Thursday, January 31, 2013

Never Underestimate Your Luck

My 5D Mark III, 50mm f1.2 lens with my Panasonic Lumix GX1, its 20mm f1.7 lens (~ a 40mm lens in full frame terms) and my Cambodian press credential.

Yesterday I walked up to the Cambodian Ministry of Information to apply for a press credential to cover King Sihanouk's cremation. Apparently credentialing closed on January 25 and I was a week late. I put on my best sad face, apologized for my tardiness and pulled out the passport photos I always travel with. The Ministry official looked at me and shrugged. He took my particulars and passport photo and said come back tomorrow.

As I was leaving he reminded me of the dress code, black slacks, white long sleeve shirt, black tie and black leather shoes. No sports shoes (tennis shoes). On my walk back to my hotel I stopped at a street stall and picked up a pair of slacks and the shirt. Total: $5(US). I made a second stop for the tie, which set me back $2 more. 

I couldn't find shoes for under $50US, so I put those off in case my luck ran out and they denied me the credential. But the gentleman was as good as his word and my credential was waiting for me (well it was more complicated than that, but I got it). On the way back to the hotel I found a street stall selling shoes and scored a pair of black leather shoes for $30. They only need to last two days (Friday and Monday), so I won't be too bummed if they break down while I'm here. 

All in all, I think I lucked out. It would have been very easy for the Ministry official to shut down on me. But he didn't. And I didn't think I would find clothes in my size, but even that was easy. Then I stumbled into a street stall that had the right shoes in my size. The royal funeral trifecta.  

Tomorrow is the funeral procession. The King's body will be moved from the palace to the cremation site, which is next to the palace. This is also Cambodians' last chance to say goodbye to Sihanouk, who's been a part of their lives since the 1940's (and he's the man who secured Cambodia's independence from France), so the procession will wind its way through Phnom Penh, taking about five hours. They are expecting up to 1,000,000 (that's million) people to line the route. 

I will be working with my Canon 5D bodies, I'll take my 24mm, 50mm, 100mm and 200mm lenses, one flash and 20 Compact Flash cards. I'm going to leave my Lumix body and lenses in the hotel room safe - I'm going to be out on the street for about nine hours and have to pare down the amount of gear I'm carrying. Likewise just one flash (which I probably won't use). I won't cut back on CF cards though. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it would be bad to run out of storage halfway through it. (And the lesson here for traveling journalists is always carry a bunch of passport photos. You never know when you're going to need one.)