evening afternoon Cambodia,
Today is Saturday, March 23rd, 2012.
Happy weekend to you. Yesterday evening, Phnom Penhers experienced heavy rain showers for nearly an hour around sunset. Traffic during the down-pour slowed to a crawl, with many people deciding to cancel their Friday evening appointments altogether, choosing instead to go home and start their weekend early. The heavy rain washed the dusty city off and gave my tomatoes a much needed soaking. The rain comes as a relief to residents of the capital, who’ve endured 35 degree sun-scorched days for the last couple of weeks. As I type this on early Saturday morning, a nice blanket of rain induced fog is slowly lifting over the city.
Old Whiskey Brain has been playing the role of tour guide for a university friend of his who has come up for a visit from East Timor. Since my ranch is a little cramped, I recommended that my friend find a hotel room on Street 172. Street 172 has become the focal point of backpackers and low-budget tourists since the closure of many backpacker-related businesses in the Boeung Kak Lake area. Some of the more well-known lakeside restaurants such as The Laughing Fat Man (formerly Buddha’s Belly) and La Dolce Vita have even reopened their businesses on the street. There is plenty of accommodation to be had in the area. A room without air-con or a hot shower will set you back $5-6 dollars; a room with air-con and a hot shower will run from $12-15. No need to make reservations. Just show up and you will have a room in no time.
Street 172 also hosts a decent selection of so-called “normal” watering holes. If you are looking to get away from the girly bar scene, this is your street. When I first arrived to Phnom Penh last year, my bar of choice on 172 was the “White Moon Bar”. This hole-in-the-wall bar used to play host to a diverse crowd of expat characters that would show up nightly for their evening banter and beer. The crowd and the antics of the American owner and his staff were enough to keep me and others coming back night after night. Since that time, the White Moon seems to have lost it’s way, having been sold twice in less than a years time. The last couple of times I was on 172, things were looking pretty grim over at the White Moon. Here’s to hoping for better days to come at the White Moon.
My current pick on the street is a new arrival to the 172 scene and is located just across the street from my old favorite, the White Moon Bar. It’s called the Sundance Inn & Saloon. The Sundance can claim bragging rights as being the only establishment on 172 to offer a swimming pool to customers. Whether you’re a hotel guest or a beer guzzler at the bar, if you buy something, the Sundance will be kosher with you taking a dip out back in their pool. Bring your own swimming suit! At Sundance you can sit by the pool and sip dollar beers all day long. If things get too hot by the swimming pool, you can go inside and play a game of pool or watch whatever they’ve got playing on one of their flat screen televisions. The aircon is always blasting at Sundance, keeping you cool while it’s roasting outside. The bar has a sleek wood finish and really stands out amongst the usual suspects on the street. My only complaint with the place is that they weren’t cooking any food on the night we went. The staff said they had menus from nearby restaurants and that they would be happy to order for us and have food delivered. Sundance needs to put together an all-star menu to drive customers in and make it a real Phnom Penh winner. I would suggest that they keep things simple and delicious. Perhaps focus on the owners American heritage and work from there. Restaurants in Cambodia fail because they try to be everything all at once.
In The News –
China Turning Cambodia into Over-Developed Gambling Den
Private corporations are buying up Cambodian land at a rapid and concerning pace. According to Forbes, the Chinese just got a whole lot more land with the purchase of 130 square miles of national park territory. The Chinese development firm, Tianjin Union Development Group is planning the development of a $3.8 billion dollar resort and casino called, “Angkor Wat”. The development firm has promised that resort will offer, “extravagant feasting and revelry.” Don’t any of these developers ever read history books? This is the part where the civilization over-extends itself and starts building needless idols of self-worship, see the original Angkor Wat or modern day Las Vegas. This project isn’t self-sustaining in the long run and will do immeasurable damage to the local environment, not to mention the poor villagers that will be displaced in the process and totally cut-off from any profits the resort will ever make.
15% of Cambodian Land Under Concession
In more sad land related news, VOA ran an article yesterday that reported,
Cambodia has 2.3 million hectares of land under concessions, a new report by the rights group Adhoc says.
The concessions, which would represent about 14.7 percent of Cambodia’s total land mass, were given to 225 national and international companies, the Adhoc report says.
The Forbes article I cited earlier reports that,
The proceeds (of land sales and leases) are funneled mainly to figures close to the regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has already attained a global reputation for selling off huge tracts of land to private interests from other countries – according to The Guardian, putting almost half of the country on the block since Hun Sen came to power in 1985.
If either of these articles are to be believed, it means that Hun Sen and his cronies, in just thirty short years, have given half the country over to private and foreign interests. I can see where development is important, but there is a point where things get out of hand; that point has clearly passed and we are now entering the realm of ridiculousness.
Cambodia Struggling to Meet Food Demands
Food imports into the Kingdom have surged an estimated 42% year-on-year. According to the Phnom Penh Post,
Cambodia’s food imports shot up 42 per cent year-on-year through February, a sign the Kingdom is still struggling to produce enough food to meet its own demand.
Imports for the first two months of the year totalled 55,818 tonnes, up from 39,330 tonnes in 2011, according to Ministry of Commerce figures.
For most expats in Cambodia, this news shouldn’t really come as any big surprise. In order to see Cambodia’s lack of locally produced food, one simply has to take a trip to the local supermarket. Most of the food I buy in Cambodia comes from Thailand, Vietnam, China and other western countries that occupy the shelf space of Cambodia’s supermarkets. It seems that the only local products for sale at Lucky Supermarket, Cambodia’s most popular supermarket chain, are the staples: beer, rice, some produce, some meat and instant noodles. The rest of the food in Lucky comes from all over the world. If you want to truly support local food producers, selectively check the labels of the food you buy, or better yet – go to one of Cambodia’s many open air markets and ask the the vendor where the food is from. The woman I buy fruit from in the Russian Market will happily let me know whether something I’m buying is Cambodian grown or not.
Factory Protest Shooter/District Governor Evades Justice
VOA is reporting that Chhouk Bandith, who was governor of Bavot city until he shot at a group of factory workers protesting outside a Puma factory in Svay Rieng Province in February, has still not been arrested and charged for the crimes that he has admitted to committing.
Victims of a shooting in the eastern province of Svay Rieng last month say they are now living in fear, as local authorities have failed to detain the man accused of shooting them, the former governor of Bavet city.
The most ridiculous part of this case is that the perpetrator reportedly offered the victims motorbikes or cash as compensation for his crimes. When the blood money was turned down, the prosecutor declined to press charges. Now the victims have been left without compensation, without justice and in daily fear that Bandith may send in his goons to finish the job he started.
The Best of Khmer440
Over on Khmer440, poster SoiBoy is complaining about the “Pattayazation” of Phnom Penh.
The Joker Draw was held at the Walkabout (St. 51) yesterday and nothing was won. That means next Friday there will be over $10,000 in cash and two motorbikes up for grabs to some lucky person who picks the right card.
Speculation has been rife regarding the fate of long-time Cambodia expat and Pirate Bay programmer “Agrippa”. Agrippa was tried in absentia in his native Sweden for the role he played on the piracy site and was sentenced to a year in prison. Since then, Agrippa has been on the lam, prompting speculation in the media and on Khmer440 that he may even be dead.
Quote of the Day
“Starting the same type of business as others is a problem. Good businesses survive because they have [steady] clients and sell their products suitable price.” – Chy Sila, former member of Junior Chamber International Cambodia and a successful owner of corporation TNC and Pizza World gives his advice to new business owners in a Phnom Penh Post article on start-ups in the Kingdom.
Song of the Day