The arrival of the Mekong Express boats was always an event. Preparations began just after dawn, when vendors started arriving on a stretch of riverbank just south of town. They laid out their wares and began cooking their food for sale. Soon the shore was thronged with people, all waiting for the first sight of the boats.

Finally, around 7 am., they began to appear in the distance, first from upstream and then from downstream. As they docked a virtual army of porters jumped aboard, bearing off all the strange and wonderful cargo that had found its way here, the gateway to northern Cambodia. Off streamed the passengers, to be replaced by a new group with their own collection of goods.

By 9 o’clock the last of the boats had departed. The vendors packed up and putted off on their motorcycles, leaving the bank as bare and deserted as before they had arrived. But the boats would return tomorrow, a daily ritual that felt at the very center of life in this town.

These photographs were taken between 2007 and 2010, when boat services ended, replaced by Cambodia’s rapidly developing road network.

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