Posts Tagged ‘Phnom Penh’

Architecture Tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo II

13/09/2016

At the end of the first part I left people tantalised. (Well maybe I did, maybe you don’t give a toss, for the narrative I’ll continue believing I do) A whole piece about a tour of Phnom Penh by cyclo and no cyclos. What gives, eh? The last picture was the key to the tantalising with the back of our guide and some cyclos. So, to release the tension here are pictures of cyclos from the rest of the tour.

The first two pictures on the right show us mounting up, what other verb can I use for getting on/in a cyclo? The one on the left at the top shows us processing towards Wat Phnom and then they show, from the left, the author at repose in his cyclo, the convoy of cyclos turning left, in amongst the traffic and the start, sort of like the start of the Le Mans! (Wat Phnom is again in the background, we have traveled anti-clockwise from 3 to 6.)  So, now the lust for cyclos is sated I can move on with the narrative, our first stop was at a Chinese temple.

 

From the top, we see the outside of the temple which is in the grounds of s school. Our guide, Virak, said the King was pleased to have the Chinese in Cambodia and gave them the land on which the school and temple are built. It is possible to learn Madarin at the school for $100 a year he said. The people who worship at the temple are from southern China and Taiwan. Next picture down shows the detail of the window and on the right, at the top of the column a Khmer detail. Going in, on the right, we saw the dragon to protect people on the water, which is why the fish are in front of it. On the left was the tiger to protect people on the land and it has plants in front of it. Both have a small dragon and tiger pictured also to reflect continuity. I just like drums which is why that picture is there and the final, main, picture is of the altar.

Next stop was another Chinese temple. This time made of wood. In writing this I found another blog written about the tour (giving a different perspective of it) which also posted a picture (left) of the temple from three years ago. I think it makes an interesting comparison to what we saw.

Our guide said that before the Khmer Rouge there were no other buildings here but the price of land and the largely uncontrolled state of planning and building mean that people build something wherever they can. Obviously the temple has not been used for worship for a long time.

We walked further on and came to another religious building, a former Catholic Chapel which was used for Taikwando and as a school but is also now lived in and is very dark so people need to keep the lights on and I can’t imagine there’s too much ventilation for cooking smoke and fumes.

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We then got back in the cyclos and went to the National Library of Cambodia. Obviously built in the colonial period, we are back in the European quarter with very classical architecture, although the columns share the Khmer feature with the Chinese temple, the only nod to the location of the building. The Khmer Rouge used this as a kitchen and canteen with animals living in the grounds which were slaughtered and then cooked and eaten inside. Some of the books were used for the cooking. The library is in the centre with the stores and offices in the wings, which can just be seen, on the left and the right respectively. Back to the cyclos.

We then toured past the Hotel Raffles Le Royal. (Top right) Built in 1929, what the hotel’s biog doesn’t say is that after the coup in 1970, as part of the republicanisation of the country, it’s name was changed to Hotel Le Phnom and it is as that it features in the film ‘The Killing Fields‘.  After a five year renovation by the Raffles group it is one of the more high class hotels.  Then, bottom right, is the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications building. Another government office building – what’s so special about that? It is not what is there now that matters but what was there before. It is the site of the former Catholic Cathedral of Notre Dame. (Pictured, from a stamp, below) Building work on it started in 1951 financed by the, secular, French government, but it was dynamited in 1976 by the Khmer Rouge. The architect said he was not disappointed by its fate as it had been built on the same layout as the Wat Phnom at the other end of the boulevard and he had never been happy with the challenge to the primeval Budhist pagoda in the city. The final picture on the left is us passing the station built in the 30’s by the engineer who also worked on the architectural wonder that is the Central Market, and it was said that he learned how to work with reinforced concrete on this building before going on to use it so successfully on the market.

