Fences of Phnom Penh

noun /fens/
A barrier, railing, or other upright structure, typically of wood or wire, enclosing an area of ground to mark a boundary, control access, or prevent escape.

One thing that struck me about Phnom Penh is how the majority of buildings seem to be behind fences and walls. The many discussions Roman and I had, trying to get our heads around the city’s vibe, drew my attention to examples of segregation in the city:

The way the pockets of Western-friendly neighborhoods seem to float upon the city’s surface. The distinct division between rich and poor neighborhoods that are only mere blocks but, at the same time, worlds apart. The sense of safety established behind thick walls versus the rawness and dirt on many of the city’s streets.

As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve seen this in all the cities we’ve visited but for us it has never been so striking as in Phnom Penh. And certainly I have never seen a city so divided by miles of barbed wire, fencing and thick concrete walls. Makes one think about what people are keeping in, and out…

Once I started, I couldn’t stop noticing the fences and walls everywhere we went in the city, the result being this little collection of photos…

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Ornate gate in front of someone’s home

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Gate detail

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Fencing of concrete and bamboo – detail

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Fences being put to good use – drying laundry

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Creating a wall for an outdoor restaurant

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A street barber’s mirror and tools rest on a fence

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Rain drops on the barbed wire at Tuol Sleng

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Nature takes over, fencing outside the Royal University of Fine Arts

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Orange against green, a monk walks along a border of thick plants

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Street vendors take a break outside someone’s villa

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Closed gate outside an empty home

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Primary school fence

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Woman walking in front of a government building. She’s carrying a scale under her arm. We’ve seen people selling the use of their scale for a small fee in other countries we’ve visited. Perhaps she’s on the way to a market to do the same?

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Light behind bars

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An SUV passes by half a gate at night

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Beware of dog

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Gate detail

8 thoughts on “Fences of Phnom Penh

  1. Talking about photos, all your pictures are absolutely gorgeous! And you went to some places I went as well! It’s interesting to see the places through a different ‘lens’! haha.
    You also stayed very near to where I live! where are you at the moment or where are you travelling to next?

    • 🙂 Thanks so much! Bought a camera especially for this trip we’re on and I’m slowly getting more familiar and hopefully a bit more proficient with it. How long have you been doing photography? You’ve really got a great eye for composition and color!
      Right now we’re in Battambang for a few days. The plan is to head to Siem Reip next – we can’t visit Cambodia without seeing Angkor Wat of course. Have you been there already?

      • I’m a newbie! I love taking photos but I’ve never been trained or anything. I’m still figuring out how to use my camera!
        I haven’t been in Battambang in a while. What are you doing there/ what is there to do? Maybe I’ll visit there some time.
        Of course you have to visit Siem Reap! Funny, the 12 years I lived here, I only went twice.. but after I left, I visit everytime I come back to Cambodia. I recently went in December. Great place! sometimes a hassle to wear ‘proper’ clothes to go up the temple since it’s so hot! But definitely worth the trip! I’m thinking of going again in August. Let me know if you find anything cool I haven’t noticed!
        Safe travels.

      • What kind of camera are you playing with?
        We had a great day in Battambang today; lucked out with two lovely guys as guides who took us around to see sights outside the city (the villages/countryside are a lot prettier than the city itself in my opinion) – some beautiful Wats, the bamboo train, heritage houses, a massive colony of huge fruit bats and more – will be posting about it eventually. 🙂 We really loved the villages we drove through. If you’re thinking of visiting though I’d advise waiting till it cools down a bit! Much hotter here than Phnom Penh!! We’re crossing our fingers that the weather cools down at least slightly in Siem Reap – heading there tomorrow!

  2. I’m using a Canon EOS 450D 🙂 Nothing tooo special.
    How was the resto f Battambang and are you loving Siem Reap? Let me know how it is. Are you going to Bangkok next by any chance?

    • Battambang was fantastic. Ended up with a really charming guide there and had a wonderful experience exploring the area around the city. Will post details to the blog eventually. 🙂 We haven’t seen too much of Siem Reap yet – my guy has been knocked out with a bad cold so he’s been stuck in the hotel since we got here. Luckily we’d already planned for a longer stay here. Our next stop after this is Vietnam. Wish we were going to Bangkok – I love that city!! 🙂 Looks like you’re headed there though? Any special plans while you’re there?

      • Can’t wait to read more about it. I have been catchying up with ur blog though! It’s great!
        Oh dear, having a cold in Cambodia sucks! I hope he feels better! No more AC from now on! Vietnam is a great place! I used to go 2,3 times a year when I used to live here. Also, the roads are really nice now. Are u going to Ho Chi Minh city?

        No special plans for BKK yet.. just visiting friends but we want to do a trip to the beach that’s not too far from the city.. would love to go to Chiang Mai too but it’s so far!!

      • Thanks so much! 🙂 I really enjoy yours too – reading about your perspective on Cambodia has added another dimension to some of our experiences here. Thanks for that! 🙂
        Ho Chi Minh is our next stop. Let me know if there is anything not in the guidebooks we should know about. 🙂 I loved it in Chiang Mai! We spent a good chunk of time there – such a fun place! Hope you can make it there next time you’re in Thailand. In the mean time, good luck with your beach plans!

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