Traditional weddings in Cambodia truly test endurance


The couple engaged in numerous rituals, this one directly in front of their parents.

The bride, bridegroom and their families arose around 3 a.m. on the day of the wedding to prepare for formalities starting approximately 7 a.m.  Preparations included the professional application of layers of makeup and the creation of elegant hairdos.

The key figures didn’t sleep again until sometime before midnight the same day following an elaborate dinner attended by a throng of 640 in a catering hall.

They also were up late the previous night, when 260 of their closest friends and extended family members joined them for a night of celebrating the upcoming union at tables set up under a tent on the street in front of the bride’s home in the Phnom Penh district of Stung Meanchey.

Little did I, who had to leave home for the wedding at 6 a.m., appreciate Continue reading

Investment in construction surges against all odds

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Source: Phnom Penh Post

The biggest disincentive for investing in land and new construction in Phnom Penh ought to be, in my view, how much of it is taking place. I have written several times in this space about the swelling bubble that I believe I am witnessing.

The bubble notwithstanding, other reasons would seem to militate against considering a building project in Cambodia, and I’ll get to those factors in a minute.

It is my belief that the dimensions of the growing bubble are clear: Construction and real estate investments achieved 13.75 per cent more growth in the third quarter over the same time last year. The government puts the combined worth at $1.752 billion, an increase in value of $1.54 billion over the previous year.

That recently persistent growth somehow has occurred despite Continue reading

What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet


After I publish a post, I entertain myself by checking to see how many views my blog is getting. Usually, I am disappointed by the number while striving to remain philosophical that I write mostly to please myself.

A nice feature of WordPress, the platform I began using in 2009, is the statistics I see and the surprises they offer.

For one thing, I am continually surprised by two sets of numbers: One is how individuals from the all over the world seem to find my blog and the second is how old are some of the posts they discover.

Nearly two years after having moved to Cambodia from Manhattan and retired from selling and writing about real estate originally in the Washington, D.C. area and then New York, I am amazed Continue reading

Those who believe in curses say they must afflict gym

The Place

My gym, which is situated in a prime location in a prime neighborhood of Phnom Penh.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then perhaps you remember the story of a trainer at my gym who was in serious condition after an accident on her motorbike.  I am happy to report that Poul is recovering nicely and eager to get back to work, perhaps in a couple of months, once she can start working out again herself.

Not so another trainer, the 35-year-old married father of two boys, whose name I’ll pretend for now is the common Socheat.

In a nation where much of the populace, even 30-year Prime Minister Hun Sen, is superstitious and believes in the power of curses, some Cambodians might well take seriously the notion of Continue reading

Women sold into sex work condemned to no future

Still from The Virginity Trade

Still from “The Virginity Trade”

Variations of one Khmer proverb go something like this:

Men are gold, women are cloth. . .

The implied meaning is that men who do something unacceptable are like gold; they will be as clean as the metal after it is washed.  The converse is suggested for women; when sullied, even washing won’t rinse off all the dirt.  They will be perpetually dirty objects of scorn.

Two one-hour documentaries Continue reading

Sandals, flip-flops prove to be a way of life in Cambodia

feet 2
This is a nation of roads that are alternately dusty or flowing with rain water, depending on our two seasons — hot or wet, it is said with a small smile.  The sidewalks are impassable or absent. Continue reading

Being a foreigner in local markets can be daunting

This is not my local market, but it is typical of markets found everywhere in Cambodia.

This is not my local market, but, other than its spaciousness, it’s typical of indoor markets found everywhere in Cambodia.  I recall that I took this photo on an important Buddhist holiday.

Closing in on two years in this country, I relish more than ever my daily encounters with Cambodians and the chance to practice my atrocious grasp of the language.

It is one thing to try to speak and understand Khmer with waiters and gym trainers who are bilingual to greater or lesser degrees. They seem to enjoy my struggles with pronunciation — you try to articulate as one sound the diphthong “ng” and the triphthong “pdt.”

It is quite another thing to climb the Mount Everest of fathoming a normal rush of words that I know yet fail miserably to hear when they are strung together in speech.

I long ago gave up trying to read or, horrors, write the language.  But words and some grammar are beginning to sink in and I now can engage in the most rudimentary of short conversations such as ordering food in a restaurant.

The big problem with learning Khmer where I usually range is that almost everyone seems to speak enough English that I am not called upon to use the local language.  Moreover, they usually don’t expect me to speak Khmer and I don’t always expect them to speak English, inevitably causing confusion.  Still, I persist stubbornly.

In the last several weeks, I finally have become emboldened to Continue reading