Cambodia’s minister of culture and fine arts, Phoeurng Sackona, spoke warmly about the artist Sopheap Pich, standing at her left, in front of the sculpture called Big Being.
No one would describe Cambodia as a vital center of the visual arts in Southeast Asia.
While there are art schools and art exhibitions, the output does not tend to be memorable. (When it comes the visual arts, I find photography to be the most accomplished.)
One reason must be Continue reading
In keeping with normal practice, the sidewalk along Monivong Boulevard, a major thoroughfare, was cluttered with parked vehicles a few months ago and thus was impassable. As usual, I found myself walking in the gutter.
It was then that I noticed a Rolls-Royce behind me edging toward the sidewalk. It is the Rolls in the photo. I was struck by the contrast between it and other vehicles on the road and suspect you will have the same reaction.
Even my modest condominium building, where I rent a furnished two-bedroom unit for $1,000 a month — relatively low in a prime area where new two-bedroom units run close to $2,000 and rarely much more — has a Rolls owner in residence.
I am dumbfounded by Continue reading
Having reported on and attended in other capacities an incalculable number of parades, festivals, street fairs and similar special events, I have become rather jaded about them.
But the 2017 Thailand Tourist Festival — which this year apparently replaced a celebrations of the Lunar New Year in Bangkok’s Chinatown in tribute to the memory of the late king — blew me away. By changing the focus, the government felt able to respect the year-long mourning period since his death last fall.
The event in the city’s centrally situated Lumphini Park took place from last Wednesday through Sunday. It was a triumph of organization, diversions and civilized crowds of almost impenetrable size on the weekend, somewhat less thronged before then. I was there on three days.
The organizers had divided the space according to five of the country’s regions, plus a section devoted to China.
I very much enjoyed Continue reading
My mother and I at home a few years ago.
Where I spent most of my life, there was the concept of going home. That referred to where I went to bed at night.
Here, Cambodians usually mean the same thing.
Were I to head to my hometown, that would refer to the Boston, Massachusetts area, where I was born and lived the first 18 years of my life.
Here in Phnom Penh, “hometown” does not exactly exist as a concept. Instead, Cambodians will say in their language they are going to their homeland.
“Homeland” is freighted with far more significance than “home” or “hometown.” It has Continue reading
Up this forbidding staircase, Meta House, the German Cambodian Culture Center, offers a rich variety of discussions, films, entertainment and bar food daily.
At this oldest of three locations, the minuscule Flicks screens independent, foreign-language, popular and art films aimed at expats every day.
One of my neighbors moved here from Sweden to work. That he need to use a wheelchair in Cambodia, where there is little accommodation to individuals who cannot walk as well as able-bodied individuals, does not seem to faze him.
When I asked him about life in Phnom Penh for folks like him, he told me that he managed pretty well. Of course, managing means that he Continue reading
No one disputes what eyes, ears and noses have detected in recent years: The number of motor vehicles on the streets of Cambodia in general and of Phnom Penh in particular has swelled dramatically.
Residents (and, of course, virtually all tourists) don’t even think of walking here. For one thing, it is considered too dangerous. However, I suspect that most folks believe walking alongside, not on, sidewalks made impassable by parked conveyances is just too unpleasant. (I happen to like the exercise and thus put up with the disadvantages.)
As for taking a bicycle, Continue reading
The character of my Boeung Keng Kang I neighborhood has undergone a remarkable transformation in the three years ago this month that I moved to Phnom Penh.
In this photo from my roof, every high building looking east was built in the last two or three years, probably less. The grey one in the foreground was just completed. The crane in the background (right) atop an unseen tall building with a dramatic elliptical shape is some months from completion.
As I have written in the past, one reason is the explosion of fast-food restaurants in my neighborhood, which is popular with expats. The other reason is the breakneck speed of new construction, which is obliterating pleasant mid-century villas and the shade of trees that are recklessly cut down on every block.
Perhaps I could argue against the change, though that would be folly. Instead, what I can rant about is Continue reading