September 10, 2011

Important elements of Cambodian culture

If I were a writer for Conde Nast, Nat Geo Travel, Budget Travel, etc., I would probably go into detail about all of the charming aspects of Cambodian culture and psyche such as the big smiles and charming, friendly nature that just about everyone here seems to have, getting asked every 10 seconds "Hello sir/lady, you like tuk tuk ride?  Where you go?", the market vendors that all say the same utterly polite phrases ("Hello sir/lady, you buy someting? Tshirt?  I ha' your size.  You like scarf, bracelet...?"), the careful presentation of food and condiments at restaurants, the children screaming "Hello!!"with huge grins on their faces as they ride by 3 to a bicycle.  I would probably also talk about the beauty, awe, and majesty of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohm and include some pictures as proof.  I will do all that, but not today (even though Dan and I did indeed visit all these temples today).  No, today I want to write about a totally different aspect of Cambodian culture:  Cambodian television.

To sum it up in one phrase, TV here is train wreck-tastic.  Dan and I have taken great pleasure in popping open a beer and finding a random tv show or movie to laugh at before calling it a night.  We were also subjected to Cambodian music videos on our 6 hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siam Reap. Here is what we have discovered about Cambodian TV:

1.  All Cambodian music videos follow the same plot.  Goofy-looking metrosexual male singer with blown-out hair and too much hair gel chases pretty girl.  Girl seems to dig singer.  Singer buys girl jewelry.  Girl goes "WTF, I want Mr. Right Now, not Mr. Right bearing silver jewelry and hopes of commitment.  Sorry, dude." Girl wanders off to find another, equally goofy-looking Mr. Right Now.  Goofy singer gets all melodramatic.  End of video.

2.  All the music videos have the lyrics written out on the bottom of the screen, and they light up when sung.  Just like karaoke.  For the first 5 minutes of our bus ride, I was truly afraid that we were going to be subjected to not just 6 hours of videos, but 6 hours of videos PLUS actual karaoke.

3.  There is a series of music videos that all follow the plot in #1 that someone strung together haphazardly and gave it the random title "Facebook Lovestory".  This was deemed as appropriate viewing material for the 6 hour bus ride.

4.  Kung fu can ALWAYS be found on tv.  And on a 6 hour bus ride.  I think they ran out of music videos...

5.  The kung fu may be rather random and the music videos may be actual crimes against humanity, but the commercials are awesome.  This is a sample of what we witnessed on the boob tube:

     5a.  A public message about the prevention of dengue fever called "The National Dengue Song", which involved a group of children singing and performing strange dance moves with some kind of Asian do-rags tied to their heads.  They sang "Destroy mosquitoes may they be killed forever" as they tossed various items, including sliced avocados, into a hole in the ground and buried it all in dirt.

     5b.  Advertisements for Super Whiskey.  Yes, that's the brand name. 

     5c.  Advertisements for Spy wine coolers.  I have yet to see anyone in this country drink a wine cooler.

     5d.  A grand total of 4 different publc messages stressing the importance of hand-washing.

     5e.  And finally, a public message about the importance of boiling water before consuming it.  It looked just like a Saturday Night Live skit.  As 4 women in some kind of traditional dress gathered water from a lake, bacteria that was illustrated in the form of men dressed as aboriginal characters were superimposed into the collected water.  The men/bacteria proceeded to have one hell of a party in the pot of water, only to be busted up (complete with screaming and the superimposed men spiraling away into nothing) as the women boil said water over a fire and proceed to enjoy a lovely cup of water that is aborigine-free.  I mean, bacteria free.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more television to watch.

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