A world between glamorous luxury and extreme poverty!
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
Hello. This is my first blog post on www.bjoernteufel.com.
Currently I’m based in Phnom Penh and spend my time working as a hotel photographer and simultaneously working on www.beautifulcambodia.asia.
On this website I will mainly present my commercial photography and will every now and then share experiences which I got to experience thanks to photography.
This post is dedicated to last Sunday's walk through the outskirts and railways of Phnom Penh and how I got to experience a not so glamorous part of Phnom Penh.
Living in Phnom Penh me and two friends have organized 6 photowalks over the past year. Markus from South Africa and Take from Japan. Most of the photowalks have been a huge success with 50+ people participating, sponsors including Grab, Brown Coffee and luxurious hotels, mainly promoted through our announcement videos. One can be found here.
Next to taking people through Phnom Penh and showing them some of the best photo spots in the city we always enjoy walking by ourselves.
Less crowds create less attention, which mostly leads to better photo results.
Last Sunday we decided to meet up at 5:30am in front of the Railway station in Phnom Penh.
Our mission was to go to the railways outside of Phnom Penh.
The railway station is opposite of Vattanac capital, which basically is a futuristic looking luxury shopping mall where on the top levels a hotel of Rosewood is located. Since I have been taking photos for Rosewood I can say that their interior is remarkable and definitely counts to one of the top hotels across the city.
Leaving the railway station behind us we started walking to the outskirts of the city.
In this area, which is also close to the parliament of the prime minister Hun Sen, (which by the way is with more than 30 years one of longest serving prime minister ministers - worldwide) a lot of development is happening. New buildings coming up and let’s just assume that in a few years this will be the new Phnom Penh.
Walking on those big empty streets in the early morning hours we didn't expect that anything bad could possibly happen, as all of a sudden a motor bike with two young Cambodians pulled up who tried to grab my camera. Luckily they only got my water bottle. After the first shock we continued walking and came across some fancy looking residential buildings and entered after a while to the railways.
Immediately I felt like I was entering into a different world. The smell was intense, garbage was all over the place and people were staring at us. One of the first things we got to witness were two drug dealers quite actively supplying some of their customer with whatever they had.
Again this was shortly after 6am on a Sunday morning. So definitely not something usual during this time of the day.
I have to say that at over the past year I’ve spent quite a time walking through all sorts of streets and markets in Phnom Penh and never have I ever felt uncomfortable or anxious. But the railways were different. Besides probably the very poor hygiene, the bad small one of my bigger concerns were all the wild dogs who were running around.
All three of us quite impacted from what we saw, continued walking along the railway and got to see living circumstances, which I honestly would not want to experience for one night. What made this situation even more intense was the immense development around this area. Construction cranes all over the place and I just imagined what this will mean for the people living here a year from now.
Next to the railway we saw small houses, little kids running around naked and old people sitting on the ground washing their clothes or preparing their goods to then later sell them on the streets and markets of Phnom Penh.
For me personally this was one of the most intense areas I’ve ever came across in Southeast Asia.
Almost at the end of the railway Markus and I came across an old lady. The old lady, had a smile on her face when we saw her. Right from the beginning she was very open and smiled at us, even encouraging us to take a photo of her - which we did.
Right at that time and even looking back now at the photo it is remarkable for me, that this old lady didn't look sad at all. Her smile was real. Truly an intense encounter.
As a result form this walk I can just say feeling good about yourself doesn't necessarily need to do something with your living circumstances. It rather is a decision we all can make on a daily basis. For sure I will never forget this morning walk.