Cambodia; Shoes, Thieves and Explosive Diarrhoea: Part 2

The Thieves Market

So we arrive at a crossroads of two rough dirt tracks, a couple of blocks South of Psar Orasey. The houses have small wooden market stalls outside, the street corners have low wooden tables laid out, old women sit on the pavement or in the road with their wares displayed on tatty old blankets.

Parking the bike at one end we slowly start to walk along the stalls (keeping a very weary eye on the bike).

The first one that we come to is an old woman squatting on the pavement with a blanket in front of her. On the blanket are nine shoes; six of them are three pairs, the other three are odd ones.

Next to her a dirty young girl is also squatting down and is furiously scrubbing at a grungy looking pair of white Addis trainers, next to her is a bag of dirty shoes, I reach over and look inside the bag, three or four pairs of filthy trainers (last nights acquisitions???) but none of them are mine.

Strolling on we check out half a dozen more second-hand shoes stalls, none of them have my shoes.

I also look at stalls selling second-hand mobile phones, second-hand crash helmets, second-hand wristwatches, second-hand jewellery, et cetera.

Crossing over the road to work my way back along the other side of the road I see another old woman squatting on the ground, a toothless old crone with a face made of what looks like fire-damaged leather, she eyes me suspiciously with her one good eye as I draw closer. On her blanket in the street I can see; three tee-shirts, a pair of jeans and what looks like an antique pair of Y-fronts; or in other words, a washing line full of somebody’s laundry.

All in all there are probably 40 or 50 vendors on and around the crossroads, the vast majority of them selling what I suspect is stolen property, in fact Srai H has pretty much confirmed that.

The stalls that we pass react in one of two ways; they are either openly suspicious of me – what is a barang doing here, do we have anything that was stolen from him? The second was the usual Khmer market stall approach of trying to sell you anything and everything at an inflated priced, while trusting objects under your nose.

Just as we were heading back to the bike to leave, I spot a couple of girls that I half recognised, slowing the walking pace slightly as I walked behind them I realised that these two girls used to work in one of the more upmarket male orientated bars of Phnom Penh, but now I believe they are back to working freelance at Walkabout and Martinis. As I cross behind them at my snails pace, I could see that they were selling two mobile phones and a gent’s wristwatch? hmmm?

Heading west and turning north at the end of the road I was surprised to see half a dozen used moto shops in a row, each with dozens and dozens of bikes for sale outside, in fact the end shop probably had 40 or 50 Honda Chalys neatly parked in a series of rows. A voice from the pillion seat informed me that this was where the thieves brought all the stolen motos to sell. Slowing the bike to a crawling place I ran my eyes over the stock of all the shops; daelims, dreams, vivas, the previously mentioned Chalys. As I reached the penultimate shop I saw four or five dirt-bikes; degrees and baja?s by the look of it, oh and an AX1. The owner of the shop sees me outside staring intensely at his stock and he started shuffling around quite a lot, he moves so that he is stood in-between my line of sight and the bikes he had for sale – strange behaviour for a man who is trying to sell a product .

So off to our next stop.

Psar Olympic

All along one road outside Psar Olympic are a row of shoe shops, around 25 or 30 of them, all next to each other, all selling new and second-hand goods.

As we slowly traipse from one battered shoe selling old crone to the next I start to get a bit impatient, a bit feed up with looking at the abortive fashion attempts that they call shoes here, fed up on people waving horrible shoes in my face, fed up of old dears cackling when I ask if the have anything in a large (size 10). Plus it is getting very hot, the roofs are low, the shops small and crowded.

Yes, after an hour of this I was officially irritated. Upon reaching the last stall ? and still having no joy with tracking down either my shoes or a suitable replacement for me ? I had had enough, I barked at Srai H to get on the bike, that that was it for the day and that I was going home.

A welcome respite

Leaving the multitude of shoe shoes behind I cut along Monireth Boulevard towards Mao Tse Toung Boulevard to head back towards Boeng keng kang.

The midmorning sun is beating down relentlessly still on this cloudless Cambodia day, along with my bad mood I am also starting to feel hot, irritable and generally grumpy.

