Am I Cambodian other then what's expected of me because of who my parents culturally are and where they came from? But it might be worth considering that a large portion of feeling Cambodian is to do with the culture that is identified with.

I can't speak for the generation just before mine as they will generally have a stronger sense of affinity with the place before the collapse of stability in the place known as Cambodia. But if I were to be perfectly honest despite the expectation and who my parents are, Cambodia is just more a source of passing intrigue and an experience more then any kind of strong source of identity since the notion of it very much relies on trying to glorify its past ancient achievements of architectural prowess which is understandable given that there was very little left after the troubles. Many facets of this past is also superimposed in a heavy way over many facets of their attempts to carve out a modern Cambodian identity which to my mind overly stunts the progress of certain things in terms of cultural development for fear of actually losing their Cambodian identity. But generally what choice do they have? 



Architecture



I think for most people who have heard of Cambodia in some way, they'll think of the temples here that were built  by the ancient peeps of Cambodia from a long-long time ago. Even to this day many national Khmer consumer products carry the names and symbols of various iconic temples to signify notional identity/pride. Take Angkor beer for example or the numerous convenience stores with temple names in their names. But having seen the temples first hand even I was awe struck by the sheer scale and grand nature of them, they certainly were a sight to be seen. But then again despite this ancient Architectural prowess of fallen empires and civilizations they don't actually serve much function or purpose other then acting as a symbol of their ancient achievement and past to generally now merely serve as a tourist attraction. 


 
There was even a very long phase of a few hundred years (possibly much longer) within Cambodia's history where many of the temples were long forgotten and had no significance whatsoever to the general sense of Khmer identity amidst the general population. Many of the temples were in complete decay or were never actually visited in being hidden away, lost to the eventual encroaching growth of ancient forests over the centuries spanning near a millennia.


 
I'm inclined to think that if it wasn't for outside archeological interest in the ruins/"temples" I doubt that the Khmer people would have even been that bothered about them as they are now to place them at the center of their national identity. At the same time I can't help but think the breakdown of modern Khmer society back then and the xenophobic ideologies of the Khmer Rouge regarding notional identity (which were even backed by the opposition royalist funcipec party) changed all that  to an almost extreme extent. In the UK people don't think the various Royal Palaces are any kind of symbol of their national identity. Especially old castles that royalty lived in. 



There's also some misconception about what many of the larger "temples" were for. Some sources will tell you that they were originally built PURELY for the purposes of religious worship to try and present it within a light that makes it appear like it was not of any self indulgent kings doings which I'm inclined to think is absolute none sense. You only have to look how nearly all ancient civilizations used to have a glorified unquestioned leaders and resolved their disputes through battle and war. If anything these palaces (which they strangely now call temples just because Buddhist monks later started to hang out in them after they were long forgotten and abandoned) to my mind were certainly symbols of opulence and war that required a slave class to build them. Is this the heritage that the Khmer Rouge were trying to preserve in being "for the people"? The ancient Khmer culture was founded on the Hindu belief system which used something called the "cast" system. Within such a belief system there is no room for social mobility and once you're born in to a class you're stuck in it till the day you die. You can't marry into another class and interbreeding between classes would have surely meant execution for it. They believed you could only change class in the after life before being re-incarnated within that class that you either fell to or were raised too. If anything many of these temples were ancient  symbol of oppression which used a slave class to build them which kind of goes against the notion of being for the people.  I think I've pointed this out before but how conveniently some people forget.


 
Given the context of instilled ideology after a societal breakdown resulting in civil war and genocide, I guess it pretty much seems like the only thing they can do because the opportunity to naturally evolve the culture was pretty much taken away from them. You only have to see how rapidly places like North Korea has actually (almost exponentially) evolved in the last 30 years alone whilst Cambodia was thrown back into the dark ages of trying to re-establish an agricultural country as their main goal in an attempt to "make it for the people". But do you realize that many of the things in North Korea is actually paid for by state despite the accumulation of its rapid growth and wealth through manufacturing and enterprise? 

 
 
Further compounding this is a seeming strong need to super impose many facets of their ancient history and art over many very modern design concepts which is done in such a way which seems to con-volute and stunt many facets of modernization to create kind of neither here nor there buildings in and around the capital city that will become long standing monuments to "Khmer culture" in so called newer forms. Take example from how other modern capital cities in Asia have evolved, they maintain the features of their cultural past by maintaining and restoring the authentic structures and building of true notable historical value/interest or if they have features of notable exceptional design to them if they were built within the last couple of hundred years or so (before 1979 in this case). But money/resources for any new building and structures very much so take on forms that aren't overly convoluted by ancient influence in any over the top way and from what I've seen here from a number of actual examples that try to converge the two of old and modern often do it in a way that quite frankly to my mind often results in something that seems quite lame that wouldn't look too out of place in some kind of amusement theme park although I will admit there are a few exceptions. Keep in mind that these building after they're built will be there for a very long time as a reflection of Cambodia's new identity. From observation other modern cities generally don't create new modern buildings and structures to emulate how things were in their ancient past either. Sure Cambodia might not have access to the same types of design consultants and access to the same kinds of think tanks that are able to create functional modern buildings based on human interactions and needs with none too avant guard flare within any particular constraints of budget, materials and spaces, but at least have a more stringent screening process to determine what kind of buildings go where with better planning for consideration of social factors which helps to reduce tensions and preserve peace between neighbors and further improves the means by which people can actually move through spaces and the actual city. 

