Peculiarities in the Kingdom
   Peculiarities in the Kingdom    
01 MAY 13 - 19 AUG 13
Concerned but satisfied

We had our first real run in with Cambodian bureaucracy this year and hopefully our last. We are now the experts in how to obtain a Cambodian birth certificate (and Canadian passport) for foreigner babies born in Cambodia. Here are the 17 simple steps to obtaining both for anyone else wanting to try.

1) Have a baby in Cambodia (a separate adventure entirely)

2) Realize the 'birth confirmation' issued by the obstetrician at the maternity clinic isn't a birth certificate and is little help in obtaining the government-issued document (the obstetrician will likely tell you the latter isn't necessary).

3) Ask the Canadian embassy in Bangkok if the birth confirmation will do; get rejected.

4) Google search expat forums for how to get a birth certificate in Cambodia.

5) Go to the local official responsible for your district (Sangkat) as instructed by expat forums; get rejected.

6) Go again to the Sangkat with your apartment rental contract as instructed by local official; get rejected.

7) Go again to the Sangkat with your landlord who is also a lawyer; get rejected.

8) Visit a shady character who (for a $400 service fee) offers to draft a fake rental contract for a district of the city with a more 'flexible' Sangkat.

9) Decide that this would be a stupid idea.

10) Hire a lawyer

11) Be nice to the lawyer, cry if necessary and receive help for free.

12) Pay $200 for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to instruct local Sangkat that they must issue a special foreigner birth certificate ('capacity building' fee).

13) Finally get the birth certificate.

14) Send paperwork with friends traveling to Bangkok, conveniently bypassing the need to DHL documents or procure a difficult and time-consuming Cambodian bank-issued money order.

15) Have Canadian embassy in Bangkok reject passport and citizen application because birth certificate not up to international standards.

16) Go back to lawyer and get him to draft a letter saying Cambodian protocol is different than all other countries and any international standards.

17) Submit final paperwork. Wait a couple weeks. And voila!

As a silver lining to the whole ordeal, there is a brand new foreigner baby register at the Tuol Tum Pong II Sangkat in Phnom Penh with Arwen as the first entry.


11 MAR 13
Common front seating arrangements

Seating etiquette for inter-city shared-taxis will be now documented as it is quite unique to Cambodia. The vehicle of choice is of course a 90's era Toyota Camry, rebuilt multiple times in order to extend service. Taking the common Phnom Penh to Kampot journey as an example, the seating costs are currently $5 per seat.

This will seem simple and trivial at first but will no doubt result in confusion until a definition of 'seat' is given. Seats are, therefore, commonly recognized in the following arrangement:

The passenger location to the right of the driver is actually classified as 2 seats. The back area is split into 4 seats. Therefore, one can theoretically buy all the seats for $30 to reserve the whole taxi. As a single Western traveler, it is not economical to rent a whole taxi, nor is it comfortable or always physically possible to fit into a single Cambodian defined seat. Therefore, it is common to buy multiple seats, for example the whole front passenger seat or half the back.

Note that buying half the back seat does not in practice allow you to sit on half the back seat. Normally 2 local travelers will buy the other two seats but end up taking 2/3 of the back seat as is most comfortable for travelling with 3 passengers in the back. Then there is the common case of 3 people 'sharing' 2 of the back seats which results in your being squeezed as if you just bought one seat, and of course the loss of $5.

And now for the most dangerous, yet comical situation arising from your purchase multiple seats. More often than not, the additional seat to extend your comfort was not vacant to begin with so this passenger will transfer into a newly defined space left of the driver (refer to image). As may be the case, the creation of this new location may have noting to do with your multiple seat purchase but rather an experienced driver seizing a business opportunity. This space then should actually be classified as an unofficial seat for purchase at half price of a normal 'comfortable' location.


Wow nice blog Steve. I guess you are having fun now! As time passes things are a changing.
26 May 2011 at 15:55
hey...but look on the bright side....nice tropical weather...
26 May 2011 at 17:36
26 MAY 11

After a 6 week stint in Bangkok waiting for Aya's birth then waiting for her paper work to come through, we returned to our house which lay abandoned but sealed. By sealed I mean windows and doors all shut and locked. But does this matter?

House maintenance is a:

-race against wood lice who want to eat all the rattan furniture (leaving piles of wood dust)

-race against the wind that wafts the stinky lagoon in through the windows

-race against the dust which coats the floors layer upon layer (refer to comment about sealed house and picture.

-race against termites who start to eat wood structures

-race against birds who decided to make nests in the windows and destroy the mosquito nets

-race against geckos who are cute to watch but then strategically deposit their poop pellets around the house

-race against the ants who somehow scout for every speck of sweet morsel and send out the troops in army squadrons

-race against the neighbor's ugly hungry cat who wonders into the house wanting a feed

-race against cockroaches who spontaneously appear under garbage cans and in dark corners.

