Phnom Penh: Shopfront and Streetlife study

Yesterday was pretty good. Gritty roads from the airport to civilisation were relieved by a tidy street of evening smell and colour. And I ate a frog.

I can't stay at a hotel for more than one night, so I've already booked in another, just to taste it. And I'm going to torture a man.

This chap. I've commissioned him, for life, to show me every street and shop in Phnom Penh.

This is his tuk-tuk and it is essentially a slow motorbike with a cabin on the back. 

But first we have to stop at the local fountain to pinch some water for his radiator.

Hey, look - they stole our Queen.

And they have angled car parking bays, like us, too.

You hear a lot about The French Architectural style here because of history and things like that, which means when you build a new building you are forced to quote 'the local vernacular' which is probably what this building is doing.

And the outcome is good. Someone built a sponge cake and then a proper patissiere has sculptured and decorated it afterwards.

OK, we're getting more shoppy now. I took this photo because I thought 'Ha! Elephant!'.

Only later did I read it more closely.

French vernacular.

I should definitely leave the food photography to the experts, but I want to develop a pathology of photographing everything I eat, like the wrongly-accused savant caught with a murder weapon in his barn, brought to us by Midsomer Barnaby.

Moving on, Mr Tuk-tuk.

Pyjama ladies 1 & 2.

Due to the horrific, international oppression of men, only women are allowed to wear comfortable and colourful clothes to work.


End of Part 2

Here's a tip. Wherever you are, ask to be shown the embassy precinct.

Here you'll always find the best residential architecture.

If you're a diplomat you're always going to justify being in the part of town where people don't hack your arm off with a rusty KA-BAR.

And because you're 1,500 miles away from the taxpayer who is funding your party, you can always pretend that you are.

So if you get a chance to go to a party with Barack Obama and U2's Bonobo and advance your career in media and politics, put your hand up for this important, diplomatic work.

If it's a funeral for Nelson Mandela - even better. You'll be under no pressure to politically perform for your country so you can just get drunk and slip Oprah Winfrey your business card.


Go backwards to Part 1

Another Stunning Hanoian Streetscene

I have written earlier about my attraction to this city and these types of scenes.  I am still wrestling with the simple words that explain why.

Building widths, from left to right: 2.89m, 2.37m 2.41m, 3.04m (9'6", 7'9", 7'10", 10')

I think it's interesting how colours are all from the same palette.  They're similar, but different.

Worth noting that texture and materials play a role, I think.  Paint (not sure what sort it is) on plaster gives this sensational finish.

All good, but perhaps unrealstic to replicate in my city?  Mainteance costs (plaster!) can be a killer.

Above: Nguyen Sieu, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Below: To the far left of the picture you can see a side-by-side comparison of the new vs the old.

Stunning French Buildings?

I have been racking my brain, trying to work out what it is within this city that I respond to so strongly.  I think I am going to create some new categories to help me:

  • residential,
  • colour,
  • architecture (or something) and
  • decoration.

We all argue about quaint or quirky villages, and we'd probably both agree that Hanoi has this appeal - I mean, just look at it.

But what is it exactly?  We want to replicate, and not waste time with junky buildings, so what is it about these that is so fantastic?

I have already created a skinny column, so you can check that out.

I just want to post these, and I'm sure I'll work out what the magic charm is soon.

In the meantime, I distill it to this:

  • Colour - and the right colours.  Unfortunately, beautiful patina requires an age to appear (or does it?)
  • Shape/Form/Decoration/Texture:  Buildings have hundreds of shapes.  For some reason, some cities shows off thousand of edges and walls and window sills and forms.  We all know a huge clunky building has one massive wall and a little bit more.

I guess I am appreciating 'detail' but I want to find out the detail of the detail.