My Photographs: Top 5 Battambang Bamboo Train, Cambodia.

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Battambang Bamboo Train, December 2015. During my wanderings around Cambodia I met plenty of fellow travelers who didn’t even bother stopping in Battambang! I can’t help but feel they really missed out; from the kooky town itself with its excellent café and restaurant scene, to the amazing beauty and history of Phnom Sampeau and the immense fun of a trip on The Bamboo Train! The latter is one of the world’s most unique rail journeys, but you’ll only need to part with five Dollars of your hard earned cash for the bumpy twenty-minute ride from O Dambong out to the tiny settlement of Sra Lav.

Battambang Bamboo Train, December 2015. The so-called trains are little more than long wooden frames, around three meters in length and powered by a 6HP gasoline engine. Cranking down the single-track line at fifteen kilometres an hour is actually far more thrilling than you’d think, especially as our driver took great delight in making the journey as bumpy and twisty as possible. But the most genius part of the system is that it provides a hilarious solution to the issue of what happens when a train is coming right at you from the other direction. Basically, the train with the fewest passengers has to stop and is quickly disassembled by its drive, who sthen sets it down in the grass by the side of the track!

Battambang Bamboo Train, December 2015. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sra Lav turned out to be little more than a dozen or so tacky tourist shops manned by a frenzied collection of in-your-face locals. They descended upon us the moment we stepped off the train, with desperate pleas for us to buy something… anything! There were Bamboo Train teddy bears, neon-lit snow globes, Hawaiian shirts, key rings, faded postcards and an inappropriate number of woollen scarves. You name it we didn’t want it! The woman pictured here was the only one who didn’t seem interested in us. So I took this photo of her while the others were mobbing my friend Daryl.

Battambang Bamboo Train, December 2015. We also had a gaggle of local children to contend with. The girls were brutal, vociferously demanding money for no particular reason and stomping their feet and hissing at me when I refused to comply. But I liked this guy, who carefully set about crafting a handmade grasshopper from the leaf of a nearby plant. “It’s beautiful!” he claimed matter-of-fact-ly. “And very cheap!” The grasshopper was cool, but I still had no use for it, so I agreed to pay him a Dollar for this photo.

Battambang Bamboo Train, December 2015. My one Dollar charity act got me into BIG trouble with the girls. “You are a bad man!!!” one of them screamed in a fit of jealousy, as the other danced around me furiously, her face screwed up, bottom lip pushed out. In the end I told Angry Girl 1 I’d give her some change for a photo. She quickly agreed, but then just as my mate Daryl hit click, Angry Girl 2 threw her arm in front of the lens in a petulant act of sabotage. Happily the joke was on her, as she ended up making a vital contribution to what might just be my favourite photo from my entire Cambodian trip! Karma.

My Photographs: Top 5 Phnom Sampeau – Battambang, Cambodia.

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Phnom Sampeau, December 2015. The curious little Cambodian town of Battambang offers visitors a handful of unique sights that stand right up there with the country’s must-see attractions. One of these is Phnom Sampeau, a massive limestone outcrop 12 kilometres outside the town centre. It’s a steep forty-minute walk up to its highest roads, or you can pay an entrepreneurial moto-man four dollars to whisk you up. About halfway up the hill a side road leads you under a gate into the site of Battambang’s grisly Killing Caves. It was here that the Khmer Rouge bludgeoned hundred of people to death and tossed their bodies through the skylights of the caves. A series of highly gruesome sculptures depict the atrocities, while down in the main cave itself there’s a glass case memorial of skulls and bones. Not for the fainthearted.

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My Photographs: Top 5 Loftus Road, London.

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Loftus Road, December 2008. I think I was about five or six years old when my dad first took me to see Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. We were playing West Ham in a largely uneventful game that finished 0-0. Not the most auspicious start to my QPR journey and yet the place had me completely hooked, from the colourful language of the locals and the smell of sizzling burgers, to the team’s gorgeous blue-and-white-hooped shirts (best kit in Britain!) and the compact stadium itself with seats right on the edge of the pitch. As a teen I used to make regular trips in from Buckinghamshire and no matter what crazy corner of the world I lived in I’d always make it back for at least one or two games a season. This shot was taken when I was unexpectedly interviewed before a home match against Watford. I can’t remember what I was asked, or indeed anything I said, but it must have been more interesting than the game itself, another drab 0-0.  

