Well yes, Q-tips are available in Cambodia, but. . .

thumb_IMG_0951_1024There’s a barber shop — okay hair salon — that is a 10-minute walk from my apartment.

A few months ago, I upgraded from my customary one, which closed and used to cost me $3, including tip, about once a month.

An acquaintance recommended Tokyo Barber Shop because he so enjoyed the shampoo and accompanying brief head, neck and shoulder massage.  After indulging myself in the process there and shelling out $7, including tips for the shampoo and haircut, I became a convert.

What you have to know is Continue reading

Longtime observer pessimistic about Cambodia reform

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To paraphrase the old Esquire magazine, why is Hun Sen laughing?  (Source: Phnom Penh Post)

“This is no country for decent and outspoken men.”

So begins Sebastian Strangio’s crystalline analysis of Cambodia’s political environment in the highly respected Mekong Review.  The one-and-a-half-year-old quarterly journal has given me permission to excerpt a substantial portion of the author’s astute perspective on the chasm between what might be desirable in the Kingdom of Wonder and what might be achievable.

Strangio — whose recent book on Cambodia under the 31-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen has received terrific reviews — draws a line between what ought to be the situation in the country versus what actually is the possibility of change.

You can read the full essay in the publication, and I suspect the excerpts below will peak your interest.
Continue reading

Bangkok building takes architecture to new heights

Meandering around central Bangkok recently, I kept seeing from different angles a startling building nearing completion.  It arrested me from every point of view, and it is as memorable to me as the Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

I looked up the nearly completed skyscraper online, and dezeen architecture and design magazine provided me with background that I have shamelessly extracted here in part.

At 314 meters, or 1,030 feet, the MahaNakhon tower was intended to be Continue reading

A shop owner bolsters my appreciation of Cambodians

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This sleek all-in-one is not mine.

My printer mystified me.

Purchased here in Cambodia, the HP all-in-one device is three years old.  It worked fine until a couple of months ago, when it refused to print the information inside a form.

I tried everything, so I thought.  I changed online documents to PDFs, JPGs, Excel and Word, all to no avail.

Finally, it dawned on me that Continue reading

Cambodia hardly is a hotbed of the visual arts, but. . .

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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

Photos below must be worth worth 1,000 words each

rollsIn 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

Variations of ‘home’ set Cambodians apart from West

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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