Tag Archives: phnom penh

A Tryst Arranged

24 Feb

One quiet evening, Francois’ brother played Mendelssohn on the balcony of our Phnom Penh guesthouse, and he played it well.

Francois is a writer, two young children, separated. The brother is an artist and musician, living in Cambodia, getting by. The kids are skiing with their mother. He is in PP with a friend.

It is a little after midnight, the brother is long gone, and Francois and I are talking French on the roof terrace, as the staff sleep behind their screen.

His friend, he tells me, is déficient. He cannot read. He cannot write. He needs help to cross the road. Continue reading

Our Maths Hell

17 Feb

Pile of ShacklesSo, four Mondays into our trip, and the home-schooling thing has hit a major speedbump. It’s the long division that’s killing both of us.

It’s a lovely sunny day in Phnom Penh, and we are encamped in the bar-restaurant opposite our guesthouse, using their internet, swigging lemon juice and sweating.

“So what is the next step?,” I say, with weary patience. He makes cow-eyes at me.

“We need to work out the tens now,” I say, in my best I-Am-A-Very-Nice-Patient-Person-And-Excellent-Mother-Who-In-No-Way-Needs-A-Large-Gin-And-Tonic falsetto.  Continue reading

Mr. Toilet

15 Feb

The Phnom Penh riverside has been beautified of late. Glamorous pagoda-styled buildings in hues of red and yellow send serpentine corner eaves skywards like dragon’s breath, competing with the Royal Palace opposite. Much of the pavement is actually paving, rather than a colourful mix of dirt and plastic, and every side street is tarmaced to the max.

The breeze off the Tonle Sap both cools and and mitigates the general scent of garbage, burning and decaying, that permeates the city. There is even a pedestrian promenade! And grass!

Continue reading

Bus Journey from Hell #1

13 Feb

We’ve been relatively lucky with buses, so far, if you take squat toilets and a fine coating of red dust, AKA a Ratanakiri suntan, as part of the experience, though it would be fair to say that I’m more adventurous on the roadside food front than Z.

Anywise, it took us twelve hours to get from Phnom Penh to Ban Lung in the north-east. About two hours in, a young woman boarded with her 18-month old son and 5-year-old daughter.

The bus was beyond full, but the conductor, who spoke some English, saw a bright side. Continue reading

S-21: Genocide for Beginners

13 Feb

Tuol Sleng Prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia“Kneel down, mum,” Z says. “Close your eyes.”

He fumbles with my hair. We are in the courtyard of Tuol Sleng prison, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, AKA S-21, where teenage true believers tortured and killed over 16,000 people, from babies to geriatrics.

On a concrete bench under a papaya tree a crimson-clad monk sits contemplating, Nokia in hand. The place is very still. Continue reading