Wat Drone

Green was an aerial photographer and videographer. He did much of his work for the government using a trio of buzzing drones, filming events from bridge inaugurations to impressive shots of Cambodia’s struggling train system. He’d met the Prime Minister on several occasions, and on a shelf he had a special, framed certificate from the King. When I asked if this certificate was the Cambodian equivalent of a knighthood, Green said, “Not really, but kind of.”

“Green” wasn’t Green’s real name – it was Tram Lyrattanak – but he was obsessed with the colour. His clothes were green. All his appliances were green. His car and motorcycle seats were green. His phone’s colour scheme were green. His entire house was painted green (inside and out). Caroline asked if he’d seen Kermit the Frog’s video. He hadn’t. He loved it.

Guess who?


Riding a rented scooter, we followed Green’s car through the streets of Phnom Penh to a video shoot. Our destination was Wat Botum Vatey, but first we had to get there.

In Cambodia the road rules are simple. Traffic drives on the right-hand side and it is required to stop at traffic lights. The lanes are clearly marked, and the speed limit is displayed beside the road. Unfortunately sometimes the rules are slightly bent. Like when:

* A cement truck speeds down the wrong side of the road while honking.

* Two lanes of traffic becomes thirty lanes of motorcycles all going in different directions (including up).

* A bus overtakes a bus that’s overtaking a truck that’s swerving around a horse.

* A red light means, ‘speed up and try not to kill anybody while checking WhatsApp’.

* A turn signal means, ‘I am going to drive straight’.

* No indicator means, ‘I am going to turn extremely suddenly and violently’.

* A huge cloud of vision-blocking dust means, ‘Speed up and close your eyes’.

But I wrote this, so we made it in one piece.

At the wat, monks were busy setting up for a “longevity ceremony”, in which a prestigious monk (who was getting quite old) would be blessed and honoured. The purpose of the ceremony would be to lengthen his life so he could continue to perform goodly, monk deeds. Hun Sen (Cambodia’s Prime Minister – you should definitely click that link) would be at the ceremony, and so the area needed to have some high-definition aerial shots so security personnel could plan entry and exit routes. It was a quick, simple job.

The drone

The drone

The remote

A curious, slurping monk.

The men were curious...

The men were curious…

...and so were the kids.

…as were the boys.

Large pictures of the monk at the centre of the longevity ceremony were displayed, showing him meeting the King and Prime Minister, amoung other things.

Large photos of the prestigious monk were being erected showing him meeting the King and Prime Minister, chilling out under an umbrella in front of a blue void, and other fun activities.

Green’s side-project was to travel around the country shooting aerial videos of Cambodia’s most beautiful and interesting places. He took this job at the wat as an opportunity to extend his portfolio.

Here’s the video (great music!) Two of the little people-shapes in the courtyard are Caroline and I.


Just an ordinary train