Woah, the time has finally arrived for me to leave this awesome place!
9 months ago I arrived in Cambodia just after receiving confirmation from Med School that they wanted me to do 13 music videos for Etherwood’s new album. Prior to this I had been travelling for 6 weeks with my now ex-girlfriend Violet, who had just flown back to the UK to complete her last 2 years at uni. Now on my own, with this big job at hand, I wanted to find somewhere to stay for a couple of months so that I could complete it. I had just left Thailand hearing that Cambodia was a lot more relaxed about letting people stay long term – in Thailand you have to do a border run when your visa expires, which only gives you an extra 7 days, where as in Cambodia you just pop to a travel agent with $75, and you get an extra 3 months with no questions asked! I landed in the country’s capital, Phnom Penh, and within 15 minutes of getting out of a Tuk Tuk in the city centre, I was at a bar sipping on a nice cold beer (which cost me 30p), and within minutes someone handed me a spliff with a big grin on his face – “Welcome to Cambodia!” Right then I knew this was the place I wanted to stay.
I met an old uni friend who I hadn’t seen for about 3 years, who had a flat just down the road and had spent the last 2 years living here. We chilled in the hustle and bustle for a week or so before heading up to Siem Reap – she was about to leave Cambodia and wanted to pay one last visit to the town to say goodbye to some old friends, and to stock up on some cheap Cambodian market items to sell back in the UK.
My friend Alex, her boyfriend Citi and me in Phnom Penh
My first impressions of Siem Reap were amazing. We arrived at this beautiful, sunny little town with a river running through it, people having picnics on the grassy river bank under the shade of palm trees, locals selling coconuts and mangos for 30p, travellers enjoying cold beers in funky little guesthouses, and Angkor Wat, arguably the 8th wonder of the world, just a stone’s throw away – the prospect of calling this place my home, even for just 2 months, made me wanna run around naked in excitement.
The sun setting behind the wheel of The Siem Reap River
I wanted to volunteer in a hotel or guesthouse in exchange for free accommodation, so that I had a place to edit these music videos. Then after a couple of days of walking around loads of different places, my dreams started to crumble. It was the beginning of low season, so most places were getting rid of staff, not taking on new ones! And it appeared that only Western owned resorts would hire Westerners, all the local Khmers didn’t seem to understand what the word ‘volunteer’ or ‘free’ even meant! As I began to lose hope, I saw an ad on Trip Advisor for a hotel called Lotus Lodge, which had a 3 storey tall watch tower, where you had panoramic views and could see Angkor Wat. “That sounds pretty cool” I thought, so I sent one last email to them before closing my laptop for the day.
A few days later I received an email reply, saying that it was low season and they wouldn’t normally hire anyone, but it turned out that the co-owner of the hotel was also into film-making, and was just working on a project which he needed an editor for. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! So then the following week I was getting cosy in a beautiful air conditioned room, which made a nice change from the scabby, stuffy $2 room I was previously in!
So months passed, I finished the music videos for Etherwood and I finished the initial work for the hotel owner (Mitch), but the urge to leave just never came! I had a great group of friends in town, who were also here working long-term, and helped show me that the party scene here is ridiculous too – 30p beers, the ability to smoke weed in bars, great live music and the lack of a closing time in most venues meant that days flew by in a hazy blur. I never planned to stay this long, and I never made the decision to, it just happened! I continued to earn my keep at the hotel by creating a load of videos to help sell the tours that they offered to guests (floating village tour, countryside tour, jeep tours etc.), which are all now being displayed on two lovely plasma TVs in the hotel foyer and bar, as well as doing a few general maintenance tasks around the hotel. I’ve also done a few other videos around town and down at the beach, which can be seen on my YouTube channel at the moment, while I work on a new travel page for this site :)
So now here we are, 9 months later, and I’m finally packing my bag back up and leaving this beautiful country. I wrote a post the other day “10 things I love about Cambodia” which explains some of the other reasons I’ve enjoyed my time here so much. I’m not going home though, oh no, I’ve acquired myself a skateboard (thank you Carlo @ X Bar!), and am heading to Colorado in The States to meet one of my best mates from home and spend the summer skateboarding and road-tripping! Skateboarding was what originally got me into film-making, and doing all these travel videos here has made me realise that I miss it, so as much as I love Cambodia and it saddens me to leave, I’m so excited to get back on a skateboard and get back into making skate-videos. (On a related note, this article is a great read about the state of skate videos these days – with 1000′s of 5 second phone clips being uploaded to Instagram every second, people are slacking on good old fashioned, well edited 3 minute skate clips on YouTube, and I’m excited to try and fill that void – stay tuned!).
Anyway, I will leave you with this; a project I have been working on and off for the majority of my stay here. A timelapse film, documenting this beautiful town I’ve been lucky enough to be able to call my home for the last 9 months. I believe that this is the first timelapse film of Siem Reap as well, so I hope that you enjoy, and that it provides a nice picture of the diversity and unique vibe of the town. Thanks for the good times Siem Reap, and an extra huge thanks to Mitch, Veronica and all the wonderful staff at Lotus Lodge for having me for so long, you will always have a place in my heart :)
Also a big thanks to Phally and Nnareth for the Khmer translations! And as usual the soundtrack to this video is up for free download! It’s called 1st Dimension and is a collaboration between two produces called Fracx & Aura. It can be downloaded from Fracx’s Soundcloud page, and if you like it, give him a follow! Thanks for the amazing tune man!