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

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

For assured justice, Cambodia’s streets often render it

Happy holidays to one and all!

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Some of the most popular pieces in local newspapers concern crime.

Two of the local English-language publications have standing columns devoted to briefs about petty and not-so-petty crimes, from muggings to murders.

The dailies that Cambodians readers consume often carry photos so grisly that most Westerners are horrified by what they may glimpse.  No U.S. newspaper would publish them.

What captured my attention in the last few weeks has been the volume of accounts of street justice, which frequently proves to be Continue reading

My first year in Cambodia has passed at warp speed

one year 12

What some folks think of as Angkor Wat is the temple in the background, but the name actually applies to a sprawling complex filled with architectural wonders that cover many kilometers.

December 3 was the anniversary of my move to Cambodia.  Although I felt pretty much prepared for the experience, I have learned a lot.

Everything about making Phnom Penh my home is new.  I have never before been retired, never lived as an expat, never expected to have English be so often understood here and never spent more than vacation time in a developing country.

The list of what I learned about Cambodia and me is long, but I’ll do my best to provide mere brushstrokes of my perspective in the hope that I won’t tax your patience.

One year 3

One surprise has been how deeply moved I have been by the widespread poverty, how desperately I’d like to help a poor people and how Continue reading