Alleyways of PP
Phnom Penh's Alleyways - by Steve Goodman
As a photographer I enjoy going where other travelers do not tread, not only to witness and photograph everyday life, but also to meet and interact with everyday people and enjoy the surprised and delighted reactions of Phnom Penh’s denizens when they see a foreigner not only intruding into their private lives but demonstrating interest and warmth. I have never failed to be amazed at the almost uniformly friendly and warm greetings that I receive in long winding alleys and hidden side-streets that aren’t depicted on most maps.
Often people who are eating on their stoops offer me some of their food. Me, a total stranger whose only calling card is a smile and a few words of greeting in Khmer. Sometimes I meet folks who speak a bit of English, but just as often I meet people who seem to speak fluent French and are sorely disappointed when I let them know that I don’t speak the language even a little bit. Of course the children that I meet are the most amazing people I encounter… playing, laughing, and sometimes showing off their blossoming English language skills by saying, “hello, what is your name”. Sometimes the younger ones will proudly count to ten in English in an always successful attempt to impress and surprise the foreigner.
Most people are happy to permit a few photos if asked with a smile. Often times when someone is initially reluctant, after I show them the photo they enthusiastically invite their friends and relatives to come and have me take their pictures too. The only time I get a negative reaction to a photo request is when I ask people who are gambling huddled around a card game, so I’ve learned simply not to ask most groups of street-side card players.
Along many alleys are small cafes and pushcart vendors offering a wide range of snacks and beverages and the people milling about trying to beat the heat always have time for a brief interchange with a smiling camera wielding stranger.You'll also find businesses of all sorts in these mostly residential sidestreets; noodle factories, tailors, herbal medicine shops, and much more.