Cambodia Blog

































      Click on any date to view


This trip has been quite eventful - I started it as a holiday and during this holiday I decided to move to Cambodia permanently !

First was a bus from Pakse to Kompong Cham ( half-way to Phnom Penh ) where I checked into a new guest house and then had a haircut the next day at Mekong Haircuts. I had a Vietnamese facial - no wet jellyfish this time just a thick, cold layer of cream after the abrasive rub. More expensive than in Laos, however it is a different level of luxury and treatment. After the make-over I went to Destiny Coffee House for some humus - I had been thinking about their great humus during the previous year - but they didn't have any ! The night market has also disappeared. A minivan to Phnom Penh cost only $2.50. Swiftly installed in Yung Hout guest house for the weekend and then off to Koh Kong

Olympic transport bus to Phnom Penh for only $7 - stops near Olympic Stadium - motorbike-taxi driver spoke Thai ( rare in Phnom Penh ) - back to Yung Hout

A few days in Phnom Penh and then off to Kratie. Bus was $8.75 - left at 10:00 am - arrived at Kratie at 4:45pm - Star guest house was full - looked at rooms in You-Hong 2 guest house - horrible pokey box $5 and a bit better for $7 - still not good. Stayed at HengHeng 2 guest house - very nice spacious room for $8 - also good balcony with Mekong river view. This guest house has an LCD TV with movies on HBO in English ( with Vietnamese subtitles ) - also news channels BBC, CNN - and RT ( Russian TV in English ) and AlJazeera for more interesting reporting. Internet is a bit on-and-off so the TV is nice.

Strolling along the riverbank I noticed many young Pa-Yoong trees – all the trees have a sign with their Latin classifications which is a nice touch I have not seen outside of Kew Gardens.
Went to see Katie University of Management and Economics ( U.M.E. ) They have a job for me teaching English and it would be a good way of learning Khmer. My resume from teaching English in Bangkok seemed to satisfy them !

Bought a ticket to Pakse for $20
Went to the riverside at dusk and there were some kids in a toy car. I noticed it had pretty coloured LED lights on the wheels and one boy was in the front and two more in the back. They seemed happy enough sitting in their toy car and then it started moving so it was an electric toy car. I have seen a similar toy car – but without the LED lights – in Tung Wai ( Laos ) and the kids were playing beside the dirt road. Here they were on the raised pavement of the riverside and the small boy driving it stopped at the kerb where it drops down to the main road. Some adult Cambodians were watching this and I thought they would tell the boy driving not to go into the main road as it was too dangerous. Anyway the toy car made for the kerb and went over it without problem then stopped in a parking space at the side of the road. The Cambodians didn't seem concerned and the young driver looked confident. Then it reversed and straightened up so it was facing directly across the road. I was surprised it had reverse and the very small boy driving it could use reverse to do a manoeuvre as in a three-point turn. Then suddenly it started off to cross the road. There was a break in the traffic and a motorbike rode beside them as a safety measure. It was good to see young kids getting used to traffic at an early age, but I was surprised at such small kids being let loose on a main road.
They made it to the other side and proceeded down a side street. I asked the adults how old the driver was ( my Khmer is quite OK for things like that ) - he was 5 years old ! That is quite young to be on the road (?) - isn't it ? ( The youngest motorbike rider I have heard about in Cambodia was 8 years old ) There are rows and rows of motorbikes outside primary ( and secondary ) schools in Cambodia and they belong to the students – not the teachers.
After that I saw a woman helping her toddler cross the road and I noticed that the woman was holding a drip ( intravenous infusion bag ) in her hand, but not high enough for it to be any use. Then I noticed that it wasn't going into her arm, but into the toddler's arm ! The kid was walking a bit unsteadily, but not unnecessarily so considering his age and was tethered to his mother by the drip ! That might look a bit bad in the West (?) but is not exceptional here : passengers on motorbikes with drips held up high on poles are quite common – sometimes they have a black plastic bag over the drip bag to keep it warm ( on those rare occasions when the air temperature drops below blood heat ! ) - and I once saw a masseuse going into the massage parlour with a drip attached to her arm ! In Kratie they have " open-air " hospitals : a shop without a front that opens onto the street and half a dozen beds inside where the sick , all on drips and surrounded by their family, can recover for as long as they can afford. Mostly they are de-hydrated so a little saline doesn't hurt. I didn't take any photos of these hospitals - they would probably look squalid out of context, although here they give emergency treatment and the patients have the support of family and any friends that wander in off the street to see them. Once they can walk they are sent off home to recuperate - drips and all !

Back to Tung Wai for a 30 day stint - a lot of work to do - It is freezing and I want to be back in Cambodia !

3rd March 2016

Back in Kratie with a 30-day business visa it is warm and happy ! I will be teaching English at the University so went on a hunt for an apartment - I found one the first day ! There are single rooms ( with bathroom ) for rent opposite the University for only $40 a month but they are too small. Checked out an apartment block halfway between the University and the riverside - very nice ! I have a big double bedroom with en-suite bathroom/toilet, a living room that opens onto the veranda, kitchen and another bathroom and toilet all for $70 a month - water and electric is extra. My apartment is fan-cooled and next-door is an air-con apartment. WiFi covers the lower floors ( I am on the 3rd floor ) at present. I can get high-speed Internet on the third floor for $60 one-time connection fee and then $11 a month.


These are the Post-Office Boxes at Kratie Post Office - so if you send me a letter this is where it ends up. They even phone me when a letter arrives ! They know me - so, as soon as I enter the post office, I am handed the letter - no ID check or questions - and I don't even have to ask for the key ! Can't be many foreigners using this service ?

Minibus to Phnom Penh ( I was not driving (!) - left-hand-drive in Cambodia ) Notice the scooter stuffed in behind me.

I had a $10 taxi ride to Koh Kong and delivered a silver-point drawing from Felix to the Abbot of the Temple

A Super Tuk-Tuk in Koh Kong - made from a DaeWoo Tico - 796cc three-cylinder engine


On the way to Koh Kong saw a big-bike rally - lots of Harleys

Motorbikes over 150cc are illegal in Laos ! Nice to see big bikes in Cambodia with no silly restrictions. Bikes l25cc or less don't need drivers license - no minimum age restriction either.

This Triumph Bonneville was outside Central Market - a rare sight now. 



April 13th to 16th 2016 Cambodian New Year

Phnom Penh was almost deserted - everyone had gone home - in this street scene the car is an Aston Martin ( expensive for Cambodia ) I had a fruit shake at this restaurant.


 It was very hot in Phnom Penh and 37 degrees in the shade when I got back to Kratie. Central India was over 45 degrees ! Cloudless skies and no sign of any rain. New Year is a water-throwing festival in Thailand, but nothing much here - maybe they are conserving water ? Very few tourists around and they hang out at the riverside restaurants. Away from the riverside the shops were mostly closed and the remaining hookers at Sorya Mall ( unkindly called Sorya Zoo ! ) were desperately trying to out-slut each other - thinking this is what tourists like !!? If they dressed a bit more conservatively they would get more customers.

Walkabout Pub ( Australian ) - this really is " last chance bar ! " This pub has now closed down.

My computer died ! I had left it behind, undisturbed, sitting on the table of the front room while I went to Phnom Penh and when I got back it would no longer work ! It is only two years old, but quite an old model – sold cheap because of that. Anyway a computer shop nearby had some spare parts – the Hard Disc Drive had expired – and with a $2 bootleg copy of Windows 7 it was soon going again. The shop owner complained that it was pre-historic – and a replacement Hard Disc expensive because they are hard to find these days : total cost was $20 which is a fraction of the cost of repair in the UK.

When I was in Koh Kong my camera seized up as well ! Until then it had been working flawlessly and taking great pictures and then my Thai friend said I should take another photo including the Monks – it jammed and stopped working. So he concluded that maybe I shouldn't have photographed the Monks ! Later he tried to make a video of the Temple dance performance and his smartphone would not do it ! He is an expert with his smartphone so this is most unusual. Strange things happen at that Temple. Back in Phnom Penh I bought a small screwdriver and was able to fix the camera – from the Internet it seems it is a common design fault with the lens on this model camera and Sony usually charge $70 to repair it – even if under guarantee – which is a bit naughty as it is a design fault. I might have to get a new lens if the problem persists - so far it is OK.

Now into the second month of living in my apartment and it is so comfortable here. I have just finished reading George Orwell's "Burmese Days" and I love the 1920's language. A very entertaining book – Burma was considered part of India then and the English women, who were posted there, kept complaining that everything was "simply beastly" – don't know what they would have thought about Cambodia in the 1920's ? The set books for the English Literature course at the University are "Romeo & Juliet" and "The Good Earth" ( John Steinbeck ? ) which I think is very unfair on the students – too difficult for them and something more up-to-date would be more appropriate. I complained that the English book for the first-year students was very bad : it is called "Listening and Speaking" and relies on a tape ( really ! ) which they are supposed to listen to and then answer the questions. Trouble is there is no tape and, even if there was, no speakers or sound equipment in the classrooms. All the course books are photocopies and the students have to buy them. They have one sound system, but it is very big and only used for parties ! They also have a language lab with headphones and mikes, but it doesn't work and cannot be used ! When I first went for an interview, they asked me if I had course books and I said I hadn't thinking they would want to use their own material approved by the Ministry of Education – however it turns out that they really want me to get some decent course material and will reimburse me if I can buy some better books in Phnom Penh – shouldn't be too hard : the present books are hopeless ! Year two "Core English" is a bit better, but too much slang from English newspapers in it. Year three "Global Studies" is way too hard for them, but it deals with Science & Technology and War & Terrorism so I can have fun teaching them ! The books are English English not American English – and surprisingly anti-America. The section on modern  technology has such recent developments as the Record Player, Tape Recorder, Portable CD Player, Walkman, Cassette-Tape Player, Fax Machine and Floppy Discs – all obsolete years ago. I pointed this out to the other lecturers – they didn't know – and they all agreed I should get them some new books and write a syllabus. So my teaching is very loosely based on the books and I do what I always did in Bangkok when teaching – wing it ! The students like a real English native-speaker as the Khmer teachers have trouble with pronunciation of some words. The Khmer teachers are very friendly, unlike in Bangkok where the Thai teachers hated the foreigners and sometimes had fist-fights with them ! If I pointed out appalling grammatical errors that the Thai teachers had written on the whiteboards they would respond with "You foreigners don't know grammar !" 

The strangest things happen here – one day I was walking to the university in my teacher's clothes : business shirt, black shoes and tie etc. and a "Tuk Tuk" pulled up beside me and the driver said, in Khmer, that he was going past the university and I should get in as he wouldn't charge me. A bit strange as they never give free rides and will overcharge if they can get away with it. Also how did he know I was going to UME (university of management and economics) ? I said I was walking, but he was insistent and it was a hot day – I vaguely recognized him and thought "what the hell – if I pay him it is only about 50p and often they really need the money" – so I got in and when we arrived he absolutely refused any payment and gave me his business card with phone number. So if I ever go to see any of the local tourist spots I will choose him. The walk takes 15 minutes and is fine at 7:00 am when the sun is not too hot, but I have two classes that start at 2:00 pm and the sun is fierce then. One other thing surprises me : he recognized me from when he took me to UME the first time from the riverside hotel I was staying in and I was wearing similar clothes then. That was over a month ago, but what is stranger still is that he recognized me from a back view. ( is my bald patch that big ? ) Another time I was going home from UME and the riverside Tofu seller shouted "Hello" to me as she drove by ( she has a mobile shop fixed onto a motorbike ) She has never seen me in teaching clothes – only in tourist jeans and T-shirt – and this was in the dark after 8:30 pm ! The next time I went for Tofu she asked me in Khmer where I was going that night so she knew it was me. A few times UME staff or students have stopped to give me a lift - the other night a lecturer stopped on his motorbike and said 'do you know me ?' in English. I didn't because it was dark and he had a full-face crash helmet on. I was wearing black T-shirt and jeans - don't know how he knew it was me in the dark ? He offered me a lift, but I was out walking for the exercise. This shows what a small place this is and how friendly the Khmer are.

At night I have noticed searchlights sweeping the sky in well-defined arcs – never in the same location for more than two nights – sometimes one and sometimes three or more from the same origin. They are quite bright and will illuminate low clouds when there are any. I thought they might be something to do with the military, but it turns out they are from Cambodian weddings ! Weddings here are lavish affairs with rented Marquee tents, lights, tables and chairs for the hundreds of guests, mobile kitchens to feed them, bands with singers and dancers and a big generator to power everything ( electricity supply not all that reliable ) They cost around $5,000 and the bridegroom must also give a dowry to the bride's family – like in Thailand. I have seen cheaper, scaled-down versions in the villages, but even so they must be financially crippling for the average Cambodian. The big ones go on for two days with Monks chanting away and everyone getting drunk and stuffed full of food. I don't think I could stand that even if I could afford it – thank god they have registry offices in the UK where it can be over and done with in five minutes ! Not that it is at all necessary in the UK – even unusual these days to get married – but here the well-off, middle-class Cambodians must have the socially-acceptable seal-of-approval of a traditional marriage ceremony.

 18th April 2016
39 degrees in Kratie today – no sign of any rain – I have started sleeping outside on the veranda as it is cooler and better than in the bedroom with fan on all night. It is supposed to be cooler tomorrow ? I am sleeping East to West as it is not wide enough for my usual North to South, however I slept very well last night and even felt slightly cold (!) just before dawn which a single sheet was enough to remedy – it is a novelty feeling cold here ! Never happens in the bedroom. The next-door apartment is now occupied, but they have the air-conditioning on constantly so don't open the doors to the veranda as it would let hot air in. So I still have the veranda to myself and have not met them yet. I could sleep North to South upstairs on the roof – there is plenty of space – but it is heated by the sun and probably still hot at night to sleep on. So far no mosquitoes – I am sure that will change in the rainy season. There are never any mosquitoes in Phnom Penh – the air is much too toxic !!! Koh Kong has lots of very persistent mosquitoes and ( herbal ) insect repellant is necessary. Towels are not needed in this heat – after a shower to cool off I am cool for only a minute then dry and hot again. The rainy season will be a welcome change. No tourists either – they have all fled to the sea – Sihanoukville – and I seem to be the only long-nose foreigner here. It rained that same night and cooled things off a bit !

No more rain - very hot ( 41 degrees at one point ) and so nice to sleep outside. I am teaching six days a week now and only have a holiday on Fridays. I recently found out that there is no entrance exam for this university and some students can hardly write their own name ( presumably in English - if they cannot write in Khmer that is really a bit weak for a university student ! ) Most students are attentive, but some only sit at the back of the class room and gaze vacantly around and cannot be persuaded to utter a word. This is the experience of the Cambodian teachers also - it is not just fear of a foreign teacher. There are two volunteer Australian women teachers here who belong to some organisation and teach for free just for the experience - god knows why ? Maybe they are not yet confident enough to apply for a paying job ? All the other teachers are male.

I have met two other ex-pats in Kratie : one is the Spanish owner of Tokae Restaurant ( Tokae is meant to be 'Took-Gaer ' - the name and sound of a large and noisy lizard - I have chased one out of my apartment on two occasions ! ) and he has been here for four years, but can hardly speak Khmer. His excuse is that there are no Spanish-Khmer dictionaries so he has to translate what he wants to say first into English then from English into Khmer - in his head - then  speak - and his English is not very good either !  This is the ' Took-Gaer ' upside-down on the ceiling of my apartment. Took-Gaers are VERY noisy and would frighten the life out of you if one started up in the middle of the night ! Jing-Jocks are much smaller and quieter and are supposed to eat flies - they are often inside the apartment and do not bother me.

Another uninvited guest was this strange beetle with very long antennae - it was inside my headphone amplifier ! Notice the wicked-looking jaws !


The other ex-pat is the American owner of the River Dolphin Hotel - a large hotel very near my apartment. He is very friendly and must be rich !!

This bird house is in the nearby Temple. Something you would never see in Laos where the Lao have massacred and eaten most of the bird population. I walk through the Temple on my way to the market.


 28th April 2016

Last night there was a big tropical storm - very strong winds and I thought my mosquito net would get blown away ! I gave up trying to sleep outside until the storm finished. A lot of silent lightning again. The next day all was dry and hot again. However, it turned out that the lightning was not all  silent : one student was killed by the lightning and her mother is in hospital - the university organised a collection for the family. Two days later there were strong winds and the silent lightning again - but no rain. Some trees along the riverside were uprooted in the storm - pictures on 'Kratie - homebase' page.

I prepared the mid-term exam for the third-year students using Microsoft Word and the staff copied it onto their computer ( which has the 'short-cut' virus ! so I have to use USB-Fix to clean my memory stick before I open it on my computer ! ) and they were amazed that the columns and tables were justified neatly and they asked me how I did it ! I am absolutely useless at Word, but it justifies automatically when you use 1) or a) and I thought every-one would know this ? It is satisfying to know that there are people who are worse at Word than I am !!!

This is the hairdressing shop I go to in Kratie


She is half-half Vietnamese and Cambodian - and very talkative - I can gradually understand more and more of what she is saying ! Viets generally speak Khmer a bit slower and are easier to understand - except for the Vietnamese accent, of course, if they have one.

This shop has now closed down - I need a new one !

 She was complaining that they have traffic laws in Vietnam : If there is a passenger on a motorbike, they both have to wear crash-helmets and only one passenger is allowed. In Cambodia you can have four or five on a motorbike, no problem ! If there is a crash-helmet law here, no-one takes much notice of it.

Some interesting superstitions and observations of Cambodia :

The lucky number is 168 ( from the Chinese )

A pregnant woman must not look at a solar eclipse, eat and/or drink while walking and must do her chores as quickly as possible !

The idiom for giving birth is ' crossing the river '  ( ?! )

The literal translation of 'Purple' is mango colour ( mangoes are green or else yellow ?! ) - and 'Syphylis' is 'mango disease'  ( I still like mangoes ! )

The colours green and blue are used interchangeably as the Cambodians think they are close enough !

They use the word 'Riel' for both Riel and  Dollars - so there are 4000 Riel in a Riel !!  

Light switches ( rocker switches ) here are all fitted upside down. What would be 'on' by convention is actually 'off ' and vice-versa. 

On a walk to the riverside I noticed what appears to be a home-made acetylene generator and oxygen tank as a welding kit. I remember making acetylene from calcium carbide and water hundreds of years ago when I was at school ! It used to really stink. Does somebody still produce calcium carbide then ? Must be the Viets or the Chinese ? Other garages have bigger, more professional versions.


These kids were hanging around the riverside - and great fun to practice speaking Khmer with. I gave them 5000 Riel ( $1.25 )

- and in a less-serious mood .....


 This is one of the many mobile shops here - pity the small motorbike struggling under the weight of that lot !


This is one of the many strange home-made vehicles in Cambodia - can be driven on any road without a license plate or any documents ! I don't know if the 3000 litre tank holds water, sewage or petrol !




 20th May 2016

Just back from a swift visit to Laos. The trip went very well considering I had so much heavy luggage. No inspection at the border : a Cambodian helped me by carrying the two big bags ( easily 30 kgs each ) on his motorbike across the 'no-mans land' between the Laos and Cambodian checkpoints. He didn't care what was in them (!) and was very happy for $3. Otherwise it would have been a one-kilometre struggle. Now I have my desktop computer  and widescreen monitor here as well as lots of tools, equipment and other things to keep me busy.

Laos was still cold ( in May !! ) and it is now raining every day in the mountains with heavy cloud cover. So nice to be back in Cambodia. My Khmer is good enough to give precise instructions to the bus driver so he can stop the bus exactly outside my apartment rather than at the riverside bus stop - very handy  ! 


 Coming back from Laos, I notice how colourfully people dress in Cambodia compared with the drab colours in Laos. In Laos the women usually wear skirts made from the same traditional cloth – woven-in patterns, but boring, drab colours. Expensive silk skirts in vibrant colours are available and worn on special occasions so rarely seen. It must be Peer Pressure that makes them conform to the accepted national-dress code of the communist ideal. In the villages they still wear the same skirts and the drab colours have faded from repeated washing. The women wear Vietnamese conical hats and trousers when working in the fields for practical reasons, but soon change back to the Lao skirts. Cambodians never wear Vietnamese hats as there is still distrust of the Viets even though Vietnam saved Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge.
Cambodia, however, is very colourful with bright, saturated colours everywhere. Purple and bright red seem to be the most popular – I saw one boy with a purple shirt and purple hair to match ! He could probably get arrested for doing that in Laos ! If you will pardon the stereotype of a 'National Psyche', then in Laos it would be 'Paranoid and Conformist' (conform to the lazy and drunk norm!)
Cambodia is more like 'Liberated and Happy' ( happy that the civil war and genocide of the 'Pol Pot' era is over and liberated from government meddling – Cambodia is so de-regulated and police are conspicuous by their absence. ) Thailand is more 'Sleazy and Devious' and desperately trying to be American. What would England be ? 'Reserved and Proper ?'
As usual in Asia, all the big businesses and investment projects are in the hands of the Chinese who dress smartly in designer clothes and are clearly in a class of their own.
While waiting in Pakse (Laos ) before returning to Cambodia, I decided to investigate 'Delta Coffee Shop' which is highly recommended by the travel guides as having the best European food. I ordered a fruit salad – thinking it must be good as it was so over-priced at $3 (!) It was not good. Imported apple, pear and grapes and the white, tasteless dragon fruit ( the red dragon fruit is much better ) from Vietnam. No bananas, pineapple or mango ! ( local fruits that the Lao can grow well ) They might just as well have opened a can of mixed-fruit cocktail and dumped it on a plate.
I had no time to go to the market and nothing to eat after the first day teaching back in Kratie so I went to a nearby hotel – River Dolphin – and ordered a veggie burger ( tofu and mushroom ) with choice of French fries or salad. I chose the salad option, but it arrived with French fries – I mentioned this but never mind : they were nicely done and complete with a bowl of tomato ketchup. However, there was no cutlery with which to eat the meal and I asked for some in Khmer. I heard the restaurant manager talking to the waiter about me – she was not happy with the mistake – and the waiter returned with a big bowl of salad and said 'sorry for the mistake, it was our fault and the salad is on the house !' I know the owner of that hotel – an American – and, by now, they possibly know who I am as there are so few ex-pats here – anyway, it was smiles all round, and an excellent meal for $3. The only decent food in Pakse is at Jasmin Indian restaurant – I had a Malai Koptha ( tofu, cashew nuts and raisins made into balls – in spicy curry sauce ) and home-made yoghurt ($2.25) Excellent food, but made by Indians – the Lao don't really understand vegetarian food or even how to make a curry.
The rainy season has arrived with terrific storms and I have been looking for an umbrella without success – there were some poor quality ones in Laos, but I want a folding one so it will fit in my backpack. The Cambodians don't seem to use umbrellas much : when the rain is really heavy, no-one in their right mind would go outside anyway – excepting those with cars. When the worst of the rain has finished, they walk about and ride motorcycles, without umbrellas or rain coats, in the light rain and don't seem that much bothered by it. I went out in the light rain wearing my plastic poncho and, except for two or three, no-one was using an umbrella or wearing rain-ware.

I had to go out to buy some tofu ( a big street meal-to-go for $1 ) and all the Cambodians seemed puzzled by some-one wearing rain-ware in the rain – whatever next ??!!! Admittedly, the rain is not cold and, as long as you don't actually mind being out in it, it's not going to do you much harm. When it stops you will soon dry off. The little kids are not bothered by light rain at all and like to play in the rain. I suppose the rain is about the same temperature as the cold (!) water of the shower – which is not cold and quite enjoyable on a hot day. So, if your clothes would normally get washed upon returning home, it's no problem for the clothes and just like being under the shower - except outdoors.
I had a few days holiday so I went to Phnom Penh to do some shopping. I went to 'Bamboo Market' which has practically everything you could imagine – except for umbrellas, it seems. In Khmer, 'Bamboo Market' is P'sar O'Russei ( Psar means market – and also welding (!) Russei means bamboo and, not as I first thought, Russian – there is a 'Russian Market', but that is at another location – it is also an exceptionally good market ) – if you had the time, it would be possible to spend days wandering around these markets and still not see everything.
It was lightly spitting with rain all day and I didn't bother about it like the Cambodians. I didn't see any-one using an umbrella or wearing a raincoat either. I had left my plastic mac in Kratie as, if you do get caught in a shower in Phnom Penh, there are so many places that you suddenly have the excuse to drop into and check out. It has changed since my last visit a couple of months ago : more shops and bars closed down and demolished and new construction everywhere. I went to 009 Restaurant for tofu. This place has vastly improved since moving to a new location and now has a menu in English. Tofu is not on the menu, but I can order it in Khmer. They think it is hilarious that a foreigner should eat there and are very friendly. Last year they would serve me in a styrofoam box, thinking I would eat it somewhere else. This time it came on three plates – one of Tofu, one of salad, and one of lightly pickled vegetables ( thin slices of hard green tomato, carrot and cabbage ) However, the plates were covered with a plastic bag first with the food on top, so if I wanted it 'to go' I could easily lift the bagged food off the plates. The salad came with chunks of ice to keep it cool – there was a big jug of peanut sauce and another smaller one of strong chilli. The price of this delicious meal including a bottle of water and glass of ice ? 75 cents ( 50p ) It is hard to believe how cheap and good Khmer street food is – much cheaper than in Laos. Very few tourists now the rains have started and when I checked into my usual hotel, I was given the key to my favourite room without having to ask or show my passport. There is a good book shop in Phnom Penh and they now have all the George Orwell books at $3 each for new ( Penguin ) editions. So now I have 'Down and out in Paris and London' and '1984' ( this last book I also have on the computer, but a paper version is nicer ) I finished re-reading 1984 ( the last time I read it must have been 50 years ago ! ) and it is surprisingly accurate :
• The surveillance society : 'telescreens' on the walls for government surveillance – most people have now done that to themselves these days : the social media – facebook etc. – are an open invitation for the authorities to keep track of your connections and you can be 'guilty by association' without knowing it. Almost every-one has a mobile phone and an APP can be easily downloaded and installed in it so that it will record everything you say – and take pictures or video, if it has a camera – even when you think it is switched off – and then later send them to another computer. These surveillance APPs are not generally available to the public, but I heard of some-one who made money in Thailand by installing them on phones belonging to the wives of jealous husbands. The women didn't know they were installed on their phones or that their husbands could snoop on them ! I don't see how facebook can have made $48 billion, without advertising, if it were not government funded. The anonymous Tor browser for the dark web is 60% funded by the U.S. Navy for instance.
• Although the Americans control the Internet, they allow the illicit trade on the dark web – why ? So that they can keep track of it, maybe ?
• Mobile phones can relay your exact location and keep track of your movements. Even better if your phone has GPS.
• All emails and phone conversations are recorded by GCHQ and the American Echelon project. Computers continuously trawl through these conversations for 'key words.'
• Political parties are meaningless – it is all the same whatever party you think is in control – the real control and power is by corporations like the Rothschilds, the military-industrial complex and Big Oil etc.
• Wars are still necessary for the weapons industry and are promoted by the super-powers - mainly America.
• Advertising propaganda and the media brainwash the population into thinking the ideal society should be based on continuous economic growth so we should spend our lives, in debt, working to buy things we don't really need and can't afford. Unsustainable !
An individual can do very little to change the system – voting is not going to help – if you make waves you will be labeled a terrorist.
• There was a story on Google this week about a six-year old boy who phoned 999 and reported his father to the police for running a red light. It's happening already !
All that paranoia seems a million miles away – here in Cambodia.

I went and returned by minibus - $5 for a 250 km trip that takes nearly 5 hours. A very successful expedition – I have more electronic spare parts now to finish some projects – I did think it would be easy to buy an umbrella though !
Just as there are 99p and Pound shops in London, so there are '42p'shops in Cambodia. Everything is 2,500 Riel - 42p - many items are Vietnamese and of quite reasonable quality considering the low price. Practically the same as Pound shops for many things : I bought a screwdriver for 42p and it said it was made in Japan and is of good quality. However, I bought a hammer for the same price and the head sheared off the steel shaft the very first time I used it ! Real rubbish. Cell-phone chargers usually cost $3 in a phone shop, but they have identical ones in the 2,500 Riel shops ( about a fifth of the price ) and they seem to work just as well. The $3 ones are not that good – the first one I bought blew up after a month and I had to repair the second one when it died.
When I started this letter, I had just returned from Laos with my desktop computer and big-screen monitor. I wanted to say how nice it was using a ' proper ' computer rather than the laptop – but the experience was short-lived as the big screen died after only a matter of days in Cambodia ! I went to Phnom Penh to the LG service center and, it being 1st May, the service engineer was taking his May-Day holiday. In the meantime I have bought a second-hand monitor from the local computer shop for $33 ( about £ 20 ) and it is working OK and will last me until the next trip to Phnom Penh. It is an old IBM ( LCD ) monitor - a quality piece of kit in its day. I have to go again soon to get some shoes. My black shoes from Thailand were starting to come apart so I bought a pair in the town here for $15 ( came down from the starting price of $27 ! ) I thought they were expensive, but they looked nice, fitted well, seemed to be made of leather, even smelled of leather – however, they turned out to be made of paper and plastic and are falling apart after only two weeks ! So I will have to look in a big department store in Phnom Penh and get some that will last. ( No department stores here ) They look like the uppers are stitched onto the soles, but the stitching is fake and they are just glued on with not-very-good glue. The Chinese are very clever at making imitation leather out of papier mache – I would not like to be caught out in the rain wearing them : you would be walking along with puddles of mush on your feet !

In George Orwell's opinion, beggars despise their benefactors – I think this very much depends on the class of beggar. Up until Khmer New Year, there were a few regular beggars who patrolled the market area in Kratie – they were always cheerful and the shopkeepers would support them. Then at New Year they all disappeared ( went home ? ) and I have not seen most of them since. Only a couple were disabled. In Phnom Penh there are always terribly- disabled beggars : one with no arms below the elbows and no legs below the knees ( land mine explosion ? ) He smiles and seems as happy as he can be. Another has arms, but no legs at all. They have wheel-chair contraptions they get around with. They remember me : after having given them a dollar, if they see me again that same day, I speak to them in Khmer and they wave, smile and say they remember. Other professional beggars are not disabled, look well fed, and have the obligatory rented ( and sedated ) baby in their arms. They are pushy and not friendly. I don't support them. On the last trip, I noticed a woman and her daughter sitting on the pavement by the side of the road – right on the kerb facing the traffic. This was on Monivong Boulevard ( the biggest main road ) just past the expensive car showrooms with Rolls Royce, BMW, Ferrari, Range Rover etc. She looked most dejected as if she didn't know what to do next. Possibly she was waiting for some-one ??? I continued past them and stopped at the vegetarian restaurant for tofu. Then, a short time later, I saw them outside the restaurant looking at me. I called her over – she was obviously hard up and had her clothes and possessions in plastic bags. I gave her $5 and she started crying – I have never seen this reaction before or since – I gave her small daughter some Khmer money and they bought a bag of ice cubes with Chinese tea poured in – both of them were thirsty, but they didn't want to eat in the restaurant. A few minutes later they returned and she asked me what the $5 note was – she had never seen dollars before - it is worth 20,000 Riel so is a good donation. A very shy and timid woman – hope her luck changes. Months ago I saw another woman in Phnom Penh - heavily pregnant and with two small children - husband was dead and she didn't know what else to do. They are invariably very shy and insecure. With no state aid, begging maybe their best option.

A few days later, back in Kratie, I was walking along the pavement during light rain and spotted some bank notes lying on the ground. This is not so unusual : I once found 1,500 Riel in the street in Phnom Penh and the same again here. For a poor person this is the cost of a meal and I donate it to a good cause. This time the notes were quite damp from the rain – probably stopped them blowing away in the wind – and I shoved them in my pocket without taking much notice. Later I discovered they were four 10,000 Riel notes – which is $ 10 ! - not bad ! I cannot help wondering, if I had not given that woman $5, would I have still found the money ? Sometimes I receive 100 Riel notes in change and they are not much use on their own – 100 Riel buys a small Scotchbrite pad or some sweets – they take up pocket space and so I save them up and donate them. One day I donated 300 Riel ( new notes ) – for sweets – and then, returning home, noticed more brand-new 100 Riel notes lying in the street. There had been a Chinese ceremony for some-one who had died and the streets were littered with gold-coloured paper that they burn to ensure prosperity in the afterlife. They also burn paper effigies of cars and planes (!) and gold bars – symbolic rather than accurate representations. Apparently they burn 100 Riel notes too and I collected exactly three notes that had escaped. So, having donated three, I had three more within a couple of hours. It is hard to resist picking up cash money from the street EXCEPT when they are American $100 bills. These are always fake – bundles of new $100 notes and sometimes other denominations are sold in the market for burning. I have seen a $million note – and that is so obviously intended as joke money that it would be possible to take some through an airport without getting arrested. I would not want to do that with the fake $100 burning money as they would not believe that wads of these notes – and they look real upon superficial inspection – are freely available in every market. This does make it slightly harder to pay with genuine $100 notes – they are scrutinized minutely before they are accepted ! It is not at all unusual to see intact and slightly burnt $100 notes lying in the street and no-one would make the slightest effort to check them out. In the unlikely event that a REAL $100 note was accidentally dropped in the street here in Cambodia, it would remain there forever ! I don't think that would happen in the West ?
I set the mid-term and final exams for the English classes and one of the questions was :
" What place would you never want to go to ? " Some of the answers were quite imaginative – one student said ' To Church ! ' – one said 'To Hell ' - but, the vast majority said 'To Phnom Penh ' I find this surprising : can you imagine students at a provincial university in England saying they would never want to go to London ? Another reply was ' I would never want to go anywhere without my family ' Apparently almost all of the students have never been to Phnom Penh and know very little about it. Strange when it is only a $5 bus ride away. Another question was : " What other country would you like to live in ? " Most said ( and I am heavily correcting their English here ) 'America – because it is easy to get a high-salaried job there, the government takes care of you and it is a safe, peaceful country. " Where do they get their ideas from ?


I started using a local tailor for small jobs – the first was stitching two bolster pillowcases and a normal pillowcase together to make a bed sheet ( I bought a set and it came without a top sheet and two bolster covers which I don't need ) – they did it immediately for 50p. Next I had some smart trousers altered – again 50p and then recently a T-shirt shortened and missing buttons sewn on three shirts all for 50p. I wonder what they would say if you asked a tailor in the UK to sew on buttons? OK they have a machine for doing buttons here in Cambodia, but I didn't know that and thought they would tell me to do it myself. It was seven pounds to get my suit trousers taken out a bit in England, for example – but only 50p in Kratie to get another pair taken out. I see loads of Khmer getting clothes made-to-measure here – there are a lot of tailors shops – and so it must be cheap – I was just about to order some and the tailors shop closed down – I hope it wasn't me putting them out of business with all the nuisance jobs I gave them ? By contrast in Pakse ( Laos ) there is only one tailors and he once repaired my backpack – and overcharged me : $3 for 30 seconds work ! – he refused to take in some trousers that were too big – didn't want the work – so I got them done in Cambodia for 50p at a tailors in a side road. The Cambodian tailor made me a pair of very nice plain-black 'work ' trousers for $10 – the shop that closed down charged $12.50 – Both a reasonable price for very well-made trousers. You can pick the cloth you want : the rolls of black cloth have different makers names woven into the hem and many different countries of origin – but the cloth all looks identical to me ! I picked 'Ferrari' brand Italian Wool – probably made in China. All the Cambodian tailors were friendly and were quite happy to do the small jobs.


Where do I get my Internet from ?
The ground floor – and maybe the second floor – have security-enabled WiFi and I often sit on the bench seat in the car park or on the big swing-seat in front of the office and use the Internet. This service is free, but it is often not working. Various reasons given are :
There is a problem in Vietnam and Cambodian Internet comes from Vietnam (?)
The fibre-optic cable has broken ( again )
It's raining !
During heavy rain the power often goes off and so the WiFi router stops and doesn't like to re-start when the electricity comes on again. Even when there is a WiFi signal, the Internet goes on and off – like in Laos. There are periods when Internet is very fast, but these are not fixed. The passwords for WiFi in Cambodia are highly-secure combinations such as :
12345678     11112222      168168168 ( 168 is THE lucky number )       abc12345678
One or other of these will generally connect you with any security-enabled WiFi anywhere in Cambodia. By the third floor the signal is too weak to receive, but sometimes my phone tells me that an open Android hotspot is available – probably from a mobile phone – however, I don't use this as I don't know where it's coming from and don't trust it. On the outside balcony I can pick up an open WiFi signal from the nearest hotel – line-of-sight with no obstructions so the signal is usable even though it is about 75 metres away. Sometimes this works at medium speed, but usually there is WiFi, but no Internet. At the university the Internet is good – WiFi is only in the staff rooms and not in the class rooms. All their computers have the 'USB shortcut virus' which the anti-virus does not detect. The worst-infected computer there – which is off-line – installed 14 corrupted files on my flash drive ! If I use my USB flash drive, I have to disinfect it with USB-Fix when I get home. There is an IT department and computer room, but no-one looks after the staff computers. The computers in the computer room use XP !!!
I have a Chinese USB WiFi adapter with external 2 dB gain antenna from eBay ( $ 2.80 ) that I intend to use with a reflector ( to make it directional ) and try and pick up the signal from downstairs. The reinforcing bars in the concrete are probably stopping the signal. It came without details of the necessary driver – not plug-and-play, but is Realtek inside. I eventually managed to install a driver and, whereas the laptop shows no detected WiFi signals upstairs using its own built-in antenna, using the USB WiFi adapter it immediately shows two networks at 'fair 'signal-strength. This is without the reflector. One network is from the Indians on the second floor – they have their own router – the other from the hotel. The first is password protected and the second usually has no Internet access. I have ordered a 7 dB gain antenna ( $2.30 ) which should show an improvement.
I asked in the office how much it would cost to have a router installed on the top floor for me. $60 one-time payment ( router is $30-$40 + 50 metres cable ) and then $11 a month. However, I have since found out that the whole building uses Internet from a junction box with ten outlets and they are all in use. To change the junction box for more outlets is going to cost ! In Phnom Penh engineers are busy installing fibre-optic cables everywhere – the telephone poles are a mess – I found a metre of new 9/125 um optical cable with connector lying on the pavement. All new routers have fibre-optic inputs – no more " last km of copper ADSL "
So, at present, I use a 3G USB dongle when upstairs and that is fast when there is 3G – although there are cell-phone towers all around, there is only one 3G provider and the signal goes off and on. I am trying a package which is supposed to give 30 days unlimited mobile Internet for $3. The first 2 GB are at full speed and then the speed is reduced – still seems like a good deal. All the restaurants have fast WiFi so basically I am never far from the Internet – a much better situation than in Laos where the appallingly-slow 2G EDGE Internet was the norm.

16th June
Today was a holiday so I went for a walk rather late in the afternoon – usually I would go to the market around 7 am when it is still cool-ish. The day was overcast and I didn't bother with my plastic mac, thinking I would chance it. By the time I had reached the first 'tofu shop' it had started raining and I had an extremely leisurely meal while the rain did its worst. It seemed to be stopping so I continued to the market and bought mangoes and bananas, thinking I might stop at a restaurant for a drink and to use their WiFi before heading back home. The rain started up again and was getting worse. After watching a load of tutorials on YouTube - and by this time I was the only one left in the restaurant ( very few tourists now it is the rainy season ) I thought it would be a wet walk home as the motorcycle-taxis and Tuk-Tuks had all gone home for the night. I had seen a local on a motorcycle looking at me sitting in the restaurant and thought he might be a motorcycle-taxi ( difficult to tell as they don't wear coloured waistcoats like in Thailand – they look just like any-one else on a motorbike ) but he didn't stop. I ventured into the rain – not heavy, but really set-in for the night – and he stopped and asked in good English "where did I want to go ?" This is surprising as they don't usually speak that good English. I asked him "how much ?" and he said "you don't have to pay !" He then asked if I remembered him from the university and said he wasn't a student or a teacher, but once had come to give a short promotion in the class while I was teaching. He remembered me from that one glimpse. So he gave me a ride home and explained he did the marketing for another language school – that was what the promotion was for – and wanted foreign volunteer teachers. I'm not sure about teaching for free, but it could be interesting ? I know the Cambodians don't recognize me from the size of my bald spot because I was wearing a big floppy hat !

We are well into the rainy season now and it rains every day – mostly in the evenings. It has transformed the landscape from brown and parched into a lush green. Lakes have appeared where before there was just dust and the locals catch fish. I am still completely unsuccessful in my quest to buy an umbrella : the Cambodians just do not use them. Before every storm there are strong winds and an umbrella would get turned inside-out. During the storm it is better to take shelter and wait it out – as for light rain the Cambodians just don't care about it !
One advantage of the rain is that it really clears the air : the landscape here is totally flat except for "Sombok Mountain" in the distance – usually obscured by clouds, except after rain when it is crystal-clear. I thought it was part of the Eastern Highlands, but it is only about 10 km away. Usually you cannot judge the distance – it looks like an indistinct lump on the horizon.
The owner of this building has installed two beautiful, copper lightning-conductors on the roof with heavy copper wire down to ground rods in the car park. They look like Neptune's Trident with spikes North, South, East and West. There is a lot of metalwork in this building – the doors and banisters are steel ( only interior doors are wood ) and probably not grounded. I would like a ground connection in my apartment for safety – like Thailand and Laos the mains plugs have only two pins – and thought about joining a wire to the lightning-conductor cable which is easily accessible. However, that might not be all that safe (!) and could defeat the object of the exercise. I might be able to draw nice long sparks from the 'ground wire ' before an electrical storm though !!! The owners of this building also have a warehouse and wholesale liquid soap and shampoo – the other businesses here on the ground floor are a micro-finance credit organization and a Cambodia Brewery sales office ( very important ! )
The daily rains cause problems with the electricity supply and the Internet. ( Laos was the same ) The 3G phone service goes on and off also. Everyday there are power cuts – usually only about half an hour at a time and usually when I am using the desktop computer ! I have to remember to keep 'saving' everything I do regularly before the lights go out ! Mostly it is not a problem and, if there is a protracted power cut during the day, I can always go out for a walk. There is a huge difference between walking around here and in Laos : whereas in Laos you would be stared at in silence – in Cambodia almost everyone says 'hello', especially the kids. Some even know 'bye-bye' – and one kid just said 'bye-bye' without saying 'hello' first (!) They love waving at foreigners and often want 'high-fives' or 'fist-bumps'. Even really poor Cambodians sitting outside broken-down shacks will wave and say 'hello' – they don't feel the social divide between a comparatively rich foreigner and their poverty. In Laos they would feel embarrassed at their poverty and jealous of the foreigner so keep aloof. I went exploring a tiny dirt-road behind the Temple and it led to a hidden village full of kids waving and shouting 'hello' – the mothers teach the smaller kids to wave when they see a foreigner. We are that much of a rarity – and curiosity (?) I wonder what would be their reaction if they saw an autonomous robot walking through their village ? Maybe uninteresting compared to a long-nosed foreigner !
I was looking in the market for a suitably-shaped object that could be used in one of my projects and noticed a metallic-looking bowl of about the right size and shape. The shape and rigidity were more important to me than its intended use – as a small rice bowl in this case. It cost less than $1 so would do whatever it was made of ( I was probably overcharged, but never mind ? ) Later I examined it - about 3 to 5 mm wall thickness, but incredibly light – too light for aluminium and it was too hard for magnesium. Was it titanium ? Unlikely at less than a $. I decided it was chromium-plated plastic and was rigid enough for my purposes. It was very tough when I started to drill holes in it – definitely not plastic ! ( also slightly magnetic ) In fact it was double-walled stainless steel – both walls the thickness of a razor blade and invisibly-welded together – probably had a vacuum inside until I drilled a hole in it ! There was a Chinese logo embossed onto the base – amazing technology for less than one dollar.


One of the very few words I can read in Khmer is 'Kratie' ( very badly transliterated into English – but in French it is even worse : Kratié which is pronounced Kratiay can be seen on some old maps ) It is composed of two parts GROR which means poor and JEH ( not JAY ) which means clever in the sense of being able to do something – so it should be spelled GRORJEH and means poor but clever ! Of course, being a place name, the literal meaning is irrelevant the same as we would think of 'Liverpool' meaning a pool of livers ! Another word I can read is Phnom Penh and Phnom means mountain while Penh is associated with 'Lady Penh' who was the founder of the city. However, 'Penh' also means 'full' so 'Phnom Penh' can mean 'Full of Mountains' which is a laugh because it is absolutely flat except for a 30 metre-high hill with a Temple on top called Wat Phnom. There are plenty of mountains in the Eastern Highland range and some are higher than the ones in Laos at 1800 metres. Having seen the Himalayas in Nepal, it always makes me smile at what they call mountains here – they really are just hills – or mounds in some cases !

Although better than in Laos or Thailand, the English here can be dodgy - I like the regulation from Heng Heng Guesthouse :

'Dot not sale explorer poisonous, sexual and amusement.' 

I wonder what that means ???

On the way to the Mekong river is this strange office - I could not find an entry for 'Cadastral ' in my dictionary - something to do with astronomy (?) -  maybe it is an inter-stellar teleport office ?? The logo has a compass - could it be something to do with astral navigation ???

When I was in the UK I thought it might be a good idea to do some of the free educational courses advertised in the local newspaper. The local library had some extremely basic computer classes and there was a free computer learning center at Kings Cross – OK for 2 hours Internet access, but they told me to go away after two weeks as I was too advanced (!) Some of the Africans had never seen a keyboard or a mouse before and used to hold the mouse up to the monitor screen and click on things ! So I went to Wood Green library to enroll and it turned out that the courses were only free to those on unemployment benefit and, while I also considered myself unemployed, were not free to Old Age Pensioners – or, to be more politically correct -'Senior Citizens' Most of the computer classes had started already, but there was a class on Skype due to start soon. There were some other computer-related subjects included as well as Skype, but I forget them now. It cost £20 so couldn't be bad, could it ? WRONG !!
The teacher turned out to be Nigerian and I took an instant dislike to him. The first lesson was just waffle and never really got going – certainly nothing to do with Skype...... Some of the other students were hopeless and it took them most of the lesson just to log on and get their email open ! I thought the second lesson couldn't be much worse – wrong again – he told us that to learn Skype we had to download and install the Skype setup ( the class was held in a computer room with desktop computers running Windows 7 and networked to the Harringey Council system) and there were no administrative privileges for students to install programs and would not be any for the duration of the course ( the teacher had assumed they would allow us to actually install Skype as it wasn't installed on the computers and the course was supposed to be about using Skype – a bit difficult if it is not allowed ! ) So he said he would try and work something out and in the meantime he would teach us to use computers properly. At last.
One of his stupid questions was to ask us who our Internet Service Provider was. He said it was Google and I put my hand up and said it wasn't : Google is a search engine and manages gmail, YouTube etc. it doesn't own the ADSL, optical-fibre and wireless telecom system. He said these days Google is regarded as an ISP. I beg to differ – technically the ISP was Harringey Council and British Telecom. That gave me doubts about his qualifications... He showed us how to open a Google 'Blogger' account ( Google was installed ) which I presumably still have and have never used even once. That was about it for computers – the only useful things I learnt there in a month were that the little house-shaped icon takes you to the home page if you click on it and you must milk goats in the morning or their udders get painful. He showed us hundreds of photos of his wife and kids in Nigeria and told us to never to use our real date-of-birth in facebook and the like ( he said we could be vulnerable to scams – and being Nigerian would know ALL about scams ! ) His real work sounded typically scammy : he said he had a search engine that cost £600 installed on his computer at home and it could access all NHS and government databases and would uncover all sorts of info that Google could not. An accurate date-of-birth was enough for the NHS database apparently. He also said he had many bank accounts and was always transferring money between them using his smartphone. When he would buy anything he would transfer just enough money for the transaction from his savings account to his current account which was otherwise kept at zero with everything else gaining interest in the savings account. Must have been real fun to be behind him in a supermarket check-out queue ! As for sorting out the problem of actually teaching us Skype – which was the main title of the course – he said we should go to an Internet café and ask them how to do it !! So that was what I paid them £ 20 for ? He didn't show for the last lesson - phoned us the night before to say that he was cancelling the lesson as he was busy !
A few months later Wood Green library were starting a new term of computer classes and, as I was interested in learning about website design, I went along to enroll. Firstly I complained that the last course was a complete waste of money and they said that the Nigerian wasn't with them any more and there would be a proper teacher this time. Then they said there was an entrance exam which had to be passed before enrolling. It was an interactive quiz on a computer and had sections on email, Microsoft Word, and general computer and electronic knowledge. I got full marks on the last part, but did poorly on email and Word. The email section showed email icons and we had to say ( guess ?! ) what they meant. I used gmail and had never seen icons like these and it turned out that they were from Microsoft messenger – and probably standard on Windows 98. Why do you need to know what obscure icons are supposed to mean when gmail tells you in plain English the options for 'inbox', 'compose', sent mail and so forth ? I didn't do much better with Word – it is an extremely powerful program and can be a study in itself to learn all the features ( I am still learning new things it can do ) The questions were all the keyboard shortcuts and there are hundreds of them. I still only know control S and control V. Anyway, having failed the test I could not do the course, but the lecturer told me that the advertised website-design program was Adobe Dreamweaver and it cost £ 650 and was obsolete anyway. He said learn about Joomla from YouTube – it is free and better – and save your money. So, I am still self-taught about computers – even though I tried to get some professional tuition.
I have Microsoft Office Word 2007 on the laptop and it is fine on Windows 7. Even Microsoft thinks Windows 7 and Word are genuine and doesn't send me nasty pop-ups like on many of the computers I have seen in Asia. Not bad for $1 programs. I could not install Word 2007 or Word 2010 on my desktop machine – the DVD Rom drive plays DVDs fine if they are good ( $1 ) copies and I also have a new DVD burner. I have Open Office and that is OK except if I open a file from it in Word it loads as WordPad as says some features may be lost ( what features exactly ? ) If I open the Open Office file first, select-all, copy and paste into Word – that is better, but sometimes says it is using the 'Compatibility mode' and 'Some features may be lost' ( again ) and 'Do You Still Want To Continue ? 'Yes or No ?' 'Answer Now or Microsoft Will Format Your Hard Drive !' Well, maybe not that last bit ! The virus-riddled computers at UME use Word 2010 and that is compatible.
One of the problems using a fictitious date-of-birth with facebook is that, if you are locked out when trying to access it in another country, they ask you for date-of-birth as a security question – and being made-up I couldn't remember it so had to ask friends what it was ! I have the absolute minimum of personal information on facebook and do not post anything there, but I like to see what my friends have posted. Most of them have so many regular postings that I don't know how they find the time to get any work done ? They do find some amazing stories though. At present every-one seems to be venting their spleen at Britain's 'Old People' who voted to leave Europe. I am sad that the older electorate are that stupid – I didn't vote ( it only encourages them ! ) All of my students use facebook and they also use facebook messenger – I was shocked to see the security implications of this APP - when you are about to install it there is an Android prompt which says : This APP wants access to :
• Identity
• Contacts
• Location
• Phone
• Photos/Media/Files
• Camera
• Microphone
• Wi-Fi connection information
• Device ID & call information

You might just as well give them all your passwords while you are at it ! ( as if they probably haven't already got them ) Too much information to give out IMHO.
In a highly-circulated picture on the Internet, Mark Zuckerberg ( the founder of facebook ) stands next to his personal laptop in his office and the camera on his laptop is covered up with black 'electricians' tape and the microphone is plugged-up ( with chewing gum ? )
If HE doesn't trust his privacy settings, what chance do us lesser mortals have ?

Now I have more tools from Laos I can continue with an unfinished project. I did some aluminium casting which turned out very well and all that remains now is the final assembly. I used soft aluminium wire from Laos as raw material – the cheap Vietnamese coat-hangers here are made from aluminium, but it is very hard and brittle – maybe made from re-cycled Pepsi cans ? Old pistons from engine re-conditioners are recommended as the best source of quality aluminium alloy for casting, but they are hard to find here as worn pistons are actually built-up by welding and then machined to size for re-use! I have watched this being done in Phnom Penh.

Feeling pleased with myself after the successful casting, I decided to visit Phnom Penh for shopping and to see the 'Jason Bourne' movie ( It was excellent and the cinema was also a surprise : practically empty, good Dolby 7.1 sound, English without subtitles, sharp digital image, and free popcorn – toffee or salted – because it was a Tuesday (?) All for $3 - there is also an usher who shows you to your seat !) Arriving at the bus station, I went to my usual hotel and was horrified to see it had closed down – such a pity as it was so friendly and conveniently situated. The nearest alternative was LS guest house which seemed  to be OK - $8 room with WiFi, TV and en-suite bathroom/toilet. The first night I saw the movie and the second night I went out to the riverside and upon returning found my smartphone and $100 had been stolen from the room. My camera had been re-placed upside-down in the camera bag, but was intact. I had kept the key with me and the manager said there was only the one key ( very unlikely !!! ) and he could re-play the video from the CCTV system. However there was no camera on the 4th floor where I stayed – maybe that was why they put me on the 4th floor ? I had just opened a local bank account, but the ATM card was not ready then and I thought the room would be secure. This was a major downer to an otherwise pleasant trip – next time I shall stay in a better hotel with a security box for valuables!

Mangoes have gone out of season now, but instead I am eating passion fruit which have become plentiful in the market. I have planted some seeds and will see if they grow. The electricity has been off all day for the last few days – repairs to the system ? – and I have been enjoying a new George Orwell book I bought recently : Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Walking through the town last week, the shops were dark and silent during the power cut and larger premises had generators humming away. In case the power cuts become regular, I have built a 12 Volt amplifier which runs off a motorbike battery.  The roads are being repaired and new drainage systems installed in the town. Much cleaning and painting everywhere. It is looking very tidy.

Went for another quick shopping expedition to Phnom Penh. As my favourite hotel has closed down now, I had a look around for an alternative. Trip Advisor and are not much help choosing cheap accommodation on line – the photos of the rooms don't bear much resemblance to what you actually get. White River guest house on 19/172 street is a good riverside location with a $7 room – however, the TV has only one Khmer channel with a bad, greenish picture and the bathroom toilet has a broken flush – I had to fill the rubbish bin with water and pour it down the hole ! Lots of bugs on the bathroom floor at night when you switch the light on – they soon scatter ! It does have a nice, totally-private balcony, is conveniently situated, and is OK for a quiet night's sleep. If there is no-where else available it is worth $7.

They have 'Baked beans on Toast ' - but spelling not so good.

The two other places on 19 street – Pich guest house and one opposite – look a bit rough to say the least ! There is a convenient hotel on 136 street but otherwise the area is too expensive. Away from the riverside, I settled on a place on 63rd street called Khmer Stay Home of Sweet Dream. ( There are two places on the opposite side of the road – both probably OK ) A very friendly place with a good double room for $10. TV works and there is a large outside balcony. Drinking water is provided and there is a small fridge. A very strange name ? – in Laos some guest houses are called 'Home Stays ' which means you stay with a family and all eat together – so food is included in the price whether you can eat rice, bugs and meat or not ! Stay Home has quite a different meaning from Home Stay – I think they mean Khmer Stay ( Home of Sweet Dreams ) whatever - it was a nice place. They advertise a security box and, when I enquired, they told me there is a box in the room ( I couldn't find it ! ) but it doesn't have a lock – so basically it is useless ! Now I keep any valuables with me in my backpack when I leave the room.

Vietnamese Speakers - 50,000 Watts ! must be a World Record for 12" speakers ?  Maybe it is for the pair, so ONLY 25 KW each ? Oh, that's OK then ! No Advertising Standards Authority here !

I bought some speakers ( conservatively rated at 10 Watts which is more realistic )  and have made boxes for them from old Chinese packing crates and other wood I found in the car park. The two speaker boxes are a bit mismatched, but they sound OK – much better than I expected. Photos on PROJECTS page under Audio. There doesn't seem to be any shops selling wood as every-one ( except me ) has stacks of wood behind the house for their own use. Logging is illegal, but continues unabated. Any shops selling wood might have to show the origin ....? Construction sites for shops, hotels and apartments are everywhere and there are piles of wood for shuttering and concrete formwork, but it is very rough wood. As in Laos, wood for construction has been recently cut from trees in the forest and is still green – it warps badly when it has eventually dried out, but in Laos they don't care if doors and windows have huge gaps and don't fit. ( The door on the small guest house is warped so badly that rats can easily wander in and out when it is shut ! )
I have no idea where to buy good quality seasoned plywood or hardwood. I have not seen a carpentry shop either so any woodwork I have to do myself. Also I am trying to find a handicraft factory as I need some articles made to a certain size – a difficult quest and the government websites for handicrafts are no use.

Manniquin factory - Phnom Penh


It was when I took this photo that my camera lens seized up - maybe there is a moral there ? Whatever, it was such a wierd factory ...... !

My camera is working again – the lens sometimes jams up and the camera shuts down. The problem is purely mechanical – when it jams the computer senses an overload in a motor and shuts down to protect it. The lens is very complicated – there are two computers, three motors and an image stabilizing system and zoom, focus and lens retraction share a common mechanism. Now I can disassemble the lens and put it back together again which solves the problem – it then behaves itself perfectly until the next time it jams ! It took me a few days to work out how all the parts fit together – there is a particular sequence to engaging all the gears or it won't work. I am not the only one with this problem – on the Internet there are thousands complaining about this design fault with Sony Lenses. There is a particular combination of zoom and focus which causes the problem when switching off the camera. There must be a permanent cure, but I don't know what it is yet. Other than that, the camera is so nice. I bought a second-hand, faulty lens cheap from eBay and I have repaired it, so I now have a spare. However, it is the same zoom range and I could do with a wide-angle zoom, but they are so expensive. I bought a second-hand lens for my camera – cheap from eBay because it was faulty and sold for spares. I could not get one from the UK as they refused to accept orders from Cambodia or post to a P.O.Box number so it came from Bulgaria. No problems with post to my P.O. Box there ! I have repaired it – it actually only needed re-building : assembling in the correct order – and it is working again so I have a spare - in case the original lens decides to jam up on me again. I would like to get a different zoom lens – a wide angle lens – but they cost too much. Maybe I can get a faulty one and repair it ? The Sony camera is so excellent except for the lens design fault – if it was a car it would be re-called. For the first year-and-a-half it gave no problems – which makes me suspect that, as with all modern products with microprocessors and computer control, there might be designed-in obsolescence to sell new ones. Many Chinese products work fine for a year then pack up – possibly they have an in-built timer that self-destructs them after a pre-set number of operations ? This lens is Japanese, but made in Thailand – which may be the real reason for the unreliability ? 

Except for a couple of days when it was raining and windy, I have slept outside every night. Not quite under the stars, but they can be seen at an oblique angle through the mosquito net because the roof sticks out over the balcony and protects me from light rain. There is nothing like sleeping in the fresh, open air with the sounds of the insects and frogs if it has rained. I sleep really well and the only improvement could be if my bedroll was North to South rather than East to West. This is something I could not do in Laos – too cold ! ( It was cold enough inside the bedroom ) Without the fan, it gets too hot and stuffy in my bedroom here – but, in case of heavy rain, I can quickly rig up the mosquito net in there as well. - I get a splendid view of the sunrise every morning – clouds allowing – this is about 5:30 am. A good view of the sunset can be had from the roof.

Black clouds - Storm coming

I have started a small garden on the veranda – mostly from cuttings that I take from flowers growing outside shops and houses on my way to the market. I have some Chinese rooting powder – the instructions are only in Chinese – which works really well. So far everything is doing well - growing in compost I was given. I have collected a bucket of horse manure from the Temple – strange looks from the locals ! – and will mix it with sand and soil to make more compost. Cow manure is supposed to be the best, but not so easy to collect. Cow urine is in demand for organic farms as it is a natural insecticide. It is most difficult to come by here as cows are free range and won't urinate in a pot for you ! Human urine can be used – but it must be from vegetarians otherwise it kills the plants as well ! That is why a cow is a useful animal and revered in India : it produces milk, fertilizer and pesticide. A milk cow is $1000 in Cambodia and the ordinary cows that are only good for beef are $500. A horse costs $800 ! Previously I had thought that the locals who have a horse and cart were so poor, but actually the horse is worth more than a motorbike. Cow manure is sold to the organic farm for $1 a sack which is expensive because of the vast quantities a farm needs. Keeping a cow is risky because it is quite likely to get stolen at night ! So far, horse manure seems to be free from the Temple. Most of the plants I am growing are tropical and I don't recognize them except for marigolds. With the sun and warmth everything grows quickly and improvement can be seen from day to day.

Now we are into September and in a couple of weeks I will be off to Phnom Penh again to renew my visa for a year – not that I need much excuse to visit Phnom Penh ! I now know some interesting ex-pats – one has been coming to Cambodia on and off for 21 years so has lots of good stories. ( It was wild 21 years ago ) Now Cambodia seems settled, but there must be some problems as 70 garment factories have re-located to Vietnam and Burma because of political uncertainty – if you believe the newspaper (?) The Prime Minister says he will be in power until he is 74, whatever – so there is not much uncertainty there ! Thailand has the usual bombings and killings in the South and demonstrations in Bangkok – Cambodia seems so peaceful by comparison.

Shoe Market


My shoes situation is sorted out now – there is a morning market selling second-hand shoes outside the Temple. I got some that are hardly worn and definitely real leather – must have been expensive when new. I also bought some soft, walking shoes – you might call them trainers or sneakers as they have flexible soles and breathable cloth uppers – Sooooo comfortable if a bit of a bright colour ! ( Chinese, of course ) Much cheaper than buying new – not that I have seen any new ones as nice as these anyway – and I have no problems wearing second-hand shoes, except that there is always a nagging feeling that they might have been stolen from outside some-one's door or from a hotel. Quite pointless asking the market stall where they came from .... I still have a pair of 'Land Rover' mountain boots ( guaranteed for 30 years ! ) – unused as there is no real need for them yet.

I thought that the back road to the market would be a quagmire in the rainy season, but it is in excellent condition for a dirt road. The Cambodians build their back roads with a convex surface and drainage ditches on either side – so, even after heavy rain, the road soon dries out and I can go to the market wearing ordinary shoes. The Lao don't know how to do this and their dirt roads are made flat or even concave to start with – so the rainwater collects and soon erodes a deep gully down the centre. Lao are too lazy to make drainage ditches and their back roads are in a terrible state – no wonder that tourists do not come : 13 KMS along a swampy, mud trail that is supposed to be a road cannot be much fun on a bike ? The tourists stick to the sealed, black-top asphalt roads. Even the Romans made proper, convex tops to the roads in Britain 2000 years ago – some-one should teach the Lao this !

So Christ overlooking Rio was struck by lightning ? Would you call that 'an act of God ? Ha ! Ha ! ' My apartment is protected now and I feel immune to lightning as I once spent the night in the Temple of 'BidgLee MahaDev ' in Kulu, North India -Himachal Pradesh  - The dome of the Temple is made of copper and this is connected to the altar which has figures made from coloured butter. The Temple is situated on the highest peak of the quite substantial hills in that area and all around are the blackened remains of trees that have been hit by the lightning. The whole area is famous for thunderstorms and lightning can be seen nearly every night. Strangely, although you might expect the Temple to be the prime target for the lightning, it is very rarely struck – I was there in 1973 and it had not been struck for 50 years then – so I felt reasonably safe. If it does get a direct hit, the altar would be blown to bits and any-one sleeping inside presumably killed. It was quite a steep trek to the Temple, but if I have gained any protection, it should be worth it – a bit like bathing in the Ganges ( which I have also done )

My Cambodian bank has interest paid monthly which is remarkable for a current account – up to 8% for a two-year fixed savings in Cambodian Riel – not so much for dollars, but I am getting so
mething already ! My UK bank charge me for a foreign currency conversion and for a currency transaction and give an appallingly bad exchange-rate as well. By the time I have withdrawn dollars by visa card and paid the Cambodian bank fee, I am only getting just over a $ to the £ - so better to keep it in $s over here before the value of the £ drops even lower. They are friendly in the bank and a security guard holds the door open for me ! When I opened the current account, I was given carrier bags, a note book/diary, pens and several note pads as free gifts. I will try an electronic transfer by Internet and see if the bank charges are any less. My UK bank would not even let me open a savings account as my pension is ( much ) less than £400 a month – in Cambodia I only need $1000 to open a savings account and the shortest term for getting interest on fixed-deposit is one month ! No other country makes it so easy for foreigners to get a business visa and open bank accounts – certainly not Thailand or Laos. If the foreign media call the PM a dictator, as far as ex-pats are concerned, he is a benevolent despot ! So his family own most of the country ? The 21 year-old Duke of Westminster owns half of London, The Church, Royal family and the Rothschilds own the other half ! The husband of the present female PM in the UK runs a dodgy hedge fund and pays no tax. How many countries can you name that have PMs / Presidents who do not have vested interests and are not making a killing while they can ? All of Africa has corrupt governments, the Americas – North and South, the Middle East, Asia and India much the same , so why should Cambodia be any different ? With the exceptions of Jeremy Corbin and Mahatma Gandhi, all politicians are only in it for the money. ( OK there are places like Iceland, Holland and the Scandinavian group that are praiseworthy, but would you want to live there ? ) Cambodia is surrounded by China, Vietnam and Laos – all Communist – with North Korea and Russia not so far away. The Communist group are very paranoid of foreigners and only welcome big investors. Thailand is steeped in corruption and treachery. Burma and Malaysia are little better. Cambodia had to endure the triple whammy of the Vietnam War, Pol Pot genocide and then the UN army spreading AIDS to every corner of the country. The population was decimated by all this and the country is now getting back on its feet – now among the top ten fastest-growing economies. Everything considered, I don't think the PM is doing such a bad job – he certainly leaves foreigners alone and there is a feeling of freedom here and no paranoia. I wouldn't want to be in an opposition party here – but frequent changes of government often do more harm than good to a country.

