Daily Life in Cambodia  2013


Daily Life (2000)
 Daily Life (2001)
Daily Life (2002)
Daily Life (2003)
Daily Life (2004)
Daily Life (2005)
Daily Life (2006)
Daily Life (2007)
Daily Life (2008)
Daily Life (2009)
Daily Life (2010)
Daily Life (2011)
Daily Life (2012)
Daily Life (2013)

28 December 2014

Idiotic traffic chaosThe traffic in Cambodia totally defies all norms of Western logic and order. Some day I hope to put together a series on traffic here but until then note this one example of what I mean. This is a two-way street. The automobiles are on the proper side of the dividing line of the street. But note that the opposing lane is filled with drivers who can't wait behind another vehicle. Instead they pull into the opposing lane--which means on this narrow street that the traffic coming across the intersection cannot get into the street. That is a norm here and what boggles the mind most is that everyone accepts it. No one gets angry when he or she comes through an intersection and finds his lane totally blocked by traffic illegally coming against him.


Return to Top of Page

27 December 2014

Motorcyclists sheltering from rain


We are in Cambodia's dry season now so it shouldn't be raining but it did yesterday--twice. This is in the morning as I was coming back from a 6:15 AM mass. There was a real downpour and I got drenched and had to change all my clothes. In the best of times many Cambodian drivers won't have a rain poncho with them but in the dry season especially they won't have one. So typically they pull up under whatever shelter they can find and wait out the worst of the storm. It rained again in the evening.



Return to Top of Page

20 December 2014

Mattress on a motorcycle





Motorcycle Loads #208

This motorcycle driver, loading up not far from where the picture was taken of #207 below, has a much more manageable load of mattresses.





Return to Top of Page

19 December 2014

Mattress on a motorcycle





Motorcycle Loads #207

Other drivers tend to give him a wide berth.





Return to Top of Page

18 December 2014

Food stall on the street

Lunch time on a Phnom Penh street.


Return to Top of Page

14 June 2014

Passing out handbills

A not uncommon sight at intersections in Phnom Penh is a young man or woman passing out fliers advertising various schools or training courses or things for sale. Here a young man in a white shirt makes his way through a gaggle of motorcycles passing out a handbill. Notice the people are actually reading them, and what surprises me most, given that most Cambodians readily throw their trash out the window or on the street, is that none of the fliers end up on the pavement.

Return to Top of Page

14 June 2014

Not-square roomsConstruction Quirks #7

Much of the construction and maintenance and remodeling in Cambodia is done by a family member or friend of the family. Some buildings are quite well constructed; others less so. And even on some of the best, there often appear quirky details. In our deaf office the building is not square. The floor plan is a trapezoid, not a rectangle. Thus in any given room, the walls are not parallel to each other and the tiles must be cut at an angle.

Return to Top of Page

12 June 2014

Dead bugs on the floorThe Street Crimes Unit of the New York Police Department has a motto "We own the night." In Cambodia, in the Maryknoll office--and probably in most buildings here--it's the bugs that own the night. What are probably most properly called palmetto bugs (we called them cockroaches when I was a kid) are all over the floors when the lights go out. And some of their dead bodies are much in evidence when daylight returns. Here are three corpses in our dining room one morning.


Return to Top of Page

31 May 2014

A long load on a motorcycle




Motorcycle Loads #197

"It gets kinda tricky on the turns, especially on those narrow streets...."



Return to Top of Page

26 May 2014

Telephone in helmet



The use of any type of telephone in any way while driving is probably too dangerous and can be considered "driving while distracted." This young woman at least has her hands free--her cellphone is wedged between her head and helmet as she rides her motorcycle. Notice her phone matches her helmet. Chic....




Return to Top of Page

25 May 2014

Truck pulling carts

There are no enforced traffic rules in Cambodia and even less awareness of what traffic rules are supposed to do. Here a large green Cintri garbage truck pulls two smaller handcarts, each with a young man riding on it. The carts are pulled by boys on the truck just holding the handles of the carts.


Return to Top of Page

21 May 2014

Motorcycle loaded with eggs and hay





Motorcycle Loads #197

"Heck, I've only got 84 dozen eggs. I might as well carry a little hay, too."





Return to Top of Page

17 May 2014

Phnom Penh traffic

This is a typical traffic-jammed intersection in Phnom Penh in the afternoon. There is no functioning traffic control in the country. Very few intersections have stop lights. Where they do have them, they are optional. In most intersections like this everyone just noses ahead and pushes into any opening.


