The Executioners

Here is the big question: how and why did a Buddhist nation produce one of the 20th century’s worst genocides, and one which is marked by so many horrific instances of cruelty and savage violence? A whole chapter in my book Spirit Worlds is devoted to this and for my…

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To live and die in South East Asia

Death and taxes are the only things certain in life so they reckon. Well death anyway: some people never pay taxes. Where you choose to live invariably impacts on where you’re likely to die and, in some cases, how. Some expats choose to live in Southeast Asia and some die…

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Khmer don’t need no education

Last year almost 75% of grade 12 students across the country failed their final exams after an anti-corruption drive, which was deemed rather unsporting, as every other grade 12 student in previous years had lied, bribed and cheated in order to pass with flying colours. Somebody must take the blame, and as usual shit always rolls downhill, from the MoEYaS, to the provincial education offices, to the school directors, to the teachers and perhaps the students themselves.

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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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Scambodia, uncovered

Visitors and expats alike have many a tale of being hoodwinked in the Kingdom of Wonder. Whilst the Siem Reap milk scam, the Filipino blackjack shysters and an army of Chinese fake monks fill the forums and travel blogs, it seems like every man and his pig is in the business of relieving white folk of their hard earned dollar bills.

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Twilight of the haunted headwaters of Virachey National Park?

As we followed along we came upon a strange tree carving. It was a sketch of a primitive-looking man knifed into the bark of tree. It gave me a strange feeling, and my old Brao friend Kam-la was disturbed by it. “He says it is a sign of the spirits of Haling-Halang,” Sou translated. Kam-la looked down and muttered a few more words while looking nervously at his feet. “And he says it might also be a sign of the Tek-Tek.” Kam-la was scared.

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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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