To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
not too small, but maybe around 4"x6" or something like that; big envelopes are not very attractive unless they have many stamps.
Thank you!


Cambodge ព្រះរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា

These scans have been sitting in my hard drive for quite some time now. They show the covers that I was able to send myself during my trip to Cambodia, which was my favorite trip among all the ones I took while I stayed in Macau.

Cambodia is a wondrous country with friendly people. It's the type of place that makes you feel extremely depressed that good people have to live such hard lives (although sometimes people start getting corrupted when they start living comfortable lives, but that's another story). The sights and atmosphere of the country are certainly something that makes you want to go back, and so I will go back in October of this year.

The temples for which Cambodia is well-known are interesting pieces of history. Walking along their corridors and studying their intricate designs brings feelings of awe and enchantment because they exude humanity at its finest. Such grand works of art are certainly a testament to man's ingenuity and creativity. However, after a while, the temples start to look all the same and I must confess that there was a point when I felt that temple-hopping needed to stop.

Sadly, the weather did not agree with me when I visited the most famous temple of all, the Angkor Wat. It was raining the first time I visited and when I decided to visit again to take in the glorious sunset for which Angkor Wat is so famous, the clouds and the drizzling got in the way. Nonetheless, the experience was still one that I enjoyed, and I actually felt like I was experiencing what it felt like during the olden days when the Khmers would stay in the confines of the Wat walls to wait out the rain and battle against the elements.

The Khmer Post

The Khmer Post, in stark contrast to the Khmer temples, is an extremely disheartening experience, one much worse than the Philippine Post, I must say. First off, when you reach the post office at Siem Reap you will see neatly laid in front of you the most beautiful array of Cambodian stamps you could ever imagine to ever see. All the Cambodian stamps with Khmer themes and depictions of the various temples and Khmer culture are laid out for you to pick. from The catch is, prices are not face value, which I thought was pretty strange since it was inside the post office itself (In some countries they charge more than face value, but the selling price is either printed or officially set, but that was not the case here). The "post office" was actually more like a stamp dealership. There were beautiful stamps, yes, but they came with extravagant prices. Some recent issues from 2008 could rack up as much s USD23 for an 8v set whose face value was little more than USD4!

When I asked the lady (if you can call her a "lady" after the way she behaved) postal clerk about buying some stamps at face value so that I could stick them onto covers for my fellow collectors, she kept pointing at the stamps laid out on the counter. I kept asking her for "face value" stamps and I'm pretty sure she knew what I meant since I do not think I am the first person to ask her for such absurd a thing at her post office. After I kept insisting, she finally showed me some stamps, some ugly definitives that she kept hidden behind the counter. I asked her for other stamps, knowing that there had to be some better ones. It was like I was pulling a house out of an elephant's behind! Finally, she produced some better stamps, but they were not in full sets, which I think was her way of discouraging me from paying at face value. But I bought them anyway, and I had to give in to some of their "discounted" stamps (meaning they were not full sets) that they offered at 4 for USD1, which was double their face value.

And it doesn't end there. When you try to send your letters and your postcards, there is no actual postal rate. It just depends on the whim of the postal clerk and whether or not she feels you have put enough postage. I am sure that there is an "official" rate lying somewhere, but when you ask the clerks what it is, they ask you to show them your stamps and then study them, deciding whether they are enough or not. And no, I'm pretty sure they were were not calculating the total in their heads. On one occasion I sent out a postcard for 2400 Riel while on another occasion I sent one out for 4000 Riel, and this was at the same post office! It's worse when you try to register because they get all frantic and panicky, asking around about what they should do.

The post office in Phnom Penh was quite similar in terms of chaos, but the clerks were a little more friendly and accommodating. The post office at the Phnom Penh airport was , by far, the most terrible! First off, I was standing in front of the counter for a good ten minutes before the postal clerk literally emerged from the back of the counter - apparently she was taking her nap, and this was at 14h00, clearly not lunch hour (in the Philippines, most post offices close for lunch)! And when she finally decided to get to work, she took my letter, "weighed" it on the scale, and then declared: "four dollar" and then I haggled with her, knowing very well that USD4 or 16000 Riel was way too much. And it wasn't the weight because all that was inside was a blank sheet of paper. She then "converted" it to Riel and I guess she thought I didn't know the exchange rate so she said USD4 was 10000 Riel. I kept saying that it costs only 4200 Riel (because according to the central post office in Phnom Penh, that is the official rate), and she got all upset, insisting that I pay 10000 Riel! I got really so pissed with her ruse to drain money off foreign customers that I just up and left, making sure that she would be as annoyed, irked, and irritated as I was. At the end of it all, I do not know if these postal clerks have some kind of quota that they have to meet in order to pass some kind of absurd performance measure, but if they do, that just goes to show how sad the postal system in Cambodia is.

Anyhow, I hope that if you read my rantings, you didn't get too depressed about the world. To try and make things better, I offer you scans of my Cambodia covers:

The stamp on the far left shows some of the carvings on the wall of Banteay Srei, which I believe is famous for its intricately designed walls. I was able to visit this little temple and must say that it is impressively in good condition, considering that it has gone through hundreds of years of heat and rain.

