During my trip to Laos and Cambodia, I met many many unforgettable young faces of innocence and unbridled joy – nothing like what I see back in Singapore. Nothing against my beloved home country, but our students (I don’t even call them children) are just too weighed down with performing well in studies, to be as carefree as their counterparts in our neighbour countries. I know for sure that my childhood was very different. With school, tuition classes, piano classes, painting classes and the like, I never had the chance to truly be a child.
I couldn’t resist snapping photos of these children, speaking to them, hearing some of their stories, and feeling their emotions.
Here are some of their snapshots, taken with my Sony RX-100.
Kbal Spean, Siem Reap, Cambodia
During my visit to the Kulen Mountains, about 50km away from Siem Reap city, I visited the “River of 1000 Lingas”. This is where it’s said to have 1000 carvings of “lingams” on the riverbed. And it is also where I met three of the loveliest, most adorable Cambodian children dancing away to Psy’s “Gangnam Style” – while showering in the river!
Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia
It was raining cats and dogs during my visit to Ta Prohm, the location where the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed. Yet unlike the city children who run indoors and hide once it rains, the children of Cambodia revel in the rain, and engage in light hearted water fights.
Angkor Wat, Siemp Reap, Cambodia
Not just a tourist destination, Angkor Wat is also a place for student visits due to its historical significance. This little girl ran up to me waving excitedly when I was snapping some shots of the exterior of the temple.
Bear Rescue Centre, Luang Prabang, Laos
Located near the popular Kuang Si Waterfalls, the Bear Rescue Centre houses Asiatic Black Bears that have been rescued by the Lao authorities from the illegal wildlife trade. These two young girls help their mothers at food stalls located nearby, and decided to take a small break and have some girly chit-chat near the bear enclosures. I stopped to talk to them, and managed to catch a lighthearted moment between the girls.
Kuang Si Waterfalls, Luang Prabang, Laos
Working moms in Laos don’t have the luxury of helpers and nannies taking care of their children while they’re at work. When walking along some road side stalls, I met this little girl who was playing with her own “portable bed” – a hammock! Her mother, the stall owner, brought her little girl along to keep an eye on her.
Ban Xang Hai (Whiskey Village), Luang Prabang, Laos
What struck me about the Whiskey Village wasn’t quite the local whiskey brewed here, but the sheer number of children located in the village. This little boy was playing with freshly plucked flowers, and ran up to me excitedly when he saw me, brandishing his flowers. And when I pointed my camera at him, he immediately started posing with the flowers!
This girl was taking care of her little sister, who was crying just moments ago. She carried her sister up and gently rocked her, apparently the maternal instinct comes up really early here.
Night Market, Luang Prabang, Laos
Children start working at a young age in Laos, and these two young girls struck me because they were such beautiful little girls manning the singlet stalls on their own. Though young, they were mature and spoke really good English, happily bargaining the prices of singlets with me!
Scenes like these are what really stays with me during a trip. In Laos and Cambodia, the faces of the young showed me that though these children don’t often get the luxury of a proper education, they are granted a chance to grow up in the most innocent way possible. Perhaps this was how it walk like for our parents, during Singapore’s formative years.