Grandmas, adolescents on motos common in Cambodia

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Older women driving a motorcycle or scooter — generically a “moto” — is a familiar sight in Cambodia.  This presumed family is in the thick of homeward-bound traffic, but “mom” and child wear no helmet as required by a much-ignored law.  Crossing the intersection behind them is a vendor with his wares.

In much of Southeast Asia, the streets are clotted with motos — motorcycles or scooters. Since they cost less than cars, the vehicles are the least expensive way to upgrade from traveling by foot or bicycle. They also are a major contributor to air pollution.

Because the two-wheelers are everywhere, foreigners quickly take their presence for granted and many expats adopt them for transportation.

You see drivers of every kind fearlessly navigating congested streets and, for the most part, skillfully dodging each other, bicyclists, pushcarts and SUVs. They speed (in relative terms) around obstacles, occasionally bump into each other and generally shrug at minor collisions. During the work day, traffic usually goes no faster than 20 miles per hour (33 km), but there are plenty of close calls.

Still,  Continue reading

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If you think Pattaya is only about sleaze, think again

(Reposted because of its mysterious disappearance from my blog)

IMG_5383Many folks familiar with Southeast Asia perceive Pattaya as a city with a dirty beach on the Gulf of Thailand, streets lined with hookers, ready access to illegal drugs and frequent brushes with violence.

Yet such a broad brush overlooks and, I think, overstates Pattaya’s proximity to Bangkok (a two-hour, $3 bus ride from the capital city), and its plentiful positive aspects.  I have managed to sample only a few of them on two visits this year .

When I tried the ocean, Continue reading

Many Cambodians ignore pills for their headaches

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Many vendors sell coffee for a pittance along the streets of Phnom Penh, though there is hardly shortage of cafes.

If you live in the West, you probably pop a couple of Tylenol or Advil pills when you have an ache or pain.  For other pains, perhaps you might put a thermal patch on your back or a sore joint, or use ice to combat swelling.

That is not always the case here in Cambodia, as I recently learned after finally deciding to find out about the patches that I have observed occasionally on men, women and children here.

You probably are smarter than me and thus already have figured out the reason for the patches.  What they do is apply cooling gel on top of afflicted area.
Continue reading

The latest news in Cambodia is nothing but depressing

 

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After 24 years of excellent journalism, the Cambodia Daily writes -30- with today’s issue.

Happy Labor Day to readers in the U.S.  I wish there were happy news to report from here in Cambodia.  The latest news is anything but that. Continue reading

Exercising or eating, Cambodians throng parks nightly

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Players use various smaller or professional-looking footballs. Most of their goals lack nets, which can be as informal as a couple of sandals or the jerry-built one in the photo above.  

They are a hive of a disparate activities, two adjacent parks close to the center of Phnom Penh.

Divided from each other by a busy avenue, the L-shaped expanses near Wat Botum and Independence Monument in Phnom Penh comprise more pavement than greenery and escape neither the din nor sight of traffic.

Weekend evenings are naturally the most popular. Yet they attract Cambodians of many stripes every night, though I sense none from the small class of elites.

Those who do frequent the parks seem variously to be students and office workers, proud lesbians, gays and transgenders, kids and their parents, beggars and monks.  Many purposefully stride the length of the area with Independence Monument at one end to get or keep in shape.

They may be  Continue reading

Buy or rent with great views, then see them get blocked

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Adjacent buildings in Boeung Keng Kang 1 area of Phnom Penh.  Pity the owners in building at right.

It has been years since I blogged about lot-line windows in New York City.  Risk-takers or ignoramuses pay them no heed at their peril.  In Cambodia, however, it may make no difference to worry about them.

The windows in New York are in buildings constructed up to the limits of the lot they occupy, often for decades.  By law, the windows have chicken wire embedded in them so as to be recognizable as potentially obstructed.

It behooves Continue reading

Facebook spurs youth involvement in political process

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Rapt audience approaches 100 individuals at Saturday’s event aimed at younger Cambodians.

At the start of an event at a local university last Saturday, the audience was warned against publishing comments by the speakers without their permission.

“We want people to feel comfortable to share their ideas,” the moderator explained.

Such is a measure of the fear that grips Cambodia’s populace in the wake of occasional arrests on trumped-up charges for online criticism of the government.  Also of concern is the violent restraint of street protests in the last few years, though not of late.

While maintaining that young people — that is, the small minority of college and university students in the country — “are aware of their security risk” for speaking out, one presenter allowed that Continue reading