There is an intriguing tale told about the railways in Cambodia.
During the recent and horrific Cambodian civil war, the government had an issue with Khmer Rouge rebels often mining the countries various train tracks. In an effort to stop expensive locomotives being blown to bits, it was decided to push an old flatbed railroad car ahead of the loco. In this way, any mines would end up destroying only a small section of track and the expendable old railcar. The story goes that if you were too poor to pay for a train ticket you could (at your own considerable risk) ride the flatbed for free. We splashed out $6.50 for an airconditioned carriage.
Behind the locomotive.
At this point I feel I should explain the dark humour, it fits Cambodia. This is a nation that has gone through unimaginable agony and evil in its recent history. However, in Cambodia today, it is much more common to see happy, welcoming faces that are sadly all too often absent in the West. The Cambodian people have a strength of character and a zest for life that makes you pause and reflect.
Our first stop after a train journey (that included zero mines, but did include a dead cow) from Phnom Penh to the southern coastal town of Sihanoukville was Koh Rong island. The ferry boat dropped us off at Deam Thkov - a small traditional Khmer fishing village.
The locals were incredibly friendly, and we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of their lives. We stayed on Coconut Beach - one of the many gorgeous beaches on Koh Rong. Days here involve swimming in turquoise seas and major relaxation.
On a darker note this island is starting to groan under the pressure of us, the tourists. However, there is hope on the horizon as the government of Cambodia has decided to make Koh Rong and its little sister Koh Rong Samloem a part of Cambodia's first marine national park.
The town of Kampot along the south coast of Cambodia, not far from the border with Vietnam was our next stop. Kampot is famous in the culinary world for some of the best pepper and salt on the planet. They are not wrong, the food in Kampot is universally sprinkled with condiments' goodness and tastes sublime.
Kampot is a quiet town, a strange mix of locals and expats living and working together. Tourism, fishing and farming are mainstays here, and the feeling an outsider gets is of a confident, happy and vibrant place. We loved Kampot.
For the final part of our trip we headed to Siem Reap, home of the legendary Angkor Wat, and Angelina the Tomb Raider, apparently.
Siem Reap, the bustling second city of Cambodia, is a charming and fun place, but the real appeal of this area is Angkor.
Angkor Wat temple complex must qualify as one of the hottest places on the planet. Set in 400 acres of the sweltering jungle, this wonder of the world vibrates with the echoes of its history. Angkor is a place impossible to explain eruditely as its sheer scale is breathtaking.
Cambodia is a country of contrasts, the difference between rich and poor can sometimes be shocking. Cambodia provides optic fibre internet to outlying islands, but it can take two hours to drive down 40 miles on the national highway because a farmer and his bullock cart are slowing traffic.
We left Cambodia covered in the orange dust that is prevalent there, but also with a proper sense of contentment.
Equipment used: Fuji XT-1, Fujinon XF23mm f2, Fujinon XF35mm f2.