Burger King unleashes a torrent of like restaurants

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I never have darkened these doors. In fact, the only one of the restaurants in this post that I have tried is bbq, below, because of a two-for-one promotion. That eatery is part of a Korean chain, and the food certainly is memorable. Memorable, yes, but I have to say it is not so in a good way.

When Burger King opened its doors two blocks from my apartment in January 2014, I tweeted half seriously, “There goes the neighborhood.”

Little did I know.  And how much do I regret that I unwittingly had foreseen what would ensue. Burger King cranked open the floodgates that caused an inundation of fast-food restaurants — which enjoy throngs of young Khmers starting late in the afternoon — along a four-block stretch of a street that parallels mine.

Our mid-rise apartment building is, I hear, only about five years old.  The lot it occupies apparently was a banana plantation prior to construction, and the greenery it provided exemplified my neighborhood.  In no small part because of our building boom (soon to be bust, I think) and the growing profusion of restaurants, gorgeous tropical trees are vanishing apace.

When we moved to the Boeung Keng Kang I area at the end of 2013, one of the chief attractions Continue reading

Housing for contractors defines minimalist approach

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Home away from home consists of makeshift lodging that changes as work progresses inside a construction site.

This is not the first time that I have published a post about the way construction workers live in Phnom Penh.

They arrive here from the provinces unable to find work or at least unable to find work that will support them and their families.  They don’t make much money in construction either — it varies from as little as $150 a month for laborers to a little more for skilled workers.

However, Continue reading

Same veiled request can be more than daily occurrence

Blind Nang Sokearath, 25, is typical of disabled Cambodians trying to scrape up a living. The powers that be have vowed to remove such folks from the Phnom Penh's streets.

Blind Nang Sokearath, 25, is typical of disabled Cambodians trying to scrape up a living. The powers that be have vowed to remove such folks from Phnom Penh’s streets.  The city periodically sweeps up ordinary street beggars too, then essentially jails them.  Source: Phnom Penh Post

The kind of remark I hear all the time was addressed to me an unprecedented three times in one day, on Tuesday, a record that surprised me.

This being Southeast Asia, indirection often is the way questions are answered, criticisms are provided and requests are made.  My experience on Tuesday was all about requests, though no one actually asked this barang (foreigner) outright for help.

The English dailies these days seem to be accelerating their coverage and analysis of corruption, the wicked stepmother of deprivation in a nation with great potential that is far from realized.  As I have written previously in this regard, I keep thinking about thriving Singapore, the tiny city-state that was approximately at the same stage of development as Cambodia half a century ago and that has far fewer natural resources.

The veiled requests concerned Continue reading

With politics and human rights, expats have a problem

eople protest the detention of four human rights workers and an election official on Monday morning near Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison. Source: Phnom Penh Post

A few activists protest the detention of four human rights workers and an election official on Monday morning near Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison. Source: Phnom Penh Post

It is a debate that has persisted since long before I started making Cambodia my home: What should expats do or say when they object to the actions of a foreign government that permits them to live in its country?

The question surfaced again here in Cambodia when a Facebook “friend” posted a story that has dominated the three English-language dailies for days.

A subsequent report in the Phnom Penh Post on Wednesday centered on a speech in which the prime minister said he might seek to have five jailed Cambodians forgiven for their entanglement in what has been dubbed a sex scandal concerning the acting president of a political party opposed to his ruling one.  Hun Sen’s remarks followed Monday’s arrest of civil rights activists essentially for wearing black shirts as they headed to a demonstration in Phnom Penh to call attention to their plight.

If civil society groups hold back during legal proceedings, suggested the price minister, the arrested individuals could be released from custody on one condition.  He said:  Continue reading

Signs in Cambodia sometimes provoke a double-take

Like a café proprietor, the shopkeeper below appreciates how to attract buyers.

Travelers know that they’ll encounter signs translated from the local language into English.  The signs may variously evoke laughter, bewilderment or insights into different cultures.

As I ramble around Phnom Penh, I like to photograph the occasional sign that brings me up short.  Below, Continue reading

Killer disease remains an open secret in Southeast Asia

‘. . . most of the time, the patient has already passed away.’

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The bacterium that causes Melioidosis.  Source: Eye of Science

There may be some folks who call a disease that still kills the “Vietnam Time-Bomb.”  More than 300 U.S. servicemen who fought in Vietnam were infected with it.

Melioidosis, as it is known medically, caused their deaths.  It may be Southeast Asia’s most quiet killer, a stealthy predator.

The deadly disease occurs throughout the world’s warm climes; in Southeast Asia, it is especially present in northeastern Thailand and perhaps less so in Cambodia as far as can be known.  Because it lurks with so little public awareness, physicians here don’t tend to look for it in ailing individuals, and those patients just perish, often within days.

“In Cambodia, we think 70 per cent Continue reading

Vietnam and Cambodia: A study in surprising contrasts

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Fashioned of recycled broken glass and ceramics, the Linh Phuoc pagoda (more photos just below) is decidedly bizarre, making Gaudi’s creations in Barcelona seem banal by comparison.

Please forgive my naïveté about having recently discovered some differences surprising to me between Vietnam and Cambodia in view of, or despite, the two nations’ tangled history, which I will ignore here.

After my return early this month from spending nearly two weeks in Nha Trang, Dalat and Saigon (which I prefer to the official “Ho Chi Minh City”), I saw for myself how Vietnam has changed in the dozen or so years since my previous brief visit.  It also proved impossible to Continue reading