Just Moved to Phnom Penh

Home in Phnom Penh

It’s home when you can hang your hat

Newly arrived in Phnom Penh, I’m spending time learning my new beat. I’ve met some remarkable characters here. Most are of the washed up and battered expat variety that people the memoirs of reprobates and other exiles to tropic climes. I’m sure I’ll have grist for the literary mill soon.

The atmosphere in Phnom Penh does me good. Saigon has become a city with all the problems of rapid growth and development but none of the benefits beyond enriching the movers and shakers. In Vietnam that means the Communists and there friends and relatives. Rich Communists! Owning privately held companies and investments, and dealing with (gasp) capital. And yet every major capital development project, funded by foreign banks and stock brokers, is festooned with huge pictures of Marx and Lennin. That’s a story I might have written. And then been deported!

But I’m much enjoying PP. It’s still a sunny place for shady people. Still a backwater. The electricity goes out frequently, the streets flood with the slightest rain, nothing and nobody works very much. But the beer is always cold and the food good and cheap. Palm trees grow, rents are low and the feeling is layback. We live in a four storey house in a secure compound. The security guards in our compound think I’m a retired general or something and always salute as I pass in and out. The barmaids all think I’m a good tipper because I always leave fifty cents. The market mavens think I’m a fine fellow because I bargain with good humor and eat their fried insects. Life is fine, fine as wine.

Sorry for the slow posting. The tropical terrain tempers timeliness and turns us tardy. It’s one reason for being here. And it’s one of the last places in the civilized world where one can feel far away and long ago. At times I even feel moved to put pen to paper and write a proper letter with a proper postage stamp on a proper envelope embossed with the formerly magic words, “Par Avion.” It would arrive on your roll-top desk bearing unknown stains and the tang of the Orient, bent at the corners and frayed at the edges. And it would contain ripping yarns and daily details and news of island cannibals and eastern potentates. Perhaps a black and white photo of me and mine. But, as they say, “Ah shit. I was born too late.”

Chill in Phnom Penh

View from the top

I am personal friends with the maid servant to the second bum boy of the Prime Minister’s favorite bookie. As such I am now well qualified to advise travelers on hostelries and eating houses of repute, both ill and otherwise. Lady C (that’s the Mem Saab) and I have four bicycles and can take our visitors on a tour of the dusty roads. We can also introduce them to Dusty Rhodes, who works at the Pretty Lady Massage Parlor and BBQ. And speaking of BBQ, wait till you try the roaches on a stick. With a side of chicken feet. You’ll think you’ve died and Heaven can wait!

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