Again, the red hot knife plunges into my bowels. Spotting a tea and coffee bar a pull over, somewhat suddenly and possibly dangerously for Phnom Penh traffic, park the bike at a rather jaunty angle and flee into the bathroom shouting garbled instructions in Khmer to Strai H about strong iced coffee.


The bathroom was spotless (upon my arrival anyway) gleaming clean surfaces, western toilet, soap, clean towels, large mirror, bright lights, soft fluffy toilet paper. I could have been in any city in Western Europe.


Upon my return to the pavement seating outside the bakery~caf? I could no longer see Strai H. looking around in a slightly puzzled and bewildered manner a young Khmer lad in his school uniform (the waiter) comes over and directs me to a small staircase at the side of the bakery. Up I go, slightly in trepidation, when I turn the corner at the top I find myself in a lovely little airy cafe, with powerful air-conditioning, soft background music, a few customers and a relaxing blend of Mediterranean colours decorating everything.

What a blissful oasis after my morning of hot, sweaty, crowded, oppressive, claustrophobic, Khmer markets and vendors.

Realising that my bad mood was probably not just; shoe theft, heat and diarrhoea, but possibly low blood sugar as well (diabetic-hypoglycaemia) Further, exasperated by the lack of breakfast, lunch and frequent and rapid bathroom visits, I decide that I should probably eat something. And that I should probably make it something solid and substantial.

I opted for a cheese-burger; Strai H had bacon and eggs with wholemeal toast. She also has a very large ice cream with biscuits and things to follow!

The drinks turn up first. My iced coffee was wonderful, it was as strong as a proper Italian espresso, it was ice cold and it was about half a pint in size! Strai H had a bottle of coke.

After we had finished eating we left the air-con restaurant to go and sit back downstairs at one of the pavement tables, where I further ordered a strawberry tea iced blend and Strai H ordered a Grape Bubble tea.

After half an hour of just watching the world go by, and the near fatal near misses of Phnom Penh’s traffic, I ask for the bill. The total cost of all this around US$6:50 – two main courses, one dessert and four drinks.

What and where was this little haven of peace and tranquillity during my punishing day?

The Rasmey Sorya Bakery Cafe, 148 Mao Tse Toung Boulivard, Phnom Penh, 023 224 217

Returning home from the oppressive heat and annoying necessity of the day I sort refugee in the house, Strai H went to Psar Boeng keng kang to purchase my weekly groceries et cetera.

As I was laying down in a darkened room with a wet flannel on my head the phone rang, it was Strai H, could I rush around to Psar Boeng keng kang, she thought that she had found my shoes.

Now, opposite Psar Boeng keng kang, on the West side of street 63 is a series of little wooden stalls and trestle tables selling all manner of things. At one of these was Srai H waving franticly as I rode past.

Yes, she had found a stall selling a second-hand pair of black leather oxfords in a classic cut, unfortunately, this pair was about a size 6?!?!

Ho hum, guess I have no choice but to try again in a day or two, when hopefully the thief gets around to selling them.

However, for the time being I was more than occupied, having taken up near permanent residence on Sunday in the little boys room.

Sunday evening post script

Having had an odd weekend, I decide to call it a weekend, curl up early to bed with a good book (well, a book) an hour after I settle in with the latest tales of Jack Ryan (see, I said a book, not a good book) I hear a series of loud bangs from the front of the house.

In about three seconds flat, I was out on the front balcony, clad only in a krama, brandishing a large stick, shouting loud profanities in English and Khmer.

I succeeded very well in terrifying my downstairs neighbour?s children who were throwing things up into the mango tree in the front yard in an attempt to collect some of the fruit?

Lord Playboy

The views in this column are entirely those of Lord Playboy (of Phnom Penh, Sonteipheap and that muddy patch of ground next to the school;) they are in no way are representative of Khmer440, its editors or staff, of any Ministry of the Royal Government of Cambodia who employs Lord Playboy, of Jake-the-Pake, of anyone who considers that moon-faced old cow on TV3 a real reporter, or the freelance staff of certain whore warehouses who sell property at the thieves market. Damn, things will be different when I am running the Country

di-ar-rh-ea also di-ar-rhoe-a (n)
Excessive and frequent evacuation of watery faeces, usually indicating gastrointestinal distress or disorder.

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