Within certain context and building configurations there are way too many building that are built too close to each other and access points to are often more then a little dicey.  

What's the policy on sidewalks here?!  I always thought that sidewalks were supposed to be owned and maintained by the government for people to actually walk on to avoid people having to walk in the middle of roads car traffic and not the property of the building owners that just happen to be next to the stretch of sidewalk for them to expand their homes onto and generally block them all up.  



 Then consider the ideology of those that held power during the chaos and even in the post chaos/calm that still have a large influence as they shared this notion of trying to preserve Cambodian culture in all its past ancient glory even with the opposition royalist political parties in trying to focus so called hatred towards the Vietnamese and Thai's even amidst their seeming hatred for each other at the time. Many weren't even aware of the great extent to which Vietnamese settlers had actually been integrated into the Khmer blood lineage  through natural historical population movements long before the xenophobic stance of the Khmer rouge (also encouraged by royalist opposition parties) became standard amidst the population. I'd be even willing to bet that many hardcore Khmer Rouge who hated/still hate the Vietnamese probably have some kind of historic genetic ties in their own blood with Khmer Krom who were originally Vietnamese people that settled along the Mekong delta in Cambodia a long-LONG time ago. So evidently they missed a lot of people in their cull during the troubles. 

I've also noticed the emulation of classic western European styles in some very large and grand looking newly built buildings, but their style would place them somewhere at the turn of the beginning of the last century of around the nineteen hundreds (1900) to 1920's/1930's with no kind of real contemporary take on it despite the difference of materials used and building techniques. Don't get me wrong I was very impressed but I couldn't help but think  that if you were going to invest that much time, energy, money and resources in a new building to begin with why not try to create something much more unique and modern on the same kinds of grand scale for 2010 - 2012 and onwards into the future? There are already a number of actual AUTHENTIC building of that turn of the century to 1930's style  that are still standing but are maybe neglected and falling into disrepair, why not just restore those instead of knocking them down and trying to emulate it in new buildings of which the resources for could be better used to define a new unique modern national identity with more contemporary designs?

Even if they decided to do this...

The question is does Cambodia have the expertise and resources to be able to identify such buildings and create the appropriate policy to enact the preservation and restoration of them against considerations of whether its actually worth it based on location, types of people within the surrounding demographic area and flow of pedestrians within the given locale of any such building (s) within the city? 






Music

Where do I begin? I'm not going to diss it since it still obviously has its place. But I don’t like having to justify it against my own tastes and the general frustrations of its movements. In which case it would just be easier and more diplomatic to say that I don't identify with this facet of the culture too much if at all.






Difference between places like India (where Hinduism and eventual Buddhism originated from) and here despite similar kinds of stunted development and poverty

India have had a much greater amount of time to progress from any kinds of troubles caused by troubles related to mass violence or war. Where as Cambodia itself had actually progressed to a point of relative modernization against the context of the time before its collapse so there was a difference, its just that its development wasn't allowed to progress from there as a country but whether this was a good or bad thing is debatable for many Cambodians given the greater opportunities and freedoms many Cambodians came across in actually leaving Cambodia just before all the troubles despite having to rebuild their lives in a new place in another part of the world. 

  
 
Fashion

People seem to get married all the time here and you can't really travel too far in the city before encountering some kind of matrimonial ceremony over spilling onto the road with a makeshift gazebo (even on main traffic heavy roads). It's almost like their equivalent for having a legitimate reason/excuse to party that they pay to attend (assumedly in place of giving wedding presents)  to then put themselves on display, eat at and have themselves a good old Cambodian knees up. We're also always forever getting wedding invitations every other month or so which aren't all attended. Some folk of the more unscrupulous leanings even use it as a means of making money. But what's quite telling is the types of things that women consider to be dressy and acceptable when attending such weddings. There also seems to be an element of aspiration and gleeful want of wearing such traditional outfits to be flaunted  by the younger female members of society. Even the very suggestion of wearing something else of the none traditional variety seems to leave them feeling very unsure of themselves and uneased when attending such events. Beyond that they seem to be stuck/locked into an eighties retro phase that’s been going on for the past 5 years (possibly longer) which they mainly import from Korea. Baggy jeans (at least loose fitting if not baggy) are out and unflattering close fitting drain pipe denims (especially for guys) seem to rule the choice of youthful denim wear given the limited choice of cuts that can actually be bought in most fashionable clothes stores here. I have to buy denims that are 6 sizes lager then my waist just to get jeans that don't grip my scrawny legs and excessively cradle my nuts in a tort manner. Corny mullets, huge quiffs and big ruffled or shaggy emo hair seems to be still be on the list of top youthful fashionable mop chops for guys here amidst a karaoke culture and Khmer vocal crooning with song my father would probably recognise very well (which even go back to the 50's, and 60's) which he would most likely thrive in if he was young again and had chance to do it all over to display his prowess as a young whipper snapper.