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My Photographs: Top 5 Hyde Park, London.

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Hyde Park, September 2015. Every time I come to London I’m always amazed all over again at how green it is. I try to go and visit a different park each year and I’m nowhere near getting through everything. Hyde Park is the city’s obvious biggie at a whopping 145 hectares. Nabbed from The Church by Henry VIII in 1536, it was initially used for hunting, duels, horse racing and most popular of all in those days, public executions!

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My Photographs: Top 5 Tooting Bec, London.

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Elmbourne Road, June 2015. I always enjoy my annual trips to London. With my nomadic existence the way it is, I only manage to make it back once a year. But these visits feel so good for the soul, a much-needed recharge of my internal battery. I can tune in and out of English conversations, stuff myself with all the foods I miss and go and see my beloved QPR at Loftus Road. These days my London home is Tooting Bec in the southern borough of Wandsworth. An old friend of mine has a house in Elmbourne Road on the edge of Tooting Bec Common; so it’s here that I come to remind myself that I am in fact English. 

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My Photographs: Top 5 Hampstead, London.

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Hampstead Heath, April 2017. There are worse things one could do in London on a sunny Sunday afternoon than lying about on Hampstead Heath shooting the shit with an old friend. A sprawling area of open fields, dotted woodlands and rolling meadows; this is yet another London oasis that allows locals and visitors alike to get away from it all and unwind.

Hampstead Heath, April 2017. The heath boasts an impressive three hundred and twenty acres of grassy space and straddles a sandy ridge at one of the highest points of London. Mapping out a walking route to the top of Parliament Hill, my friend and I embarked on a long overdue catch up, stopping here and there for an ice cream and the odd bout of people watching.

Hampstead Heath, April 2017. It was a festival of lazing atop the hill, with scattered groups of people snacking, chatting, laughing, reading and sleeping. When my friend and I get together we tend to talk a lot of intentional crap, as is our way. We’ve had plenty of terrible ideas for screenplays and novels over the years and our Hampstead Heath banter was no different. A young man called Simon finds his life thrown into turmoil when his tennis partner gets abducted by a great white whale! Determined to save his old chum, Simon sets off to confront the beast and save the day. We called it Simon Dick. Probably for the best then that our inane ramblings were interrupted by the sight of children roly-polying down the hill.

Hampstead Heath, April 2017. The views from Parliament Hill aren’t too shabby at all! Cast your eyes across the horizon and you can pick out The Gherkin, The Walkie-Talkie and The Shard, nicely juxtaposed with historic landmarks such as The Palace of Westminster and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s incredible just how much London is transformed when the weather is behaving and this day was a testament to that.

The Roebuck, April 2017. We’d walked a bit and sat around a lot, which apparently builds up quite an appetite! So on the way back to Hampstead Tube Station we nipped into The Roebuck for a pint. Dating back to Victorian times, this traditional pub on Pond Street features a sizeable lounge and a pretty garden in the back. Ordering our drinks, I couldn’t resist the temptation of a house-baked pork pie served with sweet piccalilli.

My Photographs: Top 5 Greenwich, London.

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Greenwich Market, April 2017. “Let’s meet up in Greenwich!” she said, “I love Greenwich!” And so it was decided. I hadn’t been to Greenwich since I was a kid, with only a vague memory of my dad taking me onboard The Cutty Sark. Back in the present, it was an absolutely gorgeous day and the people were out in full force, strolling along The River Thames, lunching outside Trafalgar Tavern and lying on the grass in front of The Royal Naval College. Greenwich Market was pumping too, with its world food stalls, cupcake stands and organic coffee huts. Meanwhile, in the market’s bustling Admiral Hardy Pub, rosy-cheeked beer-swilling men cheered on their chosen horses as The Grand National got underway on a series of giant screens.

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