Evil former Khmer Rouge official, 82, gets royal sendoff

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure.

The cremation of Cheat Sim occurred at the top of this structure, completed over two weeks.

Chea Sim was only president of the ruling party in Cambodia, yet he was remembered last week in a ceremony befitting a head of state following his death at 82.  The day of the funeral, June 19, was declared a national holiday; however, it was not strictly observed.

There were pomp, circumstance and elaborate decoration at his cremation in a park in the center of Phnom Penh.

Unfortunately, Continue reading

Water, bamboo, sugar cane and 6 of us for elephants

elephants 15

Okay, so the sixth in the group, plus the guide and two mahouts were there but clearly not in the photo. Neither is the second of the two elephants who strolled with us, busy foraging.

With an extra day to spend in the northern Thailand city of Chang Mai last week, I explored some tourist sites in search of a diversion.  And certainly I had one.

I couldn’t have done better than my choice of the Elephant Nature Park charitable organization.  Six of us had the pleasure of spending a day with elephants who essentially had been tortured in the past to carry passengers, lug logs or perform in circuses or venues such as zoos.

elephant blind

Totally blind, she uses sounds and vibrations to navigate the area contentedly.

Two or three among the 44 retired pachyderms who ramble in the woods and across the organization’s meadows, albeit in highly controlled conditions, are totally blind.  One lost her vision from being stabbed by an angry mahout (handler), and a second elephant had suffered too much time in the spotlights of a circus.

I have acquired new contempt for rival facilities that offer rides to tourists or entertain them with tricks including having elephants create paintings. Fun for those who witness and ride, not so much for the abused noble creatures.

As costly as the day ran us on the tour, each of us Continue reading

Waking up in New York, be sure to follow the rules

(Flickr photo by joiseyshowaa)

No one credibly disputes that New York City is unlike any other in the world.  In fact, no city is like another — each is unique by definition.

I drafted this post two years ago, and finally want to unload it while I am traveling in Continue reading

Phnom Penh street names sound strange to these ears

Except for the boulevards, few drivers

recognize street names anyway

rue 6Long-time residents who can navigate Phnom Penh’s miserable traffic with assurance often fail to remember the names of the streets that they travel.  (Farther down, more about names that bring me up short, and there is a pretty big hint above.)

By “long-time residents,” I include bicyclists and pedestrians as well as most of the numerous tuk-tuk operators and motodops who clog corners in search of passengers and then cruise our thoroughfares when they get lucky.

I frequently come upon tourists and transporters with heads together puzzling over laminated maps that seem to offer little help.  An address Continue reading

Visit to shop explains ease of making counterfeit clothes

innumerable plastic bags contain name-brand labels.

innumerable plastic bags contain name-brand labels.

Rare is the enlightened consumer in Cambodia who buys brand names expecting them to be of first quality or to be the designers’ true product.

Stacks upon stacks of labels abound in the shop.

Stacks of labels abound in the shop.

Whether toasters or t-shirts, the goods can be counted on to be fake. In the case of electronics and appliances (and, for that matter, pharmaceuticals), it can be hard to separate the counterfeit from the genuine, the factory supplied or the criminal contrived, seconds from firsts.

Consequently, those who can travel themselves, know international travelers or possess the means to have merchandise shipped in at a cost of approximately $50 per package (naturally depending on the size, weight and carrier) rely on sources outside Cambodia for peace of mind.

We simply don’t trust what we buy here, though Continue reading

Because of construction, there goes my neighborhood

This villa, a block from my apartment, exemplifies what is being lost in my neighborhood.

This villa, a block from my apartment, exemplifies what is being lost in my neighborhood.

Demolition, renovation and new construction in my neighborhood of Boeung Keng Kang 1 (BKK1) is transforming an area that many expats favor into one that is becoming hard to recognize.

This former villa, which had become a restaurant, is across the street from the house in the top photo.

This former villa, which had become a restaurant, is across the street from the house in the top photo.  (Warning: Numerous images below.)

What is happening here at a dizzying pace merely reflects a situation in which property development in Phnom Penh has soared and, along with it, prices.

Investors in residential buildings in prime neighborhoods such as mine drove land prices up in the last half of 2014 alone by Continue reading