-race against spider webs that cover the walls and ceiling

-race against mosquitos that somehow find their way in through screened windows

-race against the rats who somehow poop in the same area on the balcony every day and occasionly die and rot there as well

And we are apparently in the city!!!


Dust after only sweeping our room!!!
Pushing out a large bird nest.
20 DEC 09

There are few things sweeter in life than independent choice, especially pertaining to bottled water selection. How delightful it is to note that in a city as small as Phnom Penh, there are at least over 120 different types to choose from! Well, that's how many I've logged anyway.

In order of appearance:

La Vie
Lucky Sports
Phnom Meas
ZITA Fresh

Hong Leang
Kong Kear
Mini Water
New R Day
Super Popwat

Eau de Nature
Water O
Heng Tech

Dy Tech
Sang Tech
Phnom Penh E-Zone
Eau de Vie
Fun Tech
Lucky Orchid

Super Fresh
Heng Nin
Palm Springs
Prima Tech
Snowy Mountain

Gold Eagle
Tong Tong
Win Win

Blue Zone
Borey Spring
Win Tech
LP Water

White Horse
888 (Record Pure)
Aqua Kova
Asia Water

Bokor Fresh
Clear Zone
Daily Water
KK (Kheang Kheang)
New Day
One Tech

Phnom Choup
Phnom Penh
Sapaco Tourist
Steang Meas

Mey Jing
Super Pop Zone
Super Tech
The Crocodile
Angkor Water

Cool Sip
Phnom Oudong
Preah Atith

Sang Hy


So, my research so far isn't really looking at which water companies have the best quality. Although I did notice that only 1/3 actually have any water quality certification. This project stemmed more from the sheer amazement at how many companies there actually are. You can seriously buy a different kind every day!

Note that these waters are ones that are available locally. Yes, there are 4 or 5 pictured that are imported but I've still counted them because they are in the mix of competition. Be assured, 85% of these are manufactured around Phnom Penh and another 10% in other provinces.

So here are my theories so far which I will continue to investigate:

1) Manufacturing bottled water in Cambodia is pretty much the best business around.

Logic: There is hardly any regulation (especially that's enforced) regarding water quality. So you just have to make sure that the water you're obtaining looks clear, then get some bottles made just like everyone else, and make up a company name, a stupid slogan, fake some purification standards on the back and you're in business!!

2) Companies switch names often (maybe every production sequence!)

Logic: One month a certain type of water, say, "Steve" Water will be in everyone's hand. Then a month later (like now) you can't buy it anywhere. New companies are coming in every day.. I just saw cases of Elvis Water hitting the shelves everywhere around Central Market the other day! This is the best way to avoid anyone coming after you.

Nearly all the bottles have poor English but here are some of the funnier:

Steve Water: The Quality Drops!

Elvis Water: Drinking reverse osmosis is water is the high standard well above the laid by any country in the world and perfect mixer for all concentrate syrup and fruit. Drinking water that is safe and refreshing bottled under managerment and inspection of the food expert.

Hi-Zone: Produced from fresh water source, treated by RO system and Ozone, sterilized by UV on full automatic of the USA technology.

Borey Spring: Our water has been carefully made through technology, that's why the Borey Spring water has become the best tasting and healthy water for you.

Omexs: Improve Energy of the Body


Steve...this looks so crazy! I didn't realize you'd taken THAT many pictures!
14 January 2010 at 02:59
01 DEC 09

This might be the case with all developing countries, but in Cambodia the mobile phone situation is ridiculous. The market is flooded with too many companies and the crazy thing is that everyone has a different favorite (there must be at least 10 - mobitel, beeline, starcell, smart, m-fone, hello, metfone, qb, Excell - ok, 9).

Anyway, to make it even worse, the most popular phones let you roam 2 or 3 networks at once (that's right, 3 sim cards, 3 call buttons). I was determined not to get into this by just picking the best one off the start... how wrong I was...

When we first got here, a few people recommended Starcell because it had a good 'family' plan where it was dirt cheap to talk with 10 friends. So we got Starcell. That worked for a while until we found that hardly everyone else used Starcell full time. The problem with calling across different networks is that the price is a lot more expensive than calling between the same network.

Finally we got Beeline because you can call all networks for a cheap rate. Then we got Mobitel because it is the most used. Then we got internet which required us to have a Metphone SIM. Somewhere in there we had to buy 2-SIM enabled phones. Then I started new work and guess what... everyone's using m-fone!!! Now I have a 2-SIM phone in my left pocket and a 1-SIM phone in my right and there's nothing I can do about it!!


Buy my SIM!!!
The constant SIM-switching
Iz Chou
Thats messed up....
01 December 2009 at 00:00