Category Archives: Commentary

Under the ink: Tola, The Village Tattooist

close up

Nowadays it seems as if every man, woman and his/her dog in the western world is ‘inked up’. The last couple of decades have seen an explosion of ‘body art’. Gone are the days when tattoo parlours were the domain of Maoris, pissed up sailors and those used to taking regular holidays in Her Majesty’s finest institutions. From sports stars to Hollywood A-Z listers and right down to sink hole estate trash, everyone has gone under the needle. Continue reading

Posted in cambodia culture, Commentary, Expat Life, health, provinces, Uncategorized, village life | Tagged , , , , , ,

The motodop and me: a Cambodian adventure

moto dop cambodge cambodia phnom penh

Visal is my motodop, providing daily transportation on the back of his motorbike to and from my job because I am too terror-stricken to drive myself in Phnom Penh’s traffic. I pay Visal $60 at the beginning of every month to shuttle me in the morning and back in the afternoon, a rate which works out to $1.50 one way. Visal persuasively explained that it would be better for him to get paid monthly so that he could get work done on his bike. Continue reading

Posted in Analysis, Commentary, Expat Life, Phnom Penh | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Broken Laptops and Buddhist Monks

broken-laptop

At that point I realized a few things. For most of the young monks at my pagoda it wasn’t a love of Buddhism that propelled them into the monkhood; it was poverty. For many, their families struggle to support them and pay for education. Having their sons ordained significantly eases their financial burdens. The laptop may have been broken but it was as close as he was going to get to owning one. Continue reading

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Prominent expat dentist commits suicide in hospital

schmidtberg

Cambodian police are investigating the apparent suicide of prominent expat dentist Dr Wolfgang Schmidtberg who apparently killed himself in his hospital bed this morning, after being hospitalised for colon cancer. Continue reading

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Off the rails in Cambodia; two Brits and the role played by the British Embassy

Martin and Nick

There are few in the expat community here who haven’t heard a thing two about Nick Mclernan, 40, and Martin Gates, 24: Singlet Senior and Singlet Junior, Beavis and Butthead, Dumb and Dumber — half the city seems to have an opinion. For those that don’t know of this seedy morality tale of things gone awry in the Kingdom of Wonder, it focuses on the plight of two British men, McLernan and Gates, and strikes at the very heart of just what duties and responsibilities an Embassy has towards its citizens abroad. Continue reading

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Pheng’s escape: A Khmer Rouge ghost story

young KR soldiers

When we come to the place there are twenty of us, they have our names. The chief of the Pol Pot talks to us, he says the Organisation will provide us each a white suit today. I know this means a cloth for the dead. They start to call us in to the room, one at a time. They don’t want anyone to see, they not want anyone to know. They kill with the ax and the knife. Continue reading

Posted in Analysis, Commentary, history, Khmer Rouge, khmer superstition, provinces, village life | Tagged , , , , , ,

Adjusting to life in Cambodia

serey sophorn village

Clarke Illmatical describes his attempts to adjust to live in Cambodia and the way the locals think and behave, and on the way learns how to deal with face, why white girl / localguy relationships are doomed to fail and – closer to home – how he is perceived as a black man in Cambodia. Continue reading

Posted in Analysis, Commentary, Expat Life, Interviews, provinces, Siem Reap, teaching | Tagged , , , , , ,

Sunday with the Kru Teay

fortunetelle hands

Fortune telling, prophecies and finding ways to influence fate form the backbone of Cambodian culture. Such things are intricately woven into ancestor worship, the spirit world and more orthodox ideas of Theravada Buddhist teachings. The above prophecy is known to pretty much every Khmer old enough to have heard it (go on, ask), and gets updated by each generation to ‘prove’ its authenticity.
Continue reading

Posted in Commentary, Expat Life, fortune tellers, kru teay, provinces, Uncategorized, village life | Tagged , , , ,

The Phnom Penh Pyramid of Judgment

Cambodia Rolls Royce

People love to look down on each other. Even those at the lowest of the low finds someone else to judge. Hell, when I was addicted to heroin I looked down on the alcoholic who lived downstairs. “The poor bastard is destroying himself,” I’d think after waking up to find myself face down on my keyboard having typed 232 pages of “mmmmmmm.” Continue reading

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Four things you absolutely must do when living in a Cambodian village

group harvesting rice

I felt a little guilty after my last piece. It’s easy to sit back and pick holes in things for cheap laughs and it’s not too difficult, living among the privations of village life, to find foibles left, right and centre. So, to counter that and rebalance my kharmic merit, here are four awesome things about living in a Khmer village that you should definitely try if you get the chance. Continue reading

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