Return to Top of Page

13 May 2014

Red chilis set out to dry


The temperature is really hot now--often above 100ºF--and it feels hot! April and May are terrible. And this lot of red chilis makes it seem even hotter! Different kinds of meat and fish and vegetables are often spread out along the street to dry in the sun, and these chilis in the bright sun caught my eye.



Return to Top of Page

12 May 2014

A loaded motorcycle




Motorcycle Loads #196

This load is high but it's not too heavy--mostly it consists of small packages of potato chips and other snack foods, packed with a lot of air around them!




Return to Top of Page

13 April 2014

Moto rearview Moto front view
From the rear, it's obvious this motorcycle is carrying quite a load. From the front, it's obvious that it's not only the rear of the motorcycle that's loaded. The front is piled high, too, with the load held on by the passenger.

Return to Top of Page

4 April 2014

Difficult basketball court





On the other hand, it's good for slam dunks....




Return to Top of Page

3 April 2014

Water meterConstruction Quirks #6


This is a column supporting one end of the roof over the front area of the deaf office. When we started renting the place, there was a wall supporting the roof. The landlord tore down the wall and moved it toward the street but the roof still needed to be held up, so he put a 6x6 beam under the heavy metal grillwork under the edge of the roof and then balanced the beam on a pile of bricks. The aesthetics certainly don't bother him and neither does the dangerous haywired arrangement for keeping the roof up.






Return to Top of Page

1 April 2014

Carrying a tall sign





Motorcycle Loads #194

This lady on the back of a motorcycle is carrying a quite tall signboard. The legs stick up in the air a good way, just barely below the bundles of electricity and telephone and cable TV wires spanning the streets at most intersections.




Return to Top of Page

31 March 2014

Water meterConstruction Quirks #5
Nothing is built or constructed according to code in Cambodia. Many cities and towns have running water but the infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired. This is the water pipe coming from the street into the property of the Maryknoll office. The pipe is suspended in the air, not with formal supports, but just laid across the fence foundation. The water meter just rests on the ground, set in a pile of cement to keep it stationary.


Return to Top of Page

28 March 2014

Two bicycle ridersLOTS of people ride bicycles in Phnom Penh. It's one of the major modes of transportation in the country. But slowly the bikes are giving way to the motorbikes or small motorcycles for daily commuting. And then there are the young and rich who have long ago gone from bicycles to motorcycles to SUVs and sports cars, and now they are coming back to bikes. But with a difference. Now they ride high-end expensive racing bikes, complete with the proper attire. These are two of three young men riding in traffic during the morning rush hour. Some young people scrimp and save and ride racing bikes just because they like to ride but I am afraid they are in the minority.

Return to Top of Page

27 March 2014

Old Phnom Penh building




While many new buildings are springing up in Phnom Penh, blocks such as these still dominate the city streets. They were emptied out by the Khmer Rouge in the mid 1970s and then occupied by the returnees from the refugee camps along the Thai border.




Return to Top of Page

26 March 2014

Phnom Penh skyline




Phnom Penh is still a flat, compact city, but now more and more high-rise buildings are appearing on the cityscape. Most of them are individual, i.e., there is no central district or big commercial area, but rather developers stick their new creation in an area where they guess—and hope--the city will grow and develop in the future.




Return to Top of Page

24 March 2014

Tea and coffee shop


The ambience doesn't match that of Starbucks and there's no air conditioning, but Phnom Penh's little coffee houses do a brisk business every day. You can park at the door, there's plenty of fresh air, and the coffee is about 65¢.



Return to Top of Page

23 March 2014

Street peddlar



In the last few years I have noticed several men, maybe three or four, who look like they are from the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh). They walk the streets from morning till night carrying large bundles of brightly colored cloth goods like towels and sheets and sarongs and other woven items. I can't imagine that they sell that much but they must be making some money because they continue to walk the streets of Phnom Penh. They are hard-working individuals with their unwieldy bundles!



Return to Top of Page

20 March 2014

Motorcycle with huge bags







Motorcycle Loads #193

"I think I can, I think I can...."





Return to Top of Page

19 March 2014

Messy wiring in a houseConstruction Quirks #4



Buildings in Cambodia that have electricity usually have junction boxes like this one set into a wall, generally near the ceiling. For some reason, various circuits in the walls make connection in these boxes. And when something goes wrong, often the boxes are used to gain access to the problem. And often, too, the boxes are left open with hot wires and dead wires sticking out like in this box in our eating area in the Maryknoll house.