When I moved to Tottenham in the UK, the local council was almost completely staffed by Nigerians and Jamaicans and they gave preferential treatment to Blacks. I was lucky to be interviewed by a Muslim and played the 'my Father was a Muslim – look at my birth certificate' card ! If you were a plain old local - Tottenham born-and-bred, white, non-Muslim resident – you wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of getting housing ! A Capitalist system needs profit from continual growth and profit is maximized by cheap labour. It is no good complaining because something is 'too cheap ' If you go to Tescos to buy something, would you complain if it was very cheap ? It is the same for cheap, imported labour which is really a commodity now.


The Americans complain of 'Dumping ' of cheap Chinese goods and want import quotas and punitive taxation – with Globalization there will always be a movement of cheap labour and cheap goods. If an immigrant will do your job for half the money, maybe you are in the wrong job ? Leaving Europe is not the solution – it is your skill set ( or lack of it ) that is the answer. You can't really blame farmers and factory owners for choosing cheaper, un-skilled labour. I remember in the 50's when the Jamaicans came over here to drive the busses and trains and sweep the roads, because the English would not do it for that money. No-one complained then as they considered it a demeaning job and no-one saw that this trend would continue in the future until we have the present bad state of affairs.

I once met a young Dutch website designer – very highly skilled in all the latest techniques and fully qualified. With his perfect English, like most young Europeans these days, he was certainly not worried that any-one would take his job for less money – he could virtually name his fee for website design and could find lucrative employment in any country.

Education is a problem in the 'ghetto ' areas like Tottenham : the security guard at my apartment said that his son went to enroll at the local school and the teacher was Turkish and all the lessons were in Turkish because none of the kids spoke any English ! The only chance of his son being taught in English was if he went to a private school – or home tuition. This is the fault of local government and I think it is too late to do much about it now. The immigrants were not lazy in getting schools, housing and healthcare set up in their favour – maybe the local inhabitants should have been more politically active and maybe they should have had leaders who cared more about them and less about helping the immigrants. The pendulum has swung the other way now and there is an anti-immigrant backlash – closing the stable door after the horse has bolted ?

As an English teacher here, I can't see the Cambodians becoming jealous or thinking that we are taking jobs away from them – we are doing a job that they cannot do and have a unique skill-set as a native speaker of English. Indeed, Teachers are highly respected in Cambodia : when I mentioned I was teaching at the university, I was immediately given a discount in the rent – from $80 a month down to $70 ! No bargaining required. I have been given Tuk Tuk rides and the driver refused payment because he knew I was a teacher and not a single day goes past without smiles and waves from the locals. After seeing me here for nearly six months now, they must know I am not a tourist – but they still think it's a scream to smile and wave. I am the only foreigner in these parts who doesn't have a motorbike or bicycle and so I am more visible and interact more with the locals. Some have asked me why I walk everywhere ( it is good exercise ) and not go by bike. The distances involved are hardly worth going by bike and I have noticed many pretty flowers that I take cuttings of while walking. The very little kids look shocked and babies sometimes cry (!) when they see me – even at that age they know I am not a Khmer ?? – but mostly the kids think it great fun to wave and say 'hello ' – encouraged by their mothers. I am a regular customer at various shops here and the shopgirls will smile and wave when I go past – can you imagine that happening in England ? Makes me feel like a celebrity !


Concerning the Hinkley Point Nuclear Plant in the UK :
I would be a bit worried if there was going to be a Chinese nuclear reactor within exploding distance ! Probably a bit better than a Vietnamese one ? Ha ! Ha ! No nukes in Cambodia. The REAL reason governments are pro-nuclear is that the by-product of uranium nuclear reactors is plutonium which is used to make nuclear bombs ( otherwise why don't they make Thorium reactors ? ) and the UK government is still trying to sell the public on the stupid idea of a replacement to Trident at a cost of £350 billion or so to ensure Britain's nuclear deterrent. It will only ensure the 30,000 jobs in the weapons industry and who, exactly, is it supposed to deter ? The Russians ? The Chinese ? They cannot put the blame on Saddam anymore. They want to nuke ISIS ? – where is ISIS then ? The £350 billion would provide a lot of schools ( maybe even teaching lessons in the English language ? ) hospitals and low-cost housing for the poor. However, those in government receive healthy commissions from the weapons industry – one of the major export industries in the UK. As I see it, Britain doesn't have much to be proud of anymore – except for the BBC and the quality of the better universities. Driving in London, you are constantly under the surveillance of the traffic cameras and radar speed-detectors when on the motorways. Many parts of London have police helicopters constantly hovering overhead – to detect the infra-red signature of those growing illegal herbs in their lofts or attic ( It was very noisy in Tottenham because of this ) – there is NONE of this nonsense here in Cambodia ! You might say that, if you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be worried about, but with so many laws and regulations it is difficult not to be doing something wrong. For instance, in the UK, planning permission is required to do any modifications to your property and you can forget doing any re-wiring or electrical installation yourself unless you are a registered installer. Cambodia is free of all this – you do what you want and nobody cares. I have never seen any crime here like fighting and only two traffic accidents – both on back roads – and sirens are extremely rare and usually from ambulances. The police mostly stay in the comfort of the police stations and don't patrol – it's much too hot for that ! There is no 'Health and Safety ' to prosecute you for any of the myriad infringements that you can be guilty of without even knowing. Little kids, at roadside petrol kiosks, sell plastic Pepsi bottles of petrol to even smaller kids riding Honda motorbikes – you cannot imagine any of this being allowed in the UK. In Cambodia the government just does not interfere with everyday life and every-one is the happier for it !
Eh, sorry if this rant went on a bit, but I have been reading too much George Orwell lately and he was complaining of the same things in 1936 !!!


Riverside snack seller


This  old guy sells banana and sticky rice snacks baked in a banana leaf for 500 Riel ( 12 cents ) - very tasty

Tofu in the Market


Fried and plain tofu - 25 cents a lump - bean sprouts and bananas - my regular shop 

Cooking Gas re-filling station Phnom Penh


For small-scale cooking, cannisters are re-filled for 50 cents or less. Even insecticide sprays and air-freshener cans are re-filled with cooking gas ! Available everywhere.


This same shop also sells many different gasses.

This shop in Kratie re-fills car air-con systems with refridgerant - an ingenious way of weighing the gas and pumping out the air - what is the gas ? Chlorofluorocarbon ? No, I think they use propane or cooking gas ??!!!


If you do cooking, you need a chopping block, right ? I bought this Vietnamese wooden block for $1.50 and liked the cute label - try and pronounce the Viet words ! They bear no resemblance to how they are written - thank you The French.


Walking along by the riverside, I saw this shrine fixed to a tree and the locals burn incense and worship it - don't know what happens to the pig's head, but it was gone the next day ?



These strange pots are made and I have no idea what they are used for ? Distillation ?


This mantis flew into my apartment


I have seen two so far in Cambodia.

Tested my 'Language Lab ' on a lecturer from the university and it worked quite well. The microphones are ECMs ( Electret Capacitor Microphones ) and pick up background noises a bit too much. They are supposed to be unidirectional, but are not really. As the sounds they pick up in the background are birdsong and the occasional voice from the back road, it is not really a problem and the over-ear headphones do a good job of preventing feedback and other unwanted noise. I tried dynamic microphones at first, but the sound quality was not very good. I demonstrated how it would work in practice with the ability to actually hear yourself speak and the instant playback of problem words. Then, suddenly, a strong wind sprung up and slammed the metal doors of the veranda and the front doors – the noise in the headphones was like thunder ! ( The headphone amplifiers are also for listening to music and movies and are VERY powerful – they can drive speakers ! The headphones have 50mm drivers and can be loud ) The microphones certainly pick up the sound of metal doors slamming and the shock brought the session to an abrupt end. It needs to be used in a quiet, preferably soundproofed, room with no steel doors ! It needs noise-cancelling microphones and a better quality sound recorder – the unit I am using can only record for 8 seconds maximum – but not many words take longer than 8 seconds to pronounce (!) – and as it only cost £1 from China I cannot complain. There is another voice-recording I.C. but it 'beeps' when you want to record something - not ideal. If I built another one, I would use a dedicated computerized system – however, that would be quite a project.

I received a letter from the Pensions department asking me to prove that I was still living in Cambodia. They did not need a medical certificate to show I was still alive, only a ( proof of ) Life Certificate. This has to be signed and stamped by a qualified person - as they say :
Who can sign the Life Certificate ?
The person who signs the Life Certificate should not be related to you by birth or marriage, not live at the same address as you and should be a professional person or a person of good standing in the community. Examples of the type of person that would be suitable include :
• bank/building society official or accountant
• barrister, solicitor or any other person allowed to manage oaths in the country where the declaration is made
• doctor, dentist, physiotherapist or pharmacist
• government official or local Mayor
• the equivalent of a magistrate, Justice of the Peace or a member of the local police force
• minister of religion
• care home/nursing home manager

Easy, I thought (!) so I first asked the bank, but they will only put their stamp on one of their own documents - not from something from the pensions. There are doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Kratie, but it would be very difficult explaining why they should be signing this document and they would probably only have a stamp in Khmer language – if they had one at all – and that would be meaningless to the pensions department. Physiotherapist ? Could I get a girl from the massage parlour to sign it ? Unlikely to have an official-looking stamp !!! Government officials or police are unlikely to co-operate even if they understood what I wanted. Minister of religion – are they serious ? This is Cambodia – no care homes either. That leaves a lawyer – so I went to the only law office I have seen here and it turned out to be a small air-con booth – could not call it an office, more like a kiosk ! – on the second floor. He wanted $70 to sign it – then immediately offered a $20 discount so would do it for $50. Way too expensive and he is not a Notary or Commissioner for Oaths either. I phoned the British Embassy and they said get a 'Notary Public ' to sign it. The next day I was off to Phnom Penh to get it done properly.

On the way to Phnom Penh, the minibus driver was stopped by the police at a roadside check-point for using his phone while driving. He had just finished a call, but was still holding it, so felt rightly indignant and argued his point strongly with the police. They would not back down and said he must pay a fine, which, as we all know, goes straight in the pocket. Although we had already paid him the fare, he managed to produce an empty wallet and pleaded poverty. ( An example of Street Smarts – which I don't have ! ) No use. He had to pay. And the fine ? – it was 5,000 Riel or $1.25 – less than £1 !

There are several Notaries in Phnom Penh - the nearest one had a tiny office and was not a Notary although Google said he was. Another one wanted $100 – an ex-pat website said they can charge hundreds of dollars ! Then the last one – I had put off phoning because of the address which was 205 Norodom Boulevard ( like Number 1, Park Lane, London ) and sure to be the most expensive – said he can do it for $40 ! Among his qualifications he is :

• President of Civil-Law Notary of the Kingdom of Cambodia
• Chief Lawyer to the Cambodian People's Party ( the ruling Party )
• Senior Legal Counsel to the President of Senate ( Rank : Minister )

The building is quite intimidating with huge ornamental gates and guard post. The Notary turned to be an amazing 80 year-old gent and he has more hair than me ! – he had spent 40 years in France so knows a bit of French (!) – most entertaining and has a beautiful office full of treasures collected over a full lifetime. Well worth the $40 for, not only being a witness that the Pensions cannot argue with, but also for a chat and chance to take photos and a video of his office. He said he will retire soon (!) and then will sign documents for free as he doesn't need the money. Rent on his building is $12,000 a month ! As he is chief lawyer to the C.P.P. – which means lawyer to Hun Sen the P.M. – I doubt if he has any trouble paying the rent ! He is very cheeky to his secretary – in Khmer - although she doesn't seem to mind – and loves a good argument in English.


The Notary and myself in his office

My six-month visa expires on 3rd October so I also went to the visa agent to extend it for another year. He said it would take three days, then on the third day he sent a text message asking for my full name and passport number ! Panic ! Had he lost my passport, or what ? No problems, as it turned out – a few minutes later he phoned to say the visa was ready. A very efficient service for $289 per one year visa. So much better than the hassle and uncertainty of the $1000 Lao visa. According to a magazine, the government have announced a two and three-year business visa for foreigners and a retirement visa, however the visa agent said they were not available yet.

On the way back from the visa agent, on street 163, there are many interesting shops and small factories. Stainless steel is sold in all shapes and sizes and TIG welding and fabrication is done there. It should really be called 'Stainless-Steel Street '

Shop selling balls, tube, elbows etc. - and a bending machine

 The smaller of the TIG welding and fabrication shops

There are also many shops selling cacti and succulents – and all manner of flower pots.

There is a helmet law in Cambodia for motorbike riders and passengers and it is sometimes enforced in Phnom Penh. Usually I take motorbike taxis and one day the rider noticed a large police check-point up ahead – he didn't want to go any further as he didn't have a spare helmet for the passenger – namely me – and wanted to do a U-turn. We had only just started the journey, so I got off and was happy to wait for another bike that had a spare helmet. However, the driver didn't want to lose his fare and said he had an idea (?) With me on the back, he actually went up to the check-point and asked them if it was OK for me without a helmet as I had a floppy hat on. They said it was OK, so we proceeded through the check-point very slowly – I cannot imagine doing that in the UK ??

Happy Cazone


A Vegetable Cazone is a sort of Italian Cornish Pastie (!) This one was 'Happy' - which means it had weed in it - nice - $4 - it was huge, bigger than I expected. Quite powerful.

On purpose I picked the roughest-looking guest house with the worst reviews on Trip Advisor and it turned out to be one of the best and friendliest I have stayed in !  

ANGKOR MEAS GUESTHOUSE No.112 Street 19 - Room # 601 on the 5th floor has a window with view, shower/toilet and working TV ( Fox movies and CNN ) for $6 – that is an unbeatable price for a place only two blocks from the riverside. Some ants, but no other bugs. OK, it is not the Hilton (!) but quite OK. There is the usual soap, towels, toothbrush, WiFi and drinking water provided free. It has some quirks :

The sink has no down-pipe at all – just a hole with no plug – and the water drains onto your feet, but the tap on the sink only gives out a dribble so that is OK (?)

No cover on the cistern, so the mechanism is visible – so what ? This is Cambodia ! It flushes well though.

The shower has an interesting tap – there is no definite ' OFF ' position – it can be rotated continuously through 360º and just goes full-on or nearly off – the best 'off ' you can get is a slow dribble, the 'on' is at a good pressure. It doesn't matter how many revolutions you give it – there is just on and nearly-off, many times per one revolution ! Oh, and the knob comes off in your hand if you are not careful as well. I have seen a cold-water tap with a centre-off position before in Cambodia, but never before one that was continuously variable.

Another night I went out at midnight for a walk. I stopped at a 24-hour convenience store for yoghurt. Small tubs of 250gms are now $2.25 and 500gms $4.50 – expensive, but nice. In comparison, 1 Kilo tubs of Tesco Greek-style yoghurt were £1 – maybe more now, but certainly much cheaper. It would be less in a supermarket, however they are closed at midnight ! I went to the riverside to eat the yoghurt and noticed two Khmer men with what I thought were folded fishing-rods. In fact they were rat catchers and the devices were rubber-band powered harpoons. They wear head-mounted LED lights like miner's lamps and as soon as they see a rat in the bushes – and there are lots of them there – they shoot the harpoon which has a small noose and a slip-knot on the end and lasso the rat. I saw them catch two rats with two shots – very accurate ! The lassoed rat is dragged out and swiftly dispatched with a blow to the head. They said they are delicious to eat.


Ratter at the riverside, Phnom Penh - after midnight

Went to the Royal Palace - $6 to walk around it which is a bit expensive - no photos allowed inside


I think this is the 'Silver Pagoda' which has a floor made of 10,000 silver plates - all but about six of them are covered up by carpets and cannot be seen - however the building is beautiful from the outside

Went to S-21 or Tuol Sleng the Genocide Museum - an unsettling

experience and, although  I took photos ( my camera is behaving itself now ) I don't want to see them again !

So, instead of the horrors of S-21, here is a beautifully-coloured bird pecking at a tree there ...

Now I am back in Kratie, it is very quiet – no going out at midnight for a walk : it is deserted after 9 pm. After a week away, my plants have grown much bigger and need re-potting. I use a mixture of topsoil, sand and manure – which means going to the Temple for horse and cow dung. The cow-dung smells a bit (!) but the horse dung doesn't. I doubt if there are many foreigners walking around Cambodia with a plastic carrier-bag full of manure !

Unable to find a carpenters shop, I decided to make a box for my last project ( the 12 Volt Travel Vaporizer ) myself – if I could get the wood. So-called 'Luxury wood ' is now illegal in Cambodia ( as in Thailand and Laos ) because there is hardly any of it left. The most sought-after wood is Pa-Yoong and you can forget trying to buy that in Cambodia, however the second-best wood is called T'nong - a beautiful red hardwood with sweet smell – and I was given a big block of it for free ( useful having some Khmer friends now ! ) by the brother-in-law of a university lecturer. He was a bit apprehensive of the police, carrying this protected wood on his motorbike, but they didn't care : coming back from the saw-mill, we were stopped at a check point and they pointed out that the strap of his crash helmet should have been done up tightly – only that – no mention of me on the back wearing a floppy hat or of the wood. A tissue-box made of T'nong wood sells for $20 and having a box made for me would have cost $25 – so you can see how expensive this wood is here. As it turned out, the wood was free and the saw-mill charged $2 for cutting it into planks. The box is now finished and I am looking forward to making more things with this wood.

I have been here I Kratie for six months now and there has been a lot of new development : everywhere there was a vacant plot of land near the town center, it has now been sold and shop-houses constructed on it. These are then rented out – at about $40 a month. The occupants live in the back of the shop – so can keep the shop open until all hours. Most of the new shops are beauty shops for women – the rest are food shops selling noodles in soup or grilled / fried snacks or else motorbike-accessory shops. Every-one has a motorbike and the locals like to get them decorated with stickers and LED lights. Some shops even repair them ! So many bikes have no working lights – very dangerous at night – but not illegal (!) - and it doesn't seem to be much of a priority to get them fixed. All shops have a cooler with cold drinks for sale – and beer in the food shops. Depending on location, some are successful with many customers – while others are empty and losing money.
There is a lane I often take as a short-cut to the market and, before I went to Phnom Penh for a week, there was only the one shack there. A week later and three more shacks have appeared. The families living there – I suppose you could say ' squatting ' as it is public land – are very poor : the shacks have no water or electricity and hardly anything inside – except for cats and a goose underneath the floorboards ! The shacks have a bamboo framework with plastic sheets covering it – easy to move if evicted. They all seem to have lots of babies and small kids – I don't know how they survive with no land to grow food. There are a few shops in this lane with nothing on sale that costs more than $1 – most items far less.
One nice thing about Cambodia is that, if you buy a bottle of sweet bean-juice for 50 cents, they will draw up a chair for you to sit on while you drink it – if it is not a take-away – and there is no pressure to hurry up and move off. A 50 cent sale is quite respectable and entitles you to sit for however long it takes without the owners glaring daggers at you – as would be the case in the UK. If you give street beggars 500 Riel – 12 cents – they smile and say thank you – London ( Tottenham ) is crawling with beggars and they ask for 50p minimum – I don't think they would smile if you gave them 10p which is about 12 cents ! The exchange rate for PayPal is now $1.25 to the Pound – the worst I have seen it – soon it will be Pounds to the $ !!! ( Thank you BREXIT !!! ) The VISA exchange rate is slightly better at $1.35 to the Pound – the only hope is that the dollar weakens after the November elections in the US, but I expect the Pound will drop then as well. Now I have a one-year business visa, all I have to pay for is rent and food. The weather is still very nice and warm – there is no autumn with cold winds and the leaves dropping – it actually gets hotter when the monsoon has finished. The 'cool season ' is around Christmas and the tourists should be back.
I am still having trouble winding down to the Cambodian pace of life : sometimes I try and get too much done – it is hard taking life as easy as the Khmer do – after all, if I do too much, I won't have anything left to do !? The slowness of life here amazes me – as does the speed with which plants grow !

Cows are free-range here and often wander about on the roads – quite indifferent to the traffic. These cows were just standing still by the riverside – they know cars and bikes will have to go around them and they will NOT move out of the way.

In this street scene you can see two cows in the traffic


Pumping sand and gravel from the river bed - trucks are loaded and deliver to construction sites - all equipment is home-made ...


A boat being loaded with bricks - Mekong riverside - the truck is home-made

So far, since I bought a faulty, second-hand lens and repaired it, my camera has been working properly and I haven't had to change lenses. Before I had the spare lens, it would jam-up from time to time. Typical – when you have a spare, you don't need it and when you don't have a spare, you do !

Passion fruit are back again - and cheaper than before - I thought the season had finished. The strange green things on the left are - strange green things ! No idea !



Another mobile shop with a motorbike somewhere underneath ?


Strange home-made truck which is possibly a mobile rice-mill (?) The wife is busy loading up sacks.

Of course, being home-made it doesn't need number plates, registration, insurance, drivers license or any similar nonsense (!) - can be used on ANY road like a car.


 This home-made truck was going down a narrow lane near the post office - also no need for number plates or registration ! The tank on the back full of sewage ???

The temporary shacks that had sprung up recently have now all vanished - there is only the one family that live there - without running water or electricity - rainwater is collected for drinking -  the kids seem happy enough though ...

The family and friends at home in the morning - they were very happy and had been drinking beer ! The mother has five children - she is a widow - I help them with a few dollars when I pass by. They seem to survive by collecting beer cans and plastic for re-cycling - maybe it is a good excuse for drinking beer so that you can re-cycle the cans ??? The Western approach would be to fix up the shack BEFORE spending money on beer, but in Cambodia FUN comes before anything else !!! 

There is a village out of town that has a shipyard. This steel boat is being constructed next to the Mekong River. They use gas and arc welding. Must be a job lowering the boat down to the water level ?


Just a bit further the lane leads to Vietnamese houseboat village. Very friendly - no problem coming aboard and having a beer with the owner. They speak Khmer - they have been living there for 30 years ! In the middle of the floor of the living room there is a hatch and underneath it is a fish farm ! The fish go into a frenzy at feeding time and splash Mekong river-water everywhere. Completely self-sufficient : no rent or rates to pay - they have chickens, bananas and veggies with the fish. Solar-power for electricity. They sleep in hammocks - I expect the river comes through the gaps in the floorboards when it gets choppy ?

I wasn't looking forward to it, but I had to make another journey to Laos and bring back some more of my stuff – before I became too busy teaching in November. I had read about trying to get through a border crossing with furniture and household effects on an ex-pat website – they said it was very difficult and expensive as all items were subject to tax at up to 100% - in their opinion it wasn't worth it and better to buy everything locally. This isn't an option for me as I had invested a lot of money buying tools and equipment in Laos and wasn't going to just leave it there to rot. Previously I took three bags and a backpack with me every time I did the trip and they used to complain a bit as it wasn't easy fitting it on a minibus with all the other passengers' stuff. The big bus service has been suspended – lack of customers (?) – that was most convenient as it was a direct bus without having to change at the border. This time I wanted to bring my drill press which is very heavy – even dismantled it comprised three heavy boxes – the total weight of seven packages was about 200 kilos ! Hiring a car and driver for two days would be too expensive – I had to try it by bus. So I set off for Laos – three months after my last visit.


Overloading ? What's that ? I didn't want to come back from Laos looking like this !!! The driver is on the phone - don't know how effective the front drum brakes would be with all that lot ?

The Cambodian border has now been finished and looks very beautiful – lots of landscaped grass and the old dilapidated restaurants removed. If you want an agent to do the Laos visa for you, they are asking $45 this year – too much – they didn't have any takers – we all decided to do it ourselves. Signing out of Cambodia was quick and efficient – they scan passports, but I didn't see anything come up on the monitor – no scams or extra charges either. The minibus from Kratie to the border cannot cross over into the Laos side, so some walking is required across no-man's-land. Empty bags so no problem. At the Laos side there is a printed notice saying that the service-charge is $1 ( quite illegal, but it's only a dollar ) then they ask for another $2 for stamping the passport ! In other words the Lao officials scam you $3 just for doing their job. The visa was $35 so a total of $38 is still better than $45 from an agent. You can refuse to pay the scam, threaten to report them, ask for an official receipt, take a photo of them etc. etc. but it only delays matters – and they can always refuse the visa ! A Lao minibus took us about 30 kms from the border to a bus station – the air-con wasn't working and tourist buses don't have curtains on the windows so it was a mobile oven. Transport for locals has curtains and blinds to keep the sun out, but they expect tourists want to look out of the windows. We were then told the next bus to Pakse would be along in 2 hours – Laos is chaotic as the various bus companies do not inform each other about the number of passengers and their destinations so buses are often over-booked and full. However, a bus soon arrived and I reached Pakse.

Pornsawun guest house is closed for renovations so I checked into Sabaidee 2 ( last time there were bedbugs there !! ) The rooms have now been re-decorated with insect-screens on the windows and no mosquito nets – no bugs either ! All very smart and the WiFi has been upgraded. I visited the Vietnamese hairdresser in Pakse and she remembers me. The Viets are very jolly – not like the Lao.

The next morning off to Paksong and Tong Wai by local transport. The road-widening scheme from Pakse to Paksong is still not finished – absolutely nothing has been done for a year and the appropriated strips of land on either side of the main road are now slowly being reclaimed by weeds and the jungle. The once-perfect surface of the road has now deteriorated and there are many huge potholes – it looks like the Americans have bombed it again ! Laos roads are now worse than Cambodian ones. In Paksong they have been building a monument for more than a year and that is not finished either – it is for Gomma Dun the Lao hero of Independence from the French. From what I have read, the French practically handed them Independence on a plate ( probably only too pleased to be rid of them ) and there wasn't any need for fighting, but the Lao like to think that Gomma Dun saved them.

I met the Boss and lots of Thai guests, then spent a day packing my things. The next-door neighbour's restaurant and new house are just as they were – unfinished and rotting away – absolutely no progress. Only the satellite system I installed is working properly – the dish the caretaker placed in an impossible position is still there – unused as the LNB ( receiver ) has been stolen. Another dish has been installed by professionals and does not work properly. I was asked by many to repair their TVs – too late now.

The shopkeeper gave me a lift right to the bus station where there was a passenger truck to Magasung - 30 kms from the border. He said his friend, who he hadn't seen for 20 years (!) would arrange the border crossing (?) No problem with 200 kilos of luggage on a local bus – they expect it – just double fare : $10 for a 3 hour 164 km ride. However, there was no seat – the bus was full – but the bus conductor told them to move up on one side – there are 8 seats on either side and 3 novice Monks were taking up too much space so there were only 6 seated on that side. Begrudgingly they moved up – no smiles or 'hellos ' in Laos for a foreigner – they are a miserable lot.

I was dropped off at Onpaseud Guest House & Restaurant in Magasung with my huge pile of bags. Feeling some trepidation about the uncertainty of the situation, I phoned the shopkeeper's friend and he arrived on a motorbike. He said it was his guest house and I should stay the night as there were no more buses to the border that day. The room was $10 – air conditioned, ( empty ) mini fridge, hot shower and Thai TV that died after a few minutes ! WiFi did not work. No restaurant either. I spent the afternoon and night in that boring room – nowhere to go outside – My 'saved' videos downloaded from YouTube had expired (?) Why are they only saved for a week ? Luckily I had a good book to read and that is how I spent my birthday !

The next morning the same Lao minibus – the mobile oven – came to collect me. I had been told that I should pay for 3 seats ( $60 ) and $10 to sweeten things at the border – that way there should be no problems with my luggage, at least at the Lao side – the Cambodian police were said to be 'fussy' and there could be a problem ? With my luggage tied to the roof of the minibus, I arrived at the border and was told that the Lao bus could not cross to the Cambodian side – and the Cambodian bus was not allowed to come to the Lao side. What to do ? The one kilometer no-man's-land is too far to walk with 200 kgs of baggage. There was a discussion in rapid Khmer and I caught the words ' pay money ' It seems the $10 would help and two minutes later the Cambodian minibus arrived at the Lao side and the driver loaded up my bags under the seats. He knew I had paid for 3 seats although on the ticket it said I had paid for 7 bags and the seat was free ! Anyway, I was given VIP treatment and the spacious front seat. I paid the agent $2 to have my entry stamp – and $1 to miss the health check ( quarantine for infectious diseases ) that saved 2kms walk to the visa office and back. Still no customs check. After crossing the border alone in the bus – the other tourists had to walk - a guard came to inspect our passports, visas and entry stamps, but absolutely no interest in luggage as it was a tourist bus. Very friendly – he said bye-bye to us. Of course, I didn't actually have 3 empty seats – the bus was packed with tourists like sardines in a can – but I was soooo comfortable. So, despite website warnings, it can be done – just takes extra payment – and was not even difficult – not like trying to get through an airport with 200 kilos of baggage and no customs check ! I have one last trip to do next year – I want to bring my oxy-propane welding set and that will be it for Laos, I hope.

With 12 kms to go before Kratie, one rear tyre shed its tread with a smell of burning rubber and much juddering. I expect the bus was a bit overloaded ( what ? with my stuff ? ) , however the driver soon changed it for the spare and we were off again. In Kratie the buses normally stop at the bus station, but the driver took me right to the underground car park of my apartment - by the stairs ( no lift ) – most convenient. It is useful having enough Khmer to ask for such favours.

Returning from the market with much-needed supplies, a parked car was honking at me. I am used to motorbike taxis – called motodops – hooting at me in case I want a ride, but not private cars ( there are no taxis here, only bikes and Tuk Tuks ) The driver called me over and asked 'where do you come from ? ' I said England, but that wasn't what he wanted, so he then asked 'where are you coming from ?' I said the market. Then he asked 'where are you going to ?' and I replied 'to my apartment' He wanted to know if he could take me there ? It seemed strange and he looked quite inoffensive, so I got in. He said he knew me (?) and was a friend of one of the other lecturers at the university. Then he asked if he could go back to the market first as he wanted to buy some clothes. He parked within walking distance of the kerb (!) and went off to the market leaving me in the car – a new Toyota – with the engine running ! A bit strange – trusting his car to a foreigner – but this is Cambodia. Later he returned and gave me a lift home. He is, indeed, a teacher and I saw him in action at a school I will also be teaching at in a few days time.

As I had some time before starting teaching, I went to Phnom Penh for the weekend. The minibus was stopped by police twice for having a double bed tied to the back and the driver had to part with a couple of dollars. I stayed at Angkor Meas guest house – room 308 ( $8 ) a nice room with a bathtub – very rare here – hot water and a window with a view. Good WiFi. This place is rated as one of the worst in Phnom Penh by Trip Advisor – In my opinion it is one of the best – and Moving-to-Cambodia websites say a border crossing with LOTS of stuff is nearly impossible. This goes to show that you shouldn't always believe what is on the Internet.


Bath tub with huge water heater at Angkor Meas guest house


Phnom Penh is full of contrasts - there are still bicycle rickshaws - and sugar-cane shops !

                                           THE OLD




 All these bikes are Harley Davidsons - an international bike rally



All the flowers in this shop are plastic - skilfully made



Halloween is celebrated big time in Phnom Penh and this Trick or Treat shop has only Halloween items - don't know what they do for the rest of the year.



Near an ethnic Vietnemese area of Phnom Penh I saw this Chinese shrine - the stove is for burning paper money ( $100 bills ) and effigies 



By way of contrast, this Khmer shrine has a slightly scary baby 




Concerning Education in the developing world, I am now doing my bit by teaching English in four different schools. It is part-time – only one hour a day – which leaves me plenty of free time for my projects. It has been organized by an ex-lecturer from UME and he takes me to and fro on his motorbike to the various classes – no transportation worries. In fact, lots of lecturers have resigned from UME and are working elsewhere – reasons being :
• Too much extra work – teachers are expected to set and mark daily homework, half-term and end-of-term exams ( oral exams in my case ) Prepare course syllabus and curriculum and detail daily teaching activities. Prepare comprehensive assignments for additional study. All this has to be done for free and takes days !
• Students complain about dirty classrooms and toilets that are broken, dirty and often with no water. Some fans have been out-of-service for ages and not fixed.
• No A/V ( audio & Video ) or WiFi in the classrooms – cannot use material from Internet – the ' listening and speaking 'course is supposed to have a tape ( which shows how old it is ) but no tape, tape player and no speakers
• Refill ink for whiteboard markers always in short supply – usually only red available. Some whiteboards so old that they are difficult to clean and writing barely visible.
• Extreme difficulty in getting paid – you have to prepare a huge list of dates, times and topics covered, then submit it on a Saturday and return on Sunday to be told that you can only have a part of it and must repeat the process next week. It can take two months to collect back pay after you have finished the term ! They have a cash-flow problem, but they should at least pay the lecturers on time.
• Out-of-date books – one book is 30 years old – with obsolete technology examples. All books are ( badly ) photocopied from usually the 'Headway ' series which I don't like. Photos come out very badly in these copied books. Books are sold to the students. Some books are so unsuitable that hardly anything in them is usable – I like to ad lib anyway, but they should be better. I complained many times, but was told that I could prepare my own book – a lot of work and I would not get paid for it – and it might not get approved by the Director ( who cannot speak English ! ) anyway.
• The only foreign teacher they like to employ full-time is a Nigerian who can hardly speak intelligible English – I listened outside his classroom one day and I really could not understand what he was saying ! He has a very loud, booming voice and is strict and intimidating ( frightening ? ) and they think that makes him a good teacher. He is prejudiced against white teachers – normally in Asia it is the other way round and he would never get a job in Phnom Penh or Thailand for example.
I don't think I will be teaching there again unless they improve their methods. In fact the Vice-Dean has phoned three times and asked me to teach in other schools and in Phnom Penh ! So now I have free rein to use whatever teaching method I like – I work with a Khmer teacher who translates and makes sure the students understand. This is necessary because some classes are beginners – A B C level ! – and don't know much vocabulary. These kids are great fun and really want to learn. I use a big box of items that begin with letters of the Alphabet – problems with some letters though – any ideas for Q,X,Z ? Can't find a xylophone. Most classes are intermediate and some of them are better than the UME university students. I hope using two teachers they will pick up proper pronunciation from me rather than bad habits from the Khmer teacher ( they try their best, but teach some words wrong ) I want to use puzzles more : crosswords, a gravity puzzle I have made and even Rubik's Cube. There is a LOT of vocabulary associated with these puzzles ( I work with a Khmer teacher to prepare the vocab. list ) and they are more fun than textbooks. Rubik's cubes are surprisingly expensive ( $3.50 ) and I would like to try crowdfunding to try and get donations for 25 sets. ( I have only just learnt how to solve a cube, but kids should learn quicker ! Not easy to explain in English ) I am teaching at government schools, lower pay but more satisfying, and the schools and students are very poor – most students come to school on a bicycle whereas at UME they ALL have motorbikes.


There was a three day holiday, starting on the 13th, the Annual Water Festival ( which means river boat racing ) – so I went to Phnom Penh. It was very crowded – an expected 2 million extra visitors for the festival. The hotels increase the prices too. I quickly did my shopping and then, in the evening, saw the magnificent firework display by the riverside. Families sitting eating and food vendors everywhere. Most roads near the river where closed to traffic – and you had to walk to get anywhere. Every Ministry had sponsored a river float with colourful theme displays in LED lights – there were dozens of them parading up and down the river while the fireworks were going on. Walking to the riverside I noticed this street with overhanging tenements and balconies. Now quite rare to see an ancient street that has not yet met the developer's wrecking ball. The fruit shop had ripe mangoes, but did not serve fruit shakes - the fruit-shake shop on the opposite side of the road didn't have any mangoes - what to do ? ( I really fancied a mango milk shake as mangoes are only just coming into season and I have been deprived of them for many months ! ) I was on the point of giving up when a local told the fruit-shop seller to send a plate of peeled mangoes to the fruit-shake vendor and they worked it out between them - a delicious drink for a $.

You can see the vegetation growing right out of the concrete walls of the apartments ! Over time seeds have invaded cracks and crevices and no-one cares. Looks wierd.



Early the next morning I went to a machine shop I had found on an earlier visit and they were very happy to do some lathe work for me. Now I know where to get parts machined – the items that I cannot do myself – and that will be a great help with my projects.


The engineer ( without a shirt on ) was very skilled and did a proper job. I demonstrated the spinning top to them after he had machined the flywheel - they approved !


One of the themed floats passing along the river at night


Returning from Phnom Penh, I quickly finished two more projects made from re-cycled beer cans and scrap T'nong wood. These will be used for teaching. I am quite surprised that puzzles and novelty, physics demonstration-equipment that are familiar to many of us in the West are virtually unknown in Cambodia and when I show something before lessons it draws a huge crowd of students. I am still waiting for the Khmer teacher to help with the vocabulary sheets and then I can use them in class. (See PROJECTS page for photos of educational toys and puzzles )

The full moon this month was quite exceptional - the closest approach for many years.

                                   The moon rising.


In fact it was so bright that it woke me up in the middle of the night ! I was sleeping outside, as usual, and I thought some-one had switched the light on. Unlikely because I am the only tenant at the rear of the building and the top-floor veranda is locked to all except me.

                                       The moon at sunset.


I saw this logging truck  in Kratie. The same trucks are used in Laos - mostly ex-army trucks with good ground-clearance. The front winch is used to haul big logs into the body of the truck. As logging is illegal, they obviously don't need number plates or registration.

Happy New Year !

Teaching English brings some surprising results from the students – for example I was explaining that you drive a car, but ride a bicycle or a motorbike. Then some of them asked what about an elephant ? OK ride an elephant. What about a lion ?? a tiger and a dragon ? Don't think they often ride lions, tigers and dragons ?? What about a plane ? Fly a plane. A boat ? More tricky – Pilot a boat ? Steer a boat ? Captain a ship ? Then one of them asked, using the Khmer teacher to translate, what about a Witch on a broomstick ? I'm surprised they know about these things.
The original idea was to have two teachers in each class– myself and a Khmer teacher to help with translations – however, recently I have noticed that the Khmer teachers are increasingly absent, either on holiday or busy (?) because they know that there are now three teachers who can cover for them ( myself and two administrators ) Even when they are present, some of them wander off and leave me to it. It is not a problem for me – I have to use more Khmer – and I suppose it is a vote of confidence in my teaching abilities ? One major difference between the schools I teach in and the usual English schools – of which there are a lot – is that I can use science demonstrations as lessons - which I like a lot as do the students. I first started with the question " what is water made of ? " and demonstrated that it can be split into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity – and then made to explode very satisfactorily with a flame. Even the Khmer teacher, who teaches chemistry in Khmer, was amazed that it gave such a splendid bang and asked why. I thought that the chemistry of water was just about as basic as you can get, but apparently not ! I feel quite sorry for them – learning science without a lab - so I have decided to make a lot more science demonstrations for the coming year. This is something that no other school has – including the university. The other basic topics I plan to cover are " How can you make fire ? " , "How can you make electricity ? " and – one of my favourites – "How can you make lightning ? " Also planned are magnetism and electromagnetic radiation. These can be taught in English using everyday words – OK, some technical ones as well, but they should know them if they are doing science in Khmer. The last class I did with the high school students was very well received : one extra Khmer teacher came in to watch and all the students who had phones were taking videos of the explosions !
It takes a lot of planning to prepare a demonstration – and some of the parts I have to order from China are expensive – so I am having to think of what I will need well ahead of time. I don't mind at all – spending money on this equipment – as it gives me just as much satisfaction as the students when a demonstration is clearly amazing. I have decided to keep teaching here in Kratie, although the pay is modest, as I am the only native-speaking teacher in Kratie ( not counting the Nigerian teacher at the university who is hardly able to speak English properly ) and the provinces need some proper tuition. Indeed, I have just refused the offer of a position at a big university in Phnom Penh – good money, but I would have to live there and keep on this apartment here. I recently met the Director of Education for the whole of Kratie Province and he said I should support the provinces as Phnom Penh has plenty of foreign teachers already.
Surprisingly, the students have gone crazy over Christmas and are more interested in giving each other presents than any learning. One of the local shops is selling plastic Santa Clauses ! Although they are Buddhist and don't know exactly what Christmas is all about, they see it as a good excuse for a party and for exchanging presents.


This Christmas tree was in a shop window in Phnom Penh - I also saw a Sante Claus sleigh with fake snow in another shop !

I have introduced crossword puzzles as a teaching aid and they have never seen them before as palindromes and crosswords are almost impossible to do in Khmer ( or in Thai and Lao ) because of the complicated three-level script and even the Khmer teachers had never seen crosswords before ! The first palindromes I showed them were mathematical ones – the squares of numbers where all the digits are "1". Spoonerisms are very popular in Thai and Khmer – the only English ones I know are rude !
I was looking up some palindromes and came across these two good ones :
Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era.
and – quite appropriate for my website :
Madam, in Eden I'm Adam.
I went to the post office and collected some packets from China that I had ordered. Some items are excellent – beyond expectations – and others are disappointing : smaller than I thought they would be, or different from the pictures on eBay. However, that day they were quite good and I was walking back from the post office, deep in thought about how I would use them, and a woman sitting on a motorbike with a small daughter behind her called me over. She was holding two 500 riel notes and said in Khmer she wanted to give me the money ! I am often asked for money by people on the street, but this was the first time someone wanted to give me money. I said I have money, thank you, and showed her a big wad of notes that I had in my pocket. She smiled and rode off. I was quite perplexed : did I look as if I badly needed 1000 riel ( 25 cents ) ? I hardly think so. I think she saw me, deep in thought, and took my mood for depression or sadness and thought a small gift might cheer me up ??? Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was a nice – if a bit strange – gesture. One of the strangest things to have happened recently – I'm still not sure of her intentions, but I'm sure they were good if not misguided.
For New Year I went to Phnom Penh for a couple of days and stayed in luxurious room 305, Angkor Meas guest house. A bath tub with hot water and a window with a view. There were so many foreigners in Phnom Penh that at times they outnumbered the Cambodians ! A typical street scene might have been in any European city – except for the warm weather ! The riverside was also crowded, but at midnight on New Year's Eve nothing much seemed to be happening – it is not a Khmer festival and I didn't see any fireworks. I was very busy shopping and getting some welding done : now I know a good stainless-steel fabrication shop I have plenty of projects lined up that require welding.

A popular drinking water is this " I sin " brand - seems a bit Catholic for Cambodia ?


They are building a new road next to my apartment – at the moment it doesn't go anywhere that I can see worth building a road for. Some distance from the end of the new road is a small field and a red helicopter landed there yesterday ( 6th January ) and then came back again in the afternoon. It was the first helicopter I have seen in Cambodia or Laos – all the local kids came to look at it. Indeed, I have never even seen a plane fly overhead in Kratie and only a few times near the airport in Phnom Penh. The only building of note near this field and my apartment is Ly Cheu hotel and I cannot imagine they are receiving guests by helicopter ? – there must be some other VIP project lined up ??

The red helicopter  can be seen in the distance. The road doesn't go anywhere yet ...


A close-up of the helicopter - school kids in uniform are coming to look at it.

The last time I was in Phnom Penh I discovered street 107 which has the most unbelievably sleezy, squalid and shabby guesthouses I have yet seen in Cambodia. If I had the time I would love to try them all and see just how bad – or good - they are ! It is far more interesting slumming it at the low end of the price range than staying in the most expensive hotels which are all similar whatever country you are in.


Ly Hour Guest house - street 107

This is a Vietnamese guest house - it is ( probably ) pronounced " Lee Whore " - looks much worse at night - very gloomy inside. At least it's open 24 hours.



Sok Va guest house - doesn't look much better ?  Also very dark and dingy at night - but maybe OK inside ??? Open 24 hours - probably possible to rent rooms by the hour ?


The worst guesthouse I have ever stayed in was in McCloud Gunge, India, in 1973. The " Tibetan Hotel " was very cheap – food was a rupee as was a night's stay in the dormitory above. When you sat down at a table to eat, the Tibetan owner carefully collected all the left-over food and rubbish from the previous customers, which usually covered the tabletops, and swept it straight onto the floor ! As soon as you settled down to sleep upstairs you felt creatures scuttling over your body – at first I thought they were mice – they were about that size – but they only turned out to be cockroaches ! The beds were none too clean ! The Tibetan Hotel didn't have any toilets and there was a public toilet in McCloud Gunge, but no-one was brave enough to use it : through the doorway ( no door ) you could see an immense mountain of turds getting on for 2 metres high shrouded in a cloud of flies. Quite a feat of engineering to produce such a structure – I can't imagine anyone scaling it to add more turds to the summit ? As was usual in India in those days, any open space could be used as a toilet. I don't think the rough guesthouses in street 107 could be anywhere near as bad as the Tibetan Hotel in 1973...
Similarly, the newest, cleanest minibusses to Phnom Penh are not always the best. When I go to the bus station there are a crowd of bus drivers who run towards you and try and drag you to their particular bus. At first I would take the first bus offered and being a foreigner they want you to take the more expensive VIP busses. Now I am more choosy and do not take the new busses because the air conditioning usually works too well and it is freezing inside and full of tourists. The beat-up old busses are much better – not cold as the air-con barely works and full of Cambodians rather than tourists – a much more fun experience.


On street 107 is this strange factory - don't know if they make sausages or handicrafts or hand-crafted sausages ?


A common name in Cambodia is " Makara " which means January and, in fact, all the months are used as first names – except for December. Similarly, the days of the week are used as first names – except for Thursday. Usually it denotes the day or month they were born on. Sons are often given their Grandfather's surname.

I was beginning to think that ' TIG ' welding for stainless steel was not done here in Kratie and I would have to go to Phnom Penh every time I wanted something done. However, I once noticed a TIG welder in operation ( TIG is tungsten-in-gas ) at one shop, but every time I went there the only person who could operate it was " not here, try tomorrow ." I gave up with that shop and found another, but he was quite busy so - very kindly – took me on a motorbike to a small shop on the road to Sombok Mountain. I would never have found that shop on my own and the welder is happy to do jobs for me. It is a nice walk to this shop and back, now I know where it is, about the same distance as a trip to the market. As in Laos, when welding stainless steel, they do it ' Vietnamese ' style – which means rather than maintaining a continuous bead of weld, they use a series of quick blips. The result looks the same, however. At another visit to the welders, They kindly gave me a free ride back to my apartment on a motorbike after doing the ( expensive ) job – probably because I paid more than a Khmer would have done ?

Friday 27th January was Chinese and Vietnamese New Year and, although it is not a Khmer holiday, the Cambodians celebrate it by having a party and drinking too much. The few shops open – not Chinese or Viet ! – don't look too happy as they would rather be partying. Saturday the 28th was a holiday for the teachers and, even on the Sunday, many shops were closed. 2017 is the year of the rooster. Chinese New Year officially lasts for 15 days. I only know these things because I gave the students a Chinese-New-Year crossword puzzle to do ...

I was laid up in bed for a couple of days with food poisoning and a fever and I had my phone by me to check on the time. Suddenly I started to get Facebook alerts and was surprised to see that I had an Internet WiFi connection. Usually I leave my phone in the living room, and I didn't think there was any WiFi signal on my floor – only on the second floor. So I tried my laptop – which receives WiFi better than the phone – and I had useable Internet ! This came as something of a surprise because lately there has been no signal on the second floor and to download anything I had to go downstairs to the car park and rely on battery power. So I spent my time recovering with free Internet – which sort of shows that even sickness can have its good points (?) If I had not been sick, I would never have noticed a WiFi signal in the bedroom ! I have now recovered and am getting my strength back – could not eat for two days – this is the first time I have been sick for two years and am not sure what caused it ? I drank some bottled water from the previous day which tasted a bit off – but I drank it anyway – maybe that was what did it ?

I have been having ongoing problems with PayPal Cambodia – for some reason you cannot send or receive money through PayPal Cambodia unlike PayPal UK. It used to work with eBay then suddenly stopped working – not to worry I can use the Visa card. Then I had my phone stolen last year and tried to update PayPal with the new phone number. This does not work as they have to send you a text message to the number on record first before they will update it. I told their helpline about the problem and they sent me an email saying they keep trying to phone me – on the number of the stolen phone ! – and I do not answer. More emails and they updated the phone number for me. So far so good. They also recommended installing the latest version of Google Chrome and deleting all cookies and caches before making payments. I downloaded Chrome and installed it and then up popped a message to say that I already had a more recent version of Chrome installed on my computer and did I really want to change it for an older one ? So why do Google give you older versions of Chrome from their website when I click on the button to download the latest version ? ( and where did I get the latest version from ? Possibly from the local computer shop who installed Windows 7 and other programs for me ? Funny to think that the local shop have a more updated version of Chrome than Google ??? ) Last November my old Visa card expired and I tried to update PayPal with my new card, but I get " Card not accepted – try another one ." The card works fine otherwise and I am waiting to see what excuse PayPal gives me. More messages from PayPal saying that when they link a new card they try and deduct $1 from the bank first to see if the card works – if it works they refund the money. They said the $1 transaction was declined by my bank. My bank said no it wasn't – they have no record of any declined transaction. The bank said I should update 'Verified by Visa' – I could never get this to work with my old card ! - simply click on the Verify by Visa link on the left-hand-side of the accounts page. However there is no Verify by Visa link on their new-look webpage – maybe there was on the old one ? I get the feeling they don't really know what is going on and are just guessing ?

( PayPal is now working - it took a lot of emails ! )


As in Laos, there are police checkpoints on the roads out of town and they like to relieve motorbike riders and their passengers of small amounts of cash for infringements of traffic laws. Most popular is not wearing a crash helmet – not a problem in town, but if you leave you might have to part with two dollars. I was given a lift to a sawmill out of town and, rather than risk paying fines twice – going and coming back – bought a $5 Vietnamese crash helmet. It is about the thickness of - and guaranteed to offer as much protection - as an eggshell. The visor broke the first time I adjusted it but it, at least, looks like a crash helmet and satisfies the police. There is even a police spotter with a radio some distance from the checkpoint who can call ahead and warn them of likely customers. All the locals – usually without crash helmets – see him and do a detour through the back roads by-passing the checkpoint. Apart from the traffic checkpoints, police are generally conspicuous by their absence !

I like to arrive in good time for lessons so that I can discuss the lesson plan with the Khmer teachers. However, this is not really Cambodian style – they favour the 'just-in-time ' approach which means turning up at the last possible moment and preferably just as the bell is ringing to start the classes. It seems that, however late I think I am, the teacher who will be giving me a lift to the school is always later ! Having a free ride to school is very nice and puts the onus of arriving on time with the motorbike rider rather than with me. Usually we agree on a time for pickup outside my apartment and then I phone to ask where they have got to - having waited for them and having doubts as to if they are really coming. Often they arrive with not much time in hand and then we have to go to a photocopy shop to get the lesson printed. I do not use the set book ( Headway English ) as I do not like it and all my lessons will eventually be printed up as a complete book. There is a local photocopy shop with connections to the school and all copies there are 'on account' and do not have to be paid for. This is therefore the shop of choice – however, if the motorbike pickup is typically late ( around 5 pm – and lessons start at 5:15 pm ) the shop is closed because the owner likes to go and play football at that time ! It is very much Cambodian style to get copies done with less than 15 minutes to go before a lesson ! ( I cannot prepare lessons well in advance because the school I will be teaching at is decided at the last moment. I then edit the lesson with the school's name on the header.) Amazingly, it all seems to work out and only once there was no electricity in Kratie so no copies possible on that day.

In Kratie, as in Laos, the traffic is light and I notice that motorbike riders, emerging from a side-road and wanting to join the lane in front of them, do not bother to look and see if anything is coming – they just expect any other vehicle to give way for them. Usually this works as cars tend to drive down the middle of the road anyway and other bikes swerve to avoid them. In Cambodia, if they want to cross the road and proceed in the other direction, they more-or-less have to look – however, if there is something coming – no problem – no need to wait for a clear space, simply drive the wrong way down the side of the road until they can cross. I have not seen this in Laos where they ride bikes at a snail's pace with the engine at tick-over – partly to save the expensive petrol and partly because the bikes are knackered anyway and won't go much faster. I am surprised they can actually keep upright and not fall over at that speed – or lack of ! There are plenty of experts at slow riding in rural Cambodia and sometimes at night here I see a headlight in the distance and decide to wait for it – mistake – they are riding slower than walking pace and take ages to arrive with a queue of backed-up traffic behind them. Most bikes are Honda Dreams and there are a very few big bikes here, but they don't charge around ( anything over 150cc is called a big bike ! )

However, in Phnom Penh it is a completely different story : the roads are usually jammed and the best time to cross the road is peak rush-hour when the traffic is stationary. At other times it is a continuous stream of vehicles with no gaps and you can forget about the Zebra crossings ! If you wait for a gap, you will be waiting forever. So the only way to cross the road is like the local pedestrians and bike riders do – just charge out into the traffic and get the timing right (!) so you can merge and come out the other side in one piece. If you are as purposeful as any Phnom Penh resident crossing the road, the oncoming traffic will cleave and miss you. Locals – who are still alive – must have a well-developed peripheral vision because
1. They are still alive
2. many of them ride or at least have ridden bikes in the city.
3. They know what they can get away with and when NOT to attempt crossing.

They are remarkably good drivers and must maintain a 3D map of other vehicles in their brain. All the moves seem choreographed and, at junctions, the traffic merges and divides with every-one somehow ending up in their intended direction. Indicators are rarely used and it must be micro-movements and body language that convey their intentions. There are few traffic lights, but those few have count-down numbers so you know how long the lights will stay red. This also means that about ten seconds before they are due to change – close enough, right ? – everyone charges off because, if you wait until they actually change, you miss your chances of getting away before they change back. Without traffic police or obeying no-left/right turn and no-entry signs, the organized chaos moves seamlessly a bit like ants in an ant colony. I have only once seen a low-speed accident ( no-one was hurt ) and there was no road-rage or heated exchange.

When foreigners cross the roads in Phnom Penh, everything changes. Unless they are seasoned residents, they stagger out at inopportune moments and then panic when surrounded by a sea of fast-moving vehicles ! A Khmer is braver, keeps going and never backs down – the traffic respects their resolve and avoids them – indeed it is safer to let the traffic do the necessary avoiding action than to try it yourself. Local motorbike riders have much faster and more finely-honed reactions than foreigners so leave the work up to them. However, when you are half-way across and then are suddenly confronted with a bike that has just appeared out of thin air, the best thing to do is to keep going. The worst thing to do is to stop still ! On occasion, I have frozen like a rabbit caught in headlights and, undecided as to which direction could be safer, stopped still. This freaks out the bike rider as it is totally alien behavior to them and they don't know how to react . They cannot stop or they will get rear-ended by the bikes a few millimeters behind them and, because they do not know your direction of travel, they do not know how to avoid you. If you make a firm commitment and stick to it, hoping it is the right one, it is usually OK. I suppose worst of all would be to move to the left ( say ) and then change your mind, back-track and go right – that would really confuse them. Or even oscillate between one way and the other ! By then the bike rider would have thought :

1. You are taking the piss
2. You are a bit crazy
3. You are a foreigner
4. All of the above


Safest is to use a group of Khmer, who are about to cross the road, as a human shield and stick close to them. Even safer is to walk across beside a car or large vehicle as it crosses.

Speaking of motorbikes suddenly appearing in front of you, as if out of nowhere, this phenomenon is happening to me on a regular basis in my apartment – sometimes I am using my laptop, so the screen is quite close to me, and an ant will materialize right before my eyes on the screen. I am sure that it was not crawling its way across the screen from the edge or I would have spotted it in my peripheral vision, wouldn't I ? It has also happened when I was writing or reading a book. It really seems as if they are teleported into existence smack bang in the center of my vision. Seriously though, who would know if ants could teleport ? One looks much the same as another and I doubt if there is much checking going on as to population and identity. It would not have to be kept as much of a secret for ants, however if humans were teleporting and suddenly popped into being from nowhere, it would not be long before the authorities became alerted ...

Peripheral vision is almost like a sixth sense – we can often be aware of extraneous events even when we are not seeing them. Similarly we are acutely conscious of some-one looking directly at us, even from a considerable distance, which is remarkable when you think about the size of their pupil and angle of coincidence between eye-contact and no eye-contact. It almost seems as if we have an in-built mechanism for eye-contact situations. Being a big-nosed foreigner in Cambodia, there is always some-one looking at you and, whereas in the West they would most probably look away in embarrassment when spotted, the Khmers are friendly and usually break into a beaming smile.

A great many Khmer girls are drop-dead gorgeous and it is hard not to stare (!) In the UK or America that would produce the reaction of  'What are you looking at grandpa ? ' but the typical reaction of a Khmer girl is to smile sweetly. There is one notable exception – the small daughter of one teacher screams with fright whenever she sees me ! She doesn't merely cry – her face is contorted into a mask of utter terror and she won't stop the tears. This is a bit of a conversation killer and so it is 'Hello and Bye-Bye' whenever I see that teacher with her daughter. It is a bit unsettling – I can't be that bad to look at, can I ? I was relieved to hear that her daughter does this with all foreigners she sees, not just me. Their house is secluded and they rarely meet strangers – but even so ....   Is it just the size of our noses that is so frightening or the proportions of facial features ? It's not as if Cambodians are a pure ethnic group – they are a mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai and Lao and many are dark skinned. On the other hand, Khmer women think long noses are beautiful and often want to stroke mine ! Similarly I think the cute little Asian noses are beautiful.



Recently I have started using Vietnamese epoxy resin from the Russian market in Phnom Penh. At least the seller said it was epoxy – another shop said it was 'acid glue' (?) Of course, there are no instructions – it is sold in 1Kilo jars and originally came in big drums. Cheap at $4.50 a Kilo. It is two-part, but the hardener comes in a much smaller bottle. The resin is water-clear and the hardener is brown. I was told that the proportions are 2:1 and extra hardener can be added if you want it stronger ( very dubious information ) Well, it is definitely a sort of epoxy and not polyester, but it has very strange properties. Mixing small quantities in a 2:1 ratio it works well and quickly sets hard to a yellow colour. However, if you mix up a largish batch – even taking care to keep to a 2:1 ratio – it expands rapidly into a rigid epoxy foam. The foam does set hard and is quite strong.  My first attempt at casting resulted in this  ---->

A second attempt – mixing half Kilo of resin and half the bottle of hardener – ended with this curious snake. This was to reinforce the support tube of a new Van de Graaff generator so, as the epoxy foam is quite solid, it is strong enough for this application – but hardly ideal.

There are types of epoxy that use a catalyst to harden them and the ratio is more like 10:1, but if I use less than 50% hardener, it does not set hard – only a sticky mess. It is not even very exothermic and only gets a bit warm even in a big batch. It expands like polyurethane foam, but smells like epoxy ! So, I cannot cast with it – only use small amounts at a time. Strange stuff.


I was in a convenience store in Phnom Penh a few days ago and saw this item discounted from $4 to $1 and could not resist it.

It says 'Magic Love Egg' , 'SMILE ' -  and I know what you are thinking – Sex toy, right ?   Well, no actually. It is quite innocuous as becomes clear when you read the instructions.


You can see the 'Love Egg ' through the window in the box.

I like the  'MY GOD ? " bit !


More instructions 

It seems it uses a pea or bean - Do they have "I lOVE YOU ' and 'ME TOO' printed on the leaves ?

When you open the box, you can see the ( ceramic ? ) egg in a plastic tub with ring-pull tab - very nicely made.


On the bottom of the tub is this message


Slightly contradicting information - 

First picture  -  'Await 3 - 10 days for germination' 

Second picture  -  ' 7 - 10 Days'

Then, on the bottom      -      'KINDLY NOTICE : if the time over 6 hours the egg still didn't broken, please spill out all the water and gently broken the egg from the top' 

Translation - if nothing happens in 6 hours, break it yourself ! Not much magic there ? So it grows before it germinates ??? That's magic.

They need some English teachers in China ...

Probably uses a diabolical genetically-modified Chinese bean, and I might not want to eat it ...

Well, it had to be done – my last trip to Laos ! I still had a lot of stuff there and if I delayed it much longer, they would think I was not interested and might chuck it away. It had already been four months since my last visit and the worst of the cold season there was over, so I took a few days off from teaching and bought a bus ticket ...

Arriving in Pakse without any problems, I noticed that a lot more Lao smoke cigarettes than Cambodians – even Lao women are often seen with a cigarette.

When you cross the road in Cambodia, motorbikes will avoid you – not so in Laos ! – they will drive straight at you as if you didn't exist. Laos is poorer than Cambodia and owning a bike elevates the rider to a high social status so pedestrians are treated with contempt. In both countries, you must check for bikes before crossing side streets or they will run you over – they never indicate or beep the horn.

Although Laos is poorer, things are more expensive : the 85 Km trip from Pakse to Huay Gong costs $5 in an open-sided truck that fills with exhaust fumes. In Cambodia, $5 gets you from Kratie to Phnom Penh – 250 Km in an air-con minibus with comfortable seats.

I was expecting to see the road-widening scheme finished on the stretch of road from Pakse to Paksong – it has now been three years since they started it. Absolutely nothing has been done and there are red, dusty strips of cleared land either side of the rapidly-deteriorating road. Many pot holes have appeared and there has been no attempt to fill them in. I did see some piles of earth in one place and even a bulldozer – but no workers. If the Chinese had been in charge of the project, it would have been finished years ago.

In Paksong, the monument to Gomma Dun, the Lao war hero (?) is still unfinished although some painting has been done.

The Boss's house looks very nice – lots of new buildings actually completed. However, the neighbour's ( white elephant ) restaurant is just the same as last time – an unfinished mess – and the latest estimated date of completion is 2025 which I think is wildly optimistic. It will probably rot and collapse before then.

I packed up the last of my belongings and the Boss gave me a lift to the bus station in Pakse – very convenient. Amongst other things I brought back my welding set and even managed to get an exchange oxygen cylinder on the way ( $6.25 ) In Asia, they don't care if you bring gas-welding sets on the bus !

Lousy Lao Guest House
I took a bus to " Ompaseut Guest House and Restaurant " – that actually doesn't have a restaurant. It is near the Cambodia / Lao border and the owner organized everything for me last time. This time he was very disinterested when I phoned him and I was told that "everything has changed " and I would have to get the ticket myself – no pick-up at the guest house. For $10 I got an air-con room with TV, fridge and hot shower. However, there was no remote for the TV – mostly Thai channels, but one French news channel in English (?) No remote for the air-con so you couldn't adjust it and it would turn off when cold. The only way to get it going again was to switch it off at the circuit breaker and then on again and it would reset. So I spent the night in an air-tight box that got too cold and then woke me up when it had become unbearably hot and stuffy. About every hour I had to get up and play with the breaker to get the air-con going again. Not the best recipe for a good night's sleep. The WiFi didn't work either – good signal, but network too unstable for a connection. Nice hot shower though. The official Lao government list of regulations for guesthouses is in awful English – very hard to understand.


As in Thailand, they would never even consider hiring a native speaker to proof read an official document – their own university-educated people must have perfect English, right ?


In the morning I was taken, with luggage, to the bus station – a few hundred metres away – and bought a ticket for $22 ( only $17 from Cambodia to Laos, but $22 from Laos to Cambodia ) However, it was in a big bus which goes direct and no need to change busses at the border. I paid the driver $10 because of all my luggage – six bags - and it was stowed away under the bus.

At the Lao customs they just said " two dollar ! " to every-one and didn't want to even take your passport until you paid the bribe. This extortion – called service charge for stamping passport – annoyed the tourists who argued with the Lao police. However, they will shamelessly wait until you pay before doing their job. The Cambodian side was quite different – no need for a bribe and quick and efficient service.

It is so nice to be back and have the Laos episode over and done with. I might possibly return for a visit one day – who knows ? – but the visa is $45 ( expensive for a short visit ) and I would much rather spend $45 in Phnom Penh !!!


Strange food
This is a lotus seed pod. The lumps each contain a seed like a small acorn. Inside the seed is quite sweet and chewy.



This is a cashew nut underneath the cashew fruit. The fruit is very sweet and juicy, but a bit fibrous. The nuts take some preparation to separate the hard shell – cashew-nut shell-liquid is toxic and can be polymerized to make a hard resin. I believe they are boiled to remove the shells, so, even if you buy 'raw' cashews, they have been boiled ! Cashews are grown in huge quantities in Cambodia - but they are all exported and difficult to buy here.


Koh Kong - water festival at New Year -  13th 14th and 15th April was Cambodian, Thai and Lao New Year.  Much quieter in Phnom Penh with many shops open as usual.



Petrol Station

This small boy serves petrol from glass and plastic bottles - a typical road-side petrol station !! He had just filled up the motorbike.

Repair shop 

Repairing broken aluminium-alloy casting from a motorbike with oxy-acetylene. The acetylene generator is on the left - another blue one is behind them.


Wood Carvings

This shop on street 271 has particularly fine wood carvings


They could probably make a nice ( huge ) chess set - if you had the space !

This happy Chinese figure is very well done - he has a 'mini-me' on his shoulder and another one by his right leg. All carvings are suitably massive and heavy.


                                What is it ?

Passing through the south of Phnom Penh on a City bus I noticed this ' Water Tower ' (?) in the City Water Administration Department. A strange design for a water tower - and I don't believe it really is one ! A closer view reveals its segmented construction. Geodesic dome ?


