Phnom Penh’s urban artistic renaissance

Phnom Penh is enjoying an urban artistic renaissance, a revitalisation of Khmer contemporary music and art culture which is as fast and exciting as the development of the capital itself. The reasons for this revival are numerous and complicated, but it includes the influence of the increasing presence of international artists, a vibrant local art and music scene and numerous organisations who aim to encourage and rejuvenate Khmer artistic expression.

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The palm wine story – nature’s gift to boozers

Out past the dusty roadside town of Chbar Morn, the provincial capital with a market and not much else going for it save Phnom Penh to the west and Sihanoukville port to the south-east, between the hills, sprouting rice crops and mango orchards overloaded with green fruit lives Mr Sambath, an aficionado of all things palm tree and member of the guild of neak leung tnout. He makes his living as a tapper.

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Under the ink: Tola, The Village Tattooist

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.

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The motodop and me: a Cambodian adventure

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.

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Broken Laptops and Buddhist Monks

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.

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

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.

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Pheng’s escape: A Khmer Rouge ghost story

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.

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