Car design

I'm not sure this is something that would normally be considered. But to my mind the types of cars on the road definitely says something and has an impact on the appearance of a city at this current point of urban evolution, since the utopian idealists would rather have us all using some kind of none reality based clean and efficient mass public transport network system that was quick and a pleasure to use. Or alternately have all using some sort of environmentally friendly alternatives. But back to cars...

Generally their external designs are a reflection of the times, and strangely amidst the majorities choice of motorbikes the general publics fleet of four wheeled automotive rollers out here generally tended to be a quite a modern, smart looking and varied bunch given the less then ideal state of the place. I wasn't surprised at the fact that there are a lot of Toyota's and luxury segment targeted Lexus SUV's here but generally beyond that there are a fair few modern European cars in all their modernly designed variant's of the luxury German and British varieties here too, which also includes spotting a couple of Porsche sports SUV's amidst the Mercs and Beamers that you'd usually expect. There were also a whole bunch of sleeker designed, lower profiled 4x4 Land Rover hatch backs amidst the more regular styles. You can even buy the newer hipster targeted British designed but German BMW engineered mini Cooper here. Other sightings included new sports edition Bentley's, sports coupe Jag's, Porsche Boxer's , etc… which to my mind is all great and well but just seems a little odd. 




A quick reminder of The story of Buddha (do we really need to go over this again?)


 
Its not hard to see what the story of Jesus might have been based on with a little alteration through out the millennia. Long before Jesus even existed (by a few thousand years) there was a some kind of Hindu prince. His father was a Hindu king that ruled a vast empire. Apparently the prince was even married. Then one day the prince flipped out and decided that he didn't want to be next in line to the throne to become the King to which his farther was pretty pissed off about. Instead the prince opted to walk away from his opulence, status and wealth because he apparently couldn't understand why there was so much injustice, suffering and unfairness in the world. So he decided to go off and spend his life meditating whilst trying to figure it out. He didn't like the cast system and as a result in becoming the Buddha removed the notion of a cast system to form Buddhism. It still carried the concept of reincarnation as I guess he couldn't figure out any other way to justify the inequalities of the time. He also spent his whole life trying to attain the state of nirvana which was basically a place of absolute peace after all desire and longing had ceased which in a sense could be perceived as a kind of heaven. Apparently even if you led a good life your desires and longings could still bring you back to be re-incarnated over and over again till it was quenched. I guess that’s why the whole re-incarnation thing is so convenient because as humans in the civilized world  generally try to avoid killing others and generally think it’s not a good thing. As such we have laws, social constructs and punishments to try and stop us from killing someone. This generally works however there are few rare exceptions where the unnecessary murder of others will still occur despite these measures and counter influences that might actively try to prevent it. In the overall Buddhist way of thinking it was meant to happen if it still happens at the extreme lengths that were went to in order to avoid it from happening to begin with. However beyond this if such cravings were to go unsatisfied re-incarnation provides the means by which we could potentially satisfy our cravings as some kind of wild animal that we don't even consider to be anything abnormal when it kills in the wild. The infinite potentials of such a system based around re-incarnation in this way could potentially allow for karma to be returned through it setting you up to have a life where you maybe had all you ever wanted and dreamed for someone to then murder you! Even more twisted karma could also perpetuate itself in such a way where it might even lead you to kill yourself in the next life which is a horrible thought if you've ever once known anyone that's committed suicide. Of course the extent to which this might affect your life will depend on how much you believe it within the more none scientifically proven sense, but when considering this keep in mind what psychologists have proven to be the case regarding outcomes determined by the mechanisms of the self fulfilling prophecy.  

It was apparently very difficult to get to this heaven even after many lives re-incarnated over and over again as many different things and people. But then he also came up with a whole bunch of other stuff to say that even though you might on the slim chance even attain reaching this heaven your stay there is not permanent and the chances are you'll most likely eventually get re-incarnated again at some point. Great. I'm just a little curious as to how we could take one mans word for it in a time full of superstitious beliefs  and none scientifically proven assertions from well over a few thousand years ago but that’s just me. But it’s a nice thought/romantic concept all the same.