I think it is a radome for military radar ? It might be a big Van de Graaff ??? - or a Tesla coil ??? ( It would be if I worked there ! ) After all, what perfect cover ? No-one would suspect it wasn't a water tower - except for me, that is.


This is the best stainless-steel stockists I have seen - on street 182

On the right, at the front, is a one metre diameter stainless-steel ball resting on a tyre. Perfect for a Van de Graaff sphere ! In theory it would charge up to 1.5 MV ! However, it is just for advertising, they have only the one and they would not sell it to me !

An impressive size ! Probably quite heavy - difficult to take back on the bus ??

Fibre-optic internet cables in Phnom Penh. 


It doesn't get much better at ground level ! 

There are actually worse ones than this ! Pity the engineer who has to fix problems with this lot.


Felix, my Russian friend, came to Cambodia for a visit.


We stayed here

It is supposed to be a guest house AND massage parlour - to save you the trouble of walking ... however, by evening it was deserted and just a regular guest house. Disappointing.


The rough-end of the market !

This KTV ( Karaoke ) and adjoining massage is one of many   along street 2004 near the airport. A Khmer scene - euphemistically called a KTV - really a knocking shop with take-away service - no tourists here ! There must be a hundred girls sitting outside on both sides of the street waiting for customers.


 A coffee shop girl in Phnom Penh 

 I think this girl is very pretty - some acne, but otherwise a classic Khmer beauty. Coffee is $1. I don't drink coffee, but I might have a red Thai tea next time ?









A few Cambodians have squints and there is no free corrective surgery here. I have only noticed females with squints - never seen any males with one. They are not cross-eyed, but divergent squints and usually people with squints have one good eye that can look at you even when the other one is wandering about all over the place ( nystagmus ) However, I have seen examples where both eyes are looking in different directions while they are talking to you which is most disconcerting ! I wonder if the brain compensates so they perceive vision normally or whether their sight is blurred and they get eye strain ?
There are two students with squints which is a shame as they are otherwise both pretty girls.

Has it really been so are long since my last post ?

This last week the new school ( finally) opened and I have been teaching afternoons and evenings until 8pm every night – thankfully nothing in the mornings. An hour of that time is spent in recruitment and I just have to sit around and look like a teacher for the parents of prospective students to see – and I get paid for it. There are hundreds of schools teaching English here, so opening another one was a bit of a gamble but it seems to be paying off as students are enrolling daily. The location is good : opposite the High School and next to the university - and there are no shortages of dissatisfied students from the university !

Since I have been in Kratie I have seen so many businesses start up and consequently fail – hardly surprising as they are so unimaginative in their choice of service offered : always beauty shops, laundries, motorbike-accessory shops or barbequed-food shops - nothing to distinguish them from the thousands of other identical shops selling the same things for the same prices. They stagger on with the patronage of family and friends for a couple of months and then go bust. The shophouses are all rented and the rent takes most of the profit. Before I left the UK last time I went on a business-enterprise course and they emphasized the importance of having a viable business plan that you could show to the bank. This seems to be an unknown concept here, but I have been labouring the point to the manager and the boss of the new school. The main question asked of a business plan is ' What is so special about your business, compared to all the other businesses, that will entice customers and make a profit ?' Strangely the answer seems to be 'me.' I am the only Native-English-Speaking teacher in Kratie apart from a batch of Canadian volunteer teachers who teach in a tiny out-of-the-way school and don't stay long. ( They pay over $1000 to agents in Canada so they can teach here for free ??!! )

There is a teacher from Pakistan here in Kratie – with excellent, natural English – who looks like General Pervez Musharraf - but having a teacher from London, England trumps that and the students all know this.

I am continually amazed by the respect shown to English teachers – the students see it as an honour to have a 'real' teacher !

Hardly worth mentioning is the Nigerian teacher at the university because his English is so poor, however we do have a teacher from Argentina at the new school, and while English is not his first language, he is doing a great job in the Kindergarten class.

I am preparing video clips from classic movies as teaching aids – we have a giant-screen TV – and the students will listen to the audio on FM radio headphones ( when they arrive from China )

My teaching methods are quite unlike what Khmer students are used to and they seem to like it. We hope to eventually compile the lessons and make a book. I am also overhauling the way they teach ABC here – They teach the names of all the letters of the alphabet, but not the sounds and certainly not the 44 main Phonemes ( sounds of compound letters and vowels ) The students are then expected to memorize complete words – like learning Chinese – and are never taught to construct words from the individual sounds. Not surprising they have trouble reading and spelling. Some schools still teach the phonetic alphabet – which I think is a complete waste of time – and in my opinion that is like having to learn an extra useless language before English. I have now prepared DVDs for teaching reading.

Apart from teaching I have been very busy with my new project – the Bonetti Machine. I am posting details on the Projects page of my website as I go. Some projects fight you tooth-and-nail every inch of the way and never turn out as expected, but this one seems to be falling into place nicely. It is my most ambitious project to date and I hope it will work !

Well into the rainy season now and heavy rains can be expected most days. A few times the rain has been heavy at 5 O'clock so the class was cancelled and I still get paid for it. When there is a clear, dry night I sleep upstairs on the roof. Nothing like sleeping outside in the fresh air !

My bed at dawn ( 5.30 am ) with mosquito net suspended on hangers. There is plenty of space up there on the roof and I can sleep North-South with my head to the North.

Gas re-filling shop, Kratie

This local shop is where I always go to get my gas cannisters re-filled. They are not only the cheapest, but they also weigh the cans to make sure they are full. However, Health-and-Safety would have a fit ! The kitchen is on the right of the photo and they cook by gas. Gas always escapes when they insert cans for filling and, if the can does not want to achieve the correct weight, they have the habit of venting some gas to cool the can so it will accept more gas. A strong smell of gas in the area, but they don't care about a naked flame when cooking !


My evening class is teaching English for Hotels & Restaurants and the students are a varied bunch – some very good and some, frankly, hopeless ! There is one boy in particular who is a dead loss : I asked him what job he would like to do and he said he ' Would like to be a hotel ' – he could not see anything wrong with that so I wrote on the whiteboard 'I am a hotel ' which made all the other students laugh – except for him. I decided to try something really basic and see if he could understand, so I said ' My name is John, what is your name ? ' to which he replied '' My name is John, what is your name ? ' – hopeless ! ( He has since dropped out of the course )

Later I was asking the students to imagine they were working in a restaurant and what entrée could they recommend to a customer – one slightly dim boy said 'May I recommend the water ? ' – groan !

Working in a hotel or restaurant is the only job where they can come into contact with foreigners and practice their English – although most tourists are too busy glued to their phones to spend time in conversation with the staff.

I can now use video as a teaching aide and have prepared video clips ( from YouTube ) of unusual hotels and restaurants that the Khmer students certainly do not know about – for example :-

• The Ice Hotel – Sweden, Norway, Canada.
• Ice Café – London, Dubai
• Underwater Restaurant – Maldives
• Underwater hotel room – Dubai
• Dine-in-the-Dark – Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore etc.
• Suspended 'Eat in the Sky' restaurants – eat 150 metres in the air
• Toilet restaurants – turd-shaped ice-cream !
• Mine-shaft restaurant – eat 380 metres underground
• Bank-vault restaurant – eat in an old strongroom
• Airplane restaurant – Coventry airport
• Monkey restaurant, Tokyo – the waiters are monkeys
• Naked restaurant, London – with a 46,000 waiting list of nudists !
• Green house restaurant, Amsterdam
• Condom restaurant, Bangkok
• Cemetery restaurant, India
• Cat café, Tokyo – eat among cats
• Topless coffee shop, Washington

Some of the weird restaurants in Japan are a bit too risqué for conservative Khmer students – for example NYOTAIMORI – now in Pattya, Thailand – where diners eat sushi off the naked bodies of women ( or men ! ) and a pussy restaurant that has nothing to do with cats ! I did not go into much detail with these !!

With the amazing Latté art of the Coffee Baristas, the subject of coffee can become a lesson in itself – it is no longer sufficient to merely splosh coffee, milk and sugar in a cup – the final presentation is now all-important. This phenomenon has not yet reached Cambodia – except maybe in a 4 or 5 star hotel ? I think a road-side coffee kiosk doing Latté Art for tourists would be a hit.

All of these topics are included in DVDs together with the text and used for lessons. I also showed the tour of the $30,000 a night Royal Suite at the Atlantis Hotel, Dubai. My next lesson will be fruit carving.

In an Australian coffee shop they donate $1 from each cup sold to charity – a good promotion ! ( It does rather depend upon what the charity is !!! ) There are no shortages of charities here – Save the Children, Oxfam, Health-Poverty-Action, Child Fund, The Samaritans, World Wildlife Fund and they all have a big compound with a big house inside, a BRAND NEW Lexus SUV or sometimes a Toyota Landcruiser – but it must be the latest model - lots of servants - and the charities seem to be doing absolutely nothing ! I have never seen any activity in the compounds – they must spend all their time in hotel restaurants ? The charities were being criticized on an Internet forum : some-one asked why they don't spend the money on the poor rather than on themselves and actually go to a poor village ( a novel idea ) – a bright spark answered "What, and get the Lexus dirty ? Whatever next ? " ( Lexus is the luxury brand of Toyota, like Rolls Royce was to Bentley – not common in the UK, but lots of them here in Asia )

The best way to describe the rainy season is 'changeable.' Some days are hot and sunny with a clear sky at night and the next day will be cold and rainy. ( cold means anything less than 35ºC – less than 30ºC is freezing ) If rarely rains in the morning – only late afternoon or evening. Today ( 14th July ) I saw a beautiful rainbow - almost a continuous arc right across the sky – bright sunshine and rain in the far distance. The only real inconvenience is when it decides to bucket down after teaching so I am delayed at the school until I can be given a lift back to my apartment. Occasionally there is heavy rain when it is time to go to school, so the lesson is cancelled – there would be no students ! – and I still get paid for it. I have not noticed any increase in the numbers of mosquitoes during the rainy season – there is always the odd one about at very infrequent intervals. I have a herbal mosquito repellent which has as one of its ingredients ' Venus Fly Trap ' – surprising that mosquitoes would have an instinctive repulsion to the smell of an insectivorous plant ? Doesn't it rather defeat the purpose if the smell puts off potential dinners ?

Thursday, 1st June was Children's Day – a holiday - and then Friday 2nd June was a holiday so schools were closed again as voting takes place in the schools. Saturday 3rd June was designated as another holiday to compensate for the strain of voting on the day before (!) – it is called a 'White Day' which means day-of-rest. Similarly, No-Man's Land – the space between borders at land-crossings – is called a 'White Area.'
All workers are given three days extra holiday at voting time if they live up country so they can return home, vote, and then come back to their place of work. For me, that added up to four days with the schools closed – so I went to Phnom Penh. There were huge pro-government rallies there and many roads closed off. Not easy for shopping.

Although it was just voting for a by-election, every-one took it seriously and there was a big turnout. The day after every-one had a black index finger ! Apart from making a cross you have to dip your finger into a sort of ink well. the ink is indelible and stains not only the finger jet-black but also the finger nail. With regular scrubbing this only lasts about two weeks ! The reason for this seems to be to prevent people voting twice – as it is easy to spot some-one entering a voting booth with a black finger. There is no way you can wipe it off and cheat – maybe there is silver nitrate in the ink ? – whatever, it is a really good ink.

The owners of this apartment building have now installed WiFi on the 3rd floor and I get fast Internet for free ! The service provider is Vietnamese and it works well. Signal strength is good to excellent. No more having to go downstairs to the car park to get a connection !

Printer woes
I have a Samsung laser printer that was given to me by a Thai friend and, until recently, I have been using it to print lessons to take to the photocopy shop. The toner was running out and the printing getting weaker and weaker, so I got it re-filled at the local computer shop for $7. Samsung printer cartridges are not screwed together so must be prized apart and then closed by melting the lugs with a soldering iron. They also have a chip inside which counts the number of times used and will stop the printer working when it thinks the toner is finished. The chips cannot be re-programmed and a new one costs $15 – but the local computer shop does not have any. When I got it back from the shop, the chip was still allowing it to print, but the drum must have become damaged during the re-filling process and now pages were weak and strong in alternate horizontal bands – the sign that the drum needs re-placing. Of course, he doesn't have them for Samsung – only for HP. He kept telling me to only use HP printers as spares and toner are much cheaper and they don't have chips inside to make you buy new cartridges and not re-fill old ones. He said a new drum was $8 and a new cartridge was $32 – I was quoted $55 at one shop in Phnom Penh !

Anyway, I took it to Phnom Penh to see if I could get the drum changed and, when I opened the plastic bag containing it, at a big printer shop I was horrified to see that the toner ( it was now full ) had leaked out and the entire thing was a nasty black mess ! The shop were quite unfazed at this and took the bag into the back room to check it out. I showed them a Windows Printer Test Page and they said they could fix it. I was amazed to get the cartridge back within a few minutes – totally clean and re-packaged – and they said it was now OK and had been assembled wrongly – their service was free of charge !! Unbelievable. When I got it back to Kratie, it was just the same as ever – with alternate weak and strong horizontal bands so it does need a new drum. On my next visit I will try again.

I have just fired up my old Windows Vista computer for the first time this year as it is useful to have a backup. It is a bit like an old car – didn't want to go at first until I fiddled about with it. The Ram always needs re-seating after travel – coming back from Laos – although they seem very secure in the sockets. Funny to see all the stuff I had saved in Laos that can be deleted now.

Now my printer is out of action, I prepare lessons as a Word document and save it to a flash drive which I take to the photocopy shop. However, every computer at every shop – and the school and university computers – all have the Shortcut Virus. My laptop has USB Disc Security which is totally useless and says flash drives are clean, no threat detected and safe to open when they are riddled with viruses. Windows Defender very occasionally tells me that ' A threat is being dealt with and no action is required on your part ' what this means is that it has deleted all the files on the flash drive ! According to the Internet, this is a very common and insidious virus in S.E.Asia and can create shortcuts to every file in the computer and stop Windows working. I had this virus from using flash drives in an Internet Café in the UK and the only anti-virus program that would get rid of it was ' USB Fix ' – a free program, but with a website that favours the pay version and the download button for the free version is very hard to find. This anti-virus is great and cleans really fast.

I was pressed for time and used Windows DVD Maker to create a slide show of fruit and vegetable carvings for a Hotels and Restaurants lesson ( High School students ). I added a block of images from Google and did not bother to check them carefully and in the classroom all was well until it came to a slide of a watermelon carved in intricate detail as a pussy ( hint – nothing to do with cats ) All the girls in the class gave a collective gasp, but the one and only boy had no idea whatsoever what it was     ( I asked him, but did not explain ! ) I now use Sony Vegas Pro13 video editing program – it normally costs $600, but this is Cambodia and I got a copy from the local computer shop for $1. It is sooooo much better than Windows DVD Maker or any other video editing program.

Spoilt rich kids
As is common these days, kids are given a smart phone or tablet computer to keep them quiet and they treat it with little respect – the small son of my Vietnamese hairdresser is about three years old, but can quickly navigate to YouTube and watch cartoons on an expensive tablet. When the WiFi drops out, as often happens during the daytime, he gets angry and smacks the screen as hard as he can. Sometimes he will smack the tablet against a table or chair. His father gives him a smack in return for this and the kid screams with rage and tries to hit his dad ! In the apartment next door there are six kids and the oldest boy ( 12 ) was given an iPad to play with on the bus coming back from Phnom Penh and he left it in the seat pocket of the bus – didn't care that it cost $250. Later he was given a smartphone and changed the password swipe pattern to prevent his younger brother using it. Of course he forgot the swipe pattern and the phone is now useless. Another $200 wasted. The kids from poor families seem much better behaved and are content playing with whatever rubbish is at hand – they do not take it for granted that adults will give them expensive electronics to break.

In London I once saw an instance of a very badly behaved kid : it was a small girl of about 5 and, while walking along with her mother, she tripped on the uneven pavement and fell down. Her mother bent down to help her up and the girl punched her mother hard in the face ! She must have thought her mother was to blame for the mishap ? Whatever, not good behaviour. The kids in the next-door apartment are often visiting Phnom Penh – thankfully - and, apart from them, the only other kids in this apartment block are a strange family with a small, fat boy who, although about 5 or 6, cannot speak because he has an enormous tongue. He has had two operations to cut it down to size, but it keeps growing bigger !

This year the rainy season started early and has been heavier than usual. All the low-lying countryside is now flooded and some roads are under water. I was told that this is only partly due to the rains – mostly it is because the Chinese have discharged some water from the three gorges dam on the Yangtze river and it is connected to the Mekong somewhere. Thailand should be happy as they have a drought in the North East every year, but only rice farmers like it here – ordinary fields are under water. The locals are everywhere with fishing rods and nets – must be a lot of fish that came down with the floodwater.

Bangkok floods every rainy season and it must be worse than ever now. Some time ago I was in Phnom Penh at a restaurant and overheard people speaking Thai – very rare in Cambodia as Thais are not liked. One Frenchman had a much-older and not-very-pretty Thai girlfriend and she was saying Cambodia was like Thailand 20 years ago – meaning it was worse. However her boyfriend clarified the situation – the military government have closed all the outdoor markets and street markets, no more pavement vendors, so now there are only indoor closed-markets where rents can be more easily collected and are much higher than the old pavement markets. Maybe better for pedestrians, but all the colour and charm of the old markets has gone. The Thai woman thought it was better – cleaner – but her boyfriend thought it was worse and Cambodia better. He said the visa situation for foreigners in Thailand is now intolerable – impossible to stay for more than nine consecutive months in a year and that is why he is in Cambodia. It was an interesting conversation – part Thai, part English and part Khmer – sometimes in the same sentence !

Cambodians are like Thais when it comes to food and their idea of a lavish meal is rice and fish. They will probably never go to an expensive restaurant, but the objective of the Hotels and Restaurants course is to prepare them as much as possible. The correct form of address for a Khmer summoning a waiter is ' Poo, Poo !' which means 'Uncle, Uncle ! 'Somehow I don't think it would go down well if they tried that in England ?

I asked one girl student if she liked ice-cream and she said no because it is 'dirty.' We all questioned her in Khmer thinking she had misunderstood and used the wrong word – but that was what she meant. We were talking about ice-cream sundaes in an expensive restaurant so I still don't understand her reasoning.

On another occasion I was teaching a beginners class and asking easy questions about family members. A small girl said she has a big sister, a big brother and a big daddy ! I asked another girl how many sisters she had and she counted all the other girls in the class and said 14 (!) and I know they are not all one big family. Khmer call all their friends brother and sister as well as their real brothers and sisters. Another very small girl said in her family there are her mother, her father and her baby ! ( She meant baby sister )


                Another strange home-made vehicle ...

- obviously doesn't need number plates or registration.


 This house has been cut off by the flood - previously it was accessible by road

The view from my apartment - flooded as far as you can see. Last year it was nothing like this.

Another view from my apartment - the bridge is called White Bridge - flooded out to the horizon. The road is highway 7. People fishing at the bottom of the picture.

Some-one is happy with the flood.

The river has swollen and now can clearly be seen from my apartment. The flood waters are moving from North to South with a swift current. Some drainage pipes are being laid, but it won't be enough. No boats on the river now.

New drainage pipes being laid - too little, too late ? A re-cycling company in the background - unlike Laos, Cambodia re-cycles.


The Cambodian equivalent of eBay is

( P'sar = market ) or - they have some funny ads :

Daewoo Tico Phnom Penh ( a Tico is a small car )

$500 — Pickup Only
This is a marvelous Korean made machine with a mind blowing 48 horsepower. Only once did the engineering geniuses at Daewoo set aside their differences to create a state of the art, unparalleled, beast of a machine - the Daewoo Tico. Daewoo was even bold enough to paint this car white which stands for the purity of this fine automobile. This isn't your grandmothers Tico, it is a farm working, produce hauling, livestock carrying beast. This car has been through it all - from the deepest sinkholes in the roads of Phnom Penh to the winding dirt roads and rivers of the rural provinces of Cambodia. This car is known as one of the most popular and best selling cars in the great South American country of Peru. This car even comes with things many modern cars don't have. It has a CD player for when you want that authentic sound distortion that today's MP3 players and bluetooth crap machines unfortunately eliminate. It also comes with an ashtray and cigarette lighter so you can smell like a real man - the Marlboro Man. Some young guys are asking themselves will a CBR or this Tico get me more girls? Well you can only fit one girl to cruise around town with on a CBR. [ motorbike ] You can fit 4-5 girls (depending on size) in this car. It may not turn heads but it will turn left and right with some work. You will have to come haul it away from a very rural area in Takeo Province. It recently hit a tiny speed bump and busted the oil pan so it needs a new oil pan. Also the A/C does not work but that's great - no A/C = save more gas money. It also has various broken plastic pieces which you can see in the pics but even that is great because it makes this car even lighter so when you pull up next to that new Porsche at the stoplight on Monivong [ boulevard ] you have a lot less weight than his crappy $200,000 car and you didn't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on carbon fibre pieces for that weight saving. This car even has an awesome racing stripe for an additional 20 horsepower. It also has a Sparco roof rack. If you know Sparco then you know this alone makes this car a gem. In mint condition this car would easily sell for well over a million dollars but today is your lucky day - We are only asking $501 - $500 for the car and $1 for the tissues I will need to buy for my tears when I have to say goodbye to this dream machine.


The answers some of the students give in class continue to amaze me : I was asking a beginners class what items they have at home, expecting the usual ' bed, chair, table, spoon, cup ' etc. and one student – a monk – was itching to answer. He came up to the whiteboard – as they like to do - and wrote

                         ' an information ' 

 It is very difficult to explain to a beginner about uncountable abstract nouns and incorrect use of an article and why his answer was wrong. It is even hard for the Khmer teacher, as the class are only just doing countable concrete nouns – nothing too advanced – and there are no articles in Khmer.

Another time, I asked a different class what they would do if they were Prime Minister. One girl said she

                        'would build bridges'

A peculiar answer as there are plenty of bridges here – maybe she uses the ferry boat to go to the island on the Mekong ?

I had to go to the dentist as one tooth was getting sensitive. I picked the biggest dental clinic here and was surprised to find it very modern and spacious. No-one else was in the waiting room and I was given full attention immediately. The dentist, aided by two nurses, had a poke about and said he could fix it by putting some 'medicine' on it (?) It smelt – and tasted - of clove oil and I was extremely dubious that was all that was required. Then they took me to the X-Ray room and the nurse held a lead apron over me while she stood right next to the X-Ray tube and made the exposure. She must get a big dose of X-Rays herself if she stands so close to it. In the UK they hurry off to get behind the protection of lead blocks and take the exposure by remote control. It made me wonder if it was actually working and they were faking it to get the $2 X-Ray charge ?

In the UK they have digital imaging and the X-Ray result comes up on a computer monitor, but here the dentist was pondering over a film negative. I could not see if it was really my tooth he was looking at, but presumably it was. As his English was limited, he passed me a phone and I spoke to his boss – who spoke excellent English. He said I would need a root-canal job and it would cost $35. It seemed reasonable so I agreed. Then the dentist had another poke around and phoned his boss again. This time the boss said the crown was not good and an extraction would be better for $15. I originally thought an extraction would be necessary as the tooth had no lower partner to bite against and had been slowly getting longer and coming out for the last two years, although it was not loose. He gave me a moderately-painful injection of anaesthetic and immediately  pulled the tooth out ! No sitting in the waiting-room for half an hour for the anaesthetic to take effect – Cambodian anaesthetics seem to work instantly and I didn't feel a thing – not even a twinge – however there was a sickening noise as it came free ! No pain or swelling afterwards so he did a good job.

The same dentist clinic has a new sign up advertising Brain Scans ! When I was in there I didn't see a room for a MRI scanner – maybe they keep it in a shed out the back ? Seems a bit strange – going to the dentist for a check-up and saying ' Oh, and a brain scan while you are at it ' I just hope they don't use the dental X-Ray machine for doing brain scans as well ? Would probably work if they turned the power up a bit ?

Now, if I was in Laos and needed a brain scan I would be really worried – I have seen the terrible Vietnamese contraptions they use there to stun fish in the river and can imagine a 'scanner (?)' made in similar fashion. In Thailand they would have modern equipment, but not a clue how to use it ...

All of the maternity clinics here have ultrasonic scanners and sell images of the expected baby – maybe it is an ultrasonic brain scanner ?



Some items for sale in the local shops are delightfully old-fashioned - I saw these razor blades that look like they haven't changed since the 1930's - except for the bar code on the back

They are made in Thailand.


This iron uses charcoal - like the coal irons in the days before electricity - brand new and probably from China ? I like the chicken as the locking device.


This looks like a mangle - or a fruit-juice squeezer (?) 

Must be Chinese or Vietnamese. Heavy cast-iron construction and crude painting.



I saw this girl in the market buying - green things - ( no idea what they are ) -  She was really pretty - quite a stunner - looks like a Vietnamese. It was one of the hottest days and she was wearing a white woollen jacket !?!


                       eBay buying problems

Usually I buy from China as the eBay shops mostly have free postage world-wide. However, some shops exclude Cambodia and some shops - usually from Hong Kong - will not post to Post Office Box numbers. In Cambodia there is no post to residences so you have to use a Box number - or collect from the Post Office and pay tax.

I usually pick " posts to world-wide - postage free " with no problems. However, sometimes - after I have clicked "Buy It Now " - I get a message in red 

Oops, we noticed a problem - seller doesn't post to your location ... or seller doesn't post to P.O.Boxes. Change your address to continue. 

So then my only option is to have it sent to the UK and bother my sister to post it to Cambodia - a long round trip that can take two months !

Anyway, I needed the following item 

 Seems OK - posts free to world-wide ...

I even clicked on 'See exclusions'

Cambodia is not listed as an exclusion - nor are P.O.Boxes - so far so good ?? 

However, I forgot to click on the drop-down menu box for 'change country' - thinking Cambodia would be there as it was not specifically excluded.


There is Australia and Austria before Canada, but no Cambodia. I didn't want to bother my sister and was determined to try and get it sent to Cambodia so I contacted eBay through a live chat session, and they said no problem - request an invoice from the seller with the Cambodian address.


However, when  I clicked on 'Send Invoice' I got - after a long delay - 


I was NOT going to pay £6.00 postage  for a £3.82 item when it clearly states postage free world-wide. Also the item is coming from Shenzhen, China - so why Royal Mail which is UK post ? Something not right here. I contacted customer service again and they said request another invoice post free. No reply from China. Then they said that the eBay system had probably detected the word 'invoice' and decided that I was trying to do an 'off-site' transaction - which is against eBay policy. They said I should request another invoice through PayPal to by-pass eBay and NOT use the word invoice  for an invoice request ! Instead I should use a phrase like ' payment method ' Remember this is going to China and they might not understand that payment method  means invoice !

No invoice from China. Customer support then suggested I go to checkout with the UK address and then try and change the address at checkout to Cambodia. However, when I tried to get to checkout I got




 So now it cannot be sent to the UK either and I should change my address again - to where ? Cambodia ? - or request total which means another invoice without calling it an invoice ? 

Remember this item is on eBay UK - posts to world-wide, but now cannot be sent to the UK !

Just for laughs I clicked on Request total and got


 So now it is no longer available, but I am getting constant PAY NOW demands from eBay. 

I received this message from customer support


Follow up email regarding the invoice request you received. SR# 1-125099977476


Hello John,


Good day. This is a follow up email regarding the recent chat you had with us with regard to the email you received regarding an invoice.


First, I would like to appreciate that you have taken the time to get in touch with us to discuss your concern. Allow me to further assist you with regard to this matter.


Let me explain that when you have used the request total option and committed to purchase the item, there is an option to which a copy of the invoice request will be sent to your messages. This is selected as default but you do have the option to un tick this through the request total page.


The reason why you have received this that the invoice request you received is the same message which has been sent to your seller. This is for the request total you selected in which this is a copy of the exact message you have sent when requesting for an invoice from the seller.


I am glad to be of assistance, thank you for contacting eBay.


Kind regards,


Michael S.


eBay Customer Support

Oh, so no problem then - clear as mud. Did that even make sense ?

Previously I had tried to buy some perspex rod and found they would not send to a P.O.Box number. It took ages to get the order cancelled - the seller was quite willing to cancel it but eBay would not let them - and it could not be posted. eBay said I should send a tutorial to the seller on how to cancel an order. They sent me this message :

Thanks for the tutorial on how to cancel an order, but sadly not in your case. The eBay mechanism is now applied & is a little more protracted than a simple cancel. Please be assured, I am only too willing to cancel your order, but eBay removes my options on unpaid orders, whilst they convince themselves you still want it. I have already communicated with eBay, so hopefully they will resolve it
The sales team
Wholesale POS Co

It was eventually cancelled, but now I have a black mark on my account for non-payment of invoice.

Meanwhile in my shopping basket I have


 So I am committed to buy an item that no-longer exists and cannot be posted anywhere ?

 New messages today ( 16th August ) - Black mark for non-payment cleared and invoice to UK has appeared ( not Cambodia ) I might get it by Christmas ?


I took three days off and went to Phnom Penh. I saw this amazing building - completely covered in pink LEDs - looks beautiful at night. It is a big building - you can see how small the cars look in comparison - must have used millions of LEDs.


It is called ' Orchide ' and is probably a KTV or night club.


This is a mobile wooden Temple mounted on a truck - goes along the streets with weird Temple music from the speaker. It is number 73 - so there are more of them ???


This must be the lowest-investment factory ever ! They have simply used ( maybe rented ? ) some pavement space and fabricate barbeque stands. All they need is an electricity supply and they can do welding, cutting, riveting etc. Not much in the way of overheads.


Another enterprising shop is this mobile compressed-air and welding factory fixed to a motorbike. The air can be used for paint-spraying as well as inflating tyres.


I went to a Chinese vegetarian restaurant and like their clock ... although I don't quite understand it ?

They had some other - typically Chinese - pictures on the wall


Look at the size of his ear-lobes !! What has he been eating ?



Happy Chinese rice farmers - back-breaking work.

There are many YouTube channels for teaching English, but most of them are for American English. I need to download video lessons for an English conversation course, and I chose Oxford Online English thinking they might actually teach Oxford English. Wrong. Some teachers there have awful Northern accents while the rest have thinly disguised regional ones – and there is one obvious Australian which is not at all bad. Mostly they sound like bad American actors trying to imitate a British accent. The resulting speech sounds like 'Estuary English' but with the odd Northern or Geordie word slipping in – for example they can't say 'ask' , 'bus', 'dance' or 'book ' properly. What has happened to the actual Oxford accent ? Has it been assimilated into the lazy, uneducated, colloquial speech of the masses ? I am not advocating every-one speak like the Queen – which is a bit overdoing it ! – but I can remember when the BBC spoke proper English on the News or on documentaries. Now, when I occasionally watch the BBC in hotels in Phnom Penh, I am horrified at the lax diction and abundance of thick regional accents. BBC English is no more then ? What, was it thought to be too posh ? – or can't they find any-one who can speak it anymore ? It is a sad state of affairs when the average Euro English is better than the new BBC standard. The Dutch are the best, of course, and then Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland all speak a clear, neutral English usually with excellent grammar. These days you have to watch a 'period piece' drama to hear a cultured accent – or listen to Stephen Fry, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Rupert Everett at their best.

When we were at school, we had an elocution class with Miss Ironside-Wood, a cultured lady who we shamefully abused by not taking her class seriously and playing pranks. For example, she had a Reel-to-Reel tape recorder ( which shows you how long ago it was ! ) to record our attempts at reciting 'How now brown cow ?' – a useless phrase that I can't ever recall having to use since – and we would keep hitting the microphone when she wasn't looking so that, when played back, there would only be a series of deafening booms and crashes. One boy brought her flowers, so not to be outdone, at the next lesson there were mushrooms, twigs and straggly branches given to her. She took it all quite well, but it must have been exasperating to try and teach us. I don't think her lessons had any effect on our accents – most of us were from London and we spoke a neutral London accent that – I still believe – is quite good enough.

There is, of course, the Cockney accent and there are actually YouTube channels for teaching Cockney – although I can't see why any-one would want to learn it ? It seems like the modern London accent is degenerating into Hip-Hop slang with broken grammar and Americanisms. No-one parodies this better than Ali G ( You Tube ) who manages to keep a straight face while portraying a typical uneducated rapper speaking appalling street talk to distinguished guests on his show. That they accept his cringe-worthy speech without laughing shows that they really think the masses talk like that – very sad. They don't realize he is taking the piss.

My aim is to get Cambodian students using articles and plurals – which Khmer doesn't have – and pronounce the final –s of plurals and words like 'rice' ( They tend to say rie ) They think it is funny as the Cambodian teachers often pronounce it lazily and they have learnt it that way. Oxford English is too much to be hoped for, but at least they won't sound too uneducated. Unfortunately, all the schools use the awful Headway English course book and it can be very confusing – especially the section on the Present Perfect Tense. It states that this tense indicates an action that started in the past and is still ongoing. So, if I say 'I have lived in Kratie' it means I am still living there – maybe so. But if I say, 'I have lived in Thailand' – which is true – it means I am still living in Thailand ? obviously not true. What about the true statement 'I have eaten ice cream.' So this is supposed to mean I have, am now and always will be eating ice cream ? In English we would qualify the sentence such as 'I have lived in Kratie for almost two years now' or 'I have lived in Thailand before' but the book makes no such distinctions. Similarly, the statements 'I have eaten ice cream' and 'I am eating ice cream' are supposed to be the same ! Unfortunately, some teachers tend to believe what they see in the book rather than how a native speaker understands English.

Politically incorrect
Recently I came across use of the word 'Gollywog' on You Tube – a word I have not heard for years and, these days, it is hard to imagine a more politically-incorrect word ! I can remember Robertson's Jam with the Gollywog mascot and the stickers and badges – I certainly didn't see it as offensive at the time. ( a rare Robertson's Golly badge sells for £1000 now ! ) Similarly, when I was first in Thailand, the popular brand of toothpaste was 'Darkie' with a minstrel's face :

It was not long before the brand was changed to 'Darlie' with a neutral-coloured face. The Thais thought nothing of it – marketed as Darkie – but then Africans were an extremely rare sight in Thailand then. I cannot imagine it being sold in the UK or America now without a fuss! Also I doubt if 'The Black & White Minstrel Show' will be back on TV anytime soon ? Anyway, did you know you can actually be arrested in the UK now for possession of a gollywog? In March 2007, Greater Manchester Police seized two golliwogs from a shop after a complaint that the dolls were offensive, and in September 2008, Amanda Schofield from Stockport was arrested for keeping a "golly doll" in her window. ( You are not allowed to say gollywog any more – you have to refer to them as 'golly dolls' ) What a sad world.

Similarly, when I was at school and, as often happened, caught my finger in a pair of pliers or wacked it with a hammer, the resulting blood blister was called 'A Black Man's Pinch.' This was because of the belief that it was like the result of a black man pinching you (!) You are not allowed to say this anymore ( Oh, really ? ) you must say " Oh, I hurt my hand again – I have a Subcutaneous haematoma" Somehow doesn't sound as funny. I never thought of these expressions as being racist, although racial stereotypes abounded in the past. Native Americans were called Redskins - despite not being red, but brown – and a suitable candidate for genocide which was perfectly acceptable in American cinema of the last century. Sometimes they were called 'Savages' which certainly condoned killing them. Now their culture, what is left of it, is being respected as a suitably sustainable and ecologically-friendly lifestyle. Interestingly, none of the American Indian tribes ( and I don't like using that word as it is a bit derogatory ) used money. Also Chinese were described as Yellow Men – although I have never seen a yellow Chinese – maybe they all suffered from Jaundice at that time ? Chinese, and particularly Vietnamese, have very white skins – some of them have whiter skin than many Europeans. Having yellow skin somehow was supposed to make them inferior ? Chinese culture is now rightly seen as often superior to that of the West – and they can be hard to beat where technological innovation is concerned. Vietnamese shopkeepers can be a bit brusque, but mostly the Viets I have met are the nicest people – they work harder and charge less than Cambodians . (Cambodians don't like Vietnamese who they think are slowly taking over the country – they have forgotten that the Vietnamese Army intervened and saved Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge in 1979) My only complaint is that I don't find the white skin of Vietnamese girls attractive – they studiously avoid sunshine and use copious amounts of powder and skin-whitening cream to accentuate their whiteness. If you go looking for skin cream, you will NOT find any here that is not whitening ( some guarantee perfect whiteness in 3 days ! ) – even roll-on deodorants are whitening in case you don't have white armpits (?) Of course, Khmer, Thai and Lao men much prefer the white skins – I think the dark-skinned Khmer are more attractive – and I once heard a Thai man say that, if he had to touch a tanned skin, he would immediately have to wash his hands ! This must be due to brain-washing from the parents who were most certainly Chinese Thai and see the dark-skinned Thais as inferior.

Another example of Thai propaganda came from a student who once asked me if the Queen of England has a halo. I laughed and replied that she didn't – and then he, in all seriousness, said that 'the King of Thailand has a halo' They really believe that ! It was probably taught in schools then ( the late King was actually respected – things have changed now ) The Thais must have seen old paintings of Saints and JC with halos and thought they looked cool so they imported them to Thai mythology. Similarly they copied the huge bearskin hats of the Queen's guard at Buckingham Palace, but whereas the English ones are black, the Thai ones are pink, green, blue, red, yellow etc. and look a bit stupid.

I believe people should be judged on their merits and, in the case of movies, an actor should be able to 'live' the character and, if they can, it doesn't matter what their ethnic background is. It is the job of the casting department to fit believable actors to their roles. However, I object to the 'Affirmative Action' policy in Hollywood, where the unions insist on token black actors in movies and they are often totally unbelievable and unsuitable especially when portraying scientists or intellectuals. Maybe this is because I can't recall any ethnic Africans who were a genius or great scientist ? I have a series of biographies of the World's great scientists - $1 each in Phnom Penh and printed in India. So far, I have:

Charles Babbage ( computer )
Copernicus ( astronomy )
Edison ( light bulbs etc. )
Faraday ( electricity etc. )
Lavoisier ( chemistry )
Marconi ( radio )
Stephenson ( railways )
Tesla ( AC current, 3-phase motors, radio etc. etc. )
Wright brothers ( aviation )

( I want to get Einstein and Newton, but they are out-of-stock )

Note none of these came from Africa ! Anyway, they are meant as school textbooks, very readable without being over-simplified although the grammar can be a bit Indian at times (!) In the Tesla book, it rightly says he invented radio before Marconi – Tesla patented radio in 1897, Marconi's application of 1903 was rejected. Then, in the Marconi book, it says Marconi didn't invent radio first, an Indian Jagdish Chandra Bose did ! No mention of Tesla. In the Wright brothers book, it says they didn't make the first plane – Hanuman had an airplane in which he flew Rama and Seeta from North India to Sri Lanka ! So Indian mythology is evidently true, is it ??

My work is progressing well : I have to make two electric motors for the Bonetti machine – could not buy anything suitable – and it involves a lot of metalwork. Unfortunately, the laser cutter in Phnom Penh could not cut the particular type of steel I have to use – it only cuts stainless steel. I am using soft silicon-iron laminations. So I am cutting everything by hand – a long process. I continually think of the old inventors of the 19th Century who did not have all the modern equipment we take for granted and had to fabricate everything themselves. They even had to make nuts and bolts as there were no standardized threads then. I can't imagine having to make a clock, for example, entirely from scratch with only hand tools. The woodwork for this project is now finished and looks beautiful – even that took a lot of time. Once the motors are done, the rest should be quite easy (?)

When I am well stuck into my production line of sheet metalwork, I don't like to be disturbed. ( I have 36 steel pieces each needing 34 holes accurately drilled and punched ! ) Sundays are now my free day and I was busy cutting and drilling when the phone rang. Thanks to caller I.D. I knew it was the school wanting me to come and drink beer. Any excuse for a party ! There are no classes for me then – I knew it was nothing serious. So I continued my work outside, where I can't really hear the phone anyway – and then was later interrupted by banging on the door. It was a teacher sent to get me – they needed me to drink beer which I didn't really want to do. However, I was sociable and had a couple of cans at the school. It put an end to a productive day. Then on Tuesday, after my class had finished at 8pm, they wanted me to drink beer again ! I don't like drinking beer during the week and not with the same group of male teachers who get boring when they get drunk.

In 10 days time – on the 24th September – I am going to Phnom Penh for about two weeks. I need to extend my visa by another year ( I have been in Cambodia for 18 months now ) and I want to get a Cambodian driving license which will take another week. They are not very happy about it at the school, but can hardly argue with my needing a new visa. In Phnom Penh, if I want to drink beer, I can do it with more entertaining company !!!

By the 24th my metalwork will be finished – if I don't get waylaid into any more parties at the school – and it will be a good time for a break. I like staying in Phnom Penh as I get a chance to practice speaking Khmer and this time I will bring my Vietnamese phrase book also. I want to visit a small town on the Vietnamese border – mainly because it has the pretty name of Swai Reang which translates as aligned mangoes or mangoes all in a line. Should be interesting....

 Nothing like a spare tyre on the back ? The inside was full of tyres also ! Overloading ? What's that ?


A vacant house in Kratie - the sign says 'for sale' - needs some work !!

Strange how things turn out. I was told that Monday 18th Sept was a holiday – was this the big holiday in September? – and that I would be teaching again on Friday. 'What about on Tuesday?' I asked. 'Oh, that's a holiday too' was the reply. 'Well, Wednesday?' Holiday. 'Thursday?' Holiday too. Why not just say – 'Monday to Thursday are holidays.'(?) With a week of holidays, there won't be many students on the Friday or Saturday following – so I decided to go to Phnom Penh early.

The holiday is for remembering and paying respects to your ancestors – like a Cambodian version of the Chinese 'Cheng Meng' ancestor worship.

Monday 18th is apparently not a holiday for the visa department, so I was able to get my passport to the agent on the Sunday. Visa requirements are being tightened up, according to the tourist magazine, and it is now required to produce proof of where you work and proof of where you live. Of course, I didn't have either of these – but it didn't seem to matter: the visa agent said, as long as I visit another country once a year, it would be OK. This is so that immigration can deny you re-entry at the border if you cause trouble. However, he said I should have a work permit for next year which the school can arrange. He also said that now visas take much longer to issue and mine might take two weeks ! This proved not to be the case, and the new visa was ready in three days. There is also supposed to be a retirement visa now and you have to show proof of pension and proof that you are not working – which, as the tourist magazine says, is easier said than done.

First I renewed my 12 month visa and then, armed with my new visa, I went to 'Lucky Lucky' a motorbike shop that does driving licenses. They had previously told me on the phone that a driving license would take two weeks and cost $60, but at the shop they told me I must do everything myself now because of new regulations. This sounded a bit daunting.

Anyway I went to the Transport office which is on the outskirts of Phnom Penh at street 598. The office staff are very helpful and said it only takes a day, but I must have a Current Address Certificate and a Health Certificate because I am over 60. The address certificate meant a trip back to Kratie and I obtained the rental agreement from the apartment owners. Then a lot of to-ing and fro-ing to find the head of the village and the head of the commune and the district office and the provincial office to get everything signed. After wasting a complete day between the Administrative Office, the District Office and the Provincial Hall, I found out that the rental agreement didn't have the apartment owners' fingerprints – signatures are not used, only thumbprints in red ink – and my nationality was listed as ' Irish' (!) ( UK Passports are titled ' UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND ' which they had abbreviated to IRELAND ) Also the rental agreement had to be signed by the Head of the Village before the District Office would do anything. I asked the secretary to write down the address of the Village Head – of course this is Cambodia and there are no addresses, she just wrote down the name of the Temple near me and it turned out to be an expensive house on a dirt road behind the Temple – no road name, no numbers, no sign on the house. Even locals don't know about it.

The District Officer doesn't start work before 2pm on Fridays and I was told to come back then for the next round of rubber-stamping. ( He finishes at 5 pm ! ) However, he had not arrived by 2 O'clock, maybe he would come at 3 ? The school administrator had taken me there, and so, to save time, he took me to the Hospital for a Health Certificate. I had asked at a nearby Doctor's Office in the morning about a Health Certificate, but he said he cannot do it – he also spoke absolutely no English. At the Hospital, all that is required is a blood test – no need for an examination of any kind : no blood pressure, stethoscope examination of lungs, pulse, reflexes or eye-test. The blood test and certificate costs $11.25 and I was told to go to a room with a sign saying 'PHARMACY.' I was surprised to see the same Doctor I had met in the morning – the one who just said he cannot do it – and it turns out that he is in charge of the blood- testing department for Health Certificates ! Why he could not have told me in the morning to go to the Hospital and he would do it there, I do not know.

Anyway, the Hospital is surprisingly modern with automated blood analyzers and the results were ready in a few minutes. My blood is normal – they test for cell-count, glucose, HIV and Hepatitis B & C only. Negative for HIV and Hepatitis. The result forms are printed in Khmer, but the test results are always written in FRENCH – never English or Khmer. After rubber-stamping at various departments, I now had a usable Health Certificate and so we went back to the District office to collect the stamped tenancy agreement.

However, the final stamp was not there and we were told to go to a local Kindergarten (!) to get it stamped. The Kindergarten is also the Polling Office for Elections and the official works there compiling voters' lists. It was now 4.30 and the office closes at 5.00. She rubber-stamped it and charged me $7.50. Then back to the District Office to get a blank Current Address Certificate – and they told us to go back to the Head of Village and get it signed and stamped before they would process it. He was not very happy about this form as it was supposed to be for Cambodian Nationals only. He said there should be a form printed in English for foreigners. There isn't. I was shown the very same form at the Transport Office in Phnom Penh – with it filled out in Chinese for a Chinese National – and they said this is the form I must have. However, he signed and stamped it.

Back to the District Office. It was now 4.50. No problem now, Right ? The District Officer didn't want to sign it – he said he wanted to 'consider it first.' Could I come back on Monday and maybe he would have an answer ? I said I would be in Phnom Penh on Monday and couldn't he do it now ? His colleague had no problems charging me and, if he needed money, he would have asked for it then. It turned out that he had not been in his job long and I was the first foreigner to ever ask for a Current Address Certificate. It also needed my Mother and Father's name ( why ? ) He then asked lots of questions about where I worked, and where I lived. Remember, he was the official who had signed and stamped the Tenancy Agreement as being genuine and correct and the Current Address Certificate is simply a document certifying that the Tenancy Agreement is genuine and correct! I called my friend to help and he explained that I worked at his Brother's school ( the term Brother is used quite loosely in Cambodia ) His ' Brother ' runs 5 schools and is also a high-ranking official in the Education Department – very well-known. The name-dropping did the trick and the document was signed and stamped immediately at no charge. However, it still needed his colleague's signature and it was now 5.00. She was about to go home, but signed and stamped it – for another $2.50 !

Two hectic days – but everything is finished now. All this is the reason why many Cambodians don't bother with a driving license – they just pay the fine ( bribe ) to the police if and when they are stopped. International Driving Licenses are not recognized in Cambodia and a Current Address Certificate cannot be issued if you are staying in a hotel – but there are HERTZ and AVIS rent-a-car offices in Phnom Penh for foreigners ? Must be for ex-pats, not for tourists ? Also car insurance is invalid if you don't have a Cambodian Driving License.

If you don't have a recognized foreign driving license, you must take a driving test – which man fail the first time. There is an interactive, computerized part of the test in English and I don't know about the road test – if there is one (?) If you pass the test, the driving license is then valid for ten years – otherwise you have to renew it every year.

I was told on two separate occasions that I could not have a Cambodian driving license because I am over 60 – firstly by the boss of the school and secondly at the hospital – this is obviously not true : at the driving-license center they issue licenses to Chinese who are well over 80. The boss also told me that foreigners cannot own a car in Cambodia! I don't know where they get their ideas from ? ( The procedure for foreigners buying a car are easy to find on the Internet.)

In addition, I was told that the Current Address Certificate would not be valid because I am not Cambodian – It is quite OK. Despite all the negativity, I went to the Transport Office with my new documents at about 9 am. You need a photocopy of your original driving license – both sides, side-by-side – and a copy of your passport and visa. ( I think it must be a 12 month visa ) I didn't have copies, but there is a photocopier in the next building for 500 riel a go. You also need two passport photos. All documents are scrutinized at least five times – at three desks and in two small offices – each time they acquire more signatures as you go from one place to another.

The only question I was asked was by a woman – she was muttering about why an eye test was not recorded on the Health Certificate ( I never had one ! ) However, I said it was already done and that satisfied her ! Then you pay the fee ( 31,000 Riel or $7.75 ) at a 'Wing' money transfer office across the street and show the receipt. After a 5 minute wait the driving license is ready – very efficient. I showed it to the motorbike-taxi driver and asked him if he had one – he didn't, but they are not needed for motorbikes under 125cc. He also smelt strongly of whisky and it was only 10 am by that time !

Although there are thousands of foreigners in Phnom Penh, I seem to be remembered easily enough – at the hotel I don't need to register or show a passport and they know which room I like. I'm sure they can remember the regular guests as it is a small hotel and the whole first floor is permanently booked by English teachers. I now stay on the third floor and many rooms are unoccupied.

Nearby there is road-side fruit-juice shop and I go there to drink mango shakes which are delicious and unavailable in Kratie. They remember me and make them with extra milk and no sugar ( the mangoes are quite sweet enough ). The other day I went there and there was a blind girl at the table ( very small shop with only one table ) and the woman who runs the shop started up a conversation between the three of us. Usually the blind are either beggars or work in 'seeing-hands' massage parlours that only employ the blind. There is no social welfare and limited job opportunities for the blind in Cambodia. The blind girl was constantly interrupted by phone calls and certainly seems popular. I turns out that she was a waitress – which surprised me at first until she said she works at DID – Dine in the Dark - which is just across the road ! Apart from the fact that they are unlikely to serve my kind of food, I don't want to go there as I won't know what I am eating. I have seen a video of DID Singapore and it is like a blind date ( forgive the pun ) Unless you come as a party of three, you will have at least one unidentified person sitting next to you in the dark and they could equally well be Cambodian as foreigner. It is a social event and every-one gets to know their neighbours and help feeding them. The only people not at a disadvantage will be the blind waitresses. She studies English and her English is quite good. She can tell the difference between light and dark, but that is all – no colours or shapes and she only dreams with sounds, nothing visual. She can read braille also. Certainly making the best of her disability.

There are far too many motorbike-taxi and Tuk-Tuk drivers in Phnom Penh, all trying hard to find a customer and you are constantly asked ' motorbike, Sir? ' or 'Tuk-Tuk, Sir?' if you go for a walk in the tourist areas. They really don't think a foreigner actually wants to walk anywhere and you are just looking for a ride. If you stand by the side of the road, waiting for a gap in the traffic so you can cross, you must definitely be needing a taxi ( no Khmer would wait for a gap – because you might wait forever – they just charge out into the traffic and find a way across ) and will be an immediate target for the taxi drivers. When you decline, you have just lost any street credibility in their eyes – they now know you are working up the courage to cross the road. Almost a bad as wearing a raincoat in light rain – immediate loss of 'street cred.'

Once I was entering the departure lounge of Phnom Penh airport with a Russian friend, and was asked 'Tuk-Tuk, Sir?' OK, I wasn't taking a flight, but the driver didn't know that – and, if he doesn't know the difference between arrivals and departures yet, he won't get many customers !


I was thinking about trades, occupations and items that have disappeared or become obsolete in recent years ...

• I can remember the 'Rag and Bone Man'  who would tour the housing estates with his cart and collect anything that might have some value. Cambodia has collectors of recyclable items ( beer cans and plastic bottles – sometimes cardboard boxes ) They have the squeaker from a rubber ducky fixed to a squeezy bottle so they can make a distinctive sound. The actual refuse trucks in Kratie have a ship's foghorn which is unmistakable !

• There was also a 'Paraffin Oil' truck – that dispensed gallons of paraffin for heating ( it always made the room stink a bit and used up all the oxygen – ventilation was called 'a draught' and not popular in cold weather.

The Coal Man and Chimney Sweep       In the days before smokeless fuel was made compulsory – I can remember the London 'Pea Soup Fogs' of around 1958 – coal could be delivered to your door and emptied into the bunker under the kitchen sink by a burly coalman. Hard work considering they were 'hundredweight' sacks ( 50kgs ) and we were on the fourth floor. The chimneys could also be swept – usually necessary only after the accumulated coal dust in them had caught fire and made a frightening, roaring noise until put out. Sweeping chimneys was very dirty work, but at least they had stopped using small boys to climb up and clean them!

The Milk Man     I don't know if electric milk floats still exist , but they used to be a common sight in London. Not only did the Milkman deliver milk, he also sold orange juice and cream. I can't imagine unattended bottles of milk left on doorsteps not being stolen in most parts of London now. The last time I saw milk it was in a 'TetraPak' carton or else in plastic gallon jugs. Re-usable bottles seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur – when I was a kid, beer bottles had a deposit on them and other kids used to collect them and cash them in. In Cambodia and Laos, beer bottles have no re-cycle value and are dumped in huge piles.

Tinkers were sort of handymen who would repair pots and pans and sharpen knives. There are plenty of wandering knife sharpeners in Phnom Penh – a desperate existence. I should take my one-and-only kitchen knife with me the next time I go to Phnom Penh and help one of them out. A new knife is only 50 cents and I would happily give more than that to an impoverished knife sharpener rather than just chuck it away and buy a new one.

Clock Repairers     There was an old Swiss clock repairer who had a shop near our flat- always immaculately dressed and very polite. He could clean, oil and change broken springs. He once sold me a new mainspring and gave tips on how to fit it – don't cut the retaining wire before it is safely in position or it explodes like a Jack-in-the Box ! Recently I bought a Chinese alarm clock in the ' 60 cent store' – I put new batteries in it, but it never did work. If you are lucky enough to get one that works, it won't last too long as the plastic gear wheels get brittle and the teeth fall off.

Radio Repair Shops        There were loads of them in central London when I was a small boy and I loved nothing better than to gaze at the strange objects in the window and find an excuse to buy something. The first radio I built was from a design shown on BBC TV – I sent a letter to them for the plans. My uncle Harry made the wooden box for me, but I did the wiring and assembly and it actually worked ! It used one of the first transistors available – a Mullard ( before they became Philips ) OC71 in a glass capsule painted black ( to stop it being a phototransistor ! ) I bought it from a market stall in Leather Lane Market for 50p ( so it was after decimalization ) The first one didn't work – maybe I blew it up ? – but the stall owner changed it for a new one without a problem. I was originally going to build a valve radio, but one radio repair shop convinced me not to and said I should use one of the new-fangled transistors if I could get one ( they didn't sell them ) Later I obtained the plans for an ambitious two-transistor radio, but I could not get it to work. We had an ancient radio in a big wooden cabinet and it would overheat, so often the back cover was left off to let some cooling air in. It needed an Aerial and an Earth wire – sometimes it worked better if the Earth was disconnected. One day the dangling Earth wire swung into the open back or the radio set – there was a flash of light and a bang as it blew up. We then got a more modern Bush ( valve ) radio.

• TV Rental and Repair Shops         I can remember Radio Rentals shops everywhere – I can't imagine renting a radio these days ? You can buy a Chinese one in the 60 cent shop! We had a Ferguson black-and-white TV which cost 88 guineas ( a guinea was £1 and 1 shilling ) an enormous sum in those days. It had a 21 inch screen in a huge cabinet that got very hot. All TVs and most radios then used valves ( thermionic valves ) or, as Americans say 'tubes' ( vacuum tubes ) pronounced 'toobs' (!) The more highly-stressed ones would not last long and, as happened to us on a couple of occasions, the TV would fail and we had to call in the TV repair man. He did house calls with his suitcase full of replacement valves and, in a few minutes, had the TV working again. I was very impressed, but actually it was easy work – the sets were simple and a repair consisted of unplugging the dead valve and plugging in a new one. No soldering required. The picture tubes of the early TVs didn't last too long either and there were shops that sold and fitted re-conditioned picture tubes ( actually re-gunned : the single electron gun was changed which involved glass-blowing and a vacuum pump ) Not a good business to be in for the long term ! There was a shop at the top of Holloway Road called 'TV Graveyard' which sold second-hand valves cheap and they even had a valve tester so you could find a working one from the huge piles available. Indeed, the first computers used valves and I was invited to tour a computer by an 'old boy' of the school. It had the grand title of English Electric Leo Marconi Mark1 and was the size of a small house ( that's why I said 'tour') Inside – you could walk around inside it – there were many thousands of valves giving off lots of heat and, despite using military-grade valves with gold-plated pins, they would fail and a technician with a shopping trolley full of replacements changed them. It could play a simple tune from a punched-card program and, I hope, some other things(?) If they could have seen an iPhone 8 or 10 with its modern processor, they would have cried.( 6 cores, 64 bit + 256GB storage )

• Photo Studios     when I wanted passport photos in Thailand, I had to get dressed up in the shop's shirt and jacket – which was full of holes below the shoulder line – and select a tie from a box. Now in Laos and Cambodia you don't have to bother – they can digitally give you a jacket, shirt and tie from the hundreds of images on file. You don't even have to comb your hair – it can be digitally tidied-up in PhotoShop.

Oil Shops       the 'oil' part referred to paraffin, but they also sold bundles of firewood, gardening equipment, paints and pigments. In the windows there were hundreds of samples of pigments and chemicals with exotic names like Burnt Sienna, Red Ochre, Whiting, Litharge, Paris Green, SaltPetre, Burnt Umber, Vermillion, Sugar of Lead and so on.

News Agents, Sweet Shops and Tobacconists          There were shops that only sold newspapers and had hawkers outside yelling 'Star, News and Standard' the names of the three most popular newspapers of the day. Sweetshops clustered around schools and sold boiled sweets, lollypops and gob-stoppers. Tobacconists sold foot-long clay ChurchWarden's Pipes and had samples of tobacco in the window with strange names like Navy Shag, Rough Cut, Ready Rubbed, Turkish, Old Holborn - Players cigarettes, Craven A and Wills Whiffs are no longer sold.

• Internet Cafés       are increasingly going out of business because every-one has a smart phone these days with 24/7 Internet. They still exist in Phnom Penh and are open around the clock so youths can hang out until the early hours of the morning and play on-line multi-player games.

Phone boxes           When was the last time you saw a public phone box ? They never came to Cambodia as mobile phones became cheap and took over.

Air Mail Paper was very thin and light to save money when airmail was expensive.

• If you use the terms 'Transistor Radio' or 'Colour TV' now, it really shows your age!

• What happened to the 'Muffin Man' (?) The term Muffin is hardly used anymore, except for descriptions such as 'He is such a Stud Muffin !' Waffles are made and sold on the street in Phnom Penh and must be similar to muffins (?)

Neon-sign Manufacturers - LED signs are now everywhere.


Strange Shops in Phnom Penh

This shop sells baby clothes and nappies, but the name sounds a bit anatomical (?)


The Dope Zone - really ?


Want to be a Dope?  If it had a name like that in London, it would attract an entirely different type of customer !



This is the best Hairdressers for men I have found in Phnom Penh ( on street 19 )

Air-conditioned, cold water to drink, comfortable chairs - you can have your hair done, ears cleaned and manicure by a beautiful Vietnamese girl with the lightest touch. When she shampoos your hair or cleans your ears, it is a sensory experience  unlike some barbers who torture you when they work on your ears. 


Now I have a legal Cambodian driving license I started looking for a cheap car. Import tax on cars is 135% so all cars are scandalously expensive compared to UK prices. I had already decided to buy a Daewoo Tico because it is the cheapest car on sale here and I quite like the square, boxy, retro-styling. Here is a review, shamelessly reproduced without permission, from the tourist magazine ( Bayon Pearnik ) :

In this issue, we carry out a long term ownership review of the 1994 Daewoo Tico.

The vehicle was purchased in a provincial city in Cambodia in April 2013 and has been driven daily on those days where it would start and continue to run - therefore making driving possible. Technically, the vehicle has also been driven on many occasions when it would not start. However as the driving in these instances was carried out while being towed by another vehicle to a garage or workshop, it would perhaps be more accurate to refer to this as steering rather than driving.
In the interests of clarity, it is worth noting that there is a third category of Tico mobility. This is where the vehicle will start, run for a short distance but not actually reach its intended destination or complete its intended journey under its own power. The truncation of the trip is invariably caused by a mechanical failure or, perhaps more commonly, total, complete and abject mechanical failure(s). In this situation, towing by another vehicle is once again the end result. While these latter occasions are obviously examples of both driving and steering, our test panel has come to refer to them as Fawltys. This is of course a reference to the almost overwhelming desire to administer a damn good thrashing to the moribund vehicle with any available tree branch. Such has been the impact of the Daewoo Tico on motoring in Cambodia that, throughout the provinces, it is quite common to observe tree branches sticking upright in the middle of the road. It is a little known fact that these branches have been placed there as a public service for the convenience of Tico owners, who, overcome by paroxysms of mechanical failure induced rage may wish to alight from their Tico and administer a sound thrashing to the vehicle. Memories of past mechanical failures may also be sufficiently intense as to cause Tico drivers to stop a vehicle that has been running without incident for an hour or so and administer a cautionary pre-emptive thrashing.

For those with a passion for statistics, over the period of ownership the '94 Tico has been driven (fully independent mobility) 87% of the time, been Fawlty (partial mobility) 6% of the time and been steered (fully assisted mobility) 7% of the time. Based on these stats, it is the collective opinion of the review panel that the '94 Tico is still significantly more reliable than any vehicle produced in the United Kingdom from the early 1960's through to the mid 1980's and much more reliable than any vehicle ever built in Italy at any time ever.

The number of previous owners of our test vehicle is unknown but could conceivably run into the hundreds of thousands given the life of a Tico in Cambodia. Certainly the cheerful waves that we have received from thousands of small children as we have been towed past rice paddies on countryside outings en route to any one of a dozen different garages for repairs would indicate a high degree of personal familiarity with our particular vehicle.

Background – The Mighty Woo
Our test car was manufactured in South Korea by Daewoo Motors. As a side note, the Daewoo name is a combination of the founder's name - Kim Woo-jung (the Woo part) and the Korean word for Great or Mighty (the Dae part) and so we have Daewoo- or the Mighty Woo. As a general memorandum to those considering a business start up and casting around for a catchy name for the business, don't short change yourself in the self confidence department. The Mighty John Smith Inc. or the Totally Fabulous and Completely Awesome John Smith Inc. is always going to tell your potential customers a lot more about you than just naming your business John Smith Inc.

Based on the 1988 Suzuki Alto, the 796 cc triple cylinder Tico commenced production in Korea in 1991. Providing as it did, an unbeatable combination of low cost and cutting edge motoring technology, the vehicle was a huge hit in countries where these characteristics have been traditionally valued such as Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and Peru. Prior to the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC) in 1997, Daewoo was the second largest conglomerate in Korea, ahead of Samsung and ranked only behind Hyundai. Following the AFC, most major corporations in Korea began a process of major downsizing by divesting themselves of staff, unprofitable services and debt. Daewoo's approach to the AFC was somewhat different however as it went on a buying spree adding fourteen completely new firms to the conglomerate and increasing its debt by 40%.

By 1999, the Daewoo Company was unable to continue servicing its debts and went bankrupt owing 80 trillion won (84.3 billion dollars)*

Given our own personal experience of the maintenance costs associated with Daewoo Tico ownership in Cambodia, these figures seem about right.

*Note this piece of information for future reference when establishing your Totally Fabulous and Completely Awesome John Smith Inc. Company: if your business fails owing 84 billion dollars, you don't have a problem – it will be banks and even governments that have the problem.


Basic Vehicle Specifications
Model: Daewoo Tico - five door hatch-back. Engine: 796 cc triple cylinder
Max power: 48 hp Transmission: automatic

Weight: 640kg !

0-100km/h: 17sec (claimed) Top Speed: 143 km/h (claimed)
Fuel economy: 5.8 L/100km (averaged)
Price: $1,050 (this price was inclusive of $50 commission paid to a local tuk-tuk driver to source the vehicle for purchase)


What We Got For A Grand – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

We got licence plates, legitimate ownership papers and a current year tax sticker.

We got a maroon coloured paint job – missing or peeling in many places. There were numerous re-sprays evident in an artist's palette of miss-matched maroons – a Jackson Pollock kaleidoscope of over sprayed maroons.

We got four standard metal tyre rims – three fluoro pink ones and one a bile green. Front tyres were good – rear tyres were nearly bald when the vehicle was purchased. In some kind of cartoon-like defiance of the laws of physics, the rear tyres (which we have never replaced) show no appreciable signs of additional wear in the two and a half years of use. Tyres appear to be made of some highly durable black product that predates rubber.

We got a roof rack that gripped the roof of the car in three out of four places.
We got five doors - one of which could not be opened. We got four keys because all the locks on the petrol bay recess, ignition and doors were different and required separate keys. We subsequently found that this was complete bullshit as anything that was locked on the car (including the ignition) could be unlocked with a nail file.

We got working air-con however when switched on the Tico's progress would slow to that of the tail vehicle in a funeral procession. We got a recently reconditioned motor (it has never used oil), aftermarket faux leather seat covers (the seats were comfortable) and a car stereo unit that, when powered up, sent strobe-pulses of pink and blue light throughout the vehicle. The light show was set at the precise shade, intensity and frequency as to induce epileptic seizures. We were never able to elicit any sound from the stereo system other than the R2D2 beeps it would make when the ignition was turned on and off. We got electric powered windows in the front but no power steering. We got jacked up suspension.