The stamp on the upper right is from a set of five and it shows Preah Vihear, which I did not have the privilege of visiting. Preah Vihear is a Khmer temple situated atop a cliff in the Dângrêk Mountains, in the Preah Vihear province of northern Cambodia and near the border of the Kantharalak district in the Sisaket province of eastern Thailand. In 1962, following a significant dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over ownership of the temple, the International Court of Justice in The Hague awarded the ownership to Cambodia.

Affording a view for many kilometers across a plain, Prasat Preah Vihear has the most spectacular setting of all the temples built during the six-centuries-long Khmer Empire. As a key edifice of the empire's spiritual life, it was supported and modified by successive kings and so bears elements of several architectural styles. The temple gives its name to Cambodia's Preah Vihear province, in which it is now located, as well as the Khao Phra Wihan National Park which borders it in Thailand's Sisaket province, through which the temple is most easily accessible. On July 7, 2008, Preah Vihear was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stamp celebrates the first year anniversary of the temple's listing.

The third stamp is, I guess, a definitive and it shows what in French is called "vannage" and in English "winnowing." As the two terms did not help shed light on exactly what it was, I looked it up and apparently it is the agricultural practice in which rice is tossed in pans in order to separate the grain from the sediments, dirt, stones, etc. The picture best help explain what I mean. They also have the same practice here in the Philippines.

This cover has four definitives which depict the Thommanom/Thonmanom (apparently the spelling changes depending on the language, the latter being in French and the former in English).

The stamp in the middle is part of a set issued to celebrate the 50th year of the Red Cross in Cambodia. I guess that Cambodia is like the Philippines in that they like to show their prominent figures in society on their stamps, etc., as a way of perhaps boosting their leaders' egos? Sadly, the pictures seems to tell me that the wife of the Cambodian minister is not so happy and enthusiastic about what she is doing, but that may just be me. Also, this stamp reminded me of what a friend a friend told me about Cambodian politics: it is very dirty and extremely corrupt! She tells me this from a personal experience she had where she tried to do the right thing and stop the corruption. But it did not work and she had to leave the country for a bit lest something inopportune happen to her (i.e. goons are hired to beat her up and threaten her!)

The most exciting thing about this cover is the special cachet which in this scan is not so clear... But the cachet was applied at the mail processing center and it celebrates World Post Day. What a most welcome coincidence! At least something was born of that harassing experience at the post office!

This registered cover, the one that caused a ruckus at the post office, came out very beautifully in my opinion. While the stamps are not all of the same theme or of the same set, I think that the layout and postmarks are beautiful. I have already discussed one of the stamps and the others are quite self-explanatory, but I do want to point out the two stamps that celebrate 30 years since "Great Victory Day." As you may already know, Cambodia was subject to the grossly tyrannical and genocidal rule of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge Regime. Some estimate that 2 of the 8 million Khmers at the time were killed by this terrorist group which sought to "restore" Cambodia to its "glorious" (i.e. Khmer) past by purging it of any and all signs and influences of modernity and capitalism. Apparently, this included torturing and executing millions of Khmers. "Great Victory Day" or 7 January, 1979, was the day when the Vietnamese forces marched in and the day that the Khmer Rouge finally fell after four years in power.

Another exciting thing about this cover is the Inbound Mail label applied in Hong Kong, which is different from the others I have seen before. See my Tunisia post to compare.

This second registered cover was sent from the central post office in Phnom Penh. I personally applied the postmark, thanks to the very helpful and friendly postal clerk who obliged me. However, the canceller was not so nice since it was made of metal and the lady applied ink from a rubber stamp pad which, as you can see, was probably wet with water and not ink. Well, at least I have the memory of the nice lady to keep with me.

Another reason why this cover makes me smile is that it has a stamp with the Angkor Wat! At least I was able to get one despite the high price tags they put on stamps that have anything to do with the Angkor Wat (maybe they just didn't notice this one?). The cover also has a stamp commemorating the coronation of their New King, Norodom Sihamoni, a man who has lived a most interesting life, which includes a genealogy of Khmer-French-Italian descent, a childhood spent in Prague, years of study spent in France and North Korea, and much more. He can speak fluent French and Czech and can also speak English and Russian. Another interesting thing: his name is a combination of his parents' name: Sihanouk and Monineath. More on him can be found here.
Here is a cover that I was able to post from a smaller post office in Cambodia that I saw while riding on the back of a motodup. I asked the driver to stop and drop me off there even though it was not part of the plan. The stamps are part of the same set to which the Sihamoni stamp in the cover above belongs. Thankfully the cancels are very clear and so is the World Post Day cachet that was applied, which makes me so happy that I chanced upon that small post office.

This cover I did not send myself. It is from a Filipina friend of mine who lives in Phnom Penh, where she volunteers in projects and NGOs to help the Khmers, which I think is a noble cause. I really like this cover because it celebrates Independence, which is among my most favorite topics. Cambodia gained independence from the French in 1953 after 90 years of colonization. I guess the man in the three stamps is the former Norodom Sihanouk, but I am not sure. I just wish that the postal clerk could have applied her postmarks a little bit higher, or at least somewhere where they wouldn't overlap with the commemorative postmarks!

This second cover from my friend shows a traditional way of catching fish in the Cambodian swamplands.

Hope you enjoyed the scans!

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