That's allowed in Cambodia
Originally posted in October 2013.
I've extensively detailed what I miss about the comfort and security of my life in the States, but I have neglected to delve into the realities of living in a third-world country where there are far fewer laws and far more allowances. Herein I present a list of actions that are either illegal or sorely frowned upon in the States but more than allowed (and often ignored) in Cambodia's capital of Phnom Penh.
Pups roam the streets of Phnom Penh, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are strays. Most dogs are unleashed unless accompanied by their owners inside a convenience store or restaurant/bar, where they are also allowed to join their human counterparts. Rabies inoculation? Check.
Smoking in (open-air) bars
Thanks to the scorching temps and humidity, most bars and restaurants in the city are without doors or windows, providing an open-air environment. Some spots sit underneath guest houses, while others simply rest under awnings or behind rolling garage-like doors. When out for a happy hour libation, imbibers can expect to breathe in wafts of smoke from time to time. Smoke-free cocktails are something that I have forced myself to get used to, as I smoke in my margarita is as welcome as a cockroach crawling out of my shower drain (which happens on occasion in my apartment's shower).
Drinking in public
Yes, public consumption of alcohol is allowed in the States in places like bars or sports stadiums (or the Las Vegas strip), but once you purchase that can or bottle at a bar or 7-11, you’re trapped. If you want to actually drink what you just paid for, you either can’t leave the former or you can leave the latter but can only enjoy the drink in the privacy of your own space. In Cambodia, you’re free to tote your open container with you, whether in a tuk tuk to on the way to the bar or across town to your friend’s flat. Walking down the street with an open can of beer? Allowed. The cops have bigger fish to fry.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, there are crosswalks with tiny green electronic figures that run (yes, run) to communicate to you that you’re clear to cross the chaotic thoroughfares. Do people use these designated safety zones? I know of at least one person who does: me. But I've found myself in situations where I needed to cross and there were no crosswalks in sight. I am then forced to use my best judgment and pick an opening in the traffic during which I pray that I won’t get pummeled by a sneaky moto hiding behind a sluggish sedan.
Have you visited other countries and faced laws (or a lack of laws) that don't exist in your home country? How did you adapt? Please share in the comments section below!
(Lead photo: The Bungalows, Phnom Penh, Cambodia)