We got a back seat that, later in our period of ownership, proved to be completely unattached to any part of the vehicle and was actually being supported in place by a pile of old T shirts.
We got a thick sheaf of receipts written in Khmer allegedly itemizing the cost of repairs recently carried out on the vehicle. The amounts at the bottom of each page were eye-wateringly large. We believed at the time that these receipts were shown to us to demonstrate that the big maintenance bucks had already been spent and years of trouble and cost free motoring lay ahead of us. In the (very brief) fullness of time however, we came to understand that the receipts were actually either a) a complete statement of Daewoo's debt position in 1999 or b) the ongoing weekly cost of Tico maintenance and repairs. We got a speedometer that, for no apparent reason and against all other empirical evidence, would indicate that the vehicle was travelling at 160 km/h when the actual speed was 30.

We got good brakes but no hand brake. We got a non functioning engine temperature gauge.

We got halogen head lights – one of which was set to spot tree dwelling animals to the extreme upper left of the vehicle while the other was set to spot snakes at the lower extreme right. The combined effect at night was the creation of a mellow darkness in the front of the vehicle similar to that favoured in some Thai nightclubs. Sometimes at night, driving the red country roads while in beer, windows down and in the ambient blackness, the three-cylinder engine drumming like Bonham*, the needle scraping the ton - it felt like rumpy-pumpy.
( * Bonham – drummer in Led Zeppelin )

We got a standard car horn (possibly the original factory fitted item) plus a 200 decibel aftermarket unit with five different pre-sets including police siren, ambulance, emergency services, fire brigade and an unknown sound which may be used to indicate an alien invasion.

We got stained upholstery, no window washers, and no functioning windscreen wiper on the rear hatch window, frayed seatbelts, no workshop manual, no car jack, no tools and a bald spare tyre on a blue rim. We got CV joints, windscreen wiper rubbers and a car battery that were on their last legs.

So what did we get for a grand?
We got a car that is light and easy to push meaning that we have got a lot of much needed exercise. We have met a whole lot of Khmers in the motor service industry we would not have met if we had a more modern, reliable vehicle. Many of these people have displayed astonishing ingenuity in carrying out effective road-side repairs with the most primitive equipment. We got a vehicle that would accelerate briskly to 50km/h. We got a car that nobody wanted to steal or break into. We got a car that carried bags of cow shit and potting soil down flooded, potholed roads – we got a car that anyone could fix (albeit temporarily) and we got a car that was easy to park. We got a car that took us to all night parties and to the dimly lit Khmer eating, drinking and singing shacks down the dirt roads on the outskirts of town and where we got to have fun. We got a car with a realistic top speed of 80 km/h and a comfortable driving speed of 60 and while we once took it up to 90, it sounded like being inside a washing machine on spin cycle. We got a car that was funky and we drove it in Cambodia.

In our late teens, in our home countries when we first started working, we owned old, clapped out rust-bucket jalopies because that was what we could afford. We spent a lot of time fixing and fussing over them because they needed a lot of fixing and fussing - and they took us everywhere. Everything was new and everything was an adventure - even when they broke down which they invariably did. We lived in them, we talked about them, we drove them to the beach and to parties and we took girls to drive-in movies in them. As likely as not, we had our first rumpy-pumpy in them. Yesterday, when I was young ...


The Verdict
And so, finally, what did we get for a grand? We got to taste the rain upon our tongue again. Irvin S. December 2015 [ His car was affectionately named ' The Little Bugger ' ]

With such a glowing car review like that, how can you not want to buy one ???


There are no local papers, or small-ads-in-shop-windows in Cambodia – and the websites for buying cars are not updated and only cover Phnom Penh. You do not see Ticos for sale in car showrooms, so how could I find one? The answer is word-of-mouth. Having told a teacher that I was interested, they found one in a few days ! It has not been used for 3 years – covered in dirt, but undercover in the dry. Two flat and perished tyres - and, potentially more serious, the woman owner had lost the keys ( it was locked ) – but it was only $500.

I waited a week for the owner to return from a wedding – they go on for at least that long – with no sign of the key – and no-one in the house. Then, together with a school secretary who is also a policewoman, and two teachers, I went to the house – this time with a bag of tools. I had previously watched a YouTube video of 'How to Break Into a Car' and it looked easy? There are various methods on YouTube – some rubbish, for example using a tennis ball with a hole in it that you are supposed to cover the key-hole with and whack the ball with your hand to unlock the door. ( This was featured in a Russell Crowe movie ) Also using a rubber plunger like the ones that unblock toilets – equally bogus according to the many videos de-bunking them. Other methods use screwdrivers or 'Slim Jim' pry-bars and looked like they would damage the door or break the window. The best trick used a coat hanger to unlatch the door from underneath the window – not from the top or the side. I had never attempted this before – but it worked like a charm and the door was unlocked in under a minute ! Beginners luck – but it really impressed the Cambodians. I still needed to get a key made, so I had a go trying to remove a door lock. Almost impossible – I don't know how they managed to fit the lock in the first place. Then I tried to remove the ignition lock, but it was held on by two clever security nuts that can only be tightened – not un-tightened. Lastly I tried the back door – it is a five door hatchback – and the lock was very easy to take off. A trip to the Vietnamese locksmith at the market and I had a new key in ten minutes. He will make a key for any car or motorbike – no questions asked – for $10. ( Obviously not an electronic key for modern cars – you would have to go to the car showroom ) To get an existing key copied is only 50 cents. My new key has a Toyota logo on it, but it fits a Tico.

While I was waiting for the key, I was told that there was another Tico for sale ( also 1994 ) – this time one used regularly that can be driven – but it was $800 ( negotiable ) It turned out to be dark blue – the paint was in good condition, it started instantly and the engine seemed OK, but the interior was not so good – everything broken or missing. The speedometer, fuel gauge, temperature gauge, and air-conditioner were all not working – two tyres were bald and the oil was black. Also it had not been taxed since 2010 ( no need to even ask about Vehicle Inspection Certificates – MOT – no sign of one ) and cars have to be taxed every year whether or not they are on the road – when you apply for tax you have to pay back-tax and possibly a fine. It is only $20 a year, but that would add at least $140 to the price. The first Tico had tax until 2015 – so only $60 to pay ( $20 + $20 fine for 2016 and $20 for 2017 ) and would need new tyres just the same. I decided it would be better to take a chance on the first one as it was only $500 and it had all the interior trim and looked tidy inside. In fact, the seats were in remarkably good condition – they looked almost new – and the bodywork did not seem to have any rust.

I still had not met the owner or seen the ownership card, but spent a couple of days seeing what was working on the car. The tyres were as flat as pancakes, but three of them recovered after pumping up. ( Air compressors are everywhere – 500 Riel a go – 12 ½ cents ) The spare tyre was OK. A new battery was $50.(Maintenance free) New engine oil was $20 for 4 litres. Now some panel lights were working - and the horn and indicators worked. 2 litres of petrol in a plastic Pepsi bottle showed that the petrol gauge worked – it now just moved off the end stop – the tank had been bone dry. Two fuses had blown. The CD player/Radio now works. However, when the key was turned to start – nothing happened. No power was getting to the starter solenoid. With a quick-and-nasty direct connection from the solenoid to the ignition switch, I could now get the engine to turn over.

I sprayed some WD-40 down the plug holes as a lube job and tried to get it started. No luck – no spark ! The electronic distributor tested OK, but the coil seemed weak (?) – a new coil and spark plug leads fixed the spark. ( Most car spares shops in Phnom Penh sell spark-plug wire sets for Ticos at prices ranging from $8-$10, but all of them have two long plug covers that fit well and one shorter cover that doesn't fit – it is a three-cylinder engine and the original factory-equipment covers are identical – so why the aftermarket ones all have an odd one ? )

A bottle-cap full of petrol straight down the carb intake made it fire for a second – but not run, so the carburetor must be blocked. When I opened the carb, I had a shock – I have never before seen so much thick black sludge – everything was blocked and gummed up. After a session in the ultrasonic cleaner it looked almost like new.

I now have a workshop manual for a Tico, which is a great help. The 1994 Tico carburetor was a last-ditch attempt by Daewoo to meet the Emission Standards of the time and is fitted with all sorts of vacuum-operated by-pass systems – for example depending on whether the engine is running or not, the float chamber may or may not be vented to a charcoal canister ( missing on my car ) or to the fuel-return pipe. Depending on throttle opening and vacuum, some exhaust gas may be re-circulated into the intake manifold to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. ( no catalytic converter ) That was why the intake manifold was so black – it is sometimes connected to the exhaust ! There is a hot-wax expansion actuator to control the second choke ( It has two chokes and one throttle valve ! ) to aid starting at 8ºC – very useful in Cambodia where it is 30+ºC, the intake manifold is water-heated for cold weather - again useless here. All this over-complication is controlled by cams, levers, set-screws, springs, vacuum actuators and electrical solenoids.

I have simplified it, but I notice in South America they change Tico carbs for Toyota Corolla carburetors – a much better and simpler design. Easier to buy also. Of course, Daewoo eventually had to give up and fit fuel-injection like everyone else – a much better system all round.

Anyway, with a clean carb it fired and ran for a whole minute – before there was an ominous 'cough' from the engine and it stopped.

The timing belt has broken –  but I don't have to take the engine out to change it ! ( I had already paid for the car by then )

The timing belt can go on any old car at any time - so better it went now than when I was far from home.

I have taken off the cylinder head and a couple of valves are bent - now I can get it re-conditioned and de-coke the engine.

One YouTube video advises straightening bent valves by opening the valve a bit and then levering them straight with a screwdriver ! ( This will damage the valve seat on an aluminium head and could be a long process ) I will try and buy new ones.

It has turned into more of a restoration job than I first imagined, but I will have a better car if I spend $500 fixing up this one than buying one for $1000 – which will have lots of bodged repairs for sure. They will all need tyres, tax, MOT and clean oil at the least !

I now have up-to-date road tax ( $60 ) - done at the bank, not the Post Office - and a very good excuse to go to Phnom Penh ( buying spares )

The Cambodians keep telling me that I should call in a car mechanic - any small repair job is beyond them - even to fix some wires chewed through by rats, they said I would need a mechanic ! I have seen previous repair efforts by mechanics - wires twisted together and covered with black tape. They never crimp on proper connectors or keep to the standard wire colours. I can do a better job.


 I went to Phnom Penh and bought all the spares I needed at one shop – it cost $75 for everything required to re-condition the cylinder head and new water pump and drive belts. Only one valve had visibly bent, but I got a new set. The water pump was decidedly dodgy – rough bearing which may have locked up and snapped the timing belt ?

After the successful shopping trip for car spares, I spent the rest of the afternoon at Lé Mey - the Vietnamese hairdressers for men. I was made very comfortable in the reclining chair and then a girl stuffed tiny cushions at various points here and there to further increase the comfort. They have a machine that sprays what looks like steam, but is cold, at your face. When they are not busy, you get two girls working on your nails – one for each hand – and another one doing your facial and ear cleaning. There was a ( new ? ) girl there I have not seen before – I am not partial to the chalky-white skin of the Vietnamese, but she was breathtakingly beautiful – a real stunner. She also had a nice voice and slim figure. She proceeded to give me a whole series of facial scrubs and massages with different lotions – and treatment with what looked like a 1950's " Martian Ray Gun " – which made my whole head vibrate. Then she applied a gel straight from the fridge – I thought it was cucumber, but in fact it was Aloe Vera ( which grows everywhere here ) The Aloe gel was squeezed from leaf segments onto my face and then a slippery face mask was fitted leaving cut-outs for my eyes, nose and mouth. She was not done with that – a whole tub of strawberry yoghurt was then applied on top of the face mask. I don't know exactly what that was supposed to do, but it smelt delightful ! If there is a strawberry in the tub, they put it on your forehead ! It does feel very nice and relaxing so you are left to soak up the yoghurt for the next half an hour – and admire the scenery.

Nothing is done hastily at Lé Mey - pampering is done at an unhurried pace with utmost care and the lightest of touches – you do not want to go there if you are in a hurry – the local men can spend an afternoon there easily. She gave me a shave – usually Barbers with straight razors don't do as good a job as I can do with a 3-blade disposable, but she did three passes with meticulous precision and it was amazing. Equally amazing having such a beautiful face an inch above mine for half an hour. She can even make ear cleaning a pleasure.

You might think all this would be expensive ? In the UK there was a special offer in Tottenham –

Old-Age Pensioners, Wednesday mornings, haircut for only £8.

Personally, I cannot think of anything more depressing than waiting in a queue of O.A.P's to be swiftly shorn by an old male Barber who would probably ask you about the football. For £8 in England, that was about as good as it gets.

For $9.50 ( less than £8 ) I can be seen to for an afternoon by three pretty Vietnamese girls in air-conditioned luxury – there is no comparison. ( Note : Lé Mey is an entry-level Vietnamese hairdressers for men – they have up-market ones too ! )


I have spent the last two weeks repairing the engine – most of the time was taken cleaning up the parts – not much damage at all. It is so nice to have a clean engine to work on and now I can actually see where everything is. Now the engine is running again, but has a misfire on number 3 cylinder. The distributor cap was cracked and corroded at no.3 spark-plug outlet – so off to Phnom Penh for a new one. So it was originally going only on two cylinders ? The previous owner said it was in regular use up until she stopped using it – must have been a pig to drive with such a misfire ? As soon as it was mobile, I bought a new set of tyres ( $190 for 5 ) and took it to the car wash to clean off 3 years of dirt ! Now it resides in the car-park of my apartment where I can complete repairs and adjustments. The engine is surprisingly good – and the brakes and steering work as well ! So far I am very happy with it.

Modern cars have engines that are controlled by computer – unlike the Tico – and are so capable with seamless power delivery. You are completely isolated from the internal goings-on in the engine – you are not aware of the 'Suck-Squeeze-Bang-Blow' cycle or its complexity. All is fine until something goes wrong or breaks – then the Internal Combustion Engine becomes the Infernal Destruction Engine ! Turbo diesels are the most efficient ( up to 54 % ) and the best petrol engines can manage 50% efficiency -

( Mercedes F1 engine on You Tube : )

which is still quite poor. When I am walking in Phnom Penh next to one of the enormous SUVs favoured by the rich, I am engulfed in a blast of very hot air from the radiator fans – all that traffic wasting more energy pumping out heat than providing motion – and Phnom Penh hardly needs any more heat ...

I could have a big charger installed in the car-park here, but lithium batteries are still too expensive for me to convert the Tico to electric drive. Therefore, for now, it will be a Suck-Squeeze-Bang-Blow Tico. Also it has automatic transmission – for which the correct technical term is a 'Slush Pump' – not ideal for converting to electric.

This what I saw when I took the cylinder head off - bores still good after 23 years, but needs a de-coke !


 The head was no better, but polished up OK


After some red paint - waiting for the head job



You probably don't see headlines like this in the UK ?


I bought some flip-flops and they had this label ... nice to know that shoes are portable ! 



New Money
It is now 2018 and I decided that a security upgrade was necessary, especially now that Microsoft knows that I run a pirate Windows7 ( so no security updates ) on the laptop and Intel x86-64 bit processors all have a kernel flaw so they could be hacked. My desktop had also failed BIOS ramtest a few times and disabled 4Gb of Ram ( As soon as I started looking for a new 2GB ramstick on eBay - £2.50 ! – it started working perfectly again and is now back to 8GB )

I therefore bought a VPN from NordVPN. I am very happy with NordVPN - it can do double-encryption and Onion over VPN ( Tor + VPN ) all for $99 for 3 years. It certainly fools Google and YouTube. This is coming from a Thailand server, but I can connect to 94 countries as if my IP address was from there. All my Internet traffic is now encrypted.

I have been getting interested in Crypto currencies – or should I call them Blockchain currencies? Not only Bitcoin and Ethereum, but also the Altcoins. They remind me of alternative money-systems such as credit cards and traveler's cheques – now only VISA and Mastercard are famous – what happened to American Express, Diners club and traveller's cheques ? My Cambodian bank uses Union Pay which I had never heard of before. All offer varieties on Blockchain trading, but how many will survive ?

It seems to me the Altcoins are like shares in a website. They are shares in a Kickstarter or Patreon type project with a catchy name and logo. You have to believe they will actually do what they say and perform. If you look at major currencies, only a few are useful - US Dollars, Euros and to a lesser extent UK Pounds. It might end up the same way with only Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin or whatever ........

The rush for Altcoins might be like the rush to buy into Internet/website start-ups - before the bubble burst before.**

Good for VERY short-term gains, but most will fail in the long run.You never know when it will crash ! If you are trading them, you need to be tracking them in real time 24/7 with not a break – the ideal job for an AI robot. The market is very volatile. It is not a part-time job. You cannot afford to be behind the curve on this one.

• ** The dot-com bubble (also known as the dot-com boom, the dot-com crash, the Y2K crash, the Y2K bubble, the tech bubble, the Internet bubble, the dot-com collapse, and the information technology bubble)[1] was a historic economic bubble and period of excessive speculation that occurred roughly from 1997 to 2001, a period of extreme growth in the usage and adaptation of the Internet by businesses and consumers. During this period, many Internet-based companies, commonly referred to as dot-coms, were founded, many of which failed.
• During 2000–2002, the bubble collapsed. Some companies, such as and Webvan, failed completely and shut down. Others, such as Cisco, whose stock declined by 86%, and Qualcomm, lost a large portion of their market capitalization but survived, and some companies, such as eBay and, later recovered and surpassed their stock price peaks during the bubble.


If I could design an Algorithm for an App that would monitor the Crypto market and then speculate all my money on my behalf – or if that frightens you, at least give you constant up-dates so you can give it consent whether or not to buy/sell, I could make some money !

If the graphics were top-notch as if by leading gaming-designers with multi-screen 4K or 8K support for PC ( and Android/ iOS of course )***, and if it used fast Internet speeds from satellite ( duplex satellite modem ) so it didn't depend on local ISPs and would be real-time updated, then it would resemble a turn-key stock-exchange system for Cryptos and could be very popular.

How would it affect the market if it worked ? Depends on how many there were ? There must be computer programs to beat a casino – but casinos still survive .... So do stock markets ...

*** The free Bitcoin-miner Apps on GooglePlay look like clickbait i.e. rubbish.

Some of the Altcoin traders are advertizing ' double your money every ten days ' – so $1000 becomes half a million in about three months. Why isn't every-one a millionaire then ?

However, the App would need to be done double-quick before some-one else does it ... Like in the movie 'Limitless' when he takes on the on the stock-market single-handedly and makes a killing, if you didn't have his medication you would need an App like this. Of course, it would run Onion over double-encrypted open VPN, so would be pretty secure ( NordVPN, my provider, does onion-over VPN and double-encryption, but I don't know if both together yet ) It would be difficult to copy too as, if it only worked over satellite, users would have to buy your hardware or a license from you ( each one sold would be hardware password-protected and make you money until the Chinese took over the market with clones. They would use generic satellite links ( Iridium or Inmarsat ) and you might sell a container-full from China on eBay or Amazon before that. After that, sales of hardware would not matter as your website would be up and running. Even without satellite Internet, it would be very useful for Crypto coin speculators.

Of course, I could not do this alone, but I could do a business plan to try and get Venture Capital to fund a start-up. It would be difficult to find the right people to actually do it – but not impossible.

( I could provide a flat roof for a satellite dish and a vacant apartment in Cambodia! The apartment next to mine has been empty for many months now - Nice and quiet to work )

Would need a lot of energetic software engineers and Crypto experts. Know any-one ? Expensive poaching people like that. If it doesn't exist already, an Android liteApp would sell even if it was not much good. If it was good, there might be no need to sell it – just pay-off the investors and make a fortune. Would then not need a website or satellite Internet.

Blockchain provides Private-Key Identity Verification, but this is a sort of number (?) assigned by the service you are using and not an integral part of an individual like a name or bio-metric data. Until the government passes a law requiring every-one to be bar-coded (!) our ID can be hacked and used by some-one else ( identity theft ). ID now is generally a Passport or driving license/credit card – and photo ID can be ' PhotoShopped.' Any modern business that offers secure services has to keep no logs or personal information that could be hacked – so how best to verify identity without keeping logs ? – Retina scans ? DNA ? fingerprints ? biometric data ? – You would still need a database even if there was no transaction log and the database would get very big compared to conventional name and date-of-birth data. Retina scans could work – one scan, one member – no names. ( You could then sell fake-retina-creating programs for anonymity ! ) Retina scanners cannot be much more difficult to make than fingerprint scanners ? People do not like being fingerprinted and I don't know how they would react to Retina Scans ? DNA is too expensive to do at present.

There are Blockchain start-ups for voting and referendums ( referenda ? ) such as Democracy.Earth and followmy, but governments are unlikely to take much notice of them.

It would need accounts in many different services ( website hosting, Secure-Website Certificates, PayPal, VISA, satellite ISP etc. etc. ) - and lots of very clever people.

I pay a yearly fee of 0.11 Pounds + 20% VAT to ICANN ( Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ) and 18.12 Pounds for the Domain name - to America. This could be changed ???


The central Domain-Name Server ( DNS ) is in America under government control and could be shut down in times of war – this would disable the Internet just when you might want to move money around. ( By money I mean a recognized system of exchanging value which includes Crypto-currencies ). Sure we need ID to protect our money, but cash used in shops is anonymous – so buying on the Internet should be anonymous too.

Blockchain transactions aim to de-centralize money from banks – delete the middle-man – but eBays and Amazons are a great middle-man for introducing customers to vendors and resolving disputes. A de-centralized system still needs a market place.

Satellite Internet could be used to just access your servers and by-pass the DNS system ??? All the satellite base stations must be networked for time-keeping and maintenance and this could be a mini Internet ? The 'Internet-of-Things' might get blockchain-verified so every toaster could order its spare parts (?) if you take autonomous I-of-T decision-making to extremes.

Am I missing some-thing here ? or would it work ? There must be crazier schemes on Kickstarter or Patreon ? I only found out about VPNs recently and know practically nothing about crypto-currencies, but there are people who do. The project would also make a good thesis for a PhD student ! Remember, the secret of making money is not to invest your own money in schemes – gather a consortium of investors and use their money to recruit talent. Easier said than done !

Telex, Fax, Traveler's Cheques and Telegrams have died out now, but I now have a recently-printed English/Khmer phrasebook and it has a section on sending Telegrams from the Post Office ( presumably in Morse Code ? ) One of the examples is 'How much per word to send a Telegram ?' When did Post Offices stop sending Telegrams ? 30 or 40 years ago ? How much use are International Money Orders now ? Are ordinary Postal Orders still being used ? Shipping still uses Letter-of-Credit and Bank Draft as alternatives to cash. The most popular money exchange service in Cambodia is called 'Wing' and Western Union offices are everywhere ( very expensive : $50 fee to send $300 ) The Chinese have their own systems of moving money – both public and secret. If buyer and seller enter into a contractual agreement to barter or trade goods, unless they are local they still need shipping – Post, UPS, Fedex, truck, rail or container ships. How long before these accept Bitcoin ? Don't hold your breath.

Gold is now $1320 per ounce – down from $2000 highs of several years ago, but still regarded as a safe haven for storing wealth in Asia, but you can't exactly email it ! You can keep wealth as money in a deposit account, safe but hardly keeps pace with inflation. International money transfer between banks is very expensive : what with transaction fees, transfer fees, poor exchange rates and local charges it is surprising there is anything left ! PayPal can only be used with eBay in Cambodia – it cannot send or receive money from anywhere else. PayPal also has restrictions on buying Porno which must come as a severe blow to many ! The 'Verified-by-VISA' service is a joke and has not worked since I left the UK. Just as the Euro must have vastly simplified trading in Europe, the Internet badly needs a single currency – free from banks – but what will it be ?


Other Dreams
I had a very vivid dream of a big, wide road at night with two trucks on opposite sides – they were facing each other, but going in opposite directions and would soon cross. I was going to cross the road and was not quite sure I would have enough time to get across – not wanting an accident. I thought they could not have been going too fast as they were only trucks ( very dodgy reasoning there ! ) and were still in the far distance. It turned out to be easy to get across ( I half-ran ) and soon the trucks passed each other and continued on their way, no problem. It was not a lucid dream although quite realistic – I was not aware I was dreaming and did not seek to control the dream as I never even considered doing so. I didn't consider it impossible either – it never entered the dream.

If you are lucky enough to be in a lucid dream, you know it is dream reality and that you can change it. I always overdo it and try to change the dream too much or too quickly which wakes me up and is very disappointing ! The secret is to slowly and subtly modify the dream reality - so no big changes wake you up – and steer it the direction you want it to go. Of course it helps if you are happy with the way the dream is going so far and don't need to do much. I try to import characters as some dreams don't have any – and this wakes me up. It's like you know you can do it, but you have forgotten the guidelines and, starting from scratch, you overdo it. Most people's lucid dreams are so few and far between that we cannot afford to waste precious dream time learning the limits all over again.( How to cure amnesia in dreaming ?* )

If I could grow and sell a herbal tea that would guarantee lucid dreams – I could make a fortune. How safe it would be is another matter...

*There are many lucid-dreaming herbs and supplements on the market, don't know if they are any good.

To get back to the dream – I was conscious of the exhaust fumes from the trucks as they passed – the stink of old diesel engines, also the noise and vibration and I felt the heat from the engines. They were big trucks and the ground shook. I had the sense of disgust from the pollution from these monsters. All this shows that many senses were involved and the emotion of disgust. That dream had many parameters, but the scene was deadly boring – only a big road and two trucks at night time. Where could you go from there without waking up ?

If the brain can make a dream with these parameters when sleeping, maybe it is also modifying waking reality without our knowing it. It doesn't have to be an obvious hallucination, it could be quite subtle. How do we know that our perceived reality has not been tampered with ? I don't mean just the normal image processing the brain must do to convert the inverted images on the retina to a single stereoscopic picture with a bit of peripheral vision for comfort. It has to convert an incoming frequency spectrum into what we call 'colour ' – and surely this is arbitrary as there is no way to be absolutely certain that we all see the same 'colours ' just because we call them the same names. Taken to extremes it would be called 'colour blindness', but there could be variations between people and we have no way of knowing how much it varies as there is no absolute colour standard that all brains perceive equally. For example the world looks quite different in ultra-violet or infra-red. What it looks like to you might not be what it looks like to me.


Am I lazy ?
I was walking by the riverside in Phnom Penh taking in the sights when a Tuk-Tuk driver said "lazy!" to me ( in English ) when I declined his offer of a ride. At least that's what it sounded like. I was in a talkative mood and couldn't let that one pass – so I approached him and asked "lazy?" in English to see if that was really what he had said. He nodded, so I said "lazy" in Khmer. He was remarkably un-fazed by this considering very few tourists would know the Khmer word for 'lazy.' He repeated it in Khmer and said "yes", so I knew he was using the right word. What I couldn't work out was how he equates my not wanting to hire a Tuk-Tuk with being lazy ? So, in parting, I said ( in Khmer ) " I'm not lazy – I'm going for a walk " All his buddies were listening in by then and cracked up laughing. If he had said 'stingy', I could have understood his logic – but 'lazy'????


Progress with the Car

The Tico has a heater, heated rear window ( to melt the ice ! ) hot-air intake for the carb ( for winter ) 3-stage choke and advice on using antifreeze at -600C  -  all very useful for Cambodia ! It also has exhaust-gas re-circulation for pollution control and lots of other useless stuff. I have removed all this and use the heated rear window as an antenna for the radio ! There was an electric retractable antenna fitted, but no hole in the front wing for it to emerge from ! The wing must have been changed at some point.

Removing the choke and the countless redundant vacuum  connections are featured in many tutorials on YouTube.

All this was removed.

There were also many superfluous wires connected to the main loom - it once had central locking, an anti-theft system and a rear amp and speakers. All long-since removed - except for the wiring.



Unwanted wiring.

My car passed its MOT test – first time ! So I am very happy.



            A Cambodian MOT Certificate

The test costs $20 and now there is a testing center just out of town on the Laos road. Previously all testing had to be done in Phnom Penh and, to quote a website, " It is a place no foreigner would ever want to go to ! Get a Khmer to do it for you." Sounds ominous.

Undaunted , I went there today at 9.30 am and was the only car there – so I was first in the queue when the testers arrived at 10.00. They test speedometer accuracy, exhaust emissions, brakes, lights, horn and look underneath it. The headlights are checked by a robot. All very modern and new. They are certainly friendly enough and, as long as you speak some Khmer, I saw no reason why a foreigner should be afraid to go there. I now have a certificate and window sticker. ( They fit the window sticker for you as well )

I want to get car insurance, but there are no insurance agents here - I will have to go to Phnom Penh. Private cars usually do not have any insurance - if there is an accident, the owners sort it out between themselves ( which does not seem like a good idea to me )

                              My Car at the testing station

It has been four months of preparation getting to this stage.         ( Remember the car was left rotting for three years and was in bad shape ) I did all I could do alone and with the equipment I had – next I had to get some minor jobs done at a garage before the MOT test. However, I did not know which garage would be suitable for an ancient Tico. I was introduced to a local garage by the brother of one of the teachers, who used to work there.
The first job was front wheel alignment ( toe-in ) – which translates in Khmer as ' measure wheel.' I had previously watched a video advert on YouTube about a high-end garage in Phnom Penh that does computerized read-outs of wheel alignment in all three planes. Probably uses inclinometer sensors. Nice, big display of wheel inclination on a monitor – looked highly accurate and very expensive. Caters to BMW, Mercedes, Audi - not the sort of place to bring an old Tico – they would laugh.

30 years ago, in the UK, I went to the local, handy Tyre-and-Exhaust Center where they clamped a light-beam projector onto the wheel rims and it shone onto a scale some distance away – a quick and cheap procedure. However, there is nothing like that in Cambodia. So I was expecting laser beams at least, but what I got was exactly how it translated – they measured the wheel toe-in with a tape measure ! One held the steel tape to one tyre while the boss made a measurement on the other. In the Tico manual, it shows a micrometer toe-in gauge which measures off the tyres and the requirement is 1mm ±2 mm ! This seems extremely inaccurate to me as 1-2 = -1 which is toe-out ! - and anyway it is a vague measurement because it depends exactly where on the tyre you are measuring from – they say draw a line on the circumference around the middle of tread and measure from that, front and back. That cannot be as good as measuring from a steel rim ? Anyway, they looked like they had done it this way a thousand times before – so I made no comment and was curious to see what they would do. The boss took it for two test drives each time after making adjustments – the second drive seemed like ages and I was really preying he had his phone on him as I was certain it had broken down by then and left him stranded ! However, he returned without any problems and was satisfied it drove OK. Rather than set the wheels to the straight-ahead position of the steering wheel, in Cambodia they take an enormous wheel wrench with them on the second trip, let the car go straight by itself, and then put the steering wheel on straight ! ( The wheel wrench fits a Tico steering-wheel nut. ) The proof of the pudding is how it drives – and I have no complaints. With the steering wheel straight, it goes straight and does not wander or pull to one side. In fact, it is like driving a mini and corners well. The charge was $5.

The second visit was to help fit a drive-shaft boot : I had fitted new rubber CV joint boots, but had difficulty getting the L.H. boot fully seated. This was because I could not separate the splined drive-shaft from the hub – it was jammed solid. I even made a special hub puller, but it merely stripped the threads of an M10 bolt. ( Vietnamese bolt ? ) Re-fitting the hub and drive-shaft together meant the boot was angled too much to slip on, but OK to drive for a short distance. I thought they would put the car on the car lift and persuade the boot into position from below. However, they calmly separated the splined drive shaft by whacking the loosened castle nut with a huge hammer. ( This shows that impact is more effective than steady pressure ) Then they removed the drive-shaft, fitted a new spare boot I had, and put it all back together with the sump guard. It took about an hour – and the price for this was $2.50 ( £2 ) I gave the young mechanic a 5000 Riel tip ( $1.25 ) and he was happy !

The third visit was to fully tighten the crankshaft-pulley bolt. The boss looked distinctly worried when I explained in Khmer what I wanted – no English at this garage – I showed him the problem from pictures in the workshop manual. This is not as easy as it sounds, because there is not enough clearance on a Tico to even fit a socket on the crankshaft bolt, let alone a torque wrench ( I have a torque wrench and the torque required is 650 – 750 kg/cm or 54 ft lbs ) A spanner fits though. Loosening the bolt is easy – fit the 17mm spanner, resting it against the chassis, and hit the starter. The starter motor has enough torque to effortlessly spin the bolt undone ( the engine turns clockwise )

The car has automatic transmission, so I could not put it in gear and hold the brakes on to stop the engine turning while I torqued the bolt. Suggestions on the Internet are :

1) Remove the spark plug and pack a cylinder with rope to stop the engine turning !
2) Fill a cylinder with oil, put the spark plug back in and torque the bolt.
Both quicker than taking the engine out, but messy and complicated !

However, I had forseen this complication and had cut an access hole in the inner bulkhead so a socket on an extension bar would fit through the wheel arch. The boss looked relieved and gave it a good tighten with the air impact wrench – a quick and easy job and they did it for free !

I decided it was time to tart up the bodywork a bit. It certainly needed it !  There are no cheap spray shops here, so I went to a motorbike sticker shop and had the whole car plastic wrapped in purple satin vinyl. It took the young guys in the shop about four hours and cost $100.



                How it looks now

 When I first bought the car I had some misgivings about whether I was getting too old to be driving - not having driven for 30 years.
( It did not occur to me that I might be too old to be working underneath the car and fixing it ! )
Not a bit of it !- now that it actually goes, I feel like I am 17 again - driving my mini.
Today I went for a long drive in the country and it was so nice - the car certainly drives well and seems reliable.
When the engine is cold, it starts instantly, but not quite so easily when it is hot.
This is because the idle mixture needs adjusting and I do not have the equipment to do this yet.
Long gone are the days when garages had tune-up equipment - modern engines are computer controlled and have no adjustments - only software mods. Garages in Cambodia probably never had them !
So mixture adjustment is the next project when parts arrive.

One evening, after teaching, I was sitting at the riverside with a Cambodian friend – the head teacher – and he said he had a vivid dream of a meteor hitting the Earth. Not such a big one – only about 10kms (!) across – but big enough to cause trouble. I don’t know how big the meteor was that wiped out the dinosaurs, if that was the reason they died out, but if it was heavy (iridium?) or travelling at very high speed, which they do – then it could cause an extinction event even now. Apart from the shock wave, there would be tsunamis, forest fires and dust and ash in the atmosphere blocking out the sun – maybe for decades. In his dream, he said the meteor caused volcanoes to erupt ! He also said that Cambodians worry about the moon crashing into the Earth – I wouldn’t lose much sleep over that one, but a 10 km meteor could be nasty...


Like most people, he doesn’t have any idea about scientific principles – I was trying to explain the similarities between what keeps a moving motorbike upright and what keeps the moon in the sky. He didn’t look convinced. His English is excellent, but his physics is somewhat lacking.

For a graphic description on the subject – and similarities with nuclear explosions :


He then asked me to explain reality (!)   I do like easy questions ...

What we see is universally agreed upon as sight correlates with touch – a blind man feels his way around and has a mental image (?) of the shapes of things. However, colours are arbitrary – I have one student who, in an essay, said he has green eyes ! ( They are brown ) I pointed out green and brown items in the classroom, but I think what he sees in the mirror when looking at his eyes – is what he calls green. He must be colour-blind ? ( He also said his parents come from the Cameroons – which is in West Africa – they don’t, they are Cambodian )

So what are we actually touching, when we touch something ? The outermost surface of atoms and molecules must be an electron layer – so when the electron layer of our skin approaches the electron layer of what is being touched, unless there is a chemical reaction between valence electrons, there will be repulsion the closer they approach. However, at around 1nm distance the Van de Waals forces come into play and that is how lizards can cling on upside down – repulsion has changed into attraction. From Wikipedia :


If no other forces are present, the point at which the force becomes repulsive rather than attractive as two atoms near one another is called the Van der Waals contact distance. This results from the electron clouds of two atoms unfavorably coming into contact. It can be shown that Van der Waals forces are of the same origin as the Casimir effect, arising from quantum interactions with the zero-point field. The resulting Van der Waals forces can be attractive or repulsive.The term "Van der Waals forces" is also sometimes used loosely as a synonym for the totality of intermolecular forces. The term always includes the force between instantaneously induced dipoles (London dispersion force), sometimes includes the force between a permanent dipole and a corresponding induced dipole (Debye force), and – less frequently – includes the force between permanent dipoles (Keesom force).


Clear ? So are we really making contact when we touch something, or is there a sub-nanometre cushion of nothing between us and the something ?  Unless it is superglue, the answer could be no. Anyway, what are we touching ? Atoms are mostly nothing – if the nucleus was the size of a golf ball, the 3rd electron shell would be 9kms from the golf ball. That empty space contains electron-charge so is not really the perfect vacuum. What we can touch and see are either electrons or the radiation from electrons – isn't it ? We certainly cannot touch a nucleus.


My idea of a perfect vacuum is deep inter-galactic space. No atoms, molecules, charge, electromagnetic radiation or cosmic rays to disturb it. Maybe it is a quantum soup of things popping into and out of existence with net average of zero, but nothing could ever detect this as the presence of the detector would ruin the vacuum. Imagine billions of light years of this vacuum in all directions – and then imagine a total universe of vacuum – before the big bang – to me that would be stable as long as it was not disturbed, but not safe. I see it as a supersaturated, super-cooled solution of ultra-pure materials that is stable only until a seed crystal is introduced and rapid crystallization ensues. Or perfectly dry hydrogen and oxygen in stoichiometric proportions that will not explode unless a water molecule is introduced.


( Physicists Richard Feynman and John Wheeler calculated the zero-point radiation of the perfect vacuum to be an order of magnitude greater than nuclear energy, with a single light bulb containing enough energy to boil all the world's oceans. Many physicists believe that "the vacuum holds the key to a full understanding of nature" – Wikipedia )

I think such a void could have lain dormant for an eternity until " something " seeded it and made the big-bang. Exactly what that something was and where it came from ? – I will have to think a bit more on that one !!! Critics of the big-bang theory say something cannot come from nothing – but matter is only energy and the vacuum of the primeval void must have contained infinite energy. It is totally useless to try and re-create this in the present universe – even in inter-galactic space now the void cannot exist because of quantum entanglement : the presence of matter even at great distances will still upset the vacuum.

I have actually been experimenting with vacuums – don't worry, the universe is not in any immediate danger – I am using a Chinese hand-operated vacuum pump for my Magdeburgh Hemispheres ( see PROJECTS page – new entry ) – and, no, I didn't try to explain all this to my Khmer friend.



Car Progress

The CV joints needed replacing – the car was making clonking noises on full-lock – and I was dreading the cost. In America, you have to replace the whole drive-shaft and they can be $370 each ! So last Sunday I went to Phnom Penh to enquire as to the price, thinking I would have to save up for them. However, you can buy the outer CV joint kits separately – only $12 each ! ( new CV joints, grease, circlip, clamp bands and nut )

What a relief ! I went to the local friendly garage to get them changed and they did a fine job. It took two hours and cost $10. These are the sort of prices you would have been charged 40 years ago in the UK. It is like living in a time-warp here. Now the Tico is going well and looking good and I know how to say “ Constant-Velocity Joints “ in Khmer !



A Colortune tune-up kit arrived and I got the idle mixture a bit better - the engine is going well. The next project is the ignition timing.


I wonder if there is any connection between the Brain-Scan advert and the big transformer ? Maybe they have a 400kW brain-scanner ? 

Hello Again !  My website was hacked by Russians and was down for a few days - I have now fixed the security loophole. It was a really easy fix - once I found out the problem.


This half-empty (!) bus was spotted in Phnom Penh - plenty of room for lots more passengers ...





The bus was passing this shop - where do they get their English names from ?





Internet is everywhere in Phnom Penh - this is the worst mess of fibre-optic cables I have seen - can you imagine trying to troubleshoot this lot ? The car was first prize in a competition and displayed on a slope. I have no idea what the traffic sign means ? 




This mega-project in Phnom Penh has ONLY Chinese workers - all immaculately attired in yellow suits. Not many of them, but they will get the job done swiftly.

The former " Japanese Bridge "  has now been re-named " The Chinese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge " - The Chinese are currently improving it and one lane is closed for the repairs.




This little furry bat was found dead under my car one morning - and no, I didn't squash it or park on it ! It was intact, but dead.



This green bug flew in one night and then died ! Beautiful irridescent colours that didn't come out  well in the photo.

Maybe insecticides are killing them ? Or do they have short life-spans ?



I am  off to Phnom Penh and then Koh Kong to meet my Thai friends. The big amplifier I made in Thailand is not being used, and I will bring it back on the bus - together with a 15" sub-woofer.

I made what is becoming a yearly visit to Koh Kong to see my Thai friends. Unfortunately they forgot to bring the passport (!) so could not cross the border into Cambodia. However, they left two big boxes of electronic goodies with the Abbot and he took them across the border in his car and I collected them at the Temple.

I now have my old amplifier that I made in Thailand and a 15 inch subwoofer – both very  heavy. Also donated were a 2TB HDD, media player, car radio and a new mobile phone. I wanted the car radio for the Tico as the CD player doesn't work in the present one. The one I was given is a Blaupunkt with tape-cassette player ! Very old and a bit useless – who has cassette tapes these days ? It was probably very expensive once, but such is the progress of electronics. The phone is nice though. ( it was later stolen ! )

I was originally going to make a concrete pyramid as an enclosure for the subwoofer and thought the proportions of the Great Pyramid would do. ( I don't like the typical rectangular speaker box because of reflections and resonances - and a pyramid would look cool ) To get a reasonable volume of about 0.5 m3 the base would be too big and it is a bit squat with the 52º angles. I could have made a taller, more spiky, pyramid, but it would lose the classic proportions and the flat sides would still give reflections. Now I have decided on an ovoid dome structure – should be about 0.5 m3 ( maybe more ? ) and the curved sides will lessen reflections. This will be quite a project in itself and will take some time. In Cambodia, Thailand and Laos they like to keep the roosters in wire cages for some reason – to stop them fighting maybe ? I bought two of these chicken cages – one big one and a smaller one. They are a flattened dome-shape and certainly big enough for a bass box. I will use them as a mould for a concrete enclosure. It will be very heavy and so the only place for it is on the roof – which is quite a good location and the bass will not disturb any-one.


I have a break from teaching until my work permit arrives – a few weeks more, hopefully (!) – and I have been busy with my projects. I had a vague idea for a teaching machine which would display text on a scrolling message display and speak the message at the same time. Speech synthesis I.C.'s are getting quite good and it would be a reasonable excuse to play with one. The expensive chip had to come from America which took about 40 days. The LED display was ordered from China and never arrived – I had a refund from eBay. This seemed like a warning not to use scrolling LED displays and I thought why not use the Arduino to output video as well ? Then the sound and the text could come from any TV. My idea was to use an Android phone and send a text message by Bluetooth. The Arduino would then receive the Bluetooth and feed it to the speech synth chip and output it as monochrome video ( the Arduino is not fast enough to do colour video ! ) After a bit of head-scratching, I got the code working and I can now successfully send any message from my phones – or my laptop – to the Arduino by Bluetooth and it will speak it in remarkably convincing American. It does not store a dictionary of words – it constructs them from phonemes – in two types of Spanish too, and a choice of voices and speaking speed ( It can speak really fast ) Not having the LED matrix display, I tested it with a multi-digit 7-segment display and it will print it – as well as it can only using 7 segments – for example " HELLO" is easy. Displaying the text as PAL or NTSC video shouldn't be that difficult either (!)  ( It was difficult ! )

I did not do any Android programming – it looks as bad as HTML ! – and used an APP for a Bluetooth Serial Terminal from Google Play. I type a word or sentence and press 'send' – easy – however, I want to have a database of hundreds of stock phrases and quickly scroll through them. The text predictor on the phone helps a bit. Really needs a custom APP. There are online APP creators which are supposed to help you, but mostly they are tailored to people wanting to send photos of their cat to everyone in range and they need a monthly subscription. I would find it much easier doing it on the laptop, but the phone is handy. The idea is that you don't let the students see you sending the messages – it looks like the TV is asking the questions. No idea how the students will react to it yet. They might think it is too basic ???

I have discovered a peculiar disadvantage of having a plastic-wrapped car : it seems to attract dust more than the other regular, painted cars in the carpark. I think it picks up a static charge from the motion through the air and this charge attracts the dust. Plastic must have a much higher surface resistivity than paint ? None of the other cars get very dusty, but the Tico needs washing after 3 days. I thought of building an electroscope to detect the charge – or maybe a gamma-ray source to discharge it ( a bit extreme ? ) The answer is a grounded discharge brush and I happen to have a metre of carbon-fibre cloth which could be attached to a handle and waved over the car. The carbon-fibre cloth is incredibly soft and silky and would not scratch anything.
The only problem is if any-one saw me with what would appear to be a black, feather-dusting mop. They would think I had completely lost the plot – parking the car and immediately dusting it ! Never mind trying to explain in Khmer that it was for static discharge (?) It would be an interesting experiment, but too risky for my reputation !

I had the application for a work permit done at the local Labour & Vocational Training Office – it is done online and, in theory, I could have done it myself at home, but it involves some typing in Khmer which is beyond me ! I gave him $5 for his service. As for the permit fee, I saw the figure of 400 which I took to be $400 as it is backdated to 2016 ( my first business visa ) and I was dreading paying it. I also expected it to take at least a month, maybe two.

Then suddenly I received a text message saying the permit had been approved and I should check my email for the invoice ( paid at the bank – the same as car tax ) However, there had just been a terrific electrical storm with fierce lightning that took out the electricity, Internet and destroyed many shops, houses and concrete-pole mounted transformers ( the concrete poles are actually broken and leaning over ! ) I wouldn't call it a thunderstorm as the thunder was strangely absent – just the lightning in silence – not much rain either. If lightning could be induced and targeted as a military weapon, it could not have done a better job ! Anyway, just as I was wondering how much it would cost me, I received a phone call asking me to teach at the University again. ( The Nigerian and Pakistani teachers have quit to work in Phnom Penh ) Only a short course of 48 hours - "Global Studies" for third-year students. I agreed as the money would help with the work permit.

So I went off to the nearby restaurant to use their Internet and check email. The total cost was only $138 for 3 years – no charge for 2016 and 2017. Phew – what a relief. I went to the bank to pay the invoice and they looked at me very solemnly and said it would cost me 1000 riel ( 25 cents ! ) for the service and did I want to continue ? I can't imagine any-one refusing to pay 25 cents for a $138 transaction ???

The money has now been received by the Ministry in Phnom Penh and the Work Permit will arrive by post soon. While I was in the bank, I asked about car tax for 2018 and was told the documentation was not ready yet – it takes 6 months to get entered into the system !


Storm Damage

A whole row of concrete power poles were blown over by the wind ! The blue truck is lifting a battered transformer - many were destroyed. Internet cables were broken also. Many shops wrecked.



They were very quick to start the repairs, but it took most of the week - I went to Phnom Penh.

This tree was uprooted at the local Temple - storms do not respect the Temples !

                    Cheer-Leader Bug

I don't know if it was blown in by the storm, but this unusual bug was in the entrance to the car-park and would have been squashed, had I not seen it. It had furry 'pom-poms' on its antennae - like a cheer leader ! It was quite big and strong !


This time, at the university, I go by car and park outside the classroom – so different from 3 years ago when it took me a half-hour to walk and I arrived hot and sweaty. It is now a totally different experience. I still have my course book and documents from 3 years ago – the book is still the same and even more out-of-date ( it was printed in 1997 ) The course has a unit about science and I had 4 hours to teach : Maths, Physics, Astronomy, Geology, Anatomy, Biology, Psychology, Economics, Sociology and Political Science ! All that lot in 4 hours - it was not very detailed !

My next lesson will be Technology and that unit is hopelessly out-of-date.

In Phnom Penh the standard of driving is excellent – motorbikes weave past each other with split-second timing, cars drive as fast as they can to avoid the jams and accidents are rare. However, in Kratie, most of the driving is appalling. At night there are sometimes more motorbikes and trucks with no working back lights than ones with lights. In the daytime, enormous SUVs drive at ½ mph in the middle of the road, blocking cars from overtaking with the rich owner sitting crammed against the steering wheel and gripping it with white knuckles – and then, without indicating, they stop – they have considered it parked – and get out and walk to the kerb. If you honk the horn at them, they give you the look – after all they have paid a small fortune for the monster and they feel entitled to use all of the road as they see fit. Sometimes they will drive so slowly that I can only follow them with the brakes on – the 800cc Tico will not go that slow in 1st gear unless the brakes are on as well. Often they are concentrating more on updating facebook on their phones than on the road ahead. Sometimes they just do not have the confidence or the desire to go any faster. ( Driving tests are not necessary for the license – you can simply pay extra to forego the test – so most do this ! ) Why do they have 5.7 litre V8s to go ½ mph ? When they get to a corner, they go even slower and carefully crawl around it – as if the car will overturn if they go any faster. I find the Tico handles well and I like to chuck it around the corners if there is no traffic. On a decent stretch of open road it will easily do 4,000rpm in top – 60mph – which is OK for Cambodia and a 24-year-old car. I don't think it will go much faster though !


A Chinese electric taxi in Phnom Penh - the only one I have seen though. There should be more.

Bong Joy  ( Phnom Penh )

I thought it was a bong shop, but it is a hairdressing salon - would be funny to see in London with a name like that ...


This sign is on the back of a Tuk-Tuk in Kratie - for those of you whose French is even worse than mine : 

" J'ai une tour Eiffel dans mon pantalon "

means " I have an Eiffel Tower in my trousers ! 

I know the feeling when I have taken a recreational 'Cialis'

-  ( like Viagra, but not so fierce ! )

- You should know what  "Knob Head "  means (?)


I was looking at some Mandelbrot Set zooms and came across what is supposed to be a hidden message - these co-ordinates show the message " six " (?) - some-one thinks they say " six is six " which stretches the imagination ...


This one presumably says " Oxo "  .....   or   " XXX "


 Now imagine if some-one discovered a really convincing message, or better still, a whole series of messages and published the co-ordinates. It would cause loads of computers to work overtime verifying it. It would then be similar to Bitcoin Mining - needing lots of computing horsepower, but - in theory - accessible to all. How about if the message was in Egyptian Hieroglyphics ?  Or Sanskrit, Sumerian, Astec, Chinese ? ( All more likely than in English ? ) 

One website calls it  " The Hand of God "  - but I would think God might have something more interesting to say than " Six " or " Oxo " (?)  An obvious message from Aliens would really create a stirr ! It would then be the ideal Universal Website ( literally ) infinite addresses if only you knew where to look - and had the computing power. It would also prove that mathematics is a Universal Language. Maybe we are limiting Mandlebrot sets because we are using a base 10 decimal system and they could be more interesting if another number base system were used ?


I have now finished the 48 hour course at the university and have some free time. This week will be spent working on my new speaker  - there is an entry on the PROJECTS page now : Concrete Speaker. 

Do machines feel neglected ?

Last Saturday I came back home from a full day's teaching at the university and parked my car in its usual space in the car park. Just as I had finished manoeuvring it into position, the engine stopped. I thought it had stalled – maybe the tick-over was too low ? Very unusual behaviour as it hardly ever stalls since I tuned it. I didn't pay much attention to it as it was in exactly the right place and I was about to turn the engine off anyway. ( mistake ! )

The next morning I got into the car to go to the university and it would not start. It cranked over on the starter just fine, but did not fire. This is very definitely unusual because it always starts immediately I turn the key – when the engine is cold ( when it is hot it takes a few seconds whirring before it fires, just like my Lotus Elan used to do ) I knew it was a bit low on petrol – the gauge showed 1/8 tank – but that should have been enough.

I quickly pulled a spark plug, thinking it was fouled or flooded, but it was a perfect colour and nice and clean. No time to do anything else – it was drizzling also ! – so I took a motorbike taxi to the uni and only arrived 15 minutes late. The Dean said no problem as the class was cancelled anyway – they had re-scheduled the mid-term exam to the morning and I could go home.

Only a few students had turned up – they come late, go early and like a long break time – fine by me ! Then he said he had confused the second-year exam with the third-year – my class – and I could teach when the students arrived. I spent the morning revising the course to help them with the afternoon's exam and got a lift home.

On Sundays, I only work in the morning so had time to give the car some attention. All three spark plugs were clean and smelled of petrol when I cranked the motor, so I thought the problem was no spark rather than no petrol.

I checked the wiring – it was OK – and then it dawned on me to check the ignition light on the instrument panel. Of course, there was no ignition light and no oil-pressure light when there should have been. A quick look at the workshop manual and I went straight to the 15 amp fuse for the ignition coil and warning lights. It had blown and the engine started immediately after replacing it. This fuse also supplies the radiator cooling fan which must take a hefty surge-current at switch-on. The fuse was probably 24 years old as well and fatigued.

It is interesting that the fuse blew only when the car had settled in its place – and not at some inconvenient time like at night or when I was overtaking another car ! If a car is to break down, it's very nice of it to do it in the garage ! Also it was raining and that would have been the first time in 3 or 4 years that it had been out in the rain. Personally I think it doesn't like the idea of getting wet !

Later that afternoon, I had to go to the market for food and to the uni to give them a photo for my ID badge. It was still drizzling and I tried the windscreen wipers for the first time. ( First time I have driven in the rain here ) The wipers were absolutely useless – perished rubber after 24 years – I could see better without them. I think the car was trying to tell me something – it wanted new wipers for the rainy season – and some attention.

Another time I was supposed to go the Labour & Training Office about my work permit – very late in the afternoon and I was 100% sure the manager would have gone home by then. The car started, but I could see it was not charging. I have a digital ammeter and an analog voltmeter installed so I always know how it is charging. I phoned and cancelled the appointment – the manager was not there anyway (!) The next day the car started and was charging normally – no loose wires or bad connections ( I re-wired everything last year ) I did nothing to it and it cured itself. It has never declined to charge since then – many months ago now. I think it could not be bothered to go for a wasted journey. This car is more like a " She " than an " it " – it doesn't like being neglected and likes attention ! Maybe she wanted some new rubbers and for me to get her spark going again?

Since driving in Cambodia, I have not noticed much difference with a left-hand-drive car and driving on the wrong side of the road. In my 30-year holiday from driving, I seem to have forgotten about driving on the other side of the road and this seems normal now. However, I often go to get into the car on the wrong side – the passenger's side – and this seems to be a deeper-seated instinctive reaction.


 Believe it or not, this car was actually parked like this ! It is not the camera freezing the action of a moving car. After a long time, I saw the driver come out from a shop and putting bags in it. I suppose they think it is within walking distance of the kerb, so it doesn't matter. You can forget parallel-parking here.


When I was preparing the mold for the concrete speaker, I had to measure the exact size of the subwoofer and picked up the nearest thing to hand – a tape-measure from a cheap Chinese sewing kit. I was horrified to find that the speaker had shrunk – it only measured 12" and not 15"

The tape-measure had one side in inches and the other side in centimetres. I hadn't washed it or anything ! I was sure it was a 15"speaker – it certainly looked bigger than a 12 inch one. Originally I had asked for an 18 inch bass speaker ( or a 21" ) – I don't think I could have lifted a 21" speaker, so just as well - and this one is heavy enough. Maybe I was going senile and had only imagined it to be 15" ? Hoping my senility had not got that bad yet, I checked it with a stainless-steel ruler – it was 15 inches, so what was going on ? While the centimetre-side is OK, the inch-side is appallingly inaccurate – so that 12 inches = 15 inches ! That is more than just a quality-control issue !


I saw this place in Phnom Penh

Satanic Cyber Entertainment – the mind boggles ! They have a security guard outside too. I really can't guess what goes on in there. It doesn't look like an Internet Cafe at all ...


Another shop in Phnom Penh

I love the name of this pharmacy – Sore Belly – just the place to go to if you have an upset stomach.



A blessing in disguise

I have been working on the speaker for the last few days. It all went to plan until the last stage – the concrete pour. I could not mix up the concrete fast enough to feed it and I put in too much on one side. I use a big washing-up bowl to mix it in – so as not to make a mess on the floor. The outer mold shifted a bit due to the weight of concrete and now it is lopsided. I should have fixed the outer mold more securely to the base so it could not move – maybe drilling the concrete and fixing a screw ( I do not have a percussion drill ) It fitted the base OK, but was only held on with tape. Not a big problem – I will slit open the mold after a day and re-position it. It needs a lot more concrete to finish – maybe another sack of cement ? The concrete base worked out really well – the concrete is hard with no cracks !

It was Wednesday the 13th June - about 11pm and I was about to go to bed. The bed and mosquito net were already set up on the roof. Then, suddenly I heard the balcony doors being unlocked and someone going up the stairs to the roof. It could only be the owner of the building – nobody else goes up there besides me, and he very rarely goes up there – only if there is a problem. ( I thought 'Oh, no ! He will see the speaker ' )

Most unusual for him to go up there at such a late hour, so I hurried up there after him to see what he wanted. There was a problem ! The 5000 litre water tank was overflowing ( again ) and he had noticed water dripping downstairs. I had only set up my bed about an hour before and it was all dry then. The plastic ball-cock had broken – and this was the second time within a few months. The last time I was sleeping and woke up in a wet, soggy bed at about 4am. I turned the inlet tap off myself and informed him the next morning. He didn't have a spare that time, but I had previously noticed a ball-cock in the attic and gave it to him. The plastic is low quality – from Thailand or Vietnam – and they only last a few months before the ball snaps off and floats around on its own.

There was a difference this time – I had started making my concrete speaker ( without permission as I knew if I asked him he would refuse – so I planned to finish it as quickly as possible and it would be a fait accompli and – I hoped – harder for him to refuse. ) It was covered with a tarpaulin and he noticed it immediately ( hard not to notice a 1m diameter lump and nearly a metre high ) I said it was only a speaker and, despite the poor light, he also noticed it was concrete. That bought an instant reaction of " No, No ! " ( he does not have much English – he calls me 'mister' and apart from that, the only word he says to me in English is 'No ! ' )

Previously I asked to buy some cement – there is building work going on in the carpark so there is always plenty of cement, sand and pebbles. I only wanted to make some concrete exercise weights that time and he was not into it. He said don't mix concrete upstairs – do it in the carpark and take it upstairs when it has set. He obviously thinks I will make a mess mixing cement upstairs.

There wasn't any mess, but he was worried about the weight. I had positioned it exactly over the main concrete lintel that also supports the 5000 litre water tank. I said to him in Khmer that it was mostly cardboard covered in a thin layer of concrete and only about 100 kilos. If it was strong enough to support 5000 kilos + the weight of the tank ( 120 kgs ), then an extra 100 kilos shouldn't matter – it's only the weight of two people. ( small people ) Actually, it's more like 400 kilos or 500 kilos – the concrete is at least 5 or 6 cm thick ! The base is about 100 kilos with the speaker. I used 70 kilos of cement alone.

The next morning I awoke at dawn and started work on it. I removed the outer mold and cut open the inner mold so it could clearly be seen to be hollow – and not a solid lump of concrete which would be heavy ! I had everything tidied up by the time he came to fit a new ( plastic ) ballcock at about 7.30. He was in a better mood and seemed to believe that it was only about 100 kilos. He actually suggested that a better position for it would be in the corner by the attic door. So, in saying that, he had given permission without me asking for it !

I was complaining about my bed getting soaked and said he should get a stainless-steel ballcock and not the Thai plastic rubbish ( thinking that, if I was indignant, it would take his mind off the concrete speaker ) He agreed and said that stainless-steel ballcocks are not available in Kratie. I replied there are loads in Phnom Penh and he asked me to get him one the next time I was in Phnom Penh and he would pay for it. ( My bed was not very wet and soon dried out )

A plan was forming in my mind, maybe the situation could be turned around ? – I would need wheels or castors to move it and maybe more rope so I could get them in Phnom Penh the same day. By 9am I was ready and at the bus station. I got a stainless-steel ballcock set for $12 and presented it to him the next afternoon for free. That way I had done him a favour and the concrete speaker episode was not mentioned. I also got him a Chinese synthetic Chamois Leather for cleaning is car. They are less than $1 and amazing. So it didn't end up with me being in the dog house for disobeying him – it ended up with indirect permission and him and his wife thanking me !

There was the small problem of shifting the 300+ kilo lump into the corner. I had originally decided to buy castors or wheels and glue them on. However, I thought it better to do it like the ancients moved heavy objects – with rollers. As soon as I returned from Phnom Penh I bought a metre of steel tube – 12 cm diameter and about 1mm wall – and had it cut into 10 cm sections. These ten sections were the rollers – five each side – and it was an easy job to move it. I had it re-positioned by the time I gave him the stainless ballcock. It was heavy because some of the tubes went oval quite quickly, but it worked a treat without marking the floor.

Another morning, after heavy rain in the night, I finished off the speaker by wrapping it in aluminium tape. Just as I was rubbing it down with a rag – everything clean and tidy – the owner came up to the roof to check on rain-water leakage in the attic. He saw the shiny speaker in its new position and only said ' 100 kilos, OK ? ' I said it was not too heavy as I was able to move it on my own ! He was very friendly and the speaker is obviously no problem now. Relief !

I tested it and was not disappointed. The bass is solid and tight. I only have the two voice-coils in series – 8Ω – so power is limited to 250 Watts and, as the filter unit is unity gain, I cannot drive the amps to their full output. Even so, it is very loud and music I know well sounds quite different with proper bass. I will increase the gain of the system and try it with 2Ω – 4 times the power. ( It was used in Thailand driving 2Ω with no problems – the amp has 5 fans and does not over-heat ) A job well done. Now I can give my car some attention and find out why it is blowing fuses.

There is still controversy over the Apollo Moon Landings – did they really go or was it faked to end the Cold War ? There is certainly plenty of ammunition for conspiracy theorists ....

• In the video, they were playing and bouncing about like children – one tear or rip in the space suit could mean death. They would have been much more careful.

• The original videotape was 'recorded over' by NASA because 'there was a shortage of video tape at the time.'

I can't imagine a shortage so great that they erased the moon landings and put something else on the tape. What was more important than the moon landings at that time ?

• ALL the original photographs have been 'LOST' by NASA – only copies survive. Wouldn't you think they might keep them in a safe place and not lose them ?

• 90 minutes of telemetry data was 'LOST' by NASA and it was the vital part too.

• In one video you can see the USA flag fluttering about – in the breeze ? Unlikely behaviour in a vacuum.

• There are multiple shadows – the sun was the only light source, so only uni-directional shadows.

• The Hassleblad cameras used were not radiation protected, but the film was not fogged. Maybe a lead film box was too heavy ?

If you try and pass unprotected camera film through airport security systems these days it is totally fogged as the X-ray scanners are so strong. Once past the Van Allen Belts the radiation would be similarly intense. I ordered some seeds from England and the germination rate was precisely zero ! They were ordinary plants and kept in a humid seed box – nothing happened. I think it was because of X-ray inspection. 

• None of the astronauts had any radiation sickness or developed cancer.

• Since 1972 all manned space exploration has been confined to 400 miles above the Earth. NASA said the technology is not yet ready for a return to the moon ?

• NASA presented a sample of moon rock to the Swedish Prime Minister – and it subsequently turned out to be fake ( fossilized wood )

• In one image there is reflection in the space suit visor of the person taking the photograph and he is not wearing a space suit !

• There is a clear double-exposure in one video.

Magnetic data storage at that time was in its infancy and there was insufficient memory to save video to magnetic tape – camera film was used. Because the film would be fogged by the radiation, images and video may have been faked so there was something to show the public.

Maybe they DID go to the moon, but just faked the images ? Personally, I tell my students the whole thing was faked to end the Cold War !


My class at the university is year 1 sociology. The book is very strange, apart from being out-of-date and has a section on Asian animals. What have wild animals to do with sociology ? It doesn't mention animal societies (?) either. There is also a section on farming – which I know absolutely nothing about – and it has words like 'winnowing' and 'harrowing.' I can guess 'threshing' as it sounds like 'thrashing' so must be similar (?)

The book is very condescending and describes Asian villages as mud huts with a corrugated-iron roof – if they are lucky ! All towns here are divided up into villages and I have yet to see a mud hut. Not much rice harvesting is done by hand these days as every-one can hire a small combine. In the book it says it is all done by hand with a sickle – the only mechanized farming is in Australia ! Luckily there is a large section in the book on city life – which I do know something about.

When I need to buy some unusual items, or just feel like a break, I go to Phnom Penh. Going there couldn't be easier - $5 on a minibus for a 5 hour 300km ride is a bargain – they will even collect me from outside my apartment if I phone them. Once in Phnom Penh it is total insanity – investment money is pouring in from the Chinese and the rich drive around in Rolls-Royce and Bentleys. The poor pick through piles of rubbish looking for plastic bottles to sell – aluminium cans are far more desirable as the re-cycling price is much better, but kids have long since scavenged them. As it is the rainy season, there are not many tourists and the thousands of motorbike-taxi drivers and Tuk-Tuk drivers are desperate for work. There are still plenty of cycle-rickshaws and the drivers sleep in them at night. Popular hotels that are full in the high season now have a choice of rooms.

Whenever I go it is always an adventure and nothing like I plan. Phnom Penh is crawling with crazy girls – and I seem to attract them like a magnet. After two days there it is sometimes a relief to escape back to the peace of Kratie. However, I do like the experience and am always eager to go.

This week are the elections and rallies in support of the ruling party are in full swing. It is a bit of a one-sided affair as the chief of the opposition party has been arrested and the party disbanded, so there is not much choice when it comes to voting. It is a foregone conclusion who will win – and nothing to do with Putin !

