Cambodia’s Hidden Beauties

Sokha and her husband arrived from Anlong Veng around 4pm (their taxi broke down twice) as the road from Siem Reap to Anlong Veng is very bad during the rainy season. However, it gave Tom and I needed time to setup and prepare the guest house room and persuade the guest house staff to minimize all surrounding noises.

Here’s a SAMPLE of Sokha singing a popular Cambodian song:

I was blown away with Sokha’s dedication and ability to perform whenever needed. After a LONG travel day for her, cameras were rolling thirty minutes after her arrival and she was instantly singing perfectly on key and with an incredible range in tone and pitch.

Mobile Audio StudioSokha and her husbandTom and husband preparing trailer voiceoverPracticing Voice Over

We recorded two more sessions with Sokha the following day along with voiceover for the Khmer version of the film’s trailer. Tom and I packed up and headed for the jungle that afternoon. Always a bit eerie to be off exploring jungle areas but after nearly two hours of scouting we found a location that could work for the film’s intro.

Moments after filming

Stopped at the new landmine museum on the way back and was greeted by Chet, Boreak, and many other kids who seemed thrilled with their new home and rushed to show me around all its new facilities. Was especially rewarding to see Chet, a teenager who seemed so rebellious and anxious to run away from the old museum before, now as one of the new museum’s most energetic guides.

New Museum at night

Had a farewell dinner with Sokha and her husband and delivered them to the taxi station the following morning before Tom and I met Sarom for breakfast to finalize the plan to complete remaining translations.

En route to Phom Penh, we stopped about an hour outside of Siem Reap and had one of the most visually stunning and culturally engaging mornings I’ve had in Cambodia (and I’ve had a lot this past year). We pulled off the main road on a muddy path leading into the heart of rural Cambodia.

After about 5 minutes, it became clear that this road would be very difficult for Tom’s sedan to traverse as it quickly narrowed and became riddled with water logged potholes. I think we both knew that this would prove to be a very tricky return trip but we pushed on because it was like no other place we had previously been.

I felt like I was seeing people that had never seen outsiders before, some people were incredibly excited and we exchanged big smiles. Others seemed to be frightened to the point of retreat.

About 20 minutes down the road, a giant mud hole swallowed the front left tire and we were stuck. People eventually came closer and after seeing us struggle a bit to push the car on our own, their curiosity turned to understanding and jumped at the opportunity to help us push the car out. Tom and I struggled to get the car nowhere whereas these villagers had the car out of one of the deepest mud holes I had ever seen in one attempt!

Stuck in the mud

Decided to leave the car right where it was on that one dry patch and ventured on foot the rest of the way. Further down the road, a greying Khmer man in his 40’s pointed to a water logged path near his property. He motioned for us to take off our shoes and walk through the water to a patch of dry land.

A bit hesitant to trod barefoot through murky grasslands, we decided to take our chances and push on. A group of about 7 or 8 children showed us good places to step and what originally seemed risky quickly became completely natural.

We found a beautiful spot for another possible location and one of the kids who showed us the way happened to be a perfect match for the character I was looking for. Spent about an hour in this spot teaching him the scene and eventually filming it.

Cambodia in Wet SeasonPreparing for shot oneAudiencePreparing BrevisCurious SpectatorsCurious Spectators 2Directors of PhotographyAlways an audienceDedicated AssistantsChosen Actor (red shorts)

Afterwards, a neighboring villager showed me to a well where I could wash my feet. What seemed as the entire village gathered to watch and laugh at such a strange sight (“barang” scrubbing dirty feet and putting on tennis shoes).

Dirty feetWell washingBoy with cowSo photogenic

Other neighbors later directed us to an easy place to turn the car around. We said our good beyes and headed back to the main road. Five hours later, we were back in Phnom Penh.

Stopped for a snack on the way….

Tarantula Anyone?


4 responses to “Cambodia’s Hidden Beauties

  1. To hear what you shared about Chet warms my heart! We never gave up on that boy!

  2. Good on you, it shows. Chet also seems to have turned into a bit of an assistant around the museum. When the water pump ran out of gas, he was quick to jump up and go fix it.

  3. beautiful singing by Sokha. What is the song about?

  4. The sample I put on there is actually her playing a “modern” Cambodia pop song…about a 16 year old looking for love…I’ll put more a more traditional clip on the next entry.

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