China Moves Its Cities Abroad

Beijing is not only buying Africa, now it’s building its own cities in other countries. Here, in Cambodia,

“Union Development Group (UDG), the Chinese developer behind Koh Kong province’s $3.8 billion tourism project called Dara Sakor, has unveiled plans for yet another project called “Tourism Vacation Town,”

an investment of an additional $1.2 billion dollars, while in Malaysia, a proposed new city of 700,000, the $100 billion Forest City project looks a lot like mainland China’s Shenzen, which is perched on the border with Hong Kong. Forest City would sit just across the Johor Strait from Singapore. It’s running into resistance from the Malaysian leadership, though. 93-year-old leader Mahathir Mohamad said this week

“that no foreigners would be allowed to live there even as crews rushed to complete some residential towers before buyers move in later this year.”

Vienna Antipodes

ek

There’s not a hell of a lot to say about Phnom Penh, really. You’ve seen one hardscrabble, impoverished, backward, big, poor, provincial city in Southeast Asia, you’ve seen Phnom Penh — except this one is a national capital.

Phnom Penh is the place on the globe most exactly opposite in every way to Vienna. It’s haphazard as Vientiane, the capital of Laos, but it’s ten times the size. It has a sort of genial, low-rise sprawl that wanders on into the outskirts until you find yourself in uninterested rabble and uninspired local markets with livestock in between.

We hired a Corolla and pointed our way down Preah Monivong onto Mao Tse Tung Street. The official street signs look official, but behind them on the sides of buildings you get an occasional peek at the French colonial “Rue Mao Tse Tung” versions, in peeling paint.

Mao Street itself, as we swung right onto it, greeted us as a warehouse district stocking steel bars, tubes, channels and shapes, and then PVC pipe and tubing. It stretched several kilometers this way, away from the river, and while most businesses were open air, there were occasional enclosed A/C restaurants, the odd “hand phone” shop, and a bright new sleek Intercontinental Hotel.

We pondered the Suki Soup Wedding Hall.

The drive required more of an amble, even when the road was flat, maybe thirty-five kilometers an hour, because of the crush of scooters and the vague driving rules. The Cambodian left turn across traffic is really a gentle, gradual veer that can take up hundreds of feet and introduces oncoming traffic directly into your lane at any given moment.

The third road off Mao Street wasn’t really tarmac, and with rainwater filling the pot holes, it’s a marvel how the scooter riders’ clothes stayed spotless.

I’m a little disturbed how under-disturbed I was by the Cheong Ek Genocidal Center. It’s a simple place with a glass stupa filled with skulls, and clothing in the bottom, and sections like “elderly woman” and “young man.”

We took pictures of monks taking pictures of themselves. There was a souvenir shop. How garish. It just had all the usual stuff, and “Beware Land Mines” t-shirts and “Pol Pot Money.”

It took almost an hour to get out the fifteen kilometers to Cheong Ek, and the same to get back.

•••••

This post is also found on Medium. More photos from Cambodia on EarthPhotos.com.

Blog Recommendation

Got a blog to recommend, from a fellow named Jake, who's working his way around the circuit in Cambodia right now. His blog is called My Alternative Life. I've put a link in the sidebar on this page under "Worth Your While," because it is.

Go spend a little time with Jake when you get a chance.

Check out what's on his front page right now, for example. Shooting big, swaggery weapons, Angkor Wat and a great, fascinating and very photogenic place, Cambodia's Tonle Sap Lake. What's not to like?

His Tonle Sap experience brings back memories. Here's one of the photos from our visit. Just a couple of guys, standing around, cruising the lake:

Tonlesap

A Mildly Uninspired Afternoon in Phnom Penh

Phnompenh1

There’s not a hell of a lot to say about Phnom Penh, really. You’ve seen one hardscrabble, impoverished, backward, big, poor, provincial city in Southeast Asia, you’ve seen Phnom Penh – except this one is a national capital.

Phnom Penh is the place on the globe most exactly opposite in every way to Vienna. It’s haphazard as Vientiane, the capital of Laos, but it’s ten times the size. It has a sort of genial, low-rise sprawl that wanders on into the outskirts until you find yourself in uninterested rabble and uninspired local markets with livestock in between.

We hired a Corolla and pointed our way down Preah Monivong onto Mao Tse Tung Street. The official street signs look official, but behind them on the sides of buildings you get an occasional peek at the French colonial “Rue Mao Tse Tung” versions, in peeling paint.

Mao Street itself, as we swung right onto it, greeted us as a warehouse district stocking steel bars, tubes, channels and shapes, and then PVC pipe and tubing. It stretched several kilometers this way, away from the river, and while most businesses were open air, there were occasional enclosed A/C restaurants, the odd “hand phone” shop, and a bright new sleek Intercontinental Hotel.