In Phnom Penh monks beg at the bus stations and always have a bag-man ( ordinary clothes ) who collects the money in an orange bag – the monks themselves stand at a distance looking totally bored and can't wait to get their phones out and start searching social media. Monks in Phnom Penh must have a large orange umbrella which always covers their head – even on a dark, cloudy day with no sun. Monks often travel on the minibuses and always have at least one iPhone. In Kratie it is different : no umbrellas, no bag-man – they beg directly. Sometimes they come out from the Temple 40 at a time and beg together in one long line. You cannot just give to one – you must feed the whole 40 which could easily use up all your food. In the Temple, they can often be seen sitting around glued to their phones. There are also fake monks ( Chinese ) in Phnom Penh who can be very pushy.

In Thailand the military government are cracking down on the temples – police arrested six senior monks after temple raids in May. Among them were members of the Sangha Supreme Council – the governing body of Thai Buddhists – and a monk close to the Prime Minister. The monks have been charged with embezzlement, fraud and robbery. There are 30 more temples suspected of financial crimes running into millions of dollars and more arrests are expected. Last year police laid siege to Bangkok's largest temple to try and arrest the Abbot on embezzlement charges. He fled the country. Another top monk is seeking asylum in Germany. In Thailand there are about 40,000 temples which generate billions of dollars a year in donations. The monks sell fake amulets and promise good Karma and a happy afterlife in return for big cash donations. I am not suggesting that Cambodian Temples are anywhere near as corrupt as Thai ones, but they seem to be a drain on the economy. I suppose if it keeps the people happy, it is OK ?

In Phnom Penh I saw two American girls – missionaries – handing out leaflets to try and convert the locals to Christianity. One of them spoke very good Khmer and she had only been here a year. I said it is a pity you are telling them about what is only a story in a book – to which she said 'Bye, Bye' – didn't want to get into an argument.



This amazing bull is outside a French school - it is made entirely from chains and sprockets - it even has a springy dick !

Memories are made of this

We assume memory and consciousness are stored in the brain, in neurons, synapses and neuro-transmitters – but what if they are stored in the cloud ? ( to use an analogy from computing ) Maybe in another dimension that we have no knowledge of ? Is there an area in the brain only for storing memories ? People with amnesia as a result of brain damage show that memory is processed there, but is it stored there ? Offloading memory to the cloud would keep the storage requirements down.

So where is the cloud, then ? What would happen to humanity if the cloud was shut down – or was re-booted ? Imagine a species with no memory – except for 'muscle-memory'( the autonomic nervous system executing a macro routine which doesn't need conscious monitoring e.g. running, skipping, juggling ) With only milliseconds – seconds ? – of storage and no long-term storage, language would be gone, but would consciousness ? There are two outcomes : conscious of self, but no memory - and not conscious of self and no memory. If you were conscious of being yourself, but your mind had gone – the senses would presumably still function – we could see, feel, hear etc. but not understand anything. It could be a form of torture for some people ? In the second case, you would be a not-very-intelligent animal ! 

It is thought that there might be just one consciousness for all sentient beings - and each of our individual consciousnesses is merely a facet of the One. A sort of ' There for the Grace of God, go I ' - or , if not for Nurture & Nature, I could be that person. The ultimate schizophrenic ! When we see some-one behaving badly, we get upset because we were in that situation once and have a subconscious memory. We have all behaved badly as a child at one time or another, right ? Hence empathy for poor people and the down-trodden.  

Maybe memory is stored in the blood ? Preposterous, right ? Billions of red-blood corpuscles – all identical, all being pumped round and round. New ones are introduced as old ones die out and are filtered out. How can erythrocytes – all identical - have a memory ? OK, so how do you know they are identical – just because they look the same ? Magnetic domains might look the same, under an electron microscope, whatever their polarity or strength. Corpuscles could be indexed very subtly – maybe on a molecular level and natural sensors are quite good ( The moth with the most developed sense of smell is the Indian luna moth (Actias selene). The male of this species is so sensitive to the female's sex pheromone that he can trace a female via her scent from as far away as 11 km – detecting only a single molecule. I have seen this moth in Laos. )

So if you only need a few molecules to exchange data, would we have noticed it or not ? I think not. Red- blood corpuscles follow the same arterial, venous and capillary route, don't they ? Has anybody ever checked to track individual corpuscles and verify that they do not deviate ? With present technology, I don't think we could identify single corpuscles without radio-isotope tracers and I'm sure that would invalidate the results ? If they were coded – each had its own address, it could be diverted at junctions like a railway carriage. There are vision recognition systems for parts sorting – e.g. removing unripe fruit on a conveyer belt with jets of compressed air. They are blindingly fast – a blur to the eyes – but totally accurate. A molecular-based system could be left to run automatically like a perfect post office. It would be like a roller-coaster ride : being bumped along by successive shoves and all down-hill ( pressure-wise ) until you entered the heart and were sent on your way again with detours to organs, nerves and muscles.

Adults have 20 – 30 trillion RBCs. 200 billion are made daily. They are made and die at the rate of 2 million a second. How would that many corpuscles compare to a HDD ? Just because we can't sense it doesn't mean it is not happening. Imagine a hundred years ago looking at a flash drive or memory card and being told it stored loads of movies in colour ! No-one would believe you.

The brain has synapses – interconnecting nodes and is like a CPU. How do we know these synapses are responsible for memory ? Sure, if you chop out part of the brain some systems do not work, but this could be I/O impairment, not memory loss.
OK, if the cloud is the blood, imagine a virus that knocked out the memory molecule or its receptor ? If that was highly contagious it would reduce the human race to zombies in quick time. It would format and re-boot human memory and behaviour. Maybe a touch drastic (?) but the virus could be released unintentionally as part of a bio-weapons program.

There isn't a shortage of Zombie movies or books, legends etc. Maybe this is the racial memory of an era so hellish that it became ingrained in our subconscious ? An instinctive warning passed down through generations - be careful making viruses ! ( Which we – by which I mean the military – would totally ignore . Indeed if you want a juicy research grant and gravy-train for a decade, think up a new bio-weapon proposal for the Army, and funding will come flooding in.)

Computer virus makers are a nuisance and are rightly prosecuted when they do damage. Biological virus creators – maybe they are trying to cure cancer or something else noble - could stumble on the Zombie Virus by accident. If you write a computer-virus code, how do you know what unforseen side-effects it may elicit somewhere down the line ? A doomsday virus for computers would be overcome, because it would be unlikely to infect every single type of computer system. There would be systems unaffected that could analyze it. If it was a biological virus, how long would it take to sequence its RNA-ome ( I can't say genome ) and analyze its function when people are being zombie-fied left-right-and-center ?

It could be used by a government as population control or as justification for executing members of the public for civil disobedience or whatever. Every-one knows it's OK to kill a Zombie, right ? A shot to the head. If the government wanted to thin-out a dissenting population, no-one would object to them shooting Zombies, right ? Doesn't matter if they are not actually dead and don't growl like Zombies are supposed to do – nobody would want to wait and see when they turned cannibal. People would praise the government. Doesn't matter if the government created the virus – the general public would not know. It could be the last resort tactics of a regime that knew its day of reckoning was coming and tried desperate measures to maintain power. 31% of present-day Americans think that Civil War is likely soon !

( See Joe Rogan - Civil War Talk )

This could have happened millenia ago, a virus could have high-jacked a ride on a meteorite or happened through a mutation. We would be back to Neandertaals – and waiting for the antidote virus or our bodies to become immune. If the Army had the virus – and the antidote – they would be itching to test it in a war zone – and there are plenty to choose from world-wide. If some-one discovered this blood memory bank was real and what the mechanism was, it wouldn't be long before attempts would be made to disrupt it or enhance it – maybe by using viruses ? Should I be concerned about all this ?

In another Poll, 67% of Americans said they were unhappy in their life. How terrible ! Working 9-5 and stuck in traffic jams for 3 hours a day – as in Bangkok – doesn't leave much time for personal fulfillment. Loneliness is now a major cause of stress in the western world. The American military-industrial complex and its vested interest in promoting war is deeply troubling to the rest of the World. Personal freedom there is being continually eroded to control the population. Defence spending is out of control – the Pentagon admits to having $ 6.5 Trillion unaccounted for. ( that is trillion not billion or million ! ) Sloppy accounting. That is more than 30% of their National Debt.

By contrast Cambodia seems like an oasis of calm and serenity – I have never seen so many happy people. Buying the same food every day for 3 years in the market still causes enormous smiles and laughter !


I have been enjoying my roof-top sound system whenever the rain allows – which is not very often – and adjusting the settings. I listened for a total of about three hours, spread over various days, and got it quite loud sometimes ! No problems so far. The next day I turned it on and – nothing from the bass speaker. Not even a click or a puff of smoke – just silence. One of the dual voice coils had gone open circuit and, as they were wired in series for 8Ω, it stopped working. I used it with just the other voice coil for 4Ω – tested it at increasing volume. The power of the bass was impressive and then, just as I was nearing maximum volume on the remote, there was an ominous click and silence again. I guessed it was the other voice coil and was dreading having to repair it. Big voice coils are easy to buy in Phnom Penh and I have rebuilt a 15 inch speaker before, but it is still a big job. I jacked up the speaker dome and unbolted the bass driver. It was OK – the wires from the voice-coil connectors to the outside junction box had broken off ! It was cheap Chinese 'Jumbo' flat-twin speaker cable. It was quite hefty cable, but was not copper ! It would not solder and was a dull colour. It was either vibration or the cable rotted through, but it's bad when a cable breaks after 3 hours. I was most relieved and replaced the speaker using some good copper cable. It is a fiddly job removing and replacing the speaker – but not too difficult.

Speaker out with new cable fitted


I have also found the reason for my car blowing fuses – and repaired it. For some reason Daewoo use black wire as positive and I thought it would be the negative ground wire. An exposed connection on the black wire was sometimes shorting to chassis ground and blowing the fuse. The Tico is very frugal : I put in a gallon of petrol and it shows well over a quarter full and is good for two weeks driving !

Now I am back on my main project. I have been cutting laminations for the three-phase motors I am making. I was beginning to doubt whether I could do it accurately enough by hand – I am spoilt by laser cutting ! – but it is going OK and I know it will work now.

Laos continues to interfere with my life ! A Korean/Laos dam burst in Attapeu province and flooded four villages – only a few km from where I was staying. Apparently the house I lived in is OK – must be on higher ground ? No problem here for a few days - then the water arrived. The Mekong River was very high anyway with the rains and our car park flooded overnight. I have had to park my car outside on the street for a few days. Now the water is definitely receding and in a few more days the car park will be usable again. I feel sorry for all the houses with flooded ground floors – and there are a lot. Some streets near the market are now lakes and the people travel by boat.


This farm house is flooded up to the roof

In front of it is a drainage pipe - not doing much ! 


I saw these beautiful butterflies in Kratie - near the center of town. They were the biggest I have ever seen - bigger than those in Laos - about 10cm ( 4" ) across. They would not keep still for a photo, so I took took this video clip.





I had to go shopping in Phnom Penh, and on the way saw the extent of the flooding. I thought it might be just local, but it extended for about 100kms. In some places the only houses unaffected were the Vietnamese floating villages on rafts where life went on as usual. The Sekong River has risen by 11.5 metres as it leaves Laos and the flood damage is much worse in Cambodia than in Laos. In Kratie the water is still rising and I have never seen the Mekong level so high – it is within 2 metres of overflowing the banks and flooding the town. I will not be able to use the carpark for weeks ! As of today – 13th August – the floods are receding – no rain and definite improvement. The water went down and the car park became usable again – but not for long. After a few days, the water level rose and the car park flooded again ( 19/8/18 ) The river is still very high, the drains are full and, whenever it rains, the roads get flooded.
Now it is the end of the month and the floods are just as bad – the car park is still under a metre of water – what was a small stream outside is a now a fast-moving river and the Mekong is huge and swollen.


This street is near the market - there was no rain, the water has come from the river. The motorbike at the front is towing the mini truck which has a problem ! This clip of Kratie Province from the air shows the extensive flooding - only the main highway remains, all the smaller roads are underwater.



This booth is promoting Brain Scans - which are done at the Dentists (!) It was very busy.


I have a grinder with a flexible drive-shaft and, after long use, the drive-shaft broke. There is one jewelry shop I like in Phnom Penh and the owner is polite, but not very talkative. I noticed he had the TV on with a Thai language program. After buying a spare drive-shaft, I asked him if he could understand Thai. He said yes – so I talked to him in Thai and his face lit up. We had quite a long conversation about how it was easier than learning Khmer due to the scarcity of books and teachers. He said he learnt it at school – his Thai was excellent – and I think he was so happy at the chance to speak it again ! Probably doesn't get to use it much in Cambodia. Outside of Koh Kong, I don't hear much Thai in Cambodia. It is a waste to learn a language and not use it !

This time I tried out a different guest house called ' Happiness ' $15 Air-con rooms with a good TV. Before I left Happiness Guesthouse I had a look in the wardrobe and drawers – usually there is nothing, but this time I found some foreign money tucked away and forgotten in the back corner of a drawer. 

Of course, I would never, ever do anything illegal - or admit to it on my website - but finding discarded money can't be stealing, can it ? ( If it is, then I dreamed-up the whole incident, OK ? )

I exchanged the money at a money changers and received a total of $29 – not bad – it paid for the trip.

I have finished tuning and adjusting the concrete speaker and I am 100% satisfied with it. The subwoofer is now wired for 2Ω and the amp can maybe deliver 500 W into this load ? It is certainly loud enough. I lowered the upper cut-off frequency of the bass to 150 Hz - where the mid-range speakers start - and the transition is smooth. ( The circuit design for the filters and bass controller have been accepted for publication in Australia - I should know in a month or two how much they will pay )

It seemed like another of my Marathon Projects at first, but I am happy I did it. I have never had such a good sound system - and in such a good location too. So far (!) no complaints from anybody about the volume as it is on the roof. When I can afford a big ( big for Cambodia - maybe 33" ? ) TV, and when it stops raining, it will be excellent for watching movies on the roof.


I still cannot resist watching the crank videos about the " moon landings " - the comments section is a scream - This is the best one :

I think they actually went to Mars and have never been to the Moon. I heard they're planning to land on the sun next, but it might be too hot so they're going at night time.


I have started teaching at the private school again in the evenings. Monday to Thursday it is a beginner's class and Friday an intermediate class. The beginner's class did not have a textbook so the boss chose one and had copies made. The manager phoned me and asked if I could check the new cover they had made. I suggested some improvements and then saw that the covers were already printed – so why did they ask me to check it after it was printed and not before ?

Then I noticed it was an ABC colouring book – completely unsuitable for the beginners who did ABC a long time ago and now can write simple sentences. What is the point of colouring-in pictures, except to keep very small kids occupied ? Did they expect me to ask the students, who have just done 'the verb to be', to go back to colouring-in the letters A to Z ? Of course the boss, who has no idea about teaching, did not know he had bought a colouring book. I was also asked if the book would keep them busy for six months – it would be a stretch to use it for six weeks and really the useless book would only last a week or two. Therefore I do what I usually do and provide my own material loosely based on the book provided.

I was asked to teach the seven-year-old son of the Governor of Kratie Province for five days while the regular teacher is on holiday. Normally I don't like teaching ABC level because it is too much like hard work (!) but in this case it was difficult to refuse. The Khmer manager of the school, also a teacher, was to help me out translating. This Khmer teacher was not sure where the house was – we were to teach him at home – so the day before I asked at the Kratie Tourist Information Office and they told me there is no Governor and he does not have a house! ( There is and he lives opposite the High School )

No proper directions were given and we could not contact the regular teacher, who was on holiday, so the plan was to arrive in the general vicinity 20 minutes early and drive around looking for some-one standing outside an unknown house who might be waiting for a teacher ? Luckily they saw us near the High School !

We could see that the regular teacher had covered A to I or maybe J and the teaching method consisted of having the boy write the letters over and over again filling up many pages of an exercise book. Poor kid – it seemed more like a punishment than a lesson. At school some boys were given 'lines' or more usually '100 lines' as a punishment in detention. They had to copy out 'I must not misbehave in class' or something like that 100 times.

As is usual with teachers in Thailand and Cambodia, they do not teach the sounds of the letters of the alphabet – only the names. This makes it very hard for the students to learn how to read – they memorize the spelling with no understanding of how it is constructed and when confronted with a word new to them they are stumped with no clue how to read it. Khmer teachers have not even heard of the 44 phonemes in English from which all words are constructed. This boy knew a few words such as 'alarm-clock', 'camera' and 'ice-cream' ( he had covered the letters A, C and I by then ) but when asked to write 'alarm-clock' he wrote 'camera' which shows he was memorizing the whole word like Chinese – albeit wrongly – and didn't know the 'A' sound of alarm-clock could not come from the 'C' in camera and vice versa.

For the first two days we helped him on a bit – then on the next day it rained and, of course, the Khmer teacher did not show as he cannot ride his motorbike in the rain (!) I taught on my own – the colouring book actually came in quite useful then !

The Governor rents a very ordinary house and I park my car outside in the driveway. ( I never got to see to see the actual Governor, only some of his family ) After the lesson I got in my car, turned the key to start it and – nothing! – not even a click or whir – no activity at all from the starter. Embarrassment ! The ignition light came on and the battery was charged. I opened the bonnet and had a fiddle around, but whatever I tried it made no difference. Of course, being an automatic it cannot be push-started like a manual-gear car. I could see no reason for the problem other than the starter motor had died – a nightmare considering it was blocking the driveway of the Governor's house ! Clutching at straws, I decided to check the fuses – naturally they were fine – and then I noticed something ( the fuse box is inside the car ) - I had left the car in D and not in P for park. It has an interlock which prevents starting in D – you can only start in P or maybe N
Stupid, stupid, stupid ! In my defense, I have never owned or driven an automatic car before and forgot about this interlock. So there was nothing wrong with the car after all. Just before I closed the bonnet, I noticed a mouse had been gnawing at some wires and made a mental note to repair them as soon as possible. Confidently I put my tools away and the car started instantly ( in P )

Something good came of this embarrassing episode – if I had not checked around under the bonnet, I would not have noticed the damaged wiring until much later and it could have been very serious then. I have now changed the wiring and made repairs in two other places eaten through by a mouse or rat. This happened when I had to park the car outside during the floods – it was quite near the rubbish bin and must have been a nice warm, dry, temporary home for a mouse.

A new restaurant has just opened very near my apartment called 'Unlimited Deliciousness' – in English – and they have tofu. I noticed they have some Thai food on the menu and asked the owner why. He said he studied at a university in Thailand and spoke Thai. Next there followed a long conversation in Thai, mixed with a bit of Khmer. He didn't really need a degree in Business Administration to sell food and milk shakes. Again, he was very happy to speak some Thai – his wife is Khmer and does not understand any Thai like most Cambodians. I hope they succeed although most small restaurants quickly go broke because there are so many. Their place is convenient, being so close, and sometimes there is no tofu at the market so I eat out.

Actually there are three types of Tofu sold : small pieces with a smoky flavour when eaten uncooked ( not so nice ) , big slabs of uncooked Tofu ( OK eaten uncooked ) and big slabs of fried Tofu – which I usually buy ( very nice ) The ready-fried Tofu sells out very quickly in the market – sometimes all gone by 9am – but there are often still some big slabs of the uncooked one . The restaurant cooks the smaller lumps and, freshly fried, it is tasty. Two plates of Tofu and a milk shake cost $1.25 or about £1 !

The floods have all subsided and life is back to normal here. It will soon be visa time again and I will be off to Phnom Penh in a few days to extend it. In the meantime I got busy ...

Beer cans
My Indian neighbours drink a lot of beer and they save the empties for me - the old cans were piling up and I had to do something about it, so I set up the furnace on the roof and melted them down ( until my new pot was full ) It stinks a bit - that's why I do it on the roof.



I had this steel pot welded up locally - it has a 3mm wall thickness so should last a bit longer than an oil-filter cannister.

I now have more than 1½ kilos of aluminium ingots. I still don't know what to cast from them ?


Notice the high standard of safety - and foot protection - in Cambodia !

It was not so easy to tilt the pot for the pour and I will modify my tools for the next run.

Here are the finished ingots

The only suggestions I get from the Cambodians are to make Dolphins - which are the mascot of Kratie as there are still one or two left alive in the river ! There must be something better ?

High-Tech Tico

This might not seem to be much to do with Cambodia, but it gets there in the end !

While I was in Phnom Penh I watched the movie 'Cars 2' on TV and this got me thinking about cars again ...

My first car was a two-year-old mini – or to be more precise a Morris Mini Cooper S ( GMA 637C was white with a black roof ) – which my mum bought for my 17th birthday. There were three engine sizes for this mini and mine was the smallest of the three at 970cc ( the others were 1071cc and 1275cc ) In 1967 it was expensive at £370 – much more than a standard mini.

  This is what it looked like when new.

It was a bit faster than an '850' mini ( 848cc ) but not much. However, it had front disc brakes, twin carburettors and a better, stubby gear-change lever. The engine was hopelessly out-of-date – even for 1967 – and was originally designed in 1951 with not much in the way of change since then. It had push-rod valve actuation, 'Siamesed' inlet and outlet ports and a dynamo among other atrocities. There were only 482 made and 397 sold in the UK which made it very rare and worth a lot of money now ( probably scrapped as DVLA have no record of it being taxed )

I took it for a tune-up at a local garage and they told me that the carburettors were knackered, but it seemed to go reasonably well. Some-time later it began burning oil and emitting clouds of white smoke – the valve-guide oil-seals had worn out. I drove it to Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent and back leaving a dense smoke-screen behind me ! I had to do something about it, and thus started my introduction to car repairs about which I was blissfully ignorant at this point. Later on I took it to a mini 'specialist' for a tune-up and they set the ignition timing wrongly – causing it to overhead and run badly. This was just before I was to start university in Southampton and a garage there put it right for me.

I did not have a very high opinion of 'specialists' at this point – until I met my saviour Ray Harris Sports Cars in Eastleigh, near Southampton. They were old-school engine modifiers, without much diagnostic equipment or a rolling road, but could take a car out for a test drive and know what to adjust by experience. They convinced me to buy a modified cylinder head and a pair of bigger carbs. This made all the difference in the world to the engine and it actually felt fast for a mini. Their test track was the dual-carriageway from Eastleigh to the Southampton roundabout and it was uphill. I forget what the modified mini would do uphill, but it did 103mph flat out coming down the hill.

Ray Harris told me the story of a highly modified 7 litre Chevrolet 'Stingray' he did for a customer. It went charging up the hill and showed 140 mph on the speedo – still accelerating strongly – at the braking-point for the roundabout. This was when he noticed that the throttles were jammed wide-open ! He said it took him about half a second to scan the unfamiliar dashboard of the left-hand-drive car and see where the key was so he could turn the engine off. Jamming on the brakes he spun around the roundabout and ended up facing the wrong way – but without hitting anything. He opened his mouth to swear, but no words would come out – he was literally speechless ! He said the drive back was at 20 mph !

After university I made the mistake of getting married and, as far as the car was concerned, what followed were years of neglect and disinterest. In the end it succumbed to rust and mechanical failure – the engine was tired and needed a re-build. The clutch wasn't working and I expect the road tax had long since expired. I also had a free company car – a Vauxhall Viva – with petrol etc. on expenses, so there was little incentive or time to repair the mini.

 Not actually my car, but the Viva looked like this.

The Viva was the Boss's wife's car and she refused to drive it after it caught fire and had to be abandoned in the middle of the road. It was then given to me to use as I pleased – all for free.

The mini would have been very difficult to sell in that condition, so I put an ad in a newspaper – The Evening Standard – "Free to a Good Home" – and waited for phone calls. The first one offered me £50 ( an insult ) and sounded like a dealer – so I donated it to the second one : two young guys who didn't have much money but were enthusiastic. I also had to drive it across London without a clutch to deliver it to them. My reasoning was that it was better for it to go to a good home than to a dealer to be broken up for spares and then scrapped. I didn't need the money then and getting paid for it would have made no difference to me - and a modified classic car has less value than a Bog-Standard one. My mother didn't see it that way and was pissed.

Before the mini became clapped-out and was still functioning OK, I had a chauffeuring job for six months – driving Lawrence Ronson, the son of Henry Ronson of Heron Petrol Stations. ( Heron from Henry Ronson ) This was because Lawrence had a six-month suspension for dangerous driving in his new Lotus Elan – and that was the car I drove.

Henry Ronson was an obnoxious, rich, old Jew who had made his money after the war selling furniture and then went into Real Estate and Heron Petrol Stations. He had an enormous house in Golders Green ( where else ? ) with Spanish servants who did not speak English. His oldest son, Gerald, who was an equally obnoxious character, had his own enormous house a little bit further down the road with a Rolls Royce parked in the driveway.

I would drive to Henry's house every morning and then change to the Lotus. It was a brand-new S4 Elan – specially ordered from Mike Spence ( a Lotus Dealer ) and looked very nice in dark, metallic blue with big wheels. However, really the car had serious problems : the specially-made, blue windscreen distorted horribly so you could not judge distances as cars ahead seemed to move around depending on the position of your head ! The battery kept falling over and spilling acid everywhere as there was nothing to hold it down. The engine would overheat or foul up the spark-plugs in traffic. It had a four-speed gearbox and was geared for relaxed cruising – however the engine was gutless and had little low-down torque. Cruising at 110 mph on the motorway was no problem, but starting in first gear would often result in a stall or a jerky stutter. It badly needed a five-speed gearbox. What made things worse was that, to save money, Lotus used flexible, rubber drive-shaft couplings from a Hillman Imp ( the dreaded " Donuts " ) These would wind-up and surge making first-gear getaways very unpleasant.

Anything could beat this " sports car " away from the traffic lights. I had never driven anything so fast before – once it got going that is – and could see the potential of a properly-sorted Elan.

Lawrence's job was to visit all the Heron Garages – and there were a lot of them – and inspect the cleanliness and sales figures, but often he cleaned out the till and left an I.O.U. The manager could hardly complain if the Boss's son did it. Lawrence would lose all the money gambling. I once took him to the Playboy Club in Park Lane where he came out broke and phoned his mother, telling her to send £400 immediately or else he would commit suicide. ( £400 was real money then ) This happened quite regularly. Anyway, Lawrence was quite likeable, if a bit crazy.

When I came back from a 1½ year holiday in India, I bought a 1967 S3 Lotus Elan PFM721E for £700. It was yellow and had been fitted with a 'Sprint' differential which limited top speed, but made first gear actually usable and it was much easier to drive than Lawrence's Elan. Of course it was not long before I started modifying everything in sight : big alloy wheels and Dunlop racing tyres, engine size increased from 1558cc to 1650cc. New cams, electronic ignition, alternator and a re-spray to fluorescent orange ! ( It ended up with a new space-frame chassis and new suspension later )

I then met another car tuning expert and this one had a rolling road. He could always get the best out of the engine and I left his workshop with the car running magnificently. However, it would not stay in tune for very long – two twin carburettors needed balancing often and I could never do it as well as he was able to. I should have left the engine work in his hands, but – of course – I stupidly got married again and work on the car suffered. The clutch went and the Lotus resided in various garages for many years, unattended. When I eventually tried to contact him, he had moved. The car had turned into a never-ending money pit – my modification plans were too grand for my budget and marriage got in the way ( again ! )

While the Elan was off the road, I bought a green Hillman Imp for £57 called 'Maude'. She went OK and always started – sometimes needing a push – the engine was worn out and had such low compression that it was just as easy to turn it over by hand with or without the spark plugs in – you could not feel any difference ! The rear engine didn't produce much heat so the heater was hopeless in the winter. However, she was a reliable car and would make a great conversion to electric if she was still around these days. A very basic car like the mini.

  Maude - when she was young !   875cc all-aluminium engine

I upgraded (?) to a brown Mk1 Ford escort called 'Nigel' It cost £20 and was actually stolen once – and then returned ! The 1100 cc engine was clapped-out and when it was staggering up a hill I was instructed to pat the dashboard and say " Come on Nigel, you can do it ! " As with the Imp, spare parts were ridiculously cheap – I bought a replacement short engine for £10 which gave it a new lease of life.

  Nigel – when he was new.

My last car was a 1957 Wolsley 1500 which I bought for about £80. This car was called 'Wally' and was in need of a complete overhaul. The wheels made a squeaking noise and I found that all the wheel bearings were pitted, rusty and sometimes had bits missing ! New wheel bearings made an amazing difference to the speed. The cylinder head was full of sludge and no oil had got up there in years. I reconditioned the cylinder head and the car drove like a new one. It was re-sprayed in dark green and was a good car. Even on the coldest winter's day with snow covering all the cars in the street, Wally would start immediately – none of the other modern cars would !


Wally was a good old boy - never left me stranded. I sold him to a fitter in the local Tyre & Exhaust Center for a small profit. Wally was originally two-tone and then he was re-sprayed to dark green ( British Racing Green )

Coming back from a six-month holiday in Thailand, I finished off the Lotus – with much invaluable help from a friend called 'Mad Mike' and sold it to a dealer for £2,800 so I had maybe broken even on all the modifications (?) He told me it would have been much more valuable and easier to sell if I had left it bog-standard. I find it very difficult not to tinker with things and try and improve them. The dreaded Donuts on the Lotus I had replaced with universal joints and sliding-splines from a racing car and this worked wonderfully – no more surging and the peace-of-mind that it will not break. Once, when I was driving the new Lotus Elan for Lawrence, I was just about to pull out of a garage into the main road and one donut exploded – ripping a big hole in the boot from the drive-shaft flailing around. The donuts in a Hillman Imp are not so much of a problem as the engine isn't very powerful.

My younger self with the Lotus Elan.

(according to DVLA it is now green and was last taxed in 1994 ! )

Lessons learned from modifying the Lotus :

I bought Wolfrace aluminium wheels for the Lotus and they were a mistake – too heavy – the steel ones widened by welding-in a band are much lighter !

I used Dunlop rallycross tyres – again a mistake – they are cross-ply and very noisy and heavy. Radial tyres would have been much better.

I fitted semi-race camshafts – again a mistake. It made the engine gutless below 4000 rpm – all the power was above 5000 rpm so you had to thrash it all the time which is hardly relaxing. I should have left the original cams in. It only showed 160 bhp on a rolling-road dyno.

I fitted a steel roll-cage – too heavy, an aluminium one would have been much better.

It used to over-heat in traffic, but was OK on the motorway – I fitted twin electric fans and then it was OK in traffic, but over-heated on motorways !

Conclusion :

Engines on classic cars are too small and under-powered.

The main problem is not enough torque at low speed.

Once you start modifying engines, cost and complexity spiral out of control.

You need deep pockets – trying to do it on the cheap doesn't work ! This is what I was trying to accomplish and has probably cost at least  $50,000 maybe $100,000 – I was attempting the impossible on my budget. Jay Leno is a multi-millionaire and cost is no object to him.


Today, the best mod is to throw out the petrol engine and fit an electric motor – however this technology was not available when I had the Lotus. You can then forget about 5 speed or 6 speed gear-boxes.

The weak point on all my cars was the engine – the Internal Combustion Engine - or Infernal Destruction Engine when something goes wrong. They do not have enough power or torque and modifications soon get too expensive.

This brings me back to the Tico – the Daewoo Tico is very high-tech – it has :

A torque converter that really works and it has better low-speed torque than the mini had – from a smaller engine.
Wiper delay – none of my other cars had this – amazing tech !
Air conditioning and a heater ( air-con doesn't work and a heater in Cambodia ?? )
Electric windows – OK the Lotus had them as well.
An electric radiator fan as standard – and it works.
A radio – only the Lotus had an empty slot for a radio. The CD player part doesn't work.
A heated rear window to melt ice ( in Cambodia ? )

An electric clock with green display – the ultimate in high-tech. To set the time I have to disconnect it - then reconnect exactly on the hour and update hours ( minutes doesn't work ) It doesn't keep very good time either - but is not too bad.

Variable-speed fan for the heater and air-con - very high-tech.

The Tico engine has an aluminium cylinder head – this was much sought-after for minis and was very expensive. Some tuners even fitted the alloy cylinder head from a BMW K100 1000cc motorbike !

The Tico has rubber toothed-belt drive for the overhead camshaft. ( A Hillman Imp has an alloy cylinder head, aluminium block and over-head camshaft. )


All this makes the Tico the most high-tech and modern car I have ever owned – but not the fastest. Now, in 2018, the best modification to the Tico would be to throw out the engine and fit an electric motor. ( I could get a charger and electricity meter fitted in the underground car park ) My Tico is automatic – so not ideal for the conversion, however there is a red one for sale nearby with 5-speed manual transmission. The best way is to fit a Tesla motor and transmission which comes in a complete package with inverter. The induction motor is the cylinder on the left - the cylinder on the right is the inverter ( 400 Volts @ 1000 Amps ! ) It is lighter than a Tico engine.

Rear-wheel drive 416 bhp at the wheels – a Tico has 40 bhp ! Too expensive at $12,000 - batteries another $12,000. The Tico only cost $500.

This particular motor is noisy because it needs a new ball-bearing – but in this video it effortlessly spins up to 135 mph – if the wheels were on the ground !


Mini Cooper S

970 cc

Lotus Elan

1650 cc

Hillman Imp

875 cc

Daewoo Tico

796 cc

Tesla electric motor

65 bhp 48 kW

160 bhp ?

39 bhp 

40 bhp 30kW

416 bhp 310kW

55 lbs-ft



43 lbs-ft

443 lbs-ft


A tesla electric motor fitted in a Tico would give ten times the power and ten times the torque – instantly ––  and might be a bit of a handful on Cambodian roads ?!? However, it would cost at least $25,000 and importing the parts would be a nightmare, so it's not going to happen.

You may well be underwhelmed by electric cars, but have you actually checked out the menu of functions available on a medium-priced car ?  This video is well worth watching to the end. This car has one or two more tricks than the Tico ...


I went to Phnom Penh to renew my visa and found out that visa regulations have changed – you now need a letter from your employer for a one-year visa – work permit is not needed. However, for a three or six month visa the letter is not required, but the work permit is ! I did not have the letter, so I went back to Kratie the next morning.

The school was closed because they were getting ready for a party at the Boss's house. I let myself in and fired up the computer. The manager told me where to find the file for specimen letters and I printed out a copy in colour ( it must be in colour with the company logo ) The next step was to get it signed and stamped so I went to the Boss's house. I had brought the wrong stamp with me, so back to the school ( The stamps are in Khmer ) I found the correct stamp and returned to the house.

Stamping documents is very important in Cambodia and they are not considered official without a red stamp. ( It doesn't really prove anything as rubber-stamp-making shops are everywhere and will make one with no questions asked ) Now the document was signed and stamped and looked very official. Then they told me I should attend the party, so I had to go back yet again later that evening. The party was for the Boss's friends, who I didn't know, and deadly boring. There was nothing even vaguely vegetarian that I could eat and only beer to drink – not as much as one bottle of water ! I do not want to drink beer and drive, but managed to get away with half a can with loads of ice to dilute it.

As in Thailand, the men all sit together and get drunk – then when they are quite far gone, out come the microphones and they start singing karaoke. The few women all sit together in another group, gossiping, and also get a bit drunk. They were all middle-aged and like old songs from 40 to 50 years ago – nothing modern and definitely no dance music. In Laos, the women drink much more beer than the men – and order it by the crateful. There is also more singing karaoke than dancing. I soon made my excuses and left. Normally I would have been still in Phnom Penh and spared the party.

The next day I returned to Phnom Penh, presented the letter to the visa agent, and was told to wait for ten days. While I was there I spotted this shop – Madam Fatty – for big Khmer women. A 120 kg Khmer woman must be a fearsome sight ? What happens when they get even bigger ???

I also saw these two dogs in a cage outside a house. Dogs are quite rare in Phnom Penh as there are a lot of Vietnamese restaurants about (!) Maybe they have to be locked up at night to prevent them ending up in a cooking pot ?

When I came back to Kratie, the school was closed for a week because a teacher's father had died. I filled-in at three other schools in the meantime. Now I am back to my weekly beginners class.

The text book chosen for them by the Boss has an answer key in the back – and proudly announces the fact on the front cover in big letters – Answer Key Provided. This did not go un-noticed by the students, who have all gone through every exercise in the book, filling-in the correct answers – without understanding how or why they are correct. I told the manager that the answer key was only for the teacher's copy, but he did not think it was important. The exercises in the book are now useless as homework – or for class work – so I will have to let them colour-in the pictures after all !


The head-lining in the Tico was starting to get a bit tatty – it was stained and torn and hanging off in places, so I bought a roll of black vinyl locally for $10. It was a horrible job applying glue to the roof – I used rubber cement which stinks ( this is the stuff that 'glue-sniffers' use in Thailand ) and it is not easy lying on your back and working upside-down. I felt like Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – it took him four years, but it didn't take me that long – I had the job done in an afternoon. I don't know why he didn't use black vinyl ? – it would have been much quicker ! Now the Tico looks quite smart inside.

The rubber cement sold here is called 'Dog Glue' – not because it is made from dogs, that is the brand name. In Thailand it is 'KKK'glue. Superglue is called 'Elephant Glue' in Thailand – another brand name – and '502' glue here. 502 is the weird brand name of the popular Vietnamese superglue.

It's funny how fashions repeat themselves – the fashion now is 'Winkle-Picker' shoes with the long, pointed toe-caps. I remember when I was a kid, waiting to get on a double-decker bus and myself and all the other passengers at the bus stop were held up by a young lad with ridiculously long Winkle Pickers. They were so long that he could not climb up the stairs to the top deck normally – or the points might break off – so he had to go up side-ways – crab fashion – which took ages.

In the 50's they were worn by trendy young men, but in Cambodia you can see businessmen in smart suits wearing Winkle Pickers which makes me laugh. What's next ? Maybe Turkish style with the pointed tips bent over and facing towards the wearer ? Or even with little bells on like a medieval court jester ? ( Somehow I don't think that even Cambodians would fall for that one )

Trousers are getting narrower – the 'Drainpipe' trousers of the 50's are back in and only old men wear baggy pants. The girls mostly wear skin-tight, stretch jeans which stop half-way down the calf. They must be a job to get on and off – being so tight ? Women's fashion shops are everywhere and it is actually difficult to get clothes for men here.

There is only one shop I have seen that had a T-shirt I like – it was made in Vietnam and size XL. I saw another in a different colour, but I could not get it on – it was too small although marked XXL. I really do not think I am bigger than an XXL. The owner of the shop said she would get in some bigger sizes in a week – but was unable to find anything big enough to fit me, it turned out. Vietnamese men must be very small ? However, I found a shirt in another shop – this one was labelled M ( 38 inch ) and did fit – sort of. The chest was OK – if a bit too long, but the arms were about 4 inches too long – must have been designed for a real knuckle-dragger. I don't have particularly short arms because the Vietnamese XL shirt fits me fine. I had it altered for $1.25.

As elsewhere, jeans should have holes, slits, rips and tears in the legs – particularly about the knee area – and are sold brand-new, ready mutilated like that.
It is very hard to find plain T-shirts – mostly they have a strange design - or something in English and spelt-wrongly printed on them. There are always the 'ICambodia' T-shirts, but I don't want to look like a tourist.

Women wear very thickly-padded bras – apparently even a hint of nipple showing is a faux-pas in Cambodia.

Not much in the way of holidays recently, but October and November are holiday months :
October 8, 9, 10 Pchum Ben
October 15 King's commemoration Day
October 23 Paris Peace Accord
October 29 King's Coronation Day
November 9 Independence Day
November 21, 22, 23 Water Festival

Cambodia is Number 1 in the World for the number of official holidays per year at 28 days !
This extract was from the local tourist magazine : ( I'm not sure if it is serious, or not ? )

"As the public holiday is nearly upon us, after a brief lull, The Ministry of Holidays and Lazing Around has proposed that October and November be a two-month holiday to streamline things. With most officials taking a week out for any three day holiday and three days for a one day holiday, it is proposed that all other holidays be moved to these months apart from Khmer New Year - therefore getting the ridiculous amount of holidays there out of the way in one lump."


The weather changes here in the blink of an eye. I came home from school, did my exercises up on the roof under a starry sky and went out to the new restaurant about 30 metres from my apartment. I was in two minds whether to leave my bedroll up there for when it is sleep time later on. ( I put my blankets on the bench press – more comfortable than lying on the bare wooden planks ) Luckily, I didn't – no sooner had I got to the restaurant when the heavens opened and the rain poured down in buckets. Two other girls finished their meal and made a run for home. I was then the only customer with not much chance of any others in this fierce downpour. The rain soon stopped and I had my meal alone. Often I am the only customer there – so they might not keep going much longer. I used to frequent two other restaurants that sold tofu and they have both gone bust and closed down.


Unlimited Deliciousness

The Western-style menu - and Thai food - does not appeal to the Khmer and there are no tourists here. Healthy Salad ??? No Beer ???

The first place was on a corner location and, I thought, quite busy. I was the only foreigner and all the Khmer customers come to drink beer and share one plate of food amongst them. Beer is only 50 ¢ a can and the shop makes hardly any profit on it – if any at all – so theyhope to make the profit on the food. If they didn't sell beer they would have NO Khmer customers. There was nothing special about that shop – except that they sold tofu as well as the usual food. The second place had no chairs and you sat on the floor on rugs near low tables in traditional Khmer style. They had music and were often reasonably busy – but still went broke after three months. The rents are usually $100 per month with water and electricity extra. They are shop-houses and have a toilet and tiny room for sleeping at the back.

The new restaurant I go to is not really a shop-house – it was made from wood and bamboo – but the rent is still $100 plus extras. The location is far from ideal ( except for me ) and with food at 25¢ to 50¢ a plate, it is hard to make enough to cover the rent – never mind living expenses and a net profit. I had two plates of Tofu with some salad and a bottle of water for $1. I usually drink coconut milk-shake without sugar, but on that day they said they didn't have any milk. So I ordered plain coconut juice – and they said they didn't have any coconuts either ! I was the only customer that day apart from the two girls. ( the shop only opens in the evening – much too hot in the daytime )

All these food shops have a weak business plan – or usually no business plan at all. Every-one must eat and Khmer food is sold cheaply every-where – so selling food must be a good business, right ? It might be - if you own the property and don't mind breaking even. They never consider why customers might want to visit their particular shop instead of all the other hundreds of food shops. With nothing unique or enticing on offer, customers frequent the old-established shops with a solid reputation for good food rather than any-where new.

The latest trend is the Coffee Kiosk – a small square booth selling drinks and no beer. It is portable and is plonked on the pavement so they ( probably ? ) don't have to pay rent. At night it can be locked up. There are now too many of them – sometimes four in a row – and will not survive long even with low overheads.

There is a huge over-supply of housing here – many houses, shop-houses, warehouses, condos and apartments for rent – but the rich land owners are constantly building new shop-houses on any vacant piece of land. Some of them have been empty from new – and have stood idle for years now. The situation is even worse in Phnom Penh – there are vast New Towns and housing estates in guarded compounds under construction. Certainly not the low-cost housing that the city needs – they cater for the well-off middle-class. However, where will all these affluent tenants come from ? Third-World countries have the Mega-Rich, the Mega-Poor and not much in between. The same thing happened in Thailand years ago – huge housing projects that have forever stood empty and rows of vacant shop-houses that no-one can afford.


A row of dilapidated, old shop-houses now bulldozed and waiting for new construction. This is in Kratie, but the same thing is going on all over Phnom Penh.


With up to 8% interest on Khmer money in the bank, if you are not making that amount of profit, what is the point of working ? It is better to just keep your money in a deposit account. Of course, many small businesses do not have enough money to keep going until they are profitable and many will never be profitable.

I went to Unlimited Deliciousness again and I was the only customer. I cannot see them surviving for very long, but I cannot see a solution. Spaghetti, macaroni and healthy salad do not really appeal to Cambodians and there are no tourists this far from the town center.

My new Visa is now ready so I am off to Phnom Penh to collect it. It took nine days, including a week-end - not bad service. Holiday season is NOT the best time to visit P.P. - many shops and markets are closed.


I managed to put a tiny crack in the corner of the windscreen when I was changing the windscreen wipers. However, the crack started spreading, divided into two, and after a few weeks was halfway across the glass. It was right in front of my eyes and very annoying. There was already another crack on the passenger's side, at the top, and a few scratches – so a new windscreen was called for.

Tico spares are not available in Kratie, so the next time I was in Phnom Penh I went to a windscreen shop. I asked how much and the man in the shop thought for a bit and said $50. Some time later, on another visit to the big city, I was prepared with a template of the windscreen cut from the old vinyl headlining, string and packing tape. I asked in a different shop and they said $40 – but didn't have one in stock. I went back to the first shop and they still had a Tico windscreen in stock.

Again I asked the same man 'how much ?' and he asked me 'how much do you want to pay ?' – I said $40 which seemed to be OK – he didn't remember me or his last quote of $50. Then the woman owner of the shop came and she said $35 – better and better. Special silicone adhesive was another $6 and they covered it in bubble-wrap for me. I went back to the hotel by Tuk-Tuk and the next morning I had to get it back to Kratie - in one piece - in a minibus.

I therefore needed cardboard – lots of cardboard. Big cardboard boxes are hard to find as they are immediately collected by street people who scavenge the streets for anything of value. I kept a lookout for cardboard during a long walkabout and saw none. Then, by chance, I stumbled upon a collection center and got three big boxes, packed flat. They wanted $1, but I gave them $2.50 because I was so happy to find the boxes. Big smiles all round.
With the windscreen well packed, I got it back to Kratie with no problems and the minibus driver even took me right to my apartment rather than just dropping me off at the bus station as they normally would.

There is only one garage here that can change windscreens properly – and they charged me $20 – which is probably double the Khmer price, but never mind. Total cost was $61 – not bad for a brand-new, 25 year-old, classic-car windscreen with a top tint ( and no cracks )

How many Cambodians does it take to change a windscreen ? Answer five. Three just stand around watching.


The next job will be LED headlights – the standard Halogen bulbs are pathetic.

Practically every motorbike here is a Honda Dream and the ordinary headlights are very dim – if they are working at all ! A popular conversion is to fit LED replacement bulbs which cost $5 and are ten times better – but don't last too long. However, they are illegal and the police fine riders with after-market LED lights because 'They are too bright !'  It is OK to ride around with a feeble glimmer of yellowish light at night – or no lights at all – but it is not OK to have good lights so that you can actually see where you are going. Car drivers ( probably ) don't get fined (?)
Another peculiarity here is that Cambodian bike riders don't use the front brake because 'It is dangerous' (?) – they only use the back brake. When I, briefly, rode a motorbike in England I only used the front brake and not the back brake – the opposite of Cambodia – and it seemed to be OK. Under deceleration weight is transferred to the front, so it is logical to use the front brake – but this is Cambodia.


A typical motorbike with loaded trailer ready for the day's work - straining hard in first gear all the way. Imagine trying to stop that lot in a hurry only using the back brake ? 


I often wonder what can be done to move the street people up the ladder a bit and improve their lives. You see street people working very hard, combing every pile of rubbish – and there are lots of piles of rubbish – looking for something to sell. ( In Kratie, dogs and cows also go through the rubbish bins looking for food ) There should be a returnable deposit on bottles, boxes, cans and other packaging so that they are returned to the manufacturer who should be made responsible for disposal. If the deposit was larger than the scrap value, it would encourage consumers, or street collectors, to send the packaging back to the shop and claim refund. In Laos there is a deposit on beer bottles – Beer Lao is not sold in cans – but nothing like that in Cambodia.

At a half-way food stop on the kratie/Phnom Penh road I bought a bottle of Korean Rice Milk for $1.75 – nothing else there looked drinkable – it was absolutely vile – however, the P.E.T. plastic bottle said there was a 5¢ deposit on it. A bit of a long way to go ( Korea ) to get the deposit ? Collecting 20 bottles to get $1 is MUCH better than the meagre price paid for a kilo of scrap plastic in Cambodia. ( I cannot imagine 20 people actually buying the horrible Rice Milk )
If a punitive re-cycling tax was levied on all single-use plastic, it should discourage use. The Korean Rice Milk bottle was very heavy-wall so maybe they are washed out and re-used ? More likely it is a re-cycling tax. Consumers like pristine packaging and not plastic bottles with scratches and scuff marks. We like to buy goods in brand-new boxes – for example, if there is a choice of a perfect box of toothpaste and a slightly-dented box, most will go for the perfect box even though it will end up in the rubbish bin just the same. Similarly, if you buy a big, expensive TV the cardboard box must have been quite costly to produce and could be reused if consumers returned it to the shop for a deposit – and the general public's attitude to second-hand packaging changed ! It would push the price of goods up, but would make the manufacturer ultimately responsible for waste disposal.

In government offices in the UK it is common to see reused envelopes and Jiffy bags in internal mail. They even have stickers saying they are reused to help the environment and for cost savings. If a punitive deposit system moved packaging back up the supply chain from the retailers to the wholesalers to the manufacturer, it would be very unpopular, but should help re-cycling. This could also be used for electronic goods and batteries.

There are enormous piles of old car and truck tyres all over Cambodia – they have no value and no-one knows what to do with them. ( Tyres are not re-moulded here ) There are also vast rubber-tree plantations and the price of latex rubber is very low now – due to over-supply – so not much incentive to use second-hand, vulcanised, rubber. ( When the World market price of rubber slumped, Thailand responded by planting even more rubber trees and made the situation worse ) Most car drivers here crawl around at a very slow speed and don't wear out the tyres – the fast drivers want the best tyres and can afford them. Minibuses constantly blow out tyres, but product liability could be an issue if a re-mould caused an accident ! ( Do you remember my Hillman Imp car - Maude ? I used re-moulds on Maude and she didn't mind. - sorry if that sounds like the title of a porno ! )

The value of an old tyre is Absolute Zero.

So the problem is the same as with plastic, cans and paper – what to do with the raw material to add value ?
P.E.T. water bottles can be shredded, melted and extruded into filament for 3D printing – but then print what for re-sale ?
Beer cans can be melted down into standard-sized ingots – but then make what from them ?
Cardboard boxes can be re-pulped and made into brown paper bags – but consumers prefer plastic bags which look 'cleaner.'
Empowering the poor by adding value to recyclable items is not easy !

Scrap prices in Kratie



Price per Kilo in riel

Price per kilo in $ US

Glass Whisky bottles

100 riel per bottle

2.5ȼ per bottle

Cardboard boxes

300 riel


P.E.T. Plastic bottles

400 riel



900 riel


Aluminium cans

4000 riel


Copper wire

10,400 riel





 This old couple sell bundles of firewood here in Kratie.

Their cart is drawn by the bicycle - not even a motorcycle. Sometimes I see the wife pushing it when fully loaded while the husband pedals. The old boy is 76 and his wife not much younger. A hard way to make a living. Charcoal sells better - but you need a kiln or oven to make it. They also collect old cans - there is one in the basket.




This shop is a charcoal and firewood retailer.

Charcoal is usually delivered by motorbike and trailer. The charcoal here has been made from young trees - no more forests. If money is needed, chop down a tree ! 

Charcoal is better for B-B-Q but gas is cleaner. The rich use electricity for cooking.


There is a disturbing trend among the rich kids here – they are constantly snacking and all they want are factory-made junk foods in bright plastic packs. Basically it is synthetically-flavoured starch and sugar. Rarely do they want to eat fruit or vegetables. Obesity among rich kids is on the increase.
Sometimes in Phnom Penh, I cannot find peanuts and Lotus seeds are not in season, so I resort to a veggie burger or tofu burger out of hunger. The very best $3 veggie burgers are served at a hotel in Kratie ( River Dolphin hotel ) but I had a passable $4 tofu-veggie burger at a Swiss restaurant in Phnom Penh. It was enormous – far bigger than I needed – but very nice so I had to eat it all ! The top bun was normal sized, but the bottom bun was huge – like half a round loaf of bread – and the patty was just as big. I was absolutely stuffed and could not face any more food for a day after that. Easy to get fat eating them too often !

Too Big ! The white stuff on the left is mayonaise. Yellow above the patty is Cheddar cheese.


I now have a new one-year business visa, a new one-year Cambodian driving license, and my pension life-certificate notarised for the year to come. ( Work permit does not have to be done until December 31st )


The Driving-License Renewal Office at Aeon Mall 2  

While-you-wait service - very efficient - includes eye-test and photo - $10 for one year.

 26 October    

Today is my birthday – Yay – 70 years old and still alive and kicking !
'Three score years and ten' – so much less time ahead of me than behind me – Oh, well – never mind – there's not much I can do about that (?)
Tomorrow I'm going to Phnom Penh to celebrate – while I still can !

Last Friday was also Tico's birthday – sort of : I first saw the car on 19th October 2017 and had a key cut and bought a new battery on that day – it needed a lot more than just a battery and took the next two months to repair everything. Since repairs, no major problems with the car and we go to school together every day. With the brand-new windscreen, the view ahead is so clear that it is like driving a new car.

There was an announcement to all students at the school not to eat anymore chicken feet ! Apparently 100 tons of Vietnamese chicken feet had gone off and been sprayed with strong chemicals to stop further decomposition. Rather than chucking them out, the Vietnamese sold them to the Cambodians although they officially constitute a health hazard – hence the warning. Chicken feet fried in batter are very popular with the students and I don't think they will stop buying them.

I'm not sure if it was a by-product of Vietnamese chicken-feet consumption or not, but that day there was a serious outbreak of farting in the classroom and the stink was so evil that we all had to evacuate the room until it dissipated. I bravely tried to continue teaching while holding my nose pinched shut – and naturally it sounded like Donald Duck speaking – which made the students laugh – but the toxic fumes were still having their effect. I even tried fanning the classroom door open and shut to increase the draught, but to no avail. Of course, no-one owned up to doing it – personally I think they were all at it – I only know it wasn't me!

The Khmer waste no opportunity to slag off the Viets and this episode will provide much fodder for discussion. ( They think the Vietnamese do it on purpose to kill Cambodians !?! ) I was told, in all earnestness, by a student that the Vietnamese snatch Cambodian babies and eat them ! Also the school don't let young kids go home alone at night-time because 'There are gangs around who kidnap kids for organ harvesting.' It goes unsaid, but they imply that the gangs are Vietnamese.
The Khmer are very suspicious of Vietnamese food products in general and think they are all adulterated ( they are probably right ! ) Strangely they are not wary of Thai or Chinese foodstuffs which are just as bad. At least the Chinese take action when adulterated food causes problems – from Wikipedia :

2008 Chinese Milk Scandal
The 2008 Chinese milk scandal involved milk and infant formula along with other food materials adulterated with melamine. Of an estimated 300,000 victims in China, six babies died from kidney stones and other kidney damage and an estimated 54,000 babies were hospitalized. The chemical gives the appearance of higher protein content when added to milk, leading to protein deficiency in the formula. The scandal broke on 16 July 2008, after sixteen babies in Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. The babies were fed infant formula produced by Sanlu Group — government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies. The issue raised concerns about food safety and political corruption in China, and damaged the reputation of China's food exports. At least 11 countries stopped all imports of Chinese dairy products. A number of criminal prosecutions were conducted by the Chinese government. Two people were executed, one given a suspended death penalty, three people receiving life imprisonment, two receiving 15-year jail terms, and seven local government officials were fired or forced to resign.

I cannot imagine any government action concerning Vietnamese, Cambodian or Thai food products – anything goes ... There are not really any food standards in most of Asia and nothing is enforced except in China. The popular 'Coffee Shops' here sell drinks made from lurid, coloured powders of unknown composition [ also in Laos ] sweetened with lots of sugar and ice cubes are added. Some of the drinks are almost fluorescent – god knows what chemicals the kids are consuming ?


The drink powders are above the sandwiches in this coffee shop. They are basically pigment and synthetic flavour + lots of sugar. The purple one looks pretty, but I wouldn't want to drink it ! To the right of the sandwiches are bottles of synthetic 'fruit' syrups.

As an example of Thai food products, these two types of sauce are offered at my local restaurant and have the following list of ingredients:
Tomato Sauce                   Chilli Sauce
Tomato purée 80%                         Water 35%
Sugar 14%                                       Red Chilli 25%
Vinegar 3%                                      Sugar 25%
Salt 2.5%                                          Vinegar 10%
Spice 0.5%                                       Garlic 3%
Salt 2%

The Chilli Sauce bottle says 'No Preservatives' and 'No added colours' It wouldn't need preservatives with 25% sugar – it is practically jam! However, the label on the Tomato sauce bottle only states 'No preservatives added' – which implies that colouring is artificial and, by the deep crimson red colour of the sauce, I'm sure it is. You will not see 'E' numbers for food additives here. Both of them are far too sweet and cater to the local taste.


The Cambodians grumble about Vietnamese food – but still eat it – but don't worry too much about Vietnamese petrol and diesel. Thai petrol is the most expensive here – over $1 a litre – and Viet petrol significantly cheaper. I have noticed that the exhaust from the Tico stinks – there is not really any smoke, just smell. I usually buy 91 octane Tela brand petrol – probably Vietnamese – and it does pong. ( Maybe it is made from Chicken Feet ? ) There are so many diesel trucks here spewing out foul-smelling black smoke from clapped-out engines and they are not penalized. None of your sulphur-free, Euro4 diesel here.


Much of the men's ware here is Vietnamese and I was lucky enough to find another shirt that fits me and is not too small. It is size 3XL ( XXXL ? XLXLXL ? XXXLLL ? ) I didn't know I was so big ! In England I was once trying to find an off-the-peg suit in my size and went to the men's department of Selfridges on Oxford Street. The salesman cast an experienced eye over my frame and said 'Why don't you try the boy's department.' What a cheek!


One thing the Khmer ( men ) most certainly do NOT grumble about are the Vietnamese women ! There are so many beauty shops, hairdressers, cafés and massage parlours run by Vietnamese girls and a lot of them are absolutely stunning. They tend to be slim and petite while the Khmer women are more chunky – with exceptions of course. Khmer men also like the pale skin of the Vietnamese – I prefer the brown Cambodians. Many Cambodian women bleach their faces with skin cream to try and look like a Vietnamese – and the result can be quite unnatural – and uneven.

[ Vietnamese massage parlours are usually cheap and offer a good massage with a 'Happy Ending' - the cheap Khmer massage parlours often don't offer a massage, only the happy ending ! Even the up-market Khmer ones sometimes get upset if you don't want to pay extra for a 'Rub-and-Tug.' ]

Vietnamese comprise around 5% of the population – I don't know what percentage are female ? It really boils down to the Khmer being jealous of Vietnamese [ men ] when they are doing well in business – and they are hard-working and successful. Poor Vietnamese, who don't have the money for a house, will make rafts and floating house-boats. There are many Vietnamese floating villages along the banks of the Mekong. Khmer don't do this. I have never seen a Vietnamese beggar here .... they find some way to make money [ even if it is illegal ] other than begging.


A similar situation exists with Jews in Europe and America – but here they just grumble [ these days – there was civil unrest after the liberation ] – no plans for a 'Final Solution (!)'
If the Chinese are the Jews of Asia, then the Vietnamese are the Gypsies.


Why the Khmer don't like Viets
Most of the animosity dates back to the Khmer Rouge Genocide when 3 million Cambodians were killed. Cambodia was only saved by the Vietnamese Army coming in – a fact soon forgotten by modern Khmer. This was explained by 'Setting fire to your house – then coming with water to put the fire out' and it implies that the Vietnamese were responsible for the Khmer Rouge –which was not the case.

Cambodia suffered a triple whammy ...

Some background ...
The Khmer people of Cambodia have long maintained their own identity and had their own nation in the ancient past, but during the colonial era, they fell under French rule for a 90-year period.
In 1867, to escape the ambitions of Siam [ Thailand ] , the King of Cambodia invited the French to establish a protectorate over his country. Neighbouring Siam was then forced to give up its claim on Cambodian territory, and by 1887, Cambodia was made part of the unified colony of French Indochina.
Cambodia fell under Japanese control during World War II, but it was returned to France after the war. Due to unrest, France allowed Cambodia limited self-rule in 1946, but this did not quench the thirst for full independence, which was not granted until 1953.

Whammy number one

The Vietnam War
During the Vietnam war, the communists were using neutral Cambodia as a base and sanctuary to attack south Vietnam. The US retaliated – first with 'secret' bombings then with invasions. Prince Sihanouk tried to keep Cambodia out of the war, but it was difficult because first the communists, then the Americans were violating Cambodian neutrality. Sihanouk did not want to take too strong a stand against the Vietnamese because he reckoned that while the Americans would eventually leave just like the French had done – Vietnam and Cambodia would always be neighbours. Also, the Chinese were paying a tasty commission for transporting supplies to the Viet-Cong through Cambodia !
In March 1970 pro-American, anti-communist elements staged a Coup d'État and General Loon Nol became the leader of Cambodia which he re-named 'The Khmer Republic.' America provided him with massive backing to fight the communists and Prince Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer communists – the barbaric Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. From 1970 to 1975 there was a terrible civil war with the Prince and the Khmer Rouge on one side and the corrupt, incompetent, USA-funded Khmer Republic on the other. Americans illegally invaded Cambodia. The Americans dropped 50% more tonnage of bombs on rural Cambodia in 1973 than on all of Japan during the entire Second World War. 150,000 Cambodians were killed by American bombs. [ in total 300,000 Cambodians were killed in the Vietnam war ]
Agent Orange, the defoliant from Monsanto, later caused thousands of deformed babies in Vietnam and Cambodia. Napalm was also first used in Vietnam. Pol Pot was anti-America and garnered widespread support – until his cleansing program became apparent. When the Americans withdrew in 1975, the Khmer Rouge took over.


 Napalm was used by the Americans to burn villages and people. This was one of the photos that helped to stop support for the war.




Vietnamese villagers caught up in the war. It is always the civillians that suffer.


Agent Orange

The defoliant produced by Monsanto [ who make GMO sterile seeds ] caused thousands of deformities - still many deformed adults in Cambodia who resort to begging.



The régime America installed in South Vietnam - here shown executing suspects in the street


Child Soldiers



These Hmong child soldiers were recruited by the American CIA in Laos [ most of the adult Hmong had been killed by that time ]



Popular among American servicemen, this Zippo lighter says it all.


Whammy number Two

Khmer Rouge
The Khmer Republic was eventually doomed because of the unbelievable corruption and incompetence of its leaders. Pol Pot was popular then because he was against America and American bombs. Finally, on 17th April 1975, Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's reign of terror lasted until 1979. The Khmer Rouge emptied the towns and cities by lying to the people that an American air-raid was imminent and everything was about to be bombed. They tricked the population by offering to lead them to safety – and instead leading them to their deaths. Their extermination methods make Nazi concentration camps look humane by comparison. Cleansing started in Kratie and many were killed by pushing them off the roof of the local high school – where I sometimes teach – and leaving them to die. The cleansing focused on professionals : teachers, doctors, skilled workers, monks, artists, Muslims, any-one who wore glasses or spoke a foreign language – all were killed with hammers or knives.
• All foreigners were expelled
• No foreign languages were allowed
• Newspapers and TV were shut down
• Radios and bicycles were confiscated
• Money was not allowed
• All businesses were closed
• No religion allowed
• No health care
• No education
• No parental authority
• One tin of rice ( 180 gms ) per person every two days
• Farm work from 4am to 10pm with 2 rest periods [ rice production increased, but was sold to buy weapons and the farmers starved ]

The idea was to create a country of only farmers – back to the Stone Age.

Of course, the United Nations gave full support to the Pol Pot government and continued to recognize him as Prime Minister for another 12 years – despite the Genocide of 3 million.
Not content with murdering the Khmer population, the Khmer Rouge started border raids and killing Vietnamese. They were trying to capture land that the Vietnamese annexed from Cambodia in 1623.

( Internet searches are still heavily biased against Cambodia – many articles criticise 'Cambodia's War with Vietnam' and don't mention that it was the Khmer Rouge's war – hardly the will of the Cambodian people – and nothing to do with the genocide ? ) Thailand has annexed much land from Cambodia in ancient wars – the Thai provinces of Surin, Buri Ram, Sri Saket and Sa Gaew all still speak Khmer as a first language and Thai as a second – but the Khmer Rouge did nothing about that. Modern Cambodians have forgotten that the traditional enemy is really Thailand – and not Vietnam.

Pol Pot began purging cadres who were too pro-Vietnamese and many fled to Vietnam, including Hun Sen – the present prime Minister of Cambodia. The Vietnamese Army liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge and were welcomed – at first – by the people. Khmers consider Vietnamese as devious swindlers and the Vietnamese consider the Khmers as disorganized primitives – both views somewhat true ! )

The Vietnamese army under Hun Sen fought a civil war from 1979 to 1989, backed by the Soviets, against the remains of the Khmer Rouge – responsible for the deaths of 25% of the population – backed by America, China and ASEAN. Under US and Chinese pressure, the Vietnamese agreed to withdraw in 1989 and in 1991 signed the Paris Peace Accords. Next Tuesday, October 23rd , is a holiday for Paris Peace Accords day. The average Cambodian at that time was caught between a rock and a hard place – the unpopular but liberating Vietnamese on one side against the murdering Khmer Rouge, America and China on the other !
The Khmer Rouge troops were quickly defeated; however, they withdrew to the Thailand-Cambodia border and remained active there for 15 more years thanks to the military and financial support from China and the tolerance of the [ then ] Thai government. China and the US were also very vocal about Vietnam invading a sovereign nation, demanding international sanctions against Vietnam while hiding the facts about the terrible regime that they supported. Their diplomatic campaign was a success. In subsequent years, Vietnam was met with much international criticism and severed diplomatic relations due to this campaign and also due to the fact that Vietnam's troops remained in Cambodia for a long time (1979-1989), much in the same way that the USSR stayed in Afghanistan and the US in Iraq and Afghanistan recently.
Vietnamese are now thought of as invaders rather than the liberators who saved them.
Cambodia invaded Laos, Thailand and Myanmar in the Angkor Kingdom time - so why they don't they call themselves invaders? [ because it happened a long time ago ]
When Vietnam liberated Cambodia, Cambodia said they were the "invaders" ? When the Cambodian Angkor Empire invaded other countries this was OK, then ? What country hasn't invaded another in the old days ?

