit of time at this Pagoda before we set sail to Stepping Stones School.  We had a gorgeous monk to photograph here also.  Watching So with the Monk was very special.  One thing we had to keep remembering is that females can not touch the monks.  As a photographer, it is not usual to physically pose someone, so I had to keep reminding myself! All the Monks we met were so baby faced – Most of them looked younger than Lachlan, my 8 year old.  So when we learned they were 15 years old – it was quite shocking to most of us.

Stepping Stones School | To me, this afternoon was my most anticipated of the tour.  Visiting Stepping Stones to see what had been achieved, meet some of the 700 kids that go to school to learn English was completely everything I hoped for and more.  Hearing So talk again about the school with such passion was a major highlight.  I had some great conversations with some of the kids there, who, are doing so well with their English.  One of the girls asked me what I had for lunch, so then I asked her what she had.  She told me she ate some rice.  I then casually mentioned I don’t like rice and the entire classroom thought it was completely hilarious that someone wouldn’t like rice! Their smiles made my whole year.

So’s Village | After the visit to Stepping Stones School, I was more than honoured to visit the village.  Seeing how the people that live here work so hard on daily basis, just to survive.  The children of the village, so delighted and happy to be photographed.  Seeing where they live, and how they live, saddened my heart.  Then seeing how happy they are, with the little they have, enlightened me.  I have so many memories from this day that I know I will never ever forget.  Each person I interacted with in the village has left a giant impression on my heart. Seeing Katie’s connection with one of the older ladies in the village, was super special to watch.  Having kids bolt in five different directions to get clothes on so we could photograph them, yelling and screaming at their mothers with excitement, made me feel so welcome and warm.  Having a lady tell me she isn’t beautiful because of her wrinkles and because she was so skinny, broke my heart.  It is true, they wear every battle they ever fought on their faces, but, if only she could see what I could see, she would realise, she is an amazing, strong and beautiful woman.

Beng Melea Temple | A long roadie on the Tuk Tuk, we had the sincere privilege of photographing two monks at Beng Melea.  They were so interested in learning about our lives as much as we were theirs.  As I watched people in our group share photo’s and video’s with them, the Monks erupting with laughter, it was another surreal moment and realisation that our worlds are so far apart – yet the smiles we all shared, were in the same language.  Doing what we did that morning is not something people just rock up and do.  So I feel very thankful for this experience.

Tonle Sap Lake – Floating Village | I didn’t quite know what to expect when I got on the boat, but what I got was something truly beautiful and amazing.  Floating past people’s houses that are up on stilts surrounded by water, pulling up in the boat to grab a few beers, floating down the lake  in time to see a beautiful sunset on one half of the sky then pouring rain on the other.  A man in his fishing boat with the rain pelting down. A bride throwing rose petals into the water.  Once the sun had set and we drifted back in the night – there was something truly amazing about seeing the lights of the houses reflecting on the water.  Then when we passed the village and just had the water and darkness, the moonlight was dancing on the ripples in the lake.  Sam and I were sitting there, deep in conversation about life and we just had to stop and try and breathe it all again.  It was peaceful and a moment driven with strong emotion. So powerful. This was an afternoon where the conversation and the scenery is embedded into my mind.  I think it was one of those life flashing before your eyes moments. I won’t ever forget.

Apsara Dancers | Sunset, completely stunning Apsara dancers, temple.  What more can I say? Photographic highlight.  These girls are so beautiful and I was completely amazed at how they bend their hands and toes to create the movements they do!  All while wearing a heavy headpiece.

50 cent beers and group bonding | Okay.  So this wasn’t on the itinerary but when dinner has 2 for 1 cocktails, you’re pretty well assured to end up at the Hip Hop Club, getting a ride home for $3 USD and a cigarette.  4 people on a scooter… I have seen way more than that on one single scooter, so we gathered it would be a-okay.  And a nice chat with a policeman at the end of the ride. In all seriousness, it was great to hang with some of the awesome people on our tour, get to know them even better while singing and dancing to Bulletproof. 😀

Simple Pleasures | We did some shopping, enjoyed our daily visits to Sister Srey (Coolest Cafe in Cambodia) and did a bit of rooftop pool lazing here and there. We ate amazing food every single night (except the night after the market – but I just don’t think I was going to handle much that night regardless!)

Worlds Best Tuk Tuk Drivers | Our convoy of Tuk Tuks must have been a real sight every time we were out on missions.  Sam and I were in the Tuk Tuk affectionatley known as the party Tuk Tuk.  There was also the snack Tuk Tuk which Karen and Jess controlled all of the Oreo’s from.  We also came up with heaps of idea’s for Tuk Tuk business theme’s – such as stretch Tuk Tuk’s, Karaoke Tuk Tuks etc etc.  All the drivers were so much fun!

What. It’s Over? | Our last night in Siem Reap we had a group cocktail evening and photo exhibition were we each had to images from the trip in display.  It was so amazing to see everyone’s awesome shots hanging on the walls.  We had done so much in our time together and every single photograph was a reminder of our journey!  We had to say goodbye to So and Doug after dinner – it was so hard to say goodbye to both of them.  Big love and respect to them both and also to Izzy.  My Hero’s!  After breakfast at Sister Srey the next morning, we said a very teary goodbye to all our new friends.  It was so hard to imagine it was all over!  Bun and his gorgeous little boy Dona, came by to say a last goodbye before we headed off to Koh Samui.  Bun and Dona, you are both super special.  Much Love xo

So you want to see some pics? | Below, you will see a collection of pics I took during my time in Cambodia.   They are not perfect, but this is Cambodia through my eyes.  Every single image is a story I won’t ever forget.   I don’t think I am able to do justice to so many of the things we saw, the camera just won’t let me shoot that wide  😛   The reason I went on this trip was for the journey, it wasn’t about getting awesome pictures.  Although, I do have heaps of amazing pictures, it’s because of the faces that are in them.  As a portrait photographer, who started in press photography, the documentation of the people in my photographs was really rewarding for my soul. Raw and Real – thank you Cambodia for inspiring me.  And I will be back sooner than later. I can only hope that if you are looking at these, I have managed to share a little of my feelings through my images.

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Do you want to go to Cambodia on this photo tour??  Visit Matt and Katie  and go do something amazing!


Here are a bunch of fun instagrams of Sam and I in Siem Reap. Seriously, couldn’t have asked for a better trip or spent it with better people! x Kellie