“Cambodian Corn”

Cambodian Corn

Cambodian Corn

By Jeff Falls

I first went to Cambodia in April 2000.  At that time – less than a decade after the civil war of the 1990s – it was still a wild and wooly place and tourists were few and far between.  It was to put it mildly, a bit rough.  You could still buy AK-47s and hand grenades in the central market (about five bucks each as I recall).  I had come there mainly to go to the magnificent 12th century ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world.

I flew into Phnom Penh from Bangkok and made my way up to Siem Reap, which means “Siam Defeated” in Khmer.  The Cambodians and the Thais have had a rocky relationship for the last 700 years or so.

At that time, Siem Reap was little more than a village. (Last year, they opened a Hard Rock Hotel there.  I’m glad I got there before Peter Morton did. ) But back in 2000, it was pretty dodgy all around.  There were no hotels per se in Siem Reap  – guest houses only – and tourist facilities were sketchy at best. When most people hear about Angkor Wat, they think of it as one big temple, but in fact, that huge temple is in the middle of about over 300 square miles of ruins.  “Angkor Wat” means “City of temples” in Khmer.  The point being, it’s an enormous place.  I wanted to go to one of the outlying ruins so I had hired a driver for the day.

My driver, Pong and I were on our way back from that outlying temple when I stopped at this roadside stand and bought some corn and a beer and hung out with these folks for an hour or two. Pong was a bit amazed that I wanted to stop here as were the girls but they were very friendly.   We sat and chatted and laughed for a bit and after awhile, an old woman came out, obviously the grandmother of one of them and she started barking something at me in Khmer which caused all the girls and Pong to laugh.  I asked Pong what was up and told me she wanted to know if I was interested in marrying her granddaughter, the one holding the corn and smiling on the right.  He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I wouldn’t marry any of these girls, but if you do, marry the one over there,” pointing to the girl on the far left of the frame.  I laughed too and then took this picture.

Sadly, I left that day without a wife but this was and is one of my favorite pictures.

Shot with a Nikon F100 on my always good to go Provia 400 slide film.