Cambodia is changing. On the way out are the wretched, the desperate, the runaways, alkies and deathpats. They don’t suit the new ‘developed’ status that the country now is hell-bent on portraying, albeit fairly unsuccessfully. Out with the beer guts proudly displayed protruding from wife-beater vests! Out with the flip-flops/sandles/thongs! Out with the Walkabout – tear down that Mall!
In with the Chinese and their discreet KTV clubs and restaurants of garish neon, for they shall bring investment and casinos. And they shall inherit the earth, until the debt bubble bursts and the paper tiger collapses like a gambling house of Sihanoukville playing cards.
But white folk aren’t banned, there are still plenty about; it is merely the demographics which are shifting. When the streets were rough, mean and paved with holes, and one could rent the Jacuzzi suite on Rue Pasteur along with 3 Viet hookers dressed in ball gowns, the very idea of a man-bun sporting, waistcoat wearing digital nomad quaffing deconstructed lattes from an ironic drinking horn would have been as alien a concept as 24 hour electricity, work permits or 4g internet.
Of course, your average English teacher or drunk on a budget couldn’t afford one of the thousands of shoddy looking condos springing up like prefab concrete triffids, nor would they be able to spunk a few grand playing baccarat in a windowless cavern. And whilst the sales of second hand Hondas would remain stable, the luxury car market would stagnate.
Backpacker orientated businesses are eagerly trying to sell up for health reasons, or are pushed from town to town by a tsunami of apartment swallowing Sino casino staff and VOIP scammers. TEFL jobbers are increasingly jumping the border over to Vietnam (even Jewsbury’s got work over there FFS), whilst their more well at heel brethren are busy sipping mango daiquiris on the rooftop of Rosewood- or scoffing down swan truffle canapés, hand crafted by an artisan who once worked in a Michelin star restaurant.
Yet Phnom Penh is not downtown Tokyo, trendy Soho or cultured Paris. It’s still an absolute shithole, albeit with a face-lift akin to a dodgy botox injection administered by an unqualified beautician in a back street plastic surgery-cum-abortion clinic. The city is a turd, which can never be polished, or at least not for a long time yet.
So what of the masses? Where should they head, now that the dens of iniquity are undergoing gentrification along Street 51? Most of Street 172 and Bogan bars like Fuel hang on as refuges to the bottom-feeder, but for how long, nobody knows. There are, however, the final strongholds, the last bastions of day time drunks on a budget and they are still to be found across the city. These are the Mini-Marts, and long may they continue.
A good Mini-Mart should offer the following to their clientele- a range of cold beers, cigarettes, snacks and outside seating and not have a strict dress code. Sexual performance medicines, prophylactic sheaths, sanitary products, 24 hour opening and toilet facilities are, of course, a bonus.
There are local institutions, like Neil’s 24 Hour on Street 136, Smile Marts and clones with names like Panda, Llama, Kiwi, and even now the new kid on the block, US franchise 7-11 (not to be confused with 9-11, which has been open for years, seemingly without realizing the irony).
So, as the Writer’s Page of Khmer440 is gentrified by articles about poncey paint and pinot, or baller banquets in Bangkok (and, please nobody mention fucking Bouchan or Sonoma), the gauntlet was thrown down to find the finest mini-mart in town.
Review Time- Camko Mart *****
Location: Located on Angkor Boulevard at the northern fringes of Toul Kork, the Camko Mart, a focal point for the disappointing utopian dream that is Camko City, isn’t the easiest mart to get to. This shouldn’t put you off, as it keeps away the riff-raff. Along this well built, but barely used modern highway, oriental gentleman in mid-life crisis mode ride expensive carbon framed mountain bikes, replete in their finest lycra livery. Across the road is an open expanse of waste ground, no doubt for sale at a ridiculous price, combining the gritty urban setting with the sweet vibes of mother nature. ****
Ambience: The al fresco seating arrangement at Camko Mart is of a higher standard than lesser marts found near the riverside. Stylish faux wicker chairs and circular tables with real glass tops are the essence of high quality marting, putting Camko Mart a cut above the competition. The noise of Mong Rethy Street is a mere murmur in the background, like a new age soundtrack playing at an unobtrusive volume.
The area is particularly popular amongst Koreans and Japanese, and, as one relaxes in the shade, there is the opportunity to people-watch, as families go past, trying to get their spoiled, morbidly obese offspring to get some exercise through offers of ice cream and energy drinks. ****
Selection: Camko Mart has one of the finest arrays of beverages in the city. A well-stocked refrigerator has something for everyone- on my visit I counted many local lagers, as well as Magner’s cider, and imports including bottles of Fuller’s London Pride, Porter and Honeydew ales. At under $2 a bottle for the rare brews, you’d be hard pushed to find better value for money at other, inferior convenience stores.
There is also a wide range of wines and spirits on offer, which could in theory be drunk on site, or taken away to continue the party.
To the rear of the store is a poor man’s Toys R Us, which, together with the gelataria, makes Camko Mart a family friendly environment where drunken parents can bribe the kids with plastic tat and ice cream to keep them amused. *****
Clientele: Mostly a young, Asian crowd who like to gather in small groups to discuss hot news and mooch free wi-fi from the coffee shop next door.
A lack of girly bars and knocking shops in Camko City means the eye candy is lackluster, so isn’t particularly suited to pervs and lechers, although the odd diamond in the rough may appear unexpectedly. A few nubile Slavic types from the gated community have been spotted doing sports, and there is the potential for Japanese MILF hunters, if that’s your bag. ***
Food: Hors d’oeuvres such as peanuts, dried peas and squid based snacks may be purchased from the counter, however Mike’s Burger House is a few doors down and BYO burgers are not in any way discouraged by the effusive Camko Mart management. ***
Toilet Facilities: A grey area for chaps, as it is easy to nip over the road and give the bushes a sprinkle. There should be somewhere for number 2’s and a place for the ladies to powder their noses. The coffee shop and burger joint are other, emergency options. **
Overall: Although a little off the beaten path for daytime alcoholics, a trip to Camko Mart is a rewarding day out for the true mini mart connoisseur. Genuine marteteers will take delight with the pleasant, unpretentious setting and wonderfully well stocked fridge, friendly staff and nearby amenities. Camko Mart stands tall amongst the crowd as a place for upmarket lowlifes to have a boozy weekend afternoon. *****
Other Reviews (These are 100% real reviews from facebook and Google):
“It is good place for me, always make fresh over there i really love it.”
“I like the designation right there and the view look cool.”
“I like there”
“Nice place! For buy and we can sit outdoor”
“Very busy little mart from lath afternoon for the local people, drink and chit chat..”
“look so nice ..”