Photographing Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder 

 by Reinhard Thomas
September 26, 2016

River Market Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

River Market on the Mekong   Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 51mm - f9 -1/200 – ISO 100

Our journey started in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in South Vietnam at the delta of the mighty Mekong River. We made our way up the river to Cambodia in a boat that was able to pull up on the banks of the river, allowing us to visit villages along the way. The Mekong is the lifeblood of all the countries through which it traverses. It originates in the Tibetan Plateau, flows through China, Myanmar, Laos and Thailand before it reaches Cambodia and finally flows into the South China Sea of the South Vietnam coast. Its total length is more than 4300 km and the biodiversity is second only to the Amazon river.

Village with floating houses by Reinhard Thomas ©

Village with floating houses along the riverbank Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 52mm – f10 -1/200 – ISO 100

Houseboat with fisherman in Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Houseboat with fisherman and family.   Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 65mm – f8 -1/200 – ISO 100

Along the banks of the river there are floating villages and small fishing boats are dotting the river. Many of these boats are also the only home of the fisherman and their families.

Fishing Boats with snail fishers Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Fishing Boats with snail fishers Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 63mm– f5.6 -1/160 – ISO 100

After five days our riverboat crossed the border from Vietnam into Cambodia and we arrived in Phnom Penh, the capital city of the Kingdom of Wonder (what the country calls itself). The nation of approximately 15 million people is located in Southeast Asia and borders on Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. As a welcome from our boat we have a stunning view of the Royal Palace.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh  Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 58mm– f13 -1/125 – ISO 100

Phnom Penh was once called “The Pearl of Asia” not only because of its location where the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Bassac rivers meet, but because the city had the prettiest French colonial buildings, elegant Buddhist temples and the grand Royal Palace. Many of the French colonial buildings still exist today.

Wat Phnom Buddhist Temple Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Wat Phnom Buddhist Temple  Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 24mm– f8 -1/400 – ISO 100

Our city tour took place in a Cyclo, (a bicycle rickshaw where the driver sits behind you). It was relaxing and revealed some of the treasures of the city such as the National Museum which displays and preserves artifacts from Angkor. The art deco Central Market is buzzing with commerce and saffron-robed monks stroll the streets.

Buddhist Monastery dining room Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Inside of a Buddhist Monastery dining room Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 24mm– f3.5 -1/125 – ISO 400

Within the beauty of the city there are also reminders of the dark days the country has faced. These include the S.21 Genocide Museum and just outside the city are the Killing Fields with their memorials. The “Pearl” was tarnished in the late 20th century by the inhumane regime of the Khmer Rough under Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979. The Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields are stark reminders of this time.

Cambodia Aspara dancers by Reinhard Thomas ©

Aspara dancers faces in Siem Reap
Cannon Powershot SX200IS, Lens 5-60mm, 18mm-f4.5 – 1/30 -   ISO 640, built-in flash fired

Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Aspara dancer
Cannon Powershot SX200IS, Lens 5-60mm, 60mm-f5.3 – 1/40 -   ISO 500, built-in flash fired

After a few days in and around this city of about 2.5 million inhabitants, our journey continued on to our next destination, Siem Reap. After arriving in our hotel, we were entertained by traditional Apsara dancers.  


View onto Angkor Wat Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©                View onto Angkor Wat   Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 24mm– f9 -1/160 – ISO 100

This city is the fastest growing, modern city in Cambodia and is the ideal gateway for excursions to the world famous UNESCO world heritage site of the Angkor temples.  

Carvings inside Angkor Wat Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Carvings inside Angkor Wat Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 24mm– f5 -1/125 – ISO 100

carvings inside the Bantey Srei Temple Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

Intricate carvings inside the Bantey Srei Temple
Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 50mm– f5.6 -1/125 – ISO 100

The Angkor area served as the capital of the former Khmer Empire, which was considered the largest empire in Southeast Asia during the 9th to 14th century.  Today the area is dotted with ancient ruins.

Angkor Wat is the largest and best-preserved temple on the site. Built as the largest Hindu temple in the world it is a symbol of Cambodia, is on the country’s flag and it is the prime attraction for visitors. Its outer walls measure 3.6km in length. The temple was built in the 12th century as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu but then became a Buddhist temple when Buddhist monks used it after the 15th century. Today the country’s main religion is Buddhism.

Inside Banteay Srei Temple  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Inside Banteay Srei Temple  Cannon 7D, Cannon EF24-70mm f 2.8, 25mm– f10 -1/125 – ISO 100

Another interesting site in the area is the 10th century Banteay Srei temple built with pink sandstone. Three towers inside the temple are decorated with the most intricate carvings.

Large tree roots have claimed the crumbling ruins of the Ta Prohm temple and the jungle has become an integral part of the architecture. Its appearance has deliberately been left as archaeologists found it, to show how it looked when European explorers discovered it in the 19th century. It is the location where the Hollywood movie “The Tomb Raider” was filmed.

Ta Prohm Temple by  Reinhard Thomas ©

My wife in the Ta Prohm Temple
Cannon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm, f 3.5, 11mm– f5 -1/125 – ISO 100

Cambodia has thousands of monuments and ruins spread all over the country but the Angkor area displays the crown jewels of the Khmer architecture.

We ended our very interesting tour through Cambodia with a visit to a local village and a vocational center that trains young people in the traditional crafts of stone sculpturing and woodcarving. 

Pagodas and Temples Cambodia by Reinhard Thomas ©

One of many sites with Pagodas and Temples
Cannon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm, f 3.5, 13mm– f9 -1/160 – ISO 100

I would recommend the beautiful country of Cambodia to all, it’s history, culture and scenery will be a trip you’ll never forget.


Authors Biography & Contact Information

Reinhard Thomas portrait

Reinhard Thomas is a photographer living in Calgary. He is specialized in travel photography. Between travels he creates animal and landscape images and has a comprehensive collection of barn and grain elevator pictures.




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