Student transport helps explain pollution in Cambodia

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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

New construction alters prime area’s ambiance, views

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.

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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

A devil lurks in the details of ‘hidden’ Airbnb charges

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With this seemingly outdated map, Airbnb boasts of 2,000,000-plus listings worldwide. (Source: Airbnb)

7 easy steps that might save you money when using Airbnb

When I wanted to book an apartment via Airbnb for a forthcoming month-long visit to Bangkok recently, both the so-called host and I were mystified by a discrepancy between the price that was displayed in the listing and the higher price that he showed as the rate.

Including the company’s service fee, the listed total was significantly lower than the discounted price that he nicely offered me.  Both of us tried to learn why from at least two inquiries that he made and email inquiries that I sent to Airbnb.  Currency seems to be a major part of the solution to the mystery.

Only by clicking on the company’s “help” tab did I discover how important it would have been to Continue reading

Alcohol consumption is harmful way of life in Cambodia

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Photo recently posted on Facebook is obviously whimsical, but it harbors a darker meaning.

Whether those who imbibe are rich or poor, excessive consumption of alcohol appears to be a widespread practice in the Kingdom of Wonder.  The World Health Organization attributed 2,000 deaths and injuries to the drink last year.

Although the government of Cambodia has been drafting legislation since 2008 to discourage some drinking, enactment has yet to be achieved.

Incredibly, Continue reading

Police corruption in Cambodia comes home to a friend

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Always hard at work, our underpaid constabulary.

A Khmer-American friend of mine acknowledges that he made a mistake when trusting a Cambodian acquaintance.  That trust has cost him well more than $1 million, a loss he can ill-afford.  Not many ordinary Khmer-American businessmen could.

From what I gather, my friend — call him Hak — doled out monthly payments to the guy.  The man — I’ll call him Vwibol — apparently was to lend that money to other Cambodians at admittedly exorbitant, but commonly charged, rates.  (The details that Hak provides tend to be kind of vague, so I am not even positive about the nature of his monthly investments.)

Every month, Vwibol would return some thousands of dollars to Hak. But the money stopped coming in September.  Vwibol says Continue reading

Almost everything they say about Japan turns to be true

img_1780When we went to Japan last month on a whim motivated by an uncommonly cheap air fare ($300 round trip from Cambodia), I imagined the experience would be pretty much as reputed.

The country would be clean, the crowds orderly, the trains always on time, the cities exhilarating, the history temples and shrines impressive, English rarely spoken, prices high and gardens gorgeous to the extreme.  (Many more photos on Facebook.)

I was not disappointed.

“Clean” doesn’t begin to describe the contrasts between most of the rest of the world and everywhere we visited over three weeks — in order, Tokyo, Yokohama, Hakone (to view Mt. Fuji), Hiroshima, Miyajima, Himeji, Kobe, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go, Takayama and Matsumoto.  “Immaculate” is more to the point.

There wasn’t a shred of litter on the streets or in the subway or train stations, though maybe I have figured out how that could be the case in view of the rarity of trash receptacles on sidewalks and elsewhere.

One explanation may be that Continue reading

Modesty runs rampant in my health club’s locker room

MichelangeloDavidCensored_zps0bf756d0A stocky Asian  strode through the relatively empty locker room of my gym one afternoon not long ago.  He was nude.  Because of his nonchalance, I knew that he could not be from Cambodia.

At my former gym in the States, he would not have drawn a second glance. Few members were present at my current gym that time of day, and those changing clothes also paid no discernible attention.

But the locker room attendant certainly noticed.  A look of horror, or possibly disgust, crossed his countenance.

I asked him if the sight disturbed him. The memory of what he had just witnessed caused him to scowl deeply, making me wonder whether perhaps he was joking.

When I told him how it was at my old gym in New York, Continue reading