I pondered the Suki Soup Wedding Hall.

Phnompenh2 The drive was more of an amble, even when the road was flat, maybe thirty-five kilometers an hour, because of the crush of scooters and the vague driving rules. The Cambodian left turn across traffic is really a gentle, gradual veer that can take up hundreds of feet and introduces oncoming traffic directly into your lane at any given moment.

The third road off Mao Street wasn’t really tarmac, and with rainwater filling the pot holes, it’s a marvel how the scooter riders’ clothes stayed spotless.

I’m a little disturbed how under-disturbed I was by the Cheong Ek Genocidal Center. It’s a simple place with a glass stupa filled with skulls, and clothing in the bottom, and sections like “elderly woman” and “young man.”

We took pictures of monks taking pictures of themselves. There was a souvenir shop. How garish. It just had all the usual stuff, and “Beware Land Mines” t-shirts and “Pol Pot Money.”

It took almost an hour to get out the fifteen kilometers to Cheong Ek, and the same to get back.

– From the archives, impressions of a previous trip to Cambodia. Click the photos to make them bigger, and see more photos in the Cambodia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

From the Eventual Book: Cambodia

As
we continue
proofreading and polishing up the eventual book Common
Sense and Whiskey, 
we're posting the
chapters here. Previous entries: Greenland, Sri
Lanka
, Tasmania,
Paraguay
and

Climbing
Mt. Kinabalu
. Today we're in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Phnompenh


There’s not much to say about Phnom Penh, really. You’ve seen one hardscrabble, impoverished, backward,big, poor, provincial city in Southeast Asia, you’ve seen Phnom Penh. Except this one is a national capital.


Phnom Penh is the place on the globe most exactly opposite in every way to Vienna. It’s haphazard as Vientiane, the capital of Laos, but it’s ten times the size. It has a sort of genial, low-rise sprawl that wanders on into the outskirts until you find yourself in uninterested rabble and uninspired local markets with livestock in between.

We hired a Corolla and pointed our way down Preah Monivong onto Mao Tse Tung Street. The official street signs look official, but behind them on the sides of buildings you get an occasional peek at the French colonial “Rue Mao Tse Tung” versions, in peeling paint.

Mao Street itself, as we swung right onto it, greeted us as a warehouse district stocking steel bars, tubes, channels and shapes, and then PVC pipe and tubing. It stretched several kilometers this way, away from the river, and while most businesses were open air, there were occasional enclosed A/C restaurants, the odd “hand phone” shop, and a bright new sleek Intercontinental Hotel. We pondered the Suki Soup Wedding Hall.

The drive was more of an amble even when the road was flat, never more than about thirty-five kilometers an hour because of the crush of scooters and the vague driving rules. The Cambodian left turn across traffic is really a gentle, gradual veer into oncoming traffic. It can take up hundreds of feet, forcing oncoming traffic directly into the lane of the vehicle behind you.

The third road off Mao Street didn’t really qualify as tarmac, exactly, and with rainwater filling the pot holes, it’s a marvel how the scooter riders’ clothes stayed spotless.

Cheongek I’m a little disturbed how under-disturbed I was by the Cheong Ek Genocidal Center. Cheong Ek is the site where some 17,000 civilians were massacred and buried by the Khmers. The monument is a simple place with a glass stupa filled with 8,000 exhumed skulls in sections labeled “elderly woman” and “young man” and so on, and clothing in the bottom.

We took pictures of monks taking pictures of themselves. There was a souvenir shop. How garish. It just had all the usual stuff, and “Beware Land Mines” t-shirts and “Pol Pot Money.”

It took almost an hour to get out the fifteen kilometers to the Cheong Ek Genocidal Center, and the same to get back.

*****

(Photos from the Cambodia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.)

On Hotels: Why People Stay Where They Do

Everybody knows what they like. Everybody has their own approach to where to stay on the road.

Compare this gentle rant against high-end hotel properties with this list of favorite high-end properties. What we have here are two writers headed in different directions.

But I agree with both.

We've all got our stories on the anti-expensive-hotel side. In December, 2006 the hotel just outside the O. R. Tambo International terminal at Johannesburg (which was not then an InterContinental Hotel as it is now) charged us for every last beer, orange drink and tonic water in the minibar. All of them.

That was because we cleared all of them out and placed them in the cabinet beside the minibar so that we could store food we brought back from their restaurant. When it was time to go we reassembled the minibar, but it was one of those pressure-sensitive models which charges you for anything that's lifted from its assigned place.

Of course we were adamant that that wasn't right and would not stand, and it didn't. But we had to send a member of the front desk staff up to confirm all their Pepsis were in place, all momentum came to a screeching halt for fifteen minutes at checkout, and the ill will transformed what had been a pleasant enough stay to an experience I'm still writing about today. Just far, far too mercenary.

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