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Our last stop was at the former Hotel International which was originally built 1900-1910 On what was Phnom Penh’s busiest shopping streets as the Magasin Paris, the place to get your items fresh from France. It has been altered many times and no longer a hotel; the old signs are still readable on the entrance, i.e.’Horlogerie’, a clock store. The Hotel’s name, in Khmer, is still visible high up the building and you can see where people have built homes on the roof and like the hotel at the start of the tour it is now lived in by many families and the ground floor is given over to shops. Our guide said he had recently seen adverts for the hotel from the 1970’s when the hotel was heavily discounting the rooms, no doubt a function of the uncertainty as a result of the civil war taking place between the Lon Nol government and the Khmer Rouge. We got back into the cyclos and returned to the Post Office Square. If you are in Phnom Penh do take one of their tours, you learn not just about architecture but the history of the city and country, social history and so much more and the enthusiasm of the guide for the subject is contagious.

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Architecture tour of Phnom Penh by Cyclo I

12/09/2016

Cyclo. You know those things with a seat in the front and a chap pedaling at the back. Well, the fab people at Khmer Architecture Tours do one of Phnom Penh by cyclo and Sunday morning I did it. Previously I had taken the “1960s Houses and Villas in Toul Kork + the White Building in Bassac” tour and found it interesting, not just in terms of the architecture, but also in terms of the Cambodia history and social history that was learnt. We met at the Post Office, which was a place I knew well from leaving there to travel to Sihanoukville by bus and, more recently, as the place to collect post from my PO Box. The lack of a functioning postal service, as would be understood in the West meant it was more visited by tourists than locals. It was 8:30 which meant I didn’t spend enough time the night before celebrating Manchester being blue. The Post Office, pictured below.

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The middle building with the three arched entrances was built at the beginning of the last century with additions of the red roofed wings in the 30’s and flat roofed wings at the edge in the 1990’s. On the top you’ll see are some loudspeakers which our guide said replaced a cupola when the Japanese were here in the 1940’s. However, they remind me so much of the civil defence system to be seen throughout France which is rehearsed at midday on the first Wednesday throughout the country. I asked the guide if he thought they could have been under the cupola and only discovered once the Japanese removed it but he demurred.

Across the street is a former hotel, (pictured top right) built in the first decade of the last century. After the Khmer Rouge left Vietnamese people lived in it until they left at the end of the 80’s when people working for the Post Office moved in and took over the premises. They kindly let us into the public areas on the first floor but residents on the second were not so keen to let us visit. We went up a stairway to the right of the door and onto the first floor where there were original features which came from France including tiles.(pictured left) In the last century Hotel Grand was built backing onto the building, facing onto the Tonle Sap River and after a time the owner bought this hotel and connected this to the other, the back of which can be seen in the bottom middle left picture.  They were joined together such that a corridor went at right angles at the end of the picture bottom middle right, which was taken from the same spot as looking out onto the courtyard and back of the hotel just after turning 90 degrees. The picture bottom right shows one of the room numbers, still visible and bottom left us with the guide on the landing.

The third of four buildings on the square was built as the Bank of Indochina and became 103702-730419the property of the Van family in the 1965. After the Khmer Rouge it became government buildings until around 2000 when the family got/bought it back from them and it has been fully renovated and is now quite a fancy restaurant, named Van’s. I was recommended the 17:00 – 19:00 ‘happy hour’ and was minded to investigate but rain throughout the time prevented it from happening, maybe another time.

We walked round to see the front of Hotel Grand, sometime called the Hotel Grand grand-hotelManolis after the eponymous owner, but I took no pictures of it.The guide had a picture of how it used to be, similar to the one on the right. The two arches on the left still house a small restaurant/cafe but the ones on the right have been removed to create a KFC. The website for Getty images, which features a similar photo, but not this one below,(for rights reasons) said “Phom Penh’s first KFC opened in a refurbished colonial building along the waterfront. Many older colonial buildings have been renovated in recent years, while others have been razed for new construction. p1110123Others limp on as shabby apartments and businesses..” Hmm, so lets obliterate the front of a classical piece of colonial architecture and replace it with something which looks just the same as if it was built in Dagenham or Delhi. The pictures the guide showed of the hotel lobby said even more what a loss this was to the city, for not much gain.

