In the depths of the Cambodian jungle, there are things that go bump in the night… and things that go bump in the morning, like the ominous thuds that are suddenly sounding on the underside of our boat. We are puttering our way along the Kampot River towards the Teuk Chhou Rapids, around 8 kilometers from the center of the charmingly somnolent little town. Once there, we will swim in crystal-clear pools, sway gently in riverside hammocks, and receive free skin-removal treatments from fussing, matronly monkeys. As the boat passes underneath a clump of coconut palms that jut out almost horizontally over the tranquil water, a loud disturbance beneath the craft becomes obvious. “There aren’t crocodiles in here, are there?” a fellow passenger asks nervously. “No, the boat just ran over some discarded coconut husks,” laughs Wee, our captain, as the boat steadies and continues to cruise upriver.
The fat, red man has a faraway look in his eyes. He is naked, his modesty shielded only by his right arm, which extends coyly across his lap. Motionless, he never shifts from his perch on the boardwalk of the old wooden house, where he wistfully observes the activity on the Bangkok Yai canal in the neighborhood of Thonburi in the Thai capital. Such eccentricity is commonplace at Baan Sinlapin (the artist’s house), the centrepiece of the community of artists at Khlong Bang Luang. The community, which boasts vintage antique galleries and a few small exhibition spaces, is dispersed around a string of wooden stilted buildings linked by a plank walkway along the canal. Local artists use the atmospheric venue as a workspace and their efforts are showcased at regular exhibitions. The house is also home to fascinating resident pieces of work – including the corpulent canal-side daydreamer.