Thus ended Whammy number two. However, Whammy number three was about to begin :


Whammy number three
In 1991 an election was to be organized and UNTAC – United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia – arrived on the scene. Hun Sen now renounced communism and formed the CPP – Cambodian People's Party – who are still in power to this day ( and likely to be so for some time to come ! Hun Sen is 66 now and says he will remain in power until he is 74 [ or 76 ? ] – and then one of his sons will want to have a go ! )
The United Nations peacekeepers were Aids-ridden, drunken thugs who could not be persuaded to leave the brothels and bars and go into the streets and do something useful – like enforce a fair election. ( Pol Pot retreated to Thailand where he was welcomed by the Army and lived a life of luxury )

[ Quoted from: Off the rails in Phnom Penh ]
"UNTAC personnel were given $145 a day for living expenses - in a country where the average income was about $120 a year. The worst were the Bulgarians, or as they were known, the 'Vulgarians.' Even with their huge allowances, they had a habit of bringing whores to the hotel and then not paying them in the morning. The managers used to get really pissed off with having to deal with these angry taxi-girls [ Vietnamese hookers ] I heard that, to fill its UNTAC quota at the beginning, the Bulgarians just took people out of the jails, thinking that it would be a dangerous assignment. When they found out what a piece of cake UNTAC was, the first lot were sent home and replaced with others. The new ones were just as bad, but they had better connections. There are stories like one drunken 'Vulgarian' pissing on a beggar in the middle of the street.
"When you think about it, the whole enterprise was ludicrous. UNTAC came here to establish democracy and human rights and root out corruption in the government, right ? And to do that, they used policemen from Nigeria, Indonesia and all these other corruption-free bastions of democracy and human rights. Not only that, but it was against UNTAC policy to test personnel for HIV. So, you had these whore-crazy Indians and Africans fanning out into the far corners of the country and bringing AIDS to every village in Cambodia. It's like some kind of missionary project gone mad. There was one UNTAC guy who was treated for VD something like fifty times. It got so bad that headquarters issued a directive asking UNTAC personnel to stop parking the UN vehicles in front of brothels all the time. Even as peacekeepers, the UNTAC personnel couldn't keep themselves under control. There were so many brawls at Champagne [ a bar ] between the Americans and French that eventually the bar just banned all American servicemen.
"It makes me angry when people talk about spending three billion on Cambodia. It was actually three billion through Cambodia – but most of it went to the UNTAC guys. You know, many of the countries who sent personnel actually took a direct cut of their money. And then, when push came to shove, and the CPP refused to accept that they lost [ the election ] UNTAC didn't lift a damn finger to enforce the results. So they come up with this 'compromise.' Great ! The losers retained power over the winners. They always talk about UNTAC as the UN's greatest success. What utter bullshit."


With all these upheavals in the recent past, it is surprising that the Khmer are such peaceful, easy-going people now. The narrow lanes in the markets are only wide enough for pedestrians – in theory – but shoppers will ride their motorbikes through and then stop near a stall to buy something. They would never dream of parking it in a side street and actually walking to the market ! This causes a jam – but there are no complaints, they just calmly wait until things are moving again. In the main street, cars will simply stop outside a shop [ you could not call it parking ] in the middle of the road, and go in to buy something. Meanwhile traffic builds up outside – but with no hooting or honking of horns.

Once, in Kratie, I saw an over-sized SUV block a busy road so that the wife could go into a phone shop. There was a huge jam and I could see tension building in silence – the wife looked a bit sheepish – but no road rage – eventually the driver reluctantly, and very slowly, moved to a side street and parked.

Another time, in Phnom Penh, I saw a drunken, shirtless [ Vietnamese ? ] motorbike rider try and turn right into a market lane – he was going too slow and just toppled over onto a pile of water-melons. There was absolutely no reaction from either him or the woman selling the melons. He picked up the bike, got on, and continued on his way. She had probably seen this kind of thing many times before – no point complaining to a drunk – it had happened already and no amount of shouting and cursing would make it un-happen. An amazing display of self-control (?) or merely a fatalistic attitude to life ?


Why is Cambodia poorer than Thailand, Hong Kong or Vietnam ?

Well, the triple whammy didn't help (!) - but there are other factors that have made the neighbours rich in the past.

During the Vietnam war, Thailand [ in particular Pattaya and Bangkok ] was designated as the R & R [ Rest & Recreation ] stop-off location for American servicemen. Money poured in and hundreds of 'Chinese Hotels' [ brothels ] spang up. They all have numbers and not names [ usually ] [ The best one was 28 Hotel which is opposite the Bank of Thailand. ] Pattaya turned into a real cess-pit of depravity [ it still is ] During World War 2 Thailand was occupied by the Japanese [ technically they were allies (?) but the Thai National Anthem was forbidden and, for all intents and purposes, it was under Japanese rule ] and the Thai government [ what was left of it ] came close to declaring war on America ! To make amends, during the Vietnam war, Thailand became the lap-dog of America [ it still is – there are 'secret' CIA prisons in Thailand and it is used as a safe-haven to torture dissidents who have been 'disappeared' [ kidnapped ] in other countries. CIA and DEA can operate above the law in Thailand [ the American Embassy is mostly CIA, DEA and intelligence services. I met American Embassy staff in Bangkok whose sole job was to frequent the bars every night looking for any information – all on expenses ! There have been many reported cases of American DEA shooting suspects in Thailand – sometimes in the street – and the Thai police are powerless to intervene ]

Bangkok had long been the banking and money-laundering center for the East India Company's opium trading empire. [ Bangkok still launders money for North Korea ]
Hong Kong

The East India Company was granted sole monopoly for opium trading [ now it would be called drug trafficking ] by the British Royalty and, in 1733, sole access to the opium of Bengal [ India ] The opium was sold to mainland Chinese and many became addicted. As it was illegal in China, Hong Kong became the warehouse and smuggling depot. Jardine Matheson & Company was founded in 1832 by two Scotsmen and they found a loophole, on a technicality, whereby they could traffic opium and not incur the wrath of the East India Co. [ who had a private army ! ] In 1844, they formed their head office in Hong Kong and began smuggling opium along the South China coast. According to the British Crown, opium was "The World's most valuable single-commodity-trade of the nineteenth centuary." When China started to crackdown on the opium smuggling, Jardine Matheson & Co. persuaded the British government to start the [ two ] Opium Wars [ 1839-1842 and 1856-1860 ] Exercising British 'Gun-Boat Diplomacy' , the Chinese were forced in submission and so began the formal acquisition of Hong Kong for trafficking opium.
Jardine Matheson & Co. expanded their empire into Bangkok and still have many offices there.

Thus Hong Kong and Bangkok were founded on [ legal ??? ] drug money and Thailand was also given a kick-start by the Americans in the Vietnam war. Nothing like this ever happened to Cambodia.


During the Vietnam war, thousands of Hmong [ hill-tribes ] in Laos were recruited by the CIA to fight a secret war against communism [ they were told by the Americans that the Vietnamese were coming to take their lands ] – with promises of American citizenship after the war was over. [ Of course, the Americans didn't keep their promise and deserted the Hmong when they [ Americans ] lost the war and had to retreat with their tail between their legs. ] 11,000 Hmong were recruited in 1961 as a 'secret army' and most were eventually killed. More were recruited to replace the dead – including many child soldiers – and [ officially ] 12,000 died and 30,000 were wounded. 120,000 Hmong fled Laos after 1975 when Laos became communist. The USA dropped 2,093,100 tons of bombs on Laos in 580,944 sorties. This works out at one bomb every eight minutes for eight years ! They continued bombing Laos even after the Vietnam War was over. [ many spilled over onto Cambodia as the target was the 'Ho Chi Minh' trail and America did not care about borders ] The total cost of bombing Laos [ war was not declared on Laos – so it was illegal ] was $7.2 billion - $2 million a day for nine years.

Now, the Hmong grew opium [ surprise, surprise ! ] and the CIA quickly organized the export of opium and heroin by American Air Force planes and then set up a special airline – Air America – for the purpose. So it was in America's interests to keep the Vietnamese war going as long as possible because they could traffic heroin and opium with impunity – no worries about Customs & Excise or police if you use military transport. This has done little to benefit Laos – and now modern Laos [ virtually a puppet of Vietnam and a secret-police state ] is poverty-stricken and way behind even Cambodia. [ Burma – or Myanmar if you like – has now overtaken Laos to become the regions top illegal drug producer. Burma produces much of the methyl-amphetamine [ also North Korea ] and especially the heroin consumed and exported in the region ]


After the Vietnam war, Thailand gradually became 'The Land of Ten Million Prostitutes.' Not counting the million-or-so 'working girls' , most Thai wives are 'lifetime-contract prostitutes' and have married a rich man – who they do not love – simply for the easy life of luxury that it guarantees. There is not much difference between a lifetime-contract and thousands of 'short times' with different men, is there ? Wives of rich Thai men know that they will not have to put up with hubby's night-time advances for long because it is an accepted fact that 99% of rich Thai men have 'Minor Wives' [ girlfriends ] they have set up in an apartment somewhere and are [ theoretically ] on-call any time. It is rare to find a Thai man [ not necessarily a rich one ] that doesn't stray and seek nookie elsewhere.

Thai women are quite mercenary about marriage – the first pre-requisite is the 'Milk Money' – or the dowry the husband-to-be has to pay the girl's parents [ for mother's milk ] for marriage rights. It starts at $20,000 and there is no top limit for a rich man. The parents basically sell off the wife – it is an auction if there are many suitors. Love does not come into it – it is the greed of the parents. Poor Thais in the villages will sell their daughters to a brothel [ in Bangkok – not the local one ] and I have heard of the parents buying a new TV with the money – when there is no electricity in the village and it becomes a useless ornament just to show off with !
Even if a rich [ or not so rich ] Thai husband is feeling restless, maybe out of town on a business trip (?), a 'Soapy Massage' or 'Happy Ending' shop is never far away.
Cambodian society is far more decent and conservative than that of Thailand.


Un-friendly Laos is a hopeless case – Vietnamese-communist controlled – every village has a network of police informers and spies always looking for any insurrection. Foreigners are viewed with suspicion and mistrust by the authorities – they are generally not welcome unless they want to invest in a mega project.


Thailand has had 17 Coup d'États [ more than any other country in recent history ] and coalition governments in-between that constantly bicker and never get anything done.
[ no majority decisions with 49% - 51% split coalitions ] Now a military dictatorship – and likely to be so for some time. All they want from foreigners is their money.


Vietnam is a huge, industrious country with a teeming population [ 92 million, Cambodia 15.8 million, Thailand 70 million, Laos 6.8 Million, Burma 56 million ] The hard-working Viets will always find a niche market somewhere to make money – and this causes jealousy.


Cambodia may be a one-party-system of democracy, but it gets things done. Swapping parties every four years [ as Thailand liked to do ] is un-productive. The present government should be given a chance to see what they can accomplish in the next ten years [ hopefully elections with more than one party before then ? ] The average growth-rate of 7.6% during 1994 to 2015 was 6th ranking in the World ! [ 6.9% 2018 projected ]

Vietnam owns Laos. China is trying to buy [ the South coast of ] Cambodia – Sihanoukville is now predominantly Chinese : 48 Casinos licensed [ some not completed – expected to overtake Macao and Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the World soon ! ] 17 tower cranes now for construction work in Sihanoukville [ it is a town of 157,000 – Kratie has a population of around 20,000 ] and a 41 storey tower block underway. Soon there may be Chinese police on the streets there !

There may be no social welfare here [ like most of Asia ] but there is no income tax either [ technically there is, but it is almost impossible for an individual to find out how to pay it ]
Cambodia is the most friendly, welcoming country for foreigners [ maybe not for black Africans though ] so far - in my experience - and I hope it prospers.


Meanwhile, life here goes on . . . 


I see this old boy quite often –he is as thin as a toothpick and scours the streets looking for beer cans and anything else of value. [ he is clutching 5,000 riel I gave him ]

I was surprised to see he wears a hearing aid – he is 75.


A rare sight – a traffic accident involving a woman on a motorbike and another woman riding a bicycle. Many woman drivers here are terrible – they are more interested in their phones than on the road ahead – and even if they are keeping half an eye open, they are very inconsiderate of other road users- especially pedestrians and bicycle riders. No-one was badly hurt - only shaken up a bit.


These kids should be in school, but are sent out on their bicycles to forage for beer cans. They need 60 – 80 cans to make $1.


The modern world has completely passed him by . . .
A familiar local sight, he sleeps on the street – even when it is freezing [ freezing here means less than 30°C ] All his worldly possessions are in the black bags. I never see him wearing anything else and he doesn't beg for money.



Cows often sleep on the street – this is the main highway Route 7 to Laos and Vietnam – they are quite unperturbed by the traffic.


Now the floods are over, this shows how high the water was [ at least 3 metres ] The Karaoke hut was almost submerged this year.



Superstition ???

This truck parks on an incline and I always walk around it on the [ safe ? ] high side – just in case . . . I also can't resist giving it a little push to see how top-heavy it is, but it never topples over . . .   Oh, well . . . 

I have been very busy for the last two weeks - my car started developing an oil leak - the engine was always a bit oily, but as it never uses any oil and it is 25 years old after all – I didn't pay much attention to it. Then the oil leak got steadily worse and there was a large oil stain on the concrete floor of the garage in my parking position. I really had to do something about it, unfortunately, as the owner of the building had noticed it as well. What started as a trickle had now become a steady stream.

Immediately I toyed with the idea of the standard bodge for old British cars – the Drip Tray placed underneath the sump to catch the drips from leaking gaskets and blown oil seals. You could even strain the bits out and pour it back into the engine. However, in my case there was a slight problem : it only leaked when the engine was running – and, as the oil got onto the alternator belt, it was flung out to cover the engine and find its way to the sump - this is what was dripping at night. So the drip tray would have to be mobile – it would need to be attached to the engine with wire where it would catch the oil as I was driving and a small 12 Volt pump could the return the oil back into the engine. I could forsee problems : it is now the dry season and there is a lot of dust and grit about which would get into the oil, it would slosh out on cornering so I would have to drive slowly [ not my style ] and it would reduce ground clearance. Reluctantly I came to the conclusion that I had to fix it properly !

An oil leak could be serious (?) and a quick bodge would not really cut it – so I prepared to remove the oil pump and change the oil seal. [ I could have removed the oil seal without removing the pump, but then I would have missed out on the opportunity to see what was lurking in the sump after 25 years (!) and we wouldn't want that, would we ? Actually it would have been much quicker – about two weeks quicker – but it gave me the chance of cleaning and painting ]


My poor car in bits . . . 


In the workshop manual it makes it look so easy – with statements like :
remove the sump
remove the oil pump
change the seal
refit the pump
refit the sump
In order to remove the sump it is a major operation – the engine has to be supported, the engine-mounts removed after removing the front bodywork, the engine subframe, exhaust, oil filter, water pump, timing belt and sprockets, radiators – all have to be removed. Two bolts sheared off, so I had to remove the exhaust manifold as well. Finally I could remove the sump and see what was inside – answer : not much really – a bit disappointing ! It was a long, tiring and messy job – however, it gave me the chance of cleaning and painting the nether regions – those hidden places around the engine that have not seen the light of day for 25 years. I wanted to buy a new oil pump, but they don't sell them in Phnom Penh. The new oil seal was only $1.50.
I put it all back together and it leaked in two new places ! [ They do not sell gaskets either ] I was pissed off. Anyway, I took it all apart again and redid it with more care and more silicone. Now it seems OK – I cannot see any leaks and the engine is smoother than before (?) I fitted new engine mounts, as the old ones were broken, and now the exhaust rattles on the subframe – this will need sorting out – but the car is drivable again.


There seems to be a lot more Rolls Royce and Bentley on the streets of Phnom Penh than before – including blue ones and not just the regulation black. I also saw the new Bentley W12 SUV. The rich are certainly doing OK.
Despite the insane traffic and the crowds of people, the general atmosphere is one of calm and tranquility. The vibe is definitely laid back.
It is very rare to see police on the streets – there are police cars, mostly expensive Lexus and BMW with police number plates and probably used as private cars. There are police dozing outside jewelry shops – with M16 or AK47 guns – where they are paid to protect and traffic police at check points who sometimes have their machine guns in a 'gun bag' [ to keep it clean or to not look so intimidating ? ] You will not see police in full battle gear like a SWAT team – like you do in London [ I was shocked to see them on patrol at London Airport ]
I have never seen any crime – the bag snatching, phone snatching and mugging that you are warned about in the guide books. [ The only fighting I have seen was two drunken foreigners bitch-slapping each other in the street – which the Khmer thought was very funny ! ]Cambodia doesn't seem to need the heavy-handed police deterrent of the West – and the low-key approach certainly works. I feel safer walking around the streets of Phnom Penh late at night than I would in London.

Many roads have been nicely re-surfaced since my last visit two weeks ago. As you enter the city from the North via the Japanese Bridge [ now renamed the Chinese Bridge – there is a banner stating 'The project for the re-habilitation of the Japanese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge' - interesting choice of words ? Re-habilitation of a bridge ? It sounds like a recovering alcoholic ! There is a much nicer marble plaque saying Chinese-Cambodian Friendship Bridge] you see all the enormous traffic islands with immaculate, manicured lawns and shubbery. All green and well cared for. Garbege trucks work throughout the night clearing the piles of trash at the markets. The army of rubbish pickers are constantly on the lookout for beer cans [ plastic bottles, not so much ] and I expect, when all has gone quiet, the even bigger army of rats comes out to look for any edibles left over. There are wild cats, but very,very few dogs on the streets. [ because of the Vietnamese restaurants!]


Unlike myself, some people have an orderly, structured life where nothing very unusual ever happens to them. A 'Born, go to school, get a job, retire' kind of existence. Nothing out of the ordinary to upset them - continued stability and sufficiency. Never have to make any earth-shattering decisions. Boring in the West (?) but normal for a farmer here. Sometimes the only job available to them is farming and, if they have no ambitions, is suits them just fine. This should be the most honourable job in the world because we all need food, but farming is viewed with derision here – unless you are a big, factory farmer. For Asians saying you are a farmer, is like saying you are a labourer or brick-layer. It implies unskilled and low-class. We all must eat, but we take it for granted that it will be in the supermarket and never give a thought to the farmers toiling to produce it. [ or to the robots and autonomous tractors in a high-tech farm ]
In Cambodia food [ my food ] is incredibly cheap – disproportionately so compared with a middle-class income [ or even my income ]

Big block tofu 25¢ - one day sometimes 1½ blocks so 37¢
Bananas 37¢ to 50¢ a bunch – 2 days easy
Passion fruit $1 to $1.25 kilo – 5 days
Pumpkin juice 50¢ a bottle.
I don't buy sauces, sugar, salt, tea or coffee – but sometimes coconut juice at 67¢
Ginger 25¢ to make an infusion and drink in the cold weather.
Food less than $1 a day
Drinks [ pumpkin ] $1 a day
Not expensive at all

During the month of October, the Vietnamese who make the tofu went to Vietnam for the whole month for a holiday and there was no good tofu for sale in the market. [ This shows that they are doing OK or they wouldn't be able to take a month off – the Khmer in the market cannot afford to do this ] There is an inferior tofu, but not in the same league as the good stuff. On days that there is not much in the market, I used to go to a restaurant where 3 pieces of fried tofu and a coconut milk shake comes to $1.25. Somedays 3 tofu and 2 coconut shakes for $2. Still not expensive.

However, that restaurant is now closed [ it went bankrupt because it did not serve beer and only sold 'healthy food' ] but I can go to River Dolphin Hotel where a veggie burger, at $3, is a culinary masterpiece. It comes with fried potatoes – I won't call them 'French Fries' as that implies the awful peeled, deep-frozen factory chips that they serve in Phnom Penh. These are potatoes with the skin on [ the good part ] and well seasoned. The humble potato is a good food if prepared properly. With a bottle of water, $3.25. That is, for me, the ultimate in high dining.
There is a more expensive restaurant – Jasmine Boat Restaurant – but the food is rubbish.


The really good Vietnamese tofu still has not reappeared in the market, but there is now a new one which is good – but a little smaller.
90% of the time there is the good tofu in the market [only in the mornings as it sells out fast ] and I only resort to eating out in an emergency. I often eat raw carrots 12¢– like a crispy apple and sweet and naturally perfumed. This time of year, peanuts are scarce and so are lotus seeds. [ now coming back in season ] Big grapefruit/oranges have come into season for 75¢ . That's it !

The point is, for me, the cost of food is not proportional to the labour of the farmer toiling to produce it. Soya beans have to be grown, and then made into tofu and transported to market – then sold for 25¢ a big lump. Bananas grow themselves, but still have to be transported to market. Water is cheap here at 62¢ a m3 and I boil it to drink. I am glad I don't have to grow my food and find water.

Small-scale farms here struggle – a bigger farm can rent a combine and a tractor to help, but for the average rice farmer it must be back-breaking work.
We will die without food and water – yet it is cheap. We will not die without a smartphone, [ debatable ? ] but most will happily pay $100 and up to $500 for one. [ Apple Ten is $1200 ] If there was a World Farmer's Union with 100% solidarity and they all decided in unison to double or triple the price of food, or go on strike, there would not be much we could do about it.


So is the [ necessary ] farmer's life [ village life ] fulfilling for the farmer ? If you have the patience and are anchored to the soil, it probably is. I have itchy feet and the wander lust. I never felt 'At home' in England. The technology is great, but there is something missing. These days, Cambodia is actually better for my tinkering. A friend in England complained that that there was nowhere he could get small quantities of stainless-steel TIG welded – without travelling long distances. TIG welding is just a short walk away for me in Cambodia. The electronic-component retail shops have disappeared in the UK – but a good one thrives in Phnom Penh. Local machine shops here are happy to do small jobs for me – while you wait – they have all but died out now in the UK. I tried to buy stainless-steel sheet in London – the only place I could find in Tottenham, was run by Turkish who spoke no English – one of them could say £10 [ everything is £10 there ? ] for a small square – worth no more than 50p. I can get Perspex or stainless-steel laser cut to my CAD design here – very cheap. There is one 3D printing bureau [ expensive ] but no powder-coating or sand-blasting – apart from that Cambodia has nearly everything I need.
Life is easy in the UK – council accommodation paid for by the state – but, if you are single, deadly boring - no excitement.


Risk factors that contribute to an early departure from this life are not so much drinking, smoking and poor diet, but more loneliness, lack of personal relationships [ friends ] and the futility of solitary existence – basically unhappiness. From personal experience, I can say that being trapped in an unhappy relationship [ marriage ] is the worst situation – it is better to be alone. We are adrenaline junkies when we are adolescent – the thrill of the chase – the excitement of a new romance – new avenues to explore. When we get older and set in our ways, we forget how it is to be young. For many pensioners, living alone in London, the high-light of the week is going to a social club and playing Bingo – or a Wednesday morning Old-Age-Pensioners cut-price hair cut for £8 and the chance of a chat. All very depressing.
Adolescence – a time of raging hormones and unrequited lust – as we age the hormones may not be raging quite so much (!), but the desires can still be there. Can you remember Saturday evenings as a teenager – getting all tarted up ready for a night out and the excitement of adventure ? When we retire, the best many can hope for is a pint of beer at the pub. Is this as good as it gets ?

This sort of life pales in comparison with life in Cambodia. I might live alone in Kratie, but Phnom Penh is only a $5 bus ride away. I have a new favourite $7 hotel and every night is like Saturday night ! I can get as high as a kite and go out for a walkabout – amazing adventures always unfold . . . I can have these adventures in Thailand or Cambodia – not in Laos – completely unthinkable in England. I seem to have a yearning for the wild life of Asia, rather than the predictable UK . . .


My first time away from home, on my own, was a trip to India in 1973. I made absolutely no preparations whatsoever – I didn't have a visa [ I didn't even know visas were necessary for most countries ] - I just assumed you bought a plane ticket and went – and that was that. As it turned out, British were given a free automatic 10 year visa at the airport on arival and it could be extended for another ten years just by stepping one foot over a border. [ how times have changed ] I came so unprepared – my only luggage was a knapsack – too small to be called a backpack – I didn't even have a change of clothes as I intended to buy new ones there. My shoes were 'bumpers' [ tennis shoes ] with big holes in the soles – I intended to buy new sandals as soon as possible. I think all I had was a passport, traveller's cheques and a toothbrush. I didn't have a map, any sort of plan, and hadn't looked at a guidebook. I had relatives in South India, but for some reason, which completely escapes me, I didn't ask my mother for the address. I wanted to visit an ashram in Rishikesh and visit the Taj Mahal – but that was about it.
As I descended the steps from the plane [ a staircase on wheels in those days ] I could feel the heat rising up through the soles of my shoes. The hot air hit me in the face – I wasn't ready for that sort of heat at all. A taxi took me to the city center - I had no idea where I was going, and when I saw an empty market – it was the middle of the night – I asked the driver to stop and slept like a log on an old market stall. I was confident no-one would try and rob me as I looked like a tramp with clothes ready for the dustbin and a knapsack for a pillow. I figured there was no point looking for a hotel then – better to wait until morning. The next morning was easy – every-one spoke English and the British were highly regarded [ again, how times have changed ! ] A cheap hotel was one Rupee a day [ 20 Rupees to the £ ] but had no toilets – you had to go over the road to Delhi train station and use the toilets there. There was always an enormous queue of Indians waiting to have a dump, but when the 'Toilet Wallah' saw a foreigner approach, you were immediately ushered to the very front of the queue where you would give him a small tip and he would clean the toilet bowl with a flourish. Vegetarian food was abundant and Kasmiri hashish was cheap and incredibly powerful. I had a great time. There was one shop that sold mango ice-cream shakes for 1 Rupee and they were so big and thick that they were a day's meal in themselves. India was so cheap in those days that I had trouble spending all the money I came out with. I did the long journey to Rishikesh – but it was a disappointment : the Asram was run by Americans, very expensive [ air-con rooms only ] and seemed like a rip-off. I went to Benares and bathed in the Ganges which is supposed to bring good luck [ if you can survive the polluted river water, you can survive anything ! ] I saw corpses on the beach awaiting burning. At Hardwar I got dysentry from drinking dodgy beverages. [ the Ganges water didn't work, then ? ] After recovering from the diarrhoea - and still very weak – I went to Kulu and stayed with an American couple. They suggested I went on a pilgramage, so I walked up the mountain to the famous 'Lightning Temple' – Bigli Mahadev [ Great God of Lightning ] The Temple was situated on the top of the highest peak – in an area renoun for the heavy lightning strikes. The roof of the Temple was a copper dome with a tall spike as a lightning conductor. The copper roof was connected to the altar which had figures made of coloured butter. The idea was that lightning would strike the Temple and blow the altar to bits – and all of us pilgrims would be sleeping around the altar ! It was a test of faith [ stupidity ? ] - if you survived being struck by lighning, you need never be afraid of electricity after that. All that night the electrical storm raged and there were constant lightning strikes, but not on the Lightning Temple. In fact, the Temple had not been struck for 30 years previous to the night I spent there. It is counterintuitive – the copper roof on the highest, most lightning-prone peak – which is also the safest. You must go there in the right frame of mind and not be scared – or you will not get any sleep.
I actually made another pilgramage to Keylong Gompa – a Tibetan monastery situated in Keylong which is a very remote part of Himachal Pradesh. This time it was by bus on treacherous mountain roads with precipitous drops and sometimes the sight of a wrecked truck or bus far below that had not quite made it around the hairpin bends. There was no point in trying to remain in the seat – the roads were too bumpy and the bus was constantly lurching about and crashing into potholes. Most of the journey was made with my arse in the air. After about 12 hours the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and the driver said I was in Keylong. There was nothing there – no houses or people – nothing. I could see the Gompa on the top of a mountain so I started walking and made it by nightfall. The Tibetan Monks were not hospitable and would not let me inside. I had to sleep outside under the stars with only the thinnest of cotton blankets [ more like a towel ] I was frozen and shivering all night – a pity as the stars were magnificent, but I was too cold to appreciate them. In the morning I left as soon as possible – I was not at all welcome there.
Generally, in Delhi, the Indians were very hospitable and loved to offer me a cup of tea. Despite the hot weather, tea must be poured into the saucer and slurped down from there while still piping hot. The rationale is that, if you are just as hot on the inside as on the outside, you don't notice the heat (?) Shops in the bazaar [ market ] were called Emporiams and I was constantly called upon to drink tea.
I managed a train journey from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. In Agra town they sell Bhang Lassi [ lassi with weed ] - made with milk and cream – very nice on a hot day. It was only 1 Rupee 50 paisa and after I had downed it, I ordered another. The shopkeeper refused ! I was taken aback – an Indian shopkeeper refusing to sell something ? He explained it was quite strong and two glasses would be too much to handle. After some persuasion he agreed to make another half a glass. Of course, he was quite right and, as it turned out, one glass was more than enough – but I would not find this out until some hours later. The Taj was breathtakingly beautiful – and many people cry when they first see it. The marble was pristine white [ not much pollution in those days ] and so cool inside you would think it was air-conditioned. It was the night of the full moon and the Taj under a full moon and me under 1½ Bhang Lassis were an unforgettable experience. I had some mangoes with me and I ate them while sitting on the grass outside the Taj. I got told off by the guards for leaving the peels on the grass [ no rubbish bins there ] and, by chance, I spotted some squirrels [ I think they were squirrels – they looked like chipmonks ? ] and lamely said the peels were to feed the animals – and, amazingly, they accepted the excuse.
I made an excursion to Amritsar to see the Golden Temple of the Sikhs [ this was well before it was bombed ] They are enormous and fierce, yet very hospitable. I was told I could stay for three days and they would feed me for free – but if I smoked a cigarette they would kill me [ I believe they said cut off my head which amounts to the same thing ? ] Amritsar was scorching hot – like a furnace.
I took another long train journey of about 24 hours from Delhi to Patna from where I had a return air ticket to Nepal. Katmandu was amazing with tiny wooden guest houses. The ceilings were low like Hobbit houses. Nepal was hot in the day and freezing at night. The food was wonderful. Huge earthen-ware bowls of yoghurt cost 1 Rupee [ 25 Rupees to the £ ] The next day I had washed out the empty yoghurt bowl and returned it to the shopkeeper. He looked surprised and immediately smashed it on the ground. Then I noticed a huge pile of broken bowls – they are re-cycled by smashing them, grinding to a powder, shaping into bowls and re-firing them into pottery.
To the East of Katmandu is a small town which is the nearest point from which you can see Mount Everest – on a clear day. It was supposed to be an easy day's walk and I set off in the early morning. Maybe the sun was too strong, I was hungry or had not drunk enough water, but when I got there I felt sick and collapsed in a tea shop. They did not seem perturbed by a foreigner sleeping on the floor of the shop. After a while I staggered to the town square and collapsed again. I awoke the next morning in a strange house. The owner, who was some sort of monk, had carried me to his house. I was very thankful and – as I now felt completely recovered – returned to Katmandu without seeing Mount Everest. A tribute to the compassion and honesty of Nepalis – my money and passport were untouched – if it had been in Thailand, I would have been robbed blind and lucky to still have trousers on !
After two wonderful weeks in Nepal, I flew to Patna with very little money left. Patna was in a state of emergency then – trains were cancelled and there was some shooting in the streets. I had only a few days to make my return flight back to England, no money and no trains to Delhi. So not much to worry about then ? I slept on Patna train station – with hundreds of others – and in the middle of the night a train arrived ! I didn't have enough for the full fare [ it was ridiculously cheap ] so climbed on a top bunk, curled up and went to sleep. After some hours it stopped at a station and a conductor asked me for my ticket. I said I didn't have one and he said come to the station master's office. The station master asked me how much money I had [ not much ] - then said it would do and gave me a ticket ! Imagine that happening with British Rail ? Back in Delhi, I confirmed my flight at the airline office and they took a liking to my souvenir Nepalese bags which I sold for a good price and was able to stay at a guest house, eat and make it to the airport just in time.
I returned to India and Nepal in 1976 – but that is another story . . .


 This is a famous landmark in Kratie - however India looks a bit small to me ?



To the right is a globe of the Earth - India is much bigger compared to Africa. There are a lot of Indians working here and I'm surprised they haven't complained - or gone on strike !

[ The Thais hate Indians - there is a Thai poverb : 'If you see an Indian and a snake, which one should you kill first ? - Answer : the Indian.' This shows how Buddist they are ]


I  am now teaching Saturdays and Sunday mornings at the university and also have a weekday beginner's class in school. [ this month is very busy ! ] 

The next lesson in my beginner's English class is about fruit and I came across these images when looking for good examples : 


                              Whatever do these carrots get up to ?

                                    What do the bananas get up to ???


I needed a very small job doing at the local garage [ tightening a nut with an air tool ] for which they didn't charge me last time. I don't like getting work done for free, so I thought maybe they could get the air-conditioning working and I could pay them for both jobs.

Now the air-con system on the Tico has been useless for at least four years – the car was sitting for three years and I have had it for over a year with the air-con not working. There was no refrigerant gas in the system and no oil in the compressor – also the temperature sensor was missing and someone had chopped the wiring about and [badly] fitted a mechanical fridge-thermostat and relay which dangled in mid-air on the passenger's side. I had removed these items when I tidied up the wiring and didn't really care about the air-con as I like to drive with the windows open anyway.

However, it is silly to have air-con fitted but broken, so I decided to have a go at restoring it. In Phnom Penh I bought new O-Rings for the connections and re-fitted the compressor – it had been very badly installed and was almost impossible to change or fit the drive-belt. Next I tried to find out where the wiring went – the loom is hard to get at in a tico and the service manual doesn't help much. There is a small computer which controls the air-conditioning [ amazing ] and without the temperature sensor and the adjustment control [ both missing ] it would be hard to check it. It had an elderly micro-controller of 1994 vintage – but that was not really necessary to just control temperature. There was a feed from the ignition system so that the air-con could not be operated without the engine running [ not needed as the compressor won't do much without the engine running ! ]

There was also an idle-speed compensator. The nominal idle-speed for a Tico is quoted at 950 rpm ± 50 rpm. This in itself is a joke as it depends on the weather and the phases of the Moon. If you turn on the air-conditioning at tick-over it is supposed to increase the idle-speed to 1050 ± 50 rpm. This is because the engine develops so little power when idling that it is likely to stall under the extra load of the compressor ! This system was controlled by a vacuum valve and vacuum actuator – it didn't work and I had removed it. There was also a Hot-Idle Compensator because the idle speed depends on the engine temperature among other things. [ that doesn't work either ] Normally the engine idles at about 1200 rpm ± 200 rpm (!) on a good day – these extra systems are therefore not needed.

I removed the micro-controller and associated components from the circuit board – leaving just the relay and 5 Volt regulator. What to put in place of it ? Easy ! My Car Air-Conditioning Controller that I designed in Thailand and won a prize for [ $60 ] in Australia in March 2013 Silicon Chip Magazine. This doesn't have a micro-controller – which is over-kill – and uses cheap components, which I have in stock, and has an LED digital temperature read-out. This is now installed in the Tico and the blue temperature-display looks very pretty.

With the air-con now needing a re-fill of Freon, I went to the garage and they had a go. It involved a long time spraying soap suds everywhere looking for leaks after pressurizing the system. In the end they decided that the evaporator – inside the car – was leaky and would need replacing. Apparently a hard-to-get item for a Tico. Also very difficult to remove. For this diagnosis and tightening the crank bolt – again no charge ! The owner of the garage even showed me another company in the town that can test – and maybe repair – evaporators once I had removed it. [ I drove him there and he did not complain about my driving ! ] I gave him $2.50 for his trouble – he absolutely would not take any more money ! When I have the time I will remove the evaporator . . . a horrible job.

 Where is the leak ?


I had a day off so went to Phnom Penh. I saw this shop selling electricity ! Maybe I should ask them for a kilo of AC in a bottle ? [ How many kinds of electricity are there ? ]



I don't envy this man his job - trying to repair the phone/internet system. Where to begin ?


Phnom Penh was very quiet and some of the foreigners were taking it easy . . .  This one was sitting outside a convenience store and had passed out.


At the riverside I saw this blind man busking. He played the same sad piece over and over. Many people donated some money. [ How does a blind man check his earnings ? ]


Now I am back and getting on well with my projects [ the Bonetti Machine ] 

I have been keeping an eye on this Tico which has been sitting for well over a year. The owner wants $500 for it - way too much - I can probably get it for $300 to $400 soon . . . I still have the vague idea of converting it to electric drive. It is a 5-speed manual with a new gearbox. The engine is in a sorry state - but apparently it works ! - There are lots of Toyota Prius hybrids in Cambodia and eventually there will be one written-off in an accident. The 200 Volt battery would be ideal. I am not expecting to ever get the parts, but you never know !?!


It is resting outside his house with the bonnet and windows open, gathering dust. Luckily most of the engine can be thrown away if it goes electric. Still a bit of a pipe dream  . . .

Finally, I like this 'Rat Race' animation - I'm so happy to be in Cambodia !

These ones are also quite good - cynically true.

In fact, anything by Steve Cutts.

                      Happy Christmas and New Year



Tico update . . . 

I removed the evaporator and had it pressure-tested. It was leaking a bit [ O-rings ] they fixed it. Re-tested it and charged me £1. I have now re-fitted it back in the car and, after the New Year break, will get it working – I hope.


The latest idea at the university is On-Line Final Exams. This is for all levels, all subjects, but only for students who fail their finals – so that they can re-take the exams by email. All questions are multiple-choice and the lecturers don't have to mark the papers – a secretary can do it as the answers are either right or wrong. Therefore students can do the exam at home – using their notes and resources from the Internet – and can work together. As they all seem to cheat in the exams anyway, [ many clearly-copied answers ] this seems to be legalized cheating. If even a weak student cannot pass a multiple-choice exam, at home, with no time limit and with all the help they can get – then they are stupid. This begs the question – what do the really stupid ones, who fail even this, have to do to pass ? To me, this seems very sad – a further dumbing-down of university standards. I hope they don't adopt the Thai system of simply quoting a price [bribe ] for passing exams without students even having to sit them.

I recently finished another 48 hour course of year1 Global Studies – which is now called Cultural Studies and also Sociology. Students have to wait a long time until the exams – up to three months – by which time they will have forgotten everything.


The course book for Cultural Studies starts with Husband & Wife Relationships. 


"In a tradional Asian family, the relationship between the husband and the wife is carefully defined. Women are generally regarded as inferior to men. The wife is expected to show great respect for the husband. Among some Asians, the wife can have her meal only after the husband has finished his.
For the husband, family life and social life were separate. The husband's social life was with his male friends.
To appear in public with his wife was shameful to a man.
Of course, there are some Asian couples who even today will not walk together in public. If they do, the wife very carefully remains a few steps behind her husband. There are also husbands who regard it as being beneath their dignity to enter the kitchen, let alone wash the dishes. "


This seems to be a bit non-politically correct (?) Maybe the Taliban wrote the book ? I wonder what Feminists would say if this was taught in America ?


There is only one Tourist magazine – in English – and they don't care much about political-correctness. This image is from the magazine October 2016 :

The two smaller images are from Google.


And a couple of jokes :


A man walks into a pharmacy and wanders up and down the aisles. The sales girl notices him and asks him if she can help him. He answers that he is looking for a box of tampons for his wife. She directs him down the correct aisle. A few minutes later, he deposits a huge bag of cotton balls and a ball of string on the counter.
She says, confused, "Sir, I thought you were looking for some tampons for your wife ?"
He answers, "You see, it's like this, yesterday, I sent my wife to the store to get me a carton of cigarettes, and she came back with a tin of tobacco and some rolling papers - 'cause it's soooo-ooo-ooo-ooo much cheaper. So, I figure if I have to roll my own ...... so does she."



A man and his wife were having some problems at home and were giving each other the silent treatment. Suddenly, the man realized that the next day he would need his wife to wake him at 5:00 am for an early morning business flight.
Not wanting to be the first to break the silence ( and LOSE ) he wrote on a piece of paper, "Please wake me at 5:00 am."
He left it where he knew she would find it. The next morning, the man woke up, only to discover it was 9:00 am and he had missed his flight.
Furious, he was about to go and see why his wife hadn't wakened him, and he noticed a piece of paper by the bed.
The paper said, "It is 5:00 am. Wake up"



Another example of non-PC English is what is now called the 'N-word.' When I was young, it was common in the nursery rhyme :
Eeeny, meeny, miny , mo
Catch a Nigger by his toe
If he squeels, let him go
Eeeny, meeny, miny, mo


There was another common phrase – The Nigger in the Wood Pile - this has been replaced by :
The Turd in the Punch Bowl
The Skeleton in the Closet
The Fly in the Ointment


There was even an American comedy film released in 1904 called 'A Nigger in the Wood Pile' (!)


You are not allowed to say this anymore – you have to say 'The N-word in the wood pile' - which sounds a bit stupid.

There is a new one – The 'R-word.' I took me some time to find out what the 'R-word' was. It stands for Retard or Retarded. You are not allowed to say this either now. If I am describing the ignition-timing on my car, I should say : the timing can be advanced or the R-word.
At least in Cambodia you can call a spade a spade – or maybe I am not supposed to say that anymore ?



There is also a lot of fuss over gender-specific pronouns – both in the USA and Australia. In Tasmania now, gender is not recorded on Birth Certificates and you have to 'Opt-In' and apply if you want your offspring to have a gender. There is a move to charge people with Hate Crimes [ Hate Speech ] if they refer to someone with a gender-specific pronoun ! I feel sorry for teachers having to explain to students what pronouns to use.

Australia is having problems with Black African [ Somalia ] gangs commiting crimes – which they are 57 times more likely to do than the white Australians. The police do not want to act in case they are accused of Racial Profiling. PC Culture has gone mad.



There is more insanity in America – this time an anti-electric-car backlash. The new phenomenon is called 'Coal Rolling' and some owners of diesel trucks and pick-ups modify the engines to emit clouds of black smoke on demand [ very rich mixture ] Whenever they see a hybrid or electric car behind them, they will Coal Roll it so the black smokescreen makes it hard to see where they are going. There have also been incidents of Coal-Rolling and blocking electric-car charging stations with big trucks. This seems like jealousy – Tesla Supercharging Stations offer free charging for life on all premium models [ no car or truck manufacturer offers free petrol or diesel for life ! ]

Sometimes, in Cambodia, I will be on the back of a motorbike-taxi - stuck behind an old truck which is unintentionally Coal-Rolling us. The engine is knackered, of course, and it is not done on purpose.


That's it for this year - 2018 - I am off to Phnom Penh to see the New Year in.

Happy New Year ! 

The problem I am working on at the moment is balancing the two PTFE discs of the Bonetti Machine. I tried sanding the edges in situ, to make them concentric, but it did not work. Now I will try the method suggested in the book 'Homemade Lightning' - this calls for a backing disc of ¾ inch plywood – which is very hard to obtain here.

Wood is mostly expensive solid hardwood, cut on a bandsaw and hand-planed. There is only one sawmill – in the Vietnamese village – and they do not have a double-sided thickness planer. I have never seen a shop selling even thin plywood, let alone ¾ inch ply.

The reason for the backing disc is that PTFE is soft and easily distorts when sanding, so I thought that backing discs of glass would be easier to obtain – and glass is rigid and flat. In Phnom Penh I went to a couple of glass-cutting shops, but either there was no-one there or they were too busy playing with their phone to bother with customers [ sadly all too common now ] One shop wanted $15 to cut a 30cm diameter disc from 5mm window glass ! I would have to drill a central hole in the discs as well and two discs would be $30 – way too much for a temporary jig.

Therefore I decided to try and find plywood and spotted a sign saying 'Cut all Material' in English. There was a rubbish pile outside the shop and Lo-and-Behold – there was a sheet of plywood in the rubbish. They confirmed I could have it for free. It was 12mm plywood [ nearly ½ inch ] size 42 by 61 cm [ 16½ X 24 inches ] - big enough for two discs and in good condition. The shop has a laser cutter as well as a CNC router, but neither can cut wood this thick. They do have some thin plywood – about 3mm – which can be cut on the router, however they wanted $15 to cut one disc – another rip-off.
It will mean a trip to the Vietnamese bandsaw shop for £1 cutting fee – but at least I now have a solution to the problem.

This is the set-up I used with the new plywood discs. It seems to be OK.

It seemed like rip-off-day – another bearing shop with no customers wanted $5 for a small ball-bearing that usually costs $1.50 When they have no customers, they try and rip-off the only one to come along to make some profit – and by doing that they lose a sale. Other shops that lose customers are ones that have barking dogs in the entrance – or, more usually, shop-assistants that cannot tear themselves away from their phone. There is a massage parlour in Kratie that usually has only  an old geezer sitting outside, smoking a cigarette and coughing his lungs up. The place is called a 'Health Massage' and he is hardly the best advert for health.

[ There are plenty of 'Unhealthy Massage' places in Phnom Penh - but that is something quite different (!) ]


I now have an increasingly-growing list of co-incidences in Cambodia :


Plywood is very hard to buy here – I found it free, the right size and in new condition.

I needed a hair-drier to dry electrostatic machines. They are hard to buy here – it is so hot, hair dries in a few minutes. I found one thrown away in Kratie – for free – and it works well.

I needed a fireclay stove with parallel sides for the aluminium-can re-cycling furnace. They are not sold, but I found one – free – thrown away in Phnom Penh. It was in perfect condition.

I needed a job and I got into a conversation on the bus with a teacher – he offered me a job and I am still working at his school.

I needed a place to live and saw the only sign in English for apartments – I still live there. It is the best location in all of Kratie.

I needed a car and the secretary of the school introduced me to the broken-down Tico. I fixed it up and now use it every day.

I needed a radio – well, I didn't really need one, but they are handy for listening to Khmer speaking – it helps in the learning process. I saw a Panasonic Radio/Cassette Tape Player thrown away. The volume control needed cleaning and it now works perfectly. It must have been expensive once.


This makes me wonder - are co-incidences purely by chance, or by design ? The Buddhist view is that there is no such thing as a co-incidence – whatever happens follows the Law of Karma – We get what we deserve. This could also mean – we get what we need (?) It doesn't necessarily mean we get what we want, although sometimes, we get what we wanted and it turns out to be a poor decision that we will regret. So, is our life-flow pre-ordained to follow a pattern, or continually modified depending on our actions, or completely by chance ? Are we really the master of our destiny ?

Those that have a bad dose of religion would say "Everything happens according to God's master plan – it might seem bad at the time, but it is the will of God ." This is fine if nothing much happens in your life, but is hard to swallow in times of War, Plague or Pestilence. [ It does keep the population down, so could be seen as Divine Culling or Population Control (!) ]

What about times of personal tragedy or trauma ? Is it really for our own good ?
This seems hard to believe – although some might say "Whatever doesn't kill us, makes us stronger." My answer to that would be – how much tragedy do you want - and how strong do you want to be ?

There are many times in life when you have to make a monumental decision – What subject to study ? - What career to pursue ? - Who to marry ? Where to live ? In this case, the result is of your own doing and, depending on your choice, causes a divergent path in life-flow. Often peer-pressure or trying to please others [ and stop them nagging ] forces the wrong decision. Sometimes, intuition suggests the right answer, but we ignore it. [ This usually doesn't turn out well ] We have only ourselves to blame for the end result. If it was the correct decision, no problems and we live happily ever after. However, in my case, I have usually made the wrong decision !!! [ It seems to be getting better now ???]

If we could have reversed a bad decision, would the outcome actually be better or just different ? – and remember it could always be even worse ! So, if we could time-travel back to a specific juncture in life and then reverse or modify our original decision – what happens then ? Will it go to plan, of get even more fucked up ? it could be that the original decision, although it looks rubbish with hindsight, was actually the best choice for that scenario. It could even be fatal in which case we are dead and definitely cannot re-do it any more. In any case, it would only work if you still had the hindsight after you had time-travelled – if you arrived back in time with no knowledge of the [ previous ] future events, it would be just the same as before.

You have to be cruel to be kind, thus bad begins and worse remains behind [ Shakespeare ]
If only ... If I had only just ... I should not have ... Why didn't I . . . . ? All this is a bit too late now !
It is your Karma – you reap what you sow ... Do good to get good.  Etc. Etc.


On the scale of things, I have been extremely lucky and have never been caught up in a war or genocide or been bombed by another country. None of my more stupid decisions were made out of malice, hatred or revenge – they were all from trying to help some-one or from the 'Peer-Pressure' of bad friends. I should have known better, Yeah, Yeah .... The motive was altruistic even if the outcome was unexpected. If we always consider ' What is the worst that can happen ?' [ first ] and have nagging doubts from our intuition [ the inner voice saying 'are you serious – don't do that !' ] – we will still often do it anyway. [ I will ]

Looking back, I cannot honestly say that various traumatic events [ at the time ] have not been a blessing in disguise and were perversely exciting – certainly an experience. It gives me something to talk about ! I never got seriously injured or killed [ yet ! ] I never killed anyone. If I was still living with my first or second wife, my life would be a misery now !

The benefits of hindsight are that we might not make the same mistakes again – although, in my case, I probably will !
Regrets ? None. It could always have been worse !

When I was in Phnom Penh for New Year, I had a Turkish meal - Hummus. Very simple and quite good. Note they still have ashtrays on the table, although there is supposed to be a fine for smoking in a restaurant ?!?


I also saw a Honda S2000 sports car. I thought this model had gone out of production, but it looks new and has no number plates. It would make an ideal basis for an electric car - good size and proportions. Much more practical than a Lotus Elan.


and from the rear . . . 


The New Year fireworks in Phnom Penh were pathetic - less than one minute and it was all over. I since found out that the firework display has been moved to a new venue - and actually lasted for a full half-hour. Pity I missed it. Of course, the tourist magazine doesn't tell you these things . . . 

On the education front, I have just marked the final exam papers for the class of July/August 2018 - the exam was held on 25th December ! The students have forgotten everything by then. 

This first blog of the New Year is a bit short because I was not planning on uploading anything today, but - for some reason - the  internet is blazingly fast and it seems a shame not to take advantage of it. The Internet has been either absent or agonizingly slow for a couple of weeks - I hope this trend will continue for 2019.

And a couple of jokes to finish . . . 



and one more  . . .



I went to the university to collect some exam papers and parked next to the Dean's car [ a Toyota Sierra ] He had the bonnet open, with the engine running. Aparently it had taken him ten minutes to get it started and he was apprehensive about turning it off, lest it wouldn't start again. [ It always takes ten minutes to start in the morning ] Their was a discussion among the academics as to whether to buy a new battery and alternator and what garage to call to get it repaired.

I immediately saw the problem – the battery terminals were caked with a white corrosion. [ Lead Sulphate ] I said I could fix it – they were incredulous and clearly didn't believe me – he didn't really want to turn the engine off – but I said it was not a problem. However, I always keep tools in the back of the Tico, so I removed the battery connectors and scraped clean the lead battery posts and the copper connectors. I also keep new, white cotton gloves in the Tico, so they said I looked 'Professional' (?) With it re-assembled, the engine started immediately the key was turned – not a bit of hesitation. They were hugely impressed. He has a big car with no tools – and I have a small car with a full tool-kit – I feel naked driving an old car without, at least, some spanners. I said they should teach car and motorbike maintenance !


I saw him a few days later and he said the car starts within three to five seconds – not bad – and every-one was telling him to buy a new battery !


I am continually amazed at the lack of knowledge of most people with regard to every-day mechanical devices. How can a battery be expected to pass hundreds of amps through a thick layer of corrosion ? That had never occurred to them – and none of them posessed a spanner anyway.


In Australia it is not allowed to change a light bulb unless you are a qualified electrical engineer [ in some places ] and a serious crime to fit a three-pin plug to an electrical item !


I remember, when I was a small boy – the fuses blew every few months in our flat and I was always called upon to change the fuse wire [ very old wiring ] it did not occur to anybody that I might get electrocuted – I never worried about it either.




I finished marking the exam papers at the university and was struck by the funny names of two of the students – one is called 'You Samon' [ which sounds a bit fishy ! ] and the other one is much worse – 'Lay Siphat' which sounds like 'Lazy Fat.' If you think that's a bad name to get saddled with – I had a female student in Thailand whose name actually was 'Titty Porn.' [ Porn is a very common name in Thailand ] To make matters worse, she was about to go to America to complete her studies and wanted to brush up her English before she went. I did not have the heart to tell her that her name was going to cause far too many jokes. [ It would involve explaining exactly how and why the name was a poor choice for America ]


During the week I have an English class at another school and the ages of the students range from 7 to 12. Amazingly the best students are the 7-year-old and the 12-year-old. The others in between are varying degrees of hoplesss – with only two exceptions. [ One girl is really dyslexic ] The [ useless ] text book provided is actually an ABC colouring book – hardly suitable, but it started them off on drawing pictures. The only two with any talent for drawing are, again, the 7 and 12 year old. Some of their pictures are really quite good and I took photos and edited them on the computer – livened up the colours and added some texture here and there, but kept the details of the drawings. Then I had them printed on glossy photo paper at the local shop.

Two employees at the shop are magic at 'PhotoShop' [ The photo-editing program ] and change the brightness, contrast and colour-balance to suit their printers. [ Any portrait photos you give them to print are immediately and shamelessly edited to remove all blemishes, moles, wrinkles, spots and lack of symmetry – so every-one ends up looking like a fashion model ! ]

I can also show them the results on the big-screen TV at the school. This is quite popular and I gave them a lesson on perspective – continuing imaginary lines to the vanishing point. They seem to get the idea, but have trouble putting it into practise.

Plain drawing paper is not available in Kratie – only notepads with ruled lines, so I buy some in Phnom Penh when I go. Now I hope their drawings will improve – I will no longer accept those with wonky perspective or crudely bashed-out detail. Maybe I can enter some in a competition ?


The other day I installed 'Sketchup' on the school computer and gave the kids a lesson in drawing a 3D house which clearly shows the perspective. They all wanted colour prints of the finished drawing, but were not very interested in how to do it.

Kids today are obsessed with playing and do not take studying very seriously – in ten years time they will be looking for a job and, unless you want low-paid unskilled work, you need a knowledge of English, Typing in English, Operating a computer, Word, Excell, and preferably some computer design ability. The attitude to study in Thailand and Laos is 'Let some-one else do the hard work – I am not interested.' Very different from China, Japan and S.Korea where students are cramming in the knowledge to get ahead. It is a pity 99% of home computers are only used for email, facebook and YouTube cat videos.


I have an intermediate class on Fridays and I am trying to get them interested in video editing – and any computer design. None of them have a computer, but they all have phones which cost at least $100 – the price of a second-hand computer here [ just about ] I tell them phones are for playing and computers are for working.

They want to be big on YouTube, however the few with a channel only re-upload some-one else's content – nothing original. It is hard to think of a catchy email address – that has not been taken already – harder to think of a [ hopefully world-famous ] YouTube channel name and hardest of all to think of original content that will go viral. It all comes down to getting a good idea and being creative – before some-one else copies it !

Having a popular Youtube channel can be very lucrative. There is a 10 year-old kid in Korea who reviews toys for big manufacturers and has an immense following. He made $22 million last year !

The record income from one video is Gangnam Style by Psy [ a Korean singer ] - there were 900 million views and he received $870,000. He also made $8 million from contracts, sponsors and downloads. The song and music video probably didn't take much more than a month to produce – so the rate of earning was better than any job.

Other popular YouTube channels are

Dude Perfect  $14 million       [ all per year ]
Logan Paul     $14.5 million
PewDiePie      $15.5 million    [ Sweden ]
Dan TDM         $18.5 million

I am trying to impress upon the intermediate students that jobs of the future may not be just working in an office, shop or factory – but rather on-line. You can make far more from the Internet by posting regular videos on a popular channel – you get paid from the advertising. Mostly content is from America – nothing much so far from Cambodia. They were mildly impressed that I have a YouTube channel !


The hot video-editing software at the moment is DaVinci Resolve 15 from – the basic version is free [ 994 MB ] and can be upgraded if you pay for the 4K/8K resolution suite. You need a really high-end computer to run it with an expensive graphics card – my computer can't handle it. I started off using Wondershare [ cheap, but not free ] and then Sony Vegas [ 75¢ in Cambodia, $600 in USA ! ]


PhotoShop CS3 is available here for 75¢ and is the standard for non-video editing. I use GIMP which is free and open source. Corel Draw is used throughout Cambodia for graphic design [ 75¢ ] however I use Sketchup which is free. Z-Brush is hot for figure creation – I have Sculptris which is the free trial version. You cannot play with these on your phone – you need a proper computer with a big screen. It is a shame the students only waste their time on Social Media – facebook and the like – they should be learning the tools of the future. The only skill the students are acquiring is using two thumbs to text message. I can help them with computers [ a bit ] but how do you teach having a good, original idea ?



A hot topic on YouTube with an immense following are the ASMR videos

[Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response ]

They consist of a lot of whispering and scratching sounds and trigger a shivering/ hair-standing-on-end type of response in sensitive individuals. Totally beyond me. Is it a bit like hypnosis ?


The girl students here are crazy over K-Pop [ Korean ] idols – feminine looking boys wearing lip stick and some make up – but apparently not trans-sexual (?)


Mens fashion has gone crazy - look at this  :



- and Runway fashion :



Some discussions about English spelling :




- and about schools :




- and why The English Alphabet Is Stupid





I had previously fixed the oil leak on my car - and then, last week, I noticed it was leaking automatic transmission fluid. Like the oil leak, it started out slow – and got worse. Parked at the university one day, I could see it dripping out in a steady stream ! However, I could not really see where it was leaking from – the underside was oily everywhere. Checking the levels on the dipstick showed no real change which was again surprising. From an Internet search, it seemed like the differential oil-seals were the most likely cause of the problem – and not a nice job to change. There is a 'Stop Leak' additive that is supposed to fix leaks by just pouring it into the oil – hard to believe – it is also not sold here.


I took the car to the garage – they were very busy and even had another Tico there waiting for repair – they were not too keen on doing it, saying that oil seals were not sold in Kratie and I would have to buy one in Phnom Penh. I know the drive shafts are 22mm diameter and the oil seals might be 22mm also (?) In the town, I asked at a local shop. They are very well organized and have all their stock on a tablet computer which is searchable. They have 22mm [ inside diameter ] oil-seals with the following outside diameters :














42 mm


Which, apart from being 'not available', is really a good selection. Their full range of oil seals runs to hundreds of items – I was amazed.


Therefore, knowing that they were available, I decided to start on the repairs myself. After jacking up the car, I cleaned off the mix of oil sludge and dirt that coated the transmission side of the engine. [ The other side was already clean from fixing the main oil leak ]


Now, at the garage I noticed that it was no longer leaking and, after I had cleaned it up, it was still not leaking. The dipstick-level was just over the max [ I had over-filled both oil and transmission fluid - but not by much -  before which may have contributed to the leaks (?) The service manual says that over-filling can damage the transmission ? ] When the oil was leaking, I could see where the leak was coming from with the engine running. The transmission only leaks when the car is moving – except at the university where it produced a puddle in the car park ! So I was still not completely convinced the differential oil-seals were the problem.

I was about to begin the long task of pulling the drive shafts, but thought I should just check the transmission sump nuts. The engine has a cast-iron block and the sump nuts can be tightened without fear of stripping the threads, but the transmission casing is aluminium so I was not expecting them to be super tight. They were all loose ! I could give them all a good ¼ turn before they were snug. Could this be the cause of the leak ? Time will tell. One strange thing – whenever I check the dip-stick levels, they seem to be increasing not decreasing. If it is leaking, where is the extra oil coming from ? Fluids in the car are :



Transmission Fluid 



Brake Fluid 

Windscreen Washer Water


There is no water in the oil and it does not smell of petrol and the brake-fluid reservoir is full. Another mystery ???


A few days later and the leak is 80% better, but still not completely fixed – I think I can live with it, if it does not get any worse ?? 

Of course my enthusiasm was short-lived : the leak was better for a day, then it started pissing out in a steady stream. It happened just as I was about to go to the university to meet the Dean . . .


[ I have a new evening class teaching English literature – don't laugh ! - that was the only subject I failed at O-level : I was too lazy and busy to read any of the set books – one of the set books I remember was 'Lord Jim' by Joseph Conrad which I found deadly dry and boring and I wanted to concentrate on the science subjects so I went to Ipswich and watched the movie instead. Of course, the movie which starred Peter O'Tool was nothing like the book. It is hard writing an essay when you have not read the book ! I failed. ]


I had to chance it - the car left a continuous stream of oil (?) and transmission fluid (?) as I left the car park. There was another puddle at the university car park. 

The idea of a permanently-connected drip-tray is getting increasingly more attractive (!) 

I was keeping half an eye on the oil-pressure warning light in case all the oil had leaked out (!) The car made it there and back with no problem – except that, the next day, I could see the oil trail all the way from the car park down the road towards the university ! When I checked the dipstick it was the same as before – slightly above the maximum ! What ? It was leaking like a sieve yet the level had not gone down ? With the engine running I could now see where the oil was leaking from – two places and dripping out in a steady stream. The car is now jacked up and being stripped down for repairs. I am getting a lift to school again !

I tried starting the engine again and transmission fluid started flooding out ! The oil-seal on the torque converter has gone - so, as soon as pressure builds up with the engine running, it pumps the fluid out. The engine has to come out to change the seal - the car will be off the road for some time. I was hoping that, if I ever had to pull the engine out, it would be to fit an electric motor - not repair the automatic gear box. Such is life.


My roof-top sound system is working well and it would be nice if a rich person commissioned a bigger version for their house.

I have just been informed that the design and circuit details will be published in the February 2019 edition of Silicon Chip magazine [ Australia ] and I will be receiving $100 [ Australian not $US ] Looks like it could be first prize ?



The biggest subwoofers available now are the Russian 'Deaf Bonce' 32 inch bass speakers. Why did they not make them just a little bigger at a round one metre ?

Anyway, the specs are impressive : [ Russian English not too good ]



The Flagship Subwoofer! 

Apocalypse DB-832NEO is the most powerful and largest subwoofer in the World among of mass-produced and really working in the daily musical systems - the real monster in the car audio industry! [ It is for cars ! ]


The combination of unique engineering solutions and modern technologies implemented in this subwoofer. It is a demonstration of our technological and technical capabilities in the production of unique components. 

Specially designed an incredibly powerful neodymium motor allows to achieve unprecedented power and endurance, as well as a record level of sensitivity for the car subwoofer is 99 dB. [ It has a motor ? ] [ It is quite sensitive ] 

8" and 4 layers voice coil. 

More than 13 kilograms of neodymium magnet with grade of N48. [ Top grade is N52 ] 

15" and 8 layers spaced spiders. 

Six-layers carbon fiber cone and dust cap 

Model DB-832NEO 

Type Subwoofer 

Size 32 inch 

Voice coil size 8 inch 

Cone Carbon fibre 

Magnet Neodymium 

Voice coil wire Copper 

Surround Foam


RMS Power 8000 W     [ 8 kW ! ] 

MAX Power 16000 W   [ 16 kW ! ]


Frame Aluminium 

Impedance quad 0.7 Ohm 

SPL 99.00 dB 

Fs 20.00 Hz 

Vas 550.00 L 

Xmax 40.00 mm 

Gross weight 120 kg [ ! ] 

They even have a 12 Volt car amplifier to drive it !


Judgment day for your opponents! 

Exactly 37,800 watts, this monster can give at a voltage of 18V DC, while the operating voltage range starts from 9V DC. DOOMSDAY - this is an unprecedented tool for the victories of competitors in the pursuit of achieving record results in SPL competitions. ADD-37800 is the embodiment of the most advanced technologies in the design and construction of class-D power amplifiers!


Rated power - 1 Ohm (18 V) – 37,800 W           [ 37.8 kW ] 

Maximum power - 1 Ohm (14.4 V) – 33,000 W  [33 kW ]


Model ADD-37800.1D 

Class D 

Number of channels 1


1 Ohm RMS Power (18 V) 42,300 W     [ 42.3 kW ] 

1 Ohm RMS Power (14.4 V) 37,800 W  [ 37.8 kW ] 

1 Ohm RMS Power (12 V) 35,100 W     [ 35.1 kW ]


Minimum permissible load on the channel 1 Ohm 

Working voltage 9 - 18 V 

Size (WxLxH) 8.88 x 33.80 x 2.91 inch 

Gross weight 15.6 kg 


Now 37.8 kW @ 14.4 Volts is 2625 Amps ! You better have a BIG 12 Volt battery – and thick cables ! 



I don't think I need a 38 kW sound system in the Tico (!) - some Russians have a pair of these speakers in their car ! [ two speakers alone would weigh almost half as much as the car ] They don't seem to make a mains-powered version of this amplifier – it would still consume 172 Amps @ 220 Volts (!) which rules out using it in 99% of houses in Cambodia. 