A proper example of a former colonial piece of architecture sympathetically restored is the coffee shop across the road, also on the quay.

Anyway, we walked back onto the square, across it and then round the back of the former p1170112Police Station. This building was built in the 1930’s to replace the previous police station built there in 1910. No-one knows why the previous one was replaced but the guide explained that this one had an external wall and then a corridor all around the building before the offices, cells etc inside. Allowing the outside wall to take the heat or the rain, air to circulate and the offices, cells etc to be cool without air-con. Intelligent building design in the tropics.

Anyway, the story from the guide was that the building was bought by a company who wanted to raise it and build a skyscraper but it has never happened. So, some people run a business in the courtyard and live, along with other people in the building. The number of trees growing on the building were pointed out and it was said that the roof leaked and that trees (As seen on the roof top right of this picture from the rear of the building) and water, two of the dangers to built structures, mean that unless something is done, it would eventually collapse.

The picture on the right, our guide argued, showed how the architect had designed the building as a coherent whole, the pattern below the window reflecting the arch at the top of the window, as well as the features for a building in the tropics already mentioned, which was reflect throughout the building and that was why this was actually more deserving of renovation than the Post Office and the KFC.

Anyway, I started by talking about a Cyclo tour and all it’s been so far is a trudging around the Post Office Square looking at buildings that used to be something, apart from the Post Office, obviously. So have I sold you short? Are there really any Cyclos? Well you’ll just have to wait for the next installment. Which may, or may not, involve Chinese temples, Catholic Chapels, a library, a destroyed Catholic Cathedral, apartments now shops and a former apartment store. As a hint, one last picture.

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Why I swim

30/08/2016

Today I swam a kilometre for the second time, the first, according to my facebook post, so it must be true, was on 19th July. Since I achieved this distance I have not spent any time in the water until just over a week ago, so it was pleasing to achieve it again today. What I also achieved today was to swim 600 metres non-stop. The first time I have done this, and 50% better than my previous non-stop distance.

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The picture shows the pool I go to at the Olympic Stadium.(It was taken in February the building site behind, between the pool and the Cambodian Olympic Committee building, would now not fit in the picture.) People who do not remember the Cambodian Olympics will not be wrong as there has not been one. The stadium was designed and built in 1963-4 to Olympic standards to accommodate the 1964 GANEFO Games by Khmer modern architect Vann Molyvann and I find the pool is a joy to swim in.

It is only this year that I have started swimming as my exercise. As a teen I had swum a lot, getting my 800 metres badge and the silver life-saving badge. But a verruca resulted in me not swimming for 18 months and still going to the pool every week to watch my brother achieve a lot of other badges etc. He is a good swimmer and has continued doing it. I really lost interest in doing it much other than splish-splashing around for fun.

Then JTO visited at the beginning of this year, she is a devout swimmer and goes wherever she is so visited the pool a number of times, I walked with her to the pool from my former residence a couple of times and had a swim.(Former residence sounds so much grander than the flat I used to live in!) After she had gone I realised that I was not getting much exercise. Over the previous summer I had been living in Leeds and had cycled more than 4 miles to work and home again every day and, because of the spread out nature of my workplace at the university, had been walking more than 10,000 steps every day. Some days now I walked less than 1,000 steps and traveled everywhere by Tuk-Tuk. I was getting fatter and not getting much exercise.

As a result I decided to give swimming a go. I set myself a goal of swimming a kilometre, and then swimming a kilometre non-stop. A post on facebook, after doing 900 metres for the first time, by a friend resulted in me subsequently adding a further goal of swimming a mile, or the closest to it, of 1,500 metres. In my first swim in March I swam 6 lengths of the 50 metres pool and stopped after each one. In the heat of the Phnom Penh day it is nice to get into the water, although the pool is more like the temperature of a nice bath. The picture below shows some people who came to see me achieve my first goal!

