The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

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The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by clutchcargo »

Apologies if these pics have been posted before as I suspect they may have..

This collection of archive images depicts Phnom Penh in April 1953, offering an insight into Cambodia on the brink of independence, a country yet to be touched by the heady development of the 60s or the tragedy of the 70s.

Image
Central Market in April 1953

The year is 1953 – the month April. The French Protectorate of Cambodia, still under fading colonial authority of French Indochina, is still six months from the triumphant 9 November return of King Norodom Sihanouk and the de-facto establishment of the First Kingdom of Cambodia.

Yet to come is the ambitious and forward-thinking first administration of Sihanouk that would oversee Cambodia’s Sangkum Period (Sangkum Reastr Niyum: “popular socialist community”). Phnom Penh, still a small city home to just 333,000 people, was still a sleepy colonial outpost, yet to be transformed into a modern metropolis under the vision of future-state-architect Vann Molyvann.

Appointed in 1956 to build a Kingdom fit for the post-colonial aspirations of the day, Molyvann, the visionary behind the regenerative Master Plan of Phnom Penh City, would radically change the landscape of the capital. Phnom Penh would transform from the low-lying Chinese-style shophouses and French colonial structures seen in these images, to one of the best examples of creative urban planning in the region. A city dominated by cutting-edge modernist structures inspired by traditional Khmer design and French architect Le Corbusier – his mentor when studying in Paris.

Saloth Sâr was still just an unknown student of 25 at the time of these images, too. Yet to conceive of his new identity as Pol Pot (Political Potential), Sâr was a member of an elite few afforded the privilege of studying in Paris. Dropping out without completing his degree in radio electronics at the École française de radioélectricité, he would return to French Indochina in January 1953.

But while an inconsequential and fruitless sojourn from an academic perspective, it would be in the French capital in the early 1950s that the stage would be set for Cambodia’s most tragic period over two decades later, as Sâr mingled among leftist Khmer intellectual circles, frequented by the likes of Khieu Samphan and Leng Sary – the future senior leadership of the Khmer Rouge.

Next door in Vietnam, the Anti-French Resistance War was reaching its climax at the time of these images in mid-1953, with it was fast-dawning on the colonial forces that the war with the Viet Minh, led by Hồ Chí Minh, would not easily be won. A year later, a disastrous defeat for the French at Dien Bien Phu and the subsequent July 1954 Geneva Conference that separated Vietnam between North and South, would see the French relinquish any territorial claims in Indochina.

The French Colonial Empire in Southeast Asia was disbanded in its entirety, creating four nation states: The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the State of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the Kingdom of Cambodia, and the Kingdom of Laos. The battle, however, was far from over, with the US ramping up its involvement in Vietnam soon after in 1955, with the ripple of effect of two decades of conflict indelibly altering the politics and lives of those next door in Laos and Cambodia too.

But at this time a country with lofty ambitions on the brink of independence, few could have predicted these nation-defining events to come – still little-more than a distant and unknowable prospect to those in these tranquil scenes of bustling street food vendors and meandering pedalo rides through Phnom Penh’s empty, tree-lined streets.
Spoiler:
The exact location of many of these images are unknown. The photos were originally taken by Harrison Forman in April 1953 and have been republished with the consent of the The American Geographical Society Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries.
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The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh

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Monks in front of hospital on Norodom Boulevard
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https://southeastasiaglobe.com/photos-1 ... ZXNkqXkvvY
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by timmydownawell »

Nice photos. Everything is so clean - there's not a single bit of rubbish in any of the pics.
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by clutchcargo »

The pics makes it look like quiet, peaceful times..albeit just prior to independence. Not many cars yet...probably a few more years before they got those Renault 4CVs (France's answer to the VW beetle..cars for the masses).
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by John Bingham »

I can see only one car clearly, in the second photo, a Citroen Traction Avant. There is something similar to a 4CV behind it.
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by Shazza »

Those photos are beautiful, and your so right about the rubbish timmydownawell,so clean and fresh looking. It would of been wonderful visiting or living in Phnom Penh in that decade. The photo of the two little boys, just smiling away, with not a care in the world, so beautiful. Little did they know what was coming in the horrendous 70s.😱😢
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by timmydownawell »

Shazza wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:40 am Those photos are beautiful, and your so right about the rubbish timmydownawell,so clean and fresh looking. It would of been wonderful visiting or living in Phnom Penh in that decade. The photo of the two little boys, just smiling away, with not a care in the world, so beautiful. Little did they know what was coming in the horrendous 70s.😱😢
The boys are laughing because the one on the right is pissing into the gutter. :ROFL: I guess some things haven't changed.
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by Shazza »

Oh, I didn't see that, dirty little sod ,wonder why his is smiling, funny little buggers 🤣
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by Anchor Moy »

timmydownawell wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:00 pm
Shazza wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:40 am Those photos are beautiful, and your so right about the rubbish timmydownawell,so clean and fresh looking. It would of been wonderful visiting or living in Phnom Penh in that decade. The photo of the two little boys, just smiling away, with not a care in the world, so beautiful. Little did they know what was coming in the horrendous 70s.😱😢
The boys are laughing because the one on the right is pissing into the gutter. :ROFL: I guess some things haven't changed.
No public toilets then. LOL. Yeah, I guess things haven't changed much :plus1:
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by crob »

life before the wide use of platic looks pretty.
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Re: The cyclos, street food and shophouses of 1950s Phnom Penh (Pics)

Post by Bitte_Kein_Lexus »

I think I know where the 2nd and 3rd picture were taken. A bit off Central Market. Not many places with that motif at the top. Also, Preah Ang Duong hospital is obviously still around, always cool to see what familiar places used to look like. I struggle to recognize the street with all the pillars. Used to be a common sight in a lot of these older ones but they must have been all demolished (or owners encroached on the pavement and bricked it up), as can't see anything like this anymore. Still a common sight in older colonial era buildings in India and other former British colonies.
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