Come for the temples, stay for the people. Angkor Wat is just one of hundreds of temples hidden in the jungles of Cambodia near Siem Reap, but what makes all of these temples truly special are the people who bring them to life every single day. The stones are weathered by time but the culture they represent has endured. From the vast shores of the Tonle Sap to the mountain streams at Beng Melea.
There are two things they grow in the hills of Inle, food and tea. Follow this photographic journey from the market stalls through to the tea plantations. Tea leves, sweetened condensed milk, roti bread, curries and fried vegetables. Always served with a smile.
Early mornings are beautifully still on Inle Lake, with the sun taking a little extra time to clear the nearby hills. Fishermen come out as soon as the mist has cleared, armed with nets or cages. Rays of the sun reflect off the ripples like stars. In the middle of Lake Inle is a teak temple famous for jumping cats, and the shallow shoreline is hidden by miles of "floating gardens". Inle is kinda neat.
Photo Essay | 43 images | Inle Lake | Myanmar | South-East Asia
There are two things they have plenty of in Nong Khiaw, rice and cotton. Traditional weaving skills have been brought to market in recent years with the help of Ma Te Sai. The Taileu villages near Nong Khiaw have grown in confidence, as their textiles gain better appreciation and stronger markets. You can visit these parts of Laos yourself with the help of Emi at Ma Te Sai.
Photo Essay | 72 images | Laos | South-East Asia
In the very far north of Thailand, where the Mekong meets Laos and Burma, the Golden Triangle Elephant Camp provides a better life for over 30 elephants. It's not enough to care for the elephants though, here they also care for the mahouts who own them and the families who rely on the income. Five-star resorts at Anantara and Four Seasons help keep the camp going and keep the elephants working.
Photo Essay | 29 images | Thailand | Chiang Rai | South-East Asia
Elephants of Chiang Dao
Caring for elephants is no trivial issue in Thailand. Some camps treat their elephants better than others, and one of my favourites is in the north of Thailand at Chiang Dao. About an hour past Chiang Mai, this little camp gets far fewer visitors every day but enough to keep the elephants well fed and happy. There are good and bad aspects to elephant camps of any kind, but they're better than letting these majestic creatures starve on the streets.
Photo Essay | 22 images | Thailand | Chiang Mai | South-East Asia
One of my favourite temples around Angkor Wat is Beng Melea, a set of ruins that have been left untouched without attempt to restore. Blocks of stone lie toppled about like lego blocks. The drive to Beng Melea is quite long, but where the route departs from the highway is a small but vibrant market called Damdek Leu. It's been a favourite photo stop for me for a decade.
Photo Essay | 45 images | Cambodia | South-East Asia