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As I said, I achieved the first goal last month. Afterwards I kind of enjoyed laying off the monomania necessary to keep going at it. However, after a few weeks I started to miss swimming and the exercise. I started to feel tired in my limbs more often and didn’t get that clear head and oxygen high from doing the exercise. I missed it. So little over a week ago I started walking down to the pool from my flat again. First time I swam 600 metres and it has built up from there. So I was somewhat pleased to swim the distance again. I was also pleased to achieve another personal best of swimming 600 metres non-stop, more than twice the distance I originally managed without any stops- progress!

My current schedule means that I work very full days Monday, Wednesday and Friday and all Saturday morning. However I do not start work until later in the afternoon Tuesday and Thursday so I am able to get to the pool in the morning on those days and on Sunday and I like to do so. I am lucky to live in a place where an outdoor pool is available all the time, costs only $2 for foreigners like me, and it is a joy to get into the water and out of the heat.It is even better that, outside Sunday afternoons, I pretty much get the pool to myself. Imagine, an Olympic size pool, in a hot country, pretty much to yourself.

No Through Road

01/11/2015

Saturday morning is my earliest start at work. 8:00 for a four and a half hour shift, with breaks lasting until 13:00. 20151031_170728_22010392404_oThis week it also happened to be the day after our staff party so I was not at my most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and took long enough getting up that I did not have enough time for breakfast. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am subhuman early in the morning, if not up to midday and that breakfast is one thing which helps make me more human. So the last thing I 20151031_170654_22445236890_oneeded was something to throw things out of kilter.

So, I walk downstairs, open the gate, turn out of the flat and get in the tuk-tuk and see that the road is blocked off in front of us. (Picture top left)

Ahhhhh how will I get to work? I’ll be late, they’ll think I got so drunk at the staff do I couldn’t make it. Fortunately the panic did 20151031_134233_22617175782_onot last long as the driver turned the tuk-tuk round and we went another route around the road blockage. Actually it worked in my advantage as the changed route took us past the ABC Bakery and I was able to stop and get breakfast. So, things improved.

I did the shift and returned home to see the public notice telling people that the road was closed.(top right) Later on I paid my rent to my landlord and, chatting with his daughter whilst he was seeking change for me, I discovered that the road had been closed for a wedding, which was better than closing it for a funeral,  and that it would be closed for two days.(picture second left showing how effectively the road was closed) I also learnt that there would not be singing and dancing on Saturday evening but that it would take place on Sunday morning.

So Sunday morning I was up early and out 20151101_122112_22473843730_oon the balcony for my breakfast and I heard some quite haunting and beautiful music. Not exactly what I am used to but pleasant none the less. Later on, after midday, people started to leave for their cars. (picture second right) Though, in parenthesis I do know what the trucks were doing in the centre of the street blocking the car in. Earlier one of them had been piled high with bikes, clearance of a second-hand bike shop? Who knows what?

Well, Sunday afternoon I went to the The Flicks 1, self-described as a community movie house, (A room soundproofed with a projector, quadraphonic audio and scatter cushions and some seats i.e. not a conventional multiplex)  to see Beasts of No Nation about a child in an African country who loses his mother and sister and then sees his father and elder brother killed and 20151101_163857_22678703511_oends up fighting for a militia.

I returned home to see the street as clear as it had been before the tent was constructed, (last picture left) with maybe a bit extra rubbish by the side of the road but that would be gone by the morning and probably was nothing to do with the wedding but just the people whose houses were cut off during it, not having their rubbish collected whilst the street was blocked.

So just another day in Phnom Penh. The street was blocked. Some people got married and then it was clear again. People’s lives went on around it and walking around and talking to, admittedly only a few people, I did not detect any fuss or people expressing inconvenience.

