Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Friends come to town

Last night I had dinner with some friends from Siem Reap at the Kandal House restaurant on the riverfront and afterwards took a stroll to visit the brand new night market that has opened up in a designated area opposite Wat Ounalom, for the next few months. Siem Reap already has a well-established night market and city officials have decided its time Phnom Penh has one too. As we perused the stalls, the paintings that you see almost everywhere by the prolific artist Sophannarith were prominent, and I was intrigued when Socheata, who is a souvenir seller at Banteay Kdei and Angkor Wat temples, pointed out that the exact same wooden carving on sale for $13 at a stall on the riverside, sells for just $6 on her own stall. That is a considerable mark-up in anyone’s book. So buyers beware.
Socheata, her brother Plon and their father were in town for just one night as Socheata and Plon are planning a holiday in Japan and needed to visit the Japanese Embassy to obtain their visas. Socheata actually lived in Osaka in northern Japan for the past six years until her husband passed away and she returned to live with her family in the village of Rohal, near Srah Srang, in the Angkor Park. All three of them felt ill at ease with the crowds and traffic they encountered along the riverfront, preferring the less frenetic pace of life in Siem Reap.

On Sunday afternoon, I paid a visit to my injured friend Sophoin - who was knocked off her moto by a drunken boy-racer who turned out to be a famous Khmer kick-boxing champion - and who had been confined to her bed for the last five days. She had just taken her first tentative steps but the deep gash on her right shin was clearly causing her a great deal of pain and the paltry sum of $70, handed to her by her assailant before he disappeared, has gone only part of the way to paying her medical bills, let alone the repairs to her own moto. The country’s PM, Hun Sen has publicly stated his determination to crack down on those lunatic drivers who have little regard for other road users, and the sooner it happens, the better for all who use the city’s streets.

Notes: The night market in Phnom Penh is currently open six nights a week (6pm-12 midnight) until after the water festival later this month. Then it will be open only on Saturday and Sunday. As for the Bon Om Touk festival, the population of Phnom Penh is said to double for the festival period. Over 400 boats have been entered for the boat racing that takes place along the riverfront and in front of the Royal Palace. I see they are already setting up some of the awning ready for the festival which starts on Friday, 23 November. I'm a virgin when it comes to the water festival, so wish me luck.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Very sad news but all too common. A good friend of mine was pulled off her moto a few weeks ago but fortunately lived to tell the tale, though she suffered quite a serious hip injury.

French woman killed during daylight robbery
November 14 2007

Phnom Penh - A French woman was killed Wednesday when she was struck by a mini-bus after being pulled off a motorcycle taxi by purse-snatchers in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, police said.

Aurelia LaCroix, 23, died instantly following the noon-time robbery, which occurred when at least two young men on a motorcycle pulled up alongside her and grabbed her purse, said Ben Khun, deputy Phnom Penh traffic police chief.

"The victim fell off the motorcycle taxi and the mini-bus ran her over," he told AFP.

He said it was unclear if LaCroix lived in Cambodia or was a tourist.

The robbers escaped, he said, while both the bus and taxi drivers fled the scene, he added.

While robberies have decreased overall in Cambodia, purse and chain-snatching are on the rise and are particularly problematic around major holidays, affecting Cambodians and foreigners alike.

Cambodia next week is set to begin celebrating the Water Festival which draws millions of people to the capital for four days of boat races and parties.