I have been following Angkor Photo Festival and Workshop for almost last five six years. I have deep respect for it. So, when the program coordinator and curator Francoise Callier emailed me for one of my works to be exhibited over there, I did not put a second thought on it. I felt privileged enough to be in one of the best photo festivals of the world. I started preparing to go Siem Reap from that day. I just needed an excuse to go Cambodia. Siem Reap is one of the best travel destinations of the world for its famous Angkor Wat temple. This is the largest religious monument in the world with the site measuring 162.6 hectares (1,626,000 m2; 402 acres). It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple of god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, gradually transforming into a Buddhist temple toward the end of the 12th century. It was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yaśodharapura (present-day Angkor), the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum. The nearest Cambodian city from Angkor Wat is Siem Reap. It was a great double bonanza for me to visit Angkor Wat and enjoy the festival at same time. So, I boarded the flight from Kolkata to Siem Reap via Kuala Lumpur.
After reaching there I started to feel the vibration of the city bit differently. A city with broad roads with less traffic which I hardly expect here in Kolkata. It made me curious to know the city better in night. I heard a lot about the night life of Siem Reap before coming here. So, I decided to go out at around nine and my first destination was Pub Street area, the famous partying spot of the city. My hotel was quite nearby and I reached there by just ten minutes of walk without any problem.
It was just like what I heard before. That is an area with full of pubs, bars and restaurants. Wherever you see, you can only find foreign tourists. They are jumping, singing and dancing all around. It’s hard to find anyone who is not happy over there. One can easily find nice foods and cheap beers at almost all the restaurants over there. Everyone’s destination becomes Pub Street after sun goes down to relax and enjoy. The nearby night market is open for whole night where one can find different types of goods from souvenir to daily usable items. The market opens almost whole night to cater huge influx of foreign tourists. This is somehow an answer to Bangkok’s Khao Sun Road.
After spending some time over there I decided to come back to hotel. When I just left the area and crossed the river, I had a bizarre feeling. I just felt that I was standing in quiet and tranquil environment and few minutes back it was difficult to hear each other words. It was completely a different feeling. So, I realized that two different souls are living in a single body here at the same time.
So, I decided to move around the city in both the areas in night to feel this juxtaposition where one part is full of energy and other is just preparing to sleep. The areas outside the pub street and night market is completely different at night. The street lamps are pouring lights on Empty Street. Windows are closed. Cats and dogs are moving around. It was very difficult to match the environment which I left just meters away. I walked down almost everywhere and found same atmosphere almost everywhere. It cannot felt at day time by any chance. A small city becomes smaller and concentrated at particular area during night time, especially around midnight. I do not know that it is possible to feel the quietness without the loudness of the other part. I guess it is not. Because it is not first time I am experiencing quietness at night, but it was a different feeling altogether. If anyone stands just outside of the pub street area, she can hear the loud music coming out from the pubs and same time feel the silence of the other part just beside it where quietness is too strong. While I was walking through the street I was able to hear the sound of silence of the buildings, parked cars, closed doors of the shops and the street lights.