UPDATE

This morning a new tent appeared on the street. Oh, it really is wedding season. But then people just went through it as if it wasn’t there. Tent there at 12:30 when I left for work and gone at 20:15 when I got home again and seemingly gone for some time so the tuk-tuk driver knew not to worry about taking another route to avoid it when going back home.

A Sunday afternoon walk

18/10/2015

After a day and a half’s hard work, following the break for a public holiday, the weekend arrived and a night watching City beat Bournemouth 5 – 1 with a friend and his wife, at Score Bar and a lie-in I decided to go for a walk to look at some of the city.

P1130999I started by getting a tuk-tuk to Sorya Shopping Centre (pictured left) which was the first of the new wave of shopping centres in Phnom Penh, such as City Mall and Aeon Mall which I have already written about here and here, respectively. Sorya is bigger than the first and smaller than the second and, like both, has a cinema on the top floor. There was nothing on which interested me though I did make aP1140001 couple of purchases in one of the shops before leaving and crossing the road to get a top-up for my phone.

Further up the street was the Central Market, somewhere I had previously only been past at night and thought was a dump. Well how wrong was I about the wonderful piece of Cambodian Art-Deco architecture, restored recently with help from the French government. Views of it from outside and inside were just great:

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I’m afraid the photos do not do justice to the wonder of the building. I wandered around the building looking at the clothes, electrical items and P1140023other things for sale then left. I wanted to walk more of the city and I was headed in the direction I had travelled a few times at night. Leaving the market I entered an area that at night seemed dark and dingy but I came upon the wonderful art-deco building pictured left. My Chinese is not good enough to know what it is now. One of the reasons to walk in this direction was coming next. P1140027It was the film, “The Last Reel“, which I may have mentioned once, maybe you didn’t notice, had an important location in the centre of Phnom Penh, a former cinema which is used for parking Moto’s and, on my way to the Empire in this area I had seen a former cinema used for parking Moto’s and I wanted to get a picture of it. Research, however, showed that the cinema which inspired to was on street 19, across from Norton University where the writer was then working, rather than street 130 where this was.

Further along the street was the Empire, a bar with a soundproofed room on the first floor which acts as a cinema. After finishing work at 19:30 or 20:00 I’m not going to P1140032do much more as I need to eat and then it would be too late to do much more. So, a quick tuk-tuk ride from work and I am here, special of the  day for two or three dollars, three dollars fifty for the entrance to the film and one dollar fifty for a beer means you can get a good night out in the week, after work for less than $10. This time I was not in for a film but a pit-stop. Whilst there I chatted to the bar staff and discovered they had only been here a couple of days, that they are working as volunteers in return for a bed in the floor above the cinema and food and drink. Lunch at a Thai and Khmer restaurant a few doors down was a caramelised pork cooked with Kampot pepper on a bed of rice.

P1140037Eating done it was down to the riverside, Sisowath Quay alongside the Tonle Sap River. The river coming down from the lake of the same name which is a marvel in itself and I will experience next month the river changing direction which is part of a water festival with boat races and fireworks, and three days off work!  The Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel and residences are in the background on the right across the river. P1140043The road alongside the river was fronted with a lot of tourist bars, pizzerias and other places interspersed with the Royal Palace I pictured here and the building on the left, which in the same post I expressed a total lack of knowledge about, I now discover is only Wat Ounalom, the headquarters of Cambodian Buddhism. Opposite the Royal Palace there was a pagoda and from here on the riverside became much more busy with Cambodians sitting by it, P1140054stalls selling food, little birds and flowers, the latter to be cast upon the waters.

Just after the last picture (right) the riverside ended with a restaurant then a big hall took up the space on the bank of the river opposite the Buddhist University. So, I wandered off and found a tuk-tuk and went to my local Lucky Supermarket to get stuff for my breakfast then walk home. A good day seeing some of the sights of Phnom Penh and getting to know the city better.


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