Return to Top of Page

17 March 2014

Spirit shrine in restaurantThere are no deities in Buddhism, but the spirits and monks do like their canned drinks. Most of the time, when monks come to perform their chanting and rituals for weddings and funerals, the package of gifts they receive contains soft drinks and they can be seen seated in front of the people with open soft drinks in front of them as they chant. The fixed shrines for various spirits of ancestors and others usually involve canned drinks, too. In this restaurant, the shrine erected for the spirits is supplied with both lots of beer and lots of soft drinks.


Return to Top of Page

16 March 2014

Wooden shrine Click here for photos of the heavy wooden shrines made for Cambodian homes.

Return to Top of Page

15 March 2014

Expensive motorcyclesWhen I first arrived in Phnom Penh, for anyone to have even a small motorbike was an achievement, a sign of status. Most people walked or rode bicycles. Today as standards of living creep upwards, so do the aspirations and dreams of the young people. Now just as teenagers in the West will spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of sports shoes, so young people here will spend outrageous amounts on huge and specialty motorcycles. There's certainly no need for them and no advantage on the road. They just give status, like this odd-framed bike outside a shop.


Return to Top of Page

12 March 2014

Click here for photos of the ritual of opening street shops in the morning.

Return to Top of Page

11 March 2014

Washing food pushcartsOn a back street near where I did a house blessing I came across this young man washing ten or so pushcarts used for selling food on the street. I don't know if the cleaning gets them up to any decent hygiene standard but it's nice to know they do get washed. My basic rule on mobile foods like this is that the food has to be hot. Then there's a chance it will kill the bacteria from the air and maybe that on the plate.

Return to Top of Page

10 March 2014

Street corner bike repairs Last Friday I was making a left turn on my bicycle on to our deaf office street and two young guys on a motorbike tried to pass me in the intersection and knocked me down. I got just a scrape on my leg but the bike took a big hit and the rear wheel was twisted and immovable. Right on that corner was one of our ubiquitous "repair shops" and the guy grabbed the bike and tried bending and standing on the wheel to get it straight. He did make it better so I could roll it to the office but I couldn't ride it like that.
Bike shop repairs On Saturday I took it in a tuk-tuk to this shop where I bought it and the owner came out and said he could fix it no problem. I told him I'd come back the next day, and on Sunday, on the way home from mass, I had the motordupe driver drop me off there and I had my bike back. I was expecting maybe a new rear wheel and $20 or $30 for the repair job. He charged me $3.

Return to Top of Page

9 March 2014

Selling mangoes on the street




Here comes the mango man, selling the mangoes, now in season, from his moto. Ahead of him are the traffic police (inset) but he doesn't have to worry about them. They only shake down the van and traffic drivers.



Return to Top of Page


21 February 2014

Moto loaded with vegetables





Motorcycle Loads #192

Here is a load of vegetables going somewhere early in the morning.





Return to Top of Page

19 January 2014

Women on road crew


Yesterday I passed a road construction site--a road being repaved--and saw these three women sweeping new concrete with little hand brushes. That says something about the status of women and about the way work is done and about the way profits are maximized. Women workers are cheaper than men. Small brooms are cheaper than big brooms. Why change?


Return to Top of Page

17 January 2014

Phnom Penh 2013

When I arrived in Phnom Penh in 2000, there was one building--the Intercontinental Hotel--above four stories. Today the skyline in every direction is dotted with many buildings rising much higher. This is a scene just half a mile from the deaf office in the area called Boeung Trabek. The open area is a boeung, a shallow lake in a flood plain where flood waters collect. In the far distance are the buildings of Phnom Penh encroaching on the flood plain--with disastrous effect when the heavy rains come.

Return to Top of Page

15 January 2014

Two loaded motorcycles





Motorcycle Loads #191

These two motorcycle drivers have to be really uncomfortable!





Return to Top of Page

4 January 2014

Boy on moto with his mother




Easy Rider.

Kids learn early about motorcycles in Cambodia.





Return to Top of Page

1 January 2014

New Year's Eve traffic


This is an intersection I go through each day on the way home from the Deaf Development Programme. There is no traffic control like stop lights or stop signs or a policeman, and everyone just does what he pleases. The congestion this day was no worse because it was New Year's Eve. It's just because it's Phnom Penh.


Return to Top of Page

Click here to return to Top of the Page
Click here to go to main Cambodia page
Click here to return to Charlie Dittmeier's Home Page