SHANTY HOUSES AND CRAMPED APARTMENTS were the norm in post-war Phnom Penh. People overflowed into the streets. To eat. To wash. To cry or fight or play. To Sit or trade. To cook and eat.
Backyards and comfy lounge chairs and privacy were simply not part of life. Naked toddlers ran through the muddy streets. Men sat and smoked. Peddlers came by with all manner of goods. Rough, not quite ready, unpaved, bumpy. Phnom Penh’s streets were a photographer’s playground.
I never owned a TV in Cambodia. No need.
There was always so much going on in the streets outside.
From my balcony, I had the daily rush hour at the pig market.
People's leisure time, work and even cooking was commonly done on the public side of the fence.
There was plenty of sights to make me do a double take.
The few paved streets were blighted by potholes. Drainage and garbage collection was sub-par, to say the least.
Rain would turn the streets to mud, and at the peak, streets were under water.
Lakes in the roads complicated life for the already challenged drivers.
Roadside markets set up where footpaths should have been.
Food stalls were found from the top of town to the shanty towns.
Hygiene standards were a bit iffy at many of these places, but I was quite partial to the roadside beverage stands.
Others fixed some wheels on their kitchen.
Some carried their shops on their heads.
Others balanced their wares in baskets strung from a bamboo pole.
With no space in their shacks, Khmers routinely cook outside in the street.
The finished goods make their way through town.
Of course it wasn't just food that made the rounds.
Earn some merit by buying a bird and releasing it (only to be caught again).
Water haulers were a common sight.
And in dusty old Phnom Penh, you can never have enough brooms.
You would have to wonder what a wandering broom vendor makes in a day.
Monks collecting alms is a staple of south east Asia, although Phnom Penh's streets don't make for classic backgrounds.
The sale of offerings outside Buddhist temples is often the domain of the homeless or disabled.
Even the barber shop is out on the street.
Traffic on the streets of Phnom Penh is some of the most hectic I have come across.
6 on a bike. Driving on the wrong side. No lights at night. A bike towing a car. Tractors, cyclos, wagons, carts, beasts of burden. All par for the course.
Bikes are pushed to their limits, passengers pushed into uncomfortable positions.
Roadside repairs and maintenance keep vehicles going.
Minor repairs like tyres are found on many street corners.
Petrol from Coke bottles was more common than proper petrol stations, but not as good for the engine.
The central Psar Thmei market was one of the many magnets for people and traffic.
Overloaded vehicles large and small pulled in and out throughout the day.
Like most good Asian markets, you could get all kinds of goodies. Army and police uniforms were openly sold, although guns and ammo were a bit harder to get.
Away from the main markets, vendors set up informal stalls on footpaths.
Or maybe just behind a bus?
One of the strangest things about returning to the west was the absence of street life.
The streets of Asia are filled with colour and life.
Resting under a bridge for lunch.
A mobile side-show game does the rounds of the shanties.
Has she bought that matt, or is she selling it? Or has she rolled up her home?
The streets of Phnom Penh where truly a place where sorrow meets joy.
The scars of war were everywhere to be seen it 1993, but progress was peeping through the cracks even then.