Sunday, October 30, 2011

Friday night, PP style.

Friday night revealed more interesting layers of Cambodian evening entertainment.
Ian, the scriptwriter on our project and host for the night, has spent several years living in Cambodia with his family.  In this time he has written several feature film scripts - and in the process of researching these, has grown a base of knowledge on Cambodian society's comings and goings. With Ian as our guide, we headed off into the warm night.  

First stop was a North Korean-owned and run restaurant. I wasn't aware of this, but these restaurants exist all over Asia. They serve several purposes apparently - to earn foreign dollars and launder any questionable income (see this article).    They also feature a strong team of hand picked talent from the homeland. 

In the past there have been moments of defection from the pretty waitresses shipped over to entertain the custom - causing the restaurant to shut its doors until an entirely new shipment of women can arrive.  The staff, talented, shining examples of North Korean womanhood, are drum playing, synchronized dancing, run to the door, adieu paying waitresses of immense talent and beauty.  No words could describe their particular recipe of bounce, steadfast smiles and karaoke bestowed upon their patrons.   

The night we were there found the AC system broken down, causing beads of pristine sweat to dot their perfect brows.  Regardless of the no camera policy, they allowed us to take their photographs in front of the many majestic painted murals that decorate the incessantly lit space.  There are no dark corners. 

The food was excellent, and I spent the rest of the time not eating, mouth agape in wonderment at the spectacle laid out before me.  No, I didn't partake of the dog soup, and instead delighted in spicy squid, Korean pancake and ice cold Angkor beer.   The groups of men around us grew ruddier, the ladies looked more weary, although they did do a sparkling job of keeping up the energy.  Where do they sleep I wonder?   The threat of defection must keep them under tight wraps. 

After dinner Ian had more to show us.  Onwards we went, to 'The Rock'.  No guns, no grenades, no knives.  I did however have a camera that I promised to not use in order to keep it on my person.  We were lead into the largest neon lit building I've yet to find here.  Walking over a water feature bridge, beautiful Khmer girls clasped their hands together in greeting and bowed.  Suited men guided us by torches into a massive antechamber of darkened booths. 

Taking our seats - the night was still young - the carpark had not been packed with four wheel drives yet - we sat back and listened to the crooning songs from the live band and endless line of singers- old, new, young, country, city.  The audience would leap up and dance and sit back down again.  Perhaps because we were the only barangs there,  a completely out of place bruce willis film began playing on a screen high above - reference to tits and guns - subtitled in English floated across the space.   The next song intersection, the audio visual material grew weirder - an 80s how to tango instructional film took its place while the band readied itself again for more Khmer pop.

Downing our drinks, Ian showed us around the rest of the massive building - VIP karaoke rooms hid muffled sounds, doors opened on lines of women sitting in benches, waiting to play hostess if the patrons required it.  Back further was a hotel you could book rooms by the hour, a movie cinema where you could get mid film massages and a now closed casino. Oh yes, and a sauna and jacuzzi for men.   Corridors and corridors of doors to rooms, dotted frequently by bowing staff.  Heading back into the familiar realms of the song hall, the beauty and surprising 60s influenced khmer pop rang on… 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

View from the bungalow

Drinks with new friends at the delightful floating bungalows - owned by a fellow Kiwi, the lovely George.

Hello summer

Can you feel the balmy Mekong heat?

Apocalypse Now

There's a beauty to the chaos. Of course it's only chaotic because I'm fresh off the boat, used to different rules, physically so different... But me, who responds to things I can't quite wrap my head around with a rather cinematic response, knows I'm already in love with the place on a particular level. The heat is bearable, it makes you glow and you can breathe through it. The people I'm working with are kind. The poverty is confronting. Welcome to Phnom Penh, baby.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cyprus 2011

The first few photos from Cyprus.  Chia, Stephanie and I, the land behind the gas station.