Goodbye Laos, Hello Cambodia

I say goodbye to Laos with my last project visits in the north-eastern province of Houphan. I will never forget the flight I had to take to return to the capital city.

It's not really sensible to drive back with over 650 km of road. I have travelled 100 km of "off the beaten" roads in Laos and it took me nearly 5 hours! I couldn't imagine what it would be like to drive across the northern provinces.

Every time I mentioned that I would be taking this flight from Houphan to Vientiane I would either get a laugh or generally look of concern. Both faces stem from the fact that it's about 50:50 when it comes to flying on schedule. The plane that is serviced between these two places, is a small aircraft of 12 seats with no barrier between you and the pilots. The plane hovers low on the ground, so if there's even a patch of clouds in the sky the plane is cancelled.

Sam Neua, Houphan, airport

The airport was modest, with no real security checkpoint and an officer who was logging the passengers in a book with a pen.

If I didn't fly, it would mean I would miss my flight to Cambodia but thankfully that day had clear blue skies. The whole journey was bumpy like a huge gust of wind could us really had us turning over. I was grateful to arrive at Vientiane airport safely!

Airplane views. These were some of the roads we were driving to visit projects

I arrived in Cambodia and my first impressions were that the capital Phomn Penh was much busier than Vientiane. People also seemed busier. Laos is pretty laid back in this sense and the Lao people generally known for their 'don't worry' and 'please don't rush' way of thinking.

Phomn Penh city
Phomn Penh city

I love nature and portrait photographies - for me, both feel incredibly intimate. With nature, I'm exploring the intricacies or bigger picture of the planet, and with portraits, I get to focus on human emotion and people. Yet cities are strange, yet an equally fascinating place for me. So much happens at the same time that it feels hard to draw your attention to one thing.

The landscape between Laos and Cambodia is the second thing that was noticeably different. While I left the jungle and mountains of northern Laos, I embraced a much more flat and wet landscape to the south.

I quickly learned about the unique geographical features of the country. While it is relatively flat, Cambodia is significant because of the Tonle Sap (Great Lake) and the Mekong River, which crosses the country from North to South, similarly to Laos.

There is what's known as the reversing river (Tonle Sap River) and it is such a fascinating natural phenomenon. Simply it's a river that flows one way during part of the year, and another way the other part of the year. In the summer, the river is northwards flowing into Tonle Sap Lake and during the rainy season, the Mekong River swells forcing the river to flow the other way around.

It's the only river in the world that does this.

Outskirts of Phomn Penh

I think Laos has a special place in my heart - being the first country I explored with Faces2Hearts, but I know that Cambodia will be a special place for different reasons.

It's been exactly one week since I arrived in Cambodia. I'm having to relearn basic phrases and understand new cultural, social, and religious norms and values. Although this is challenging, it is the most rewarding part of being in a foreign country. For me, being in a new place heightens my sense of curiosity and wonder for life.

I am looking forward to the new adventures in Cambodia!

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