I don’t know the official percentages but a huge part of the economy in Cambodia is informal. 85% are involved in agriculture and most of the non-agricultural people work in the informal economy rather than in established business with 9-to-5 jobs. Many, many households are running some sort of business out of their homes–maybe in addition to a formal job–and then there are these pop-up businesses everywhere.
Cambodia has some fast food outlets–the first and only Carl’s, Jr opened up last week and we have KFC and pizza outlets, but most fast food in Phnom Penh is served as in the picture above. There are numerous stalls set up and taken down every day that provide a variety of dishes, mostly big pots of vegetables with some meat that is served over rice. It’s pre-cooked–Cambodian people don’t value hot food as something desirable–and you just point to the pot that looks good today. I tend to avoid the stalls where the dishes are washed in the big tubs of water there on the street.
One of the givens in translation work in Cambodia or in producing documents in both Khmer and English is that the Khmer document is always going to be much longer than the English. That makes this sign outside the National Council for Solidarity Front for the Development of Cambodia Motherland a bit unusual because the Khmer title appears shorter than the English version. Would anyone like to venture a guess what the NCSFDCM actually does? I haven’t a clue.
See the STOP sign on the corner, behind the two pickup trucks? It’s brand new–and a total waste. I have seen maybe twenty STOP signs in the city and all of them are old and TOTALLY IGNORED. I believe it is the absolute truth that there is not one driver in Cambodia that has ever stopped for a STOP sign in Cambodia. This is the only new sign I have seen. The others all seem to be 20-30+ years old. Why they erected this one and why they chose the corner of our dinky little street, I have no idea. ….The Kingdom of Wonder.
The dealer sticker on this Toyota says it came from Sierra Toyota in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The license plate says it’s now registered and on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The vast majority of the cars sold here are used cars from the United States. I would love to know the circuitous route by which a car gets from Arizona to Cambodia.
This is a fishing boat belong to a Vietnamese family who have the Mekong River in Phnom Penh as their fishing grounds. (I always hope the fish I eat are NOT caught in the river here since Phnom Penh has no sewage treatment.) This boat is also their home. Note the mast with a TV antenna on it. These people are essentially stateless and become the scapegoats for everything that the Cambodian government screws up.
These are secondhand washing machines and freezers and air conditioners for sale on a sidewalk in Tuol Kork. The appliances may be used but having secondhand units for sale is a new development in Cambodia. Previously such appliances were barely available, and the rich families who could afford them held on to them. Now there has been enough development and rising incomes that more and more people can afford such appliances and a secondhand market has emerged.
Cambodia has a real problem with holidays. First of all, there are 25 public holidays (the U.S. has 11) so more than a month of work days is lost. Then whenever a public holiday falls on a Saturday, the following Monday is given off, too. (That happened October 3rd because the Pchum Ben holiday was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
Besides all the time off and lost productivity, the trash piles up as seen above. Households here do not use garbage cans or dumpsters. Everything is put in plastic bags and left on the street. When there is a long holiday, the piles get rather large.
The man squatting in the picture is putting air in a motorcycle tire. His “gas station” consists of the orange air compressor and a bucket of water and a patch kit for repairing flat tires.
This is the last day of the official three-day public holiday for Pchum Ben. The most important religious holiday in Cambodia, it is the equivalent of All Souls Day in the West. This woman is selling lotus flowers and coconuts wrapped with incense and lotus blossoms on the sidewalk in front of the royal palace. They will be offered in Buddhist ceremonies.