I keep learning it’s a good idea to question everything

Stringing cable looks like a freelance procedure.

Stringing cable looks like a freelance procedure.  You should have seen them flinging spiraled wires over obstacles such as other wires as the mercury climbed into the 90s.

One of my biggest complaints about the apartment we rent was my reliance on the building’s slow Internet service, which costs $50 a month for shared WiFi.  Downloading videos of any length has been basically impossible, never mind privacy.

I am embarrassed to say I learned only lately through a casual conversation with a new tenant that it is possible to bring in another service.  Eureka!  It never occurred to me to ask.

Paid in advance, the price for Mega’s product is expensive by U.S. standards, Continue reading

Thailand’s martial law proves to be barely evident

On a day of announced protests last Sunday, police and soldiers mostly just hung around.

On a day of announced protests last Sunday, police and soldiers mostly just hung around a busy intersection that is flanked by high-end malls.

It was only on the day after our arrival in Thailand that we saw any soldiers — four of them routinely directing normally busy traffic.  No one paid attention to them, and they were as casual and seemingly bored as supermarket cashiers.

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Click to see seated soldier’s smile.

On Sunday, our fifth and final day in Bangkok, however, the announcement of protests scheduled for busy intersections and upscale malls, a few of which were closed, resulted in a show of force.  By closing two Skytrain stations and gathering at intersections, the authorities kept protests to a minimum and hardly inconvenienced tourists, except those hoping to browse the shuttered malls.

I remember reading about a single arrest, for someone using two fingers in a peace sign as her presumed symbol of objection to the military coup. (I may have missed a couple of others.)

Certainly, Continue reading

Let’s lie down, watch movie and enjoy delivered food

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Welcome to the Empire movie theater cum bar cum restaurant in an area popular with Westerners.  Inside, you can glimpse the whole lobby with diminutive bar and, beyond, a kitchen unseen in the photo.  Nachos, hamburgers, curry and beer can be yours during films.

It surprised me to discover that recently released movies of some quality are available to watch in three Phnom Penh movie houses.

But banish any thoughts of desirable fare at conventional cinemas, which exist here in Phnom Penh seemingly to screen mainly combat, science fiction and action films of questionable merit and sometimes of recent vintage.  (Actually, Noah was showing the week of its U.S. release.)

Before the Khmer Rouge horror, there were some 30 grand cinemas in Phnom Penh filled with cigarette smoke and rapt audiences.  They are now gone, but for two that cling to their original intent. At least one is a nightmarish slum.

In a shopping mall, the Legend is one of three multiplexes as the place to go for overwrought fare in air-conditioned comfort and 3D. Among those “coming soon” as I drafted this post last month were Continue reading

Circus tradition evolves to aid kids while entertaining

The performers as portrayed on the organization's Web site.

The performers. (Source: Phare The Cambodian Circus)

Images that come to mind of a circus aside from Cirque du Soleil may involve daredevil animal acts, high-flying acrobatics and thrilling stunts as such someone being shot from a cannon.  I also think of roving food vendors, overpriced souvenirs, brass bands and the clamor of countless children.

The circus that I attended under a big tent had just two of those features: many children plus ambitious acrobatics performed by an astonishingly poised, graceful and accomplished collection of teenagers and pre-teens.

As the Web site promises: Continue reading

Stroll through the poorest excuse for a zoo anywhere

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Notice the dark patch on the thigh, evidence of effective discipline of a performing elephant, which took money, casually passing it back to trainers.

Although I never intended this blog to be a travelogue, I seem to going places and doing things that prompt a post.

Our most recent excursion from Phnom Penh was to a zoo, a lake and a nearby ancient temple.  It was a long day of seven hours, but I promise to restrain myself from going on and on and on.  Well, maybe I’ll stop at on and on.

A gang of monkeys and two animals like big deer or small elk assaulted us as we entered the first chain-linked enclosure, snatching from our hands bananas purchased for that purpose.

As we trudged through the dust in the enclosure we saw Continue reading

At Cambodian Cuisine Festival, chicken with red ants

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There must have been more than 1,500 attendees, many shown from close to the entrance. You can glimpse the stage with its bright lights and representation of Angkor Wat middle right, and some of the lighted line of booths can be seen in the distance running left to right also in the middle of the photo.

The most unusual food offered among the scores of booths at the Cambodian Cuisine Festival that we attended did not much appeal to me. Although I am a fairly adventuresome eater, I passed on the grilled chicken with red ants. Had it been lilac ants, turquoise ants or even fuchsia ants, maybe I would have given it a try.  Uh, uh.  Not a chance.

That chicken with red ants.

Chicken with red ants (if I accurately recall the dish being at this booth among the scores of others).

I am phobic about insects.  (Yet Continue reading

Mondulkiri: Photos from an expedition to the provinces

At the end of our first day in Mondulkiri, clouds gathered over the "sea forest."

At the end of our first day in Mondulkiri atop a mountain, clouds gathered over the “sea forest” and threatened rain.  A downpour did arrive in town late at night.  (Click to enlarge all photos.)

The biggest laughs came near the end of our brief visit last week to Mondulkiri — the name of a city and verdant province northeast of Phnom Penh and adjacent to Vietnam — during the three-day Cambodia New Year holiday.

On a detour to avoid an impossibly pitted and dusty road under construction on the city’s outskirts, our car took us in the dark along a narrow street that parallels the Mekong River, on which cooled banks are cultivated patches of lettuce.

One relatively recent tradition of Khmer New Year is for clusters of boisterous youths to congregate alongside roadways, many of the kids with faces besmeared with flour or powder, some dripping wet and all of them demanding monetary tributes in a Cambodian version of Halloween: Pay up or Continue reading