Posts Tagged ‘phnom penh’


One of my last photos taken in Phnom Penh, July 10.


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One afternoon along Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh:


Vendor selling some sort of meat snack.


Kids let out of school at 5pm. Instant traffic jam.

phillies fan



$0.50 for an open-air haircut.

motorbike repair

Hanging tires signals a roadside motorbike repair station.


Random slogan on the wall of a construction site. Not sure what this even means.


Playing with pipes at a specialty shop along Sothearos.


Man sharpening knives.


strange ancient furniture

A store claiming to sell “strange” and “ancient” furniture. Not really.


Scavenging for bottles to recycle outside a beer garden.

glass case

Transporting a glass case. Disaster waiting to happen.




Car washer taking a break.



Squatters’ tenements near St. 294.

street sign

Street sign in need of some maintenance.


Cars are usually left in neutral so they can be pushed to new parking spots.


Traffic at dusk.


More from Sothearos Boulevard here.

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32 sothearos

This relic of French Indochina is one of Phnom Penh’s most photographed buildings. It’s also a bit of a mystery. Built in the 1920’s when the capital was dubbed the “Pearl of Asia,” the mansion is one of Phnom Penh’s few surviving colonial buildings. 32 Sothearos Boulevard doesn’t have a name or a recorded history, and most people refer to it as something along the lines of “that old colonial building.” A perfect example of urban decay.

colonial building

Decades of war, neglect, and decay have all taken their toll.


I had photographed the building a while back, and always wanted to go inside for a more in-depth exploration.


The rent-a-cop lounging at the entrance was more interested in watching the clouds than keeping me from poking around for a while. His indifference was a little disappointing as it took away the usual thrill of infiltrating an abandoned building. The German tourist I ran into inside also didn’t help.


All sorts of random stuff cluttered the first floor: tools, drying clothes, chairs, bags of cement, a microwave. The second floor was apparently the living quarters for the handful of construction workers that wandered about, oblivious to my presence.


Each room seemed to have a single chair in it.

2nd floor

2nd floor

english lesson

Most abandoned buildings tend to attract graffiti, and this was no exception. Here’s an English lesson on verbs, written on a bathroom wall.


The FCC recently purchased the building, and renovation is almost underway to transform it into a 24-room faux-colonial luxury hotel complete with pool and French bistro. Construction is supposed to start mid-2008. Preservationists must love this, but I hoped it would be turned into something more people could enjoy. At least it won’t be torn down.


Rest of the Flickr set here

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Conversation with Nhean Pov at Wat Langka, Phnom Penh

nhean pov

nhean pov

nhean pov

nhean pov

nhean pov

nhean pov

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This guy tried to steal my friend’s purse at a bar the other night. It was the first time I’d dealt with theft since I’ve been in Cambodia, and it was kind of a jarring experience. We caught him before anything went missing and he tried to slip away through the main entrance. People followed yelling jau, jau (thief), standard procedure when a thief is caught.

In order to make his escape the jau needed to run a gauntlet of motodops loitering outside the bar, all of whom eagerly took a swing at him as he struggled to get away. I kept yelling for someone to call the police, but the motodops decided mob violence was the most appropriate punishment. I took a photo thinking I could show it to the cops if they ever showed up, but no one was interested in getting the police involved. Actually, even if they were around I doubt they would’ve done anything.

The motodops were furious that myself and a couple others would try to stop the beating. They threw their hats in the dirt in frustration as the thief limped off and disappeared down a dark alley. One guy fired up his moto and roared off down the street screaming jau jau, marshaling other motodops to continue the hunt. Cambodians are normally the most friendly, docile people and this outburst of rage was bizarre.

So I did a little google research into what happened that night and came across a UN human rights report on street retribution in Cambodia. It was dated 2002 and described a growing epidemic of savage beatings and sometimes murders when a thief is caught. Mob violence can form spontaneously, and even accusing someone of theft is frequently akin to a death sentence. The accused has no chance to defend himself, and in many cases the police are absent or turn a blind eye. Things have probably improved since 2002, but it evidently hasn’t disappeared.

The thief escaped battered and missing a few teeth, a small price to pay for what could have been much worse.

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olympic stadium

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Cambodia’s Royal Plowing Ceremony is a pretty big deal. Thousands of people, including King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen, diplomats and other VIPs watched a bunch of royal cows walk in circles and eat some grains.


The pomp started promptly at 8am, and I arrived just in time to watch these guys emerge from the Royal Palace with their flags.

royal procession

I thought this was the king but it turned out to be Prince Sangha Rath, appointed by King Sihamoni to oversee the ceremony.

the prince

plow day


People crowded around for a view of the ceremony, which involved lots of standing around and group of traditional Khmer musicians that competed with a nearby military band over who could play the loudest.



the prince

After various pronouncements and prognostications, Prince Sangha Rath slowly led a team of cows & plows around the field several times.


A pair of cows were released from their plows and led to a selection of dishes filled with corn, rice, sesame, rice wine, beans, water and grass. Royal astrologers (those guys in white) predict next season’s crop yields based on what the cow chooses to eat. The cows ate some rice, corn and beans, and the astrologers declared that farmers would enjoy a moderate harvest this year.

royal cows

Apparently superstitious farmers buy royal manure at $37.50 per ton, hoping it will help improve crop yields.


Flickr set here.

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