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!…
By Pedro El Millardo The former owner of K440 had been asking me to write an article about experiences with farming out in the provinces for some time, which, to be frank, really isn’t interesting at all; basically ground hog day with more faeces. But the new head honcho says…
As the western target market has become more aware, with only the really, really stupid and old folk with Alzheimer’s responding to African princes, new markets and opportunities are emerging where uneducated folk are given access to the internet without a crash course on who roams cyberspace looking to make a fraudulent buck or three. Word is slowly getting out, thanks to community phone in programmes on ABC Radio, but when I get asked whether a 6 headed naga caught in Kampong Cham going viral on Facebook is real, or if the Zika virus had been really been sprayed over Phnom Penh by Vietnamese agents, then it’s pretty safe to bet that safe internet safety steps are still in their infancy in Cambodia.
The flora and fauna of Cambodia has suffered a fair bit over the past few decades. After the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Pol Pot and his cronies fled to sanctuary in the vast swathes of forested mountains in the north and west and used the cover to…
Me and Strange Dave got bored one day in Battambang, bought a telescopic rod and some tackle, a bag of mealworms as bait and got permission to fish in a small pond where huge fish could be seen basking on the surface. After hours of chain smoking and drinking warm cans we had nada, not even a nibble, when along came the Khmer crocodile lady and scooped up a respectably dinner sized specimen with her hands. With her fucking hands!
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.
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.
There are many kinds of spirit in Cambodia. One of the most important is the boramey, a powerful and benevolent supernatural being who works to help humans in this world through a human representative. The representative is possessed by the boramey and becomes the boramey for the duration of the possession. An academic who has studied spirit-possession says there are over ten thousand boramey in Cambodia, all of them named and identifiable.
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.
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.