Old Cambodia

Feeling nostalgic – and indeed the past is always better than the present. I regret that WordPress won’t allow me to add my sources. If WordPress keeps this up I’m abandoning this blog.


Women, undated. Women wore their hair cropped. These might, just might, be women from the royal harem, although the figure on far right looks very boyish. In the earliest days of Phnom Penh the king kept the royal women in a special section of the palace. They included wives, daughters, and sons who had not reached puberty, and they were never allowed out of their quarter.


Indochine-Postcard-Buddhist.gifA monk. From the chair, a very senior monk – you don’t get to sit in one of those unless you’re Somebody. It’s a chair for preaching from, the Buddhist equivalent of a pulpit. The fan on the right is both a symbol of his rank and something with which he could hide his face if any women were present – monks were not, and are not today, supposed even to look at women. They do, of course. I saw some lovely thrones like this in Burma, for sale in the antique shops on the approaches to Shwedagon Pagoda – but that was many decades ago, and I doubt you’d find one outside a museum or an expensive private collection today.





Pagoda school, 1930 to 1950. Pagoda schools still exist of course. It would nice to make a photographic study of them.


Belle Indochinoise

“Indochinese beauty” it says. Myself when young did eagerly frequent my father’s back-copies of the National Geographic, and I’m sure the same the same noble anthropological impulse is at work here. I think she’s Vietnamese from the hairstyle. I’m also pretty sure that this was not the normal day-to-day style of dress.

Elsewhere I’ve read that Cambodian girls were extremely modest, Vietnamese ones far less so. Colonial Frenchmen seem to have prefered Vietnam to Cambodia, and Laos to either.


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Cambodian houses, Phnom Penh. Undated.

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Catholic church, Phnom Penh, undated. Was this the former cathedral? Don’t think so, too small.

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The son and heir of King Sisowath, who reigned 1904-1927. The legend  says:

Although small in stature, he stands second only to his kingly father, Sisowath, in importance. The impressive gold and jewelled ornaments with which this royal personage is heavily laden must severely embarrass his movement, but the prescribed princely dignity will not allow of the smallest diminution of court etiquette. The heir apparent is usually nominated by the king, or elected by the five chief mandarins of the Court.



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Kampot, 1886.

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Two views of Independence Monument and its park and fountain, undated. The naga fountain looks new if you see it today, but it’s actually been there many decades.