The concrete enclosure for it would be about 5 metres tall and weigh many tons, but should give out a commanding bass. Now I need a local millionaire to order one and I could organize it.


For a more modest and affordable Class D subwoofer amplifier – look at this : 

IRS2092S 500W Mono Channel Digital Amplifier Class D HIFI Power Amp Board With FAN US $20.19 amazing value. It needs a ±65 Volt power supply though.



Monday February 4th was the start of Chinese New Year – it goes on for three days – and so many shops and businesses were closed that it is more like China than Cambodia. Even here in Kratie, the majority of shops were closed – and it makes you realize the extent of Chinese influence. The Chinese have taken over Cambodia like they have taken over Thailand. [ Laos has been bought by Vietnam long ago ]


Some small shops, that I never would have believed were Chinese, had the regulation red and gold Chinese lanterns hanging outside and the owners were busy burning fake $100 notes. It is more of a holiday than Khmer New Year !


19th Feb was the start of Vietnamese new Year and lots more shops were closed – some close for both New Years !


I have discovered the reason the Tico was leaking oil and the dip-stick reading was increasing

it had opened a portal to a parallel universe of smelly sump-oil.


Well, actually no – When I drained the sump, it smelled strongly of petrol - the mechanical petrol pump was probably leaking petrol into the engine oil. This thinned-oil leaked past the oil-seals. So why had the transmission decided to leak at the same time ? There was no petrol in the transmission fluid – and no connection to the engine oil. It must have been out of sympathy ??? Maybe they have the same Union and went out on strike together ? It is possible the carburettor was overflowing and leaking petrol into the inlet manifold, but I would not think so much could get past the piston-rings into the sump oil ?? The engine goes well enough, therefore the piston-rings are not that loose - and the carb could not have been leaking petrol that badly, or it would not run.



Tico with the engine out

Luckily I have plenty of space in the garage and there is a lot of timber lying around ( door frames ) - it sure beats repairing cars by the side of the road in London - in the winter - a miserable experience !

I took the automatic gearbox apart to have a look – probably another mistake ? – Second gear often slipped briefly and I wanted to see what state the clutch band and discs were in. It is a Japanese Aisin transmission ( on a Korean car ) and no spares are available in Phnom Penh. Aisin is 30% owned by Toyota and supply transmissions to GM among others. I could not even find a service manual for it – I only have one for the 5-speed manual gearbox. When I was replacing the oil pump, there was an ominous 'click' as I tightened the bolts – of course I continued regardless – until there was a second 'click.' By now I knew something was wrong – a shim for a thrust bearing had slipped out of position and broken. It must have been very brittle to fracture like that. ( It was not particularly hard either – it would not scratch glass ) Major Headache ! I went to the local friendly machine shop – thinking he could make a new one on the lathe – but he immediately produced a couple of shims from a Honda motorbike crankshaft – they were the right size ! The original shim was 1.87 mm thick – and the two new shims together came to 1. 67mm - I hope this is close enough (?)


View of the transmission - the shim came from the input shaft on the right.


Broken shim ( stupid, stupid, stupid ! ) 




Transmission Oil Pump

It amazes me to think that all the engine does is drive this hydraulic pump - the torque converter then drives the gearbox.





The starter motor was badly in need of maintenance - two brushes were almost non-existent. No spares available in Phnom Penh. I had to sand down a couple of bigger brushes to make them fit. New brushes are graphite loaded with copper.  had also lost a retaining clip and spring ( stupid, stupid stupid again ) and made a new clip out of epoxy. Seems to be OK. ( There are new starter motors from Lithuania with £300 postage ! )



I have also proved, without a doubt, that sloshing on the silicone is not the answer to an oil leak – there is no substitute for a gasket. The silicone “magic gasket” is too soft and gets squished out from where it is needed. The only gaskets sold for a Tico are the Cylinder Head gaskets and previously I was too lazy to make my own. It is recommended to use a cornflakes box as gasket material – not very easy to find in Cambodia. Now I have a big roll of good-quality cardboard ( $1 ) of about the right thickness and can cut them myself. A thin smear of ThreeBond sealer ( neoprene ) works well – better than silicone. It is a damn sight quicker and easier making a gasket than taking the oil pump off three times !


19th February was a special day for many reasons –


It was a holiday – so no school.


It was a full moon.


There was a beautiful sunset.


. . . and I fitted the engine onto the transmission – the most difficult part of the repair process. You have to engage two concentric splines and two teeth on the oil pump – everything has to be lined-up at the same time. I carefully resisted the urge to persuade it into position with my large, automotive-grade, sledge hammer (!) On the second attempt it slipped on. Whether it all will actually work remains to be seen . . .


I backed-up the last of the files on my old laptop – which is in the last stages of death and the next day dismantled it and donated the 40GB HDD and 1GB RAM to the local computer shop. It has lasted me five years and has been dropped so many times – the last time on my foot ! Originally it was running XP with an 80GB HDD – that died last year. Then it was Windows 7 with a 40GB HDD. Half the keyboard died – which was a nuisance but usable – finally it started randomly crashing and shutting down. It was a bit more stable in SAFE MODE and allowed me to save all the files. Sometimes it would work for a minute then crash – re-booting took about five minutes each time. If it were a person, it would be on its third heart-transplant now. Instead I bought a Lenovo SL510 ThinkPad with Intel Celeron chip set. The price was the same as the old one ( £100 ) The new laptop is sooo nice – I got it with Windows 8 and, once you remove the Microsoft bloatware, it seems like W7, but faster and more efficient. It boots up and shuts down really fast also – the fan is silent and the audio quality good. In short it is light years ahead of the old laptop. The only downside seems to be that WiFi is not as robust as W7 systems – sometimes takes a bit of coaxing to make a connection. After a few days I got more and more frustrated with the WiFi performance – the W8 laptop would say No Internet or Limited Access while I could watch YouTube on my W7 desktop computer at the same time ! Eventually I took it back to the shop and had W7 installed. ( Free service ) A pity as I was beginning to like W8, but ( as the computer shop owner says ) W8 and W10 have weak WiFi recovery compared to W7. If you have reliable, fast WiFi – like I had in London – you would not notice a difference, but here the Internet is marginal : coming and going, fast and slow or limited access. W7 quickly re-establishes a connection, but W8 struggles. I think it is because W8 ( and W10) is constantly trying to contact the Microsoft server and upload all your files ! An American in Laos brought his W10 laptop up to the mountains and it was practically unusable – it kept saying the Microsoft Cloud server was unavailable ( surprise ) and didn't want to work offline. I had heard of customers trying to sue Microsoft to get their new W8 computers upgraded to W7 (!) – I didn't understand why at the time ( and don't know if they were successful ) – now I know why. All the Microsoft bloatware makes W8 look less professional and more like a dumbed-down home PC – apart from WiFi it still works faster than W7 – I think (?) I really tried to get on with it, and was beginning to like it, but W7 is definitely an improvement !


The new English books have come from Oxford University Press – it has this on the cover :


Family and Friends is a seven-level primary series which offers teachers an amazing package of integrated print and digital resources. It combines a unique phonics programme, exceptional strong skills training and a fast-paced language syllabus with comprehensive testing material and civic education to create the best course for learning English.


Sounds wonderful, doesn't it ?


Lesson One has “Oh ! Who's this ?” ( without explaining contractions ) and “Come on, Billy.” ( idiomatic )


Lesson two is What's your name ? and How are you ?


Lesson three is numbers 0 – 10


Lesson four is colours


After lesson four is another lesson one (?) with “OK, here you are.” ( idiomatic and they have not yet done the verb to be ! )


Another lesson two (?) about school things – the word “things” is vague and difficult to translate into Khmer.


Another lesson three which they are supposed to sing with the words bag, door and window.


Then another lesson four – which is learning ABCD (!) – it has the words apple, bird, cat and dog. Unbelievable ! They introduce idioms which are hard to translate, the verb to be, questions ( What is your name ? How are you ? What is this ? and then start with the alphabet ABCD   What idiot designed this rubbish ? ( Naomi Simmons )


They did ABC a year ago, they know numbers up to a billion, colours and a vocabulary of hundreds of words already. Some of the exercises make no sense to me – I haven't a clue what they want the students to do. On page 16 they are supposed to sing the following – they all thought it was stupid and a waste of time.


Toys, toys, toys, toys !


Toys, toys, toys, toys,


Toys, toys, toys,


This is my big red kite,


My big red kite,


My big red kite,


This is my big red kite,


I love toys !


Toys, toys, toys, toys,


This is my big blue bike,


Toys, toys, toys, toys,


This is my big green train.


Then page 17 continues with the alphabet – letters E, F, G, and H


So they are meant to know words like 'toys, big, kite, love, bike and train' when they have not even finished learning the alphabet ?


Unfortunately another book with fine words on the cover and a load of unstructured garbage inside.

I received the February 2019 edition of Silicon Chip magazine with my article inside. I had first prize - there was another entry from India ( $65 ) and two from Australia ( $65 and $75) I got $100  ( about $73 US )

I am also teaching 7 days a week - busy !

The engine is now back in the Tico and soon will be the moment of truth when I see if it still works !



Tico Resurrected


March 13th was the first time I took it for a drive to get petrol – the gauge was showing empty – somewhat apprehensive after all the repairs. I was half expecting the engine and transmission to explode and leave me stranded in the middle of the road – or leave an enormous oil slick behind me ( not so unusual in Cambodia – the oil slick, not the exploding ! ) The drive passed without incident and I discovered some benefits of the overhaul :


The starter motor is MUCH better – my graphite brush modification was successful. Before it would spin the engine over quickly without  the spark plugs in – no compression – but with the spark plugs it was sluggish and a lot slower – also the car won't go far without spark plugs (!) Now it spins the engine over just the same, with or without spark plugs. Actually, now the car starts instantly, hot or cold, so the starter motor hardly gets used – unlike before when it would take up to 10 seconds cranking to get it going ( quite embarrassing at times ! ) This has a lot to do with my second modification :


The mixture was always too rich causing a rough idle and hot-start problems. I had noticed petrol dripping in the carburetor with the engine off and assumed it was because of float-chamber pressurization. There is a bi-metallic valve that opens when the engine is hot to stop pressurization and weaken the idle mixture – I thought this system was faulty and hardly needed in Cambodia where ambient temperatures can be over 40°C. It is designed for the Russian Winter !

This overhaul I removed it altogether and, while I had the carb apart, checked the float-valve. The valve works OK, but I noticed an O-ring that was completely knackered and doing sod all. It allowed petrol to enter the float chamber and by-pass the needle valve. So the float chamber was flooding and overflowing into the inlet manifold – the cause of the rich mixture, difficult starting and petrol getting into the sump oil ! With ThreeBond neoprene sealer on the old O-ring ( I had no spares ) the float valve can do its job and – for the first time in many years (?) the mixture is correct. This bodge-job lasted for a couple of days and then failed - so I got a new O-ring, that seems to fit, for 25¢ and now it drives like a new engine ! Repairing the transmission has been successful – with new transmission fluid, a clean filter, new oil-seals and new gaskets - ( also two shims from a 125cc Honda motorbike ! ) it engages smoothly without clonking like before and seems to work OK. I was most surprised. It has stopped leaking oil as well !


It has taken me over a year to figure this out, but I now know that if the car does not start ( hot or cold ) instantly the key is turned – it is because the carburetor-bowl is flooding and over-flowing – and not, as I previously thought, because it is 25 years old and a bit knackered. I don't think the petrol pump had anything to do with it – it is all down to that O-ring. Although it was pumping petrol into the cylinders and then into the sump oil, the engine still worked – amazing ! Once the oil became diluted, it started pissing out everywhere. Draining the oil, changing the O-ring and re-filling with fresh oil stopped the leak.

With that came the awful realization that maybe I didn't need to have taken the engine out at all – just fix the carb and change the oil ! Previously I didn't have a clear diagnosis of the cause of the problem – just guessed what it was likely to be. However, what with my luck and Sod's Law I'm sure, if I hadn't taken the engine out and changed the three transmission oil-seals, they would have started leaking sooner or later. When I have time, I will give it a tune-up and hopefully get the idle speed correct.


I changed the rubber (?) boots on the drive-shafts – they were showing signs of splitting after only one year and 1447 km. They seem to be plastic not rubber.


Everything in the engine compartment is now clean and painted – If a garage did the repairs they would not bother to do that – a benefit of not being in a rush and having the time to work when I was in the mood and felt like it. All my own work, without any assistance, so – providing it doesn't explode – I am feeling quite pleased with myself. I felt a bit discouraged when it first started leaking badly and I thought that the engine had to come out – however, now that it is done, the car is so much better that it was well worth the effort.


Now it is 2019 and the car is back on the road, I decided to renew the road tax. However, I was told that it is too early in the year (?) and I should wait a few more months. Apparently the Cambodian car-tax year doesn't start until about June or July ! Imagine being stopped in the UK for no road tax and saying 'But it's only half-way through March !' There is a tax ID card which expedites the process and I have been waiting for this card to be processed for over a year now – still not ready.


I also delayed my Work Permit application while I was without transport and today went for the yearly Health Certificate – necessary for the permit. At the hospital they asked me if I wanted the blood test – I said I just needed the certificate, so they copied out the results from last year's test to save time. At the eye-test station they didn't bother with the test – just passed me ! In fact all the testing done was a blood-pressure test, a chest measurement with a tape-measure (?) and my weight ( 53kgs ) I was asked if I was healthy and that was that – all finished in double-quick time. You have got to love Cambodian informality.


Naomi Simmons strikes again.


On page 22 :


Sing and do   - I don't know how you do it (?)


Ten fingers on my hands


Ten fingers on my hands,


On my hands,


Ten fingers on my hands,


On my hands,


Two eyes, one nose,


All on my face.


Ten fingers on my hands,


On my hands.


This came after I was explaining that we have eight fingers and two thumbs and showed them the 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' symbols used on YouTube etc. Has Naomi Simmons never heard of thumbs ? or does she have ten fingers and two thumbs ? Somehow 'fingers up' and 'fingers down' sounds a bit weird.


The lesson on page 23 goes like this :


The lion's got some jam.


The lion's got some ink.


Look ! Here is a kite.


Oops ! The lion is a mess.


It is teaching the students some really useful phrases ( The lion's got some jam. The lion's got some ink ) Things that they will use in everyday life.


Then there is ' Look ! Here is a kite.' What has that got to do with anything ?


Finally, ' Oops ! ' – a really useful word that I have never heard used. If you smash your finger with a hammer by accident, are you going to say Oops ! (?)


Nearly as useful as 'The handle of my helicopter is broken.' ( Monty Python )



April is New Year month and schools close for the whole month – apart from my Friday class at university ( which does not close ) I probably have the rest of the month off. It is not certain yet how long the private school will close, but it will close for three weeks for sure. At least I will get most of the month off – which is still pretty good. I don't really have anything planned – maybe I will go somewhere this year ? I should see more of Cambodia, but I am feeling a bit lazy for travelling. My car seems to be reliable now, so I don't have to do any more major repairs. It will be nice just to do a bit of this and a bit of that. When the car was out of action, repairing it was number one priority – and then suddenly it was finished and I was at a loss for what to do next. I have decided to have a tidy up first – everything gets in a mess when I work on the car – then it's back to the projects. Before that, on Monday the 1st April, I am off to Phnom Penh for some R&R.


It has not rained for many months now and apparently the water-level in the hydro-electric dams is low and power cuts are promised. This year, so far, there have been no power cuts whatsoever in this area – unlike last year. ( Lately the Internet has been exceptionally good as well. ) Since writing that, it rained for two nights ! It cooled everything down a bit and was welcome.


Last year a hydro-power dam burst in Laos, flooding Cambodia. Laos wants to be the Battery of Asia – and sell electricity to the region, but with Lao standards of quality control that might not happen. Cambodia should go all out for solar and wind-power and not rely on imported petroleum. Although now Cambodia uses the US$ as currency everywhere, officially the central bank wants to slowly cut ties to the US$. This is difficult because the US$ has become the Petrodollar and is backed by the wealth of Saudi Oil. Gone are the days when it was backed by gold – the Gold Standard. In 1870 there was a 100% Reserve Ratio – a $20 banknote was backed by $20 of gold in the bank and could readily be exchanged for gold – indeed the old notes stated they would pay the bearer in gold on demand. World War1 stopped all that ! America used its gold to pay for the war. In 1913 the Gold Exchange Standard was introduced with a 40% Reserve Ratio – a $50 bill was backed by $20 of gold. During the World Wars, Europe was in short supply of consumer goods – manufacturing had been devoted to the war effort and consumer goods from America had to be paid for in gold. By the end of World War 2 the US had of the World's gold in the Central Bank. In 1944 the Bretton Woods system was introduced – almost every currency World-wide was backed by the US $ - this gave stability as the US had gold and Forex currencies didn't float. Now this system has no reserve ratio – the dollar is no longer backed by gold. The Gold Standard kept the banks in check – they could not print money if they didn't have the gold to cover it and governments don't like gold because it imposes restraint on the money supply. America printed dollars to pay for the Korean and Vietnam wars – which it lost – and from 1959 to 1971 America lost 50% of its gold. On August 15th 1971, President Nixon officially ended the gold standard as there had been a run on the dollar by foreign countries ( France ) wanting to be paid in gold. All the World's currencies were now Fiat Currencies – paper money with no intrinsic value, just a promise of value ( like a dry-cleaning ticket promises to pay you back your clothes )


The US$ now has about 60% of the value of all of the other currencies on the planet put together – with more than 50% of American dollars outside America. Oil is priced in US$ and can only be paid for in US$ from Saudi Arabia – the main supplier. This love affair with Saudi began in 1931 with the rise of the petrol-powered automobile in America. In 1943 Italy bombed Saudi which had no army. After the War, in 1951, the US military moved into Saudi. In 1973 there was an Oil Crisis – America and Israel versa Palestine and Saudi – with a Saudi oil embargo. Oil was rationed and expensive. In 1974 America made a deal with Saudi to ONLY sell oil in US$ - the Petrodollar was born – so countries need US$ if they want to buy oil.


Who avoids the US$ ? They are known as BRICSA – Brazil, Russia, India, China, S.America ( and S.Africa ? ) China and Russia trade together and bypass the US$ - as do China and Japan. Many African countries have now banned the US$ ( pressure from China ?? ) – in Zambia you go to jail if you are caught with American dollars !


In 1944 an ounce of gold was worth $35 – now it is worth about $1235 ! In 1913 the Federal Reserve Bank was set up – a PRIVATE company – and allowed to print dollars on behalf of the American government – these US$ have since lost 95% of their value ! ( only coins are minted by the government, the dollars are private ! )


Now the Federal Reserve prints $85,000,000,000 a month – more than 1 trillion a year. This Quantitative Easing dilutes the money supply and causes inflation. They are only backed by Saudi Oil.


Who tried to avoid buying or selling oil in US$ ? Gaddafi in Libya tried to use the Dinar – which was backed by gold – and we all know how that turned out – Libya was bombed by America and Gaddafi killed by the CIA and the US army. Saddam in Iraq tried to sell his oil for Euros – Iraq was bombed and Saddam was hanged. Iran is sanctioned because it will not sell its oil for US$.


Saudi only has oil reserves for about another 40 years – then it will be petrol at $100 a gallon !   It will be interesting to see how it all turns out for the US$ !


Meanwhile China has seen the writing on the wall – it has increased its gold reserves from 700 tons to 6000 tons and is rapidly changing its transport system to electric – soon 30% of Chinese cars will be electric and powered by solar. Many countries in Europe will ban petrol and diesel cars altogether by 2030ish – only electric cars to be sold after that. Electric cars, buses, ships, planes and trucks eliminate the dependence on Saudi Oil – which is why they are not popular with the American government ! Cambodia buys petrol from Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore – which, in turn, buy it from Saudi with US$. Personally, I think it will be better to have an electric car powered by the Sun – rather than to have American dollars in the bank ! The next ten years should be interesting !


Another annoyance I have with the English course book is the use of 'pupil' for student. I try and avoid words with two or more meanings as it confuses the students. I have explained that an eye has a pupil – and not a student ! I also like to teach words ( nouns ) that have associated verbs and adjectives i.e. Student, to study, studious ( adj. ) and studiously ( adv. ) So why does Naomi Simmons use 'pupil' ? There is a verb 'to pupate' - which is fitting for some of the students (!) – however, I don't want to start explaining metamorphosis. The same goes for 'pupillary' . . . ( the adjective of pupil, but only when it refers to the pupil of the eye )


Ever since the horse stopped being used as a means of personal transport, people have had a love affair with the car – or sometimes a love/hate relationship ! Many 'futurists' ( those who guess about the future ) envisage a world where there is no personal ownership and you summon and rent an autonomous ( self-driving ) car as and when you need it. It would have no steering wheel, controls or pedals and could not be manually operated. This may turn out to be true, but where is the fun in that ?


In Asia, cars are a status symbol and you rarely see a Rolls-Royce being driven by its owner – they are almost all chauffeur-driven as it is beneath the dignity of a rich man to have to actually do some work when others can do it for him. They are happy to sit in the enormous back seats where the drinks cabinet and fridge are. Indeed they often raise the screen, blocking-off the view of the driver, which shows how interested they are in the road ahead. For those types, an autonomous car would make little difference, but they would not give up personal ownership or want to sit in a vehicle that has been used by other unknown people.


This is the reason for the failure of public transport for the rich in Thailand – and now in Phnom Penh. Middle-class and nouveaux-riche will only drive their cars ( or have a driver ) and never be seen dead in a bus or taxi – hence the incredible traffic jams. Buses, minibuses, taxis and motorbike taxis are only used by the poor and working-class. Thailand has the subway system and the skytrain – hardly suitable for those who have a Rolls-Royce or Bentley. Even having a Toyota is such a status symbol that it is preferable to sharing space on a bus. The poor continue to travel to work on a motorbike because it has a chance of threading through the traffic jams and cutting hours off the daily commute ( it is not unusual for the middle-class to spend four hours a day stuck in Bangkok traffic jams going to and coming from work )


Phnom Penh has a lot of new Chinese buses – unfortunately diesel, not electric – which are spotlessly clean, fiercely air-conditioned and conveniently frequent – but avoided by the rich or those who think they are rich. For those people, public transport carries a stigma of poverty and shame if their friends see them using it. I cannot see them ever adopting a shared car-pool of autonomous cars. It will catch on in Europe and California for sure, but not so much in Asia. Asians are very sensitive to loss-of-facemuch more so than Westerners.


For others, and for me, driving is fun and not just a boring means of getting from A to B. For us, it does matter what you are driving and our cars become an extension of our personality. Traditionally, the front-end of a car was dominated by the two headlights and the radiator grille. For example, the radiator of a classic Rolls-Royce defines the car.


Radiators were necessary because an internal-combustion engine ( ICE ) wastes half the energy of the fuel as heat – which must be dissipated. Now, whether you like it or not, cars are becoming electric ( the number one best-selling car in America is electric – the Tesla model 3 ) so the radiator grille is redundant as not much waste heat is produced. This seems to be a major headache for the old car manufacturers – they are so obsessed with conventional styling that they are making electric versions of ICE cars with the same-size radiator grilles – but now they are fake and blocked-off. How stupid is this ? BMW are trying to sell the i3 electric car which is hideously ugly with 2 fake grilles.



Styling is all-important for a car – more so than function. The Aptera electric car was designed by an aircraft manufacturer, hence it is extremely aerodynamic with a very low drag coefficient – it may be cheap to run, but it didn't sell – the styling was too exotic for the customers.



A bit impractical for city use also !

In recent years, headlights – the 'eyes' of a car – have become more and more complicated and fussy, sometimes to mimic the look of real eyes on a subliminal level. We anthropomorphize our cars and manufacturers cash-in on this. Ferrari shamelessly offer the Portofino with its fierce face – there is nothing subconscious or subliminal about it – you would have to be blind not to recognize it as a face !


The Chinese are well aware of this and sell the cheeky Kandi K22 electric car.


Here all pretense of subtlety is lost – it is obviously a face and kids will love it - I'm sure it will sell in vast numbers. The Western car manufacturers are way too serious and old-fashioned to make a fun car like this.

In Cambodia the majority of cars are the Toyota Camry – which is called 'The Shark' ( there is a bigger variant called 'The Whale' ) – cars are seen as fish ( I know whales are mammals, not fish ) The only colours are silver, bronze, black or white and one Toyota looks much the same as another. My Tico is the only car here in purple satin and kids love it, wave and jump up and down when they see it – even before they see a long-nosed foreigner inside ! Personally I like the retro-styling and hate the rounded, bulbous, bloated look of the more modern varieties ( The Matiz, Kia and Hyundai mini-cars ) The original British Mini was iconic and has sadly become the obese BMW 'mini' – hardly mini any more – an over-weight, ugly lump. Car design will go either of two ways : electric cars with fake, front radiator-grilles by the 'legacy' makers, too frightened and tied to conservative ideas to change – or cars with cartoon faces like the movie 'Cars.'



Only the electric-car makers Tesla and Rivian have dispensed with the radiator grille ( the mouth ) and gone with an aerodynamic non-face.


Ever since I first started driving the Tico, it has used a little bit of water – always a cupful every couple of days. As ethylene glycol anti-freeze is definitely not needed here (!) and water is cheap, I didn't care about it. I could not see where the leak was coming from and was happy to just keep topping it up. After the last overhaul, the leak worsened – a lot – and I could now see that the heater matrix inside the car was leaking. That was why I could not see any leaks inside the engine compartment. Now the heater has been by-passed with a piece of stainless-steel tubing and the leak has gone. For some strange reason, the pipe size, going into and coming out of, the heater was different (?) so I had two pieces of stainless tube TIG welded together for $2:50.


I also attended to the exhaust system – I fixed the heater leak myself, but for the exhaust, took it to the garage where they have a car lift – much more convenient. They modified the pipe to stop it clanging on the subframe, welded up holes in the silencer and fitted a metre-long new section of pipe to replace a bit that was rotting away. It had to be bent to fit and the job took a few hours. ( No speedy tyre and exhaust centers in Cambodia – everything is welded and patched up – no instant new exhaust systems for sale ) It was well done and sprayed black when finished – the price ? $15 So cheap – I gave the boy who did it a $5 tip. 

Previously I had checked the idle mixture and adjusted the tick-over at 1000 rpm, so - at last - I had the air-conditioning re-filled with freon 134a ( another $15 ) Now, for the first time in at least 5 years, it works and I saw 15°C on the display - good enough for a Tico !

I am always pleasantly surprized by the cheapness, convenience and ingenuity of Cambodia.




On Friday nights I finish at the university at 8.30 pm and am often the last one to leave the car park. Then I drive home by which time the gates to the underground car-park are locked for the night. My usual routine is to turn off the engine, get out the car, unlock the gates and then park in my allotted position. Last Friday, I unlocked the gates, got back in the car and – horror of horrors - it wouldn't start ! No clunk, whirr – nothing. The auto-gear select was in park, not drive and I could see from the ammeter that the starter was drawing current, but not spinning. It was on level ground and easy to push into a parking space for the night. Normally I have a 7.30 am class the next morning, but – luckily – it had been postponed for a week, so no need to get up early.

However, I had a look at the damage at 6.30 am the next morning and could see that the wire to the starter solenoid had broken off at a crimp terminal. Easy to repair in the light of day with plenty of time, but how embarrassing it would have been if the wire had chosen to break on the way to university – and left me stranded in their car-park – and not on the way home ! This is the second time that the car has – very thoughtfully – decided to break down in the car-park and not outside on the road. Was it also a lucky co-incidence that the class was cancelled the following morning ?



'Development' is rampant in Cambodia – the endless rush to get everything concreted over as quickly as possible and produce a housing bubble. There seems to be limitless money available for constructing apartments, shopping malls, hotels and luxury residences. As you enter Phnom Penh from the North, what was once unused land has now been converted into huge housing estates in gated compounds. Names like 'The Flora', 'Orchidé the Botanic City', 'Phnom Penh Park' etc. abound. All this is aimed at the wealthy middle-class, white-collar workers – there is no money to build low-cost housing for the poor. Slum areas are being demolished and up-market shops and restaurants take their place. The new towns around Phnom Penh consist of rows and rows of identical town houses or apartment blocks – mostly empty – and with such oversupply, where are the rich owners/tenants going to come from ? You only need so many managers, lawyers and accountants – most of the profit is generated by the working-classes in the garment factories and sweatshops and they will never be able to afford the expensive life-style the developers expect.


The same situation happened in Bangkok years ago and the shop houses, and town houses remained empty for decades. Even in Kratie, there is a new and over-priced apartment block – completed some time ago – without a single occupant. It is in a noisy and busy location with nothing to recommend it – and Phnom Penh pricing !


A new trend in Phnom Penh is the rapidly-increasing number of shops, restaurants and hotels with the signs only in Chinese – nothing in Khmer or English. The big construction sites have Chinese workers as do the Chinese grocery stores and restaurants. Food is imported from China so the poorer ( Cambodian ) classes are totally left out of the scene – unless they can speak, and preferably read, Chinese they are not helped by this new affluence : there is not much trickle-down effect.


There is only one casino in Phnom Penh – NagaWorld which is only for Chinese. Under Cambodian law, casinos can only be at a border town – which means the Thai/Cambodian border at Poipet or the Vietnamese/Cambodian border at Sway Reang – however, NagaWorld has been given a 200km exception to this rule !


This place is on street 172 in Phnom Penh – I say 'place' because I don't know whether it is a hotel, casino, restaurant or 'massage' (?) Strictly for Chinese. No writing in Khmer or English - you might as well be in China.




I have now completed two major projects : the 3-phase induction motor controller and the 3-phase induction motor converted from a single-phase induction motor. These started from the need for a variable-speed motor for the Bonetti machine. However, it soon became apparent that there was a good chance of the high-voltage discharge cooking the motor controller, so something more repairable was required. Therefore, I kept to using single-phase induction motors and a 'cheap-and-cheerful' controller that is easy to repair – if need be.


Almost as soon as I had the first 3-phase controller working, it blew up ! A LM317 voltage regulator failed and applied 11 volts to the µcontroller which is designed to run on 3.3 volts and toasted it. I do not have a programmer, so there was a long wait until a new, programmed µcontroller arrived from Australia. One of the three Mosfet half-bridges had also failed – they were rated at 30 Amps and failed on a 5 Amp-limited supply ! They were from a Chinese vendor, so maybe out-of-spec devices ? Anyway I changed all three Mosfet half-bridges for 40 Amp versions from a different supplier – and it is working again.


There is nothing optimized with the motor – air-gap, slot geometry, windings, pole geometry and lamination grade are all purely guesswork using what is available in Cambodia. For example, the laminations are really for 50 Hz transformers, slot geometry resulted in what was practical for me to make without laser-cutting ( which does not work with soft iron here ) or making a press tool. It is purely a proof-of-concept. Surprisingly, it performs quite well, but there is plenty of room for improvement.


The µcontroller was from a 220 Volt Variable Speed Drive for induction motors, and is probably overkill, but I like to start with a known working device rather than trying to invent the wheel every time. As proof, I have posted a video of it in operation on YouTube.




Now that these two projects are finished, and they seemed to take forever, it has reduced my workload and I am back to the Bonetti machine. ( The Tico is still going well and does not need any urgent work )


It is almost a relief when major projects like these come to completion. There is no need for further development – if I do another 3-phase controller, it will be a big 100kW version for an electric-drive Tico.

( Actually, 120 Volts @ 400 Amps would be enough for a Tico )

There are now open-source plans and kits for controllers and battery chargers, so the electronics are not really the problem. I would not attempt to make a big motor myself, but there is an open-source motor which is sold for €1500 – not cheap.


Motors and batteries can also be bought from Thailand – the only problem is cost, and the motor and batteries are EXPENSIVE. ( I would also need a 5-speed manual gearbox ! )

While I would dearly love an electric Tico, I would still want to drive it manually. However, it seems that Robot Taxis and fully-autonomous, self-driving cars are just around the corner. I had no idea of the advanced tech employed these days.

This presentation is well worth watching - The discussion starts at 1:09:30 - second part at 1:35:20 and 1: 50:00  Tesla Autonomy Day - SKIP TO 1:09:30

Then, as proof of the pudding  . . .  Full Self-Driving in a silent electric car . . . not fake ! ( I hope the playback was speeded up . . . ! )






The weather here is hot, and hotter -   42°C in the day and even at night 40°C inside ! My supply of polyester resin stopped working because the catalyst M.E.K ( methyl ethyl ketone ) peroxide had decomposed in the heat. Now I have a fresh supply from Phnom Penh, but don't know how long it will last. Actually, I am very lucky to have discovered the only two fibre-glass workshops there – it is no use whatsoever asking the average resident or a taxi driver where to buy technical items – they haven't a clue. Google is no use either – shops are scattered all over the place and don't have websites or email.


From the outside, you might not know that they sell polyester resin ( ??? )


Another unusual shop - there are three shops located on prime real estate, on the riverside, that sell ONLY salt - I saw one men load 5 bags of 50kgs salt onto his motorbike and ride off. 


So far, on my own, I have discovered :


The best electronic spare-parts shop


The best car-spares shop


The best laser-cutting shop


The best TIG welding shop


-     . . .    and the best bar (?)


It seems like there are no powder coaters, metal spinners, PCB manufacturers, pressing, stamping, surface grinding, or good 3-D printing shops here – but I may be wrong ?


I finally decided on what to cast with all the scrap aluminium cans I have been collecting - exercise weights !

It's obvious really – drinking beer gives you a beer gut and turning the empties into exercise weights can, at least, make your arms bigger even if it doesn't do much for the gut. It might alleviate some of the guilt feelings of beer drinkers and make them feel better about their drinking (?)

This year, I will be using a new furnace, new graphite crucible and new lifting and pouring hardware. See PROJECTS page > Aluminium Melting Furnace for more details.


Most students think of rich people as 'millionaires' without having much concept of how big a million is. When you get to billionaires, they just think they are a bit richer. To put the difference into perspective :

                           1 million seconds is 11½ days - not so long ?


                           1 billion seconds is 31¾ years


                           1 trillion seconds is 31,710 years


A huge difference between a million seconds and a trillion. Similarly, a huge difference between a millionaire and a trillionaire.

Now look at the wealth of Royal families :

  • Saudi Arabia's Royal Family: $1.7 trillion.
  • The Kuwait Royal Family: $360 billion.
  • The Qatar Royal Family: $335 billion.
    The Abu Dhabi Royal Family: $150 billion.
  • The British Royal Family : $88 billion
  • The Thai Royal Family: $60 billion.


The Saudis probably have enough money (?) but we are continually making them even richer by purchasing oil from them.

Renewable energy cannot come quickly enough – especially to the poorer countries like Cambodia. Countries with practically no oil like the UK and Thailand, have Royals that seem almost poverty-stricken by comparison !


Saudi Arabian oil was first discovered by the Americans in commercial quantities at Dammam oil well No. 7 in 1938 – this was the rise of the automobile and generated the Arab wealth.  By 2016, about 70% of Aramco's crude oil sales were to Asia.

Now, Saudi Aramco is by far the biggest energy company in the world, generating more than $1 billion a day in revenues. ( 12.5 million barrels per day.) 

According to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy, global oil reserves at the end of 2012 were 1.7 trillion barrels. Given that the world consumes about 86 million barrels of crude oil per day, we'll run out of oil in 48 years, or sooner.


 These countries account for two-thirds of total global oil exports. They had better make the most of their oil money while it lasts.


  1. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the world's number one oil exporter and the country with the largest amount of oil reserves.
  2. Russia.
  3. Iraq.
  4. Canada.
  5. United Arab Emirates.
  6. Iran.
  7. Kuwait.
  8. Nigeria.


I thought April was pretty good for holidays – I had three weeks off for New Year ! However, May is not bad either :


1st May            Labour Day


13th -15th May  King's Birthday


18th May          Buddhist Holiday


20th May          Remembrance Day


22nd May         Royal Ploughing Ceremony


-          so plenty of time to visit Phnom Penh !



Beer Cans


The discovery of aluminium was announced in 1825 by Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, whose work was continued by German chemist Friedrich Wöhler.


Soon after its discovery, the price of aluminium exceeded that of gold.


In 1852, aluminium cost US$545 per pound.


French chemist Henri Étienne Sainte-Claire Deville announced an industrial method of aluminium production in 1854 at the Paris Academy of Sciences. Aluminium chloride could be reduced by sodium, a metal more convenient and less expensive than the potassium used by Wöhler. Deville was able to produce an ingot of the metal. Napoleon III of France promised Deville an unlimited subsidy for aluminium research; in total, Deville used 20 times the annual income of an ordinary family.


Napoleon's interest for aluminium lied in its potential military use: he wished weapons, helmets, armour, and other equipment for the French army could be made of the new, light, shiny metal. While the metal was still not displayed to the public, Napoleon is reputed to have held a banquet where the most honored guests were given aluminium utensils while others made do with gold.


Twelve small ingots of aluminium were subsequently exhibited for the first time to the general public at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. The metal was presented as "the silver from clay" (aluminium is very similar to silver visually), and this name was soon widely used. It caught wide attention, but not all of it was favourable. Newspapers wrote, "The Parisian expo put an end to the fairy tale of the silver from clay", saying that much of what had been said about the metal was exaggerated if not untrue and that the amount of the presented metal — about a kilogram — contrasted with what had been expected and was "not a lot for a discovery that was said to turn the world upside down."


However, the metal was noticed by the avant-garde writers of the time—Charles Dickens, Nikolay Chernyshevsky, and Jules Verne—who envisioned its usage in the future. Overall, the fair led to eventual commercialization of the metal.


The price of aluminium fell to US$115 per pound in 1855 and to $17 in 1859.


At the next fair in Paris in 1867, the visitors were presented with aluminium wire and foil.


The aluminium can was first manufactured in 1956 and employed as a container for drinks in 1958.


In 2013, annual production of aluminium exceeded 50,000,000 metric tons. In 2015, it was a record 57,500,000 tons. In 2015 it cost $1,940 per metric ton


– now it is used once in beer and soft-drink cans and then thrown away as rubbish – very sad.


This is the video description of my latest posting . . .


This is a low-cost project for re-cycling scrap aluminium cans into something with more value. In this case they will be melted and cast into exercise weights.


At present in Cambodia, you only get $1 for about 50 - 80 cans - 1 Kilo - and that Kilo goes to Thailand. The poorest of the poor live by collecting cans for their $ a day - maybe small factories could cast the aluminium into something with more value ? This could be a fair trade for the poor ?


My idea was exercise weighs for rich, beer-drinkers - it might alleviate guilt for a beer gut by making big biceps ? They would be quite expensive - to provide a realistic income for the poor.


If video testimonials were posted to show the money really went to the poor, I am sure the rich would cough up - helps the environment, the poor and builds muscle !


It might kickstart something ?

NOTE - it is NOT me in the thumbnail ! It was the best thumbnail YouTube could come up with - if you want to use custom thumbnails, you must get your YT channel verified (?) first. I did not know this when I was uploading at 4 am !





I have just received this email from Silicon Chip magazine in Australia - my contribution was for the low-voltage, 3-phase controller for induction motors. This my second design - so far - for 2019. It is 99% sure they will publish it.

Unfortunately, I cannot transfer the money to my bank - it can only be used for Silicon Chip merchandise - PayPal Cambodia is severely restricted. A pity as April was holiday month without pay and I could do with the cash !


Hello John,

Thank you for your contribution to our Circuit Notebook section. This will be considered for publication in the next available issue. If used, payment will be made shortly after publication.


We will pay you in the usual manner. If you want to change the payment method, let us know.


Please note that contributions to the Circuit Notebook pages are accepted on the condition that Silicon Chip Publications Pty Ltd may edit them and has the right to reproduce them in printed and electronic form.




Third time lucky ?


It happened again – I was planning to go to school early – which was just as well – got in the car, turned the key and nothing ! Actually, not quite nothing – it was the same as last time : I could see from the voltmeter that the starter motor was drawing current and could hear it spinning, but it was not engaging with the flywheel. Luckily, it was safely in the car park, so I had time to get a lift to school. The next morning I investigated – the battery was flat and that was the only problem. The trip to school only takes a few minutes and coming home in the dark with the lights on drains the battery if I get stuck in traffic and cannot do at least 2000 rpm. The battery ( $50 ) is only a year-and-a-half old, but was made in Thailand so it might not last much longer ! I gave it a good, long charge and it is indicating fully-charged now and starts the car no problem.


The Tico still has incandescent, tungsten-filament bulbs for the headlights and the stop/tail lights. I would like to replace the headlights with LEDs, but the cheap (?) ones cost $40 and have a bad cut-off pattern – while the good ones ( Philips, Luxeon, Cree etc. ) are $150 so will have to wait – a long time ! That would really reduce the current at night and give much more light. Apparently Betelgeuse might be going Supernova soon, so I might not need LED lights at night after all ?!?


The stop/tail lights are another story – I tried LED replacements, but they were much too dim. The red-tinted lenses attenuate most of the narrow-spectrum LEDs as the colour does not coincide. It would need lenses specially matched to the LED frequency – or clear lenses. Similarly, the turn-indicator lenses are amber and would need matching amber LEDs.



I now know why Cambodians hardly ever use email – it is too difficult to set up a gmail account ! Sounds strange, but the vast majority have their phones locked in Khmer fonts and they are hard to change to English. The Khmer instructions are Google machine-translations from English and too confusing for Cambodians to understand. Apparently very ambiguous and don't always make sense. ( instead of saying 'email address' it just says 'address' which they take for the house address – and most houses here don't have an address – no house numbers or street names ) - The manager at the school couldn't do it – so what hope is there for the average person ? I used my laptop – in English – and had no trouble in setting up the account for him.


I often use a server in Taiwan with VPN and gmail usually, but not always, comes up in Chinese. There is a box that offers to translate the page, but when clicked, it says 'This page cannot be translated.' So Google gmail was originally in English, can be translated into Chinese – but cannot be translated back into English ???


The popular contact method is 'Telegram' – which is easy to use (?) None of my students have an email account or YouTube channel ( for which you need a gmail account ).



Full Moon in Scorpio


Saturday - 18th May 2019


I'm sure you are all familiar with those times when everything goes wrong – when it's just one thing after another, always something breaking down, needing replacement or payment of bills becoming due when cash reserves are low, but do you often have times when everything goes right ? Times when you just happen to have the right component at hand that just happens to fit perfectly – or a design idea that, when you start to construct it, just falls into place.


I never believed in Astrology, but apparently the full moon is in Scorpio, my birth sign, this month ( 18th May ) so maybe that is having an effect on me ? I always find that I am more creative around my birthday ( October ) Whatever the reason, I have been having a good month and many things are going well – touch wood !


  • 3-phase controller
  • 3-phase motor
  • Video of them both in action on YouTube
  • Design article accepted by Silicon Chip, Australia
  • Big aluminium furnace finished and video on YouTube
  • Car repair – it was only a flat battery
  • New YouTube channel – Universal International School, Cambodia  ( you can see my students ! )
  • Excellent time in Phnom Penh on the 13th (!)


Previously I used mainly photos on my website – very rarely video. Now, I am finally getting to grips with the video editing program I use – Sony Vegas pro13 ( this is usually $600, but copies in Cambodia are $1 or less !) I started off using Wondershare, which is very easy to use, but primitive compared to Sony Vegas. Vegas has quite a learning curve which puts many people off. Maybe the reason Cambodians don't upload much serious content to YouTube is the lack of video-editing skills. For editing you really need a computer – much can be done with an iPhone – or similar – but the small screen and lack of a mouse is extremely limiting. 99% of my students don't have a computer or an email address. I don't know anyone, besides myself, with a website.


Phones are used for everything – still photos, videos, sound recording and website browsing. Many phones have a limited number of windows you can keep open or jump between and this doesn't help navigating websites. Mostly, 'video editing' on a phone consists of adding rabbit's ears, cat's whiskers or cropping the content into a heart-shape with roses.


An external microphone is really needed for good sound and the mic on a hands-free set is no better. The trend is for new phones to only use Bluetooth with the 3.5mm jack socket deleted and I doubt if there are quality Bluetooth mics for sound recording ? Even using Windows Sound Recorder the quality is not very good – hardly professional. Sound can be recorded directly in Sony Vegas, but it is still using the computer's audio chip-set and is a bit noisy. I have decided to go with balanced-input microphones, a dedicated audio chip – the PCM 2902 from Texas Instruments - which is a stereo CODEC with USB interface - to eliminate the computer's on-board, sound chip-set ( usually Realtek ) and provide professional-quality sound. It will be some time before all this is finished and working . . .


It is quite a serious commitment learning Sony Vegas – but not nearly as difficult as Da Vinci Resolve which supports 4K editing – equally daunting is Photoshop ( I use GIMP ) but, for those interested in Internet content, totally necessary. There are many un-edited videos on YouTube – done in one take with a cell phone – but they look a bit rough. I firmly believe that editing suites like these, and maybe design programs like Sketchup, Corel Draw or AutoCad, should be taught in schools. These, and possibly 3-D printing, are the skills that students of the future will need. I have left it a bit late in life (!) but I am quite pleased with what I can do already. It is sad that the nearest most students here come to a computer is looking at Facebook on a smart phone.


When you watch a big-name Hollywood movie, the video editing and camerawork is so smooth and seamless that you don't even notice it. The sound is always clear and we take all this post-production work for granted. It is when we try to make our own videos that we find out how difficult it is – but how satisfying it can be.


My biggest moan about Hollywood movies is the terribly outdated, over-loud, orchestral soundtracks that they use. Why must the violins be the loudest feature ? The soundtrack of the Star Wars series completely ruins the movie for me. Sci-fi needs electronic music ( Techno or House ) not violins.



There was a magnificent firework display for the King's Birthday on May 14th and I had an unobstructed view from the riverside, Phnom Penh. However, I was amazed at the number of people who completely ignored the fireworks – instead they were looking in the opposite direction – or found their phones more interesting. Some miserable old men even looked disgruntled at the event.


It's not as if fireworks are an everyday occurrence – and it is impossible not to hear the bangs as the mortars burst unless you are stone deaf. An enormous expenditure to produce them ( probably by hand in China ) and pay for the display – each starburst only lasting for a second before fading, but a second of incredible beauty – and for many this was not even worth a sky-ward glance ! Why ? In Laos, fireworks are more-or-less banned because the Hill Tribes think they are evil, but I don't think Cambodia is that backward.



Why is it that those born with genetic defects such as Dwarves and Down's Syndrome ( maybe also called Cretinism, but that term is probably not P.C. now ? ) all look the same ? Both Thais and Cambodians with Down's Syndrome are all instantly recognizable and look the same as Westerners with these conditions – all Asian characteristics have disappeared. Similarly, Dwarves with the stubby fingers, little bow-legs and squashed faces all look the same – all the Asian features gone.


Could it be that they are an evolutionary relic – a dead-end of Natural Selection – an off-shoot of Homo Whatever  that didn't make it to the present, but the genotype is sufficiently stable to pop-up now-and-then due to some provocation (?) – in-breeding, pollution or mutagenic chemicals in the environment ?


Were there once whole continents of Cretins ? ( some might say there still are ! ) Every-one had Down's Syndrome and co-existed with Neanderthals of the same mental abilities. ( I am assuming that Down's Syndrome equates with reduced brain-power – or are there some genii with it ? ) Also was there once a race of Dwarves existing simultaneously with the smaller Apes ?


You never see any-body with just a bit of Down's Syndrome - it's all or nothing ... or just a bit of Dwarfism : short people don't look like Dwarves. Therefore the genotype must be robust, if flawed, and the 'defect' must be more dominant than Asian features.



This is from the latest Bayon Pearnik - the tourist / ex-pat magazine. It shows what Cambodians think of NGOs.

Hardly surprising - considering that 99% of donations goes on " Expenses " ( wining & dining, endless meetings, massage (?) and salaries )





Who knew ?

LED lamps here are ubiquitous. Compact fluorescents are still sold, but I think that their days are numbered. I needed an "old-style" tungsten-filament, incandescent lamp as a resistive load – and had difficulty buying one ! In one of the biggest lighting superstores in Phnom Penh, all they had was a 'decorative' one in a patterned, translucent envelope. I eventually found an ordinary, clear-glass 100W bulb in my regular electronic spare-parts shop.

I was thinking that all those factories for making traditional glass-bulb, tungsten lights must be really hurting now. Wrong ! There is a new trend for LED lamps fitted into glass bulbs of all shapes and sizes. ( Some look like electro-luminescent technology, but mostly they are LED ) These factories would not need the vacuum pumping, metal-in-glass seals, tungsten wire or argon – they can buy in the LEDs and drivers ( sometimes little more than a capacitor, resistor and diodes ) and package them in the base. They can still keep going – after a fashion ! I took these videos in the lighting stores on Moniwong, Phnom Penh.


That is more than can be said for those factories making CRTs ( Cathode Ray Tubes ) for TVs and monitors. Old-style TVs have been completely killed off by LCD technology – however, I still see CRT TVs for sale in the markets in Phnom Penh – they may be cheaper, but who buys them ?

Last week was a three-day holiday – which I spent in Phnom Penh and, as the next Saturday and Monday were holidays as well, I went back again on the Saturday which was also the full moon. I had an even better time than on the first visit ! Now I have one day's teaching and then another holiday on Wednesday ! The next public holiday on a week-end is Saturday 1st June. Guess where I'm going !

I have finally given up using the 'Family & Friends' textbook ( by Naomi Simmons ) – it is totally useless. If they learn from her for a thousand years, they will never speak English – it is so boring and stupid. The final straw was this : The book still  has not finished with ABC – on page 51 you are supposed to sing  'ABC' ( the letters A to Z ) and then, on page 54, read the sentence "Look ! I've got a certificate for good work at school." The word 'certificate' is quite a progression for students who haven't finished learning ABC yet.

Instead, I am using YouTube. My new approach is to interview the students one-by-one on camera and upload the interviews to YouTube. Sometimes I video the whole class in action, but both these methods encourage the students to be on their best behaviour for the videos – no-one wants to look stupid on YouTube. ( I do re-takes where necessary and edit out the bad bits ) Except for the one student who is dyslexic and hasn't got a clue what is happening, the rest of them are showing noticeable improvement from week to week.

YouTube -> Universal International School, Cambodia

The first video was in October 2017 when they were learning ABC and could not speak. Now they can speak for a whole minute on camera without notes or prompting. That might not sound like much, but most students learn for seven years in state schools and still cannot string a complete sentence together when confronted with a foreigner.

I remember learning French for three years – and the utter terror at the oral exam when I had to answer simple questions from the examiner ( who was not French – it would have been even worse with a real French person with a proper accent ) Unlike those lucky enough to have had holidays in France or Switzerland, most of us were stuck in England with no opportunity to practice French outside the classroom. French is quite similar to English – the alphabet is the same with some extra accents – easy to read and write and you only have to learn the pronunciation and the grammar. You can guess the meaning of many words.

Khmer, on the other hand, is totally alien – no similarities whatsoever. I can read and write Thai and Lao, but really struggle with Khmer. All of these languages have no plurals, no genders, no verb-to-be, and no tenses – so English with its irregular verbs and grammar is a big challenge. Khmer teachers teach English like Khmer is spoken – so you get "I like to eat apple" ( not apples ) and "Tomorrow I go Phnom Penh." 



A new phenomenon has appeared in Kratie : Dope-leaf T-shirts are on sale everywhere in the market. Last year there were none, but this year I see a lot of people wearing them. I don't know if they know what the leaf actually is – maybe they think it is just a pretty leaf ? In Cambodia you can wear them with impunity - it's not as if there are any police, drug squads or DEA around to get annoyed and do a stop-and-search ! Now there are also many of these T-shirts in Phnom Penh.



Freon has long been used for fridges and air-conditioning although it is not good for the Ozone layer. My car has been re-filled with Freon 134a - some garages use propane, but I would rather have a Freon leak than a propane leak ! I saw a cyclopentane freezer in Kratie - it has a big sticker on the side :



Now it is the rainy season and I expect to see mushrooms popping up everywhere soon. I saw this bright orange/yellow fungus growing on an old corn cob.




Health & Safety, Cambodia

Public Health Officials testing meat and home-made drinks for bacteria at the market.


I was pleasantly surprised - I didn′t think they existed ! You would never see this in Thailand. The market is a pretty grubby place with flies swarming over the meat and some dubious home-made drinks. It′s nice to know some-one cares about safety.



In Phnom Penh I saw this Mercedes - at first I thought it didn′t have any tires, only alloy wheels - they are the lowest-profile tyres I have ever seen - like rubber bands ! Cannot be very comfortable on the rougher roads there. ( Re-surfacing is an on-going process - continual improvement ) It looks cool with the black windows and no number plate - as every VIP car in the city has !


 5 Speed Tico

Most cars these days seem to have automatic transmissions - and, years ago, I can remember seeing ″AUTOMATIC″ badges on some British cars - Yes, it was a long time ago !

This Tico has a ″Manual Transmission″ sticker !  I would need a manual gearbox if I ever converted my one to electric drive  . . . . .



Finally, this has to be the most horrible thing I have ever seen in Phnom Penh. An awful, over-weight girl - with a bra (?) welcoming customers outside a toy shop ! It quite turned my stomach !


 See part 2 aluminium melting furnace.

Now the new furnace has had time to dry out, it is time to test it.
The first firing went very well - it did not crack, explode or collapse !
I melted about 500 beer cans in total to make this exercise weight.
It is nearly 5 kilos. All materials commonly available in Cambodia.
The most expensive item was the motorbike wheel axle at $2.50 - of course an old one could be used, or M12 studding.
It is better to recycle aluminium cans in Cambodia than to sell them too cheaply to Thailand - as per current practice.

My second excercise weight is now 75% completed [ three out of the four plates cast ] and I [ just ] need about 150 more beer cans to finish it ! Luckily I can rely on Cambodians to provide these in a few days ! The furnace is working well with no problems.

I have been busy making videos - both for the school and for myself. This is the latest one from the school - the Friday Intermediate class.


A busy day at the Doctors Office in Cambodia . . .

Bugs in ears and throat.
Weak, no energy, no power.
An accident.
Gas ? Wind ? Farts a lot ? - Pregnant !



I was director, producer and ( not very good ) editor ! I also provided the props.
This is part 1.
If you can comment, like, share and subscribe, it would help the channel. 

I think Rôle Play is a fun way of learning - the students have to memorize the lines and fit them into the acting. However, it is not easy thinking up new scenarios - any ideas ???


The only real difficulty I have with video editing is trying to make a smooth, seamless transition between two scenes when I have cut out an unwanted bit in the middle. Sometimes it is jerky or too lengthy so needs removing. An ideal video editor would have two screens - one on the left showing the ending of the first scene - and one screen on the right showing the beginning of the second scene. The left screen would play forwards in time and the second screen would play backwards. Then it would be easier to match the cut-points to give the best, least-jerky transition. A bit of A.I. would greatly speed up the process - you could stop at the ending of the first scene and stop at the beginning of the second scene, and the computer could find the perfect frames at which to cut and splice and then morph frames, if necessary, to give seamless transitions. Maybe the expensive, professional editors have these features already, I don't know. With my editor - Sony Vegas pro 13 - I don't think it can do that.


I made a curving camera slider out of PVC pipes - it should help when taking videos of small objects. It gives quite a different camera angle than with the regular tripod, when panning. I have not really used it yet.



On my travels around Kratie I noticed these big logs had suddenly appeared - this is what became of them :



Rather than cutting down the few-remaining mature trees, ceremonial boats should be made out of re-cycled waste plastic - of which there is plenty !




All over Cambodia there are mobile sugar-cane vendors. This one sells the juice at the riverside. She is very pretty so I couldn't resist making a video !




Food update :


The peanut and mango seasons are over and the remaining lotus seeds are past their prime. Bananas are scarcer but usually still available. I have stopped drinking pumpkin juice because my skin was turning yellow ! Too much sugar also. Passion fruit have been on sale for most of this year so far – and are delicious. Now I only drink boiled tap-water – the bottled water sometimes tastes bitter and it comes in identical bottles – 500 riel and 1000 riel and the more expensive one is supposed to be somehow better (?)

My garden really thrives on rain water – maybe I should be drinking it ? Tap water keeps the plants alive during dry spells, but they do not grow much. Is it the chlorine ?



Long-distance Diarrhoea ?


My sister said that bouts of diarrhoea had been making the rounds in the UK and they were recovering on a diet of Jacob's Cream Crackers and water – very bland ! The next day I went to the riverside with two other teachers and we drank beer and I ate fried Tofu – the next morning I had diarrhoea ! I was the only one of the three of us who got it – so maybe it was the tofu ?? – or could it have been a long-distance sympathetic effect, like husbands experiencing labour pains ? – or quantum entanglement ? Would I have got the diarrhoea if I had not heard about the UK outbreak on the phone ??


My attack was easily fixed with a remedy, but still left me feeling weak and listless – also there was no internet and nothing else I felt like doing – so I took a minibus to Phnom Penh. A lightning one-day trip to the big city is not something I normally like doing – unless there is a specific task or mission, it's not worth it and I prefer to wait for a free weekend – or, better still, a three-day holiday. This time I was a bit under-the-weather : some twinges in my guts, but no more runs or nausea. No internet was the deciding factor. I had the whole of the back seat of the bus to myself, so I could stretch out and travel in comfort. The day's holiday was very relaxing and rewarding and I'm pleased I went.



So what do I eat in Phnom Penh ? Usually street food because it is the best. Sometimes I visit a new Indian restaurant I have found – the best one so far. The vast majority of riverside restaurants are rubbish – over-priced, low-quality food for tourists – and this includes the riverside Indian restaurants. The Indian one I like is in a side-street and also doubles as a guest house. If you ask them, they will make a curry not over-loaded with chilies so you can actually taste the spices. Now I can't imagine doing this in England, but I do like a veg curry with some extra protein, so – before going to the restaurant – I bought some tofu at the market and asked them to add it to the curry. What would be the reaction in the UK if you asked the typical high-street Indian curry shop to add extra food you had brought along to their curry ? Probably charge you extra – if they would do it at all ?



I went to some bookshops trying to get cheap English/Khmer dictionaries for the school. A couple of years ago I had bought a Collins dictionary for $1.30. There was no "D" – it went from "C" to "E" – a minor omission ? Now they are out-of-stock. In all the bookshops, I could not find a simple English to Khmer dictionary ( with pictures ) for beginners. There are only advanced ones. University students have comprehensive dictionaries on their phones, but junior students don't have phones and would benefit from a "first" learners dictionary. I suppose, as there are no good beginners text books, there might just as well be no decent beginners dictionaries either !



[ The Naomi Simmons lesson on page 76 of her 'textbook' goes like this :


Let's go to the zoo !


Hear the tigers growl, growl,


Growl, growl, growl, growl,


Hear the tigers growl, growl,


Hip, hip, hip hooray !


-   a very useful lesson (!) Try explaining "Hip, hip, hip hooray !" to Khmer students – what does it actually mean ? How useful is it in every-day conversation ? ]


Finally, my Cambodian Blog now has over 100,000 words !




Bad News

The other foreign teacher at my school – Pablo who was from Argentina – is dead. He hanged himself from a bridge about 10kms from the school.



I last spoke to him on Friday as I had posted two videos of him teaching that same week on YouTube.




In the videos he seems quite happy - not like some-body about to kill himself in a few days time. He never said he had any personal problems or was considering suicide. Apparently he went to the bridge on his bicycle and was seen cycling backwards and forwards through a village there all night. The locals thought he was crazy. There was no note or letter. His passport and visa were up-to-date. His room was neat and tidy and his phones were there.

The police estimate the time of death at about 6am this morning [ 22nd July 2019 ] His embassy has been informed. The reason for his suicide has been put down to "stress."

I get stressed teaching ABC, but it is not that bad ! I have been in far worse situations than teaching ABC and never contemplated suicide ! His students liked him and I don't know how they will react to the news. Not so good for the reputation of the school either. The news will be all over Kratie by now as it is being shared on facebook.

R.I.P. Pablo Juan Verde.


The Worst Rubbish on YouTube :

48 hours of pure black screen in HD!
330 dislikes

How can people be allowed to waste YouTube’s storage with 48 hours of black, blank screen ? Why 4,100 likes and only 330 dislikes ?


However there are some good stories on YouTube.

AI is getting better ! Self-driving vehicles are becoming ever more common. I saw a video about the firing of dockworkers at Maersk [ the World's largest shipping line ] as they had been replaced by autonomous self-driving loaders. This means that fork-lift truck drivers could be next. In fact any low-speed vehicles that rely on repetitive movements such as diggers, back-hoes, bulldozers, excavators, farm tractors, combine harvesters, fruit-pickers, fertilizer sprayers etc. could be made fully self-driving.

If battery technology improves by 10 times or more, they could be all-electric. [ one of the World's largest mining dumper trucks is electric already ] They could use camera drones to provide an aerial view for greater efficiency. With the US minimum wage up to $15 an hour now, employers will prefer a robot vehicle that can operate 24/7 with no toilet breaks, lunch breaks, health care or accident insurance.

The garment industry – one of the largest employers in Cambodia – is under threat as China already has machines that can cut, stitch and package clothes 100% completely with no human workers.

In the US, Michigan has given permission for driver-less autonomous taxis to operate. In rich countries, many manual jobs will become redundant in the future – what will the unemployed workers do ?

The answer of "futurists" is that we will live in a utopia where no-one works, all labour is done by robots and the population has endless free time for arts and crafts. I think that is complete rubbish – sure, the rich business owners will be on the gravy train, but it does not guarantee universal entitlement.

At present, many with university degrees do manual jobs because they sometimes pay better than white-collar jobs, but mostly manual jobs are in the domain of the minimally educated.

The US government's answer to those newly made redundant is "Learn to Code !" 

Yeah, right – do a two-week government course on programming and you will be able to get a job with Microsoft, Oracle or Apple ! Are they serious ? It is not that easy. There is also the choice of language to consider. These days I think every-one has been spared the torment of 'machine code' – which was used hundreds of years ago for routines when Basic was too slow ! Now we have the choice of Android, iOS, HTML, C++, Visual Basic, Python, Linux, Arduino (!) and many more other operating systems and programs. You will not learn to write tight, concise code in any one of them in two weeks !

But AI could ! Neural-network AI is getting very clever :


A poker-playing robot called Pluribus has beaten top human professionals at six-player no-limit Texas poker, the most popular variant of the game. It is the first time that an artificial-intelligence (AI) program has beaten elite human players at a game with more than two players. In a 12-day session with more than 10,000 hands, it beat 15 top human players.

To tackle six-player poker, a new search algorithm was used. Most game-playing AIs search forwards through decision trees for the best move to make in a given situation. But the complexity introduced by extra players makes this tactic impractical. Poker requires reasoning with hidden information — players must work out a strategy by considering what cards their opponents might have and what opponents might guess about their hand based on previous betting. But more players makes choosing an action at any given moment more difficult, because it involves assessing a larger number of possibilities. The key breakthrough was developing a method that allowed Pluribus to make good choices after looking ahead only a few moves rather than to the end of the game.

Pluribus teaches itself from scratch using a form of reinforcement learning similar to that used by DeepMind’s Go AI, AlphaZero. It starts off playing poker randomly and improves as it works out which actions win more money. After each hand, it looks back at how it played and checks whether it would have made more money with different actions, such as raising rather than sticking to a bet. If the alternatives lead to better outcomes, it will be more likely to choose them in future.


By playing trillions of hands of poker against itself, Pluribus created a basic strategy that it draws on in matches. At each decision point, it compares the state of the game with its blueprint and searches a few moves ahead to see how the action played out. It then decides whether it can improve on it. And because it taught itself to play without human input, the AI settled on a few strategies that human players tend not to use.


When playing, it runs on just two central processing units (CPUs). By contrast, DeepMind’s original Go bot used nearly 2,000 CPUs, when they first beat top professionals.


Soon there will be easy GUIs where you input a rough outline of what you want to do – some sketches, verbal description or examples – and the AI will write the code for you. Then coders will be obsolescent.

When I told my computer teacher in Tottenham that I was considering starting a website, he said : "You will have to learn HTML, then." Where has he been ? I have never had to use HTML – except to inspect the code and fix some bugs on two occasions. Everyone uses templates and just modifies them these days. At another government computer teaching center, they were teaching Adobe 'Dreamweaver' – a £600 obsolete website-making program that has been overtaken by Joomla which is free. Now, five years later, there are loads of website templates that are used by millions and you never see HTML. Only the one small team of programmers was needed to create the template application – how long before AI can do it ?

Google 'Deep Dream' can make some weird videos, other AIs can compose OK music, 'Deep Squeak' has analysed rat squeaks and deduced they have language. Inevitably, AI will be able to communicate with dolphins, whales, elephants and rats (?) But will it translate literally, or tell us what it thinks we ought to hear ?


So, to me, "Learn to Code !" is a bit of an insult.




I am experimenting with a new video-editing technique : 50 years ago it was called 'Colour-Separation Overlay' – then 'Blue Screen' – then 'Green Screen' – and now, 'Chroma Key.'

I don't know if I can get it to work, but if I can it will open up the possibilities of almost endless video English lessons. Learning English the usual way – from the printed pages of a book – quickly bores students.

For example, the books commonly used are the 'Headway' series and in it the lessons are all about 'Shopping in Oxford Street' or English T.V. Talk Shows and other topics all utterly useless for Khmer Students.

