Saturday, February 15, 2014

14. Street Scenes Phnom Penh

A lively city

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and its largest city. There are about 1.5 million inhabitants, so it is about the size of Philadelphia, PA, or a size between Hamburg and Munich in Germany. The latter has a density of more than 4,400 people per km2, whereas Phnom Penh is less dense, 2,000 inhabitants/km2. The city is confronted with a recent enormous increase in traffic by personal cars and scooters. When I first visited some 10 years ago, it was a sleepy, dreamy city on the banks of the three rivers, the mighty 4,500 km-long Mekhong, Tonle Sap and Bassac. The most common mode of transportation was the so-called "cyclo", French for bicycle. Motorized tuk-tuks were entirely uncommon, if I needed to go somewhere further away, I had to take a bicycle taxi. 

Many iconic buildings by Cambodia's most prominent architect, Vann Molyvann, still could be see in town back then. Now they are demolished. The first high-rises have been build in the meantime, and if things stay as the are, some -or maybe most- of the fabulous and beautiful French-designed architecture of the 19th and early 20th century will be replaced by tasteless mirror-boxes which could be anywhere.

There is no public transportation here, everybody rides a scooter (Although last week, a trial period of a few days with new busses on one major thoroughfare, Noridom Boulevard, was conducted). Besides the scooters, and some bicycles one sees the vehicles of the rich, black SUV's, and the bigger, the better. One can see also many cars I would have a hard time to ever find in a city such as Chicago for example, such as the new 2014 Rolls Roycle Mulsanne, Phantom, or an entire collection of new model Bentley's. The average annual income in Cambodia is $2,200 (2012), the GDP growth 7.5%, with an inflation rate of about 4% annual.

One can buy Cambodian citizenship and a passport relatively easily. The cost is about $100,000 per applicant, including contributions to the Cambodian government, along with legal/agent fees, Cambodian LLC opening fees, banking account opening fees and others. Citizenship will make investing in the local economy much easier, the very favorable tax rates are an additional incentive. 

French-designed central Phnom Penh train station in back (See earlier posts).
The site is now used as a staging ground for military riot police.
The train service throughout the country had to be suspended due to lack of maintenance and general neglect in 2009.

Spirit houses made of bamboo.

Interesting taxi.

Paper villas, burned in ceremony for good luck and prosperity.

At the market.

This is one of several beautiful mahogany Mekhong river cruise ships, connecting Phnom Penh with Saigon, Vietnam.

Do not buy computer here.

The Phnom Penh traffic "ballet"; but I am safe on the back of the scooter taxi.

Scooter parking and helmet storage.


As I wrote earlier, I had my badly damaged auxiliary lamp housing repaired by the Phnom Penh "Fiberglass-resin artists". It was afterwards painted to the exact same specs as new. As I said before, I was entirely amazed how well this was done. The repaired plastic part is indistinguishable from the other, undamaged, original lamp.

In Phnom Penh there are several streets entirely occupied with these open-air fiberglass shops. Since spare parts for damaged scooters. i.e. from Japan, are almost impossible to get everything damaged is repaired. The damaged bumpers of cars and SUV's also, of course. I love this concept of repair, and I love to visit them and just watch what they are doing.


Fiberglass repair artist.

Helmet shop.
I hope there are no vegetarians among my readers. (If yes, please don't look at the next pictures!)

Every larger neighbor has its market. These are sometimes open-air alley ways markets, with one stall after the next along a narrow street, or the markets in buildings, such as Central Market, Psah Thmey. The list of markets is long; meat, vegetables, fresh fruit, seafood, spices and everything else is plentiful. These are the markets ('Psah' is Khmer for 'market'):

Psah Toul Tompoung (Russian Market)
Psah Sorya (Sorya Shopping Center)

Ambient temperature 90 degrees F.

These are good looking sausages.

Cyclo taxi.

There is a street with open-air custom tailor shops. You can have your bespoke shirts and suits made here fast. Although the prices are higher than in neighboring Thailand. The military and Police orders uniforms from such shops as well.

Tailor shops. Custom, bespoke garments, NO alterations!

Bespoke shirt tailor shop.

Playing kids. With gun.

Monks, watching the traffic on Tonle Sap river.

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