Michael Turek in Vietnam and Cambodia for Cond'e Nast Traveller
Writer Nick Fraser finds himself pleasantly surprised by the unmeasured beauty and elegance of Vietnam and Cambodia for the July 2010 issue of Cond'e Nast Traveller UK. Family history and urgings from restaurateur Brian McNally bring him to the two southeast Asian countries as he explores Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, and Phnom Penh, and more. Michael Turek follows in his footsteps, spending a week in unexplored territory scaling rooftops and trudging ankle-deep in fields to illustrate Fraser's journey.
Fraser does the customary pho eating in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon) and also visits Reunification Hall, with a side jaunt to Dalat, a former summer escape for bureaucrats and foreign businessmen. But what stands out most in Turek's memory is Kep, a city in the southern part of Cambodia. While most tourists flock to the Hindu temples of the north, Kep felt "psychologically remote from everywhere else." The place to stay in Kep is Knai Bang Chatt, reachable by a 4 hour drive down a dirt road from Phnom Penh. The resort is a refurbished Le Corbusier inspired building that was abandoned for years before it was revived by two Dutch men.
For all its natural beauty, delicious food, and welcoming people, it is impossible to write about or visit Cambodia and Vietnam without recognizing the historical significance of such trials as the Khmer Rouge or the Vietnam War. Turek, who grew up in the states and whose father was drafted into the Vietnam War, noted that had he been his father's age flying in the same air space a generation ago, the reactions of the local people around him would have been vastly different. Instead, he was met the entire trip with hospitality and curiosity as people saw his camera and gave him access to their homes, the city, and whatever else he needed.
"Here I am, trying to sell the place!" he exclaims in mock disbelief at the change in events. "In some ways, I hope that nobody ever reads the [Conde Nast Traveller UK] story, and no one wants to go. It was a beautiful experience." To read the full story by Fraser and to see more of Turek's photographs, check out the UK edition of Cond'e Nast Traveller, July 2010 issue. On sale at newsstands now.