The Captivating Children Of Cambodia

We found the children of Cambodia even more enchanting than the temples of their ancestors that we had come to see.

They are pesky, persistent and beautiful. And most, exceptionally bright!

Like the little girl in the purple blouse, who rattled off numbers from 1 – 10 in Hindi, before I had time to react to her question about where I came from!

“Now can you do that in Chinese?” I asked in disbelief! Yes she could!

“In Russian?’ Of course, with ease πŸ™‚

That they are capable of so much more, makes the reality of their existence even more heartbreaking. They seem happy enough, but their abbreviated childhood and loss of innocence, is evident in their wary eyes, even as they stretch their lips in the hope of selling one more 1$ souvenir, that no one wants to buy.

These are just a few of the unforgettable faces of the children of Cambodia. 

Related articles:
The Temple Mountain Of Angkor Wat
Ta Phrom – A Pas de Deux
A Walk Through A Khmer Psah

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

60 thoughts on “The Captivating Children Of Cambodia

  1. Absolutely stunning, Madhu. Precious little ones. That they are so brilliant does make their story a heartbreaker.

    1. Thanks Elisa. I am no stranger to poor little waifs of course, but these were particularly captivating πŸ™‚

  2. Madhu, the pictures are lovely. The processing is fantastic – I love the spots of color which, to me, spoke of their simple joys and treasures. Of course, the children are lovely – how sad that they have to go through so much difficulties at such a young age. If only children could remain children and carefree.

    1. That is high praise, coming from you Imelda, Thank you so much. I was experimenting for the first time with selective colour, and wasn’t sure about the light and contrasts. Delighted that these pass muster πŸ™‚

  3. Oh how the children wrench our hearts when we travel. These do all look healthy kids but the young girl with the basket has such tired lost eyes.

  4. I was so captivated that I failed to notice the photo effect, Madhu! Beautiful little heartbreakers, aren’t they?
    But I do love the effect. ThirdeyeMom used it on her pumpkin post for Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I’ve seen it since. Brilliant, and very touching.

  5. I loved this, Madhu. Again, combining your powerful photos with your storytelling makes a double impact. The treatment of the photos is interesting and artistic.

  6. Molto belle queste tue foto in cui i volti felici dei bimbi in bianco e nero si coniugano con i colori delle cose che tengono in mano, che posseggono, e che tu hai evidenziato a colori.
    Non serve una play station per essere felici, basta un niente e qualcuno che si accorge di te e ti fa una foto, e non importa se non sapranno mai che il loro volto ha fatto il giro del mondo grazie a Madhu. πŸ™‚
    Post scriptum: spero che google traduca bene πŸ˜‰

    1. Google did a great job Popof. These children would be tickled to see their photos on the net wouldn’t they? Thank you for sharing your thoughts πŸ™‚

  7. We encountered this same situation in Cambodia…bright, quick minded children who could switch languages instantly and who had an answer for everything. What is so sad is how these kids are exploited by their parents who are exploited by the “head person” who runs the souvenir concession. Tourism has created this situation even in the remotest of places. Our guide, now in his late twenties, said he once sold souvenirs and didn’t feel it had negative consequences on him or his family when I brought up the subject. How accepting they are of their situation.Interesting. Love what you did with these images. Very dramatic.

  8. Beautiful children! I am glad to hear that they are happy and smart. I pray their future is brighter.


  9. They are beautiful. It is always sad when we are slapped in the face with the realization that much of the great potential in and for the world is lost…with lack of opportunity.

  10. My heart goes out for those children who are looking absolutely fabulous. And I loved your selective coloring idea for representing this.

  11. such old souls peering out from these tender bodies…you really caught their essence Madhu and the post processing made it really visible

  12. These are such beautiful shots Madhu and I love how you have processed them! I can’t help thinking this collection would make a wonderful fund-raising calendar – I would happily buy! Those faces are gorgeous!

  13. It truly is a sad and beautiful world that we in. You captured so much life with these portraits of Cambodian children. A gallery that evokes spirit, heart and soul. I’m, indeed, captivated.

  14. Dear Madhu,

    You captured the beautiful children in words (and this once) better than in images. I mean this in a nice loving way.

    I could never work with poor children. Their innocence coupled with their plight, wrecks me to the core and I am soft – and would probably end up buying up their entire basket of what-nots.

    Even now, when children come knocking on my door to sell souvenirs —

    I rather take on some corporate wheeler-dealer and draw blood πŸ™‚ This I can do – with great relish.

    Peace and hugz,

  15. Wonderful Madhu! You actually coloured their lives for a moment with your photos and their existence here. Amazing to read about them! To travel wth you is bliss

  16. The pictures are yes, achingly real… heartbreaking in their innocence, and as you report, the children’s quick-mindedness.
    The question that also comes to my mind is: obviously, these kids know (little or more or less) what they are ‘subject’ to, the shortlived or seasonal nature of their livelihood, their lives etc. So, if they were offered an alternative (education, schooling, vocational training) would they take it – after all, it is the harder choice and one that does NOT provide instant gratification?
    Also, what would they do to their children when they become parents?

    Thanks Madhu, for these pics, if only to sensitize us as readers to other worlds that exist beyond the shadow of the sun…

  17. Absolutely gorgeous. Love every single one of them and your sensitivity to capture their childhood. Congrats!

  18. Beautiful Madhu! Like India I know there is a ton of sex trafficking of Cambodian children a d it breaks my heart. There is a new YouTube documentary called “not my life” that focuses on this and I cried through it. So beautiful and innocent. So sad that sex tourist from all over the world come to prey on them.

  19. I have to believe that any human who harms children has to answer for it – somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise how do I bear sharing a planet with these mad abusers?

  20. These are fabulous, Madhu (and the post-processing accentuates their beauty, and vulnerability). It was the kids of the Lao villages that did it for me, I just couldn’t move beyond the emotional scarring so many of the Cambodian kids had, even those who had only inherited it from their parents.

  21. Madhu, beautiful faces abound in your images!

    We, too, were touched by the little ones that we met at Angkor and beyond. And we were inspired by two wonderful locals who teach English several hours outside of Phnom Penh. While at their homestay, they invited us into their high school classrooms, introducing us to many ambitious young students. Today, many of them are off at university. That’s encouraging.

  22. Madhu, these are fabulous and I love the photo effect. When we were in Cambodia we also came away with hundreds of people photos – mostly kids – that always make me smile. The kids were always so open and loved to see their pics displayed after we took them. When we lived in Khartoum. Sudan we took an old Polaroid so we could give the kids their photo on the spot. We were heroes! All the best, Terri

  23. These children deserve so much more, and yet are so radiant and intense, drinking life with mouths full.
    Your photos are marvelous, Madhu, truly wonderful. I bow to your insight and photographic eye.

  24. Yes, they are pesky and persistent. And bright! I was afraid we’d have to shut some of their hands in our car door to get them to go away when I visited about two years ago. Lovely post. I loved Cambodia and all of its children.

  25. Beautiful photos, Madhu. I prefer color, but I love the mix that you use. The children are gorgeous and I wish that they all have a chance at a better, more fulfilling life.

    1. I don’t mind as long as you link back to me πŸ™‚
      These are all from outside some of the temples in the Angkor archaeological park in Siem Reap,

  26. Children of Cambodia are unique. I count my blessings everyday for being the mother of one of them now πŸ™‚

  27. That beautiful country was almost ruined by Pol Pot. The people are so graceful and appreciative of the development activities other nations help them with.

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