Returning from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh – Sunday, 18.4.2010

Posted on 19 April 2010. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 660 |

Because of the Khmer New Year holidays 14 to 16 April 2010, life during this whole week was different; actually, already since Friday, 9 April 2010, music and the voices of people playing special New Year games, and of groups of friends going out together, indicated that the festive season had already begun.

This affected also publications, and some offices (also the Open Institute) – were closed for a week. Our regular publications will therefore start only on Monday, 19 April 2010. But we supplied our readers with some information also during this week.

From Monday to Wednesday, this did work – with some special reporting. Then, because of my travel back to Cambodia, and the weekend on arrival, the next jump is again to this Sunday’s editorial reflection. And tomorrow the normal sequence of daily translations from the Khmer press will start again.

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 660

Returning from Hong Kong after a week to Cambodia leaves still many questions open – and they will remain open because of the fascination to see things working well in Hong Kong which contradict what is practiced in Cambodia. There will be not much of an effort to explain things, just to put them next to each other. Of course there are easy explanations – but they do not explain everything.

The surprise started immediately after my arrival at Hong Kong airport: In the train to town – for the price of about US$13 for the high speed ride of half an hour to the center of town – there was a sign in the train: “Free wireless Internet access.” Opening the laptop, there was immediately free high speed broadband connection to the Internet.

Hong Kong Airport Express

Hong Kong Airport Express

At the International Airport of Phnom Penh, Internet access is only available for a fee. “One has to recover the costs!” And the costs for Internet connection in Cambodia, in general, are higher than in most neighboring countries. Cost recovery for this public Internet service is obviously organized differently in Hong Kong: it is a service to society.

This affects only the small number of the whole population. So, one may say, it is not so important. Really? Not to forget that communication costs affect the whole society: every individual user, but also the national and the international business community.

Park at the HKG Convention and Exhibition Center

Park at the HKG Convention and Exhibition Center

One more question cannot be avoided when one sees the density of land use in Hong Kong: among all the high rise buildings, there is obviously also a strong sense of preserving open spaces to improve the general quality of life. There are, all over Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon area on the continental side and along the shores, ample Waterfront Promenades, Parks – including the wide Kowloon Park – Play Grounds, Recreation Grounds, Gardens, Athletic Fields, Sitting-Out Areas, and Sports Grounds, in addition to the forest covered areas of the mountains.

What about Phnom Penh? What is being done to care for the quality of life when planning the future of Phnom Penh? We remember that there were reports in the Khmer press – in The Mirror of 18 January 2008 – that the President of the National Assembly, Samdech Heng Samrin, had signed a letter asking for the suspension of the pumping of soil to fill in the Boeng Kak Lake. Who else among the political leadership has taken a similar stand, to preserve an important piece of nature in the City of Phnom Penh, securing this piece of nature, contributing to the quality of life for the citizens and future generations? This is not just a rhetorical question; we would appreciate to receive information if we missed it, that also others supported the initiative of Samdech Heng Samrin.

Boeung Kak Lake being filled in

Boeung Kak Lake being filled in

If there is a place where there is not much space to build on, it is Hong Kong. But instead of building on almost every open space as it happened in Phnom Penh: around the Olympic Stadium, near the Railway station where now the Canadia Bank tower stands, at the former University of Fine Arts – the city planners of Hong Kong left a lot of spaces open, not using them for short term economic gain.

Some time in the future, the citizens of Phnom Penh will ask: who took the decision, and who did not oppose it, to destroy the Boeng Kak lake, a treasure many other cities would be happy to have.

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.
And please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.

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2 Responses to “Returning from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh – Sunday, 18.4.2010”

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The air is horrible in Hong Kong, and there are no public spaces. Unless you like either a)banks or b) shopping malls there is nothing to do. Sorry, but it’s true. However, the author is right on one count, and it’s directly related to our beloved airport express – the best thing about Hong Kong is how easy it is to get the hell out of it!

Interesting comment by Helen of Troy – I had obviously written about “Returning from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh” – and so I can only say the air was pleasant during the week I spent in Hong Kong: mostly around 20 to 25 degrees C – and it was horrible returning to Phnom Penh, were I have now mostly 33 C in the office, with all windows, north and south, open day and night. For public spaces, I did not go to banks and shopping malls, but had a very nice leisurely long walk along one of the Waterfront Promenades, with fresh air and a great view. I was also invited to go to Kowloon Park, but my time was short, so I had only a brief time there.

Easy to get out of Hong Kong with the airport express? Helen of Troy may find it easy (with an airline ticket). Maybe some people wish those well, who leave thinking Hong Kong is a hell. So why go there and not stay in good old Troy? My friends in Hong Kong find their place not to be hell, and I regret that my time there was only one week.

What I tried to express was: in spite of the high population density, the authorities in Hong Kong seem to make good efforts (in spite of the physical constraints of the small region of Hong Kong) not to turn over every open space to more commercial centers. I regret to see that the lake in the middle of Phnom Penh does not receive similar concern and protection by those who fill it in to turn it into a commercial center for the benefit of few, kicking out thousands of people who used to live there, and depriving the citizens of Phnom Penh of a natural recreational space they used to enjoy before.

Please have a look again at the pictures with the Sunday 18 April Mirror, and compare.

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