Two wedding celebrations reveal strength of tradition

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Some weddings are richer than others, as the photo below makes clear.

Although it was only last month that I wrote about the prevalence of streets closed to accommodate weddings and other special events, I couldn’t resist demonstrating again the gap between the wealthy and the wanting.

On an hour’s walk between two Phnom Penh neighborhoods, I was struck by Continue reading

Emmanuele Phuon is on her way to doing it once more

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My little camera doesn’t have a very fast shutter, so apologies for the blurry images in this post.

A comprehensive story in the Phnom Penh Post last week referred to an open rehearsal of a new dance, but it coyly mentioned only a time and no place.  Of course, I had to go, and I have to say that the work is transformative.

Tracking down the location wasn’t all the hard: I simply e-mailed the reporter and got this speedy reply:  Continue reading

Battambang provides relief from Phnom Penh bustle

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Wat Sampeou lies approximately 12 kilometers from Battambang at the top of a high hill and well worth the long, hot and steep climb.  (The temple has various spellings.) 

Battambang is the second largest city in Cambodia, yet it feels much like a one-horse town.

As Wikipedia puts it (why write when others have done it for me?):

Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country. For nearly 100 years, it was a major commercial hub and provincial capital of Siamese province of Inner Cambodia (1795-1907), though it was always populated by Khmer with a mix of ethnic Vietnamese, Lao, Thai and Chinese. Still today Battambang is the main hub of the Northwest connecting the entire region with Phnom Penh and Thailand, and as such it’s a vital link to Cambodia.

The city is situated by the Sangkae River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province providing its nice picturesque setting. As with much of Cambodia, the French Colonial architecture is an attractive bonus of the city. It is home to some of the best preserved French colonial architecture in the country.

Walking along the street doesn’t Continue reading

Eric Kayser bakery, thank you for changing my life

Kayser 1A wide assortment of Western food is available in Phnom Penh and, I imagine to a lesser degree, elsewhere in Cambodia.  I have been able to find, albeit at elevated prices, almost anything I have wanted.

Although I have located decent bread — much of it is from international chains such as Tous les Jours — including baguettes, breads as chewy and heavy as what I loved in New York eluded me.

Until now. Continue reading

Cambodia’s Angkor heritage site reveals its dark side

Tuk-tuks and food vendors jam an area across the street from Angkor Wat, visible in the distance.

Tuk-tuks and food vendors jam an area across the street from Angkor Wat, visible in the distance.

The Angkor Wat complex enjoys enviable status as a Unesco World Heritage Site and as a prime tourist destination not only in Cambodia itself but in all of Southeast Asia and even the world.

And therein lies one of its biggest problems: Tourists.

Angkor 6Built mostly 1,000-1,200 years ago — more than a millennium — the site including Angkor temple itself covers more than 400 square kilometers (154 square miles).  Thus, the second problem: Continue reading

Air pollution is hardly Cambodia’s highest priority

IMG_4481There is no end of troubling issues in developing countries such as Cambodia, among them sex trafficking, corruption, poverty and illiteracy.

CharcoalIt is no wonder, then, that the environment tends to get short shrift, what with lakes being eliminated to allow the building of high-rises, forested land being devastated by loggers and teachers being underpaid.  The list is long, and the foregoing items barely scratch the surface.

Air pollution is way down any list.  The streets of Phnom Penh are clogged with a constantly rising number of  motos, tuk-tuks and the elite’s SUVs (most of the last mysteriously black), all of them spewing stuff that no one ought breathe. Continue reading

Let’s close a block to party, pray or pay respects

A wedding celebration takes over a block not far from Toul Sleng, the infamous converted school in which hundreds faced torture and death under the Khmer Rouge.

A wedding celebration takes over a block not far from Toul Sleng, the infamous converted school in which hundreds faced torture and death during the Khmer Rouge years of horror.

Most residents of Cambodia live in spare housing that lack space for numerous guests.  When the occasion demands many invitees, what to do?

Such an occasion might be a funeral, an engagement party, a wedding or a Buddhist ceremony showing respect and support for the elderly.  I have yet to Continue reading