Roads to the Past ~ Battambang, Cambodia

Two scooters blurring past a yellow French colonial building.

Life in a hurry? City street, Battambang

Battambang is Cambodia’s second largest city. Of course, when you consider that the whole country has a population of less than 15 million, it is not so surprising that this “city” is only about 250,000 people.

As small as it is, Battambang, which is located on the Sangker River (Stung Sangkae), has always been the trade hub of the northwest. Established under the Khmer empire in the 11th century, it was remodelled by the French during their colonial rule, and the buildings still show evidence of both traditions.

Large  statue of a Khmer King with a large stick sits in a central circus in Battambang.

The legendary Khmer King Kranhoung holds the stick with which he quelled rebellions in the area.

I read somewhere that the buildings of Battambang survived the Khmer Rouge regime so well because Pol Pot had headquarters in the region: whatever the reason, this charming little city stands in contrast to the rice fields and traditional crafts and cottage industries in the villages surrounding it.

Leave the city and you are launched directly into “the past”.

Artificial flowers in a wooden vase in and open window with wooden shutters.

The flowers in an open window of a wooden Cambodian house welcome us to the traditions of the past.

Portrait: Khmer man in a dark room, against a brightly lit open window.

No indoor electricity makes for dark interiors which contrast starkly with the white-heat of a Cambodian morning.

Close-up: Metal catch on a wooden door.

Simple wooden catches secure the heavy doors.

Red and yellow triangle cushion in a dark room.

Light sneaks in at odd angles ~ catching bamboo matting and cotton cushions.

Portrait: Khmer man standing inside an open shuttered window.

The proud owner of the house bids us farewell.

I was on a day trip that started at Battambang’s morning markets and took us through the Fish Paste “Factory” before culminating at the ancient Khmer ruins of Wat Ek Phnom. After our walk through the wooden Cambodian house, we visited a site where they make the large clay pots that are used to collect and store rainwater.

A man scooping wet clay into a bucket.

Scooping clay for the pots.

A Cambodian woman in rubber gloves smooths a large clay pot.

It is hot, tiring work making the large pots that are needed at every home.

Portrait: Smiling Khmer man with a solemn-faced young girl.

The work-place is a social place, and extended family, neighbours and friends hang around.

Khmer woman and a young baby sitting on a mat.

Bring your baby to work: there is always someone to look after the little one.

Portrait: Khmer child with an orange back-lit hammock

This child is not quite sure what to make of all the strangers with cameras in her midst.

Portrait: Khmer woman smiling.

The principal potter smiles as she takes a break from her labours.

Tractor on a well-packed dirt road.

Back on the road, and onto the next village...

Close-up: hand taking a clump of sticky rice from a bamboo stick.

... where they make the best sticky-rice-and-red-bean snacks.

A Khmer woman on a packed dirt floor pauses from cutting lengths of bamboo.

A woman takes a break from cutting lengths of bamboo for roasting sticky rice.

Khmer woman chopping lengths of bamboo for making sticky rice.

The bamboo canisters are trimmed and tidied before being filled and then cooked over a fire.

An elderly toothless, hairless khmer woman sitting in a hammock.

Gran keeps an eye on things ~

Portrait: elderly toothless khmer woman laughing.

~ and is ready to share a laugh.

Portrait: Khmer woman in traditional head cloth, selling sticky rice.

A smiling sticky-rice seller doesn't seem to mind that our group are not buying very much.

This photo series marks my final post from the Cambodian Photo Tour I participated in last July under the guidance of Karl Grobl, Gavin Gough, Marco Ryan and Matt Brandon. So, it seems only fitting that I include their portrait as part of this set. (Matt had already returned home, so is absent from the picture.)

Three men (photographers Marco Ryan, Gavin Gough and Karl Grobl) framed in a wooden window.

Marco Ryan, Gavin Gough and Karl Grobl pose for us all.

Text: Keep smilingI think you can see from the photo that they are great fun.

They are also brilliant photographers. It was a wonderfully organised and most enjoyable trip. For me, it was also an extremely fruitful one: this is my fourteenth post using only photos from those two weeks.

I’d do it again anytime – thanks, guys!

Photos: 23July2011

  • melissa - May 10, 2012 - 11:47 am

    Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, Ursula. Your photo selection summed it up well. Makes me want to get a big serving of sticky rice for breakfast. Happy trails.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - May 10, 2012 - 12:25 pm

      It was a joy travelling with you, Melissa! We have to do it again sometime. 😀ReplyCancel

  • gabe - May 10, 2012 - 12:08 pm

    A nice ending to CambodiaReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - May 11, 2012 - 4:13 am

    I think I”ll miss Cambodia… there have been some amazing shots and some sensational smiles.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - May 11, 2012 - 4:07 pm

      Yes, the smiles of the Cambodian people, with their hard lives and tragic history, are humbling! So pleased you could join me, Trish! And, yes, Signe – I miss them too.ReplyCancel

  • Tricia Bates - May 11, 2012 - 7:35 am

    Beautiful photos Ursula, what a good looking people they are, I loved Grans smile..ReplyCancel

  • dietmut - May 11, 2012 - 6:43 pm

    a marvelous series Ursula. I’ve enjoyed again. After I’ve seen your pictures I want to go back to Cambodia and make my trip again. I have been there in 2002 (Laos + Cambodia).
    Nice weekend, DietmutReplyCancel

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