Students should learn English so that they can speak about Cambodia first – or, at least, subjects that are interesting and modern. When they get the opportunity to speak English with a foreigner, what are they going to say ? Most probably the foreigner will ask them about Cambodia – directions to the market or an A.T.M, advice on liv- ing here or just make pleasant conversation. How are they going to fit in their lesson about shopping in Oxford Street ?

An English text book I saw the other day had a bit about the Battle of Hastings in 1066 with a drawing of the King and the arrow in his eye – useful for Khmers in 2019 ???

Making a short video encourages them to rehearse and learn their lines so that they can look good on YouTube. Previously, they would repeat new words from the set-book in class – without really understanding the meaning or bothering to commit them to memory – if you asked them a week later, all you would get is a blank stare.

Since I started with videos, I have never seen them try so hard to remember their lines – which can be used in the future – and actively participate in the project. As far as I know, no other schools are doing this – they all rely on the set-books.

When I am shooting the video, all the students can see behind them is a blank, green screen – so they have to trust me that the final result will be worth it (!)

At first I tried light-green cardboard – as recommended on YouTube – that didn't work ! Next I bought light-green cloth ( the same shade ) but it became too pale when illuminated – too close to skin-colour. Then a medium-to-dark-green cloth, stretched tight on a framework of PVC pipes – that worked OK.

Diffused-light boxes ( soft boxes ) were made from cardboard and covered with white cloth. The first results were most pleasing and quickly uploaded to YouTube. Now I know that I can do it – and how to do it – there will be many more video lessons coming. - Apparently the Boss didn't think that I could do it – but now he is very pleased with the first video using Chroma Key.

I use the big TV to show the students the final video as uploaded to YouTube. Usually they only get to see their video on a tiny phone screen – it is a totally different experience viewed on a big screen in HD with good sound

( The TV speakers are typically lousy, but I noticed they had a couple of big, powered, speaker boxes hanging around that were never used. I was told they were dead and "Smoke comes out when plugged in !" I quickly repaired the best one and use it with the audio-out of the TV.)

The school YouTube channel now has 700 views and I expect many more soon ! So far, only one video using Chroma Key, but another one is coming this week ! I really enjoy doing it and it takes all the pressure off trying to think what lesson to do next. The possibilities are endless.



Say “ Cheese ”

I was walking past a general store and noticed a box of unopened milk cartons in the rubbish outside. It was 'Lif Kun' brand Vietnamese milk with "Less Sugar." [ Why does milk have to have added sugar anyway ? ] Produced on 10th August 2018, expiry date 10th May 2019 – old stock that had expired about 3 months ago.

I do not care if it has started to curdle – I want to make cheese with it – so I went to the market and, as it was still there when I returned, I grabbed the lot. In total 28 cartons. I used 8 cartons to make the first batch and tasted every one – it tasted just fine - well as good as slightly sweetened, flavoured, Vietnamese milk could ever taste (!) which is actually quite vile.

Sterilized milk can probably keep for longer than a year, so I was not worried about catching anything. I used this process for many years in Thailand – add vinegar to curdle it, then strain in a cloth bag ( old shirt ) and wash out the sugar and whey with slightly salty water – then hang up to ripen. After two weeks it gets quite ripe ! I couldn't wait two weeks – I have nearly finished the first batch already – it was very tasty.

I am amazed what is thrown away in Cambodia – there are many poor people, but they do not like milk or milk products. Now I am not shy about reclaiming useful things from the rubbish if no-one else wants them.



Speaking about rubbish, when I was in Thailand I made an oscilloscope from a Black-and-White T.V. from the rubbish. That was nearly 20 years ago and probably State-of-the-Art for Thailand at that time (!) All IC and transistor – none of your old Tektronics valve rubbish !

It used magnetic deflection so was quite slow – limited to audio bandwidth only ( square waves stopped looking square above about 5 kHz. ) I designed and built the X and Y amplifiers, the time-base ramp generator and the trigger circuit. I also designed and built a spectrum analyzer to examine and optimize the VHF and UHF cable TV channels for local residents. All of this worked very well, but the 'scope was single channel only.



In Laos I bought a Chinese, USB dual-channel oscilloscope which is very good and was dual channel until I stepped on a probe and snapped it in two ! For Laos, it was the ultimate in high tech.

Now for Cambodia, something better is required and I think I have found the answer !



TSP #133 - Keysight UXR 110GHz BW, 256GS/s, 10-bit Real-Time Oscilloscope Teardown & Experiments

The Keysight UXR-Series Real-Time Oscilloscope brings 110GHz of analog bandwidth and 256GS/s real-time sampling at 4-channels simultaneously.

The entire data-conversion architecture is in 10-bits.

The instrument captures, processes, stores and displays over 10Tb/s of information.

The instrument is implemented in various technologies such as InP, SiGe BiCMOS, 65nm CMOS and 28nm CMOS nodes. Data can be captured at 256GS/S from all 4-channels at the same time. It is available from 13GHz to 110GHz bandwidths.

A new calibration probe capable of producing signal edges with sub 3.5ps of rise/fall times

( that's picoseconds ! )

There is only one slight problem – the oscilloscope costs $1.3 Million US dollars.

September has been a busy month. I have now uploaded 25+ videos to YouTube with over 1000 views. Strangely it is very difficult to get anyone to post a comment – they are all either too shy or don't know how to do it. The last one was "The Universe" which I managed to cover in five minutes ! Quite a feat, but I did it ! OK, I had to leave one or two things out (?)

The floods came and went – now I have some free time, so I am blogging about water . . .


6th September 2019

It has been raining day-and-night for a few days now – we are well into the rainy season – and, as I write this, the car park has flooded again. I had noticed, a couple of days ago, that the Mekong River was extremely high – now it is within a metre of over-flowing onto the main street. During the first part of this year, the local authorities have been busy land-filling and raising the level of the back roads so that they remain above water !

Everywhere there are new drainage ditches and storm drains with huge concrete pipes leading to the river. However, as the water-level in the river has risen by about 20 metres, there is nowhere for the excess water to drain into. All the poor peoples' houses, built on low ground, are under water and much of Kratie is flooded again. The main high-street is completely flooded, the market has had to evacuate to the riverside and the bus station has moved to the road near my apartment. Many shops are closed.

It seems that the annual flooding has come quicker than ever this year (?) and is the worst I have ever seen.  Last year, a burst dam in Laos was responsible for the sudden increase in the water level, but I have not heard of any breached dams this year. That would be all we needed – if a dam broke or China opened the sluice gates of their dams – the flooding is really bad here with just the rain water !

If global warming makes this a permanent event, much of Cambodia's farming land will be unusable – and also our car park ! I was woken up this morning by the owner's wife banging on the door, telling me to move my car before it was under water ! Last night the car park was dry – this has happened within a few hours.

The floods became steadily worse, then a bit better. [ it is supposed to get worse again* on the 18th September ? * It didn't ] The locals have not seen it as bad as this before. Some roads are closed and the main highway to Phnom Penh is completely flooded in places – you cannot see the road, there is just one gigantic sea of water. It would be impassable in a little car, like my Tico with its small wheels, it would just float away into a field. The fare has increased from $5 to $7.50 because of the slow-going and risk. Most of the roadway is lined on either side with cows, standing or lying down patiently  – their grazing land has been submerged and there is nowhere else for them to keep dry. Anything edible is rotting away underwater. Roads are always elevated above the surrounding countryside and the floodwater comes right up to the edges of the road. All this has happened within a week – it was not like this when I last went to Phnom Penh the week before.

It is flooded for the first half of the journey. After the half-way stop for food, the second part is doing much better – rice fields are on either side of the road – not grazing land and the paddy fields need to be flooded. It becomes obvious that rice is the best crop for Asia where the yearly Monsoon rains flood the land. This is providing the farmers get the seedlings in early enough – so that they are established and will be above water-level when the first rains come – otherwise they will rot.

The flooding in Kratie must be a new phenomenon – or else the older houses would not have been built in the hollows – now they are up to the eaves in floodwater. Houses built in the past few years have an elevated structure for the ground floor – up to the first floor they are only sand and rocks in a concrete box and the house proper sits on top of this. This future-proofing has certainly paid off – the old houses now have unusable ground floors.


Friday 13th September 2019

Another clear night – so I slept outside – then the rains started again in the morning. The water has receded in the town and the market is usable again, but more floods* expected on the 18th.* They didn't come.

It seems like the sea-level has risen recently – in Greenland, on August 2nd 12.5 billion tons of ice melted in a single day – the largest loss in recorded history. 8% of the World's fresh water is in the form of ice in Greenland and, if it all melts, the sea could rise by nearly 7 metres !


16th September

Last night the car-park was flooded, but this morning the water had gone away – I was expecting it to be out of action for a month, but how quickly things change here ! There was very heavy rain all night and in the morning the sky looks dark and threatening. More rain is coming.


Wednesday 11th  September

The first night with stars, a clear sky and nearly-full moon.  No rain, so quite safe to sleep outside – the first time in many weeks. I had a good sleep.



So much for rain water, but I am also concerned about drinking water. When I am at home, I boil the tap-water, using gas, in an old stainless-steel bowl that I never clean. I reason that, as it is well-covered with an oxide layer, there is not much chance of metal particles getting into the water. The tap-water here is safe to drink on its own – I brush my teeth with it and don't get sick. However, after it has cooled, the water has had plenty of time to give off any chlorine or other gasses that might have dissolved in it and the boiled water tastes much better than the bottled water – which sometimes tastes bitter. I keep the water in a fancy-glass whisky bottle – really a decanter with a cork and glass stopper – Hazelwood House 18-year-old Scotch Whisky. This high-quality bottle has never had anything else in it besides whisky and water.


In Thailand, drinking-water was sold in polythene bottles ( probably not any more – now likely to be only P.E.T. ) which I always considered pretty safe (?) Possible contaminants are chlorine, titanium and aluminium. ( The catalysts used in production are titanium tetrachloride, which gets converted to titanium tri-chloride, and tri-ethyl aluminium ) Polythene bottles could be filled with boiling water – they would soften, but not collapse – the melting point of polythene is 130°C. I have only the one polythene water bottle from Thailand left – however it now has Linseed Oil in it, so I don't want to use it for water.


Water bottles are now all made from P.E.T. ( PolyEthylene Terephthalate ) which, of course, the manufacturers say is completely safe. However, they give a warning that they should be used for single-use only – as refilling, especially with hot liquids, can cause chemicals to leach out of the plastic. They also collapse when hot water is poured into them. The chemicals concerned – Phthalates -  can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors, and exposure to phthalates has been linked to breast cancer, developmental issues, decreased fertility, obesity and asthma. Although some regulations ban phthalates in certain products intended specifically for young children, they are still widely used in many consumer products.


PET bottle manufacturers say that their bottles do not contain phthalates – which seems odd as that is what they are made from ! However, studies show that phthalates such as di-isobutyl phthalate, di-n-butyl-phthalate, benzyl-butyl phthalate and di(2-ethyl-hexyl) phthalate (DEHP)* can easily be detected and water purchased in PET bottles of 500ml. had the highest phthalate concentrations ( this is what we drink from here. ) * DEHP is banned in Europe.


Phthalates are widely used in flexible, polyvinyl chloride plastics (PVC), such as plastic bags, inflatable recreational toys ( which really does mean sex-dolls ! ) blood-storage containers and intravenous tubing. It is nice to know that blood bottles contain phthalates and they will be introduced directly into the blood-stream.


Phthalates are not the only chemicals leaching from PET bottles  . . .


Water bottles made from PET plastic leach compounds that mimic the hormone estrogen raising questions about their safety, say German researchers. Scientists at Goethe University in Frankfurt found that estrogenic compounds leach from the plastic into the water. "What we found was really surprising to us. If you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds." It now appears possible that some as-yet unidentified chemicals in these plastics have the potential to interfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones, just as BPA and phthalates do.


So these estrogens can lower our Testosterone levels, and we don't want that, do we ?


Also, according to a study :  Migration of antimony from poly(ethylene terephthalate) bottles into beverages by the Fraunhofer Institute, you can expect 220ppm. of Antimony in European P.E.T. bottles – which seems quite a lot ! The catalyst used is antimony trioxide ( Sb2O3 ) The bottles should be quite safe at European room temperature – but maybe not at 40+ degrees C in Cambodia (?) They used 3% acetic acid to extract the antimony – Vinegar is sold in PET bottles here !


Another study analyzed Asian PET bottles and the results varied depending on raw-material purity and quality control in the manufacturing process. The worst offenders were from Thailand ( no surprise there ) and that is where Cambodian bottles come from ( also from Vietnam )


So I have decided to stop drinking from PET plastic bottles – except where there is no choice. This applies to bottled water and coconut juice. I have stopped buying Bean Juice and Pumpkin Juice as they contain far too much sugar as well as being in a PET bottle. Glass is best, but would certainly get smashed in my backpack when I go travelling or shopping.

I tried to get a stainless-steel bottle at the market, but no luck. I even tried to buy one in a big supermarket in Phnom Penh – all they had were heavy-duty PET ones ! Ebay have nice stainless-steel hip flasks at a very reasonable price – a real bargain from China. However, I ordered a stainless-steel camping and hiking bottle – Chinese – and then had second thoughts.

If I am really going on a purity endeavour, then maybe a single element is better than an alloy ?

Therefore – in a moment of hasty exuberance – I also ordered a Titanium bottle ( 99.9% )


It was expensive ( £32 ) but should last a lifetime – and I always wanted the excuse to possess some titanium ( I have never had my hands on any so far ! ) Then the Chinese supplier of the stainless-steel bottle sent a message to say that they had no stock and were re-funding me ! How about that ! It saved me the cost of a superfluous bottle – the stainless would be redundant : who would want to drink out of stainless-steel when you could drink from titanium ? The titanium bottle arrived in double-quick time and I am very happy with it.

Titanium is used for tooth implants, orthopedic-surgery bolts and plates and joint replacements – it is not rejected and is considered the most bio-compatible metal. A few people are allergic to it, but they are usually also allergic to most metals as well. As far as I am concerned, it should be ideal – I am not allergic to metals. [ Nickel, Cobalt and Chromium more commonly cause allergies – so stainless-steel may also. Brass and Copper are the most common cause of metal allergies. ]



 The Dasani brand of plastic bottled water is widely sold here – made by Coca Cola. In the UK there was a fiasco when it was launched : 

Most people know about Coca Cola’s failure to launch Dasani bottled water in the UK.

How they took tap water, costing 0.03p for half a litre, and tried to sell it for 95p a bottle.

To British people this sounded like a joke.

In fact it seemed so ridiculous that the comedy show Only Fools And Horses had done it several years earlier.

Del Boy tried bottling tap water and selling it as “Peckham Spring” water.

It was a hilarious idea.

But incredibly, it was exactly what the marketing geniuses at Coca Cola did.

They obviously didn’t do much research into the UK market.

They didn’t even bother researching the language.

They just used the online ad campaign they were running in the US.

It featured the strapline: WATER WITH SPUNK.

No one bothered checking how this would work in the UK.

In America “spunk” means brave and daring.

But spunk means something very different in the UK.

In the UK spunk is the equivalent of the American term “cum”.

But no one took the trouble to find this out.

So the adverts featured a beautiful young model on the beach, creating a spray as she threw her head back.

Alongside was the headline: FULL OF SPUNK.

A different headline told us that the young model: CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT SPUNK.

And yet another headline told us that the product itself was: BOTTLED SPUNK.

The campaign said we should enjoy spunk “at home, in the gym, and everywhere in between”.

It told us spunk was “vitally refreshing and abundantly available”.

And spunk could become “a way of everyday life”.

That is how Coca Cola marketed Dasani in the UK.

These were the same people that expected the public to pay a 316,600% mark up for tap water.

In order to justify the mark up Coca Cola explained that the tap water was thoroughly filtered before it was bottled.

The suggestion that the water needed filtering upset Thames Water, who were Dasani’s suppliers. ( from Sidcup )

A Thames Water spokesman issued a statement to the press to clarify matters.

He said “Tap water is pure. People don’t need to buy this stuff to get excellent quality water.”

So, another brilliant piece of PR from the Coca Cola marketing department.

It was found that one of the things Dasani had, that tap water didn’t, was 10mg per litre of Bromate.

This is an illegal amount of a potentially cancer-causing ingredient.

When this became public, half a million bottles were immediately recalled.

In summary, the launch of Dasani was a failure.

It might have had a better chance of success if someone had bothered finding out about the market before they launched the product.

But evidently they didn’t think that was necessary.

Instead, just about everything they did was actually harmful.

Coca Cola spent around £10 million marketing Dasani.



In Cambodia we are used to dubious products - I'm sure it is filtered river water.


Single-Element Bottles

I'm quite sure that all the chemists out there would love to own a single-element drinking-water bottle. They could be 3-D metal printed – in whatever custom shape or size you desired – and would last a lifetime. Rocket engines can be 3-D printed in refractory metals so it is technically possible. They could be laser engraved with the element name, symbol, atomic number and atomic weight. Suitable candidates are :

Beryllium Magnesium Aluminium        Beryllium dust is toxic, the metal should be OK?

                                                              Magnesium OK?  Aluminium is a bit common.

Titanium                                                Bio-compatible – should be good

Vanadium                                              Should be good ?

Chromium                                             Chromium III is essential, Chromium VI is toxic

Manganese                                            Too brittle and weak

Iron                                                        Rusts easily   

Cobalt Nickel                                        Maybe OK  

Copper                                                   Supposed to be good ?

Zinc                                                       Soft and oxidizes, but long-lasting.

Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum          Excellent

Ruthenium                                             Fragile

Rhodium Palladium Silver                     Excellent

Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony            Toxic and soft

Hafnium                                                 Excellent, like Zirconium

Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium                Excellent

Osmium                                                 Heavy Metal ! Too brittle to use.

Iridium Platinum Gold                           Iridium is almost as dense as Osmium. Excellent.

Gadolinium                                            Magnetic, interesting

Lead Uranium                                        Lead is soft and toxic. Uranium, really ?

Yttrium , Scandium, Holmium               ???      

There is quite a good choice of exotic metals – some would be expensive, which is exactly what appeals to the wealthy – and some dull, soft and ugly – but many highly desirable.

Elementary Bottles

Who would they appeal to ? All the metals are used homeopathically – including Plutonium ! – so natural-medicine fans would like them. The New-Age loonies will go for anything – if they keep crystals for their 'subtle vibrational energies' ( quartz crystals are used in electronics and cut to oscillate at a specific frequency – so it is not unreasonable that all crystals might have an oscillation mode ? ) they would easily see the logic behind an elementary bottle. Chemists and Physicists would like to be given one – an unusual present. They should last a lifetime – a quality product – therefore expensive and not employing the business model of the disposable item that depends on continual re-supply like plastic razors and one-time-use packaging. When you think of the health benefits of only drinking from a pure container – that might also be medicinal – and the health drawbacks of a lifetime consuming phthalates and plasticizers - it is a 'no-brainer' for those who can afford the initial purchase price. We only have one life and cannot run a control, so do not know how our health would be different if we only drank pure water and ate pure food.

There is a scam operating in Cambodia and Indonesia for stainless-steel 'Health Bottles.' Doctors diagnose sickness as requiring 'special water' for cure and sell the patients Lily Active Nano Can water bottles for $180 each ! They are nice stainless-steel double-wall vacuum flasks, but cost about $10 to $20 from China and the doctor gets at least a 20% kickback guaranteed by the franchise. The bottles have a grey plastic lid, however produce nano-activated water (?)

There are lots of fringe topics about water on the Internet such as 'Imploded Water,' 'Pyramid *Water,' 'Water Memory' and 'Structured Water,' which I won't go into here as it would set off a 'Woo-Woo Alarm !' – but water is unique and has 70 anomalous properties. )*There is a theory that the Great Pyramid was a gravity pump ( water ram-pump ) that supplied energized water to the surrounding area.

If so, it would have also made a good ( LOUD ) bass beat for dancing !




Among alloys, brass is traditional in India – or any alloy that contains copper. So brass and stainless steel could be included.

I don't know if it could be 3-D printed, but PTFE ( Teflon ) plastic might be nice as a water bottle ? Medical-grade Silicone would be an interesting choice – it would be a soft bottle – like a classy 'Hot-Water Bottle' ( I have never drunk from a hot-water bottle, but I can imagine it would taste rubbery ? ) Silicone is so flexible it could be molded and the former pulled out after it had set. If sulphur can be 3-D printed, maybe a solid-sulphur bottle might be medicinal ? * ( * see Sulphurous Waters of Tatopani, Nepal )

Tissue culture has advanced to the stage where ears and some internal organs can be grown in a lab. What about a water bottle grown from bone cells ( on a support substrate or scaffold ) – a bone bottle – or a cartilage bottle ?

They might be therapeutic for bone-density loss ( osteoporosis ) or loss of cartilage in spine, hips or knees ? It would not have to be human bone either – for example Tiger bone would appeal to the Chinese.



The oceans cover about 70 % of the Earth's surface, we are composed of about 70 % water and, apparently, our food should be about 70 % water – not too dry. For most of my life – in England – I never drank any water – I lived only on tea – my mother always put two teaspoons of sugar in it – and milk – and that was how I absorbed water – from endless cups of tea. In India they love putting condensed milk in it, so it is extra sweet. I cut down to one spoon of sugar, then stopped the sugar altogether – and I swear it tasted better ! I never drank coffee – apart from at school – and, except for the very occasional glass of water with a meal at a restaurant which was a very rare event in England, I cannot honestly remember drinking much of the stuff. I was always endless cups of tea. In England it is an Ice-Breaker – if there is ever an awkward lull in the conversation, you could rely on, “Would you like a cup of tea ?” Then there are the snacks and “bickies” to go with it.


In India and Nepal there are tea shops everywhere and they sometimes put ginger in the tea – very nice. The term “Tea Shop” is also used in Thailand as a euphemism for cheap-and-cheerful Chinese “Houses of ill repute” (!) – no tea – well, maybe Chinese tea – but that is not what the customers go there for ! Thailand produces “Red Tea” which stains your teeth red and tastes awful, but is cheap. Apart from that, there are Lipton tea bags – it is low-quality tea only seen fit for foreigners – the Thais don't drink tea, they prefer coffee.

In an expensive hotel in Bangkok, I once ordered tea and the young waiter filled a cup with hot water, dropped in a Lipton tea bag and immediately  poured in cold milk and started shoveling in the sugar. I got angry – how can the ( piss-poor ) Lipton tea bag brew if the water has been cooled down with cold milk ? Milk and sugar are added after  the tea has brewed, but the Thais don't know that.


Sometimes in Bangkok I had to really search for a shop with Lipton tea bags in stock. Eventually I gave up drinking all tea and coffee completely and I haven't tasted either for more than 25 years now. When I stopped drinking tea, I had severe back and waist pains for three days – the result of a 35-year tea addiction. Now I am back on water !


Water is essential to life, yet we treat it with little respect. In Asia water is sometimes stored in -porous, un-glazed, earthenware pots – these are still sold here in Cambodia – and the water is naturally cooled by evaporation. A flower or leaf was sometimes placed on top as reverence. In India, brass urns ( Lota ) are used for water and often decorated with carvings, but when I was there I only saw them being carried into the toilet – or out into the field – to pour water and wash your arse with ! ( Hence the term "Brothers of the Left Hand" – which means you only shake hands and eat with the right  hand, because the left hand has been used for something else ! )


In Asia, it is still traditional to eat with the fingers and not with utensils. Why ? Spoons and forks are not that hard to make – they can be fashioned out of wood, stone, bone or plastic if metal is unavailable. Eating with the hands is messy and inefficient – it is not because they are lazy or too poor – high-class Indians and Thais still eat with the fingers, although spoons are much easier. They will tell you that food tastes better from the hands. In Southern India they go one step further – and drink water from cupped hands and not straight from a container. Traditional Indian families do a Puja ( ceremony ) before eating or drinking – the equivalent of saying grace. At school, we had to say grace before meals. The clever kids would say it in Latin, while the rest of us had to make do in English. We never knew who would be called upon to say grace and, when it was my turn, my mind usually went blank !


Food is similarly treated with little respect – remember TV dinners in England ? Out of the freezer, into the microwave and on your lap while you watch a soap. You don't need to look at it while you are eating it – it all tastes the same. In Cambodia, MSG ( monosodium glutamate ) is not regulated and you can buy sacks of it in the supermarket. Many Thais are allergic to it and the Lao housekeeper once put a batch of Thai tourists in hospital because she used far too much of it in her cooking. Kids here buy Thai or Vietnamese packet snacks that are loaded with it and tip the contents into their mouths without even looking at it.


Water can be therapeutic.


I don't mean the Elixir of Life or The Fountain of Youth – which would be great if you can find it ? Different forms of ordinary water can be medicinal :


Medicinal Waters at a Health Spa – Lourdes Water, Healing Waters of Bath ( England ) Carlsberg Water ( Denmark )


Sulphurous Water.


I got 'worms' when I was in Nepal in 1976. Now, normally you wouldn't know if you have them or not – unless you have symptoms like weight-loss or an itchy arse – and with the 'sit-down' toilets, as found in the UK and Cambodia, you don't get to see much ( Thailand has mostly squat toilets, and there is not much porcelain at all to be found in Laos - outside the towns ) unless you have a morbid obsession with your jobs (!)


It is usually just a case of "plop, plop", a toilet-paper wipe ( which is a really filthy habit and much frowned upon by Asians – except for Chinese – they much prefer the cleaner, 'water spray' or 'bum gun.' ) and wash-your-hands if you feel like it ! With Nepalese toilets in 1976, often just a hole in the ground, it was hard not to notice what was going on. So I had these threadworms and went to the pharmacy. They sold me a foil sachet of the most utterly-vile, foul-tasting, brown medicine – which did absolutely nothing to the worms and made me feel very sick for three days. I went trekking to a place called 'Tatopani' – which means 'Hot Water' in Nepalese. Tatopani is famous for the hot, sulphurous springs – they form pools of varying temperatures from nearly boiling to bearable. The water ranges from yellow to green in colour and tastes like strong soup. It killed the worms – I never saw them again after that.


Sea Water


Sometimes, when I have been doing a lot of woodwork or metalwork in bare-feet or with just flip-flops on, I get little cuts and scrapes on my feet. When I was in Koh Kong, I went paddling in the warm sea-water and noticed that they healed up in a remarkably prompt fashion. The sea water is very healing there.


River Water


I have bathed in the river Ganges in India. ( The Gunga )


Legend has it that, if you can tolerate the water and not get sick, you will have a strong immunity and be healthy. They used to cremate corpses on the riverbanks and throw remains into the water – which was a bit polluted anyway – so there must be plenty of bacteria in the water. Later I got dysentery in Hardwar – so it did not work all that well !


Rain Water


I have noticed the effect rain water has on my garden. In the dry season the plants get tap water and it keeps them alive, but they do not thrive. With rain water, they do much better and grow bigger and put out more new leaves. I have also started feeding them the water I soak my tofu in – after a few days it gets a bit rank (!) but the plants love it. My garden is sheltered ( a bit ) by the roof but, when it is windy and raining, they get a good soaking, which they like. Except in poor villages, rain water is not collected for drinking – everyone buys bottled water, usually in big, blue PET tanks ( which, I suppose, are returnable ? )



We have a modern obsession with purity and fear of 'germs' ( excessive use of hand sanitizers by Japanese ) – this only results in a weakened immune system – I might not drink pond water (!) but I want to try the rain water here.


Rain water is distilled water, converted from sea-water to vapour by slow evaporation rather than rapid boiling, however it still passes from liquid ( sea-water ) to gaseous ( clouds ) to liquid form ( rain ) and, in the country-side where there are no factories, it should be pure. I have not yet tried drinking it here in Kratie – I have to rig up a collection system – It would be suicide drinking it in Phnom Penh ! The only source of contamination would be the exhaust from vehicles – and some of them really belch black or blue smoke. The Vietnamese petrol I use stinks badly and cannot be doing the environment any good, but it is too expensive here to go electric. At the market, the vendors sit on the ground with their goods in front of them – their faces are at exhaust-pipe level for the constant stream of motor bikes that pass by or stop – with the engine running – to buy something. The narrow alley should be pedestrian only, but shoppers are usually on their motorbikes and will park in front of the vendors – never mind if it causes a traffic jam. There is a parking space with an attendant where they can leave their bikes, for a small fee, but most don't bother – or are too lazy. The sellers and the produce are exposed to exhaust fumes all day and the air quality must be the worst in Kratie. The air quality in Phnom Penh is very bad – like any big city – and an unhealthy place to live. Staying in a hotel or guest house it is not easy to boil the water, so I have to resort to the bottled stuff.



I last rambled on about water, so I might as well ramble on about food. First some further thoughts on why not only what we eat and drink is important, but also how we eat and drink it and with what.

This all comes from Yogic Philosophy and the principle of Karma. Karma is basically, do good and receive good – if you have good intentions, you will not go far wrong ( hopefully ?) Many good people are taken advantage of and "used" by the unscrupulous – they may feel that life is unfair – but it could always have been even worse !

If you are an arsehole, you will be treated like an arsehole. So the idea of 'intention' is important – there is somehow a memory of what you are doing, or have been doing, that is used in Cosmic reckoning.

There was a Japanese Rice-Plant Experiment in which rice plants – and controls – were grown in identical conditions and the two study groups were either loved or hated ( the experimenters projected thoughts of love or hate ) – the loved group flourished, the hated group did poorly and the control simply grew.

Many of us talk to our plants in the garden (!), but farmers do not have the time – or inclination – to talk to their crops or animals. A free-range egg is better than a battery-farmed egg not just because it is 'healthier' or 'more natural', but also because it does not carry the same karmic debt of factory food.

Factory- produced meat has been through the ordeal of a lifetime spent in a cage, then the abattoir - blood, guts, fear and screams – which, as per Japanese rice-plant experiment, has given the food a heavy karmic debt.

When I was the lab technician for Chesham High School, I had to go to the local abattoir and collect organs for the biology class. The biology teacher liked to blow into, inflate and deflate, a set of real lungs – much to the horror of the girls in the class ! The abattoir was a terrible place – awash in blood with the stench of death. I was already vegetarian then, but that would have been enough to turn me if I wasn't.

Whether cooking removes karmic debt or adds to it, I don't know. I suspect it adds insult to injury.

Yogic theory of "You are what you eat" does not just apply to the nutritional value – it works on a karmic level also. If you want to be alive and vibrant, you should eat living – raw – food that is only killed by our mouths and digestive system.

Food that has been killed by boiling, roasting or frying may taste better, but carries the karmic memory of the last action performed on it – the boiling, roasting or frying. Carnivorous animals eat their meat raw and alive – if that is unacceptable to people, then maybe they should not be eating it ?

It is easy to buy meat prepared and shrink-wrapped in the supermarket – it no longer looks like an animal, but it is hypocritical – if you are not prepared to kill it yourself, you should not be eating it.

There seems to be a memory of the last process in the food chain being of importance : Immediately before it enters our mouth, what was going on with the food or drink ? Was it a TV dinner – factory-made, frozen, micro-waved and they shoveled into the mouth without a glance, presumably with a spoon or fork ?

The composition of the spoon or fork therefore becomes important to the karma of the food. ( I have ordered a titanium spoon and fork from China – remarkably cheap from eBay – a titanium bowl is getting very expensive ) Wooden or coconut-shell bowls and spoons are maybe the best answer.

My mother always used to say that the tea tastes better from her best 'Bone China' – which was reserved for special occasions. The best cutlery is Silver ( maybe Rhodium plated ) and not stainless-steel. However, the Yogis would say that the best eating utensils are your fingers and the best containers are natural – a banana leaf or coconut shell for example ! This is quite normal for Cambodians and Indians – in the West ? Not so much!

Deliberately using an element for the food container – as I am doing with the titanium bottle – gives the water a last, karmic memory of titanium – which is my intention. Homeopathically, titanium is used to treat :

Skin diseases ( eczema, lupus ), nasal catarrh and rhinitis, imperfect vision, vertigo and premature ejaculation ! Apples concentrate titanium and "An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

If it only helps my eyesight, it will be worth doing . . . I don't have the other problems !

So I was thinking that my liquid intake – now reduced to just plain water – and my food, if eaten with the fingers ( it is not difficult to eat bananas with the fingers ! ) carries either a titanium memory or a finger memory – but I thought, "What else is my mouth in contact with besides titanium and my hands ?" Then the rather pleasant mental-image of my new girlfriend in Phnom Penh last weekend - and the mind-boggling implications, on a karmic level, of what we get up to (!) – gave me a huge smile.


It does not matter if the food or drink still contains a physical quantity ( molecule ) of the last thing used to convey it to the mouth, the memory or Karmic Debt ( intention ) remains. Herbal medicine crudely uses measurable quantities of the herb – while homeopathic medicine only starts to work well - way, way beyond the Avogadro Limit.

Avogadro's number is the number of units in one mole of any substance (defined as its molecular weight in grams), equal to 6.022140857 × 1023. The units may be electrons, atoms, ions, or molecules, depending on the nature of the substance. Therefore if diluted beyond 1024 : 1 the probability of any of the original substance is low.


12C     10-24 dilution.   Has a 60% probability of containing one molecule of original material if one mole of the original substance was used.

13C     10-26 dilution.   If pure water were used as the diluent, no molecules of the original solution remain in the water.

30C     10-60 dilution. This dilution is used for most purposes: on average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.

200C   10-400 dilution. The starting point for most serious treatment.


It seems there is no upper limit to dilutions, providing they started out with a medicinal substance. It is taken for granted that there is no physical material left – it relies on intention and Karma.

So much for side effects of food, but what constitutes food ? Chicken nuggets, fish fingers, hamburgers and sausages are made from reconstituted left-over bits in a factory. Packet snacks are full of preservatives, colourings and flavourings. The most popular drinks here come in a can – beer, fizzy drinks, energy drinks and coffee. Polished white rice and white bread is the norm.



The topic of food is best summed up by this YouTube video by After Skool

Why You Can't Trust Nutrition Science & Health Claims


October has also been a busy month so far. On Monday 14th I renewed my Cambodian driving license in Phnom Penh – which is now easy and quick to do. I have been driving here for two years now. With only minor problems, the car is going very well and I'm so pleased I bought it.

I first saw the Tico on 19th October 2017 – in a sorry state having been left to rot for three years – and, in my innocence, went and bought a new battery the same day ( thinking that a battery and some petrol was all it needed to start it – was I wrong ! ) The battery probably needs replacing now as it is showing some signs of senility ( aren't we all ? )

Actually it is not the fault of the battery – there are two problems : the trip to the school is so short that, at night with the headlights on - especially if there is slow-moving traffic, the tiny alternator cannot keep the battery fully charged and, secondly, the solenoid on the starter motor needs replacing so it won't start if the battery is a bit low – bad connection inside it somewhere ? ( I cannot get a new starter motor, so will probably have to modify the solenoid myself * )

* Update - I spent the weekend of 19th and 20th October fixing this problem. 

[ I removed the starter motor - first removed the carb, inlet manifold and alternator to get to it (!), oiled the solenoid plunger to prevent sticking, and silver-soldered the wire onto the spade terminal. This spade terminal was always giving problems - even when cleaned with a new crimp-connector, I sometimes had to wiggle it to get the car to start - even with a fully-charged battery. I can now confidently say that the starting problem has been fixed - there is just the charging problem at night to solve next ! ]


There is a state-of-charge indicator on the battery which still shows green for fully-charged even if it isn't ! The solution has been to give the battery a top-up charge on Friday nights or when I think it is getting a bit low.

It is fully-charged after two hours with my present charger and I have successfully modified a 200 Amp inverter welder ( I bought it for $7 not working ) as a 14.4 Volt regulated power supply so that will even start the car ! I can leave the car on the charger in the car park for a few hours – so that is not a problem.

If I buy a new battery, it will still have the same charging problems under these conditions. LED headlights would solve the problem, but they are too expensive.


I had the idea of making a bowl from a coconut and went to see the coconut shop in the market. I was surprised to find out that, after the coconut meat has been removed, the shells are just thrown away - and the vendor had big sacks of them ready for the garbage truck. I have polished up a few and they look very nice – each one is different inside - amazing patterns.

I use a mixture of beeswax, carnauba wax and linseed oil for the outside and coconut oil on the inside. I can only get coconut oil from India or Thailand – not from Cambodia – and only in Phnom Penh.

Tourists would love to buy them, but there is not a single shop selling souvenirs for tourists here in Kratie.

Cambodians will not buy them because they know that they come from free coconut shells – they would rather buy tacky plastic bowls.

My next problem is how to make a spoon from a coconut ?




I uploaded a video of the oscilloscope and spectrum analyzer I made in Thailand – see Cambodia Blog 13th August 2019 - and now would like to share some of the other projects I made. There were many more than this, but no videos available now.



Finally I have now produced 27 videos for the school with 1,163 views I am working on two more for October. It is almost impossible to get the Cambodians to make a comment on YouTube - they are either too shy or don't know how to do it ! So far only two comments from friends in the UK and one from India. Maybe I should do a tutorial on how to leave a YouTube comment ?

Busy, busy, busy.



Halloween – October 31st – was a rainy, wet day. It had rained the night before and rained all day until 5pm. I get cold and miserable from only one day without sunshine – I can't imagine now what it must be like in England with months and months of dismal weather. The weather forecast was for rain to start the next day – Friday November 1st – and continue for one week ( there is a big storm over Vietnam ) but the rain started one day early and the Friday was hot and sunny.

There is another 3–day festival coming up ( the Water Festival ) and Phnom Penh will be crowded and the hotels full. I didn't go this year.

The government wants to adjust the holidays for next year – there are lots of one-day holidays during the week which means many take the whole week off (!) so these holidays will be collected together and there will be more complete weeks off and less single-day holidays. Maybe a complete month off would be better ?


Now my car starts instantly -  I can leave the car in the car-park from Friday night until Monday afternoon and know it will start without wire-wiggling and battery-charging. Even if the battery is a bit low it will still start – and it wouldn't do that before. So my new 200 Amp battery charger is redundant ! I'm happy I didn't buy a new battery – that was not the problem. A short drive during the day soon tops up the battery.

I also tidied up the front bumper – there were cracks in the fibreglass – and re-sprayed it. I bought two LED driving lights from the local shop which are very bright. Each one draws 1 amp and gives more light than the yellow glimmer from the headlights which take 5 amps each ! Such is progress.



My car in the garage

You can see the water-level mark when the garage was flooded earlier this year - almost up to the roof of the car !


There are two dumped Ticos locally - I visit them from time to time to see how they are getting on !


 The roads have all been raised and re-surfaced since this one became dormant. It would be a major task to get it out and onto the road - it would mean scaling a cliff ! Probably need a crane or a tractor. The body is in good condition, but it is an automatic and I desire a manual gearbox to convert to electric. Sadly, it will rot there - not much demand for Ticos. ( The other one is a manual )




On the same road is this house - so much rubbish outside !



At last I have found something I have been searching for - and didn't think existed in Cambodia – a decent English / Khmer dictionary with transliterations in English ( not phonetics ) for those of us, like me, who cannot read Khmer script. I have a good English / Thai one which helped me immensely and I'm sure this one will do the same.


The night of 23rd November was very cold – almost too cold to sleep outside under the stars – even with an extra blanket. I can't imagine how cold it must be in Laos. However, as soon as the sun gets up everything is warm again.


My new electrolysis cell :


See it in action :



 Please feel free to comment and (?) like.


I won joint first prize ( $80 ) for my design " 3-phase Induction Motor Speed Control " in Silicon Chip Magazine December 2019.




When I made the laminations for this motor, I cut them by hand as the laser cutter in Phnom Penh would not cut soft iron cleanly.

Now I know why a laser-cutter will not cut soft iron : wrong shielding gas. Oxygen should be used for carbon-steel and Nitrogen for stainless-steel. For soft iron ? Maybe oxygen ? In Phnom Penh they only use Argon. This video explains shielding gasses ( a bit ). China is way ahead in laser cutting !


A while ago I bought a really cheap high-voltage generator from eBay and made a tiny Jacob's Ladder. It is a nice desktop ornament - better to have a small, working one than only the memories of the giant one that I built at Space Age Electronics ! 





As the year draws to a close, I am adding the finishing touches to some projects that have been gathering dust during the past year !

Early in 2020 I should have a lot more content.



2020 Upgrades to dormant projects and Static Electricity Machines

I like to have some electrostatic generators around so that I can produce a spark when I need one (!)

My most reliable source of sparks, at the moment, is the mini Jacob’s Ladder – which uses a battery – so that doesn’t count.

( The students really like it and want a bigger one ! )


The most reliable static machine is the Electrophorus – which uses a PTFE ( Teflon ) plate and is always ‘Good-to-Go’ - However, sparks are limited to about 15mm which is not enough (!)

The Friction Electrostatic Machine is reliable, but I was not happy with the collection comb – so I made a new one. It seems to be a bit better. Now I am waiting for some white nylon cloth to arrive for the friction pad. The friction-pad pressure is critical to spark production and needs improving.



Van de Graaff Generators always need some attention before they will function, which is a pain. Most of the problem is with the belts. I have been using latex rubber which, if it is thick like bicycle inner-tubes, deposits granules of rubber dust everywhere and this stops generator action. If it is thin like exercise bands, it turns into a gooey, sticky mess in a few months. I cannot buy neoprene sheet from America due to their export policy.

This year – 2020 – I have tried Spandex belts – as recommended in a VDG forum – and it was no good ! They did not specify what roller combination was used. I am now using Teflon and Aluminium.

Cotton and PVAc ( Polyvinyl Acetate ) coated cotton belt will be tried when it arrives.

Also white Polyester transformer tape ( and maybe Kapton ) will be tried. The lower roller should be Teflon and I might try Cellulose Acetate as a top roller - if I can get any (?) 

Using opposite polarity rollers ( in the Triboelectric series ) is the ‘ Charge-Doubling Technique’ and, so far, has always been a failure. I want to use white Neoprene belts, but have been unable to find any.


Triboelectric Series


*** POSITIVE ***                           



Human Hands 

Rabbit Fur 

Acetate ( Cellulose Acetate ?) 



Human Hair 

Nylon 66 ( Polyamid ) 

Salt ( NaCl ) 







PVA   ( polyvinyl alcohol ) 

PVAc ( Polyvinyl acetate ) 



*** ZERO *** 




Sealing Wax 


Hard Rubber 




U.V. Resist (?) 

Gold, Platinum, Brass, Stainless-Steel 


Mylar, Rayon ( P.E.T. ) 




Natural Rubber 


Acrylic, Acrilan ( Polyacrylonitrile P.A.N. ) 

Saran ( Polyvinylidene Chloride ) 





P.V.C. ( Vinyl ) 

KELF ( ? Kevlar ?) 



Silicone Rubber 

*** NEGATIVE ***


So the ideal belt would be neutral – Cotton or cotton coated with PVAc (?)


The ideal roller combination would be Acetate ( Cellulose Acetate ? ) and Silicone Rubber.



The VDG I made in Thailand used an Aluminium top roller, Natural Rubber belt and Polyester Resin lower roller – it was VERY good. However, from the Triboelectric series, it should be very bad as Natural Rubber and Polyester are too close together (?)

The top roller will be Aluminium until I can get Nylon to work. I have cast and machined new Aluminium top rollers for both VDG machines. These will be used with white Nylon belts.

PTFE prices are very variable :

£7.46 from Germany ( + £7 postage ) This was the cheapest



80mm long, so a bit more expensive




. . . and a totally ridiculous price from England !    £47.14 Really ???


Dormant Projects in 2020

USB Sound Recorder  waiting for parts – 90% complete.

Speech Box waiting for parts - 60% complete.

Bonetti Machine waiting for time ! A long-term project.

Tesla Coil waiting for time ! A long-term project.


PIPES - I have made a series of five new pipes with LED glowing eyes – video to come soon.

Colours are Red, Green, Blue, Yellow and Pink. New for 2020 will be RGB leds – so any colour – and wireless control and charging.

That is about it ! Everything as up-to-date as I can get it. Waiting for parts. I am happy with progress – nothing too forgotten !


Late in 2019 I discovered new services in Phnom Penh : Laser engraving ( as well as laser cutting ) laser welding, 3D printing – in plastic and WAX for investment casting.


I also now have a source of Vietnamese Epoxy ( very bad ), Russian Epoxy ( amber yellow colour ) and, best of all, water-clear Chinese Epoxy at $7 a kilo.




Me with one of the biggest mangoes I have ever seen in Cambodia. $1 a kilo - and this one weighs a kilo ! They are sold at a pharmacy - the pharmacist grows them herself.

I have started teaching year 2 Global Studies at the university again. The text book is most up-to-date (!) - it has this sentence :

"Be considerate about telephone use. Some home workers use the family phone as a business phone. Students may also need to contact other students, libraries or other sources of information. Family members can help by keeping calls short."

How long since mobile phones or modems / mobile data was available ?

A new notice at the university 



A "Casio" is Khmer for calculator. They have guards in an exam ??? To be fair, this was probably composed by some-one at Head Office - not here in Kratie - but the English is appalling, like something out of Thailand - they should be ashamed of themselves !

I was also asked if I could teach full-time at three other branches of U.M.E. only 70-100 Kms away ! Answer : no !


I have been busy updating my Friction Electrostatic Generator for 2020.

It now has motorbike gears (!) and a new friction pad and collector - much improved. Details on Projects Page.


I made another Jacob’s Ladder :

There will be more variations on this theme to come  . . .


For any-one following the stock market : Tesla shares seem to be a good investment ?

( Nasdaq : TSLA or NYSE : TSLA ) now around $800


Sales of Tesla electric cars have decimated sales of BMW and Audi petrol cars in America and Europe  . . .



There are now a lot of Toyota Prius hybrid parts on sale at the car breakers in Phnom Penh - this is a Nickel-Hydride battery pack 210 Volts ( $600 but would come down a lot ! ) Each cell 7.4 Volts, 28 cells - some missing here. 2017 models have Lithium batteries, but I have not seen any yet.



Prius inverters - liquid cooled


Prius Motor - with differential and bellhousing for I.C. engine.

I have no idea how easy any of this is to hack and use as an electric-car conversion, but I will find out !


Finally, if you are interested in computer design :

Anything about Jim Keller is worth watching - one of the great engineers.



I took my car to the MOT test – every two years in Cambodia, and it is voluntary : there are so many vehicles on the road that would not have a snowball's chance in Hell of ever passing an inspection, but this is mostly overlooked by the police. The day before, I had a new silencer fitted and the car is much smoother and quieter for it. The silencer cost $25 in Phnom Penh and $10 for welding it on. The only other preparations I did were to check the lights and wash the car – I knew the brakes were OK. MOTs are $20 – payable up-front and non-refundable if it fails.

They gave me a hard time at the Inspection Centre – the first complaint was that the colour was purple and not red as it says on the owner's card. I said it was still painted red – the new colour was not painted on. I said it was just a sticker and the car was still red underneath – they wanted me to peel the vinyl wrap off ! No Way !   I said I didn't like the red colour and purple was much nicer. I said it passed two years ago when it was purple      ( it wasn't – it was the original red and they showed me photos taken at the inspection two years ago and archived on the computer.) I said the car only cost $500 and a vinyl wrap cost $100 – change to red just for the MOT ? I said couldn't they just change the colour to purple on the computer ? No, I would have to go to the Transport Ministry in Phnom Penh and have the car inspected there. I said purple was mostly red (!) – surely near enough ? Finally they phoned a supervisor and never mentioned the purple colour again !

Does this mean that it is impossible to legally change the colour of your car in Cambodia ? Cars are always White, Black, Red, Silver or Bronze with practically no exceptions. No custom colours whatsoever. The very occasional yellow of a small car and also, rarely, blue. Very boring.

They checked the speedometer accuracy, brakes, hand-brake, lights, indicators, horn and looked underneath – so far, so good ?

The next gripe was that the bottom of the engine was oily ! What did they expect ? ALL old British cars of the 60's and 70's leaked oil. They are used to modern Toyotas which don't leak a drop.

What has that got to do with vehicle safety, I asked ? I said the car was 26 years old and that brought laughter. I said some oil was better than rust. Blank looks.

The inspector gave me a long lecture in Khmer which I didn't understand at all – then, after a long wait, gave me a Fail Certificate and a Pass Certificate at the same time. The Khmer protocol was probably for some money to exchange hands at that time but, being a foreigner, they didn't ask for anything extra.



Now I have the coveted Pass Sticker on the windscreen - OK until February 2022.

Apparently the Fail Certificate says the engine is oily – yes, it does drip a drop or two every day, but not enough to show on the dip-stick. I have a sheet of cardboard underneath the car in the car park to catch the drips and it is not a problem for me.

It says the headlights flicker ! – Yes, they do at tick-over : the three-cylinder engine is lumpy at the 1000rpm idle setting and the headlights dim in sympathy, but I never drive at tick-over : as soon as I am moving, the headlights are steady.

I am wondering what they would make of an electric-drive conversion at the Inspection Centre ?


Afterwards I went to the bank for 2020 car tax. They said it is too early in the year and could I come back in July – or maybe November ?

So, yet again, the year does not really begin until November in Cambodia !



I never thought I would say this, but there is a shortage of cow manure in Cambodia right now ! It has not rained for so many months that I have lost count and the grass is brown and dried up. Where there was once grass has been mown down to the roots and sold as cow fodder. The remaining cows are no longer led to pasture – which means any patch of ground with vegetation – as there isn't any ! Instead the pasture is led to the cows in the form of hay. Cows were a familiar sight wandering along the roads – they know the way – but have not been seen lately at all. I used to collect cow or horse manure for my garden, but now there is a distinct shortage. I use banana peels as compost – I eat a lot of bananas, but still not enough for the garden. It takes a few months for the peels to break down, then they are transformed into a rich, black compost complete with tiny bugs and things (?) My plants seem to like all the potassium. Some of my prized plants were rescued from land or discarded at the roadside and were dying in the drought. Now, with some care and attention ( and water ) they are flourishing.




I completely gave up using “Family & Friends” – the useless English book that the Boss chose for my daily class. About half-way through was enough – what a waste of time. They asked me to pick new books for this year, so I bought new grammar books in Phnom Penh and have been waiting for the school to make copies. Every day for the past week I was promised the books for my class, but there was always some reason why they were delayed. The other day, all that remained was to print the covers – so that should not be too

difficult, right ? The next day – no books – it had taken all day just to reduce the A4 size of the cover design to A5 – and it still was not done ( he didn't know how to do it ! )

I showed a proof copy of the cover ( still much too big to fit the book ) to the students and they complained that there was a picture of what was clearly an ABC class on it and they felt insulted. They are way beyond ABC now. I was complaining to another teacher that in one week China can build a 1000 bed hospital, but it takes Cambodia one week to try and photocopy ten books – not even finished – and from the pained look on his face, I realized that it sounded a bit harsh like that – but nevertheless undeniably true. A few days later the books were ready and I am very pleased ( The ABC class photo on the cover has been changed ) There is hope for Cambodia yet !



On one trip to Phnom Penh – at the beginning of the Corona Virus outbreak – every-one on the minibus was wearing face masks – except for me and one Chinese ( he was reading a Chinese book ) – even the driver. On the last trip, no-one was wearing masks – the Prime Minister has said it is safe and we need not worry (!) So that's OK then ? Until people start dropping down dead in the streets, it is assumed that there is no problem. My students now know all about the virus and we made a YouTube video about it.   14 February 2020

I tell them that virus victims turn into Zombies (!) and some of them half believe me ! ( They know ALL about Zombies )



I have another class at the university – Year 1 Core English ( grammar ) – so there goes my weekends for a month or so. Luckily, April is school holiday – although not for the university – so I will have free weekdays at least. I was hoping for lots of free time to get on with odd jobs and my projects but there you go. I cannot really refuse to do a course at the university and the extra money comes in handy.


It is such bliss to have whole days free when I can concentrate on something and not be interrupted by having to go to school. ( I need an assistant – or a robot ! )

I have an answer for thoughts of : “Why did you take on so many projects ?” , “At your time of life, you should be giving up things, not starting them!” , “You DO make a cross for your back !”

I am an engineer : I cannot treat retirement as a time to put your feet up, do nothing and watch telly      ( OK, YouTube these days ) – that I see as the beginning of the end.

For me, the excitement of a new design keeps me alive – something to live for – no such thing as boredom.

I see my projects as “A life's Work” of ONLY the toys I have ever wanted to build ( or buy ) but don't have the time right now. It is, unfortunately, easy to spend six months on one project – waiting for parts to arrive or figuring out how to do it (!) With long delays in the supply chain ( bits from Phnom Penh, when I have the time to go – or from China ) I have to practice 'multi-tasking' - getting on with a project when parts arrive and switching to something else when there is a hold-up and trying to interleave the work. My hope is that, one day (?) I will have a show-case of finished projects in ready-to-go condition – something to be proud of ( and eventually donate to the school physics department when I am totally senile ! ) Almost everything I am doing is a continuation of work done hundreds of years ago, but with modern materials. One item I am constructing is a modern version of “Lord Kelvin's Thunderstorm” which was invented in 1867. This will be many days of welding and polishing, but will look good – and should even work !





This is an actual image of the SARS COV2 coronavirus taken with the Cambodian High-Resolution Electron Microscope. It clearly shows what a nasty little bugger he is. However, it pales into insignificance in comparison with all the other day-to-day pathogens on the loose here in Cambodia from the usual coughs, sneezes, spittings, pickings at various orifices and preparing food after wiping your arse in the toilet without washing your hands. Cambodians must have a super-strong immune system – or else they would all be dead by now (?) At least that is my theory !


The proper etiquette is to sneeze and cough without covering your mouth, although an apology might be in order if a dollop of phlegm lands on some-one else. Then again, you could hope they didn't notice it and carry on regardless (?)


Last week there were a lot of kids coughing and sneezing in class. The weather is very hot and dry now – so colds and flu are most unusual at this time of year. No-one is being tested for the coronavirus, so what was it ?

Did I have coronavirus ???

21st January– rough, sore throat – which always means a cold is coming on. I have not had a cold for a few years. ( remedy : Tub Koch 10M ) sore throat better and no cold followed. Forgot all about it.

5th March– very dry, burning cough in the night. Slight burning and dry cough in the morning   ( remedy Phos 200 ) felt OK in the daytime.

Friday 6th March- no appetite, very thirsty, nose dripping like a tap, no sore throat, very conscious of heart beating regularly – so it was a cold ??? Felt rough. THEN . . .

Rapid progression – cough became very painful, wanted to sleep and not be disturbed. Felt very sick. The usual cold and flu remedies did nothing. Burning in lungs. Tried coronavirus remedy ( Ars Alb 200 ) It helps ! Two more doses in next couple of hours - 95% better ( then Ars Alb 10M one dose which finished it )    

Recovery underway -  voice deep and breaks when attempting high notes ( remedy Phos 200 and Calendula gargle ) – eyesight blurry, eyes sore when moving them ( remedy Eup Perf 200 )

Saturday 7th March much better – went to work without problem.

9th and 10th March continued improvement – still not much appetite.

11th March  99.9% better – lungs clear – it was very, very nasty. To all those who say “It's just a flu” and “Symptoms are very mild” - WTF is 'mild' ??? If you didn't use remedies, you would end up in hospital with pneumonia – or you could wait a year for the vaccine ( good luck ! )


My health is now OK, but what about the economy ? Last year I was expecting 2020 to be a bumper year for the stock market, but now I'm not so sure ! I decided that investing in Tesla electric cars ( TSLA ) was a good idea and bought TSLA stock at $427. Throughout January and February I watched the stock price climb to $968.99 – everyone was sure that $1000 shares were well within sight. Then came the coronavirus and, slowly but surely, the share price dropped. Soon I had had enough and sold my shares at $650 ( I only made 52% profit in two months )

I was expecting to wait until the stock market bottomed and then re-purchase TSLA shares at a cheap price. However, I now have no confidence in the whole Stock Market, Stock Brokers, the Banking System, the American Dollar and the World Economy. I have closed my positions and am transferring the money back to my bank. The World is in recession and there could be a collapse of the $US ?

I could keep cash under the mattress instead of in the bank (?) I could buy gold, but just try and buy food in the market with gold jewelry ! ( There are no gold or silver coins here ) I cannot buy land as I am a foreigner and I cannot really stockpile bananas !

The Dooms Day Preppers are loving it – they advise stocking up on guns and ammunition ! I think “fingers crossed” and hope things recover in the next couple of months is the best policy. Will I be right ?




Last Monday was a complete surprise – the Friday before was quite normal and the school closed as usual for the weekend. I hadn't prepared much of a lesson and only had a vague idea of what I was going to teach them. That didn't turn out to be a problem – at the school there were no students. I waited a bit and one student turned up and went away again. Then came the news that all schools in Cambodia were ordered closed.


My immediate thought was “Great, I can go to Phnom Penh tomorrow !” The manager didn't quite see it that way – he said all foreign teachers who have recently arrived here or have been in contact with foreign visitors should go to the Health Center for a coronavirus test.


I haven't been out of the country for five years and do not come into contact with other foreign teachers as there are none. He said he would phone me tomorrow with details and could I wait 14 days before going to Phnom Penh ? What ? I waited all Tuesday with no news. He wanted me to go and get tested in the morning or on the next day. I couldn't see the point – why get tested before going to Phnom Penh, wouldn't it make more sense to get tested when I came back ?


The manager said, “If it is an emergency and you must go to Phnom Penh, you must not talk to any-one – no foreigners and no girlfriends  he added !” I quickly changed the subject. I said I would go straight there, not speak to any-one, do my shopping and come straight back. I delivered it with a straight face, trying not to crack up, and that seemed to go down OK.

How any-one would ever believe that, I don't know for the life of me ! So, of course, Wednesday morning I was on the bus to Phnom Penh, untested.


I could test negative or I could test positive. I have no symptoms now, but if I actually had the SARS –COV2 coronavirus, I could test negative or positive and have antibodies in my blood – or not. Homeopathic treatment can still leave the patient testing positive although with no symptoms. There is a case of an eighty year old woman, healthy-looking and robust who looked sixty. She had been homeopathically treated for syphilis twenty years before, but still tested positive by the “Wassermann” test. She had been well and symptom-free for twenty years.


If I do test positive, it will make a fuss, of course – that would be the disadvantage of being an “early adopter” – soon everybody will be testing positive so I would not stick out.


In Phnom Penh, I looked out for how many tourists were wearing facemasks – very few, I counted 4 or 5 out of hundreds of foreigners. Many Khmer and all Chinese visitors wear masks. Coloured face masks are made in Vietnam and have flooded the market. The Khmer were too slow to make their own and lost that opportunity.


Supermarkets and Department Stores were very quiet – no panic buying here – no shoppers. Many bars, shops, markets and restaurants closed. Now the government have closed KTVs, night clubs and entertainment venues. Everywhere very quiet. The shops that are still open have ropes across the entrance to prevent shoppers going inside. Some shops have installed plastic or glass partitions like in banks. A pharmacy had all the staff wearing clear-plastic head shields to protect the eyes. Pharmacies were doing a good trade and some items are out-of-stock. Face masks and hand sanitizer on sale everywhere. Some shops want you to spray alcohol on your hands before entering. I didn't see any-one obviously sick and very few coughing. As far as shopping went, it was a waste of time. I could not get many items.


Now I am back in Kratie and have a bunch of DVD movies to watch. I was very pleased to get “Contagion” a virus apocalypse movie* from 2011. I also grabbed a brand-new hairdrier – thrown away in its box – which only needs a bit of glue and works OK. Apart from that, it was not a successful trip. Travel to Phnom Penh has not been restricted at all, but this could change.  

 * I watched the movie - disappointing - it was just like the news, not much different to what is going on at present.

I will go again in a few weeks and see what has changed. 



Bars, KTVs, night clubs, entertainment venues now closed in Cambodia. Many shops closed. Kratie is normal - a bit quieter maybe ?

I see the present pandemic as the complete and utter failure of “Modern Medicine“ and Big Pharma. The current Allopathic system of medicine is designed not to cure, but to palliate and alleviate symptoms while keeping the patient sick. A cured patient does not return to buy more medicines. The goal is to sell repeat prescriptions for the rest of the patient's life. Big Pharma makes huge profits dealing addictive drugs – opioids, pain killers, anti-depressants, mood changers, anti-histamines etc.

Most of the population are sick – more than 50% are over-weight, many obese and most have type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Most of the population eat junk food – food should be fresh and raw – not cooked or made in a factory and soaked in preservatives and additives.

Wild animals eat fresh and raw food and they are healthy and full of vitality.

Everything here is sprayed with Glyphosate ( Roundup ) – spraying is easier than weeding. At the first sight of a bug, all is sprayed with insecticide.

“Aggro-chemicals” are not regulated, anything can be sold.

High-quality cow manure is sold to Vietnam and farmers here buy urea-based fertilizer from the Vietnamese.

School kids buy snacks in brightly-coloured plastic packets – made in Vietnamese and Thai factories.

With most people in poor health from dead food and relying on chemicals from doctors, it is not surprising that pandemics occur.

Many viruses come from animals and until people stop eating animals – especially exotic wild animals – they will jump species and infect humans.

Surgeons do an excellent job in trauma and accident cases, but the ordinary doctor cannot cure any disease whatsoever.

Antibiotics have been so over-used that many bacteria are resistant to them. Bacteriophages are only used in Russia.

Ordinary doctors prescribe to keep patients on maintenance drugs while the immune system and body does the actual healing.

Ordinary doctors cannot even cure the common cold. They are a disgrace – they should hang their heads in shame.

Their only treatment of a virus is to make a vaccine. Vaccines are by definition homeopathic – very crude homeopathy – so why do doctors not use this system properly ? The reasons are ignorance, loss of face and loss of profit – homeopathic remedies are cheap and any country can make them. This is not good for Big Pharma.

It is a paradigm shift to learn that you have spent your whole life studying a flawed science – huge loss of face. Homeopathy only strengthens and provokes the immune system into action – the body then heals itself.

Most people today have weak and stressed immune systems – many are allergic to nuts, milk, gluten etc. or have auto-immune diseases like arthritis. These are suppressed with steroids and anti-inflammatories.

Today's diseases are diseases of abundance – too much junk food, alcohol and nicotine. The popular disease now is “Lupus” which is the name for a general malaise which doctors do not know how to cure or what has caused it. However, they can prescribe vitamins, supplements and steroids until the patient dies.

Population control relies on a sickly, fearful work force. If the population is 100% healthy, governments cannot control them and the medical system cannot make huge profits.

The news media only shows disasters, terrorism, global catastrophes – anything negative to keep the population in fear. The financial system is also sick, but can cope as long as the population is not too sick to work.

The combination of a sickly population and an incompetent medical system encourages virus or bacterial infections to cull off the weaker and older people. This is what is happening now.

I spoke with another ex-pat here, from Australia – she said there are testing kits in Kratie , donated by the Chinese – no-one has tested positive yet – but there are no intensive-care units with ventilators in Kratie.

She had bad “flu” in January for a couple of weeks – which could well have been the coronavirus, so should have immunity now.

She told me the border between Thailand and Laos is closed and the Thais are chucking the foreigners out of Bangkok. The Thais closed the border with Cambodia – the Cambodian side was kept open – then, fearing riots, the Thais opened the border and foreigners flooded into Cambodia. Most of these are trying to get to other Asian countries and many are Cambodians who were working in Thailand – now with no jobs. This influx from Thailand will invariably bring the coronavirus with it.

Now Thailand has closed all borders.

Minibus and taxi drivers are scared to take tourists in case they get the virus. There are very few tourists still here – and they will be gone by next week. Heng Heng hotel is closed now. Tokae restaurant – the only one for tourists – is closing for four months. There is now only one place open for western food – the river Dolphin Hotel with an American owner – which will remain open and I might visit there soon.

Locals think foreigners are to blame – never mind it came from China. Some local youths yelled “Corona” at the Australian woman. Some villages are closed to all outsiders – to prevent the virus. I sense some resentment towards foreigners. I bought a watermelon from a farm truck and the vendor wouldn't take my money directly – I had to place it in a plastic bag. Alcohol hand–cleaner selling for $6 a bottle in a thrift store here – usually 75¢

To even transit through Thailand, you need a Health Certificate showing you don't have the virus and $100,000 Health Insurance covering coronavirus – this last one is very difficult to arrange now - only from the Pasteur Institute. You also need a certificate stating you do not have Deep Vein Thrombosis or any other contra-indication to air-travel. Many foreigners are now stranded in Thailand and cannot fly out.

The WHO here have switched their focus from Malaria to Coronavirus. Mosquitoes are rare because it is so dry, so I don't expect they are used to working much more than a few hours a week – I don't expect anything useful to come of this – maybe they will have some meetings ?

I met another university teacher and he told me that e-learning will start next week. So I will be resuming teaching next weekend. How this will work – I have no idea. The students will use “Google Classroom” and are currently opening gmail accounts. Very few students have a computer or a tablet – they will all be using their phones to study. Not ideal.

I had a packet of tomato seeds from 2014 – the plan was to grow them in Laos, but the Lao were too lazy to help – there was plenty of land, but I could not find any-one to do the gardening. The expiry date is May 2016, but I tried germinating them on a damp paper towel and they are sprouting* in 24 hours ! This is the first time that I have any seeds at all germinate – I ordered a whole lot from England and not a single seed of all the various varieties sprouted. Absolutely zero germination rate. I think the post is so heavily X–rayed that it sterilizes all the seeds. Now I will try growing some tomatoes – should not be too hard (?)  *They all died !

At the Vietnamese hairdressers I asked why the air-con was off and the glass front-doors wide open. Apparently the police will arrest them if they have the air-con on, with doors shut, as this