Stickman Readers' Submissions March 20th, 2008

Delightful Cambodia – Delightful Phnom Pee

As I wander the Phnom Penh riverside with Norah, my delightful local lover, I notice new signs in the park between Royal Palace and the riverside: Dogs are now prohibited to pee – or walk – onto the grass.

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That's pointless: Very much unlike Thailand, Phnom Penh has no free roaming and almost no human-attached dogs – they all end up barbecued, via or not the local dog meat market.

In Phnom Penh, cute yapping Sokhafido and even well-kempt, western-owned Knackers are “tapas on legs”, as Bronwyn Sloan had it. Only few rich canine escape the grill party by private motorcycle.

Much more in need is another graphic sign I haven't seen so far: Prohibit the hawkers and beggars to pee into the park shrubs facing the Royal Palace. Actually, the bushes have been cut down recently, so there's less privacy and probably less bladder action there.

Or for that matter: Prohibit *any* public peeing in the capital. Phnom Penh's trees and walls are occupied with hordes of urinating Khmer males. It's not only rikshah drivers and other homeless: Uniformed students and well-dressed businessmen join the urban pack piss. Royal security enjoys a royal pee into royal roadside trees next to the outer Royal Palace wall. They don’t even look if you don’t look.

One time in Phnom Penh, when I watched a male gang pissing, I remembered a scene from the Indian Himalaya, the dramatic mountain road from Srinagar up into Ladakh: an army truck stopped, 100 brown-clad soldiers jumped out and lined up for an orderly mass pee down the gorge. But that’s 20 years ago.

Back to Phnom P. The lovely riverside promenade is unmatched by any other South East Asian town. Stroll along the meeting of mighty Mekong and mighty Tonle Sap rivers on a large esplanade, sit down on an inviting balustrade to look across the park to the magnificent Royal Palace, either in direct light in the morning or as an intriguing silhouette against the setting sun at dusk.

Lovely it could be. But Norah, my Khmer lady, cannot sit down with me on that inviting balustrade: The urine stench is too strong for her, and even hard-nosed I am very uncomfortable.

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The Phnom Pee riverside could be one the finest urban spots in all of South East Asia, an elegant breezy French-inspired promenade, lined by waterways, Royal Palace and nice colonial buildings.

"This should be the 'salon' of Phnom Penh or of all of Cambodia", Norah laments, "but they made a urinal out of it. Why don't police stop them."

There are absurd police squadrons yelling into megaphones that you can't park in restricted areas and may not litter. Dwarfs in khaki; no-one gives a hoot, and the place gets more rotten daily.

I say to Norah: "I haven't seen one, but according to the guide book, Manila in the Philippines now has official peeing walls."

She shudders.

"I read they are painted pink."

She shudders more.

I tell her that in the Phils I did watch guys pee onto garage doors and backsides of cars and busses, smack in the middle of big towns.

Poor Norah.

We walk away from the overwhelming Khmer urine stench and want to sit down at a less attractive, but also less odorous part of the riverside. But there lies a fat dead rat next to our planned location, or is it a small dog, scorned tapas, so we wander on again.

I remember a news report about a Phnom Penhois who was stopped peeing next to a market by local police. The pee itself had not been the problem. But obviously Cambodian law forbids pointing your peeing device towards the shopping crowd.

So reader beware.

Stickman's thoughts:

That's two submissions in one day where public peeing is mentioned. Obviously the Cambodian royalty isn't revered the same way Thai royalty is.

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