Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I May Be Old ...

On Friday, November 7th, we headed out to Tonle Sap Lake for our homestay portion of our visit to Cambodia.

The first segment out to the lake involved traveling out on Cambodian National Highway No. 6 from Siem Reap out to a section of the lake where we would continue on by boat.  When we travel, we typically have a plan as well as a schedule to guide our travels.  However we do not plan and schedule so tightly that we are forced to become oblivious to all the opportunities for photography and special experiences along the route.  Ironically it takes discipline to "stop and smell the roses" when traveling.  It is often too easy to develop tunnel vision and to become excessively focused on either a timetable or destination.  Often it is those serendipitous encounters along the route that define a vacation and provide the memories for a lifetime.

We passed through many small towns on our way to Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake.  In one town we stopped at a local morning market that was situated on the side of the highway.  It was a great place to photograph local life and culture.

Since this was the fourth day with our wonderful photography guide, he had a great understanding of the types and subjects of the photographs that I enjoy taking.  He knew that I wanted to take a photograph of an ox cart ... well not really an ox cart but the Cambodian version which is pulled by skinny cattle.

At one point, our guide called out to me that an ox cart was headed up the main highway moving towards us.  I saw the cart about two hundred meters (200 yards) moving towards us.  I crouched down alongside of the road to obtain a better perspective for photography.  As I raised my head after squatting and getting comfortable for the anticipated shots, the cart had disappeared!  Simultaneously I heard my guide calling out that the cart had turned.

After ensuring that I was securely holding on to my camera, I took off in pursuit of the ox cart.  Running past some vegetable vendors along with their customers, past a few food carts with standing customers, past a couple food booths with seated diners, I accelerated along Highway 6 creating looks of confusion, concern and finally amusement as I passed.

I came upon the narrow dirt road where the ox cart laden with straw was lumbering along.  Just like that tiny steam engine in the children's story where he kept repeating "I think I can, I think I can", my mind started racing as I lumbered down the dirt road "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can catch up and pass these cattle to get my shots"

Despite having at least a 200 meter head start on me, I did catch up and pass the ox cart - much to the surprise of the cattle and confusion of the cart's driver.

Ox Cart On Side Road In Cambodia

A little past the cart, I squatted down on the side of the road for the perspective that I wanted.  I snapped a few shots and then a strange event occurred.  Understanding that I wanted to take photographs, the cart driver, completely on his own initiative, stopped the cart!

This was an act of kindness by a complete stranger that makes travelling here in Southeast Asia so interesting, satisfying and memorable.

After a few more shots and thanking him, the driver and I went our separate ways.

I returned to the market much slower and much more composed than when I had left - much to the relief of our guide and my wife along with the amusement of many market goers.  I stopped and showed some of the people the photographs on the camera's LCD that I had gotten.  We all enjoyed a laugh.

I am 65 years old now so ... I may be old.  I am definitely over-weight ... but I still can out run an ox-cart!

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