Here's another one of my favourite photos, taken in the Srei Santhor district of Cambodia in January 2003. Its proudly on display on my website homepage, as I pose with half a dozen youngsters in the grounds of a pagoda called Wat Sithor.
The Srei Santhor district lies to the east of the capital Phnom Penh, across the mighty Mekong River. Its a part of Cambodia that sees practically no tourists or travellers at all, so I was greeted throughout my day in the district with waves, smiles, hello's and a great deal of warmth. My visit to Wat Sithor was no exception. It was 2pm when my dirt-bike driver Sophal and myself reached the extensive grounds of the pagoda. A large brick stupa of indeterminate age stood next to the main vihara, whilst another four even larger brick stupas with porches, almost small temples in size, were situated behind the pagoda and overgrown with vegetation.
From the moment we arrived, I was followed around by the children you see in the photo above, they were absolutely adorable kids who smiled at me constantly, played peek-a-boo, they squealed with laughter when I chased them but never uttered a single word, even when Sophal asked their names. When I suggested a photo they lined up rather sheepishly and then the girl in blue put her arm around my neck - she was so sweet. The red krama (scarf) on my head was to keep the sun off but by the end of the day, my nose was bright red from sunburn - perhaps that's what the children found so funny. The trip was a great success and to get a real taste of life in rural Cambodia, I'd recommend everyone take a trip to Srei Santhor district.