Phnom Penh is the “Next Prague”

So sayeth the New York Times in their most recent run-of-the-mill review of Phnom Penh by Stuart Emmerich, who managed to cover the town with his parachute still attached. On matters of eating, he lands a few blows to the doughy belly of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club (“undistinguished (at best), and the toothache-inducing fruity drinks should be passed up in favor of a cold bottle of Angkor Beer”) and displays a complete inability to do the most basic research on restaurants in this strange, foreign country:

For truly authentic Khmer cuisine, one must go to nameless little places all over town where you’ll spend less than a dollar — but it might not be advisable to ask just exactly what this meat you are eating is.

It’s whatever meat you ordered. And here’s a list of the names of 870 restaurants in Phnom Penh, all in English, from the Cambodian Yellow Pages. They shall not remain nameless.

See also: NY Times’ In Phnom Penh, Hopefulness Replaces Despair, Sihanoukville is the next Goa, Sihanoukville is the next Goa 2: Electric Boogaloo, Sihanoukville is the next Goa III: Beyond Thunderdome

9 thoughts on “Phnom Penh is the “Next Prague””

  1. Phil, Long time reader. First comment. I noticed this idiotic article this weekend. Surely a well written rebuttal would be worth it. I think you would be just the person to pen it. There are many places I can think of that deserve a mention over the FCC which any resident of Cambodia knows is a tired ripoff. Cheers.

  2. HDV – I’m working on it. More details to be revealed in the Chinese New Year. Thanks for commenting.

    I actually thought that the Cambodia Daily would have shown a bit of restraint and not republished the NYT article. Even they can do better than that.

  3. The tricky thing about that awful article in the Times is that there is no where to tell them it was awful! You have to choose if you are commenting on eating, sleeping or doing, so there’s no way to just say to the Times, This article was phoned in from the air-conditioned airport arrival lounge while wearing latex gloves to avoid touching the place. But then I thought, it’s probably better: all the NY yuppies will then go only to the FCC and the rest of Cambodia won’t have to put up with them. If that was the idea, then I applaud it. Or maybe, as the article put it, “Silence seems the only appropriate response.”

  4. Read this one in the IHT this morning. I haven’t been to PP for a couple of years, and it sounds like the place has really changed quite a bit since then.

    Now, it seems, PP is populated by mobile-phone toting fashionably dressed teens, clubgoers, Australians and Americans (and people speaking French, Korean, Japanese, and whatnot), and vendors. Tell me Phil, do any non-vending (and/or unfashionably dressed ie. barely-scraping-by) Cambodians live in PP anymore?

    I’d love to see what the NYT does with Manila.

  5. The IHT article is a reprint of the NYT.

    I do have a sneaking suspicion that the author didn’t actually come to Phnom Penh, and just summarised the Lonely Planet’s entry on PP with a little more irrelevant colour. Phnom Penh has certainly changed over the last few years (and in a select few places headed upmarket), but poor people here are still just as poor.

    As for the fashionably dressed local teens: they exist if badly pirated Mickey Mouse t-shirts and modded 75cc motorcycles are your idea of fashion. They’re referred to locally as “freshie boys” and “freshie girls”. There’s a bit about their fashion contests at http://www.nationalradio.com/tt_PPahJan06.shtml (which further down in the article also highlights that radio is now one of the sources of a nascent anti-Westerner sentiment (“some foreigners destroy any hope of building moral character in the country”)).

  6. how on earth did you find your way to that obscure corner of the webiverse? a truly confounding website. I like how under the heading of entertainment they only have one name: Brittany Spears.

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